The Legend of Hell House

Now Streaming on Shudder

Chris: John Hough’s The Legend of Hell House, based on a novel by Richard Matheson (who also wrote the script) has a very familiar set up: a group of strangers gather together in a huge haunted house to find proof of the paranormal. Sure enough, they find that proof, and instantly regret it. While this scenario has become a bit rote, Hell House finds ways to make it incredibly fun, and spooky. This has that ‘70s British horror movie charm, where the everyone dresses very groovy, and the entire film looks as if it’s being shot through a thin sheet of gauze. It culminates in a big, loud, violent conclusion that still has power all the years after its release.

Matt: Twitter was abuzz with hype the minute Hell House hit Shudder – while I was caught up in SXSW coverage. Still on my to-do list.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Now Streaming on Netflix

Chris: No remake can ever come close to approaching the grainy, nightmarish, realistic terror of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre is surprisingly strong. The film can at the start of the remake craze of the early 2000s, and while the remakes that followed tended to be rather terrible, Texas Chainsaw manages to pummel its audience with enough nasty shocks to make an impression. The story is the same: a group of youths run afoul of a cannibalistic family in Texas. This new take has the added bonus of R. Lee Ermey on hand, chewing scenery as an evil sheriff. I know the very existence of this film is considered sacrilegious to some, but I’ve always liked it. However, the sequel, or rather prequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, should be avoided at all costs.

Matt: A solid remake that released when so many were outraged over Hollywood’s lack of creativity. Looking back on “remake culture,” we were too hard on some films.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Now Streaming on The Criterion Channel

Chris: David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a nightmarish, unrelenting prequel to his mind-bending Twin Peaks series, and it gets better every time you watch it. The film was derided when it opened in 1992, but has been rightfully reappraised in the years since. The film goes back to show us what happened to Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) before she ended up dead, wrapped in plastic, in the first episode of the cult TV show. Lynch is telling a story about abuse and trauma, and filtering it through his own unique, jarring lens. Bonus: David Bowie making the cameo to end all cameos.

Matt: “Bonus: David Bowie making the cameo to end all cameos.” Worth the price of admission.

The Wolfman (2010)

Now Streaming on HBO Go

Chris: First, let me be clear: the 2010 pre-Dark Universe remake of The Wolfman is kind of a mess. But it’s an interesting mess! And that’s what matters. This film suffered from a troubled production, with Universal Studios clearly unsure about what the hell to do with this. Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) was originally hired to helm, but his vision proved to be too challenging and different for the studio’s tastes. So instead they hired workman director Joe Johnston…which was probably a mistake. No offense to Johnston, who helmed the fantastic The Rocketeer, but he’s just not exactly a master of horror. The behind-the-scenes turmoil shows in the film, which is uneven. But the stuff that works really works well. Benicio del Toro is great as the cursed werewolf Lawrence Talbot, Emily Blunt does the most she can with her underwritten role, and Anthony Hopkins hams it up big time. The real draw here is the amazing make-up effects from the legendary Rick Baker, who creates killer werewolf create effects, some of which Universal stupidly altered with CGI. But I can’t help but appreciate this movie and all its gothic charm.

Matt: One man’s “interesting mess” is another’s “there’s a reason this Dark Universe never took off.” The Wolfman is a disaster of poor CGI and shoddy pacing, dynamite cast aside.

Scream 4

Now Streaming on Netflix

Chris: Scream 4 ended up being the last movie Wes Craven would direct, and I’ve always felt like it didn’t get enough praise. When the movie arrived in 2011, the Scream franchise felt almost forgotten. As a result, the reaction to the movie was muted. But that’s a shame, because Scream 4 is a great return to form. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and say it’s the only Scream sequel I consider to be good (sorry, Scream 2 fans). The movie is designed to be a kind of sequel and reboot. It’s a film where a new, young cast is front and center, but the older original cast keeps getting in the way. The movie is also shockingly violent – maybe one of the most violent movie Craven ever made. The kills here are exceptionally brutal, and often disturbing. One early murder, where a teen girl is brutally flung about her bedroom and eventually has her guts literally pulled out, is upsetting to the extreme. We all miss Wes Craven, but as far as swan songs go, Scream 4 isn’t a bad movie to go out on.

Matt: While I’ll apologize for my co-host to fans of Scream 2, he’s not wrong about Scream 4. Would have loved to see more franchise entries follow this one’s jumping-off point.

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