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February 28, 2011

The 2011 Women in Horror Recognition Month Finale

Last time we talked about Women in Horror month, I felt like I was slacking.  Gotta be honest, I still kinda feel that way.  While I managed to focus on some of my favorite portrayals of women in horror in this month's Midnight Movie of the Week posts, and I was able to share a few links from some fine folks across the world who I adore.  But did I do Women in Horror Recognition Month justice?
I mean, I could have spent some time honoring the women who have starred in horror films.  Let's be honest, the horror genre is all about putting women in danger - because that's more interesting than men in peril - and the genre got to where it is on the backs of these great women.  Does Michael Myers scare us so much if Jamie Lee Curtis isn't so pure?  Does Psycho shock us so much if we don't spend our time watching Janet Leigh unravel?  I could have talked about the likes of Jo Beth Williams or Jessica Harper or Mia Farrow.  I could have broke down the greatest performances in horror for as long as I could type.

I could have talked about the women who make horror happen.  I could have gone back to Mary Shelley, or I could have come all the way up to Elisabeth Fies or Jen & Sylvia Soska.  To be honest, I'd have to have done a lot of research on the likes of Mary Harron or Mary Lambert to get that all ready, because women filmmakers have been so poorly represented by the masses, though the likes of Ms. Fies and the all-woman genre-fest Bleedfest have been working to change that.
I could have focused on the women who love horror, of which there are many.  There are plenty of women out there who have inspired me as a writer and horror fan, including (but not limited to) Christine Hadden, Emily Intravia, Stacie Ponder, Andre Dumas (Hi TW!), Brittney-Jade Colangelo, and Kristy Jett.  Oh, and there are the women of The Midnight Warriors who have been kind enough to share their own Women in Horror posts this month, who include:
So yeah, I could have focused on all those people too.  And when I look at this list of all the amazing women in the horror genre who have amazed, excited, intrigued, and inspired me - I frankly don't know where to begin.  Twenty-eight little days is nowhere near enough time to focus on all these fantastic ladies, nor is it even enough time to start finding and recognizing all the Women in Horror that I've already missed.  One man can't take on all this alone.  And name dropping - which is what this post boils down to - is a poor excuse for recognition.

So what can I do to take on this impossible challenge?  How can I truly honor the women who have fought for horror despite the sad truth that they get far less of a chance than their male counterparts in most situations?  I've spent too much time considering questions like this, but the answer is simple.

And this is the part where I start to sound like Bill Murray in Scrooged, because it becomes evident that recognizing the women who have advanced the horror genre simply can not be a one time deal.  Sure, Women in Horror Month is still February, and will still be February - a fact we all owe to the fabulous Hannah Neurotica who conceived this lovely C.H.U.D. of a month (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) - but we don't have to just celebrate the women who make horror great once a year.  It's our duty as horror fans to shake the trees, to light the fires, to cry from the mountaintops - all from the safety of our computers, of course - to find a way to remind the world that women have given more to horror than we've ever imagined.  That women MEAN more to horror than we've ever let on.  That women in horror are among us, and that they are often ridiculously fantastic.
Maybe I didn't accomplish everything that was humanly possible during Women in Horror Month...but I'm not going anywhere.  From Midnight, With Love is not here to jump on a trend and then trash it like last night's leftovers, we're here to shine a light on all we love about genre cinema.  And I can promise, women in horror will always have a welcome home at our humble little corner of the horror 'verse, because they deserve that and a whole lot more. 

It's with great pride that I salute all who have given to Women in Horror Month, from the Midnight Warriors who have shared here to the filmmakers who have fought for the cause.  But as I do so, I feel obliged to offer a challenge.  You've all done great things for Women in Horror - now do more.  If we work together, if we keep on pushing the boundaries of what we find comfortable, we can make sure that Women in Horror are never forgotten again.  That's gonna take a lot of work, but - like I said - I'm not going anywhere.  Women in Horror will always be a key part of what From Midnight, With Love is - no matter what month it is.

February 27, 2011

Dario Argento's Door into Darkness - The Tram

From Midnight, With Love has been operational for two years, one month, and twenty-two days.  In that amount of time, I've focused on a lot of films from all corners of all eras of genre film.  But you know who, aside from a few brief mentions, I've never fully covered at FMWL?  That's right, Mr. Dario Argento.
There's not a good excuse for this.  I could blame my weird shaped head or the fact that others are way better at talking Argento than I am, but that would be silly.  Truth is, I've just neglected to directly write about the work of Mr. A, despite having already inducted him in FMWL's Hall of Fame.

In an attempt to change this, I wanted to shine a light on one of Argento's less-publicized projects, Door Into Darkness.  A brief Italian answer to The Twilight Zone, Door into Darkness was a series of four one hour chillers created (and introduced by, though he's no Serling) by Argento in 1973.  At the time of its conception, Argento had completed his "Animal Trilogy" (The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, The Cat O' Nine Tails, Four Flies on Grey Velvet), which were each financially successful in Italy, and branching out to television was one of the first signs of how brightly his star would shine.

I hope to focus on all four episodes of Argento's series - which are now collected on one 2-DVD set by Mya Entertainment - but I started my look at the short series with the second episode, The Tram, which was written and directed by Dario himself.  Starring Enzo Ceruscio as a tenacious detective and Paola Tedesco as his girlfriend, The Tram opens with a young woman's body being found under the seats of a tram, and then follows the detective as he tries to figure out how the crime may have occurred.

If you're like me, you might not even know what a "Tram" is.  (What? Don't look at me like that.  I'm from Iowa, we have cars, trucks, and tractors.  That's it.  You fancy dancy city folk and your modern means of transportation frighten and confuse us.)  As far as I can tell from the episode (yeah, I'm not even gonna google tram, I'm just gonna assume), the tram is kind of like a cross between a trolley car and a subway train (if I knew what those things were).  I know this seems not important, but the whole point of the episode is that this murder occurred in a public place where it seems likely that someone - anyone - might have noticed a young blonde being killed and shoved under a bunch of seats.  On a tram, which I now know is a real thing that exists.

(Why can't there be tractor based murder mysteries?  Then I'd be sittin' here typing "Don't worry guys...I GOT THIS!")
My insolence regarding means of transportation aside, The Tram offers an interesting query to the viewer, and I must admit that I spent a large part of the early episode considering just how someone could pull off a murder on a mode of public transportation. I had to imagine a bus, because we do have those and the tram looks kind of like a bus.  I kept pondering how such a murder could occur, and found the idea behind Argento's story most interesting.  Unfortunately, the final act is tram-specific, and thus my bus thoughts were completely meaningless.  I fail at city living.
Luckily for the film, Ceruscio's Inspector knows a lot more about trams than I do.  And he has access to one, which means that he can spend most of his time trying to recreate the events of that fateful night at the scene of the crime.  Argento urges us to keep our eyes on the faces that appear throughout the film as we try to solve the mystery, but there really are only a couple of logical suspects in the film.  The mystery isn't too deep, but watching the detective piece together the crime as he nervously snaps his fingers is more entertaining than the plot deserves.  Argento doesn't offer the scope we're used to from his films either, but despite the shortcomings in plot and style I still found myself caught up in the mystery.

The final act does show off some of the giallo trademarks that Argento is famous for, and any viewer versed in Dario can probably tell from the beginning that Tedesco is far too good looking to not be a potential victim.  The climactic moments are closer to the likes of Deep Red (which would be Argento's next film) than the rest of the episode, but they mostly left me wanting more.  I also was a bit sad that we didn't get to witness the initial murder, at least through a recap after the killer is revealed.  It feels like this story could have easily been beefed up into a feature, which would have allowed for a little more action, better characterization of the suspects, and a bit of blood.

The Tram has me interested to check out the rest of what Argento put together in Door into Darkness, but certainly is a far cry from his most artistic thrillers.  It's still a fun quick viewing, and I recommend it to any Italian horror fan who loves the man's work.  Just try not to get caught up on the specifics of the tram itself, especially if you're a Iowan like me. Public transportation is just so confusing when it's not a hayride.
That's right.  We the hay.

February 26, 2011

Predator - The Musical!

I'm not usually one to just post videos, but in honor of a) my most popular and controversial post ever, b) a former Midnight Movie of the Week, and c) one of my very favorite movies ever, I just had to share this amazing Youtube hit.  BEHOLD!

I know what I'm singing in the shower for the rest of eternity.

February 24, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #60 - The Stepford Wives

This is the only horror movie in which the men encourage the women to wear bras.  I'm not sure if that's the most important thing to say about The Stepford Wives, but it's the first thing that came to my mind when I started typing this post.

As far as this Mike is concerned, The Stepford Wives is the definitive horror film about a woman who is being tortured.  It's certainly a cheesy film and sets itself up to be spoofed, but - like similar '70s hits Soylent Green and Westworld - it's the rare kind of film that puts a character in an inconceivable situation and then insists that we identify with that character as they face an unspeakable reality.  Inside its ridiculous look at humanity - which is of course meant to parody the ridiculous perceptions some have of humanity - there's a shocking amount of drama as we see a poor woman bullied to conform to a fate that others have put together for her.
The movie focuses on Joanna and Walter Eberhart, played by Katharine Ross and Peter Masterson, a New York City couple who move to the quiet suburban town of Stepford to get away from troubles of the city (like men walking down the street with mannequins under their arms).  While Walter is ready for suburban living and wants nothing but a quiet life, Joanna is a "shutterbug" who longs for excitement and just wants to be able to do her thing.  As she begins to meet the women of Stepford, who look like they just stepped out of and episode of Leave it to Beaver, she slowly begins to go mad at the idea of becoming one of these mindless and submissive housewives.  Unfortunately, she's got good reason to be afraid.

There are few things in horror movies that really infuriate me, and few villains that actually get under my skin.  But the Stepford Wives gives me a rare "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it any more" kind of feeling because - to put it simply - the men in this film make me sick.  When Walter Eberhart - long before he knows of the men's council that runs Stepford - looks across the street and tells his neighbor that his wife "cooks as good as she looks", I become seriously annoyed with these men.  Worse, I know real human people who share their opinion that the woman exists only to serve.  Now I'm no truly enlightened male - I admit to loving a mindless pair of boobs as much as the next guy - but anyone who could undervalue a woman like this is a little bit terrifying to me.
Look everybody!  It's Dee Wallace!!!!
The thing about Joanna Eberhart is that Joanna Eberhart is kind of fantastic.  Though the film puts her in plenty of token feminist situations - again, I must point out her inability to put on a bra - the film does an incredible job of pointing out just how wonderfully human she is.  As she interacts with those around her while trying to take care of her children or convince that bonehead Walter that there's something wrong in Stepford, Ross infuses an appealing vigor into Joanna through her drive to be a strong, independent woman.  Her resolve shines through as her path through the film becomes more difficult, and a scene in which she shares her fears with a female psychiatrist is one of the more heartbreaking scenes I can recall in a horror film.  Ross' performance in this scene particularly is on par with any performance in any movie, and as she fights through tears to proclaim that she's afraid of becoming something who "won't be me" I get a little more furious with the men around her.
Walter Eberhart is not a total loss, and the early film scene in which he appears shocked after his first visit to Stepford's Men's Group shows a man who is clearly conflicted over what he's seen.  I'm not sure at what point in the movie Walter loses that, but what he loses as he becomes an antagonist to Joanna is awfully sad.  The other men in the movie show far less range and it's easy to see their old fashioned, "men only", morals on their sleeves.  Joanna's attempts to stand up to them are courageous, but it becomes increasingly evident that she's doomed as the women around her are immune to overpower their husbands.

Sadly, I don't know if there's a horror movie out there that presents such a tragic look at gender roles and those who discredit women as successfully as The Stepford Wives does.  It's a film that thoroughly fascinates me, because I'm forced to believe that there are men out there who treat their significant others as if they should be slaves.  I know there aren't dudes actually turning their women into Disneyland inspired robots - at least I hope there aren't - but let's be honest.  There hasn't exactly been a grand change in gender dynamics in the past 35 years.
Think about that.  In the 35 years since this film was released, we went from console TVs with four channels to flatscreens on walls that have better picture quality than our eyes are trained to see and more channels than you can shake a stick at.  We went from vinyl to cassettes to CDs to thousands of magical digital songs inside a tiny metal block that's the size of a fish stick.  Oh, and we have this internet thing which allows a guy who grew up on a hog farm in Iowa to post his ramblings on a thirty-five year old movie so people from Los Angeles to the Philippines can read it at the click of a button.  We - and by we, I of course mean smart people who invent things - did a lot of great things to change our world....but many men still can't be bothered to spend time in the kitchen or help raise their children. Maybe this society of old fashioned men will die out eventually, but it's still a lot further away than the invention of that Back to the Future hoverboard is.

(One thing that has changed for the worst in the past 35 years, you ask?  Easy - WALLPAPER.  When's the last time you saw something as awesome as THIS!)
Maybe I'm overthinking the world of Stepford, but I'm a trifle fired up by the film.  And when a horror film can so clearly bring real world issues home and can remind us of just how idiotic and unfair life can really be - that's the kind of horror film I want to come home to.  So thank you to you, The Stepford Wives, for keeping us on our toes and reminding us to watch out for the good 'ol boys.  You know, the ones who don't know how good they've got it when a fair haired creature that smells better than them offers to spend time with 'em.  You're a fine feminine horror movie, and I promise I'll never try to convince you to put one of those silly uplifting bras on.

Not of this Earth

(1957, Dir. by Roger Corman.)

I'm not sure why I was more interested in the remake of Not of this Earth - which I reviewed HERE - than Roger Corman's original black-and-white drive-in feature.  Oh, right. It's because a) the original wasn't available on DVD at the time and b) the remake was an '80s cheese fest with a notorious starlet in the oft-nude lead.  Now where were we?

Though it originally played as the second half of a double bill with Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters, Not of this Earth is a surprisingly impressive b-flick that balances the goofy fun we expect from Corman with some effective black-and-white cinematography and an imposing lead performance by the original 'Marlboro Man', Paul Birch.

Working backward, I was surprised to find that the plot of the remake is lifted almost directly from Corman's original film, with the only differences coming from the overuse of T & A in the remake.  (Though Jim Wynorski's big-haired update is no epic, it actually runs 14 minutes longer than Corman's 67 minute original.)  Full scenes are presented almost word for word in the remake, but the charm of the original shines through over the remake in almost every way.

Birch stars as the intergalactic creature in search of adequate blood, and a young Beverly Garland plays the nurse role that Traci Lords inhabited in the '80s.  Garland does a fine job of being the woman we'd expect to see in a b-movie of this era, but it's Birch's hammy performance in the lead that won me over.  With his deep voice, stilted movement, and dark sunglasses, Birch comes off as sufficiently inhuman.  He's never quite terrifying - though there are a few wonderfully creepy moments - but there's a definite unease surrounding the character.

As with most of Corman's films, there's plenty of light-hearted schlock to go around.  A cameo by Dick Miller as the ill-fated vacuum salesman provides some good chuckles, and the interactions between Garland's Nurse Nadine and her police officer beau are a good example of the unintentionally hilarious presenation of men and women in genre films of the '50s.  The reveal of the villain's laser eyes and his vampiric flying octopus creature are on par with some of the great silly sci-fi gags of the decade, but the operative word there is still "silly".

Still, I found a bit more substance in Corman's version of Not of this Earth than I expected to.  It's not a sci-fi classic by any means, but for a b-side at the drive-in it's kind of fantastic.  It's quick, original, and just a little creepy, which makes it everything you'd expect from Corman and more.  I've got a feeling this one will quickly become a b-movie favorite of mine, and leave that copy of the remake (there was also a second remake in 1997, but that one seems to have been swept away) dusty on my shelf.

February 22, 2011


(1978, Dir. by Richard Attenborough.)

Long before they resurrected the dinosaurs and chianti, respectively, Richard Attenborough and Anthony Hopkins teamed up on the horror scene for Magic, a fascinating horror drama about a magician and his dummy.  Hopkins plays the kind-of-but-not-really-but-maybe-really dual role as Corky Withers and the voice of his wooden friend Fats, and foreshadows his future ability to inhabit the mind of a truly disturbed individual.

From a screenplay by William "Yeah, I wrote The Stepford Wives AND The Princess Bride, punks!" Goldman that was based on his own novel, Magic focuses entirely on how little control Corky has over Fats.  The doll is a shocking sight to behold, and Hopkins' high pitched howls while he's voicing Fats are shrill and disturbing in the best kind of way.  The viewer knows from the start that poor Corky, who's trying to make a name for himself and impress his dying father, is a bit unhinged, yet the film takes its time letting the characters around him in on the secret.

The primary characters who deal with Corky are his agent, played by Burgess Meredith, and his love interest, a past high school crush played by Ann-Margret.  The latter gets to see the blurred line between Corky and Fats more often, but its the scenes without Fats - including one in which Corky becomes unhinged while trying to show her a card trick - that are most impressive.  The same can be said for the interactions between Hopkins and Meredith, and watching Hopkins become unhinged when challenged to spend five minutes without Fats might have been my favorite scene of the film.

There's no horror without a couple of murders, of course, and the events of the second and third act make our unease around Corky and Fats tangible.  As those who try to separate Corky and Fats meet their doom, the film shows unique perspective by keeping the focus internal.  Though Margret's Peggy is the person who we fear is most in physical danger, we also begin to fear for Corky, because it's clear that there's a good side to this timid man who just wanted to succeed.  It's one of the rare films, like Psycho before it, where one character becomes both the victim we feel for and the villain that we fear.

Though distribution issues and edited versions have hurt the film's legacy, recent versions have restored Magic to its theatrical state, and I hope the film can find a new audience as it was originally made.  This is a fine horror drama that deserves a much larger audience, and I can't recommend it enough to anyone who can accept a character-driven horror film that isn't all blood and breasts. 

Oh, and don't worry.  It's creepy too.  Don't believe me?  Check out this ad that was pulled from TV for giving too many children nightmares.  Pleasant dreams!

February 21, 2011

The Best Thing To Hit England Since Fish & Chips? Dead Hooker in a Trunk is Crossing the Pond!

That's right, you crazy Midnight lovin' Brits!  One of FMWL's very favorite films of recent memory - the one that held down the #4 spot on The Mike's list of favorite genre films of 2010 - is coming YOUR WAY!
Here's the scoop:  On May 23rd, Bounty Films will release Dead Hooker in a Trunk on DVD all across the UK!  No details are available yet, but one thing is for sure - Any splatter-lovin' fan of subversive cinema is in for a real treat.
We'll have more news for you all as the day draws closer, but for now it's time to celebrate.  Go hug a furry hatted police officer or somethin', because Dead Hooker in a Trunk is on its way, and it "should make any lover of cult cinema proud".

EDIT: If you don't believe me, go hear it from the twins themselves!   Jen & Sylvia Soska, FMWL salutes you!

The Bad Horror Poetry Screengrab Challenge

A little something to start your Monday morning.  Read the awful poetic horror story, tell me what movies the screengrabs come from in the comments.  It's like Kindertrauma Funhouse, only not awesome.  

I call this one The Vampire Stalker Romance ....because Twilight was already taken.
Once upon a time, a woman tired of a city full of criminals and liars...
But mostly she couldn't stomach all the goddamn vampires. 
To make her feel better, she adopted a black cat...
But she still felt vamp eyes wherever she was at.
She put on a disguise and tried to go forth.... 
Making a new home on a lake in the New York north.
Yet the shadow of one vampire was with her even more...
At times it lurked outside her patio door.
When she found a dead body down by the lake...
the vampire appeared, making the fearless cat shake!
She cowered and screamed, but the vamp offered his hand...
Then he took her to dinner, and to see her favorite band.
Soon her stomach was sick for a much different reason...
And nine months later it was cradle rocking season!

Can you name the 14 films pictured?

February 19, 2011

FMWL 2010 - The Year That Was (THE FINAL CHAPTER) - The Midnight Movies The Mike Fell in Love With in 2010

(Yes, this is a weeeee bit late.  I wanted to make sure it was awesome, OK?  And yes, I get to be Ron Silver, the movies get to be Jamie Lee.  That's how The Mike rolls.)

A wise man once said that "anything less than the best is a felony".  As a fan of genre cinema, I have to admit that this is not an opinion I often share.  From my perspective, it seems like I've already found a lot of the "best" that horror and sci-fi cinema has to offer.  But, while I'm trying to avoid the films that are killin' your brain like a poisonous mushroom, there are the rare moments when I find an older film that I haven't seen or maybe an older film that I dismissed when I was younger - and I actually kind of love it.

So, let's take a quick look at sixteen lovely genre flicks - all released before 2010, and presented in no particular order - that I found (or re-found) hidden in cinema's couch cushions last year.

The Silent Scream (1980, Dir. by Denny Harris.)

I guess you could call this a slasher film, but it's got more in common with Psycho and other '60s chillers -  there's even a hint of William Castle, I think - than other mindless flicks of the '80s.  A lot of the horror charm comes from the big creepy seaside house setting, and the trio of Yvonne De Carlo, Brad Rearden, and horror legend Barbara Steele play a family with too many dark secrets well.  The leads could be a little more interesting - though Rebecca Balding is adequate in the lead - but The Silent Scream still sticks as one of the more fun early '80s horrors I've seen in some time.

The Pit (1981, Dir. by Lew Lehman.)

I've already covered this one as a Midnight Movie of the Week here at FMWL, but it bears repeating that this quirky horror tale has quickly become a favorite of mine.  With a memorable performance by young Sammy Snyders and a plot that seems to be all over the horror map, The Pit matches its playful charm with an incredibly unique set of twists.  I'm not sure if there's another horror flick quite like it out there.

Starcrash (1979, Dir. by Luigi Cozzi.)

I've also covered this one, but any time I have the chance to bring up Caroline Munro, I do it.  If you're a fan of Ms. Munro like I am, this is your Citizen Kane.  And it's the perfect thing to add to the mix with Flash Gordon and episodes of Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century when you want to see what our future in space really SHOULD look like.

The Initiation of Sarah (1978, Dir. by Robert Day.)

Coming our way via the Final Girl Film Club in late November, The Initiation of Sarah is another unique horror from the late '70s/early '80s. (Considering how original a lot of these films are, don't you kind of wish the slasher hadn't come along and dumbed down the genre? Just something to ponder.)  Featuring a who's who of TV stars, including the delicious Morgan Brittany, this mixture of sorority bitchiness and dark magic goes down like steak and potatoes.  It's also available on Instant Netflix for your viewing pleasure.

The Stuff (1985, Dir. by Larry Cohen.)

There was no good reason for me to avoid a blobby film, but that's exactly what happened for most of my life.  When i finally did meet with Larry Cohen's The Stuff, I found a delightful piece of satire that takes aim at advertising, the hive mind of American society, and the people who profit from our weaknesses.  Oh, and there's Stuff that kind of acts like a Blob.  That's awesome.  Previously reviewed HERE.

Humanoids from the Deep (1980, Dir. by Barbara Peeters.)

I'd seen this one years ago, but the proper blu-ray treatment from Shout Factory and their Roger Corman's Cult Classics series brought out so much I didn't take from the film the first time.  A vile mess of a movie that seems to want to capitalize on the success of both Jaws and Alien before it, Humanoids from the Deep features some gruesome effects from the legendary Rob Bottin and a boatload of silly, mindless horror fun.  Should be a great pick for a splattery evening with friends.

The Believers (1987, Dir. by John Schlesinger.)

Another film I'd not quite appreciated when I was younger.  Schlesinger brings voodoo to New York City with impressive results, and there are some genuinely creepy scenes.  Martin Sheen gets top billing as the father trying to unravel a mystery, but the stars might be Jimmy Smits in a small and doomed role and Harris Yulin as a member of the vicious cult.  The ending is a little off, I think, but I still admire the dark and serious tone of the film.

(Oh, and Robert Loggia's in it.  Consider this an intermission....)

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970, Dir. by Dario Argento.)

You'd probably smack me if you knew how few Dario Argento films I've seen.  But I've always loved his style, and was proud to find myself enjoying his debut feature completely.  The film sets the tone for his entire career as a filmmaker, but there are very few growing pains on display in this good looking and suspenseful giallo.  The sequence with the young woman facing a seemingly normal staircase is textbook Argento.

The Roost & Trigger Man (2005 & 2007, Dir. by Ti West.)

He made a name at the end of 2009 with The House of the Devil, which has quickly become one of my favorite modern horrors, and watching Ti West's first two features goes a long way to show how he pulled off that shocker.  Both films are slow burning tales of characters that are secluded from any help and have to fight to survive, and both films feature abrupt yet fascinating endings.

The Roost (also a former Midnight Movie of the Week pick) reminds us of survival horrors like The Birds and Night of the Living Dead, while Trigger Man is a more human tale of survival in the woods from an unseen gunman.  The average viewer could attest that very little actually happens in these 80 minute films - which has also been said about The House of the Devil - but to me the trilogy of films show that West is the rare director who can turn a quiet moment into a suspense with ease.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974, Dir. by Jorge Grau.)

Apparently, Sleeping Corpses can't handle the truth.  A rare Italian zombie film that BOTH makes sense and doesn't just decide to be violent for the sake of being violent, the film that's also known as The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue surprised me by being engaging on a visual and mental level.  Like many other horror fans, I'm pretty sick of zombies, but this film is one of the rare exceptions that I'd take with me on the horror ark.

The Being (1983, Dir. by Jackie Kong.)

This is certainly the worst film on this list, but it's a heck of a piece of trash.  Featuring great talents like Martin Landau and Jose Ferrer (plus The Town That Dreaded Sundown narrator Vern Steirman doing explanatory narration), the story puts a small Idaho town in danger from a mutant menace while a bearded detective (played by producer Bill Osco under the awesome pseudonym Rexx Coltrane) investigates.  Also, it features the best Easter Egg hunt in the history of Easter.  Check out the trailer below and tell me this doesn't look like awesome cheese....
And now....The Midnight Movies The Mike MOST Fell in Love with in 2010...

Yeah, I know I said no particular order, but the next four films need to be separated out from the rest.  Not that I don't love all these flicks, but these are the four that will truly stick with me as new favorites from 2010. 

Pieces (1982, Dir. by Juan Piquer Simon.)

I had seen Pieces - in fact, I had seen Pieces a couple of times - before 2010, but it wasn't until I got ahold of the updated/remastered DVD that I really realized what I had seen.  It's the king of bad slashers, bar none, from the ridiculous Bastard moment to the surprise ninjaness and the puzzling (har har!) ending.  I don't know what was wrong with me before, but I'm glad to now say that Pieces now finally makes sense to me in all its awful/awesome glory.

Inside & Martyrs (2007 & 2008, Dir. by Alexandre Bustillo/Julien Maury & Pascal Laugier.)

Yeah yeah yeah, I know. I'm racist and putting the French movies together.  So sue me. At least I'm not using Paint to draw berets on the posters and making jokes about them smelling funny.  (Just kidding! I love you Frogs!) 

Without a doubt, these are the two most brutal and draining horror films I saw for the first time in 2010.  First there was Inside, which is vicious enough to focus on terrorizing an expecting mother.  The film features some of the darkest and most ominous scenes I've seen in a long time, and Beatrice Dalle is nothing short of terrifying as the woman in black who haunts us with a pair of scissors at her disposal.  Blood flows in ways we rarely see, but the whole film stays memorable by keeping us involved with this poor mother and her plight.

On the other hand is Martyrs, which shows its teeth by putting young women in unimaginable torture situations.  There's a bit more light in this one than Inside, but the chills come just the same.  Both films begin with more violence than most horror fans are used to and still manage to escalate through their final acts, though I'd give Martyrs the edge as it reaches heights I never expected to see on screen and take seriously.  Both films have quickly become notorious - and it's easy to see why - but I was surprised to learn in 2010 that the reputations they've acquired in such a short amount of time are definitely well earned.  I must now give kudos to all you sick French people, because this stuff's better than croissants.

These Are the Damned (1963, Dir. by Joseph Losey.)

I covered this one during FMWL's Hammer Films Month in October, and - as much as I loved most of the things I watched that month - I can safely say it made the whole month worthwhile.  A one of a kind sci-fi flick about the dangers of radiation, These Are the Damned features amazing black & white photography and some A Clockwork Orange style gang violence at the hands of a young Oliver Reed.  It's a sci-fi flick that pushes the boundaries that American cinema of the same time period were saddled with, and does so with a chip on its shoulder (after all, director Losey was forced to leave the USA for possibly being subversive).  It's also got a lot of tension throughout, and several scenes remind us of the best horror films its era had to offer.  As I look back on 2010, there's not a film I'm more glad I got to see than These Are the Damned.

And with that said, let us prepare for whatever it is that 2011 will have up its sleeve!  To you, 2010, I must now say "Peace. I'm outta here".

Word to your mother.