Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Creature from the Haunted Sea

--Reviewed by Patrick

"Because I was a Secret Agent, I could tell she was attracted to me."

Plotline: It's the early 60's. Castro has taken over Cuba and, in an attempt to fund the overthrow of Castro, the old government steals the "National Treasury." In order to get the money off the island, they employ the help of a rag tag group of American criminals, who are supposed to transport a handful of generals, a few random Cubans and the cash onward to America. But, the Americans have plans of their own. They begin killing off the Cubans, one by one and blaming it on a mysterious sea monster. When the monster turns out to be real, the real trouble starts.

Scariness factor: Despite the violent description given above, this movie is actually a horror comedy, so don't expect any actual scares. The monster costume looks like they had a 6 pack of beer and some pocket change as a budget for it.

Originality: Oooh boy! You ever watch a movie and can't help but think that the creators were on drugs when they made it? This is one of those movies. Even one of the actors, an undercover secret agent named Sparks Moran, spouts lines with the crazed self-confidence of Hunter S. Thomson (complete with the droopy cigarette continually hanging out of his mouth). In fact, the whole movie has the sort of drugged out craziness that I haven't seen much in film, short of the movie "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas."

I've seen a few reviews online, which positively loathed this movie, and I think they just didn't get it. This isn't Corman's "Pit and the Pendulum" (Oh, did I mention this movie was made by the same guy who made "The Terror"?). This is a movie about a group of criminals who talk in animal noises, meet native women named Mango, make radio knobs out of the ends of Hot Dogs and see businessmen walk out of the water to use a pay phone on an "abandoned" island and do so with a blasé shrug.

The movie's style of insane, nonsensical humor is the same kind that made movies like 'Airplane' and 'Naked Gun.' You know, movies where you go "what the fuck!?" alot.

Other High Points: Let me just quote you a few lines from this movie, to give you an idea of where it's coming from:

"It was dusk. I could tell because the sun was going down"
"Happy Jack had gotten a permanent facial twitch from watching too many Humphrey Bogart movies."
"In exchange, Renzo let him make any animal noises he'd like."

It's also the first horror movie I've seen with a musical interlude, which the lead actress sings an ode to the "Creature from the Haunted Sea"

Other Complaints: The sound! Oh god, the sound! I don't know if it was just my print, but the sound quality on this movie was horrid. The whole track was so muffled, it sounded like everyone was talking through layers of blankets. If you have an EQ attached to your DVD player, by chance, I am sure this can be corrected with a little tweaking of the high end. Those of us without, though, will need to deal with some shoddy audio tracks.

I should also point out that the movie does drag a bit towards the beginning. Once they hit the island though, it's "full steam ahead" from there.

Overall: I don't know what else to say to make you go rent/buy/borrow this movie. Other than it would make a great party movie, so before you press play, invite some friends over, open some beers, start up the DVD and wait for the madness to begin.

Grade: A

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Monday, March 28, 2005

The Terror

--Reviewed by Patrick

Plotline: Lt. Andre Duvalier (played by none other than Jack Nicholson), a French soldier who, for reasons unexplained, gets separated from his battalion and stumbles upon a young woman, wandering along the coast. He follows her mysterious self to the castle of one Baron Von Leppe (played by Boris Karloff), only to discover that not only has she disappeared, but also she's been dead for 20 years! I'd try to explain the rest of the plot to you, but truly, it makes no sense. I'll leave it that Andre has fallen in love with this "ghost" and spends the rest of the movie trying to find out the truth about her and if she's even a ghost at all.

Scariness factor: Like a 7 year old with a new Halloween outfit, it tries so hard to be scary that you almost feel bad for it and offer up a "pity scream." But, sadly, that's about it.

Originality: I don't even know where to start here. Okay, this movie is original. But that's only because I've never seen a film that left one with such a feeling of confusion and bewilderment. Full of plot twists that make no sense (The Baron is really his wife's lover, who killed the Baron and assumed his role, only to start believing he was the Baron and killed his wife and her love - himself- ) and scenes which play no part in the movie whatsoever (at one point, Andre finds a cradle in the Baroness's room. It's existence or significance is never explained), I found myself really trying to figure out what the fuck was going on most of the time.

Other High Points: Richard Miller as Stefan, the butler. For those who are not as freakish as myself, Richard Miller played Mr. Futterman in the movie 'Gremlins', a film very close to my heart.

Other Complaints: I will devote this time to some quick bullet points, detailed huge plotholes not already mentioned:

  • After he arrives at the Baron's castle, Andre's horse goes missing. It's assumed that the Baron stole it, but why would he do that, seeing as how he wants nothing more than to get Andre to leave?

  • Apparently, being "mute" means you can only whisper, as the mute character, Gustaf, seems to do alot of talking.

  • Even if we're supposed to believe that the Barroness's "ghost" is really the living woman, Helena, it's never explained how she can appear and disappear, at will.

  • Why does the Baron flood the crypt to kill himself, instead of just use the freggin gun he handed to his butler, just moments before.

  • Why are there only 2 people in the whole damn village? (and I mean only 2, there's not even a freggin' single extra in this movie).

  • and on..and on..

Overall: I'll admit, I was expecting alot out of this movie. With Roger Corman at the director's helm, a young Francis Coppola (yes, you read that right, Francis Ford Coppola had something to do with this film) in the producer's seat and Boris Karloff starring, it had all the points needed for a truly great horror film. But, somewhere along the line, the script got ripped up, lost, replaced with pages from 'Moby Dick' and thrown back together again, making a most unwatchable film. Sorry, but do yourself and a favor and avoid this film.

Grade: F


Shaun of the Dead

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Shaun and his best friend Ed confront a zombie-takeover as Shaun tries to reconcile with his girlfriend and get his life back together.

Scariness factor: Not scary at all. That being said, it is a comedy, so I don't suppose it was supposed to be particularly scary.

Originality: The plotline was no different than any other zombie movie--zombies attack, a group of people gets holed up somewhere, said group of people has to keep from getting eaten but slowly gets picked off. The difference is that this was making fun of zombie movies, so it had that going for it. It had a fairly keen sense of what is typically silly in zombie movies (i.e. the ridiculously slow movement of zombies that nonetheless somehow manages to overtake perfectly healthy and capable human beings) and did a nice job poking fun at these things.

Other Complaints: Not many. The movie was a bit slow at the beginning and a bit slow at the end where it kind of serioused-up and lost its sense of humor. But other than that, I found myself laughing quite a bit throughout.

Other High Points: This movie was really quite funny, despite the slow moments at the beginning and the end. The commentary on the zombieness of daily human existence in comparison to the zombieness of the attacking zombies was dead-on. And Ed (Nick Frost) offered up so many laughs I can't even count. It also had an acute awareness of the genre it was making fun of--the zombies move so slow that Ed and Shaun are actually able to pick through records and decide which ones to throw at said zombies with much contemplation. And everyone in the movie is the lousiest aim and shot... for once.

Grade: A-


Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Nightmare on Elm Street

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: A group of high school friends realizes that they've been dreaming about the same nightmarish "guy" for the past couple nights. This guy, who goes by the name of Fred Krueger, begins picking them off in their sleep. Nancy, the main (and of course virginal) character decides to take action and end the bloodshed by pulling Freddy Krueger out of her dream back into her waking life.

Scariness factor: This movie has a bit of the '80s syndrome which takes off SOME of the bite of its scariness (the occasional lapse into lame super-80s synthesized music, for example). But overall, it's a damn creepy movie. And a damn horror classic because of that.

Originality: This definitely has originality going for it. I mean, it's a movie that focuses in on the subconscious--which is where our fear originates. This is clever. It is also a movie that makes terrifyingly scary the one place we cannot escape--sleep--typically a place of comfort for folks. It also cleverly makes use of dreams--the imagery is very dreamlike, and the idea of dreams and reality interweaving themselves is an interesting one. Definitely strong in this category.

Other Complaints: The long-armed Freddy Krueger scene is kinda lame as is the scene towards the end with the skeleton sinking into the bed (which should've included hard-core metal-guitar hair-band music to accompany it in its lameness).

Other High Points: This movie has some fantastically disturbing imagery in it, especially for when it was made--a female victim being torn apart by an invisible attacker as she is dragged up the wall and onto the ceiling, a bed pouring out gallons of blood upside-down onto the ceiling.

Johnny Depp has poofy-hair. Hee hee. Not really awesome enough of a reason to see it, but definitely an added perk.

It also is more of a complex horror movie than most, delving into what dreams are and what fears are in an interesting way. It is not just horror and gore for the sake of scaring and grossing out.

Grade: A


Monday, March 21, 2005

The Company of Wolves

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: I'm not quite sure this movie HAS much of a plot-line, but I can at least say the following--the book is based on the short story by Angela Carter and is directed by Neil Jordan. It is moreso a fairy tale than a horror movie in a lot of ways, revolving around a variety of stories about "the big bad wolf" or "the wolf in man's clothing." Angela Lansbury plays the grandmother of a "Little Red Riding Hood" and most of the films focuses on the stories she tells her granddaughter about the wolves in the forest and straying off the path.

Scariness factor: Moreso creepy and weird in the way that Grimm fairy tales and the like usually are. I am having a hard time truly considering this a horror movie (though it has certain aspects that might peg it as such), so I'd be hard-pressed to say it was truly "scary."

Originality: If one is going to look at it AS a horror movie, and in comparison to other werewolf movies out there, this is probably its strong-point. There are many layers of meaning in this movie--the werewolf is not just the source of scares. He represents man, sexuality, loss of innocence, etc. in a way that is much more complicated than most werewolf movies, and I'm sure in part to the feminist reworking of Angela Carter.

Other High Points: This movie has some FANTASTIC transformation scenes as "werewolf" movies go. And many of them. So werewolf-fans will not be disappointed. One of the best transformation scenes consists of the mouth of a man widening to ridiculous proportions as the wolf and his snout emerge through it--why no one has ever though of this way of transforming man into wolf before is beyond me, but it is particularly apropos given the repeated idea that "some wolves you can easily recognize because they are hairy on the outside; but the worst wolves of all are those that you can't perceive, the ones who are hairy on the INSIDE."

Also, the fairy tale qualities of this movie are really visually interesting--there are many unsettling dream sequences, and reality shifts back and forth in a way that is successfully unsettling.

Other Complaints: The movie has the feel of a Masterpiece Theater movie--in ways I can't quite pinpoint, it feels a bit "made-for-television" which I didn't particularly care for, especially since I normally really quite dig Neil Jordan's directing and cinematographic choices. Also, it has a terribly heavy-handed and annoying 1980's-esque score and (to accompany it) a very 1980's-esque penchant for slow-motion scenes which get to be a little excessive at times. Also, it seemed to have terrible sound-quality, though it could just be my copy. The highs were way too high and the lows way too low.

Grade: B/B-


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues

--Reviewed by Patrick

Before I start this review, I would like to point out that this movie, along with many others (some of which have been and will be reviewed here) are available on the 12 DVD Box Set: Horror Classics. This DVD set is a must have for all fans of older horror movies. It's a perfect mix of real classics, like 'Night of the Living Dead' and 'Nosferatu', to complete cheese fests, like the one I am about to review. And, at Approx $30.00, it is, by far, the most bang for your buck. Anyways, onto the show!

Plotline: Dead teenagers start washing up to shore, burnt beyond recognition. Who or what is to blame? A mysterious glowing radioactive rock that has appeared in the ocean, guarded by a horrible sea creature, that's what. Pretty soon, the Government is in on the deal and the head of the new Institute of Oceanography (a building which seems to be comprised of only two rooms, might I add) in town is given some very serious questions to answer. The situation is made worse by a money grubbing couple, bent on finding the formula that made this glowing rock and sell it to the highest bidder.

Scariness factor: Probably just about as scary as the Halloween episodes of Happy Days.

Originality: This movie is a complete rip-off of the (far superior) Creature from the Black Lagoon, which was released just a few years earlier. But, like all things like this, "Creature.." made it into a Horrorwood classic while "Phantom.." still languishes in relative obscurity.

Other High Points: Okay, look. The acting is over-the-top, the dialogue is cheesy and the monster looks like he's going to lose a piece of paper mache any minute. But, that's what makes this movie great! It's the sort of movie which spawned the parody 'The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra' and nibbled at the brains at the creators of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It's also perfect midnight movie fare. I felt like, any moment, I'd see Big Chuck and Little John, with their horribly canned laugh track, roll across the screen. Simply put, it's the sort of movie that got me into horror movies as a kid and which I still love today. Radioactive monsters, Scientists doing "science" and reactions to death that are so blasé, they are borderline psychopathic, that's what a "so bad it's good" movie is all about.

Other Complaints: As a minor point of argument, the title is more than a little misleading, as is appears all of the underwater action takes place at a depth of approx 20-30 feet, a far cry from the 10,000 Leagues promised by the film's title. I assume "10,000 Leagues" just looked better than "The Phantom of muddy, shallow water"

Overall: If you are like me and can't resist a good B-movie, do yourself a favor and check this movie out. Note: the film will improve with time (of night) and alcohol consumption.

Grade: B (of course!)

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Computer Animation Will be the Death of the Horror Movie

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against computer animation--in many movies it works. Though I can't really think of any right now--heh heh.

But when it comes to horror movies, computer animation is a big wet limp noodle.

The amazing thing about horror movies is that the mind is what fills in a huge amount of the fear that makes these movies a success. And thankfully, many of the most successful horror movie filmmakers are AWARE of this and have thus abided by the rule "less is more." They are aware that all they have to do is HINT at something that shakes us to our very core, and our brains will fearfully and tremblingly fill in the rest.

The original The Haunting is one such example, especially in comparison to its garbagey, scum-sucking god-awful remake.

In the original The Haunting, little to nothing scary is shown. Instead, the viewer finds themselves in the position of the main characters, trapped in a room where a loud pounding noise is moving up and down the hallway, unable to see or really KNOW what terrifying entity is making this noise, watching in horror from the eyes of the characters as the doorknob slowly turns and something tries to get in.

In the remake they show too much, making the movie more silly than creepy by having statues in the walls come to life, the house physically attack the main character, etc:

And herein lies the problem. Certain filmmakers get way too geeked out at the prospect of having computer animation at their disposal and end up focusing not so much on how to make the movie as creepy as possible but how to use computer animation as much and as "cleverly" as possible. They decide not to test the limits of our fears, but to test the limits of their computer animation skills, which, more often than not, results in clunky, completely unscary moments--i.e. the transformation scene in the recent werewolf movie Cursed, pretty much the whole remake of The Haunting. The list of recent horror flicks that have succumbed to this goes on and on.

Greanted, I enjoy the occasional over-the-top horror movie--ones that are replete with as much gore and blood and gruesomeness as possible (think of the explosive pus scenes from The Evil Dead or the splatter-fest lawnmower massacre of Dead Alive).

But even the success of these movies is not contingent upon computer animation. It rests on good old fashioned special effects--fake blood, fake pus, fake amputated body-parts.

And even so, for ANY movie to be a truly successful horror film (even something as border-line campy as The Evil Dead, the original of which still creeps me out mightily every time I watch it), the filmmaker has to have that understanding of what it is that makes humans fearful--not so much what IS seen as what elaborate imaginings the mind concocts in the absence of such.

The mind is an amazing thing. It can leave us reeling hours after watching something scary, make us jump at the slightest of noises, concoct elaborate visions of people creeping around the shadowy corners of our apartments. More modern horror filmmakers need to start remembering this and returning to their horror movie roots instead of tumbling into the land of computer animated flops, that way we can stop sitting through the likes of The Haunting (1999). Please, horror filmmakers. I beg you.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Christina Ricci and her brother hit a "large animal" of some sort and get bitten/scratched by the creature. Brother quickly comes to realize that they are now "cursed" with the mark of the werewolf. Sister does not believe him, takes some convincing. They realize they need to track down the head werewolf in order to save themselves from the destructiveness of their wolfen blood.

Scariness factor: Little to none. Moments that were intended to make you jump out of your skin could be seen from a mile away by a blind-man who was also deaf and missing all his limbs and suffering from a terrible bout of genital herpes.

Originality: Let us quote a few moments from the movie--"What kind of animal could have done that?" and "Fine, don't believe me, but it WAS a werewolf." How many times have those phrases been recycled in werewolf movies? For about as many full moons that the earth has rolled its way through. Needless to say, this werewolf movie clung to all the tropes of pretty much any other horror movie of that genre--nothing much new, nothing much original. *SPOILER ALERT 'Cept for the fact that werewolves apparently aren't just compelled by the light of the moon and their animal urges but also the need to exact revenge on their ex-es. /END SPOILER

Other High Points: Jesse Eisenberg was actually the real reason this movie was tolerable--he was actually kind of funny and neurotic and a fairly decent actor. The movie also had many silly self-deprecating moments which redeemed it a slight bit. And finally, Scott Baio.

Other Complaints: Lamest special effects ever--in horror movies, less is always more (future topic for this blog); werewolf transformation scenes should NOT be computer animated because it defeats the whole point of them; household pets should also not be computer animated into wolves that are SO obviously computer animated that it is difficult not to wet yourself laughing. The stupidity of the characters (as in many horror flicks) was also slightly aggravating--if the sign says "Mirror Maze," if you walk in 2 feet and can TELL it's a mirror maze (even if you missed the sign), perhaps if you're trying desperately to find someone, you should just walk right back out and look elsewhere given that the nature of the mirror maze is to make it difficult to find things. A-duh.

Grade: C-
(Check out Ginger Snaps instead--a far superior recent werewolf movie)

* * * * * * * *

Reviewed by Patrick

"So how did you sleep last night?"
Okay. Woke up in the bushes."

I should note that I am passionate fan of werewolf movies. I've seen a ton of films on this monster, good and bad, so my opinion comes from years of being a werewolf film buff. As such, my opinion may vary greatly from yours. Viewer discretion is advised.

Plotline: Siblings, Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) and Ellie (Christina Ricci), are attacked by a werewolf outside of L.A. They survive and both subsequently start to notice "changes". It's not long before the claws and fangs start coming out and people around them start coming up dead.

Scariness factor: Pretty low. I've seen episodes of 'Unsolved Mysteries' that were scarier.

Originality: It's tough to judge the originality of a movie that so obviously riffed on parts from other films. Maybe I've just seen too many werewolf movies, but from the "using werewolf powers to excel at wrestling" (Teen Wolf Too) to the "hitting the werewolf with a car" (Wolf, Ginger Snaps, Werewolf of Washington, the list goes on..), it seems like the movie spent so much time sticking to the tricks and traits of a traditional werewolf movie, it didn't have much of a chance to build it's own. But, to the movie's credit, I have never seen dark humor injected so easily into a werewolf movie as much as this one. Even the classic 'American Werewolf in London' failed to reach the solid blend that 'Cursed' had in this respect.

One bonus point they do get is giving the werewolves a strong human streak. In previous movies, it's generally established that, once the person changes, they become a beast, controlled only by instinct and possessing only the basest of human thought. In 'Cursed', the werewolf basically acts like a psychopath with fur. I found this to be a nice original touch.

Other High Points: Self-deprecating humor is something Wes Craven (the director of 'Cursed') seems to love these days. So, honestly, though I was going into this movie expecting something totally horrible, I found it impossible to truly dislike it. It's like the dorky kid who makes fun of himself, leaving you little room to pick on him. It was also, for it's carbon copy plot and, quite frankly, horrible acting on Christina Ricci's part, simply really a fun and entertaining movie that serves up everything you go into a werewolf movie to see (tortured psyches, mauled bodies with lots of fake blood, pissed off folks with yellow eyes).

Other Complaints: With Rick Baker at the helm of Special FX, I was expecting alot more from the werewolf. Mr. Baker's previous work has included some the best in werewolf effects. He's worked on such greats as 'American Werewolf in London', 'The Howling' and the sublimely subtle look of 'Wolf'. So, though the monster did look better than average, it still didn't jive with the high quality I've grown to expect and love from his work. Plus, the whole CGI "transformation scene" really turned me off. I've, certainly, seen worse, but I've yet to see it done well and this was no exception.

As a plot note, I'd also like to know how a young gay man can feel soo alone and like he has no one to talk to in Los Angeles, California!

Overall: Though it will never make my top 5 horror or even werewolf movies, I was really suprised at 'Cursed'. It's gotten alot of bad reviews and the stories about how the movie had to basically be shot twice because the first go didn't work at all left me thinking I was about to see the next 'Howling: New Moon Rising'. But, through all of this, I found a movie that didn't take itself too seriously, was truly entertaining and still delivered the bloody goods.

Grade: B

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Horror Movie Pet Peeve

The Interpreter:

This is a character that plays no other role in a horror movie other than to either a) give a brief recap of all the clues leading up to something important for the viewer or b) give a recap AND analysis of all important clues thus far in the movie, allowing the viewer to easily see the resolution to the movie's mystery. This character irks me because it is insulting to the viewer's intelligence. The filmmaker seems to put them in there as if to say, "Well, in case you can't interpret all the clues that we've put in here for you, we'll throw in this character to verbally interpret them all for you at some point in the movie, you big stupid moron."

Prime example--Mr. Bludworth in Final Destination:

In Death...

CAMERA INCHES TOWARD the mortician. In this environment, lit with Fritz Lang shadows, Bludworth's tone, appearance... he could easily be mistaken for personification of the subject.

... there are no accidents. No
coincidencess. No mishaps.
And no... escapes.

You saying Tod did kill himself?

Bludworth moves to Tod on the draining table, disconnecting the tubes connecting the body to the embalming chemicals.

Suicide. Murder. Plane crash. What
does it matter? He was going to end
someday. From the minute you're cut
loose from the womb... it's a one
way ticket on a trip to the tomb.

Vile liquid oozes out of the body onto the porcelain table.

You may not realize it, but we're
all just a mouse that a cat has by
its tail. Every single move we
make, from the mundane to the
monumental... the red light we stop
at, or run; the people we have sex
with, or won't with us; the airplane
we ride, or walk out of... is all a
part of Death's sadistic design
leading to the grave.


The mortician considers as he drains some yellowish green fluid from the table. He shrugs then continues his work...

If Life is like a box of
chocolates... Death... Death is like
a big Milton Bradley game of "Mouse
Trap." The day you're born is just
the boot, hanging from the
streetlamp, kicking the marble to
get things rolling. Growing up is
only the marble rolling down the
curving chute. You feel immortal
having survived school, sex, drugs
'n' rock 'n' roll, but you've really
only upset the big hand holding the
steel ball that falls into the
bathtub. Marriage and kids and
career seem to make it all worthwhile
until the ball hits the see-saw and
flips the diving man into the big
barrel. In the old folks home or the
hospital you just see the big cage
rattling down until it captures...
the mouse.
Game over.

Alex considers as Clear eyes him, conveying "this guys's whacked!" Alex moves toward Bludworth...

Maybe there's no way to win...
but... if you figured out the
game... you knew where the "steel
ball was rolling" couldn't you
avoid the trap and extend the
playing time? Couldn't you... cheat
Death at Its own game?

Mr. Bludworth looks directly at Alex. CAMERA MOVES IN ON EACH,
INDIVIDUALLY... this between the two of them.

You already did that by walking off
the plane. Now you gotta out when
and how it'll come back at you.
Play your hunch, Alex. If you think
you can get away from it.
But beware the risk of cheating the
plan, disrespecting the design...
could iniciate a horrifying fury that
would terrorize even the Grim Reaper.
And you don't even want to fuck with
that Mack Daddie.

(courtesy of allmoviescripts.com)

Annoying variations on this pet peeve:

When main characters in the movie recap all the pertinent clues for the viewer just in case the viewer is ridiculously slow and can't put together the pieces of the puzzle for themselves. (i.e. The Ring)

When the filmmaker does a visual recap, usually consisting of rapidly fired shots of various important scenes in the movie, so that, if the viewer is a moron and missed something, he/she can now figure it out. (i.e. The Sixth Sense)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Horror Philosophy

I've been meaning to post this question for a while. It is an intriguing one, and our lovely friend Peppermint was musing about it the other day.

I open my comment section to thoughts and mutterings in response to the following inquiry:

What makes a horror flick a horror flick?