Dark Night of the Soul: 24-Hours of Horror

I know it’s very last-minute, but like Scott Weinberg, I was also urged on by a friend (Bryan) who read the 24 Hours of Horror with Edgar Wright piece by Keith Phipps over at The A.V. Club. Bryan’s email went a little something like this: “You should do one of these… we should just rip this off but you be Edgar Wright.” So, thanks to Keith, Edgar, Scott, Bryan, and my own irresistible urge to make yet another horror-centric list, I present to you my own hastily compiled 24-hour horror fest.

Haste aside, there is a theme. There’s something truly terrifying to me about the horrible things people are capable of doing in the name of their beliefs, blind devotion especially. A few of the films aren’t traditional horror movies, but I think they’re frightening nonetheless. And I’ll tell you right now, three of my films are also on Weinberg’s list, but they work so well with my theme and they’re great movies. That being said, here we go.

6:00 PM – God Told Me To (1976)

Starting the party with a bang, in God Told Me To, New York City is plagued by random acts of violence perpetrated by a variety of average citizens, all of whom claim to have been directed by God. Dark, disturbing, and pretty weird, in an “Andy Kaufman has a cameo as a homicidal uniform cop” kinda way.

7:30 PM – The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Robert Mitchum plays the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing, a pious murderer and self-appointed priest who preys upon Shelly Winters’ belief that marrying him will grant her salvation, when all he really wants is the money. Mitchum at his creepiest.

9:00 PM – Jesus Camp (2006)

Say what you will, but nothing that happens at Camp Crystal Lake, Camp Arawak, or Camp Stonewater is anywhere near as scary as what goes on at the Kids on Fire School of Ministry. Children weeping for fear of God, speaking in tongues, and all the militant talk about the army of God, it’s pretty frightening. Whatever happened to: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

10:25 PM – Hell House (2001)

Making for a double dose of documentaries, Hell House is slightly less disturbing than Jesus Camp, and it’s Halloween-centric. Instead of a haunted house, Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas puts on a “hell house,” in an effort to literally scare the Hell out of you. The film plays like a bizarre fundamentalist Christian Waiting for Guffman.

11:50 PM – Red State (2011)

Homosexual-hating Evangelical extremists have no problem killing in the name of a vengeful God. Kevin Smith delivers a surprisingly dark film, chock full of great performances, including: Michael Parks, John Goodman, and Melissa Leo.

1:20 AM – Martyrs (2008)

It’s getting late. You might be thinking of dozing off, but this brutal French film will grab you by the throat and won’t let go. Martyrs is a very dark, very gory and very French look at a violent need for something to believe in that is supremely disturbing on several different levels. Don’t worry, you won’t be sleeping anytime soon.

3:00 AM – Children of the Corn (1984)

Ok, you deserve a break after all the dark doom and gloom and torture. So, here’s a far campier look at religious extremists, that also happens to be about a town full of kids killing all the adults. It’s so bad, but in the best possible way.

4:30 AM – The Mist (2007)

Making for another double-dose, this time of Stephen King, we have one of my favorite films of the last decade. Here you get to decide which is scarier, the monsters in the mist or the people dreaming up reasons to kill one another. The theatrical version is good, but for a real treat watch director Frank Darabont’s version in glorious black & white.

6:00 AM – Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)

God is in / his holy temple / earthly thoughts / be quiet now

Nothing like being stalked by the ghost of a creepy doom-saying zealot to keep you up. Poltergeist II is just so much creepier than the original because of Julian Beck’s performance as Kane.

7:30 AM – The Believers (1987)

The opening of this movie alone is perfect for breakfast. Pour yourself a cup of coffee (careful not to spill the milk), sit back and enjoy this slow burn about a child-sacrificing voodoo cult. It’s not the greatest John Schlesinger movie, but it’s got some interesting performances from Martin Sheen, Robert Loggia, Helen Shaver, and Jimmy Smits.

9:30 AM – The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Voodoo x 2… Bill Pullman plays a skeptical anthropologist sent to Haiti to investigate documented cases of zombification and the possible medical uses of zombie-powder in this fun (and underrated) Wes Craven movie.

11:10 AM – The Wicker Man (1973)

A mysterious island, isolated from the world; a missing girl; creepy locals who say she never existed; pagan rituals; Christopher Lee… I love this movie.

12:40 PM – Black Death (2010)

A young monk is sent with a group of devastatingly devout knights to investigate a mysterious village that has remained unharmed by the plague that ravages the rest of the country. Christopher Smith’s film is a perfect pairing to follow The Wicker Man, brilliantly effective in its eerie ethereal quality.

2:20 PM – Se7en (1995)

If you’re not familiar with Se7en already, then you’re seriously missing out. A serial killer uses the seven deadly sins to choose his victims. It’s Fincher at his best, starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. It’s seedy and dark, very smart and surprisingly scary.

4:30 PM – Frailty (2001)

Bill Paxton plays a man who believes he and his sons have been chosen by God to rid the world of demons who have taken the form of humans. Paxton also directs this wonderfully Gothic tale that is the perfect book-end to a fest beginning with God Told Me To.

We made it. Sure, it was dark and a bit bleak at some points, but hopefully enjoyable.

Happy Halloween!!!

One response to “Dark Night of the Soul: 24-Hours of Horror

  1. More people need to see Frailty…and I need to see a lot of what’s on your list.

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