Posts Tagged ‘Psychological Horror’

Psychological horror films are not only designed to terrify audiences, but also play with their minds.  Unlike other horror films, these scares don’t rely on jumps and gore alone.  Instead, they take audiences on a mind-trip that can be much scarier.  So if you’re looking to have your brain messed with, here are the best psychological horror films.  Thus Colin McCormick begins “The 10 Best Psychological Movies That Will Mess With Your Brain” on SCREENRANT.COM.  And not are all without monsters either as noted right off with IT FOLLOWS and, later, the 2014 Stoker(R) best screenplay winner THE BABADOOK (cf. for my review of the latter, January 23 2015).

So I’ve picked my favorite of these already, but other contenders include 2017’s GET OUT, as perhaps the most recent, as well as by-now-classics ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE SHINING.  And five more, yes, which to see for yourself you must press here.  The thing is that while there may be visceral horror as well, once in a while it’s nice to see something that’s aimed at one’s brain (and not just by zombies attempting to eat it!).


PONTYPOOL anyone?  REPULSION?  THE VANISHING (the original 1988 Dutch-French version, not the remake)?  THE BROOD?  These are but four of “10 Bizarre but Great Horror Movies You Need to See,” by The Lineup Staff on THE-LINE-UP.COM.  Subtitled “[t]hese weird horror movies flew under the radar, but they’re worth finding,” the feature adds:  Horror movies are inherently at least a little bit weird.  These picks lean into it, resulting in some twisted, hilarious, haunting, and horrifying films.  Next time you’re in the mood for something a bit off-beat, one of these bizarre but great horror movies should do the trick.  I will say I’ve enjoyed the titles here that I’ve seen myself, or, as days grow shorter, here perhaps are some films to shake up your late night viewing, for more on which check here.

Let’s give the piece its exact title, “The 100 best horror films,” subtitled “The best horror films and movies of all time, voted for by over 100 experts including Simon Pegg, Stephen King and Alice Cooper, and Time Out writers.”  The byline (that is to say, the TIME OUT writers themselves) is to Tom Huddleston, Cath Clarke, Dave Calhoun, Nigel Floyd, Alim Kheraj, and Phil de Semlyen and it was posted Friday April 13 2018 on the British site TIMEOUT.COM.  So how can you go wrong?  And, credit due, it comes to us courtesy of C.M. Saunders as mentioned in an interesting review on his blog of the Spanish film [REC] — one of the relatively few “found footage” films that really works — for which one can press here.

But to the main event, quoting the “Time Out writers” (as well, credit due, appropriating their title illustration):  For years, horror, unlike romance, action and science fiction, has been mistreated and subjected to vicious critical attacks.  For some, horror films are focused purely on provoking a reaction with little thought for ‘higher’ aspirations.  For others, they’re just a bit of fun.

Thankfully, it looks like the horror genre is finally getting the recognition it deserves, with recent releases getting Oscar buzz and proving to be box office hits.  To celebrate this often overlooked and thrilling genre, we approached horror experts, writers, directors and actors to help us chose the 100 best horror films.

Yes, I disagree with some, although if it is an endorsement of sorts I’ve seen or own well over half of these.  And everyone reading this will no doubt have their doubts about others, and possibly even criteria used to decide which is best.  And of course some favorites will fail to be there — we all have our tastes, yes?  But for me, also, part of the value of lists like these is finding the films I haven’t seen, but from the descriptions I might well want to.

So, giving a press here, shall we explore together?

So four days following MURDER MAYHEM, just below, its companion volume CRIME & MYSTERY SHORT STORIES (cf. September 6, et al.) has made a Wednesday arrival from Flame Tree Publishing.  My tale in this is “Paperboxing Art,” a 1998 Anthony short story finalist originally published in the Summer 1997 NEW MYSTERY, a science fiction associational tale of a sculptor with 13626995_919973128130969_4821930082339875374_novertones of insanity and horror.  Or at least an attempted murder — and lethal defense.  With MURDER MAYHEM, this will actually be my third appearance in Flame Tree’s “Gothic Fantasy” series, the first being “Victorians,” originally published in GOTHIC GHOSTS (Tor, 1997), in November 2015’s CHILLING GHOST SHORT STORIES (cf. November 4 2015, et. al).

In this one my close companions are, once again, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and, preceding my story, a first-time publication by contemporary writer Jennifer Dornan-Fish.

Is the cusp of autumn on us already?  Tuesday, ending music practice, we noticed that it was already twilight — how many more weeks until twilight comes at the beginning of practice?  Then today at the market, after the first Writers Guild meeting following its annual summer hiatus, I saw — and bought — a half gallon of “Pumpkin Pie” ice cream, a specialty flavor not usually available until close to Thanksgiving.  And this, on Facebook this afternoon via Robert Dunbar and LITERARY DARKNESS, in turn via HORROR NOVEL REVIEWS, a link to THEWEEK.COM and “9 Classic Horror Stories You Can Read Right Now” by Scott Meslow, “[f]rom Washington Irving to H.P. Lovecraft, a collection of terrifying tales to get you into the Halloween spirit.”  This, yes, another list, but with each description and opening sample a separate link to read the whole story there on the spot.  Long ones such as “Carmilla” and “The Turn of the Screw,” and shorter ones by Lovecaft as well, and Blackwood and Poe, and maybe even a surprise or two.

To see — and read — for yourself, press here.

That’s International Short Story Month, this month, the month of May, and Gerald So of the Short Mystery Fiction Society has put out the call for a reprint story to be presented each day as a way to celebrate.  Cool, yes?  And so the days filled as we, the Society members responded, the first days naturally filled in first until today (well, actually yesterday), not even a week in, the month has been filled.  This doesn’t preclude yet more tales being added — already some dates have been doubled up — but it does mean it’s high time the list be published.  Thus (courtesy of Gerald So, as of 10:45 A.M. EDT Wednesday):

1. John M. Floyd, “Saving Grace”
2. Jeff Esterholm, “Closing Time at Mom’s”
3. Jacqueline Seewald, “The Heir Hunt”
4. Michael Bracken, “Let Dead Dogs Lie”
4. Sarah M. Chen, “The High Road”
5. Mary Reed, “Of Equivalent Experience”
5. Susan Oleksiw, “A Short Walk to Stardom”SMFS-LeagueSpartan-150x147
6. Paul Lees-Haley, “Flash Bang”
6. Jan Christensen, “Who’ s Who”
7. Gail Farrelly, “Revenge of the Cellphone”
7. Jennifer Soosar, “The Psychic’ s Parlor”
8. Erik Arneson, “Not My Gun”
8. Benjamin L. Clark, “A Drover’s Birthday”
9. Anita Page, “Revelations of the Night”
10. B.J. Bourg, “Severed Relationship”
11. J.R. Lindermuth, “A Man in a Hurry”
12. Kevin R. Tipple, “The Tell”
13. Cynthia St-Pierre, “Hide and Seek for Grown-ups”
14. Karen L. Abrahamson, “Neutrality&qu ot;
15. B.V. Lawson, “Gun Love”
16. Josh Pachter, “Jemaa el Fna”
17. Edith Maxwell, “A Questionable Death”
18. Alan Orloff, “Seeing the Light”
19. Barb Goffman, “A Year Without Santa Claus”
20. Su Kopil, “The Surprise”
21. James S. Dorr, “The Winning”
22. Terrie Farley Moran, “A Killing at the Beausoleil”
23. Stephen Buehler, “John&# 39;s Spot”
24. Nikki Dolson, “George Ann”
25. Michael Bracken, “To Live and Die in Texas”
26. Kevin R. Tipple, “Burning Questions”
27. Paul Lees-Haley, “The Good Wife”
28. Debra H. Goldstein, “Violet Eyes”
29. B.V. Lawson, “Wrong Side of the Bed”
30. Craig Faustus Buck, “Heavy Debt”
31. Warren Bull, “Company Policy”

My part in this comes up May 21 with a tale called “The Winning,” originally published in the print-only OVER MY DEAD BODY for Spring 1994, but presented here as reprinted in ezine A TWIST OF NOIR, December 9 2008 (see also below, June 11, May 6 2014; February 18 2012), a psychological horror flash piece of sorts of how a winner may yet become a loser.  For this and others, the earliest in descending order by date, the later ones in the course of time, one can find the SMFS blog by pressing here (whereupon click on “Int’l Short Story Month” on the left, then scroll down the middle to the date/story of choice).

Also Jay Hartman of Untreed Reads Publishing has announced a 50 cent sale for stand-alone short story chapbooks for May, including my titles PEDS, I’M DREAMING OF A. . . ., and VANITAS, as well as a discounted price on the New Years Eve Horror anthology YEARS END, all four of which can be reached by pressing any of the first three books’ pictures in the center column.  Some of these discounts are also available from DriveThruFiction for which (along with a few other publishers’ titles/stories by me — and even two or three that are not!), one may press here.

From Editor L. Andrew Cooper (with Pamela Turner) comes the news that REEL DARK (cf. April 17, March 24, 13) is now listed on Amazon, albeit perhaps not physically available until its debut at World Horror Con later this week.  To quote fromReel Dark COVER 050415png the back cover, “Welcome to a macabre cinema for the imagination, to screenings of twisted tales projected not on a movie screen but on the page.  In REEL DARK you’ll find stories and poems by authors ranging from new voices to bestsellers to Bram Stoker Award finalists.  From the battle for recognition between a child actress and a vengeful, long-forgotten film star in ‘Whatever Happened to Peggy . . . Who?’ to a madman controlling a student à la The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in ‘Caligarisme,’ to a hapless Dreamist, whose talent propels him into a nightmare of jealousy and revenge in ‘The Dreamist,’ the authors have created worlds filled with madness, twisted desires, and broken dreams.  . . .  As David Lynch puts it, ‘This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top.’  As Karen Head writes in her poem responding to Lynch, ‘In the movies/ everything is illusion.’  But in a world with cameras everywhere, how do you know whether you’re in a movie?”

My own pup in this picture show is a saga of sisters, “Marcie and Her Sisters” to be precise, who may have had too much exposure to zombie films in their youth — but then again, who can believe what they say.  Nevertheless, we do now have an image of the cover and, outstripping Amazon, an almost official (word has it that there may still be two almost unnoticeable punctuation errors) table of contents for which one may see below:

Reel Dark1.pdf

Two items today, the first being the receipt of the contract from L. Andrew Cooper and Blackwyrm Publishing for “Marcie and Her Sisters” to be in REEL DARK (see March 13).  “We’ll be arranging the TOC and copy editing over the next few weeks . . . and we should be in print for a small-run bunch at the World Horror Convention and Bram Stoker Awards® in Atlanta, May 7-10.”  So things happen fast sometimes when they happen:  first sending back last evening’s contract for “The Good Work” to BLURRING THE LINE, now filling the blanks and readying REEL DARK’s to be returned tomorrow morning.  And, as for “Marcie,” to quote once more from this (early) morning’s email, “[you] will be in diverse company, but you all have in common two things:  a dark sensibility, of course, but also an incisive perspective that will challenge the way people think and feel.  I couldn’t have wished for more.”

Then this evening (speaking of movies and darkness) marked the start of the Indiana University Cinema’s Ray Bradbury Film Festival — officially titled “Ray Bradbury:  From Science to the Supernatural” and with a number of co-sponsors including the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute (see also November 20 2014) — with further screenings set for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Tonight what we saw was a program of five short films and TV dramas, “Icarus Montgolfier Wright” by Bradbury in collaboration with illustrator Joe Mugnaini; “And the 208px-The_Martian_Chronicles_(TV_miniseries)Moon Still as Bright” from the 1980 TV mini-series adaptation of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, teleplay by Richard Matheson; “The Burning Man” from the 1980s revival of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (beginning the move toward “the supernatural” but also one of the most “Bradburyesque” in feeling); “Marionattes Inc.,” 1985, RAY BRADBURY THEATER; and 1964’s “The Life Work of Juan Diaz” from THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR, story and teleplay by Bradbury and reportedly Hitchcock’s own favorite from the final season after moving to the one-hour format in 1963.

Bradbury, we were told, doted on movies, often going to eight or nine films a week as a teenager in Los Angeles as part of his preparation for becoming a writer.  These would have included probably far more bad films than good ones, but he is also understood to have said “you learn more from trash than excellence,” noting that “excellence is mysterious while trash is obvious.”  Then I might add that this program is of especial interest to me in that not only do I watch a lot of films myself, but in various interviews I’ve done I’ve almost always listed Ray Bradbury as one of my own major influences.

See you again at the movies Thursday night?

More about movies — and good news, too, for Friday the 13th.  But let us go back to August last year and the call for submissions, this time from a tip-off via the Short Mystery Fiction Society:  “BlackWyrm Publishing is opening several positions in its spring short fiction anthology for general submissions.  . . .  The collection, tentatively titled REEL DARK:  TWISTED FANTASIES PROJECTED ON THE FLICKERING PAGE, focuses on the infection of (prose-fiction or poetic) worlds by movies.  We want innovative approaches:  if you think endless references to films or characters stepping into or off of the screen is innovative, reconsider submitting.  Although the anthology as a whole will be dark in tone, it will speak to a range of audiences interested in horror, science-fiction, fantasy, mystery/suspense, and/or romance (particularly paranormal).”  And what should I have but a tale of “Marcie and Her Sisters,” perhaps over-influenced (and one might add horribly unreliable narrators) by a surfeit of zombie movies when they/she were younger, and how they decided that they would get married.

I’m not sure what to think about “Marcie” myself, although it was a pleasure to write.  I’m usually too close to my stories to be an unbiased judge.  But what counts is the word that came back today from Editor (with Pamela Turner) L. Andrew Cooper:  “The editorial team for BlackWyrm Publishing’s upcoming anthology REEL DARK:  TWISTED FANTASIES PROJECTED ON THE FLICKERING PAGE loved your story ‘Marcie and Her Sisters.’”  It went on to details about payment (in this case at an HWA-defined professional rate) plus plans to have the book out in time for World Horror Convention this spring in May.  Was I “still interested in being part of the collection. . . ?”

The answer is yes, and hats off to a “lucky” Friday the 13th!

If you do too, prepare yourself for an emotionally wrenching 93 minutes.  Right from the start — a woman dreaming of herself, pregnant, being driven to the hospital by her husband — about to crash!  Amelia’s son, we find out, was born on the day her husband died and even now, ten years later, she has yet to put it behind her.  This puts her into a love-hate relation of sorts with her son, and the son, who’s a little bit weird himself, doesn’t always help matters.

He still fears monsters in the night, half the time ending up sleeping with mom — that is, when either of them gets much sleep.  His bedtime routine includes checking the closets and under the bed, with mom there beside him, who must also read him a story after she’s tucked him in.  He invents lethal weapons (and hoards firecrackers) babadookagainst the time a monster might actually make an appearance.  He has no friends and, partly because of him, mom doesn’t have that many friends either.

He makes a pact that he’ll protect mom, and insists that his mother promise that she’ll protect him too.  This last is important.

THE BABADOOK is an ugly film, it’s an uncomfortable film.  Because between actress Essie Davis’s all too realistic playing of her part and writer-director Jennifer Kent’s* concept, what I was watching seemed very much like a woman not so slowly going insane on the screen.  And what must her son think? — yet he doesn’t seem all that stable either.

It comes to a head when mom tells son to pick a book from the shelf for her to read for his bedtime story.  He grabs one neither has seen before, a pop-up book called MR. BABADOOK.  It is not a good book for children frightened of monsters, because it tells of a creature that knocks, and knocks again, and once it’s let in it is not a good thing — and “you can’t get rid of the Babadook.”  And the kid goes practically catatonic.

But how much is real, and how much is still only imagination?

Things start going bad fast:  Mom has to take her son out of school.  She has him examined by the doctor, gets a prescription for child tranquilizers, makes an appointment for a psychiatrist in a few weeks.  But in the meantime the two of them have to survive together, under repeated strange happenings that appear more and more to indicate the Babadook is coming!

He (it) does, it all reaching a head in one horrible night when mom almost kills her kid, the kid wounds and ties up mom — or has mom become possessed by the Babadook herself?  And what then when the boy “turns” — or is the Babadook something external, pulling the child away physically once mom has started to calm down?  It’s here where it breaks, maybe an hour and a quarter into it, when something primal brings Amelia onto the attack — her part of the pact, her son before with his wounding and tying and prior misbehavior having done his best to protect his mother.

But what of the Babadook itself?  And was it real, or just symbolic/psychological?  Here I would make a guess, that it is real, a physical being, but born as a manifestation of (mostly) Amelia’s psychological monsters (note to readers:  Find a very old science fiction fan and ask them about “Monsters from the Id” from the 1956 film FORBIDDEN PLANET), which she, on the eve of her son Samuel’s tenth birthday/death of her own husband/the father Sam never met, finally needed to come to terms with.

It’s a scary movie on several levels, and if you like scary movies, see it!  Even if you think you know what may happen.

Then one more thing, the scene at the end, or “you can’t get rid or the Babadook.”  On the walk home I recalled another movie at the IU Cinema late last year, THE LIFE OF PI, about a young man who’s trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger, and its turning point with his realization that he can’t tame a tiger — but he can train it.

And so it may be, too, with Babadooks.

Then in a quick unrelated matter, Thursday afternoon my contributors’ copy of INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS (see January 21, 2, et al.) arrived.  “Here you will meet some truly insidious characters — characters you may find yourself applauding when you know you shouldn’t. . .” the back cover of the very handsome volume from Smart Rhino Publications tells us.  No sign on the contents page of Mr. Babadook though.


*Like Ana Lily Amirpour’s A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (see January 10, et al.), THE BABADOOK is Australian Jennifer Kent’s first feature-length film.  One suspects both directors will bear future watching.

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