Films: A Celebration of Exsanguinary Cinema

The Black Cat

(Edgar G. Ulmer, 7 May 1934)

“The phone is dead. Do you hear that, Vitus? Even the phone is dead.”

May 7, 1934 saw the wide-release of one of our very favorite films in the Universal horror cycle, Edgar G. Ulmer’s darkly perverse, pre-code, and borderline expressionistic horror show, THE BLACK CAT. In a word, an unsettlingly laconic Karloff is positively magnetic as the icy and sinisterly Satanic architect, Hjalmar Poelzig, who wages a life and death game of cat and mouse within the walls of his Bauhausian fortress of glass, steel, and modernist menace. …

Phantasm

(Don Coscarelli, 1 June 1979)

“Is it a nightmare? Is it an illusion? Is it an evil? Is it a fantasy? Is it alive? Whatever it is, if this one doesn’t scare you…you’re already dead!”

These rhetorical questions — accompanied with some fairly bonkers imagery — comprise the original 1979 trailer for Don Coscarelli’s PHANTASM, a film released on this day 41 years ago. …

Phenomena

(Dario Argento, 31 January 1985)

The wind, yes…some people get headaches. When it blows, there are those who say it causes madness. It’s a strange part of the country…the Swiss Transylvania.”

It was determined that most Americans couldn’t pronounce “phenomena,” and thus, Dario Argento’s film was released to Stateside audiences as CREEPERS in a convoluted print excised of roughly 30 minutes, senselessly butchered to account, presumably, for length and gore. …

Salem’s Lot

(Tobe Hooper, 17 November 1979)

“The house was a monument to evil…sitting there all these years…holding the essence of evil in its smoldering bones.”

The year is 1979, and 38 year-old producer, Richard Kobritz, sinks his fangs into a property that had, oddly enough, gathered considerable dust at Warner Brothers studios. It was the second novel by a fairly new, but — even then — best-selling author from Maine. …

The Bride of Frankenstein

(James Whale, 20 April 1935)

“It’s a perfect night for mystery and horror!” 

Though it premiered in Chicago on April 19, 1935 (and would eventually receive a full U.S. release in May of the same year), James Whale’s epic sequel, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN came alive on this day for an initial, limited release. Often heralded as one of the few sequels to surpass its original, BRIDE is truly a masterpiece: bold, subversive, darkly comic, richly symbolic, loaded with powerful pathos, beautifully lensed, and far closer to Shelley’s source material. …

Suspiria

(Dario Argento, 1 February 1977)

“The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of this film are the first 92…”

On this day in 1977, Suzy Bannion decided to perfect her ballet studies in the most famous school of dance in Europe. She chose the celebrated academy of Freiburg…[and so] at nine in the morning, she left Kennedy airport, New York, and arrived in Germany at 10:40 p.m. local time…and thus began our intense love affair with Dario Argento’s visual masterpiece and cinematic fever-dream, SUSPIRIA.…

Us

(Jordan Peele, 22 March 2019)

“We’re…Americans.”

Each year, our MAVENS OF THE MACABRE series celebrates the integral contributions of Women in Horror, exalting female-identifying individuals within the horror community at large — whether filmmaker, feminist, or fan, writing, producing, designing, and creating with aplomb. Last year’s series concluded with Jordan Peele’s US, a film rife with potent imagery and riddled with social — if not personal and political — commentary, where Lupita Nyong’o’s performance chillingly reverberates with emotional wreckage no matter which side of Peele’s narrative coin you choose to peruse. …

Prince of Darkness

(John Carpenter, 23 October 1987)

“Hello…Hello? I’ve got a message for you…and you’re not going to like it.”

Inspired by John Carpenter’s burgeoning interest in quantum mechanics and the challenges to classical reality contained therein, PRINCE OF DARKNESS is an existential terror of a film where a dizzying blend of impressive concepts take root — a place where the supernatural, armageddon, religion, and science all converge at a subatomic level. …

The Wolf Man

(George Waggner, 12 December 1941)

“It is said there is no sin in killing a beast, only in killing a man. But where does one begin and the other end?”

On this day in 1941, Siodmak and Waggner deliver one of the most potent Universal monster films via potent metaphor. Culled from his experiences as a German-born Jew fleeing the occupation, and rife with the classic Greek structure and Aristotelian arc, THE WOLF MAN stands as a darkly powerful, atmospheric fairy tale. …

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

(Tobe Hooper, 1 October 1974)

“For them, an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare…”  

October 1, 1974. Saturn was in retrograde, and if we are to take the radio reports with any modicum of seriousness, this may be the sole reason for the brutal events that unfold before us: The planets are merely out of alignment for these young wayfarers, and fate is a cruel beast indeed. …