31 Scares Week 1: Murder Cults, Body Horror, and Psychosis

I realize we’re 3 weeks into October but time is fake and we live in a capitalist dystopia where I’m compelled by necessity to continuously sell my labor, so sometimes these blog posts have to wait.

Plus I’ve been distracted watching Squid Game…I have my priorities, ok!?!?

What is Squid Game about? Inside the games and symbols of the Netflix hit -  Vox
One of them is rooting for this guy. (c) SQUID GAME 2021

If you’ll recall from the first 31 Scares post, my first “week” of Scary Watching involved the following films:

  1. AUDITION (1999) dir. Takashi Miike
  2. HEREDITARY (2018) dir. Ari Aster*++
  3. MIDSOMMAR (2019) dir. Ari Aster*++
  4. MALIGNANT (2021) dir. James Wan
  5. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) dir. Don Siegel
  6. ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) dir. Roman Polanski
  7. THE WOLF HOUSE (2018) dir. Joaquin Cociña, Cristóbal León

PLUS, we experienced a surprise early viewing of #16. KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977) dir. John “Bud” Cardos, which I got to watch with my friend DT Burns, illustrious co-creator of the Carie-Burns test.

* indicates a rewatch

++indicates a double- or triple-feature with the films directly before or after

My first batch of scares was minimally scary (except The Aster Duo), and heavy on the murder cults, body horror, and irritating Gender Stuff. BOY HECK DID I HAVE SOME OPINIONS ABOUT THESE FILMS! Read them below…if you dare.

This is the appropriate image for every occasion. (C) NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 1984.

AUDITION (1999) Takashi Miike

Audition (1999) - IMDb

This thing was an utter mindfuck. I did enjoy it, though I wish the women character (characters…technically?) was better developed. Of course, what else is new when it comes to gratuitously violent psycho-sexual torture porn? With an impressively drawn-out and visually interesting psychotic break in the middle, and at least two of the most disturbing images I’ve ever seen, this movie is worth checking out…assuming you’re in the right mindset…and have about 2.5 hours to kill…and never ever want to think the same way about wet dog food.

How Did It Score

For the sake of my own enjoyment, I’m using the same metrics I used for my Top 20 Scares of 2020 list to rank these movies. Are my scores fairly arbitrary? Yes! Will I change my mind about them later? Totally possible!

  • How scary was it?2.5/5
  • How memorable was it? 3/5 (see bonus)
  • Was it a Quality Film? 3.5/5
    • Clearly well-made and interesting…also didn’t make a lick of sense.
  • How about those women? .5/5
  • Bonus: 2
    • This movie was only medium memorable as an overall experience except for the most nauseating single moment I’ve ever witnessed, in which a man eats some vomit from a dog bowl. Additional bonus point for the acupuncture torture scene.
  • Total points: 11.5/20
  • Nightmare? Not Even A Little

HEREDITARY (2018) and MIDSOMMAR (2019) dir. Ari Aster

These are both quality scares and work excellently as a double feature! I’ve written at length about them in this previous post.

How Did It Score (HEREDITARY)

For consistency, and from laziness, I’m re-using the scores I gave to this film when it ranked #4 in my Top 20 Scares of 2020.

  • How scary was it?4.5/5
  • How memorable was it? 4.5/5
  • Was it a Quality Film? 3/5
  • How about those women? 3/5
  • Bonus: 1
    • I am, in fact, still haunted by the telephone pole decapitation.
  • Total points: 16/20
  • Nightmare: Nope
How Did It Score (MIDSOMMAR)
  • How scary was it?3.5/5
  • How memorable was it? 5/5
    • I probably think about the Harga and the group keening scene like…once per week.
  • Was it a Quality Film? 4/5
  • How about those women? 3.5/5
    • Here is how MIDSOMMAR scores on each of the gender tests:
      • Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass
      • Sexy Lamp Test: Pass
      • Willis Test: Pass
      • Ko Test: Fail
      • Roxane Gay Test: Fail. It’s just SO white/straight/cis.
      • Carie-Burns Test: Fail. A lot of women are still living at the end of the film but it would be a real challenge to guess any of the non-Dani characters’ names.
  • Bonus: 1
    • One point for the bear suit.
  • Total points: 17/20
  • Nightmare: Nope

MALIGNANT (2021) dir. James Want

5 Horror Movies To Stream If You Loved Malignant

I was really hoping to like this movie but it just didn’t do anything for me. If you like over-the-top melodrama, super high-budget shots of entire 2-story houses, and scientifically implausible explanations for supernatural stuff, this one’s for you! For me, the most interesting part was trying to figure out how they taught a stunt double to do fight choreography backwards. To avoid spoilers for this very new film, I’ll leave it at that, but I do want to give a special shout-out to my cousin Dillynn, who absolutely called it when she told me to watch DOCTOR SLEEP instead.

How Did It Score
  • How scary was it?2/5
  • How memorable was it? 3/5
    • I didn’t enjoy the big reveal, but I won’t forget it.
  • Was it a Quality Film? 1/5
  • How about those women? 4/5
    • Here is how MALIGNANT scores on each of the gender tests:
      • Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass
      • Sexy Lamp Test: Pass
      • Willis Test: Pass
      • Ko Test: Fail
      • Roxane Gay Test: Fail.
      • Carie-Burns Test: Actually…Pass???
    • Bonus: NA
  • Total points: 10/20
  • Nightmare: Nah

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) dir. Don Siegel and KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977) dir. John “Bud” Cardos

These movies have a shocking amount of stuff in common. First of all, they both have very long and self-explanatory titles. Secondly, they’re both political allegories that make very little sense. Finally, they are both Very Bad Films – but I liked KINGDOM far more, because it was funnier, starred William Shatner, and contained numerous cows. Plus I find spiders inherently scary, so any arachno-horror automatically gives me the willies, no matter how terrible.

How Did It Score (BODY SNATCHERS)
  • How scary was it?1/5
  • How memorable was it? 1.5/5
    • Honestly, so boring.
  • Was it a Quality Film? 1/5
  • How about those women? 1/5
    • Here is how BODY SNATCHERS scores on each of the gender tests:
      • Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass…technically?
      • Sexy Lamp Test: Fail
      • Willis Test: Fail
      • Ko Test: Fail
      • Roxane Gay Test: Fail.
      • Carie-Burns Test: Fail.
    • Bonus: NA
  • Total points: 4.5/20
  • Nightmare: No.
How Did It Score (SPIDERS)
  • How scary was it?2.5/5
    • All of these points are for the mere existence of spiders and none of them are for the actual pacing or storytelling of the movie.
  • How memorable was it? 3/5
  • Was it a Quality Film? 1/5
  • How about those women? 1/5
    • Here is how SPIDERS scores on each of the gender tests:
      • Bechdel-Wallace Test: Fail
      • Sexy Lamp Test: Fail
      • Willis Test: Fail
      • Ko Test: Fail
      • Roxane Gay Test: Fail.
      • Carie-Burns Test: Fail
    • Bonus: 1
      • It was extremely satisfying when they stomped on the spiders. That is all.
  • Total points: 8/20
  • Nightmare: Hee Hee

ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) dir. Roman Polanski

My most recent post is where you can read all about how I hated the shit out of this movie. Let’s jump to the scores:

How Did It Score
  • How scary was it?2/5
    • There were moments of tension but it never really delivers a big payoff scare.
  • How memorable was it? 4/5
    • My memory is a steel trap for things I despise.
  • Was it a Quality Film? 1/5
    • I don’t care what any film snob says about this classic film, in my opinion it fails on both a dramatic and idelological level.
  • How about those women? 2/5
    • The large number of female characters and relatively low body count allow this movie to handily pass a number of the tests. Nevertheless, its treatment of women is so grotesque I had to lop off a couple points.
  • Total points: 9/20
  • Nightmare: Not unless you count the waking nightmare of being a female-bodied person under patriarchy.

THE WOLF HOUSE (2018) dir. Joaquin Cociña, Cristóbal León

Shudder Sunday: The Wolf House (2018) - Morbidly Beautiful

THE WOLF HOUSE felt more like a creepy environmental video art-piece than a traditional horror film. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of animated horror, and Cociña and León made something lovely, that thoroughly explores the capacity of the form. It was delightful to watch the shift from chalk/paint to sculptural stop-motion, and the choice to have scenery and characters be BUILT onscreen was really cool. That said, a series of wonderful images doesn’t necessarily make a successful film, and I felt like this movie failed to deliver a coherent/compelling story. At a digestible 70 minutes, I recommend this one purely for the art–but don’t expect many scares.

How Did It Score
  • How scary was it?1.5/5
  • How memorable was it? 4/5
  • Was it a Quality Film? 3/5
    • Obviously well-made in terms of animation; not super successful in terms of writing/story.
  • How about those women? 3/5
    • This is tricky. The entire thing is narrated by a male narrator (who is also the wolf?), and the main female character is voiced, but the only other characters are pigs that transfigure into (metaphorical?) human beings, and they don’t talk much. It sort of feels like none of the tests strictly apply, but I will do my best.
    • Here is how THE WOLF HOUSE scores on each of the gender tests:
      • Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass
        • We’re gonna count the girl pig, even though she is probably jut Maria talking to herself.
      • Sexy Lamp Test: Pass
      • Willis Test: Pass
      • Ko Test: Exempt
      • Roxane Gay Test: Fail. There just aren’t enough characters.
      • Carie-Burns Test: Fail
    • Bonus: NA
      • It’s hard to give a scare-bonus to a movie without any scares.
  • Total points: 11.5/20
  • Nightmare: Nope

Did you love any of these movies way more than me? Tell me about it!

Published by Brandy N. Carie

Playwright. Director. Producer. Feminist Takes on Horror Films.

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