31 Nights of Horror

**Warning for Graphic Pictures**

For as long as I can remember I have loved horror, whether it was tearing through Goosebumps books at lightspeed in elementary school, watching eagerly as my Nana played Silent Hill at all hours of the night, or watching Night Of The Living Dead on repeat while I was still in the single digits. There as always been something about the grotesque, about monsters and decay and the slow burning dread that fills you and makes a chill run down your spine.

I have seen enough horror movies to be able to call myself an aficionado, and have the knowledge to actually back it up. Basically any time I find a horror film that looks even remotely entertaining, I’m in. In fact I’ve gone through most of what Netflix has to offer at this point, and lots of the films on this list can be found there.

Now that October (spookiest month of the year!) has rolled around again, its the perfect time to revisit old favorites as well as add some new ones to your horror collections. I’ve looked at a good amount of horror lists, and am always disappointed to see a lot of repetition within them, as well as the ever aggravating suggestion that the horror genre is dead.

That’s why I have taken it upon myself to compile a list of 31 of my favorite horror films, including everything from the under-appreciated and indie, to the classics. If you wanted you could even watch one each day of the month ramping up to Halloween. I have ordered them in a way that I think makes the most sense thematically, and added trigger warnings for certain things (gore is implied, please comment if I missed any). So without further ado, lets dive in!

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An American Werewolf In London (1981)

Few films manage to blend comedy and horror as well as this one, and it’s considered one of the touchstone examples of special effects in horror. The movie centers around two young men backpacking through the British moors when they are attacked by a werewolf. David’s journey into becoming a werewolf (and his infamous transformation) are an interesting perspective switch in the horror movie genre. What happens if you’re the monster thats tearing people apart?

Also, the movie has an excellent soundtrack.

Tw; Suicide mentions

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Ginger Snaps Back (2004)

A lot of people talk about Ginger Snaps, but almost no one ever talks about this sequel (prequel? AU??) that in my opinion is far superior. The movie follows two sisters venturing through the Canadian wilderness in the early 1800s. They end up at a fur trading fort that has been suffering from relentless attacks by werewolves, but which harbors an even darker secret within its fortified walls. The film is incredibly attractive visually, is led by two women leads, takes place in an interesting setting and time period, and has a completely new take on the werewolf movie.

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CHUD (1984)

In the years since its release CHUD (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller) has become a bit of a cult classic. If you can enjoy a movie for all its silly absurdity and just have a good time, CHUD is for you. The movie is about…well…cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers of course. It it punctuated by a few genuinely creepy moments, and I was excited to see the use of Geiger counters to track the proximity of the monsters, similar to the use of the radios in the Silent Hill series.

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The Blob (1988)

In my opinion the 80’s were the golden age for horror films. It was a time when remakes were happening frequently, but they were actually good. The original The Blob of the 1950s is undeniably a classic (I mean Steve McQueen is in it for goodness sake) but it doesn’t exactly fulfill in scares. But 30 years later a new take on the movie would do just that and all with a wonderfully ridiculous 80’s flair (I’m talking Kevin Dillon as a leather clad, mullet clad punk). The movie is about a monsterous pile of goo that covers and digests most of the people in a small town. It is genuinely unsettling and has some great moments of practical effects and gore. While the film isn’t perfect (the few moments of CGI are cringeworthy) I respect any movie that is willing to “go there” and show a monster brutally devour a child.

Tw; Implied date rape

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The Thing (1982)

The Thing is my favorite horror movie. It’s the kind of film I could watch a hundred times in a row and still be entertained. In my opinion it’s one of the finest examples of a horror film ever made, and John Carpenter at his best. The Thing is another example of a superior remake (a trend on this list) and I don’t just mean because Kurt Russell looks dang good in it. A team of people on an Antarctic base find a nightmarish shapeshifting creature that can mimic other lifeforms. As it picks the men off one by one they have to figure out who among them is actually who they claim to be. Between the insurmountable isolation of Antarctica, to the uncertainty of the identities or intentions of the other people you are trapped with, Carpenter plays with some of everyones deepest fears with this plot. Anyone who appreciates practical monster effects will love this film as it showcases some of the greatest monstrosities seen on the screen.

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The Void (2016)

The Void is a gorgeous love letter to the genre of horror. While watching it I caught shout outs to The Thing, The Blob, Alien, Jacobs Ladder and more. Any fan should see how many they can spot. The movie makes a long awaited return to the use of practical effects, creating monsters that Carpenter must be proud of. The story centers around a cop in a rural area who becomes trapped with a few others in a desolate hospital as everything around them quickly descends into chaos. While the ending falls a little flat in my opinion, the rest of the film is so much fun its more than worth it.

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Jacobs Ladder (1990)

When people think of twist endings they act like The Sixth Sense invented the idea. Those people never saw Jacob’s Ladder. The movie is a visceral experience that feels more like watching a nightmare than a movie. Tim Robbins plays a Vietnam vet who just can’t seem to escape the hell that was the war, even after he has returned home. And after he starts seeing monsters around him he has to confront his past and a terrible truth. It’s a movie that deserves to be talked about a lot more.

Tw; Graphic depictions of war

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Pontypool (2008)

Pontypool is an incredibly innovative film, both is plot and production. It centers around a radio personality and his colleagues who slowly learn through listener call-ins and news reports that something terrible is happening in their small town. Fans of the podcast Welcome to Nightvale will appreciate the narrator’s use of absurdity and plays on language to tell the story, nearly all of which takes place in a single room of a radio station. The film is a very different kind of zombie movie, and the director and actors do a fantastic job of building tension. This is definitely one that will stick with you and make you think.

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Session 9 (2001)

If there is any regret I can think of in my life, it’s that I didn’t get to visit Danvers Hospital before it’s demolition in 2006. Luckily I at least have Session 9, which was filmed in the eerily beautiful abandoned asylum. After a team of asbestos clean up workers enter the asylum for a clean up, they begin to learn the hard way about the building’s sordid past. I’m not sure if everyone would agree but I find Session 9 to be a gorgeous film. Maybe I just have a thing for peeling paint and forgotten places, but something about the fact that the movie was filmed on location in such a dark, historically charged place really does it for me.

Tw; Stay away if you can’t handle a lobotomy

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The Shrine (2010)

An example of a gem I first found on Netflix. Three people go to a remote Polish village to investigate a missing girl and find some very shady villagers. Naturally everything goes to hell from there, but maybe not how you’d expect. This movie is just…plain good. It’s a real disappointment it isn’t shared more, because it delivers some real moments of unease and has a disturbing and memorable twist ending.

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Splinter (2008)

If you like movies about people getting trapped in buildings while monsters roam outside, you’ll love Splinter. A young couple is out driving in a remote area (I guess we’ve established by now why you should stick to city living) when they are taken hostage by a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. However things don’t go as planned for anyone when they all end up being terrorized by a parasitic monster at a gas station. This film has a fun new take on the parasite movie, instead of the usual wormlike monster this one uses the idea of something more akin to a fungus.

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The Fly (1986)

What kind of horror list doesn’t include something by David Cronenburg? The Fly is yet ANOTHER 80’s remake of a classic, and this one (in true Cronenburg fashion) amps up the horror by amping up the gore effects. If you enjoy body horror…well you’ve probably already seen this honestly. But if you haven’t you are in for a real treat as you watch Jeff Goldblum’s body literally turn to mush and fall apart. The plot involves a scientist as he tries to invent a teleportation chamber and royally screws up by fusing his DNA with that of a fly that sneaks into the chamber with him. Cue the most horrific transformation you can imagine stretched out to fill a film.

Tw; Honestly just…everything.

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Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)

If you didn’t get your Goldblum fill from The Fly (can you ever get enough Goldblum really?) then check out baby Goldblum in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. I’m exhausted from saying it but: yes, remake. Invasion is like the horror movie that launched a thousand ships; you’d be hard pressed to find a film that influenced the genre much more than this one. The story has been remade, remixed, parodied and paid tribute to dozens of times, and it’s sort of the grandaddy of parasite/alien invasion films. There are few things scarier than the realization that the entire world has been affected by something, and that the people you loved have been replaced by very inhuman beings. 

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Repulsion (1965)

I hate including this honestly because it’s a Roman Polanski movie and the man’s a trash bag, but the fact is, it’s a good movie. Just don’t pay for it ok? Repulsion is about a woman’s descent into insanity when she is left alone in her apartment, and it excels at portraying her state of mind, symbolized by a rotting animal carcass on a platter. Even if the director is a bad person, the movie is worth seeing and is an important installment in the horror genre.

Tw; Rape in a dream

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The Bad Seed (1956)

This is the oldest film on the list, but don’t discount it. While not very conventionally scary, it brings up some surprisingly thought provoking questions about nature vs nurture in the creation of a murderer. To outsiders Rhoda seems like the perfect little girl, but in truth she is a sociopathic murderer. The film follows her adoptive mothers realization of this and her uncovering of the truth of Rhoda’s parentage. This movie asks the question, could a child be raised in love and normalcy still turn out to be a killer because of some deeper genetic programming?

While I get uneasy about the use of adoption as a horror plot point, I let this one slide for its age and its interesting take.

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The Children (2008)

To continue with the creepy children theme, The Children is a haunting film. This movie poses a truly horrific plot; could we fight against and kill our own babies if they tried to kill us? Parents will definitely find this one hard to forget, and even those without kids will feel a creeping sense of dread as the magnitude of the situation is slowly revealed.

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The Fog (1980)

Another John Carpenter masterpiece, The Fog is the epitome of a ghost story. A small coastal town is haunted (literally) by the dark history of its founding, and when the fog rolls in it brings with it some very vengeful ghosts. This movie holds so much nostalgia for me that I may be a bit biased, but how can you not love listening to Adrienne Barbeau’s sultry radio voice welcoming you to Antonio Bay?

Please PLEASE do not watch the 2005 remake. It was a steaming pile of garbage.

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The Mist (2007)

Another movie involving sight obscuring weather phenomenon, but thats pretty much where the similarities end. The Mist is based on a story by Stephen King, and is masterfully visualized by Frank Darabont. The story revolves around a group of townsfolk who become trapped in a small grocery store after a mysterious mist engulfs the area. The mist contains all manner of horrific monsters, but we learn the real threat is the townsfolk themselves, as religious zealot Ms. Carmody seizes the moment to begin her preaching and gather a following. With one of the most shocking endings in movie history, this film is sure to stay with you for a while.

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Phantoms (1998)

Phantoms is based on a book by Dean Koontz, and it feels a lot like Stephen King but with some bullshit science thrown in. The truth is, Phantoms has everything I love in horror in it. (Also it has a weirdly recognizable cast for a movie that I oftentimes feel I may have been the only person on earth to see?) When two women arrive at a small town in Colorado they find it eerily quiet. At first they think it abandoned, but soon they find out that something is still there.

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Dreamcatcher (2003)

Maybe the most under-appreciated Stephen King movie, Dreamcatcher is like if IT and Cabin Fever had an awful baby…and also there’s aliens? A group of friends go out to spend time at a cabin in the middle of the woods when suddenly things start going VERY wrong. This movie mashes up a lot of fun themes, but one of the stand out plot points is the idea of the “mind” as a physical location being infiltrated. Fun fact, the plot takes place in and around Derry, Maine, King’s fictional town where IT also takes place.

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Silent Hill (2006)

While it’s nowhere near as good as the games, I recognize that not everyone has the ability or interest to play a series of video games, and the truth is as far as adaptations go this one isn’t awful. Its also just a generally creepy movie, and the first half of it is spot on to the game. The story centers around a mother venturing into a fog enshrouded and seemingly abandoned town to find her lost daughter. Things start to fall apart at the end, and it’s clear the director had no idea how to turn the plot of the games into a coherent story. But the atmosphere and monsters are good enough that I let it slide, and most importantly they kept Akira Yamaoka’s songs.

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Deathwatch (2002)

I stumbled upon this one on Netflix and was surprised at how decent it was. They say that war is hell and this movie took that sentiment and ran with it. The film is about a group of soldiers in WW1 stumbling upon an abandoned enemy trench and slowly realizing that something even more horrific and insidious is going on than the war. This movie is one that has a very ambiguous end, and its fun to speculate on all the meanings.

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Last Shift (2014)

A young woman’s first assignment guarding an empty police station turns into a night filled with terror as some very vicious ghosts come out to play. The ending of the film is lackluster and a bit predictable, but the journey there is fun and full of genuine scares.

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Viral (2016)

Viral focuses on how two sisters deal with the sudden outbreak of a parasitic zombie disease while they are home alone. Really it’s just another parasite movie without much in the way of innovation, but its very watchable, and the relationship between the sisters has a lot of emotion to it.

Tw; parasites in eyeballs

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The Carriers (2009)

I incorrectly went into The Carriers thinking it was going to be a zombie movie, which meant that I was very confused for most of it, but I was left ultimately pleased. It’s a pretty brutal version of the apocalyptic disease genre, and it isn’t so much ‘scary’ as it is a chilling downer. But it has one of my favorite lines in film in it: “Sometimes choosing life is just choosing a more painful form of death.” The movie is about a small group of survivors on the road who not only face increasingly violent opponents, but also slowly have their own humanity challenged.

Tw; Suggestions of rape, Suicide

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The Burrowers (2008)

It’s not often one gets to view a horror western so this movie should truly be cherished. After a group of pioneers start being picked off by a mysterious force, they learn form a native tribe that the culprit is a species of creatures that lives beneath the ground.

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Willow Creek (2014)

A modern day version of the Blair Witch Project, Willow Creek follows a young couple making a documentary about the infamous Patterson/Gimlin Bigfoot footage. I have to admit, the idea of bigfoot had never really frightened me before, but this movie succeeds in changing that outlook. The use of found footage to tell the story is justified and well executed, and the build up to the tent finale will have you on the edge of your seat. The best part of this movie is it succeeds in recognizing that sometimes it is far scarier not to see everything.

Tw; The suggestion that bigfoots..feet..? specifically keep women for some reason…coukda done without that wierd plot point tbh.

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VHS2 (2013)

The first VHS film is decent, but the sequel is vastly superior. The film is a series of short movies with varying themes and plots, presented as found footage. The stand out pieces are that of a documentary on a cult, and another with aliens invading. It’s not necessary to watch the first movie to enjoy this one, and I have to admit that this is honestly, in my opinion, one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.

Tw; Forced offscreen demonic impregnation? Yikes

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Sadako vs Kayako (2016)

You’ve seen The Ring, you’ve seen The Grudge. Now get ready for THE RING VS THE GRUDGE. While I recognize that the plot sounds incredibly stupid to the point where I put this movie on as a joke one night, I was shocked at how good it was. The director, Kōji Shiraishi, somehow formulated a sensible plot connecting these two horror legends, and it manages to deliver genuine scares. Fans of asian horror cinema will get a kick out of seeing the two heavy hitters Sadako (Ringu) and Kayako (Ju-On) crossing paths as their respective curses intersect.

Tw; Suicide

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Black Rat (2010)

If there is anything I have learned it’s that Japanese school kids should NEVER bully each other, because on the off chance the victim dies, it seems almost certain their ghost will come back to take extreme vengeance. Black Rat is a fun slasher flick that is pretty low commitment as far as horror goes. Sometimes its nice to watch a horror movie that doesn’t haunt you even after it’s over.

Tw; Suicide

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Imprint (2006)

Imprint wins as the most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for a movie that will make you say WTF out loud, look no further than this Takeshi Miike short that was included in the Masters of Horror anthology. It was so graphic that Showtime wouldn’t even air it in 2006. The plot involves a man visiting a brothel and meeting a disfigured girl who tells him the story of her life. However things get progressively more brutal as the night wears on.

Tw; Basically every trigger possible. Rape, torture, aborted fetuses, you name it.

 

So that was 31 nights of horror, a good mixture of modern and classic films by well known and little known directors alike. If you want to suggest some movies for me to check out, or discuss those I’ve listed, please leave a comment!

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The Story of Zombies

Many people muse about their odds of surviving a zombie apocalypse. I am one of those people. Ok…maybe I go one step further.

Just because I dress myself every morning with the thought “Could I successfully fight zombies in this?” in the back of my mind, constantly consider the closest objects that could be used as a weapon when walking through a store, and always keep my exit plans in mind not in case of fire, but in case of zombies, clearly doesn’t mean I’m obsessed. But for as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with zombies. I watched Night of the Living Dead when I was four, I think that pretty much explains it all.  But zombies aren’t just a fun cultural phenomenon or fad…they actually hold a lot of intriguing symbolism and history.

Long before the living dead were shambling across the silver screen or trying to eat Rick on The Walking Dead, they were shambling through the nightmare worlds of Haitian culture. Though creatures described as ‘the dead returned to life’ or ‘dead bodies inhabited by demons’ had existed in lore before, it was in Haiti that the monster we know today was truly born. In Haiti however the Zombi, a creature created by a sorcerer or Bokor by voodoo, was a very real threat, not just a bedtime story to scare children.

There have been several documented cases of ‘actual zombies’, the most famous being a woman named Felicia Felix-Mentor, who died in 1907 and then inexplicably wandered dazedly back into town again in 1936. A doctor later diagnosed the woman claiming to be Mentor to be a random, schizophrenic look-alike, this despite her own husband having verified it was her. Whether Mentor or the dozens of other cases similar (written off as the mentally disabled or brain damaged) were actual zombies may never be known for sure, and though to many it may seem like a farce, to Haitians the idea of voodoo and zombies is deeply ingrained in their culture and religion.

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A Zombie or a misidentified sick woman?

Much like they still do today, Haitian zombies symbolized a crisis at the time. In the past the crisis was slavery. As was quoted in Bishop’s book American Zombie Gothic, to Haitians the “fear is not of being harmed by zombis; it is fear of becoming one”. The idea of an evil bokor being able to use a person like a puppet to do their bidding was a reflection of the horrors of slavery which they themselves suffered. This made it even more ironic that when zombies were introduced to America, they symbolized the racist fear of the Haitians themselves.

What amazes scholars about zombies is the fact that they are a creature born straight out of folklore, not having a precedent in literature. Unlike vampires and other creatures, the zombie was never solidified in text. There have been mentions of the dead rising as far back as the epic Gilgamesh, and even the Bible had a ‘zombie’.

In John 11:1-44, the story of Lazarus rising from the dead thanks to Jesus is told. Taken as an uplifting story of Jesus’ power, the story takes on a more sinister meaning when you introduce the idea of zombies. In many cultures, especially older ones, a person’s name is a sacred and important thing. To control the name is to control the person. Africans captured into slavery regarded renaming as a form of subjugation in itself, a loss of their identity. In the story of Lazarus, Lazarus’ name is mentioned for the last time when Jesus calls him forth. The Bible then refers to Lazarus only as the “dead man”.

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“Uh…Jesus? Thats a zombie…also why are you white?”

But zombies of today actually bare few similarities with the zombies of old, even the zombies that were first in cinema such as the 1932 film White Zombie, which (although racist as heck…) is much closer to the traditional voodoo zombie of Haiti. The zombies of today were really crafted in 1968, in a film that ironically never even says the word zombie.

George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead changed the canon of zombies forever, turning them into the flesh eating horde that we know today. Romero is seen as the the “Godfather of zombies” for his pioneering of the genre in his Dead films (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead). I had the pleasure of meeting Romero myself, and it’s a bit shocking to think that such a kind, grandfatherly looking man could be so skilled at making gory masterpieces. But skilled he was, and Romero’s movie, which had a $114,000 budget, became internationally famous and inspired countless other independent filmmakers to make their own zombie movies. The proliferation of zombie films to this day is surely partially due to the fact they are (or were?) so much cheaper to make than most traditional movies. In fact small indie filmmakers have churned out hundreds of zombie flicks in the last 20 years.

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Romero’s zombies set up several important zombie guidelines that, although occasionally tweaked, have remained mostly true for every film since then. The most important rule is that, one way or another, zombies are prolific. In most media the zombie bite spreads the agent that makes one a zombie, usually a virus. It is never clear what originally made Romero’s zombies (although something about dust from a meteor is mentioned, alluding possibly to one of Romero’s obvious inspirations Invasion of the Body Snatchers) but in Night the zombies are quite literally the dead come back to life. In some of todays movies the ‘zombies’ (which many argue can’t really be classified as zombies anymore and are typically called ‘infected’) are not ‘dead’ but are infected with some sort of virus (like the ‘Rage’ virus in 28 Days Later). In my opinion however, they are all the same, because it is not how the zombie is made that is important, but what the zombie stands for.

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Night of the Living Dead came out during a troubling time in American history. The Vietnam War was in full blast, tensions between races were high, and many felt that America was suffering from a breakdown of traditional family values. All of these were themes explored in Romero’s movie. Then in 1978 Romero released what many consider to be his masterpiece, Dawn of the Dead. Working a bit like a sequel to Night, Dawn follows several survivors’ attempts to live in a mall, and tackles themes of American consumerism. Since then, every resonating zombie movie has explored important global themes such as these, and its no surprise there is always an upswing in zombie movies during times of crisis. For a while, especially in the 90s when the Clinton Administration had lulled the country into calm, there were very few movies in the zombie genre, and the few there were were unsuccessful. Then, 9/11 happened. Almost immediately the number of zombies movies being made and released saw a huge increase. Now the movies explored the nations fears of terrorists and the collapse of the government. In American Zombie Gothic, Kyle William Bishop states that:

“Because the aftereffects of war, terrorism, and natural disasters so closely resemble the scenarios depicted by zombie cinema, such images of death and destruction have all the more power to shock and terrify a population that has become otherwise jaded to more traditional horror films.”

In fact, zombies reflecting our culture is just one of many reasons that zombies freak us out. In the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead the movie’s heroine awakens to a neighbor, a little girl, entering her room. In the shadows the girl seems fine, but is seen to be a mutilated zombie in the light, who promptly attacks the heroine. The innocence of a child being distorted by the instincts of a killer is eerily similar to the stories of child suicide bomber’s from the warfront. The next disturbing moment in Dawn is restated perfectly by author Joe Nickell:

“[O]ur heroine encounters a municipal bus on the side of the road. Through the back window, she can see the silhouettes of a passenger’s futile struggle against two zombies who are attacking her. The violence of the shot isn’t what unnerved me. It was that shot, taken out of the film’s context, didn’t look all that different from graphic news footage of places in the real world where people suddenly and savagely turn on each other. We have seen it all too many times in places like Haiti, Rwanda, the former Yugoslav Republic and now in Darfur. It was the notion that the peace we take for granted is indeed a far more fragile thing than we realize, and one day we might wake up to discover that those we love and live alongside might inexplicably want to kill us. That unnerves me every time I think of it, because if you really immerse yourself in the fictional world of a zombie movie, you realize that there is no way to manage the risk of an outbreak unless you sever all connections with other people and begin viewing them as zombies-to-be.”

Because of the familiarity of scenes like these to real world horror, zombies become all the more frightening. There’s no denying that it takes a lot to scare an audience nowadays. With the hyper-realistic gore of films like Saw, and the news’ constant broadcast of the horrors around the world, filmmakers have to try to reach their audience on a psychological level if they want to be successful.

Residents look for survivors at a damaged site after what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo

Post Apocalypse? ….Nope. Modern day Aleppo.

But being reminded of the news certainly isn’t the only reason people flocked to Gamestop to pre-order games like Left 4 Dead 2. For starters, people love to hate zombies. In zombie movies and games, it is perfectly acceptable for the hero to riddle this humanoid looking creature with bullets and feel absolutely no remorse whatsoever. Zombies are not people. They were, and they certainly look like people to an extent, but survivors no longer feel any sort of human empathy for them. According to scientist and robotocist Masahiro Mori, this is due to the ‘Uncanny Valley’ theory. The idea of the ‘Uncanny Valley’ is that humans find things that look humanoid to a certain extent ‘cute’ (for example, stuffed animals) but once the likeness becomes too great, the attraction turns to fear and revulsion, as the thing looks human, but is not.

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Oh my God.

This ‘Uncanny Valley’ is recognizable to everyone, whether it was the creepy lifelike doll your grandmother had, or your grandmother herself in her coffin, looking so alive, and yet unlike the living woman you once knew. This feeling of detachment allows the zombies to become ‘things’ instead of people, and though this ‘inhuman’ quality does scare us even more, it also makes their extermination easier. This paradox between familiarity and unfamiliarity has been explored in many forms, as it seems humans are most frightened by monsters that look like us. From the aliens of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to the nurses of the Silent Hill series, humanoid monsters seems to reign most successful in leaving a lasting impression.

Possibly the biggest fear a zombie poses however, is infection. Just the idea of a horrific, unstoppable, and incredibly contagious disease has haunted humanity since we were living in caves. Look at the Ebola scare a few years ago, or the H1N1 scare a few years before that. Humans have an innate fear of disease, so it would only make sense that mixing the fear of disease with all the fears zombies conjure up on their own is a nightmare inducing cocktail for success.

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Zombie outbreak?…Try Ebola.

It was exactly this theory that likely spawned things like the Resident Evil franchise, a series of games, movies, and other media about a virus (the T-Virus) that escapes a secret laboratory and spreads like wildfire, turning everyone in its path into a zombie or horrific monster.  In fact it seems that nowadays the fear of the zombie comes hand in hand with the fear of infection itself. Movies like 2009’s Carriers even take out the zombie aspect and make the disease spreading threat regular, albeit desperate, humans. Many zombie stories take a combination approach, especially The Walking Dead. You think the zombies are the biggest threat, only to discover the real threat; other humans.

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He’s a lot hotter than a zombie though…

Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead sagely said that zombies are “our own death, personified”.  No one wants to be a zombie, and the impending fear of becoming one, especially the horrible foreboding once you have actually been bitten, is the epitome of psychological terror. A common trope of zombie tale is of the frightened survivor who gets a bite chomped out of him or her, then hides the wound from their fellow teammates in some unfounded hope for a miracle.

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May I just say right now, in case zombies do attack, please do not be THAT GUY. Everyone hates THAT GUY. THAT GUY always dies, and also always brings a few friends along with them. However a trope found about as often is the hero who knows they are doomed by the bite, and decides to go down in a glorious hail of bullets or fire and take as many zombie bastards as possible with them (if you want to get a good example of both in action check out Resident Evil: Extinction). This is the guy that everyone loves, and the one that you should strive to be should the undead rise.

Ultimately, a zombie movie done right can literally encompass every human’s worse nightmare. With critically acclaimed shows like The Walking Dead and bestselling books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, zombies have managed to slowly stumble out of the realm of ‘joke’ that campy parodies like Return of the Living Dead and Dead Alive sadly once resigned them to. Not that there shouldn’t be a bit of humor equated with zombies. Though undeniably frightening in numbers and power, the single rotting and moaning zombie can very easily become comical rather than terrifying. A truly brilliant zombie program knows how to take the serious and humorous elements of zombies and blend them. Zombieland does this pretty well, and even Shaun of the Dead has its serious and truly distressing moments. Sometimes when a zombie movies takes itself too seriously, it can be a bit TOO soul crushing, such as 2007’s I Am Legend. But regardless if you like your zombie movie purely gory and fun, or if you like a more physiological and philosophical approach, you simply can’t deny that zombies have had an impact on American culture. And whether you find them them the most terrifying monster or the most overrated, it is also impossible to deny that if a zombie outbreak began you would be afraid.

Simba’s new son looks suspiciously familiar…

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For any of you folks out there not in the “Disney Know” (or weird enough to be in the Lion King fandom like me) you may not be aware that Disney has just announced their plans to air a brand new tv movie and show taking place in the Lion King universe and featuring the characters we have come to know and love. The new childrens show will teach lessons about things like conservation.

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Based on the images shown it appears it will be in animation style true to the original (not some cheap CGI rubbish they insist on throwing down kid’s throats these days). I can only hope the original voice actors are on board, and that some clever songs will be written for it!

That said, being the mondo nerd I am, I immediately noticed that young Kion the lion, Simba’s son and Kiara’s little brother, looks very familiar…

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The lion pictured above is also the son of Simba and Nala. However his name is Kopa. Kopa was the main character of the The Lion King: Six New Adventures and was apparently their first cub. However as anyone paying attention would note, Kopa was mysteriously absent from Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, and Disney basically disowned him altogether in favor of Kiara. Supposedly the team behind TLK2 had no knowledge Kopa even existed, but in most audiobooks, even re-releases, the cub at the end of TLK is specifically stated as being male. Many fan theorist try to work Kopa into the canon by suggesting he could have been killed by Zira between movies, or that he was killed in an accident on one of his many dangerous adventures. Fittingly for canon, Simba does seem a bit irrationally overprotective of Kiara in the film…

Perhaps the introduction of Kion is in homage to the lost character Kopa.

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In fact there are many characters and aspects beyond the Lion King film that are considered canon that most people have no idea about. Some were forgotten or disowned or retconned by Disney. Some exist only in passing mention or comics. In fact, a complete family tree of the Lion King universe looks a bit more complicated than filmgoers alone might imagine…

I made this family tree for the Lion King extended universe several years ago. It includes all named (and several unnamed) lions that appear in TLK canon as well as a few that Disney have basically retconned such as Kopa and Mheetu. Mheetu was an early TLK character, Nala’s tagalong little brother, who was cut early into storyboarding the film.

The black lines are “fact” lines while colored are my well researched theories based on evidence and some knowledge of real lion behavior which has been subbed in where evidence lacks. The trouble of course is that Disney knows considerably less about the greater Lion King canon than some of the more hardcore fans, so they often contradict themselves or simply don’t care enough to worry about logic. For example, have you ever given any thought as to who Nala’s father was?

Lion prides work in a pretty specific way. ALL cubs will be fathered by the single male head (a male taking over a pride will kill any cubs not his). It is not totally unheard of though for two male brother to travel together or even live in a pride together. So logic would state Nala’s father MUST be either Mufasa or Scar. Disney reps themselves even admitted this at one point. Now this may seem taboo to humans but incest for lions in part of life and basically necessary to an extent. It is curbed by the fact that male cubs do NOT usually stay with their pride as adults but venture off to live elsewhere. Females however are usually all sisters (Sarabi, Serafina, Aunt, ect.) and stay in the pride.

Obviously Disney fudged some rules and toned lion life down for TLK, which is clearly understandable. But in order to stay organized I kept those basic principles in mind when making this chart.

So Mufasa is probably Nala’s father as well (you can justify it even more if you consider that Simba is the heir therefore the only true “son” of Mufasa so he gets to call him dad!). When Scar took over he killed any remaining male cubs, and would have logically begun fathering his own. Disney states Scar had no cubs. Disney says a lot of things I choose to ignore. You’ll notice after Mufasa’s gone in the comics the cub’s pictured have mysteriously darker fur…and of course there is Nuka, Vitani and Kovu.

Given the timeline, Kovu probably is not actually Scar’s, especially if one regards Kopa as canon. I guessed that Scar never saw Kovu. Nuka was his son but he was displeased with him. The only way that Vitani and Nuka could not be Scar’s is if they were born after he died, which the movie says they weren’t. Think about it. Would Scar have allowed some rogue lion to come in and start knocking up his lioness’? Would Zira want cubs with anyone but Scar?

Scar died and a while later Zira had Kovu. Seeing his strength and resemblance to Scar, she decided she’d have better luck with him than Nuka. She made up the story about Scar choosing him in order to justify the choice and placate Nuka, while at the same time boosting Kovu’s confidence and ambition. OR maybe Scar told Zira her next strong son would be heir. This is my best theory, as Zira is simply not a reliable narrator and certainly not above lying, and the time frame of the movies just doesn’t make sense otherwise. Nuka is just too old and Kovu just too young.

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This theory is to fits the second movie together with the Kopa theory. I know Zira says that Kovu was the last born before they were exiled. I can’t explain this, except Zira (or Disney) being unreliable. I think Vitani is older than Kovu, and maybe around how old Kopa would be.

There have been arguments trying to use genetics to connect family. This is simply silly of course. The lions were given colors to put them into family groups or to distinguish ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Disney wasn’t considering genetics. You’ll notice in TLK2 all the outlander lionesses magically get lighter once they join Simbas pride. It’s because they’re “good” now. Zira’s cubs look like Scar because they were originally intended to be Scar’s. No one was paying attention to eyecolor or whether son’s always had the same color mane as dad. There simply isn’t enough info to make this claim.

So as you can see, there’s a lot more to Lion King than it might at first appear, and a truly disturbed nerd like me would of course know this.

I wear my cred on my back, by the way.

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Looks like Kion will have to be added to this list now, and who knows how many other characters will be revealed in the show! Lucky (or not) for Disney, creepy Lion King fans like me don’t forget characters so easily! 😉

My Top (Sometimes Surprising) Scariest Video Game Moments

I started playing videos very young, and my relationship with them will probably be a  blog post of its own. Being brought up on the horror genre as a whole, I typically play horror/survival style games. Needless to say I have experienced my fair share of late-night-solo-game-session-freakouts and jump scares. But some of my utmost terrifying gaming moments have come from some rather unlikely places…

This list certainly isn’t a guide to scariest games. In fact some of the games included aren’t even actually scary games, or they were made for kids. It based totally on opinion, and from my INITIAL game experience, meaning that some of these freaked me out real bad…when I first played the game as a third grader. Furthermore, some of these moments are scary BECAUSE they are surprising, so there are going to be some spoilers ahead. Ye have been warned.

OK SO HERE WE GO!

My first moment comes from a game that’s not so surprising on this list: Silent Hill. In fact I assume its on most “scariest moments in gaming” lists out there. However its probably not a moment you would typically think of. It’s not when the pterodactyl monster busts through the diner window or when evil Cybil staggers out to murder you. Instead its a moment with literally no monster or dangerous consequences.

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Harry walks into a restroom with no monsters, no radio buzz, just quiet. But when you step forward a sudden, loud sob can be heard echoing through the stalls.

That’s it. But I threw my controller a mile the first time I heard that sob, and my heart must have stopped. It took all my strength to finish exploring the bathroom, but of course there were no monsters. And really that’s the power of Silent Hill and what it excels at: making you fear the unknown most of all. That’s why the fog and darkness is so terrifying. Imagining what MIGHT be there is usually worse than just fighting a dang monster.

The next game in the list is another that excels at making a really fun, creepy atmosphere, and is also included often in “scariest” lists for video games. I am still not totally sure if Bioshock is even actually a horror game. It’s one of those games that is hard to categorize. But regardless of genre, it certainly succeeds in some scares. Most people think of the surprise dentist or the splicer with the baby carriage, but by far my scariest moment was the very first Big Daddy battle.

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Talk about HYPE. I remember thinking “NO. IM NOT READY THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING OHGOD”. I probably also paused the game to hyperventilate a bit.

Bioshock sets up the Big Daddy so well. You travel through the game witnessing what the Big Daddy can do but always safe out of reach. The most interesting part of the Big Daddy fights of course is that YOU have to initiate them, which usually makes things easier….but also often ends up with you unloading on the hulking mass and praying to God that your ammo holds out.

Most boss battles involve you being basically trapped in a room with the thing trying to kill you, which is how it was in the next game on the list, Tomb Raider. Tomb Raider (and all 258490 of the sequels) isn’t really a scary game, just scary hard, mostly due to Lara’s nearly impossible controls and the few save points. The boss that scared me most as a child however was actually one of the easiest. It was slow moving, not super strong, and didn’t really have long distance attacks (and considering the terror of the T-Rex boss battle it was a welcome fight).

The thing mostly scared me because-

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IT WAS A GIANT TORSO MONSTER ABOMINATION.

Like what even the hell is that thing?!?!? Not to mention the way it movies, dragging its torso stump around with its long weird arms…Worst of all is the way it actually kills Lara when it grabs her.

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It would SLAM HER VICIOUSLY INTO THE GROUND until she was a limp meat sack. Trust me, go watch some gameplay of this moment. Something about the ultra violence of the death scene really stuck with me. As a kid I laughed it off with my brother as a wtf moment. But I never ever forgot it, and I can’t even tell you a third of the Tomb Raider bosses there have been since then.

Plus there has definitely been at least one giant torso sliding after me in my nightmares.

Speaking of chasing, if you want to play a game that will assure you a panic attack, I recommend the next game on my list, Haunting Ground. Its of that hallowed genre shared with Silent Hill of horror/puzzle games, because nothing says fear like trying to finagle a door open with a counter balance system while about to be murdered.

In Haunting Ground however, unlike Silent Hill, you can’t really fight the things trying to maul (or in this case possibly brutally rape, torture, and eat ?)  you. You can only hide. AND if you use a spot too many times the thing chasing you will rip you out of said spot.

So basically the game consists of you exploring a giant castle solving puzzles and then RUNNING ALL THE WAY BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM AND GETTING HORRIBLY LOST WHILE FRANTICALLY TRYING TO FIND A STUPID DOOR TO DUCK BEHIND

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That’s the moment I guess, although really the whole game is this moment. But that moment where you are praying to the lord baby Jesus that gorilla man keeps walking…you don’t know fear until you see him sniffing for you.

Frantic running away is a prevalent theme on this list. The next game is far from a ‘horror’ game despite being about ghosts; it’s Casper, and this game was apparently marketed toward kids despite being infuriatingly difficult. Casper is a puzzle game that consists of you searching through a literal maze, with no map, to find keys to lead you to more parts of the maze and still have no idea what is going on. Also eating broccoli which may have also scared children.

But there is one room where you very abruptly get MAULED BY UNCLE FATSO

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Like most of the Casper game this bit isn’t exactly intuitive. There is no warning that Fatso is going to charge you and chase you around (except the abrupt speed up in music). And you just have to flail and run to a door to escape. I would say that “I was just a kid and I don’t know why it creeped my out” but that would be a lie because everyone else who has played this game agrees with me.

Speaking of uncalled for terror in children’s games, one of my favorite games of all time is Spyro The Dragon, a generally light hearted, even adorable game. But there is definitely some underlying creepy. There’s puppies and turtles that turn into monsters when not in the light, an entire world called “Beast Makers” full of things that want to eat you, and don’t even get me started on the level “Jacques”

But the thing that got me was the monsters of the level “Misty Bog” which start off looking innocuous enough, like palm trees. Then they puff out of the ground and look a bit more like unhappy beets. Then they start vibrating. If you keep approaching…

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I mean, are there really even any words?

And yeah, it eats you.

I can’t really imagine where this idea came from unless the designers had just watched The Langoliers.

I still hate those things.

Anyway, moving on, like most monsters in games, when you go back and play again, the evil turnips and most others on this list just aren’t as terrifying second time around. They may still residually unsettle you, but they are easy enough to get past or kill.

One such creature is the Witch from Left 4 Dead. Left 4 Dead was a challenge the first time you played a campaign, and the first time you experience a Witch?

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I remember I never even saw her before she was on me. It was during a horde attack, so my teammates and I were just shooting frantically, and apparently I hit her because in a flash of claws and an earsplitting scream I was on the ground being torn to bits. I yelped and threw the controller across the room. I am not even remotely exaggerating.

Its humorous now, considering how easy Witches are to avoid and that most groups involve one guy going up for a headshot and screwing it up and laughs all around. But regardless of replay value, you never forget your first Witch.

Half Life 2 is a really good game. It’s one of my all time favorites. The game is really good at making YOU feel like Gordon Freeman, and of course that just makes the fear all the more real. And Ravenholm is about as edge-of-your-seat-pantswetting as it gets.

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Half Life 2 is filled with scary moments despite not really being a horror game by any means. I mean you are fighting zombie alien….things. And giant bugs. And a government that would make George Orwell shudder. But the game gets legitimately scary when Gordon has to cut through a deserted, alien infested town called Ravenholm. Its a place just filled with awful, and its also the place where you meet all your favorite reoccurring headcrab zombie types, like the lumbering one that throws the screaming poisonous facehuggers at you and the stupidly fast ones that mostly always look like this

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as in right about to land on your head and tear you to shreds.

The whole level is a ball of anxiety, but the final rooftop battle against an onslaught of those things is a definite member of this list. Of course one of my other most anxiety inducing moments was this baby right here. Damn Antlion Guards.

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The final member of this list is an unlikely choice; the game is Condemned 2. (If you want the FULL SCARE stop reading now and go play the game, this is one of those ones that is scary partially due to the fact you don’t really see it coming).

Condemned 2 isn’t really a “great” game; it has a lot of flaws (don’t even get me started on the end fight -_-) but I found it to be a generally enjoyable one. It had some disturbing and frightening moments, even if the main character is about as likable as stale bread and the plot makes about as much sense as purposefully making  a sandwich with said bread. But there are some nice parts and the game actually has the moment that has frightened me the worst in a video game. And that moment was this.

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That’s a bear. A BIG bear. A big RABID FRICKIN BEAR.

In a game where up till this point you have been fighting zombie humans, this is a pretty startling switch over in the final leg of the playthrough. And the game has fantastic build up. You are walking along a snowy path, find drops of blood and the occasional body part on the ground, then you start getting in radio reports about rabid animals, then you get to a big hunting lodge…

And then this dude charges you and you have to run down tiny hallways to escape and it can crash through walls to get you so even just when you think you’re safe he busts in again.

I may have literally cried playing this.

It helps that this scene likely gave me PTSD from THIS time in my life…

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I feel you, Crash.

But I think we can all agree that this is NOT the last thing you want to see before you die.

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Well folks that concludes my scariest gaming moments list. I hope you enjoyed! Maybe it gave you a case of nostalgia, or gave you ideas for new games to play, or maybe you think I’m crazy and disagree with everything I said.

But either way, I hope you stay curious!