Mailbag: May 16, 2016

Welcome to the Horror Writers mailbag!  I’m hoping to make this a weekly column, but it all depends on how many questions I get.  I didn’t get many for this edition, so I was forced to make up some questions.  Please don’t make me do that again.  It’s pretty sad.

If you have questions you’d like to have answered, send them along.  You can hit us up on Twitter (@horror_writers) or over email (

@sairentohiru: Has there ever been a horror movie where NOBODY gets killed?

Here’s are some rules I set for myself
1. Animals count just as much as people.  If our main characters all survive but the dog doesn’t make it to the credits, it’s disqualified.
2. All death matters.  If we see someone die, it’s out.  For example, none of the main characters in The Amityville Horror die, but we see the previous family get killed.  Since we see the deaths that set up the present day story, it’s disqualified.  Now, if we just hear the story, I would accept it.
3. No “it was in the person’s mind the whole time,” or “they only killed off their other personalities,” stuff.  If we see someone die and, in the moment, it is real to us, it’s disqualified.
4. If death is all but certain but we don’t actually see it, it’s disqualified.  Technically we don’t see anyone die in The Blair Witch Project, but let’s be real: those people are dead.
5. No classic Universal Monster movies.  If we take Bride of Frankenstein as an extension on Frankenstein, then we know Frankenstein’s Monster wasn’t dead at the end of Frankenstein.  But the deaths were a product of the time; monsters had to be defeated by the end of the film.  If the film was popular enough, the death at the end of the previous movie had to be explained away at the start of the next one.
6. One last rule: if we’re dealing with a, “They were dead the whole time,” situation, it is disqualified.

That doesn’t leave many.  I’m sure I’m missing some, but here is what I have:

April Fool’s Day (original)
The Conjuring
The Entity

It’s not a very long list, but I couldn’t think of any others.  Feel free to chime in with any I may have missed.

Best horror movies of the past 5 years?
This is a list I told someone (@brywhitney I think) I would make.

I decided to make a top 15, going back to 2010.  And so, counting down, here we go:

15. Oculus (2014) – In the simplest terms, this is a movie about an evil mirror.  I could try to describe it, but it’s nearly impossible to do in a limited space.  It’s good and creepy and you should totally watch it.

14. Final Destination 5 (2011) – I love this series.  The fourth installment was easily the weakest, so I thought the series might have been over.  They came back and nailed it with this one.  Lots of good deaths and a terrific ending.

13. Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead (2014) – After making a ton of money with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Tommy Wirkola decided to make a sequel to his Nazi zombie comedy.  With a larger budget, Wirkola went all out.  He basically looked at the original and said, “More of everything!”

12. What We Do in the Shadows (2015) – Found footage comedy from Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), following a group of vampires from different eras all living under the same roof.  Insanely funny.

11. The Crazies (2010) – One of the few remakes that is better than the original.  This one by a pretty wide margin, in my opinion.

10. The Woman in Black (2012) – An atmosphere-laden return to form for Hammer Horror.  This movie freaked me out.

9. You’re Next (2011) – A really fun home invasion movie (words I never thought I’d type), with one of the best final girls in recent memory.  It has some really great kills and some very funny moments.  The big reveal was telegraphed early, but that didn’t take away from the fun I had.

8. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) – A combination remake and indirect sequel to the 1976 original.  I expected nothing from this movie, and came away absolutely loving it.

7. The Final Girls (2015) – A loving and hilarious homage to the slasher genre, with a surprisingly strong emotional core.  I loved this concept, and it was carried out to perfection.

6. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) – So ridiculously funny.  The two leads (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) are perfect.  It helps if you go into this movie with a healthy knowledge of slasher movies (“rednecks in the woods,” specifically), but you can go in with no horror movie history and still enjoy it.

5. The Witch (2016) – Dark, atmospheric movie set in 17th century New England.  After a family is banished from their village, they build a home on the outskirts of a forest.  When a member of the family dies, witchcraft is suspected and the family begins to turn on each other.  The movie is filled with a slow, creeping dread.  It didn’t immediately grab me, but I spent the next two weeks thinking about it.  The soundtrack is incredible.

4. The Babadook (2014) – The trailer made this look like a monster movie.  It is most definitely not that.  It’s really more of a psychological thriller.  The first 30 minutes can be a little rough, but it’s worth it.  This is an extremely tense, creepy, uncomfortable movie.

3. Evil Dead (2013) – This movie held true to the nastiness of the original instead of the comedy of its sequels, and it worked really well.  Lots of fun and extremely bloody.  I love every minute of this movie.

2. The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – A perfect deconstruction of the genre, followed by 30 minutes of absolute mayhem.  I wasn’t crazy about this one the first time I saw it, but I’m madly in love with it now.

1. It Follows (2015) – A slasher movie with a twist.  It had the look and feel of John Carpenter’s Halloween.  I love this movie more every time I watch it.

And now, a hodge-podge of others that just missed the cut.

Frozen (2010) – Not the “Let it Go” one.  The “We’re stuck on this ski lift and we’re freezing to death and there are wolves below us,” one.  Shout out to Hatchet II (not on this list because it’s not very good) for referencing this movie in a news segment.

The Silent House (2010) – Shot in one take, this is either the story of a home invasion or the story of a woman’s mind unraveling.  I honestly don’t remember how it ends, but I remember loving it.  The American remake (starring Elizabeth Olsen) is also quite good.

The Awakening (2011) – This feels very much like The Orphanage (right down to the fact that it takes place in an orphanage), but it is very much its own movie.  It’s quiet and spooky and perfect for a rainy night.

Scream 4 (2011) – Sequels that come more than a decade after the previous installment are tough to nail, but this one did it.  It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s enjoyable and it fits perfectly with the rest of the series.  With the death of Wes Craven, we’re all but assured that this was the final installment.  If that’s true, it’s a great way to go out.  (I absolutely loved the opening of this movie.)

American Mary (2012) – I’m not as high on this as a lot of people are, but I enjoyed it.  Starring the wonderful Katherine Isabelle, this is a story about a woman trying to make her way through med school by performing body modification surgery.  She also doles out some pretty sweet revenge.

The Battery (2012) – One of the more realistic zombie movies I’ve ever seen.  It follows Ben & Mickey, two former baseball teammates (comprising the titular battery) as they attempt to survive in the zombie wasteland.

Maniac (2012) – The original is a grimy, sleazy movie that you will need a shower after watching.  This remake is much slicker, but that sleazy feeling is still there.  Elijah Wood is our killer, but pretty much the entire movie is from the killer’s perspective, so we don’t actually see his face very much.  The feel of this reminded me of Drive, but with more scalping.

Sinister (2012) – Not so much out-and-out scary as supremely unsettling.  There’s a spot in the middle that almost lost me, but it quickly dragged me back in.

Starry Eyes (2014) – Body horror mixed with Hollywood and a Satanic cult.  What’s not to love?

Crimson Peak (2015) – Guillermo Del Toro haunted house movie set in the early 1900s.  It’s beautiful to look at, the cast is incredible and the story is a lot of fun.

Deathgasm (2015) – New Zealand comedy about a metal band who raises a demon army.  There was one scene in this movie that had me in tears from laughter.

Krampus (2015) – Great cast and terrific creature effects.  In my house, it’s already a Christmas classic.

Since we just got our only Friday the 13th of the year, how would you rank the Friday the 13th series?

I am excluding Freddy vs. Jason for this list.

1. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
2. Friday the 13th (1980)
3. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
4. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
5. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
6. Jason X (2001)
7. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
8. Friday the 13th (2009)
9. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
10. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
11. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

I am willing to discuss my rankings, but it’s doubtful I’ll actually change them.  I’m a stubborn man.

How did you get into horror?

I didn’t get this question from anyone in particular, but it is one I get quite often.

I believe my story differs from many others.  I was not allowed to watch horror as a child, and I rarely found myself doing so.  The times I found myself watching a horror movie, I never really cared for it.

The first horror movie I remember liking was The Ring.  I was 22 years old at the time.  I didn’t delve too deep into the world of horror until 2004’s Dawn of the Dead.  That’s what kind of piqued my interest, and I began attempting to catch up everything I had missed.  I found myself drawn to zombie movies and slasher movies.  Zombies drew me in because I loved thinking about how I would survive in such a situation.  Slashers drew me in because that’s what everyone I went to elementary school talked about.  They talked about “Freddy” and “Jason,” and I wanted to understand why they loved these killers so much.

In 2007 I went back to college for an accounting degree.  In an attempt to get to 150 credits to sit for the CPA exam (which I never took), I took a class titled Intro to Horror as a Pass/Fail.  I had loved horror before, but this little intro class took that love to another level.  It taught me new ways to watch horror, and gave me more knowledge about the history of the genre.

Part of me wishes I had grown up with it; that I had all the nostalgia that a lot of people I interact with have.  But another part of me is glad I took this path.  I can look at older movies for what they are.  I don’t have the nostalgia for them, so I can just evaluate them as movies.  Some of them hold up and some of them do not, but I am able to see them all from an unbiased perspective.