Best Halloween Movies Lucky #13 The Sixth Sense

Do you know why you’re afraid when you’re alone? I do. I do.

[Did you really think I was going to put the other quote at the top?]

I will not be long in my discussion of this movie for two reasons. The first is that I have already discussed it on this blog and the second is “Are you living in a cave?” you’ve already seen it. I’m not going to waste my time or yours talking about things you clearly already know.

So what’s to talk about? Well as with all of these movies the focus is on the fear of death.

In this case we see the fear of death from those who have died. So afraid to admit what has happened to them they surround themselves in a lie, “they don’t even know their dead.” Obviously, at some subconscious level, some of them are beginning to understand, which is why they are attracted to the person who can actually bring them closer to their lives, but they still don’t understand it at a conscious level….which is why the ending was such a kick to the gut the first time we all saw it.

We all know this movie so there is not much more I can say that I already haven’t (although you should read the old blog as it does have some insights you might have missed…just not necessarily ones related to the horror genre.)

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Best Films of Halloween #14 The Frighteners

Give it up, Frank! Death ain’t no way to make a living!

Even a New Ager like me who believes in psychic powers, I will admit most of them are charlatans and con artists. However the story of a real psychic who makes his living off of being a charlatan psychic is, as far as I know, original…yes I’ve seen quite a few stories about charlatans developing powers but never the other way around. (Of course having Michael J. Fox as a misanthropic asshole was also a new idea.)

And the supporting cast is simply hilarious. Jack Busey as the villain is possibly one of the few actors on this planet who can look crazier than his father Gary.  R. Lee Emery as a ghostly version of his usual hardnosed drill sergeant.  And the ever underappreciated Jeffrey Combs as a mentally unstable FBI agent who is obsessed with the paranormal (yeah that may make you think Fox Mulder, but this guy makes Mulder’s most bizarre habits look mundane and rational.

Battles with the Grim Reaper himself, other worldly serial killers, psycho Feds, and a crazy lady with a very big gun. Mystery as to who is good and bad. Tension throughout most of the movie. And a good dose of humor. This movie is unknown most likely because it had a very poor showing at the box office when it first came out. This probably had something to do with the fact that the studio tried to hype the movie by pointing out that it was produced by Robert Zemeckis (whom we had all forgotten even back in the 1990’s) and completely ignored the director Peter Jackson (I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I seem to remember him going on to do something else, the name just has a certain ring to it). Again, not the greatest film ever made but it is far too underappreciated than its quality actually merits. (If nothing else this is what gave Jackson a huge amount of experience in dealing with CGI, without which we wouldn’t have our favorite Hobbits).

Here we see not the typical fear of death that is so common of horror films (although it is here) but more the fear of life. You have ghost by the bushel who are afraid to move on with their “life” (I use the term loosely), a hero so focused on what has gone wrong with his life that he is unable to move on, and a trio of villains who all seem to be radically antithetical to living life. In both your life, and afterlife, it is shown that not moving on, living life, but rather holding on to the past (in Fox’s character focusing on his wife’s death, with the killers their focus is on breaking records set by others) to the point that it is a paralytic even worse than the fear that the characters tend to inspire in others.

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Greatest Halloween Films #15 Sleepy Hollow

“Is he dead?” “That’s the problem he was dead to begin with.”

Believe it or not this is the last time Tim Burton will be making an appearance on this list. (Don’t worry, we still have better movies coming up, I just don’t think anything Burton has done makes it into the top 10—feel free to disagree with me). Burton and Depp take a new direction on the classic story and make it a more action/adventure with a touch of murder mystery. With the usual Tim Burton weirdness. But it works. You spend most of the moving in a whodunit mode while equally being entertained by the outlandish behavior and contraptions of Icabod Crane, a wannabe CSI investigator long before there was anything that resembled forensics. This is actually one of Depp’s more heroic characters. He’s not a perpetually drunk pirate, a mass murderer, or a lunatic of any kind. A deeply troubled man, yes, but one who does have a sense of right and wrong, and one who while filled with numerous fears can push past them and do what he needs to when he has to. And this is a good thing because it stands in direct opposition to just about everyone else in the film who, while not so public in their displays of fear, are paralyzed to the point of absolute inaction by their fear of death and dishonor. And, personally, one of the things I love about Tim Burton horror films, is that no matter how much blood and gore he shows it’s always in that bizarre unnatural red that allows for just enough distance so that it doesn’t actually become revolting. One of the great things about this film is that it pays homage to the other famous version of this story…the Disney version. There is a point in Burton’s film that plays off the above clip in almost exact detail (down to the frogs croaking Icabod’s name) and it is a nice reminder that this is not the only version of this tale. (Honestly I was quite remiss in not listing the original Disney story of Sleepy Hollow in my list of honorable mentions, it should have been). The great thing about this scene was that it had the fake horseman cross the river (making it known early on to the audience to not expect such an easy save) and still kept the iconic image of the flaming jack-o’-lantern. And then there’s the horseman. Even though he wasn’t in the film much, by putting Christopher Walken as the actor to play the Hessian when he still had a head allowed for a much creepier vibe about the monster even when you couldn’t see Walken’s trademark bizarre gaze.   All in all a good action film. A good adventure. A good murder mystery. And one of the better horror films ever made.

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Best Movies of Halloween #16 Se7en

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” I agree with the second part.

Why this movie? It’s not a slasher (like Sweeney Todd and Scream), it has nothing supernatural or otherworldly; it’s more a thriller or crime drama. So why exactly this movie? Because it has the worst monster of all—the worst parts of human nature unchecked by reason or compassion. People are theoretically capable of some truly horrific things. Luckily most people have reason and compassion in enough amounts to keep them from becoming evil, maybe not enough to become paragons of virtue, but certainly enough to keep them from doing terrible things. (Although I won’t deny history is filled with otherwise reasonable people giving into their worst fears and inclinations to commit terrible atrocities…and always in the name of virtue, of progress, of the state). But this movie shows what happens when it’s not a whole group justifying their viciousness through some kind of utilitarian excuse; this is an individual who has reached this viciousness on his own.

And the problem is that the writers put some fairly seductive half truths in what he says (because the devil wouldn’t be the devil if he didn’t know how to make a lie sound like the truth):

Only in a world this shitty could you even try to say these were innocent people and keep a straight face. But that’s the point. We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it’s common, it’s trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night.

And what makes this even more seductive is that it parallels what the character of Somerset, played by Morgan Freeman, feels throughout the entire film. That the world is getting worse. That humanity is leaving the human race and all that is left is a degenerate filth that passes as human beings. The fact that the city, in every scene, is poorly lit, it’s constantly raining, and the walls of every building falling apart behind the chipping paint. It almost seems that the world isn’t going to Hell, it’s already there. (I don’t necessarily agree with this view of the world, I actually think it’s getting better, but that’s not exactly here or there for this film).

So if we’re already in Hell, doesn’t there seem to be some kind of perverted justice in the act of the killer? No. Let me be clear, I’m saying the writers clearly wanted it to have the tone of seduction, but they have no illusions about what is right and what is wrong. Because while the killer and Somerset complain about the same things, Somerset works throughout the movie to make the world better, to try and educate others, to try and enlighten. He is a man of reason and compassion. He recognizes the problem, but chooses to respond by trying to make the world better.

The killer on the other hand just destroys. Yes there are times in life where violence is called for and there are times when we feel that treating the scum around us with said violence might be a great stress relief, but most of us don’t give into that. We vent and move on. The killer of Seven took it upon himself to meet out punishment to those who were not harming him directly (and the only two who were harming others were the drug dealer guilty of sloth and the lawyer guilty of greed, and in both cases their crimes would have warranted prison, not death). The killer in this movie wanted to say his sin was envy for the normal life of Brad Pitt’s character, it wasn’t, it was something that doesn’t even make the list of the seven deadly sins, it was an obsession with vice instead of virtue, with cursing the darkness instead of lighting a candle. That and he was batshit insane.

As a horror film it works because it shows what our darkest inclination might look like if stripped of all that is good in us.

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The Best Halloween Movies #17 Beetlejuice

Is this what happens when you die?”

Luckily for us it isn’t. But it makes a very funny experience.

The movie starts off with a seemingly giant spider climbing over a house…yeah we learn in a second that it’s only a model, but that’s still an image that does not bode well.

Monsters, demons, ghosts, exercised souls… clearly belongs in the horror category. But the mad cap insanity of director Tim Burton creates a truly bizarre comedy with a truly bizarre cast. And in the middle is our as average and boring as can be couple of ghosts played by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin. They play a not exceedingly bright (not an acting stretch for Baldwin) but very likable (a major feat of acting for Baldwin) young couple in love who are taken out just a little too early in life.

Why does a madcap comedy make it so much higher on this list than other films which are arguably better done? Well once again the fear of death. This movie deals with the idea of what the afterlife is like. And it’s not a pleasant idea. It’s a perverse bureaucracy that has no sense or rhyme or reason. The only guide is a book that reads like technical instructions. It’s worse than oblivion or even Hell, because at least one is an end and the other is a least theoretically just. No this is all the little insanities of life taken to an exponential degree with seemingly none of the good parts carried over. It’s almost worse than anything Dante envisioned. And if this were accurate, the fear of death would be valid…thank God it’s not.

And of course I have to bring up this scene (even though Belafonte is a poor excuse for a human being)

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Greatest Halloween Movies #18 The Mummy

“It’s just a book. No harm every came from reading a book”

No I don’t mean the old version where the mummy looks like he’s been given too much Thorazine and has severe arthritis….no I’m talking about the more action packed that can best be summed up by its own words, “Rescue the damsel in distress, kill the bad guy, save the world.”

It makes it into the horror genre for a few reasons. First and foremost is that it is a remake of one of those classic horror films I find too corny to actually put on this list. Second those flesh eating scarabs are creepy as all hell…bugs that crawl under your skin and eat you from the inside out. You have the more traditional mummies working as henchmen. And then there is of course the Mummy, Imhotep, who goes through various states of gore and decay (the creepiest moment is probably when he chews on one of the scarabs that is crawling through the hole in his face, send chills up my spine).

But this movie’s virtues aren’t really in its horror aspects; it’s more in its adventure qualities. There is a certain Raiders of the Lost Ark quality to the adventure. Granted there is a far heavier aspect of fantasy and magic, but it still has the action/adventure feel that made the first Indie film so enjoyable (a quality that was pretty much lacking from all the sequels). You have a hero with wonderfully sardonic lines that come in at just the right times, a strong-willed heroine who does as much to save herself as the hero does to save her, and a bumbling sidekick who offers just the right amount of insanity. Tombs, treasure, treachery. You can see why I draw the parallels. I had been hoping that this was going to spark a wave of similar films as the genre has been hideously under used….didn’t get that…I got a decade of movies about zombies and increasingly wimpy vampires.

And while not the most intellectual film of all time, it does make some observations that I find remarkably astute. Namely in the form of foreign relations. There is a scene near the beginning of the film, where the boat all the characters are on is being invaded. Jonathan, the British brother of our heroine, looks in distain at a group of Americans who are firing randomly at the invaders and comments, “Americans,” a line that encapsulates the European view that Americans are just a bunch of cowboys (I never understood how that’s an insult). But the minute the gun wielding Americans save Jonathan from an attacker his opinion is “I say, bloody good show chaps.” Very typical European view of the last century that America is a terrible country…until they need us.

As to my running theme of fear of death, and how overcoming it is the best option, you have only to look at the villain. Imhotep is a man so afraid of death that he is willing to betray and murder friends and cause worldwide devastation just to escape death. (Yeah you could argue it was for love, but as we learned in the sequel she doesn’t really love him, so really it’s just a fear of death.  You could also point out that when he no longer has his love he kills himself in the second film, but this is more indicative of a fear to live than of a lack  of fear of death).

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Best Films for Halloween #19 Tremors

“I vote for outer space. No way these are local boys.”

The story of two men who just want to leave the worst town in Arizona (no I don’t mean Phoenix) and the giant flesh eating worms that wouldn’t let them.

Tremors is probably the first movie on this list that I would actually place on a legitimate best movie list (not just a Halloween list, and I’m talking a top 500, not a top 100 movies). (On a side note, given that Beetlejuice, with its giant sand worms, came out about the same time, does anyone think that these movies were trying to make fun of that terrible adaptation of Dune that came out a few years before, you know the one with Sting that made no sense even to people who had read the book? Just thinking out loud here).

Fear isn’t much of a factor in this film, but a series clever one- liners is.

“Look these creatures are absolutely unprecedented.”
“Yeah, but where do they come from?”

We have a wonderful comic team of Val and Earl (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, two actors who have never been fully appreciated). The relationship between these two is what makes this movie so enjoyable. (And it’s the lack of this relationship, among other things, that makes the sequels such abhorrent disappointments). Although the two gun nuts are also wonderful additional comic relief.

Yeah, this is more a comedy than a horror film.

But there are still the elements of the horror film in here. And of course this comes from the monsters in the movie. Like all good horror movies, as I have already discussed, the less you see of the monster the creepier it is. Thus here we got the slow building up before seeing one of the creatures, a full third of the way into the movie. And while we see the creature a lot, they’re at their most dangerous and most frightening when we can’t see them. The anticipation of an enemy you can’t see is far worse than being able to see and anticipate what is going to happen. Being right under the ground really helps for this invisibility factor. The fun parts of the movie are often when you can see the creature—“Broke in the wrong goddamn rec-room didn’t you bastard”—the most tense scenes are of people standing around like statues. Doing nothing, just trying not move. You have to admit that seldom is doing nothing so suspenseful an image.

(God bless the 2nd Amendment)
Honestly this movie could be watched at any point in the year and enjoyed without thinking, I really should wait until October to watch this, but it seemed to fit in that it did offer a great sequence of tense scenes and monsters that were horrifying the first time around (even if the sequels should all be hunted down and burned).

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The Best Movies for Halloween #20 Pitch Black

“All you people are so scared of me. Most days I’d take that as a compliment. But it ain’t me you gotta worry about now.”


I debated on whether or not to include this one. After all it’s always a bit of a debate with some movies where sci-fi ends and horror begins. (same problem with thrillers and fantasy). But in the end this movie is about fear and monsters.

It’s a movie which presents all kinds of monsters. First you have what would become our anti-hero, Vin Diesel’s Riddick, a sociopath who enjoys playing with people (and one assumes killing people although we don’t quite see that in this film). The second act gives you the tension of impending doom from the real monsters that are coming and villainy of an unethical bounty hunter who is willing to kill anyone to get what he wants. And finally, of course, we have the monsters themselves. The movie does a good job of keeping what they look like hidden in shadow for much of the film, which always heightens the evil and fear of anything that goes bump in the night.

But it’s not just the fear of the unknown. Or the fear of death. Or the fear of the dark. Or the fear of others. Or the fear of pain. Or the fear of the future. Or the fear of making the wrong choice. Or the fear of being alone. It’s all of them. In many ways this movie is a study in fear and how it affects people, or as Riddick put it, “I truly don’t know what’s gonna happen when the lights go out Carolyn but I do know, once the dying starts, this little psycho fuck family of ours is gonna rip itself apart.” And you do see some of the characters at their worst because they give into their fears.

But our two main characters Riddick (the anti-hero) and Caroline (the hero) don’t seem to fully give into these at any point, they’re afraid but they don’t let it control them. As just a movie it has a lot of things going for it, but most of all it has realistic characters, Riddick isn’t just evil for the sake of evil and Caroline has more than a few moments of weakness…but they both come out as admirable in their own way. The movie also shows that you don’t need to have a massive budget to make a good movie (after all, the sequel had a much larger budget and wasn’t nearly as good a film). Not that the director doesn’t have some odd editing choices (especially the rapid firing cutting he seems enamored with) but it is still an example of an overall well done (not great, but well done) horror film.

Then of course there are the creatures. We never really got a great look at them. Yeah we saw them from a lot of different angles in brief bursts of light and their heads were very visible, but a good look at them was never given. We always fear what we can’t see. And there is that eyeless (things without eyes are just more frightening) head that looks like a bunch of horns and teeth. Overall the creatures have a very demonic look to them.

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The Best Films of Halloween #21 Scream

scream1Rule Number one: you can never have sex. Sex equals death, okay? Number two: you can never drink or do drugs. the sin factor! It’s a sin. It’s an extension of number one. And number three: never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, “I’ll be right back.” Because you won’t be back.

The last of this set of three homage films. This movie has all the (few) good qualities of your every day slasher, and mercilessly ridicules the flaws.

There are all the self deprecating little insults. There is nothing more hilarious than the scene where Jamie Kennedy is screaming at the movie he is watching to turn around when he himself has a murderer right behind him.

The movie makes it clear that slasher films have always been trite morality plays without falling prey to the same rules (the four survivors are our heroes, but they’re far from saints…well maybe Dewey).  That the behavior of most people in slasher films in beyond stupid, “What’s the point? They’re all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.”… of course running out the door doesn’t seem to work too well in Scream, but you get the point.    And instead of being the terrible cardboard cutouts of most slasher film characters, there was actually some depth and characterization, not volumes mind you, but some (which mysteriously disappeared in all the sequels…although for a lot of these actors this was the acting highlight of their careers, sad as that might be).

The other advantage to this movie is that it didn’t go overboard. Yes there was a lot of blood. But where other slasher films try to gross you out with the amount of gore, this one used it only to heighten the tension.

Clearly we see the fear of death throughout this movie, motivating pretty much all of our characters.  But it’s nice to see that it is not so traumatizing that it incapacitates them.  Most of the victims do put up a valiant fight and of course our hero gets the great one liner “Not in my movie” at the very end.  Certainly not giving into the fear of death.

The problem is, of course, that while this film was witty and somewhat original in it’s willingness to critique its own genre so brutally, the sequels were all disappointments.  Each one worse than the last.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the first one still remains an entertaining Halloween view.

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The Best Halloween Movies #22 The Monster Squad

“Perfect, monsters hate religious stuff”

It’s insights like that that show these kids truly know what they’re talking about when it comes to monsters.

In this case it’s a who’s who of classic film. Dracula. His three brides. Frankenstein’s monster. The Wolfman. The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Mummy. The gang’s all here in their traditional laconic demeanor (except for Dracula, that guy loves to hear himself talk…and come up with little witty quips like “Meeting adjourned.”) I can’t sing this movie’s praises for too long, it’s just too silly to do so, but it gets this high on the list because it does understand the nature and style of all the classic horror movies, wraps them into one, and adds a touch of the innocence of childhood.

This movie is also a fun trip back to the 80’s. There is the power ballad montage as the squad prepares for battle. There is the truly awful fashion. Drive-in movies are still around. Parents still smoke right in front of their kids unaware that it’s a class A felony and crime against humanity. The language is so radically not P.C. that even I was a little stunned when I heard it (yeah it’s been a few years…a decade…since the last time I saw this.)

In some ways this is better than any of the classic horror films because it both embraces them and shows how terrible they were.

Also…
There have been complaints about some of the movies I don’t seem to have included…so let me run down the list of why some other movies and TV shows didn’t make the list

Twilight Zone: Too hopeful. Yeah there were some scary scenes but overall Rod Serling wasn’t so much taken with the fear of death but with the miracle of life…just look at the episode where Redford plays death, it’s a very uplifting tale.

Outer Limits: Not well done. In either the old or the new version its quality was always inconsistent at best…and laughable at worst. The poor man’s Twilight Zone.

Gremlins: Horror movies cannot have cute furballs…and Christmas movies can’t have stories of people’s dads dying in a chimney, so it won’t be making that list either.

The Exorcist: I have comedies on this list, but they were trying to be funny, The Exorcist is funny because it’s so poorly done. I can’t help but laugh the whole way through. Honestly, how is anyone frightened by this farce?

The Ninth Gate: I’ve actually heard good things about this…and the minute director and child rapist Roman Polanski dies I’ll give it a try, but not a minute before.

House II: Several people from my generation mentioned this movie to me…we all seem to remember it fondly. How can you not? The movie actually includes the following line from an electrician called to deal with an old house’s electricity problem: “What you’ve got here is your standard transdimensional portal. I’ve dealt with this before.” But aside from a few witty (albeit bizarre) lines, it really didn’t hold up when I went back to watch it.

Evolution: I think it’s funnier than some of the comedies on this list…but I just see it as more sci-fi than horror.

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Halloween Movies #23 Little Shop of Horrors

Seymour: No! I don’t know anybody who deserves to get chopped up and fed to a hungry plant!

Audrey II: Mmmmmm, sure you do!

Little Shop of HorrosWhen I started this list I said I wasn’t going to include any of the really old horror films, because, and no offense to Lugosi, Karloff, and Chaney, but those movies are too cheesy. If it wasn’t for the fame of these movies they would have been first round picks at Mystery Science Theater 3000. Yes they were groundbreaking in their genre…but ground breaking and great are not necessarily the same thing. However there are a couple of films that not only do a good job of recognizing the camp of the early works in the genre and doing a good job of using that same camp for clever parody. Today and tomorrow’s pick do that quite well.

Little Shop of Horrors is based on an older and much campier movie of the same name. It’s the story of a giant flesh eating, smartass, plant from outer space hell bent on world domination. And it’s a musical. I can only image how the pitch session went and what the writer actually said to get the thing green lit.

It also makes fun of the late 50’s/early 60’s culture that gave us so so many terrible monster movies that would eventually conquer the world. Yeah I find the critique of crass consumerism a little heavy handed but just because I’m a capitalist doesn’t mean I will defend what businesses do to the death.

Why is this a horror movie? Well it’s not only the blood sucking mean green mother from outer space that constantly demands “Feed me!” It’s a horror movie because it has something far, far more horrifying. Something we have all encountered in our lives. The thing of nightmares. A demon straight from the bowels of Hell itself. A dentist who enjoys causing pain (as if there is any other kind of dentist).

And it stars Rick Moranis. Yes him, he was never a great actor but we miss him all the same. Moranis plays awkward down and out nerd Seymour who is offered a Faustian bargain to gain wealth, fame, and the woman he loves all for the low price of killing people. Admittedly he gives in a little quickly to be a true hero, but hey, as the movie says “A lot of people deserve to die.”*


All the bad stereotypes of a movie you see the three commentators from Mystery Science Theater making fun of are here…but since the movie is already making fun of them, there was no need to put it on that show.

*Not really, but I’m going with the line. I wouldn’t usually need to point out that this was sarcasm but I’ve had some problems with people not being able to sense sarcasm in writing lately.

Up next a movie that directly makes fun of all the classic horror movies.

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Myths about Capitalism

Originally posted on International Liberty:

In addition to his side job as Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Economics Department at Harvard University, Jeff Miron is Director of Economic Studies at the Cato Institute.

He’s also the narrator of this video from Learn Liberty that discusses three myths about capitalism.

Unsurprisingly, I think Jeff is right on the mark. Here are some of my thoughts on the three myths, but I’ll take a different approach. I’ll state the truth and then add my two cents to Jeff’s debunking.

1. Capitalism is pro-consumer, not pro-business.

I think the myth about a link between capitalism and big business arises because defenders of free markets often are in the position of opposing taxes, regulations, and mandates that also are opposed by the business community. But for some reason, many people overlook the fact that those same advocates of free markets also oppose cronyist policies that are widely supported…

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Best Things to watch for Halloween #24 The X-files

This was kind of a no brainer that it would make it on the list.  You have such a wide range of horrific monsters to choose from.  Flukeman, Cigarette Smoking Man, Tombs, the fat sucking guy from “2shy”, Donnie Pfaster, the black oil, the entire cast of “Bad Blood”. (Okay that last one wasn’t that scary…although Mulder singing “Shaft” was disturbing on many levels).    The list can go on for some time.  For 9 years they creeped us out, not every week, but consistently they had the hairs on the back of our neck standing up.

So let’s take a look at the most horrifying episodes in no particular order.

Eve. There is just something about sociopathic children that is frightening.  When they’re in stereo it’s even worse.

Psychopaths now come in pairs…how the complete opposite of cute.

Die Hand Die Verletzt.  Satanists.  Ritual murder.  The evil substitute is really a demon out to kill just about everyone.  What’s not to get a creep factor from?

Irresistible.  There was nothing supernatural or mystical about this episode.  Just a serial killer who takes a liking to Scully.  (Yes it’s implied he might be something more demonic and less human, but that is never really delved into…besides it’s human behavior that frightens us the most.)  This was more frightening because for so much of the episode we don’t have any X-file to blame, any supernatural cause to have as an excuse for the evil and the terror…just a man who likes to hurt people.

War of the Coprophages.   With the exception of spiders there is probably no bug creepier than cockroaches…and a whole episode of them, even if it’s humorous, just leaves you feeling uncomfortable.  Especially in that part where the cockroaches crawl across the screen.

Chinga.  Yeah we’ve seen the evil doll theme before.  But this one was written by Stephen King.  And it was bloody.

And you thought your coworkers were bad…

Folie a Deux.  Bug like monsters creating zombies no one can see.  Do I need to explain why that’s creepy?

Scary Monster.  It had the feel of that Twilight Zone episode where the kid might send you out to the cornfield…only far more horrifying tortures.

And finally Roadrunners.  Most people missed this episode because it was after Duchovny left the show…but that’s part of why it’s terrifying.  If Mulder isn’t there to save Scully, then who will? (Not to suggest that Scully didn’t save Mulder’s ass a lot).  And the idea of a giant worm that burrows into you and takes you over in “Puppet Master” fashion equally disturbing.  But what was worse was that we spent half the episode watching it burrow into Scully.  I don’t get frightened by movies or TV often, I’m usually too busy analyzing how everything works and probably working on something else at the same time…but I remember this episode had me actually worried about what would happen the first time it aired.

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Best movies for Halloween #25 Flatliners

Flatliners“Philosophy failed. Religion failed. Now it’s up to the physical sciences.”

Like most scientists in horror films the characters of Flatliners think that science can reveal everything, damn the consequences…
…and be it a sci fi or horror movie that always works really well.

The movie posters had the rather cheesy catch phrase “Some lines shouldn’t be crossed.” (Terrible pun). But this goes to the heart of an the issue of should science have boundaries. And as so many horror stories came out of the Romantic era it will always be tied to the Romantic’s distrust of the arrogance of science to find all answers. And they’re not entirely wrong. The history of science, while a great story of the progress and advancement of the human race, has these dark side notes of human experimentation and only considering the consequence of one’s actions only after the fact (Oppenheimer…”I am become death…”). We see it in Frankenstein. We saw it in The Island of Dr. Moreau. We saw it throughout the X-files, Fringe, Outer Limits, Fringe, and the Twilight Zone and a dozen other stories, movies and TV shows. They’re cautionary tales to remind people that science has always been and always will be a double edged sword that when misused or misunderstood can do far more damage than good. And the idea of killing yourself to scientifically see what’s on the other side of death does seem to be one of those lines science shouldn’t be so eager to go past.

In this case how would you like all of your worst sins and things your regret come back not just as memories but as tangible, physical things to torment and torture. I assume for many of us this would be a nightmare…more so for the highly flawed characters of this movie.

Now, somewhere between being a cool vampire and being the most deadly force in the history of counter-terrorism, Kieffer Sutherland played the rather arrogant and guilt-ridden character of Nelson. This character was the driving force behind these experiments of Flatliners, Nelson, is also the one most tied to death. He claims he has no fear of what is on the other side and it is just pure curiosity on his part, but he is also suffering from the buried guilt of having killed someone in his youth. In fact you find that the only other character so interested in the experiments is Julia Robert’s character, who also lost someone to death, shows that their desire to know about death isn’t curiosity, it is very much the fear of not knowing what death it.

The fear of death is often tied to the fear of being judged for your actions (it’s sad people have such a limited view of God they think he is so willing to damn you). And that is what ties each of the characters of Flatliners together. Whether what happened was their fault or not, whether it was major or minor, they felt guilty about it and in this film their guilt became a physical manifestation. Now I don’t know if the writers were intentionally going for this or it’s just an interesting parallel, but this does partially match up to the idea that when you die you review your life and you the parts that you review in most detail are the ones that you are most emotionally tied to…and there are few emotions stronger than guilt. It also seems to parallel the Buddhist idea that in the afterlife one of the things you will face is the karmic consequences of your actions and if you can’t move past these (move past the guilt) then you will be forced to live through the karmic consequences of those actions in your next life (but this may be reading too much into the screenwriter’s intent).

Whatever the actual purpose the writer and director were attempting to bring out about the nature of the afterlife, they do have a fairly clear point that the way out is not death but forgiveness.

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Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, Idiot Conservatives, and the idea of the Good German

Originally posted on Elementary Politics:

“Our Republican friends have perhaps been better on Africa than my party.”—Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, Sam Harris

So everyone is in an uproar over Ben Affleck’s recent bout of idiocy on Bill Maher’s show. I can’t really defend them. They were dumb.

But everyone is only looking at what he said and missing the reason why they’re dumb and why he was still possibly the least dumb person on the show and is certainly more pragmatic than all the idiots heaping charges against him.

I’m sure you’ve seen it by now but if you haven’t here it is:

So I would like to point out a few things.

First on the same show they talk to Affleck on his charities in the Congo (where he is quite well versed, and he has been to several times). One should take into account that on his travels to Congo he has probably met a lot of…

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