Every year, The AV Club brings in horror aficionados from the entertainment biz to recommend their favorites for a theoretical all-day marathon, the 24 Hours of Horror (Hostel director Eli Roth and Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright both have been guests). Being a huge fan of scary movies, I always enjoy reading about other fans’ esoteric and obscure picks, but, honestly, it rarely inspires me to seek them out, especially since most of my film intake comes from Netflix’s instant stream.
I decided to create my own 24-hour marathon list with picks that—at the time of writing this—are available on that beautiful, instant-gratification machine. I tried to stay away from the extremely obvious choices (I mean, c’mon: Do you really need me to recommend watching Evil Dead 2 for the billionth time?)
Run times are approximate—some movies could be longer or shorter allotted time slots—but if you factor in bathroom and cocaine breaks, this should take you a full day.
Pumpkinhead (8 to 10 p.m.): Begin the marathon with Pumpkinhead. In the fifth grade, all my friends were into this movie, but having been raised Mormon, I wasn’t allowed to watch rated-R movies until I was, like, 18. I recently watched this and finally understood the pre-teen appeal—despite the sweet atmosphere and creature design, the movie’s not very scary. Plus, it serves as a valuable morality tale for impressionable minds: Summoning Pumpkinhead to avenge your son’s death will certainly lead to your own undoing. I remember that lesson every day.
Rubber (10 p.m. to midnight): The night’s still lighthearted. Maybe people got a little drunk during Pumpkinhead. That’s good. There’s no need to have anybody analyzing a movie about a telekinetic tire that makes people’s heads explode.
Haunting of Whaley House (midnight to 2 a.m.): Last year, I wrote an article about this movie, which makes no attempt to honor the famous San Diego house after which it was named; nor does it attempt to portray Thomas Whaley as anything more than a dripping skeleton. But, it’s got the lines “Fuck you, ghost!” and “This house is haunted as fuck!” This is the point where you’re going to lose all the casual movie-watchers anyway.
The first 15 minutes of Irreversible (2 to 2:15 a.m.): As mentioned before, your casual friends will probably fall asleep about this time, so you can start getting into the nasty stuff. The best way to desensitize yourself to violence is to watch the first part of Irreversible—a single, horrifying take that culminates in a guy having his face smashed in by a fire extinguisher.I Saw the Devil (2:15 to 4 a.m.): This South Korean revenge movie may be the most morally ambiguous movie I’ve seen since Michael Heneke’s Funny Games. The basic plot follows a Secret Service agent who discovers the man who killed his fiancée. The agent begins a series of catch-and-release torture sessions, where he renders the killer barely conscious, but enough to anticipate the next brutal attack. American movies rarely treat revenge with such nuance, and as much as you hate the murderer, you can’t help but feel horrified by the injuries inflicted upon him. Yeah, better save these buzzkill movies until after your friends are asleep.
The Snowtown Murders (4 to 6 a.m.): A movie about a charismatic Australian serial killer who coerces a teenage boy into his murders. Honestly, I made it through about an hour of this movie before I had to turn it off. I can take the grisly stuff if I’m with other people, but watching it alone makes me feel unclean.Dogtooth (6 to 8 a.m.): Dogtooth’s not really a horror movie, but this Greek film is unsettling enough that your mind won’t really know the difference by the time the sun comes up. It’s about a family that keeps its property gated and the children from never interacting with the outside world. It’s actually one of the better movies I’ve seen in recent years. And with all this dreck that you’re gonna be watching, I have to prove that I at least have some taste.
VHS 2 (8 to 10 a.m.): By this time, everyone’s probably waking up, and the few of you who have remained up through the night are delirious. You need a movie to get everyone back on the same level. The VHS movies are anthologies in which four or five indie horror directors take a stab at the found-footage genre. You don’t need to have watched the first VHS to appreciate VHS 2. Eduardo Sanchez, director of The Blair Witch Project, has a short film in this, but the real stand-out is Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans’s entry about an Indonesian cult. Ritual suicide, throat slicing and devil birth all await you. Now, who wants coffee?
Goosebumps—Night of the Living Dummy (10 to 10:30 a.m.): This will get you out of the violent-and-weird phase. As mentioned earlier, I didn’t start watching scary movies until relatively later, which made me a very scared kid. I couldn’t watch this Saturday-morning show based on the insanely popular children's books without being terrified. I recently re-watched this and think dummies are still creepy, and the entire hyper-reality of early-‘90s children's shows make this episode even more upsetting than I remember it.
ParaNorman (10:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m.): Despite how much I cringe at the idea of a “cute” film entering this list, there’s no denying the craft that goes into this stop-motion flick about a kid who sees dead people. It was also made by the same company who made Coraline, which focuses on story over pop-culture references and doesn’t shy away from presenting mature, scary themes to children. Also, one of the main characters is revealed to be gay at the end, which makes this movie pretty progressive by kids’-movie standards.
House of the Devil (12:30 to 2:30 p.m.): House of the Devil is a slow burn, but it’s a good one. Complete with high-waisted pants, desaturated colors and the Fixx soundtrack, this movie is an homage to cult-scare movies of the early-‘80s. It’s also by one of my favorite directors, Ti West, who knows how write good female characters and let scenes linger, which are both rare traits in the horror genre. It was a tough call between this and The Innkeepers, another West film that’s streaming on Netflix, but this one has a sweet jump-scare right in the middle that pushes it just a little further.
Session 9 (2:30 to 4:30 p.m.): When life gives you an old, abandoned state mental hospital, you make lemonade—I mean, film a movie there.
Slither (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.): The directorial debut from James Gunn, who wrote the Scooby Doo live-action movies and the better-than-it-should’ve-been Dawn of the Dead remake. However, he earned his film-cred writing one of Troma’s craziest, most disgusting movies, Tromeo and Juliet, and if you’re a Troma fan, you know that means something. This movie also has one of my favorite “character gets impaled / beheaded / sliced-through and it takes a second before he realizes it” scenes.
Pet Sematary (6:30 to 8:30 p.m.): OK, kind of an obvious choice to end on, but have you watched this recently? It’s insane, and by far my favorite Stephen King adaptation (The Shining doesn’t have the line "Today is Thanksgiving Day for cats. But only if they came back from the dead.") There are flashbacks filmed in softcore-y focus, Fred Gwynne’s beautiful “sometimes dead is bettah” refrain, the most insensitive portrayal of spinal meningitis ever put on film, a slow-motion “NOOOO!” that puts all others to shame—the list goes on. Oh my God, can I just name my band “Play Dead, Stay Dead!”?
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