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seven horror movies from the golden age of practical effects (aka the 80s). [halloween movie fest 2020.]

It may be 2020, but the 1980s are alive and well. Neon lights and retro logos are in, synths and new wave are ascendant, and pop culture is saturated with nostalgia for the shows, films, and franchises of the decade.

Now, any celebration of 80’s culture would be incomplete if we left out the incontrovertible truth that the decade was the golden age of practical effects in horror. The era was hugely significant for the genre because of the other incontrovertible truth, practical horror effects are vastly superior to their CGI counterparts. This is known.

Seriously, you go find all the outdated CGI that’s still scary, and I’ll go find all the old practical effects that are still horrifying, and we’ll compare lists. It would be a fun exercise, because after you can’t find any examples we can just watch 80’s horror movies all night.

On second thought, let’s not waste time, and instead skip right to the part where we watch 80’s horror. Here are five movies from the golden age of practical horror effects you should watch this Halloween.

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Alien

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Okayokayokay, I know, Alien came out in 1979, but I’m including it because, a) it’s a brilliant movie with terrifying practical effects, b) it’s part of the dawn of the golden age, and it transitions out of the 70s, a decade with amazing practical effects in its own right that set the tone for what was to come, c) I can do what I want.

Obviously, the chestburster scene is one of the most iconic moments in film history, but it doesn’t end there. All of the physical realizations of H.R. Giger’s disturbing artwork of phallic alien monstrosities are scary as hell. Alien is the precursor to a decade that would use practical effects to give us monsters that still haunt our nightmares in 2020.

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The Thing

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The Thing is an all-timer, featuring one of my favorite final scenes, ever.

John Carpenter effectively immerses you in the horror and paranoia of being trapped in the middle of Antarctica with a monster who can look like anyone. A monster who just so happens to be hellbent on killing and assimilating you and whichever of your friends are still actually your friends. Even worse, it will then use your likeness to get back to civilization and murder the whole planet.

As great as the concept is, the deep psychological horror is rooted in how terrifying the Thing itself is to behold. Without Rob Bottin’s remarkable effects, the movie would likely have fallen flat and become another example of a potentially great sci-fi horror film ruined by visual inadequacies and limitations. Instead, Bottin and his team delivered one of the most horrifying monsters ever committed to screen.

In the case for the supremacy of practical effects, The Thing is Exhibit A.

Not so fun fact: Bottin worked so hard that he ended up in the hospital from exhaustion at the close of filming.

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An American Werewolf in London

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If you ever come across a list of great practical effects in film that leaves off John Landis’s 1981 horror-comedy, throw it right in the trash.

An American Werewolf in London features the undisputed greatest werewolf transformation scene of all time. Almost four decades later, with huge leaps forward in what can be rendered onto our screens, and no one else has even come close.

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The Fly

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He’s the master of body horror, so David Cronenberg’s entire filmography is a cornucopia of disturbing practical effects. Videodrome and Scanners are notable mainstays on ‘best of’ lists, but for my money, The Fly reigns supreme.

It’s overflowing with disgusting practical effects, with each gross-out scene topped just moments later by something even more horrifying. But what I love most is that it’s all used to tell a focused, tragic, character-driven story of a man’s transformation into a monster.

Bonus: we’re living in the midst of a glorious Jeff Goldblum renaissance, so whether you’d be revisiting The Fly or experiencing it for the first time, now is a great time to watch one of his absolute best performances.

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The Evil Dead films

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Practical effects aren’t just superior in films aiming to shock viewers for genuine scares. They’re also best when it comes to horror more interested in being darkly silly and ridiculous with its gore, and there is absolutely no better example than the Evil Dead films.

These movies are so over-the-top, so delightfully and unrelentingly insane, and the practical effects are what make the whole thing work. CGI never could have done justice to the vile, unholy magic of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis

It should also be noted that Bruce Campbell is the human embodiment of practical effects. The world would be a sadder place if it didn’t have Ash Williams in it.

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Bonus: 1992’s Braindead [aka Dead Alive]

Okay, this one isn’t an 80s movie, but if we’re going to talk about practical effects creating absurdly gory slapstick, we have to mention the bloodiest practical horror film of all time: Braindead (released as Dead Alive in the US).

Before Peter Jackson became internationally famous for adapting The Lord of the Rings, he made The Frighteners with Michael J. Fox, an underrated bit of genre fare that would fit right into any Halloween Movie Fest.

But before that, he made one of the dumbest, goofiest, weirdest, most ludicrously over-the-top gross-out gore-fests of all time. Try to imagine what that would look like and you still wouldn’t be close. Forget the same ballpark, you wouldn’t even be in the same galaxy.

Anyway, the film reportedly used 80 gallons of fake blood, making it objectively the bloodiest movie of all time. The lawnmower scene alone makes that easy to believe.

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this ‘dune’ trailer is everything i needed today! [trailer park.]

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

How beautiful does this movie look?! It’s even better than I’d hoped the first Dune trailer might be, and I had high hopes!

Villeneuve’s genius is on full display. It’s visually and tonally perfect [at least compared to how I imagined it], and the trailer is overflowing with delightful glimpses to tease the book’s fans, without giving everything away to newcomers.

I know, I know, we’ve all been burned before. Even with a brilliant director and an amazing trailer, there’s still a chance this movie sucks, but I’m all in! I’m choosing unbridled optimism that this is going to be amazing. After all, fear is the mind killer.

Now, back to watch the trailer again five more times.

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five antiracist movies that break the mold. [five things.]

Movies about race are most often – like very, very, very often – biopics and/or fictionalized documents of historical events. Don’t get me wrong, I think films like Selma and 12 Years a Slave can be amazing and important [Steve McQueen forever!], but the films on this list are refreshingly divergent from the norm. From the powerful oscar-bait biopic to the toxic white savior narrative, these filmmakers have thrown away all those recipes that studios and filmmakers normally follow to make racially themed movies.

Each entry is a fresh, vital contribution to the larger cultural conversation. And speaking of conversations, the invitation to the RtM antiracist movie club is still open. It’s been amazing so far!

Every film on the list was made by people of color, and they all focus primarily on Black Americans. Any future lists will branch out into the experiences of other communities. With that said, on with the show!

Here are five mold-breaking antiracist movies that you should DEFINITELY watch.

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Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is the quintessential example of the mold shattering antiracist movie, so it should come as no surprise that he shows up on this list.

In his follow-up to BlacKkKlansman – which despite technically being a biopic, could have made this list in its own right – the director has delivered one of the Spike Lee-est Spike Lee Joints that ever Spike Leed. His stylized approach to filmmaking is used to great effect to tell an emotionally powerful story that tackles perennially relevant issues – like race, war, politics, family, mental illness, guilt and money – in a world where America used Black, Vietnamese, and poor White bodies as cannon fodder in pursuit of consolidating power and wealth for the American ruling class.

For my money, this is one of Lee’s best films, and Delroy Lindo should win all of the things.

Also, if you still haven’t seen Do the Right Thing, now would be a great a time to rectify that!

Update: Hours after this was originally posted, we all found out that Chadwick Boseman – who costarred in Da 5 Bloods, has died after a years-long battle with colon cancer. It felt right to come back and mourn a remarkable talent, and by all accounts I’ve seen, a good man. Rest in Power, Mr. Boseman. Wakanda Forever.

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Blindspotting

Oakland’s own Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal wrote and star in this powerful, remarkably singular piece of filmmaking. Set in today’s Oakland, Blindspotting tells a poignant story at the intersection of race, gentrification, criminal justice, and prejudice, and it does so with energy and humor, somehow managing to feel ebullient even as it tackles dark themes with gravity.

You’ve never seen anything like Blindspotting before. It’s the movie we didn’t know we needed [or wanted], but absolutely did. Watch it!

Also, can we all agree to offer up thanks to whatever gods gave us Daveed Diggs?

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Queen & Slim

Like Blindspotting, Queen and Slim is a truly unique film. Writer Lena Waithe and director Melina Matsoukas collaborated to tell a heartbreakingly beautiful story that not only transcends the all too common lazy, paint-by-numbers movies about race, but transcends the majority of film of any sort.

It’s a love on the run road movie where literally everything works: the visual style, the characterization, the tension, the performances, the humor, the dialogue, the locatedness in the cultural conversation, etc. etc. etc.

Seriously, friends, can you just watch all the movies on this list?

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Dear White People

Dear White People is a razor-sharp comedy that feels like a series of powerful, Black-led conversations on race distilled into a movie. It provides a clear-eyed glimpse into some of the microaggressions, appropriation, power dynamics, and other bullshit Black people have to deal with every single day, challenging the unchecked beliefs, assumptions, and blind spots that keep white people participating in and feeding racism. Also, it’s not as heavy as the above films.

The movie has since been adapted into a Netflix show, which is still running at the time of this writing.

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Get Out

Okay, okay, okay, I know everyone’s already seen this one, but how could I leave Get Out off this list?!

So, you know, watch Get Out again.

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Important endnote: In the week between deciding to write this post and publishing it, another Black man has been shot by police without cause. Four. Fucking. Bullets. In. His. Back. And three more bullets that missed.

It’s horrifying how unsurprising that is. To be honest, it may have been more surprising if the cops had gone two weeks without shooting a Black person on video. That’s how fucking bad this is! Can you imagine how much worse things were before cell phone recordings? Before police violence was a central part of the national consciousness? It’s been said again and again, but this is how they act when they know everyone’s watching!

Black bodies continue to be lynched, and not just without legal recourse, but by “law enforcement” itself. Meanwhile, a huge part of the population, along with much of the media, blame the victim nearly every time. It’s a horrifying symptom of the terminal disease of racism, a disease genetically grafted into America’s DNA from the beginning.

So, while education and cultural exegesis can be helpful [I love both dearly], they’re useless if they don’t lead to tangible work to replace racist policies with antiracist ones. Watching antiracist movies doesn’t change anything, but things like this help me keep fighting, and I believe it can help us fight smarter, and with more empathy and understanding. But we can never allow it to take the place of the actual fight, or else all we’re doing is assuaging our guilt while we change absolutely nothing.]]

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‘the batman’ has a trailer!

As much as fanboys (aka man-babies) bitched and moaned, I was on board with the idea of Robert Pattinson as Batman from day one. Seriously, if you still think of Pattinson as nothing more than the sparkly guy from Twilight, then you’re clearly in the dark as a movie fan, He’s been consistently amazing ever since.

And after his work writing/directing the last two Planet of the Apes movies, I’m excited to see what Matt Reeves does with the character. I mean, the fact that all along he’s been saying the film is going to be a gritty, noir detective story is all I need to hear. Almost all of my favorite Batman stories are rooted more in the fact that he’s the world’s greatest detective, with a noir visual style. I mean, Batman: The Animated Series is noir as fuck, including making Batman’s investigative skills the focus, and that’s still the best onscreen Batman to date (fight me!).

This trailer only amplifies my hope that this will be great. Fingers crossed that movie theaters are a thing by the time this comes out!

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And speaking of Batman, some bonus trailers from the world of video games!

First, a WB Games Montreal trailer for a new Arkham series style game that I REEEEEEEEALLY hope is good. Those Arkham games are some of the best games ever made. Without Rocksteady – the makers of the original Arkham series – who knows what we’re going to get quality-wise. I’m hoping for the best on this one!

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And speaking of Rocksteady’s Arkham series, they revealed a new Suicide Squad game set in the same universe!! The movie won’t be out until at least 2022, so there is no gameplay footage yet, but my interest is most definitely piqued!

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my year in movies, 2019.

Some-fucking-how, I forgot to post a list like this for 2018.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that’s crazy. Literally insane. I have no idea how that happened. If nothing else, it speaks to my state of mind the last 18 months or so. 

Hear me, O Internet, I won’t make the same mistake again!

Anyway, I give you a list of every movie I watched in 2019.

Here’s the key:
(#) Movie I saw in the theater.
[#] Movie I saw for the first time.
E# Movies I watched with Emily.

If a movie has ** before it, that means it’s one of my favorite films I saw for the first time this year. Doesn’t matter when it came out, as long as I saw it for the first time this year.

Underlined titles are all-time favorites for me. They can’t be movies I’ve just seen, but movies that stand the test of time.

And away we go. 


1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

2. Bird Box [1]
3. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle [2] E1
4. Bandersnatch x1 [3]
5. Bandersnatch x2
**6. BlacKkKlansman [4] E2
7. Ocean’s Eight [5]
**8. American Animals [6] E3


9. Sorry to Bother You [7]
**10. First Man [8] E4
11. Ghost Stories [9]
12. The Place Beyond the Pines [10]
13. Bad Times at the El Royale [11] E5
14. Smokey and the Bandit [12]
15. Bohemian Rhapsody [13]
16. The Old Man and the Gun [14]
17. Central Intelligence [15]
**18. The Guilty [16] E6
**19. Seconds [17]
20. Captain Marvel [18] (1) E7
21. The Mirror [19]
22. State and Main [20]
23. Coming to America
24. Sleight [21]
**25. Widows [22]
**26. A Star is Born [23] E8
**27. Us [24] (2)


28. The Wedding Singer
29. John Wick – E9
30. Bumblebee [24]
31. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
32. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore [25]
33. Venom [26]
34. Avengers: Infinity War – E10
35. Guardians of the Galaxy
36. John Wick: Chapter 2 – E11
37. Guava Island [27]
38. Shazam! [28] (3)
**39. Avengers: Endgame [29] (4)
40. Waiting for Guffman (5) E12
41. Five Easy Pieces [30]
42. Purple Rain [31]
43. The Sisters Brothers [32]
**44. Avengers: Endgame (6) E13
45. The Predator [33]
46. Triple Frontier [34]
47. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu [35] (7) E14
48. Long Shot [36] (8) E15
**49. A Face in the Crowd [37]
50. Thoroughbreds [38]
51. Lego Movie 2: The Second Part [39] E16
**52. Booksmart [40] (9) E17


53. Gaga: Five Foot Two [41] E18
54. Bullitt
**55. John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum [42] (10)
56. Fast & Furious [43] E19
**57. After Hours [44]
58. Mid90s [45]
59. Hotel Artemis [46]
60. Searching [47]
61. Upgrade [48]
62. Thor: Ragnarok
**63. If Beale Street Could Talk [49] E20
**64. Us
65. I Am Mother [50]
**66. Spider-Man: Far From Home [51] (11) E21
67. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty [52]
68. Fast Five [53] E22
69. Enemy [54]
70. Crazy Rich Asians [55] E23
71. Snatch
72. Glass [56]
73. Always Be My Maybe [57] E24
**74. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood [58] (12)


75. Hot Fuzz
**76. Ugetsu [59] (13)
**77. Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down [60] (14)
**78. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (15)
79. For a Few Dollars More
**80. Hereditary [61]
81. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote [62]
82. Mississippi Grind [63]
83. Creed II [64] E25
84. Aquaman [65]
85. Shazam – E26
86. My Blueberry Nights [66]
87. The Beach Bum [67]
88. Breakdown
89. Chef – E27
90. Coco
**91. The Farewell [68] (16) E28


**92. The Wages of Fear [69]
93. The Disaster Artist [70] E29
94. I Went Down [71]
95. Iron Man 2
96. Tokyo Story [72]
97. Candyman [73]
98. The Dead Don’t Die [74]
**99. Jojo Rabbit [75] (17) E30
100. The Last House on the Left [76]
101. Mandy [77]
102. Torn Curtain [78]
103. Joker [79] (18)
**104. Parasite [80] (19)
105. The Last Boy Scout
106. Anna and the Apocalypse [81]
107. Toy Story 4 [82] E31
108. Captain America: The First Avenger – E32
109. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
**110. Knives Out [83] (20) E33

111. The Lion King
**112. The Irishman [84] E34
113. Dark Passage [85]
**114. Dolemite is My Name [86]
115. Little Monsters (2019) [87]
**116. High Flying Bird [88]
117. High Life [89]
**118. Shadow [90]
**119. Ready or Not [91]
120. Under the Silver Lake [92]
**121. Hustlers [93] E35
122. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker [94] (21) E36
**123. Little Women [95] (22) E37
124. Ad Astra [96] E38
**125. Marriage Story [97] E39
126. It: Chapter Two [98]

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roused to mediocrity is back! probably. [five things 5.4.19]

It has been a long time coming, but Roused to Mediocrity has returned.

I’ve miss it too much to let it stay dead. I’m not myself when I’m not nerding out about the things I love. I miss using this medium to tell my friends about the cool shit I’m into right now. I miss diving more deeply into the things that moved me to parse out what impacted me. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been hiding my passion for things the last few years, but I have been, and it’s stupid, and I need to stop.

Part of my life, part of me has been missing, and while RtM might not account for all of it, I need to be writing again, and this is as good a place as any to start.

I’ve shied away from jumping back in for fear I won’t do it consistently enough, but fuck it. Let’s do this.

What better way to get back into the swing of things than a good old fashioned ‘Five Things’ post. So here they are, five random things I’ve loved recently.

On with the show!

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1.  Avengers: Endgame

Epic is overused these days, but it’s the only word that accurately describes last week’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to long-awaited onscreen battles.

Game of Thrones and the MCU have captured a huge portion of the pop culture consciousness for about a decade (eight and eleven years respectively), and last week included two massive battles royale that were meant to offer some semblance of closure for two devoted fanbases — along with the larger public who’ve been pulled onto the bandwagon.

Within the worlds of each story, both battles had the fate of all (or half of all) life hanging in the balance. Each had wildly overpowered villains. And each had a remarkably high degree of difficulty for the creators.

The difference between the two, in my experience, is that one was a mess, and the other stuck the landing.

Endgame had the same magic that the first Avengers film had in terms of the good kind of fan service — seeing it opening weekend at a 1am showing was not without more than its fair share of roaring cheers. And it offered satisfying conclusions for character arcs that have spanned more than a decade.

The notes all landed in terms of humor, action, acting, and poignancy. These characters we’ve grown to love were given their due at the end of a long road, and some of the more significant moments in the film were — on the other side of the coin from the cheers mentioned above — not without more than their fair share of sniffling throughout the audience.

The theater is often my favorite place to be, heightening the magic and power of cinema. Seeing Endgame with a theater full of strangers all invested enough to start a three hour movie at 1 a.m. was a genuinely communal experience. The quality of the film is the reason that experience was a beautiful one.

Bravo to everyone involved for taking a tough pitch and hitting it out of the park.

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2. Russian Doll

I watched all of Russian Doll twice in a week. The first time because I started an episode to try it out and watched all of it in a day. The second time because I was so taken by it the first time that I got Emily to watch an episode, and we promptly watched the whole thing in an evening.

I love it so much. It’s funny and smart, and manages to be sardonic enough that any tenderness and hopefulness doesn’t feel like bullshit.

Everyone in it is great, especially Natasha Lyonne as our hilarious, irreverent, self-destructive, lovable asshole of a protagonist.

Most importantly, the show is my favorite narrative interaction with mental illness — and how much we all need each other — in a long time.

I should write more about this show, and maybe I will, but for now, suffice it to say that I really loved Russian Doll.

P.S. It also includes what will undoubtedly be my favorite line of dialogue from TV all year. I won’t write what it is, because I think it’s spoilery, but feel free to ask via message or IRL.

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3. Love by Toni Morrison

I’m pretty sure there has never been a writer superior to Toni Morrison. She has peers, but no betters.

Her style is full of quiet power, never relying on overly flowery or ornate language, but instead delivering perfect prose in which every word is a gift.

She shines light through the stories of ordinary but marginalized people, Black Americans struggling for joy, belonging, or respect; for love, sex, or security; for revenge or power; for a way out or a way in; for hope or release; and in the process she reveals the beauty and darkness in every human life.

To quote Oprah — something I can assure you I never thought I would do in the life of this blog — “Toni Morrison’s work shows us through pain all the myriad ways we can come to love.”

Love is a difficult book to put down; not because of some narrative tension where we need to see what happens next, but because it’s such a gift to live with Morrison’s words. Her characters are so full of humanity, each feels like a full, living person, slowly revealing their inner world. The conclusion is moving and beautiful for all its tragedy, and it moved me to tears.

In related news, this:

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4. Bob’s Burgers

Nine seasons in, and Bob’s Burgers is better than ever. At a point when too many shows begin teetering into poor quality, getting more desperate to keep an audience as characters grow stale, Bob’s Burgers just keeps improving. I’d say I don’t get the sense that Bob is planning to strap on any water skis for a daring jump over some sharks, but since that would be an amazing episode of Bob’s Burgers, it would be stupid to rule it out. Yet, the metaphor stands, Bob’s Burgers appears to be in no danger of jumping the shark any time soon.

I get that these characters check all my boxes. Droll weirdos who genuinely love and support each other in spite of all the pot shots is definitely my jam, but those elements alone don’t automatically make me enjoy a show or movie or whatever. More often than not it’s poorly executed, as if the characters were written by aliens who have only a vague approximation of human interaction. Aliens who believe that as long as a line is delivered in a certain tone of voice, with certain musical cues, it’s the same thing as writing genuinely funny and believable moments.

Bob’s Burgers gets it all right, and for my money, the Belchers are the best family on television.

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5. Borderlands 3 

Okay, so this is over a month old, but I wasn’t writing a month ago. Borderlands 3 is officially happening. It has a release date and everything (Sep. 3)!

If you know, you know.

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