The Bloodhound from Filmmaker Patrick Picard

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The Bloodhound is the directorial debut from Patrick Picard, and is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Fall of The House of Usher (1839). The story follows a disenchanted young man who visits his elusive childhood friend at the request of a beckoning letter, and the uncomfortable terrors that follow.

Clocking in at only 72 minutes, this psychological slow-burn explores a few of the themes and ideas of its inspirational ancestor, using a few key plot points from the short story to present its ideas, though for the most part remains its own film completely. Inclusions such as the titular, and likely metaphorical, antagonist himself and the modernised setting of the Luret mansion enable a fresh horror to be invoked from the work while key themes retain what made the original so chilling. 

These themes are as relevant now as they were almost two hundred years ago; social isolation, mental health (with obvious correlations between the two), and obligations felt through different relationships. Although ideas of friendship are explored in some emotional ways, a rather cold atmosphere permeates the picture, aided by uncannily stilted performances from its two leads. These, along with beautiful, yet clinically-focused camerawork give the impression of looking into another universe at times.

The Bloodhound horror movie poster featuring a drawing of 2 men and a red doorway

As mentioned, this is another slow one, but if you’ve read any of my previous articles you should almost expect that by now. Rather than rely on scenery or atmosphere The Bloodhound is primarily dialogue-driven, as expected from a classic story adaptation. And it’s expertly handled by the two leads Joe Adler and Liam Aikan, both in delivery and consistent conviction until the final scene. You feel every pinch of Francis’ (Aikan) discomfort at the whims of the eccentric and disturbed Jean Paul Luret (Adler) and the growing distrust by both of them as each narrative intricacy reveals itself. 

The Bloodhound plays out much like an upper-class The Lighthouse (2019) in many ways, with a modernised dash of Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina (2014). With plenty enough detail within its short runtime to keep the most perceptive viewer engaged. It appears almost play-like with its limited cast, allowing plenty of opportunity for them to bounce off each other and get the most out of plot and setting. It revels in the confusion of the viewer, being that much of the information ascertained is unreliable, which bleeds through into our viewing experience as we start to doubt the things we are seeing are real. Those favouring familiar plots and more immediate scares may become frustrated. 

Even Francis, our initially implied connection with sanity, begins to act oddly. Where most would have undoubtedly left the Luret household after many of JP’s increasingly hostile antics, Francis stays to enact his own motives, leaving us all the more alone in the Luret mansion. The chemistry between these two characters is so engrossing at times that any ‘horror scene’ that does fall upon us is made all the more jarring because of it. This elevates the film from effective psychological horror to a testament to the importance of strong acting and direction within the genre. 

The Bloodhound is an intense, atmospheric and darkly comedic tribute to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, and a strong first entry for Patrick Picard. If his work continues to exude the same unsettling nihilistic macabre as this debut offering then I for one am in for the long haul.



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The Decadence of Dawn of the Dead 1978

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In modern usage, the word decadence is usually associated with luxury. A fancy dessert may be decadent, as may a gown encrusted with diamonds. More specifically, though, the term denotes a period of moral decline and extravagance prior to the collapse of a once-great civilization. Think of the orgies of the late Roman Empire, or the glamorous parties of the Roaring 20s. It also shares its root with another, less attractive word: decay. A society entering its decadent phase is one that has already died, and indeed has begun to rot. Party-goers and merry-makers may attempt to distract themselves from this, but eventually the stench will become unbearable. So hows does that relate to Dawn of the Dead 1978?

1978’s Dawn of the Dead is a movie about decadence in every sense of the word. Faced with the threat of human extinction, the film’s heroes barricade themselves inside a shopping mall, living out a consumerist utopia while zombies run rampant outside. The more they lose themselves in material pleasures and hedonism, the more obvious it becomes that the world as they know it has ended. This horror classic from George Romero is a scathing indictment of a civilization in decline, a chronicle of American decadence in all of its glitz, glamor, and gore.

Dawn of the Dead 1978 horror movie image of survivors in the mall

Initially, the social commentary in Dawn of the Dead may seem a touch on-the-nose. Watching zombies stagger around the mall, the characters comment how their behavior is not so different from before. They return to the mall due to “some kind of instinct,” says Stephen (David Emge), “a memory of what they used to do.” Horrified by the almost-human behavior of the shopping dead, Francine (Gaylen Ross) asks: “What are they?” Peter (Ken Foree) responds: “They’re us, that’s all.” There is little difference, Romero implies, between the mindless consumerism of 1970s America and the shambling of an undead horde.

Direct equivalence between mall-goers and zombies, though, is a more simplistic reading than Dawn of the Dead deserves. A richer meaning can be found by moving beyond simple metaphors and thoughtfully examining the dynamics between human beings and their environment. What this cinematic “dissection” reveals is a recurrent motif of decadence. Throughout the film, there is a consistent mismatch between living, flourishing tissue on the outside, and stagnation and decay beneath the surface. The characters who are unwilling to recognize the ugliness beneath a thin veneer of decadence are doomed; the only hope for survival is to stop living in denial and face the grim, unavoidable truth.

Dawn of the Dead 1978 Original Trailer

This mismatch is present from the very beginning of the film, and harkens back to Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead. In Night, the news was a source of security — TV anchors gave advice to survivors throughout the film, even directing them to evacuation sites. In the first moments of Dawn, however, we are taken behind the scenes at a news station where it is clear that nobody knows what they are doing. The studio is in chaos, with half of the staff yelling over one another, and the other half abandoning their posts. Even the list of evacuation sites from Night is revealed to be out-of-date — although this last detail does not stop an executive from insisting that the studio continue to broadcast the list. What’s sending a few survivors to their deaths, after all, as long as viewership remains high?

Right after this introduction comes another crucial sequence, in which a unit of the National Guard invades a public housing complex whose tenants have refused to give up their dead. By clinging to old rituals and refusing to accept their new reality, these tenement-dwellers have locked themselves in with a horde of zombies. More depraved, though, is the behavior of the National Guard toward these (mostly black and latinx) civilians; they fire machine guns indiscriminately, causing more deaths than the zombies themselves. Hidden beneath a thin layer of government-sanctioned authority, the moral decay of these unhinged, bigoted soldiers is apparent. Once again a curtain is whipped aside, revealing the ugly truth of a society hopelessly in decline.

These two introductory sequences expose how central institutions of modern America — media and law enforcement — are thin bandages over seeping wounds. The rest of the film, set almost entirely in the shopping mall, doubles down on this theme. Even after our heroes establish a secure base camp with enough supplies to last a lifetime, there is little comfort to be found. The novelty of an unlimited shopping spree wears off quickly, and it is soon clear that they are merely going through the motions of decadence. The more they distract themselves with lavish outfits and expensive toys, the more their consumerist paradise resembles a slaughterhouse.

dawn of the dead 1978 horror movie still image of zombies

Eventually the contradictions between outer decadence and internal decay become impossible to reconcile. After one of the four is killed securing the perimeter of the mall, the others decide they would rather face an uncertain future than die inside a prison of their own making. This about-face comes too late, though, as their attempts to flee attract the attention of a roving gang of bikers. The sinister delight with which the bikers descend on the mall may seem a bit over the top, but that is the point. Other than their lack of restraint, there is no substantial difference between these cackling Mad Max rejects and our own heroes. If the world as they know it has died, then what is really more depraved: basking in decadence, or stripping it for parts?
As the ending credits play over a cheerful montage of zombies romping through the mall, the film’s message stays with the viewer like a bad taste.

If Night of the Living Dead showed America as a powder keg ready to burst, then 1978’s Dawn of the Dead makes the claim that it has been dead for years already; we are simply living our last, decadent years inside its rotting corpse. What better way to illustrate this than to juxtapose the literal walking dead next to the rituals of modern consumerism? George Romero proved with his followup to Night that he could go bigger, bloodier, and more ambitious. But more than forty years later, it is the powerful social message of this horror classic that stands out the most.



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The Frightful History of the Best Jumpscares

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The jumpscare; one of the most polarizing yet widely used tropes in the horror genre since Mark Robson’s clever editing work in Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 chiller Cat People. Some will tell you that jumpscares are cheap tactics to manipulate the audience into finding something more scary than it really is, while others insist that if they don’t jump out of their seats at least once then a film quite simply isn’t scary at all. The truth is that jumpscares are neither good nor bad, like an overly aggressive dog the blame can be placed fully on their handler. Here I have personally handpicked and compiled a list of jumpscares from throughout the ages of film, to hopefully weed out the wheat from the chaff in the world of heart-stopping horror moments.

Heavy dramatic music is better for horrific reveals and dramatic moments than to make the audience jump, though some cases have proved it can be effective.

Smile (2022)

Smile is a nightmarish slow-burn horror film comparable to the likes of It Follows (2014) and They Look Like People (2015), with plenty of creepy images and a pervasive sense of building dread throughout its entire runtime. Therapist Dr. Rose Cotter begins experiencing a terrifying phenomenon following a patient’s apparent suicide, and must figure out what smiling, shapeshifting thing is stalking her before it is too late. Unfortunately, just about every frame that could be considered chilling in Smile was shown proudly in its trailer, making the film itself feel like an extended rehash and forcing it to rely on a few jumpscares to keep the wider audience interested. One of these jolts is a scene in which Rose’s sister approaches Rose’s car, knocking on the window. As she does, her head swings violently into view to reveal a hideous smile on her face. The whole thing happens so quickly and the grotesque appearance of the long, swinging neck and demented grin make this a hugely effective scare, even if it was also sadly shown in the trailer.

Insidious (2010)

Insidious (2010) horror movie poster featuring a scary child in front of a house

This one got me good back in 2010, and I still remember jumping clean out of my seat at a couple of points. Of course I was more impressional back then and I’m not sure it would have the same effect nowadays, though I would consider Insidious to be a chillingly atmospheric and intensely creepy horror film nonetheless. Many would probably consider the best jumpscare here to be the appearance of the red-faced demon behind Patrick Wilson’s character, though there was another scene that sticks with me far more. Somewhere in the madness of the first real night of haunting, Renai (played by Rose Byrne) runs into her baby’s room to see a figure standing over the cot. Because this happens in the midst of so much panic, and because Rose Byrne’s reaction through one unbroken camera shot is so convincing, I would place this as one of the more spine-chilling jumpscares James Wan has to offer.

The Visit (2015)

The visit jumpscare horror movie poster featuring some rules and a house

Despite being one of M. Night Shyamalan’s later works, The Visit actually utilises its found-footage presentation well for the most part, offering a group of charismatic and interesting characters and plenty of passable chills, not to mention an ending that calls back to the director’s earlier, more widely regarded films. While I enjoyed a lot of The Visit, we are here to talk about the jumpscares of the matter, which sadly I liked a lot less. One stand-out scene is when the kids are crawling under their grandparent’s house and end up hiding from their snarling ‘grandmother’ as it crawls around looking for them. This may have been a creepy scene if not for the incessant and inhuman screeching and snarling coming from her. These sounds have no bearing on the story and are seemingly there to give the audience a little jolt, like an editing afterthought when it was realised the scene simply wasn’t that scary.

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary Horror Movie Poster featuring a mother and child in a spooky scene

Ari Aster’s breakout directorial debut Hereditary is a uniquely nasty look at classic haunting tropes, one that shocked audiences with its blend of supernatural chills and pitch-black family drama. The scare I’m choosing to focus on from this particular nightmare is a good case for the argument that quiet jumpscares can work better. Things are already tense as Charlie (Millie Shapiro) struggles through her closing airways and when she tries for air, a small thud is all that’s needed to let us know that the worst has happened. You might not have initially jumped at this one, hell, you might not have even caught it the first time around, but once the realization sets in of what happens when Charlie sticks her head out of the car window, we are left in the same state of silent shock her unfortunate brother Peter (Alex Wolff) is in. Phenomenal acting and truly disturbing subject matter mean that this flick is not for the weak of heart.

The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring Horror Movie Poster featuring s spooky house and a noose hanging from a tree

Like any decent ghostly chiller from James Wan, The Conjuring is chock full of dread, atmosphere and a bucketload of jumpscares. As with his other works such as Insidious, Wan likes to turn up the shocks and then keep them coming until the audience is completely worn out from gritting their teeth. Once the tension ramps up we can expect horrors jumping from every shadow, meaning it can be quite hard to pin down a particular jumpscare amongst the madness. That being said, the reveal of the evil entity, Bathsheba, hiding atop the wardrobe has to be one of the better timed and executed scares of James Wan’s career. Her hideous, yet not over-the-top, appearance flashing so suddenly gives such a threatening air that our fight-or-flight sense begins to tingle at the very sight of her. Couple that with the knowledge that she sacrificed her own child just to get one over on God and you have one truly unsettling antagonist.

Signs (2002)

Signs sci-fi horror movie poster featuring a crop circle

I’ve already picked on one of Shyamalan’s later works so why not go back and have a look at one of his more worthy creations? Signs stars Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix and could to this day be the scariest sci-fi horror extraterrestrial invasion film in history. This is chiefly due to the thick sense of foreboding that builds over the film’s first couple of acts, before panic ensues and the family hope their preparations weren’t in vain. The scares work here because Shyamalan keeps things quiet for the most part. One standout moment is when Merrill Hess (Phoenix) is watching shaky news footage of an alleged ‘sighting’ at a child’s birthday party. The shot of a backyard alley is held just long enough to put viewers on edge before an alien walks brazenly out and swaggers across to the other side. At this point in the film we don’t know what to expect from these creatures, so when a vaguely sinister humanoid walks out the effect is a confusing and hair-raising jolt. Every little glimpse of a leg or hand of the creatures thus far has been leading to an almost casual reveal, and Phoenix’s reaction illustrates the significance of the event perfectly.

Sinister (2012)

sinister horror movie poster featuring a scary young girl walking by a blood stained wall

Sinister is a moody and atmospheric horror directed by Scott Derrickson and starring Ethan Hawke, which utilises a home-movie effect through some of its sequences that can be considered some of the creepiest scenes in modern horror. When author Ellsion Oswalt (Hawke) finds a stack of super 8 footage depicting the gruesome murders of several families, he must decipher the connections between them before the malicious entity residing in the footage finds him. I won’t spoil too much, though I’ll say that one of these tapes has one of the more unexpected and gut-dropping jumpscares I’ve personally come across. While Sinister’s third act doesn’t quite live up to the dread built in the first two, it’s still a worthy modern horror flick in many regards and should be watched at least once.

Lights Out (short) (2013)

For this pick I’m giving a shout out to one of the most harrowing short films that ever graced the internet. It was later adapted into a great feature film of the same name, though I still consider the rawness and simplicity of the original Lights Out short to be far superior for a quick scare. Clocking at around three minutes, Lights Out features no dialogue and very minimal sound effects with no excessive increases in volume. When our lead turns out the light and sees the sinister figure at the end of the hall, we see it as she does, with no obnoxious instrumentation or erratic camera editing. As she starts to curiously turn the light on and off , the figure only appearing in the dark, we scream internally to just leave the thing on and get out of the place. The 2016 feature film definitely took things further in every possible way, and happens to be a very competently horrifying film in the process, though something about the short will always reign supreme. Watch the Light Our Horror short below.

Barbarian (2022)

Barbarian horror movie poster featuring a woman looking through a scary doorway

Barbarian is an absolute enigma of a film and is best enjoyed with absolutely no prior knowledge going into it. Let’s just say that the first act in no way hints at the insane length the story goes to, and the first actual reveal of where things are going is downright horrifying. Featuring little to no sound, this particular scene uses a quick and horrifying visual followed by some brutal violence that are both heart-stopping in their abruptness and such a curveball in terms of story that viewers feel completely and suitably helpless.

The Ring (2002)

The Ring Horror Movie poster showing a glowing supernatural ring

Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake of the Japanese chiller Ringu, The Ring, was one of the first horror films I remember seeing, and I still remember the nightmares, the fear of TV static, and the absolute hatred of little girls with long black hair. There’s plenty to be scared of in what I would consider one of the best horror remakes around, though one scene disturbed my young mind beyond belief. Following an account of a young girl’s horrifying death, we are greeted to a quick shot of the victim crouched in a cupboard, her face twisted and warped beyond recognition. The image is so jarring and unexpected that the audience is put in a state of alert apprehension, and although I am biased I would consider it one of the best scares on this list.



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The Good, The Bad, and The Saw: The Best Texas Chainsaw Massacre 

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Last month saw the release of yet another entry in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, marking the ninth in the series. This latest sequel (reboot? remake? reboot-quel?) has been largely panned by critics, with calling it “a startling misfire” and Rolling Stone concluding “it’s time to put the chainsaw down and walk away.” While many fans agree, some think the critics are being too harsh. One tweet that stood out to me in particular, from user @creepyduckart, said: “Sometimes a film called Texas Chainsaw Massacre is literally about a massacre in Texas with a chainsaw and if you don’t overthink it you might just enjoy it.” 

While I agree that the new movie is not entirely deserving of its hate, I want to push back a little on the point made by this tweet. Having seen all of the films in the franchise, I believe there are certain core attributes that define the series. Namely, the films work best when they combine an oppressive atmosphere, a dark sense of humor, and a liberal amount of violence. When deployed right, these ingredients can add up to horror movie magic. 

With that in mind, I have decided to analyze the movies in the Texas Chainsaw series and rank them worst to best, based on how effectively they adopt this winning formula. This ranking will be inevitably subjective, but I have tried the best I can to lay aside my personal biases and evaluate the movies on how successful they follow this formula, rather than how much I enjoy them. 

Texas Chainsaw Films from Worst to Best

With no further ado, sharpen your saws, and let’s get started with…

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) 

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D horror poster featuring leatherface with a chainsaw

Like the recent Texas Chainsaw, this 2013 installment attempted to breathe life back into a dying franchise by going back to the beginning. Disregarding every film after the 1974 original, Saw 3D picks up right where that masterpiece left off, even featuring several clips from the first film. This was the filmmakers’ first mistake, as such a direct comparison to a superior film makes Saw 3D look even worse than it is.

Boring, convoluted, and joyless, Texas Chainsaw 3D’s worst sin is that it doesn’t feel like a Texas Chainsaw movie at all. The film is devoid of the sweaty, brutal atmosphere of the original, featuring flat cinematography and bizarre, contemporary soundtrack choices that do nothing to build up tension. The characters, too, have none of the charisma that made the original cast so fun to watch. Leatherface and his family are reimagined as somehow sympathetic (?), undercutting the aura of menace they ought to have. Despite a few effective gore sequences, Texas Chainsaw 3D is a low point in the franchise, evoking none of the humor or dread that made the original so successful. 

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) 

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 Netflix Release Movie Poster

Like the 2017 reboot before it, the latest film in the Chainsaw canon is guilty of simply not feeling like a Texas Chainsaw movie. This is largely due to the way the film isolates Leatherface away from the rest of his family; this is the first film that does not feature a single other member of the Sawyer/Hewitt Clan. The deranged (and often hilarious) interactions between Leatherface and his family are a core part of what made past movies so great. By depicting Leatherface as a lone killer, he becomes interchangeable with any other slasher villain. One almost wonders if this was originally an unrelated script that was clumsily rewritten to fit into the Chainsaw series. 

Like other worst-offenders on this list, TCM ‘22 spends too much time developing a convoluted, nonsensical plot – something about gentrification? – instead of delivering effective scares. There are attempts at humor, a hallmark of the franchise, but they fall embarrassingly flat (the “canceled” joke may be the absolute worst moment in any of these movies.) The one factor keeping this from the bottom is that it does a decent job of building atmosphere; the dusty, abandoned ghost town and fields of dead sunflowers are vaguely reminiscent of the menacing vibes of the original film. Other than that, though, this is yet another installment in the franchise that barely deserves to wear its name. 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) 

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 movie poster

As the only true “remake” on this list (every other Chainsaw movie post-2000 acts as some form of belated sequel), TCM ‘03 is the most likely to draw comparisons with the original film. Seen from that perspective, it is hopelessly outmatched. Marcus Nispel’s reimagining of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,

part of a wave of early 2000s slasher remakes, doesn’t come close to recapturing the nightmarish spirit of the original. Its characters are less engrossing, its script clunkier, and its kills far less memorable – despite being dramatically gorier than the comparatively tame 1974 film. 

Still, unlike the films lower on this list, TCM ‘03 does a halfway decent job at actually being a Texas Chainsaw movie. This is most apparent in its grimy atmosphere, thanks in part to the presence of cinematographer Daniel Pearl, who shot the original film. And while they are a far cry from the charisma and hilarity of previous Sawyers, the family members in this film are at least memorable (Sheriff Hoyt, played by R. Lee Ermey, is a particularly despicable character.) Unfortunately, in its attempt to be dark and gritty, the movie avoids the humor that is necessary for a great Texas Chainsaw movie. All in all, it is a valiant attempt, but largely an unsuccessful one. 

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) 

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 movie poster

Leatherface is the only one of the original four films to be a true dud. After the comedic left-turn that was TCM2, studio executives reportedly wanted to take the third movie back in the direction of “hardcore horror.” This was their first mistake, as comedy has always been a central part of the Texas Chainsaw franchise. While there are a few moments in this movie that try to be funny – cut to Leatherface learning his ABCs – it is a downright snoozefest compared to the anarchic lunacy of the previous two films. 

The bigger problem, though, is that this movie doesn’t really work as “hardcore horror” either. It has none of the punishing atmosphere or nihilistic tone of the first two films, leading to a bland, cookie-cutter final product. Much of this is due to the departure of Tobe Hooper from the franchise. Without Hooper’s unique vision, TCM3 is an unworthy successor to the previous movies. Despite a couple of solid performances – I could watch Ken Foree and Viggo Mortensen in this movie all day – TCM3 marks the beginning of a long downhill for the Texas Chainsaw series. 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) 

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning Horror Movie poster

Believe it or not, this 2006 prequel is actually a little better than the remake that preceded it. It boasts a tighter script and stronger characters than the ‘03 film,

while also featuring some genuinely terrifying, memorable moments. Highlights include the first time that Leatherface dons his signature skin mask, and a shocking ending that left me genuinely shook. R. Lee Ermey’s Sheriff Hoyt also gets plenty of screen time in this one, delivering what is by far the best performance in any of these films post-2000. There are even a few moments of trademark Texas Chainsaw black comedy: Leatherface performing an unsolicited amputation on his uncle got a good chuckle out of me. 

Let’s talk about gore, of which there is plenty to go around in this movie. Throats are slit, skulls are caved in, and bodies are butchered left and right. But The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has never been defined by its gore; the original film is fairly bloodless. Violence works best in the Texas Chainsaw movies when it is sudden, bizarre, and brutal – recall the infamous bludgeoning scene from the first movie. The Beginning relies too much on its graphic violence, sacrificing subtlety for mindless carnage. For this reason, it falls short of being a truly great Texas Chainsaw movie. 

Leatherface (2017) 

Leatherface 2017 Horror Movie Poster

Leatherface (the second movie in the series to hold that title) is far better than it has any right to be. It is also the most narratively ambitious film in the series, abandoning the traditional TCM plot structure and instead telling the origin story of its title character. Equal parts coming-of-age road movie, bleak family drama, and brutal gorefest, Leatherface comes the closest of any post-2000s installment to capturing the true spirit of the Texas Chainsaw franchise. 

Some purists might balk at this movie’s high ranking, since it veers so far from the tried-and-true Texas Chainsaw formula. But by experimenting within an established framework, Leatherface expands on the original film’s legacy rather than engaging in rote repetition. And by bookending the main story with two of the best Sawyer family sequences since the 1990s, the film firmly anchors itself in TCM lore. The movie’s opening birthday party scene alone, in all its gleeful gore and over-the-top acting, would be enough to cement this as a worthy and enjoyable Texas Chainsaw movie. 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation Movie poster

Mocked since its release for its bizarre tone and nonsensical plot, The Next Generation might just be the best Chainsaw movie not made by Tobe Hooper. This is no doubt due to the direction of Kim Henkel, who was Hooper’s writing partner on the original film. Consequently, Henkel’s vision of Leatherface and family feels more authentic and visceral than the studio-helmed TCM3. As unconventional as some of his choices may be, Henkel knows the world of Texas Chainsaw on a gut level. 

While some fans balk at Henkel’s emphasis on campy, over-the-top humor, I believe it works as a natural evolution of Hooper’s two films. Yes, the film is not particularly gory, and the plot does take some questionable left turns in the final act. But at its heart, the Texas Chainsaw series has always been about unpredictable violence perpetrated by comically deranged characters. That is a letter-perfect description of The Next Generation, in particular Matthew McConnaughey’s performance as the unhinged Vilmer. If you’re going to watch any Texas Chainsaw movie not directed by Tobe Hooper, this should be the one. 

Tied for Best: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1985) 

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Movie Poster 1974

The two Texas Chainsaw movies directed by Tobe Hooper operate on another level from anything else in the franchise. While the other movies on this list range from great to unwatchable, TCM & TCM2 are crown jewels of horror filmmaking, chock-full of one unforgettable moment after another. From the brutal, apocalyptic imagery of the original, to the campy splatter of its sequel, these movies comprise a single, sustained peak for the TCM series, and an artistic triumph for one of the greatest horror directors of all time. 

The reason I am ranking these movies together is because each one represents different but equally vital components of what defines a Texas Chainsaw movie. The original film is one of the most atmospheric, brutal pieces of horror cinema ever made. It was even marketed as being based on a true story. Watching it, you can feel the sweat pouring down your brow, smell the decay and horror of every moment. The sequel, on the other hand, expands rather than retreads its predecessor, turning its black humor up to eleven. Both films are deeply scary and moody; both shock us with moments of brutal violence; both feature some of the hammiest and memorable performances of their respective decades. In short, both demonstrate everything you need for a perfect and clearly the best Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie.

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The Haunting of Hill House & The Haunting of Bly Manor: Why You Should Stop Comparing Them (Spoilers)

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I feel as if, in general, I’m a pretty easy going person, I don’t like to cause a stir and I generally stay out of heated discussions. After all, I know where I stand on certain issues, so why stress out about a conflicting opinion from someone else? We’re all allowed to have an opinion, that’s our right in life as human beings; unfortunately, a lot of you horror buffs out there have been actively comparing The Haunting of Hill House (2018) and The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020), the two seasons Netflix original series The Haunting, but you need to stop and here’s why:


Aren’t Hill House and Bly Manor Part of the Same Series?

While these two seasons of The Haunting series do have a lot in common, they’re from the same showrunner, they both have some of the same cast, and their names are awfully similar—but I would consider this series to be in the same vein as American Horror Story (2011- Present), Black Mirror (2011 – Present), or Two Sentence Horror Stories (2019 – Present) as they share the similarity of standalone storylines. American Horror Story features a new storyline with each new season, but we saw in one of the most recent seasons that they are intricately interwoven together in pretty incredible ways, but they feature the same cast and same creators—I can honestly say that I enjoy certain seasons of the show more than others, but I cannot in good conscience that I can compare them in any way. Just like Black Mirror has some episodes that have a more riveting storyline than others, as does Two Sentence Horror Stories.

It’s fair to argue that because these shows share a name or even some common elements that they are even remotely comparable. The truth of the matter though, is that these shows are simply the first two parts of an anthology series where Flanagan and his creative team are tackling one iconic horror novel at a time. So yes, while they have similarities, even Flanagan himself has asserted that they both serve as standalone storylines:

The Haunting of Bly Manor is the second installment in The Haunting anthology. We started with Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and this follow-up season is a standalone adaptation based on the ghost stories of Henry James. Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw is one of the most influential ghost stories ever written. What struck me as a really wonderful opportunity for this season was Henry James wrote other ghost stories as well, most of which have never been adaptation. The opportunity to go further into Henry James’ library, to look at some of his other ghost stories, to try to find a way to bring them all together, it was a challenge that we really couldn’t say no to.

Mike Flanagan in Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor

Since we’re seeing Flanagan return as a writer and a director for the opening episode, we’re also seeing the same setting where we get a lot of the same wide shots and creepy ghosts hiding in the background of a lot of otherwise normal scenes. A common question I have seen, in the horror communities within which I lurk, addresses the concept of why they made the second season of this show a completely new story, rather than continuing on with the storyline of The Haunting of Hill House. Flanagan had a great response in regards to this when he was quoted as having said:

It was important to me that we told that story to its conclusion in the first season. I didn’t want to cynically repeat ourselves, and the actors didn’t want to either … this frees us up because, in theory, in this anthology format, every season can be its own exploration of another classic piece of horror literature. Actors can stay or go depending on their preference and their availability. That opens it up to a new cast and new chances for existing actors. I love that format. It would be quite a disappointment to have to revisit the Crains. It would rob them of the closure they got at the end of that season.

Mike Flanagan in an interview with Gamesradar+ in 2019

So should you expect to see some of the same characters, or even related storylines in The Haunting of Bly Manor? No, no you should not, since they are standalone stories based on the stories of two different authors, they are unique in that sense. Should you compare whether one is scarier than the other? Also no. Again, these stories are unique from one another, which means the storyline and genres are different. With respect to The Haunting of Hill House, it was adapted from the original Shirley Jackson book of the same name whereas The Haunting of Bly Manor was adapted loosely based around the novella by Henry James entitled The Turn of the Screw, with elements of other short stories also written by James.

Is Bly Manor as Scary as Hill House?

Well, that really depends on how you define the word scary—are you the type of horror fan that likes jump scares or blood and guts kind of violence and gore? Or are you the type of horror fan that can appreciate a deeply twisted storyline that gives you that sickeningly painful feeling in your gut and with each revelation, pulls you deeper into an unsettlingly and delicious feeling of dread?

It seems like everyone with a Twitter account has turned into a TV critic these days and they have been flocking to their social media accounts in droves to talk about how The Haunting of Bly Manor is not only lacking the scares and thrilling moments, but that it’s straight boring compared to The Haunting of Hill House. I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I think they’re missing the essential point that it’s not meant to be the same type of frightening as The Haunting of Hill House. I get it, there are few jump scares in the second season, so those who are more of a fan of slashers and violent torture porn, then they’re not going to appreciate it in the ways that it is scary.

There are fewer ghosts in Bly Manor, and they definitely don’t pursue victims in the same manner as those in Hill House. No, Bly Manor is a slow-burn kind of horror that continued to build over each episode—it fed off of a more intense and intellectual fear that leaves the audience with a feeling of being stripped bare to the unseen forces in the world and a feeling that we are so small and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Bly Manor is the type of cosmic gothic ghost story that Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft would have been proud to include in their genre of horror.

The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

The Netflix series that debuted in 2018 began, unbeknownst to the fan base it would obtain, as an anthology series with the first season using the famous Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House as inspiration for a macabre and twisted tale of a close yet dysfunctional family. Flanagan of course takes quite a few creative liberties when adapting the book to script, as an example, when he completely abandons Jackson’s original plot surrounding a group of paranormal investigators who have come to investigate ghosts at Hill House. Even beyond that, however, Flanagan somehow takes the tale of a haunted house and turns it into a commentary on how grief and trauma manifest for each of us personally and haunt us the way a ghost might. These traumas that Flanagan addresses within his telling of Hill House come across as impenetrable walls, barriers that forever keep you trapped in eternal, yet self-inflicted pain—Hill House, therefore, becomes a metaphor for how some people escape from their past trauma, where others will be ceaselessly be victimized by it. The difference between the two is a strong support system and the will to overcome—this is illustrated perfectly by Flanagan who shows how the Crain family reacts when they begin losing their family one by one, finally realizing that they have some semblance of control over the final outcome. Their choice, in the end, is to save their family regardless of whether it puts themselves in danger.

The Crain family moves into the dilapidated Hill House; Hugh and Olivia, are the loving parents of five interesting and unique children—Steven, Shirley, Theodora, and the youngest—a pair of twins—Nell and Luke. The parents, set to repair and the flip the house, are less receptive to the baleful nature of Hill House, but as the children explore their new temporary home they become aware of things that they had never before experienced, but that children are uniquely equipped to encounter. The innocence of these children makes them vulnerable to dark spirits, hallucinatory experiences, and the discovery of rooms that simply shouldn’t exist within the house. Of course, the adults chalk this up to vivid imaginations and generalized anxieties, but when their mother Olivia begins to be affected by the house as well, things begin to turn dangerous—but the story is shrouded in mystery, the kind that never fails to pull you back in, and it all starts at the end of a tragedy the kind of non-linear timeline that not only keeps people guessing about what happened, but also how it happened in the first place.

The Haunting of Hill House (2018) Official Trailer

Adapted from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

Shirley Jackson’s original novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959) is actually based on four strangers—not a family—and they all come together at Hill House, a house that was long believed to be haunted. These strangers come under the guidance of Dr. Montague, a man who is hoping to scientifically prove the existence of spirits and specters. This horrifying tale takes the reader on a supernatural and psychological thrill-ride as we see the story progress over an incredibly haunted summer for these poor strangers who only wish to uncover the truth. It’s as if the house itself wishes to be left alone in its own misery.

While it’s true that the novel and the show are incredibly different beasts, there are some common elements that translated across the formats. These strangers share the same names as the Crain family, but it’s also true that Eleanor (Nell), the sensitive child in Hill House is also supernaturally inclined within the book. Her sense of the house being evil upon arriving at the house is also eerily similar between the book and the show.

This by no means makes the book and the show any more related, but it does show that Flanagan did take inspiration from the original novel in more ways than just the superficial elements, which is more than what most adaptations can boast.

The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

The Haunting of Bly Manor is an American gothic romance, which means that it is steeped in mystery, the supernatural, the horrific, and a love story. As noted before, based loosely on the novella Turn of the Screw, but they also took elements from other horror short stories by the same author and essentially crafted their own story with all of the new puzzle pieces. What they created was a tragically beautiful and meaningful love story, that still pulled off the frightening elements that also made it a horror story.

Set in the 80s, Bly Manor houses its own share of ghosts and ghouls—and they’re far from boring, in fact, it wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that the ghosts are what elevate these shows from being simple dramas about family, love, loss, and grief. At the beginning of Bly Manor, we see Dani a young American woman being hired as an au pair by the wealthy uncle of two young orphans—Miles and Flora. By the time we introduced to these two adorably tragic children, there is already a sense of things being wrong… we just don’t know what.

The Burden of Our Own Emotional Limitations

We slowly get to know the household staff that are paid to take care of and effectively raise Miles and Flora, in place of their uncle, Henry Wingrave, who is now their only living relative. It’s clear that Wingrave loves the children, but it’s as if he doesn’t want to get stuck taking care of them when he still has his business to run, and Bly Manor has a history of trapping people within. It’s quite a commentary on how we each get stuck in our own lives—not necessarily within places, but in torturous memories, and the grievous emotions that mark the worst moments in our lives. We see that Wingrave is running away from the responsibility of the children in much of the same way that Dani is running from the death of her fiancé, for which she feels responsible, but we soon see that she is haunted by him as he follows her, reminding her of the sheer weight of her guilt. Wingrave too, is trapped by the guilt of his brother’s death, especially due to the fact that he had a lurid affair with his brother’s wife, which may also add to the obligation that he feels to care for his brother’s children.

Wingrave’s personal assistant, Peter Quint, is also stuck—he’s stuck with the trauma he endured from a negligent and abusive upbringing—and despite the fact that he isn’t a terrible person underneath all of that, he comes across as a villain throughout the show. Owen, the cook responsible for feeding the children and staff, finds himself in Bly taking care of his sick mother, who is suffering from dementia, and she proves to be a significant burden on him emotionally. His guilt lies within the fact that he not only resents his mother for her condition, but he also grieves her loss despite her still being present in his life—this is something that anyone who has ever dealt with a family member suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s can sympathize with. Owen too is trapped in Bly, at least for as long as his mother remains alive. The housekeeper at Bly Manor, Hannah Grose is revealed to have died at the beginning of the season when we begin to see all of the pieces of the puzzle realized together as the picture finally becomes whole. He torture in this circumstance is that her life was devoted to holding the family together in the face of wanting to follow her own pursuits, half-aware of her own fate and half-unaware as she is taunted with the fact that she can never leave and live the life with Owen that she so desires.

Regardless of whether or not these people are able to leave the manor, we see them trapped within their own circumstances, they struggle hard to prevail over them, but in the end realize that their fate is inevitable. This brings that hard-hitting, existential crisis to heart; that no matter what we do, we will never win, we will never get what we want, and there is no one who can save us from our inescapable ruin…
The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

Flanagan touches upon grief in a hauntingly beautiful, by bringing you deeply into the lives of his characters and exposing their psychological trauma to the light of day. We’re not just seeing one person’s struggle as noted in the section above, we’re seeing them unfold for everyone involved. This is what makes the story so tragic.

What is a Gothic Romance?

A gothic romance stories have a strong emphasis on the mood that is conveyed to the audience, it should be suspenseful, mysterious, and thrilling—not something that you might expect with a traditional romantic storyline—but at the same time, it should focus strongly on the romance of the characters. This of course is achieved quite fluidly by Flanagan…

What sets Bly Manor apart is that at its heart it’s a love story. It’s a Gothic romance story. When you look at the word ‘romance’ it conjures up images in your mind. Gothic romance means something very, very different, steeped in mystery and doom, incredibly passionate emotions that swung into the darkness of human nature.

Mike Flanagan in Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor

If we take a second look at Bly Manor, we realize that this is set up as a romance from the very beginning, it’s not something that the story simply took upon itself later in the season—this was a deliberate setup that we see from the narrator at the start of the season. We realize only at the end that the narrator is actually an older version of Jamie, telling the story of Bly Manor to Flora Wingrave and company at her wedding reception. It seems strange that Jamie would be telling Flora about her own childhood, but as we find out shortly prior to this revelation, Flora nad her brother Miles had completely forgotten about what transpired at Bly Manor after moving with their uncle to America. Jamie’s relation of this story to her old piecemealed family from Bly is tragic in many ways—because of a forgotten history that to Jamie is ever-present and heartwrenching.

The theme of love in Bly Manor although not necessarily apparent to those who go in expecting cheap thrills in the generic horror fashion, is peppered generously throughout and is undeniable once the end of the story has been reached. Jamie’s own love story with the au pair Dani Clayton was something that she had previously considered something of a horror story, with all of the tragedy, loss, and subsequent grief from Dani’s self-sacrifice in taking the spirit of the faceless ghost into herself in order to save Flora from certain death.

We see Dani’s past, steeped in guilt from the recurrence of the specter with the yellow spectacles, who we find is the ghost of Dani’s fiancé Edmund. Upon facing their pending marriage she finally has the courage to stand up for what she wants for herself and that denying her own sexuality by marrying her childhood best friend will only lead to a lifetime of unhappiness for herself. Dani’s guilt lies in the fact that breaking off the engagement due to not being heterosexual, directly preceded Edmund’s flight from the parked car and directly into the path of a big rig. Despite not wanting to be married to Edmund, the last thing Dani wanted was for him to die and she takes upon herself the blame for his death. Edmund’s ghost shows up as having blindingly yellow glasses because, at the instant of his death, he saw the truck coming rendering the reflection of the headlights upon his spirit from then on.

There are many other love stories that take place within the context of Bly Manor; Peter Quint, and Rebecca Jessel which is another horror story in and of itself, as Peter is abusive to Rebecca. Translating even after his death by the hand of the Lady in the Lake, when he possesses Rebecca and walks her into the lake so they can be together again, which of course leads everyone to believe Rebecca had committed suicide. The housekeeper Hanna and the cook Owen who develop an obvious fondness for each other after Hannah had already passed away (thanks in no small part to Peter Quint, who upon possessing Miles, shoves her into the well), which leads to broken hearts for both of them.

If there’s one thing that I hope fans take away from this season of Bly Manor, I think it’s that wonderful connection between a great love story and a great ghost story. The two are really the same thing, how each of us when we fall in love is kind of giving birth to a new ghost, something that’s gonna follow us for the rest of our lives. I hope that that intermingling of a ghost story and a love story is really impactful for people, and I think by the end of this season the line between the two is pretty much obliterated entirely.

Mike Flanagan in Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor

Adapted from Henry James The Turn of the Screw (1898)

Although Flanagan wasn’t the first creator to adapt Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (1898), he and his creative team did the best job so far. It was previously adapted for television when BBC produced Ghost Story: The Turn of the Screw (2009), which itself also took a few creative liberties. It’s worth mentioning that this infamous ghost story has also inspired live performances throughout Europe as well.

So while there are valid connections between the two seasons of The Haunting anthology, they are actually standalone presentations that merit a separate analysis, completely removed from the other. I think Mike Flanagan really said it best in this Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor:
From Hill House to Bly Manor – Behind the Scenes

Final Thoughts…

When we finally meet Viola Willoughby, in The Haunting of Bly Manor, the ghost with no face, she goes from being an evil spirit to being a sympathetic character in a way—a woman who in life was beautiful, a good mother, and very much loved by her husband, but stricken with sickness and too stubborn to die. Her sister, who coveted what Viola possessed eventually choked her to death in an effort to take over Viola’s duty as a mother and wife. Viola, still too stubborn to leave the life that she had desperately yearned for, remained as a spirit, locked in a trunk of her nicest possessions, which she had left for her daughter to inherit at the appropriate age. Her sister again covets what her sister only possesses in death, unlocks the trunk, and is, in turn, choked to death by Viola’s ghost. Viola ends up trapped within her own home and over time, her spirit forgets everything except for the one thing that drove her in the first place—the drive to see her daughter and once again be reunited with her keeps her ghost coming back, long after she has even forgotten what she looks like. As tragedy prevails throughout the ages, anyone that has passed within the house is too stuck there with her, forgetting themselves and their own faces as well. So in a sense, the ghosts of Bly Manor do not haunt the living, they are haunted by the living, knowing that they at least have the opportunity to escape from the prison that the manor has become.

I can say with confidence that having experienced trauma in my life, that living a life trapped with sorrow, grief, or a devouring sort of guilt is bad enough, but the concept presented in Bly Manor, where we see that grief breach the veil between life and death, bringing that unending tragedy into eternity. Twist that knife a bit more while you’re at it.

Sincerely, to compare these two masterpieces is to do neither of them justice, as to be appreciated fully they need to be appreciated separately. So when you watch them again, like I’m about to, remember that they were never meant to be compared to one another in the first place.

Works Cited

Chitwood, Adam. “’The Haunting of Hill House’ Creator Mike Flanagan Explains How ‘Bly Manor’ Is Different.” Collider, 28 Sept. 2020,

Flanagan, Mike, director. Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor. Youtube: Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor, Netflix, 28 Sept. 2020,

Hill, Libby. “You’re Right. ‘Bly Manor’ Isn’t as Scary as ‘Hill House.’ It’s Scarier. – Spoilers.” IndieWire, IndieWire, 14 Oct. 2020,

Romaine, Lindsey. “All of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE Parallels in BLY MANOR.” Nerdist, 13 Oct. 2020,

Shepherd, Jack. “How The Haunting of Bly Manor and Hill House Are Connected.” SFX Magazine, GamesRadar+, 9 Oct. 2020,



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