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Vincent Schilling

Indian Country Today

Happy All Hallows Eve everyone, or should I say 'the day so many Native people cringe at' with the thought of those “Native” themed costumes. Please don’t do it. Dress like a zombie or something.

Truth be told, I love horror films. I love haunted houses and I love when a movie is full of good jump scares.

Many of these movies and series are fairly intense, bloody, and really, really scary so practice caution with respect to younger audiences. 

Ok and yes I already know ahead of any commentary, “Halloween Kills” and “Squid Game” are not listed. 

I figured about 70 percent of you have already seen “Squid Game” and “Halloween Kills” at least to me, was kind of a dud. Would someone just lop off Michael Myer’s head already? (If you haven't seen "Squid Game" it is wildly popular for a very good reason, it is awesome.) 

That said, here are some of my recent favorites, and a few not so recent, but are my favorites just the same.

“The Old Ways”

'The Old Ways' production still. Now on Netflix.

Film summary: Cristina, a journalist of Mexican origin, travels to her ancestral home in Veracruz to investigate a story of sorcery and healing. There, she is kidnapped by a group of locals who claim she's the devil incarnated. Brigitte Kali Canales, Andrea Cortés, and Julia Vera star.

My comments: A film by Christopher Alexander, “The Old Ways,'' is a super creepy Indigenous-themed film that made my skin crawl in the best way. Whenever there is an element of truth to a film, I get that much more scared. And believe me, this movie scared the bejeezus out of me. Especially when an Indigenous woman tells you that there is something inside of you. My gosh, I cringe just writing that. 

Starring Brigette Kali Canales, Andrea Cortes, Julia Vera, Sal Lopez and more.

Where to watch: Now on Netflix

“Black Summer”

'Black Summer' on Netflix

Series summary: Six weeks after the start of the zombie apocalypse, Rose (Jaime King) is separated from her daughter, Anna, and she embarks on a harrowing journey to find her. Thrust alongside a small group of refugees in North America, she must brave a hostile new world and make brutal decisions during the most deadly summer of the apocalypse.

My comments: This series, named for the 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season where there were overwhelming bushfires, “Black Summer” is one of the most intense zombies series I have ever seen.

Unlike most zombies that are sluggish and meandering, hoping for an unsuspecting victim to walk into their arms, the zombies in this series are maniacal sprinters waiting to turn their victims almost instantly. The concept is terrifying in that I really question how likely I would be able to survive.

This brilliantly frightening series was created by Karl Schaefer and John Hyams through the production company Asylum, the same company that brought Z-Nation to the big screen. Highly recommended for nail-biting and anxiety-ridden action.

Where to watch: Season 1 and 2 now on Netflix

“V/H/S/94”

V/H/S/94 film poster

Film summary: After the discovery of a mysterious VHS tape, a brutish police swat team launches a high-intensity raid on a remote warehouse, only to discover a sinister cult compound whose collection of pre-recorded material uncovers a nightmarish conspiracy.

My comments: An unexpected great “found footage” film that had me scratching my head and saying ‘What the actual (bleep) is going on here?’ There are several different stories that come up within the film that range from completely gross, to completely unsettling. A definite scarefest worthy of a Halloween watch party. Like I said, probably one of the best "found footage" films I’ve ever seen, and I am not always that big of a fan of those types of films.

Where to watch: Now on Shudder

“Blood Quantum”

“Blood Quantum” stars Michael Greyeyes as the leader of sorts on the fictional Red Crow Rez, an arguable safe grounds sought by anyone not-yet-infected by zombies. The clincher of the films’ premise is that the local Native/First Nation’s population is immune to the zombie’s bite.

Film summary: The dead are coming back to life outside. But in the isolated Mi'gmaq reserve of Red Crow, the indigenous inhabitants are immune to the zombie plague. Traylor, the tribal sheriff, must protect his son's pregnant girlfriend, apocalyptic refugees and reserve riff-raff from the hordes of walking white corpses.

Cast: Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Forrest Goodluck

My comments: As I have said before, this is one of my all-time favorite films with Michael Greyeyes as the zombie-killing tribal sheriff Traylor. Not only are there swarms of zombies, but the Indigenous population is immune to the virus! I say this with unparalleled glee and excitement. The film was written and directed by Jeff Barnaby and has a Native packed cast to include Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon, Brandon Oakes, Olivia Scriven, Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, and Gary Farmer.

Where to watch: Shudder and YouTube

“What We Do in the Shadows” (2014 Movie)

Film summary: Viago, Deacon and Vladislav are vampires who are finding that modern life has them struggling with the mundane - like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs and overcoming flatmate conflicts. Directed by and starring Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, also starring Jonathan Brugh.

My comments: This has got to be one of the most hilarious vampire spoofs I have ever seen and Taika Waititi is literally gold in a cape. I can’t recommend this movie enough (which spawned a continuous series now on HULU). My favorite scenes are when the new guy insists on eating human food and barfs up blood for what seems like forever and the interactions between the vampires and werewolves. Pure classic horror humor.

Where to watch: Now on HULU

“Train to Busan”

Train to Busan (Courtesy Cannes)

Film summary: When a mysterious virus breaks out across the country, the infected turn into the murderous undead. A few terrified travelers find themselves trapped on a bullet train from hell, fighting for their lives as hordes of the living dead crash towards them, crawling closer with every stop. Suspicion is rife and tensions run high as some will do anything to survive and make it to the safe zone. Cast: Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma

My comments: Ok I understand there are several zombie movies on this list, but what can I say, the concept of fellow human beings suddenly turning on each other and trying to eat each other scares the heck out of me. 

In an interview with Michael Greyeyes, he agreed that ‘Train to Busan’ was also one of his favorites, as it is mine. Also worth mentioning is ‘Peninsula’ the movies’ sequel. Just both are brilliantly scary movies.

Me watching 'Peninsula' the 'Train to Busan' epic sequel.

Me watching 'Peninsula' the 'Train to Busan' epic sequel.

Where to watch: Now on Shudder.

“Muppets Haunted Mansion” (For the family)

Muppets Haunted Mansion

Film summary: The Great Gonzo, a world-famous daredevil, has done it all, seen it all, and narrowly survived it all. But on Halloween night, the fearless Gonzo takes on the greatest challenge of his life by spending the night in the scariest place on Earth, the Haunted Mansion. Teamed with his friend Pepe the King Prawn, this musical comedy reunites Kermit and the entire Muppets gang, who portray the beloved grim grinning ghosts of the Haunted Mansion in this star-studded, frightfully funny Muppets adventure.

My comments: Who doesn’t completely love the Muppets? I love Gonzo and his partner in the film Pepe the King Prawn. It is tons of family fun and lighthearted as well as hilarious. I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear.

Who’s in it: All the Muppets as well as Will Arnett, Taraji P. Henson, Darren Criss and Yvette Nicole Brown.

Where to watch: Now on Disney+.

“Chucky” the series

Chucky series (Syfy, USA)

Series summary: Before Annabelle of the "Conjuring" movie series, there was another terrifying doll. After a vintage Chucky doll turns up at a suburban yard sale, an idyllic American town is thrown into chaos as a series of horrifying murders begins to expose the town's hypocrisies and secrets. Meanwhile, the arrival of enemies and allies from Chucky's past threatens to expose the truth behind the killings, as well as the demon doll's untold origins as a seemingly ordinary child who somehow became this notorious monster.

My comments: I have mildly enjoyed the Chucky film universe for years, but my wife Delores is the one who has watched all of them. I have often heard her screaming at the TV as Chucky ends the existence of his latest victim. But there is something even more magical about this latest series on SYFY / USA and Hulu that really resonates with the times.

Chucky looks truly real, as some of the effects over the years were a bit corny for me. But to add to the storyline, Chucky befriends a young gay teen named Jake, played by Zackary Arthur. Who would’ve thought that the Chucky doll could be so accepting of the teen’s sexual orientation while also wanting to help him kill all of the mean kids at school? As strange as it all is, the formula is a winner.

Where to watch: Hulu, USA, SYFY

Ok, before I add my last five, I know I didn't put "The Conjuring," "Annabelle" and "Nun" franchise movies, nor did I add the "Saw" or "The Grudge" or other scary sequential films, its not that they didn't deserve it, but I feel that a lot of you out there are already familiar with these mainstream horror films. Not as though you haven't heard of any of the others in this list, but I am adding the movies that I feel stick out to me in my life as a Native Nerd and what affected me or scared me the most.  

I'd love to know your favorites, reach out to me on social media and let me know your stand out scary films.

My five all-time most horrifying and scary films

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”

Oh my gosh, this movie to me was absolutely terrifying. The filming process was also supposedly one of the most grueling processes undertaken by a director. The premise is terrible, a madman with a chainsaw running around getting unsuspecting teens, watch with caution. It is frightening to say the least.

“The Exorcist”

Out of all the world’s scariest movies, I feel confident in saying that film scared me the most out of any movie that I have ever seen. Linda Blair plays a young girl possessed by the devil, and the series of events that take place by priests to exorcise her are terrifying. This movie can give you the worst heebie-jeebies of all time. So watch with caution.

“The Collector”

You think the “Saw” franchise movies are scary? The collector is a weird guy who goes around setting booby traps and catching unsuspecting victims to add to his collection. I still get creeped out thinking about this movie. Scary, scary, scary!

“The Shining”

It has been literally years since I have watched the classic movie “The Shining” starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, which was directed by Stanley Kubrick. Inasmuch as the film was completely horrifying, I have to give a massive amount of credit to the soundtrack created by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. Tell me if the opening scene and the music doesn’t make you want to run the other way.

“The Omen”

The Omen is a 1976 film directed by Richard Donner and details the life of the antichrist child by the name of Damien Thorn. The series of deaths that continue to take place as Damien continues to thrive are the things of nightmares. I still get the same chills today watching this classic horror film.

Happy Halloween from the Native Nerd, Vincent Schilling.