The Other Columbus: The results of 'I can read your (horror movie) mind'

Alive’s columnist completes his magic trick by offering curated film suggestions for a trio of lucky readers

Scott Woods
"Freaky"

Last week I posted a survey of 100 horror movies in an attempt to find the perfect recommendations for a few random souls. You will recall that I am a horror movie aficionado, and that the whole exercise is my version of a magic trick, as my recommendations are flawlessly curated offerings. Readers submitted their scores for each movie (on a 0-5 scale), from which I have chosen three to respond. One change: I originally stated that I would offer two recommendations per winning submission, but due to word count, I cut that back to a single offering.

#1: Kristi (Email)

Kristi is a self-proclaimed non-fan of horror, and their scores reflect that. There were A LOT of zeros. So many zeros that I wondered how Kristi ended up watching some of the movies they chose. (What horrible friend took Kristi to see “Hostel”?) Kristi skipped a whopping 53 movies on the list. I could pick something off the list and Kristi probably wouldn’t notice. At the same time, what and how they scored the films they did see was telling. 

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Kristi is a Stephen King fan, and based on their scores, I’m guessing they also read King’s books. All of the King movies Kristi saw were given a 4 or 5 with one notable exception: “The Shining” caught a 2. See, that’s a King super-reader right there. King fans know that he hated Kubrick’s take on his novel. At the same time, “The Shining” is a great movie. So, anybody who loves King movies but doesn’t like “The Shining” is hating it out of solidarity. Mind you, 20 percent of the films that Kristi did see are King films, so that’s a “Misery”-level of commitment.

Kristi isn’t into the hard stuff. Likes their horror with a whiff of romance (“Dracula,” “Candyman,” “Interview with a Vampire,” “The Others”). Likes vampires (“Dracula,” “The Lost Boys,” “From Dusk ‘til Dawn”). Not a fan of the occult. Doesn’t mind a pinch of comedy to air the room out. Likes their horror to have a brain. Not looking to become a fan of horror, but willing to try new things.

Recommendation: “Time After Time” (1979) 

This is touted as a science fiction film, but I have always maintained that this is a movie that uses science as the setup for its horror (so it’s both). The story: In 1893 author H.G, Wells invents a working time machine in his basement. While having guests over for dinner, one of them uses it to escape into the future when the police come knocking. Why? Because he’s Jack the Ripper! Wells then follows the serial killer all the way to 1979 to stop him. Kristi will dig the writer-as-protagonist, as well as the appreciably light amount of murder presented.

More:The Other Columbus: I can read your (horror movie) mind

#2: Autumn WitchyBlerd (Twitter)

At 83 movies seen, Autumn was the heavyweight of all the submissions we received. You might think that with that many movies, this would make Autumn a challenge. Normally I would agree, except that her scores are generally very high. Very few of her scores were below a 4. So, while I needed to dig a little bit, the chances of offering something she would like were very high.

Out of all the submissions, only three people watched “The Human Centipede,” and two of them gave it a 1. The people who watched it hated it, and that’s understandable. “The Human Centipede” is a divisive outlier. Its premise is so over-the-top I cannot recount it in a family-friendly a publication such as this. (Editor’s Note: Sure you can.) Autumn gave this gross-fest a 3, which is perhaps the perfect score for a genuine horror fan. The movie is too bad to be considered a good film, but too well executed to be a wholly bad film. Taken with her other scores for highly gross contenders (“Cabin Fever,” 4, “Hostel,” 3), that’s an extremely useful score.

With so many high scores, it’s more useful to look at what she didn’t bother to watch. Most of her zeros are reasonable; they’re cult films, older or otherwise not the subject of typical horror conversations. Stuff like “Dead Girl” or “Demon Seed.” You understand those. But Autumn skipped “Salem’s Lot” (1979 version), “The Thing” (2011 prequel which should be skipped) and the modern classic “A Ghost Story.” This suggests that there are things about them that don’t appeal to her off of the shelf. My guess is that she’s not into horror for which mistreatment of women is a crux of the story. Yes, horror makes fodder of women, but some stories use womanhood itself as a conflict, and that can be mad unappealing. “Martyrs” hates women. “It’s Alive” (both versions) is about a terrifying childbirth. “High Tension” is… challenging. The original version of “I Spit On Your Grave” was banned for its violence to its female lead. That may not be a conscious decision on Autumn’s part, but it’s definitely a trend. 

Of course, all of this flies in the face of Autumn’s 3 score for “The Human Centipede,” which was initially a hurdle, but I came to a fair conclusion: Autumn will stick it out if the movie doesn’t take itself seriously.

Recommendation: “Freaky” (2020)

I abhor camp, but this Vince Vaughn slasher comedy casts him as a serial killer thrust into a “Freaky Friday” body swap with a teenage girl he attempted to kill. It’s funny, but has enough real violence to satisfy most horror fans. And who doesn’t like to see the bullied girl in high school flip the script on everybody and start weeding out the cool kids club? I’m not convinced Autumn hasn’t seen this, but if she has, I’m 100 percent sure she liked it.

#3: Amie (Email)

Shout out to Amie, who submitted their scores in an Excel spreadsheet, suggesting they may very well be a serial killer. Let’s just say Amie’s scores are “on brand.” 

Amie is pretty hardcore. They have discerning taste: their 5s are mostly well-earned; the zeros are typical zeros. I got a sense that Amie is somewhat cool on older work, and maybe a bit of a contrarian. Who gives Goldblum’s “The Fly” a 2, while scoring “Children of the Corn” a 4? “The Exorcist” is a 3, but “Paranormal Activity” is a 4? Curiouser and curiouser. It took me a minute, but I did determine one thing: Amie is into high concepts/existential crisis stuff that subverts horror tropes. Everybody loves “Cabin in the Woods” for this reason, but Amie also loves “Alien” (science fiction subversion), “Interview with a Vampire” (subversion of traditional monster trope), “Se7en” (police procedural subversion) and so on. Finally, I also get a sense that Amie likes their horror to look good: solid effects, stories that have aged well, challenging visuals. That last one isn’t a dealbreaker, but it’s a smooth kicker.

Recommendation: “Mungo Lake” (2008)

While ghost stories don’t seem to be Amie’s jam, I think this one will hit their palate spot-on. It’s a documentary style ghost story about a family who loses their daughter but appears to be visited by her spirit. Typical ghost hunter affair, until it isn’t. And it has a gut-punch ending. I don’t recommend this one to everybody because it requires patience and some brain power. This isn’t a flick you play in the background. You have to pay attention to receive all of its benefits.