Barbara Crampton’s female-focused horror playlist on Shudder

Sun Choke’s Barbara Crampton picks 5 female-focused horrors to watch on Shudder

Genre legend Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From BeyondYou’re Next, We Are Still Here, Beyond The Gates) stars in Ben Cresciman’s brilliant horror movie Sun Choke, which will finally be available to UK audiences on 9 March on Shudder. To celebrate, Barbara has put together a list of her favourite female-focused horror movies available to watch on Shudder, and she’s written about why we should all make time to check them out…

SPIDER BABY

Directed by Jack Hill, SPIDER BABY is a good natured Grand Guignol nightmare. The “children” are left in the care of Bruno played by Lon Chaney Jr. after the death of their father. But there is something odd about this family. The kids suffer from Merrye’s Syndrome, an affliction that caused them to never grow up and worse…murder people. This is all done in a sort of wholesome manner. As a viewer, you really care for this odd family who is just trying to protect what’s theirs, when the distant relatives show up potentially to take over the estate. The two girls give delightful performances and Chaney, as the dutiful caretaker, is warm and lovable. Sid Haig making incoherent utterances is mildly frightening and wonderfully strange, and it’s easy to see why Rob Zombie tapped him for future quirky, albeit more menacing characters!

I worked closely with Quinn Redeker, who plays Peter Howe, on the soap opera THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and he is..as always effortlessly charming. Fun to note, Redeker is also a prolific screenwriter, who was a co-writer on THE DEER HUNTER. Hill didn’t make a lot of films but many are cult classics. With SWITCHBLADE SISTERS and FOXY BROWN, Hill’s aim was always to make the viewer feel positive at the end of his films and even with bizarre doings in SPIDER BABY he more than achieves that goal. This is a fun and light horror film. One you could watch with your children.

DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK

The first feature by twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska is a twisted, gory, over the top in every way, magnificent debut. They wrote, directed and star in this crazy tale of two party girls who discover a dead hooker in their car and can’t remember how she got there. Along with their goody two shoes friend played by C.J. Wallis, pimp cowboy, John Tench and a serial killer priest (wonderful juxtaposition) the film is an assured raw, bloody, messy joyride that doesn’t hold back.

Funny, sick and graphic, it made a deep impression on me when it first came out. Exploitive in nature and wildly entertaining you can forgive some things that don’t quite make sense as there is an abundance of energy and fun in this movie. This is an assured first film that not surprisingly gave way later to the more polished AMERICAN MARY. Jen and Sylvia have cemented themselves today as a forceful duo in the horror genre. This first film of theirs is a must-see for horror cinephiles.

JUG FACE

First of all, I love Lauren Ashley Carter. With huge eyes and a quiet, sincere face she is strikingly good at making an audience feel for her plight. You believe her, you want to climb onto the screen and save her! Further evidence of this is realized in Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN.

This vulnerable quality is magnified in Jug Face‘s story about a backwoods clan who worships a presence that resides in a pit in the ground. Sacrifices are needed to appeal to this entity to keep the group healthy. Unfortunately for her, Carter’s Ada is next as her face is formed on a jug. But she’s pregnant as a result of an incestuous relationship with her brother and this complication strengthens her resolve to fight for her life and that of her baby. Sacrifices for the greater good are a staple in storytelling and some of our most beloved horror stories run with this theme: THE WICKER MAN, THE PURGE, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, THE MATRIX etc…Our most enduring religions have at their center this theme of giving up something for others, and your own life is as close as it gets.

This allows the bad guys to have a bit of appeal themselves and not seem like devilish monsters they really are.  Larry Fessenden, Sean Young and Sean Bridges are especially effective at selling this kind of behavior (in their various roles) as it’s for the good of the community. I enjoyed the use of the jug as a device by which the sacrifices were chosen, the chewing of scenery by some of the actors and the beautiful intensity of Lauren Ashley Carter. Larry Fessenden never disappoints and is one of the most underrated actors working in genre today. I had the good fortune to work with him on WE ARE STILL HERE and his commitment to character work is rarely seen today. In this current more realistic approach to performing he continues to turn out varied characters with interesting and strong points of view.  I haven’t seen more much by its director Chad Crawford Kinkle but I hope there is more to come.

BLACK SUNDAY

This film is one of my favorites of all time. Gorgeous and eerie, its mood, set pieces, lighting, cinematography and story hold it up today as a gothic horror masterpiece. Barbara Steele is mesmerizing in the dual role of Katia and Asa and and although many of you have seen it, it’s a classic worth revisiting often. The moodiness and beauty of this film is hard to match. The sensuality of Barbara Steele with her huge staring eyes is a big part of the appeal of this movie and her presence on screen is electrifying.

When I was making BEYOND THE GATES with Jackson Stewart, he wanted the feel of Barbara’s evil character to influence my part of Evelyn, the VCR board game host I played. So I kept my gaze fixed, intense and non-blinking as a nod to her. Mario Bava worked extensively as a cinematographer and is considered one of the founders of the giallo movement. With films like THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and others, Bava continues to influence film makers today. BLACK SUNDAY, probably his best seems impossible to top.

STAKE LAND

We keep thinking that zombies will die, or rather the genre will. But it somehow keeps surviving and finding unique ways to “re-animate.” This past year’s TRAIN TO BUSAN was my favorite of 2017. I’ve never seen more glorious or fast moving zombies coupled with a strong story of love and redemption. Fantastic performances and long tear-filled scenes continue to assure us that  Korean genre cinema is king!

STAKE LAND is a quieter undead film. I fell in love with Nick Damici after viewing this movie. He’s strong and intense and forges a deep friendship with Connor Paolo’s character of Martin, after the youth loses his parents to this zombie war. Together, Mister and Martin travel together through some beautiful and often destroyed country landscape to hopefully get to New Eden and… safety. Perils and confronts are in abundance and characters along the way remind us how different people respond to crisis. It was a welcome surprise to see Kelly McGillis on screen again and genre favorite Danielle Harris gives a warm, sincere performance. Great scares, SFX and terrific acting make this an unforgettable zombie treat. Jim Mickle is a film maker who continues to rise and do fantastic work. COLD IN JULY and WE ARE WHAT WE ARE are both stunning reminders that we have a distinctive voice who tells great stories in ways you don’t expect.

Sun Choke is available to watch on Shudder from 9 March.

As Janie (Sarah Hagan) recovers from a violent psychotic break, she is subjected to a bizarre holistic health and wellness regimen designed, and enforced, by her lifelong nanny and caretaker (Barbara Crampton). But when she develops an obsession with a stranger, Janie’s buried demons begin to surface.