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Better Know the Alliance: Halloween Horror Questionnaire Part 1

As film critics, we very much appreciate all film genres and during this time of year, many of us enjoy pictures in the horror genre.

In this Better Know the Alliance segment, to be released in three parts leading up to Halloween, Minnesota film critics will share their horror film memories and opinions on the genre full of scary flicks.

In this edition, find out what critics Sean Blanford, Joe Botten, Brian Eggert and Kelly Florence think about the genre.

Sean Blanford

What are some of the horror shows and movies you watched as a kid?

Being someone who watched a lot of Nickelodeon as a child, two that spring to mind are “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” The former being on Nick at Nite at a time that was way past what should have been my bedtime, and the latter being a bit more appropriate for someone my age, both had iconic themes and stories that still resonate with me today.

Being a 90s kid, I was also a fan of the “Goosebumps” series of books and the television series. I am sure at one time I owned every book available…

What was your first R-Rated horror movie?

In theaters it was “The Blair Witch Project.” I was sixteen when it was released in 1999, and I saw it at a time when people still were not sure if it was legit or a hoax.


While it might not be as impressive today as it was when it first came out, there is something to be said about how all involved with the film were able to capture the nation on such a shoestring budget. It is still one of my top ten all-time favorite horror films.

What is your favorite horror sub-genre?

I guess it depends on my mood, but I gravitate more toward psychological thrillers than any other. That being said, I am never one to shy away from a good old-fashioned body horror gore fest.

What horror movies have scared you the most?

Either films that can be based in some sort of realistic setting (Halloween 1978), or ones that have great earned jump scares (Terrifier, It Follows). If it is a jump scare for the sake of being a jump scare and you can count it down until something spooky jumps out of the shadows, I tend to roll my eyes.

If it comes out of nowhere, it will get me every time.

In your time reviewing movies, which horror films do you feel should have received nominations/wins during awards season?

This may end up being a popular choice for many, but the fact that Hereditary was completely ignored is baffling. The production design and cinematography were breathtaking, and Toni Collette’s performance was one of the best of her career.

Joe Botten

What were some horror shows and movies you watched as a kid?

“Alien,” “Poltergeist,” “The Monster Squad,” “Jaws,” “Parasite” (the Demi Moore one!) and “The Lost Boys.”

What was your first R-rated horror movie?

Either “The Exorcist” or “The Shining.” Funny enough, the first time I saw both movies, I didn’t get what the big deal was. Over the years, both have risen to the top of my favorite films (not just horror films)

What is your favorite horror sub-genre (zombie, slasher, etc.)?

Creature Feature – give me a big ‘ole monster movie, and I’m happy!

What horror movies have scared you the most?

“Amityville II: The Possession” has always freaked me out – aside from its general yuck factor, there’s something disturbing about it I never can seem to shake after.

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” will never not be frightening for its realism.


In your time reviewing movies, which horror films do you feel should have received nominations/wins during award season?

How “Last Night in Soho” didn’t get a ton of technical nominations is beyond me. Go watch that movie again, it’s one of the best-made films of that year.

Lili Taylor in “The Conjuring” and Lupita Nyong’o in “Us” were both overlooked in their years.

“Jennifer’s Body” is a film I’m glad to see has gotten a reprieve – Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried are terrific.

Brian Eggert

What were some horror shows and movies you watched as a kid?

Aside from the occasional episode of “Tales from the Crypt” on a free HBO weekend, I didn’t watch many horror TV shows as a kid. But I remember a particularly nightmare-inducing episode of “Tales from the Darkside” from the Christmas season in 1986 when I was four years old.

It was called “Seasons of Belief” and featured two grandparents telling their grandchildren a chilling story about a monster called the Grither Eventually, the Grither’s massive arms reach into the home from outside and strangle the grandparents to death on Christmas, right in front of the children. Looking at the episode now, it’s a bit cheesy looking. But in my four-year-old mind, it was horrifying.

However, there were a few horror movies that I regularly watched as a kid. For example, “Alien” (1979) and “Aliens” (1986) both frightened the bejesus out of me, particularly the sequence in the latter when Hicks sees the xenomorphs crawling above the ceiling tiles. My childhood home had a paneled ceiling like that in our basement, so I often imagined aliens crawling up there.

What was your first R-rated horror movie?

The first one I remember leaving a mark is “Return of the Living Dead Part II” (1988). I was very young, probably six or seven years old, and the movie was playing on television. I don’t remember much about the experience, except one scene: A mother hugs her teenage son, who has become a zombie, and the boy responds by taking a bite out of her skull.

When my childhood brain processed this, it instilled a wariness about hugging my parents. It was only in the last 15 years or so that I revisited the movie and its predecessor, and I realized it’s more absurdist horror than a purely scary experience. Still, the neurosis remains.

What is your favorite horror sub-genre (zombie, slasher, etc.)?

I enjoy zombie movies the most, even though they’re somewhat overdone in today’s post-“The Walking Dead” world. Maybe this goes back to my obsession with looking at the VHS covers of “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) and “Day of the Dead” (1985) at video stores when I was little.

Although I didn’t get to rent them until I was a teen, those images were branded on my brain. However, I did catch the original “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) on late-night TV when I was young, and that continues to be one of the best.


When I got older, my love for zombie movies was solidified by “28 Days Later” (2002), “Shaun of the Dead” (2004), and the remake of “Dawn of the Dead” (2004). And, of course, I eventually fell in love with Romero’s movies. His “Dawn of the Dead” is still one of my all-time favorites.

Even with the oversaturation of zombie TV shows on AMC and Disney (!), not a year goes by without some great or innovative zombie movie demonstrating the subgenre’s versatility. For instance, “Train to Busan” (2016) plays like a blockbuster, “One Cut of the Dead” (2017) is about filmmaking, “The Night Eats the World” (2018) is a study of loneliness, “The Dead Don’t Die” (2019) is a satire, “#Alive” (2020) is about gamer isolation, and “The Sadness” (2021) is just downright unsettling.

As a kid, I probably liked zombie movies for their scares and gore. Today, I appreciate that zombies have limitless metaphoric possibilities.

What horror movies have scared you the most?

When I think of the horror movies that have scared me, I cannot help but think of two horrific first-time watches from my youth.

The movie that frightened me the most was John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982). I first saw this in 1989, when I was eight years old. It was during a family trip to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in the dead of winter.

My parents were scouting a potential family cabin, and we were staying in a small motel—the kind with VHS tapes behind the check-in counter. One night, my parents told me to pick a movie. For reasons I can’t adequately explain, I chose “The Thing.”

So, in a crummy motel room, my family watched Carpenter’s paranoid snowbound gorefest. Admittedly, I wasn’t paying attention at first and distracted myself with my “G.I. JOE” action figures—that is, until the defibrillator sequence.

Then, I realized what was happening onscreen and ran into the bathroom to hide from it. My parents reacted badly, as if blaming their child for his random choice. They paused the movie until I agreed to come out of the bathroom, and then, like a parent forcing a child to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes to teach them a lesson, they forced me to watch the rest of the movie.

Although “The Thing” gave me nightmares for many years, I’ve revisited it countless times, and it continues to be my favorite horror movie.

My experience watching “The Exorcist” (1973) for the first time was also memorably frightening. My then-girlfriend (now wife) and I were watching it on DVD around Halloween, and it was thunder storming outside. Then, when everything is at its loudest and most terrifying during the height of the final exorcism, a bolt of lightning struck the house.

All at once, my TV was zapped dead, a metal sump pump lid flew into the air in the next room and landed with a loud clang, and the power went out. We were both in the dark, frozen in terror. The exorcism scene was scary enough without the lightning.

In your time reviewing movies, which horror films do you feel should have received nominations/wins during award season?

My favorite movie of last year was “Titane.” Despite the provocation and shock value of its subject matter, that film had so much to say about the beauty of difference, gender performativity, and non-normative sexuality. I wish it would have at least received a nomination for Best International Feature. It won the Palme d’Or, after all.

Another one is “Personal Shopper” (2017), a film so subtle and elusive that I think the Academy overlooked director Olivier Assayas’ sophisticated work and Kristen Stewart’s incredible performance. It remains one of my favorite films of the 2010s.

And I’m still pretty annoyed that Elisabeth Moss wasn’t nominated for her performance in “The Invisible Man” (2020).

Kelly Florence

What were some horror shows and movies you watched as a kid?

I grew up watching classic horror movies much younger than my peers! I loved “Frankenstein,” “King Kong,” and “Dracula” and owned my first VHS copy of “Night of the Living Dead” by the time I was six!

What was your first R-rated horror movie

I think the first R-rated horror movie I was “The Shining” but I believe it was an edited for TV version so I’m not sure that counts!

What is your favorite horror sub-genre (zombie, slasher, etc.)?

My favorite sub-genre of horror has to be psychological horror or ghosts. Some of my favorite horror movies include those elements!

What horror movies have scared you the most?

“The Ring” is still up there in my top five scariest movies, and recently “Terrified,” “He’s Watching,” and “Fresh” had some unsettling moments that creeped me out.


In your time reviewing movies, which horror films do you feel should have received nominations/wins during award season

All of them! Not really, but Toni Collette should have been nominated and won best actress for “Hereditary.” Mike Flanagan needs an Oscar and an Emmy for writing and directing his catalogue of work, and Ana Lily Amirpour needs some nominations and awards on her shelves.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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