Tor.com content by

Joe George

10 Horror Movies That Will Make You Permanently Suspicious of Nature

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, spring is finally hitting its stride. April’s showers are starting to give way to warmer, sunnier weather; the days are getting longer, and everyone’s excited to spend more time outside!

Well, most people, anyway. I don’t like to go outside because when I was nine years old, I watched Jaws and have been terrified of sharks—and by extension, the natural world—ever since. Never mind the fact that I lived in the decidedly freshwater state of Michigan until my mid-twenties and didn’t even see the ocean until moving to North Carolina. Jaws taught me that nature can’t be trusted, and that The Outdoors wasn’t so much great as it was eerie.

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Ranking the Live-Action Versions of Superman’s Supporting Cast

Although Superman first appeared in pages of 1938’s Action Comics #1, no single medium could contain the Last Son of Krypton. Within ten years, the Man of Steel started showing up on toy store shelves, in a radio show, and, of course, on the screen. Since the 1948 Republic Pictures serial Superman starring Kirk Alyn, we have always had a human face to go with the world’s first superhero, a tradition that continues today with Tyler Hoechlin in the new Arrowverse series Superman & Lois.

But while we could discuss the individual merits of the many men who have donned the Man of Tomorrow’s signature red trunks, I’d argue that any Superman adaptation is only as good as its supporting cast. Superman stories live and die by their portrayals of ace reporter Lois Lane, Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen, Daily Planet editor Perry White, and, of course, the diabolic genius Lex Luthor. Instead of ranking the different Clark Kents (Clarks Kent?) and their alter egos, I find it far more interesting to rank the various live-action takes on his supporting cast.

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Let’s Show Some Love for the Ten Best Dads in Superhero TV and Movies

In real life, loving and supportive fathers run the gamut from fun-loving and goofy to serious and insightful, stay-at-home to daily commuters, biological to chosen, cis to trans, happy-go-lucky to dour and moody.

But in superhero stories, dads tend to fall into one of three categories: emotionally distant, actually evil, or dead. Thor’s father Odin and Iron Man’s father Howard Stark both hide their emotions from their children. Batgirl’s father Commissioner Gordon is too busy cleaning up Gotham to notice that his daughter is Batgirl. The respective fathers of Invincible Mark Grayson, all of the Runaways, and Gamora and Nebula either reveal their evil plans in an unwelcome surprise or taunt their kids with their twisted philosophies. The fathers of the three most iconic superheroes, Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man? They’re all dead.

So it’s pretty exciting when a superhero story not only gives us dads who are alive and not evil but are actually pretty good at being dads. Bucking the trend, some superdads are present for their kids, supportive, and emotionally available.

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Before Jigsaw, Vincent Price Was Horror’s Evil Genius

After four years, Saw returns to the big screen this week with Spiral: From the Book of Saw. Although the franchise doesn’t quite command the same excitement that it did during its 2000s heyday, when moviegoers flocked to cinemas every October to watch the new entry, it remains to be seen whether audiences are anxious to see what stars Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson can bring to the famously low-budget series.

Although fans certainly love Saw movies for their gory death traps and their soap-opera plotting, the franchise’s true greatest asset is its primary villain, John Kramer, the Jigsaw killer. Played by Tobin Bell with an intensity that belies his sleepy features, Kramer is a consummate evil genius. A brilliant engineer who learns to cherish life only after his cancer diagnosis (or a failed suicide attempt, or the death of his unborn child, or his divorce… the story changes a lot), Kramer tortures those he considers ungrateful in order to force them to appreciate their lives. Before the victims participate in his deadly traps, Kramer first subjects them to moralizing monologues, in which he explains why he has chosen the victim and how the torture will help them.

As much as the series’ detractors dismiss the Saw franchise as ushering in the era of torture porn, arguably the nadir of horror cinema, its roots go back to one of the true titans of the genre: Vincent Price.

[Read more]

Ten Horror Movies That Will Make You Permanently Suspicious of the Great Outdoors

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, spring is finally hitting its stride. April’s showers are starting to give way to warmer, sunnier weather; the days are getting longer, and everyone’s excited to spend more time outside!

Well, most people, anyway. I don’t like to go outside because when I was nine years old, I watched Jaws and have been terrified of sharks—and by extension, the natural world—ever since. Never mind the fact that I lived in the decidedly freshwater state of Michigan until my mid-twenties and didn’t even see the ocean until moving to North Carolina. Jaws taught me that nature can’t be trusted, and that The Outdoors wasn’t so much great as it was eerie.

[Read more]

Ranking the Live-Action Members of Superman’s Supporting Cast

Although Superman first appeared in pages of 1938’s Action Comics #1, no single medium could contain the Last Son of Krypton. Within ten years, the Man of Steel started showing up on toy store shelves, in a radio show, and, of course, on the screen. Since the 1948 Republic Pictures serial Superman starring Kirk Alyn, we have always had a human face to go with the world’s first superhero, a tradition that continues today with Tyler Hoechlin in the new Arrowverse series Superman & Lois.

But while we could discuss the individual merits of the many men who have donned the Man of Tomorrow’s signature red trunks, I’d argue that any Superman adaptation is only as good as its supporting cast. Superman stories live and die by their portrayals of ace reporter Lois Lane, Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen, Daily Planet editor Perry White, and, of course, the diabolic genius Lex Luthor. Instead of ranking the different Clark Kents (Clarks Kent?) and their alter egos, I find it far more interesting to rank the various live-action takes on his supporting cast.

[Read more]

Ten of the Best Recent Horror and Sci-Fi Movies to Stream Right Now

2020 was a weird year for movies: closed theaters, no Marvel movies, and the new Bond movie and The Fast and the Furious sequel pushed to 2021.

But limitations on theater attendance not only pushed studios to experiment with their releases, but also allowed some smaller genre movies to attract attention that usually would have been taken by blockbuster franchise films. In other words, 2020 made room for some great new genre movies, and gave viewers more of an opportunity to watch them.

Here are ten of the best sci-fi and horror movies of 2020 (in no particular order), all of which you can watch right now.

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Slashing Through the Snow: Ranking the Killer Santa Movies

Look, 2020 has been a horror show for many of us. There’s not one part of the past year that hasn’t been tainted by the pandemic, politics, anxiety, and unrest, so it’s understandable if the holidays feel a little off this year. Maybe this is the season to embrace our discontent with some good old-fashioned cathartic chaos…in the form of old Kris Kringle himself?

[There’s something special about the odd subgenre of killer Santa movies…]

6 Perfect Episodes of MST3K to Help You Really Just Relax

Imagine this: a person stuck inside, all alone with nothing to do but watch movies (while occasionally receiving confusing and misleading reports from the people who are ostensibly in charge). That might seem to describe most people in the world right now, but it’s actually about the future. The not-too-distant future, in fact…

It is, of course, the premise of the cult TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000, the show in which robots Cambot, Gypsy, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot join a human host to make fun of terrible movies. Inspired by the 1972 Douglass Trumbull film Silent Running, series creator and original host Joel Hodgson created a joyful, scrappy celebration of humor and comedy in the face of loneliness and powerlessness. Even as the series changed channels, casts, and hosts over the years, that basic hopeful message remained consistent: Even in the direst situations, you can try to keep your sanity with the help of your (synthetic, if necessary) friends.

For that reason, MST3K is the ideal comfort watch for times such as these, when we’re all scared, stuck, and alone, together.

[Read more]

Ten Stylish Sci-Fi Films to Watch This Noir-vember

When most movie fans hear the words “film noir,” they probably think of movies from the genre’s classic period in the 1940s and ’50s: Humphrey Bogart as a ragged gumshoe in The Maltese Falcon (1941), Barbara Stanwyck’s femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson descending the stairs in Double Indemnity (1944), or James Cagney on the top of the world in White Heat (1949).

But noir isn’t limited to a single time period, nor is it only about crime stories. Films noir, aka “dark movies,” continue to be made, with noir themes and style filtered through a variety of genres, including science fiction. 1982’s Blade Runner is, of course, the most obvious example of this melding and a mainstay on any film fan’s list, but sci-fi noir goes far beyond Ridley Scott’s classic.

Here are ten more films for sci-fi fans to watch during Noirvember…

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Ten International Horror Movies to Stream This Halloween

Halloween might have roots in Ireland and other Celtic territories, but for many, it is a thoroughly American holiday, celebrated by watching scary movies—generally English language, Hollywood horror. Every year brings new offerings to go with old classics, slasher films, and cult favorites, but focusing only on U.S. films misses the rich vein of horror being mined all around the world.

Here are ten recent movies (all currently available to stream online) to watch if you want to add international flair to your spooky season.

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Grading the Best Time Travel Movies Ever Made

Shortly after the release of Bill and Ted Face the Music, Ed Solomon (who co-wrote the film with Chris Matheson) responded to a dismissal of the movie’s science by tagging quantum physicist Spiros Michalakis for confirmation that his portrayal of time travel checked out.

While Solomon found the exchange funny, in a Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall sort of way, it does raise a question: Does good time travel science make for a good time travel movie? While there are certainly hard science fans out there, and scientific discovery has always opened up storytelling possibilities, we don’t always place that demand on other types of stories. We don’t generally criticize superhero movies for failing to explain how the heroes’ powers work, for example. Explaining the Force in terms of microscopic living beings didn’t make Star Wars better.

Still, the question persists for time travel movies. So I’m going to solve it, once and for all.

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How Superheroes Help Us Imagine a World Without Police

As people across the country grow increasingly aware of police brutality, systemic racism, and abuses of power, we’re hearing calls to abolish the police. To be sure, there is some disagreement about what that statement means, ranging from reduced funding and increased oversight to literal abolition. But more and more people are reassessing the need for the kind of modern, militarized police force that has resulted in so much violence and death in communities across the U.S.

For some, it’s hard to imagine a world without a police force. Even if they’re sympathetic to the idea, many have questions: Who will solve crimes? Who will stop criminals? Who will keep us safe?

Those questions require complex answers. People much smarter than me are offering those answers, working hard to provide the first steps to systemic change, but for the moment, I can address the issue of imagination.

While a world without police might seem unimaginable, we actually imagine alternatives to familiar forms of law enforcement all the time, in the form of superheroes. There are some exceptions, but almost every superhero is a private citizen who protects the community by solving and stopping crimes.

[Read more]

Five Lessons from the Star Trek Mirror Universe That We Need Now More Than Ever

Some days, it feels like we’re living in an alternate reality. It’s like we’ve slipped through some mysterious portal and ended up in a world where powerful governments fumble pandemic responses. A world where demagogues make moral arguments that place profits over people. A world more cruel than the one we thought we knew.

Alternate realities have always been constant in genre storytelling, from Thomas More’s Utopia to the DC Universe’s Earth 3. These stories let us examine our fundamental beliefs in a new and unfamiliar context, to test the character of our heroes in radically different situations. For that reason, the Mirror Universe of the Star Trek franchise remains one of the most compelling alternate reality conceits.

[Read more]

Six Perfect Episodes of MST3K to Help You Really Just Relax

Imagine this: a person stuck inside, all alone with nothing to do but watch movies (while occasionally receiving confusing and misleading reports from the people who are ostensibly in charge). That might seem to describe most people in the world right now, but it’s actually about the future. The not-too-distant future, in fact…

It is, of course, the premise of the cult TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000, the show in which robots Cambot, Gypsy, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot join a human host to make fun of terrible movies. Inspired by the 1972 Douglass Trumbull film Silent Running, series creator and original host Joel Hodgson created a joyful, scrappy celebration of humor and comedy in the face of loneliness and powerlessness. Even as the series changed channels, casts, and hosts over the years, that basic hopeful message remained consistent: Even in the direst situations, you can try to keep your sanity with the help of your (synthetic, if necessary) friends.

For that reason, MST3K is the ideal comfort watch for times such as these, when we’re all scared, stuck, and alone, together.

[Read more]

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