With the success of Universal’s Ouija franchise, we got to thinking about other board games that would make for great horror movies directed by some of the genre’s biggest names. Parents and guardians, feel free to thank us later.
Tobe Hooper’s Guess Who
Six strangers wake up in a derelict house. Taped to the wall are 24 photographs of people close to each of these six people—four for each person. Above them is a metal grate where they can see a figure dressed all in black, and a chair with a figure draped in a sheet tied to it. The figure in black’s voice drifts down the grate, telling the house’s occupants the rules of the game. All they have to do is guess the characteristics of the person under the sheet and they’ll all be released. It all seems so simple, until the guessing begins. “Does your person have blue eyes?” one of the occupants asks. The figure in black raises up the sheet to check, and the occupants below see quick motions beneath the sheet and then screaming. “Not anymore” the figure in black says, and he tosses two perfectly blue eyes down through the grate. As the game continues, and more facial features begin making their way through the grate the six begin to realize that the hostage may not be someone they know after all, and they may not be the strangers they originally thought they were. You see, the guess who of the game was never the person tied to the chair but the figure in black whose past is tied to the six below.
Tagline: Does this person have a soul?
Clive Barker’s Candyland
For Josie and Allan, it was just another boring Sunday at their grandmother Nutt’s house . . . until they open her candy dish and unwrap an old, yellowed piece of candy and discover a strange language on the inside of the plastic wrapper. The two children read the words together and are transported to the nightmarish Candyland. In order to find their way home they must venture through a landscape where their greatest pleasures may become their undoing. Watch as they enter the Candy Cane Forrest, a pathless maze constructed entirely out of sharpened candy canes and stalked by the ax wielding Mr. Mint. Witness their escape from the boiling hot pits of Molasses Swamp, home of the insatiable Gloppy. Pray they avoid the Licorice Castle where the Lord Licorice binds his victims with Licorice Rope and sucks out their intestines. Dare them not look upon the Cinnabite, a figure comprised entirely of cinnamon who can turn into a cloud of spice and enter the lungs only to shred them. Encounter all of this and more as Josie and Allan make their way through this world and finally arrive at the Candy Castle, where King Kandy will try to drain all the sweetness from their souls and send them back into the world as hopeless husks of human beings charged with bringing about ruination of their reality as they edge closer to adulthood.
Tagline: It’ll tear your jaw apart.
Lars von Trier’s Life
We open with a live birth and we watch the process of being born, for an hour. There’s no dialogue only the sound of breathing and pain. We witness a mother’s joy turn to disillusionment, and finally to hatred as the child is born, bloody and screaming into the world. “Again. I never asked to be born,” a woman’s voice-over says. We move forward and the child is now a teenage girl suffering from a complete disenchantment with the world she was born into. She walks down a sidewalk choked with weeds, hugging her arms to her chest. The people she sees are represented as shadowy stalks. “Everything here hurts.” We watch her go through daily activities in excruciating detail, as she tries to avoid contact with the world around her. Everything she touches causes her pain. We move forward and the girl is now a young woman, her hands gloved but still we see the pain the world causes her. “The nerve endings inside me are strangling me, little serpents punishing me for the sin of being born. So I must pretend I belong here, so perhaps the sin will be a little less.” We watch the young woman attempt to make connections as she makes her way through college, making friends she doesn’t like, friends who look like shadowy stalks and who hug and touch and hurt her in their attempts at love. We move forward and the woman is now in her forties, in a hospital bed surrounded by a husband and children she did not want. “Everything hurts. The sheets, their looks, the hands of these shadowy strangers as they say, ‘Mother, it’ll be okay.’ But they are wrong, it’ll never be okay.” We watch the woman die, laborious and harrowing and the screen goes black. We’re back to the live birth at the beginning of the film. We hear a woman’s voice say, “Again. I never asked to be born.”
Tagline: It Never Ends.
John Carpenter’s Monopoly
In the year 2029, one man known only as the Monopoly Man controls all the property in America which has resulted in a housing and financial crisis that has left most of the population homeless and riddled with leprosy and other disfiguring diseases. One man, Jack Iscariot decides it’s time to take the country back from the wealthy and gathers a group of roamers, homeless drifters who earn food and shelter by acting as personal protection for the countries’ weakest and sickest inhabitants. With his small army gathered, Iscariot yells a battle-cry “Let’s bankrupt the son of a bitch!” and he and his disease-ridden posse head to Texas where the Monopoly Man’s theme-park size manor sits. As they trek across America, this growing army fights its way into wealthy neighborhoods and spreads its diseases and disfigurements while torching their properties. By the time Iscariot and his army reach Texas, they appear as nothing less than monsters, blood spattered, pus flecked, and rotting. The Monopoly Man unleashes an army of his own, mustachioed hitmen in top hats who drive private locomotives equipped with mounted cannons. The battle is gruesome and most of Iscariot’s followers die, but Iscariot manages to get inside the Monopoly Man’s manor. “You betrayed your country, Iscariot!” The Monopoly Man shouts, “We were building a better race of people, the kind of people only a life led in luxury could create.” Iscariot grabs the Monopoly Man by his tie and presses his sore ridden hand against his face. “We’re not people anymore. We’re monsters and you made us this way.” Boils begin emerging over the Monopoly Man’s face. “I’m not alone,” he yells. “I have accounts all over the world. Another will rise to take my place.” “We’ll come for them too. Spread the word. Here, there be monsters.” And with that, Iscariot walks off, leaving the Monopoly Man to suffer in his newfound sickness and place in the world.
Tagline: In the year 2029, America has become morally bankrupt. Spread the word. Spread the disease.
Dario Argento’s Chutes and Ladders
When Tina receives an invitation to a secret rave, she and her three friends, Anna, Gloria, and Rose take a taxi to the address on the invite, which turns out to be an old, abandoned factory. Apprehensive, they get out of taxi anyway, noticing the lights from inside the windows and sound of pulsing music. Before they can change their minds, the taxi pulls away, tires screeching into the night. As the four friends walk up to the doors, a black cat hisses and runs in front of their path. Still they enter the doors and step foot in a giant room of swirling, multi-colored lights and music. “What is this?” Anna asks as all four of them look out upon the dance-floor of white mannequins, each posed in individual dance moves. Tina turns back to the door and tries the handle, but it’s locked. Just as panic sets in, one of the mannequins moves and steps toward them. The girls run across the floor of mannequins to a ladder and climb up it. The mannequin grabs Gloria’s leg but she manages to pull free, kicking the figure down the ladder. The girls take a moment to catch their breaths and plan their next move when they feel a heat rising below them. They look down and see that the entire dance-floor has broken out into flames, the white mannequins blackening in their still dance of death. The girls decide their only way out is up to the roof. As the girls make their ways through the halls of the factory, they become separated. And so ladders in the darkness lead to rooms where they discover the mangled corpses of their friends, and holes in the floor lead to pits filled with snakes. As Tina makes her way to the roof of the building the fire grows higher and the mannequin man inches closer. Tina eventually manages to kick the mannequin down a chute that leads directly to the raging fiery pit below. When she finally reaches the roof, Tina discovers a huddled circle of witches who have been increasing their power through the fiery sacrifices of the girls. Just as the witches move towards her, flames shoot up through the roof, incinerating them. Tina hurriedly moves down the ladder on the side of the collapsing factory, leaping to the bottom as the ladder snaps. Ash-covered and bloody, Tina runs off into the night as the witches’ screams reverberate through the darkness.
Tagline: The only thing more terrifying than the climb is the way down.