THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – BLACKEYED SUSAN’S “ELECTRIC RATTLEBONE”

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

BLACKEYED SUSAN – ELECTRIC RATTLEBONE (1991)

Due in large part to the fact that I wasn’t much of a fan of Britny Fox beyond the song and video for “Girlschool”, I don’t see it as unreasonable that I never bothered checking out singer “Dizzy” Dean Davidson’s new band Blackeyed Susan after he left Britny Fox.

However, seeing as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the Blackeyed Susan’s debut album Electric Rattlebone, I thought it would be the perfect time to at least give the music a chance.

And I have to say, I really am quite surprised to find just how much I loved the album! While Britny Fox was squarely in the glam rock side of the 80’s rock era, Davidson took Blackeyed Susan into a more blues rock driven sound and style. This choice, even three decades after the fact, turned out to be the right one in terms of getting me to enjoy what I was hearing.

If you didn’t know that the music was going to be bluesy hard rock before listening to the album, the brief title track that opens up side one of the album clues you in pretty quickly. That song bleeds into “Satisfaction” which is a fast moving rocker with a real catchy vibe to it. It didn’t take that long for me to find myself humming along to the song’s chorus.

The song “Sympathy” brings that bluesier sound even more to the forefront and gives you one of the album’s best tracks. The “Old Lady Snow” song has a great sound to it as well, with a rocking tempo and a perfectly cast female backing vocalists that helps enhance the vocals for the track. You can chalk this up as another of the album’s highlights.

And given that this was 1991 and the power ballad was still a necessary evil for any rock band to include, you have a song like “Ride With Me”. But with this particular song, I thought the songwriting bypassed being overly emotionally manipulative. Sure it is sentimental, but not in a sappy kind of way. This actually worked to give the song a bit more gravitas in my mind.

The side-closing “Don’t Bring Me Down” is a power rocking track. It’s not quite as fast moving as a couple of the other songs on Side One (at the start anyway) but it definitely doesn’t lack in the rock right in your face department.

The second side of the album opens with “Indica”, a brief instrumental with a Middle Eastern sound from the use of a sitar. I can’t say it did much for me, but it certainly does serve as a table setter for the rest of Side Two.

While I didn’t think much of the instrumental, I loved “She’s So Fine”, another great rocking anthem for the band. The song “How Long” is slower in pace but is no less effective as it goes for a heavily blues flavored down and dirty vibe.

The album closes out on a very high note with the songs “Holiday” and “Heart Of The City”. Both tracks have a rocking intensity that leaves you wanting more. The latter song is an ode to the city of Philadelphia but the lyrical sentiments could work for anyone that has an attachment to their own hometown.

My relative disinterest in Britny Fox left me on the outside looking in when it came to Blackeyed Susan. It is safe to say that I just assumed the music would be the same thing as Britny Fox. For that, I definitely made an ass of myself. Thirty years later, I found myself rocking out to music that freely admit that I should have discovered long before now. However, now that I’m finally on board I can honestly say that I’m glad to find out that Electric Rattlebone is an excitingly energetic slice of driving blues rock that I hope to keep playing many times over!

NOTES OF INTEREST: While I really like the album now, Electric Rattlebone did not catch on with the music world at the time it was released. It was branded a commercial failure and the band’s record label pulled support for the band while it was on tour for the album.

The ballad “Best Of Friends” is dedicated to original Britny Fox drummer Tony “Stix” Destra, who was killed in a car accident in 1987.

The only other release that I saw listed for the band came in 1992. According to Wikipedia, it was a self-released demo called Just A Taste.

Guitarist Rick Criniti had been Cinderella’s keyboardist before joining Blackeyed Susan. But he left Blackeyed Susan midway through the tour. I’m not sure of the timing, but I’m guessing his departure came BEFORE the label pulled the band’s support.

Magazine advertisement for Blackeyed Susan’s Electric Rattlebone

FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – “ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ” (1979)

On the final Friday of every month in 2021, Limelight Magazine spotlights the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films and TV shows. Today we spotlight some of the filming locations for Escape From Alcatraz (1979), which starred Clint Eastwood and was directed by Don Siegel. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the movie while the photo underneath it is what the location looks like when I visited in September 2014. There were renovations taking place on Alcatraz Island at this time so I did my best to get the shots to align.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – ELECTRIC BOYS’ ‘GROOVUS MAXIMUS’

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

ELECTRIC BOYS – GROOVUS MAXIMUS (1992)

When it came time to start putting together this article you are now reading, I originally thought I was going to be writing an opening that talked about how I had never heard anything from the Swedish rockers Electric Boys.

And that’s why it is always good to do research. As it turns out, while I’m sure that I haven’t heard much from the band before listening to this second album from the band, I had actually heard the one song that they are probably most remembered for. On their debut album Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride, they had the song “All Lips N’ Hips”. I wasn’t sure that I remembered the song but one quick trip to Youtube and I remembered the song (if not the actual video for it). It’s a huge sounding prime cut of 80’s metal with a big chorus and a great overall inviting soundtrack.

That said, while I probably have mostly heard that song via Dee Snider’s radio show The House of Hair, it did bring me back to when the song would’ve been originally released and I liked that metaphorical trip back through time.

I may not have heard anything else from the band, but when I pulled the group’s second album Groovus Maximus out of ‘The Big Box of Cassettes’, I was game to see what I might discover for myself. Of course, this would be one of the rare occasions where the cassette involved would be playing for the first time. Yes, the cassette was still in its original wrapping. It was apparently bought from a Strawberries record store back in the day for the whopping price of $9.99.

The Electric Boys had kind of a hybrid sound, where they crossed their hard rock inclinations with a heaping helping of funk mixed in. It’s a sound that for the most part worked in their favor on this album.

The album opened with the title cut, the first of five straight fast moving rocker type tracks on Side One. The title track has what should be an expected great rhythmic feel to it. The vocals from Conny Bloom (who wrote all the songs on the album) grab you from the start and the song’s one line chorus is an immediate earworm.

The songs “Knee Deep In You” and “The Sky Is Crying” are superb offerings. Meanwhile, there seems to be a slightly grittier tone to the vocals on “Fire In The House”, a song that is definitely more metal than funk driven.

The song “Mary In The Mystery World” starts out with a misleadingly slow intro before the song then bursts out of the speakers in a cacophonous explosion of noisy rock and roll. The main lyrical verses to the song are a bit slower in delivery but the chorus moves quite a bit more lively. I was struck by just how much of a Cheap Trick vibe I got off of the song.

The last track on the first side of the album is the not quite a ballad song “Bed of Roses”. It is near enough to that song style but it does have a bit more of a pulse in terms of tempo. Unfortunately, the song didn’t quite fully endear itself to me.

So for the most part I enjoyed the first side of Groovus Maximus. I had great expectations when I flipped over the cassette for side two and initially that hope for greatness was rewarded.

The opening song of Side Two is the powerfully rocking track “She’s Into Something Heavy”. The album is kicked up another notch on “Bad Motherfunker” which has an incredible serving of guitar work, including a solo that I enjoyed quite a bit.

But I really had trouble getting into the pretty standard power ballad “Dying To Be Loved”. And while they are both somewhat frenetic rock songs, “When Love Explodes” and “Tambourine” were pedestrian tracks at best.

I will say that Groovus Maximus closes out on a high note though. “Tear It Up” is an all attitude song with a fantastic sound to it. I loved the second verse in the song, even though if they tried to put that into a song in today’s climate, they’d likely get a bunch of crap thrown at them.

The last song is an instrumental called “March of the Spirits”. I freely admit that I have my ups and downs when it comes to instrumental music at times but this cut was actually quite good and I would definitely recommend it.

As I researched the album, I learned that Groovus Maximus did not live up to label expectations when it was released. Of course, given that the release came as the grunge sound was taking over music, I don’t think anyone should’ve been surprised that this album didn’t set the sales chart ablaze. And while I do think the second side of the album is a bit of a letdown, overall I can’t help but say that I really enjoyed giving Electric Boys a full first deep listen. The band has a really good sound that appealed to me right off as I played the cassette. I definitely missed the boat on them the first time around but I’m glad that I am on board now.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Electric Boys split up in 1994 but got back together in 2009 and are still active to this day. Their seventh overall studio album is set to be released sometime in 2021 and will be called Ups!de Down.

During the time the band was on hiatus, singer Conny Bloom and bassist Andy Christell spent some time as members of Hanoi Rocks.

Magazine advertisement for Electric Boys’ Groovus Maximus

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – ALDO NOVA’S ‘BLOOD ON THE BRICKS’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

ALDO NOVA – BLOOD ON THE BRICKS (1991)

I don’t think it is that much of a shock to most music lovers that when you think of Aldo Nova, that thought likely begins and then ends pretty quickly with the hit song “Fantasy” from his self-titled debut album. It’s maybe a little unfair to sum up his career that way, but it isn’t exactly totally inaccurate either.

I have to put myself in this particular category as well. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any other song from Nova until I pulled this album out of The Big Box of Cassettes to write this article.

But for all the prior lack of knowledge about Nova’s music, I can’t help but think that I really missed out by not having listened to Blood On The Bricks before now. The fact that this is the 30th anniversary of the album’s release makes it a perfect time to finally listen to it, I’d say.

The album contains a number of highly charged rockers, full of amped up guitar rock with keyboards adding depth to the overall sound. Throw in a couple of ballads that don’t make you want to puncture your ear drums and it turns out you have quite the overlooked album.

Blood On The Bricks opens up with the title track and it does the intended job of getting things going with a kinetic burst of energy. The song moves pretty fast, with melody aplenty. The song is pretty darn catchy too. It’s a perfect kind of single for the time of the album’s initial release.

The next couple of tracks on the first side of the tape are also full on rock and roll numbers. “Medicine Man” was the third of three singles released from the album and it’s damn good as well. But I really liked “Bang Bang” a whole lot too. It may not have the most original title but the actual song itself was just…COOL!

I mentioned that the album has a couple of power ballads. The song on Side One is called “Someday”. It was the second single released from the album. While it didn’t really make much noise on the singles chart, I thought it was a decent enough track. I was a bit surprised to find that I didn’t really get into the song “Young Love” all that much. It’s an okay sounding rocker (co-written by Bryan Adams collaborator Jim Vallance) but it just didn’t really do much to differentiate itself to me.

When you flip the tape over to Side Two, you get treated to another solidly rocking opening track in “Modern World”. Of the ten songs on the album, it is one of my favorites. There’s a great feeling of aggressively melodic rock and roll that helps sell the song to you.

While “This Ain’t Love” was a bit disappointing to me, the second power ballad, “Hey Ronnie (Veronica’s Song)”, more than made up for it. “Someday” was decent but this one found me really enjoying the fullness of the track each time I listened to it.

Blood On The Bricks closes out with a couple of straight on rockers. I thought “Touch of Madness” was decent but Aldo Nova definitely saved the best for the very last number on the album. The song “Bright Lights” is over six minutes long and it is an astoundingly great song! It is simply my favorite song on the album and I would definitely say that for me, I like it even better than “Fantasy”. If that’s a blasphemous statement for fans of Nova, so be it.

I’m definitely one of those people who would only think of the song “Fantasy” if someone had asked me anything about Aldo Nova. But after listening to Blood On The Bricks, it has become quite clear that there is a lot more to discover about the artist and this album is the definitive proof of that newfound belief.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album was produced by Jon Bon Jovi and features Randy Jackson (the former American Idol judge) on bass. The Japanese edition of the album contains the bonus track “Dance of the Dead”. This was the first album in six years, the fourth overall album in the Aldo Nova’s discography. According to his Wikipedia page, three more albums (for a total of seven) have been released.

Kenny Aronoff, who spent 16 plus years recording and touring with John Mellencamp, performed all the drum tracks on Blood On The Bricks. Aronoff has had a lengthy and varied career having performed or recorded with everyone from Tony Iommi, Melissa Etheridge (the only time I’ve actually seen him perform live), Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mick Jagger and many more.

Aldo Nova has collaborated with a number of notable artists as a writer and producer. The biggest name among these is undoubtedly Celine Dion.

Magazine advertisement for Aldo Nova’s Blood on the Bricks

FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – “COMA” (1978)

On the final Friday of every month in 2021, Limelight Magazine spotlights the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films and TV shows. Today we spotlight some of the filming locations for Coma (1978), which was directed by Michael Crichton. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the movie while the photo underneath it is what the location looks like when I visited in November 2020.

The filming locations for those featured below were taken at the following addresses:

Photo 1: This is currently Boston Medical Center, located at 39 Worcester Square in Boston, MA.

Photos 2-4: The building used for the Jefferson Institute is located at 191 Spring Street in Lexington, MA. It is currently the offices of Mimecast and formerly Xerox.

The Cassette Chronicles – XYZ’s ‘Hungry’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

XYZ – HUNGRY (1991)

Like many, I first became aware of XYZ when their self-titled debut album was released in 1989. I remember seeing a magazine trade ad for the album and I was intrigued. After all in 1989, I was 18 and in my glory as a rock and metal fan.

That magazine ad stuck with me because I could swear that I remember seeing not only that Don Dokken had produced the album but that Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan being credited in the ad as having a hand in the production as well. But that appears not to be the case since it is just Dokken that got the credits. I’m guessing that it must be my faulty memory playing another trick on me.

I guess that I liked the album well enough, but the band didn’t really stick with me that much and they kind of faded from my playlist at the time. I know that the album disappeared from my collection as well. So it probably isn’t much of a surprise that I never bought the Hungry album.

I don’t even remember hearing the single release “Face Down In The Gutter” when the album got its 1991 release. I know now that there is a video for the song but I didn’t see that either. Apparently it didn’t get a lot of play on MTV at the time because of some controversy about the way women in the video were dressed.

When I pulled the Hungry album out of The Big Box of Cassettes, I was intrigued that I’d now discover what the band had to offer me in the album’s 30th anniversary year. And I’ve got to say that I came away pretty darn pleased!

The single is the opening song on the album and it’s got a fast paced rocking style. Overall, it is just a great sounding track and has a pretty catchy and memorable chorus. I liked it immediately.

Even more impressive to me was “Don’t Say No”. Like most of the songs on Hungry, it’s got an in your face aggressively rocking feel to it, but at the same time has a fantastic hook and great melodies. I’ve got to say that I really loved the guitar work from guitarist Marc Diglio. And though I’m sure it’s well established that Terry Ilous is a damn good singer, it is here that I really came to appreciate that fact for myself.

When it comes to cover songs, I’m both picky and fickle about what makes a good cover. And there are some bands that I don’t feel should be covered by anyone because you simply can’t do the original songs justice no matter how hard you try. One of those bands is Free. There’s just something about their music that defies replication in my mind. I don’t know why I feel that way but it also extends to Bad Company and I’m guessing part of the reason may be that I’m so loyal to the vocals of Paul Rodgers. However, I came away highly impressed with XYZ’s cover of “Fire And Water”, the title track of Free’s third album. It may not be exactly like the original but I thought this version really worked well.

The rest of Side One of the album is just as impressive with the songs “When The Night Comes Down”, “Off To The Sun” and the side closing “Feels Good”. That last song pretty much sums up how I felt after listening to the first side and spoiler alert…the album as a whole.

Side Two breaks through from the start with “Shake Down The Walls”. It’s got a rocking immediacy to it and I can just imagine being in the audience at a show and just pumping my fist in the air to this track.

You’ll note that as yet I’ve not described any song with the dreaded “power ballad” term. That ends quickly on Side Two with the song “When I Find Love”. While I’ve found some ballads in recent albums that I’ve actually enjoyed, this song will not be joining the list. While it checks all the expected boxes for a power ballad to be successful, it just seemed to set my teeth on edge.

The song “H.H. Boogie” is flat out awesome and a great showcase for Marc Diglio. There’s a swinging feel to the song’s tempo and everything about this song made me want to hear it over and over again. The band gets even more aggressively paced on the song “The Sun Also Rises In Hell”. The song really got my blood pumping as the band as a whole combined to put on a fantastic performance with this track. I love just how hard-edged the song sounds and along with “H.H. Boogie”, is among my favorite cuts on the album.

Hungry closes out on a continued roll with the songs “A Roll Of The Dice” and “Whiskey On A Heartache”. The two tracks are both rockers and continue to demonstrate that while I may have taken until this release marked its 30th anniversary to “discover” it, better late than never is definitely true.

Seriously, this album is a superbly entertaining release and I know that if the band ever returns to my area whenever lives concerts return, I’m going to be in the audience…fists pumping in belated but fervent fandom!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Hungry album failed to chart when it was released and led to the departure of guitarist Marc Diglio and drummer Paul Monroe. The band recruited new members Tony Marcus and Joey Shapiro for the tour and they are still in the current lineup today.

Personally, I thought the album cover art was a bit cartoonishly silly but I loved the “warning” in the liner notes saying that the recording may contain subliminal messages. The CD release of the album contains the bonus track “Two Wrongs Can Make A Right”. It isn’t on the cassette

Musician Jeff Paris co-wrote three of the songs on the album as well as co-arranged the band’s cover of “Fire And Water”. Over the course of his career he has written songs with and/or for Y&T, Lita Ford, Mr. Big and Vixen and others. He’s sometimes credited as Geoffrey Leib. Paris has released six solo albums as well.

Magazine advertisement for XYZs “Hungry.”

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – TOTO’S ‘ISOLATION’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

(WRITER’S NOTE: Welcome to the fifth year of The Cassette Chronicles. Thanks for continuing to read the articles in this series. Just a reminder that for the first six months of 2021, The Cassette Chronicles will be on a twice monthly schedule instead of the usual weekly one.)

TOTO – ISOLATION (1984)

In the interest of full disclosure, the only reason I bought the Isolation album oh so many years ago was on the basis of the lead single “Stranger In Town”. The song became a Top 30 hit but the problem with that is that two years after the Toto IV album, both the band and record label had far greater expectations for the song and album as a whole.

The song has a really catchy pop single feel to it and a lively guitar track as well. And since I was 13 years old at the time, the lyric containing the phrase “son of a bitch” was kind of forbidden fruit for some reason. No, I make no claims to being a great thinker at the time!

What I do remember about the album from when I originally listened to it is that I didn’t really care for the rest of the album. It was all about “Stranger In Town” for me and none of the other songs registered with me like that one did. I can’t even say if I’ve ever listened to the album in the decades since it was originally put out. So as I started listening to the album for this piece, I was surprised to find the first side rather entertaining. Funny how time and growing as a music fan alters opinions, eh?

The first four tracks, including “Stranger In Town” are fast paced rocking type songs. While the side ending “How Does It Feel” is more of a ballad and was released as a single, it didn’t make a dent in the charts. As for the songs “Carmen”, “Lion” and “Angel Don’t Cry”, each track might’ve lacked the pop chart bonafides, but they turned out to be perfect “album tracks”. Strong vocals combined with flashy guitar work and amplified keyboards made for a propulsive musical soundtrack.

The album featured three different people tackling the lead vocals. Fergie Frederiksen was the newest member of the lineup after the firing of singer Bobby Kimball (though Kimball is credited with providing “additional backing vocals” in the liner notes). Frederiksen sang lead on seven of Isolation’s tracks. Guitarist Steve Lukather was the lead on “How Does It Feel” and keyboardist David Paich sang lead on the “Stranger In Town” and “Holyanna” songs. He also sang co-lead vocals on the album opening “Carmen”.

The album’s second side started off with with “Endless”. This song was apparently the band’s choice for the first single but they got overruled by the record label. Still, it’s not a bad song and did eventually get released as a single in the UK in 1985.

The album’s title track is a bit more restrained in tempo at the start but the pace soon picks up. And it does pack in a strong guitar sound with a brief but effective solo too. “Mr. Friendly” was a vibrant little number that comes off to me as one of the stronger overall tracks on the album.

I really got into “Change of Heart”, which is driven by David Paich’s keyboards and the song has an uptempo and epic feel to it. I was also captivated by “Holyanna” which has not only a great musical sound but an interesting story in the lyrics as well.

As I said, when this album was first released, I bought it but found myself essentially uninterested in any of the songs other than “Stranger In Town”. But now that I’ve listened to this as a far better formed music fan, I can see that there was quite a few tracks that I should’ve enjoyed the last three plus decades or so. I didn’t know anything of the behind the scenes upheaval that seems to have affected the creation of the music at the time but whatever the reasons for the relative failure of the album’s commercial fortunes may be, I think Toto fans might just have to give Isolation a new evaluation. They just might find themselves as surprised as I was to see just what they may have missed the first time around.

NOTES OF INTEREST: While the Isolation album did eventually achieve gold status in the US, the prevailing school of thought was that the album was a commercial failure. Compounding matters further was the financially disastrous tour in support of the album. Rock Candy Records released a remastered edition of the album in 2015. It’s one of seven remasters the label has done with the band’s back catalog.

Besides the Isolation album, Toto was working on the soundtrack for the movie Dune. That album was also released in 1984. The first attempt at the cover art for Isolation was designed by the movie’s director David Lynch, but it wasn’t used.

The video for “Stranger In Town” featured actor Brad Dourif, who has had a lengthy career in TV and film. Some of his best known work includes One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Dune and Blue Velvet. He also played “Grima Wormtongue” in the Lord of the Rings film series. He also provided the voice of the murderous doll in the Chucky (a.k.a. Child’s Play) horror films. His TV work includes guest stints on Star Trek: Voyager, Babylon 5 and a co-starring role on Deadwood.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE’S TOP 15 FILMS OF 2020

Every year, I set a goal to see at least 100 films in a theatrical setting. Prior to the start of the pandemic, I saw 23 films and was well on my way to achieving my goal. However, when movie theaters were forced to close and screens went dark in mid-March, it was clear that my goal would not be met this year.

While I was fortunate that drive-ins and movie theaters reopened in a limited capacity in the region where I live during the summer, this was the first year I resorted to online streaming to see fresh content when a film wasn’t available on physical media.

As a result, I concluded the year by seeing 46 films in theatrical setting and approximately 250 more on physical media or streaming. While my year end list is always diverse from all genres, my favorite films are all horror related this year.

As with any list, I have not viewed every film released in 2020, but these were the 15 that stood out above the rest. Unlike my top 10 albums list of 2020 where I reviewed each one, I am only including the film’s synopsis below. I hate spoilers and trailers that give everything away and I firmly believe not knowing too much is the best way to view most of these gems.

For those who are interested, you can also view my favorite horror films of 2020 on our Letterboxd account. So far, we ranked our favorite 46 films. This wasn’t easy to do as every film on this list is solid from start to finish. Click HERE to view the list.

Disclaimer: This list is based on films I’ve seen as of Dec. 30, 2020. It could be adjusted in the future as I view other films from 2020 in early 2021.

  1. Synchronic (Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead)

SYNOPSIS: Two New Orleans paramedics’ lives are ripped apart after encountering a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects.

2. 1BR (Directed by David Marmor)

SYNOPSIS: When Sarah lucks into a sweet one-bedroom at Asilo Del Mar Apartments in Los Angeles, she think she’s hit the jackpot. It’s got plenty of space, friendly tenants, group BBQs and even a cute neighbour next door. All is not what it seems: loud noises start keeping her awake at night; her cat is missing; everyone seems to be a little too helpful and friendly, except for the weirdo, Lester. Soon, Sarah learns she didn’t choose this apartment — it chose her.

3. The Lodge (Directed by Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala)

SYNOPSIS: A soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place.

4. Hunter Hunter (Directed by Shawn Linden)

SYNOPSIS: Joseph and his family live in the remote wilderness as fur trappers but their tranquility starts to be threatened when they think are being hunted by the return of a rogue wolf and Joseph leaves them behind to track it.

5. Run (Directed by Aneesh Chaganty)

SYNOPSIS: Chloe, a teenager who is confined to a wheelchair, is home schooled by her mother, However, her mother’s strange behavior doesn’t go unnoticed and when Chloe pries into some private papers, she discovers a Change of Name Certificate document with her mother’s name, Diane Sherman, on it. When Chloe googles “Diane Sherman,” the internet suddenly disconnects. Chloe becomes suspicious of all that her mother does, suspecting her of something sinister. She decides to go on the run in her wheelchair in a desperate attempt to get away from her.

6. Darkness (a.k.a. Buio) (Directed by Emanuela Rossi)

SYNOPSIS: It’s the story of Stella, a young girl living with her father and two little sisters in an isolated house with bolted windows. Because of a solar explosion occurred years before, the man is the only one able to get out of the house. But his version of the truth seems to hide a huge lie.

7. Zombi Child (Directed by Bertrand Bonello)

SYNOPSIS: Haiti, 1962: A man is brought back from the dead only to be sent to the living hell of the sugarcane fields. In Paris, 55 years later, at the prestigious Légion d’honneur boarding school, a Haitian girl confesses an old family secret to a group of new friends – never imagining that this strange tale will convince a heartbroken classmate to do the unthinkable.

8. Possessor (Directed by Brandon Cronenberg)

SYNOPSIS: Tasya Vos, an elite corporate assassin, uses brain-implant technology to take control of other people’s bodies to terminate high profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment, Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her.

9. Anything for Jackson (Directed by Justin G. Dyck)

10. A Good Woman Is Hard To Find (Directed by Abner Pastoll)

SYNOPSIS: The recently widowed mother of two, Sarah, is desperate to know who murdered her husband in front of her young son, rendering him mute. Coerced into helping a low-life drug dealer stash narcotics stolen from the local Mr. Big, she’s forced into taking drastic action to protect her children, evolving from downtrodden submissive to take-charge vigilante.

11. Alone (Directed by John Hyams)

SYNOPSIS: A recently widowed traveler is kidnapped by a cold blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in on her.

12. Unhinged (Directed by Derrick Borte)

SYNOPSIS: A divorced mother honks impatiently at a deranged middle-aged stranger at a red light while running late on her way to work. His road rage escalates to horrifyingly psychotic proportions as he becomes single-mindedly determined to teach her a deadly lesson for provoking him.

13. Becky (Directed by Cary Murnion & Jonathan Miliott)

SYNOPSIS: A teenager’s weekend at a lake house with her father takes a turn for the worse when a group of convicts wreaks havoc on their lives.

14. Swallow (Directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis)

SYNOPSIS: Hunter, a newly pregnant housewife, finds herself increasingly compelled to consume dangerous objects. As her husband and his family tighten their control over her life, she must confront the dark secret behind her new obsession.

15. Host (Directed by Rob Savage)

SYNOPSIS: Six friends hire a medium to hold a séance via Zoom during lockdown — but they get far more than they bargained for as things quickly go wrong. When an evil spirit starts invading their homes, they begin to realize they might not survive the night.

FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – 2020 RECAP

On the second and fourth Friday of every month throughout 2020, Limelight Magazine spotlighted the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films and TV shows. As you can see, we visited a lot of places across the country over the years. Here is a recap of all the locations we featured this year. Click on the name of the movie or TV show to see each of them.  

1 HOUSE (1985)

2 MAUSOLEUM (1983)

3 LOOKER (1981)

4 THE BLOB (1958)

5 FRIDAY THE 13th (1980)

6 PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)

7 WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962)

8 MOMMIE DEAREST (1981)

9 DEATH WISH 2 (1982)

10 FALCON CREST (TV SHOW)

11 THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (2001)/NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)

12 DARK SHADOWS (TV SHOW)

13 THE BRADY BUNCH (TV SHOW)

14 SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943)

15 THE GOLDEN GIRLS (TV SHOW)

16 DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

17 MAMA’S FAMILY (TV SHOW)

18 HAPPY DAYS (TV SHOW)

19 A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

20 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

21 FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)

22 I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE: DEJA VU (2019)

23 INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 (2015)

24 A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)

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