31 Days of Horror: The Road Thus Far

We’re officially halfway through October (so sad––where does the time go?). In years past, my list of horror movies I want to watch throughout the month has been pretty “strict”––I had a theme, and then each movie picked out, and their corresponding day I would watch them on. While this seems super organized, in theory, it isn’t the best method for me. Some days, I just wouldn’t be into my movie for the day, and making myself sit through it wasn’t a great experience.

So, this year, I decided to have my theme, and my list of movies, but I didn’t give them a corresponding day. I just have my list, and I want to work through it during the month.

My theme this year is occult, which encapsulates a variety of different horror films, I think. I did throw in a couple favorites, as I usually do each year, such as The Evil Dead (2013) and Sinister. Unfortunately, a couple of the movies I picked are impossible to find, so I’ve done some switching and moving around. That said, I’ve enjoyed the month so far! It’s definitely the best horror month I’ve had in awhile, and I credit that to the fact that I’m not forcing myself to watch movies I might not want to watch on a certain day.

If you want to see everything I’ve watched this far, be sure to check out my letterboxd page! I log everything. If you do, you’ll notice that I’ve had to skip a couple of days here and there, and then make up for them on another day: sometimes life is hectic and you can’t get a movie watched. Ah well.

The Good 

I’ve done a couple of rewatches thus far this month that I’ve enjoyed. Obviously, I rewatched The Exorcist, which is a great film. I also rewatched The Fog, which is one of my favorite Carpenter movies. And, I went to go see It again while on vacation, because I love it so much.

New movies wise, my two standouts this month thus far are definitely The Babysitter and Boys in the Trees. The Babysitter is super tongue-in-cheek, and is utterly ridiculous, but it’s so much fun. If you like 80’s camp, you’ll love this movie.

Boys in the Trees, on the other hand, gave me a lot of emotions. It’s not a movie I would recommend to everyone. It’s reminiscent to Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, but with 90s music, and assholes. It’s a beautiful film, but in message and aesthetically. Honestly, I’m still thinking about this movie, and I watched it two days ago. I’m already looking forward to a rewatch. You will not like this movie if you’re not a fan of “art horror” and slower plots. I always hesitate to recommend checking out the trailer beforehand, because sometimes trailers spoil everything. And, I don’t think this trailer accurately depicts the film. However, if you’re unsure based on description alone, maybe give the trailer a watch, and just ignore the music (which was a terrible decision on the marketing team). I have a lot of things to say about this movie, so I’ll be doing a separate full review for it shortly.

I also enjoyed Haxan, which is a Swedish silent film from 1922. It’s weird, and another movie that’s not for everyone, but it’s fascinating to watch. It’s about witches, and gets super trippy. If you’ve watched silent films before and enjoyed them, maybe give it a go!

 

The Bad

The two worst films I’ve seen thus far are definitely Witchery (1988) and The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988). They’re both bad for completely different reasons, too. Witchery can’t be taken seriously as a movie. The acting is terrible, and the plot is razor thin. It’s fun to laugh at during some parts, but overall, it’s a pretty boring movie.

The Serpent and the Rainbow, on the other hand, has an interesting plot. Plus, Bill Pullman. However, it skirts the line between anthropological and racist just a teeny bit (as most white, Western movies about Haiti do), and I thought the main character made a lot of really, truly dumb decisions. This is supposedly based on a “true story,” but I always take that claim with a grain of salt. I would hesitantly recommend this movie if you’re into depictions of voodoo and Haiti in horror movies. And if you like Bill Pullman.

 

The Ugly 

Surprisingly enough, I haven’t had anything downright awful. I consider this a win.

Everything not listed here is in the six skull/three star range for me: it’s average. Entertaining, but not a groundbreaking movie. The acting is alright, the plot alright, it’s all just alright. I’ve watched a lot of horror movies, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for me. It does mean I’ll probably forget the movies by this time next year.

Also! The Exorcist TV show is back and it’s killing it. I’m enjoying it a lot so far. If you haven’t started the second season yet, I recommend it! And, surprisingly enough, I’ve been enjoying AHS. What a time to be alive.

What are your standout movies this month? Or, alternatively, watch anything that’s downright terrible? Let me know!

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

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Paranormal Experiences 1: Ouija Board

Hello, fellow goblins and ghouls! It’s (finally) the merry month of October––we’ll pretend it’s not already halfway over, because that’s a depressing thought. It’s that sweet time of year where we’re surrounding by tricks and treats and terrible horror movies. Bliss.

I want to do something different on the blog this month in celebration of our favorite time––I decided that I would share five spooky experiences that I’ve had throughout the years. (In between, I’ll give two updates on my #31DaysofHorror: the bad, the good, and the ugly.)

We’re going to start off with the first (and only) time I’ve used a Ouija board.

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While I’ve always been into spooky shit, I didn’t even hold a Ouija board until I was nineteen years old. I’m not superstitious, but I am Italian, and there was no way my family allowed me to even think Ouija boards, let alone own one. (This is the same family that refuses to own The Exorcist because demons).

On the opposite end of the spectrum was my best friend (also Italian, funnily enough–-we are a complicated people), who had been playing Ouija during sleepovers for years. So, one afternoon, I was at her house, as I usually was back then. We were hanging out, and I don’t exactly remember how the topic came up, but we decided to take out the old Ouija board and play.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: you were with a group of people. One of them clearly moved the planchette around to scare the shit out of the rest of you. That’s entirely likely, and could very well be the case. But, we were also in my best friend’s basement, which is a proven hole to another dimension. There’s a lot of weird shit that happens in this basement. So, while I tend to be pretty logical about these sorts of things, I 100% believe that if we were to contact the dead, it would definitely be in her basement.

After a couple of minutes, we contacted the spirit of a dead man by the name of Henry. It became apparent after a couple more minutes of chatting that Henry really, really liked me. Liked me so much, he made it known that he was seated in the open chair next to me. Cue goosebumps, because of course it felt like the temperature got just slightly cooler.

My stomach dropped, and I immediately wanted to shut that shit down, because I was sleeping over that night, and I definitely didn’t want the thought of a ghost boy lurking over me while I slept to keep me awake (spoiler alert: it did).

We played for a couple more minutes, and Henry grew a bit more insistent that I talk with him. That’s about when we said goodbye for the night, and watched a movie or something.

I’m not saying that Henry stuck around for a while after that, but I will say that it’s entirely plausible he decided to follow me home and watch over me for a few months, because there were plenty nights when I’d look over into the corner of my room and see the barest of shadows against the wall.

And my friend? She got rid of her Ouija board a couple of years later. It was probably for the best.

 

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

Trailer Tuesday: Tragedy Girls

Tragedy Girls is that film that I’ve been waiting for without knowing that I’ve been waiting for it. I am so excited for this film. It looks like it’s going to be hilarious. I totally agree with the marketing ploy stating it’s a combination of Scream and The Heathers, at least from what I’ve seen in the trailer. The director, Tyler MacIntyre, also worked Patchwork––a horror comedy that I just watched and enjoyed. This makes me believe the dialogue will be as witty and clever, but perhaps a bit more cleaned up.

I’m expecting a ton of laughs and a killer soundtrack. Here’s to hoping the movie delivers on both.

Tragedy Girls comes to theatres on 20 October.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

Trailer Tuesday: Insidious Four: The Last Key

I like the first three Insidious movies. I don’t think they’re mind-blowing, but they are really entertaining, and have some pretty effective jumpscares (even though I mostly hate jumpscares).

I was a bit disappointed that they announced there would be a fourth one, because I’m a bit tired of horror series getting long and drawn out––sometimes, you just have to end a good thing while you’re ahead.

That said, I do think this movie looks entertaining, and I’m here for Lin Shaye hunting down some demons with her geek squad duo. Even though the concept looks a little weird––I mean…a ghost/demon thing with keys for fingers? That’s a bit wacky. We shall see.

 

Until next time, stay scary.
–E.

Movie Review: It (2017)

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Release Date: 8 September 2017 (USA)
Director: Andy Muschietti
Screenplay: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga Gary Dauberman
Actors: Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff
Rating: skull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emoji

Summary 

A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of clown, begins hunting children.

(via IMDB)

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After months of teasers and trailers, It finally dropped in theatres last week to major box office success.  I’m assuming everyone reading this knows what It is about, but in case you don’t, the plot revolves around a group of kids who have to battle an evil presence that preys on the children in a small town in Maine. Compared to the novel and the 90s miniseries, the main story of It remains the same in this adaptation, though the director and writers did change the story from the 1950s to the 1980s. This means that a) we get some amazing 80s references, and b) the second part will take place in 2016 or 2017––which is interesting, because we’ll get to see the characters transported into our modern day. What will It look like with cell phones? Facetime? Internet that isn’t dial up?

I have a long relationship with It. I first watched the 90s miniseries when I was probably four or five, and my babysitter at the time gave me the choice of either going to bed or watching with her. I chose to watch the miniseries, and it straight up terrified me. For months I was terrified of sewer drains and clowns. I’m still not a huge fan of clowns, but they no longer terrify me to the extent they did when I was younger.

I’ve wondered, for a while, if It is the reason I’m such a horror fiend. I’ve wondered if there’s some small, unconscious part of me that’s waiting for another movie to scare me as much as It did when I was a child. The only movie that’s come close is The Ring from 2001, but even that didn’t quite match up to It. There’s something about the story and Pennywise that has been at the back of my mind for around twenty-three years. It is a huge part of my horror identity, which means there was a lot riding on this adaptation for me. I went into this movie with extremely high hopes. What I wanted the most was a closer adaptation to the novel than the miniseries––which wasn’t allowed to be as dark as the novel because it was on TV.

I wasn’t disappointed. This film is dark in moments. Georgie’s death is shown in quite a lot of detail––there’s nothing more horrifying than watching a six-year-old bleeding to death in the middle of the street before being dragged into the sewers. And, the film doesn’t shy away from Beverly’s abuse at the hands of her father, which is a huge part of her character. Apparently, there was a more violent assault scene cut on the editing room floor, which would have obviously added more complexity to this issue, but I don’t think the severity of the situation is lost to audiences without its inclusion.

The reason It is such a successful film (and novel) is because of the characters. The film does a fantastic job of getting you to care about each member of the Losers Club. You get the right amount of backstory for each child, and as you watch the relationship form between all of them, your relationship to the characters strengthens. If you don’t care about the kids, you’re not going to care about what they’re going through. The film (and novel) asks you to empathize and root for these poor kids who don’t quite know what’s happening in their hometown, especially when it comes to Bill’s sorrow over the loss of his brother.

Obviously, because this is only the first part of It, we don’t get much of a backstory of Pennywise. I like the fact that he’s just this evil, embodiment of fear that preys on Derry. The scariest thing about monsters with no backstory is that there’s no reason they’re present. You can’t reason away their presence. They’re just killing (and, in Pennywise’s case, eating) for no purpose. That’s terrifying, especially when you’re a kid. And, specifically, Pennywise preys on individual fear. Throughout the movie, he appears differently to some of the children, which makes him all the more frightening, because you really never know what he’s going to look like. You can’t plan for him. He just appears and fucks shit up. I found his depiction of Georgie whenever he went after Bill to be the most effective, and the most tragic, of all his “characters.”

Briefly, I’m going to touch on the acting. I just have to say, Bill Skarsgård does a fantastic job as Pennywise. He’s brutal, he’s creepy, and he apparently can actually make his eyes move independently, so it’s like he was born to play this role. He got the voice right, the laugh right, and the movement right. I know a lot of folks were skeptical, because Bill hasn’t done a whole lot prior to this film, but he nailed it. He made Pennywise his own character, which is awfully hard to do when you’re following an acting giant like Tim Curry.

The kids of the Losers Club were also fantastic. Each one played their character perfectly, and they worked well as a collective whole. There was never a moment when one of them felt out of place, or like they didn’t mesh with the rest of the group. Their energy with each other was organic. I particularly enjoyed Finn Wolfhard’s performance as Ritchie and Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie. Their performances slayed; they made me laugh so goddamn hard throughout the entire film.

Let’s move on to aesthetics, because this is an important category for me when it comes to films. It is a pretty, pretty film. It’s filmed so beautifully, which makes sense, because Chung-hoon Chung was the director of photography. If you’ve seen Oldboy, The Handmaiden, Stoker, or Thirst, you know that Chung is a fantastic cinematographer. His movies are beautiful––the color, the way shots are aligned, it’s all utterly extraordinary. If you’re a fan of well shot movies, especially well shot horror movies, you’ll appreciate the time and consideration taken to achieve the visual components of this film. The 80s elements of It are great, as well. This movie utilizes nostalgia well, and captures the look and feel of the 80s well without seeming over the top or corny.

One issue I had with the film was the CGI, at times. It bordered the line between well done and over stylized a bit too much at times. I do think that the CGI reflects children’s terror (by which I mean––experiencing horror as a child is to experience horror in all of its extremes; the horror is larger, louder, etc), but as an adult, it seemed a bit clunky at times. I also wish that Pennywise moved a bit differently each time he rushed towards a child. When you see Pennywise running towards Bill in the trailer, you’ve seen Pennywise running towards each member of the Losers Club throughout the duration of the two-hour movie. The shots are chaotic, rapidly moving, and all kind of look the same. I wish there had been a bit more variety there, especially because we know that Bill we Skarsgård worked pretty hard with body contortionists while making the film. I wish more of that movement was brought into his character.

That said, I would highly recommend seeing this movie in theatres, because the (polished) CGI and Pennywise look awesome on the big screen. I went to a local Alamo, which is always a fun time. Some of the ushers were dressed as clowns––a both creepy and amazing detail, and they even had a later showing that was “clowns only,” which I found hilarious. I didn’t go, because no thank you, but I appreciate the sentiment from afar. My fellow audience members were great, as well. I was next to a young woman who would mutter “oh god, don’t do that. No. No, don’t do that. Don’t go in the room” whenever tension rose, and I found it hilarious. It didn’t bother me at all, and it was nice to hear someone be so terrified while watching, because I, personally, didn’t find it very scary. (This is not a point against the film––finding shit scary is so subjective, and I enjoyed everything else about this movie, and could still appreciate the creepy, disturbing imagery that was in the film without being scared).

To conclude, I would (obviously) highly recommend this movie. It has a lot of heart, it’s hilarious, the acting is fantastic, and it captures childhood horror well. You may not find it visually terrifying if you’ve seen a lot of horror movies, but I don’t think that takes away from enjoying the movie. It’s so nostalgic, and makes you think about your own childhood terrors, especially if you have a long history with the story. If you’re interested in the movie at all, please go see it in theatres. It’s such a great experience.

I’m excited (though nervous, I’m not going to lie) to see the casting for Pt. 2. Apparently, it’s going to be pretty dark. Perhaps, then, it will be more visually terrifying? We shall see. It’ll be a challenge to find a set of actors to represent the Losers Club after the amazing group of kids in Pt. 1,

I did just write a piece responding to those saying It isn’t a horror movie. If you’re interested, see “Defending Horror.”

I know this was a long post, but I had a lot of feelings about the movie. Clearly. It’s times like these I wish I had a podcast.

Have you seen It? What did you think? Let me know!

Until next time, stay scary.

––E.

Defining Horror

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that IT dropped last weekend and has absolutely been killing the box office (pun probably intended). There has been a multitude of praises showered upon the movie (most of which I agree with––my review is forthcoming; I want to see it again before reviewing!), but, of course, there have also been some critiques. The most interesting “critique” and, perhaps, the most frustrating, is the notion that IT isn’t a horror movie.

You can probably tell by my use of scare quotes that I highly disagree with this. I’m a bit biased, because I did love this film, and I wish nothing but wild success for the kids of this movie and Bill Skarsgard––who nails Pennywise. But, again, my formal review is forthcoming.

I concede to the fact that the movie does spend a long time building the relationships between the Losers Club. But, they had to do this, otherwise why would the audience care or root for these twelve-year old kids? The strengths of this story hinges entirely on the Losers Club. They are the most important piece. Without this strength, the story just isn’t successful.

That all said, IT is about a monstrous “clown” (Pennywise is actually the embodiment of fear itself and chooses its form based on the victim’s fear, but he’s mainly a clown in this movie) that hunts and slaughters children. The movie opens (spoilers?) with Georgie, a six-year old boy, getting his arm bitten off, bleeding into the street, screaming wildly for help before Pennywise drags him into the sewer. The movie doesn’t shy away from showing this young boy in pain, dying. This opening scene could be the definition of horrific alone.

But, where IT shines is not in its supernatural monstrosity––both the movie and the novel–-but in its concern and reflection on the true monsters of the text: humans. In Derry, children shout and scream for help, to no avail. They find themselves ignored by the adults around them. Or, in the case of Beverly, assaulted by them. Pennywise, in part, is so successful at drawing in children because the adults don’t do anything about it. They put up ‘missing’ signs and then just forget until the cycle repeats itself. The Losers Club learns, at a young age, that they can’t rely on the adults around them. They have to find and kill Pennywise themselves. Throughout the movie, various kids repeat the phrase “but it’s supposed to be summer break; we should be having fun.” But, they’re not. They’re terrified, and alone, and the ignorance or maltreatment from the adults is reinforced each time the audience is reminded that these kids aren’t able to act as kids should. There’s been a loss of innocence.

Now, I would agree with the statement that IT isn’t a terrifying movie. I wasn’t really scared. I was creeped out, because there are plenty of disturbing images, but I never felt truly frightened. That’s an entirely personal reaction though. As I like to joke, I’m dead inside, so naturally I didn’t get scared. (I’ve earned many a metaphorical gold star from Last Podcast on the Left). Some folks were terrified, though. I don’t think you can label a movie as “not horror” just because you, personally, don’t find it horrific.

Again, this movie is about a killer clown. How can you not consider it horror? Granted, this is being said at the same time that some folks are deciding that we’re living in a “post horror” era. Another statement that I don’t buy––just because a movie doesn’t have gratuitous blood or a chainsaw wielding maniac who likes to wear people’s faces, doesn’t mean it isn’t horror. There are other horrific things in this world, like the fact that it’s 2017 and people are still being shot for the color of their skin.

This has been a long enough rant, but I figure I should probably post some of the qualities that I look for when I’m watching a horror movie, seeing as how the title of this post is “Defining horror.”

  1. Some sort of supernatural (or sci-fi) entity. The devil, evil fairies, ghosts, killer clowns.
  2. Invasion (a la The Strangers, The Purge, etc)
  3. Gratuitous violence and/or nudity
  4. A haunted object
  5. A pushing past some sort of boundary, usually to the extreme (biting off a child’s arm and dragging him into a sewer, perhaps?)
  6. Abandoned houses, asylums, etc
  7. Blasphemy–-though this closely aligns with #5

There’s probably more, but that’s what I can think of right now.

What do you think? I’d love to know. I’m hoping to see IT again within the next week, so I can get my review out. I will say this: go see it in the movie theatres. It’s a fantastic film, and it’s so funny. I highly, highly recommend it.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

Trailer Tuesday: Inside

I only recently found out that a remake of  À l’intérieur was coming our way; after the complete and total failure of the American Martyrs, I have little hope that this will be a good remake.  I wish that directors and producers would leave brutal French new wave horror movies alone. I just can’t see a remake of any of the films actually  being successful. Does that stop me from watching the terrible remakes? Of course not, because there’s always the chance that the remake is good. Or, at the very least, does something interesting and unique separate from the original. This remake appears to be an American remake, but the directors and screenplay writers are all Spanish, and the movie has only been released in Spain thus far, so there’s that. I think if the director of Rec had been behind this movie, as was originally predicted in 2015, we may have had a chance of getting a good movie. This looks pretty generic, though, and like it won’t have half the brutality of the original film.

 

Like I said, there’s no expected release date for America yet. I’ll update with more info when that drops.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.