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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#31DaysofHorror: One Week to Go

We’ve one week left of Halloween, and I can’t help but feel like it’s been a pretty blase month. I’ve, unfortunately, watched a lot of movies I didn’t like this past #31DaysofHorror, so I think in the next week I need to scrap my list and just watch some old favorites to get me in the spooky spirit.

Let’s recap. Since we’ve last chatted, I’ve seen about 14 horror movies (I missed a couple of days, because grad school).

The Haunting (1963): A great classic. I’ve seen this movie before, and I’m glad it fit my list this year. It’s atmospheric, and the acting is great. It’s based off of the novel by Shirley Jackson, and captures the mood and tone of the book well. Highly recommend.

Sleepaway Camp II & III (1988, 1989): This series is terrible, but Angela is such a hilarious character, and surprisingly complex for the 80s. She’s not as great a villain as, say, Michael or Jason, but the series is a lot of fun to watch if you’re a fan of cheesy 80s slasher movies.

Death Becomes Her (1992): Not quite a horror movie, but SO HILARIOUS. It’s a ridiculous movie, and would be great for a night spent inside with friends. Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep play aging actresses with a past who both gain immortality–need I say more?

The Vampire Lovers (1970): Boring. Do not watch.

Daughters of Darkness (1971): Even more boring–really do not watch. It tries to be artsy, but the pacing ends up totally off, and the acting is subpar at best.

Nina Forever (2015): Also really boring, which is a shame, because the concept is pretty cool. It just ended up being awkward with, again, pretty terrible acting.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): Obviously amazing.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (2016): Fun, but doesn’t capture a lot of the mood & humor of the first one. Also, whoever made the decision to cast Victoria Justice as Janet should be fired. Terrible decision.

What We Become (2016): Not a terrible zombie movie, but also not amazing. Definitely took too long to get to the zombies, but I did enjoy how it portrayed the characters as all flawed and selfish–which we would all be in the case of an actual zombie outbreak.

Run, Hide, Die (2015): Oh my great pumpkin, so boring. Do not watch. Don’t even try to. IT’S SO BAD.

The Secrets of Emily Blair (2016): Definitely  a Lifetime horror movie, but surprisingly entertaining at times.

That’s been my month thus far. I’ve been pretty into the TV show The Exorcist, surprisingly. The acting is great, and it looks good. We’ll see how it ends before I make my final verdict–but I think it’s been a hell of a lot better than American Horror Story.

What have you been watching? Let me know in the comments! Hope you’re having a great Halloween.

Until next time, stay spooky.
–E.

#31DaysofHorror: 2016

Finally. October is here (–not that you’d be able to tell here in TX). In any case, the beginning of October means the beginning of #31DaysofHorror. This year, I’ve made a list of queer horror movies to watch–but I’m being a little less strict this year, and I might swap out a couple for some horror movies I absolutely love. Thus far, I’ve watched:

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935): I’ve not seen a classic Frankenstein in quite some time–so I really enjoyed starting my month with this one. It’s not the most fast paced movie, and the bride is only in the last couple minutes of the movie, but it’s still fun–especially if you’re a fan of Young Frankenstein.

Dracula’s Daughter (1936): Boring. Do not recommend, unfortunately.

The Seventh Victim (1943): Great noir–not really a horror movie. And watching the main actress was a bit like watching paint dry–I liked the cult aspect of the movie, though, and no one could say it isn’t shot well. It looks gorgeous.

The movie I watched on the 4th was so memorable, I can’t remember what it was. 

Rebecca (1940): Rewatch for me–I love this movie. It looks beautiful, and it has some amazing shots in it. If you haven’t seen this film, watch it asap.

Bleed (2015): Mehhhhh. This wasn’t terrible–but it was pretty bad. The characters were flat, the actors were boring, and the plot was all over the place.

Curse of Chucky (2013): Laughably bad, but it has some great gore scenes. I’d recommend this if you’re looking for a cheesy horror movie with little substance but lots of blood–and if you’re a fan of the original. I do think it has some decent homages to the first.

The rest of my list includes:

The Haunting (1963)
The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Vampyros Lesbos (1971)
Daughters of Darkness (1971)
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) –I’ll most likely wait to watch this until the 19th, so I can watch the new one the following night.
Terror Train (1980)
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
The Hunger (1983)
The Fourth Man (1983)
Nightmare on Elm St #2 (1985)
Fright Night (1985)
Death Becomes Her (1992)
The Forsaken (2001)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Hellbent (2004)
Seed of Chucky (2004)
Let the Right On In (2008)
ParaNorman (2012)
Jack and Diane (2012)
Antiviral (2012)
Toad Road (2012)
Here comes the devil (2013)
Felt (2014)
The Samurai (2015)

I also really want to watch The Wailing–which is a new South Korean horror flick I’ve heard quite good things about.

What’s on your docket for this year’s Halloween season? Anything I should check out? Let me know.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

 

Movie Review: Crimson Peak (2015)

Stats 

Released on 16 October 2015
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Actors: Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain

Synopsis

In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers.

(via IMDB)

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Let me start off by saying that I would not actually classify this as a horror movie. I would classify it as a Gothic romance, because it follows all of your classic Gothic tropes. It’s like Jane Eyre, but with more creepy red clay and odd siblings. That said, it’s an extremely well done movie. This is a movie that will tug at the Gothic reader’s heartstrings, particularly because of its depiction of the literature and its tropes. The movie starts off with a character asking Wasikowska’s character about why she has ghosts in her stories, to which she replies, “The ghosts are a metaphor,” which promptly caused me to flail with excitement. You go into this movie knowing right away that she sees ghosts, and that the ghosts are functioning in a certain way, so the mystery of the film becomes the unveiling of the strange two siblings that Wasikowska finds herself in the middle of.

I would urge you to see it if only to experience the stunning cinematography. Crimson Peak is a stunning film. The costumes look amazing, the scenery is amazing–the detail put into every shot is fantastic. I assume going into every del Toro film that I’ll be in for a visual treat, but Crimson Peak really astonished me. The cinematography is the strongest aspect of this movie, I’d say, because it’s pretty slow plot wise. There are a lot of shots of Wasikowska walking down a dark corridor in her flowing white nightgown, which is fine for me, because it’s what happens in every Gothic romance, but the stunning visuals do make up for the slowness of the shots.

The acting in the movie is spot on. I thought all of the actors played their characters well. Tom Hiddleston basically always looks like a romantic hero, and Wasikowska looks like your delicate, fragile heroine. Jessica Chastain stole the show for me, though. She not only looked amazing, but she acted amazingly. I loved the subtle creepiness she brought to the character. It’s one of my favourite roles from her yet. I quite liked the way they depicted and built on the romance between Wasikowska and Hiddleston; they acted naturally together. It never felt forced. And I quite liked that Chastain plays the clearly Alpha sibling to Hiddleson, who takes more of a back seat to his sister. It’s a great twist on the classic sibling trope. Very well done!

It’s definitely a movie I’ll rewatch many times, and one that I cannot wait to own. It will not be the movie for everyone, but if what I’ve outlined seems interesting to you, I think you’ll really like it. And, remember, Crimson Peak is not a horror movie. It’s a Gothic romance with some slight horror elements.

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Have you seen Crimson Peak? What did you think?

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

PS. I know I fell off the bandwagon for reviewing my horror movies. School got the best of me. I probably won’t review all of the movies I’ve watched, as I didn’t have many thoughts/feelings about some of the movies, but I will review most of them in the upcoming weeks. 

31 Days of Horror: The Bat (1959)

Stats  

Released on 9 August 1959
Director: Crane Wilbur
Screenplay: Crane Wilbur
Actors: Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Gavin Gordon

Synopsis

Mystery writer Cornelia Van Gorder has rented a country house called “The Oaks,” which not long ago had been the scene of some murders committed by a strange and violent criminal known as “The Bat.” Meanwhile, the house’s owner, bank president John Fleming, has recently embezzled one million dollars in securities, and has hidden the proceeds in the house, but he is killed before he can retrieve the money. Thus the lonely country house soon becomes the site of many mysterious and dangerous activities.

(via IMDB)

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The Bat was a wonderful ‘romp’ of a movie. It’s a fun mystery, with Vincent Price playing his typical creepy yet charming character, wherein you can’t tell if he’s actually the villain, or someone who is using the villain’s existence to further his own agenda. Price is one of my absolute favourite horror/mystery actors from this era, so I was pleased to finally see him in a movie for my 31 Days of Horror.

The best element of this movie is the fantastic setting, scenery, and atmosphere. The Bat has some deliciously classical horror moments, complete with thunderstorms and figures dressed all in black creeping around corners and unlocking doors slowly. It plays with shadows well, and the house that Moorehead rents is just gorgeous. If you’re a fan of aesthetically pleasing horror/mysteries, you would love this movie. It’s a great movie tonal wise, as well. It feels kind of like an adult Scooby Doo mystery, or like an Agatha Christie novel, which is perfect as the weather chills and fall settles in.

The performances in the movie were also well done. Moorehead played an Agatha Christie-esque writer and ‘detective’ so well. She has great dialogue, and I loved her relationship with Lenita Lane–who plays her confidante and servant. They played off of each other well, and had some hilarious moments in the house while trying to hide from “The Bat.” Moorehead is such a great actress, and she really brought some sass and fun to her character. Of course, Price is great in the movie. While The Bat isn’t his best performance, he does still convey the character well, and he has some great Price-y moments. The side actors, while lacking in complexity within their characters, acted their parts well and made for a good cast.

The end is a tad predictable, but the build up and the atmosphere ‘make up’ for the fact that you might be able to solve the mystery. I’m not one who thinks that being able to guess the ending takes away from the overall journey and adventure of the story.

Overall, I recommend The Bat, especially if you’re a fan of those Christie-esque mystery stories. If so, I think you’re enjoy the movie quite a bit.

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Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

31 Days of Horror: Man in the Attic (1953)

Stats 

Released on 23 December 1953
Director: Hugo Fregonese
Screenplay: Robert Presnell Jr., Barre Lyndon
Actors: Jack Palance, Constance Smith, Byron Palmer

Synopsis

London, 1888: on the night of the third Jack the Ripper killing, soft-spoken Mr. Slade, a research pathologist, takes lodgings with the Harleys, including a gloomy attic room for “experiments.” Mrs. Harley finds Slade odd and increasingly suspects the worst; her niece Lily (star of a decidedly Parisian stage revue) finds him interesting and increasingly attractive. Is Lily in danger, or are her aunt’s suspicions merely a red herring?

(via IMDB)

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Like The Ghoul, I don’t have much to say about Man in the Attic. It was definitely more of a thriller than a horror, and it was your typical classic thriller, at that. Jack Palance does a great job at acting slightly unusual and unaware of proper social conventions. He’s quiet and has an odd stare that leaves people chilled, but he’s still charming, especially to Constance Smith’s character Lily.

Man in the Attic is atmospheric, and evokes the Ripper’s London well. I liked the inclusion of the theatre and Lily’s dances are great. The acting was solid, the plot was simple, and the ending was rather ambiguous–which I like. There’s really not much to say about it, though. If you like thrillers, you might like this movie. One of my favourite scenes was when the detective brought Lily and Slade to the museum full of old/present ‘death devices.’ That was something that Ripper’s London actually had, so the inclusion made the historical context a little more solidified. I do think that the movie didn’t use the Ripper paranoia as well as it could have, which may be because it focused on the more ‘middle class’ rather than those who were actually out consorting about late at night.

Sorry I don’t have much more to say, but it was a pretty average movie that had your average “woman slowly backs into dark corner as figure approaches” moments. I liked the ways that the movie made you question whether or not Slade was the Ripper; everything action that seemed Ripperly suspicious had an equally logical reasoning behind what had happened–the movie played with Slade’s madness well, and quite subtly. I thought that was well done.

All in all, you might like it, but there are better classic thrillers out there.

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Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

31 Days of Horror: The Thing from Another World (1951)

Stats 

Released on 27 April 1951
Director: Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Charles Lederer (adapted from John W. Campbell Jr.’s novella “Who Goes There?”)
Actors: Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, James Arness

Synopsis

Scientists and a group of military men at an Arctic research station discover a spacecraft buried in the ice. Upon closer examination, they discover the frozen, alien pilot. All hell breaks loose when they take him back to their station, and he gets accidentally thawed out!

(adapted from IMDB)

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When I first chose my theme for this year’s #31DaysofHorror, I knew immediately that one of the movies had to be The Thing from Another World, because my favourite horror movie is John Carpenter’s The Thing, and I hadn’t yet seen its original. The Thing is one of those ‘comfort’ horror movies, the type that I can watch at any time, and it helps me feel better. I love it. And I’m so pleased that I loved its original. The Thing from Another World is a great classic horror movie. And The Thing is a faithful adaptation of The Thing from Another World; while it certainly makes the tension more complex, the plot and set-up is basically the same–give or take a few small details. The movie opens with Captain Patrick Henry (Tobey) being assigned to go to the north pole to assist a group of scientists who are working at a base there. He arrives with some of his men, and things seem fine, until one day an accident happens and they come across a fallen spaceship. The spaceship basically implodes, but they come across the alien pilot, which they take back with them to the base. You may well be aware that this is a terrible idea.

I may be highly biased in my love of this movie because I love The Thing so much, but I genuinely thought it was well acted, well paced, and well shot. The cast worked well together–particularly Tobey and Sheridan (who plays Nikki, an old flame of Henry’s.) They had some hilarious banter and great dialogue, and I loved that even though they clearly liked each other, Nikki thought for herself and never put herself into the category of damsel in distress. She helped Henry when he needed help, and made smart decisions all on her own without the help of the men (imagine that). Sheridan played Nikki fantastically (and looked gorgeous while doing it!). Tobey was also great as Captain Henry–he had the same protective, logical, smart persona that Kurt Russell has in The Thing, but minus the rugged exterior. Their performances and chemistry was one of my favourite aspects of the movie. The way that Henry interacted with the men he brought was also great, and I thought that ensemble of characters did a fantastic job at portraying themselves as men who have worked under the Captain for some time; there’s a strong bond there, and a familiarity that the entire team captured well.

What this movie does awfully well is convey the atmosphere of the setting. Outside is snowy and vast and cold, contrasted to the inside which is warm and crowded where people talk over one another and bustle about working. This type of environment sets up the idea of having to keep what’s outside from getting inside on a very real, necessary level. The outside is dangerous because it’s so cold, and because it harbors things that ought not to be there–like frozen (or unfrozen) aliens hoping to steal all of your blood.

I enjoyed how the movie withheld showing the alien for about the first half of the movie. When he’s first discovered, he’s (of course) blurred and hard to see from within the block of ice he’s captured in. Once he’s free, the movie sticks to keeping him in the shadows or outside in the flurry of snow and ice that makes it difficult to see anything but his general form. Withholding the image prolongs the suspense and allows the audience member to invent the way they imagine the alien might look, which can make the alien a far scarier creature. Naturally, due to the fact that this is a movie from the 1950s, once we actually do see the alien, we discover he’s a bit cheesy looking (a la Frankenstein’s monster, but with that wonderful screech/scream that’s kept in The Thing).

It’s interesting, too, that the villain isn’t completely the alien; in a lot of ways, the villainous character is the scientist that won’t allow Henry or his men to contain or kill the alien once he has attacked their base. In the name of science and advancement, the scientist uses every method he can to keep the alien alive. Naturally, the scientist is foreign, because we’ve crossed into the era of the Cold War.

Which explains why, at the end, Scott (a reporter who tagged along with Henry) makes a broadcast about how Americans need to “watch the skies” at every moment in order to keep a look out for alien life forms. There’s this shift in the 1950s from the more inner ‘evil’ or madness to the outer–what’s outside of the country or outside of the world is far dangerous, because it’s unknown. Particularly in a time during the nuclear arms race. The movie reflects the beginning of these ideals and viewpoints, though it does it subtly.

All in all, I highly recommend this film. It’s a perfect movie to settle back with some tea and cocoa for about two hours. I would especially recommend it to those of you who have seen The Thing (and make sure it’s the version in black and white!)

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Until next time, stay scary.

–E.