In celebration of Samhain, a lot of horrorphiles have turned to lining up epic lists of 31 horror films for all 31 days of October. I’ve never actually done this myself as, to be quite honest, I watch horror films all year long. However, with work and numerous other responsibilities getting in the way, I haven’t been able to watch as many films as I would like to. This Halloween season, I’m changing that. I’m going to take on the challenge and watch at least one horror film every day this month. Doing things a bit differently, I’ve decided to give each day of the week a specific theme. – Re-posted from the original article.
Challenge Week #2 was a bit more of a struggle, but I made it. With “Truth in Bloggerism”, I must confess that while I didn’t skip a day this week, I did mistakenly watch the wrong movie on Wednesday, and didn’t get around to watching the correct film until today. Don’t pelt me with rotten fruit, please.
Saturday, however, I actually got off work early and with no pressing responsibilities at hand, I had myself a post-Scream direct-to-video slasher movie marathon. Seems too specific? Don’t judge me, but these were films that I ate up in my youth. Every Friday was a roll of the dice as I made the journey to the video store. I knew most of the stuff I would pull from the center aisles, the oldies, were a sure bet. It got iffy when I perused the outer walls, the new releases.
The first film I watched Saturday was Hellbent, discussed here, earlier this week. The other two flicks were ones I hadn’t seen since one of the many excursions along those outer Video Xpress walls. Kolobos is a truly underrated film that I plan to discuss in detail with a future post. The other film was my “Slasher Saturday” pick of the week:
Slasher Saturday, Oct 8th
The Clown at Midnight (1999)
The Clown at Midnight is a straight up, late 90’s slasher film. It’s an easy watch: fast paced, hokey, and occasionally suspenseful. Your mileage may vary. The plot concerns a group of college students (this is a fact I came to because they are way too old to try and pass for high school age) who are roped into assisting their drama teacher (played by the always delightful, Margot Kidder) to tidy up an old theater. Christopher Plummer shows up as the shady AF former owner of the building. Shock! There’s also a killer clown loose in the house.
The characters are your stock types: bitch queen, aggressive jock, weird loner. I will give the film props for allowing the jock an interesting character moment that defies the stereotype of such a role; they even include a gay character which is unique enough given the time period. Outside of that, Tatyana Ali stars as the most tolerable of the soon to be dead kids, but that wig, though! She shows up with a fresh ‘do later in the film that I can only imagine was her way of saying, “I’m not wearing that cheap mop one more day!” Our lead is the usual angsty, milquetoast chick with familial ties to the killer; Sidney Prescott she aint. James Duval (Frank the Bunny in Donnie Darko) shows up as the dangerous bad boy who loves horror movies and special effect makeup! Could he be the killer?
The kills are fairly basic with the juicier moments cutting out before we get the true money-shot. This was released several months after Columbine when a lot of these films were getting whittled down, so it’s possible an uncut version is adrift out there somewhere. While you’ve seen this all before, if you have any sense of nostalgia for late 90’s genre fare than I would give this a lazy Saturday recommendation. Plus, creepy clowns are all the rage these days! You can actually watch it free (along with a massive library of awesome horror flicks) on TubiTV’s website.
Send-up Sunday, Oct 9th
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
You’ve likely heard the same incessant praise for this film as I have. A group of vampires of different generations are flatmates in this New Zealand mockumentary. So, does it live up to the hype? Yes! It’s hilarious. I was smiling from frame one until the end of the picture.
The truth is, I’m not a huge comedy guy. Yes, every now and then I find one that I enjoy, but it’s extremely rare for me to actually laugh out loud. With What We Do in the Shadows I did several times throughout. The performances are pitch perfect and the vampire’s relationships are backed with some genuine emotion that helps keep the viewer invested in the absurdity of it all.
For horror fans who haven’t checked it out yet, it’s certainly a comedy through and through but plays off all the vampire tropes you know so well. You’ll also be treated to numerous gore gags that will gross you out as much as tickle your funny bone too. I know a sequel revolving around the werewolves, “not swear-wolves”, and a TV series following the two clueless cops are in the works. I’m right there along with EVERYONE else who has seen this film now; I can’t wait.
Monster Monday, Oct 10th
So far I’m 0 for 0 with “Monster Mondays”. Sad face. Last week was the atrocious, irredeemable High Desert Kill. This week’s slice of latex and foam cheese was an early 90’s Charles Band production, Seedpeople. While I can’t say this was the worst Full Moon film I’ve ever seen, it certainly lacked the usual “gee-golly” magic and energy of their better films (I tend to, perhaps unfairly, write off everything from their post 2000 output). That said, Seedpeople has a few things going for it.
First of all, I watched it as part of “13 Nights of Elvira”, which can also be seen on TubiTV (seriously, check it out…and they’re not paying us squat). She hosts several Full Moon “classics” with her typical “wink at the camera” camp, and it easily adds an extra level of enjoyment to these films. The movie itself is one of the numerous Invasion of the Body Snatchers remakes/rip-offs. This time, however, we aren’t dealing with pod people so much as, you know…seed people. That’s right, there are some evil plant dudes who shoot what can only be described as a heap of spooge all over their victims, turning them into evil versions of themselves hellbent on world domination as plant based, alien lifeforms are want to do.
The plot has some Suicide Squad sized holes as it seems the seed-people are born from the pollinated bodies of the victims and can transform between human form and back to their squat, rolly-polly-like monstrous selves, but there’s also a cure for turning the seed-folk back to normal despite them not being host to the original body. Oh, well. The design of the creatures is some bizarre mix of those Madballs toys from the 90’s and that weird mullet thing from Squidbillies. The director was very pleased with their look…for some reason. He doesn’t shy away from filming these things in full on, broad daylight. BIG MISTAKE, Mr. Director. Take a lesson from Band himself, when in doubt – SHADOWS! See it with lots of alcohol and a few friends for maximum enjoyment.
Terror Trash Tuesday, Oct 11th
Horror House on Highway 5 (1985)
I’m not sure where to start with this one. Horror House on Highway 5 is a comedy-spoof of the slasher genre…at least, I think it is. The budget is straight to the dollar bin: the acting alternates between humorously over the top and dry as a cracker, the opening scene shows a sense of technique – clumsy but there’s a hint of suspense, and the rest of the film is a very loosely connected series of vignettes of horror movie cliches strung together by a flimsy plot revolving around a student project centered on a crazed Nazi scientist. From that description you should already know if this is something you want to see.
This dialog is often hilariously bad. With few exceptions, the characters react so blase’ to all the mayhem going on around them. One choice cut, “What’s wrong with you? You just ran that guy over! You must have a low IQ.” It’s difficult to find any information about the making of this film, but I do believe what we have here is an early attempt at spoofing the genre. Taken on those terms, it’s pretty effective. It’s a slasher movie (with the killer wearing a Nixon mask way before David Arquette’s The Tripper) with hints of body horror, Evil Dead demon antics, and some abduction thriller thrown in for good measure. Horror House on Highway 5 is all over the place, but it’s a fun ride with a strangely satisfying conclusion.
P.S. How happy was I to see my favorite line wind up in the trailer? Also, this can be watched on TubiTV. Just sayin’.
Witch Wednesday, Oct 12th
The Devonsville Terror (1983)
As mentioned at the top, I accidentally watched the wrong film and that was on “Witch Wednesday”. After reading Mr. Black’s interview with Ulli Lommel, I decided to watch The Devonsville Terror. Somehow in my head, though, I got that mixed up with Demons of Ludlow which is an atrocious film about a town haunted by a piano. It’s a piece of mindnumbing trash directed by Bill Rebane, director of other equally hot garbage. Anyway, I realized half-way through the error I had made. Demons of Ludlow is bad. Now moving on.
The Devonsville Terror opens with three accused witches being persecuted. One gets your good ole’ fashioned stake burning, one gets mauled by hogs, while the other gets a truly disturbing death involving a flaming wheel. It’s quite the shocking way to open a film. Naturally, these women don’t take too kindly to being murdered by the townsfolk of Devonsville. Hence, super natural revenge 300 years later is the only logical outcome.
This is the fist of Lommel’s early work that I’ve seen. He also directed the qausi-cult classic, Boogeyman. We won’t discuss his circa 2005 DTV true crime efforts that began with Zodiac Killer, of which I have unfortunately seen. What’s interesting about Devonsville is despite it’s low budget and shlocky charms, there is a serious feminist slant to the proceedings. When the new teacher arrives in town rocking a sweet, bright red mullet, every man she comes in contact with eyeballs her as lecherously as Donald Trump at a teen beauty pageant. Ay-oh! One child asks the new teacher, “Is God a man or a woman?”. Cut to a woman calling into the town’s forward thinking female DJ to complain her boyfriend won’t let her get a job. Okay. It sure as shit isn’t subtle, but I may need to return to this one later for a “Beyond the Surface” review.
We also get Donald Pleasence as the local doctor, cursed with a “disease” that has his body internally consumed by worms (yes, it’s as gross as it sounds), looking to clear the persecuted women’s names in order to save hiself. The Devonsville Terror was a pleasant surprise. It wasn't at all what I expected but instead a moody, surreal, and fairly bleak horror film with subtext that's still pertenant today. It reminded me a lot of Rob Zombie’s often maligned and, in my opinion, underrated work, The Lords of Salem. This is a great film for Halloween, dripping with fall atmosphere, a gonzo finale, and smarts to boot.
Throwback Thursday, Oct 13th
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
I have only one phobia, and I assume it’s one that as of yet lacks a name. I’m terrified of old men masks. Yep. Not necessarily old men but just masks made to look like them. I wasn’t sure why for a long time until I revisited this film along with its sequel and realized the character of Grandpa was the source of that irrational fear. The makeup isn’t necessarily realistic, but it’s the stuff of nightmares nonetheless. So, quite literally, after seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I was never the same.
Despite my phobia of wrinkly latex faced men, I still plop down to watch TCM every few years. This was my first time to watch the film in HD. I have to say, the cinematography is surprisingly gorgeous in certain shots. It’s still dirty, sweaty, and grimy but now in a beautiful sort of way. My first time seeing the film was on grainy VHS and the climatic scene of Sally running through the woods was so dark and murky. My memory is of Sally’s disembodied screams followed by the revving of the chainsaw with only glimpses of the poor girl’s panicked face. It’s chilling just to think about. In this updated presentation, it loses little of its impact. This is truly one of the greats. If you haven’t seen TCM in a while, or if somehow you’ve NEVER seen it, then what are you waiting for?! Saw is family!
Fresh Fear Friday, Oct 14th
Summer Camp (2016)
Summer Camp was a film I was looking forward to for quite a while. Produced by Jaume Balaguero (co-director of the Rec films) and directed by a longtime collaborator, Alberto Marini, Summer Camp sounded right up my alley. It was originally talked about as a subversion on summer camp style horror films. While it does play with the genre expectations, it’s nothing groundbreaking.
The film stars dreamboat, Diego Boneta, and upcoming scream queen, Jocelin Donahue playing against type, as foreign counselors at a secluded English immersion summer camp in Spain. The film gives each of the four main characters enough color in broad strokes to leave viewers unclear who will be our lead or mere victim fodder. We hit the ground running only twenty minutes in and the pace never lets up. It’s a fun style that other Spanish films have nailed in the past, the REC films and To Let (both with Balaguero behind the camera) are great examples. Summer Camp doesn’t match those films in pure unrelenting tension but it’s consistently fun from beginning to end. It does become a tad monotonous half way through, but thankfully the film has enough twists throughout that reeled me back in.
Notice I haven’t actually spelled out the threat in the film, and that’s because I feel you should know as little as possible going into this. I’ve included an older teaser trailer below instead of the super spoilery theatrical trailer, but I would recommend avoiding them both. Check this out on VOD, and kick back for an adrenaline fueled roller coaster.
Well, with only a little over two weeks left until Halloween, I’m going to try and be a bit more selective with my choices (looking at you “Monster Monday”). I want to ensure I’m watching and reviewing the best mix of hidden gems and true horror classics. Have you started your Halloween movie-thons yet?
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