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.
Don’t hate me. I’m super late, I know. Halloween is but a thing of the past. One week separates us between costume parties, bags of candy corn, and of course…monster movie marathons, and I’m just now writing this up. Why? Well, as you may know, I spent a glorious week aboard a cruise ship, where I drank far too much alcohol, having a blast. I returned home just in time to party it up on October 31st which was probably one fun time too many as I came down with a nasty cold that just won’t quit, and on top of it all, I returned to my day job where I was tasked with creating a training presentation for a potential promotion. Deep breath. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks.
So, did I stick the landing on the challenge? Almost. 31 days and 31 films seemed doable enough. Turns out trying to find time to watch a movie a day on a cruise ship is not the easiest thing. I missed two days, but overall, not too shabby. Below is a list of what I managed to watch along with all the goodies I crammed in on the last two days of the month.
Slasher Saturday, Oct 22nd
Return to Horror High (1981)
This is a film I saw many years ago during my compulsion to rent every possible horror film on the shelves. I have a clear memory of really disliking it, especially the ending. More telling, however, is that I didn’t seem to notice the film was a comedy. I suppose I wasn’t a very humorous child. Whatevs. Was this viewing a revelation? Was I just too young to get it? Sort of, but it still isn’t any good and that ending is still horrible.
Very much a precursor to Scream, this is a self-aware slasher about a film crew making a slasher movie in the abandoned school that was home to the gruesome mass murder their film is based on. Whoa. Mind blown? As clever a setup that might be, the film fluctuates madly between Airplane style sight gags, and serious attempts at horror. None of it gels together, though the killer’s mask is memorable: a puffy, ghostly white face void of just enough detail to look inhuman.
I don’t really recommend seeking this out (though it is streaming on Shudder) unless you want to see George Clooney in a brief early role. It is interesting to see the meta approach to a slasher long before Scream, but for better examples I would recommend Evil Laugh or There’s Nothing Out There.
Send-up Sunday, Oct 23rd
Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (2016)
Well, they tried. Right? Fox’s made for TV remake of the classic outsider trash musical Rocky Horror just wasn’t intended for the small screen, especially not network TV. I must admit that while I’ve been to several Masquerade Balls (screenings of the original film with wildly OTT audience participation) and had a blast, I’m not obsessed with the original film. When I was younger, I tried to watch it at home and was terribly bored. It wasn’t until my aunt (the one who filled my head with stories of Phantasm) took me to a Masquerade Ball that I “got it”.
This remake is just a retread without the twisted sense of sexual perversion. Yes, almost everything is replayed beat for beat, but somehow it all manages to feel so safe and clean. Rocky in golden boxer shorts?! I never! The performances are generally good and everyone seems to be giving it their all, except for maybe Victoria Justice as Janet, but the musical numbers never really come to life.
Again, Rocky Horror is certainly a party film not meant to be enjoyed in the quiet confines of your own living room, but even upon my initial viewing of the original, it felt dangerous. I might not have been terribly compelled by it, but I couldn’t imagine my parents walking in on me watching it. With the 2016 version, I felt like I could have comfortably sat and watched this with my Bible thumping parents with very little in the way awkwardness. That’s never something that should be said for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Monster Monday, Oct 24th
Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight (1995)
The first and only decent film in the cinematic “Tales from the Crypt” series, Demon Knight is actually one of my favorite horror films from the 90’s. The creature design is great, Billy Zane is at his seductive best, and Jada Pinkett Smith makes one hell of a bad ass “final girl”.
It’s a shame the series only released one more theatrical film, Bordello of Blood, which was a huge snooze-fest. The level of imagination and gruesome action on display here really calls to mind classics such as Evil Dead and Night of the Demons all without feeling derivative. If you’ve never seen this, Scream Factory has put out an amazing Blu-ray that you should definitely check out.
Terror Trash Tuesday, Oct 25th
Rings of Fear (AKA Trauma and Enigma Rosso) (1978)
I felt it was important that I fit in at least one giallo film this month that I’d never seen before. Boy howdy! This one was a doozy. The plot involves a local girl whose body is found with her insides being practically torn to shreds by a rapist with a “cock this big!” we’re told by the investigator on the case who illustrates his point by holding his hands about a foot apart. Yep, this is one classy piece of work. For a giallo, the stakes are fairly low. The rapist/murderer seems to be going after those who could reveal his identity, but of course, nothing is really as it seems.
I laughed until I cried during several key moments (the “this big” scene being one of them), but was still captivated by the mystery. The reveal was genuinely surprising. I didn’t see it coming. However, the killer is dealt with in the most blase’ manner imaginable. I don’t want to spoil it…but, damn – it’s hilarious. This has the look and feel of a TV mystery that just happens to include massive dildos, sex orgy’s, death by marbles, and child detectives. In other words, I friggin loved it.
Witch Wednesday, Oct 26th
Inferno, the quasi-sequel to Suspiria and the middle chapter of the the “Three Mothers” trilogy, has been maligned by fans of Dario Argento for quite some time. While Suspiria is certainly not known for for its rock solid narrative structure, Inferno takes nightmare logic to its fullest extent. My friend who was casually watching along with me in our cabin, piped up half-way through to ask, “Does this movie have a plot?” The answer, “No.”
It’s been quite some time since I attempted to watch this. Yes, I said “attempted”. Dario Argento is seriously one of my favorite directors and is a huge inspiration on the films I want to make. This has always been my least favorite of his earlier films. That said, this viewing was a completely different experience. Gone was any expectation, and I was able to enjoy the pieces on their own rather than expect a satisfying whole.
The film is basically a string of set pieces showcasing Argento’s mastery of the camera. A quiet moment in a girl’s apartment when the power goes out is palpable in its suspense. Everything culminates in a slightly disappointing finale, but if you haven’t checked this one out in a while – give it a spin. Just leave your cinematic conventions at the door.
Throwback Thursday, Oct 27th
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
One-two, Freddy’s coming for you. Along with Argento, Craven is one of my biggest inspirations. The original film that started one of horror’s biggest franchises, A Nightmare on Elm Street, is still horrific and surprising after all these years.
It’s easy to forget just how sinister the character of Freddy Kruger was in this film after we’ve been living with numerous cartoon variations pumped out in the sequels (which I also love) for so long. Craven’s original Nightmare is a classic. ‘Nuff said.
Sunday, Oct 30th and Monday, Oct 31st
Tales from the Darkside Series
Currently streaming on Shudder is the entire series created by George Romero that ran for four season beginning in 1984. I must admit that I’d only ever seen a couple of episodes. I figured a lazy Sunday afternoon was the perfect time to catch up. I started with the Romero scripted pilot, “Trick or Treat” which is a delightful Halloween spin on A Christmas Carol. Another seasonal recommendation is Tom Savini’s “Halloween Candy”. Both episodes represent the show at its best, a cheap yet occasionally effective slice of 20 minute horror goodness.
If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of Italian horror. Demons is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s the perfect movie night movie. It never fails to elicit squeals of disgust and heated protests of “Don’t! No. Don’t do it!” launched at the screen. While this sequel catches a lot of flack, I’m quite fond of it myself. It does repeat a lot of what worked in the original without adding much new to the proceeding, but so what? It’s still a hell of a lot of fun.
Fright Night (1985)
Tom Holland’s best film, this Rear Window for the horror nerd set is a classic of 80’s genre cinema. It truly represents some of the best the decade had to offer, with a smart script that’s funny and horrifying all while managing to present likable human characters to root for. You’re so cool, Brewster
Friday the 13th: Part 3 in 3D
Friday the 13th: Part 2 is my favorite Friday. It’s amazingly suspenseful and features one of the most likable final girls of the series. It’s success led to director, Steve Miner, immediately coming back for Part 3 in glorious red/blue 3-D, no less.
This is the sequel that really honed in on the formula of the franchise and gave Jason his hockey mask. While my younger self was bored by the predictability of this entry, my older self appreciates it’s down and dirty, basic bitch charms. That’s right, there is absolutely nothing surprising (except a hinted “Jason as rapist” subplot that goes nowhere) in this film, and I kind of love it more every time I watch it. The “Wow! Stuff is popping out of the screen” effects are hilarious, and the gore while toned down a bit is still bloodily satisfying.
While it would be difficult to call any of John Carpenter’s films in the 80’s underrated (though, I suppose Prince of Darkness could earn that label), The Fog doesn’t get enough love. This film is a perfectly beautiful and haunting ghost story. It’s a film that evokes the feeling of telling tales around a camp fire; its also why I chose it to close out the Halloween evening.
There you have it! Those were the films I watched the week of Halloween. Another year and our favorite holiday has scattered with the leaves into the wind. I truly had a blast watching way more movies than I normally would. Also, by providing myself fixed themes for each day, I really cut down on the amount of time spent trying to actually pick a movie to watch (which usually leads to me just giving up after an hour or so of browsing various streaming sites). I think I may even try to keep something like this going. It certainly won’t be a movie a day; Brian Collins already cornered the market there with his awesome Horror Movie a Day site. Whatever happens, I hope you had a safe and Happy Halloween!
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