Sunday, September 30, 2018

31 movies for October

Seems like every year the Internet floods with lists of 31 movies to watch in October. So who am I to buck the trend?

Obviously the list draws almost exclusively from the horror genre. But these aren’t necessarily my favorite horror movies, nor is this a list of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. Instead, these movies all have a certain Halloween look and feel to them. It’s hard to define, but it’s kinda a mix of seasonal setting and campfire tale quality.

Unless otherwise noted, titles refer to the original version rather than remakes, reboots and the like. Also please note that the first two entries on the “kid-friendly” list are rated R, so the MPAA and I disagree about how appropriate they are for children. I’d say tweens and older or those two.

Kid-Friendly Fare
Sleepy Hollow - Tim Burton’s take on Washington Irving’s classic tale
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark - Kid moves into a mansion full of monsters
Something Wicked This Way Comes - One of the strongest October-themed movies on the list
Beetlejuice - Ghostly fun without too many bad scares
The Addams Family - The family that was practically designed for an October movie marathon

House of Wax - Vincent Price at the top of his game
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors - An oddly unsettling British anthology piece
Freaks - Todd Browning’s tour de force, not necessarily for everyone
Dracula - Bela Lugosi is the iconic Count Dracula
Bride of Frankenstein - No October marathon would be complete without Frankenstein's monster
The Mummy - Boris Karloff is wonderfully creepy in the title role
Cat People - 1942 original is a masterpiece of subtlety, 1982 remake is more visceral
The Omen - The demonic king of evil kid movies

The Fog - A classic ghost story told in classic ghost story style
Poltergeist - A fun combination of ghost story elements, too intense for its PG rating
The Frighteners - Guy who can see ghosts starts to really wish he couldn’t
House on Haunted Hill (1999) - Spending the night in a haunted asylum is a bad idea
The Ring - Watching a video causes an evil ghost to kill you in seven days

Dawn of the Dead - Or if you’re in the mood for a triple feature, add #1 and #3
The Crazies (2010) - Oddly better than the Romero original
The Howling - Sayles writes, Dante directs, Bottin makes the werewolves. Great stuff!
Candyman - Creepy combination of urban legend, Clive Barker story and Phillip Glass score
Bram Stoker’s Dracula - Do fangs make it hard to chew scenery?
Fright Night - For real. One of the few vampire movies that’s both fun and scary
Creepshow - Romero directs Stephen King’s take on EC-Comics-style storytelling
From Hell - The Hughes Brothers adapt Alan Moore’s telling of the Ripper myth

The Final Five
The Burrowers - Settlers beset by a new kind of horror
Cabin in the Woods - A meta mash-up of horror clichés that’s actually original and entertaining
Exorcist III - Consistently frightening, it features one of the best jump scares ever
The Crow - A murdered man seeks vengeance on his killers during Devil’s Night in Detroit
Halloween - Because what else would you watch on October 31?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Review – The Midnight Man

So I guess there’s a law on the books somewhere now that requires Lin Shaye be in every mid-budget horror movie with a role for an older woman. The story here starts with a typical children’s spooky game gone bad set-up, and our good friends at IFC spent enough on it to get a decent cast and good production values. But then it loses its way, meandering around without telling much of a tale. The movie would have gotten a higher rating if not for the excessive animal cruelty. Wish I’d skipped it

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Review – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

A funny thing happened in the 50 years since this movie was made: a lot of the humor became extremely dated, even downright offensive. Still, it’s hard to resist Zero Mostel’s energetic performance as a ne’er-do-well house slave trying to make everything come out right in this Roman-themed comedy of errors. The rest of the cast abounds in familiar faces, including Buster Keaton in his final screen role. Mildly amusing

Review – The Island (1980)

It’s interesting to go nearly 40 years between viewings of a movie. When I was a kid watching this on HBO, it really freaked me out. Peter Benchley’s source novel spins the tale of a writer and his son exploring the Caribbean and ending up in the hands of an atavistic colony of pirates who’ve lived in isolation from the outside world for centuries. Watching the movie again decades later, it seemed less scary and more silly. The basic concept is interesting, but too many of the plot twist rely on dumb luck rather than careful planning. Mildly amusing

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Review – Kick-Ass 2

If you liked the first one, here’s some more. In particular, if you were fond of Chloe Moritz’s portrayal of Hit Girl, you apparently had enough company to assure that she plays a bigger role in this outing. Minus Nicolas Cage, plus Jim Carrey, so that’s a push. The delicate balance of action and goofiness remains in place, though of course in a sequel it doesn’t seem as innovative. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Review – Beneath

If you’re going to make a movie this terrible, please give it a title that’s more challenging to turn into an insult. This production borrows only the worst attributes of Jaws and “The Raft” from Creepshow 2. Teenagers are trapped in a rowboat, a giant lake fish waiting to devour anyone who sticks an arm into the water. The story manages to deftly avoid all opportunities for interesting plot twists or character development. See if desperate

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Review – Soldiers of the Damned

Such a promising start. Such a dismal downhill slide. This picture started out with enough production value to make it look like a serious attempt at movie making. It even had an interesting premise: German soldiers sent behind enemy lines in 1944 to retrieve a powerful, ancient artifact that could turn the tide of the war. But after an hour of watching the cast wander through the woods and bicker, the production more than wore out the welcome it started with. See if desperate