Thursday, October 31, 2013

24 Hours of Horror Movies for Halloween

A good friend of mine posed this question to me this past weekend: “If you wanted to watch movies for 24 hours on Halloween, what would your list look like?”  For the sake of ease in this, he told me to assume every movie was 2 hours long.
I really loved this question, so I thought I would put together a viewing list for Halloween.  24 hours of horror movies.  What could be better than that?
One note before I dive in: this does not double as my list of favorite horror movies.  Rather, this is a list of movies that put me in the Halloween spirit.  I had to leave plenty of great movies off this list.  Some day, I’ll put together a list of my favorite movies.  This is not that day.
Feel free to add your own viewing lists in the comments.

12:00-2:00 AM
What better way to kick off the day than with a viewing of the John Carpenter classic?  Beyond being a perfect way to set the mood, it also gives you a lot of tips of what not to do in case the boogeyman decides to show up in your small, nondescript town.  It also reminds us that everyone – even a cynical old codger like Dr. Loomis – is entitled to one good scare.  Use it wisely.

The Orphanage
2:00-4:00 AM
The atmosphere throughout this entire movie is perfect for late-night (or early-morning) viewing.  It’s a beautiful and spooky little ghost story.  It’s not uncommon for mist to rise around this time of day, which would be the ideal setting to watch this.

Evil Dead [2013]
4:00-6:00 AM
I realize this might seem a bit early for such a gory, intense movie.  But I believe in you.  If you’re willing to watch 24 hours of horror movies, you can deal with watching the insanity that is this movie at 4 in the morning.  I may just end up watching this every morning when I get out of bed.  Better than a cup of coffee.
Anyway, this movie is amazing.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
6:00-8:00 AM
The sun is starting to come up, so we need to move to some lighter material (mainly because it just doesn’t feel right watching some movies when the sun is out).  This seems like a good way to kick off this portion of the day.  It’s a smart, funny, and perfect deconstruction of the slasher genre, while still managing a few scares.  This is one of my favorite modern horror films.

Drag Me to Hell
8:00-10:00 AM
Sam Raimi’s return to the horror genre is a ton of fun.  Dancing goats and gypsy curses and horrible, horrible things happening to an adorable blonde.  Justin Long is terrific, and David Paymer even makes an appearance.  More like Christine on the hoof, amiright?  Anyone? 

The Monster Squad
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
I hadn’t seen this movie since elementary school, and wondered how well it would hold up.  As it turns out, it holds up wonderfully.  It’s The Goonies with monsters.  It’s funny and odd, and it’s everything I wanted to be a part of as a kid.  And now.  I would totally be in The Monster Squad right now (although it would probably look like Mystery Team at this point).

Return of the Living Dead
12:00-2:00 PM
Crazy, bloody fun, with Linnea Quigley dancing on graves as an added plus.  It’s a fun addition to the zombie genre.  It’s extremely funny, and I find something else to love about it every time I watch it.
It would’ve made sense to watch Night of the Living Dead before watching this, but I just couldn’t find room for it so early in the day.

2:00-4:00 PM
I don’t know what it is about this movie.  This series doesn’t get overtly goofy until the second movie (and that goofiness really hits hard in the third and fourth), but this movie is pretty unintentionally goofy.  The effects are pretty bad.  The Ghoulies look ridiculous.  But there’s just something I love about this movie.  It doesn’t feel like Halloween until I watch it.

4:00-6:00 PM
As we transition to dusk, it’s time to get away from the lighter stuff and back into the darker side of the genre.  May is a perfect fit.  It’s a darkly funny movie, but it has a heavy dose of gore and creepy moments as well.  It’s The Bride of Frankenstein or Pieces, as lived through an awkward girl who wants nothing more than to fit in.  It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking movie.  I’m always left wondering whose side I’m on.

Night of the Living Dead [1968]
6:00-8:00 PM
This movie may not be as terrifying as it was when it was first released (and violence against women is generally frowned-upon these days, even if they are in a state of hysterics about how the walking dead killed their brother), but it still holds up extremely well.  An air of creepiness surrounds the entire film.  This is still my all-time favorite zombie movie.

8:00-10:00 PM
The day is winding down.  It’s time to get uncomfortable.  This movie is less scary than it is deeply unsettling.  It has a great story and atmosphere to it.  And, while there are a handful of moments that I would cut (the “children dancing in the hall” scene was downright laughable), it never quite lost me, and it drew me back in immediately afterwards (this is in stark contrast to Insidious, which lost me fairly early and never regained my trust).  This is a dark, twisted movie that will stay with you for long after the credits have rolled.

Trick R Treat
10:00 PM – 12:00 AM
Our day ends with Trick R Treat, which takes 5 stories (all taking place on Halloween in a small town) and weaves them together through the use of interacting characters and Sam, an undersize pumpkin-man who seems sworn to uphold the ancient traditions of Halloween, enforcing them with swift justice and a sharp lollipop.  There really isn’t a likable character to be found here, but I love the stories and the feel of the movie.  If nothing else, it’s pretty good justification for staying inside on Halloween and watching movies.  It’s better than being a disturbed principal’s human jack-o-lantern.  Just make sure to keep that pumpkin lit.

And there you have it.  Twelve movies to fill up 24 hours of your day on Halloween.  Of course, limiting myself to only twelve movies assures that some terrific options were left off.  Also, in looking at the actual running time, these would not take up the full 24 hours.  So feel free to plug any of these into the list.  They just narrowly missed the cut, anyway.
Psycho [1960]
Cabin in the Woods
Amityville Horror [2005]
The Haunting [1963]
A Nightmare on Elm Street [1984]
The Bride of Frankenstein
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [1974 or 2003]
Shaun of the Dead
Final Destination
Paranormal Activity

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Evil Dead

For as excited as I was about this movie, it's kind of amazing that it exceeded my extremely high expectations for it.  It's violent.  Gory (they used all practical effects, and they all looked terrific.  I'm not totally convinced one of the girls didn't actually cut her arm off).  Creepy.  Overrun with second-guessing and illogical plot points.  Uneven acting (although it's worth noting that Jane Levy is terrific throughout.  I hope to see her in more movies very soon).  It's a beautiful and blood-drenched horror film.  It feels less like a remake and more like a love-letter to the the genre, while still adding its own memorably bloody chapter to the genre.  It shows the audience dozens of potential weapons, then gleefully uses each and every one of them.

If I have one complaint it's that the unrated version has yet to see the light of day.  I know it's out there (the first cut was rated NC-17, so they cut out some stuff to get down to R).  And, while I know they probably didn't have to cut too much (30 seconds would be my guess), my mind desperately wants to believe that there are 20+ insane minutes floating around out there, just begging to be released.  In two years, they will no doubt release it, and I will happily pay whatever they ask.

You can read my original review here.

Monday, October 28, 2013


A terrific British horror-comedy.  It sets a slasher film during a staff retreat.  On top of hitting all the familiar slasher beats, there is also a healthy amount of gore involved.  Lots of blood.  Some terrible carving.  But it injects a perfect amount of humor to the mix.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


One of my all-time favorite movies.  I end up watching this multiple times a year.  It's a beautifully shot movie, and the soundtrack is incredible.  I love the dialog.  I love how crazed Dr. Loomis is (and the look of joy on his face when he gets in his one good scare).  I love Laurie, Annie and Lynda.  I love Michael Myers dressing up like a ghost and putting on Bob's glasses.  I love everything about this movie.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I can't remember the last time I had seen this movie.  High school, I guess.  Considering I graduated in 1998, that was a long time ago.  I remembered the very end - what happened to the house - but that was it.  Pretty much every other detail escaped me.  I even forgot that Carol Anne was taken, and that's one of the central plots of the movie.
So, while I had seen this movie, it felt like I was watching it for the first time.

There were some odd goofy moments, and some of the special effects felt dated, but I thought this movie holds up pretty well.  It wasn't quite as creepy as I had remembered it, but there were still a number of moments that made my skin crawl.

A solid movie.  I won't wait 15+ years to watch it again.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Trick R Treat

I've written about this movie in the past (here), so I'll keep this short.  This has become essential viewing every year around Halloween.  It always puts me in the Halloween mood.  It has a great feel and atmosphere to it.  I love this movie.

If you haven't seen these vintage pictures of people in Halloween outfits, you really need to.  The schoolbus scene in this movie reminds me a lot of these.  Some freaky, freaky stuff.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

You're Next

Description from Netflix:
When shy Erin joins her new boyfriend at a family reunion to commemorate his parents’ anniversary, the tense gathering is horrifically interrupted by a gang of masked invaders who brutalize the celebrants…until someone starts fighting back.

My thoughts:
Going to the dollar theater by yourself is always a ton of fun.  I highly recommend it.

I really liked this.  It had a cool 80s slasher vibe to it, due in no small part to the stellar synth soundtrack.  The soundtrack really set the mood for this movie.  The filmmakers also did a great job at using silence at times to ratchet up the tension. 

It would be easy to compare this to The Strangers, and I suppose there’s a bit of that in here, mainly because it’s a home invasion movie with masks.  But, as I pointed out above, it looks and feels more like an 80s slasher.  This really felt more like Friday the 13th or Halloween than The Strangers.
But even that comparison isn’t overly accurate.  Erin was far more competent at fighting back than the majority of final girls in those movies.  Erin is a fighter.  She was raised as a survivalist.  She has no qualms with picking up a meat tenderizer and raining down holy hell on someone twice her size.  This movie won’t rank high on the list of best slashers ever, but Erin should rank pretty high on the list of all-time survivor girls.  She’s scrappy.  She’s nasty.  She’s resourceful.  And she’s responsible for one of the best kills I’ve seen in recent memory. 

Without getting too slap-sticky, this has a lot of really funny moments (provided the gruesome deaths of some main characters is something you find amusing, which I do).  It was never goofy, but there were quite a few laugh-out-loud funny moments.
One of those funny moments was seeing a man in a sheep mask walk around with a crossbow.  I’m not even sure it was supposed to be funny, but it killed me.

This was a really bloody slasher movie.  It earned its R rating.  And it had a terrific ending.  I’m already looking forward to watching it again.  It was a really fun time.

Also, Ti West is in this movie, and he gets killed off really early.  I could watch Ti West get killed a thousand times.  That’s how much I hated The Innkeepers

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Orphan Killer

Description from IMDB:
Marcus Miller is a serial murderer hellbent on teaching his estranged sister Audrey what it means to have family loyalty. His lessons are taught in massive doses of vulgar and unimaginable pain. Throughout her brutal torture we learn that Marcus is not the only Miller with Killer in the bloodline as Audrey proves to be a formidable adversary.

Yet another movie I didn't know much about before I started it.  I knew it was a slasher.  And that's about all I knew.

Because of this, it took me a little while to settle in.  It's not a good movie in the traditional sense.  The lighting is terrible.  The acting is comically bad with most of the characters (I thought Diane Foster did a good job, but no one else stood out as particularly good).  The music is awful.  The story is decent, but nothing special.  I got the feeling that the filmmakers thought they were creating a great backstory of this killer, but it really just seemed like they were trying too hard.
The music was the main sticking point for me.  With very few exceptions, the soundtrack was just a bunch of terribly thrown-together metal songs.  There was no sense of setting a mood.  No sense of trying to match the music with the action on the screen.  It was as if the filmmakers just said, "There's a chase scene.  Throw on some metal.  He's killing someone.  Throw on some metal."  As I mentioned, it never fit with the scene, and it was usually louder than it had any reason to be.  It was incredibly distracting, and also seemed pretty lazy on the part of the filmmakers.
Some scenes also seemed to be ripped directly from Rob Zombie's Halloween films, but without any of the visual style that Zombie brought to those.

But, after a while, I settled in and found that I was enjoying it.  No, it wasn't good.  But, when viewing it as a kind of grindhouse movie, it made a lot more sense.  It was incredibly violent.  When there was blood (which was often), it spewed forth like a fountain.  It pooled on the floor.  It splattered on the camera (which made no sense, but whatever).  The blood splatter was inconsistent from scene-to-scene.
There was also some gratuitous nudity.
All of that just kind of added to the grindhouse charm of it.  I'm not sure if that's what the filmmakers were going for, but, if they were, they pulled it off pretty well.
I also really enjoyed seeing a psychopathic child wearing a mask.  That's always fun.

It wasn't a great movie, but it was a pretty fun movie.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Escape From Tomorrow

Description from IMDB:

In a world of fake castles and anthropomorphic rodents, an epic battle begins when an unemployed father's sanity is challenged by a chance encounter with two underage girls on holiday.

Before I talk about this, let's watch the trailer again.  Because the trailer is amazing.

You know what that looks like?  It looks like a terrific psychological horror movie filmed (illegally) in Disney World.  You can read what I said about it the first time I saw the trailer here.
I was excited.  You were excited.  I tried to temper my expectations, but I couldn't help myself.  I mean, look at that trailer?  For someone who went to Disney World quite a few times as a child, I couldn't help but be excited for this.

Sadly, it wasn't very good.  Most of the great moments can be found right there in the trailer.  What I thought would be a movie about a man slowly losing his mind at Disney World (complete with lots of horrifying takes on familiar images) turned out to be a movie about a married man with two children lusting after every woman he happened to cross paths with.  Underage French girls.  A nurse.  A fallen Disney princess.  Current Disney princesses.  
And that is what drove the story forward.  They easily could have made this movie revolve around horrific Disney imagery, but instead chose to drive the story based on the libido of a middle-aged man.  Not the best choice.

Some of the imagery was great.  The fact that it was shot in black and white really helped.  The acting may not have been great, but it wasn't terrible.  I loved the music.  It alternated between whimsical and dark, and it fit the mood of the film very well.

There was a decent amount of green screen, and it was terrible.  However, since they shot the bulk of the movie on location at Disney World, any added shots (as well as any scripted scenes featuring more than a couple of people) needed to be filmed in green screen.  It looked awful.  But, given the limitations of the film, I give the green screen a bit of a pass.  It was distracting, but they had to work with the limitations they set for themselves.  It was bad, but not the worst part of the movie.

Within the next week, I'm sure to have some better formulate thoughts and opinions on this.  As it stands now, I'm just disappointed.  And tired.  But mostly disappointed.

Rating: 1.5/5

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Frankenstein's Army

It's that time of year again.  The time when I try to watch as many horror movies as my little eyes can handle.  Instead of my usual, long-winded reviews, I'm going to just post a few thoughts about each movie I watch.  That means I will likely be posting about movies I've seen before.  So, for the next month, this blog will become my own personal viewing log.  You're welcome.

Description from Netflix:
As they push into Germany near the end of World War II, Russian troops discover that the Nazis have used the research scientist Victor Frankenstein to create monstrous new soldiers that are pieced together from body parts of the dead.

Here is a list of things I knew about this movie before I started it:
1. Good creature design
2. World War II

That's it.  That's the sum of my knowledge about this movie.  Which is good, I guess.  I didn't really have any expectations going in.

Here's something I didn't know that would have been useful.  It's a found footage movie.
I hoped this would be good.  I'm a sucker for horror movies set in different periods (at least, I think I am.  I often find that I like the idea of these movies better than I actually like the movie).  And I love good creature design.  This should have been right up my alley.

Sadly, it was not.  It was pretty boring, and I wasn't overly impressed with the creature effects.  They pretty much looked like rejects from Hellboy.  Some of them looked pretty cool, but, if they were planning on driving interest in the movie based on that, they failed horribly.

There really weren't any likable characters, either.  It's hard to really get too invested in a movie when there aren't any characters to sympathize with.

The first-person style was really distracting.  These kinds of movies are pretty hit-and-miss for me.  When done well, found footage movies can be really good, and the style can add a lot to the movie.  When done poorly, they're extremely distracting to the story.  This was the latter.
I normally don't get too tied up in the camera logic of these movies.  Whether a person is filming under strange circumstances makes very little difference to me.  But this one was really obnoxious.  There were a number of times when the cameraman was running from a monster, dropped the camera, and took time to pick it up, hold it back up to his face, and film as he ran.  I understand needing to do this to keep showing things, but it doesn't make any sense here.  Again, I normally don't have these issues, but it was impossible to ignore here.

This was a movie that started really slow, and, even when it picked up, never really held my interest.

Rating: 1.5/5