Sacred Walloween has come and gone, and the one thing I fell behind on updating you about was my #31DaysOfHorror. So while the spoopiest month of the year may be over, I thought I’d update you all on my nearly-successful goal to watch 31 horror films in 31 days (I managed a whole 23 1/2 this year, so that’s something)! So here they are: 23 rapid-fire reviews of a variety of scary movies, from the psychological to the giallo.
Day 1: The Fly – While I have not yet seen the original variation of the monster movie classic, I can confirm that David Cronenberg’s remake is a masterful horror classic. While it isn’t really a scary movie, the tale of a man watching his body betray him due to disease and infection resonates today as loudly as it did in the 80s, when AIDS was on everyone’s mind. Jeff Goldblum lends a cocky lovability to Seth Brundle, and Geena Davis is wonderful as the reporter following his journey. Add in remarkable special effects and a tragic finale, and you have a true work of art. Highly recommended.
Day 2: The Blob – The Blob is an incredibly cheesy and dorky film. It’s got Steve McQueen as the everyman teen trying to convince the town of extraterrestrial ooze trying to devour the entire town. If I’m being honest, it’s not exactly what you call a “good” film. However, I have a very deep soft spot for this film. The effects are decent, the story is taut, and the scene of the Blob seeping its way into a packed movie theater is good cheesy fun. What more can you ask for? I’d say worth the watch.
Day 3: Halloween II – I have mixed thoughts on Halloween II. There’s a lot to like in this film – it builds on the mythology well, the suspense is well-executed, the tension well built, and a few of the scenes are incredibly well done. However, unlike the original Halloween, Halloween II chooses instead to devolve to Jason-levels of gore and ridiculousness, including a scalding scene meant to pay homage to Deep Red (more on that later) and instead just feels gross. The hatred the cast and crew felt towards this film is palpable from beginning to end, and all I can say is that while there was a lot of wind in the film’s sails from the beginning, it is all emptied out by the final moments. I’d say it’s mildly worth the watch, but only if you really love the original.
Day 4: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – It took a while for me to get into The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It starts out really slow, and there’s not much to the first twenty minutes other than the unique set design. However, once the plot gets going, and the themes of authoritarianism and fatalism are palpable. Of course you have to talk about the scenic design, which inspired Tim Burton and Henry Salick, and the final twist set the bar for all twists going forward throughout history. Hell, there are even a few good scares along the way – impressive for 1920. I’d say the film is a must-watch for cinephiles, but might not have much impact on those who aren’t.
Day 5: Near Dark – Surprise surprise, Kathryn Bigelow knows how to direct. Truth be told, I wanted to love Near Dark more than I did, but man is it gorgeous to look at. I found it interesting to see Bigelow blend the vampire mythology with the Western, and it allowed for some masterful cinematography. I also want to give credit to Bill Paxton, who is balls-out great as Severen. His performance in the bar scene alone is one of the best scenes in all of this year’s Sacred Walloween. While I wouldn’t recommend Near Dark to everyone, I would say it’s worth the watch if you’re a fan of Bigelow as a director.
Day 6: Eyes Without A Face – You know, I won’t lie to all. This is a very, VERY French horror film. And to be quite honest, I was a little disappointed in it overall. You can see how the aesthetic inspired John Carpenter, as well as how the makeup inspired Cronenberg, but overall, outside the look of the mask and the general ambiance, it was more of a technical marvel than an actually frightening experience. I give this film a mild skip, which is to say you won’t hate yourself for watching it, but you also don’t need to waste your time if you don’t have to.
Day 7: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – Oh wow. Wow wow wow. This is the epitome of dumb horror. Halloween 4 is schlocky and cheesy and dumb. But if I’m being honest, I kind of respect that. There’s nothing wrong with embracing formulaic, ridiculously simple horror films every now and again. After all, you still get Michael Myers, as well as an incredible performance out of Danielle Harris. And even if it never matters in the grand scheme of things, that final twist in the last few minutes is undeniably solid. It’s not my favorite horror film, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. I’d give this film a recommendation, but only if you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Day 8: Dracula – Now THIS is a horror movie. The original Dracula is exactly what you want when you pick a classic monster movie. It’s got creepy ambiance, a general air of dread, and moody atmosphere. The effects are surprisingly good for 1931, especially the famous spider-web walk, and at the center of it all, there’s Bela Lugosi. Lugosi is making CHOICES from his very first scene, and I love the way he flamboyantly draws out each and every expression (“I never drink…wine…”). Quite frankly, I am ALL about this film. I fully recommend it to everyone, of every age, across the board.
Day 9: Mandy – You know, I’m still working on my review for Mandy, and I was hoping to have more thoughts for you all by this point. That is not the case. It’s been about two weeks and I’m still processing what I watched. Mandy is an experiment in patience, dread, grief, and insanity. It’s uncomfortable to sit through, but in all the right ways. There are Cynobites and cults and knife-dicks, and it is all SO MUCH, but that’s perfect for what this film is trying to be. At the end of the day, I THINK I liked it, and I THINK I recommend it. But all I know for sure is that Nicolas Cage is still my main man.
Day 10: Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers – Oh god, this one hurt. Halloween 5 is a dumb, nasty little film with no redeeming value. Not only does the film take pleasure in its characters’ deaths, but it intentionally has the actors overact while playing the most unlikeable roles, as if they WANTED us to root for Michael Myers. And then there’s the weird angle where the cops, in a failed tribute to Last House on the Left, are buffoons to the point they explain that they failed to stop Michael Myers because, “Well, we’re just really bad at our jobs.” In Last House on the Left, the cops are portrayed this way as a satiric statement about 70s inefficiency in government and crime rates. Here, they do it because…reasons? All in all, it sucked. From beginning to end. I cannot recommend this film to anyone, not even a Halloween/slasher completionist, let alone the average viewer. Don’t bother.
Day 11: Halloween (2018) – I reviewed Halloween for the site right here, but I suppose I can give you a little recap to help you get by. Essentially, I wanted to like the new Halloween more than I did, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good film. There’s a lot of good stuff here: the teen girls are entertaining (I loved Vicky’s relationship with her young ward Julian), the suspense and tension were well-executed, and Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent. Was it too gory, and were the interesting themes dropped too soon? Sure, but that’s ok. This film is still the best case sequel for a film that should not have had a sequel. I’d wait for DVD (although many of you did not), but it’s worth the watch.
Day 12: Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers – Oh Jesus. And I thought Halloween 5 was bad. Halloween 6 is almost unwatchable, although I won’t say some of its awfulness isn’t of the “so bad it’s good” variety. I cannot remember a single character from this film, other than the awful parents straight out of a Lifetime movie who are inexplicably and cruelly named after series creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill. Oh, and I remember that Tommy Doyle returns to the series, now a creepy adult played by a horribly miscast first-ever performer named Paul Rudd. Yeah, that’s right, likable everyman Paul Rudd is in this movie as the moody, scarred twenty-something. There’s also a ridiculous cult subplot that I couldn’t follow, as well as a series of bad, shaky edits that not only made little sense, but kind of hurt my head. Halloween 6 should not exist; it is an anomaly not worth the thought it exercised to exist and can easily be skipped for maximum impact in the Halloween canon.
Day 13: Les Diaboliques – I’m not entirely sure I agree that Les Diaboliques is a horror movie. There are only two truly creepy scenes, and an ending that is a bit more sinister than one would expect. However, that really doesn’t matter to me, because Les Diaboliques is an incredible film, a mystery-thriller that clearly impacted Alfred Hitchcock and an entire generation of filmmakers. Henri-Georges Clouzot’s direction is tight, skilled, and revolutionary, while the performances of Simone Signoret and Véra Clouzot are masterful. While maybe not for #31DaysOfHorror, I would definitely recommend this film to any major film fans out there.
Day 14: Halloween: H20 – You know, it’s not perfect, but I really enjoyed Halloween: H20. While it was a little too tongue in cheek for my tastes, it really attempted to find a middle ground between the silly sequels and the haunting original. Michael’s journey and state of being is realistic enough, while Jamie Lee Curtis gets a chance to shine 20 years before her second rewrite of the horror series. Her Laurie is a worried alcoholic who gains agency in time to confront her past – it really laid the groundwork for the 2018 film. Sure, a lot of it is too goofy (LL Cool J plays a security guard trying to write an erotic novel), but between the discovery of Michelle Williams and the right proper horror setpieces, this is easily one of the better Halloween sequels. Worth a watch if you like the original (or Scream).
Day 15: Halloween: Resurrection – Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Halloween: Resurrection. This should top the list of “so bad, it’s good” horror films. I fully understand that this movie is awful, but I kind of love it for that exact reason. While the opening sequence undutifully kills off Laurie Strode (boo), the basic premise for this film is actually kind of interesting. Six college students are on a reality show to investigate Michael Myers’ house to discover what made him evil, and the real Michael shows up. Meanwhile, a group of high school students watch the live feed of the show, comment on the action, and text advice to the characters. Years before reality TV became a real phenomenon, as well as providing sharp commentary on horror audiences, there are a lot of interesting themes in the film. Too bad it drops them all so Busta Rhymes can have a kung fu battle with Michael Myers. Oh, that’s not a joke. Busta Rhymes plays a producer named Freddy who uses his love of Bruce Lee movies to go toe to toe with the greatest slasher of all time. Throw in bad jokes and piss poor editing, and you have one of the funniest bad horror movies ever made. See it immediately, just know it’s for all the wrong reasons.
Day 16: The Phantom of the Opera – Man, was I disappointed in the 1925 rendition of The Phantom of the Opera. Hailed as one of the more accurate depictions of the novel, as well as one of the first horror classics, there really isn’t a lot going for this film. Outside of the first reveal of the Phantom’s face, there’s not really anything scary (although that first reveal is quite something), and an air of mystery whenever the shadowy Phantom calls out to the Opera House (I do think that part is really cool), the film doesn’t offer up much to the audience. The plot is muddled, characters are often called by multiple names, and the ending is ridiculously over-the-top (it turns into an Indiana Jones movie for a period of time). The only other nice thing I can say about it is the use of color tinting was innovative for its time. I honestly don’t think this one is worth the watch, no matter the “classic” bona fides it possesses.
Day 17: Jennifer’s Body – Jennifer’s Body has been going through something of a critical reevaluation recently. While originally panned upon release, the film has only grown in the eyes of critics (especially thanks to the recent increases in a female voice in the critical community), becoming a cult classic. I fall somewhere in the middle. There is a lot of interesting commentary in Jennifer’s Body, including a satiric look at female relationships, social hierarchy, blooming sexuality, and the rise of indie bands (my favorite plot arc). And many of the aspects panned in early reviews are amongst my favorite parts of the film: specifically Karyn Kusama’s direction and the performances of Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox, and especially Adrien Brody (he plays douchey indie band lead singer so well). However, the script by Diablo Cody feels forced, often relying on the tropes that made Juno great while never actually feeling original – much in the same way M. Nigh Shymalan made The Sixth Sense and thought, “Well, guess I need to do a twist every time now.” Overall, I can’t get over my disappointment in the script, but I would still recommend it – there’s a lot to this little comedy-horror gem worth examining.
Day 18: Deep Red – I wanted to love Deep Red. In the end, I only really, really liked it. Deep Red is a more “pure” giallo film than Suspiria – it’s a cross between slasher and mystery, there’s more of an emphasis on the plot (specifically who is the murderer) and it is less supernatural all around (despite the psychic in attendance). However, it just never felt as “gonzo” as Suspiria did. The reds are gorgeous, but they need more colors to balance them out. The killer is frightening, but the violence, while disgusting, never feels as over-the-top as the latter. And while the mystery is clever (as is the twist at the end, which I rewound to make sure was established early and not a cheat), I managed to predict it early enough for it to be a letdown. Still, I really dug this film – it’s nasty, funny, and charming, and the sequence involving the doll in the hallway is creepy and funny at the same time (it is now one of my Favorite Movie Scenes). I would recommend this film to fans of giallo horror, but maybe not others outside the community.
Day 19: Village of the Damned – Hmmm. I really wanted to like Village of the Damned a lot more than I did. It has all of my favorite components of a horror film: creepy kids, George Sanders, filicide…the works. However, it just never really came together for me. The children weren’t established enough to be creepy, Sanders wasn’t well-defined enough to elicit empathy, and its message – that the Other is better off destroyed than assimilated or empathized with – leaves a bad taste in our mouths given the current climate. The ending is spooky enough, and it’s a short, breezy watch, but there are plenty of films that execute these themes better, and I’m not sure this one is worth the watch at the end of the day.
Day 20: Army of Darkness – What the hell did I just watch. While The Evil Dead is a gory schlockfest, and Evil Dead II perfectly blends horror and comedy, Army of Darkness is proof that Sam Raimi’s goal from day one was to make a Three Stooges movie with zombies. Army of Darkness is just so…much that I’m not sure I can say one way or the other that I actually liked the film. However, I am in awe with Bruce Campbell’s performance, the size and scope of the whole thing, the endlessly quotable dialogue, and the fact that the ending battle so clearly influenced Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers that it makes the monumental battle sequence in that film feel like a rip-off. I’m not sure if it qualifies as a horror film or not, but I would definitely recommend Army of Darkness – it is a comedic tour-du-force.
Day 21: The Lost Boys – We now come to the worst film I saw during #31DaysOfHorror. That’s right: worse than Halloween 5 or The Curse of Michael Myers, it’s The Lost Boys. How this film became a cult classic is beyond me. Nothing about this film works – not the bad performances (although the Frog Brothers, let by Cory Feldman, are so ridiculously bad I kind of love it), not the terrible effects, and not the sh*tty attempt at vampire lore. The plot is implausible and dull, and I spent most of the ninety minute runtime wondering when it would end. And in terms of terrible performances, I really want to single out Dianne Wiest, Kiefer Sutherland, Edward Hermann, and Barnard Hughes, four actors I genuinely appreciate in other works, for performances so unfathomably bad it needs to be seen to be believed. The only good thing I can say about this film is the song, “Cry Little Sister,” is decent enough. Do not watch The Lost Boys; your time is more valuable than that.
Day 22: The Wicker Man – I was shocked at how similar in story the 1973 Wicker Man was to the 2006 version starring Nicolas Cage (NOT THE BEES!!!!), and I was even more shocked at how much this plot makes when context and subtext are applied. You see, as opposed to some weird anti-feminist screed where Nicolas Cage screams incoherently and children chant “phallic symbol” for no g*ddamn reason, the original Wicker Man is about a devout Catholic coming to a pagan island and finding himself appalled by their backwards ways. Religious imagery is prevalent, and the chanting of “phallic symbol” is a part of the pagan tradition (thus making sense, and having a reason for putting off the devout detective). The end result isn’t anything incredible, but it is remarkably creepy, intelligent, and fun, and stands out as one of the better horror films I watched during the month. You should watch The Wicker Man, and then watch the 2006 one for good measure, because NAHT THE BEES!!!!!
Day 23: Antichrist – Antichrist is one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen. Antichrist is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Antichrist is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Antichrist is…well, Antichrist is Antichrist. Lars von Trier knows how to make a weird, f*cked up movie, and a movie that I get weird looks for putting on in the gym while working out. From the artistically graphic opening to the nauseating third act to the fox that screams “Chaos Reigns,” every decision in this film is insightful, insane, and groundbreaking. This is the type of art I love, a journey into grief that makes Hereditary look tame. I don’t think I can say I loved this film – not because it isn’t good, but because the film dares you not to like it. I definitely recommend Antichrist to anyone who loves film, but be warned: this is a horrific, monstrous film that hates all of humanity, wants to show you disturbing images, and will scar you for life. Basically, it’s art.
Well, I hope you enjoy this look back on Sacred Walloween! I’ll miss my favorite month, but at least I have next year to look forward to. And I’m still finishing off Ringu (the original Japanese version of The Ring), so at least my horror binge will carry on a little longer. In the meantime, it’s time to kick back, relax, and throw ourselves headfirst into the happiness of Oscar season. I know I’ll be spending my week watching classic romances on Filmstruck, just to ward off any demons carrying over from Wednesday. Stay warm, everyone!