During the month of October it has become tradition for many to celebrate the season by watching a horror movie each day of the month. While it’s not always easy to find time to watch a movie each day, the horror genre makes it easier with hundreds of excellent films to choose from. This is the perfect time of the year to watch a horror movie you may not have otherwise considered.
Each week in the month of October I will once again be recording my progress with a mini-review each day. I’ve selected movies from classic to modern and from family-friendly to terrifying. I will revisit films that I love, ones that I need to give a second chance, and even try movies out for the first time. All this while trying to balance different styles and sub-genres. This will be a challenge, but one that I look forward to during one of my favorite months of the year. Please join me, again, as I take this journey through October.
October 14th: Crimson Peak (2015)
No one does horror like Guillermo del Toro. Even his weakest movies create a beautiful, haunting world where fantastic creatures dwell. Crimson Peak may not have as many creatures as his other efforts, but what we do get is ghosts, and they are beautifully unsettling. The ghosts are not the focus of this period piece, but act as more of a seasoning. Edith (Mia Wasikowska) marries the mysterious Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and moves into an old sinking mansion with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain).
The house is large and atmospheric, the ghosts are used to push the story forward, and the characters themselves are all well fleshed out. Every moment that del Toro can control is well crafted. There are moments, like Charlie Hunnam’s acting, or a somewhat predictable plot, that may keep Crimson Peak from greatness, but it’s unfair to expect a perfect movie from anyone, even the filmmakers who tend to knock it out of the park. Crimson Peak, in the end, feels a little like filler in the greater del Toro filmography, but it’s still a beautiful and engaging film.
October 15th: Frankenstein (1931)
At nearly nine decades old, Frankenstein is one of the benchmarks of the horror genre. It’s influence can be seen in so many releases throughout the years, that it would be silly to try and list them. One of the first and most successful movie monsters, Jack Pierce’s iconic make-up work on Boris Karloff has since become the gold standard when depicting Frankenstein’s Monster. As a film, it actually holds up better than most well-known classics. It has everything a horror movie needs, even if it doesn’t scare audiences like it used to.
The Monster has appeared on screen many times since, but no one has captured the character quite like Boris Karloff. He brought an empathy to the role without sacrificing the brute force. Many modern adaptations make the monster weak and uninteresting, even when portrayed by great actors like Robert DeNiro. It makes sense that a studio would want to tell this classic story again and again, but in this case, they already got it right 90 years ago. After years of avoiding it, I revisited Frankenstein a few years ago, and it has since become one of my favorites. This is mandatory Halloween viewing for anyone with a pulse.
October 16th: Child’s Play
If you would have asked me to talk about Child’s Play 10 years ago, I would have been very uneasy. If you would have asked me 20 years ago, I probably would have burst into tears. Child’s Play has helped shape the person I am today, for better or worse. I first saw pieces of it when I was five or six, and I vividly remember the Chucky nightmares that followed. I didn’t end up watching the full film until I was in my 20’s, but I’ve come to absolutely love it.
Child’s Play is an indisputable classic and it’s also a solid movie. The sequels may have strayed from the original premise, but the first film is so strong, that if the series ended in 1988, Child’s Play would still be considered a classic. In your unfamiliar, the plot follows a serial killer, trapped in the body of a doll, as he tries to steal the body of a little boy. It seems ridiculous, and it is ridiculous, but the movie, which is straight horror, shot like a mystery, works. It works largely thanks to actor Brad Dourif. He brought, and continues to bring, life to a potentially laughable character, and has managed to create a horror icon in line with Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. 30 years later, Child’s Play doesn’t show it’s age at all.
October 17th: The Blair Witch Project (1999)
When The Blair Witch Project came out, two decades ago, I was but a boy and there was no chance in Hell that I was seeing it. My mom wouldn’t allow it, and I certainly wouldn’t allow it either. However, I still vividly remember hearing people talk about it. As kids, we all bought into the brilliant marketing and were convinced that it was all real. Years later, as an adult with many horror movies under my belt, I was still avoiding it. Not out of fear, but because the found footage technique hasn’t aged well. The shaky cam has come a long way since 1999, but the film’s other flaws have no excuse.
Though nothing much happens throughout, my biggest problem with The Blair Witch Project is the cast of three insufferable people yelling at each other in the woods for 80 minutes. The spooky parts hold up well enough, but I couldn’t look past these horrible people. I completely understand why it was as popular as it was, but in the last 20 years, the concept has been handled better. I don’t regret seeing it, but it’s not something that I’ll likely revisit.
October 18th: Into the Dark: The Body (2018)
The Body is the first entry in Hulu’s new monthly series, Into the Dark. The feature length installment follows a hitman who’s plans of dropping off a victim on Halloween night are ruined by four party-goers. The premise is interesting for the first 10 minutes and gets old fast. No decisions made by any characters made sense and my suspension of disbelief went right out the window. The hitman ends up tracking the group that took the body, but you never feel that they’re in any real danger. It could also be because I didn’t care about any of them. There is so much hokey poorly written dialogue throughout, and the long conversations quickly dissolve any tension that’s been building.
The hitman himself loses any mystique required for the character. He’s too affable to be scary, but not enough to actually be likable or charming. It all stems from the larger problem of tone. Is this supposed to be humorous? If it is, all the humor falls flat. Why are there so many pop culture references? It’s not enough to be a gimmick, it’s just enough to be odd and off-putting. In the end, the writing is largely to blame for this incredible mess. The Body is bad, but not a total loss. Hopefully the next installment will be better.
October 19th: The Monster Squad (1987)
I can’t think of a better palate cleanser after The Body then The Monster Squad. You can beat seeing all the classic monsters together, looking their most terrifying in decades. The story follows Dracula, leading the rest of the monsters towards world domination, when a group of kids interfere. The Monster Squad checks all the boxes on a great ’80s movie; relatable kids, wonderful practical effects, and actual scares. The effects may not look as clean as CGI, but as is always the case, they only add to the film’s charm.
Dracula is determined and sinister. The Mummy looks better than he’s ever looked. Gill-man is impressive and terrifying. The Wolf Man suffers from a poor design, but his human counterpart is true to the original interpretation. Frankenstein’s Monster is portrayed, for the first time since Karloff, as sympathetic and scary, and Tom Noonan shines in the role. In fact, all the monsters, including the effects and performances, have aged better than anything else in the movie. The ’80s slang and styles can be a lot at times, but that’s easily overlooked in this extremely fun movie.
October 20th: A Quiet Place (2018)
A Quiet Place was one of the movies I was most looking forward to this year. When it finally came out, and I learned that the movie was practically silent, I had to make a difficult decision. Do I risk going to the theater, where the worst people dwell, or wait until I can watch it the privacy and silence of my own home? I ended up risking a trip to the theater. The audience was respectful and quiet, and it’s a testament to how wonderful and engaging the film is. While it shares similarities with films like Signs and doesn’t necessarily break much new ground, A Quiet Place does everything really well.
I’m not saying it’s a perfect movie, and in fact, there are several moments that don’t make a lot sense. Where’s the power coming from? Why did they get pregnant? Why not live near the waterfall? Where is the power coming from? How did John Krasinski grow that powerful beard? None of that matters. The monsters are effective and the human elements hold the story together. It’s not the scariest movie of the year, I would give that to Hereditary, but it’s fun and the perfect thing to watch with someone who isn’t a big fan of horror movies.