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 21st: [REC] 3: Genesis (2012)
Straying from the first two movies, [REC] 3: Genesis (2012) explores a parallel story surrounding the outbreak of demons at a wedding.
Having not seen this in several years, I had forgotten that only part of the movie was shot with a shaky cam, and when it switched over, I have to admit I was a little relieved. Shaky cam can be hard on the eyes after a while. It was a different approach than [REC] fans had been accustomed to, and some thought it was a weird step in the wrong direction, but to me, the switch to a steadier hand was done without taking anything away from the film.
As a movie, it holds up very well against the other entries, and, in fact, I would put it up there with the original. The same level of scares are delivered, but this installment feels more fun. The proceedings are a little more tongue-in-cheek, and it results in a great horror-action movie.
I think if audiences had had a better idea of what the movie was going to be going in, it wouldn’t have been as harshly criticized. When a franchise like [REC] gets further into the series, it’s important to try something new, and that’s exactly what happens here to great effect. It’s certainly better than the final [REC] entry, which was an absolute miss. Yes, [REC] 3: Genesis is a different flavor, but it tastes just as good.
October 22nd: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Pick any movie from any horror franchise and none is as harshly criticised as Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). (I’m not talking about remakes, because those tend to be put together by apes and clowns.) But does Season of the Witch deserve the harsh criticism? Probably not, but it definitely doesn’t deserve praise, either.
The greatest thing to say about this movie is that it has a fantastic premise. Screenwriter John Carpenter wanted to move the series away from Michael Myers and present a new Halloween-centric film for the franchise. Unfortunately, they already blew that idea a year earlier when they released Halloween II.
Halloween III is slow and, for the most part, super boring. The weird Stonehenge aspect only adds confusion, but the premise aside from that is interesting. A Halloween mask-maker plans to kill children using the masks and a TV commercial. There are some exciting moments that are all too brief, like the actual ending of the film. But even then, unfortunately, we hardly care about any of it by the time the end even comes.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch isn’t great, but it’s not the worst entry in a franchise. No, that title might belong to Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Boo.
October 23rd: The Conjuring (2013)
While all of the popular torture porn horror flooded theaters throughout the early aughts, squeamish horror fans discomforted by the aggressive subgenre were left few releases to get excited about. But thanks to James Wan, that all changed in 2013 with The Conjuring.
Though his movies are not perfect—not even The Conjuring—they’re always incredibly close, falling short in areas that are hardly noticeable. Wan knows what he is doing so well that, down the line, I could see him held up alongside the likes of Spielberg.
After having seen this movie so many times now, the scares don’t affect me like they first did, but I can take the time to really appreciate the camera work and the acting. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are the hearts of this movie and of the sequel (which is, in my opinion, the only other installment in the Conjuring Universe that successfully recreates the magic of the original).
The best thing I can say about The Conjuring in a few words is that it’s not your typical haunted house movie, and it’s totally unforgettable.
October 24th: The Disappointments Room (2016)
Now, I had no desire to watch The Disappointments Room (2016), nor did I even remember it when I picked a horror movie at random off of JustWatch (check it out). I didn’t expect much—I just expected it to be bad—and I’m here to report that my expectations were absolutely met.
Watching the movie, I had a lot of questions that could only come up during a poorly made haunted house movie. If this room was a secret, this disappointments room, then why did it have a window? Wouldn’t somebody have questioned what that window goes to at some point in time? I guess not.
Why is everybody on edge from the beginning of the movie, even though they’re supposed to be happy with a new home? Yeah, I guess their baby daughter died, but they flip from happy to sad to angry in no time. That might have to do with how badly the script is written and how little it seemed that anybody wanted to be in this movie. Kate Beckinsale is a good screen presence, but I’m not sure she’s a great actress based on this. The husband in this movie is as if somebody created a person from the worst parts of Owen Wilson and Sam Rockwell and left him out in the sun for too long.
When the acting isn’t painful to watch, the visuals are about as cliche as they come. If a ghost story is going to be so interested in the pre-death life of the ghosts, you have to give us something interesting to work with, or at least give us some good scares. I don’t think there was a single good scary moment in this at all. There were moments when the music was telling me this is going to be scary, but it was just accompanying nonsense or mundane activities, like moving a dresser.
I don’t regret picking a random movie, because that’s how some truly great movies are found that deserve an audience. But The Disappointments Room is not one of those success stories.
October 25th: Halloween (1978)
On this day, 40 years ago, the face of horror changed forever with John Carpenter’s Halloween. This, being my second year doing 31 Days of Halloween, I’m trying not to repeat any movies, but there a couple exceptions. Halloween is one of those movies that is an unquestioned classic. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a masterpiece, Friday the 13th is a lot of fun, but neither comes close to the prestige that is Halloween.
I could go on and on about the movie, and have, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been said before. With each repeat viewing, I relish in all of the familiar things I love while still collecting brand-new elements to appreciate. A lot of the scenes still really impress me, like most of the action near the end with Laurie in the house. Michael’s white mask appearing out of the dark, and Michael sitting up in the background both stick out each time. It’s perfectly shot and acted.
Watching this time around, I kept thinking about the new Halloween (2018) and how its script entirely disregards the sequels and picks up from here, from the original events. I think if none of those sequels had been made in the first place, we might be better off, but disregarding them for the new film is a start.
The fact the eleventh film in a franchise can operate on the assumption that the previous nine films never happened and still be wildly successful is a true testament to the original—not only how good it was, but how good it is and how well it has stood the test of time.
October 26th: The Others (2001)
The Others (2001) is one of those movies that is great the first viewing, but after the twist is revealed, it’s hard to watch it the same way again. But like The Sixth Sense (1999), which falls victim to this in a massive way, The Others still manages holds up to a rewatch.
It may not carry as strong of a punch as it did the first time around, but it becomes something of a different movie when you know the big reveal. It’s still an interesting story about a woman and her sick children. The scares aren’t too much—I was able to watch this with my wife, who scares easily—but the tension is always there.
Nicole Kidman plays each scene intensely seriously, which helps sell the movie. The Others could have easily been just another boring, soft-horror period piece, but instead, the filmmakers took a cliched genre and subverted it just enough to make it one of the more engaging haunted house movies.
The Others does feel a little dated at times, due to the camera work and the music cues, but those are easily overlooked. During a time, 2001, when the horror landscape was easing into the torture subgenre, we got a little gem of a movie that manages to be something different.