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 27th: Halloween (2018)
It’s finally here: the movie we didn’t really want, but always should have gotten. With every disappointing installment into the Halloween franchise, we craved this movie even more—a movie worthy of being called a Halloween movie. And this year, four decades later, we finally got one.
With John Carpenter signed on in some creative capacity, Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle reprising their iconic roles, and a set full of filmmakers who clearly love and understand the original, the movie was in excellent hands from jump. The weakest moments, for me, were in a couple of moments that, while not bad or distracting, didn’t feel completely organic either. With that minor, minor complaint, very little else falls short.
This year’s Halloween isn’t a perfect movie, but several things elevate it easily to be the worthiest successor to the original. First and foremost is John Carpenter’s score. That man proved that the greatest trick in his bag is his ear for music. The iconic original score is there but used subtly—new compositions mixed in with trademark synthesizer lines—and it really stole the show.
The second greatest aspect was that it’s a Halloween movie that finally got Michael Myers right again. He was perfect in the original—an unstoppable killing machine with no discernable motive—but with each subsequent film in the franchise, that core meaninglessness was abandoned in favor of motivations that were convoluted and ludicrous. This Halloween was a return to form, with a Michael Myers slinking from house to house, aimlessly killing everyone and anyone he encounters.
This brings me to my next point, which is the direction and cinematography. Director David Gordon Green and cinematographer Michael Simmonds put together some inspired camerawork here that is quite subtle but effective, paying homage to the original’s John Carpenter and Dean Cundey. With all of these aspects—and not to forget the wonderful Jamie Lee Curtis, of course—the new Halloween has potential to become a classic.
October 28th: Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Though the Creature from the Black Lagoon features one of the coolest-looking monsters of all of the Universal classics, I was bored to tears the first time I actually watched the movie. But with each revisit, it grew on me. Watching it today, I enjoyed it more than I ever have before. And why not? It’s a solid movie, especially as 1950s B-movie horror goes.
The acting is better than expected—Gillman is creepy, and the scary moments are intense enough. When Gillman is wreaking havoc, the movie is at it’s best. But when we’re subjected to long underwater scenes, yep, that’s when the mind wanders. Even so, what should be schlock ends up surprising you with quality. The two sequels that followed would try different things with the creature, and despite the varying success, Gillman remained a popular enough creature to helm interesting stories.
The most surprising thing about Gillman and Creature from the Black Lagoon is that there has never been a proper remake. We get a different Dracula and Frankenstein movie every other year, but a truly deserving movie like Creature is left unattended. Hopefully the Dark Universe will get back on track and give Creature from the Black Lagoon a dark and scary remake.
October 29th: House of Dracula (1945)
With so many films in the Universal monster catalog, there are many I have never seen. I’m sure there are some clunkers in there, and that’s a real concern. I don’t enjoy seeing these beloved characters below the top of their game—I can barely enjoy watching the monsters I love portrayed by actors who aren’t the icons that brought the characters to life in the first place.
However, there are a few exceptions to every rules, and one of the exceptions here is with House of Dracula. Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster is an extremely fine replacement for Boris Karloff. John Carradine makes Dracula a more interesting character than Béla was able to—although, that more than likely comes down to the script.
The greatest aspect of the classic monsters is the Wolf Man/Larry Talbot, always played by Lon Chaney Jr. There is a very special difference in House of Dracula: Talbot has a mustache. Wolf Man-Talbot seeks out a cure from a famous scientist, which is in line with Lawrence Talbot’s storyline through all of the films. He’s tormented by this monster within.
In a somewhat unexpected turn, Dracula/Baron Latos seeks a cure as well. Things don’t necessarily go well for anyone, especially Talbot, who tries to kill himself in the ocean. He fails and stumbles on Frankenstein’s Monster and, after the scientist revives him, there’s a fight in order to… Well, they fight because they’re damn monsters.
This is a direct sequel to House of Frankenstein, and they pair nicely, but even on its own, House of Dracula is a great entry into the classic catalog.
October 30th: Alien (1979)
When I first saw Alien, it was well after I had heard about all of the famous scenes, so there was nothing left to surprise me. Because of that, I was wildly underwhelmed. I have only seen Alien a handful of times, and, while I do understand its classic status, I don’t hold it dear to my heart.
It’s one of those movies that I really wish I could have seen without knowing anything about it. To be able to put myself in the audience during its original theatrical release would be an incredible experience. There is so much to love about this “haunted house in space.” The tension, the atmosphere, and the creature itself are all the results of a cast and crew at the top of their game.
The 1970s were an important time for film, from which a lot of today’s classics have emerged, and despite my initial nonchalance, Alien is certainly among the top of the heap. Every moment in the movie is recognizable. This time around, I really wanted to appreciate the movie more, so I tried to lose myself in it. If you’re not in love with the movie, try to let the movie absorb you. It’s not difficult, and the benefit is incredible.
Although I knew what was going to happen with each turn, there were moments that really got me—particularly, the scene with Harry Dean Stanton and Jonesy the cat. By the end, I was completely engaged in a way I hadn’t been the first time through. Alien is one of the movies that gets better with each viewing.
October 31st: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
The other exception to my “no repeat” rule for the 31 Days of Horror: Trick ‘r Treat. This movie oozes Halloween—just as much as the 1978 classic, and that’s about the highest praise that it can be given.
Trick ‘r Treat doesn’t stand only as a great Halloween movie, but it’s also one of the best anthology movies. Each segment has its own tone and story, and while they are each unique, they share the same spirit. It’s impossible to pick a favorite segment because each one is so well-crafted. Because of this, the movie has become well-loved, and a rumored sequel is possibly in the works. That part worries me because, like so many classic movies, it’s nearly impossible to make a good sequel.
With each passing year, Trick ‘r Treat cements it’s classic status deeper. It may not be a giant commercial success, but it’s well-loved by many and will continue to be that way, no matter what its future has in store.
Special: The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
After it was released on Netflix, I flew through the 10 episodes of The Haunting of Hill House over the month of October. I was intrigued when the first trailer came out—not overly excited, but interested. Then, I read Shirley Jones’ novel, and I was less excited. Though many consider it to be the scariest books ever written, I don’t get it. I was very bored, and found Nell—the crux of the story—to be obnoxious and uninteresting. So when the series premiered, I knew I would watch it, but I wasn’t in any hurry.
Thankfully, I forced myself to watch the first episode, and when I found out it was a different story altogether, I was hooked again. Mike Flanagan has made some decent horror movies over the past few years, but The Haunting of Hill House cemented him as a true talent in the world of horror. He knows what he is doing, and knows how to tell a damn fine character-driven drama.
The story follows this family as both children and adults and shows how their lives were drastically changed by the time they spent at Hill House. The ghosts are around—some more subtle than others—but it’s the lives of this family that really drives home the series. Sure, it can be argued that, at times, it’s more melodrama than anything else, but many moments are truly moving—especially from the adult twins. The acting varies, but it’s never so bad as to be distracting.
Overall, The Haunting of Hill House feels like a movie played out in ten parts. In the end, most of the mysteries (at least all of the important ones) are explained, leaving a feeling of contentment that’s unfortunately hard to come by these days. If you’re easily scared, it might not be the right show for you. But if you’re willing to push through the terror, you’ll end up witnessing a really great story worth visiting this Halloween season.