Take a look back on Week 1 of our 31 Days of Horror.
For many, during the month of October, it has become tradition to celebrate the season by watching a horror movie each day of the month. While it is not necessarily easy to find the time to watch a movie each day, the horror genre makes it easier with a catalog of hundreds of excellent films to choose from. This is the perfect time of the year to take the opportunity to watch a horror movie you may not have otherwise considered.
Each week in the month of October, I will be recording my progress with a mini review of a film each day. In order to try to get a broad range, I’ve selected movies from classic to modern and from family-friendly to terrifying. I will revisit movies that I both love and need to give a second chance, as well as taking chances on films for the first time. All this while trying to balance different styles and subgenres. This will be a difficult challenge, but one that I look forward to during one of my favorite months of the year. Please join me as I take this journey through October.
October 8th: The Pact
The Pact was a movie that I had heard about after it had already made its way out of theaters, and it had been on my list of movies to watch for years. After finally watching it for the first time, I almost wish I would have seen it sooner. Between my initial interest in the movie and when I actually saw it, I had seen several movies with a similar twist. Although it wasn’t fully what I was expecting in the end, I wasn’t as surprised as I should have been. With that in mind, the movie earned its ending through tension-building scenes. Part horror movie part mystery, the plot unfolds in a delicate way that could easily go off the rails at any point. Although scenes drag at times and it relies on cliches at points, the end results make The Pact worthwhile.
October 9th: The Shrine
We stumbled on The Shrine when it was on Netflix around 2010. Not knowing anything about it, we decided to take a chance. We’ve tried this method since then with less than stellar results. Our hopes were very low to say the least. In search of a lost colleague, a group of three journalists find themselves in the midst of a cult in a foreign land. When I initially saw The Shrine, I was completely impressed. The film follows a pretty familiar path, but it takes each step expertly and had it continued to its logical conclusion, it would have been satisfactory, but I doubt I would remember it seven years later. In its third act, The Shrine takes an unexpected turn, and the movie moves into a direction I wasn’t prepared for. This is what stuck with me all these years. Revisiting The Shrine, I can see its flaws but this underrated gem still lived up to my memories.
October 10th: The Witch
The Witch was one of my most anticipated movies of 2016. There was a lot of positive word of mouth that it was one of the scariest movies in years. I saw the first trailer and avoided all of other promotions, not wanting anything to be ruined. Naturally, I set myself up for disappointment. There was a lot that I did not know about the movie. For instance, the dialogue is spoken in old english which was taken from writings of the period. I was unprepared plain and simple. Watching it again and knowing what to expect, I found most of the issues I had were unfounded. It is an excellently paced and tense film. The Witch is the kind of a movie that can shake you to your core if you invest the time it takes. It’s not a commercial movie, but one that requires patience. This is the kind of movie that requires multiple viewings to truly appreciate the subtle nuances, but not one that is easily revisited regularly. The Witch is worth the time and effort (especially if you have subtitles).
October 11th: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
This time of the year is perfect for classic horror films. I’ve seen all the big Universal Classics, but there are a few that predate the 1930’s that I’ve been meaning to see. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is one of those. Often considered the first horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari boasts some truly spectacular sets. Each one is slightly off; from the angles to the shadows, the tone is set. The story of a man using another for his nefarious bidding seems unoriginal by today’s standards, but this may very well be the best example. At nearly a century old, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has been studied and corrections have been made, but I wanted to take the film as it is. Any flaws the film does have, like pacing issues, can be forgiven due to how new the medium was at the time. Overall The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari provides an uneasy, disorienting experience, that has withstood the test of time and earned its place in history.
October 12th: The Conjuring 2
Having loved the first Conjuring film, I was very excited about the sequel. I was however a little worried that the quality would dip because of how successful the first movie was. When a movie is a success and work starts on a sequel, more people get involved to make sure that everything is in place to recreate the financial magic. The Conjuring 2 brought us another case from the Warren’s paranormal investigation files. It does what any good sequel should do; it tells a different story while staying true to the characters. Even though the cinematography is truly beautiful for any genre of film, it’s the characters that bring audiences back to the theater. The Conjuring 2 takes the relationship between Ed and Lorraine Warren and the audience that was built from the first movie and deepens it through another wonderfully crafted story. Actors Vera Farmiga and (the multi-talented) Patrick Wilson play an immeasurable part in bringing these characters to life. A lot of the credit goes to James Wan who expertly crafts the horror and surprising depth of the story. James Wan had already risen to the top as one of modern horror’s best directors, and with The Conjuring 2 he has cemented his place.
October 13th: A Nightmare Before Christmas
With so many horror movies it’s possible to go years without revisiting the same movie, but there are some that you must watch every Halloween. A Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those movies that make the holiday special. Whether considered a Christmas or a Halloween movie, it has become a classic. From the unforgettable music to the beautiful animation, Tim Burton has created an timeless and original story. Every time I watch this movie, which tends to be around this time each year, I always forget how short it is. Coming in at an hour and 16 minutes, there is a lot crammed into each minute. Not a moment is wasted. A Nightmare Before Christmas is one of Disney’s best animated movie from the ’90s, and that is saying a lot. Growing up on Disney movies, it was surprising that I actually didn’t see this movie until about ten years after it came out. Because my mom did not like Halloween, this movie was skipped and I never had that nostalgia for it. That’s how strong A Nightmare Before Christmas is, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, it stands on its own merit to remain a classic.
October 14th: Lights Out
A few years ago I was very excited when the Lights Out short was released, and it was only a matter of time before a full length movie would make its way to theaters. That day came in 2016 and I have mixed feelings about the results. While the scares and moments of tension are fantastic, it is the scenes that tie everything together that fall into modern horror movie cliches. In fact they fall into general movie cliches. The script, at times, feels like paint by numbers. There are several times when the dialogue is used only for plot exposition and it sticks out like a sore thumb. The actors do the best they can with the lines they’ve been given, and some of them make their characters shine (Bret, the boyfriend, may be the smartest character in the whole movie). The moments when the movie draws away from the original short offer incredible originality and these tend to be the strongest moments of horror and tension. Lights Out is a good horror movie, but I wanted it to be great and it falls just short of that mark. Maybe with a little fine tuning we could have had a classic horror movie, but what we have in Lights Out will do just fine to provide a good scare.