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 15th: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein has been one of my favorite Halloween traditions for as long as I can remember. Being a huge Abbott and Costello fan, naturally I would love one of the team’s greatest entries. There is a reason that Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is regarded by many as one of the greatest comedies ever made. This is one of the greatest examples of blending horror and comedy without either genre losing what makes it great. The biggest horror icons and the biggest comedy team of their times team up for an unforgettable classic that should become annual viewing starting at a very young age. Sure, things start to fall apart once you look start examining it, but Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein isn’t meant to be critiqued; its meant to be appreciated for generations as a perfect horror comedy.
October 16th: Gerald’s Game
Gerald’s Game, released the same month as another big profile Stephen King adaptation, which left me all Stephen King-ed out, but after hearing so much about this one, I couldn’t wait any longer. Gerald’s Game, is the story of a woman handcuffed to a bed trying to survive after her husband has a heart attack. In a movie that relies heavily on dialogue, the weight is on Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood who give some of the best performances of their careers. Both actors play somewhat dual roles and these scenes are where the movie shines. Now this is a horror movie so there are some excruciating scenes to watch, particularly an extended scene involving a water glass. Otherwise not too much happens, yet there is so much tension pulled from every scene. Director Mike Flanagan has proven that he knows how to shoot a horror movie, and he uses all his talents in Gerald’s Game. As beautifully shot as it is, it was not always a pleasant experience to watch. Gerald’s Game may not be for everybody. Any criticisms – some hard to watch images, very dialogue heavy, – seem more appropriately aimed at the source material, but if you get past that, Gerald’s Game is mesmerizing.
October 17th: Halloween
Halloween is the holiday’s most identifiable movie. Nearly 40 years old, it still feels fresh. In fact it feels more modern than a lot of second rate horror movies being made now. What so many horror movies struggle to achieve, John Carpenter mastered seemingly effortlessly. The perfectly designed moments of quiet tension, the iconic score, and the performances make Halloween feel very real. It seems like it would be easy to make “teenagers” act like teenagers, but so many movies have failed before and since. What’s even more difficult is the sense that there is something about Michael Myers that is just as human. Yes, he’s a monster, but throughout Halloween he feels human. Unlike Jason or Freddy, Michael is not an invincible machine (the rest of the franchise strays far from this feeling.); he feels of this world. This high level of professionalism is what gives this cheap B-movie a sense of prestige. After all these years and countless viewings I still get that tense feeling I got the first time and I imagine audiences got in 1978. That is the greatest testament to John Carpenter’s masterpiece.
October 18th: The House of the Devil
It has been quite a while since I watched Ti West’s homage to the ’70s and ’80s horror films. Not the slasher films that dominated most of the ’80s, but the quiet, uneasy horror films that knew how to burrow deep to the nerve and pop into consciousness randomly in days to follow. The kind of movie that takes an everyday occurrence, like “babysitting”, and gives it a sinister spin. Because The House of the Devil is a “slow burn”, it will take a lot of patience for an audience that is accustomed to the jump scares and gore that has come to be standard fare. Thankfully in those quiet moments there is tension being built. Most of the film takes place in the house where our main character, Samantha, kills time before things start to be revealed. Throughout the movie, the sound of silence is almost deafening. When all is revealed, it’s almost a relief. If you give The House of the Devil the attention it requires, and deserves, you’ll catch a lot of subtleties and soon you’ll start paying extremely close attention and you’re on edge. That’s how I spent the majority of The House of the Devil, and I can’t speak highly enough.
October 19th: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Toy Story of Terror
Today was a special day. It was time for ABC’s yearly showing of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It has been over 50 years and if someone has not seen this special at least once in their life, then something has gone terribly wrong. Like Mickey Mouse or Santa Claus, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has been around for as long as I can remember. You are never too old to watch Linus wait patiently in the pumpkin patch all night. It’s a near perfect special. The only part that feels off is Snoopy and the Red Baron. Some love the Red Baron, but I’ve never been a big fan.
Since 2013, ABC has been following It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown with another special that is becoming a classic, Toy Story of Terror. In 2010, the Toy Story films perfectly wrapped up the Andy story (and probably should have ended the movies) and a few years later we got this Halloween special. With Pixar involved with its most beloved property, there should be no doubt that Toy Story of Terror would be special. It turns out it’s perfect for what it needs to be. All the humor and heart is masterfully packed into this 22 minutes. A lot of love comes through.
October 20th: Cult of Chucky and Annabelle: Creation
Another double feature. Horror movies have been on the uptick in recent years in terms of quality and wide audience acceptance. 2017 had some highly anticipated movies. Some were a let down, some exceeded expectations. Cult of Chucky wasn’t necessarily a let down, it was merely different than what I had expected. I was hoping for something closer to the effective previous film, Curse of Chucky. Instead, what we got was closer to Bride of Chucky. There was a lot more humor, most of it effective (thanks to Brad Dourif) and the performances were still great (ahem, Brad Dourif) so where is the issue? The issue comes in how convoluted the plot is. It doesn’t take much for a movie about a killer doll to become complicated, and the slightest artistic decisions make Cult of Chucky somewhat of a mess. A watchable mess.
The next movie in my double feature was the next film in The Conjuring Universe, in fact it is the first film to be released under that umbrella. I was cautious going into Annabelle: Creation, as I am going into any of these Conjuring Universe movies because I don’t want to be disappointed. Thankfully I haven’t been. Annabelle (2014) is the weakest of all four movies so far, but that does not mean it disappointed. Annabelle: Creation took the flaws of Annabelle and took the time to address them. The greatest thing about Annabelle: Creation is that it connects the other movies and upcoming movies. As a standalone horror movie, it works. There are good scares, a lot from the result of excellent special effects. Annabelle: Creation met and exceeded my expectations. I was not prepared to be scared, and it had been a while where I was surprised by my reaction to a horror movie. It’s usually a great experience, and Annabelle: Creation was that great experience this time.
October 21st: Ernest Scared Stupid
Another pick from my wife, although I would have watched this anyway. I love Ernest Scared Stupid not just for the nostalgia, it is not a terrible movie. Jim Varney would make much worse Ernest movies, but this may stand as his best. For being 1991, the effects are pretty good. The troll costume (the main troll, not the later trolls) is impressive. The atmosphere is perfect, Eartha Kitt lends herself and adds to it. This movie was made when it was alright for a children’s movie to scare children; it certainly scared me, my wife, and countless other children. Then there’s the comedy. Jim Varney is under-appreciated. His performance is over the top, but there are moments when a subtle comedy comes through, and those moments made me laugh the hardest. Well almost the hardest; the meeting of a troll and a truck. If I find Ernest Scared Stupid playing, it’s hard to turn away from its charm.