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 22nd: Amityville: The Awakening
I chose Amityville: The Awakening merely on a whim, and had the lowest expectations. I am not a fan of the original film and didn’t bother with the many other films that have taken the Amityville name and slapped it on the title. Amityville: The Awakening is an odd movie. First, all the movies take place in the movie as movies. So, the things that happen in this movie are the only strange things that happened since the events of the 1970s. Secondly, Amityville: The Awakening doesn’t feel exactly like an Amityville movie because the house feels secondary at moments. It almost feels more like an Insidious movie. Despite an odd feeling it gives, there are still some good moments of horror. They may be old hat by now, but they are effective for the most part, and that’s how I would describe the movie. Although it doesn’t quite fit as an Amityville movie, it still works.
October 23rd: Creep
There really isn’t that much to Creep, and it seems the less the audience knows the better. The performance Mark Duplass gives as Josef, straddles the line of quirky and deranged so well that you may be able to guess what he might do, but you never really know why. From the beginning, we know not to trust Josef. He is constantly tricking Aaron (Patrick Brice) who stands in for the audience. Much like Aaron, with every passing minute we trust the situation that Josef has created less and less. Then, thanks to a phone call, Josef’s story falls apart and Aaron moves into survival/paranoid mode. Shot as a “found footage” we only ever see what the camera sees so there are plenty of mystery elements. Creep is one of the more effective found footage movies because of Duplass’ performance. In other hands this could be a chore at best. Creep uses its short runtime effectively, building tension constantly, and when it ends it doesn’t leave a happy feeling, but there really wasn’t a more satisfying way to end.
October 24th: Son of Frankenstein
Trying to find a Universal horror movie, I realized I had never seen this classic. This was the last time that Boris Karloff would play the Monster. It brings up an interesting tidbit; it is mentioned by Dr. Frankenstein’s son that some people refer to the Monster as, finished by a man off screen, Frankenstein. Basil Rathbone plays the Doctor’s son, Baron Wolf von Frankenstein and rounds out the strongest cast of a Universal horror film. The other crucial actor is Bela Lugosi who helped bring to life Ygor. In fact, Ygor is the most interesting character in the movie. While Baron Wolf’s goal is to try to fix the Monster’s brain, thus fixing his father’s failings, Ygor is successfully controlling the monster to seek his revenge. As near perfect as Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are, there is more of a plot to Son of Frankenstein, and that makes this a more exciting film in some ways. It may seem odd that Son of Frankenstein is not as revered, it certainly has earned its place on the shelf next its predecessors.
October 25th: The Forest
I had heard practically nothing positive about The Forest, but the premise intrigued me so I wanted to see for myself. Within the first few minutes I didn’t get a great feeling. Everything felt very stiff and rushed. There isn’t much to this movie; Sara (Natalie Dormer) goes to Japan’s Aokigahara forest, the “suicide forest”, for her twin sister. So there should be a lot of opportunity to explore the forest and its effects. The movie seems to take a surprisingly long time to get into the forest, but it’s really just thirty minutes. By the time we get into the forest, the audience is supposed to care if Jess is dead or alive. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, but thankfully what we learn about the forest itself is more interesting. The interesting moments quickly end and that seems to be the trend. The most frustrating thing about The Forest is the potential that is squandered so frequently. Every time a moment begins to build tension, it ends or something terribly cliched happens and we’re taken out of the movie all over again. I really wanted The Forest to be a hidden gem, but instead what we got was an uninteresting chore filled with bad performances and a plot that was nonsense. A documentary about the forest would have been a much more interesting and scarier movie.
October 26th: The Lodgers
Director Brian O’Malley’s new movie, The Lodgers, follows the story of siblings Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) who live in a mansion that has been in the family for years because they are being held there by the rules of the underwater spirits. The movie overall is fairly middle of the road fare, but it is beautifully shot and acted. A lot of the film rests on Vega’s shoulders and she delivers. She and the rest of the cast take the script that can stand on its own legs and they help run it to the finish line. There doesn’t feel like there is anything wrong with the film, but it feels that The Lodgers isn’t as strong as it should be. In fact, this gothic horror resembles a great deal of Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, only watered down. Considering Brian O’Malley doesn’t have that many films under his belt as a director, I’m looking forward to how he will improve with time.
October 27th: Halloween (2007)
2007’s Halloween both suffers and benefits from having Rob Zombie involved. It benefits because he is clearly a fan of the original. Despite the movie’s many flaws, Rob Zombie’s love of Halloween shows through. The problem comes through over ambitious intentions. Rob Zombie takes a near perfect horror movie and adds to it. We get an origin story for Michael Myers, and this is where most of the problems rest. Rob Zombie looks at Haddonfield, Illinois through dark and dingy colored glasses. What needs to be a picture perfect, American dream town is turned into trash. It is important that a monster with unknown motives turns that dream to a nightmare. We lose that effect with Rob Zombie’s Halloween. For the most part, this is a faithful remake, but without the heart. It seems that Zombie knows the classic scenes, but doesn’t understand what makes them important and powerful. The performances are great for the most part. Malcolm McDowell is an excellent replacement for Donald Pleasence and I can never say enough about Brad Dourif (although his better scenes are in the sequel), but the dialogue is difficult to sit through. This overly long remake may be one of the better ones, but we have to ask if we need a remake of one of the most beloved horror movies of all time in the first place.
October 28th: The Wolf Man
My favorite Universal classic. I try to watch The Wolf Man close to Halloween every year, because it has that wonderful Halloween feel. I have a love of werewolf movies, and this is the best of the best. Everything about The Wolf Man is charming, yes even lunky Lon Chaney, Jr. The Wolf Man is still one of those Universal movies that is surprisingly short. Despite it being among the shortest of all the classics, it uses each minute to build tension, atmosphere, and to push the plot. Jack Pierce’s makeup and Lon Chaney’s performance make this one of the best and most unforgettable horror films. With the The Wolf Man, all the pieces are in place for the first monster mashup with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and the rest is history.
October 29th: Halloween II (1981)
Following an absolute classic could not be harder. It is crucial to bring the tone from the first film while staying true to the characters. For the most part Halloween II does that just fine. Immediately following the events of the first film, Michael is on the search for his sister Laurie. The film is a suitable sequel, and arguably the series’ best follow up, but it lacks something. The first movie was much smaller in scope. Yes, Halloween II takes place mostly in one setting, but there are many new characters that we don’t get an appropriate amount of time to see Michael stalk his victims. Sometimes he just shows up out of the blue, or red, and we lose that tension that made the original so great. Halloween II still holds on to some of the tension and it’s great to see Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence return. The scenes with Dr. Loomis are among the best of the movie. The next Halloween installment will not be nearly as watchable.
October 30th: Halloween H2O
After a string of bad sequels that got way off track, the Halloween franchise gets back to it, even if it’s only for one movie. Jamie Lee Curtis returns after nearly 20 years to finally kill Michael Myers. Since this this isn’t a run of the mill Halloween sequel, it feels special. There are going to be more call backs to the original, and nods to the fans, which make this movie feel like a special event and a little more meta. It’s not possible, at this point, to take a horror franchise that has been around this long, with this many sequels, too seriously. There isn’t going to be any new ground broken, so you have to just have fun with the movie. Halloween H2O has fun. Jamie Lee Curtis made this movie for the fans, and she makes sure she gives it her all. We see Laurie in witness protection with a drinking problem. This isn’t where I’d like to see the character, but it makes sense. Of course she would have problems after her brother killed her friends, sister, and maybe daughter. The Halloween franchise, more than any other horror franchise, wipes away other movies from the series, and movies four through six (three has no place in this universe) no longer exist. While this is among the best of the sequels, Halloween H2O is not perfect. It feels more like a modern slasher movie than the franchise ever felt. There were many times that it felt like a Scream movie. But that is fine in comparison to my biggest problem, the mask. This is the worst mask in the entire franchise. So much so, that it takes me out of the movie because I’m too distracted. Other than that, Halloween H2O is the best fans could hope for, especially being sandwiched between the franchise’s worst (unless you ignore the next film, which you should).
October 31st: Trick ‘r Treat
It was the day, and the day was often celebrated with 1978’s Halloween until recently. 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat has become a mainstay on Halloween night. The entire anthology takes place on Halloween, and we get five different stories that tie together beautifully. It would be so easy to have this movie feel overcrowded, but it never does. Each segment has time to build and resolve itself, and is drastically different than the one before. This movie should not work as well as it does, but writer/director Brian Dougherty blends each segment and makes it work perfectly. The mood of each fits the holiday, and after having seen it many times, I still get that tense feeling. It may seem early to say this, but Trick ‘r Treat is a holiday classic that is here to stay. The stories are timeless, the performances are especially good, and it will no doubt keep you in the Halloween spirit. Trick ‘r Treat is as near flawless a Halloween movie as Halloween continues to be.
There it is, we did it. It may not have been easy but it sure was enjoyable. I found some new movies that were a treat, I revisited my love for some of the classics, and I found a new love for some movies the second time around. I was not able to get to every movie I wanted, but there’s always next year. Thank you for taking this trip with me through these 31 Days of Horror.