Halloween Month 2022

Well, it’s been a wild ride. I have managed to keep up my tradition and watch a different horror film everyday in October. I have not however kept up with writing a review each day for these movies. Sadly, my life and work schedule just have not allowed me to time to sit down and churn out the reviews in the way I would have liked. So here is my month in review. Each film I saw and a brief review of each.

  1. Eyes Without a Face – I reviewed this already. Super creepy. Great face removal scene

2. Nope – Artsy horror. Horror with a message. Jordan Peele’s latest is a solid movie and an interesting horror story

3. Umma – This movie was fine.

4. Scanners – Oh Cronenberg, you crazy body horror man. Really enjoyed this one.

5. We Are Still Here – Still sends chills down my spin. Good ghost story

6. House – Weird horror comedy. Still not sure what this was. Kind of entertaining though

7. Saint Maud – Oh jeez this movie. One woman’s descent into madness. Enigmatic and disturbing.

8. Hocus Pocus – I wish I loved this the way everyone else seems to. It has its moments, but didn’t really do it for me.

9. The Loved Ones – Ugh this movie is messed up. Completely disturbing.

10. Blair Witch – Zero for two in the Blair Witch universe so far. I know there’s another movie in the series, but I’m never checking that out. Bad movie.

11. My Bloody Valentine – This was a pretty good slasher. I liked it alright, but it didn’t leave a deep impact on me.

12. Mimic – Oh boy this was a strong movie. Great creatures. Awesome direction. Creepy and suspenseful.

13. The Bye Bye Man – Mostly forgettable in retrospective. It had a few moments, but it’s not a memorable movie.

14. Halloween Ends – I think this takes the crown for worst movie of the Halloween marathon. What a piece of garbage. See my full review for how much I hated it.

15. Prom Night – Here’s a much better slasher starring Jamie Lee Curtis.

16. X – Shocking, surprising, scary, funny, gross, its was everything I wanted it to be.

17. Pearl – Shocking, tense, and uncomfortable. Watch this woman lose her mind in beautiful technicolor.

18. Significant Other – Awesome. Really fun. Really cool. Interesting story. Unique premise. I don’t like the ending as I think bout it now, but I really liked this movie overall.

19. Disturbing Behavior – Interesting mess of a movie. I don’t recommend it unless you really want to see movie ruined in the edit.

20. Tremors – Oh boy what a fun movie. This was a really enjoyable creature feature.

21. Cape Fear – A different kind of horror. It certainly horrified me.

22. Frankenstein – As part of the podcast, we watched four scary movies. I loved this one again, and enjoyed sharing it with Michael.

23. Night of the Living Dead – I forgot how much fun this movie could be. I don’t like zombies, but they work here.

24. The Exorcist – The filmmaking is incredible. The pace is too slow at the start. Overall good movie.

25. The Ring – I enjoyed revisiting this one with Michael considering we have a shared history with this movie. It was a lot of fun to check it out again.

Now we’re getting into the movies I haven’t reviewed

26. Barbarian – This movie is unbelievable. It incorporates a unique story structure that keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. I loved it. A full review will come.

27. The Black Phone – Ethan Hawke is superbly menacing and creepy in this abduction story that was really enjoyable if a divided in its attention.

28. The People Under the Stairs – Wow. This is the most movie I’ve seen in a long time. This one left me drained and wiped out because of how much happened. I loved it, but oh boy.

29. The Howling – A werewolf story that opened with a glacial pace and ended with a gripping conclusion. I really enjoyed this one once it got moving.

30. The Addams Family – I needed a break from the disturbing intensity, so I went spooky and cooky. I love both of these movies. A lot of fun.

31. The Addams Family Values – Once I watched the first, I had to watch the second. I just wanted to spend more time with this crazy family.

32. The Wretched – Terrible movie. This one is on Netflix, and it sucks. Don’t waste your time.

33. The Curse of Frankenstein – Awesome Hammer horror. I love that Frankenstein is the true monster here. I wish we had more time with his creation, Christopher Lee is fascinating here but gets too little screen time.

34. Horror of Dracula – I love this version of the Dracula story. It takes a lot of liberties with Stoker’s original film, but it’s so good. It felt perfect on Halloween night.

Well this has been my month. I wish I could have kept up with the reviews each day, but it just proved to be too much. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to tackle the month more effectively, but regardless I’m going to continue enjoying my month of fear and frights, and deeply disturbing behavior. More reviews will come, thank you for joining me on this spooky journey.

Cape Fear

Ugh what a disturbing movie. Anchored by De Niro’s intensity and some off the wall filmmaking choices, this movie has some in your face horror and some insidious horror by implication that still makes my skin crawl.

I love the early for film. It was this strange time where big studios gave auteur directors tons of money to make whatever they wanted. And we got some wild flights of filmmaking fancy. De Palma, Scorsese, and Spielberg just to name a few got big budgets to make 3 hour Holocaust films, epic book adaptations, and remakes of Hollywood classics.

It’s the remakes where we find todays movie. Martin Scorsese was handed a big budget and relative creative freedom to make his version of the 1962 thriller of the same name. Scorsese decided to borrow from the classic Hollywood style book to make the film. His techniques here closely resemble Alfred Hitchcock. He uses the camera and staging in a very reminiscent style that a lot of viewers will probably find a little jarring. I know I did.

The film follows lawyer Sam Bowden, played by Nick Nolte, as he is menaced by Max Cady, De Niro. Cady is a former client of Bowden. He spent 14 years in prison due to a poor defense that Bowden launched on his behalf. Cady is back for vengeance. He does everything he can to legally harass Bowden and destroy his life. Bowden eventually takes the law into his own hands to protect his family.

Robert De Niro is incredible. He is terrifying. He’s charming. He’s seductive. He’s crazy. He never goes over the line to camp. He is intense and scary throughout. He’s scary when he’s beating people to death. He’s scary when he’s sexually assaulting a woman. He’s scary when he’s charmingly chatting up a woman at a bar. He’s especially scary when he’s talking to an underage girl.

Cady poses as a teacher to get close to Bowden’s 15 year old daughter Danielle played by Juliette Lewis. Cady is calm. He’s understanding. He gets her alone. He offers her weed. He listens to her problems and relates to her on her level. She is nervous and charmed and confused. She is enamored but his dangerous qualities. She clearly likes feeling seen. As I’m watching the scene I’m thinking of how often this happens in real life. Bad men have evil intentions, and all they have to do is turn on the charm and listen to the underage girls. It’s chilling how this scene plays out. It’s handled so well by Scorsese and the actors. The scene takes it’s time. It unfolds slowly. Nothing really happens in the scene except two people talking. The subtext is horrifying. When he finally asks if he can put his arm around her I was jumping out of my seat the same way I do when there’s a good jump scare in a movie. It’s more terrifying because it’s so much more real.

In other areas of the movie however, there’s less reality. Specifically the filmmaking is wildly theatrical. Scorsese goes on these flights of filmmaking bravado. It’s like he’s showing off. There’s a moment where Cady is sitting on the Bowdens fence and watching them while the worlds biggest fireworks display goes off behind him. Bowden wakes up from a nightmare and sees Cady in his bedroom, but the image turns into a negative until Bowden clears his vision. There are no transitions in this movie. Scenes just slam into each other like cars in a pileup. This increases the tension but reminds us we’re in movie land.

This is not a fun or pleasant movie to watch. Bowden is a morally compromised man facing a man he wronged. There are no good guys in this movie. A scummy lawyer vs. a rapist. There is violence, sexual assault, and terror. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it is very good at what it sets out to do.

It’s my cup of tea. It’s a good movie, but it’s not for everybody. A

Tremors

I’ve avoided this one for years. I didn’t care for the aesthetic. I thought it was just Jaws in the the desert. Having finally seen it, I wished I had watched it sooner. It is a well paced, creative, and extremely entertaining creature feature.

The movie opens with two good old boys working as hired hands in the little town of Perfection. The population is some 15 people. These two boys are Val and Earl played by Kevin Bacon and Feed Ward. These two have amazing chemistry. They are so natural and buoyant together. They have this brotherly warmth between them. I love the way they play off each other. They are going to finally get out of town, but on the way they find a dead body. Then another dead body. Then the road is blocked. What is causing all this? Well the local geologist Rhonda played by Finn Carter believes there is something under the ground causing crazy seismic activity. The small town bands together against the impending threat. What is this threat? Giant sand worms that burrow through the ground and eat anything that moves above ground.

The movie is a throwback to the creature features of the 1950’s. It perfectly plays on the genre stylings of the period. There’s a big monster menace, the plucky and relatable heroes, and the sense of fun danger that lets you know it’s going to be alright. Our heroes will triumph. What this movie adds to the formula is a great sense of humor. These characters are funny. Val and Earl are cracking jokes back and forth. The local store owner Walter is constantly trying to make money off of everything including selling photos with the monsters. The gun obsessed Burt is always going on about his perfect fallout shelter. They local teen who’s always causing trouble. This is a great cast of characters. The movie is funny in a consistently surprising way.

It’s also remarkably creative. They have built an awesome scenario for their characters to fight against. The creatures, they’re named “Graboids” by Walter who’s looking for a branding opportunity, can sense vibration under the ground. They move fast and can grab anyone almost instantly. They never get tired or go away. Our characters can’t set foot on the ground without getting grabbed. They get stranded on the roof of a building. How do they escape? They get stranded on a pile of rocks in the middle of a desert. How do they escape? They are stuck on top of an outhouse. How can they get away as fast as possible? Their solutions are clever and surprising. I love when characters are smart. I love when characters get themselves out of trouble instead of the writers using circumstance and convenience to help them escape. It’s a smartly written little film.

There are scenes of tension and suspense, but it’s not a scary movie. I think this is a great movie for anyone not interested in being scared this halloween. It’s going to be a fun movie no matter what time of year you watch it. I highly recommend this little piece of popcorn entertainment. It’s my cup of tea. A-

Disturbing Behavior

If you ever want to watch a movie that was clearly ruined in the edit watch this movie. It’s terrible, but the reason it’s terrible is clearly on display.

I had never heard of this movie until this past week when it was brought up twice by two different sources. I figured I had to check it out, and it was a fascinating disaster. I felt kind of like a detective trying to pick apart the pieces to solve this films murder.

From the opening moments this movie is a mess. It begins with a poorly rendered cgi establishing shot. Two teens are parked in a car near a waterfall. Things start to get hot and heavy between them when the boys eyes glow red and he murders her. This is witnessed by one of our main characters Gavin, played by Nick Stahl, who runs for his life.

The next time we see Gavin he gives no indication of having witnessed a murder. He is a jokey stoner. It’s not until 30 minutes in that he references the killing. This combined with the patched together establishing shot leads me to believe the opening scene was actually supposed to take place in the middle of the movie and chopped to the beginning.

We meet our real hero of the film, Steve, played by a way too old James Marsden. Steve is 17. Marsden is clearly 25, not just in his appearance but in the way he carries himself, and the way he acts. He looks so out of place in a classroom and so much older than everyone else in the cast that I never really bought him in the role. He’s a good actor, but his presence suggests more interference. They wanted a handsome actor to lead the movie, and they found one.

Katie Holmes plays the love interest, and that’s all she is here. Her name is Rachel. She plays a sullen teen who broods and says next to nothing. The camera leers at her body in slow motion shots that make me feel gross for the sexualization of this teenaged character. But I think this is the result of interference yet again. There are so many moments when she begins to reveal layers and depth to her character, but the movie quickly cuts away. She begins to show her true self only to be silenced by the edit. The leering shots of her body stand in contrast to the way she is framed everywhere else in the film. When we first see her she has piercings, dark makeup, and unkempt hair. Halfway through the film, the makeup becomes classically beautiful. Her hair style changed to sexy chic, and her piercings are downplayed to the point of non existence. I can only conclude the studio demanded a sexy starlet instead of a full fledged character.

Her relationship with Steve is also nonexistent. They have a burgeoning friendship which blossoms into romance, but they never say anything to one another. Steve talks to Gavin a lot, but we are missing the scene where they become friends. They mostly just share exposition. Why would 25 year old Steve want to hang out with 17 year old burnout Gavin? The missing information indicates deleted scenes. character development could potentially be boring. Developing relationships is secondary to sex and violence in this film.

There’s a random interlude in an asylum that feels out of place. Steve and Rachel sneak around this asylum and looking for something. They are hounded by the patience and pursued by the guards. But we don’t see them sneak in. We don’t see them get in trouble with the guards. We also don’t know what they’re looking for. The sneak is completely self contained and incongruous with the rest of the film. I think the studio imposed this scene on the film. Add some scares. Make it scarier. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense. Just add it.

I wish I could disregard this movie as late 90’s trash. It’s a bad movie. It’s poorly executed. But I find it’s depiction of high school so compelling. It’s an exaggeration to be sure, but it speaks to real high school experiences. The lost outsiders pushed to the edge by social pressures. The parental expectations that are crushing a student. The entitlement of the popular and well off. The toxic boys who think they deserve a woman’s affections. These all combine and feel true. That truth is buried under bad story decisions and clear interference.

The story concerns a well off group of students who are implanted with computer processors that alter their behaviors and moods. It’s steadied wives but for the teenage yuppie set. letter jackets and short skirts rule the school along with plastic smiles and chipper attitudes. They are all high achieving, but they are zombies. They are set off by heightened emotions and become unstable killers. It’s ironic that a movie condemning conformity was crippled by conforming to the demands of the studio.

This is a fascinating piece to watch as a filmmaker or film lover. If you’re looking for a scary Halloween movie, this isn’t it. It’s bad, but I’m a fascinating way. It’s not my cup of tea. C

Significant Other

A camping trip goes horribly wrong in every way imaginable in this surprising horror story. What would you do if you were on a camping trip deep in the woods with your significant other and you became convinced that they weren’t themselves?

Maika Monroe and Jake Lacy star as a couple who go camping. Things are going great until he proposes. She has a full on panic attack and refuses him. It isn’t that she doesn’t love him, it’s that her parents marriage and past experiences have turned her off the whole idea of marriage. They struggle to reconcile while stuck in a tent in the middle of nowhere, until she goes into a cave and comes out changed. She’s acting strangely. She seems like a totally different person.

The movie establishes that something has fallen from the sky and landed in the woods. We see a creature attack a deer in the woods. We think we know where this is going. I made assumptions about the trajectory of the plot, and had pretty much written the movie off at this point. Oh boy, I’m glad I didn’t. Because it gets twisty from there. The movie is full of clever reversals and twists. It zig zags in a very satisfying way.

I don’t want to give away anything else. I turned this one on because I like the actors, and I was intrigued by the woodsy premise. Everything else was a surprise to me, and I want it to be for you too.

This one is great for a lot of reasons and for a lot of people. It isn’t overtly horrifying. There are strong elements of horror. There are some gruesome moments, but nothing worse than what you seen in any action movie these days. There’s a lot of tension. This is a suspenseful movie less so than a scary movie. It has a really compelling story and interesting themes that it explores. Sometimes horror movies leave their narratives at the door. Not so here. These characters and their journey are front and center. It is a satisfying movie to watch.

The actors are great. The script is awesome. The story is fun and unique. It has something to say about love and relationships. Absolutely check this one out. It is worth your time and will be a fun movie to watch this Halloween

It is my cup of tea. A-