All Hallows’ Eve is upon us as mischief and the unexplained fill the air. It’s the time of year when misfits and wary souls dance in harmony amongst the autumn leaves and fiery jack-o-lanterns grin with sinister delight.
It’s time to heat up that pot of gourmet coffee and let October Madness guide you through the treacherous path of dreadful cinematic entertainment that will surely cast a deadly spell on your evening celebration. Continue reading if you dare and for those of you who survive the night with your sanity intact, see you next year.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER
Tom Savini was lured into doing make-up effects on this sequel by the opportunity to kill Jason Voorhees; after all, who better suited to kill a monster than the master who created him? Of course any movie that turns a reasonable profit for a major studio is going to warrant more sequels until the well dries up, and since we ended up getting Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives out of it, you’ll get no complaints from me. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is a strong fan favorite for many reasons: the oddball characters, the hilarious dialogue and entertaining kills. Who could forget Crispin Glover getting a corkscrew in the hand before a brutal cleaver in the face? I now leave you with ten things you’ll learn about the characters in this movie.
1 – Axel loves to watch women exercise.
2 – Teddy’s computer says that Jimmy is a dead fuck.
3 – Twins on bicycles love to go skinny dipping.
4 – Nobody wants to kiss Ted’s teddy bear.
5 – If you leave your twin behind, grab an umbrella.
6 – Tommy Jarvis can fix your car if you give him a screwdriver.
7 – Jason is more than happy to help you find the corkscrew.
8 – If you win Sara’s heart, she’ll share the bottom bunk.
9 – When there’s a killer outside the house, ask Tommy to hold the fort.
10 – Tommy can do things with a machete that would impress other kids.
A loose and fun adaptation of roughly the first half of H.P.Lovecraft’s original short story “Herbert West – Re-Animator” (the sequel, Bride of Re-Animator, just about covers the rest), this comedic horror/sci-fi film from 1985 is responsible for showcasing the talent of Jeffrey Combs in the same way Evil Dead 2 did for Bruce Campbell. No living soul has managed to adapt Lovecraft on film more than Stuart Gordon and this one still holds up as his best. This one is always fun to revisit and remains an imaginative and twisted offering that’s funny, disturbing, gross and witty.
After seeing Blue Ruin, to say I was highly anticipating the next feature from filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier is a slight understatement, and I can say without question that his follow-up did not let me down. After a long, disappointing tour, a young punk rock band called The Ain’t Rights find themselves desperately accepting a last-minute gig to pay for gas money and find themselves in a secluded club run by racist skinheads. If that’s not bad enough, they end up witnessing a murder that basically ensures this club will be their tomb. Jeremy Saulnier really uses this Assault on Precinct 13 kind of premise to his advantage and meticulously crafts every detail and not unlike Hitchcock plays the audience like a finely tuned instrument, never letting the tension escape them. Of course these punk rockers aren’t going down without a fight, and there’s no better satisfaction than seeing an underdog take out a scumbag white supremacist in brutal fashion.
Patrick Stewart is absolutely chilling as Darcy, the ringleader of the homicidal Nazis, and the late Anton Yelchin delivers one of those performances that shows how much talent and passion he possessed and would surely have had an amazing and interesting career still ahead of him if not for unfortunate circumstances. Green Room is intense to the point of exhaustion, but thoughtful and entertaining in equal proportions, and now I’m once again anticipating what this director does next.
THE EXORCIST III
It’s been a great month for fans of The Exorcist; not only is the series on FOX ten times better than any of us would have expected, but Scream Factory just put out a gorgeous collector’s edition Blu-ray of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III that not only includes loads of awesome new features but includes a director’s cut that’s more true to his novel and his original vision for this off-the-wall sequel. After revisiting the theatrical cut and this director’s cut, I can say that the theatrical cut is the version I’d recommend; however, the director’s cut is a sight to behold and is essential viewing for previously converted fans of this film.
For the uninitiated of this bizarre and creepy favorite of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer of all people, this movie mostly ignores the awful Exorcist II: The Heretic and revolves around the murder of Father Dyer by the supernatural hands of the vengeful Gemini Killer, partially inspired by the real-life Zodiac Killer. George C. Scott is Lieutenant William F. Kinderman, Father Dyer’s friend who will stop at nothing to avenge him, and his efforts lead to a psychiatric ward where he finds a gonzo Brad Dourif radiating sheer insanity as the notorious killer possessing the body of Father Karras and an exorcism showdown that has to be seen to be believed. Keep an eye out for the blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Samuel L. Jackson: as a blind man in a crazy dream sequence.
THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
Nostalgia is more prevalent than ever in independent horror, and much of that is owed to Ti West’s phenomenal The House of the Devil. Not only was it an early trendsetter in attempting to create the look and feel of an earlier time, but it does it with so much masterful conviction and intricate attention to detail that it feels like a discovered masterpiece that’s been lost for over thirty years. Shot on 16mm film, Ti West made a chilling film that makes clever use of its satanic panic elements and is a perfect example of creating atmosphere and tension in a way that doesn’t draw attention to itself. The scene where Samantha dances around the house while listening to “One Thing Leads to Another” by The Fixx is one of my favorite horror movie moments of the last ten years, and how could anyone hate a movie that subtly references the 1989 Patrick Dempsey comedy Loverboy?
Whenever someone asks for an example of a movie that perfectly balances laughs and scares, Fright Night is always the first that comes to mind, and no, I’m not talking about the forgettable remake from 2011. One thing that really worked in Tom Holland’s favor is the lack of studio interference; Columbia Pictures was so preoccupied with the John Travolta/Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle Perfect, which they were sure would be a huge smash for them (it wasn’t), that they pretty much left the creative team behind this modest budget vampire movie alone. Steve Johnson and Randall William Cook provided the most impressive visual effects work for a vampire movie at the time, and all of the actors were allowed to add background to their characters, which is why they all remain so rich and remarkable. This charming picture was the second highest grossing horror film of 1985 and remains a timeless classic to this day.
Novelist S. Craig Zahler’s feature film debut is a ruthless and uncompromising blend of the classic western genre laced with dark humor, brutal cannibalism and lingering dread. Imagine the bastard child of The Searchers and The Hills Have Eyes with Kurt Russell charismatic as always thrown in for good measure. Benji Bakshi’s beautiful cinematography treats the landscape with visceral delicacy, and the screenplay allows the character development to flourish as the journey descends upon desolate caves where horrific anticipation unleashes within a claustrophobic abyss. Bone Tomahawk is alluring and allows the horror elements to fester in the distance, and it still won’t quite prepare you for the disturbing revelation that awaits the posse of Bright Hope.
Few authors have been adapted to the screen more than the master of horror himself, Stephen King; yet, when it comes to his horror novels translating to the silver screen, I can count the ones that really work on one hand. One of those movies was based on a novel that King has claimed to be the only one he wrote that really terrified him, and that of course was Pet Sematary, so who better to write the screenplay? Directed by Mary Lambert, a talented music video director with an eye for style and a directing style filled with punk rock energy, she and King are an unstoppable force with this meanspirited horror film that remains just as creepy as it did back in 1989. Pet Sematary isn’t a perfect film, Dale Midkiff is completely miscast as the grieving father (Bruce Campbell was supposedly the first choice for the role of Louis Creed, which would have been some inspired casting), and Denise Crosby doesn’t give her best work either, but Fred Gwynne, aka Herman Munster, as Jud Crandall is right on the money. Filled with atmosphere and ferocity, this movie plays like a Ramones concert in a graveyard and is the last horror adaptation of Stephen King to truly capture my heart.
Originally intended to be a “Tales from the Crypt” feature, The Frighteners was one of the last films to showcase any trace of the unpredictable and fervent spirit of Peter Jackson’s early work. I’m talking about Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles, movies that felt dangerous like only an imaginative looney could possibly conceive them. Don’t get me wrong; I think his Lord of the Rings trilogy is absolutely brilliant, but just about everything he’s done since has felt complacent and uninspired, with the possible exception of his uneven but passionate remake of King Kong.
Despite some wonky visual effects work that hasn’t exactly aged well, this is the closest that Peter Jackson has returned to his roots in a mainstream movie, and it’s an absolute joy. Michael J. Fox ended his career in live-action feature films on a high note, even though this was a failure at the box office. (For some reason Universal thought this would fare well in the summer against Independence Day.) It’s garnered a reputable cult following since, and Jeffrey Combs just fires on all cylinders. Filled with black humor, anarchy and ghoulish delight, this film always manages to leave a smile on my face.
TALES OF HALLOWEEN
Like most horror anthologies, some segments are going to be stronger than others, but Tales of Halloween manages to feature ten segments with a really good average and, like Trick ‘r Treat, should be annual viewing for your October movie fix. Every short brings something unique and fun with distinct personalities that all manage to work in harmony and capture the essence of what makes this holiday so much fun. Some of my favorites are “The Night Billy Raised Hell” by Darren Lynn Bousman, which is a zestful exercise in chaos and chicanery; “This Means War” by Andrew Kasch and John Skipp is like the angry spirit of Chuck Jones pitting the old and new traditions of horror to battle smack dab in the middle of suburbia; “Grim Grinning Ghost” by Axelle Carolyn is an effective supernatural tale by a promising young talent; and “Bad Seed” by Neil Marshall leaves a satisfying taste that complements all that came before it. Make sure to watch this one on Halloween night!
- virgo02 I really liked the movie when it came out and I still do. I just watched it the other day. I still can't believe they took away the sibling part of the movie. That too me made it more suspenseful. The...
- Nick Greeley Nice clickbait. It’s OLD news that H20 started as a passion project for her, but everything fell apart when Carpenter and Hill didn’t come back, and Moustapha Akkad refused to let the writers kill...
- Mackey Would be awesome if Amazon or Netflix could save "The Exorcist" too
- One-Eye I remember it as being one of the better post SCREAM slasher movies. I certainly haven't watched it since then.
- One-Eye I kind of dig how Osment is just like "Yeah, I'm fat and have a big, bushy beard. And that's how I'm gonna stay now..."
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