Sunday, November 1, 2015


End of the month also means end of the Scare-A-Thon. And how'd I do?! The goal of 40 movies has successfully been achieved! Full recap of the entire month - with total amount raised for Planned Parenthood and Reach Counseling Services coming very soon.

But first, let's dive into the last round of viewings for the month.

29. ROMAN (2006) - First Time Viewing
Describing Roman as a morbid drama might be a little more accurate that labeling it a straight up horror movie. Actually, calling it a lo-fi, wannabe pretentious and art morbid drama would be better.

Roman is a loner who doesn't own a TV, works at a shit job, and likes to watch the girl who lives across the way (Kristen Bell). They have exhilarating conversations about how cans of pork and beans are assembled while Bell drinks her beer in a less than stellar fashion during her two scenes. Things start to get hot and heavy, and Roman kills her. He panics, hides the body, and now a different woman starts obsessing over him, but is he too haunted from the first girl to pursue a new one?

For those who enjoyed May (like myself), this is the film where May director Lucky McKee and actress Angela Bettis swap roles, McKee starting as the titular Roman and Bettis calling the shots. Roman could have made a decent short, however, it makes a lousy feature. At least with the script and execution we're given. It felt like a late '90s student film, at times trying to be somewhat experimental and abstract and more minimal than it should be. There were some nice music moments, though. I will give it that. Ultimately, the story isn't very fresh or stimulating, making for a dull, lack-luster experience.

30. THE HALLOW (2015) - First Time Viewing
Know what I love? Creature features. Give me some awesome looking practical monsters tearing shit up, and I'm pumped. Combine the creatures with folklore and you might as well be buttering me up. Know what else I love? Films set in the woods. Sure, they're almost done to the point of exhaustion, but that doesn't change my enjoyment of them. Know who I love? Michael fucking Smiley. Been a huge fan of him since I saw him cutting loose as Tyres in Spaced.

What would happen if all of those elements were thrown together into one film? Well, in the case of The Hallow, it would be far less greet than I'd hope for.

There is some great stuff in this film, let me make that clear. The creatures, the hallow, look super gnarly and their full introduction (when we first get to see them) is incredibly effective and creepy. The cinematography isn't anything too out of the ordinary, but it's slick and competent, adequately utilizing the sets, locations, and lights quite often. The performances were acceptable, the minimal amount of actors performed well enough. And at one point, a character wraps cloth around a sickle, pours some gasoline on it, and lights it up. A flaming sickle might just be the coolest fucking weapon I've seen in a long time.

So where did The Hallow fall short? For starters, Michael Smiley was nothing but a bit cameo. He was on screen for a total of four minutes, maybe six. Criminally disappointing. Okay, that's just me being a fanboy. Now, I am admittedly an asshole for saying this, but I could not give two shits about anyone in the movie because the whole story is basically resolves around a married couple trying to protect their baby. I have ZERO paternal instinct and no desire or ability to ever have kids (thank you, vasectomy), not to mention I am single, so the context of the film fell super flat for me. I didn't care what happened to anyone. In fact, I started rooting for the creatures so then I wouldn't have to deal with the mom's idiocies. For real, she was the worst. Towards the end of the film, a pretty interesting and cool open-ended question is presented, which in a way could have redeemed the film for me, but was answered almost immediately (and not how I wanted it to be), sucking the potential fun out of it for me.

When all is said and done, I just wish there was more substance to latch on to (aka something more than me supposed to feel for two parents), even the slightest bit would have been fine. The Hallow was completely hollow. I'm sure most people would have shown compassion for the couple, which goes to show the problems weren't so much the film's, rather my own.

31. WHEN ANIMALS DREAM (2015) - First Time Viewing
Marie, who lives at home with her dad and gravely ill mother, visits the doctor to inquire about a questionable rash on her chest. The doctor assure her it's nothing to worry about, but wants to see her in a month. In that time, she gets job processing fish and taking interest in a few of her male co-workers. As she gives in to her lustful feelings, the rash and her whole body begin transforming into something else.

When Animals Dream inevitably will be compared to Ginger Snaps, and rightfully so. There are similar ideas and terrorizes explored in both. However, Ginger Snaps is chock full of dark humor, When Animals Dream is not. The tonality of the two are quite different, with Animals taking a much more bleak approach. The dialogue is surprisingly sparse, as is the livelihood of the film. Set in a small Danish fishing village, the setting feels cool and lonely. There doesn't seem to be much to life, as the visual aesthetic represents that. Not to say the film is lifeless, this is a very competently shot film. including an absolutely gorgeous opening credits sequence.

The pacing is slow, which is intentional and successful. It's very much a slow-burn with a quiet yet looming sense of dread throughout. First-timer Sonia Suhl absolutely owns the screen as Marie through her physical and verbal acting, backed by a captivating, albeit minimal, script and confident direction. Focusing heavily on the drama, and even channelling a bit of Let The Right One In, When Animals Dream successfully and gracefully executes a character-driven story of the horror that lies within us and our communities. Super solid viewing.

32. HALLOWEEN H20 (1998)
Figured it would make sense to at least watch one of these this month. Do I lose points if I say this is one of the better Halloween entries? Because it's true, that's how I feel.

Set twenty years after Michael hacked up Haddonfield, his estranged sister (Laurie Strode) now goes by Keri Tate, lives in California, teaches at a posh private high school, and is over-protective of her son (played by newcomer Josh Hartnett). Strode faked her death, changed her name, and set up shop far away from her stomping grounds. If you're going to bring back Jamie Lee Curtis to make a sequel twenty years later, I can totally get on board with this idea. It works for what it is, and brings a nice change of pace to the series (which, in my crappy opinion, lost its way during the previous two).

The film opens really well, which includes killing off a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael driving away from the murder scene wearing the mask. I know some fans wonder how he learned to drive in the first movie, but seriously, who the fuck drives around wearing that mask?! Speaking of the mask, it looks so lame in this entry. It's super dopey looking, making Michael look like an idiot. I don't quite understand how such a simple mask looks so different between all the films. Anyway, I digress.

The story works, the build up is handled quite well, LL Cool J as a security guard who writes trashy romance novels is hilarious to me, and there are some really great moments throughout. Without a doubt, my favorite moment consists of Michael and Laurie reuniting, starring into each other's eyes through a small window in a door, almost as if they're looking in a mirror. Such a successful and superb moment between the characters. The two also share one excellent final moment - for the movie and their story - only to then be ruined by the obligatory and pathetic sequel, Resurrection.

Perhaps it's part nostalgia, or that I've never been too invested into the series, but I am totally fine with H20. Maybe that's Halloween blasphemy to say, I don't know. There's a lot worse you could do with a Halloween sequel. See parts four and five for examples.

33. FRONTIER(S) (2007)
If you have not dabbled into the world of French horror, you are missing out. Films like High Tension, Inside, Them, Martyrs, and the current topic of discussion, Frontier(s), greatly example the intensity and depravity the French filmmakers have to offer.

A group of shitheads escape the French riots (which also appear in Inside) and flee to the countryside with a serious bag of money they stole. They seek refuge at a lone motel just off the beaten path. I'm sure you can put two and two together to see where this is going…

One could easily describe Frontier(s) as the French Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and you wouldn't be far off. Instead of a crazy hillbilly family, we are now treated to a crazy hillbilly Nazi family. Let's face it, no matter how nutty Texans are, no one is more fucked up than the Nazis.

Intense, brutal, and graphic, Frontier(s) is one serious ride. When we first met our main group of characters, they're rather unlikable street trash from the suburbs. Entitled, cocky, ignorant, you almost want them to die right away. However, director Xavier Gens an terrific job flipping the audience. There comes a point where you start to feel empathic to the young victims, wanting them to survive. Where this switch hasn't worked for me in other films - Attack The Block for example - Frontier(s) has conquered me all three times now. The family is absurd and terrifying, all the while believable, and the punishment they enforce is powerful. While the violence isn't constant, it is plentiful and vigorous, to the point where you almost feel it.

In short, Frontier(s) is complete mayhem, and incredibly enjoyable at that.

34. THE BLOB (1988)
A giant blob from outer space digests everything and everyone in its path in a small town. For 95 minutes, we, the audience, is treated to incredibly gooey and fantastic special effects, witty and comical dialogue and situations, Kevin Dillon's sweet-ass mullet, and non-stop '80s goodness.

Been watching this flick even since my dad introduced me to it when I was a pre-pubescent, and it' still wildly entertaining today. When I think of a fun horror movie, The Blob immediately comes to mind. It's basically like watching on big party. One big, sticky, pink party.

I would so love to see (co-writer) Frank Darabont and co-writer/director) Chuck Russell team up again for another horror story. Between this and NoES: Dream Warriors, I am very much a fan of their combined efforts. When it comes to '80 sci-horror, you really can't beat the combo of The Blob, The Fly, and The Thing.


35. VAMPIRES (1998)
In my mind, when presented with making this film, John Carpenter pondered for a moment and then said, "Fuck it, let's just do something fun!"

That is exactly what Vampires is. Is it great? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but it's an absolute blast. You have James Woods overacting the shit out of the tough guy, hero character trying to hunt down and slaughter a bunch of vampires in the Southwest. There's really not much more to it, just solid action, ridiculous one-liners, fun gore (courtesy of KNB), and a pretty simple yet bitchin' score (courtesy of Carpenter). I also greatly appreciated that the vampires were monsters - not romantic, not comical, not charming, just villainous. Toss in a slowly turning Sheryl Lee and I'm sold.

It's been quite a few years since my last viewing, glad to see I enjoyed it now like I did many moons ago.

My first (and only) viewing of this remake was six years ago and it did not serve me well. I do like to go back and revisit films, even if I didn't like them previously, to see how I feel about them a second time around. Plus, I was in the mood for a Halloween-themed piece, so what the hell?

Well, things didn't change for me. There is not just a whole lot to get excited about. There is a tiny amount I enjoyed: Linnea Quigley's cameo was good, plus a nice nod to the original. They successfully upped the lipstick gag by not just showing it go in but also come out. This was a really nice surprise the first time around, and while i still like the idea of it, the execution is actually pretty weak. There's something about the way it goes in, the way it was shot, kind of makes it confusing. You just don't get a good look at it. The makeups are appreciated but could be much better. And sure, there's some nice eye candy. Outside of that, the whole thing is flat. Nothing exciting, nothing thrilling, nothing memorable. I'd like to know who's idea it was to cast Edward Furlong as the (somewhat) lead character, that was a rough decision.

Without a doubt, I'm a fan of the original. It's fun from the get-go, just ridiculous characters saying ridiculous things and they find themselves in ridiculous situations. The tone is what makes it what it is, something I expected to see in this updated version. The film just never got there. It felt like they wanted to, unsure how to actually do it, though. Don't think I'll ever need to check this out again.

37. ATROCIOUS (2011) - First Time Viewing
Found-footage movies, they're always the same, right? Let's face it, they kind of are. There's always some group that finds themselves in a situation they shouldn't be, things get weird/crazy, they react in idiotic ways, people get dead. Sure, things change here and there, but for the most part, they don't break new ground. You know what you're getting yourself into when you sit down with one.

Well, I'll be damned - Atrocious was frightening. As in, I actually got scared watching this. That does not happen very often. Not because I'm all macho and shit, I'm not. Having a much higher tolerance for the frights is what happens when you're a life-long horror fan. You kind of get used to it. This film, though…

Let's get this out of the way, Atrocious suffers the same problems as most found-footage films. The first thirty minutes are bland and boring, as we get to "know" our characters. They're slightly obnoxious but nothing out of the ordinary. The setup is almost a paint-by-numbers formula, you know where things are going. Like the majority, this does not introduce anything new. However, the strength of Atrocious is that writer/director Fernando Barreda Luna successfully plants the seed (the urban legend) and knows how to let the tension grow. He's not quick to show us anything, he lets it sit and stew, so by the time the scares kick in, it's nerve-racking. Once all the fluff is out of the way - about forty-five minutes it - shit kicks in and does not let up for a solid twenty minutes. It's not just a scare here, a scare there, then nothing, followed by another scare. This is a constant intensity doesn't let up.

Another great thing is the runtime - seventy-five minutes. It does what it wants to do and doesn't overstay its welcome. Short, to the point, and intense. I like it.

I will say, while I did enjoy the ending and how it was handled, it didn't have the sense of a big climax. There was certainly a payoff, and again, I liked where it went, the execution just felt a little light compared to the lead up.

Perhaps it was the timing, my mood, the weather - I'm not really sure. But I was scared and nervous. And I so enjoyed that.

38. MURDER PARTY (2007)
When you're a struggling, pretentious artist in NYC and want to make a splash on the art scene, how should you go about doing so? By hosting a murder party on Halloween night, that's how! I rented this one on a complete whim in 2007, when I was just finishing up college (in the graphic design program), and there probably was no better time to see this. And it's been a seasonal staple and personal favorite since.

Filled with such ridiculous yet terribly realistic characters (especially for the scene), even more offbeat humor, and the COOLEST homemade costume, Murder Party is truly a comedy of horrors. Nothing goes right and nothing goes as you'd expect, making it a fantastic viewing experience, especially with a crowd.

I also highly recommend writer/director Jeremy Sauliner's sophomore film, Blue Ruin, which is very different from Murder Party and unbelievably amazing. My favorite film of 2013. Cannot wait for his newest, Green Room! I am most definitely a fanboy, if you couldn't tell.

39. LET US PREY (2014) - First Time Viewing
A stranger strolls into a smaller Irish town, the same night PC Heggie starts her new job at the police station. A slightly chaotic string of events involving the stranger brings various members of the community and police force together in a way they did not expect.

Let Us Prey really stands out compared to the rest of my Scare-A-Thon views as a rather unique film. I can't say there's a lot it, as it's almost like a western morality tale with a weird and dark tone to it. Points for being something different! more points for a really well put together film. The script is engaging and mysterious, the acting holds up across the board, very fluid and confident cinematography, and there's one hell of an action set piece towards the end.

Outside of a few fairly unbelievable character moments, my biggest concern is that I'm not entirely sure I understood everything. The story slowly pieces itself together as the film plays on, which was not a problem whatsoever. It made for an exciting watch, not knowing where things were going or how they were connected. When all is said and done, when the story wraps up, I'm was left going, "Ummm… Okay?" This might be resolved by another sit down with the film, but even still, the conclusion felt substantially weak in comparison to the rest. This was a bit of a pisser - didn't ruin the film, it did leave a slight bad taste in my mouth, though.

Worth a watch, as there is much to appreciate, just left me a little unfulfilled.

 40. TRICK 'R TREAT (2007)
Earlier, I might have committed Halloween blasphemy by enjoying H20. Now, I'm about to commit horror blasphemy. Trick 'r Treat is the greatest Halloween movie ever. Yes, even better than the original Halloween.

By interweaving four stories that take place in the same small town on Halloween night, Trick 'r Treat encompasses all that is Halloween. Every aspect of our beloved holiday is touched upon and executed so insanely well, it makes for the ultimate seasonal entity. The script is so tight, I feel confident in stating that multiple viewings are required so one can fully appreciate what's on screen. Moody, atmospheric, creepy, nostalgic, hilarious - there is just SO much to enjoy. Trick 'r Treat honestly has it all. It's one gorgeous love letter to Samhain.

"Charlie Brown is an asshole" gets me every time.

Total Films Watched: 40 (of 40)
First Time Views: 24

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