31 Days of Halloween Horror Viewing

It’s that time of the year for Halloween fear. No pre-prepared watch list this time, I’m just jumping in and checking out stuff I haven’t seen. Follow along!

Day 1 – The Hand – So if CERN really did shunt a bunch of us into another universe, the fact that I had never heard of a Michael Caine movie by Oliver Stone in which a comic book artist’s severed hand goes around killing people is proof enough for me. After a really grisly and well done hand loss the movie meanders a bit, but remained watchable, if absurd.
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Day 2 – Sole Survivor – A woman emerges unscathed from an airliner crash, but is haunted by silent strangers stalking her everywhere. I found this to be a more consistently coherent It Follows. A bit of a slow burn, but enjoyable.

Day 3 – Gerald’s Game – I never read the book, but this movie is carried by its performances, particularly that of Carla Gugino. It’s a great and at times infuriating study of character, history, and gender, but the final scene in the courtroom is a bit pants, to use a funny expression from across the Pond. I understand it happens in the book, so I guess it’s a faithful adaptation.
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Day 4 – Pieces – The VHS box for this one has stuck with me for years. Absolutely bonkers giallo with some lovely ladies getting cut to…well….pieces. There’s a totally bizarre ethnic ‘kung fu’ joke in the middle of it for no apparent reason and the left field ending stinger has to be seen to be believed. This has got to be the single biggest influence on the classic parody movie Student Bodies.

Day 5 – Vampire Circus – I had been wanting to see this one for a long time and it was worth the wait. Top drawer Hammer movie about a staked vampire who lays a curse on his slayers which a band of odd circus performers/minions begin to enact in hopes of resurrecting their undead master. Some really inventive FX, beautiful actresses as always, and ingenious scenes of vampire slaying. This is gonna be a top watch for me for the season for sure.

Day 6 – Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde – Another late Hammer outing. London chemist Dr. Jekyll, seeking a life prolonging formula, figures out how to chemically change sexual characteristics (maybe because unmarried women live longer?) and promptly begins assuming a vampish, female form who may or may not be his darker self. Points for including both Jack The Ripper and Burke and Hare, but otherwise kind of middling.

Day 7 – Child’s Play 3 – Chucky, rendered to a molten blob at the end of Part 2, gets reconstituted into a new body when an unscrupulous toy manufacturer decides to re-christian the Good Guy line. I think I would’ve enjoyed this if it had been about Chucky running rampant through the upper corporate echelons as some kind of cathartic, anarchistic statement on the evils of unfettered capitalism, but instead he just went after Andy (this time play by Justin Whalin from the D&D movie) at a military school and I spent three quarters of the movie trying to remember if I’d seen this already or not. The always good to see Andrew Robinson was memorable as a weirdo military barber, but that’s about it.

Day 8 – Don’t Deliver Us From Evil – French film about two Catholic school girls who dedicate themselves to Satan. Their deliberate sins gradually escalate from minor pranks and infractions to their logical outcome. Widely regarded, it reminded me a bit of The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane. An engaging movie, but frankly, a bit too sleazy with the underage girls.
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Day 9 – Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Might be the low point of the ‘meets’ series for me so far. Just not particularly funny, though it has moments. And the song and dance routine of the suffragettes kicking up their heels and lifting their skirts like can can girls was pretty cringeworthy, even for a guy who likes Willie Scott the best of Indiana Jone’s lady friends. The boys are American cops inexplicably working in some kind of exchange program (a la Black Rain?) with the British coppers in Edwardian England. They get fired and wind up chasing Dr. Jekyll’s (Karloff) alter ego to try to get their jobs back. Costello turns into both a mouse man AND a Hyde monster.

Day 10 – Eyes Without A Face – There’s a reason this one’s got a Criterion release. A French surgeon, responsible for a car crash that leaves his daughter Christiane horrifically disfigured, sets out to make amends by kidnapping beautiful young girls with the help of his assistant and attempting to graft their faces onto hers with varying degrees of success. Incredibly well realized and astonishingly graphic for 1960, this is another top first time watch for me this year. I’m trying to talk my wife into going next Halloween as Christiane!

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Day 11 – Boys In The Trees – This Australian picture turned out to be less of a horror film as advertised and more of a dark fantasy. That’s not a knock on it. It’s a great little movie, about teenaged boys on the cusp of manhood, and in particular, two former best friends on Halloween night, one an aspiring photographer who compromises himself to fit in with the local crowd, yet has dreams of leaving their small town, and the other an imaginative, bullied pariah who doesn’t want to grow up. The two reason through why they drifted apart and the movie becomes a meditation not just on masculinity, but on identity and memory. Extremely well done and affecting. Almost as if written by a brokenhearted Ray Bradbury.

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Day 12 – The Resurrected – Dan O’Bannon captains this practical FX gorefest, loosely inspired by Lovecraft’s Case of Charles Dexter Ward and starring Chris Sarandon as the necormancy-obssessed doctor being hunted up by a private detective hired by his wife to figure out just what he’s been up to. Suprisingly moody and fun, with some neat lore and grotesque creations.

Day 13 – Personal Shopper – Kristen Stewart is a personal assistant for a Parisian celebrity, but she’s also a medium staying in Paris to hear word of her late twin brother. Then she starts getting mysterious texts on her phone urging her to give into her wild side. So I watched this because I’d heard good things….but it felt like three different stories vying for my attention, and Stewart’s character just wasn’t interesting enough to make me care about any of them. It was a total slog.

Day 14 – The Hour of The Wolf – Bergman’s a great filmmaker. The Seventh Seal and The Virgin Spring are amazing. This was pretty, but very, very boring.

Day 15 – Eyes Of The Cat – I stumbled across this one completely by accident (was looking for the Hammer movie, Shadow of The Cat). An ambitious hairdresser recruits the estranged bon vivant nephew of a clingy, ailing San Francisco socialite in a bid to alter her will then murder her and steal her millions. Seems pretty straightforward, except the nephew is terrified of cats and the woman’s will currently leaves her inhertiance to a mansion full of felines. When the (perhaps incestuous) aunt gets rid of all the cats and then a sack full of kittens so as not to offend her beloved nephew, one particular orange tabby seems to take a preternatural interest in the proceedings. Lots of neat twists and turns (perhaps, in the very end, just one too many), good dialogue, and some inventive camera work.

Day 16 – Frankenweenie – A first time watch with the kiddies. Not bad remake of the live action original, though I preferred the first iteration with Barret Oliver. The catpoo-o-mancy was a little much.

Day 17 – The Sorcerers – Interesting picture starring Boris Karloff and Catherine Lacey about a pair of married, aging scientists who invent a process that allows them to experience another’s thoughts and feelings, and exert a degree of control over them. The pair test their process on an unsuspecting London swinger, Ian Ogilvy, and proceed to push the experiments into new territories, Ogilvy blacking out when they take over. Lacey becomes more and more addicted to inhabiting Ogilvy….good movie.

Day 18 – The Berlin Syndrome – An Australian tourist winds up the the latest captive of a psychopathic German sports school teacher in east Berlin. A well done thriller.

Day 19 – Snuff – Weird ass schlock take on the Manson murders turned in the last five minutes into a faux-cinema verite ‘snuff’ film where the camera crew ‘unexpectedly’ films the director murdering an actress (who, if I’m not mistaken isn’t in the movie) on camera. Obvious head and hands through the bottom of the bed and fake body trick. I guess people fell for it back in the day.

Day 20 – Night Of The Devils – Neat Italian horror of a man who stumbles upon a remote, isolated family dealing with a witch and the legend of the verkolak.

Day 21 – Crystal Lake Memories – Thorough, epic 7 hour documentary of the Friday The 13th film series, from Part 1 through the recent remake. I have a deep, abiding love for this series, and Simon Hawke’s novelization of Part 6 is one of the books that inspired me to start writing. This loving analysis delved deep and left me with a new appreciation for the movies, even the remake. I really hope Derek Mears, who played Jason, gets another crack at the part, and I totally agree with the notion that Part 13 should bring back ALL the final girls and Tommy Jarvis. A top watch.
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Day 22 – Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – It’s got ghost pirates, so I say it counts. A vengeful Spanish pirate bent on avenging himself on Jack Sparrow seizes control of the high seas and the cursed Will Turner’s son sets out to find the loopy rogue and find an ancient artifact that could break his father’s curse. Very inventive and neat at times, though I sometimes lost track of the character motivations and decisions. Javier Bardem was cool as always and I’m glad they moved away from that Jack Sparrow is a lord of pirates business. Nice callbacks to the superior original. Young CGI Jack was a little wonky in an otherwise killer scene.

Day 23 – Seed Of Chucky – Chucky and Tiffany’s innocent doll son escapes a freakshow and goes to Hollywood to find his parents. What the heck did I just watch? It actually started off pretty amusing and strange, but I didn’t need to see Chucky jerking it in silhouette, and eventually Billy Boyd’s Glen/Glenda became annoying. Jennifer Connelly and Redman are good sports.

Day 24 – Diabolique – French classic about the wife and mistress of a boorish French headmaster who plot to do away with him. Pretty great, but I wish the twist had not been telegraphed early on by the mistress.

Day 25 – 1922 – Chilling Stephen King adaptation about a farmer who enlists the aide his own son to murder his wife to prevent her from selling off their land. An epic, macabre gothic morality tale. Very well done.

Day 26 – The Babysitter – Amusing horror comedy about a shy, out of step boy who learns his idyllic babysitter is not what she seems to be….but c’mon, once she showed such a passion for Billy Jack I knew she had to be evil. The black character was a little bit too stereotypical at times, but the movie was fun overall.

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Day 27 – Funny Games (1997) – A well to do Austrian family has their vacation home invaded by a pair of young psychopaths. “[Director, Michael] Haneke states that the entire film was not intended to be a horror film. He says he wanted to make a message about violence in the media by making an incredibly violent, but otherwise pointless movie.” He succeeded. But it wasn’t really that violent either.

Day 28 – Curse of Chucky – A huge step up from the previous sequels. Somebody sends a Chucky doll to a disabled heiress and shenanigans quickly ensue. Moody and well done. The fan service end stinger got me hyped for Cult, which is what I’ve been slowly working towards.

Day 29 – Cult of Chucky – The girl from Curse of Chucky is tormented again by the killer doll in the asylum to which she has been committed. I liked seeing Andy in a more Tommy Jarvis role, but the mechanics of Chucky’s plan didn’t make sense to me. Curse and the original remain the best of the series.

Day 30 – Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon – I got what the filmmakers were going for, but horror comedy is a tough sell for me and rarely works. Plus I just couldn’t get bast the twerpiness of the killer. Maybe if he’d lost the soul patch.

Day 31 – And I wrapped my 2017 Halloween first time viewing marathon with The First Power.  Lou Diamond Phillips pursues a body jumping serial killer. Jeff Korber’s always interesting to watch, but this is pretty paint by numbers, even with a magic Catholic crucifix dagger.

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