6WH: Speed Round and Halloween

It appears that time flies when you’re scared out of your wits and the infamous Six Weeks of Halloween ended with the main event yesterday. As per usual, I have not covered all of the movies I watched during this glorious six week period, whether that be because it didn’t fit with a given week’s theme or perhaps I’ve already seen and written about it or maybe I just didn’t have that much to say about it. So here’s a quick roundup of things I saw that haven’t already been covered…

  • The Babadook – Dear Lord, that kid is obnoxious. That’s kinda the point, I guess, but it’s the sort of thing that kept me bouncing off of this. It is wonderfully atmospheric, and when the horror starts creeping and crawling, it levels off into something that kinda works, but most of the runtime doesn’t seem to engage with the horror of the premise, instead focusing on themes of maternity and whatnot. I can see why critics love it, but again, I mostly bounced off it. **
  • From Beyond – Stuart Gordon was on the shortlist for the “Obscure Horror Auteurs” theme that drove the first half of this year’s marathon, but it was not to be. However, I did catch up with this one, based on a Lovecraft tale (as is a lot of Gordon’s best work) about a “resonator” that allows you to see other realities… the problem is that they can see back! Some interesting ideas here and it’s reasonably well executed, but this just doesn’t hold together quite as well as Re-Animator. **
  • The Monster Squad – Delightful as always, horror fun for the whole family. Especially effective when you’ve seen all the old Universal horror flicks this draws on and even expands (I especially like what they did with Wolfman, and not just the “nards” bits. Frankenstein is heart wrenching too.) Whatever happened to the director of this, Fred Dekker? Was Robocop 3 really that bad that he wasn’t allowed to work again? After Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad, you’d think he’d be able to weather a flop… Anywho, you should totally watch The Monster Squad, it’s great. ***
  • Hotel Transylvania – I’m not really a fan of Adam Sandler, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. This is perhaps more due to the other talent involved, like Genndy Tartakovsky or Robert Smigel, but whatever the case, this is fun stuff, also drawing on old monster lore and it features some genuinely likable characters. I liked the ending. It’s a little bland, but as a kid’s movie it works, and it’s fun. There is, however, a rapping Dracula, something I just can’t fathom in this day and age. **1/2
  • Hotel Transylvania 2 – No rapping Draculas, which is a plus, but also not much else to recommend it. Not bad, and there’s some nice bits (I like the intersection of the normal world and the monster world), but it doesn’t really go anywhere new. Still, decent for a kids movie. **1/2
  • Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence – Kinda going for a Bride of Maniac Cop thing here, but I guess that wasn’t in the cards. Maniac Cop is brought back by voodoo and wreaks some havoc in service of a female cop who is wrongfully accused or somesuch. Robert Davi returns as the hard boiled detective, Robert Z’Dar is Robert Z’Dar, and Caitlin Dulany is the helpful doctor. It’s all in good fun, though it drags a bit more than previous iterations. **
  • Vamp U – This movie is objectively terrible, it makes no sense, and yet, I had fun with it. Some interesting ideas here. A vampire who is impotent, meaning that he can’t “fang out” because he once accidentally killed his love. He now teaches history at a college and is surprised when a student comes to class who looks exactly like his long lost love. There’s a lot of fun stuff here. The vampire is named Wayne Gretzky for no reason, something that could have been endearing if the rest of the movie supported it, but it feels kinda tacky overall. Decent performances from Adam Johnson as Gretsky, and Gary Cole as his friend and confidant. Only abbout a third of the jokes actually land, so this isn’t quite calibrated or effective, but it’s the sort of thing that could maybe work if they took more time to develop it. *1/2 but I’d totally watch this again for some reason.
  • The Visit – A little too uneven to be called a true return to form, but this does at least represent a reversal of course for Shyamalan, halting a long skid of mediocrity and outright bad films. There’s a lot to like here, but the dialogue and plot are a little too on the nose and hamfisted. The overarching story works well and contains enough thematic heft that things come out alright in the end though. On the other hand, there are three (count ’em, three) scenes in which a white kid does freestyle rap and it is more horrifying than anything else Shyamalan has ever done (in, uh, a bad way). Once again, I don’t understand how we’re still using rap from an unexpected source (like a white kid or Dracula) as comedy in this day and age. A middling effort, but given where Shyamalan has been for his past few movies, that’s a major improvement. **1/2
  • Cargo – Probably more science fiction than horror, but this doesn’t really hold up in either genre. It’s fine, to be sure, but I had heard a lot of good things and thus my expectations were perhaps a bit too high. In the far future, earth is mostly destroyed and humanity lives in cramped space stations, awaiting a trip to new planet Rhea. Rich people can go there easily, others have to work menial jobs, etc, etc… you can see where this is going, right? And that is where it’s going. It’s fine, and reasonably well executed, but it’s not the SF or horror masterpiece I was lead to believe it would be. **
  • Puppetmaster – Haha, this is way more trashy than I remember it being, but it’s still fun and you have to admit, those little puppets are supremely well designed and memorable. This is one of those movies I discovered as a youngin trolling cable at, like, 3 am or something, so there’s a tinge of nostalgia at work here too. Originally scheduled for the Killer Dolls and Dummies week, I just didn’t get to it in time. **
  • Madman – I’m always surprised when I find yet another decent flick from the golden age of slashers, but I shouldn’t be, as there are, like, hundreds of them. This one is pretty fun, and I love the opening scene around the campfire. So glad I caught this one, I didn’t realize how much I was craving a good, old-fashioned slasher. Like a comfy sweater on a cold autumn day. Alright, so it’s not exactly “good” but I enjoyed the hell out of it. **1/2
  • No One Lives – I wasn’t that excited for this movie, but it turned out to be one of my favorite discoveries of late. A group of petty criminals attempts to kidnap a wealthy woman… but all is not what it seems. As it was unfolding, I was thinking to myself that it would be cool if the husband was actually a serial killer or something, and then was surprised to learn that this was actually the case. I love stories like this, where bad people tangle with worse people and get their comeuppance. This one was fun. ***
  • Ghostbusters – It’s a classic and you don’t need me to say anything more about it. Needless to say, if you haven’t seen it before, you need to watch it, whether you like horror movies or not. ****
  • Trick ‘r Treat – This is becoming an annual tradition around here, and I think I like it better every year. ***1/2
  • Halloween – Duh. ****
  • Scream – I watched the previous three films on Halloween eve, saving Halloween day for a minature Wes Craven marathon. First up was Scream, which holds up great if you put it in the right context. The opening is still brilliant, and the self-referential bits are well done. It’s just a lot of fun watching this. I really wanted to watch Scream 4 again too, but I never got to it. ***1/2
  • Deadly Blessing – One of the few Wes Craven movies that I’d never seen before and, well, let’s just say that there’s probably a reason for that. It’s not bad at all, actually, but there’s not a ton going on either. It’s set in Amish country (not technically Amish, they call them Hittites in the movie) and there’s some decent stuff here. You can certainly see some of Craven’s touches. For instance, he reuses a shot in the bathtub in Nightmare on Elm Street, but the latter is perfected while this one is less effective. Lots of stuff like that in this film, and a kinda bonkers final couple of scenes also remind of his later work. Worth a watch for Craven completists and horror historians. **1/2
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street – Finished off the marathon with the classic, Craven’s most purely distilled horror. Yeah, sure, there’s some third act issues, but at this point, they’ve become charming, haven’t they? I still love this movie. ****
  • Scream Queens – I watched the first two episodes of this and almost immediately forgot I even did so. It’s got some interesting stuff, but it feels overdrawn and too small for a full season of television. It’s definitely trying (and mostly failing) to channel that sorta Heathers-like gleeful dark comedy, but it’s too unfocused and blatant about it to work well. Some great performances, but there just wasn’t enough there to keep me engaged…
  • iZombie – This show, on the other hand, engaged me way more than I’d have ever thought. Perhaps that’s because the Zombies in this are so different than your typical Zombies, and also the sorta procedural case-of-the-week stuff that tends to pull me in. Some neat ideas here, like the fact that Zombies are basically just normal people who retain their intelligence, but have really pasty skin and bleached hair. Oh, and they crave brains. And when they eat a brain, they take on that brain’s characteristics and even get some of their memories. This is a neat premise for a police procedural. Really enjoyed the first season and blew through it on Netflix in a couple weeks.

Phew, so there you have it, another successful Six Weeks of Halloween. Be sure to check out Six Weeks of Halloween and Film Thoughts for their final thoughts as well. See you for another six weeks next year!

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