6WH: Speed Round

Time flies when you’re terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. Six weeks in, and as usual, there are a whole slew of movies that I’ve watched that I didn’t write about. Maybe because it didn’t fit in a given week’s theme, or perhaps I just didn’t have that much to say about it. As of this writing, I’ve seen 48 films during this year’s marathon, which means I’ve already outpaced last year’s efforts (only by one, to be sure, but still), and I haven’t even gotten to the big day yet (at least two or three more films are forthcoming). And that’s not counting TV viewing, though that’s somewhat lessened this year. So here are some quick thoughts on the bevy of horror movies I’ve seen, but not covered yet:

  • The Void – Carpenter-esque tale of a police officer who escorts a blood covered man to a hospital, only to find that it’s been surrounded by weird cult-like people wearing triangle masks. Also, people are starting to transform into… something. Enjoyable enough with solid practical effects (none really beat the classics though, and at least one doesn’t work as well as it could), but the story is half-baked and can’t really support the film proper. There’s hints of depth involving loss and grief, but it never fully achieves those ambitions. Still worth a look. **1/2
  • The Girl with All the Gifts – A half zombie girl goes on the run when the full zombies attack her secret military hospital home. Mild spoilers, I guess. I’m not a huge zombie fan, but this one puts some interesting twists on the formula, and I think the ending is surprisingly good (the legacy of Matheson’s I Am Legend looms large…) **1/2
  • Chopping Mall – Post-Terminator, pre-Robocop tale of mall security robots running amok,

    I definitely remember seeing this on late night cable in my youth, and it’s actually pretty great 80s schlock.

    Killbots on the loose

    The robots deal out ED-209-esqe quips while shooting lazers that sometimes blow a head off, and other times just sorta lightly singe their clothes. The heroes are mildly resourceful and represent a good mix (they go shopping at a sporting goods store called Peckinpah’s!) It’s all in good fun, and the Amazon Prime transfer is shockingly good (as you’ll see below, this is often not the case). **1/2

  • Chastity Bites – Mildly diverting take on the whole Countess Bathory legend. The spin this time is that an immortal serial killer that survives by bathing in the blood of virgins has taken up residence as the local abstinence councilor. A little hamfisted in its politics, but again, diverting enough. **
  • Frenzy – Minor Hitchcock about a serial killer who strangles his victims with a necktie. The police have an obvious suspect, but this being Hitch, he’s the wrong man! Solid stuff, not top tier Hitch, but that’s a high bar. This is worth checking out… ***
  • Scream 4

    – I watched this for the 6WH a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and still do. I think it’s my favorite of the Scream sequels, and while some of the tech stuff has aged really poorly (and frankly wasn’t much of a thing even then), some bits land really well (I particularly love the fakeouts at the opening). **1/2

  • Messiah of Evil – Woman tries to find out what happened to her dad in a weird town with quasi-zombies. Or something. It’s totally nonsensical and hallucinatory and my copy was pan-and-scan crap, so it didn’t even look that great. I would love to try sleeping on that suspended bed thingy though. **
  • Death Spa – One of the two seminal fitness themed horror films of the 80s (the other being Killer Workout, a film I now need to track down), this one has a sorta ghost in the machine vibe to it, as the spirit of a woman wreaks havoc on a partially automated fitness club. Fun 80s cheese. **1/2
  • Severance – Slasher-esque story of a company retreat that gets sidetracked into a murderous compound or some such. Has some nice darkly comedic elements, but it isn’t quite a full horror comedy (as it’s sometimes billed). Uneven but enjoyable. **1/2
  • Ms .45 – Quintessential rape revenge movie about a mute seamstress who is assaulted and raped not once,

    but twice in one afternoon, after which she goes on a murderous revenge spree. First heard about this in Carol Clover’s essay “Getting Even” but at the time, it was hard to find. Then Drafthouse films did a restoration a few years ago, and it now looks great.

    Ms 45 deals out some revenge

    Really stresses the uncomfortable male nature of the city, and gets you into the revenge, and Zoë Lund does a great job. Lots to chew on here. **1/2

  • Happy Death Day – The notion of a horror version of Groundhog Day has been done again and again, but this one is actually pretty darned good, with some slasher-like elements (great mask on the killer) and some decent enough twists on the normal formula. **1/2
  • Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI – I’ve opined on this film often enough,

    I think, but it’s my favorite of the franchise, and it holds up pretty well. So when an actual Friday the 13th came around, I figured I had to watch it. ***

  • Video Nasties: Draconian Days – Watched this after the Video Nasties themed week, and it gives a good overview of the whole situation that lead to the nasties and censorship in the UK, as well as the underground VHS scene. Directed by Jake West, who made a couple of great, trashy horror films himself, but has been suspiciously quiet the last few years. Would love to see more from him. In the meantime, this is interesting enough. **1/2
  • What We Do in the Shadows – This comedic mock-documentary still works absurdly well,

    and is one of the movies I was really excited to revisit this year. ***1/2

  • Friday the 13th Part III – This one kept showing up on TV and I caught it one random night. It’s the sort of thing that I genuinely wonder what it would be like in a full 3D theatrical performance, as the movie is so shamelessly and blatantly pointing objects at the screen and so on. And the ending is so derivative of itself that it circles back to being kinda interesting. **
  • Primal Screen – Short documentary about the creepiness of ventriloquist dummies and dolls made by Rodney Ascher (who made the great Room 237 and The Nightmare), it’s pretty good. I’m not entirely sure what the deal is though, as it’s listed as a TV series, but this appears to be the only episode. **1/2
  • Gerald’s Game – Damn, there’s been a lot of new Stephen King adaptations this year, and this appears to be one of the better ones, which is interesting because the story doesn’t seem particularly cinematic. Director Mike Flanagan has proven himself again and again of late,

    though, and at this point anything he makes is a must-watch. A woman (played by the always great Carla Gugino) is handcuffed to her bed for some kinky times with her husband, but he (a shockingly ripped Bruce Greenwood) promptly dies, leaving her trapped. Again, works surprisingly well. ***

  • The Manitou – A vaunted selection for Kaedrin’s Weird Movie of the Week, this one has a great summary: “A woman gets a weird growth on her shoulder. As is often the case, it turns out to be a fetus.” Not the most culturally sensitive film, but it has enough batshit elements and goes completely off the rails (in a good way) towards the end. **1/2
  • Mother! – Darren Aronofsky’s divisive latest, this is an amazing display of talent in service of a rather uninspired biblical allegory. It’s an audacious effort and a good counter-example of Hollywood’s normal tendencies, totally worth checking out, but it’s kinda ugly and not very easy to watch. Adventurous stuff, even if it didn’t really rock my boat. **1/2
  • The Mutilator – Slasher comfort food, kids go to a beach house are stalked by one of the kids’ absentee father. Or something like that. Really good gore and kills, but little else distinguishes this film (also, transfer on Amazon Prime is pretty bad and pan-and-scan), but that’s kinda the joy of the slasher film, amiright? **1/2
  • Jaws – Stone cold classic, and you shouldn’t need me to say anything else about this. ****
  • Curtains – More slasher comfort food, this one has much more meat on the bone and it feels like one of the more underrated efforts on the sub-genre. An actress gets herself committed to an asylum because she’s a crazy method actor. Lo and behold, her partner (the director of the movie) up and abandons her, and then sets up a weird casting call of six actresses in a remote mansion. Naturally, a masked killer shows up. The final girl isn’t immediately obvious (or, at least, the obvious choice feels a bit like a red herring), which is appreciated, though by the end, you probably have a pretty good handle on what’s going on. Standout performance from John Vernon (best known as the crusty old dean from Animal House) as the sleazy director, but all the performances stand out for the genre. Craptacular Amazon Prime video is at 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but then there’s visible boom mikes in several shots, making me think that instead of doing pan and scan, they just didn’t mask to 1:85:1 or something like that. It’s crappy, but it was free. And the movie is an above average slasher with less focus on gore, but still creative enough to keep things interesting. ***
  • The Third Eye – A contender for the Erika Blanc themed week, I caught up with it later because Blanc’s role was comparatively small here. This is a pretty blatant remix of Psycho, with some additional Hitchcock elements thrown in for good measure. Domineering mother, taxidermy, surprising early deaths, lookalike blondes, there’s lots of familiar stuff here. Blanc’s role is relatively small though, and Franco Nero is only barely managing to sell the premise. **
  • The Love Witch – Anna Biller’s gorgeous and well composed tale of a witch who is determined to find a man who loves her, but ends up driving them all crazy in the process. Interesting and visually stunning, it ultimately feels a bit hollow and pointless, though there’s a lot of threads to chew on here if you look for them. **1/2
  • The Babysitter – A boy who is in love with his babysitter finds out she’s some sort of satanist murderer and has to escape her cult of teen followers. Goofy little tale, decent amount of humor, nice gore, but not exactly scary. Still, its a diverting little movie, dumb fun, and worth checking out if you’re in the mood for such a thing. **1/2
  • Scream: The TV Series (Season 2) – I really enjoyed the first season of this show last year, but this second season leaned into the series’ worst habits. Lack of communication, never talking to the cops, people constantly splitting up, a nigh omniscient killer, and a bunch of dumb, repetitive subplots that are repetitive. The last few episides liven things up a bit, but it all feels a little too outrageous at this point. Looks like it’s coming back for a third season, and the cliffhanger is kinda interesting I guess, but I suspect the series has worn out its welcome. Part of why the first season worked so well is that it completely jettisoned all the normal Scream mythology and started from scratch. This sequel is so beholden to the mythology that it’s starting to fall apart…
  • Slasher (S2, E1) –

    It looks like this series is going the anthology route, with season 2 having nothing to do with season 1. This time around, a group of camp counselors reunite five years after they murdered another camp counselor. Only had time for the first episode, which was ok, but nothing to write home about, and some pretty dumb cliches. Still, I might have to check out more…

  • Stranger Things 2 (S2, E1-4) – I was a big fan of season 1, and so far so good on season 2. I’m only four episodes in, and it seems a bit unfocused, but still entertaining. Some strain is showing here, but this could still turn out great, depending on where they go. So far, there’s been a few dumb bits (like, really, you find a tiny creature that doubles in size every day and you think it’s cute?) and they’ve done that thing again where a bunch of characters are separated, but I’m betting things will get back on track quickly. Each episode has a great cliffhanger ending that just begs you to watch more, such that I suspect I might even finish this thing before Halloween is done…
  • Trick ‘r Treat – Haven’t watched it yet, but will probably check it out before/on Halloween! ***1/2
  • Halloween – Duh. ****

I’m probably going to watch a couple of other things before the big day, but this is basically the end of this year’s festivities. Already looking forward to next year!

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