6WH: Speed Round and Halloween

Time flies when you’re terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. After six weeks of marathoning horror movies, there are a bunch of films 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, or maybe I do have a lot to say about it but didn’t have the time or inclination to do so. As of this moment, I’ve watched 54 horror (or horror-adjacent, I guess) movies this Halloween season (with probably another one or two tomorrow for the big day), well below my record pace set last year (which clocked in at 61 movies), but still relatively high compared to, jeeze, the last decade or so of Halloween watching. I might have actually surpassed last year’s numbers, but I was traveling for one whole week and away for another weekend during the requisite 6 weeks, so my pace slackened during those times (I did watch a few movies on the plane though, so it didn’t stop entirely). I also watched a teensy bit of television during this year’s marathon, but that quickly got drowned out by movie watching. I did hit 14 films in one week though, which is a pace only rivaled by when I go to film festivals, so there is that. Anywho, let’s dive in:

  • Tales of Halloween – Horror anthology set on Halloween night. As usual, the segments are uneven.
    Tales of Halloween

    The standouts in my mind are the slasher/alien story, which is hysterically funny and well done, and the finale, which is the killer pumpkin movie we’ve all dreamed of. Or, like, maybe it’s just me, but killer pumpkins man, what else do you need? **1/2

  • I Trapped the Devil – A couple visits the family hermit… only to find that he’s locked someone up in the basement, claiming he’s the devil. Simple premise stretched out to feature length, very slow moving pace, well photographed and atmospheric, but derivative and a little unsatisfying in the end. A much better take on the story is The Twilight Zone episode The Howling Man, which covers similar ground in a mere 25 minutes. **
  • Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween – I was pleasantly surprised by the first Goosebumps a few years ago, and it’s always good to break up the monotonous despair of watching a lot of horror movies with something a little more fun, but it turns out that this movie inherits little of the charm of the first movie, and it feels a lot more like the soulless pixel stew I originally feared. That being said, it’s still light and fun and easygoing, which fits well inbetween the horrors of the season. **
  • The Ghoul – Borderline cromulent Boris Karloff programmer about an Egyptologist on his deathbed who has a plan for immortality. Or something like that. Good setup and premise, but it loses its way about halfway through. Fortunately, it’s pretty short, and it picks up again towards the end (which is, alas, abrupt and leaves some threads hanging). **
  • Deadtectives – A crew of television ghost hunters who’ve been faking things get trapped in a genuinely haunted location. Hijinks ensue. Hardly an original concept, but it’s a very well executed iteration on the idea, and it’s a winning combination of horror and comedy that scratches that Ghostbusters itch (you know, the one not scratched by the recent reboot). ***
  • King Kong – Seen it before, but I’m always struck by how much of a spectacle this movie must have been at the time. The effects actually hold up reasonably well now, they must have been mind-blowing at the time. Some all time great shots too. Well worth rewatching (or watching for the first time, if you haven’t…) ***
  • Night of Terror – Borderline croumulet Bela Lugosi programmer about relatives forced to stay the night at a haunted mansion in order to read a will (a trope that’s largely disappeared), only people keep showing up dead. A little meandering but it picks up towards the end and the finale is pretty fantastic (as is the coda). **1/2
  • 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene – Documentary that is laser focused on the 78 shots and 52 cuts that comprise the shower scene in Psycho. Mostly talking heads dissecting the scene, but pretty informative and interesting deep dive that somehow manages to sustain the feature film runtime. **1/2
  • Shaun of the Dead – Gets funnier every time I watch it. One of those rare parodies that represents a genuinely good example of the genre even while it lampoons all the tropes. ***
  • Raw Meat (aka Death Line) – Cannibals living in old subway lines in London! It’s got a pretty great and underrated Donald Pleasence performance as the police detective in charge, but is otherwise pretty forgettable. **
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – A US production of a story set in Iran, starring mostly Iranian actors speaking Farsi. A lonely female vampire meets a lonely Iranian dude, and they have a sorta connection. Pretentious and artsy fartsy stuff, but reasonably well done. Not really my thing, but I can respect what’s going on here… (and watching the version on Shudder with Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary speckled throughout helped greatly…) **
  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer – This has been on my “to watch” list for a long time, but I never really went out of my way to watch it because of it’s reputation as a really hard-to-watch movie. And this tale of serial killers certainly lives up to its reputation.
    Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

    The stark realism and casual violence really are rough, but it’s got some not-flashy visual prowess that works greatly in its favor. There’s not especially much in the way of plot either, but it’s mercifully short and once again, I was watching it with Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary interspersed (basically, I was catching up on all the Last Drive In movies I hadn’t seen before and didn’t catch up with when they originally aired earlier this year.) Not sure how to rate, so we’ll just use the ? rating system: ???

  • Happy Death Day – Revisiting this one a couple years later, and it’s still all good fun, even if it’s not exactly the most accomplished horror/Groundhog Day hybrid. Perfectly cromulent entertainment, with a winning cast, and decent enough execution. ***
  • X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes – Dude working on a revolutionary eye treatment loses funding and decides to try the experimental drug on himself, which works, but also drives him a little batty. Short, early Roger Corman shlock elevated a bit by Ray Milland’s lead performance. **1/1
  • The Silence of the Lambs – I’ve already said my piece on this one and it’s apparently my most rewatched movie of the past few years. It’s a longtime favorite of mine that has only grown in my estimation with each rewatch. ****
  • Vacancy – A grieving couple on the verge of divorce get stuck at a motel, where they discover a bunch of video tapes that turn out to be snuff films… set in their hotel room! The whole bickering couple thing is grating for sure, but once the premise gets going (which, to be sure, is pretty far into the movie) it evolves into a very competent and well staged thriller. Plenty of creepy tension, and the protagonists don’t make a ton of stupid decisions either. Not quite a classic, but well worthwhile. **1/2
  • Zombieland: Double Tap – The sort of sequel that doesn’t really add much to the original and isn’t really necessary, but which comports itself just fine, I guess. The conventions established in the first movie are starting to wear a little thin, but some new characters inject some vitality and energy into the proceedings, most notably Zoey Deutch as the ditzy blond (Rosario Dawson shows up, but isn’t really given much to do). All in all, this sort of bland horror comedy actually works well to break up the steady stream of misery you sometimes get when watching a lot of horror movies, so it worked well enough for me, but there’s absolutely nothing necessary about this movie. Even if you liked the first, you might not get a whole lot out of this one, but I thought it was fine. Damning with faint praise, maybe, but again, fine. **1/2
  • Critters – After the abysmal Critters 3 I caught up with the original, and damn, I forgot how fun it was. I kept meaning to catch up with Critters 2 at some point, but that eluded me… To be sure, it’s not like this is a classic or fine cinema or anything, but it’s well executed for what it is and a whole lot of fun. **1/2
  • Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film For some reason, I end up watching this documentary about slasher movies every year. It’s a fine overview, and for a while it was good to consult for ideas of what to watch, but at this point, I think I’ve seen the grand majority of the films covered. **1/2
  • Final Girl – Neat idea, poor execution. Sorta like a mashup of La Femme Nikita and the relatively obscure No One Lives, this is about a group of predatory assholes who lure women to the woods and then hunt them a la the most dangerous game. Only this girl is ready for the experience and turns the tables on her would-be attackers. The structure of the film itself kinda spoils the idea at its heart and it’s not a particularly inspired film, but it’s not as bad as the reviews would have you believe. I had enough fun with it, I guess… **1/2
  • That Guy Dick Miller – Documentary about Dick Miller, the guy you’ve probably seen in a million low budget horror flicks, as well as the occasional mainstream hit (most famous for Gremlins and that one scene as the gun shop owner in The Terminator). The documentary covers his career with mostly talking head interviews and clips from his many appearances (he currently has 182 appearances listed on IMDB). Miller died early this year, so I’m glad I caught up with this. Not really a horror movie, but Miller was in a ton of horror movies… **1/2
  • A Bucket of Blood – Speaking of Dick Miller, this is one of his rare starring roles. He plays a busboy and aspiring sculptor who accidentally kills a cat, and in panic, covers it with the plaster. But his friends see the cat and think it’s a startlingly realistic scultpure. Suddenly the talk of the town, Miller’s character needs to find new subjects, human subjects! Really quite entertaining little flick, with a pointed view of beatniks and the whole art scene. I really enjoyed it. ***
  • Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror – As previously mentioned, this was the inspiration for Week 5 of this year’s marathon, and it provides a pretty good overview of black horror. Once again, mostly talking heads and clips from movies, this one at least has Ken Foree and Keith David bouncing off of each other, which is fantastic. It might overstate some things or be a bit myopic, but it’s well worth a watch. ***
  • The Fury – Brian De Palma’s follow up to Carrie, this one concerns a father played by Kirk Douglass trying to rescue his son, who has psychic powers and was kidnapped by the government in order to make him into a super spy or soldier or whatever. Lots of big names and clearly a big budget (for the time) elevate the schlocky material a bit, and De Palma’s visual flair helps too (though his portrayal of action hasn’t matured yet). It loses steam a little bit as it progresses, but it ends on a final shot that’s pretty fantastic. ***
  • Dead Heat – Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo are cops who have been running into nigh indestructible zombies and investigate where they’re coming from. In the process, Williams becomes a zombie himself, and more hijinks ensue. It’s dumb 80s fun all the way down. A lot of the humor doesn’t exactly age well, though I’m not sure it was particularly great at the time either. Still, there are some laughs here and there, and it’s a fun enough concept. **1/2
  • Document of the Dead – Features behind the scenes footage from Dawn of the Dead that was originally conceived of as a reference for other filmmakers, the project eventually grew to encompass an overview of George Romero’s entire career. Its ramshackle origins are kinda felt while watching it, as it feels disjointed and lacking in cohesion… but it’s got lots of decent info too, so it’s still worth watching if you’re a fan of Romero and zombie movies…
  • Halloween – This is an annual rewatch, usually on the titular day, but a little early this year because of the Halloween Hootenanny on Shudder with Joe Bob Briggs. There’s little to be said about the movie at this point, but I appreciated Briggs’ commentary throughout. Oh heck, I might just have to break out the 4K BD tomorrow anyway. ****
  • Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – Also prompted by the Halloween Hootenanny, I haven’t seen this in a long time. I was struck by a few things. One, both the beginning of this movie and the ending of this movie are damn near perfect. The opening is atmospheric and creepy and does a good job getting the series back into the Michael Myers mode; the ending has an unexpected but great sorta symmetry with the callback to the original. It’s a good ending by itself, but it also leaves some interesting avenues for the inevitable sequel. Another thing I love is the old preacher guy, fantastic little scene that I didn’t remember being that effective. Myers seems to be much more industrious this time around. He’s not just blindly charging in after babysitters, he’s shrewdly planning his approach, taking out phone lines, eliminating the threat of police, killing the power to the whole town. Only then does he start his more targeted killing spree. I’m being a little facetious here, as this isn’t really a great movie, but as a sequel, it could be a lot worse. **1/2
  • Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers – Remember five seconds ago when I said that the ending for part 4 left some interesting avenues available for the sequel? Yeah, they apparently didn’t seize on any of said avenues. This isn’t quite the absolute disaster that I remember it being, but it’s also, well, not really good at all. There are some isolated things I like well enough. The look of Myers is better in this one. I kinda like the opening of the movie, even if it is a little retconny. The weird hermit that lives in a shack by the river is always a fun touch. And while the dude with the pointy boots is a complete non-sequitur and doesn’t really pay off, there’s something there that could have maybe worked? I dunno, unfortunately the grand majority of this movie is just plain bad. *
  • Haunt – A bunch of college students head to a remote haunted house on Halloween, and of course it turns out that the people running the haunted house are crazy murderers who have trapped our protagonists in their little death maze thing. Sorta like a combo of Hell Fest, Saw, and, um, a million other movies. So it’s not the most original premise, and there are some stupid character decisions from time to time, but it is about as well executed as you could hope. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if it’s not, like, a new classic or anything. **1/2
  • Hack-O-Lantern – Pure 80s cheese with a satanic panic plot, high-schoolers who look like they’re 35 years old, so-bad-its-good acting chops, and a delightfully unhinged performance from Hy Pyke as the grandpa/cult leader.

    This is one of those movies that isn’t particularly good in an objective sense, but is still a ton of fun to watch. ???

  • Hatchet III – I’ve generally enjoyed this sorta throwback neo-slasher series. Of course, the sequels suffer a bit from diminishing returns, but they’re still gory fun with the occasional wink. **1/2
  • Trick ‘r Treat – The other annual night-of-Halloween watch, this is on the docket for tomorrow night. I still really enjoy this movie quite a bit, and it’s always torture hearing about the rumored sequel, which is “actually happening” every time I check, but it’s been almost a decade, so I’m guessing it will never see the light of day. Or, uh, the dark of a theater. Yeah. ***1/2

And with that, the Six Weeks of Halloween is nearly finished. I will most likely finish off the remaining Creepshow episodes on the big night as well. I’ll probably cover some Season’s Readings on Sunday, which will represent the end of horror posts. Post 6WH, we’ll return to the 1978 project and continue the catchup of 2019 movies I missed…

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