It’s tradition around these parts to finish off the Six Weeks of Halloween with a Speed Round of brief thoughts on films I watched for the marathon, but haven’t otherwise covered. Maybe it didn’t fit with a given week’s theme. Perhaps I just don’t have a lot to say about it. Or it may be that I have too much to say about it and just don’t have the time or inclination to organize my thoughts.
As of this writing, I have seen 69 horror (or horror-adjacent) movies during this Halloween season. This turns out to be a record pace here at Kaedrin (the previous champ was 61 films a couple years ago), so this Speed Round is going to be jam-packed. It turns out that a global pandemic cuts down on the social activities that normally cut into my movie-watching time. As much fun as it is to break a record, I’d rather this one stand for a few decades if not forever. I did watch a bit of television too, but as per usual, movies tended to drown that out.
These six weeks went by in a flash. As always, time flies when you’re terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. Let’s dive in:
The Six Weeks of Halloween: Speed Round
The Monster Club – After Anthology week, I took a flier on this late stage Amicus anthology with a pretty interesting wraparound premise. A vampire attacks a man on the street, then recognizes him as a famous Horror author. As a gesture of gratitude, the vampire (played by Vincent Price) takes the author (John Carradine) to the titular Monster Club, where all the ghouls and goblins hang out. It’s a neat idea, and some of the segments are pretty solid. The only real drawback comes in the musical performances at the Monster Club, which are dreadful (and, uh, not in the good way). Along for the ride are Donald Pleasance, Britt Eklund, and moar. Solid, though far from the best of the Amicus run. **1/2
Blind Woman’s Curse – More of a horror inflected Yakuza flick than straight up horror, it involves a woman whose eyes were slashed in some Yakuza fight. A black cat licks the wound and I dunno, confers enough supernatural powers for a blood-soaked revenge spree? As per usual with Yakuza flicks, the plot is convoluted and hard to follow at times, but then, it’s got a neat little supernatural element to move things along.
It’s also very pretty at times, which is nice. Not a must see or anything and not especially spooky, but I’m glad I watched it. **1/2
Crawl – Killer alligator flick that just delivers a tight 90 minutes of tense, entertaining action. I have to admire Alexandre Aja’s commitment to using his obvious talents to elevate trash into pure entertainment. A surprisingly fun little flick. ***
Corridors of Blood – A morose Boris Karloff vehicle about an 1840s doctor experimenting with anesthesia, it doesn’t come close to Karloff’s best run of mad scientist movies, but it does have a more serious tone and, like, actual themes and stuff. That does make it less entertaining, but it does provide some food for thought I guess. It feels weird to say that 86 minute long movie is too long, but hey, the aforementioned mad scientist movies got in and out in 65 minutes flat and to my mind are much better. **
The Addams Family – I found this Animated take on a classic property to be perfectly cromulent low-stakes entertainment, though it’s definitely a sorta bland cash-in that goes for the lowest common denominator too often. That said, there are some fun moments, and this sort of thing is always a nice break from true horror movies, which can get a little too bleak at times. **1/2
Scoob! – This, on the other hand, is an awful, soulless abomination. It’s also not even remotely spooky, despite sorta approaching things that should be that way. *
Summer of Fear (1978) – This Wes Craven directed TV movie pits Linda Blair against a Teen Witch from the Ozarks. Decent enough for what it is and Craven always manages to find something that’ll burrow under your skin, though in this case, there’s not a ton of that. Still, some kooky stuff in the third act, and Fran Drescher shows up and steals some scenes. Maybe worth watching for completists, but not going to blow anyone away. **
Bloodsucking Bastards – Dumb comedy about literal corporate vampires. It’s uninspired, but it sneaks a few laughs in and there’s lots of bloody effects, especially towards the end. Not good enough to recommend, but there’s worse stuff out there. **
The Cabin in the Woods – Still holds up. Funny, entertaining, scary, and bloody. And the escalation in the conclusion always gets to me. Still recommended! ***
Evilspeak – A bullied military-school student (Clint Howard, in absolutely perfect casting) turns to a computerized Satan in order to exact revenge. A kinda all-male Carrie ripoff, but it establishes some personality of its own, and is surprisingly well made for what it is. The conclusion is really something. **1/2
In Search of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic ’80s Horror – Pretty solid overview of 80s horror movies that covers all the classics and then some, but the talking heads format combined with what is essentially a checklist of horror titles gets old, and eventually you start wondering where your favorite obscure 80s horror movie is… Like, come on man, why no love for Friday the 13th: A New Beginning? Why is Slumber Party Massacre not covered well (or even correctly – it only shows up in a discussion of male-written movies – it was written and directed by a woman)? So yeah, it goes on for forever and isn’t going to compel you to watch the whole thing in one sitting… but the format does allow you to jump in and watch a little at a time. **1/2
Vampires vs. the Bronx – A typical Netflix programmer that showed up in-season and will be immediately relegated to the forgotten backcatalog. Slick but uninspired, it’s unobjectionable and bland. That said, it’s fine and has some charms to it and it’s not like I hated watching or anything. **
The Babysitter – McG’s surprisingly fun little movie does beat the Netflix programmer standard for sure, though it’s not exactly anything special. I was pleasantly surprised by this a few years ago, and it’s got some real bright spots, notably Samara Weaving. It’s not strictly necessary, but it’s a fun little flick during the Halloween season. **1/2
The Babysitter: Killer Queen – I was surprised to see a sequel show up, and while it contains many of the same elements from the first movie, that’s not actually good because it’s just repeating itself in ways that are inferior to the original. Which, like, wasn’t that great. One of the things that made the first movie work was the genuine relationship between Bee and Cole, which is missing in this movie. Also, not enough Samara Weaving here. It’s not unwatchable or anything and it’ll entertain you well enough, but… hmm, can I really call this disappointing? Was I really expecting that much out of it? **
Secret Window – A writer, raw from a recent divorce, is terrorized by a stranger who claims the writer stole one of his ideas. Based on a Stephen King story, it’s an object lesson in how King is able to sell things through his writing that can’t be easily translated to the screen. That said, the talent quotient keeps everything watchable. Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Charles S. Dutton, and Timothy Hutton all give decent enough performances and there’s a nice twist that you can probably see coming a mile away but which doesn’t quite fit… it’s a fine movie, but not great. **
The Silence of the Lambs – I’ve watched this movie a lot over the past few years, and it has really emerged as one of my favorites. I’ve already said my piece on it, so I’ll just mention that the Criterion Collection disc is great and the commentary track, while being one of those stitched together things that incorporates commentary from separate sessions, is still pretty great. ****
Hubie Halloween – A typical lowbrow Adam Sandler vehicle. Not destined to become a holiday classic or anything, but I suspect Netflix will trot it out every year and see good returns. I chuckled a few times and I like the Halloween atmosphere.
The usual parade of Sandler friends and cameos was fun enough, I guess. It’s not great cinema or anything, but it’s better than most of Sandler’s Netflix stuff and I had enough fun with it. **1/2
Slaughterhouse Rulez – A British boarding school flick with some monsters and yeah, this doesn’t work so well. It maybe skirts by on its cast, which features the likes of Michael Sheen, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg, along with a solid cast of child actors. Still, it can’t quite balance its “message” with the goofy horror aspects of the story, and is a kinda slog in the second act. **
Motel Hell – Bizarre flick about a farmer who owns a motel and makes barbecue out of some of the more objectionable guests. One of the all-time-great taglines though: “It takes all kinds of critters to make farmer Vincent’s fritters!” There’s some pretty bonkers stuff in this movie, and it strikes an odd but surprisingly appropriate tone. ***
Jason X – I don’t know why my first Friday the 13th movie this year was this “Jason Goes to Space” installment, but I dunno, I think it’s a lot of fun. I think I gravitated towards this one because my old BD collection only had parts 1-8, so I hadn’t seen this one in a while. Also, the new ScreamFactory set is great, but we’ll get to that later in this post. Anyway, always love seeing David Cronenberg show up in this and pondering how on earth it happened. Also, some A+ kills in this one (i.e. the frozen face smash, the sleeping bag callback). They need to resolve that stupid lawsuit and get back to making more of these dumb movies. **1/2
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark – It’s dated and goofy, but you can’t help but enjoy Elvira. She’s delivers dumb one liners and double entendres with enough gusto and enthusiasm to sell even the worst pun. Some of the recognizable “that guy/gal” faces that show up here are great too, notably Edie McClurg who is fantastic as a townie busybody. It doesn’t exactly hold up, but for folks of a certain age it will scratch a nostalgic itch. **1/2
American Scary – Documentary about the classic horror hosts, most of which were well before my time (Elvira and Joe Bob are barely mentioned), but it is interesting to see just how goofy and low-fi all of this stuff was. It’s another one of those documentaries that is all about reminiscing and it basically amounts to a checklist of horror hosts. So it’s not super entertaining, but it holds some interest. I think Joe Bob’s run on Shudder shows that we could be in line for a comeback of other horror hosts, which could be interesting. Alas, the big streaming services don’t seem very keen on this sort of thing… **
Satan’s Slaves – Stylish Indonesian ghost story about a family haunted by the Matriarch’s decisions. And maybe also the Matriarch herself. I had originally intended to make this part of a mid-week post of Indonesian horror directed by Joko Anwar, but I never got to the second flick. Anyway, there’s not a ton that’s new in this movie and you’ll recognize the conventions, but it’s a well executed take on the ghost story with some genuine scares. **1/2
Haunt – A rewatch as part of Joe Bob’s Halloween Hideaway, it’s a solid little Haunted House movie. That’s, like, a haunted house attraction, not a house that is actually haunted by ghosts. Anyway, Joe Bob’s commentary was fine and the hideaway set was a nice change of pace, but I have to admit that I didn’t love the more negative tone. They had this running gag where crew members were disappearing and complaining about working conditions and I dunno, it makes sense, but it wasn’t as fun as last year’s Halloween Hootenany.
Hack-O-Lantern – Another rewatch thanks to the Halloween Hideaway, I already talked about this Jag Muhndhra joint because I reviewed one of this other movies that same weekend. It’s such a bizarre movie, and Joe Bob’s commentary does go a ways to explaining why it is the way it is… though again, the segments weren’t as fun as last year. Like, look, I get that Darcy the Mailgirl wants Halloween III on the show, and this is the perfect time for it, but the joke has gone on a little too long. Still, the reveal that she’s the one killing off crew members was kinda fun, I guess.
Books of Blood – Clive Barker’s actual Books of Blood series of short story collections have long been a staple of my Halloween reading, but they don’t translate to the screen very well. This is a valiant attempt coming from Brannon Braga (better known for his work on Star Trek TV franchises) and it’s certainly better than the last attempt at this sort of thing. There’s some creepy stuff here, but it’s ultimately lacking. Apparently there’s a Books of Blood TV series in the works, which could be interesting, but the general history of Barker adaptations does not encourage… **
The Mortuary Collection – Another anthology, this one altogether more successful than Books of Blood. Written and directed by Ryan Spindell, this movie shows a lot of promise. Each segment is well crafted and spooky. As usual, there’s a little unevenness, but the filmmaking is all good, and I expect Spindell to go on to bigger and better things.
Also, loved Clancy Brown in the wraparound segments, while Caitlin Custer plays the foil in a fun way. ***
Death Becomes Her – This is such a great, campy, wacky movie and I had completely forgotten that it was directed by Robert Zemeckis, but it makes sense given the crazy effects sequences. Still, the weird body horror aspects are surprising coming from him, but the goofy, slapstick tone is perfectly calibrated. Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep are amazing in this, and Bruce Willis is totally game. Also of note, Isabella Rossellini having a ton of fun. There’s a great sequence of cameos that is very Zemeckis (an instinct that will curdle in Forrest Gump, but is still great here). Recommended! ***
The Witches – And the new Zemeckis. It’s an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book, and it’s a pretty fun little family flick. It doesn’t quite hit the highs that Zemeckis is capable of, but it’s a solid effort.
Anne Hathaway turns in a great performance as the head witch. Octavia Spencer and Stanley Tucci are always great and do a lot to sell what’s going on. It’s not a classic or anything, but it’s a perfectly cromulent spooky season effort. **1/2
Blood Diner – What on earth did I just watch? This is one of the more bonkers movies of this year’s marathon. A sorta spiritual sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast, this one amps up the lowbrow dark comedy and slapstick while retaining the gore and effects. It’s more of a farce than anything else, and it’s pretty entertaining if you can get on its wavelength. **1/2
Friday the 13th Part 2 – So Scream Factory released a Boxed Set of all the Friday the 13th movies (including both Paramount and New Line installments), and they did a bunch of new transfers, including Part 2. I’ve always been mixed on this movie, but man, it’s never looked better than it has here. The 4k transfer really looks amazing. It’s also got the best final girl in Ginny (played by Amy Steel) and while sackhead Jason isn’t as great as hockey mask Jason, it’s still fun. Really, the only thing that bothers me about this movie is that nonsense of an ending, which just makes no sense. I mean, technically the whole thing doesn’t make sense, but that ending is just a bridge too far (it almost feels like there’s a missing reel). **1/2
Friday the 13th Part III – This movie, on the other hand, is still not one of my favorites. I like that Jason gets his mask, and I guess if you’re going to do 3D, then just pointing a bunch of stuff at the camera is kinda fun, but I dunno, it just looks flat. Still, some decent kills and whatnot, but it’s not my favorite of the series. **
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter – Ok, so I’ve seen all these before and probably talked about them during the 6WH before too, so I will note that this I did this rewatch with the commentary track from fans and filmmakers Adam Green And Joe Lynch, which is actually quite fun. I don’t understand why more DVDs/BDs didn’t include fan or expert commentaries like this, which are often more fun than the usual director/actor commentaries, but since streaming is basically killing commentary tracks, I’m guessing we won’t see any sort of change in the future. Still, this commentary was fun and I appreciate the inclusion. **1/2
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning – Also watched with a Green and Lynch fan commentary, this one a little less informative, but still pretty fun. Part V is one of the more reviled entries in the series, but I actually like it just fine. I mean, it’s not the best by a longshot, but it’s a fascinating movie. It’s certainly the trashiest and horniest movie in a series that isn’t exactly light on those components. **1/2
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives – And my favorite of the Fridays, which again has a fan commentary with Green and Lynch, but this time director Tom McLoughlin is along for the ride, and it’s a good commentary for a surprisingly good movie. I meant to get to more F13 movies this year, but ran out of time… still, I really enjoyed these fan commentaries. ***
One Dark Night – Speaking of Tom McLoughlin, this is one of his earlier efforts, and it’s also pretty solid. It has a reputation as an underappreciated gem, though not necessarily a classic. And for sure, it’s not super original. A girl is spending the night in a mortuary as part of an initiation, when spooky stuff starts to happen because a psychic vampire was recently interred and he’s trying to come back to life. It’s a little slow and messy at times, but it’s actually pretty neat. ***
Monster Party – Some thieves try to rob rich folks at a party, only it turns out that the party is for recovering serial killers. Neat idea, falls down a bit in execution, but there are some eye opening moments for sure. Not a classic or anything, but it has some interesting stuff going on. **
Next of Kin – Gorgeous Ozsploitation flick that’s a little slowly paced, but has a great mood. Almost all the action happens off screen and the twists don’t quite have the impact they should, but I got on its wavelength early on and quite enjoyed it. ***
Ghostbusters – Classic horror comedy comfort food. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that though. Always fun to revisit. ****
Creepshow Animated Special – Shudder dropped this last week, and it’s an interesting episode, though far from the best. The two stories, one from Stephen King and one from Joe Hill (who is King’s son) are fine and the animation is more of a motion comic thing than full-on animation, but it still looks pretty good. I wasn’t in love with either segment, but it was short and sweet and a welcome addition to the series. **
The Haunting of Hill House – I talked about the first half of the series earlier in the marathon and I won’t say much more, but it did stick the landing. You could argue that it’s a little bloated, but it’s far from the worst offender on Netflix and I think Mike Flanagan has earned the benefit of the doubt. Looking forward to Bly Manor next year… ***
Santa Clarita Diet – On a whim, I sampled an episode of this and immediately got hooked. Why was I so hesitant to watch this series? It’s so much fun! Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant are great, the jokes are plentiful and funny, and while it’s not scary per say, the premise is plenty spooky. I’ve pretty much burned through the first season, and will no doubt finish the rest in the next week or two. I understand it was sorta canceled before it ended, but hopefully going in knowing that will help… ***
Trick ‘r Treat – And now we’re in annual Halloween night traditions. I still think this is one of the better anthologies out there, and I like the way it plays with time and that everything fits together so well. Plus, the Halloween atmosphere is just great. ***1/2
Halloween – Duh. ****
Phew, that was a lot of damn movies (and a little tv). Here’s to another successful Six Weeks of Halloween Speed Round! Already looking forward to next year. I think I may have strayed a little too far into the obscure this year, so I might try to rectify that next year. Anyway, stay tuned, for I still need to cover the books I’ve read during the spooky season, which should be up next week…