Coming up with weekly themes for the Six Weeks of Halloween can be a fun exercise, but sometimes the theme contains a trap. You know, ideas that neatly encapsulate something, but force you to watch bad movies because it’s based on an inherently flawed concept (and also because of a somewhat informal rule that the movies be “new to me”, thus excluding many of the best examples that might fit into a theme).
This week’s theme was inspired by Edgar Wright’s inspired short Don’t, a parody of horror movie trailers that was originally part of Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse double feature. It’s a great little fake trailer and frequently used during the 6WH as one of the previews/trailers/shorts watched between movies in a given week. So the idea was to find and watch three movies with “Don’t” in the title. There are, of course, tons of these, so I guess it’s possible that I just chose poorly, but maybe I’m being too hard on these. One of them is actually pretty interesting, and the other two, while not exactly good, have some redeeming qualities. In any case, don’t watch these movies during your Halloween horror marathon. Except maybe the first one, if you must.
The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 4 – Don’t!
Don’t Go in the House – Meet Donny! As a young man, his sadistic mother tortured him by burning his arms whenever he displeased her. Now that she’s passed away, Donny has taken to stalking unsuspecting young women with a flamethrower.
Shades of Psycho mashed up with a hint of Peeping Tom (and maybe a precursor to Maniac), this is the only movie this week that feels at least somewhat complete. Creepy atmosphere, an actual good performance at its core, and a decent enough effects budget keep this interesting enough throughout its runtime, and there’s some genuinely creepy stuff sprinkled throughout. Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely low-budget sleaze, but it’s well done low-budget sleaze with some actual stylistic chops. It helps that Arrow did the restoration of this, and the transfer looks great. I have to wonder how much of an impact a good restoration has on some of these older films – am I cutting this slack because it looks better than the other things I watched this weekend? Maybe! But it’s also clearly the best of the three.
This movie was part of the infamous British Video Nasties list, which is always interesting because banning the films gave them an allure that most would never be able to capture on their own. I suspect this movie might have garnered a small cult following, since it has some things going for it, though I honestly don’t see why it needed to be banned in the first place. There’s some distressing stuff in the movie, but it’s nowhere near some of the other stuff on that list. If you have to watch a movie with Don’t in the title, this one’s actually not that bad… **1/2
- A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (trailer)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XX: Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind (Disney+)
- Don’t Look Now (trailer)
Don’t Panic – On his seventeenth birthday, Michael and his friends unwittingly summon a demon named Virgil whilst playing with a Ouija board. Michael has mysterious premonitions and visions of the killings and sets out to stop Virgil.
This is basically the non-union Mexican equivalent of Elm Street 2, only it’s not quite as fun as that sounds. It certainly has plenty of 80s horror cheese, but it’s telling that the thing this movie is most known for are the dinosaur pajamas. I mean, how on earth did this happen? Where do you even find pajamas with dinosaurs on them that fit a grown man? And how do you, as a professional film crew member (presumably this was something multiple people approved), allow them to show up so often throughout the movie? Like, maybe you could see them once, as a joke, when the kid’s in bed. Haha, yes, very funny. But this happens multiple times, and then he’s running around a hospital trying to save someone whilst wearing his adorable dinosaur pajamas. He’s supposed to be 17 years old, and he wears pajamas with cute cartoon dinosaurs on them. Someone thought this would be a good uniform for him whilst fighting a demon. This doesn’t seem to be a knowing, self-conscious parody, it’s played completely straight, which is why this movie has a cult following. Apparently Vinegar Syndrome did a release of this a while back and made replica pajamas that now go for $80 on Ebay.
I don’t know, maybe I’m lowballing this movie. It’s definitely not well acted and the pacing is abysmal, but it’s got a certain element of dopey fun going for it. I mean, those pajamas! Ok, fine, there’s a story here too, I guess, and some reasonable makeup effects, but man, those pajamas. They’re iconic for a reason. **
- Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (trailer)
- Don’t Open Till Christmas (trailer)
- Don’t Answer the Phone (trailer)
Don’t Look in the Basement – A young nurse goes to work at a secluded asylum, only to find out that the doctor who hired her was accidentally murdered by one of the patients. Naturally, things don’t go very well for the nurse.
If you thought the practices at the mental institution in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning were irresponsible, wait until you see this place. The doctor conducts axe therapy! None of the doors have locks on them, and there are no restraints to be found anywhere. The nymphomaniac patient commits female on male rape. The phones don’t work. Someone cuts a patient’s tongue off. But no, the therapy is working exactly as intended.
Sometimes horror movies play insane asylums for comedic purposes, sometimes they demonize the patients, and this one settles for stereotyping them. It’s not exactly a sensitive portrayal, but the whole situation does feel crazy, and while this is clearly a low-budget affair with none of the trimmings (and the version I watched on Amazon did not look restored or cleaned up in any way), there’s some visual style on display here. It doesn’t really make up for the stiff performances or languid pacing or exploitative treatment of mental institutions, but it’s there! There’s a twist towards the end that is pretty obvious, but hey, they’re making an effort to do something I guess.
It’s certainly an oddity of early indie cinema, but there are much better examples of that sort of thing from this era that aren’t quite so silly. Actually “silly” might make this seem like more fun than it actually is. Definitely my least favorite of the weekend. This was another Video Nasty, and I can kinda see why it was banned, though I have to wonder if this movie would have any longevity at all without that badge of honor. Bad movie enthusiasts might get something out of this, otherwise probably not worth seeking out. *1/2
So there you have it, I think I’ll have to find a theme that’s a little better for next week. I have some good Killer Kid movies lined up, I think that’ll do the trick.