2022 Kaedrin Movie Awards: The Arbitrary Awards

The 2022 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners were announced last week, so now the awards get arbitrary. The idea is to recognize aspects of films that aren’t reflected in more traditional awards or other praise like a Top 10 list. However, any awards system will fail to capture all the nuances and complexity available; hence the 2022 Arbitrary Awards, an opportunity to commend movies that are weird or flawed in ways that don’t conform to normal standards. A few of these “awards” have become an annual tradition, some were stolen from other folks, but most are just, well, arbitrary. Previous Arbitrary Awards: [2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

The “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else” Award for Worst Dialogue: Morbius. I’ve always been somewhat amused by the weird, ironic, performative internet fandom that’s grown around this movie, in part because of the ridiculous dialogue. Plentiful choices, but one of the best/worst has to be: “It’s Lethal To Bats….But Deadly To Humans.” You don’t say! This is one of those awards that’s sorta painful to sort out, because who wants to relive bad dialogue? But I’m guessing some runners up might include stuff like Clerks III and Black Adam.

The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic StupidityHalloween Ends. The franchise just keeps getting stupider, which isn’t necessarily the worst thing (it’s a “bozo masterpiece” as someone once put it), but yes, the franchise “wins” this award for the second year in a row. At least it didn’t win the worst dialogue award too (as happened with last year’s Halloween movie). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake/reboot/whateverthehellthatthingis was a distant second in the voting.

The “Weiner” Award for Unparalleled Access to Documentary Subjects: Navalny. There’s a phone call scene in this that is pretty amazing. Otherwise, this doesn’t exactly have astounding access (like the namesake of the award), but that phone call is certainly something. Fire of Love is worth mentioning as a runner up here due to the gorgeous footage of volcanos, eruptions, lava flows, etc… that was made available.

The Garth Marenghi “I know writers who use subtext, and they’re all cowards” Award for Achievement in Didacticism: Smile. Of course, the movie’s literalizing of horror’s current obsession with trauma is part of the point, and I ultimately quite like the movie, but it does suffer from that impulse. I wanna say that The Bubble might also be a fit for this award, but quite frankly, I don’t remember much about that movie? Like, I know I watched it, and I do get a sorta didactic vibe from it in my head, but specifics are out of reach.

Best Treatment of the Pandemic: Kimi. Movies, for the most part, have ignored the pandemic. Some make fleeting references, some were clearly filmed during the pandemic and have the odd blocking and editing to show for it, but few have really embraced it. Steven Soderbergh has made a habit of tossing off zippy thrillers of late, and this latest one deals with the pandemic reasonably well, while also being pretty entertaining and relevant. It’s not perfect or anything, but it’s nice. Also of note: The way that Glass Onion acknowledges the pandemic then swiftly dismisses it with a pretty funny Ethan Hawke cameo is great.

Most Unnecessary Origin Story: Death on the Nile. I enjoy these Branagh Poirot movies (I mean, obviously the 1978 version is better, but the Agatha Christie story remains mostly intact, so how could you not enjoy?), but this one has an almost comical origin story for Poirot’s mustache that was just completely unnecessary.

Poirot and mustache

Achievement in the Field of Gratuitous Violence: It’s a special Holiday tie: Violent Night and Christmas Bloody Christmas. Both flawed movies, but the violence is indeed gratuitous (if you can get past the dumb setup or inane chatter, respectively).

Best Robot Manager: Gary the Robot from Moonshot. I mean, he’s sorta dumb comic relief, but I kinda loved Gary and wish he showed up later in the movie. The movie itself is an underseen and perfectly cromulent romantic comedy with SF trimmings. It’s got Zach Braff in it for some reason! It’s got teen actors that I don’t recognize, but who apparently have huge fandoms! It’s set on a trip to Mars, despite the title? Look, it’s not exactly fine cinema, but I enjoyed myself more than the reviews seem to indicate.

Most Underseen Romantic Comedy: I Want You Back. This Charlie Day and Jenny Slate romantic comedy didn’t get much play this year, probably because it was a direct to streaming release. Not sure it would have done The Lost City or Ticket to Paradise numbers, but I do think it’s better than those two movies, even if it’s lacking in starpower. But Day and Slate are great, and even Scott Eastwood is likeable here (which is saying something, cause he’s pretty bland everywhere else).

Best Losing Her Shit Monologue: Resurrection. About midway through the movie, Rebecca Hall just drops this amazing monologue that washes over you like a ton of bricks. And sure, I’ll also through a notice to Pearl here, as Mia Goth also unleashes a corker of a monologue towards the end of the film. I’ll let Rebecca Hall have this award though, as we’ll give Mia Goth:

Best Fake Freeze Frame: Pearl. It’s not exactly meant to be a fake freeze frame, I guess, but the camera holds on Mia Goth’s ridiculous smiling face for a comically long time.

Best Cameo: David Lynch playing John Ford in The Fabelmans. Absolutely perfect, and while this was apparently known before the movie was released, it was fortunately not spoiled for me.

Most Unexpected Appearance of Chain Mail: Decision to Leave. If you so desire, you can explore a lot of thematic depth in Park Chan Wook’s police procedural, but it’s still a thriller that features scenes where a cop, confronted with a knife wielding criminal, pulls out a chain mail glove, catches the knife blade in his armored hand whilst beating the criminal with his other fist.

Most Baffling Use of Color Grading: Emancipation. I get that digital color grading in post production can be a powerful tool, but I don’t know what on earth was going on with this movie. I mean, I get it – a desaturated color palette can emphasize certain thematic elements in a movie about slavery – but the execution was just painful. Like, literally painful, my eyes were so constantly strained throughout the film that by the end, I had a pounding headache. Just shoot the damn thing in black and white and digitally colorize the fire in those scenes, and you’d be much better off. I have not seen it yet, but Women Talking apparently has a similar feel to it (the trailer I saw was not quite as bad, but it was still hurting my eyes).

The Wholesome Frankenstein Award: Brian and Charles. This lovely low-fi story about a lonely beardo inventor who creates a robot out of an old washing machine is weird and fun and charming.

Best YouTube Release: Line Goes Up – The Problem With NFTs. Not exactly a traditional film, but this 138 minute long takedown of Crypto and NFTs is certainly well done for something done on a shoestring and released on a personal YouTube channel.

Should Host the Oscars: Johnny Knoxville. As paraphrased by longtime Kaedrin friend Dave: “Hi, I’m Johnny Knoxville and this is the Oscars!” *gets slapped in the dick by Will Smith.* Other potential hosts: Lydia Tár, Benoit Blanc, the aformentioned Gary the Robot, and of course, the Predator.

That does it for the 2022 Arbitrary Awards, but stay tuned, moar 2022 movie commentary incoming, including the traditional Top 10 list (this will probably take a couple weeks) and some Oscars commentary…

2022 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners

The nominations for the 2022 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. The overall awards season still has not especially recovered from its pandemic era woes. The Golden Globes, plagued by scandals and corruption, have faded. The Academy Awards struggle to find an unobjectible host, and though last year’s slap may boost viewership this year, they’ve still got a relatability problem (though there are some popular choices they could make this year to reverse course on that front). But through it all, the Kaedrin Movie Awards carries on with the same delayed schedule that befits my status as “not a critic with access to screeners”. So while I’m finishing up with poorly distributed prestige pictures, I’ll hand out these more ridiculous awards, let’s get to the 2022 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners:

Best Villain/Badass: Chef Julian Slowik, played by Ralph Fiennes in The Menu, I’m actually a little surprised that the voting came out this way (and yes, there’s only one vote, mine, but still). This partly speaks to a poor year in villainy, but The Menu is a film that was surprisingly well done and deserving of recognition. It probably won’t be making the top 10, so this is a pretty good place for it, and to be fair, Fiennes’ fed-up chef is a wonderful villain with a demented plan.

Ralph Fiennes in The Menu

Runners up to Stephen Lang’s performance in Avatar: The Way of Water, which is great, even if I wasn’t entirely taken with the story, and Jobu Tupaki, played by Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at Once, who was pretty fun.

Best Hero/Badass: Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, played by Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick. In a much stronger year for heroism, there as still a pretty obvious choice in Maverick. This is Cruise’s second win in the category, and I’d have to look it up, but this might be the first time an actor repeats with two different characters (he previously won for one of the Mission Impossible movies).

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick

As for runners up, well, most of the other nominees are pretty great… they just can’t quite stand up to Maverick!

Best Comedic Performance: Saoirse Ronan in See How They Run. Another surprising win, I think, which befits the movie: I definitely wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much, and a big part of that was Saoirse Ronan’s dry humor and delivery. Just perfect comedic timing, and a really underrated movie. Jackass Forever suffers from the ensemble problem here (I nominated Johnny Knoxville as the putative leader of the group, but they really deserve recognition as a whole – this is a common problem with this award that I have no real solution for other than this parenthetical). Otherwise, I really liked Daniel Radcliffe in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story and John Hamm in Confess, Fletch – both underrated movies with poor distribution that are worth seeking out and very funny.

Breakthrough Performance: Mia Goth in ‎X and Pearl. Horror movies tend to underperform in awards season, but not at the Kaedrin Movie Awards! Got put forward a trio of performances across Ti West’s unexpected series of ambitious slashers (with another apparently to come!) She plays a wide gamut of emotions and challenging scenarios. Acting against herself in a scene, seducing a scarecrow, stalking the grounds with an axe, or giving a corker of a monologue, she does it all.

Mia Goth in ‎Pearl.

Jenna Ortega in Scream (2022)‎X, and Wednesday was also under consideration here, but her roles were smaller and less varied (and as great as she was in Wednesday, it’s a TV show!) Finally, it’s worth calling out Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans as a larval Spielberg stand-in that genuinely evokes the younger Spielberg character.

Most Visually Stunning: Mad God. I’m not entirely in love with the movie overall (I prefer a little more in the way of actual plot or story), but Phil Tippet’s stop-motion labor of love is truly something to behold, with wall-to-wall gorgeous grotesques populated throughout. A truly astounding and imaginative spectacle that’s unlike anything I’d seen before.

Mad God

Speaking of which, Avatar: The Way of Water also deserves a bit of a callout as a unique theatergoing experience. I normally hate 3D and I’m not entirely sold on high-frame-rate, but I suspect the confluence of those two technologies, combined with James Cameron’s innate visual prowess, made it so that I didn’t get a headache like I do for every other 3D movie I see. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is another stop-motion marvel that, in any other year, might have taken the cake. Also just wanted to mention Three Thousand Years of Longing, which does its best to use digital filmmaking for vivid colors instead of dark, dull, muddy visuals (seriously, towards the end of the film Tilda Swinton is walking around in a park and the vivid green grass and bright lighting was so refreshing in this age of too-dark cinematography and color correction).

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Nope. Jordan Peele does it again, and this is a sorta combo Horror and Sci-Fi picture, though it obviously leans horror. Honorable mentions to Everything Everywhere All at Once (best multiverse movie of the year), Crimes of the Future (Cronenberg’s back in body horror, baby!), Barbarian (surprising and deft tonal balancing act going on here), and X (Ti West’s ambitious, grimy sex and violence epic). A pretty solid and fascinating year of horror flicks, actually, and even stuff not nominated was pretty good.

Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake: Top Gun: Maverick. I usually try to spread the love around with awards, but like everyone else, I was taken with Top Gun: Maverick and I can’t really justify giving this to any of the other nominees. Which, to be fair, are a pretty good bunch for a category that I typically loathe. Special mention to Jackass Forever and the criminally underseen Confess, Fletch. Overall, a pretty solid list of nominees this year for a category I usually find difficult to populate.

Biggest Disappointment: Black Adam. I really wanted to get behind a Rock centered superhero movie, but this thing was an absolute mess, leading to probably the biggest chasm between expectations and disappointment. The other one that came close is The Bubble, which has a great cast and Judd Apatow, but was also just interminable. The other nominees weren’t particularly great, but I also wasn’t expecting that much out of them, so the disappointment was commensurately lower.

Best Action Sequences: Ambulance. Alright, who gave Michael Bay a drone? This award could very well go to Top Gun: Maverick, but I’ve already sung enough of its praises here (and this isn’t the last we’ll see of it), so I figured I’d spread it around to the underseen Michael Bay actioner that I really loved. Lots of other great nominees here, and I do want to call out a couple of DTV actioners like Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday and Lost Bullet 2: Back for More, both really fun little action flicks (and both sequels to same – all four movies are worth seeking out). The Big Four is another obscure one that I don’t see people talking about and is worth seeking out (it’s on Netflix). RRR also worth a mention, but I preferred the director’s previous work on the Baahubali films.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise: Barbarian. This is one of those awards where it’s a bit of a spoiler even talking about the vague concept of a surprise, so if you go into these movies with a “surprise me!” attitude, you might find it underwhelming. But Barbarian was one of those movies I went into knowing as little as I could about it, and so I was pretty consistently surprised throughout. Runners up nods to Bodies Bodies Bodies for almost retroactively making me love the movie, Athena for a comically provocative coda, and Decision to Leave for, well, let’s not spoil it.

Best High Concept Film: Crimes of the Future. Yeah, this category is a bit nebulous, but I’m always onboard with Cronenberg’s wholly invented areas of science like… whatever the hell is going on in this movie. Also high concept: whatever it is that Kristen Stewart’s performance is doing here (which, to be clear, I loved). I suppose Everything Everywhere All at Once deserves an extra mention, even if “multiverse” movies are all the rage these days. Brian and Charles is probably the most obscure but deserving nominee here as well, an earnest and oddly sweet mock-doc drama. Nope has sorta stealth high concept stuff going on, which puts a nice spin on familiar tropes. The other nominees are perhaps not as high concept, but all pretty decent…

2022’s 2021 Movie of the Year: The Rescue. I was really taken with this documentary about the rescue of twelve boys and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand, perhaps in part because it illustrates why I prefer documentaries over dramatizations of real life events… In other words, I preferred this documentary to Thirteen Lives, the Ron Howard dramatization of the same events which is actually pretty damn good. I just would rather watch documentaries about this sort of thing. Other nominees for this were also pretty solid, including a couple of Oscar noms that I caught up with late (or would have otherwise ignored) and some genre stuff that I let linger for some reason (but which were all worthwhile)…

Congratulations to all the 2022 Kaedrin Movie Award winners! And stay tuned, for next week, the awards go arbitrary!

2022 Kaedrin Movie Award Nominees

Welcome to the 2022 Kaedrin Movie Award season, which we’re kicking off with nominees in our standard categories! The idea is to recognize films for achievements that don’t always reflect well on top 10 lists or traditional awards. There are lots of formal award categories and nominees listed below, but once those are announced, we’ll also leave some room for Arbitrary Awards that are more goofy and freeform. Finally, we’ll post a traditional top 10 list (usually sometime in early/mid-February). But first up is the awards! [Previous Installments here: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021]

Standard disclaimers apply: It must be a 2022 movie (with the one caveat that some 2021 films were not accessible until 2022 and are thus eligible under fiat) and I obviously have to have seen the movie. As of this writing, I have seen 94 films that could be considered a 2022 release. This is precisely where I was last year at this time, which makes sense given how similar my movie watching habits were for these two years. It’s below what many critics have seen, but probably a lot more than your average moviegoer and certainly enough to populate the awards… which we should get to right now:

Best Villain/Badass
Not the greatest year for villainy, though the category did end up filling out well enough in the end. In accordance with tradition, my picks in this category are limited to individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a general menace, etc…) or ideas. I’m kinda expanding this to include (er, exclude) creatures, even individual creatures. On the other hand, there is a robot on the list, so, I dunno, we’ll all just have to deal with it.

Best Hero/Badass
A better year overall for heroism and indeed, I actually pruned the list a bit (which, given how long the lists are for these badass categories, is saying something). One fun thing about both the hero and villain categories is that they are not as dominated by superhero movies anymore, even if there are a few token representatives from the genre… Again limited to individuals and not groups/creatures.

Best Comedic Performance
This is sometimes a difficult category to populate due to the prevalence of ensembles in comedy movies (this year being no exception). That being said, there were definitely a few standout solo performances this year that are definitely worth recognition.

Breakthrough Performance
This used to be a category more centered around my personal evaluation of a given actor (rather than a more general industry breakthrough), but it’s trended more towards the youngsters breaking through as time has gone on…

Most Visually Stunning
Sometimes even bad movies can look really great… But this is a pretty solid list!


Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
It’s always nice to throw some love to genres that don’t normally get a lot of recognition in end-of-the-year lists. As an avid SF fan, it’s sad that the genre usually has to be combined with Horror in order to come up with a well rounded set of nominees.

Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake
Always an awkward category to populate, especially given my normal feeling on this sort of thing (i.e. not a huge fan of sequels).

Biggest Disappointment
A category often dominated by sequels and reboots, but original stuff has been picking up steam in recent years. Not sure if that’s good or bad… Note that these movies don’t necessarily need to be “bad” in order to be a “disappointment”. Basically, these movies scored poorly on Joe Posnanski’s Plus-Minus Scale.

Best Action Sequences
This award isn’t for individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film. We’ve got a pretty great, extensive lineup this year. The added accessibility of streaming DTV actioners has been a boon to this category.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise
I suppose even listing that there is a twist is a bit of a spoiler, but I guess we’ll just have to risk it.

Best High Concept Film
A bit of a nebulous concept for this category, but there’s some good stuff worth recognizing here because they took chances on a weird concept.

2022’s 2021 Movie of the Year
This is a weird category that is sometimes difficult to populate. During the pandemic, things were a little weird, but we’ve seemingly emerged from that weirdness. Still, there’s some decent stuff on this list that I’m glad I caught up with in 2022, even if I don’t know that any of these would kick something off my top 10 from last year…

So there you have it, please congratulate all of the 2022 Kaedrin Movie Award nominees! Stay tuned for the winners (probably next week, but you never know), followed by the Arbitrary Awards and Top 10 list. I’m still catching up with various flicks, because as usual, those 9 and 10 slots in the top 10 are a little difficult to fill (not, I should add, because there aren’t worthy candidates, but more because there are so many vying for those slots)…

2022 in Movie Watching

We’ve already taken a look at 2022 in book reading, so now it’s time to examine our year in Movie Watching. Yes, there’s a lot of important stuff going on the world, but contemplating the more mundane aspects of the year have value and besides, the time machine I’m building to make up for the tragic mistakes I made last year is difficult work and I need to take a break. As with book reading, I expected movie watching to revert to pre-pandemic levels, but as it turns out, this year was roughly equal to last year. However, last year was a dramatic decrease from the Covid heavy 2020, so I guess the movie watching just returned to pre-pandemic levels a little early.

I keep track of all my movie watching on Letterboxd, so if you’re reading this and are a member, we should be friends there. One of the neat things I can get from there is fancy stats and graphs and whatnot, so let’s take a deeper dive into my 2022 in movie watching:

Overall Stats

A general look at my 2022 in movie watching:

  • 389 films watched (+5 films from 2021)
  • 713 hours watched (-13.2 hours from 2021)
  • 32.4 movies a month on average (+0.4 movies from 2021)
  • 7.5 movies a week on average (+0.1 movies from 2021)

Breaking that down by decade:

Number of Movies vs. Decade

So even pre-pandemic numbers are a lot of movies, perhaps that will slide a bit this year, but who knows? Movies by decade was mildly surprising. Low viewing numbers from the 20s-40s isn’t especially uncommon (though perhaps I’m due for another 50 Under 50 type project?), but the modest increase in viewing from the 50s and 60s was nice. I was a little surprised at the decline in the 1970s viewing until I realized that I was still doing the 1978 project in 2021, which drove a fair amount of viewing. Otherwise relatively consistent viewing for the year, with only a slight divergence on the 80s and 90s.

Films by Week

Mildly more consistent week to week, especially considering that 7 week stretch where I watched 8 movies a week. In terms of days of the week, we see some fluctuations on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, which would be higher but for the resumption of various social events. Nature is healing, and so on.

Genres, Languages, and Countries

Genres, Countries, and Languages

The usual dominance of USA and English language here, with solid showing for other Anglosphere countries UK, Canada, and Australia (not on the list last year). The other addition this year was the triumphant return of Hong Kong. Dropping off the list from 2021 were Belgium and China. Every year I contemplate making a more conscious effort to watch foreign films, so perhaps I need to embark on another filmic project…

In terms of Genre, it’s nearly identical to 2021, with only Mystery and Adventure swapping places this year (though Action and Drama genres increased their numbers at the expense of the genres below them, even if the sequence is still almost the same).

World Map

Despite the US dominance overall, the global map has pretty good coverage overall, though obviously the number of movies in each country is relatively small. The only real shock from the map is the total lack of South Korea here (something that will be rectified in the next few days of 2023 as I will be catching up with some 2022 South Korea films soon).

Ratings and Other Patterns

Ratings and other patterns
  • 23.9% of my watches were a 2022 release, basically on par with 2021 (a difference of 0.3%). This is slightly above pre-pandemic numbers. 2020 was a big dip due to the pandemic, but the ascendance of streaming has really made more current releases more accessible than ever.
  • 24.4% of my watches were actually rewatches, which is, again, just about on par with previous years.
  • Ratings Spread continues to be roughly bell-curve shaped and centered on a 3 star (out of 5) rating. Modest increase in 3 star ratings this year, actually. One thing that’s not exactly prominent, but still notable is the number of 1 star ratings in 2022. Only 5 movies, but still, it’s a 500% increase over 2021. It was driven by a deep dive into the worst comic book movies of all time, part of a group effort that may or may not see the light of day.
  • Letterboxd has a watchlist where you can add movies you want to watch (or at least, not lose track of). This year wasn’t great – nowhere near parity between movies added to the list and movies watched. So the list continues to grow. Some of this has to do with availability – I might want to watch a movie, but it could be out of print or only available via physical media, or otherwise inaccessible etc… And some of it is just pure laziness.

Stars and Directors

Most Watched Stars

Bruce and Charlize take the top slots this year, Bruce due to following along with Blank Check‘s Sam Raimi marathon (which also drove the inclusion of Scott Spiegel and Ted Raimi on this list). Charlize Theron, on the other hand, made the list with completely spread out randomness – I had no idea she was going to be in some of the movies I watched this year, including a few obscure ones. Less black actors this year, but more women, so still not exactly diverse, but not totally generic either.

Most Watched Directors

Raimi heads up the list, again due to the Blank Check marathon. Kubrick also shows up due to a similar marathon, though I obviously didn’t play along with the whole thing. Overall, significantly whiter and more male than last year (and, like, there was only 1 woman on the list last year). The only diversity to speak of this year is Tsui Hark (driven by the Once Upon a Time in China movies). Otherwise some pretty standard stuff, with the only real oddball being Luigi Bazzoni, who shows up due to a series of Giallo films I watched this year during the Six Weeks of Halloween…

Highs and Lows

Highs and Lows

The Godfather takes its rightful place in the Highest Average slot (I even watched it a couple of times, as the 4K release is really fantastic.) Son of the Mask takes the Lowest Average rating this year; I only watched this due to the aforementioned effort to watch the worst comic book movies of all time (and this one is certainly in the running for that dubious honor). Knives Out picks up the Most Popular slot for the third year running (and I do truly love that movie). And finally, the Most Obscure movie I watched last year was One of My Wives Is Missing, a fantastic, twisty TV movie from 1976. It’s not exactly fine art or anything, but it’s really enjoyable stuff and it’s still on Amazon Prime if you’re interested…

So there you have it, 2022 in movie watching was pretty solid, though I think I have some areas to work on in 2023…

The Great Movie Catch-Up, 2022 Edition

Tis the season to draw up a list of 2022 movie releases that I want to catch-up with before embarking upon the traditional Kaedrin Movie Awards, Top 10, and other year ending nonsense. Of course, the professionals are releasing their Top 10s and year end summaries right now, but for us normals who don’t go to Sundance and Cannes or get screeners and other opportunities, it takes a bit longer. So the Awards happen in January and the Top 10 usually in February (hey, at least we’re faster than The Oscars!)

As of this moment, I’ve seen 75 movies that could be considered a 2022 release. This is just about on par with last year at this time, but definitely higher than previous years. Obviously the last couple of pandemic inflected years have been a bit of an anomaly, but it’s clear that streaming exclusives and collapsing theatrical windows have made movies much more accessible much earlier. There are pros and cons to this and I’d honestly like to see theaters doing better, but streaming certainly does make things convenient.

After a quick spin around the moviesphere, there are plenty of 2022 movies I still want to catch up with. Some have not yet come out, but others have been out for a while, I just never caught up with them. Standard disclaimers apply: I consider some 2021 movies a 2022 release if it didn’t get distributed in the US until 2021. This list is not comprehensive. I probably won’t watch everything on this list. I will probably watch things not on this list. And so on. Alrighty, that’s enough preamble, let’s get to it:


Avatar: The Way of Water – Duh. I mean, sure, I didn’t love the first Avatar, and I honestly wasn’t pining for a bunch of sequels. That being said: James Cameron has made multiple of my all time favorite movies and he always makes interesting stuff.

Avatar: The Way of Water

Early word is that the sequel is better than the original. Perhaps not a high bar, but still, I wouldn’t count Cameron out. Maybe he’ll surprise me.

Babylon – Does this actually count as a “blockbuster”? I dunno anymore. It’s certainly got lots of stars and a big budget. Damien Chazelle! Brad Pitt! Margot Robbie! A three hour runtime! I honestly don’t know what to make of this, but it could be interesting.

Black Adam – The Rock’s superhero movie came out in October, but I never caught up with it. More because it was the Six Weeks of Halloween and I had other things on my mind than anything else, but then, it didn’t seem to set the critical or popular world on fire either. I’m doubting it’ll make the top 10 (I enjoy superhero movies quite a bit, but they rarely make the top 10), but I’ll certainly be catching up with it when it hits HBO Max soon.

Ticket to Paradise – Romantic comedies are back, baby! Or not, whatever. I’m doubting it will make the top 10, but it’s always nice to pepper something fun or cute into a list like this, otherwise things will get awfully depressing.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – For some reason, I never caught up with this self-aware Nicholas Cage flick, which will have to change soon.

Streaming Exclusive

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix) – As per usual, this just showed up unexpectedly this weekend. I’m usually interested in del Toro’s work, so I’ll certainly be giving this a look, even if I’m not entirely enthused at yet another take on Pinocchio.

Guillermo del Toros Pinocchio

On the other hand, I was shocked by how much enjoyed del Toro’s remake of Nightmare Alley last year, so who knows?

Emancipation (Apple TV+) – Can Will Smith rebound from “the slap” with this gritty slave drama? I guess we’re going to find out.

Emily the Criminal (Netflix) – Aubrey Plaza gets mixed up in some sort of credit card scam, sounds interesting enough…

We Met in Virtual Reality (HBO Max) – “Filmed” entirely in Virtual Reality, this is a documentary about burgeoning VR communities. Sounds interesting!

Independent and Art House

Three Thousand Years of Longing – George Miller’s strange little fantasy romance involving a djinn sorta came and went without making waves, but I’m intrigued enough, even if it’s clearly nothing like Miller’s other work…

Decision to Leave – Park Chan Wook has a new movie out? A crime thriller thing? Yes please!

Tár – Seems to be a pretty consensus critic’s choice, I never managed to carve out the time to see it in the theater (another Halloween conflict here, though I probably could have seen it the week after, it was gone from theaters pretty quickly though).

The Banshees of Inisherin – Martin McDonagh always writes interesting stories, so I’ll most certainly try to catch up with this one.

Return to Seoul – Another South Korean thriller, I know very little about this, but it sounds interesting and unconventional.

The Whale – Darren Aronofsky is always interesting, and it’s nice to Brendan Fraser making waves again. Not sure this will be a movie for me, but I’m certainly interested.

Speak No Evil – Scandanavian thriller about a couple that vacations with strangers, but some sort of hijinks ensue.

Miscellaneous, Genre, Mutant Fam, etc…

Something in the Dirt – The latest from Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, who are always making interesting stuff (though sometimes it’s more effective than others). This seems like a Covid production type of thing, but those sorts of constraints fit with Benson and Moorhead’s style pretty well.

Holy Spider – Story about a journalist researching a serial killer in Iran, sounds fascinating.

Resurrection – Rebecca Hall seems to be carving out her own little sub-genre of horror, and this is the latest entry.

You Won’t Be Alone – Something about a 19th century Witch living in other people’s skin to see what their lives are like? Sounds interesting enough!

Pearl – I just recently caught up with Ti West’s X, and this prequel might actually be something that works as a prequel.

After Yang – Something about androids and Colin Farrell, sure, why not?

Alright, we’ve peeked over twenty 2022 movies to catch-up with here, which is probably good enough for now. As usual, totally open to whatever recommendations you might have. Lists like this can be a little misleading because I’ve already seen a great deal of movies this year. This includes lots of recent stuff like The Fabelmans (it’s good!) and both (count em!) killer Santa movies.

Weird Movie of the Week: Smoking Causes Coughing

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we met Brian and Charles. This time we learn that Smoking Causes Coughing:

After a devastating battle against a diabolical turtle, a team of five avengers – known as the “Tobacco Force” – is sent on a mandatory retreat to strengthen their decaying group cohesion. Their sojourn goes wonderfully well until Lézardin, Emperor of Evil, decides to annihilate planet Earth.

Alright, referencing a Quentin Dupieux movie for weird movie of the week is almost like cheating. After all, this is the guy who brought us the touching tale of a homicidal tire and a talking deerskin jacket, amongst other oddities. As these things go, a Power Rangers-style parody featuring anti-smoking vigilantes named Benzene, Methanol, Mercury, Ammonia, and Nicotine, along with a green rat mentor, is perhaps not as uniquely weird as the rest of Dupieux’s filmography, but it’s pretty damn weird for everyone else. Who’d have thunk that Smoking Causes Coughing?

Halloween Reading Roundup 2022

Yes, we watch a lot of movies during the Six Weeks of Halloween, but that’s not the only way to celebrate the season. I don’t talk much about the hayrides or haunted houses (or haunted… dining establishments?) or pumpkin mutilation carving ceremonies that I partake in during this most hallowed of seasons, but there’s not really a ton to say about those experiences other than the fact that the pandemic has eased a bit, such that social interaction is actually possible these days, which is nice. Anywho, I also like to tailor my reading towards the season though, and while we’re a far cry from the pandemic fueled record of 9 books, we’re still averaging about a book a week (which is generally my target for the whole year). Let’s see what kinds of spooky literature we could scare up this year:

Halloween Reading Roundup 2022

Dark Entries by Robert Aikman – While most of his stories are pretty firmly categorized as horror, Aikman was an ornery sort who seemed to look down on the genre, instead referring to his stories as “strange tales.” Which isn’t entirely wrong, because these stories are unlike anything I’ve read. Even stories that hew to some semblance of conventional tropes end up in a flummoxing place. Like you get to the end of the story and ok, the woman’s house is haunted by the ghost of her father, but… is her father’s ghost also her baby’s father? Aikman, of course, would never answer that question directly and the story itself barely hints in that direction. Maybe I’m the weird one? That’s the sort of feeling an Aikman story gives you. Indeed, it’s difficult to capture what makes these stories work because almost anything I tell you about them will sound deeply unsatisfying. But they’re not, which is a neat trick that I don’t think many writers can pull off. The prose is not baroque or otherwise filled with hooptedoodle; Aikman certainly knows how to let things breath without making a story feel like an empty stylistic exercise. These aren’t propulsive action-packed stories, but neither are they dull literary experiments. Again, difficult to encapsulate.

Dark Entries by Robert Aikman book cover

Dark Entries was his second collection of stories, originally published in 1964, and it seems like a pretty good place to start. Six stories, most of them memorable and disconcerting in their own way. The highlight, to my mind, was “Ringing the Changes”, a sorta horror story about marriage, but as previously mentioned, it’s hard to really capture the essence of the story. It invokes a wonderful atmosphere of creeping dread that grows more and more surreal as the story progresses (while always remaining grounded). At one point, a crowd of townfolk parade through the town chanting:

‘The living and the dead dance together.
Now’s the time. Now’s the place. Now’s the weather.

Page 76, Dark Entries by Robert Aikman

Something about the whole thing just struck me as wonderfully macabre, and it’s almost the perfect slogan for The Six Weeks of Halloween as a concept. You better believe Aikman will be revisited in future 6WH reading (I’ve already secured a copy of The Wine Dark Sea for just that purpose).

A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson – My favorite discovery of last year’s 6WH reading was Brian Evenson, so I took a flier on another short story collection of his. While I do think that the collection I read last year, Song for the Unraveling of the World, is superior, this one ended pretty strong. Unfortunately, it’s a little more uneven and it starts slow. About halfway through, things pick up, and Evenson’s stripped down, simple, but still evocative prose always keeps things moving. His stories tend to be on the shorter side as well, so even if you find yourself not like a story, it won’t be long until you get to the next one.

A Collapse of Horses, by Brian Evenson book cover

Highlights include the story “The Dust” (which is actually one of the longer stories), “The Window”, and the eponymous “A Collapse of Horses.” A couple of the stories contain Aikman-like strangeness, albeit in a more obviously horror story framework, like “Click” or “The Moans.” Altogether a solid, if more uneven, collection (which, to be fair, is generally what collections tend to be like.)

Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly – Alright, I think we’ve covered the highfalutin literary stuff I’ve read this year, let’s get to something a little more pulpy. And to be clear, I love pulpy, and this is a great example of that sort of thing. A retired British spy named James Asher is recruited to hunt down a vampire killer that’s been plaguing London’s vampire community. His handler is one Don Simon Ysidro, a 400 year old vampire that does not trust humans, but needs a human ally, as Ysidro cannot investigate during the daylight hours (which is when the vampire hunter strikes). Naturally, there is a deep lack of trust between Ysidro and Asher, both worried about the sudden but inevitable betrayal this situation seemingly demands of them.

There’s some nice bits of tradecraft as befits Asher’s history as a spy, and his background in linguistics comes in handy as well. There’s plenty of vampire lore which is slowly doled out as Asher investigates. This dynamic, where someone is trying to investigate an insular group who won’t share information, is normally something that might get on my nerves, but everyone’s motivations are well established and the consequences of sharing too much are also high enough that it all works without feeling like lazy storytelling.

Hambly is an established writer of fantasy and historical fiction, but her style here does appeal to the science fiction nerd’s attention to detail. Lots of speculation and exploration of unintended consequences, historical context, and so on, that I found quite engaging (though I suspect fans of more schlocky horror might be bored by this level of detail). Thematically, she’s exploring the ideas of predation and trust in a careful way (i.e. What are the ethics of hunting humans for survival’s sake?), and just in case you were concerned: the vampires here are basically portrayed as sympathetic but asexual monsters, only touching on attraction and desire as a tool for hunting (i.e. there’s no Twilight or Anne Rice-style fetishization of vampires to be found here).

This is apparently a long-running series, and yes, I will most definitely be revisiting this in future 6WH. Recommended!

October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween – An anthology featuring stories from a wide variety of authors. The stories themselves are a bit of a mixed bag, which is par for the course when it comes to this sort of thing, but one thing I will say about them: They really take the theme of the anthology seriously. When they say this is a “celebration of Halloween”, they mean it, and nearly every story takes place on Halloween night and prominently features the holiday in some way. As such, it’s kinda perfect reading for the season.

Highlights include Peter Straub’s excellent “Pork Pie Hat” about a jazz musician’s memorable childhood Halloween, “The Black Pumpkin” by Dean Koontz (about a pumpkin monster, I guess?), “The Circle” by Lewis Shiner (about authors reading spooky stories to each other on Halloween night), and several others. I also have to laugh at “Buckets” by F. Paul Wilson, the sort of story that touches a political third rail, but really goes for it.

The stories are interspersed with nonfiction chapters where authors share “My Favorite Halloween Memory” that are probably more miss than hit. Some are decent and interesting, but most come off as pure filler. Similarly, there are a few chapters about Halloween movies and stories that are solid, but not exactly authoritative. Still, all in all, a pretty fantastic little collection, especially for the time of year.

On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony – Pulpy tale of a man who inadvertently kills Death, and therefore must take over the job himself. He thus travels the world, reaping the souls of those whose balance between good and evil are in question, determining if they belong in heaven or in hell. New to the job, he quickly stumbles into a trap set by the devil himself.

I heard of this book decades ago, but never really pulled the trigger until now. I thought about a normal guy learning to become the personification of Death would be spooky, and to some extent, I suppose there’s a little of that. But ultimately, this becomes a sorta episodic story as each victim of death pleads their case (or doesn’t, as it were). The nuts and bolts of the afterlife are not especially interesting (and I’m once again struck by how many stories people tell about how badly human beings do succession planning – is this really the best way to fill the office of Death?) and there’s a whole love story subplot that is pretty cringey. Ultimately, the book winds up being fine, I guess, but I wasn’t taken with it enough to want to explore the whole series, so this is one thing you won’t see me revisiting in future 6WH marathons…

The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson – The Keep was one of my favorite horror books when I read it as a teenager, but for some reason, I’ve never revisited that series (dubbed The Adversary) or Wilson in general, so I thought it was time. This book is supposed to be the second in the series, but it’s the first appearance of another character that Wilson has built a series around, one Repairman Jack. He’s basically a mercenary, living off the grid, fixing things for people who cannot find help elsewhere.

As this novel opens, Jack is hired by two people. One, to find a necklace stolen in a mugging, and the other a British heiress who had disappeared. Wanna bet that these two stories connect? Of course they do, and along the way we’re treated to Indian folklore and monsters and magic elixers, and so on. As a character, Jack isn’t quite as impressive as he’s made out to be (it’s one of those things where everyone has a lot of respect for him and talk about how great he is, but when you see his working methods, they don’t seem particularly impressive), but he’s still a solid character and Wilson is a decent enough storyteller such that even when you can see where the story is going or you’ve predicted a twist, it doesn’t really matter that much.

This doesn’t really connect with The Keep at all, at least, not directly, but from what I gather, future books in both series have some sort of connection. This is not a total homerun, but I’m still amenable to revisiting the series at some point…

So there you have it: Six Weeks of Halloween, six books read. This pretty much wraps up the 6WH for 2022, but as per usual, I’m already looking forward to next year’s festivities…

The Six Weeks of Halloween 2022: Speed Round

Time flies when you’re terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. Yes, the Six Weeks of Halloween is just about over, with just that most hallowed of e’en coming up tomorrow. In accordance with tradition, this is when we engage in a Speed Round of brief thoughts on films I watched during the marathon, but haven’t otherwise covered. Usually because it didn’t fit with a weekly theme. Or maybe I just didn’t have much to say about it. Or I had too much to say about it, but the moment and/or inspiration has passed. Or it’s a rewatch of an all time classic (or, uh, a non-classic) and you don’t need anyone, let alone me, telling you more about it.

As of this writing, I’ve seen 54 horror (or horror-adjacent) movies during this Halloween season. This is basically comparable with last year, which was way down from the pandemic-fueled record of 71 movies. Nature is healing, etc… It’s nice to get back to pre-pandemic levels of socialization interrupting movie watching plans, not to mention the sudden emergence of Philadelphia sports excellence. Sports!

Um, anyways, we still have lots of things to cover in this here Speed Round, and we’ll wrap things up next Sunday with a Halloween Reading Roundup (it’s not all movies during the 6WH, after all). Anywho, let’s get to this speed round:

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Speed Round

Invaders from Mars (1953) – Another classic 50s Sci-Fi flick infused with Cold War paranoia, very entertaining with some memorable visuals. Not the best version of this sort of thing, but really quite solid and it’s another classic I inexplicably hadn’t caught up with until now. ***

The Spine of NightHeavy Metal-esque adult animation that indulges in more than a little bit of the old ultraviolence. An ode to Ralph Bakshi and other rotoscope animators who made cartoons for adults. The brutal violence and cartoon dicks get old after a while, but it’s an interesting movie for sure. **1/2

Plan 9 from Outer Space – Infamously one of the worst movies of all time, it doesn’t quite live up to that label. There are far worse films out there, and there’s something delightfully odd about this, such that it’s not a surprise that it’s gained a cult following. I mean, it’s not exactly good and sorta defies a normal rating, but it has its moments. ???

Practical Magic – Young Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as cursed witches, sits comfortably in that weirdly unique 90s silliness that inflects a lot of movies of that era. It’s lightweight but somehow more than it seems. **1/2

The Shining – Kubrick’s classic still holds up and looks better than ever in the new(ish) 4K transfer. This isn’t a movie for everyone, but something about Kubrick always gets under my skin, and this movie has so many unsettling images and ideas.

The Shining

There’s something to be said about adaptations that veer far from the source material, but this is a case where it’s all for the best. ***1/2

Invaders from Mars (1986) – Tobe Hooper’s remake of the 50s classic isn’t quite as successful as the other 80s remakes of 50s classics (like The Thing and The Fly) and I think the original is better, but this updates some things well enough, while almost leaving too much of the original in tact (and thus feeling a bit out of place in the 1980s). **1/2

The Addams Family 2 – It’s hard to believe that the mediocre animated Addams Family movie garnered a sequel, but here we are, a sequel that’s equally mediocre. That said, I kinda have a soft spot for The Addams Family as a general concept and enjoy spending time with them. Not great or anything, but it’s nice to mix in some lighter fare during the 6WH, which can get a bit morose after a while. **

Candyman (2021) – Gorgeous and well appointed sequel/reboot/whatever that suffers from modern horror’s tendency towards messy grasping for relevance and a desperate need to be didactic about Something Important. Still, there’s a solid throughline and some of the ideas they threw against the wall stuck, such that this remains a solid bite of genre fare with lots to chew on. **1/2

The Entity – The infamous ghost rape movie, it’s interesting how seriously they take the premise, such that it doesn’t feel as exploitative as it could have been. Indeed, this is a 1982 movie steeped in the experience of survivors, and this should work well given current Horror fans’ obsession with trauma. It’s repetitive, far too long (over 2 hours), repetitive, and devolves into weird histrionics later in the film, but it’s all firmly grounded and on point. **1/2

The Silence of the Lambs – An annual rewatch at this point, I’ve already said my piece on this, but it remains a classic standby. The newish 4K release is only a minor improvement over the Criterion release, but it still looks great. ****

Blood Red Sky – Interesting little slice of German vampire schlock highlighted as a Netflix programmer a while back (and similarly languishes in their archives, mostly undiscussed). There’s a fun premise here that is somewhat subverted by trying to be dark and more realistic. Fine for what it does, but it could have been more of a fun romp (but this is complaining about the movie I wanted it to be, not the movie it’s trying to be). **1/2

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions – More of the same, all in good fun. It looks good and has decent little puzzles strewn throughout, and the overarching conspiracy grows more and more ludicrous, but in a fun way. This should spawn a long-running series, and despite my distaste for sequels, this is exactly the kind of thing that begs for a franchise, and I’ll totally watch at least a couple more of these (which are presumably coming soon). **1/2

No Exit – Low-budget, snowy locked room mystery with Hitchcockian vibes that morphs into full-on, mean-spirited violence and gore in the third act. It’s a little overheated, derivative, and predictable at times, but they put this premise through its paces and execute well. Underseen 2022 release worth a look. ***

Hellraiser (2022) – It’s the best Hellraiser movie since Bloodline! Alas, that’s not saying much. It’s far too long, festooned with overly dark cinematography, and not nearly horny enough for a true Barker-like experience. Overstuffed with modern horror tropes (why is there a whole addiction subplot here?), it also takes some liberties with the mythology (not necessarily bad, given how far they’ve strayed). It does have some bright spots though! The new cenobites are great (er, when you can see them), and the Epstein stand-in villain was a nice touch. In the end, it feels a little safe, but perhaps that’s what the series needed. It does seem like there’s more Hellraiser stories to tell, so maybe we’ll get some more interesting stuff in later installments. **1/2

Se7en – David Fincher’s slice of 90s serial killer mayhem holds up really well. Everything still fits and the clever conceits work well. One thing that struck me in watching this (especially in close proximity to the new Hellraiser) – darkness in the cinematography here looks so, so much better than the modern digital dull mess that so many more modern movie (and shows) engage in. The darkness is actually used well here, but you can still see things you need to see. Imagine that! ***1/2

Werewolf by Night – Marvel tries to evoke classic Universal monster tropes in this short, 55 minute thriller, to middling success. It comports itself well enough and was a nice, fun, short watch. You’d think that Monster Hunters would have better succession planning though. **1/2

Hell House LLC – Rock solid found-footage movie that doesn’t quite crack the top tier, but is certainly top of the middle tier of the sub-genre. Interesting setup, and just enough reliance on interviews and news footage, etc… It does suffer from the usual found-footage problems, but not excessively so. Well worth a watch. ***

My Best Friend’s Exorcism – A bit of a tonal mess, this does smack of an adaptation that can’t quite encapsulate everything that’s going on in the book (which I have not read, to be sure, but it feels like there has to be a lot more here). That said, once it gets established, it comports itself well enough and some of the bits work pretty well. The comedic elements aren’t particularly well incorporated and undercut the scary stuff, but on the other hand, I did chuckle a few times. Perfectly cromulent, but not going to blow you away. **1/2

ProphecyProphecy’s screaming bear walked so that Annihilation’s screaming bear could run. This was one of those VHS covers I always saw at the video store, but never really pulled the trigger on… John Frankenheimer tries his best to keep things grounded and focus on the environmental politics and other 70s values, but it’s all injected into a pulpy monster bear narrative that’s kinda silly. Glad I finally watched it and it has lots of interesting elements, but is a bit too muddled to be fully successful. **1/2

Bird Box – Another Netflix programmer that suffers from its very nature. Derivative in the extreme (clearly generated by an algorithm – it’s The Happening meets A Quiet Place!), overlong, it was a popular hit for about a week, and has summarily disappeared from the cultural consciousness since then. That being said, it’s elevated a bit by performances from stars like Sandra Bullock and John Malkovitch, and there are a couple of interesting ideas floating in the mush. **

Elvira’s Haunted Hills – Part of Joe Bob’s Haunted Halloween Hangout, it’s always fun to hang out with Elvira. The movie is nothing particularly special, but it has some fun stuff going for it, I guess. Worth it if you enjoy Elvira’s schtick. **1/2

Christine – The bullied nerd breaks bad theme of Halloween Ends made me want to watch this movie, which does it better, in my opinion. I think it’s one of Carpenter’s more underrated efforts. Some real classic moments here. ***

The Black Phone – This feels a bit like a YA pulp short story padded out to feature length. A bit too much of the alcoholic father and bullies and some other superfluous plot points, and not enough of Ethan Hawke’s suburban boogieman (the movie does get a lot of mileage out of Hawke’s admittedly great mask, but there was clearly more there). The supernatural gimmick works well enough, once it gets going. Remember talking on the phone? Scaaary! **1/2

Footprints on the Moon – Strange slice of Giallo involving a woman who wakes up not remembering her last three days. As she tries to solve that mystery, she has flashbacks to a weird movie within a movie about astronauts being stranded on the moon. Some interesting stuff and gorgeous to look at, but a little too slow and doesn’t quite earn it in the admittedly neat (but nonsensical) ending. **

Frankenstein (1931) – Still a classic, what struck me most this time around is that it’s only 70 minutes long (and 2-3 minutes are spent on stuff like showing the credits twice and having someone introduce the film and inform the audience that what you’re about to see will be shocking!), meaning that this is about the length of a lot of prestige TV episodes these days. ****

The Invisible Man (1933) – Part of the first Universal Monsters 4K boxed set I bought last year, but never got around to rewatching. It’s grown on me upon repeat viewings, and the new 4K transfer looks great too. ***

Popcorn – The other half of Joe Bob’s Haunted Halloween Hangout, this is one of those meta exercises where a group of film students puts on a horror-movie-thon of old movies featuring William Castle-like gimicks like schocked seats in the theater and a big remote-controlled mosquito. The fake 50s horror flicks you get glimpses of were all created for this movie, and they are fantastic. The reference to an old art film with a tragic history is interesting, but after a while it does feel like there’s a lot of stuff being crammed into this movie. Still, I had a lot of fun with it. **1/2

The Bride of Frankenstein – One of the better sequels of all time, but I still prefer the original. New 4K boxed set of Universal Monsters dropped a while back and I never noticed until too late in this marathon, but this one looks great, and I’m sure I’ll get to the others soon enough. ***1/2

The Midnight Club – Mike Flanagan continues to produce interesting stuff for Netflix, but man, it’s like he heard all the complaints about monologues in Midnight Mass and was like, I hear you, but what if there were more monologues? I’m only a couple episodes in, but it’s interesting enough so far, even if it still feels like it might be better as one 2-3 hour movie rather than a 10 episode series (but then, maybe I haven’t seen enough).

Tales From the Crypt (Season 2) – I’ve basically given up on these showing up on HBO Max (apparently it’s hampered by a hideous tangle of rights issues), so I went ahead and grabbed the DVDs. I really appreciate the short, 30 minutes or less, episodes, especially given more modern tendencies towards excess. I still haven’t finished the entire season, but I’ll be making my way through them in future 6WH for sure.

And still plenty left to watch. I have Scream Factory’s new-ish 4K transfer of Halloween (curious to see how it compares to the previous 4K release) and I really wanted to try out Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities as well.

It’s been a grand ol time these past six weeks, and of course, we still have next week’s recap of season’s readings to come, so stay tuned.

Inexplicably Haven’t Seen These Movies

After well over a decade of the Six Weeks of Halloween, it’s easy to slide into niche, obscure sub-genres and forgotten foreign flicks, but there are honestly some bona-fide classics or at least famous (or infamous) franchise-spawning films that I inexplicably haven’t seen. Week 5’s Killer Kids theme was actually already a pretty good example of catching up with famous films I’d never seen before (well, two of them were.) Obviously, what constitutes a “classic” is a fraught topic, but on tap today are two flicks that I figure to be pretty mainstream successes, such that I’m actually familiar with a lot of details, just through cultural osmosis.

It’s also worth noting that I grew up in the cable television/VHS era, and I have definitely seen bits and pieces of these movies, but never watched them all the way through. Revisiting those movies is always interesting, because sometimes I’ve watched much more of the movie than I thought… but sometimes I realize I haven’t really seen it at all.

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 6.5 – Inexplicably Haven’t Seen These Movies

Fatal Attraction – A married man has a one-night stand and the affair comes back to haunt him as his new lover begins to stalk him and his family. It goes further than you might expect.

Fatal Attraction

I’m sure there’ve been lots of revisionist readings of this as problematic or something, but that’s not a rabbit hole I want to go down right now. It’s a reasonably well constructed thriller, with a flawed man making a mistake that spirals further and further out of control. Each step escalates the stakes and indicates how fraught the situation is while also still remaining somewhat logical in structure, which is harder to do than it might seem. By the end, we’ve gotten to rather disturbing territory, but the progression was well established and grounded, so it doesn’t feel too improbable.

Michael Douglas does a good smarmy protagonist who should have just kept it in his pants here. It’s the sort of role that he’s played many times in his career, and for good reason: he’s really good at this sort of thing. It’s not an especially flattering specialty (and obviously it’s not the only type of role he has played), but I respect that he leaned into what he’s good at. The character is clearly flawed and the movie plays with sympathies a bit, but it’s obviously coming down on his side by the end (to my mind, once you start jeopardizing the wife and kid and pet, the proportion of wrongdoing/consequences has shifted a little too far).

This is a well made, mainstream Hollywood production, with all the slickness and competence behind the scenes that makes a the story and impacts seem effortless. Adrian Lyne has made a career out of restrained and yet somehow overheated premises like this, and the filmmaking is not flashy but still very effective. Great performances from Douglas and Glenn Close as leads, but a really solid supporting cast in Anne Archer and character actors like Stuart Pankin.

I already knew some of the more shocking moments of the film, but they’re still effective when watched in context, and while this movie isn’t exactly “enjoyable”, it’s effective and well made. ***

The Amityville Horror – The Lutz family moves into their dream home, which they were able to buy on the cheap because the previous owner murdered his entire family in that house. As they get settled, it seems that it’s less of a dream home… and more of a nightmare home!

The Amityville Horror - I am not sure if this is a direct screen grab from the film, but it looks good so I am using it!

This is a movie that has spawned almost a dozen sequels, spinoffs, reboots, whatever, not to mention setting a template that countless imitators have used over the intervening decades. Which is kinda funny, because the movie is a bit of a mess. Lots of individual components are well done, to be sure, and there are memorable and oft-imitated elements, but this is one of those less than the sum of its parts movies. There’s a distinct lack of cohesion that becomes especially pronounced in the ending. Look, I don’t need everything wrapped up in a tidy little bow and it’s fine for some ambiguity to be present, but the end here feels suspiciously indifferent.

Once again, this is a reasonably well crafted, mainsteam Hollywood production. The overheated, sweaty nature of the proceedings isn’t really counterbalanced by anything though, which makes things a little less plausible. Of course, this is a haunted house movie – not everything needs to be plausible, and as previously mentioned, a lot of individual scenes work well on their own. A priest comes to bless the house and is struck with nausea. He hears a mysterious voice ordering him to “Get Out!” of the house. When he fights with his superiors over what should be done, even more ills fall upon him. Weirdly, this subplot never really connects with the main plot (which is part of the point – the house is asserting its will, in a way, I guess), which is a good indication of how things don’t really add up in this movie.

There are several other effective elements here. A little girl has an imaginary friend named Jody… but Jody might be a ghost… or worse? A babysitter gets trapped in a closet. James Brolin plays the step-father and he’s almost immediately worn down by the house. The way his appearance unravels throughout the film is well done (the Grinch-like reversal at the end is yet another example of things not quite adding up). Bees and flies swarm rooms at odd times, the walls bleed, there’s a strange draft in the basement that leads to the discovery of a hidden room. The house itself looks like a face, with big windows for eyes, and so on… Each piece is put on the chess table, but it doesn’t feel like they’re playing the game very well.

Infamously presented as “Based on a True Story”, much of it has since been revealed as a hoax. There really was a Lutz family who moved into a murder house and left suddenly, but most everything else is just exaggerated and overblown. But that’s not a big deal in my boat. I’d rather have bleeding walls and hallucinations rather than the truth here – this isn’t a documentary and from what I can tell, the reality of what went on in the house was rather boring. Still, it would have been nice if the disparate elements here were tied together a little better in the end. Weirdly, this means it actually makes sense that there would be a long-running franchise. Lots of opportunity that is presumably covered in the sequels and reboots and whatnot. **

We’re really in the homestretch now. The standard Speed Round of films I’ve watched, but not otherwise covered coming up on Sunday, and then some reviews of spooky books read during the season the following week.

Horror Franchises Go to Space!

Horror franchises that live long enough almost inevitably reach a point of creative bankruptcy and jump the shark. This takes various forms, but one of the most amusing is when they send the franchise to outer space. There aren’t actually a ton of these, but there are enough, and while the conceit is irrevocably silly, the batting average for these movies is surprisingly good? Maybe “good” isn’t the right word, but they’re all pretty amusing and entertaining in their own way. The highest profile example is clearly Jason X, a movie we’ve already covered a few times here. Still, I was able to cobble together three more examples (oddly enough, all the fourth installment of their respective franchise) and despite this seeming like a weekly theme destined for a bad experience, I had a pretty good time with all these movies.

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 6 – Horror Franchises Go to Space!

Hellraiser: Bloodline – This fourth Hellraiser film tries to tell the full history of Lemerchand’s box. A prequel detailing the creation of the box by a French toymaker, a sequel to the excesses of Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth that explains the mysterious Lament Configuration building that appeared at the end of that movie, and the ultimate conclusion set in the far flung future of 2047 on a space station.

Hellraiser: Bloodline

I actually saw this movie in the theater back in 1996. Had to travel to the dam tri-state mall to see it, and it turned out that the theater was basically empty. Me, a friend, and one other dude. I know the movie has some rather serious flaws and definitely muddles with the mythology of the series, but I rather enjoyed the idea back then, and I was surprised to find that I still had some fun with it, even today.

The film had a troubled production. Lots of studio interference, reshoots with another director, such that the original director, effects and makeup guru Kevin Yagher, formally disowned the project. Due to vagaries of film credit attribution, this makes Hellraiser: Bloodline one of the hallowed few to be attributed to the infamous Alan Smithee pseudonym. Watching the film, you can absolutely feel the behind-the-scenes tumult, but the skeleton of what Yagher (and Clive Barker) intended seems to still be in place and functioning. It’s not perfectly executed or anything, and I’m not entirely sure how good this could be even in the best of scenarios, but I still kinda like the idea at its core.

I know I just spent a bunch of time decrying Halloween Ends‘ ambitious take on that series, but even though Hellraiser: Bloodline isn’t especially accomplished, I think it actually delivers on more of its potential than Halloween Ends, which sounds absurd, I know. There are some severe flaws. The film opens in the future on a space station, then uses a flashback structure to tell the prequel/sequel stories before returning to the future. Using that as a framing device is awkward, since it removes any sense of suspense in the first two segments of the film. Granted, stopping every 20-30 minutes to say “200 years later” or whatever is also a bit clunky, but it would at least be surprising for those going into the film blind (and it could have had the surprising effect of stuff like Psycho or it’s many imitators like Scream).

The opening sequence is perhaps my favorite, with bad French wigs and sacrificial satanic rites and hammy overacting and a young Adam Scott? The middle segment, which is the longest, drags a little and suffers the most from the framing device (hard to worry about the continuation of the toymaker’s bloodline when we already know his descendent will end up on a space station in the future), but that’s where Pinhead shows up and starts dropping pretty great line readings of cheesy but actually kinda effective dialogue. The future segment pits Pinhead against space marines, which has to count for something.

A lot of the scare sequences that are supposed to be suspenseful come off as more perfunctory than anything else, but I still appreciate what they were going for here. Not a good movie, per say, but more enjoyable than you’d think (and certainly better than Part III and/or most of what follows in the franchise). ** (but this does sorta defy ratings)

Leprechaun 4: In Space – On a distant planet, a power hungry Leprechaun kidnaps a princess in the hopes that marrying her will grant him enough royal power to rule the universe. Or something like that, it doesn’t really matter, does it? This is not especially connected in any way with the previous entries in the series (not that I’m an expert there, to be honest), but again, I don’t think that really matters.

Leprechaun 4: In Space

This is quintessential so-bad-it’s-good cheese. Low budget, shamelessly juvenile, dumb, and rather entertaining. Macho space marines that are clearly dollar-store imitations of the Colonial Marines from Aliens, with the sergeant in particular hamming things up with his delivery of cliched dialogue. A mad scientist that gets Cronenberged also gives it his all, to amusing effect. His assistant is perhaps more restrained, but almost as weird. Warwick Davis still seems to be having fun as the titular mischievous imp. Instead of copious rhyming puns, he monologues and quotes Shakespeare. There’s a rebigulator/debigulator that is introduced, and eventually enlarges the Leprechaun, because of course there’s a giant Leprechaun wreaking havoc on this space station.

Look, this isn’t in any way good, but it’s so delightfully bugnuts that I couldn’t help being thoroughly entertained throughout the runtime. **1/2 (but again, this defies ratings)

Critters 4 – Bounty Hunter Charlie has discovered the last two Critters eggs in existence, but he gets stuck in a transportation probe that gets lost in space. He’s picked up by a salvage crew and brought to an abandoned space station. Naturally, the Critters escape and do their thing.

Critters 4

Of the horror franchises that have gone to space, this is probably the most logical one. Indeed, all the Critters movies feature space in some way, so it actually makes sense that they’d eventually set an entire installment in space. Of course, there’s not really much to do once they get there. Indeed, the Critters don’t even really show up until 30 minutes into the movie, and there’s only two of them. There’s one pretty gnarly death scene, but the rest are somewhat rote (or even worse, offscreen).

What saves the movie from being a complete and utter mediocrity is the cast. A young Angela Bassett, a rare heroic Brad Dourif, and the guy who played Leo from Twin Peaks are all present and giving it their all. It’s all presented a bit too serious and the pacing is lethargic, but there’s something divertingly odd about his movie. It’s far from the hoot that the first two movies represent, but it’s a step above part 3. Not particularly necessary, but just weird enough to hold interest. **

I don’t know how these 6 weeks flew by so quickly, but we’ve still got plenty to come. We should have some movies I inexplicably haven’t seen yet on Wednesday, and next Sunday will be the usual Speed Round of quick hits on movies I watched, but haven’t covered in depth (and we’ll catch up on some horror books the following week)…