6 Weeks of Halloween

Now Playing: Barbarian & Smile

It’s always a good idea to check out what’s now playing in theaters at some point during the Six Weeks of Halloween, but the last few years have proved difficult on that front. Naturally, the pandemic was not exactly conducive to movie theaters for a while, but even before Covid, there were plenty of times when it seemed theaters were lacking great horror movie options in the weeks leading up to Halloween (or, like, they’d release something on Halloween day).

But something’s in the air this year. Hot Horror Fall is upon us! We’ve already had stuff like Bodies Bodies Bodies and Pearl, not to mention the two movies we’ll be covering below (Barbarian & Smile), and even horror adjacent stuff like Don’t Worry Darling and See How They Run have been coming out. Of course, I haven’t seen all of these, and some might not be worth seeing, but options have been plentiful and I haven’t even mentioned Halloween Ends yet (though frankly, I’m not terribly excited for that given the ambivalence I’ve had for the last couple entries, not to mention general sequel fatigue.) Anyway, there have been a couple of really solid flicks that I’ve caught up with in the past couple weeks, so let’s get to them!

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 3.5 – Now Playing: Barbarian & Smile

Barbarian – Due to an Airbnb scheduling snafu, a house in a bad neighborhood in Detroit has been double-booked. A young woman arrives to find a strange man already staying there. Due to circumstances, they end up staying in the house together and attempting to mitigate the fraught situation, only to find that there’s more going on in the house than meets the eye.

I’m going to leave the plot summary there because this is a good movie to go into whilst knowing as little as possible. Rest assured, it’s a fun ride with an unconventional structure and some well balanced tonal shifts between humor and horror. While it touches on some subversive and taboo elements and is not suitable for the faint of heart, it never reaches Don’t Breathe turkey baster levels (to reference another movie that makes good use of Detroit’s decrepit environs). That doesn’t mean there aren’t shocking surprises or anything, and it is rated R for a reason, but it doesn’t go too far (but what do I know, I’m a little jaded by all this horror movie watching, ymmv). Mild spoilers will follow, but I’ll try not to stray too far into that territory.

Barbarian

About halfway through the movie, just as our two protagonists discover something shocking in the basement of their rental home, we smash cut to Justin Long driving along the highway in California. He’s a famous Hollywood actor that’s about to fall from grace as the result of a Me Too controversy. In a desperate attempt to scramble up capital for his defense fund, has to liquidate some of his assets… like that rental property in Detroit!

This represents a huge shift not just in the overall narrative, but in the tone of the film. This whole section is played mostly for laughs. When this character discovers the secret murder rooms in the basement, his first thought is not the inherent terror of the situation… but rather the extra square footage that he can claim whilst selling the house. Naturally, his character is somewhat less than sympathetic, and even though you sometimes have hopes that he might turn things around, this is not a movie where a bad man is rehabilitated. When he gets what’s coming to him, it’s pretty damn satisfying (in part because he demonstrates his true character a bit too often).

Writer/director Zach Cregger displays an admirable control of both pacing and tone, especially as the narrative turns from one character to another, or we take a quick but illuminating flashback, or as tone shifts wildly from horror to comedy and back again. Thematically, it shows a deft hand in critiquing the dread “toxic masculinity”… well, at least compared to most attempts at this sort of thing, which are usually more didactic, overly-literal, and ham-fisted. I mean, it’s not exactly subtle, but it’s not a lecture either.

It’s not a surprise that traditional studios all rejected this (or requested that Cregger remove all the things that make it unique), but I will say that it is remarkable that they were not only able to (eventually) make the movie they wanted, but that the marketing was restrained enough not to give away the twists and turns (and most folks have been pretty good about not spoiling it on social media too, a rarity in this day and age). I know I’m kinda spoiling it now, but I’m leaving a lot out.

It’s still in theaters now, but will likely not be lasting much longer. If you’re still reading this and haven’t seen it, it’s worth seeing in the theater (I suspect audiences will be sparse at this point, but it’s nice to not be the only person gasping in the theater). ***

Smile – Rose is a psychiatrist who witnesses one of her patients commit suicide right in front of her. The patient was tormented by smiling delusions. Soon, Rose starts to experience odd occurrences that are suspiciously familiar to her patient’s descriptions. Is she suffering from her own PTSD episode, or is something else at work here?

Smile

A lot of modern horror and indeed, a lot of modern pop-culture in general, is obsessed with trauma. Smile is a movie that literalizes that tendency, but then slots it into a more traditional, studio-friendly jump-scare framework. It’s a weighty theme, but the enormous glut of trauma-focused narratives we’re seeing these days makes this an also-ran, even if it does ask some interesting questions. What does society owe traumatized people? What do traumatized people owe society? You can interpret this movie as a critique of the current obsession of trauma, but you could also see it as advocating for despair in the face of a difficult issue. Either way, you’re still amplifying a common theme.

Smile clearly wears its influences on its sleeve, notably The Ring (not as much Ringu) and It Follows. Both of those earlier films also feature trains of, for lack of a better term, infection. The infection is spread through differing methods; a videotape/technology, sex, and in the case of Smile, trauma. This sort of thing makes for an effective driving premise, but often leads to an unclear resolution. It Follows, in particular, doesn’t really know what to do with the dilemma it’s set up, and Smile suffers from a similar lack of clarity in the “rules” of the curse (or whatever you want to call it). I will say that Smile, at least, devises more clever workarounds once the basic rules are established, even if it loses its footing in the endgame. It’s one of those things where you could go with a happy ending or a sad one, but at this point – both approaches are played out, so you have to really thread the needle to make an impact. There was one way I thought of that would have been a sorta “win”, but also be a bit of a downer that could have fit, but the movie didn’t go that way…

I guess a lot of the above could be interpreted as a mixed review, but this is ultimately a really good time at the movies, and it’s thought provoking stuff. It’s very well crafted and while it does lean heavily into jump-scares, it is actually quite good at that sort of thing. It’s not exactly a fresh approach, but it doesn’t feel stale either. The premise offers an element of existential dread that the rest of the movie does deliver on, and it’s visually impressive as well.

There’s a phrase that has emerged over the last several years to describe a particular brand of films called “elevated horror.” This is a somewhat annoyingly vague phrase, as what most of its proponents describe as hallmarks of “elevated horror” are not unique to the films that have garnered this label. This, of course, leads to Joe Bob Briggs’s snarky definition, which is that “elevated horror” is the term that people who hate horror movies use to describe horror movies they like. Whatever the case, there’s a bunch of movies that seem to be almost embarrassed of their horror genre trappings, as if the filmmaker is saying something to the effect of “I really wanted to make a movie about trauma, but the only way I could get a budget to make this downer of a movie was if I said that a demon was involved” (I’m looking at you, Hereditary!) Anyway, Smile might be the sort of film that earns an “elevated horror” moniker, but it’s definitely not embarrassed by its genre roots. There’s some genuinely crazy stuff in the film, and it revels in all its jump-scares and face ripping glory.

It’s certainly a bit derivative and it’s yet another film that focuses primarily on trauma, but it’s well crafted and effective stuff. ***

There you have it. I’ll probably cover the new Halloween movie in the speed round at the end of the marathon, but in the meantime, we’ve got some good stuff coming your way. I think this weekend will focus on movies with the word “Don’t” in their title (I’ll explain more on Sunday), but plenty of other things going on. If you’re still craving more reviews and horrorific fun, don’t forget Zack’s Film Thoughts, as he’s been cranking out reviews of multiple movies almost daily.

Golden Age Slashers

It’s officially October, so it’s time for some pure horror comfort food. I have an inexplicable fondness for slasher films and indeed, this very theme has shown up in the Six Weeks of Halloween before (amongst other related themes). The true Golden Age for slashers was probably that 1980-1983 corridor, but while I have certainly not seen every slasher made during that time (apparently there was rarely a week without a new slasher release during that time), I have seen most of the higher profile ones, so I’m expanding the range to be 1978-1983. Unfortunately, at least one of these isn’t especially slashery and another is borderline, but it was still a good weekend!

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 3 – Golden Age Slashers

Girls Nite Out – The students of a remote university are preparing for the annual all-night scavenger hunt, but it turns out that they’re the ones being hunted… by a deranged killer wearing the school’s bear mascot outfit!

Girls Nite Out - bear mascot

This starts out as your typical, bog-standard slasher and proceeds along those lines for a while, but eventually derails into something that’s actually pretty interesting… but only for slasher fanatic types. I suspect most normals will just see this as a stiff, awkwardly paced slasher with a silly killer costume (because, to be fair, that is what it is). But if you’ve seen tons of slashers and are down with the formula, the rule-breaking in the third act is pretty cool.

Of course, it takes a while to get there. The much touted scavenger hunt doesn’t even start until halfway through the film, and we only get about 20-30 minutes of standard stalk and slash type stuff (there’s a couple of kills earlier on, but they’re short and feel tacked-on). The bear mascot suit is pretty goofy, but I actually kinda love it, and the killer whips up a bear claw weapon comprised of steak knives taped together between the fingers (a full two years before Freddy donned his infamous glove). There’s some decent buildup before the kills start to flow, but the kills themselves are somewhat unremarkable.

Knife Hands

Then something odd happens. Spoilers, I guess! So our final girl discovers a body and calls the cops. Then the cops actually show up and actually act like responsible adults. They cancel the scavenger hunt, and everyone goes home. For the next ten minutes, the film turns into something of a procedural whodunit, as Hal Holbrook tries to unravel the historical underpinnings of the night’s mayhem (his character’s daughter was murdered by a lunatic in the bear costume many years earlier). Then one girl gets kicked out of her house and is being chased by the killer. She calls the final boy, and they end up in the killers lair, where we find out that the bit character from earlier in the film is actually the twin sister of the historical murderer and Hal Holbrook figured that out and shows up and… then the film just ends. If this sounds a bit rushed and confusing, you’re not alone.

It never really reaches the consistently bonkers level of fun that the best unhinged slashers manage (i.e. this movie can’t compete with something like Pieces), but slasher aficionados might appreciate the weirdness of the third act. **1/2

Effects – A film crew in a remote cabin begin to suspect that some of the “kills” in their low-budget horror flick are actually real, and that the director is an infamous producer of snuff films.

George Romero’s Pittsburg troop of collaborators got together and made this cheapie in the wake of Martin and Dawn of the Dead, notably including star Joe Pilato (of Day of the Dead fame), makeup FX legend Tom Savini, and several other bit players and crew members.

Effects

Movies about making movies are one of those meta exercises that can get old fast, but while the first act of this drags a bit and there are some repetitive gags, it eventually takes its ideas to a logical extreme that is surprising and impressive. There’s some rote horror sequences that turn out to be a scene the characters are actually filming for their movie, a fakeout gag that gets old… until it doesn’t. It’s a deceptively simple premise, and while there’s a little too much of the crew just hanging around drinking Iron City beer, doing blow, and chatting, it’s actually cut pretty tightly, and at 84 minutes, never really wears out its welcome.

There’s a film-within-the-film that a few folks sit down and watch about halfway through that is genuinely unnerving, and after that point, it’s pretty much off to the races. The simple fakeout gags from earlier in the film grow more complex, such that you don’t know if you can trust what you’re seeing, and there are several surprises that I truly did not see coming. It’s often referred to as a slasher, but it certainly doesn’t follow most of those conventions. This is a little more unique than that.

It’s clearly a low-budget affair, but there’s a core set of ideas that they commit to heavily, such that this sticks with me a lot more than the more recent spate of mumblecore horror (mumblegore), which often strike me as boring. This has more on its mind than that, and it’s really grown on me (and it’s only been a couple of days). ***

Fade to Black – Eric Binford is an obsessive movie dork who snaps and starts acting out horror scenes from his favorite movies. Hijinks ensue!

This is one of those fun little referential exercises that actually earns the references. Dennis Christopher gives a great performance as the movie nerd who is growing more and more unhinged over time, and he captures a certain melancholy that keeps the whole film grounded. He’s almost like a nerdy Travis Bickle, and the focus on his character plays with slasher conventions in a unique way. The classic makeup and costumes he embodies lend the film some credibility, even if it’s just drafting on the iconography of old Hollywood.

Fade to Black

There are a few other notable appearances in the film too. Tim Thomerson’s cocaine-fueled dumbass cop psychiatrist performance is truly something to behold (there’s this harmonica jam that just comes out of nowhere, but is utterly spellbinding), and I’m not entirely sure it fits with the rest of the movie, but who cares, it’s a lot of fun. Mickey Rourke also shows up in a bit part and gives it his all. Linda Kerridge does a cromulent Marilyn Monroe impersonation too.

I have to wonder if all the short clips of classic Hollywood films would cause a legal headache if the film were made today (indeed, I’m surprised it’s even available these days, they must have been diligent about clearing all those clips). It’s the sort of technique that doesn’t work 9 times out of 10, but this is that one exception that nails the execution.

This is probably the most conventional movie of the weekend, but it’s got a lot going for it, especially if you’re a cinephile. Which, if you’re reading this, you probably are. ***

The Six Weeks of Halloween will keep chugging on Wednesday with a look at some current theatrical releases, and next weekend? Not sure yet, but I’m leaning towards killer kids…

Netflixing the 6WH: The Munsters and Day Shift

Back in the before times, the long-long ago, movie theaters used to have films called “programmers” or “B-movies” (or in countries trying to stimulate local film industry, “quota-quickies“) that would fill gaps in cinema schedules and support higher-profile, more expensive features. These programmers were cheaper, shorter, and usually genre exercises that were formulaic but crowd-pleasing. As time went on, these sorts of flicks shifted to television, drive-in theaters, grindhouses, and they sorta raised their own profile and morphed into exploitation cinema, cult movies, and whatnot.

Netflix’s insatiable desire for data-backed content to dump on their platform essentially represents the modern form of programmers. Sure, they’ve produced the occasional prestige film for Oscar consideration or to build big-name director relationships, but they’re mostly just chasing an algorithm. Think of the sorta Hallmark-esque Christmas movies they put out – cheap, formulaic, lowest-common denominator stuff that’s easy going and pleasant. They show up on Netflix, maybe pop on the main screen for a couple days, then get lost in the black hole of Netflix archives. Occasionally, Netflix splurges for bigger name stars and spends a lot more money… but they aren’t treated much differently. Maybe a teensy bit more algorithmic exposure here, a token theatrical exhibition there. These are effectively $200 million programmers (i.e. The Gray Man). Granted, budget numbers are a bit misleading due to the way movie financing works, but still.

The upshot of all this is that most Netflix-produced movies come and go without much fanfare at all, and the cultural impact (a vague phrase, to be sure) is almost always negligible. Anecdotally, you might hear people talking about it for a weekend, but then it disappears from the discourse forever (with the only exception being the discourse around how these films tend to disappear from the discourse (which, it should be noted, is not limited to Netflix – witness the enduring debate about Avatar)). This might be due to the formulaic algorithms they use to select and guide content or the overall quality of the movie or just the general model. Whatever the case, it’s sometimes interesting to take a look at these things, even if no one will remember these movies in a couple years (sanity check: Ah yes, I watched a couple of Netflix movies for the 6WH back in 2019 and I’m pretty sure I haven’t hear anyone mention either of those movies since then).

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 2.5 – Netflixing The Munsters and Day Shift

The Munsters (2022) – Have you ever wondered about Herman Munster’s origin story? How he was created? How he met Lily? How they got married and why they moved from Transylvania to California? No? Well too bad, because that’s what this movie is all about.

I’m being overly snarky here and this is exactly the sort of movie that I’m predisposed to hate. The trailer did not inspire much confidence and while I think Rob Zombie is always an interesting filmmaker, I rarely love his work. That being said, I do have a certain nostalgia for The Munsters TV show and while my expectations were low, I do try to keep an open mind and I always go into a movie wanting to like it. As such, this wasn’t as bad as I feared… but that’s a very low bar. I’m a little conflicted about almost every element of the movie.

The Munsters

For example, the film is going for a bright-colored campy aesthetic that is actually an interesting approach. There’s definitely a sorta digital flatness that permeates throughout, and sometimes bright colors can only do so much before they start to feel silly, but it’s better than the drab, lifeless, dull affect that seems so popular these days. A surprised character is shown in closeup with a kaleidoscopic background? Neat. Oh, are they going to keep doing that lightning bolt wipe to transition between scenes? Hmmm. I have a certain respect for what’s being attempted visually, even if it doesn’t always work.

Tonally, it’s also doing some strange things. Zombie is known for his more mean-spirited, redneck vibes and very little of that shines through in this PG rated movie (which is smart, I should add), but there are a few moments where something leaks in that doesn’t feel quite right. Similarly, there’s an odd strain of cultural references that seem more relevant to the 60s TV show than to a movie made in 2022. Does anyone really get a Bobby Darin reference? Even the Sonny & Cher bit, which is culturally ubiquitous enough I guess, is still a stretch. This is clearly an intentional choice and it isn’t necessarily bad… but I feel like it’s not that great either?

The Munsters TV show wasn’t exactly highbrow humor, and I think there’s something to be appreciated about puns and terrible dad jokes, but the humor here also feels a bit… off. Look, there’s nothing less funny than analyzing why something is (or is not) funny, and so much of what makes humor and laughter work is involuntary in nature, so I’ll just note that I chuckled a few times. On the other hand, some jokes are cringey, and not just in the fun dad joke or punny way. And oh, did they just accentuate a joke with a slide whistle? Oof.

The performances have a similar erratic feel to them. Everyone is absolutely going for it, but there are times when things seem a little too strained. This could also be due to the runtime, which does feel long. I suspect some of this would go over better if various segments were tighter. Plotwise, there’s not really much to go over, and it does play more like an overlong pilot episode than a movie (the actual first episode of The Munsters doesn’t even really cover this ground, they just trusted the audience to piece things together).

In an alternate universe, a butterfly in Brazil flapped its wings an extra two times, resulting in several minor differences during the production of The Munsters, turning it from a mixed bag mediocrity into an utter masterpiece that fires on all cylinders. Unfortunately, that’s not our universe, and honestly, I’m not sure what exactly hampers this universe’s version of the movie. That I don’t entirely hate it is impressive enough, but again, that’s a low bar and it’s not exactly good either. Another one of those Interesting Failure type of movies, I think. I don’t exactly recommend this, but there are worse ways to spend your time. **

Day Shift – A vampire hunter has a week to come up with some cash to pay for his kid’s tuition and braces, so he joins up with the local vampire hunting union and gets partnered with a by-the-books desk jockey.

Day Shift

I will admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for vampire lore and stories about vampire hunters, so some of the things that might bother normals about this movie didn’t bother me that much. The info dumps about the different types of vampires are certainly clunky and not well incorporated, but I did find myself wanting to know more about the different types of vampires. Some lore was subtly incorporated, like the way vampire lairs tend to be over-air-conditioned – it’s never explicitly mentioned, but it’s communicated clearly in a visual way. On the other hand, the stuff about Union codes and business of vampire hunting is perhaps a little less effective. And the humor is, well, it’s no Munsters. The villain of the piece, a real-estate developer with ambition, doesn’t really do a whole lot for me either.

The action sequences are reasonably effective though, which is good, because that’s where this movie’s bread is buttered. There are obligatory action set-pieces at the beginning and end that are perfectly cromulent, but the real highlight comes about midway through the movie, when our vampire hunter hero, played by Jamie Foxx, links up with a couple of Armenian vampire hunters or something in order to take out a nest. It is, by far, the best sequence in the movie. The action is clear, well staged, well shot, and well choreographed. Scott Adkins plays one of the Armenian brothers, and he comports himself like the king of DTV action that he actually is. Unfortunately, that scene is only about 10 minutes of the movie and we never see Adkins’ character again. It really feels like the filmmakers knew the movie was flagging and they, like, saw Scott Adkins on an adjacent soundstage or something and were all, “Hey Scott, you wanna come over here and punch up a quick action scene?”

In some ways, this is rote, by the numbers stuff. Not really bad, it does have that one great sequence, but not especially great either. It fits the idea of a $100 million Netflix Programmer to a tee. The elements all feel like they came out of an algorithm, so they made it, it came out, and for a few days people were like, oh cool, a Jamie Foxx vampire hunter movie featuring Snoop Dogg and Dave Franco? I can put that on while I’m doing my laundry. Sadly, such is the fate of most Netflix programmers. **1/2

So there you have it, two movies destined to disappear into the algorithm forever. Perhaps in, like, 40 years, there will be some boutique physical media provider like Arrow or Scream Factory that picks through the carcass of the then-long-defunct Netflix and rescues some of these films from obscurity and puts out a pristine holographic print that will look great on our giant wall-sized screens and the special features will have some nerd going on and on about how Netflix financed their movies and why their budgets appeared high but comparisons to traditional theatrical films are not apples to apples. In the meantime, the Six Weeks of Halloween will march on this weekend with… hmmm, I haven’t quite decided yet. Golden Age Slashers? Killer Kids? Don’t? Only one way to find out!

Giallo Essentials

A recurring theme on these Six Weeks of Halloween marathons has been the continuing exploration of the seemingly endless throngs of Italian Giallo films. Whether it be obscure, forgotten examples, movies from a specific year, a focus on directors, actresses (other actresses), or just random selections, I’ve watched a bunch of these movies but have only really begun to scratch the surface. As such, in prepping this year’s themes, I had one film already on my radar, and I noticed that it was part of this handsome Giallo Essentials (Red) collection from Arrow (physical media: also a common theme of the 6WH). As a collection, it actually covers the evolution of the Giallo pretty well, so let’s pour some J&B into a fucking highball glass and dive in:

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 2 – Giallo Essentials

The Possessed – A depressed writer visits a resort with the intention of finishing a book, but really it’s to reconnect with a woman he was infatuated with… a woman who worked at the resort. However, it appears she died under mysterious circumstances while he was away, and he must untangle a web of familial intrigue and jumbled memories to get to the truth.

The Possessed

This 1965 entry is an early example of the Giallo, actually more of a proto-Giallo that incorporates some tropes from Mario Bava’s earlier The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963, arguably the first “official” Giallo) or Blood and Black Lace (1964). Indeed, it feels more like an arthouse noir movie than a Giallo. Sure, the visiting writer unravels a seaside town murder premise is a surprisingly common one, the mystery is somewhat lurid and seemingly (but not really) convoluted, and there are other hallmarks of the genre like a short glimpse of a gloved hand wielding a straight razor. But it’s like the volume is turned down on all of these elements.

There is much more focus on fuzzy memories and dreamlike sequences, black and white photography, and arthouse ennui. Think of the deliberate, mannered films of Fellini and Antonioni more than the excesses of Argento or Fulci. This doesn’t make the movie dull or anything, but it’s certainly not the cavalcade of schlock that a lot of Giallo movies embrace. Director Luigi Bazzoni clearly has a good eye, and the stark, contrasting visuals of the black and white photography are striking, particularly when it comes to scenes that take place near the glimmering lake.

The dreamlike nature of the plot, as our protagonist frequently has daydreams or flashbacks or hallucinations or just straight up nightmares, has you wondering if any of what you’re watching is actually happening. The editing sometimes emphasizes this uncertainty, as you move from one conventional scene to a dream sequence and back again without much fanfare. Sometimes you get the standard jolting awake in bed to indicate a dream sequence, but the transition isn’t always that clear. That sort of disorientation is clearly part of the point, emphasizing the unreliability of memory and how an event can spiral out of control. It’s a difficult line to walk, but the artistry on display here is up to that task.

It’s an early, transitional example of the genre that does illuminate how the Italian cinema scene was evolving at the time. It’s probably not the best introduction to Giallo movies, but the elements are all there, even if they are somewhat restrained. **1/2

The Fifth Cord – A journalist investigates a series of attacks and murders that seemingly implicate him as the killer. Now this is a quintessential Giallo film with all the trimmings.

The Giallo sub-genre had been emerging in the 60s, but really took off with the release of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage in 1970. This movie, which was also directed Luigi Bazzoni and came out in 1971, owes a big debt to Argento, and it represents a fascinating contrast with The Possessed. Lots of similar elements, but the volume is turned up to 11 here.

The Fifth Cord

All the standard boxes are checked: The gloved killer, fisheye POV shots, people chugging J&B Whisky, red herrings galore, a Hitchcockian “wrong man” premise, Franco Nero sporting a bitchin pornostache, a swanky Ennio Morricone score, and exceptional cinematography from the Oscar winning cinematographer of Apocalypse Now (amongst many others). Everything you could possibly want out of a Giallo is here, with the possible exception of an overly convoluted story with an almost nonsensical conclusion (and alright, maybe the title could be a tad more baroque). For a film with such a dense list of characters and relationships, it’s got a pretty conventional plot, but they compensate with the aforementioned visual flare.

You know how noir films are infamous for using Venetian blinds to symbolize the bars of imprisonment? Well The Fifth Cord amps that up to the nth degree – there are an absurd amount of shots in this film that emphasize the window blinds or other symbolic bars that surround and imprison the characters. One other thing that struck me about watching these films this weekend was how they contrast with the current overuse of greenscreen techniques – it’s a real treat to watch a movie that is clearly shot on location. And not just any location; these are all visually striking and memorable locations. These also play into the use of extreme wide shots, emphasizing the isolation of the characters.

A wide shot from The Fifth Cord

This is clearly the best film in the Arrow set, and it’s a pretty great example of the genre. It’s certainly not my favorite Giallo, but it still rips. ***

The Pyjama Girl Case – In Australia, a retired police inspector investigates a half-burned body found on the beach. Also, a woman named Glenda sleeps around, gets married, continues to sleep around, and complications ensue. How will these two stories connect?

By 1977, the Giallo was starting to flame out. Still plenty of examples being released, but the formula had grown stale and more and more films were deviating considerably. This is a pretty good example of that sort of thing, and it’s a movie that takes some pretty big swings. In particular the seemingly disconnected dueling plots are interesting, even if it does mess with the pacing a bit.

Ray Milland in The Pyjama Girl Case

The procedural bits are reasonably well done, especially Ray Milland’s performance as the grumpy inspector who’s seen it all coming out of retirement for one last case. The plot surrounding Glenda harkens back to a more arthouse character, albeit one with a much more horny and lurid bent than most such things. There are two big twists in the film, one of which happens midway through the movie and is genuinely shocking, while the other was not entirely unexpected but represents a worthwhile conclusion.

Along the way, there are several frankly bizarre sequences. The most famous sequence in the film is when the police, still unsure of the murder victim’s identity, put her nude, partially burned body on display for the public. It’s almost portrayed like an art exhibit, and the film is clearly trying to indict its audience for its lurid curiosity in watching movies like this. Or it just wants to be as sleazy and ludicrous as possible. This, in turn, speaks to the objectification that Glenda receives on her side of the plot. Another infamous sequence is when some guy hires a prostitute, says his nephew is too young to participate, but invites him along to watch anyway. So gross it’s almost hilarious. I don’t want to make too much of this film’s commentary on misogyny because there’s so much of it on display that it becomes an almost have your cake and eat it too situation.

Usually when someone says that a film takes “big swings”, the “and missed” is implied… and I don’t know that this is really any different. Maybe they made contact, but it was a foul ball? Or something? It’s one of those interesting failure type movies that could go either way. I’m not entirely sure it belongs in a “Giallo Essentials” set, but I’m also glad I watched it and there’s a lot to chew on here. **1/2

As usual, the Arrow discs are jam packed with special features, including informative commentary tracks (I have not watched/listened to all of them, but what I sampled was good), solid new interviews with experts and critics, and great looking transfers. I continue to be fascinated by the sub-genre, and you’ll probably see at least one weekly theme every year for a while (and Arrow has several other Giallo Essentials sets, hmmm). Anywho, stay tuned, we’ve got some recent releases coming up on Wednesday…

Quatermass

Professor Bernard Quatermass is a fictional scientist featured prominently in a series of early 1950s BBC science fiction serials. He’s the head of the British Experimental Rocket Group and he continually finds himself dealing with strange alien plots to take over the world or destroy humanity. There were three 6-episode serials aired on BBC television in the 1950s, and each of them were condensed and remade by Hammer Film Productions for the cinema. There have been a couple of revivals and remakes over the intervening decades, but it actually seems ripe for a more modern interpretation.

I first heard of Quatermass from an interview with John Carpenter a while back. I can’t find that article anymore, but Quatermass clearly made an impression on a young Carpenter, who would go on to make a few films that clearly show that influence (notably Prince of Darkness and maybe even The Thing). It all certainly sounded intriguing, so let’s take a look at a couple of these suckers:

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 1.5 – Quatermass

The Quatermass Xperiment – The first manned British spacecraft is presumed lost in space until it crashes into a farmer’s field. British authorities arrive, led by Professor Quatermass, and manage to pry open the craft, finding only one of the three crewmembers. The sole survivor is unable to speak and appears to be going through some sort of agonizing physical metamorphasis. What happened to the other two crewmembers? What will become of the survivor? Only Professor Quatermass can save the day!

The Quatermass Xperiment

An early example of British Sci-Fi, this does predate a lot of things that are more famous. For instance, the Cold War assimilation themes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers are featured here in a similar way (albeit, to my mind, in a less effective manner). There’s just something quaint about this era of science fiction film. Scientists in suits battling rubber monsters, luddite politicians and cops, retro futuristic technology, it’s all in good fun.

All that being said, it’s not the most exciting film, especially in the early proceedings. Lots of jabbering and exposition, which, to be fair, is a hallmark of the genre, but there are more effective versions of that sort of thing. The pacing gets a bit tedious and it doesn’t really pick up until the end, which is suitably engaging. There are some interesting ideas tossed off here and there that could certainly fire up the imagination, such that it’s easy to see how so many future filmmakers were inspired by this series. Fans of early Doctor Who will probably also get a kick out of this, a clear precursor to that more famous series.

The actor they got to play Quatermass was an American named Brian Donlevy, which may have helped Hammer sell the film more effectively in foreign markets, but was definitely controversial back at home. Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale infamously hated the decision, and I will say that I think I can see his point. Donlevy would reprise the role in the sequel, but was eventually replaced, and it does seem like a clear case of miscasting.

Ultimately, it’s interesting that this micro-budget British SF B-Movie casts such a long shadow and displays a considerable influence on the genre, but it does seem like one of those things that would only be of interest to students of the genre. There are pleasures to be had here, to be sure, but I was certainly hoping for more. **

Quatermass and the Pit – A construction crew working in the London Underground unearth an ancient Martian spaceship. As Quatermass and team explore its mysteries, it appears to exert a psychic influence on those around it. Will the same fate of these doomed Martians befall humanity?

Quatermass and the Pit

Made a dozen years later, this film boasts several improvements over the first movie. Quatermass is now played by Scottish actor Andrew Keir, who seems to be almost universally recognized as a better fit for the role. Director Roy Ward Baker also does a bit better with the visuals, despite a clearly limited budget. This is in color, which isn’t inherently better than black and white or anything, but it does look more appealing and you can tell why Hammer is known for its vivid colors. This does still retain that early Doctor Who hokeyness, and the pacing remains a bit sluggish at times as well.

Even though the effects aren’t particularly great, and the Martian creature designs are a bit lacking, the psychic playback of the last days of life on Mars is genuinely unnerving and even a little surreal. That otherworldly quality is captured a few times throughout the film, and it can be quite effective. As with the first film, there are some interesting ideas explored here.

Again, this is a favorite film of filmmakers like John Carpenter and Joe Dante and you can see the influence in their work for sure. While this is an improvement over the first film and is generally regarded as the best Quatermass, I still think it is mostly of interest to students of the genre or folks who want to trace influence within science fiction and horror. Which, like, I am, so I enjoyed myself well enough, but it’s not something I’d recommend over other classic 50s alien invasion flicks. **

I did not get to Quatermass II, but feel pretty confident that I would have a similar feeling about that one. This basically wraps up the Hammer Horror portion of this year’s Six Weeks of Halloween. Next up: Giallo Essentials, the cinema of my people! See you on Sunday…

Six Weeks of Halloween 2022: Hammer Horror

The word Halloween is a contraction of the words “hallowed” and “evening” (or “All Hallows’ Evening”) and dates back to 18th century Scotland. Naturally, there were several interim contractions on its way to the word we know and love, like the way “evening” became “eve” or “e’en” then eventually dropped the apostrophe in the eternal way that language mutates and evolves.

Around these parts, we celebrate that Hallowed E’en by watching a veritable plethora of horror movies (and reading some spooky books as well) for the six weeks leading up to the big day. Why six weeks? Well, that used to be two weeks better than most folks’ marathons, but it seems like people have been engaging in a little seasonal creep of late, and now this is just sorta de rigueur. Regardless, it’s always a fun time to engage in such a marathon, with the season already being festooned with mutilated gourds, decorative corpses, ornamental headstones covered with ironic puns, and picturesque cobwebs adorned with grotesque plastic spiders, amongst other nominally ghastly traditions. Not to mention that the pumpkin spice must flow. I look forward to this season more and more every year, and I’m so happy it has arrived.

It’s traditional to start the marathon with a theme that is a little more venerable and classy than usual. Which is not to say that it won’t be schlocky fun, just that there will be some element to the theme that hints towards respectability. Things like silent moviesforeign filmswell curated flicksclassic anthologies, and the like. This year, we begin our marathon with a series of Hammer Horror flicks. This was originally a planned theme way back in 2009, but I only really got to two of the more famous entries in the company’s catalogue.

Hammer Film Productions started as something of a generic studio built around “quota quickies“; cheap, domestic B-movies designed to fill gaps in cinema schedules. They are most famous, however, for their series of Gothic horror films and revivals of the old Universal Monster movies – now in vivid colour! Quite honestly, I’ve always been more interested in their non-Dracula/Frankenstein efforts. I’ve come to love the originals so much that the Hammer takes, while interesting, don’t do a whole lot for me. So we’ve got three Hammer originals and one Universal Monster update this week, let’s dive in:

Week 1: Hammer Horror

The Devil Rides Out – This textbook tale of Satanic Panic tells the story of two aristocrats investigating their protegé, who seems to have fallen under the spell of an occult plot to summon the devil. Fortunately, the Duc de Richleau knows his black magic and devises a plan to counter the deadly Satanist, Mocata. Hijinks ensue.

The Devil Rides Out

So we’ve got the standard Hammer horror gothic visuals, always effective, mixed in with a tale of mediums, mystics, Aleister Crowley-esque cults, and the goat-headed Devil Himself. Hammer regular Christopher Lee leads the charge as the suave but hard-edged Duc de Richleau, a surprising turn as a hero given Lee’s usual portrayal of sinister monsters. It’s all effective in its own, old-fashioned way, though I suspect it might not connect with modern audiences quite as well as it did at the time. This has a reputation of being top-tier Hammer, and I can see why, even if I’m not entirely in love with it. Still, there are lots of things to love.

For instance, the circle of protection sequence is visually striking and tense. The effects are clearly dated, but just the general geometry of the shots is effective enough. One of the funny things about this movie is that everyone is a filthy rich aristocrat, such that when they need to create this 20 foot pentagram on the floor, of course there’s a giant room in the house that’s seemingly tailor made for such a purpose.

There’s a long series of Duc de Richleau novels written by Dennis Wheatley and apparently Christopher Lee always wanted to reprise this role in additional adventures, but alas, no sequels were made. In any case, I enjoyed this quite a bit. Though it’s clearly an old-fashioned tale in many ways, it still has some effective stuff going on and it made for a good intro to the Six Weeks of Halloween. ***

Scream of Fear (aka Taste of Fear) – A wheelchair-bound young woman returns to her father’s estate after ten years away. She’s told that he’s away on business and that he’s been feeling ill of late. Suspicious, she explores the grounds at night and sees a vision of her father’s dead body. Naturally, no one believes her and it appears as if her seemingly friendly (but obviously wicked) stepmother and the local doctor are plotting something nefarious. Will she overcome their schemes?

Taste of Fear

Hammer is known for their vivid colors and gothic imagery, but this is more of a modern (er, for the 1950s) thriller and it’s filmed in black & white. It looks great and it channels more of a Hitchcockian feel than most of Hammer’s catalogue. Actually this feels even more like a play on Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique, what with the water-logged corpse and all (mild spoilers, I guess, sorry). Weirdly enough, I also got a pretty strong Giallo vibe out of this, especially the last 20 minutes or so, when the twists and revelations start flying with reckless abandon. There’s an absurdity to the whole thing that should annoy me and trigger nitpicking impulses, but instead I just found myself utterly delighted.

The first hour is perhaps a tad slow, though there’s a well established atmosphere of mystery and growing dread. The sequences where she sees her dead father, but then gets gaslit when she tries to convince everyone around her – they are effective but maybe a bit repetitive. But it’s all worth it for that ending. As the film’s tagline implores: FOR MAXIMUM THRILL . . . WE EARNESTLY URGE YOU TO SEE THIS MOTION PICTURE FROM THE START!

I don’t want to oversell the ending or anything, but this was clearly my favorite movie of the weekend and probably my favorite Hammer Horror flick too. It’s a shame it’s so hard to find – it doesn’t appear to be available on any streaming service. I watched it on Indicator’s excellent Blu-Ray, which has both UK and US versions and tons of special features. If you’re a physical media nut and you like this sort of stately thriller, it’s worth a splurge. ***1/2

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter – When several young girls are found dead, mysteriously aged and drained of blood, the local doctor calls on his old army friend Captain Kronos, an infamous vampire hunter, for help. With the aid of the hunchbacked Professor Hieronymus Grost and a local peasant girl, Kronos and the good doctor set about ridding the area of the vampiric menace.

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

There’s this thing that lots of movies do where they scoff at the existing vampire lore that we all know and love, instead laying out a new series of rules that are treated as if it’s always been that way (e.g. “Of course vampires don’t care about garlic, you watch too many movies!”) But Captain Kronos takes a genuinely unique tact in positing that every piece of vampire lore you ever heard of is true, it’s just that they are attributable to different strains of vampire. As such, the first task of the vampire hunter is to figure out what type of vampire you’re dealing with, find its weaknesses, and only then do you strike. It’s a sort of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too scenario, because it allows Kronos and his hunchback sidekick to throw out weird lore you’ve never heard of, while also not betraying what you already know. It’s actually a pretty effective approach.

In practice, this does sag a bit in the middle as they try to zero in on the vampire. On the other hand, there’s a great deal of swashbuckling and horse riding going on throughout which can be fun. There’s one sequence where Kronos is confronted by a local group of cutthroats that he quickly dispatches with his samurai sword. It’s one of those sequences where you only see him pull the sword, then almost immediately the sword is back in the sheath, cut to a wide shot, where you see the bad guys collapse from their wounds. Indeed, most of the action takes place in creative ways rather than utilizing special effects. A more modern take would have done the thing where one of the cutthroats staggers back and then the top half of his skull slides off and blood squirts everywhere. Blood and gore have their place, but this movie takes a more restrained approach and it’s actually kinda refreshing to see things happening in reflections or shadows.

Since we’ve reached the mid 1970s with this one, there’s also a fair amount of skin on display. Kronos spends a fair amount of time shirtless and hanging out with Caroline Munro, whose long hair is often… strategically placed (a la the Austin Powers gag), which I guess was somewhat risque for the time. At this point, Hammer was running into financial issues, so a Kronos series never materialized, but this does seem ripe for a sequel or remake for sure. This isn’t exactly top tier stuff, but it’s quite enjoyable. **1/2

The Mummy (1959) – Archaeologists discover the 4,000-year-old tomb of Princess Ananka and almost immediately begin to perish in mysterious accidents and murders. It appears that someone has enlisted the help of a mummy to take revenge on those responsible for the desecration of the sacred tomb, and the last remaining archaeologist must find a way to survive the mummy’s wrath.

The Mummy

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Universal classic of the same name, but this does strike me as an improvement over that original film, even if it does fall victim to similar hammy tendencies. Still, Peter Cushing brings a classy refinement to the proceedings and Christopher Lee plays the mummy in an imposing and menacing way. I love Boris Karloff, but if I remember correctly, he spends an awful lot of time not in mummy form… Even George Pastell, who plays the keeper of the mummy, stands his own when facing Peter Cushing.

This is ultimately standard mummy fare, slightly elevated by better effects and the vivid Technicolor that Hammer is famous for. I’m glad I caught up with it for sure, though it’s not exactly top tier stuff. **1/2

A pretty great start to the marathon here, stay tuned for some more Hammer on Wednesday, and next week, Giallo Essentials!

Halloween Reading Roundup

We watch a lot of movies during the Six Weeks of Halloween, but there’s also a fair amount of spooky season’s readings to cover as well. As with this year’s movie watching, our Halloween reading pace has also slackened somewhat from the pandemic-fueled record set last year. I still ended up getting through eight books, which actually isn’t that far off the record, though a couple were shorter and I was still chiseling away at one even after the big day. I used to interweave some book posts throughout the marathon, but we’ll just have to do this one big roundup at the end of the season. We’ve got a lot to get through, so not all will be particularly in-depth analyses, but let’s take a looksee:

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Reading Roundup

Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King – At this point, it’s almost a cliché to read Stephen King during the Halloween Season, but after reading Night Shift last year, I resolved to explore more of King’s short fiction. As it turns out this was the first book I started and the last book I finished during the season. Short Story collections tend to be, by their very nature, uneven affairs. But when you’ve got a stack of seasonal reads, a book like this makes for the perfect transition between larger works. As such, I was continually dipping into this collection throughout the entire marathon, only finishing it off yesterday (almost a week after Halloween). Clocking in at around 700 pages, that’s not too surprising, I guess, but it was an overall enjoyable read.

“Dolan’s Cadillac” kicks off the collection with a bang and it’s one of the best in the entire collection. More of a horror inflected crime/revenge story than anything else, I appreciated the procedural attention to detail and care with which King constructed the story. “The Night Flier” is a neat little modern (er, for the 80s) spin on vampires, and I very distinctly remember enjoying the movie adaptation that probably won’t live up to my memory (but it’s conspicuously absent from streaming and I’m not willing to spend $65 for a used VHS or DVD to test that theory out). “Home Delivery” is my kinda zombie story. “The Ten O’Clock People” is great, reminiscent of Carpenter’s They Live, but to my mind, better and more horrific (perhaps less pointed or angry in political terms, but creepier in execution for sure). “Crouch End” features the obligatory Lovecraft homage, and is pretty well done iteration of those tropes.

As expected, some stories didn’t really strike a nerve with me (like “The Moving Finger” or “My Pretty Pony”) and one thing I noticed in comparison to Night Shift is that these newer stories all seem longer and more verbose than the earlier ones. When it comes to the good stories mentioned above, that’s not really a problem, but there are a fair amount of stories that I thought were decent but dragged a bit (like “Sneakers” or “You Know They Got a Hell of a Band”). Finally, there are some things that don’t especially fit at all, notably “Head Down”, which is non-fiction about King’s son’s little league baseball team (which, oddly, is also the longest story of the bunch). All in all, though, it’s a pretty solid collection, and while it sags at times, it feels like it got stronger as it went. I will probably continue this trend of a Stephen King short story collection next year, as I kinda enjoy having something to slip in and out of throughout the season.


Winter Moon by Dean Koontz – I know Koontz takes a lot of heat, especially from Stephen King fans, but he’s always been a favorite. That said, he’s extremely repetitive and I’ve never quite managed to rekindle that initial burst of enthusiasm I got from his stuff when I discovered his books in high school. Part of that may be because I’m older and wiser now (haha, right – ed), part of it may be that I’ve already read his best stuff, but most likely it’s that Koontz is very prolific and tends to repeat certain tropes over and over again. That said, there was a period in the 80s and early 90s in which he was really on fire. I’ve actually had some luck earlier this year reading Mr. Murder and The Bad Place, both of which were quite fun (especially the latter, which I found surprisingly entertaining and weird).

Winter Moon was apparently a rewrite of one of Koontz’s earlier works, published under a pseudonym. Supposedly the rewrite used very little of the original text, so it was kinda considered a new novel at the time. Anyway, it’s a fun little alien invasion flick, with the usual sprinkling of Koontzian tropes. Great opening shootout with our police officer protagonist, after which his wife becomes a little paranoid (but not without reason), and the precocious child does his best, etc… Then there’s a parallel story in set in Montana that’s a little more unusual, but you eventually see how the two stories will dovetail. There’s some time spent just kinda waiting for the pieces to fall into place, but it’s easy-going page-turner stuff. Certainly not one of Koontz’s best and not something I’d recommend starting with, but it was entertaining enough.


Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror by W. Scott Poole – The premise of this nonfiction book is that the devastating violence and bloodshed of World War I planted the seeds of all modern horror. Poole is a historian, so it’s not surprising that a fair proportion of this book is spent chronicling various factual aspects of WWI. He’s good at capturing the outrage and senselessness of the war and even if you’re more interested in the artistic side of this premise, the historical details are still engaging and interesting.

These details are then applied to the emergence of various horror trends of the era, particularly given the prominence and influence of German filmmakers on the genre. He briefly sketches out the lives of several prominent authors and directors, including the likes of F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, James Whale, H.P. Lovecraft, Franz Kafka, and several others. Biographical information is relayed in addition to the prominent works of horror they produced.

Unfortunately, it does feel a bit like he’s stretching to make the details fit his thesis, rather than truly developing it. As a result, the book feels narrowly focused, like Poole was only concerned with a small part of what makes a lot of these works great. There’s also not much in the way of tracing this influence far beyond the war. It seems obvious that art produced during the 20s and 30s would be influenced by the war, but how does that influence expand beyond those works through the subsequent decades (even up until today).

None of which is to belittle what the book is doing here. If you’re already interested in the horror stories of the era, it’s a pretty good overview (if you’re not, then it might not hold interest – as mentioned, it doesn’t do much connecting those works to contemporary horror, so there’s not even an in there). I suppose if you were a history buff who never had much interest in the horror genre, it might be eye opening. I liked it well enough, though again, I do feel it was stretching to fit the thesis.


The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix – I feel like I should like Hendrix’s work more than I do. I really enjoyed the nonfiction Paperbacks from Hell, and We Sold Our Souls was a nice spin on some specific tropes that I found diverting enough (if not amazing or anything). This book, chronicling the travails of real-life final girls as a killer starts picking them off one by one, should really be up my alley.

To be sure, there are a lot of interesting elements here. In the world of this book, all the slasher franchises we know and love from the eighties were based on real stories with real final girls. They have slightly modified names (i.e. our main protagonist is the basis for the Slay Bells series of movies, which are very obviously styled after Silent Night, Deadly Night), but they’re all there. Of course, this sort of exposure comes with its own challenges. There’s a whole seedy and exploitative side to the situation that Hendrix covers aptly. Some of the girls handle it well, others do not. Twenty years later, they’re mostly a group of basket cases. This is perhaps not unrealistic, but it’s also no fun at all. Which I get. The trauma of such events should not be minimized. But you have to make up for that somehow, and Hendrix seems to think having a main protagonist be utterly and completely incompetent is compelling, and it’s not.

I really, really disliked our protagonist. It’s excusable that she did dumb stuff as a teen that wasn’t expecting to be hunted buy a Santa killer. Twenty years later, being paranoid and supposedly prepared, it turns out that she still constantly makes dumb decisions. Perhaps this is more of a “me” thing than the book’s fault, but I really had a hard time rooting for her. The reason we like final girls in horror movies is that they aren’t generally dumb and are capable of fighting back and even defeating the killer. I get that this story is supposed to be more based in realism, but the precept holds: competent protagonists are much more likeable than stupid ones. She even admits, late in the story when she did something tremendously stupid and underestimates a suspect: “I am stupid. I am dumb.” Right, but self-awareness does not inoculate the author from having a stupid protagonist. The worst thing is that she doesn’t need to be incompetent for this story to work. You could make a commentary on how paranoia and preparedness are sometimes not enough and maybe even the price of such precautions is too much… without having to make the character a total dunce.

There’s arguably too much weight on realism in this story, but otherwise, there’s a skeleton of a good plot here. Even some of the realistic stuff represents interesting extrapolations on a world where final girls were real things, and the various explorations of each final girl’s story and the franchises they spawned are great. As mentioned above, though, Hendrix chose perhaps the least likeable of the bunch as his main protagonist – the others all seem much more interesting and active. I listened to the audiobook for this, which probably didn’t help. It’s read by Adrienne King, who was the final girl in the original Friday the 13th. She’s not the worst reader I’ve heard, but it still comes off as more of a stunt than a great choice. I found a lot of things grating about the book, so maybe it’s hard to separate that from the performance, but whatever. I really did not enjoy this book, which is a shame, because it should have been up my alley. One of these days I’ll find a slasher novel that works for me…


Last Days by Brian Evenson – Evenson is my favorite discovery of the year. There’s something of a cult status being built up around him, and after having read a couple books during this Halloween season, I can easily see why. He’s got a simplistic, straightforward style that is deceptively cerebral in nature, and deeply unsettling.

Last Days by Brian Evenson book cover

This story of this novel concerns an amputation-obsessed cult that hires a detective (who had his hand chopped off during his last case – and thus is considered trustworthy by the cult) to solve a murder. Naturally, all is not what it seems. What starts as a detective procedural with a Kafka-esque bent, eventually turns (or perhaps curdles) into something more odd and violent than you might expect.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t spend much more time on it, though I guess that implies the story has more surprises and gotcha twists than it really does. I mean, our detective certainly makes deductions I wasn’t expecting and there are twists, but they’re hard to describe and unlike your usual mysteries. I really enjoyed the weirdness though, and while it’s subtly stylish stuff, it’s still page turning material. Worth seeking out if you’re not scared of strange stuff off the beaten path…


Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson – This collection of short stories might be a better place to start than Last Days, but they’re both pretty short books. I found it interesting reading this in contrast to King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes. Where I found King’s stories to be relatively long (approximately 30 pages with small type/spacing) and verbose, Evenson’s are generally very short (approximately 10 pages, not as densely printed), stripped down, and simple… but no less disturbing.

Stories range from the straightforward horror type, to more adventurous blends of genres, even including a few science fiction tales. You’ve got the obligatory Lovecraft homage (one of the aforementioned SF stories), and there are multiple stories about filmmakers that delve into the horrific.

I liked the initial entries in the book, but either the stories got better as it it went or I simply got on Evenson’s wavelength, because my opinion of this book kept rising as I read (an unusual experience with a short story collection, which is typically more of a wave of ups and downs – I suppose that’s also true here, but the stories are short enough that the amplitude of said waves isn’t that high). If Evenson’s brand of weird and disquieting horror sounds like your thing, check it out. I will most certainly be revisiting his work next year.


Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar – A serial killer story with a metafictional twist, this novel is essentially a fictional true crime novel. As such, you don’t get the bombastic serial killer tropes here, only the difficult to reconstruct details of each murder scene and a little about the victim’s life. It’s a fascinating exercise and a premise that mostly delivers what it promises, though I will say that I’m not exactly an expert on true crime.

It did feel more like a memoir than true crime at times, but again, I’m not sure how much of this is a departure from true crime or not (i.e. are a lot of true crime novels also sorta memoirs about the author’s life too?) Either way, the story works well enough for what it is. Again, don’t expect the exciting, pulse-pounding tropes of more trashy serial killer narratives. But it’s not a hollow, overheated stylistic exercise either. It’s a sorta sober examination of a series of murders in the author’s hometown. Unlike a lot of true crime, this one is eventually solved, and the book takes the form of a second edition, with some additional chapters at the end (because the fictional crimes were solved long after the fictional true crime book was fictionally published, so the fictional author was approached by the fictional publisher to revise the fictional book for a fictional second edition – everyone got that?) It works as a story, but also as a metatextual narrative, which is pretty interesting.


Danse Macabre by Stephen King – And so we return to Stephen King, this time working in non-fiction mode as he examines what makes the horror genre tick. Writing in the early 80s, he’s mostly covering older works from his childhood, though he does spend some time on contemporary (i.e. late 70s) horror as well. That part represents an interesting time capsule to see what horror movies resonated at the time, versus the ones that have survived the test of time and are still well known today.

He covers literature and movies, with some time spent on radio and the pulps and whatnot. There’s good overviews of a lot of what makes the genre tick, and he traces things back to originators like Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (the latter of which King posits as the origin of modern werewolf stories, which I’m not sure I’d ever heard before).

It’s always interesting to get some perspective on an author like King and how he understands his own work, but I’m guessing there’s a lot to quibble with too. If you’ve ever read King’s column in Entertainment magazine back in the day, well, it’s perhaps not quite that lightweight, but sometimes he strikes off in a direction that seems a bit more flimsy than you might expect. Still, if you’re interested in horror’s evolution through the 50s and 60s, with a little of the 70s, this book will be most interesting for you. Personally, it feels like he might have written it a few years too early – the 80s were an interesting time for horror, and most of that is elided here simply because of when he wrote the book. Hard to blame him for that, so this is definitely another me problem, but the horror heart wants what it wants. I’d recommend King’s On Writing much more than Danse Macabre, but they’re also very different takes on non-fiction, so make of that what you will. King’s always interesting though…


Another Season’s Readings in the books. I’m allready thinking of things I’m going to watch and read for next year’s Six Weeks of Halloween marathon, which is always a good sign…

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Speed Round

In accordance with tradition, we finish off the Six Weeks of Halloween with 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 56 horror (or horror-adjacent) movies during this Halloween season (likely to jump up to 58 tonight). This is a welcome dip from last year’s pandemic-fueled record pace of 71 films and much more in line with pre-pandemic viewing patterns. Still plenty of stuff to cover in this Speed Round though, and we’ll have another post next week to cover Season’s Readings (which experienced a similar dip from a record setting pace last year).

Hard to believe it’s already the big day. As per usual, time flies when you’re terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. Let’s finish this marathon off:

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Speed Round

The Thing – An all timer, and one of those movies I watch almost every year. Practical effects still hold up and the sheer creativity on display is still impressive, even on this umpteenth viewing. ****

Escape Room – All in good fun, the sort of thing I could see spawning a long running franchise (I meant to catch up with the sequel, but never got around to it). Still, I quite enjoyed the puzzles and execution of it all. Maybe a bit derivative, but it puts enough clever spins on the familiar stuff that it never gets boring. **1/2

The Craft – The oh so 90s answer to The Lost Boys , entertaining enough for what it is. I’m positive I saw this on cable back in the day, but I remembered almost none of the twists and turns, even if it was still a bit on the predictable side. **1/2

Christine – Another revisit, partially inspired by the Black Check Carpenter mini-series, but also I just really like this movie, apparently a lot more than most. At a certain point, the film starts to feel rushed, but it’s still one of the better Stephen King adaptations and there’s lots of great visual bits scattered throughout (the car rebuilding itself, the flaming car chase, etc…) ***

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark – I watched this because Shudder is single handedly trying to keep the idea of horror hosts alive and did an Elvira 40th Anniversary special with four movies. I only ended up watching two of them (I’d seen the other two before), including Elvira’s own, which is still quite amusing in a nostalgic way. **1/2

The City of the Dead – The other new-to-me flick from Elvira’s Shudder special, this has a wonderful atmosphere, just boatloads of fog all over, really quite spooky. I quite enjoyed it. **1/2

Deathtrap – This Sidney Lumet drama (adapted from the theater) might be my favorite discovery of the marathon, even if it barely skirts the horror genre. Certainly some creepy stuff here, and very suspenseful with a tremendous amount of clever twists and turns.

Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve in Deathtrap

Michael Caine and Dyan Cannon are great, as usual, but Christopher Reeve is the real surprising standout here. Just a delightful little film. ***1/2

Willard – Interesting and weird tale of a meek loner who befriends the rats at his mother’s dilapidated mansion and eventually grows the ability to command them to take revenge! Neat idea but it’s ultimately a bit slow and more than a little silly, though it picks up towards the end. **

The Silence of the Lambs – Another annual rewatch, I’ve already said my piece on this, but it remains a classic standby. ****

The Black Room – It seems that Boris Karloff programmers are starting to become something of an annual tradition around here. This one has great atmosphere and a few clever twists that I quite enjoyed. Karloff is great, as always, and can even make something as mundane as eating a pear into something compelling to watch. **1/2

Night Key – Another Karloff, this one distinctly less horror-focused, but he’s sorta approaching the mad-scientist-out-for-revenge territory that he excels at, though it never quite reaches horror levels. **

Angel – Part of Joe Bob’s Halloween Hoedown, this serial killer flick about sex workers in Hollywood is a weird one. Trashy but not as depraved as it could be, with a colorful supporting cast (especially Rory Calhoun) providing an almost sweet street family vibe. **1/2

Terror Train – The other Hoedown pick, I watched this during the 6WH over a decade ago, so it was nice to revisit. My thoughts on it haven’t changed much though – surprisingly tame, but ultimately entertaining and a nice spin on the slasher. **1/2

House – After the success of the first few Friday the 13th flicks, producer Sean Cunningham got the band back together for this haunted house flick. Steve Miner directs and Harry Manfredini provides the score. Then they went out and cast several sitcom stars, giving the whole thing a slight comic edge that does differentiate it from the throngs of other haunted house flicks. They do get pretty good performances out of William Katt and George Wendt, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising. Decent practical effects and some interesting designs make for an entertaining time, if not especially accomplished. **1/2

Unmasked Part 25 – What if Jason got sick of murdering amorous teens, fell in love, and settled down? Neat idea, and the opening of the film sells that premise well… but unfortunately it then descends into lots and lots of talking and whining before picking up again for the finale. The costume doesn’t have much going for it, though I guess there’s something parodic about the whole thing that glides us past the low budget. Some decent gags and a couple of laughs, but not especially a classic or anything. **

The Wolf Man – The Universal Classic Monsters: Icons of Horror Collection, which features 4K remasters of four Universal Classics. The perfect excuse to revisit these. The Wolf Man looks fantastic, really cleaned up since the last time I saw it and the story remains as effective as ever. There’s an almost unintentional quaintness to the sincerity with which it goes about explaining werewolf lore. While the concept has been around for thousands of years, much of what we think of as modern werewolf lore is established (or at least popularized) by this movie. And it helps that Lon Chaney Jr. gives a pitch perfect performance. ***

Halloween Kills – I was mixed on the 2018 Halloween reboot, but I found this sequel downright disappointing. Some stuff still works. I like that Michael Myers is portrayed as a force of nature, like a shark, always moving, always killing, always crafting ironic, elaborate dioramas out of his victims’ bodies. A scene where Myers keeps stabbing a guy with different knives walks this perfect line between funny and creepy and is just perfectly executed. There are some other bits and pieces of business sprinkled throughout. David Gordon Green is clearly a talented dude and the film looks great and has some interesting ideas. That said, it’s disappointing that Jamie Lee Curtis spends most of the movie laying in a hospital bed (and, like, not in the good way of Halloween II).

Halloween Kills

Then you get to the the whole out of control mob situation. It’s a ripe target for our times and it kinda makes sense even in context of the film, but it has really glaring execution issues. First, it makes me not like anyone (there are times when its ok to cheer for the slasher villain, but not to this extent). I know the movie isn’t trying to endorse mob justice, but the whole thing just comes off as obnoxious posturing. The over-reliance on legacy characters riling up the mob also feels kinda tacky and desperate. Second, multiple characters, including Laurie Strode, attempt to monologue away responsibility for the mob, attributing it wholly to Myers, as if it was his six-dimensional-chess plan or somesuch. It’s one thing to reflect on what we’ve become in the face of Myers, it’s another to say “look what he made us do”. The mob killed an innocent man and even when they eventually caught up with Myers, they did an awful job, hurt themselves, and didn’t know what they were dealing with. It’s sort of reactionary, but again, there’s a monologue that tries to reckon with this and it’s absolutely awful. “Michael Myers is the anger that divides us” is an actual line, delivered with a straight face. Just dreadful stuff. There was precisely one character I liked in this movie, and she was killed in a weirdly unceremonious kinda way (I’m still not sure how it happened).

I guess you could write some of this off as middle-of-a-trilogy struggles, but being self-aware that your movie is disappointing doesn’t inoculate you from the disappointment. I’m not especially excited to see where this is all heading. **

House II: The Second Story – I can’t decide if the punny subtitle is the best or the worst. Anyway, this is one of those weird 80s phenomena where a movie is successful so they greenlight a sequel, but because the first movie resolved all its issues, they end up just finding another haunted house script that’s completely disconnected and making that instead. They also reprise the whole sitcom casting strategy, this time with different folks. Don’t get me wrong: I actually tend to like this approach (Prom Night II, anyone?) That said, this is a weird movie in that it’s barely horror. It leans way more heavily into a sorta adventure story. Yeah, there’s ghosts and dead people and monsters, but none of it is played for scares. It’s entertaining enough, I guess. **

Vampire Academy – Look, this is not a good movie, but there’s the bones of something decent in here somewhere. It tends to collapse under the clumsy exposition needed to establish the worldbuilding so common in the boom of self-serious YA adaptations that was occurring at the time. However, some of the bitchy teen high school DNA from the writer and the director (who worked on stuff like Mean Girls and Heathers) sneaks in, and perhaps some polishing or budgetary help would have made this work a little better. Zoey Deutch is great, and the rest of the cast is trying, at least. Not really something I’d recommend, but I seem to have a thing for really bad modern takes on vampires. **

A Bay of Blood – Revisiting Mario Bava’s lakeside proto-slasher, I can’t help but continue laughing at how the Friday the 13th movies cribbed from the kills here (something I’ve always thought funny about this) and the absolutely bonkers ending always gets me, even though I know its coming. Worth watching for fans of Italian schlock. ***

In Search of Darkness: Part II – Basically more of the same, this sequel just goes deeper and more obscure, which is actually pretty cool. We’ve all seen the talking heads discuss the classics of 80s horror, what about obscure schlock like Nightmare? They try to break up the checklist format with quick dives into directors or actors or makeup artists, but it’s ultimately just a list of movies with talking heads commenting on them. Which is fine for what it is, and it’s actually pretty cool to dip in to this a little at a time (which you kinda have to do, given the 4.5 hour runtime). It’s solid if you like that sort of thing, which I guess I do because I watched the whole damn thing… **1/2

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown – Perfectly cromulent documentary about the life and work of H.P. Lovecraft. A little weird that so much of the movie is focused on filmmakers inspired by Lovecraft, but there’s actually pretty decent access here, and they do spread it around to writers as well. Folks like John Carpenter, Guillermo Del Toro, and Neil Gaiman all show up, which is better than you expect from something like this. **1/2

Dracula & Drácula – More from the 4K boxed set mentioned above, both versions of Dracula have been upgraded to 4K. A lot has been made out of the contrarian opinion that the Spanish language version of this movie is the superior effort, but I don’t think I fall into that camp. Sure, there’s a few camera moves and shots that are better, but not as many as I was expecting given the hype. Lupita Tovar as Eva/Mina is an improvement over Helen Chandler from the English language version. She’s more energetic and seductive (this is emphasized even in the costumes, which are more risque), which fits better than the more chaste portrayal in the other version.

However, I still find that Tod Browning’s use of atmosphere and negative space are more effective and subtle than most of the Spanish version adherents give it credit for. Also, it’s hard to beat Bela Lugosi’s otherworldly affect and piercing stares. I was also struck by how much I liked Dwight Frye’s over-the-top Renfield portrayal. Anyway, the 4K looks great, and I think the English language Dracula is probably the better of the two (also significantly shorter), but it’s nice that the Spanish language version survived and got the 4K treatment too. *** and **1/2

Lake Bodom – Stylish slasher pastiche from Finland, this turns into something different as it goes, but it makes up for the lack of slasher gore with good cinematography and tons of relatively clever twists and turns and revelations about this or that. More like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane than a typical slasher, but that’s probably a good thing. **1/2

Ghostbusters – Why do people keep trying to capture lighting in a bottle when the original did it so well? I mean, I know why, but they keep failing and boy does the new one coming (a month after Halloween for some reason) look awful. The original remains classic horror comedy comfort food. ****

Spiral – From the Book of Saw, which I guess is a thing now. This Chris Rock fronted installment comports itself well enough and compares favorably to the middle tier of the series. Not as bad as the reviews would have you believe, but it’s not really the shot in the arm it promised for the franchise either. **

Sisters – I really enjoy early De Palma, even though he’s mostly just aping Hitchcock. I mean, if you’re going to copy something, copy from the best. I first watched this almost a decade ago, and it holds up reasonably well. The split screen approach utilized a few times is really quite well done, and the Rear Window vibes are real. It kinda loses its way towards the ending, but it all works well. ***

Frankenstein – Always my favorite of the Universal Monster movies, this holds up. Maybe a little more talky than I remembered, but incredible atmosphere and a great performance from Karloff as the monster. Looks great in 4K too. ****

Halloween – I’m cheating a bit because I’m going to watch this tonight, but you don’t need me to say anything about this all time classic. There’s a reason it took top honors in the 1978 Project, and I expect this rewatch to put Halloween Kills in stark relief. ****

I’ll probably also watch Trick ‘r Treat, as I do most years, but again, you don’t need me to say more about that (it’s worth a look, though it’s perhaps not as universally beloved as the original Halloween).

It’s been a fun six weeks, and don’t worry, even though the grand holiday is passing, I’ll have one more post next week covering the Season’s Readings. Otherwise, I’ve already got some ideas for weekly themes for next year, just so you know where my head’s at. Happy Halloween folks!

Late Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock is one of my favorite directors, but while I’ll often tackle a film or two of his during the Six Weeks of Halloween, they don’t always come with Halloween vibes. The master of suspense is certainly capable of crafting amazing thrillers, and in some cases they are very influential in horror (we’re going to rewatch one of those this weekend), but sometimes you just end up with really tense thrillers.

We’ve got a pretty good mixture of elements with this selection from later in Hitch’s career, and it certainly makes for a, er, contrast to last week’s celebration of gutter trash (*ahem*). It’s also fascinating to see the texture and depth of the visuals that Hitchcock and his cinematographers achieved in contrast to the flat digital affect of the Netflix house style. As such, even though two of these are perhaps not traditional Halloween watches, I really quite enjoyed them:

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 6 – Late Hitchcock

Psycho – Look, there’s not much to say about this that hasn’t been said already by people much smarter than I, but I’m going to try. Let’s just say that if you’re reading this and you haven’t seen it, you should get thee a copy of the new 4K release and watch it, post haste!

It might seem obvious to say that the 4K restoration is the best Psycho has ever looked (on home video, at least), but Psycho wasn’t meant to be a glossy, elegant affair. It was shot on a very low budget and Hitchcock meant for the film to appear a bit grimy, as befits the story being told. The 4K release preserves that dingy feel, maintaining film grain while increasing clarity. My first viewing of Psycho was on a pan-and-scan VHS… we’ve come a long way since then.

Psycho

There’s also an “uncut” version of the film that supposedly represents what Hitchcock originally intended, but don’t worry (or get too excited, depending on your feelings on this sort of thing), the new footage only represents about a minute of screentime. There’s a shot of Marion starting to remove her bra, more focus on Norman’s bloody hands while cleaning up the murder, and a few more knife jabs at the end of the Arbogast murder represent the biggest additions. 

The movie itself remains a classic and perhaps due to its influence, it still feels modern. Indeed, its more transgressive qualities remain fully intact, even as the culture has shifted around it in the intervening decades. For instance, the sequences where Marion keeps seeing the police officer are probably more impactful today than they were at the time. Just visually, the simple choice to have him wearing sunglasses is almost comically effective, and the way Hitchcock deploys closeups of both Marion and the cop ratchet tension up. The sexy stuff is incredibly tame by today’s standards, but it still feels a little risque, especially when you consider the ending.

Psycho

I don’t normally rewatch movies for these weekly theme posts (which is why a lot of these posts feature obscure or forgotten works), but I figured this was a worthy exception to that rule. It’s the most “horror” centric film Hitchcock ever made and it’s a measure of the shadow this film casts that Hitch is seen as a horror director when this is really more of an exception in his filmography… Gets better every time I watch it. ****

Marnie – Meet Marnie! Played by Tippi Hedron, she’s a kleptomaniac whose latest boss, played by Sean Connery, is on to her game. How will Marnie deal with his blackmail games? Hitchcock often plays with certain recurrent themes in his work, and there are some who view this sort of personal indulgence as the height of his career. This sort of praise is most evident with respect to the more famous Vertigo, but Marnie hits many of the same notes. Perhaps because it’s a bit more complicated (read: problematic) on the psychosexual front, it hasn’t garnered more of a following.

Marnie

I’m reminded of a Hitchock ripoff we watched earlier in the 6WH, Trauma. A sorta female-centric retread of Psycho, that movie also recalls Marnie. The character of Marnie is not a murderer, to be sure, but her criminal mind is the result of deep-seated trauma. The film does represent an excellent character study of Marnie though, and Tippi Hedron gives a fantastic performance. Unfortunately, Hitch has a bit of a problem, as represented by Sean Connery’s character. As a sorta psychology dilettante, his efforts to “cure” Marnie of her trauma are undercut by his methods, which include blackmail and even rape. There’s something interesting there worth exploring, but Hitch ends up leaving it hanging like a bad curveball, perhaps expecting the character to get away with it because of Connery’s star power and charisma.

So maybe he bit off more than he could chew, but Hitch is still operating at the height of his craft here. Lots of visual flourishes and motifs are spread throughout the film, and there are several memorable shots and sequences. The only thing resembling traditional horror/suspense flare is the robbery sequence, which is not split-screen but almost framed as such, and Hitch wrings every drop of suspense he can out of it. Textbook stuff, so much so that it might seem cliched at this point, but it’s still a joy to watch the master at work.

There’s a crane shot moving from the second floor down to the first that recalls a similar movement from Notorious, this time leading into a reveal of someone from Marnie’s past that could cause problems (it’s hard to call this a setpiece, but Hitch draws the tension out here as well). The rape sequence is surprisingly restrained, and like Psycho‘s shower scene, almost more disturbing because you don’t really see anything. We just see Marnie’s glassy eyes as the camera dollys and tilts towards the bed. Distressingly effective, even if it’s the most troubling scene of the movie. Finally, there’s a fox hunt scene where Marnie has a horseback riding accident that is just masterfully captured. There’s one aerial shot that almost makes me wish Hitch would have made a classic Hollywood style western.

So it might not quite be the incisive exploration of trauma that was intended, as there are some serious flaws, but I can’t help but appreciate the filmmaking arsenal that Hitch deploys. It almost makes up for the story’s deficiencies. At 131 minutes, it’s a tad long, but I think justified. I can’t help but think that this sort of impeccably crafted dramatic thriller is rarely made anymore, which is also a point in its favor. Perhaps not top tier Hitchcock, but that’s a high bar to clear. ***

Family Plot – Hitchcock’s final film might not light the screen on fire and given where cinema was in 1976, it doesn’t quite stack up, but as a sorta throwback thriller it works better than you might think. And whatever you may think of the film, ending legendary career with a literal wink at the camera is absolutely perfect.

Family Plot

The story concerns a psychic tasked by one of her wealthy clients to find a missing heir. As it turns out, the heir is a cartoonishly evil dude. The whole thing plays out like a subversion, almost a parody, of Hitchcock’s favored tropes. Sometimes this works (that ending wink, again) and sometimes it’s a bit odd (the sequence where a car with malfunctioning breaks careens down a mountain grates a bit). It sometimes approaches (but never fully commits to) farce, incorporating a knowing affect throughout. Still, there’s lots of tightly plotted twists and turns, with a central irony to the mystery that is almost textbook Hitchcock. There’s some great private detective procedural bits and the ending works pretty well.

Ultimately, there’s no way to end a career like Hitchcock’s without generating some sort of disappointment. This isn’t one of his best movies, but it’s certainly not a dud and it might even be an appropriate swansong. **1/2

Hard to believe we’re in the last week already. Stay tuned for the traditional Speed Round of movies I watched but haven’t covered in these weekly theme posts. That should go up on the big day next week.

Fellow Travelers in the Halloween Ways

It seems I’m not the only practitioner in the Halloween ways. Blogs have fallen on hard times these days, but lots of folks perk up for the spooky season. Maybe not for six weeks (like a few of us), but still, it’s fun to see what other people are doing to celebrate the Halloween season. Some of them don’t even *gasp* watch horror movies! Will wonders never cease. You might recognize a few of these, but I also tried to sprinkle in some new-to-me links, so let’s get to it.

Old Hands

Film Thoughts – Zack has long been a kindred spirit and fellow practitioner of the Six Weeks of Halloween. As per usual, the pace and scope of both what he’s watching and what he’s writing about far outstrips my output. Highlights include rewatches of the Friday the 13th series and much, much more.

Cinema Crazed – A new addition last year, I’ve enjoyed following along this year as well. Highlights include his Ranking of Michael Myers masks and a nice review of the new Alone in the Dark Blu-Ray.

Horror Movie a Day – He hasn’t posted every day for a while now, but Brian Collins’ blog remains an invaluable resource for those looking to dive deep into the genre, and I frequently find myself digging through the archives to see what he thought of something. His book is also quite helpful when it comes to weekly themes or more obscure films to seek out.

New Hands

Silent Wierdness – Yes, it’s spelled incorrectly on purpose. This is a blog that focuses on Silent Horror films, and thus I might be circling back there when looking for ideas next year. Silent Horror isn’t a weekly theme here every year, but it probably should be…

Hellowe’en Horror -Well curated collection of images, posters, screenshots, and gifs from various horror flicks.

Severed Hands

Wonderful Wonderblog – Spreading the love beyond just movies and into various spooky versions of stuff like food and merchandise and whatnot.

2021 Halloween Mix – Well, technically, this blog is titled “The Murderer’s Plague Of The Phantasmagoric Beast Of The Haunted Screaming Horror Of The Mad Scientist’s Monster’s Bride Of The Vampire’s Bloody Psychotic Alien Werewolf Curse Of The Ghost Of The Zombie That Ate The Return of Dav’s Ultimate Halloween”, but uh, yeah it’s got a nice playlist of Halloween themed music (and a long archive of similar lists).

Countdown to Halloween – If you’re still craving more brains blogs, this one has a long list of folks participating in some form of Halloween marathon…

So there you have it, I’m not the only weirdo doing stuff like this. Hard to believe we’re well into the homestretch of the Six Weeks of Halloween. Stay tuned for some Late Hitchcock on Sunday and the usual Speed Round on the big day itself…