Well, it’s that time of year again ! The month that everyone ELSE watches as many Horror movies as I usually do every other month. It’s a wonderful time of year for many other reasons too. The changing of the leaves, Pumpkin flavoured things (mainly beer), Crisp temperatures, Halloween, etc. Some would argue it’s the best time of the year, leading up the best holiday of the year ! But most wouldn’t.
Anyway, I wanted to do my October Horrorthon a bit differently this year. Generally I pick 31 movies I’ve been meaning to see but have yet to get around to. There are still tons of those, but I’ve also amassed a pretty great collection of DVD’s & Blu Rays … Which have then never been watched. Coupled with that, my wife & I celebrated out first year of marriage a few months ago and I wanted to get her a bit more involved with things.
She’s also a Horror fan, but not so much pre-90’s or low budget (or black & white, or foreign). Many people aren’t, and she has many other wonderful traits, so it’s perfectly reasonable & to be expected. She has a pretty good track record of liking really good Horror flicks though (It Follows, Starry Eyes, The Descent, Triangle, Cheap Thrills, Oculus, Big Bad Wolves, Ginger Snaps), so it’s not like she doesn’t know what’s up.
Anyway, it occurred to me that I could combine my urge to re-watch movies I’ve bought (and never re-watched) AND my urge to expose her to great Horror she has yet to see, so I went with a half-half. 15 of my selections will be stellar Horror hand-picked by me in the hopes that she’ll also dig them. 12 others will be ones I’ve seen/bought but not revisited. As a FURTHER compromise (to myself basically) the remaining 3 will be NEW/acclaimed Horror that neither of us has seen. 1 will even be in theaters ! Horrific Date Night !!
Anyway, the final selections are listed below, for your judgement/approval/hatred. Odd numbers are for Her, even numbers are for Me, though some of my selections could have made Her list as well, so we’ll see if I can rope her into more than 16 viewings. This year is a bit unorthodox, but I think I killed it. Cough.
1) May (2002)
“A lonely young woman traumatized by a difficult childhood, and her increasingly desperate attempts to connect with the people around her.”
Classic movie, and one I’m shocked wasn’t in my collection (especially since I own “Roman”. Who has “Roman” & NOT “May” ??). Easily one of the best Horror films in the past 20 years, with masterful acting & directing by McKee & Bettis. Stoked to re-watch it.
2) Deathgasm (2015)
“Two teenage boys unwittingly summon an ancient evil entity known as The Blind One by delving into black magic while trying to escape their mundane lives.”
I’ve been hearing great things about this festival darling & have had the calendar circled for weeks in anticipation (the calendar is metaphorical, I’ve circled nothing). Word is there are many laughs & much violence to be had. Colour me intrigued !
3) Attack the Block (2011)
“A teen gang in South London defend their block from an alien invasion.”
Some could argue it’s more of a Sci-Fi than a Horror, but it’s pretty damn horrific to me. Despite that, it’s just an all around great film, and one I’ve not seen a second time (despite my vocabulary adoption of “Bruv” and “Fam”). Here’s hoping it still holds up. I’m also looking forward to re-watching John Boyega, now that we know he’ll be a major part of the Star Wars series in 2 short months !
4) Scarecrows (1988)
“Five people heist the Camp Pendleton payroll, kidnap a pilot and his daughter, who are forced to fly them to Mexico. Enroute a double cross has one of the thieves parachute with the loot into an abandoned graveyard surrounded by strange scarecrows. Two of the team jump after their loot and their former partner. Everything happens during the course of one very dark night.”
It was great to see MGM finally give this the DVD release it deserved many years ago, but even better to see Scream Factory give it some extras & an HD transfer. A somewhat uneven film (as I recall), but spectacular scarecrow effects & unnerving tension throughout makes this a worthwhile choice.
5) Some Guy Who Kills People (2011)
“Ken Boyd, a lonely man fresh out of the loony bin, who sets out to kill those he deems responsible for his miserable life.”
This seemed to be an Under the Radar flick for most, which is a shame because it’s quite good. Treading more along the lines of comedy, it’s not without its bloody kills as well. He acting is too notch, and the mystery & laughs (especially the interaction between the main character and his daughter) kept me involved throughout my first viewing.
6) Xtro (1982)
“Tony’s father Sam, abducted by aliens three years earlier, returns to earth and seeks out his wife and son, but Rachel has since been living with Joe and the reunion is awkward. Joe doesn’t trust Sam, and Rachel can’t quite decide what her feelings are for her two men. Sam is not the same as when he left, and he begins affecting Tony in frightening ways.”
Now HERE’S a movie begging for an extras-packed HD release. A suitably oddball UK alien horror with an unforgettable “Woman giving birth to grown man” scene, I’m really excited to dust off this old chestnut. One I’ve not seen since my Video Store days (and probably shouldn’t have seen then, but I’ll take it).
7) Deep Red (1975)
“A musician witnesses the murder of a famous psychic, and then teams up with a fiesty reporter to find the killer while evading attempts on their lives by the unseen killer bent on keeping a dark secret buried.”
In my opinion this is easily Argento’s best film (sorry “Juno”, I mean “Suspiria” fans). I’ve actually only seen it once, but it left such an impression on me over the years. I was really more of a Fulci fan for a long time, but as I got older & re-visited the works of both directors, it was really more like comparing Tarantino to Roth (or Bay to Scott, whatever you like). Hopefully my wife can get past the year it was made & the language it was shot in, but I’ll take the risk !
8) The Offspring (1987)
“In a small Tennessee town, an historian relates four horror stories to a reporter.”
TECHNICALLY I should refer to this by it’s original title of “From a Whisper to a Scream” (especially since I’m a real stickler for using original titles for albums & films). That said, I originally found/saw this as “The Offspring”, and later became a big fan of the band by that name (though I can’t defend all of their later material). I was overjoyed to see a reversible cover on the Scream Factory release, making “The Offspring” live forever on my movie wall. This is an extremely overlooked Anthology flick, featuring the last Horror role of Vincent Price (assuming we’re not counting “Dead Heat” or “Edward Scissorhands”, because come on).
9) The Blob (1988)
“A strange lifeform consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows.”
Easily one of the better, and most overlooked, Horror remakes. A rare case of a remake improving upon the original (depending on when you were born & what you look for in Horror I suppose). Incredible practical FX, solid plot, a pre-“Saw” Shawnee Smith & an excellent ending all combine to make this almost a most classic, except among those who’ve sung its praises for years. This would make a great double bill with “Night of the Creeps”, though NOTC barely missed the cut on this years list. It may have to wait till next year to thrill me.
10) Alligator (1980)
“A baby alligator is flushed down a Chicago toilet and survives by eating discarded laboratory rats injected with growth hormones. The small reptile grows gigantic, escapes the city sewers, and goes on a rampage.”
A late addition to the list, but one I’ve been meaning to get to since acquiring the DVD years ago. Arguably the best Gator-Horror flick ever made (honestly, it’s a short list. “Eaten Alive” ? “Rogue” ?), and possibly the greatest Crocodile-Horror ever made as well (“Lake Placid” ? “Crocodile” ? “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles” ?). From what I recall, the effects still hold up, which is impressive in its own right considering how awful the “Lake Placid” series looks.
11) The Loved Ones (2009)
“When Brent turns down his classmate Lola’s invitation to the prom, she concocts a wildly violent plan for revenge.”
Another recent instant-classic, Australia has been making some impressive forays into the genre in recent years (“The Reef” in particular is probably the best shark movie since “Jaws”, but then again, every shark movie cover says that). I loved the juxtaposition of Horror & Happiness during the intertwining storylines, and many Horror fans can identify with Prom being a real Horror Show.
12) Frankenstein’s Army (2013)
“Toward the end of World War II, Russian soldiers pushing into eastern Germany stumble across a secret Nazi lab, one that has unearthed and begun experimenting with the journal of one Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The scientists have used the legendary Frankenstein’s work to assemble an army of super-soldiers stitched together from the body parts of their fallen comrades — a desperate Hitler’s last ghastly ploy to escape defeat.”
Although some complained about the logistical/factual problems of a found footage movie set during World War 2, I absolutely fell in love with the creature design work in this film. My wife actually watched this one with me & was furious at the lack of historical accuracy, which I found to be a hilarious criticism of such a film, but hey, at least she watched it, right ? I look forward to my second viewing, alone again (naturally).
13) Sleep Tight (2011)
“You wake day after day to the comfort and security of your home. But how safe is it really?”
I only saw this for the first time a few months ago, but it was an exceptionally well made film that got under my skin & never truly left. While there have been several quality Spanish-made Horror films in the past decade, few have been as successful at slowly ratcheting up tension in a non-gory fashion. Well acted, written & put together, “Sleep Tight” is a real treat.
14) Horror Hospital (1973)
“Jason, a member of a 1960’s pop group, decides he needs a break at a country retreat. On the train he meets Judy, niece of Aunt Harris who owns the place with her husband Dr Storm and who are using the guests for surgical mind-control experiments. So while Jason and Judy are pretty quickly making out, they are just as quickly working out how to get away.”
Probably the epitome of the kind of Horror my wife can’t get into, this movie is a ridiculous treat for fans of low budget, old school UK Horror. I’m a sucker for most movies set in a remote “Something’s not right here, but will they figure it out in time ??” locale, and as a bonus, this one has Alfred from Tim Burton’s “Batman” films ! Gough check it out ! Sorry.
15) I Saw the Devil (2010)
“A secret agent exacts revenge on a serial killer through a series of captures and releases.”
Another recent instant-classic from the “Who even thinks up this stuff ?” Japanese, this one is a tough watch at times, but well worth the effort. There are some impeccably filmed scenes here, and although the subject matter is a tad grim at times, the end result is well worth enduring. And hey, at least it’s not “Martyrs”, right ? It’s like a comedy compared to that ! (In no way is it like a comedy).
16) Tales of Halloween (2015)
“Ten stories are woven together by their shared theme of Halloween night in an American suburb, where ghouls, imps, aliens and axe murderers appear for one night only to terrorize unsuspecting residents.”
Possibly the film I’m most excited for this October. I’m a HUGE fan of Horror Anthologies, and short stories in general. I’m the kind of guy who will buy 6 different beers instead of a 6 pack. That said, TOO MUCH variety is often overwhelming & more of a letdown (I’m looking at you “ABC’s of Death” series). “Tales of Halloween” has a stellar cast of filmmakers behind it, and has been getting great reviews thus far. Honestly, I’d be watching even if it didn’t, but I’m thrilled to be able to check it out in theaters.
17) The Signal (2007)
“A horror film told in three parts, from three perspectives, in which a mysterious transmission that turns people into killers invades every cell phone, radio, and television.”
Another unheralded indie film, this one was interesting due to being 1 story told in 3 parts by 3 different writer/directors. The tone shifts throughout, but not to an unpleasant degree. The midsection’s switch to Comedy was jarring for some, but I appreciated the variety they were able to bring to the story. Even if the middle didn’t work for some, the first & third acts were horrifically impressive.
18) My Bloody Valentine (1981)
“A decades old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine’s Day, turns out to be true to legend when a group defies the killer’s order and people start turning up dead.”
The original Canadian Classic ! To me, this movie didn’t really exist until MGM released the Uncut DVD/Blu Ray several years ago. I remember seeing it on TV & being completely underwhelmed, to the point of not even enjoying the film itself. There was a good amount of fanfare when the Uncut version was released, and I’m so glad it survived (even if the cut scenes weren’t of HD quality). The kill scenes absolutely MAKE this film, and elevate it to a higher Cult status than it had already enjoyed. Always nice to see some old school Moosehead bottles too. The less we say about the unintentionally hilarious MBV3D, the better.
19) Maniac (2012)
“As he helps a young artist with her upcoming exhibition, the owner of a mannequin shop’s deadly, suppressed desires come to the surface.”
Another example of a remake improving upon the original (sorry Spinell fans), “Maniac” turned the Horror world upset down with both the casting of Frodo and the decision to shoot entirely in POV. Now, anyone who had seen “Sin City” knew that Wood’s casting was well earned, but would they be able to shoot 90 mins from his point of view without making it tedious or monotonous for the audience ? Much like “Will “Buried” be able to make 90 mins in a coffin with Ryan Reynolds interesting” and “Will “Frozen” (the good one) be able to make 90 mins on a ski-life with Iceman nerve wracking”, the answer was a resounding Yes.
20) The Omen 2 (1978)
“Damien the Antichrist, now thirteen years old, finally learns of his destiny under the guidance of an unholy disciple of Satan. Meanwhile dark forces begin to eliminate all those who suspect the child’s true identity.”
This might seem like an odd choice, but I actually preferred this film to any other “Omen” entry. There is a palpable sense of dread throughout, probably more so if you weren’t aware there were 2 sequels following. Several key scenes have always stuck with me, but the old man in the red snowsuit being trapped under the ice is one I’ll never forget. Who would’ve thought that Damien would eventually grow up to be in both “Jurassic Park” AND “In the Mouth of Madness” ?? He was truly blessed.
21) Slither (2006)
“A small town is taken over by an alien plague, turning residents into zombies and all forms of mutant monsters.”
Before rising to worldwide prominence for writing/directing “Guardians of the Galaxy” (but after marrying Pam from “The Office”) James Gunn wrote & directed this gross out Horror/Comedy gem. A partial homage to the aforementioned “Night of the Creeps”, you can tell the cast had a great time making this throwback genre flick. And speaking of decent Remakes, this was 3 years after he wrote the surprisingly decent “Dawn of the Dead” ! Not too shabby (unlike the remake of “Day of the Dead”).
22) The Burning (1981)
“A former summer camp caretaker, horribly burned from a prank gone wrong, lurks around an upstate New York summer camp bent on killing the teenagers responsible for his disfigurement.”
Another film rescued by MGM on DVD before before being re-rescued on Blu Ray by Scream Factory ! Actually, as I recall “The Burning” & “Scarecrows” made their DVD debut on the same day all those years ago ! “The Burning” is primarily known for 5 reasons. 1) It’s a rip-off of “Friday the 13th”. 2) Tom Savini did the FX. 3) It co-stars a young Jason Alexander (with hair !). 4) It was the first film made by Miramax (and was even co-written by one of the Weinstein’s). 5) Rick Wakeman (of “Yes”) did the soundtrack. Not a bad pedigree for a low budget Horror knock off !
23) Proxy (2013)
“The life of three parents who have all shared the loss of a child. Motives are not what they seem and sanity is in short supply in this thriller.”
I saw this recently on Netflix & was quite impressed with the story & performances, so much so that I quickly went to Twitter to thank the Writer/Director for his efforts (he was pleased. Gotta love technology). Though the subject matter is a bit touchy at times, “Proxy” never goes overboard, instead drawing it’s story out gradually with an air of mystery throughout. Highly recommended (if you’re into that sort of thing).
24) Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
“A recently institutionalized woman has bizarre experiences after moving into a supposedly haunted country farmhouse and fears she may be losing her sanity once again.”
Another film that wouldn’t appeal to my wife in the slightest, “LSJTD” is a slow, brooding, mid-70’s Horror with an unnerving sense of dread permeating almost entirely through its running time. I’ve really come to appreciate these dreamlike 70’s Horrors (Lemora, Le Orme, Who Can Kill a Child, Voices, And Soon the Darkness), though I do see why some find them tedious, especially by today’s standards.
25) An American Werewolf in London (1981)
“Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.”
A classic film that still boasts arguably the best Werewolf transformation ever. This selection could go either way for my Wife, but I think the mixture of Comedy, Horror & above average effects has helped it stand the test of time. I’ve never been a big Werewolf guy (I found both “Near Dark” & “The Howling” to be flawed, though enjoyable), but “AAWIL” seems to be one most can agree on. Unlike the sequel …
26) Session 9 (2001)
“Tensions rise within an asbestos cleaning crew as they work in an abandoned mental hospital with a horrific past that seems to be coming back.”
A criminally underrated film, perhaps partly overlooked due to the casting of David Caruso. “Session 9” is an incredibly unnerving film that slowly drags you further under its spell, never letting go until the credits roll. I’m a sucker for films set in asylums (though most are horrible rather than horrific) & “Session 9” uses its settings to great advantage. It’s a tense, frightening & thrilling mystery that’s well worth your time, even if it co-stars CSI:NYPD Blue.
27) The Final Girls (2015)
“A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer.”
The third & final (lol?) “previously unseen” film is also arguably the most hyped. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this one, which is apparently more frightening than terrifying, but hey, so was “Shaun of the Dead” & “What We Do in the Shadows” ! If it can approach anywhere near those heights, we’re certainly in for a treat.
28) Planet Terror (2007)
“After an experimental bio-weapon is released, turning thousands into zombie-like creatures, it’s up to a rag-tag group of survivors to stop the infected and those behind its release.”
I was lucky enough to see this in the theater as part of the complete “Grindhouse” experience. Unfortunately I was unlucky enough to stay around for “Death Proof” afterwards, but it didn’t take away from the shear lunacy/joy of Robert Rodriguez’s zombie epic. Yes, it doesn’t look low budget or much like a true Grindhouse film, but dammit, it was a blast ! I have yet to watch my Blu Ray of the “extended cut”, but if the movie is as good as I remember, I’ll be pleased as punch. (PS – I like Tarantino’s next 3 films, but DP just didn’t do it for me).
29) At the Devil’s Door (2014)
“When ambitious young real estate agent Leigh is asked to sell a house with a checkered past, she crosses paths with a disturbed girl whom she believes is the runaway daughter of the couple selling the property. When Leigh tries to intervene and help her, she becomes entangled with a supernatural force that soon pulls Leigh’s artist sister Vera into its web – and has sinister plans for both of them.”
Another recent Netflix discovery, this was a pleasant surprise, especially amongst a sea of awful DTV Horror films with “Devil” in the title (not you “Devil”, you were alright). I couldn’t remember too much about this one the next day, apart from being impressed enough to vouch for it to my wife. We’ll soon see if that was a foolish effort on my part.
30) Halloween 3 (1982)
“Kids all over America want Silver Shamrock masks for Halloween. Doctor Daniel Challis seeks to uncover a plot by Silver Shamrock owner Conal Cochran.”
One of the most divisive Halloween films (largely because it’s the only one to NOT feature Michael Myers), “Season of the Witch” has enjoyed a sort of Cult Renaissance in recent years, largely from fans being like “Who cares if it’s the only 1 of 11 Halloween films to not feature MM, it’s a good story !”. I mean, Halloween 8 DID have MM, and it was horrible ! Looking forward to seeing what Scream Factory brought to the table on this one. And hey, you can’t go wrong with Tom Atkins (even if “Night of the Creeps” didn’t make the list).
31) The Changeling (1980)
“A man staying at a secluded historical mansion finds himself being haunted by the presence of a spectre.”
I felt I had to end on a classic, and what better than a CANADIAN classic, starring a classic actor ?? This one is a bit of a shot in the dark, as it’s entirely possible my wife will find it too slow & dated. That said, it’s the last movie on the list, so if it fails to impress her, hey, it’s November ! It’s been too long since my last viewing, and this one truly deserves a re-watch. Even if it ends my marriage …
There were a few Runner Ups that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another, though all are totally worthy in their own ways. I thought I’d include them for fun though, so you can tear into me for cutting out one of them in favour of some movie you thought sucked. Have at it, we’re all friends here ! Although I may have offended Joe Spinnell, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Michael Bay & Tom Atkins. Still, I had a good run.
Runner Ups –
Night of the Creeps
Terror on the Menu
The Devils Rejects