31 Days of Horror Movie Reviews, Vol. 1
Okay: in all honesty, I’ve been watching horror movies much before October 1st. Spooky Season is a year round affair for me, but it’s been all horror all the time since around the end of August this year.
Here’s part 1 of god knows how many parts, revealing some bite-sized thoughts about my favorites and least favorite film discoveries and rediscoveries.
Army of Darkness (1992)
Are you lactose intolerant? Zero doctors recommend cinematic cheese as a replacement, but I do.
Throw Ray Harryhausen, LOTR, Muppets, Monty Python and the underworld together, and voila! If you don’t enjoy this flick, I’ll have a bone to pick with you.
It’s got one of the best movie cars ever, a rad and winky face practical FX scene involving Bruce Campbell’s most prominent feature and so many one-liners. The first time I watched it years back the experience felt a little bit like being forced to watch a friend’s favorite really funny YouTube video. This second time was pure joy.
While I have been a fan of Sam Raimi’s work ever since I saw Spider-Man (and Evil Dead in college), it’s only recently where I consider him to be enshrined in the most important echelon of filmmakers: the directors whose wildly imaginative films inspire me to make movies of my own.
Curse of Chucky (2013)
This is basically the Penguin in Batman Returns story, except the parents of the poor doll-kid are Chucky and Tiffany.
This might be one of the more progressive horror films out there, tackling generational trauma, gender fluidity, Santa Claus and the easiest target of all, Hollywood.
This fifth film in the Chucky franchise (that somehow ascends quality) also seeks to answer why Chucky and Tiffany kill, as they attempt to be better people for their child. Needless to say, it doesn’t work out very well, which is good for us viewers, not so great for the development of their kid, Glen/da.
If you’re like me, you might’ve been under the assumption that Billy “It comes in pints?” Boyd hasn’t done much since Lord of the Rings, but his performance as Glen/da is something that can’t be contained in a mere pint glass.
The Blob (1958)
Steven “Steve” McQueen and a bunch of 35-year-old teenagers who didn’t get cast in Rebel Without a Cause try to warn a town about a monster that looks like radioactive raspberry Smuckers. While the chief of police is surprisingly reasonable and open, everyone else in town doesn’t believe them, convinced teens are good for nothing pranksters.
They eventually save the day when they realize they can use CO2 fire extinguishers to freeze them. Most of the film doesn’t hold up, but the final lines of the film are chilling:
“At least we’ve got it stopped.”
“Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.”
Basket Case (1982)
“Why are we whispering?”
“I don’t want to be here.”
With just $100,000 in today’s dollars, Frank Henenlotter let seedy 80s New York and its swarthy citizens do most of the work, and the grimy result is uncomfortable, gross, weird and hilarious.
Everyone playfully apes Se7en’s “What’s in the box?” bit, but “What’s in the basket?” is now my preferred existential question thanks to the 20 minute expositional flashback response we get at a crowded bar.
‘Gator Bait (1974)
Made for a mere couple hundred thousand dollars, this Cajunsploitation film had me hooked at the opening with a sad, crooning country song that I couldn’t find online paired with legitimately beautiful swamp photography.
It had me getting on a high horse about CGI and mourning the film industry — shooting something in nature captures something that CGI and soundstages just can’t — then the plot started and even the swamp imagery couldn’t save my attention.
It took me multiple sittings to reach the finish line, never living up to its gloriously apostrophed title. Where the hell are the gators?
It Follows (2014)
I see my move to Los Angeles in 2013 and starting work at “Famous Monsters of Filmland” as the birthplace of my adult horror fandom that has snowballed each and every year. When I first saw this movie in 2014, I wasn’t ready for It, but I knew a star-making turn when I saw one: Maika Monroe’s performance and subsequent career has only confirmed this.
It Follows was one of the most disturbing and excellent films that I encountered early in that odyssey, one that has sometimes been minimized as being “the STD horror” movie, but the terror goes far beyond that.
The only way to survive It is to pass it on — to spread the trauma, the pain, the abuse to another innocent person (through sex). If that isn’t an eerily accurate commentary on what we continue to do to each other.
It follows, and it never stops– the shapeshifting monster is slow and plodding in a way that actually feels scarier than if it were running at you, because at least then it’d be over. Instead, It is pure dread, behind you all the time. In the opening scene, the house’s address is “1492,” a familiar number in history that hints at the earliest origins of this trauma, but this monster has been following us even before that.
Sidenote: The score from Disasterpeace is one of the three best in all horror films since 1992 (Philip Glass’s Candyman) alongside Sinoia Caves’ Beyond the Black Rainbow and Mica Levi’s Under the Skin.
All of Andy’s movie reviews can be found on Letterboxd (@wanderinggreene). You can also join the subscription to his newsletter, Wanderings, which includes pop culture musings, travel and sports talk.