I am very pleasantly surprised with just how many movies I watched through this entire month. In the like tradition of thousands of other film lovers out there, October is the month in which I completely give myself over to the sinful delights of the horror genre. And it certainly seems that this is the niche in which I am the most enthusiastic. Overall, I’ve watched almost fifty films throughout the whole month of October! Sure, there are a sizable few that are very short (less than ten minutes in length), and I also rewatched a bunch of old favorites as well, which usually require much less energy expenditure than new viewings (at least for me). Still, the number I reached is quite impressive for myself, and I owe it mostly to the time I’ve spent focused on the horror genre specifically.
I’ve also used October’s horror fest to try to put together a Letterboxd list of every single horror film written and/or directed by a woman – or at least every one that’s available to log on Letterboxd. This has taken me a whole bunch of time to put together and I’m still not finished! Nonetheless, it’s a quest that will undoubtedly be very rewarding for myself and others, and should result in a quality resource for me to use in future horror marathons. All of this means that I’ve, regrettably, been falling behind on my Billboard challenge… along with the fact that 1972 is just a snoozefest of a year to get through! Nonetheless, now that October is finished with, I’ll soon be eager to get my ass up to gear once again with this challenge, which I do enjoy overall.
Now, here’s the complete list of everything I watched in October, followed by a few sentences on a few particularly notable selections. As always, asterisks indicate rewatches.
- Heaven Knows What (Safdie & Safdie, 2015)
- Cockneys vs Zombies (Hoene, 2012)
- Children of the Corn (Kiersch, 1984)
- American Psycho 2: All American Girl (Freeman, 2002)
- The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973)*
- Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge (Le Prince, 1888)
- Annabelle Serpentine Dance (Heise & Dickson, 1895)
- Sandow (Dickson, 1896)
- Le Reve D’un Astronome (The Astronomer’s Dream) (Méliès, 1898)
- Life of an American Fireman (Fleming et al., 1903)
- What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City (Porter & Fleming, 1901)
- Oculus (Flanagan, 2013)
- Predator (McTiernan, 1987)
- Sleepy Hollow (Burton, 1999)
- Scream 3 (Craven, 2000)
- It Follows (Mitchell, 2015)*
- Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick, 1957)*
- The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955)*
- Night of the Demon (Tourneur, 1957)
- Dawn of the Dead (Snyder, 2004)
- The Mist (Darabont, 2007)
- Housebound (Johnstone, 2014)
- Grabbers (Wright, 2012)
- Stake Land (Mickle, 2010)
- Aloha (Crowe, 2015)
- Predestination (Spierig & Spierig, 2014)
- Jennifer’s Body (Kusama, 2009)
- The Monster Squad (Dekker, 1987)
- Dead Ringers (Cronenberg, 1988)*
- Crimson Peak (Del Toro, 2015)
- Paddington (King, 2015)
- Hotel Transylvania (Tartakovsky, 2012)*
- Stage Fright (Sable, 2014)
- Humanoids From the Deep (Peeters, 1980)
- Back to the Future (Zemeckis, 1985)*
- Back to the Future Part II (Zemeckis, 1989)
- Dracula (a.k.a. Horror of Dracula) (Fisher, 1958)
- Boxing Helena (Lynch, 1993)
- Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (De Bello, 1978)*
- Saw II (Bousman, 2005)
- The Loved Ones (Byrne, 2009)
- Haute tension (High Tension) (Aja, 2003)
- Trouble Every Day (Denis, 2001)
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (Selick, 1993)*
One of my most hated films I watched this month came very early in the month, with the so-called sequel to Mary Harron’s cult classic American Psycho. Netflix categorizes this under “horror” and while I am particularly generous with my personal definition of the word, this film was just far too boring to make an even halfway decent interpretation of the genre. While Harron’s film had some enticing imagery and a great tone to complement Bret Easton Ellis’ material, American Psycho 2 has absolutely nothing going for it. I’m not even positive is Mila Kunis even wanted to be in this film – she’s got to be one of the most boring leads I’ve come across in ages. Though that’s less an issue with her than it is with the pitiful writing and direction, which moves like a poorly-paced made-for-TV movie. I’d advise all – even those fellow bad movie lovers – to avoid at all costs.
There was a day in early October where I decided to revisit a former obsession for those early silent shorts from the dawn of the cinema age, right around the turn of the century. Most notable to me was Annabelle Serpentine Dance, one of the very first hand-tinted films. While not very innovative in terms of narrative (as opposed to, say, The Great Train Robbery or L’Arroseur arrosé), the presentation of this short performance, coupled with the decision toward colorization, makes for something stunningly beautiful for its time. I also watched Life of an American Fireman, which was particularly interesting in its depiction of a rescue from two very different angles, especially in an age where continuity in editing was still trying to be understood. Finally, I watched Méliès’ The Astronomer’s Dream for the first time; while it isn’t up to par with some of his more breathtaking proto-SF illusionary work, it’s hard not to have fun when watching a Méliès film.
For some strange reason, I had never seen Predator. I finally got around to it this past month, fully relishing in all of its uber-masculine glory. Seriously, when one of the first major shots in the film feature a mess of bulging biceps as the two leads shake hands, you know you’re in for a good time. While I watched it as part of my horror movie marathon, it would still fit very comfortably within the realms of sci-fi, thriller, or 80s gung-ho action. It’s also ridiculously quotable. Now, here, I could probably share a favorite line from the film, but I’ll let you, the reader, add your own – because we all know there’s at least six or seven fun catch phrases that have entered the collective consciousness and deservingly so! This is just such a fun film, truly satisfying for action-lovers and horror-lovers alike. I wanted to watch it again immediately after it finished – I’m just sad it took me so long to see it the first time.
Another slightly shameful first-time viewing I experienced in October was that for Tim Burton’s weird Gothic adaptation, Sleepy Hollow. Along with earlier films like Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and even Batman, this probably ranks up there with some of the best demonstrations of the macabre style that Burton is praised for at his very best. I didn’t quite follow the story the whole time, but the atmosphere is just so enticing, I couldn’t help but love it anyway. Johnny Depp is a terrific lead, and practically every member of the supporting cast – Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Christopher Walken, and Michael Gambon in particular – never fail to bring something special to the table. But above all, I just adore films that are very visually interesting, and this one, with its muted color palette and exquisitely detailed settings and costumes, is no exception. Let’s bring some love back for this film.
Though I tend to hold very strong stances on a variety of topics, I am trying my hardest to attempt to give formerly despised filmmakers a second (or third, or fourth) chance. Enter Zack Snyder: both Watchmen and Man of Steel are absolutely terrible adaptations of their source material, and I’m pretty certain I would hate 300 and Sucker Punch. Still, I decided to give his reworking of the Romero classic Dawn of the Dead a try. The results? Didn’t enjoy it in the slightest. This “remake” is actually a very, very loose one – I don’t think there were any similarities besides the zombies and the mall. Everything else he threw in there for the sake of plot was pathetic at its best and repulsive at its worst. Not to mention that the running zombies really, really suck so much. By now, I feel pretty comfortable with dismissing him as a mere fanboy who completely misses the point, plain and simple.
And now for something else that’s actually good. I had the pleasure of discovering a neat little film from New Zealand called Housebound. I went in not sure what to expect, yet had some of the most fun movie-watching all month long. From Peter Jackson’s early forays into filmmaking to the brilliant What We Do In The Shadows from earlier this year, it’s nice to see that horror-comedy is thriving in New Zealand. What starts off as a basic haunted house story evolves into a tale of unsolved crime and hostile spirits seeking release. Replete with terrific characters, awesome performances (Morgana O’Reilly stole my heart in this one), excellent sets and visuals, and a positively infectious atmosphere, what more does a horror-lovin’ person like myself really need? I can’t say that anything about this really scared me, so to speak, but it also exemplifies just how varied and unpredictable the horror genre can and should be. I couldn’t recommend this little flick any more highly.
To pair along with my quest to find as many woman-made horror films as possible, I’ve also been actively trying to watch more women-directed horror myself. So, I finally got around to Jennifer’s Body, a film about which I’ve heard generally mixed reviews over the years. After watching it, it’s not hard to see why. As a horror flick it’s passable, but what was interesting to me was its examination of female friendship and how tough it is to be a teenage girl in high school this day and age. It’s films like these that make me glad that there are female writers and directors who emphasize these very important issues that aren’t exactly regarded in many male-dominated stories. But I get it – it’s a mess. Its attempts at highlighting its comedic moments are brought down by Diablo Cody’s script, which is certainly conflicting. Still, it’s better than all those other bad films produced by men that get unanimous praise, despite the relentless sexism of much of their work. I’m entirely on Karyn Kusama’s side here.
I also watched Barbara Peeters’ film Humanoids From the Deep. If you’re at all familiar with Corman-produced horror from the 80s, you know what to expect here. Essentially, it’s a film that’s got a lot of poor elements – bad acting, bad special effects, bad writing – resulting in a poor movie overall. What’s interesting here, however, is that there’s clearly a vision being brought to the film that makes it slightly more than cheap, schlocky exploitation. There’s a lot of really weird humor thrown left to right here, as well as nudity – always nudity – but there’s also an condemnation of sexism that lies on the undercurrent and probably wasn’t taken as seriously as it should have been. Also, it seems to be very rare that women get to direct monster narratives, since its always been something that the movie industry uses to market towards young boys and male teenagers, so having a woman at the forefront of this story is an interesting fact, if nothing else.
Reading about Jennifer Chambers Lynch’s Boxing Helena before viewing it made me positive that I would dislike it at least, maybe even despise it. Surprisingly, I liked it quite a bit, although it’s still difficult for me to comprehend exactly why. Perhaps a lot of it had to do with Julian Sands’ absolutely pathetic performance, coupled with Sherilyn Fenn’s absolutely sharp and bitter performances, completely refusing her the role of the typical damsel in distress. The soap opera lighting, music, and mood gave it a very strange, unsettling mood, especially in lieu of the events of the narrative which are anything but romantic. Sure, the ending needs some work and the film is replete with plot holes through its entirety, yet for a debut film from a young filmmaker, I think many of us have tolerated much worse. I’d say this one’s pretty solid.
The other film I watched this past month that I absolutely hated was Alexandre Aja’s High Tension. I already spoke in length about what exactly I disliked about it, but in case a tl;dr version is desired: Cool effects and a generally alright film, up until an absolutely disgusting, backwards plot twist comes along in the final third that ruins everything. One of the worst films I’ve ever viewed overall.
I wrapped up October in the same fashion I’ve wrapped it up for the past eight years – with my annual Halloween viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Because of excessive planning for a big Halloween party, however, I anticipated that I wouldn’t have enough time and viewed it on the 29th instead. Regardless, it’s still a fantastic, magical, absolutely incredible little film that has stood the test of time as being one of my all-time favorites for about seventeen years. Few things are more fulfilling on my very favorite holiday.