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night twenty: the witch. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

“We will conquer this wilderness. It will not consume us.”

Another year of Halloween Movie Fest in the books.

The Witch was a great way to finish things off.

So different and unexpected, The Witch is eerie, dark, and saturated with bleakness and doom. It’s amazing how perfectly rendered it is. Quietly immersive, there are no big, over-broad strokes to show us the mythos and feeling of this time period, but every detail adds up to a sum greater than the parts. This is worldbuilding, but not in the sense than that word is often used.

This movie certainly isn’t for everyone, maybe it’s not even for most, but it is so singular and sharp. Robert Eggers seemed to know exactly what he wanted to do, and then executed that to perfection. This is a home run.

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Will I Ever Watch It Again? I’ll definitely revisit this one. I feel like it can teach me a lot about how to create a story with a distinct vision, mood, and feeling.

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night nineteen: the hallow. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

“You should never have come here.”

The Hallow is a really fun dark faerie story. It feels a bit like what would’ve happened if Guillermo del Toro had been born in Ireland instead of Mexico.

It’s not huge on story or character, but it’s so beautiful and dark and creepily atmospheric that it works really well anyway.

This is one of those entries that is solid and interesting, even though it won’t ever be one I get crazy excited about and watch year in and year out.

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Will I Ever Watch It Again? Maybe?

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night eighteen: the invitation. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

“I’m so glad you’re here. We have a lot to talk about. So much to say tonight.”

Don’t learn anything about this movie. Just watch it.

It’s taut, smart, gripping, and unnerving. It’s just full of a wild foreboding tension.

I won’t say more so I don’t spoil anything.

As an endorsement, I will say that as I write this I still have two movies to watch that I’ve never seen before, but so far, this is my favorite out of all the ‘new to me’ films of HMF16.

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Will I Ever Watch It Again? Absolutely, yes. Even though no time will be quite like that first time.

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night seventeen: slither. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

“Well, now that is some fucked up shit.

This was an unexpected replacement for another film. It’s a long story, but with the recent trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, it makes sense to return to my first James Gunn film.

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Slither is a crazy, comedic, gross-out monster feature. The goal at every turn is to be as gross as possible. Gunn, along with a great cast, makes it work. Also, you get Fillion dropping F-bombs, which is rare since he is usually appearing on network television, and is always fun.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? It will be a while, but I bet I’ll revisit it a third time.

 

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night sixteen: they look like people. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

“Even before you were one of the blessed who could sense them, you knew they were out there. Suddenly they were right next to you. That is not a soldier with a gun, that is evil. That is not your coworker, that is a demon. That is not a human, not a neighbor, not a friend, not a lover, a brother, a mother, a father, a wife… that is a monster. That is your enemy, and what you must be willing to destroy.”

More than I realized going into it, the non-vampire half of this year’s HMF is full of super low budget fare. I didn’t officially plan it, but I’m more than fine with it. The budget limitations also usually mean complete creative control for the filmmakers, and so often, the limitations actually bring out the best in good artists. Even a big budget movie like Jaws was much better because they mechanical shark wouldn’t work and they had to include it less than planned.

With a giant special effects budget and studio interference, who knows, maybe writer/director Perry Blackshear would have been tempted to get bigger, to show more. Instead, They Look Like People is lean and concise.

It works so well. These characters felt whole and real, the chemistry felt genuine, the stakes felt personal.

Like many other films on the list, I can’t say much, because spoilers.

I will just say that I really enjoyed this one, and recommend it.

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Will I Ever Watch It Again? Chances are high.

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night fifteen: attack the block. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

“Allow it.”

I love this movie. The acting, the writing, the direction, the visuals… everything about the execution of this movie is great.

It’s dark and honest, but so full of energy and joy. It’s just infectious. It’s one of those movies that I can’t watch without immediately wanting to rewatch it again.

It’s a love letter to the sort of place where writer/director Joe Cornish grew up, and you feel that complicated love in every frame. He knows this place, these kids, the rhythm and attitude of this part of London. In the special features the little kids who play Probs and Mayhem ask Cornish where he got the idea for the movie, and he said that he loved Signs when it came out, and it made him think that if aliens attacked the neighborhood where he grew up, the troubled kids who roamed the sidewalks, who most everyone was afraid of, would become the first line of defense against the invaders. It’s the kind of story idea that many people get from time to time, but it’s rare to see someone do what Cornish did and execute the story to perfection.

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When John Boyega was cast in Star Wars, I was so excited because of my undying love for this movie.

I still really wish that there was a sequel, where we get to see the continued adventures of Moses as he leads humanity in the fight against “big alien gorilla wolf motherfuckers.” However, I would settle for Joe Cornish directing anything else. I’m also so sad that we never got to see the true Edgar Wright version of Ant-Man that Cornish helped him write.

There should be more movies like Attack the Block. 

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Most definitely. This wasn’t the first time or the last time. Believe it.

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night fourteen: we are still here. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

“You’re not leaving here. You stay, you satisfy the darkness.”

A low budget evil house story that is solid and fun.

It makes up for the things that don’t work (and there are definitely plenty of things that don’t work) with really creepy atmosphere, and by just going all out crazytown in the over-the-top third act.

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I certainly have my complaints, but when a film can be effectively spooky, hilariously gross, and reorganize familiar elements in an interesting way, it’s usually worth the price of admission… especially when there is no price of admission.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Probably not, but it was definitely worth the first viewing.

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night thirteen: a tale of two sisters. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

“Do know what’s really scary? You want to forget something. Totally wipe it off your mind. But you never can. It can’t go away, you see. And… and it follows you around like a ghost.

With the exception of the inexplicable detour where he did an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in America, director Kim Jee-Woon has an impeccable track record. If you’re ever looking for an insane, enjoyable way to spend an evening, you should watch his frenetic take on the Western, The Good, the Bad, the Weird (bonus, Song Kang-ho is in it).

With A Tale of Two Sisters, Kim’s weird sensibilities and inventive visual style are put to great use in the K-Horror genre. It’s strange, disorienting, and enjoyably creepy throughout. It’s weird and disturbing, but actually pretty tame by K-Horror standards.

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There were plenty of things I wasn’t into. For one, the Japanese and Korean horror trope of eerily contorted ghost girls with long black hair covering their faces is certainly subject to diminishing returns. Kim does it really well, but it’s still a bit tired at this point, and would have already been a bit tired all the way back in 2003 when this movie came out. Also, when a filmmaker is working really hard to keep the audience off-balance and unaware of what’s happening, there is always a fine line between tricking the audience and lying to the audience, or merely pulling twists out of thin air, which is something A Tale of Two Sisters doesn’t always get right. Also, some of the reveals were a bit cliche in the milieu of the late 90’s and early 00’s.

Still, even with the weaknesses this was still a great way to get your ghost film or K-Horror fix.

 

Will I Ever Watch It Again? I’d say it’s 50/50.

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night twelve: kill list. [halloween movie fest, 2016.]

“Difficult for a man to know where he stands these days.

It doesn’t really get more genre-defying than Kill List. Part hitman film, part family drama, part… well, you should see it for yourself, because I don’t want to give anything else away.

Kill List is great. It’s so ambitious and unexpected, so even when it fails, which it certainly does at times, it’s easy to forgive because it’s just trying something so different and weird and interesting.

Ben Wheatley also has a really competent and interesting visual style, so even when story elements aren’t working, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun to look at. 

I can’t really say more than that without spoiling this story and world.

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Will I Ever Watch It Again? Yes. It’ll be fun to go back to see what I might notice with repeat viewings.

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