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halloween movie fest 2017, movies 22-26.

Well, well, well. What do we have here? It’s a post about Halloween Movies nearly two weeks into November. Maybe I should just keep HMF going until the world itself isn’t quite so horrible anymore. At least the horrors in a movie end after the credits roll, instead of the waking nightmare in which we find ourselves IRL at the moment.

Enough with the depressing shit, on with the movies about death and stuff! Cheers to another fun year of HMF.

Movie Twenty-Two – The Haunting

“Haven’t you noticed how nothing in this house seems to move until you look away and then you just… catch something out of the corner of your eye?”

The Haunting is one of those films I might never have watched if not for HMF. It’s another debt I owe to my past self for dreaming up this pointless cinematic odyssey.

I said pretty much everything I’d want to say when I wrote about this one previously. This is another film that will make another appearance if I can dream up a fresh way to approach HMF in the future.

I’m currently listening to the book, and it’s even better than this beautifully crafted film. Shirley Jackson is such an underappreciated writer as far as the wider public is concerned.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Definitely. I actually bought it this time around.

Where Can You Watch It? No one is streaming it right now.


Movie Twenty-Three – Pet Sematary

“Dead is better.”

The majority of this movie is… bad. The acting is horrible — with the notable exceptions of a solid performance by Brad Greenquist as the recently deceased Victor Pascow, Miko Hughes as the adorable and terrifying Gage Creed, and some cat as Church the cat. Otherwise, this was 80s TV movie acting of the worst kind, but without the excuse of it being a TV movie.

The story was also mostly nonsense. I’ve never read the book, so I’m assuming it’s better, however the fact that King himself wrote the screenplay makes me wonder. I get that there should be suspension of disbelief, especially in horror, but this is beyond the pale storywise. Can’t there at least be some throwaway line that tells us why the town does nothing about the trucks barreling through at dangerous speeds, or why the parents let their kids play so close to such a dangerous road, or why an otherwise benign old man suggests the magical burial ground knowing full well that anything brought back to life will be an vicious murder monster? Also, was it called Pet Sematary only because “Not So Much the Pet Sematary, but an Ancient Burial Ground Located a Seven Mile Hike and Mountain Climb Away From the Pet Sematary” was too long as a title?

Not to say it was all bad though. Spoilers follow, although, can you really still spoil Pet Sematary at this point in history?

Once Gage comes back as an evil death toddler, the movie is much stronger. The final scenes in Crandall’s house are really creepy and fun. How a film can be this bad throughout the majority of its runtime and still deliver such an amazing movie monster in just a few minutes at the end is hard to understand, but there you go. Gage Creed was one adorably creepy little fucker.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? No, but maybe I’ll watch the ending again.

Where Can You Watch It? Amazon Prime


Movie Twenty-Four – A Girl Walks Home Alone

“If there was a storm coming right now, a big storm, from behind those mountains, would it matter? Would it change anything?”

My love for this film is unambiguous. Exhibit A: At the time of this writing it’s the image on the header of this blog.

It’s interesting, original, visually captivating, and sparse in all the right ways. The first time I saw it I said I could watch it on repeat and it’s still true. I just want to keep looking at it.

Again, I need to come up with a new way to do HMF, and I’ve already written about this one in ways I still wholeheartedly agree with, so if you want to see my take check it out here and here. Seriously though, check those out, and watch this movie!

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Definitely. I am now the proud owner of the Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray.

Where Can You Watch It? Kanopy, if your library partners with them.


Movie Twenty-Five – Shaun of the Dead

“You know what we should do tomorrow? Keep drinking. We’ll have a Bloody Mary first thing, have a bite at the King’s Head, a couple at the Little Princess, stagger back here then BANG, we’re back at the bar for shots. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?”  

To be honest, this is probably the movie that started it all for me HMF-wise. I don’t remember why I was so interested in it when it came out, as I hadn’t seen Spaced yet. But I somehow convinced Emily to go see it with me, and my love for this cinematic experience in some Hudson Valley movie theater played a big part in making me wonder why I’d seen so few horror and horror-related films.

It took five years to fully materialize, but the wonderful boys Pegg and Wright’s love of horror turned out to be contagious for my 22-year-old self.

This year we got to see a screening at Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn with a bunch of super-fans, and it breathed even more life into one of my very favorite films of all time. I’ve written about this movie a bunch of times, including a post about revisiting the whole trilogy again and again.

This movie will always have my heart.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? I’ve seen it upwards of 15 times and I’m not planning to stop anytime soon.

Where Can You Watch It? Showtime


Movie Twenty-Six – The Devil’s Backbone

“What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.”

Back in the days when I didn’t really watch horror, I still loved movies about ghosts. Ghost stories captivated me as a child, just as they have captivated civilizations throughout history. When someone would tell me a good ghost story, my spine would tingle, my skin would prickle, my eyes would water in some kind of weird fear response.

Side note: the watery eyes thing is something I’ve never understood — Google led me to discussion boards where lots of people are equally confused because they also experience it, but I haven’t found any real answers.

Anyway, my love for ghost stories makes Guillermo del Toro’s ghost masterpiece the perfect way to end HMF this year. Tragic, romantic, full to the brim with everything that makes GDT great. As with so many of these other films, I’d just be repeating myself to write much about this within the current format, so here is what I wrote for HMF 2010 and here is 2015.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Absolutely. GDT, baby. GDfuckingT.

Where Can You Watch It? No one is streaming it right now.

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halloween movie fest 2017, movies fifteen through twenty-one.

Happy belated Halloween! The good news is that I was able to watch 26(!) movies for HMF17. The bad news is that I never got around to writing about half of them before the actual holiday.

Fortunately, there are no rules on RtM so I can just post Halloween themed content well into November.

Movie Fifteen – Don’t Breathe

“There is nothing a man cannot do once he accepts the fact that there is no god.”

I don’t have much to say about this one. I liked Alvarez’s direction, but not his writing. Aside from the interesting premise and terrific performance by Stephen Lang as the villain, the rest of the story felt weak in the midst of an otherwise well-crafted film.

Mostly I just didn’t care what happened to these characters. In a larger slasher film, that’s beside the point. We actually only need to care about and root for the final girl. Whether or not we care for the more ill-fated characters or instead are meant to enjoy watching them die is up to the filmmakers — both are common. Don’t Breathe is different. If I’m going to spend the majority of the film trapped in a house with two characters trying to survive, I need to give a shit about them in a way that isn’t rooted entirely in cliches.

Unexpected aside: I’m realizing I need to change the format of Halloween Movie Fests and ‘Another Day, Another Movie’ for future installments (if there are any). The whole point of this blog — when I’m actually writing it — is that I don’t waste time on stuff I don’t like or care about. Partly because it’s a waste of energy unless I’m offering some genuine critique in a larger cultural context, but even more because I’d rather learn from someone who loves a movie I didn’t get than shit all over a film someone else really loves, quite possibly for great reasons. This is especially true regarding classics I didn’t like or see the appeal of.

It’s not that I never want to be critical, it’s just that it requires more care and thought than what I have time to offer in this format.

I think I might try to think of a way to lean more heavily into the curation — which is what I actually like doing to begin with — for future HMF’s, instead of boring my friends with uninspired complaints about films.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? No.

Where Can You Watch It? Starz.


Movie Sixteen – Tetsuo: The Iron Man

And here I thought House was bonkers. Tetsuo is fucked up — intentionally so. A gonzo body horror metaphor about the replacement of the natural world with the industrial world, the film is less a well-drawn story and more a series of horrifying moments and images following three characters as a man is mysteriously transformed into a metal monstrosity after a hit-and-run.

Super low budget in the best possible way, this is the perfect example of how wide-ranging the possibilities within film are.

Tetsuo is full of gross out scenes that go way over the top, it’s dark and violent, getting more and more insane with each of its 77 minutes. It definitely draws inspiration from films like Eraserhead. 

This is one of those ones that felt like it nailed everything it was trying to do perfectly, even if personally it’s not the sort of movie I want to rewatch again and again.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Maybe as part of a more in-depth film study, but probably not for fun.

Where Can You Watch It? Kanopy (if your library participates).


Movie Seventeen – XX

“I have made my contribution. I like to believe that I’ve made a difference in all of this. I have been blessed to watch over you all these years, and to watch over Andy, to prepare the world for this glorious day! There’s nothing to be afraid of Cora. It’s his time, is all. Praise, praise his darkness.”

XX is an anthology of four horror shorts, all written and directed by women — including St. Vincent. As is almost always the case with anthologies like this, it was uneven, but solid overall.

What I really want to write about is Karyn Kasuma. Last year I absolutely loved her film The Invitation during HMF, and her segment in XX just confirms to me that she is a filmmaker we should all be really excited about.

Her short, “Her Only Living Son,” brilliantly uses the Rosemary’s Baby concept, in large part wrestling with white male privilege and how it creates and feeds monsters. That sounds like the short is really political or preachy, but it isn’t. It’s just the sort of horror that tackles the horrifying things in ordinary life by exaggerating it with a horror lens.

I have to go rewatch The Invitation now, but I also can’t wait for Kasuma to do more.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Probably just the Karyn Kusama segment.

Where Can You Watch It? Netflix.


Movie Eighteen – Coraline

“Hush and shush, for the Beldam might be listening.”

On their own, Laika animation company’s stop-motion films and Neil Gaiman are among my very favorite things. Combine them, and I’m obviously all over it!

I love dark fare created for kids — not that you need to be a kid to enjoy this film. Kids need stories with fear and darkness in them, especially when the hero prevails. Reading scary stories and watching scary shows and movies can be like an inoculation for the greater fear of life. The world is dark and scary, and it’s far better to practice dealing with those themes in small doses, in a safe environment with clearly established frames for where the story begins and ends.

Stories can teach us to be brave, empathetic and compassionate, resilient, and hopeful. I want all kids to experience as much of that as possible.

Here’s Gaiman himself on writing Coraline:

“When I [started writing] ‘Coraline’, I thought, ‘I am going to make my villain as bad a villain as I can… and I’m not going to give Coraline magic powers, and I’m not going to make her some kind of special Chosen One, and she’s not going to be a secret princess or anything like that — she’s going to be a smart little girl who’s going to be scared and is going to keep doing the right thing anyway, and that’s what brave is. And she is going to triumph by being smarter and braver.’” (transcription credit)

Classic Neil. I love that guy.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Most definitely.

Where Can You Watch It? Netflix.


Movie Nineteen – Bedknobs and Broomsticks

“Treguna, Makoidees, Trecorum, Sadis Dee.”

When I was a little kid, around the age of ten or eleven, my brother and I did the same thing almost every weekend. When we arrived with our mom in Wallkill, after she would retreat to her room for the majority of the time until Monday, Matt and I would watch Newsies and Bedknobs and Broomsticks almost every Friday night. Over and over, weekend after weekend.

I didn’t think of it much at the time, it’s just what we did.

Looking back, I thought more about what was happening with all of these revisitations. I realized what I was doing was immersing myself in stories about orphans who find a place where they are wanted and celebrated. Both films are about lonely people who become part of a family that isn’t about blood, but belonging. It salving a wound that I couldn’t possibly understand fully at that point.

Watching it as an adult, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is silly, and at least one set piece too long. And still, I’m moved by what the movie meant to me as a child. That realization years later played no small part in the decision to make my entire master’s thesis about the power of fiction in our lives.

This film was a security blanket for me as a child, providing a familiarity and sense of home for two hours at a time.

Also, the scene where all the old armor and weapons fights off the Nazis was my favorite scene from all of collected cinema for a solid two or three years of my life. Remember when Nazi hatred was the least controversial stance possible?

Will I Ever Watch It Again? If I ever have kids, we’re watching this movie. Also, fuck Nazis.

Where Can You Watch It? No one has it streaming for free right now.


Movie Twenty – What We Do in the Shadows

“Wait, let’s kill them.”

Well let’s just see what other safety points they have… and then maybe we’ll kill them.”

I wrote about this one for last year’s fest, and it’s all still true. Here’s a slightly edited rehash:

“What We Do In the Shadows is hilarious, smart, clever, impressively filmed, and never overstretches its premise. That last bit is miraculous, given how quickly this could have either gotten old or gone overboard — especially with the mockumentary format.”

It’s tricky to make a sweet, silly, endearing comedy about the murderous undead, but Clement and Waititi nail it.

I can’t wait for Thor: Ragnarok, when the world at large will finally be aware of how amazing Taika Waititi is. His work is sharp and funny. He revels in the flaws and awkwardness of his characters, which is such a huge part of the joy I find in his movies.

I have a soft spot for stories about the search for belonging and identity, and no one does it better that him.

I am decidedly pro-Taika!

Will I Ever Watch It Again? At least once a year, ad infinitum. This is one of those few movies where when I see it available on a streaming service it takes a conscious choice not to just click on it and watch it again.

Where Can You Watch It? Amazon Prime, or come over to my place because I fucking love this movie.


Movie Twenty-One – The Babadook

“You can’t get rid of the Babadook.
I’ll wager with you
I’ll make you a bet.
The more you deny,
The stronger I get.
You start to change when I get in.
The Babadook growing right under your skin.”

File this one under perfectly executed, creepy ass horror films that make me cry.

This movie hits home for me in a way few films ever have. As I wrote for HMF15, “as someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, and severe insomnia, as well as being someone who grew up as a child with too many parallels to Samuel, this film was both difficult and therapeutic. The last time I felt this much deep internal connection between my own childhood and the thematic territory of a film was Where the Wild Things Are.”  

After a second viewing the film was just as powerful and moving for me. I was even more impressed this time around with Jennifer Kent’s writing and direction. She hit this way out of the park, Aaron Judge-style.

Gorgeous filmmaking, and I can’t wait for her next film, The Nightingale.

I’d love it if you read my thoughts on what The Babadook meant to me when I watched it the first time, HERE, just scroll past Frenzy. 

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Absolutely. It resonates inside my soul and I’d hate to stay away too long.

Where Can You Watch It? Netflix and Showtime.


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halloween movie fest 2017, movies eight through fourteen.

Let’s keep it rolling! Here are seven more movies:


Movie Eight – The Shining

“Wendy… darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in. I’m gonna bash them right the fuck in!”

This film is a masterpiece. A fucking masterpiece!!

Nicholson is at his most brilliant and insane. It’s probably weird to say a performance like this is a joy to watch, but it’s true — especially on repeat viewings. I smile and laugh almost continuously while watching him do his thing in this movie.

Even more, Kubrick is fucking killing every aspect of the filmmaking game here. This is next level shit. I feel like if I learned more about filmcraft, I’d be even more in awe of every frame of this film than I already am.

Where is The Shining even taking us? What do all the background images and spooky tangents mean? What is Kubrick trying to communicate? Damned if I know. But with this level of meticulous filmmaking, it’s so easy to get lost in the mystery over and over again. It gets better each time.

Bonus: one of the greatest outcomes of starting to do HMF all those years ago is that this year, Emily watched The Shining and loved it. So… yeah, my life is set.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Absolutely. What’s the over/under here? Ten more times? Fifteen? The smart money is on ‘over.’

Where Can You Watch It? No one has it streaming for free right now, but I own it, so come on over.


Movie Nine – Room 237

As mentioned above, The Shining is a pretty mysterious movie. Unlike most films, the mystery intensifies as you watch the film more closely and on repeat viewings. You notice more imagery, color choices, dialogue quirks, background props, etc., and the whole thing just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Like the Overlook Hotel, the film is one big impossible labyrinth, in which the dimensions and shapes don’t add up quite how they should.

Room 237 is a documentary featuring interviews with various devotees about their theories as to what the hell this movie is about. Mostly, their theories work to an extent, but become insane when taking to such an exacting degree.

It illustrates how immersive and mesmerizing this film is. The calculated brilliance of Kubrick’s filmmaking makes it easier to believe that each detail, no matter how small, means something in the larger whole. Details that would be accidents or errors in another film are more likely intentional in a Kubrick film, which intensifies the devotion from fans trying to find meaning and read themselves into the art they love, as we all do.

My favorite part: when an interviewee explained his creation of a print of the film that overlays the film playing forwards and backwards simultaneously. The clips they showed were amazing. I don’t see how Kubrick could have intentionally made the film work that perfectly, even he wasn’t that meticulous, but it was pretty eerie how some moments lined up. Someone please let me know if they hear of a screening of that print.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? No, but it was totally worth checking out.

Where Can You Watch It? Hulu


Movie Ten – The Void

“This isn’t the end.”

If The Thing, HP Lovecraft, and a book about dealing with death and loss had a horrible nightmare baby, it would look a lot like The Void. Obviously, this means the movie is super weird and dark as fuck.

The Void had its weaknesses, but overall I found it an engaging, solid, low-budget horror film. It leaned way into what it wanted to be, never pulling any punches, which really helped me root for this one to work.

Grounded performances contrasted with insane monsters and violence helped the interdimensional madness land.

The real star of the show was the practical effects. The reliance on CGI far exceeds what filmmakers can currently do with CGI — even in big budget films — and the result is a whole lot of films getting hamstrung by cheesy-ass effects. Filmmakers Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski leaned heavily into practical effects and gore, and the result is so much more immersive. 

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Probably not, but I’m glad I chose to include it.

Where Can You Watch It? Netflix


Movie Eleven – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

“I just can’t take no pleasure in killing. There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it.”

This movie spawned an entire sub-genre and inspired countless films and filmmakers afterward. It’s on 13 official lists on iCheckMovies, so the cultural influence is clear.

To be honest, this isn’t really my thing, but I’d gone too long without seeing a movie of such iconic status.

I don’t have much to say about this one.

Where Psycho took its inspiration from Ed Gein and dove way into the weird relationship with his mom, Texas Chainsaw Massacre went hard into the whole ‘grave robbing and making housewares and clothes out of people’ aspect of Gein’s story.

I was actually a little intimidated — which explains why I waited so long to see it — because I don’t enjoy watching torture scenes in any genre. When that’s the point of the whole movie, I was prepared to spend 83 very uncomfortable minutes. As it turns out, this film is so tame by today’s standards that I had built it up to be far more disturbing in my mind than it was ever going to be in reality. I actually found it less scary and more silly, at times even annoying.

At least now I can say I’ve seen it, and for a completionist movie nerd, that’s no small thing.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? No.

Where Can You Watch It? Amazon Prime.


Movie Twelve – Beetlejuice

“As soon as we get settled, we’ll build you a dark room in the basement, okay?” 
“My whole life is a dark room.” 

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!

Hm. I thought maybe that would cause weirdo Michael Keaton to come help me write this entry.

Remember when Tim Burton was actually inventive and interesting? Or pre-Batman Michael Keaton? Or when Alec Baldwin was super skinny? Or when Geena Davis was rising to the peak of her fame? Ok, I was too young to be aware of Geena Davis as a rising star, but it’s all been recorded.

I think the biggest takeaway I got this time was that this was really a movie for teens — or at least that’s how it plays to me watching it now. Since it came out when I was six, I never really got that.

Anyway, remember the cartoon?! That was a thing that happened.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Maybe?

Where Can You Watch It? Nobody has it streaming for free right now.


Movie Thirteen – It

“Derry is not like any town I’ve been in before. They did a study once and, it turns out, people die or disappear at six times the national average. And that’s just grown ups. Kids are worse. Way, way worse.”

This one launched onto my radar because its huge critical success.

The tone and production are a little cheesy early on. Also, as opposed to The Void‘s practical effects, It features many scares that rely solely on CGI. For me, that drained the terror right out of any scene leaning heavily on less-than-stellar computer animation, which includes the opening murder. If you love obvious CGI in a scary scene, this movie will be your jam.

Negatives aside, It really is a solid film.

All the fear and foreboding that isn’t rooted in CGI was superb. The cast of kids were charming and their terrifying adventure worked perfectly at the heart of the story. I would assume King’s source material should get the bulk of the credit for how real and well-drawn the kids were. The nostalgia came from how close this felt to my own school-age summer vacations. Obviously, I mean that on a relational level, not as a claim that my friends and I fought a fear monster who likes to take the shape of a clown, because that’s all still classified by the government… er, I mean… because that never happened to me as a kid.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? I’ll definitely watch this again.

Where Can You Watch It? In theaters.


Movie Fourteen – Phantasm

“You play a good game, boy, but the game is finished. Now you die.”

This is one of those fan favorites that I just couldn’t get into. I think things would have been different if I’d seen it as a kid, because it really is an R rated kids movie about coping with death and loss. Since I didn’t see it when I was a kid, it’s just a big incoherent mess.

The story doesn’t make sense, the biggest moments in the movie make even less sense than the overall story, the things that work don’t happen enough, and I feel like Angus Scrimm’s Tall Man character was unintentionally hilarious instead of haunting — although, maybe that’s part of what people love about it, which would be far more understandable.

Some stuff I read after watching it defends the nonsensical story by saying it’s intentionally dreamlike, but to me that seems like more of a weak defense for a terrible story. In part, my enjoyment suffered from the comparison to House, which really was a nightmare logic, but took the absurdity to such extremes, which is why it works.

JJ Abrams can name and design Star Wars characters based the franchise all he wants, I’m still not going to understand what people love about this movie.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? I doubt it.

Where Can You Watch It? Shudder, otherwise no one else has it streaming for free right now.

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halloween movie fest 2017, movies one through seven.

Halloween Movie Fest is well underway, and it’s glorious.

After so many years, I’m to a point where I could make an entire month-long movie a day stretch using just films I discovered and fell in love with via HMF. Obviously, part of the joy of this annual exercise is to discover new (to me) films I might not otherwise watch, so I’ll probably never do that. Yet, while I’ll never go that far, this year I needed some familiarity in my life, so I brought back a large number of old favorites. In fact, for the first week of movies, there was only one film I hadn’t seen before (House). It was totally worth it. Upcoming weeks won’t have so many re-viewings.

Movie One – Housebound

“You cannot punch ectoplasm.”

A good horror-comedy is a thing of beauty, and Housebound belongs in the hall of fame. Add in What We Do in the Shadows and it’s clear that New Zealand really has their shit figured out in this regard.

For his debut film, writer/director Gerard Johnstone threw a mystery, a family-life comedy and a haunted house story into a blender and the resulting concoction is funny, quirky, charming and original. And as a bonus, it has one of the funniest and most unexpected death scenes I’ve ever seen — watching it for the first time with a small group of people was a genuine delight.

Sure, there are a few hiccups where the story stops making sense in order to keep things moving, but the movie is such a good time that it doesn’t really detract from the overall experience for me.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Indeed.

Where Can You Watch It? Netflix


Movies Two, Three and Four – The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness

“Hail to the king, baby.”

No one is really a stranger to these films, right? This is one of the most iconic horror franchises of all time, featuring perhaps the most iconic hero in the history of the genre.

Constantly referenced in other films, especially in the horror and horror-comedy genres, these movies are part of the DNA of everything that came after. What can I really say about these demented and beloved films? You might not love them, but you definitely love a movie that’s been influenced by them.

The first movie is certainly the most earnest of the three, although it is still insane. After that they just keep getting wackier as they go.

These are those rare movies where what works and what doesn’t work all somehow still add to the overall score. Insane, over-the-top dialogue and acting? 1,000 points! A near complete disregard for continuity between movies? 250 points! Silly, low-budget special effects? 3,000 points! A chainsaw hand? 1,000,000 points!

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Of course, preferably in large groups.

Where Can You Watch It? Evil Dead II is streaming on Shudder. Otherwise you need to pay to rent these.


Movie Five – It Follows

“It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.”

Another previous favorite I revisited this year, this one holds up really well on second viewing. I can’t say much in case you haven’t seen it. It Follows is better if you know very little about it when you watch it, which you should absolutely do!

As I said the first time, during HMF15: “David Robert Mitchell has created a film that is moody, atmospheric, and wonderfully creepy. Also, Maika Monroe is fantastic as Jay, the terrorized lead. This is a film that will be a genre classic, and I expect to see this referenced, honored, parodied, and copied in coming years.”

Watching it for the second time — as in, without being on edge and creeped out the whole time — it was even more evident how great the filmmaking is. I really love the camera choices Mitchell made. Without going into plot details, I’ll say it would have been easy in a movie like this to use that lazy trope where filmmakers cheat to get jump scares by utilizing the limited frame of the camera lens. Just because something just jumped into frame doesn’t mean the characters wouldn’t have seen it well before the reveal. This officially renders that particular jump scare fake news. It’s everywhere in horror movies — and movies in general — these days. Mitchell doesn’t do this. He uses long takes and camera movement to create a full sense of the space of the scene, immersing the viewer more legitimately in the terror of being followed by a mysterious entity. He creates scares via skillful filmmaking, not cheap tricks.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Definitely. Viewing two confirmed my theory that this is immensely rewatchable.

Where Can You Watch It? Netflix.


Movie Six – 28 Days Later

“Look, if someone gets infected, you’ve got between ten and twenty seconds to kill them. It might be your brother, or your sister, or your oldest friend — it makes no difference. And just so you know where you stand, if it happens to you, I’ll do it in a heartbeat.”

One of the primary themes at work in most zombie fare is humanity consuming itself. In Romero’s genre-spawning Living Dead films, the reanimated dead are pure mindless hunger. When left to their own devices after the collapse of civilization, those still living are even worse. The monsters are us. Romero started it all by making small stories in the midst of the end of the world, where our prejudice, paranoia, consumption, and militarism are our downfall.

In 28 Days Later, Boyle follows the template, albeit with the living dead replaced by living people infected with pure rage. Boyle dives even harder into the idea that our civilization is a thin veneer. Maybe the world isn’t actually ending, but people still use any excuse to become monsters.

The basic takeaway from most zombie movies is that individuals might be cool, but people on a large scale are the worst, whether they’re alive or undead.

Quibble all you want about whether or not it’s fare to call this a zombie film — which is stupid, because Romero himself wasn’t the one who started calling his living dead monsters ‘zombies,’ plus the word zombie comes from a totally different thing — but thematically this is a by-the-numbers zombie story exploring the worst parts of humanity.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? I own it, so chances are good, even though for some reason I liked it less this time around.  

Where Can You Watch It? You can stream it on Cinemax right now if you have a password. If you need to borrow one, mine is jkyoucanthavemypassword.


Movie Seven – House

“She eats unmarried young girls. It is the only time she can wear her wedding gown.”

Ho. Ly. Shit. This movie is, to borrow a phrase from Pierce Hawthorne, crazytown bananapants. 100% bonkers.

Killer pianos, decapitated heads biting butts, magical murder cats, people being transformed into piles of bananas, and a surprising amount of kung fu are just a few examples of what this film has to offer. It’s surreal and dreamlike. It’s a horror film by way of a child’s nightmare — although with more boobs, because the 70s.

And you know what? It somehow completely worked for me. Obayashi got all the ideas from conversations with his young daughter about what she thought was frightening, and then told the screenwriter what he wanted based on that. The special effects were often designed to look silly, like a child created them, but that was spliced in with inventive filmmaking techniques that showed Obayashi was actually a gifted filmmaker and all the craziness was intentional.

If I’m being honest, there were times watching the movie where I didn’t even know why I was captivated by it, but I absolutely was. After finishing it I immediately jumped into some bonus feature interviews with the director to keep the experience from ending. Always a good sign.

Bonus: here’s an interesting video essay I found after I watched it:

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halloween movie fest 2017 is here (and not a moment too soon)!

You wouldn’t know it from the weather in Brooklyn, but the time has come for another Halloween Movie Fest. Or, as my great-great-grandather always used to say, “Thank God, it’s Halloween Movie Fest!” Or, TGIHMF. (How would I trademark that? I feel like it’s definitely going to catch on with a wider public.)

HMF is my favorite annual glorious waste of my own time. I really need it this year, because the world is falling apart and depression is a fucking asshole.

I am so ready for this excursion into the familiar world of Halloween and its related cinema, a tradition that began for me in 2009.

I love Halloween, with its deep reliance on story and myth. For me, it’s like an entire holiday dedicated to telling ghost stories around a fire on a chilly autumn evening. HMF has come to be a means of extending that feeling throughout more of the month.

For previous fests, I would select a specific number of films and watch a movie a day. [That’s always the format for Another Day, Another Movie]. However, this year I’ve chosen 31 films, one for every day of the month, and I’ll get through as many as I can. I hereby promise all four people who read this blog that I will watch no fewer than 21 films. However, I doubt my schedule will allow me to watch a movie a day for the entire month of October. I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try, but odds aren’t great.

The 2017 list includes some straight scary fare, a few horror comedies (because obviously), some lighter Halloween-friendly films, and Room 237, a documentary about interpretations of The Shining and the intense devotion to the film’s many mysteries (I might be stretching my own premise a bit with that last one).

19 of the 31 are films I’ve seen before, so obviously I’m leaning into some favorites I’m in the mood to rewatch. Many are films I loved after seeing them for the first time during previous Halloween Movie Fests.

Here are the films, in no particular order:

  1. Shaun of the Dead
  2. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  3. The Shining
  4. Room 237
  5. Under the Shadow
  6. Don’t Breathe
  7. The Void
  8. XX
  9. 28 Days Later
  10. What We Do in the Shadows
  11. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  12. Tetsuo: The Iron Man
  13. It (2017)
  14. The Haunting
  15. House
  16. Phantasm
  17. Beetlejuice
  18. Dead of Night
  19. Pet Sematary
  20. Housebound
  21. Pontypool
  22. Cabin in the Woods
  23. The Babadook
  24. Let the Right One In
  25. It Follows
  26. The Evil Dead
  27. Evil Dead II
  28. Army of Darkness
  29. Coraline
  30. The Devil’s Backbone
  31. Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some movies to watch.

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yup, more trailers.

I told you this would happen. Comic-Con made this inevitable. Another post full of trailers so soon after the last one. Still, I had no idea just how good these trailers were going to be.

By request following the last post, release dates are included.


Thor: Ragnarok

There are those times when a director makes the big jump to larger projects and properties and it goes horribly. For whatever horrible cocktail of reasons, it all goes to shit and fans of the director hold our breaths and wait to see if it was just an anomaly (see: Duncan Jones).

But then there are those times when it all goes gloriously right, when the resulting film perfectly blends blockbuster scale with the unique personality that gave the director a following in the first place.

It’s really looking like Thor: Ragnarok is going to fall into the latter category, because this new trailer has Waititi all over it!

This weirder, bonkers, spacey Marvel Studios, where directors get to do their thing, is fucking glorious.

Also, I will never get tired of Loki becoming a temporary good guy — or at least pretending to — every other movie or so.

Release date: November 3, 2017


Bright

Speaking of bonkers, here’s an L.A. cop film that’s also an orgy of urban fantasy.

David Ayer, right, okay, so on the one side, Suicide Squad was terrible.

On the other side, Fury and End of Watch were really great.

It could be really bad, but maybe, just maybe, it’s going to be soooooooooooo goood!

Either way, Joel Edgerton will be awesome.

Release date: December 2017


Ready Player One

A trailer for Ready Player One is finally here.

You know you live in crazy times when a film full to the brim with nostalgic references to the past — many to the 80’s — is directed by Steven Spielberg, one of high gods of that realm.

I loved the remix of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I get that it’s on the nose, since the whole story of Ready Player One revolves around one big Wonkaesque contest, but I loved it.

Release date: March 30, 2018


Westworld

Okay, this one doesn’t give us much to go on, but it sure does intensify my itch for season two. So, mission accomplished.

It must be a daunting task to follow up a season where you surprised everyone with how great your show was, but then eliminated almost all of the constraints and trajectories that framed your story in the that season’s finale.

I’m really hoping they knock this one out of the park like they did last time.

Release date: 2018 (some reports say not until October, because life is awful)


Stranger Things

OMFuckingG.

I’m only mildly embarrassed to say that I’ve seen the first season three times.

It just checks so many of my boxes. Thus, when they release a season two trailer that shows the season’s events taking place at Halloween with a remix of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in the background, it becomes obvious that the Duffer Bros. are intentionally attempting to make my brain explode from nerd-joy.

Release date: October 27, 2017

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some trailer catchup.

If there’s anything this blog is good for when I’m actually keeping it current, it’s curating trailers for my friends. Based on what those friends tell me, at least.

This fact is often confirmed with conversations like:

“Have you seen the trailer for Disavowed with Rona Thorne?”

“Did you share it on Roused?”

“No.”

“Then I haven’t seen it.”

That’s a lot a pressure for a blog that’s not even really a thing 95% of the time. Still, I do what I can.

Here are just a few of the trailers I’ve neglected to share with all of you good people over the last few months, some as recently as THIS week. I’m nothing if not timely (my life is a joke).


Why I think it could be good: It’s Guillermo del Toro, so obviously I’m in. The only thing I’m confused about it the similarity between the creature and Abe Sapien as he is portrayed in the del Toro directed Hellboy films. Same actor, sure, but it’s obviously much more than that. What’s the deal?

Still, this looks great!


Why I think it could be good: Can we just agree as a society to put Lakeith Stanfield in everything?


Why I think it could be good: Ava Duvernay and amazing source material. At the very least, this one looks like it will be visually astounding.

I really want this to be great, not just because Madeleine L’Engle’s amazing story deserves a solid adaptation, but also because Disney is showing signs of allowing writers and directors to do their thing, even with big properties. David Lowery had his distinct visual style on display in Pete’s Dragon, and following Guardians of the Galaxy’s success, we are seeing the Marvel branch of the House of Mouse giving more wiggle room to directors like Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler.

Hollywood, and the media in general, rarely ever know why something succeeds or fails, but if something like this succeeds it will increase the chances more projects like it will be greenlit. I’m all for that.


Why I think it could be good: The more footage they release, the more confident I feel that this will be the sort of violent, bonkers, silly, badass followup the first film demands.


 

Why I think it could be good: I still wish Jessica Williams hosted The Daily Show. The world has gone too long without her being a regular part of our lives.


 

Why I think it could be good: It’s pretty rare that I see a trailer for the first time in an actual theater before a movie, but this trailer came out of nowhere for me. That’s a fitting way for me to discover a film that looks surprising and fresh.

Em said to me that of all the upcoming films we’ve seen trailers for lately, she thinks she is most excited for this one. It’s hard to disagree.


Why I think it could be good: Soderbergh comes out of retirement from making films with redneck Ocean’s Eleven. I’ll be there with bells on.


Why I think it could be good: This looks like it will be the sort of weird, genre-skewing, funny, and endearing film I predictably fall in love with as long as it is done well.


Why I think it could be good: This one is going to be tough to watch. That cast though! Hopefully this will be a fitting way to pay tribute to the brave, badass men who lost their lives during that wildfire.


Why I think it could be good: With Ryan Coogler and an amazing cast, this has the potential to be really good. Everything that has come out so far has been encouraging.

Also, see above statements re: A Wrinkle in Time and how I want all these Marvel and Disney projects where directors get to do their thing succeed.


Why I think it could be good: There are those times where an actor makes a film late in their life that seems to encapsulate their work — an epilogue of sorts. I hope this won’t be Harry Dean Stanton’s last film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s remembered that way, even if he goes on to make another 20.

Who wants to watch Paris, Texas with me again while we wait for this one?


Why I think it could be good: I loved the first two, I can’t see why I won’t love this one, too. I could really use a funny, depressing, soul-searching vacation with these guys while we eat some of the greatest food imaginable.


Why I think it could be good: The book was so great, and the movie looks like it might be a lovely adaptation.

I know people love to shit all over the time we live in artistically and culturally, but one thing I love is the breakdown of genre ghettos. Brilliant, accomplished directors are willing to offer their take on YA, sci-fi, super heroes, etc. With all the nonsense that sucks these days, at least the loosening of what sorts of storytelling are considered “high” and “low” makes me glad I live when I do.


That’s what I have for you right now. However, it is Comic-Con this week so perhaps there will be another one of these up within a few days.

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baby love. [an ode to edgar wright and baby driver.]

Believe the hype, everybody. Baby Driver and The Big Sick really are as good as everyone has been saying — more on The Big Sick another time, but for now, Baby Driver!

I’m about to write a ton about Edgar Wright, so let me first mention that I loved everything in this movie. The cast is so great. Ansel Elgort is getting lots of attention, but lets not forget that Lily James as Debora is impossible not to fall in love with, Jamie Foxx is at his considerable best as an unhinged sociopath, Jon Hamm and Eiza González are a charismatic match made in hell, Kevin Spacey does Kevin Spacey things. It was great.

And of course, I have to join the chorus of fans singing the soundtrack’s praise as well. It’s heartbeat that makes the film go, and I can assure you I’ll continue to listen to it on Spotify regularly for the foreseeable future.

Now, with that important stuff mentioned, on to my boy Edgar.

There’s a good 20 minutes at the start of Baby Driver where I literally couldn’t sit still. As in, I genuinely couldn’t keep myself from fidgeting and squirming in my seat from sheer joy. That first car chase, combined with the loooooong tracking shot, was everything I wanted this movie to be. It was all the technical brilliance and ebullient film geekery I crave from Wright.

As Guillermo del Toro tweeted, Baby Driver is like a Gene Kelly musical, but with cars and gun violence. “An American In Paris on wheels and crack smoke. It’s a movie in love with cinema – the high of cinema and motion. In love with color and light and lenses and film.

This is peak Edgar Wright. While a definite shift in tone and location for the director, like all of his films it is an invitation into a world shaped by his deep love of cinema — this time, set to music!

He’s a meticulous and methodical director. Everything in an Edgar Wright film is carefully planned and storyboarded. He has a vision in his head, he carefully plans how to collaborate toward its execution, and then he makes it happen — all the while utilizing his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema.

That’s not the only way to make a great movie. Some directors make amazing art by throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks, or by shooting massive amounts of footage and then doing much of the work in the editing room.

But Wright is the opposite of that. It’s all meticulously storyboarded before shooting begins, shot for shot, every frame, angle, and beat. Without that sort of precision, a film like Baby Driver never would have been possible.

It’s not just the massively complicated car and foot chase scenes, everything in this film required Wright’s uncommon level of attention and preparation. Everything had to work together, on rhythm, perfectly choreographed. For example, the actors had earwigs in so they could hear the music, to be certain that each footstep and gunshot was in time to the music, as it was choreographed.

To have one scene where the action plays out in time with the music is fun — like the Queen scene in Shaun of the Dead — but to have the majority of a film work that way is INSANE.

People too often underrate Wright’s technical skill. They’ll mention the Cornetto Trilogy being funny, clever homages to genres that tell meaningful stories about continuing to grow up as an adult, but even that praise too often leaves out how fucking brilliant the actual filmmaking is. Maybe the irony and humility of the films makes it harder for people to take it seriously, but they are missing out. Fortunately, Tony Zhou gets it.

Perhaps part of it is that he makes it look too easy. Wright and his team excel at taking filmmaking with a really high degree of difficulty and doing it so well that it blends in with the larger fabric of the film. Making a fully analog action jukebox musical full of non-CGI car chases is as high as a degree of difficulty is going to get, but this film fits together seamlessly. It’s so visceral and thrilling that it’s easy to miss how impressive the filmmaking is.

Chances are, after the critical and commercial success of Baby Driver, we will get to see what it looks like when this sort of thing is done poorly. We are going to get a bunch of copycat projects in about 18 months, that’s how the business works.

The good news is, we’re also going to get some great films eventually, as some gifted directors will make art that riffs on what Wright does in Baby Driver; much the same way that Edgar Wright takes all of his passions and interests and creates something exciting and new each time out.

It’s always bittersweet — but mostly sweet, because good for them — to see a personally beloved artist graduate from really popular ‘underground’ figure into full-fledged celebrity. His work has been known for a while, with critical raves and a medium sized but massively passionate fanbase. Now he has arrived in earnest as a blockbuster director. We felt like he was ours, but now he belongs to everyone. Yeah, that sounds really creepy, but it’s still true.

We first thought this moment was coming in 2010, after the excited buzz Scott Pilgrim vs. the World got at early screenings, but then that film didn’t perform as well as many predicted at the box office. Then we thought it would happen with Marvel’s Ant-Man, but that ended poorly when Wright left the project soon before filming began over “creative differences,” — something I don’t believe would have happened if production had been set to begin just a year later, and Marvel could have seen how well Guardians of the Galaxy over performed and perhaps allowed more wiggle room for Wright’s vision.

Alas, at long last, the well-deserved time has finally come. Edgar Wright will no longer be an underrated genius, just a genius.

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the triumphant-ish return of five things. [five things, 6.9.17]

These days, there’s just too much media to consume.

Combine the accumulation of all the great things created in human history, and you already have too much to get to in one lifetime. Add to that the fact that amazing stuff is currently being made at a pace that is impossible to keep up with, and you have a recipe for despair.

The last thing you need is some asshole giving you a list of more things you should check out.

In that spirit, here is a list of five things you should check out.

None of these things are obscure, but all of them seem underappreciated based on my limited line of sight.


1. Power Man and Iron Fist by David F. Walker

I haven’t watched it yet, but by most accounts, Netflix’s Iron Fist was underwhelming at best. Many people responded more favorably to Luke Cage, but while I enjoyed the character on Jessica Jones, the standalone show fell really flat for me.

Fortunately, I don’t need Netflix if I want a great ongoing Power Man and Iron Fist story, because David F. Walker has been absolutely killing it since relaunching the title for Marvel early last year.

Power Man and Iron Fist is witty, playful, socially aware, smart, and above all, really fun.

Walker is able to embrace and transcend the blaxploitation roots of the title in ways that work on every level.

Also, did I mention it’s really fun? The style? The art? The characterization? Fun, fun, and fun.

Power Man and Iron Fist does just about everything the Luke Cage series tried — and in my opinion failed — to do as far as social commentary goes, but without ever taking itself very seriously.

I want David F. Walker to write all of the things.

Will the Heroes for Hire ride again? Can Danny and Luke get their old mojo back in order to stop an entertaining rogue’s gallery from tearing Harlem apart? Will someone be able to use the Supersoul Stone, and artifacts like it, to become the darkly powerful Grandmaster of Street Magic? You’ll have to read and find out.


2. A Band Called Death

I finally got around to watching this movie. You should finally get around to watching it, too.

I expected it to be entertaining, appealing to my music and record loving heart. And it was. I had a great time watching the story of Death and the strange series of events that led to the band being discovered 34 years after recording their only album.

What I didn’t expect was the emotional power of the film’s third act as it touches on the beauty of family and the bittersweet nature of hope.

Shut up, I’m not crying. You’re crying.


3. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Obviously, the film isn’t underappreciated. The beauty of Hayao Miyazaki‘s modern classic — one among many — is well-known.

But the book by Diana Wynne Jones? Now, that’s a different story. Literally, actually. It’s a very different story than the one Miyazaki told — his changes were reportedly made, at least in part, to create a film in response to the American war in Iraq.

Obviously I won’t go into detail about specific differences, because that would ruin all the fun for any of you who decide to read it. What I will say is that both stories are great, so it isn’t hard to love each of them.

Jones immediately shot up my list of authors whose work I want to devour entirely, in much the same way that a fire demon eats bacon. Neil Gaiman’s love for Jones already had her on my list of authors to check out, but Howl’s Moving Castle plants her firmly in the ‘Give Me More’ category. Her writing is funny, wise, and layered. Her narrative voice is bright and playful, and the way she limits the reader’s field of vision based on Sophie’s perspective — even though she isn’t the narrator — is done with heaping portions of humor and insight.

This is a quick read, and well worth your time. Just try not to drag the movie into it. Let each stand in conversation with the other, not opposition.


4. Mo’ Meta Blues by ?uestlove

Seeing The Roots live is one of the greatest music experiences currently available in this world. The two Roots shows we’ve seen were infectiously joyful, wildly fun three-hour-long homages to music and life, with Questlove as the mad genius ringleader [[I read they’ve since tragically retired the three-hour-long so-called ‘Springsteen shows.’]] This book felt a lot like the text manifestation of those shows. I loved it.

One of my favorite things is passionate, knowledgable people talking about the things they love most. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate or knowledgable about a given topic than Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson is about music.

I loved learning the story of Questlove, beginning with his parents’ record collection. I loved learning the story of The Roots, beginning with Black Thought’s rivalry with Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men — they all went to the same arts high school in Philly. But most of all, I loved the deep, overflowing love Questo has for music and seeing how that passion has shaped his entire life, and American music along with it.


5. Legion

I tell ya, I thank the gods of television that Noah Hawley is making shows.

David Haller thinks he’s crazy, but it turns out he’s actually just a wildly powerful mutant. Then again, maybe he’s crazy.

You may think a television show adapted from the pages of an X-Men comic won’t be to your liking, but if let that keep you from watching Legion you’ll really be missing out.

This show isn’t what people might expect in their knee-jerk assumptions about a show based on a comic. It’s super trippy and lots of fun… I know, I’ve said almost everything in this post so far is fun, it’s just that these things are fun.

Legion is like if Pushing Daisies and Fargo — the show, obviously, because Noah Hawley — had a baby, and then that baby grew up and had a baby with Charles Xavier.

The show is smart and quirky, with unexpected delight and/or creepiness waiting around every corner.

The cast is especially great, with the performances by Aubrey Plaza, Dan Stevens and Jemaine Clement deserving gold stars in my book.

Seriously, don’t let the comic origins put you off if you don’t like comics. You can hate super hero films and still love this show. The show is designed so someone who has never even heard of comic books can jump right in and enjoy it. I know that might be hard to believe coming from a guy who started this installment of five things with a comic book, but it’s true. I promise!

 

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