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halloween movie fest, 2014: nights 11-15.

Night Eleven: Oculus

“I’ve met my demons, and they are many. I’ve seen the devil, and he is me.”

Karen Gillian and Brenton Thwaites star in Relativity Media's OCULUS.  Photo Credit: John Estes ©2013 Lasser Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I liked this one. It plays back and forth between two nights, 11 years apart, as a brother and sister attempt to destroy the cursed mirror that claimed their parents when the siblings were children.

It screws with your head, subjecting the viewer to the same perception skewing madness that the evil mirror causes for the film’s protagonists.

There were parts of the film that I loved and hated for the exact same reasons, and I can’t explain more about that without spoiling stuff. I can say more in conversation with folks who have either seen the film, or don’t care if it is spoiled.

Will I ever watch it again? Yup. At the very least, this one will most definitely make appearances at future Halloween Movie Fests.


Night Twelve: We Are What We Are

“We have kept our tradition in its purity, and seek our reward in the hereafter. Amen.”

We Are What We Are (2013)

This is a dark, twisted, beautifully crafted film. Just like with Come Out and Play, I realized too late that this was a remake, or I would have watched the original first. Although, in my opinion, this film is vastly superior to Come Out and Play, so I wasn’t as disappointed that I watched the adaptation first.

For most of We Are What We Are, the film is stark and subtle, and it is all the more horrifying and creepy for all that subtlety. From the outset, Jim Mickle’s direction and some wonderful performances by the leads create a sense of quiet dread that gets under your skin and stays there well after the film is over.

Will I ever watch it again? Absolutely. I found myself putting this one off night after night because I knew it was going to be a disturbing one. While it was just as disturbing as I’d imagined, it wound up being one of my favorites from this year’s fest.


Night Thirteen: Repulsion

“I must get this crack mended.”


This film is almost as sad as it is chilling. A story of the impact of sexual abuse, Repulsion is about a woman whose childhood trauma is causing her sanity to quickly unravel, with murderous results.

Polanski’s film is full of images drawing attention to all the various fabricated manifestations of masculinity and femininity, with most making it clear how unhealthy our perception of gender identity is.

Sexual commentary aside, the film is not without its horror. It moves with the slow rhythm of the dark heart that beats at its core. The first of Polanski’s apartment trilogy, Repulsion is a claustrophobic depiction of a chilling descent into madness.

Will I ever watch it again? Most likely.


Night Fourteen: Suspiria

“Susie, do you know anything about… witches?”


I’m always careful when sharing negative opinions on this blog. Especially about classics. I hate when I hear people state their negative opinions as facts, which is often done with a tone implying that the holder of the negative opinion is so much smarter than all the rubes dumb enough to think the cultural artifact in question is good.

I didn’t like Suspiria, but I’m aware that it probably has more to do with me than the film itself.

The plot is loosely connected and unexplained nonsense. A fact most people agree on, which is why Edgar Wright described the movie by saying, “It’s like a dream you’ve had when you’ve eaten too much cheese.” That’s not necessarily a fault, it can work really well when horror is intentionally trying to feel like a nightmare. It just fell short for me in this instance.

Much of what was keeping me from enjoying the film was sound related. The dubbing is terrible (a common problem in Italian films of this era), but I could have easily loved the movie in spite of the bad dubbing, like some of my favorite spaghetti westerns. The bigger sound crime was actually the score. Many love it, and I appreciate its bizarre quality and originality, but hated it in the context of this film. It was way over the top, constantly trying to overwhelm the viewer and make them uncomfortable. Lots of moaning and ghostly yells within the score, with no connection at all to the events in the film. It was confusing to me in a film about listening for the sound of snoring and strange breathing and footsteps going the wrong way. I would think that called for a minimalist score, leaving the viewer stuck with those disconcerting and barely audible sounds, as opposed to a score that seems desperate to force you into believing something scary is happening, even when someone is merely leaving an airport lobby.

Will I ever watch it again? Probably not. Yet, I would be willing to watch it again with someone who loves it, in the hopes they can open my eyes to the film’s qualities.


Night Fifteen: The Conjuring

“Want to play a game of hide and clap?”


This was the movie I was most excited to watch. It was wildly well received upon release, and as I’ve mentioned before, I love ghost stories. Sadly, I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped.

The good: Early on there were an impressive number of enjoyable scares. Old school, haunted house style scares. It’s really well shot, and the creepiness and dread are solid early on. Some genuinely scary shit happens in the first third.

The bad: It’s really woodenly acted, which is strange with such a solid cast. It also goes off the rails in the final half because it does such a faithful job honoring what Ed and Loraine Warren were really like, which means their entire role as demonologists was a big evangelical push for the roman catholic church. The more time you spend trying to convince me this all really happened and it was the devil’s fault, the less time you’re spending trying to scare me.

Basically, all the stuff of the family being terrorized was great. All the stuff about the Warren family was boring and too earnest.

More creepy games of hide and clap! Less proselytizing!

Will I ever watch it again? No. However, I do need to try Wan’s film Insidious to see if that gets all the scares and less of the this allllll reaallllly happpeennneedd, woooooooooooo! 

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previous halloween movie fests.

A few folks were curious about the earlier editions of Halloween Movie Fest, so here is a convenient little compilation of links for anyone who cares.

2013 Nights 1-5
The Descent
Les diaboliques
Peeping Tom

2013 Nights 6-10
Dead Alive
The Awakening

2012 Nights 1-5
Shaun of the Dead
Bride of Frankenstein
The Cabin in the Woods
Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face)

2012 Nights 6-10
Bubba Ho-Tep
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (Bonus Movie)
A Nightmare on Elm St.
The Innkeepers
Friday the 13th

2012 Nights 11-15
The Invisible Man
The Exorcist
The Fog

Halloween Movie Fest 2010
Night 1 – Let the Right One In
Night 2 – [rec] 
Night 3 – Brotherhood of the Wolf
Night 4 – Slither
Night 5 – An American Werewolf in London
Night 6  – Dawn of the Dead
Night 7 – Pontypool
Night 8 – The Devil’s Backbone
Nights 9-15 –
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Monster House
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
The Fly (1986)
Shaun of the Dead
Dead Snow.

The Inaugural Halloween Movie Fest 2009
Full List, including:
1. 28 Weeks Later
2. Let The Right One In
3. The Orphanage
4. Ghostbusters
5. Poltergeist
6. Night of the Living Dead
7. Evil Dead
8. Drag Me to Hell
9. Trick ‘r’ Treat
10. Dead Snow
11. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
12. Shaun of the Dead

The end

halloween movie fest, 2014: nights 1-5.

Night One: Freaks

“We accept you, one of us! Gooble gobble! Gooble gobble!”

freaks 1932

Set in a circus, Freaks is a tragedy where greed and cruelty are the true deformities, but also, where people with physical deformities have some kind of weird code and they will fuck your shit up if you mess with one of them. So, you know, a laudable message wrapped in an antiquated way of dealing with different sorts of people.

In the execution of its drama, this film is as dated as one would expect. In the execution of its horror, albeit brief, this film is about as far ahead of its time as a movie can be. Unfortunately, it was so ahead of its time that people lost their shit and when the various censors were done with it a third of the movie had been chopped off. That thirty minutes of cut footage is now lost forever. The remaining film is a bit nonsensical in parts as a result, but is still impressively edgy.

I so wish I could see the original cut, especially the footage from the film’s climax that included more disturbing visuals, including implied castration… in 1932! Sadly, director Tod Browning’s career was derailed by the film’s controversy and resulting failure.

Will I ever watch it again? Probably not, unless someone unearths the lost footage.


Night Two: Uzumaki 

“Come into the spiral.”


Visually, it’s creepy and interesting. Uzumaki is imaginative and fresh. The film is also downright weird, both in ways that I enjoyed and in ways that were completely lost on me, but that could be a cultural thing.

To a certain degree it is like a David Lynch film, but it makes less sense. Yes, you read that right, it makes less sense than a David Lynch film. I think much of what made the film incoherent in most narrative aspects is a translation thing. Something got lost in the translation from the manga [by most accounts brilliant] to the screen, and something got lost in translation from Japanese to English.

So, while everything is tied together visually by the malevolent spirals, we are never sure why they are malevolent… aside from something about the words for mirror and serpent being pronounced the same way, and ancient mirrors being dredged up from the bottom of a lake. All of my confusion could be purely the result of a bad subtitle transcriber.

Will I ever watch it again? No, although I’d change my mind if it turns out there is a superior subtitle track a la Let the Right One In. 


Night Three: Sightseers

“The police announced today that they’re pursuing a ginger-faced man and an angry woman in connection with inquiries.”


A twisted comedy that succeeds because it delivers its insanity so subtly. The violence and comedy mix so well because each are played so straight. Lowe and Oram are brilliant (especially Lowe).

By today’s standards, the gore is fairly tame and the body count fairly low. The film is droll, but not over the top slapstick. So the tone of the violence needed to match the tone of the humor. One way they accomplished this was by making most of the murders take place in slow motion with no native audio, but a song playing over the scene, which somehow helped keep the tone even.

Will I ever watch it again? Not soon, but ask me again in a year or two


Night Four: The Blob (1958)

“Doctor, nothing will stop it!”


Oh, The Blob. Everything you expect from a B-Movie is here. Inept cinematography, strange pacing within scenes, confused acting from a silly script. Fantastic. This one also happened to launch a young Steve McQueen. So, on behalf of The Blob, you’re welcome, America.

My very favorite B-Movie trope on display here was the unintentionally hilarious dialogue. I’d share some of the lines with you, but they wouldn’t really land without the delivery by the actors in a given moment.

This one was a late addition to the list for HMF.

Will I ever watch it again? Maybe under some sort of influence and in the right company.


Night Five: Carnival of Souls

“It’s funny… the world is so different in the daylight. In the dark, your fantasies get so out of hand. But in the daylight everything falls back into place again.”

carnival-of-souls-originalIf Uzumaki is a film I found harmed by its lack of narrative cohesion, Carnival of Souls is a film that is actually enhanced by it. It’s another film that is very Lynchian, although this one being a film that influenced Lynch instead of the other way around. In Carnival of Souls the loose narrative contributed to the nightmare feel of the film, constantly keeping the viewer off balance.

An independent film from 1962, some limitations are clear, especially in terms of the acting, and awkward editing and direction much of the time. I think there is a solid chance we see here the DNA that would later result in David Lynch fetishizing bad acting so often, especially as a way to add to a particular sort of creepy atmosphere.

The creepiness they were able to create with such limited resources is impressive. Along with the fun little winks and metaphors that are never oversold, but are left subtle. Too often storytellers are worried you’ll miss a symbol so they beat you over the head with it, Carnival of Souls just leaves it there for those with eyes to see.

The strengths and weaknesses both make it obvious why this is a cult favorite. It’s tailor-made.


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halloween movie fest 2014.

October is upon Seattle in just a few short hours, which means it is almost time for another year’s Halloween Movie Fest. Oh, happy day!


This year I will be watching 15 movies for HMF, a few I know in love, and a bunch I’ve never seen before.

Here are the films, not necessarily in the order they will be watched.

  1. You’re Next
  2. The Conjuring
  3. Oculus
  4. Come Out and Play
  5. We Are What We Are
  6. Magic Magic
  7. Sightseers
  8. The Changeling [1980]
  9. Freaks
  10. Carnival of Souls
  11. Uzumaki
  12. The Shining
  13. Suspiria
  14. Peeping Tom
  15. Repulsion

And a few bonus movies include: Pontypool, Let The Right One In, Coraline, Paranorman.



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