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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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