Page 1
Standard

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:

more
Standard

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.

more
Standard

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.

thewitch2

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.

more
Standard

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.

the_hallow_still

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Maybe?

more
Standard

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.

screen_shot_2016-04-05_at_6-52-14_am

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

more
Standard

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.

like-people

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Chances are high.

more
Standard

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.

large_attack2

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.

more
Standard

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.

maxresdefault

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.

more
Standard

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.

a-tale-of-two-sisters-2003

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.

more
Standard

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.

kill-list-di

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

more