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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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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.

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

“You should never have come here.”

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

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

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

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Will I Ever Watch It Again? Maybe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Will I Ever Watch It Again? Chances are high.

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

“Allow it.”

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

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

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

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

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

There should be more movies like Attack the Block. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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