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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! 

The end