In October 2015 I decided to pick up a habit I’d tried out years ago but abandoned: watching a bunch of horror movies during All Hallows Month, then spilling my thoughts like so much viscera. I intend to do this again in 2016 and beyond. This post will serve as a roundup of links to the movies I’ve discussed. It will grow, year by year, until every nook and cranny of the horror universe has been plumbed.
NOTE: These aren’t spoiler-free reviews. (They’re not even reviews so much as a meandering inventory of opinions and anecdotes.) Which is to say, if you haven’t seen one of these movies and don’t want anything spoiled, might want to skip these pieces till you’ve watched said film.
Herewith, the list of movies, arranged alphabetically and citing the order in which I wrote about them plus the year each was released.
The Babadook (#5, 2014)
Dawn of the Dead (#8, 1978)
Demons (#2, 1985)
Friday the 13th, Part III (#1, 1982)
Halloween (#10, 1978)
Hard Rock Nightmare (#7, 1988)
Housebound (#9, 2014)
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (#3, 2010)
White Zombie (#6, 1932)
Zombeavers (#4, 2015)
It’s time to wrap up this October horror-thon by climbing aboard the mother ship: Halloween. I could probably write 20,000 words about this movie, but I’ll try to keep this coherent.
Let’s start with the historical record. Halloween was mostly jeered in its initial run. It was considered tawdry, exploitative trash. A cheap knockoff of Psycho. A tasteless, offensive exercise in vicarious sadism with no redeeming qualities. And atop those perceived deficiencies, critics slathered it with scorn for unleashing Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and all the other stalwarts of trashy horror cinema on the world.
That was the real sin, you see. These days, Halloween is widely acknowledged as a classic. And yet any time it’s examined as a key piece of cinematic history, an inevitable phrase appears: “the movie [insert text here] inspiring the 1980s slasher movie explosion.” Why the bracketed section? Because, depending on your source, Halloween is either [credited with] or [blamed for] said explosion. And the critics of my childhood most definitely went with option two.
. . . Which didn’t stop those slasher flicks from dominating my youthful (and so often thwarted) movie-viewing ambitions.
Tonight I have the pleasure of introducing you to the best movie to come out of New Zealand since the Lord of the Rings trilogy. (In this house we do not speak of that bloated abomination that stole The Hobbit’s good name. Poor Martin Freeman.) It’s a little gem called Housebound. I’d never heard of this movie until I was perusing the internet’s multifarious offerings of “Best Horror Movies Streaming on Netflix” lists, on which it popped up more often than not. It deserves so much better.
I can’t summarize this movie without spoiling what makes it so good. I can only offer a taste. Housebound opens with a hilariously botched attempt by two thieves to break into an ATM. One of them, Kylie, is our protagonist, a young woman with issues; we learn that the ATM fiasco isn’t her first rodeo, crime-wise. Rejecting the usual diversion programs as having been, shall we way, ineffectual, the judge sentences Kylie to eight months of house arrest . . . in her childhood home . . . with the mother and stepdad she can’t stand.
And oh, by the way, her mother has always been convinced the house is haunted, much to Kylie’s irritation. Of course, no sooner is Kylie delivered to her mom’s house and ankle-braceleted than she begins to hear strange noises. And off we go. That’s as much as I can tell you other than Watch this movie tonight.
I’ve dreamed about this scenario my entire life: some vaguely-defined crisis strikes the area in which I live, giving me and a select group of friends (OK, actually nubile ladies) no choice but to hole up in the local shopping mall and survive within for months. Lock all the doors! Sleep in the Macy’s display beds! Eat the giant chocolate chip cookies before they go bad!
I’m not kidding; since I was a little kid, entering my first mall and gazing up and about in wonder, I’ve plotted out my survival strategies for just such an emergency. (Truly a child of the Eighties here.) Little did I know, however, that a classic horror movie dealt with this exact situation the year after I was born!
Friend of this website Matthew hosts a monthly event at our local art house cinema: Bad Movie Night, which is about as bluntly descriptive as any phrase can be. These days, the term “curated” as applied to any experience (looking at you, Apple Music) generally sends a dagger of stabbing pain to that place just behind my eyes—you know, the same raw spot that has never healed from the bludgeoning overuse of “artisanal” in our culture.
But some things do cry out for . . . ugh, I’m going to say it . . . curation. Enjoyably shitty movies, for instance. There are more terrible movies out there than you could ever count, and you need some patient and masochistic soul to root through them to find the gems. Movies you’ve never heard of. Movies literally filmed on VHS. Italian Jaws knockoffs. (I’m sorry: unofficial sequels.) These aren’t “Oh, Showgirls was terrible, let’s all get together and hate-watch it” movies; these are flicks so incoherent they never saw a theatrical release. So appallingly funny no one even claims the copyright to them anymore.
Yes, that’s how bad these movies are, folks: No one is even hoping to make money off them. This is America! Everyone is trying to make money off everything! But not these lemons.