Horror Movie Month 2016

Another year, another thirty-one days of horror movies! I think our selections this year had fewer losers than some past years, but probably also fewer stand-out winners.

What We Watched

October 1: The Thing (1982)

A classic! I forgot how good the creature effects were, and how effective the moments of suspense. Also, as with all of Carpenter’s original scores: great music!

We watched this one with Martha, who said it was much less boring than the 1951 version, which we previous tried to watch and abandoned, in preparation for this one. On the other hand, she said it was not scary.

October 2: Don’t Breathe

We saw this one in the theatre!

It had a lot going for it, but in the end, we thought it was only okay, at best. I think I might have given it a “pretty good, if flawed,” if it hadn’t basically become a super-gross rape movie.

No, thanks. We want fun horror movies.

October 3: Paranormal Activities: Ghost Dimension

a.k.a. Paranormal Activities 6

It was the best Paranormal Activities movie in a long time. This does not mean it was very good. I liked a few things that it did, especially in how it tied itself back to the original film. Still, though, these movies are just not that great. I think it was about as good a capstone as we were going to get.

October 4: Silent Scream

We’ve spent some time working through a BuzzFeed list of horror movies. Some of the movies we’d already seen, and some we saw over the last two years. Now we’re down to movies that I’ve had a hard time finding. Silent Scream is one of those.

Short version: it wasn’t worth it. It had a couple funny bits, but mostly it was one of those 1980-ish films where they were trying to figure out how to make a slasher the right way. This one didn’t hit the mark.

October 5: The Gate

Some kids stumble across a hole in the back yard. Their parents go away. The hole is full of tiny demons. They spend the movie fighting the demons before finally banishing them. It’s from 1987, and you can tell. It’s time to market horror-style movies to young audiences, and that’s what this. It’s not very good.

Instead, watch Joe Dante’s The Hole.

October 6: He Never Died

Don’t read the Wikipedia article! Just go see the movie!

This was probably my favorite new film of the month. It wasn’t perfect, and as the movie went on it got less interesting to me, but Henry Rollins was just perfect. He plays a weird loner who lives in the big city and tries to avoid doing anything interesting. He eats eggplant parms every day and plays bingo a few times a week. There is something seriously weird going on with this boring guy.

I enjoyed it.

October 7: Extraordinary Tales

It’s an anthology of animated Edgar Allan Poe stories. I was entirely unimpressed. Read them instead.

October 8: We Are Still Here

Middle-aged couple moves into a haunted house. Their neighbors visit but are sort of creepy weirdos. Friends come to visit and things get worse. On its surface, this movie didn’t look very interesting, but I enjoyed it. It had good pacing. It was creepy. I wish the story held together a bit better, but it was fun. I would watch a sequel.

October 9: The Others

This was our second horror movie with Martha this year!

Gloria and I had seen this before, and I remembered thinking it was okay. On rewatching, I found it more interesting. It was a pretty solid ghost story.

Martha’s verdict: good movie, not scary.

October 10: Ava’s Possessions

The movie starts when a young woman has a possessing demons exorcised from her. She’s found guilty of crimes she committed while possessed, and one option she’s given is to go into a group therapy program for possession victims. This is a good setup, and they do not entirely squander it. I think I would’ve liked the movie better if there had been less horror action and more frank discussion of the problems of being possessed.

Still, I enjoyed it.

October 11: American Horror Story: Roanoke

Promising start. We liked the format as a ghost stories TV show.

October 12: Green Room

So, it was okay. A lefty punk band gets booked to play a white supremacist skinhead club. Things go sour.

We were excited because it had Patrick Stewart. He was wasted. The rest of the cast was good, though.

In the end, it was just a “everybody tries not to get killed” movie with a touch of torture porn. I was sure it was going to be a werewolf movie, and I was sorely disappointed when it wasn’t.

October 13: American Horror Story: Roanoke

Uh oh. The usual American Horror Story thing is starting: too many plot lines, too many characters. What’s going on here? Can this possibly remain coherent?

October 14: Southbound

An anthology! I love a good anthology, but so many horror anthologies are just crap. This one was not! It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. There were five stories, each one linking to the next. I liked every story (but The Accident may have been my favorite), and I thought they were just connected enough to make it fun.

October 15: Krampus

It’s a horror-comedy about Christmas. Krampus, Santa’s evil buddy, comes to punish the grinchy. It was okay. It was not great, nor was it terrible.

October 16: The Fog (1980)

Another film that we’d seen before, but now watched with Martha! I like a lot about The Fog, and there’s also a lot that I don’t like. Maybe my big problem is that I find ghost pirates altogether too corny as villains.

Martha’s verdict: she liked it, even though it wasn’t scary.

October 16: Big Bad Wolves

I was a little worried when I realized this one would have subtitles, but I didn’t mind. Also, this movie sounded very good. That is: the spoken Hebrew sounded really good in the mouths of these characters, even if I didn’t understand a word of it.

The movie was well made, and I liked quite a few things about it, but its effective black comedy was undermined by the fact that it was about someone who raped and murdered children.

October 17: American Horror Story

Ugh, we give up. Too much stuff going on. Even if some of it was good, it was too much of a mess.

My proposal was that they try to do this series differently. Instead of acting like it’s a whole season of a ghost stories TV series, they should’ve run a new ghost story each episode, slowly letting the viewer realize that they were somehow connected. Maybe by the end, we break the fourth wall and realize that the horror is now hunting the producers of the show.

Except the producers of American Horror Story would have to add eighteen subplots to the story.

October 18: Glitch

This ended up not seeming very horror-y. It’s a new-to-us Australian TV series about a very small number of the dead rising from their graves. It looked pretty good, and we’ll definitely watch more of it.

October 19: the third presidential debate

Okay, we skipped any traditional horror viewing to watch the debate between Clinton and Trump. I was left shaken.

October 20: Viral

Viral is an outbreak movie in which a parasite begins to spread rapidly, turning people into murder monsters. The film focuses on the experiences of two sisters trapped in a quarantined LA suburb during the outbreak while their parents are away. It was okay, but I felt like it could’ve been a lot better with some more work on the script.

October 21: Night of the Living Deb

Weird-o awkward protagonist has a one night stand with the guy she’s been crushing on for ages. When they wake up, zombies have taken over their town. As they try to escape they discover what’s really happening to their city… and their hearts.

It was okay. It really needed better writing. It occasionally felt like an SNL sketch.

October 22: Detention

We watched this one a few years ago, too. I really, really enjoyed this movie. I liked that it was weird, and unlike anything else, but not pretentious or self-important. It’s just fun.

October 23: The Blob (1988)

Another movie watched with Martha! I hadn’t seen this movie for maybe twenty years or more. When we watched it, I became sure of something I had forgotten: there was a novelization of this movie, and I read it. I can’t be sure, but I feel pretty confident that this is true. I would’ve been about ten, so I probably thought it was awesome.

Anyway, the movie was cheesy, but not terrible. It was definitely much better than the 1958 version, which I considered watching with Martha a year or so ago. That was tiresome enough that I gave up during my previewing.

This one had some good bits. I especially liked the line cook being pulled bodily down the sink drain, making it bulge like a snake eating a rat.

Martha’s verdict: fun, but not scary.

October 23: Insidious: Chapter 3

I may have liked this best of all the Insidious films. A teenage girl wants to contact the spirit of her dead mother, but instead gets the attention of malicious spirits living in her building. A friendly medium is called in to help.

There wasn’t really anything in particular that I liked about this movie, I just liked it. I liked the cast, and I was pleased that the movie was neither very weird nor overly hampered by its formula.

All that said, it wasn’t great. It was okay.

October 24: The Conjuring

This movie had a lot of problems. I wanted to yell at the TV, “Why are you doing this stupid thing that is obviously going to get someone killed?” Despite this, it was a decent horror movie. The creepy parts were creepy, the relaxing middle parts were relaxing, and it wasn’t just jump scares.

Gloria and I are both pretty tired of possessions and haunted houses, though. The ideas aren’t spent, but they’ve both been covered the same way in many, many films, especially in the last ten years. We need to see new ideas.

October 25: The Strain

We watched the first episode of this TV series about vampires invading New York City. (This is my understanding about what the series will be about. Even as I write this, we’ve only made it to episode three. I’m not sure what’s really going to happen.)

I found the first episode sort of interesting, but also a mess. I didn’t care enough to keep watching, but I felt like if I watched another episode, I might realize that then I’d want to keep watching. This turned out to be true.

I read somewhere that the producers of The Strain kept wanting to push the limits to see what they could get away with. I can see that, in the show.

October 26: The Purge: Election Year

Each subsequent Purge movie gives us more information about what life is like in the world of The Purge. This is a mixed blessing. On one hand, we want to know how the world has come to this, and what is really going on in America. On the other hand, the movie’s answer is stupid and doesn’t amount to much more than “bad stuff happened I guess.”

I would like to see a short run TV series about The Purge, giving us better stories of how it started, what life is like when the Purge isn’t going on, and how cleanup and recovery works the next day.

Just watching people try to make it across town while the laws are on hold gets old, and I could just go watch Escape from New York instead.

October 27: Sinister

Dude moves into a murder house to write about it. He discovers home movies of all kinds of awful murders. He realizes that there is a supernatural force that has been killing families for years. He tries to escape, but he can’t, because there is a TWIST!

I liked a lot of things in this movie. It had plenty of good creepy bits. We really liked James Ransone’s character and his scenes with Ethan Hawke. In the end, the explanation was not great. Vincent D’Onofrio’s character makes things much more confusing than they needed to be.

I was pretty willing to watch more, though. So we did.

October 28: Sinister 2

We were sold on this when we found out that James Ransone’s character from the first film would have a major role. Unfortunately, I found this one a lot less interesting. We mostly watched the lives of the two kids, and it was more unpleasant than interesting. The first movie did a good job of making it clear that creepy things happened to kids, but we didn’t have to watch. In the second movie, we had to watch a lot of unpleasant kid scenes. Meh.

October 29: Ash vs. Evil Dead

I didn’t know this series existed until we heard about it on NPR. We’ve only watched one episode so far, but I enjoyed it. It was very reminiscent of the original films. I know this shouldn’t be surprising, given the people involved, but I was worried.

Gloria said, “It’s hard to imagine that this kind of thing will work for two whole seasons.” I agree, but I look forward to finding out what happens.

October 30: Poltergeist

Martha had been begging to watch this movie for over a year. Why oh why would we not let her watch it? She would not be scared. So, after a month of “this movie isn’t scary” we said she could watch Poltergeist with us.

We settled in to watch the movie. Children were eaten by trees, vanished into televisions, attacked by clowns. Parents floated amid rotting corpses in the pool. A guy peeled his own face off.

Martha’s verdict: Good movie, not scary.

I guess I’m just glad she liked it.

October 31: The Witch

I really liked It Follows, and thought it was a good movie in that every part of it was focused on creating a particular mood, and it worked. I heard people compare The Witch to It Follows just for this reason, so I was keen to see it.

Gloria and I both found it boring and uninteresting.

We didn’t like the characters. We didn’t find the evil things creepy. We didn’t think the conflicts were interesting. I was especially irritated by the parents were so religious that it made them stupid. I tweeted this, and of course got replies in support of the idea that all religious people are stupid. Putting this tiresome idea aside: it doesn’t make good viewing.


Is this the last 31 movie Horror Movie Month? Maybe.

We’ve found fewer great new horror movies, the last few years, and often best ones we find, we watch during the year, meaning that October is a bit of a slog. This year was much better, but I’m not sure we’ll have that luck in 2017. Maybe we’ll switch to mostly watching horror movies with Martha in October instead.

We’ve got a good eleven months to decide, though.

Written on November 3, 2016
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