Horror Movie Month 2022

Another year, another thirty-one days of horror movies. Actually, we missed quite a few days as far as watching things all together. I worked a fair number of late nights, and I left town for a few days to see family in New England. We started a few days early, in fact, knowing that this would happen. So, plenty of things were watched, and here’s how it went…

September 24: Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009)

Two sisters and some friends find a dead body in their trunk and try to figure out what to do. Chaos ensues.

We liked other things from the Soska Sisters, but this was kind of a hot mess. We get it! It’s a student film. Some parts were fun or funny, but I don’t recommend it.

September 25: Revenge (2017)

A married guy takes his mistress to his second home. Things go sideways and she has to fight for her life.

Gloria and the kid had seen this one already and said it was definitely worth watching again. It was good! They were very enthusiastic for one of the climactic final chase scenes. I always enjoy a cat and mouse movie that takes more than one day to play out. Also, Shudder has been pushing this movie for years, so I was glad to finally have seen it! A successful pick.

September 27: The Lost Boys (1987)

It’s a classic! A family moves to a new town where the kids have vampire troubles.

Of course I had seen this before, but I had totally forgotten that Alex Winters was in it! Also, Edward Herrmann. It was neither better nor worse than I remembered, so I was happy to have seen it again, but I’m not here to strongly recommend it. It’s fine, and has some good bits. Also, Dianne Wiest is terrific as mom who just doesn’t understand why her kids are being such brats. Vampires? Sure, sure.

I remain a little tempted to check out the sequels, but… only a little.

September 29: Sole Survivor (1984)

A woman is the sole survivor of a plane crash, and now it seems like death is coming for her anyway.

I put this on a to-watch list when it showed up on a list of underrated 80s horror movies — just the kind of list I’m always interested in! Also, it was compared to Final Destination, which is a franchise we really like. Really, though, it was only okay. It wasn’t bizarre enough to be bizarre and wasn’t visually impressive enough to really compare to Final Destination. Not a failure, but not a triumph.

September 30: Meander (2020)

Abducted while hitchhiking, a woman wakes up inside a network of tubes full of deadly traps.

We watched this because Amazon kept recommending it and it looked reminiscent of Cube, which we all like. It was okay, but maybe too long. I think I would’ve preferred watching Cube again. Maybe I’m kidding myself, but I feel like they could make another Cube movie (Cube 1.5) and it could still be just fine. I guess this one was just fine, too, though.

October 1: Terror in the Aisles (1984)

What a weird movie! This is just a clip show of horror movie scenes, hosted by Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen. Why was this made? It was sort of fun to say, “Oh hey, this is that scene from Friday the 13th!” but mostly it felt like the people who decided to make this movie had no idea what made horror movies good. Also, it got a theatrical release! Who’d go to the cinema to see a clip show?

October 2: Possession (1981)

A man and woman begin a very messy divorce. They both lose their minds. Also, the woman is possibly having an affair with a disgusting monster.

This has shown up on a bunch of “best psychological horror movies” lists, and I give it credit: It was really unusual, it had a great cast, it was really well shot, and it didn’t do anything halfway. On the other hand, it didn’t make much sense, it felt like it was almost always way over the top, and, I was really tired of it before it was over.

It gets two special shout outs, though:

First, early on, I said, “Wow, this guy really looks like a young Sam Neill.” Readers, this movie stars Sam Neill.

Later, I paused the movie and said, “Holy cow, I have actually been to the bar (in Berlin) in this scene several times!” I was amazed and delighted. The family was unimpressed.

October 2: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

People are being replaced by emotionless duplicates. Lots of people don’t notice, because it’s San Francisco.

It’s a classic for a reason! I hadn’t seen it in decades, and it was a good re-watch. I wouldn’t put it in a “best ever” list, which a lot of people do, but it was still fun. “Donald Sutherland screams”, an iconic image, was still good, and “dog with human face” is still about a hundred times weirder than anything else in the movie, as if John Carpenter showed up for an afternoon on set and said, “Hey, try this!” and then went home.

Really, I’d like to go back and watch some of the subsequent remakes, but… well, maybe in 2023.

October 4: My Best Friend’s Exorcism

A teenage girl starts acting really messed up and horrible. Her friend realizes this is because she’s possessed and seeks help.

Gloria and I both like a bunch of Grady Hendrix’s books, but not this one. Still, they made the movie, so we had to watch it. I enjoyed it! It was fun, but not just silly, and I wouldn’t mind if more movies like this got made. Probably I was unduly influenced by the casting of Chris Lowell, who you may remember as Bash Howard in GLOW. It took me a minute to place him, but it certainly wasn’t Sam Neill levels of embarrassment.

Still, I’d rather see an adaptation of Horrorstör, We Sold Our Souls, or The Final Girls Support Group.

October 6: Housebound (2014)

We watched this in 2015, and maybe again since, and already that was the second time Gloria had watched this. It’s a lot of fun, and I just recommended it to somebody again this week. This time, though, I realized that I would really enjoy a remake of this where the cops from Wellington Paranormal show up.

October 7: Dead Silence (2007)

We’ve liked a bunch of James Wan’s horror movies, but this was just thoroughly meh. A guy goes home to look into his wife’s death, and there’s the ghost of an evil ventriloquist, and then later like a zillion evil dummies? Somebody could’ve made this actually scary and interesting, but it felt like a complete failure. There’s a bit of a big reveal in act three, and it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t feel worth watching the hour it took to get there. Meh.

October 8: The Innkeepers (2011)

Another repeat, this one from Horror Movie Month 2013. We love the characters and the pacing and the setting… but the ending is a hot mess. I would definitely rewatch it if Ti West shot an alternate ending. Because, oh right, this is a Ti West movie. He’s the guy behind X, which we all found pretty unremarkable earlier this year, and also Pearl, which I’ll write about below.

October 9: Glorious (2022)

This movie has J.K. Simmons, and so gets an instant A+. That’s just how this works.

A guy breaks up with his girlfriend, gets totally wasted at a rest stop, and then gets locked in the rest stop bathroom. There’s a glory hole between the two stalls, and the other stall is currently occupied by strange extra-dimensional god from beyond time and space. And he’s voiced by J.K. Simmons.

It had some problems, but I really enjoyed it.

October 9: Come True (2020)

A woman goes into a sleep study, partly because she has nightmares and partly (it seems) because she’s been sleeping rough. The study makes her nightmares worse, and we start to think there’s something Bad going on in her dreams.

This movie reminded me a bit of Flatliners, Maniac, and others. It had a good retro-technological aesthetic, and I feel like this is a pretty cheap way to get the viewer (me) interested, and I am also totally here for it. I didn’t find the ending entirely satisfying, but I have no serious complaints. The movie was just fine, but I am definitely a sucker for its aesthetic.

October 11: She Dies Tomorrow (2020)

A woman becomes convinced she’s going to die tomorrow. When she tells other people, they’re worried or annoyed and think she’s losing it. Except then they start to believe the same thing. None of this is ever explained.

I have a soft spot for movies that have bizarre happenings that are not explained, but it’s really important to me that the movie doesn’t establish that the resolution of the movie will be answers to your questions. Fortunately, Come True doesn’t do that! Unfortunately, I still found its ending unsatisfying. Still, weeks later we were still telling each other, “I’m going to die tomorrow.” It was okay.

October 13: Blair Witch Project (1999)

We saw this in the cinema in 1999 and it was great because of that. The whole audience was enrapt and you could hear individual people gasp while everybody else kept holding their breath. Watching it at home in 2022 is a waste of time.

October 18: Ghostwatch (1992)

This was much better than I expected!

It’s a 1992 TV special from the BBC, shot like a Halloween holiday special. They take (fake) phone-in calls from people giving their own ghost stories, but are also shooting live on-location at a supposedly haunted house in England where a small single-parent family has been having a rough time. The haunting becomes too real as things go on, but meantime the hosts back at the studio are torn on whether it’s bunk or not. It’s a bit of a mess, but I expected crap and did not get crap. It was worth seeking out.

Special mention for the very unexpected appearance of Craig Charles (Lister from Red Dwarf) as himself, one of the presenters.

Apparently the BBC’s call line had been repurposed so that if people called in, they’d be told, “Don’t worry, this is just a movie!” but they got so many calls that many people got a busy signal and went on believing it was real. One such person tweeted at me to say they were among that group!

October 21: Halloween Ends (2022)

This is the third and final installment in the new Halloween trilogy, which picks up directly from the first movie. The first of the trilogy (the 2018 Halloween) was pretty good! The second was okay, but a bit of a mess. This one was lousy. I was really disappointed.

It felt like, at first, they had some really interesting ideas to pursue, but by the end, I was just rolling my eyes. “Yes, yes, the people of the town are the real monsters, I get it. Except are they, because the killer is the real monster, too?” I liked the cast and their performances. I wish the script had been better.

The final end for Michael Meyers was unsatisfying.

I’ll say it again: The best Halloween movie is Season of the Witch. Dan O’Herlihy is great

October 22: The Stepfather (1987)

Here’s a repeat from 2012. I said, “It wasn’t great, but I liked Terry O’Quinn.” I think I stand by that, but “wasn’t great” sounds negative. It was good, just not great. Really, the movie is absolutely about Terry O’Quinn, who is so scary because he’s so charming. It’s worth seeing.

October 22: Bodies, Bodies, Bodies (2022)

This was one of my favorites of the month. A bunch of obnoxious self-absorbed twenty-somethings end up in a mansion in the hills during a major storm. They are petty and catty and also a lot of them get killed, probably by each other, but you’re not sure just what’s happened until the very, very end. Also, Lee Pace is in it!

It was an extremely straightforward movie, but it was also executed very, very well. I recommend it!

October 23: Suspiria (1977)

Well, we’d seen this before but gave it another go. It remains pretty incoherent, to me. I don’t find it scary, although it’s sometimes pretty creepy. I like Jessica Harper, but they didn’t let her sing. The movie is gorgeous, though! It’s full of bright colors and interesting shots. I just wish I cared about the characters or story, or that it made sense.

October 23: Suspiria (2018)

Look, I didn’t like the 1977 version of Suspiria, but the 2018 was clearly the worse of the two. To start with, it’s ages longer, and absolutely does not justify the length. It makes much more sense, although not as much as I’d like, and has a lot of really interesting visuals. Good shots, interesting choreography, and so on. My big complaint, though, is that it’s ugly. The original Suspiria was great to look at, and the new one has an extremely bleak post-war Berlin look to it. I get it! It’s post-war Berlin! Still, I felt cheated of the colors of the original, and I wasn’t compensated by a really coherent story.

October 25: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021)

Just skip it. Ugh.

October 27: They/Them (2022)

It’s set in the woods, on a lake, in cabins, with Kevin Bacon. Sounds like a great setup right? Well, look, it had a lot going for it, but most of the horror comes from the fact that the camp is for queer kids to be “cured”, so you’re watching people being verbally abused and demoralized. This is not the kind of fun experience I want from a horror movie. It had its moments, but it wasn’t for me.

I was very amused when, after I’d said “They Them” a dozen times, the kid finally said, “Dad! It’s They Slash Them!” Funny!

October 28: Barbarian (2022)

Another contender for best of the month!

A woman arrives at her Airbnb rental at night in the rain, and somebody is already there, having booked it on another app. They decide to both stay there, and she is pretty wary of this. Things go poorly.

There’s so much going on in this movie, with twists and turns beyond just “hey a plot twist!” More than once, the narrative cuts to a totally different thing, and then is woven really neatly back into the story so far. It was economically told, and went back and forth between bright color and dingy palettes. I really enjoyed it.

October 29: Pearl (2022)

Well, we watched X when it was new, and I found it totally unremarkable. I didn’t care what happened to the characters, and I didn’t care about why it happened. Then we (the whole world) found out that when they filmed X, they were also secretly filming a prequel, which is Pearl. It sounded like almost exactly the movie I was most uninterested in watching!

Thing is, it was great! It’s gorgeous to look at, evoking the great Technicolor classics of the 30s. Mia Goth was terrific, and the movie veered between serious character drama and over the top murder. You won’t have seen much like Pearl, and I think it was worth seeing. It has almost made me want to go re-watch X to see if I like it more now. I don’t think I will, though.

Also, there’s a sequel to X coming. I guess I’ll watch it, but I feel pretty confident it’ll feel more like X than like Pearl.

October 29: Basket Case 2

We watched this for the first time in 2008. I’ve been agitating to re-watch this one since we re-watched the first Basket Case last year. It’s a great movie, not because of its acting or script, but because of its audacity at even getting made. The prosthetics are utterly beyond belief, and make you unsure whether you’re watching a horror movie or something else. (The director, Frank Henenlotter, would say “something else”. He always says he made “exploitation films”.)

It’s still a mess of a movie, but I enjoyed seeing it again. Maybe two times is enough, though.

October 30: Revealer

It’s the 80s. A woman works in a crappy peep show somewhere in Chicagoland. Another woman, with whom she went to high school, protests outside regularly, calling the place a house of sin. One day, Something Very Bad happens outside and the two of them end up seeking refuge together inside.

I enjoyed it. It wasn’t great, but it was good at being what it was. I think I was supposed to take a moral lesson from it, but I mostly skipped that and enjoyed the “two enemies trying to survive together” story. Also, the protester’s enormous 1980s glasses were a really great choice.

October 30: Mad God (2021)

This is an 83 minute stop motion feature with no dialog. I will sum it up as: “soldier from a post-apocalyptic wasteland is sent into Hell to blow it up.” As a piece of animation work, it is amazing. It really commits to its aesthetic, and I can’t imagine how much work was required to make it. It must be enormous, and it didn’t feel thrown together.

On the other hand, I spent most of the 83 minutes wishing it was over. It was bleak and disgusting, and I had no emotional engagement with it.

October 31: We Need to Do Something (2021)

A tornado, or maybe two, strike a neighborhood. A family shelters in the (enormous) bathroom and then get stuck there. Soon, they’re all at each others’ throats. Mom and dad have problems that come to the surface. Sissy thinks her dabbling in witchcraft has caused this. Also, it might be that something a lot worst than a storm has happened outside.

The movie was well made, in a lot of ways, but the most important subplot was about the daughter’s girlfriend, and I found that plot totally uninteresting. Also, remember what I said about movies that do or do not need answers? This movie needed to give me answers for me to be satisfied, and it didn’t. I felt like my time had been wasted, which is a bummer, because it also felt like this movie didn’t need much change to be satisfying.

I was reminded of the similar Await Further Instructions (2018), which also wasn’t great, but which I think was ultimately more successful.

Things I didn’t watch…

Just for the sake of completeness, here are the things that got watched when I wasn’t around for it.

Written on November 5, 2022
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