Shocktober 2012

A collection of the horror movies I watched in October 2012. It was my first foray into Hammer horror movies, and there’s a lot of campy stuff here. I’ve seen all the well known scary stuff, though, and some of the lesser known stuff as well. If you have any recommendations based on this list or just a favorite, let me know in the comments!

The Tall Man

Not really a horror film, and it takes its ideas way too far. What the film advocates is certainly not a good thing. A sad followup from the director of one of my favorite recent horror films, Martyrs, though it is at least well made. But to what end?

Chernobyl Diaries

I’m tired of zombies, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and mutants. I’m sure you know what Chernobyl is, so take a wild guess as to which one appears in this film. If a movie gives me a clever twist on one of those creatures, does anything different with them, then I’m all in. This movie had a chance to do that, with an early appearance by a bear. “Oh shit!” I thought, “Is there going to be a mutant bear in this movie!?!?!?” The answer, sadly is no. What we get are straight up mutants. Besides the setting, mostly Pripyat, the town where all of the Chernobyl workers lived which is now abandoned and super creepy, this movie has nothing new to add to the genre. Group arrives in strange place, things seem weird, but they’re ok, bad thing happens, they can’t leave, people start dying, some survive or they don’t, credits. It’s as standard as you can get. Not even a mutant bear with 6 arms and 2 heads or anything. Boo!

The Exorcist III

A good horror movie sequel is a rare sight. This is one of them. Written and directed by William Peter Blatty, author of the book the original film is based on, does an outstanding job of broadening the mythology and scaring. And, unexpectedly, bringing a little humor into the mix. Thanks largely to George C. Scott’s gristled old detective with connections aplenty to the happenings of the original film. There seems to be a serial killer around, one that everybody thought was dead. And he is targeting Scott’s friends at a hospital. Fully half of the movie takes place in the hospital, which is an interesting and creepy place to spend time. Blatty doesn’t show much of the gruesome killings, but the brutal descriptions do enough to get the point across.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this is one of those movies where they slapped the name on a completely unrelated script to market it better. There’s no mention of spirits or demons or whatever for the first half of the film. But then everything clicks into place as Scott visits a mental patient in the hospital. It’s one of three scenes in a padded room, all of which are scary and intense. The patient seems to be Father Karras, the younger of the two exorcists in the first film. That is, until he looks a heck of a lot like Brad Dourif. Both actors play the psychopath part very well, Dourif especially takes great pleasure in going all out and it is great fun to watch. It’s the rare horror film that gets its scares from conversation, but this does so quite well. There are horrifying images and the climax works nicely. Seriously, this is a great horror film, and a worthy successor to one of the greatest (horror) films of all time. And the best part is that you can skip the horrible movie in between, The Heretic. That movie sucks.

The Curse of Frankenstein

I guess I expected more insanity in my first Hammer horror film. I had only really heard the name in relation to movies which featured crazy space monsters or whatever. I don’t know if that’s an accurate portrayal of the later films from the company, but it’s certainly not accurate for this film. In fact, it’s a pretty straightforward and tame-ish version of the classic story. It spends half its time in the build up, introducing characters and going through the motions. It’s all kind of rote, excepting the brief glimpses of blood, a nice little surprise which was handled cleverly. And then the monster is born and he goes on a rampage. And then he dies. Aha! A new thing! The movie diverges from the same old story and is better for it, though it again spends too much time away from the monster. Peter Cushing is charismatic and unhinged as the creator while Christopher Lee does wonders with his limited screen time. There’s all too much talking, and not even scary talking. The final 15 minutes or so are great, I just wish the rest of the movie had that kind of tension and creepy shots.

The Devil’s Bride (The Devil Rides Out)

Here’s a much more fun Hammer horror film. I generally like religious horror films, and cult films even more. I’m talking cult as in a charismatic leader with bad intentions, not a movie that has gained a following based on questionable merits, though one could make an argument there, too. It’s not a supremely well crafted film, and only Christopher Lee as the knowledgable and powerful good guy and Charles Gray as the delightfully evil bad guy are of any note, but the story moves along nicely, with a fantastic opening scene and an ever increasing assault of demonic conjurations. Only one of these is scary, the goat headed titular monster himself, who makes an appearance about halfway through the film. Still, it’s a fun time, and more like what I was expecting out of the company than what I saw the other night.

Paranormal Activity 3

Yep, this is the best one (still haven’t seen the fourth yet). Such a clever conceit with the fan thing. And that bathroom scene is super intense. Also, the events take place roughly half a year after I was born, so I could have been haunted by a creepy ghost named Toby (is there a name less scary than Toby?).

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Well, that’s Timur for you. Great action, silly everything else. Don’t know how much of that silliness comes from the source material, though the film was adapted by the author of the book, so I’d guess it’s pretty close to what he imagined. A lot of “Hey, this is Abe Lincoln! Killing vampires!” But the performances are mostly good and the action scenes are over the top and better for it. Horses! Trains! Axes! Silly, obviously CGI, but still much fun. Also, a nice tie in with the slavery angle. It makes sense and never feels out of place.

Stake Land

Zombie post apocalypse, but this time it’s vampires. In the end it doesn’t make that much of a difference. These vamps don’t have the super powers that those in ALVH do, so they just seem stronger and faster than the normal zombie. Still, the film does a good job of building the world, filled with different kinds of vampires and, more importantly and dangerously, people. Yes, as always, we are the real monsters. We create religions and rationalizations for the things that happen to us. We eat or get eaten. We form families if we lose those we are born into. It’s a deeper horror film, but it doesn’t forget to scare. The crazy Christian cult is just as intense as the blood suckers. The family forms, breaks, reforms, breaks. It’s a sad, dangerous cycle. This isn’t a happy movie, but it is a worthy Shocktober entry.

Funny story, I watched about 5 minutes of this when it was on Syfy a few months back. It had none of the vampire action so I thought it was just a rip-off of The Road (which it is, to some extent, though there’s more action and less soul crushing, but not by a whole ton). It wasn’t until the scene I had seen actually happened that I remembered my short affair with it. That’s all.

The Black Cat

Karloff and Lugosi combine for the first time in this film. It is insane. Mostly, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Things are brought up for no reason and very little of it is scary. Karloff is an evil architect (I’m sure they exist), and Lugosi is a maybe-evil psychologist, and there’s a married couple trapped between them. The two are obviously known for a reason, and they give this ridiculous script a little bit of weight just by saying the words. Any dialogue scene is okay to good, but the rest is silly. Silly and weird and weird and silly.

Predator 2

Why was Danny Glover cast in this film? Hey, we need a guy to play a cop in LA, anybody you know? I thought he was already too old for this shit, and he’s in the distant future of 1997 here. Must have some anti-aging medicine in the future. Anyways, this movie is like the first one, except dumber. THE CITY IS A JUNGLE, MAN! Street gangs with silly cocaine habits and super hunters from outer space collide! The only redeamable quality is the shot of the Predator’s trophy case. Please make a Predator Hunts Dinosaurs movie. As long as it doesn’t turn out as bad as the AVP films.

The House of the Devil

Ti West makes movies in which nothing happens until it does, then they’re crazy. I think The Innkeepers is a better film (and made in my home state!), but this is the one that put him on the map. Watching it again, you can see little hints of what’s to come, and the final fifteen minutes live up to the promise of the rest of the film. More importantly, though, this is a well crafted film. It looks great and it feels so very 80’s, which is fun.

The Gate

Kid lit is one of my favorite genres of books, will kid horror follow suit? Not with this entry, no. The Gate is scarier than I thought it’d be, but still not quite up to what I’d like in a scary movie. The biggest thing to recommend about the film is the fun special effects, mostly stop motion animation and miniaturizing people in goblin suits, which is an effectively creepy device. Stephen Dorff plays the lead role, an 8 or so year old trying to close a gate he accidentally opened to hell by reading some lines on a metal album cover. The movie seems like it’s over at a certain time, but it isn’t and what follows is an unexpected delight. This movie throws everything at the wall and hopes some of it sticks. Some does, others don’t. The most frightening thing is the hair and clothing styles.

Pet Sematary 2

The first one is okay, so’s this one. Some scary elements with the creepy dead dog and Clancy Brown doing his Clancy Brown thing. He’s fun when he’s dead, indulging in his evil tendencies even more than usual. But he did threaten to hit his step-son with a large cross before he died and came back to life, so I don’t quite know what the difference is. This movie isn’t as sad as the first one was, though it does feature a performance from Edward Furlong that is less whiny than his best known role as the savior of humanity. Also, there are some cute kitties, only a few of which get maimed in gruesome ways.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

The ultimate in paranoia horror. Can’t sleep, else you’ll be replaced by a plant version of yourself. Can’t emote, else the plant people will know you’re still human. Can’t know who your friends are. So scary. And that final shot. This should probably be in my top 100 list.

Hocus Pocus

Maybe the first movie that scared me, ever, this was my first rewatch since childhood. You can tell it was originally supposed to be a Disney Channel movie because everything is taken to extremes, including Bette Middler’s acting and teeth and hair. Watching now, it was hard to identify what spots exactly would be scary for a 6 or 7 year old me. Maybe Doug Jones’ zombie, though it turns out he’s a nice guy. He does his creepy movement thing. Also of note, this is a Sarah Jessica Parker movie where I didn’t hate her, so that’s something.

Top 5:

5. Paranormal Activity 3

4. The Devil Rides Out

3. The House of the Devil

2. The Exorcist III

1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

So that’s my Shocktober. What did you watch? What should I watch next year? Let me know in the comments!

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