Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Scary Movie Month Returns

I’m posting my second annual scary movie month post, hoping to give some recommendations (and anti-recommendations) for everyone as they plan out their October movie line-up.  What I have done is gone back to this time last year, looking at the movies I watched for October and posting my thoughts here for you for you to do with as you will.

As I am planning out my 2019 watch-list for this Halloween, please comment and give me your own recommendations.  Enjoy!

Oct. 1
The Haunting
I was quite impressed with this haunted house horror from 1963.  The vivid cinematography and elaborate set design really made this film look great.  The horror elements are pretty much reduced to banging noises and bad feelings, but it works.  The only thing that sort of bugged me was the main character’s thought narration, but I suppose its sort of necessary for where things end up for her.  I also did not understand her background at all.
If you haven’t seen this yet and appreciate the history of horror films, definitely check it out.
Oct. 5
An American Werewolf in London
I have to say, I enjoyed this one quite a bit.  The strongest part is the beginning, which always leaves a hint of disappointment I suppose, but I still liked it overall.   The idea of backpackers encountering a werewolf is cool, and I liked everything in Northern England a lot.  It drags a little in the second act, and there’s some weird stuff with dream sequences, but it picks up.
The most famous part of this movie is the wolf transformation scene, which is quite impressive on a technical level.  I also really liked the look of the final form werewolf.  Another great make-up achievement is when Jack, the friend who died, returns to visit David,with his face and neck all ripped up.  This was some great craftsmanship.  I found it less visually interesting with his subsequent visits when he’s more zombie-like.
Oct. 5
Gremlins 2
Some sequels attempt to be bigger and bolder than their original.  Others try to replicate the first film.  Gremlins 2 takes a different approach; namely, to take the initial premise to extreme levels of ridiculousness.  And as a result, its a lot of fun.
As a social commentary, Gremlins 2 tackles the procrustean ways of corporate America by setting the film in an exaggerated version of a state-of-the-art office building and in exploring caricature mindsets of the people working in this buildings.  The gremlins counteract this, causing all sorts of mischief with no respect for anything, and with the convenient geographical proximity of a secret DNA lab, they each start taking on individual characteristics (wings, spider legs, intelligence).
Gremlins 2 manages to be stupid, smart, and fun all at the same time.  The creature effects look great this time around, and a lot of pride and enthusiasm went into their design.
And extra points for the Canadian restaurant.
October 10
Play Misty For Me
This 70s thriller is Eastwood’s directorial debut where he plays a radio DJ being stalked by an obsessive fan.  Its a decent thriller with a premise which has inspired many other similar stories.  It doesn’t really get pushed into the apex levels of the film thriller canon, but its a good watch.
I do wish a little more time would have been spent just as her calling in, before they meet, but they meet rather quickly into the movie which removes a bit of tension.  The callback to the call-in does pay off later however.
There’s also a really weird love scene in the woods.  Feels very out of place, as does the jazz festival part.  However, the festival makes sense as its supposed to lull us back into a sense of normalcy for the character.
I also didn’t understand why he just didn’t go to the damn cops.  Musta been a 70s thing.
Also, I didn’t realize until the credits that the stalker was played by Lucille Bluth.
Cabin in the Woods
October 14
Cabin in the Woods is a blast.  Granted a lot of the jokes can be rather esoteric, but only if you’ve seen hardly any horror films.  Otherwise you’ll likely be in on most of the jokes and commentary.  In other words, if you get it, you’ll probably like it.
The horror tropes at the beginning of the film are pretty standard, but hey! That’s the point!  And they are interspersed with these seemingly out of place work office scenes starring Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, who channels the witty Josh Lyman here to great effect.  And when the film takes its turn it only amps up the interest and intensity.
If you want full-on horror satire, check this one out if for some reason you haven’t already.
October 20

I finally got to see Hereditary.  I was going to go see it in the theaters this summer, but the day I was free to go ws the day that England lost the semi0final to Croatia, so my nerves were already fried.  I didn’t think a horror movie would help that much.
But now that I’ve seen it, I understand the buzz it got.  This is a masterful demonstration of tone and atmosphere, give you the creeping feeling that something is not right with this family and its situation but never giving you any confidence that you know exactly what it is.  The music, the sets, and the camerawork all converge on this.  Even when nothing was happening, I was feeling the doom enclosing.
I don’t really want to say anything about what the movie contains.  I went in completely fresh, and I’m glad I did.  There was a moment (those who have seen will know which) that had me actually shout out in shock.  There were many other moments where I was either completely captivated by Toni Collette’s intensity or frantically trying to figure out what was going on  (I’m looking at you ending).
I will say this about the end however; there was really no sense of catharsis.  There is no real silver lining, which leaves you feeling even more disturbed afterwards.  I’m not sure I liked that.  I’ll admit it was effective, but yeah… didn’t really like it.
Overall though, great creepfest.
The Babadook
October 27
This got a lot of buzz a few years ago, which is surprising for a title that sounds like it comes straight from Adam Sandler’s inane gibberish.  I’ve meant to give this a peek for a while, and finally got around to it yesterday on a Saturday when I was home alone and no one was available to go out for a beer or have a board game night.  And, well, I was kinda disappointed, and not just in my lack of a Saturday night.  The movie certainly didn’t win me over.
The biggest reason is that I found it really irritating.  The kid was irritating, the mom was irritating, and I was never able to find an anchor into the story.  The children’s book was cool, but also… where did it come from?  The “horror”, creepy-thing-int-the-night scenes were very effective.  But thinking about them afterwards, the babadook doesn’t seem defined enough, or purposeful enough.  It just seemed like they did whatever with it to get a quick scare, without building a lot of substance around it.
The monster ends up being a metaphor for postpartum depression, or something like that.  But by the time the metaphor becomes apparent, I wasn’t invested enough.
Halloween 2018
Oct. 30
This movie turned out to be quite a worthy sequel to its predecessor (despite the choice to give it the SAME F*&*ING TITLE!).  It really played on the idea of Michael as this soulless human being, and shows Laurie going all Sarah Conner on us.  The idea of Michael as an old man is intriguing, even though we never really see his face, and the opening where the reporters try to get a reaction out of him is a pretty good kick off to the film.
One could argue that this is just another in the long line of nostalgia-fueled rehashes we’ve been seeing lately.  It does touch on a lot of that, with the recapping on his sister’s murder, the bus crash scene being reminiscent of the asylum break out, and lines like the one that dismiss Halloween 2 (and all the others I suppose).  But it still feels like a natural progression of the story, and its interesting to revisit the events 40 years later.
As or the suspense, I thought the movie took a while to get a footing, but when it did it really worked.  The aforementioned crash scene was eerie, but there was a scene at a garage shop which lacked in suspense and felt more just like brutal violence.  But once we kick into the babysitter familiarity, the suspense ramps up well.  I really liked the final showdown.
And lets face it; that mask is damn cool.
October 31
Still damn funny.  The jokes are natural and are mostly based in performances.   This is Bill Murray’s most iconic role.  Rick Moranis is great.  Ankroyd, Ramis and Weaver are great.  The performances are what keep this movie fresh, as is the case with almost all great comedy I suppose.
There are some things that are dated.  The music for sure.  And Gozer looks really dumb.  But these are fractions compared to how well the rest of the film still holds up.  But seriously Bill, be a team player and allow yourself a little more marshmallow coverage.  It sticks out.
Also, how iconic is that siren sound?
Have a good halloween everyone.

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