Although I have definite favorite horror movies that I love to take a load off with every October (or, you know, whenever I feel like watching a horror movie), I do try to seek out new movies as well. Usually, they have been recommended to me, but sometimes they’re just what I happen to catch on television. Sometimes these new movies go well… And sometimes they don’t.
So, I thought I’d gather the new things I watched this October, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I have in pursuit of that sweet, sweet Halloween spookiness.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)
This movie is about a live-in nurse hired to assist a retired horror writer who is suffering from dementia. The story behind the house, the woman’s novels, and the present and the past become inextricably bound together as more strange events begin building on top of each other.
This movie isn’t a thriller, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, it has very uneven pacing and I guessed the ending to it about twenty minutes in. To be fair, the ending isn’t a cliché. However, I have seen it done before, or done very similarly (and better) in movies like The Others (2001), or Mary Frances Zambreno’s short story “The Ghost in the Summer Kitchen.” Some reviews compared it to Shirley Jackson’s novels (“The Lottery,” The Haunting of Hill House), and I’d recommend Hill House or We Have Always Lived in the Castle first.
As Above, So Below (2014)
An archaeologist, hired guides, and a friend end up deep in the catacombs under Paris in an attempt to find the Philosopher’s Stone.
I was excited about this one, but I fell out of it pretty quickly. The protagonist is exceptionally unlikable (item one: she got a friend imprisoned in a Middle Eastern prison and only has a real South Park-style “sorry” for him) and there were a ton of liberties taken with the mythology and history and folklore that just didn’t sit well with me, although some of the choices were interesting.
I think my biggest problem with this one, though, was that it seemed like it was a film of missed opportunities. There’s a creepy cult that’s never followed up on, there’s a rotary phone that the spirits of the damned are ringing through, they even find the still-living but unconscious Nicolas Flamel. Oh, and the film was actually shot in the real catacombs under Paris. There’s always a feeling of unease, but even when the characters are literally in hell, it feels like there should be more of something happening.
Creeped Out (2017)
This is an anthology-style series meant for elementary schoolers and up. All but a few episodes stand alone, and many have a lesson of some kind attached.
Although it isn’t necessarily scary (for an adult), it’s a smart show that’s interesting enough to hold the attention of someone outside of its intended demographic. Not every episode is scary, so it doesn’t get stale. Each episode is also only thirty minutes, so it’s easy to blow through quite a few episodes in one setting.
Drag Me to Hell (2009)
A loan officer evicts an old gypsy woman from her house and gets a good old-fashioned apocryphal gypsy curse.
I noticed in the opening credits that Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead series) directed and wrote this one, so I really, really wanted to like it. It definitely has the trademarks of the Evil Dead movies, and it felt like a Raimi film. Except… it wasn’t fun. It was missing something that I can’t quite put my finger on.
There would be scenes that seemed as if they were supposed to be funny or so gross they’re funny, and I recognized that was the intent, but always at the back of mind there was always the question of, “Why am I not enjoying this?” Maybe Raimi just doesn’t have it without Bruce Campbell. Maybe if Raimi had worked on this and released it when he first conceived of it (1992), it would have worked better in terms of effects, with Raimi’s trademark practical effects in place instead of CGI that has aged like mayo in the sun. It’s not worth searching for the spark that was missing, trust me on this one.
The Witch (2015)
Early colonists in America accidentally incur the wrath of the local woods’ witch. Essentially isolated, they destroy each other in an attempt to regain normalcy.
I loved this one, though not necessarily for the horror. The writer and director, Robert Eggers, did extensive historical research to make sure the lifestyle and folkloric beliefs portrayed were accurate. He even made it a point to shoot only in contemporary lighting! He brings home the point of how terrible those early years in America were (the wife crying for her life in England is heart-wrenching), which, of course, is exacerbated by that whole witch thing.
There are definitely some awful, visceral moments of horror and disgust, but this probably won’t scratch your horror itch if you’re into jump-scares and gore.
Army of Darkness (1992)
At the end of The Evil Dead II (1987), Ash got sucked through a wormhole that let him out in the middle ages. Fans at the time thought it was a joke. It wasn’t a joke.
What can I say? You really can’t go wrong with the Evil Dead franchise. Ash (Bruce Campbell) goes beyond his usual shtick and gets a little Jim Carrey at times, but hey, it was 1992.
Rob Zombie rebooted the Halloween franchise eleven years ago.
A few fellow staff members told me that if I wasn’t a mega-fan of Rob Zombie, I wouldn’t like this movie. They were right!
The Possession (2012)
A girl picks up a mysterious box at a tag sale which contains a dybbuk, a type of demon named in the Torah.
I’m not big on possession movies, but this one intrigued me because usually, a possession movie centers around Christian sects, more likely than not Catholics. I also saw the first hour or so of the movie the year it came out and never forgot about it, despite it being a real pain to find. I snapped up this copy at an unfamiliar library enthusiastically and wasn’t disappointed.
It does follow just about what you would expect from a movie about a girl getting possessed, but the Jewish aspect keeps it from being stale. And even though the film makes it clear that anyone can be affected by a dybbuk box, it does provide a comforting sense of disconnect for someone who isn’t Jewish and avoids evil-looking boxes at tag sales.
Curse of Chucky (2013)
Chucky, the evil living doll, comes back to kill more people in the name of revenge.
Movies like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street have grown on me–I always feel like Chucky has a similar kind of cult status, but man, I can’t care about this little doll, no matter how many times I try to watch one of his movies. I think if you’re a big fan, you’ll love it–it does have pretty good reviews–but really, big fans for this one only.
Hands of a Stranger (1962)
A famous pianist damages his hands in a car crash, so he gets a transplant… from a murderer!
It’s not great, but it’s good-bad. Make some popcorn and make fun of bad acting, music direction, and the fact that a kid named Skeet honest-to-God goes by “Skeet.”
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
A new camp is founded at Camp Crystal Lake, and this time Jason rises from the dead to get his own revenge on excitable teenaged counselors.
I have caught the opening to Friday the 13th Part 3, which is essentially the last sliver of part two, about a million times on TV, but never actually this film, so I was excited to catch this one. I actually enjoyed this one much more than others in this franchise, because I knew what was going to happen, and I wanted to see how things got there. It was also filmed in my home state and I’ve actually accidentally visited some of the filming locations, so you know, how could it not be my favorite of the franchise?
This October had some ups and downs–some new hits to enjoy every October… And some real bombs. Did you tangle with any new hits or misses this October, or are convinced I just have horrible taste? Let us know in the comments below–we’d love to check your hits and (not so big) misses out, and if you’ve got an argument for a movie I hated, I would love to hear it!