For October, I decided to watch thirteen horror or at least horror-adjacent films. This continues the series on films I’ve watched this year.
Movie #155/ New Movie #99/ 2019 Movie #14/ Seen In Theaters #17: It-Chapter Two
This is definitely a step down from the first part. There are just moments that don’t ring true, but I wonder if it really even could have worked or if it was fatally flawed from the beginning. Maybe splitting It into two different films largely in different eras doesn’t work because a monster isn’t as tough when we’ve seen it get beaten by some middle school students, and people pushing 40 but acting like kids just seems kinda sad. Bill Hader’s performance is pretty strong; immaturity works best for an emotionally stunted stand-up comic.
Movie #156/ New Movie #100/ 1940s Movie #12/ Criterion Channel/ Edition #35: The Body Snatcher
I keep watching this Val Lewton adaptation and thinking I’d like to see a stronger defense of body-snatching from a medical ethics perspective. It’s an interesting take on a young medical student’s moral growth, with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi as side characters; their interactions are a highlight.
Movie #157/ New Movie #101/ 1990s Movie #13: Event Horizon
I saw this based on reviews in an Empire podcast discussion, which primed me to appreciate it on a higher level since I got the impression it was critically successful. It really wasn’t (6.7 on IMDB, 27% on Rotten Tomatoes) but it felt like it could’ve been. It’s a weird blend of several things that are creepy by themselves, but work well together. It’s bad enough having monsters in space where survival is already an uncertain prospect and any mistake can kill. Add to this heroes in an unfamiliar setting experiencing strange hallucinations. And then a religious element. Yeah, it’s sometimes silly. But the designs make up for it.
Movie #158/ 1970s Movie #15: Halloween
It’s one of the best-done “slasher stalks teenagers” films. The main reason I’m not rating it higher is that it doesn’t really have anything to say, although Michael Myers is an effective antagonist, and Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance are decent examples of horror movie cliche heroes; the girl who doesn’t know she’s in a horror movie, and the expert upset that the threat isn’t being taken seriously.
Movie #159/ New Movie #102/ 2019 Movie #15/ Seen In Theaters #18: Zombieland 2- Double Tap
It’s a decent action comedy that builds on the cast dynamics from the first film, and adds some good new characters. It’s sometimes a bit cheap and ridiculous, but it mixes humor with legitimate life and death stakes pretty well.
Movie #160/ New Movie #103/ 2018 Movie #12: Halloween
The sequel deals effectively with the legacy of the babysitter murders, while also offering chills in its own right. It’s not as strong as the original, and we are consistently aware that the bad guy is an elderly man, but it may have more to say about trauma.
Movie #161/ New Movie #104/ 1940s Movie #13/ Criterion Channel/ Edition #36: The Ghost Ship
This Val Lewton film disappeared from for public view for decades following a lawsuit, so it’s relatively obscure. It’s on some top horror films lists, but it doesn’t really feel like one. It isn’t horror any more than Platoon or Training Day, or any movie about a young man suspicious of a superior. It is a decent drama on that topic, especially with a bad guy who is a bit more sympathetic than one would expect. The answer to whether the captain is a monster is more complicated than just yes or no.
Movie #162/ New Movie #105/ 1940s Movie #14/ Criterion Channel/ Edition #37: The Seventh Victim
Thanks to a Criterion channel subscription and the short length of these films, I’m covering a lot of Val Lewton this month. This one gets legitimately creepy, and serves as a highlight of the producer’s sense of atmosphere. The satanism plot is a bit silly, although the guilt about lesbianism in the 1940s provides more drama.
Movie #163/ New Movie #106/ 1940s Movie #15/ Criterion Channel/ Edition #38: The Leopard Man
This take on the hunt for a leopard in Mexico seems a bit like a proto-version of Jaws; a dangerous predator is hunting down residents of a sleepy community, and the authorities don’t want to disrupt business as usual. It’s a Val Lewton film, so there is a tremendous sense of atmosphere, and a twist about the bad guy, although the discovery isn’t executed very well
Movie #164/ New Movie #107/ 1980s Movie #13: Friday the 13th Part 2
I must’ve had a deprived childhood to miss out on the shlocky Friday the 13th films when I might have enjoyed them the most; all I’ve seen so far is the first, so it’s interesting to finally see Jason as the killer, albeit a different kind of murderer than the pop culture figure he becomes thanks to the sequels. He’s not that effective a bad guy when he’s a disfigured loner who lives by himself, although there is a decent campfire ghost story aspect to everything; something the film is very aware of.
Movie #165/ New Movie #108/ 1940s Movie #16/ Criterion Channel/ Edition #39: I Walked With a Zombie
This Val Lewton film gets interesting for what it says about some thorny topics like colonialism, although the story of a young nurse falling in love with a man who has a dark secret about his marriage is rather derivative of Jane Eyre and Rebecca, elevated by the Caribbean environment.
Movie #166/ New Movie #109/ 1970s Movie #16/ Italian Language Film #1: Deep Red
Dario Argento’s giallo horror has a terrific sense of atmosphere, and a lot of decent concepts that work together pretty well, starting with a psychic sensing the presence of a murderer, and an excellent example of a major clue hiding in plain sight.
Movie #167/ New Movie #110/ 1930s Movie #16: The Black Cat
A rare flop for Universal horror, this film was also notoriously edited and censored, which may be why it’s so short and disjointed (what remains is quite creepy especially the villain’s marital life). It’s still a satisfying story about a bland young American couple caught in a conflict between Bela Lugosi’s foreign former prisoner of war and Boris Karloff’s mad scientist. Future noir master Edgar Ullmer provides a terrific sense of atmosphere, with settings at a universal budget. Danny Reid had an interesting review about how this is all a metaphor about how Americans just don’t understand the nastiness of the first world war.
And a ranking.
- 13. It Chapter 2
- 12. Friday the 13th Part 2
- 11. Zombieland 2
- 10. Halloween 2018
- 9. The Leopard Man
- 8. I Walked With a Zombie
- 7. The Body Snatcher
- 6. Event Horizon
- 5. The Ghost Ship
- 4. The Seventh Victim
- 3. Halloween
- 2. The Black Cat
- 1. Deep Red