Every year, right around Halloween, I have grand plans to fill the whole month–every single day in October, in fact–with horror viewing. I’ve seen other folks do this over the years and I’m usually inspired to do the same, (also, if everyone else is doing something, yes, I want in on it, too.) But the sad news is, with these types of challenges, I usually crap out about a week in, having only seen two or three movies. This year, I vowed, it’ll be different– I swear! And I am pleased to report that so far I am half a month in, and still going strong! Mostly! See below for the last 15 days worth of horror* movies** I’ve ingested, and feel free to leave a comment with the titles of the horror films you’ve been filling your eyeballs with this Halloween season!
*I’m playing fast and loose with the term “horror”, here, FYI.
** I am also including film shorts, television shows/contests, documentaries, etc.
I was so excited to begin, I couldn’t even wait until October 1st! The movie I began with was Shelley (2016); a story which revolves around a childless couple, and the young woman they’ve hired to help around the house, who then later agrees to carry their baby. Though the pregnancy is weird(er) and gross(er) than normal, the film was quite beautiful, with that somber, isolated property and the eerie woods surrounding it, and that gorgeous darkened lake. I have a tough time with pregnancy horror, though (no offense to my mommy friends and their little ones, but) I don’t believe pregnancy is the most natural thing in the world. To me, it seems anything but. (I’ve seen too many Aliens movies, I think). So this movie really was not one of my favorites. Shelley is on Netflix now.
Day One. Body (2015) is described thusly: “A night out turns deadly when three girls break into a seemingly empty mansion.” Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Also, there’s Larry Fessenden in another scene-stealing role. Don’t you love it when he shows up? Also: when doesn’t he show up? He’s in everything! I quite enjoyed the beginning scenes where we got a sense of the friendship between the young women, and see how dumb and ridiculous people act when they are hanging out with friends and family. It reminded me of my sisters and I when we get together for Thanksgiving. I watched Body on Shudder.
Day Two: Transfiguration (2016). Milo is a weird kid utterly obsessed with vampires, and driven to violence by his obsessive urges. I would have had a huge and unfortunate crush on him when I was the same age. We even have the same book! (See: here) I’d have preferred a different ending, but that, as Milo is wont to say, wouldn’t have been very “realistic”. Transfiguration is on Netflix now.
Day Three: High Tension (2003). So, I guess this film is about two friends, one of whom is bringing the other to visit her family on a break from school? And then a psychotic trucker breaks into their secluded house and starts brutally murdering everyone and then kidnaps one of the friends and the other friend tries to save her? I guess? That’s all I will say. Except this: considering the how the film plays out–how does this opening sequence make any bit of sense? I am still mad about this. High Tension is on Hulu right now.
Day Four: I paid $3.99 (!!**) to watch The Haunting of Julia (1977) on Amazon, and in addition to being lovely (as much as a film about a woman grieving the death, of her daughter, and the ghosts allowed entry by grief can be considered lovely, one supposes), the bleak autumn scenery managed to profoundly scratch all of my current, moody seasonal itches. Extra credit: The film is based on Julia by Peter Straub
**I’ll pay $399 for a perfume, but for the most part I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay $3.99 for a streaming movie. Priorities!
Day Five: Dark Signal (2016). The voice of a murdered woman cuts through the static of a radio interview and tries to implicate her murderer. There’s some other stuff going on too, but it’s all really dumb and not even worth going into. The highlight of this film was when, I realized halfway through who the psychic was, and felt a profound peal of delight, clanging like a demented bell, trembling through my very soul. I’ve only seen her in one other film (though she’s been in a few) and it was one of the most memorable performances I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, Dark Signal, despite her casting, remains really stupid and pointless. Do you recognize her, too? Let’s squee together. (I’ve given you a huge hint with the side-by-side imagery!) Dark Signal is on Netflix right now.
Day Six: Jacob’s Ladder (1990). It’s difficult to talk about films like this because reasons I can’t even share without ruining the story for someone. What can you say? This guy came back from the war all fucked up? I’ll sum up with a question. What’s the word for both heartbreaking terror and brb I’ll be in my bunk thinking about chubby-cheeked Tim Robbins? Sorry, I’m gross.
I watched Jacob’s Ladder on dvd at a friend’s house, but you can get it on Amazon, too.
Day Seven: Pet Sematary (1989). Though Pet Sematary is one of my favorite Stephen King novels (a huge thank you to Mrs. Haney for letting me borrow this book my second week into your sixth grade class!) I’d never before seen the film. And… I could have waited a longer never. I was warned, but okay, you were all right, it was pretty hokey. And the actor playing Louis Creed was so bland and awful and just….blah. It was nice to see Tasha Yar and Herman Munster, though. I started this on day 7 and finished this the next day, but I think it still counts. Pet Sematary is on Amazon Prime right now.
Day 8: The Asphyx (1972) Sir Hugo Cunningham is an arrogant idiot and keeps killing the ones he loves with his incredibly scientific experiments in his quest for immortality. Forgive the sarcasm. But. It was actually kind of fun! And you can watch the whole thing on youtube.
Day 9: Last Shift (2014).This was was a genuinely creepy film about a rookie cop whose first day on the job is the last shift at the Sanford police station before it closes. And, of course, the supernatural shenanigans that ensue. Parts of this were actually filmed in Sanford FL *and* I’m pretty sure there’s a real-life Sanford police uniform and cruiser in the movie. Apparently there was a big kerfuffle on this point; the Sanford police chief launched an investigation to figure out how the department’s police uniforms and a cruiser ended up as props in this film (Although the department did sign off on it! Le whoopsie.) Another interesting surprise is that my horror-averse partner actually sat through this one with me! Last Shift is available on Netflix right now.
Day 10: The Whip and the Body (1963). Christopher Lee is Kurt Menliff, a sadistic piece of work who has been banished from his family home. Shortly after his uninvited return he is found murdered, and throughout this lush, perverse, utterly gorgeous Italian-French gothic horror film, Kurt’s ghost appears willy-nilly, seemingly returned from the grave, to torment those who remain at the manor. Including his former paramour, a conflicted kinky beauty, now married to Kurt’s brother. My friend Jack describes this film as “…a lurid little number…that lives on De Sade Street next to the Gothic villa,” and I cannot imagine a more perfect description. You can watch The Whip and the Body on youtube while it’s still there!
Day 11: I Am A Ghost (2012). Emily is a ghost trapped in time and haunting her own house. We watch her perform her daily chores and various routine activities endlessly, but from slightly different perspectives each time; it is in this repeated viewing of her mundane existence and its particulars that we learn that her spirit is more troubled than we might have originally guessed, and …it’s not quite what we think. It was a film that, though a little self conscious, felt new and different to me, at least in a “wow, like I haven’t already seen *that* a thousand times” sort of way. Despite the fact that you are watching literally the same thing over and over for a good portion of the movie. I Am A Ghost is currently available on Shudder.
Day 12: White Zombie (1932). I watched this film because I thought artist Sara Deck had recommended it in our Spooky Sirens and Scream Queens interview from last year. But after my viewing of this fun little old-timey gem, wherein an over-the-top Bela Lugosi zombifies a wide-eyed, gorgeous Madge Bellamy, I realized that Sara had, in fact, suggested that we watch I Walked With A Zombie. Totally different film. Huh. At any rate, you can find a grainy public domain version of White Zombie on archive.org.
Day 12: Under The Shadow (2016) is described by some as “… a Babadook for war-torn Iran”, and while I guess that’s as good a summation as any, I’m not sure that captures the film’s essential spirit very well at all. And yes, it’s also true that while the story moves along at a measured pace, it’s genuinely both compelling and frightening before the monster even shows up. And frightening in a way that most Westerners don’t have any experience with, and wouldn’t, I’d surmise, even know how to cope with. Under The Shadow is a film well worth seeking out and if you’ve got netflix, you’re in luck.
Day 13: Dragula, episodes one and two. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the Boulet Brother’s Dragula debuted last Halloween on HeyQween.tv. Why did no one tell me?! I just found out about it this past Friday the 13th while spending the weekend with my best good friend, who, knowing of my 31 days of horror project, agreed to find a few things for us to watch– and Dragula was her amazing first selection. It’s a raunchy, ridiculous Drag Race-esque spectacle, wherein contestants compete for the title of the World’s First Drag Supermonster (representing the respectable values of “filth, horror, and glamour”). With its combination of camp, melodrama, disgusting challenges, and low production values (although to be fair, it was the first season, so maybe it gets better) it is an absolute scream. Season One of Dragula is on youtube right now!
Day 14: P (2005) Dau is a young woman growing up in rural Thailand, caring for her ailing grandmother (who despite her illness, teaches Dau magic and witchery, as all good grandmothers do.) Unfortunately, they cannot magic up the money to pay for food or medicine, so Dau naively heads off to Bangkok to find work. At the go-go bar where Dau becomes employed, there are enemies and those who would take advantage of her at every turn, so she turns to her grandmother’s magic– with horrific consequences. And you know what? For a movie that we picked at random, not knowing a thing about it beforehand? P was not bad. I mean, it wasn’t good, either, but that’s never stopped me from recommending a film before! P is currently streaming on netflix.
Day 15: The Devil’s Backbone (2001) I tried watching this intensely atmospheric ghost story 10 years or so ago, but 20 minutes into the film, I got too scared and had to turn it off. That’s not like me, but at that time I think I was mostly living alone and maybe going through something. Who knows. I’ll be completely honest with you. I started watching it again last night and I fell asleep. Because it was late and I am old. But I can tell you that it seemed less frightening terrors and more a heart-rending coming of age sort of tale this time around, achingly beautiful, as del Toro’s film’s tend to be. I’ll finish watching it one day, I promise. The Devil’s Backbone is streaming on Shudder.
Are you participating in this challenge or something similar? Let’s discuss our favorites thus far in the comments!