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The 2014 Halloween Horror Movie Challenge - 31 Movies in 31 Days

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  • The 2014 Halloween Horror Movie Challenge - 31 Movies in 31 Days

    ***This Thread Is Rated R for Mature Viewers!***

    The Halloween Horror Movie Challenge started out on some horror movie boards, but thanks to people like me it has been making inroads throughout the interwebs. In a nutshell, you need to watch 31 horror movies in the 31 days of October. There are variables to the rules - how many need to be first-time views versus how many can be previously viewed, etc. - but this year I decided to do a pure challenge: 31 first-time views in 31 days. Here's how that has played out so far:

    01 October: The Butterfly Room (2012)

    The Butterfly Room stars Barbara Steele as Ann, an eccentric collector/preserver of butterflies - her first movie role in decades, I believe. Needless to say, Ann doesn't turn out to be the nice, old-fashioned lady she initially seems, and the secrets of the butterfly room of the title are more substantial than a bunch of preserved insects.

    The trailer leads one to believe that this movie is a pretty rote thriller - it is not. It has its fair share of surprises, has a distinctly feminine voice, and despite being a largely Italian production, has a lot to say about U.S. culture.

    As mentioned, Barbara Steele leads a cast of largely female horror veterans: Heather Langenkamp from the original Nightmare on Elm Street series is the only primary player, but PJ Soles from Halloween, Adrienne King from Friday the 13th and Camille Keaton from I Spit On Your Grave/Day of the Woman all appear in cameos alongside Ray Wise and Erica Leerhsen (the only representative from the current gen of scream queens). Nevertheless, Barbara Steele owns the film, and does so with ease - her strength and intensity as Ann is palpable, such that you would never guess that she was 74 years old at the time of filming. Her eyes alone still possess such power that a single glance can communicate infinitely more to the camera than some actors can convey through any number of scene-chewing histrionics.

    Appropriately, the film itself is much like the character Ann - unflustered, old-fashioned - you won't find buckets of blood or any measurable amount of gore here. Rather, it's the intensity of the piece - and its ability to shift from utter calm to blinding violence in an instant (credit to Barbara Steele yet again) that drives home the horror. It is basically impossible to divorce the film itself from the character of Ann or either element from Barbara Steele herself - over and over again, we see the embodiment of classic horror encountering the unsavory elements of the internet age, learning, adjusting and evolving before our very eyes, and finally getting the better of her adversaries.

    All the thumbs up.

    02 October: Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

    No, not lesbians who kill vampires, but killers of lesbian vampires. Yes, its confusing, and yes, the movie has a bad rap...but honestly, its an entertaining piece of work. Originally intended to be the first film from the new Hammer Studios, Lesbian Vampire Killers instead got kicked around in development hell for a few years before finally being made in 2009. It still has a very classic Hammer-esque feel to it, albeit in parody form. Nothing too heavy or inventive here, but definitely worth a watch for those who appreciate a little comedy/camp with their horror once in a red moon.

    One ****-Handled Sword Up.

    03 October: I, Frankenstein (2014)

    I, Frankenstein has been largely panned, but I'm not sure why. Its a kinda deep, kinda dumb, incredibly fun actioner from the same folks who brought us the Underworld series. No, it isn't brilliant or even particularly artistic cinema...but no one ever claimed it would (or should) be.

    A half-dozen severed thumbs from donor corpses up.

    04 October: Plague Town (2008)

    Plague Town, on the other had, does promise to be at least somewhat smart, but is instead just a movie about dumb people doing dumb things and dying in dumb (and physically impossible) ways. The makeup has garnered some praise, but I don't know why - most of it is just poor copies of the makeups and appliances from The Exorcist applied badly. The trailer makes it look at least like a solid watch...DON'T FALL FOR THE TRAILER'S ***** LIES.

    Remember Americans: You can apparently survive being shotgunned in the face in Plague Town, but a small deformed child can beat you to death with a plastic wheel cover (assuming you, y'know, lie still and don't defend yourself in any way - NO, THAT REALLY HAPPENED IN THIS STUPID, STUPID MOVIE).

    This film gets no thumbs up, and may the cinematic gods have mercy on its maker's souls.

    05 October: Dead Ringer (1964)

    Maybe not strictly a horror movie, but a great one nonetheless. Bette Davis stars as twins, and when one murders the other to take over her seemingly privileged life, she learns that not everything is as it seems in this California gothic thriller with a very horror-esque soundtrack (see trailer in the above link).

    There just aren't any actors today operating at the level that Bette Davis did - in the twin scenes, you honestly forget that you are seeing her alone - the sense that two separate and unique people are in the scene is just that strong. Her voice, her mannerisms, even her posture are distinct for each of the sisters.

    All the thumbs up.

    06 October: President's Day (2010)

    President's Day is a no-budget horror comedy with terrible line readings that looks like it was filmed on a cell phone camera. It is also genuinely funny, inventive, self-aware, sincere, and imminently watchable. Sometimes all you need is heart, after all...although something tells me that flat iron rhinoplasty will never catch on.

    Two Thumbs Up!

    07 October: Dracula (1979)

    The sexy version of Dracula from the sexy 70's with sexy Frank Langella in the sexy title role. Sexy.

    ...or, at least, that's how Universal keeps trying to sell this picture to this day.

    A solid (workmanlike?) retelling of the oft-told tale, based heavily on the original stage production written by John Balderston and Hamilton Deane way back in the 1924, this version features lots of great costumes, sets, and a fairly unique take on the relationship between Dracula and Lucy, whose character has been basically switched with Mina's (and in the original play, Mina was kinda Quincy Morris. Yeah, it's a wreck, but that's OK). Save for one very seventies FX-laden love scene (check a smidgen of it at the 0:31 mark in the trailer and live in [sexy] fear), it is a solid watch. Features the irreplaceable Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing, the true gem of this (sexy) film.

    Two Fangs Up! Or, um...down? ...or in...? Whatever. Sexy!

    08 October: Dario Argento's Dracula AKA Dracula 3D (2012)

    ...seriously? Why do they keep letting this old hack make movies? More importantly, why does the horror fandom keep rallying around this old hack and his terrible movies?

    No thumbs up. None. I mean, Dracula turns into a Praying Mantis to kill a dude. Seriously. This is an objectively terrible movie by any and all measures.

    09 October: Stage Fright (2014)

    I honestly don't know what to say about Stage Fright. It truly is a unique effort - not 100% effective, mind you, but since there is literally nothing else out there quite like it, how can one criticize? The best I can say is, if you like the trailer, the movie delivers that same attitude in spades. If you find the trailer tedious or unfunny, skip the film - its not for you. Personally, my only regret was having a couple of the songs in my head for a good 24 hours after watching.

    ...and yes, that heavy fellow with the messy mustache is Meat Loaf, he of Bat Out of Hell fame displaying both his age and the fact that he has blown out his voice.

    Two Klieg Lights up!

    10 October: Bad Milo! (2013)

    Bad Milo! is supposed to be a gross-out horror comedy about a guy with a stress demon living in his ass. Instead, and quite unbelievably, it's really more of a comedic meditation on the stresses of the modern workaday world, along with a healthy does of commentary on the ineffectuality of the modern male and his many fears - of commitment, of family, and so forth. No, I'm really not kidding. So...lucky for it it is funny as hell, 'cause otherwise it would be boring as ****.

    Two Bottoms Up! ...yes, I went there.

    11 October: Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter (2012)

    Another one with a bad rap online - I don't know what movie those critics watched, but what I saw was a solid piece of cinema. An unusual coming-of-age tale for late bloomers and layabouts, the best parts of Elfie Hopkins reflect the best parts of Tim Burton's earlier films - but the outer weirdness here covers up the genuine horror, and maybe that's the problem some people have with the film. The final act does seem to take a sharp turn into bug-****ery if you haven't been paying good enough attention to what came before, and that's understandable - even after noting many of the breadcrumbs the filmmakers left throughout, it is hard to believe what the film is showing you by the end. The urge to wait for a "normal" denouement ("It was all just a dream!") is strong...

    Two thumbs, severed at the lowest joint, lightly seasoned and roasted, up.

    12 October: We Are What We Are (2013)

    I suppose I have a bit of cannibal theme going on...

    Based very loosely on a Mexican film from 2010, We Are What We Are is one of those "smart" horror movies that goes easy on the visual gore but mentally challenges the viewer much more than the average horror flick. Referencing myriad sources (the original film, the real-life events surrounding the infamous Donner Party, rare medical conditions and the unique tendency of early American settlers to develop and nurture their own personal takes on the Christian religion), We Are What We Are has a whole lot to say to and show us, and the vast majority of seems eerily...well, realistic. After all, every family has its secrets.

    This one has several standout performances, not least of which is Julia Garner, who at 19 plays a convincing 14 year old of hidden depths, and Bill Sage, who manages to simultaneously portray both unyielding spiritual conviction and growing physical enfeeblement...

    Two thumbs up.

    13 October: Blood Widow (2014)

    Fairly rote slasher with a cool killer design, but not much else going for it. Bad acting all around, a couple of laughs, fairly straightforward (if unlikely) kills (a woman can behead two people simultaneously with each hand with a single slash? Those are some blades!) with very little blood. One gets the feeling they wanted more gore, but had to limit what they actually showed on camera just because their FX weren't very good. Gets points for a certain level of self-awareness, but imminently skippable. Not offensively bad, just not particularly necessary.

    Two shrugs up.

    14 October: Southern Gothic (2007)

    This one, on the other hand, is like finding a (flawed, but still spectacular) diamond in the street. What first appeared to be a riff on From Dusk Till Dawn is actually a smart and very grounded human drama...that just happens to feature a Christian Vampire cult. No, really. Has some weak moments, but overall the story idea is unique enough, and Yul Vasquez' Hazel Fortune is both cinema cool yet relatable enough to carry it off.

    Partly occurs in strip club, so never you mind just how many of what it got up.

    15 October: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

    Generally considered the best of the many adaptations of the original novel, the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is BORING AS ALL ****. I am genuinely shocked this film has garnered the praise that it has. I could barely stay awake for it - ironic, given the way the alien invasion works in the film. I suppose it had its moments, but damned if I can actually bring any to mind after the fact...

    *points, screams in weird pitchy fashion*

    16 October: Odd Thomas (2013)

    Odd Thomas, on the other hand, was significantly more entertaining in practically every way. Directed by Stephen Sommers, he of the 90's Mummy franchise, I don't know what to say but that...well, having watched Odd Thomas, I actually forgive him for this. Easily one of the best of the month so far. Regardless, it is the kind of film that will wreck you in spectacular and unexpected ways...

    Finger sandwiches for all!

    17 October: Jennifer's Body (2009)

    Every once in a while, a perfectly serviceable movie comes along that audiences and critics seem determined to tear down - that's Jennifer's Body in a nutshell. I'm not quite willing to declare it an overlooked gem, but it is an entertaining mainstream film that does not deserve the heavy-handed criticism it has received. Part of the problem, I think, was that it was marketed as a strict horror/comedy - and it is not. The reality is that it is a coming of age story addressing several sexual, social and cultural issues as they relate to each other, to women, and to teens wrapped in a horror/comedy...shroud. No pun intended.

    Contrary to popular opinion at the time of its release, it does have some solid laughs as well as some solid scares, though it is not by any means a gorefest - it just isn't that type of film. Megan Fox (who, OK, is not the greatest actress of her generation, we all get that - let's all get over it, now) is perfectly capable as the title character, and Amanda Seyfried shines in the (supposed) supporting role. Watch for a virtual Who's Who of comedy and character actors in supporting roles, cameos, and blink-and-you'll-miss them bit parts, including one who I understand is having a bit of breakout year.

    Two funky thumbs up!

    18 October: The Frankenstein Theory (2013)

    I hate "found footage" horror, and I hate it even more when I **** up and buy one by accident (or due to misleading packaging). That said, this is by no means the worst one out there, and at least makes more sense than the grandaddy of them all (and the one it most closely resembles) The Blair Witch Project. Of course, none of this addresses the fact that, even if you had a preponderance of evidence that Frankenstein's monster truly existed, why the ever loving **** would you want to find it? On the plus side, Timothy V. Murphy as Karl is one of the best charismatic badasses I've seen in a while.

    Can't really give this one anything up, but if you are into the found footage thing, you can do (and likely have done) worse.

    19 October: The Crazies (2010)

    No usually the biggest fan of remakes, but George Romero's original made no impression on me whatsoever, so I thought I might as well give this modern version (executive produced by Romero) a shot. I liked it! More action/horror than straight up horror. Has quite a lot to say with regards to our growing military/surveillance society, not that I suppose the average John or Jane gives a single **** - thinking is hard!

    Two pitchforks up!

    20 October: Scream Park (2012/2013)

    Sometimes, just sometimes, a movie isn't merely bad - it's literally reprehensible.

    A very loud, late-season thunderstorm rolled through my area late last night/early this morning. Seeing as how I was up anyway, I thought I would squeeze in today's challenge movie. Turned out to be a genuinely awful way to start the day.

    Supposedly a throwback to late 70's and 80's slashers, Scream Park is really just an incredibly poorly directed, shot, and acted low-budget piece of trash. I hate to spend any amount of time on it at all - suffice it to say that the very first kill is literally the lynching of a black man, that it includes the implied **** of a young woman wearing a schoolgirl's uniform and later still the threat of **** aimed at the "final girl." It is a contemptibly tone-deaf piece of shit, and that's going easy on it.

    Unbelievably, Doug Bradley of Hellraiser fame participated, appearing in exactly one single flashback scene with one of the other actors (in retrospect, I'm not sure they are even in the same frame simultaneously). I certainly hope he was not aware of how offensive this thing is.

    I'm not linking a trailer this time, as I don't want to support this garbage in any way.

    All the thumbs down. All of them.
    Not every beast is tender, especially if there is genius in his making.

  • #2
    I still haven't seen the Dracula movie starring Frank Langella. I really need to see that film!
    "We must always value life. Even the life of one who opposes us." ― He-Man


    • #3
      I am with you, except for I, Frankenstein. The same man who killed it as Harvey Two-Face and Thank you for Smoking, absolutely shits the bed - along with the plot, special effects and well - everything. This makes the last Underworld look like Resident Evil. I was actually challenged to watch this entire movie by a friend who fell asleep trying to watch it, twice.

      There are worse out there, but not with that budget, actors and advertising.
      “Anything is a dildo, if you're brave enough"
      Thomas Jefferson

      Always looking to trade MOTUC to complete my collection.


      • #4
        Aw. I thought it was big, dumb fun. Maybe I am being a little too forgiving? I dig the action horror, though, so maybe its just my particular geek ****** showing.
        Not every beast is tender, especially if there is genius in his making.


        • #5
          Can't do it... my wife refuses to watch horror movies and as a result I've not even seen one in probably a good 15 years! lol.
          "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all." ― Noam Chomsky


          • #6
            Draego, your wife and I...we would not get along.

            21 October: I Sell The Dead (2008)

            Genuinely funny one, although it doesn't really explain it's own mythology very well, Regardless, good for a few laughs, and honestly at this point I think I'd pay to watch Ron Perlman read the phone book (are phone books still a thing? I'm old).

            Two Corpses Up!
            Not every beast is tender, especially if there is genius in his making.


            • Draego-Man
              Draego-Man commented
              Editing a comment
              Funny thing is, she listens to Death Metal no problem... it's just the visual stuff scares the crap out of her. lol.

          • #7
            Originally posted by Dark Angel View Post

            Great thread, I'm going to check out some of these movies this week

            15 October: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

            Generally considered the best of the many adaptations of the original novel, the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is BORING AS ALL ****. I am genuinely shocked this film has garnered the praise that it has. I could barely stay awake for it - ironic, given the way the alien invasion works in the film. I suppose it had its moments, but damned if I can actually bring any to mind after the fact...

            *points, screams in weird pitchy fashion*
            Not exactly the same, or "horror" in the true sense,and it lacks gore, but have you ever tried the 80's BBC miniseries "Day of the Triffids"?

            “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."― Salman Rushdie


            • Dark Angel
              Dark Angel commented
              Editing a comment
              I have seen the 1963, but nothing else. I must admit, I am not a huge fan of the sci-fi/horror subgenre.

            • _RZ_
              _RZ_ commented
              Editing a comment
              Ah well... figured I'd share it with you... cheers and keep these posts up you're giving me great stuff to hunt down and check out!

            • Dark Angel
              Dark Angel commented
              Editing a comment
              I'm not rejecting it, it is going on the list. However, the list is long!

          • #8
            Gotta catch up...

            22 October: All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

            Another slasher, another day, but this one has an interesting twist or two that I found substantially more satisfying than most modern takes on this particular subgenre. It's difficult to say anything about the film without giving too much away, but trust that it features several solid performances and one of the best fridge horror endings I've seen in a while.

            Two shotguns up!

            23 October: Satan's Little Helper (2004)

            Another low-budget and kinda sleazy film, but a lot more fun than Scream Park, albeit rather more disturbing - an impression helped along by the fact that it looks like one of those bad after school specials from the late seventies and eighties, albeit with substantially more murder. Relies on a whole lot of stupid in its main cast, but unlike Plague Town, Satan's Little Helper demonstrates a level of self-awareness that allows the viewer to overlook its shortcomings. In any case, I'm almost positive Amanda Plummer was drunk in most of her scenes, and that alone is worth the price of admission.

            Two horns up!

            24 October: The Catechism Cataclysm (2011)

            The Catechism Cataclysm defies conventional description. The cover describes is as "horror-comic head trip" (hence its inclusion here), but really its just a meandering not-buddy/stalker comedy (?) that takes a side trip into both the dramatic and surreal. In other words, it tries hard to be a whole lot of things...and ultimately fails at all of them. I'm not sure what I watched, but it sure wasn't even in the neighborhood of "good."

            Nope. Nothing up. Sorry.

            25 October: The Woman (2011)

            This one is tough: It's either brilliant or bullshit, and I'm not quite sure which. Another talky horror, it is much more character-driven than one would expect, and it rather artfully ramps up to a certainly troubling if not genuinely "shocking" ending.

            Two ring fingers up...I think.

            26 October: All the Colors of the Dark (Tutti i Colori del Buio) (1972)

            A movie about a haunted and/or hunted woman whose mother was brutally murdered in front of her when she was seven years old, who may or may not be crazy and/or psychic, and who finds herself at the center of a plot conceived by a drug-fueled, orgiastic Satanic cult - finally, something I can relate to!

            All the Colors of the Dark is, in its uncut form, a classic Italian giallo in every sense - running at full throttle on every cylinder. Of course, those of you who have watched a few giallo (or read what I've posted about them) know that that doesn't necessarily make for a sensible or even particularly good plot - but it does make for an entertaining movie. In this case, the plot ties up fairly sensibly, albeit not quite as "pat" as the typical giallo (we never do get to the bottom of those psychic visions). Genre darling Marina Malfatti also appears, as usual playing a fishy character whom the main character immediately trusts implicitly. Giallo heroines are typically only slightly less naive than slasher heroines.

            Original trailer is not linked as it CONTAINS NEKKIDITY and is NSFW. Search YouTube at your own risk

            Two Satanic Sacrificin' Daggers Up!
            Last edited by Dark Angel; 11-02-2014, 08:55 AM.
            Not every beast is tender, especially if there is genius in his making.


            • #9
              27 October: The People Under the Stairs (1991)

              Yes, it's true, I'd never actually seen more than 10 minutes or so of this movie. Wes Craven is very hit-or-miss for me, and I frankly never paid enough attention to know whether this (or the next movie in line) were worth my time. Turns out it was.

              It's no secret that The People Under the Stairs is basically a send up of the Reagan administration and its aggressively anti-poor, anti-minority policies, so I won't get into that. What I will say is that the film rides a fine line between comedy and horror, and manages to maintain its balance for the most part - a praiseworthy accomplishment in and of itself.

              Two Gimp Suits Up!

              28 October: The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

              Catching up with Craven seemed as good a theme as any, so I followed up with this one. A solid effort, although I must say the only truly scary bits are those rooted in the political intrigues of Haiti. Not "horror movie" scary, however, in any real way - not even "for it's time." Still, for an early horror/action mashup, it was a solid effort.

              Eh...what the hell...two corpses a'risin'!

              29 October: Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)

              Here's one with a rep for being one of the most horrible modern films out there, which is probably fair, but doesn't take into account the fact that the filmmakers clearly wanted to make a terrible movie. Too purposeful to be considered wacky, too ridiculous to be truly offensive, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is amusing, but is neither as good or as bad as you have probably heard. The Atheist "clown car" gag was pretty good, though.

              Can't really recommend it for general audiences, but if you watch that trailer and want to see more, it will deliver to you in spades.

              30 October: The Devil's Chair (2007)

              Bought because I needed a third used DVD to get the "Buy 2 get a Third for a Dollar!" deal. Little did I know that it would be one of my favorites out of all I watched this month. Hard to say much about the film without spoiling it, but its puts you through what you think is the wringer for quite some time until SWEET SASSY MOLASSY those last 15 minutes turn into something even more horrific than all that came before...

              Special nod to Andrew Howard, who is a genius actor, somehow able to make me laugh out loud and be absolutely terrifying, sometimes in a single scene...hell, sometimes in a single line reading.

              All the thumb up!

              31 October: The Watcher In The Woods (1980)

              Another one with Bette Davis, who gets top billing despite a relatively small part. This is one of those with a big reputation that, frankly, it doesn't quite live up to. Part gothic horror, part sci-fi, but none of it really melds into a cohesive whole. Regardless, it has moved some cultural water, so who am I to dismiss it? It does sport a fairly impressive creep factor, and it certainly wasn't made for grown-ass men who are staring the big 4-0 in the face...not that, y'know, I know anyone who fits that description or anything. A solid introduction to horror for the younglings, if nothing else.

              Two Mickey Mouse Ears Up!

              Bonus Feature: Black Christmas (1974)

              Yes, I busted out with the xmas horror, and no, I somehow had never managed to see this film before. I have a kind of "zen" approach to some things - I just assume that certain things, including movies, will just come to me whenever I am ready for them. Coming across a cheap, used copy of Black Christmas the day before Halloween was kismet to the nth degree.

              So, what did I think of it? Its a goddamn classic for good reason - who gives a **** what I think of it? For the record, was awesome.

              All the thumbs up!

              And that's it! Happy Halloween, folks. Just 54 shopping days 'til xmas!
              Not every beast is tender, especially if there is genius in his making.


              • #10
                Bravo thanks so much! You've given me and my wife a ton of great stuff to check out. Saving "Black Christmas" for December
                “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."― Salman Rushdie


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