All horror and nothing else makes Jake a happy boy. When I’m able to, I enjoy satiating my macabre addiction annually, where the entire month of October I binge on that which I truly love: horror films. It’s Jake’s annual Halloween Horror Dork-A-Thon!!! The rules are simple: I am required to watch at least one horror film every day for the entire month of October. I am allowed to watch more than one, of course, but one is the minimum. This usually culminates in a massive horror binge on Halloween and/or the weekend closest to Halloween. Here is the breakdown, with my usual commentary, on 2012’s outing. Let the blood flow!
DAY 1: MOTHER’S DAY and SILENT HILL – Not a bad start to the festivities. I’m referring to the remake of MOTHER’S DAY here. I dug it. Rebecca De Mornay’s performance is fierce and wholly entertaining (sort of made the film). At times a mixed bag, but overall it’s a good time. SILENT HILL is a total guilty pleasure for me. Honestly I think it’s the best videogame-to-film adaptation (a low bar, admittedly, but still…). Visually this thing is a beast. Sort of feels like a macabre oil painting coming to life, at times. Love Christophe Gans’s direction here. I’d love to see further filmic installments in this world.
DAY 2: THE MOTH DIARIES – Was intrigued by this one. Had all the elements of something I should’ve enjoyed. I dig Mary Harron as a director (loooooooove AMERICAN PSYCHO). But nope. This one is a turd. I struggled to get through it. Total miss for me.
DAY 3: CABIN FEVER – I’m in the minority in my group of friends here (for the most part), but I love CABIN FEVER. It just works for me. Love how it skirts the line between campy and terrifying. This is one film that manages to get to at least second base with Serious Horror while giving some under-the-table action to Horror Comedy, with both recipients of said metaphorical gratification being completely okay with the infidelity. The gruesome bits are harrowing, and the quirky bits are hilarious. Everything about this one is fun to me, and it’s the reason I started giving a damn about who Eli Roth was (yes, I’m an avid fan).
DAY 4: GRINDHOUSE – I could go on at length about all the things I love about this film, but to sum up it boils down to this: everything. I love everything about GRINDHOUSE. Seeing this in the theater is still amongst my most cherished theater-going experiences. People walked out after PLANET TERROR because they didn’t understand the concept of a double feature. I just smiled. I would kill to go back to the 70s and binge on grindhouse double/triple/whatever billings. Something about that era just entices me. Granted, these films are mostly emulations of said cinematic architecture, but they totally work, and rank amongst the most effective film homages I’ve seen. And I adore Rodriguez and Tarantino to a completely ridiculous degree. I love both PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF for completely different reasons, but their juxtaposition totally works for me in this double-feature format. I will never grow tired of this one, it always puts me in a good mood.
DAY 5: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011) – True, it’s not horror. But I always allow for films with horror elements to be included. This has a serial killer. It passes qualification. David Fincher is one of my cinematic heroes, and honestly this film is a powerhouse, in my opinion. This is one remake that completely bests its original predecessor in every possible away. Gorgeous cinematography. A rich, layered performance from Rooney Mara (though Noomi Rapace’s performance in the Swedish version is a powerhouse as well – I won’t say Mara did better than Rapace, but both ladies did fine work with the role). I wish I hadn’t seen the Swedish film before Fincher’s, as knowing the story definitely deflated my first viewing quite a bit (all mystery was essentially gone, in knowing the story). But I’ve found that Fincher’s gets even better upon repeated viewings. I have a feeling that in years to come I’ll come to enjoy this one more and more.
DAY 6: STIR OF ECHOES – Always was a fan of this one. In a lot of ways, I prefer it to THE SIXTH SENSE. A darker, edgier and more genre-focused version of that story (without the big twist). Always a fun watch to me.
DAY 7: YELLOWBRICKROAD – Hadn’t seen this one before. Honestly, for the first half I wasn’t that into it. But once the gang got into the woods and started hearing the music… Shit. Got. Real. And I loved where this one went. Strange and surreal insanity-based horror. This one built to a sort of devilish momentum and there were several times I was genuinely nervous. Not because it was tense or scary, it just managed to effectively fray my nerves. Definitely recommended.
DAY 8: THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL – Ti West’s masterpiece (yes, I used the correct word) is one of the best modern horror films. It’s also one of the best throwback films I’ve seen. It’s in the vein of an 80s horror film. But moreso it FEELS like it was made in the 80s. And not in a kitschy way. It’s very meticulously crafted, and I adore how slow of a burn it is (and it’s a slooooooow burn of a film). When it gets to the finale (oh… that finale), everything is completely off the hinges. Yeah, love this one.
DAY 9: A SERBIAN FILM – I believe my post on Twitter when queuing this up said something to the effect of “Everything about this is a terrible idea.” Fuck…. what was I thinking. I’d read all about the film and its infamous controversy (and knew about almost all of the key button-pushing scenes – but not all of them), and going in with that knowledge allowed me to soften the blow of what was unfolding on screen somewhat. Somewhat. I can only imagine going into this thing blind. I’m glad I didn’t. Every time I hear about any film inciting any level of controversy – of course I have to see it. I enjoy seeing what pushes people’s buttons. Yes I’m a gorehound, but it’s not about the shock value to me – it’s about seeing something that is by every possible definition completely fake (shots were staged, sets were lit, lines were rehearsed, takes were edited – it’s a 2 hour lie and we all know it!) somehow manage to transcend and get under someone’s skin either due to their personal convictions/reservations, societally deemed levels of acceptability, or what have you. The sociological aspects – it fascinates me. And I’ve seen some of the most messed up films ever made (not all… but quite a few). And I have a very strong stomach. I have to admit… A SERBIAN FILM wasn’t as shocking as I made it out to be prior to seeing it. But it also was EXACTLY as shocking as I made it out to be prior to seeing it. And in some ways – more shocking. It’s all of those, at the same time. It’s extremely well crafted (honestly, it’s a very well-made film in regards to acting, cinematography, and acting). That’s what bothered me a lot, too. Knowing that actors rehearsed this and did take after take. That someone lit this. Someone shot it with a camera. And some poor soul sat in a room and went through all the footage, over and over again, and edited it together. There isn’t enough alcohol in the world… I’m glad I’ve seen it. Once. I don’t ever need to see it again. And I won’t recommend it to anyone as I don’t really want to subject anyone else to it.
DAY 10: ZOMBIE A-HOLE – My boy Dustin Mills made this one. It’s the shit, I really enjoy it. Fans of excess, exploitation/grindhouse, and absurdly entertaining action/horror hybrids should absolutely seek it out. Watch anything Dustin has made – dude puts out quality entertainment. Highly recommended.
DAY 11: THE RING – Here’s another remake I really enjoy. Love the way this one is shot, and Naomi Watts gives a harrowing performance (as usual). Also: adore Hans Zimmer’s score on this. It improves on repeated viewings for me, too.
DAY 12: HOSTEL – I said I was a fan of Eli Roth. So no surprise that I love HOSTEL, as well. This one is so self aware it’s endearing. The first part feels like a college sex comedy a-la EUROTRIP, and then takes a sharp veer into Euro-horror territory. Often as tongue-in-cheek as CABIN FEVER, and the gross out moments are effective (and I’d argue, actually incredibly restrained). This one gets flak for its excessive nudity and gore… but it all works to the film’s advantage, as it unabashedly embraces all the staples and elements of the genres its tinkering with. It’s that movie you rent in high school or college with your friends (or hell, in my case, middle school) and stay up late to watch on the weekends. I hate hearing this one lumped into the (stupidly titled) “torture-porn” subgenre of horror. SAW – Yeah, that one fits that description. HOSTEL has more going on upstairs than people give it credit for.
Day 13: LOVELY MOLLY and SINISTER – Oh was this the night of sweet AND sour. Hadn’t seen either of these. LOVELY MOLLY is excellent. A powerhouse. Eduardo Sanchez completely blew me away here. A slow burn horror that embraces all the supernatural mystery and psychological insanity that it dares to stir up. A lot of people think it’s a found footage film – it’s not. It creatively plays with those elements (Sanchez did come out of The Blair Witch Project, after all), but it utilizes those moments in a very unique and fascinating way within the film’s architectural narrative. Go into this one cold, the less you know the better. It’s a haunting and blisteringly fascinating film. One of the best films of the year. SINISTER, on the other hand… it’s just a cinematic abomination. I went and caught this one in the theater tonight. It could’ve (and should’ve) been good. The first half had promise. Then there is distinctly ONE SCENE where everything derailed, and then from then to the end everything is an utter failure. It just sputters out. And is annoying. And ridiculous. And cheap. And embarrassing. One of the worst films of the year. But hey, I saw LOVELY MOLLY today so all is well!
Day 14: THE WARD – Oh, John Carpenter… What happened? I adore your films. But not this one. I enjoy looking at Amber Heard… But not in this one. We’ll just pretend like this one doesn’t exist, k? Sooper!
Day 15: ABSENTIA (also LOOPER and THE MASTER) – ABSENTIA is decent. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it. Just plain ol’ enjoyed it. Casually so. I also caught LOOPER and THE MASTER in the theater, even though they weren’t horror-related. LOOPER is my favorite film of the year (at this point). Loved it. THE MASTER is enigmatic, and fascinating. I need more time to digest it. I won’t go into more on these films as they don’t fit with this blog entry 🙂
Day 16: HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER – I actually had NEVER seen this before. Holy hell. I regret that I hadn’t. Rooker is fantastic. It’s phenomenally intriguing and incredibly cold-blooded. Loved it. Absolutely: a classic.
Day 17: AFTER THE DAWN (also started WALKING DEAD and AHS new seasons) – My good friends Mitchel A. Jones and Nicole Kruex made AFTER THE DAWN, and I’d been waiting to see it for quite some time. I’m really impressed with what they’ve done here. Jones’s direction is incredibly astute, and I just love the way the thing is shot. Kruex turns in a fierce, and grounded performance. Proof that you CAN do a low budget apocalypse film and not have it look like dogshit. AT ALL. Sadly, their film is the exception, not the rule. But my hat is definitely off to them. Highly recommended, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. Also started the new seasons of THE WALKING DEAD and AMERICAN HORROR STORY tonight. So far, so good!
Day 18: Original/Remake double feature – MY BLOODY VALENTINE 1981 & 2007 – I love doing Original/Remake double features. So much fun to watch them back-to-back, and it sort of changes the viewing experience. I’d never seen the original MY BLOODY VALENTINE prior to tonight, but I’d seen the remake (in 3D in theaters, which was a ton of fun). I really enjoyed the original. A fun 80s horror romp that really had some excellent gore in it. The remake didn’t hold up so well on this, my second viewing. I enjoyed it much more in the theater with the added effect of 3D (gross stuff flying at your face = funtimes). It was still entertaining, just in a diminished sort of way.
Day 19: THE TALL MAN – Everyone has talked up Pascal Laugier to me, so I decided to dive into some of his films. I’ll just say it – I didn’t dig THE TALL MAN at all. I knew going in that it was not the film it was marketed to be. The trailer sells it as a film where a monster/ghost/figure is kidnapping children. This is totally not the film. I don’t mind expectations being subverted. On the contrary – I like it when that happens. But, I didn’t enjoy where this story went, what it actually was. It felt like a well-shot generic thriller/drama… but everything felt so deflated. And there’s that scene in the middle where everything is just explained and then the entire film shifts direction and just sort of stumbles towards the finale which is… bland. Jessica Biel = not displeasing to look at. That wreck scene was pretty rad. It’s stupid – but that’s what I walked away with as the film’s highlights. I wanted to like this. I’ve tried to rationalize and convince myself into liking it. I’ve tried to entertain the possibility that I might just not get this film. But I do… I just don’t like it. Eh well, I have to be in the minority sometimes.
Day 20: WHISPERING CORRIDORS – I nabbed this DVD supercheap forever and a day ago and never watched it. Now I have. It’s okay. I dig J-horror, and am always a sucker for a ghost story. It’s just a lesser version of JU-ON or RINGU, to me. Nothing special, but nothing harmful.
Day 21: CHOP – Yup. This one is fun as shit. Total guilty pleasure. Exactly what I was in the mood for this night. I think you have to have a pretty sick sense of humor to fully appreciate it (which I have in spades), but I totally recommend it. A mean, fun little film.
Day 22: WRONG TURN 2 – I didn’t like WRONG TURN. I should’ve, as I love crazy inbred slasher flicks. But I didn’t. WRONG TURN 2, however… FUN. AS. HELL. Sort of takes the EVIL DEAD 2 approach and just aims for balls-to-the-wall fun by way of lots o’ camp and lots o’ gore. And oh, the kills in this thing. So much fun. Makes me want to see the other films in the series.
Day 23: THE WOMAN – Really was taken by this one. An interesting allegory that completely deconstructs the concept of misogyny. A man finds a feral woman while out hunting, and decides to bring her home, chain her in the basement, and groom her for society to “help” her. His family, the females of which are completely and utterly subservient and submissive and the males of which are completely and utterly destined to follow the footsteps of their morally righteous and misguided and abusive father, is brought along for this ride. A ride which eventually turns to sexual abuse. And warped, primitive perspectives on gender roles in the world. And eventually – full-on bloody revenge and comeuppance. This film will anger you (it stirred violent outbursts and walkouts at festivals) – this is the intent. It will also make you think. A profound little piece of cinema. Very powerful.
Day 24: HIGH TENSION – I love HIGH TENSION. I know the twist ending completely punches the narrative cloth into Swiss cheese, but I don’t care. It’s visceral. It’s raw. It’s energetic. It’s mean as hell. And it’s a blast. Introduced me to the force that is Alexandre Aja (one of my favorite modern horror filmmakers), and stands as a peak in France’s deathgrip on the mastery of modern horror.
Day 25: Original/Remake double feature – I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 1978 & 2010 – I’d never seen either of these. A rough double feature to sit through, indeed. I respect the original. It’s a powerful film, and I can absolutely imagine the impact and vindication that it stirred back in 1978. It is a classic. But I really dug the remake. Thought it was powerful in its own right, and effectively modernized. Granted, it plays towards clichés more heavily, and does fall slave to its own revenge construct. But it’s laced with slick, visually stunning cinematography, and a ferocious and fearless performance from Sarah Butler. Granted, this one is as mean and uncomfortable to watch as the original, but that’s the point (and in ways, I was more uncomfortable watching this one than the original – the original feels dated and at times a little corny, especially in the latter half; this one felt visceral and brutal and cold the entire time). Won’t say I “enjoyed” them, but they’re definitely both good in their own ways.
Day 26: Zombie Reckoning Horrorthon 2012 – THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, QUARANTINE 2 (skipped INSIDIOUS) – I got asked to participate in the Zombie Reckoning Horrorthon tonight. A bunch of podcasters, critics, and filmmakers all got on Netflix and watched some films available on streaming, in sync. We then live-Tweeted our collective responsive commentary on Twitter. It was a blast, and I had a lot of fun participating in this. We watched THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, which I came in late on since I’d just watched it, and they watched INSIDIOUS, which I skipped. Because I didn’t like it at all the first time I saw it. I really joined in on GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, which I was excited to finally watch. But… it’s not good. Really, at all. Which was fun because I got to participate in a sort of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER-style bashing of the film. And then we watched QUARANTINE 2. Which was worse. And just awful. And I had consumed a few drinks by that point. So I sort of let the film have it on Twitter. All in all, it was a really fun night.
DAY 27: *START OF WEEKEND BINGE* WHO SAW HER DIE?, MANHATTAN BABY, Original/Remake double-header – THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT 1972 & 2009, DETENTION, INSIDE – So here’s where my Halloween weekend binge finally commenced! I got a lot in today.
WHO SAW HER DIE – A fun little giallo that I hadn’t seen before. I adore giallos. This one wasn’t among the best I’ve seen, but it was really solid.
MANHATTAN BABY – A Lucio Fulci film I hadn’t seen before. Liked it, didn’t love it. Far from his worst work, but far from his best. Overall, I’d rank it as good.
Both versions of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT – I fondly had remembered the original as Wes Craven’s best film. I didn’t like it as much as I remembered (saw it a loooooong time ago previous to this viewing), but it still holds up to me. The amateur nature of the film makes it feel more grimy and off-putting. I really like the remake. It’s slick, and powerful, and laced with excellent performances (and it’s got Aaron Paul, BITCH!). Excellent cinematography. I thought it was fascinating how the lead actress was filmed so sensually in the first part of the film, and that same cinematographic aesthetic was used during the very lengthy, uncomfortable rape scene. Early on the camera traces over her body’s curves and lingers in a sort of “look at her…. LOOK at her” fashion. Then it does the same thing during her violation. It forces you to look, and casually (almost lovingly) frames the depravity. Its a beautifully shot film that shows us things that are anything but beautiful. To me it very effectively deconstructs the concept of sexualization. I think there’s a deep analysis in here. Or maybe I’m overthinking it. But it all felt purposeful to me, and not at all glamorizing violence/rape/objectification as I’ve heard suggested.
DETENTION – HOLY SHIT. I was so excited to see this one. Had been following it for awhile. Love Joseph Kahn as a director. He’s got a helluva eye for visuals and cinematography. This one moves at such a breakneck insaneasfuck pace, and it mashes together so many genres, elements, cultural references from various decades… This thing is a movienerd’s film. It’s a clusterfuck of awesome and insanity. You have to see it to believe it. I can’t really articulate the words. The film is holyshit. Just see it. I love it.
INSIDE – Had heard lots of good things about this French exercise in crimson. Oh wow. This thing is a bloody maelstrom of intensity. The gore is insane. It’s brutal and uncomfortable. Minus one sequence which involved a cat (I can’t handle things happening to animals in films… sorry, it’s just my button), I was grinning the whole time. This one is a blast. I love it. It’s horrific, but it’s awesome. Brutal and magnificent.
Day 28: EXCISION, MARTYRS, EVIL DEAD II – Two I hadn’t seen, one I adore. EXCISION was a mixed bag. Solid performances, and I loved the surreal nature of a lot of the film’s sequences. And the fascination with surgery was a nice angle for a horror film. But it just didn’t click. Worth a watch, but not much lasting effect, which is frustrating. MARTYRS – This is the Laugier film that everyone swears by. Adores. So I watched it, finally. I just… I don’t get it. It has this reputation for being so controversial and shocking… and it just wasn’t to me. At all. Sure it’s got some rough bits, but nothing out of the ordinary. I dig films that do a complete narrative shift smack in the middle (PSYCHO = brilliant. FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, while the other end of the spectrum = brilliant.). But this one I didn’t really care about the second half. The first half was interesting with the mystery of “what is going on?” But the whole second half of the film wasn’t engaging to me at all. Granted the first half is your average genre material and the unique stuff happens in the latter portions. But I just dug the genre portion more. I’ve tried to rationalize and understand. I’ve had great discussions and debates with friends over this one. I respect everyone’s opinions on this film. But I just don’t get it. At all. Wasn’t anything special, and I was completely disappointed. Just not for me. EVIL DEAD II – Do I really need to sit and fellate this film here? It’s a classic. It’s fun as shit. I’ve seen it more times than I can realistically count. I love it. Was a fun way to end the night.
Day 29: SUSPIRIA – I adore Dario Argento. Well, at least his older, classic stuff. SUSPIRIA is one of my favorite horror films of all time. So yeah, I love this one. It’s a flat-out masterpiece. The colors. The music. The cinematography. The strange atmosphere. Everything about this film works. Argento in his prime as a director. I know they’ll remake it one day. I don’t want them to. This one, I don’t want touched. It’s sacred to me. But hey… it’s going to happen.
Day 30: I fucked up… I skipped. Shame on me. I’ve been busy editing my film all month, it’s been tough to work in all that I’ve watched as it is. Tonight I slept.
Day 31: THE THING (John Carpenter’s) – One of my favorite horror films of all time. And one of a handful of films I’d argue is a damn near perfect film as a whole. Everything about THE THING works. Carpenter is at the top of his game here. It’s a masterclass in tension building, with some of the most iconic sequences in horror, nay, cinematic history. It’s a beast. I love it. I try to watch it every year if I can. Felt fitting to program this one on my favorite day of the year, since I was only able to watch one film. So… a fitting close to a helluva movie month.
Well… That’s it. 42 horror films + some added stuff. Not bad. Can’t wait to do it again!!! Okay, now back to work…