Spooktober 22, Day 31: Halloween (2007)

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, lists, audio, or video may also exist. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

Well, this is the end of Spooktober! Happy Halloween all! Of course, I have to end on a movie with the holiday in the title! This time I’m looking at the 2007 Rob Zombie remake. AKA the grungy, coarser take on the babysitting classic slasher that John Carpenter started.

If you’ve ever seen any of Zombie‘s previous work you know he has no qualms about getting dirty, gory, and disgusting. This takes aspects of the original story but flourishes it with some of its own creative and disturbing choices, the biggest being that Laurie is actually Michael Myer’s sister. It also shows more of Michael as a child, and how he became the killer he is.

After killing his stepfather and his sister he gets locked up where he develops a relationship with Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) who tries to help the young boy as he grows up, but to no avail. When he breaks out 15 years later, he goes back home to look for his sister, played as a teenager by Scout Taylor-Compton on Halloween night.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

In many ways, the remake doesn’t bring anything exactly new to the table, but it still hits some bloody notes that go hard. I think I am a bit kinder to this film than some because I do understand what he was trying to go for with his intent. I love the original Carpenter film, and I’ve found things to appreciate about at least – some – of the sequels, but I find nothing compares to the first for many reasons.

That being said, I think that Zombie has a distinctive take but he’s already coming at a disadvantage when you have a beloved horror villain with an enormous fanbase. There are some thrilling kills, and Scout Taylor-Compton does a terrific job as Laurie, but is ratcheting up the R rating enough? I believe so, and I think after the newest three films maybe some will come back and think more favorably upon a second watch.

Not without its flaws and unevenly paced, Halloween remains an interesting turn for the series, and another opportunity for Zombie to flex his horror muscles.

That concludes Spooktober 22, until next year! Happy Halloween and stay spooky!

Spooktober, 22, Day 30: The Witching Hour (Podcast) With Bailey Jo Josie

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, lists, audio, or video may also exist. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

For the Go, On, Scare Me I decided to invite my good friend, writer/editor Bailey Jo Josie to discuss all things Witchy! After recording, a couple films I meant to discuss popped into my head- Rosemary’s Baby and The Wretched (as we had predicted). We mention a lot of movies/shows so I’m sure there are many more! Happy to report Bailey Jo was right about Black Sunday too!

Have a listen here!

I did a poll regarding people’s favorite witches on Twitter, and Suspiria won (though I’m not sure if it’s the OG or remakes) but there was also some additional, wonderful write-in love for Practical Magic, Teen Witch and You Won’t Be Alone (a movie I loved from last year).

What is your favorite witch movie? And who is your favorite witch? Let me know in the comments!

Spooktober 22, Day 28: Pearl

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

The second of our double dose of Ti West this year, Pearl works as a prequel to the earlier released X, and while it’s a more contained story, it is elevated even more than its predecessor because of the terrific, electrifying performance by Mia Goth.

Pearl (Mia Goth) is waiting for her husband to come back to the war and lives with her judgmental mother and ill father. Pearl dreams of being a star, an actress, or a dancer, but most days are spent caring for the animals and holding onto the idea that she is meant for more.

source: A24

She finds out about an audition in town but tries to keep it a secret. Meanwhile, she meets a local projectionist at a theater (David Corenswet) who also makes her feel like she can make her dreams come true. The two have a connection, but, like most who meet Pearl, this temperamental girl will do anything for her, bottom line.

As a prequel to the horrifying farm where those who face peril in X are, this is more a character study, which allows Goth to dive into the role with a wink and smile amid a cascade of blood.

Pearl is a slasher, origin story that doesn’t let down. I love the contrast of colors with this drab farm, it really makes some moments, especially those that emphasize costume design or violent aesthetics pop. In Pearl, there’s more time living with this character which makes the moments of anger more pointed, and therefore more substantial. That’s not to say that all successful horrors do this, sometimes random unexplained atrocities can be just as effective. In many ways, it is a matter of context, and for this film, we see it

My favorite Ti West is still The House of the Devil, but Pearl has gotten me more intrigued to see where his third in this series will land. This also has one of my favorite end credit sequences (next to A Wounded Fawn) of the year which takes the dread that’s built over the course of the film and reminded you that her story, is most certainly, not over. Her wicked smile is imagery enough to keep you mulling over this one.

Pearl is a compelling and sinister intro to the character established earlier in the year, taken to new heights by Mia Goth’s striking performance.

Pearl is currently available on VOD.

Spooktober 22, Day 27: The Night Eats the World

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

Somehow, we are already on Day 27! I’ve been trying to be as different with my choices as possible because if there’s one truth to horror, it’s that the stories and potential for imagination are near, limitless.

The subgenre of zombie films is a commonly revisited one, and the ones that stand out are usually saying something new. The Night Eats the World (wonderful title) concentrates less on the gore when considering elements of surviving a zombie apocalypse, and instead leans into one man’s journey through the isolation and the danger that lurks outside.

The film starts with musician Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) visiting his ex while she’s having a party in hopes to get some of his things back. When he passes out in one of the rooms he wakes up to find the place empty with blood everywhere. When he makes it outside he realizes that overnight a zombie apocalypse has occurred forcing him to survive on his own. Dominique Rocher creates a movie that focuses on both the unimaginable horror of an event like this, with the imaginable fear of being alone.

A minimalist approach to storytelling when it comes to flesh-eating monsters, Sam is mostly the only character on the screen once things happen. He finds ways to pass the time and keep his sanity, but his loneliness is abundant. A trapped zombie named Alfred (Denis Lavant) provides him some “company” but for the most part, we see the film take its time and we get to know Sam.

In some ways, it may sound like it would be a slog, and perhaps for action junkies it could, but it’s genuinely compelling. I found myself intrigued watching him be methodical about collecting survival gear or building musical instruments out of random items. That’s not to say there aren’t at least a few encounters with some bloody chompers, but the horror of the film instead is wrapped around a convincing character study and his internal and external struggles.

The Night Ate the World is unhurried, thought-provoking, and features an absorbing performance from Anders Danielsen Lie to make something new out of an aged premise.

The Night Ate the World is currently streaming on AMC+

Spooktober 22, Day 26: Barbarian

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

One of my most anticipated films of the year has finally arrived digitally and I was able to experience the unforgettable, and one of the more creative of the 2022 horrors: Barbarian.

It’s always smart to use an aspect of the current climate as fodder for scares, and in the day and age where Airbnb’s are commonly booked, it’s got its finger right on our pulse. And yes, Barbarian ratches up our heart rates.

source: 20th Century Studios

Could there be something worse than booking a house for the night only to arrive and have it already occupied by another? Well, yes, yes there certainly is, which we will get to, but even that is terrifying in and of itself.

When Tess (Georgina Campbell) arrives it’s late, pouring rain and she just wants to settle in. But, the key isn’t in the lockbox and the person she booked with isn’t answering. Then a light comes on, and opening the door is Keith (Bill Skarsgård) who also paid and secured the room on a different, similar site.

The predicament has Tess on edge, rightfully so, and she almost leaves and finds somewhere else to stay. Maybe it’s Keith’s charm or the fact that he has an answer or solution, for all of her concerns, but she ends up staying the night with her in the bedroom and him on the couch.

There’s most definitely an element played up here that keeps the audience on edge, suspecting, unsure who we can trust or what is happening, but just accepting the truth that this is most definitely going to get dark. The two have a great rapport, and bond over some wine, and there’s even a sense that maybe these two could have a real connection. If, they both have a future that is.

The next day’s light shows the neighborhood in Detroit that she’s in is completely dilapidated, with this being the only home still standing. Coincidence? Not likely.

source: 20th Century Studios

AJ (Justin Long) is an actor in LA that seems to be on top of the world until he’s accused of rape by a coworker. His life quickly unravels and his finances dwindle so he heads to Detroit to liquidate a property he owns. Can you guess which one? When he arrives and notices that it looks like someone has been staying there (or two) he investigates.

I’m not going to give much more plot detail than that, but I will say that there’s something sinister that resides below. Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long are all fantastic. Long despite being a rather dislikable tool at times, is absolutely hilarious (he always is) adding some lovely humor to color this grim, strange story with occasional laughter.

Writer/director Zach Cregger employs a lot of misdirection and ensures that Barbarian is quite surprising at every turn.

Certainly, Barbarian is one of our best treats this spooky season with ample mystery and pure entertainment value. It’s what you’re looking for, even if you don’t know quite what that entails, but the set design, acting, and perverse, disturbing twists, make Barbarian a worthwhile discovery. Just bring a flashlight.

Barbarian is currently streaming on HBO Max

Spooktober 22, Day 25: Cat’s Eye

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

Stephen King rocks. If you don’t already know this, somehow, I’m happy to consistently remind you.

The anthology film Cat’s Eye is one of those lesser-known King ventures, despite him having penned the screenplay (his first solo) based on two of his own short stories (both from Night Shift), and one new one. This screams King in all the ways you may expect, and others, well, they may just surprise you.

It follows three stories linked through a cat, and it’s chock full of Easter eggs and is darkly hilarious. It feels a lot like Creepshow but somehow gets significantly less traction. Lewis Teague directs the interestingly offbeat breed of storytelling that is Cat’s Eye.

The first story stars James Woods about a man who signs up for a service to help him quit smoking, but the terms…well, they may require quite the sacrifice. It’s got a wicked burn this one, and Woods is perfect in the role. It is my favorite of the three and starts the movie with a bang.

source: MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

Next, our kitty companion takes us to a wealthy man’s (Kenneth McMillan) own twisted vengeful obsession with gambling to new heights when he bets his wife’s lover won’t make it around the building on a tiny ledge. While I feel it’s the weakest, it’s still wildly entertaining.

Finally, we visit a young girl (Drew Barrymore) who is being tormented by a small troll in her walls. It’s delightfully campy with a tricky little creature that doesn’t want to let up, and a girl no one believes. But the troll is cute, he’s got bells on his hat like a court jester and just wants to suck the life out of children!

Cat’s Eye is pure, bizarre camp with just the right amount of Stephen King’s signature terror.

Cat’s Eye is currently streaming on HBO Max

Spooktober 22, Day 24: Carnival of Souls

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

The alienating feeling begins swiftly and remains wrapped around Herk Harvey’s 1962 film Carnival of Soul until its final scene. This isn’t a movie that thrives on visual scares, but instead, the effects of trauma, psychological peril, and the sense that you’re misplaced.

That’s not to say the film isn’t creepy, it’s just delivered in a way where the fear is read in the eyes of our lead, and in the well of loneliness, you see in her tears.

source: Herts-Lion International Corp.

Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) is the only survivor of a horrible car accident. She tries to put it behind her and start anew, getting a job as a church organist, and settling into a boarding house in Salt Lake City. Soon though, she is haunted by visions of a man, and other disruptions that begin to unravel her grip on reality. She’s also fascinated with the site of an old carnival pavilion as if something is pulling her towards it.

Carnival of Souls is definitely eerier than it is scary, made on a small budget, without any of the more pushy aesthetics or violence that so often accompanies the genre. Here it works, though it wouldn’t be surprising to find that some viewers think it tedious. For me, the 80 minutes went by in a flurry, and I can see how this paved the way for many films to follow (one, in particular, I won’t mention because it spoils the twist). I love tracing the inspirations in horror throughout the beginning of the film. Each time I discover a new one it’s like coloring in the picture a bit more.

Carnival of Souls isn’t a complete stunner for me (though damn close) but it’s a resonating, effective piece of work that nudges those feelings of lonesomeness we often face with a moody, nightmare-tinged quality.

Carnival of Souls is currently streaming on Amazon Prime

Spooktober 22, Day 23: Cat People (1982)

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, lists, audio, or video may also exist. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

Earlier in the month, I saw the first Cat People, loved it, and covered it for Spooktober. Forty years later we got another Cat People, this time directed by Paul Schrader which is wildly different. Of course, I had to watch it, and now that I have, I feel compelled to write about it.

source: Image Entertainment Inc., MCA/Universal Pictures 

Irena (Nastassja Kinski) has just arrived in New Orleans, meeting up with her brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell) who she hasn’t seen since they were kids. The film doesn’t really touch on where she’s been after their parent’s death, more than a brief dialogue, but it isn’t entirely necessary. This movie has some supernatural teeth and it doesn’t waste time before biting.

When a woman is attacked by a black leopard, it is then trapped in a hotel room and local zoo employees including zoologist Oliver Yates (John Heard), and Alice (Annette O’Toole) come to take it in. They bring the leopard to their zoo, and Irena finds herself drawn to it, where she also meets Oliver, who she falls in love with.

If you know the story at all, you’ll know that being intimate with another triggers the shape-shifting ability in an uncontrollable, bloodthirsty fashion. Something her brother Paul knows a lot about.

There are some callbacks to the original, including the diner and pool scene, with similar bones and ideas but warped into something weird and feral. It’s sexy, it’s sensual, and it’s strangely intoxicating. I found myself mesmerized at times by the texture of it, the horror, and the magic of watching Natassja Kinski, who is truly captivating. It also has some genuinely creepy scenes.

I totally dug how charged the movie felt, from its opening gorgeous scene to its end. Throughout the film we hear the music from David Bowie’s Cat People track, but not until the final shot do we get to experience it, and hear him belt out the lyrics.

I can see why some people may not love this version, and I try not to compare it negatively to the original, which holds its own in unique but varied ways. If the 1942 version was our quiet intro, the 1982 one is the loud, controversial counterpart. More violent and extroverted than its predecessor this is less thought-provoking, but more visceral.

Paul Schrader makes this movie his own and I found it to be intoxicating, strange, and at times horrific- a reimagining served with a side of mysticism that is certainly never dull.

Cat People is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel.

Spooktober 22, Day 22: The Eyes of My Mother

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

Chilling. That’s the first word that comes to mind with writer/director Nicolas Pesce‘s The Eyes of My Mother.

A tragedy occurs and breaks up a family’s quiet, happy life. Young Francisca (Olivia Bond) is taught by her mother about human anatomy, which sparks a keen curiosity in her, but also an acceptance of life and death. When she gets older Francisca’s (Kika Magalhaes) interest grows in disturbing ways. The film chronicles her transition in a compelling, and sickening manner.

The film is only an hour and 16 minutes, yet each minute is felt. It’s not said as a negative, it’s just so heavy that you carry each scene with you as you go. It’s one of the oddest, but honestly, most impressive horror films I have seen in a long time. It manages to completely capture you, unnerve you, but also entrance you.

source: Magnet Releasing

In stark black and white, there’s a foreboding cloud hanging over, and yet it is beautifully shot. The music is subtle and many scenes are filled with silence. Kika Magalhaes is fantastic, and stoic for most of the film, with moments where her facade breaks and the trauma and emotions overwhelm her. The film primarily takes in one location, a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, and in ways, it feels like another world: Francisca’s. With no connection to anyone and a loneliness that pervades, she’s always yearning for the family she once had. The cinematography by Zach Kuperstein is also exquisite, heightening the sense of isolation.

The Eyes of My Mother is really one of a kind. It has a presence that doesn’t disappear when the credits roll. Each scene is meticulously crafted, and it is one where the atmosphere lives in you. A unique directorial debut that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The Eyes of My Mother is currently streaming on HBO Max.

Spooktober 22, Day 21: Haxan

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

What’s amazing about this 1922 film is that, well one: it was 100 years ago, and two: it’s giving lessons and reenactments, and they are, at times, more well-structured than some new embodiments of witches and lore since. It’s a common subject in the film be it horror or folklore, but there’s a reason. It is embedded in our history. I feel this prejudice against anything that seems off, weird, or not the “norm.” It’s a part of history that’s painful to see, which makes this both captivating and challenging.

In some ways, this is the most terrifying new (to me) film I’ve watched recently because its documentary style reminds us how things were perceived 100 years ago. For this much info to be compiled, about innocent people being persecuted, at that time, is disturbing to me. And honestly, while the witch trials ended, there are still a lot of connections and our own versions of it that show how much we have regressed. It’s a bit harrowing to see because it’s nonfiction and fiction at work, showing how dangerous people can be when they don’t understand something.

source: Janus Films

For its time the visuals are especially potent. Obviously utilizing practical effects, it seems realistic, and it is truly unique. The devil is especially menacing. It casts a spell on you and doesn’t let go.

My only gripe and this can sometimes happen with silent films, is the music used. Sometimes I feel it overcompensates and it’s not necessary, and it’s also not tonally connected to the images we are seeing on screen. Still, that’s a very limited aspect.

Benjamin Christensen’s Haxan is really a creepy wonder, a hybrid, an anomaly we don’t often get to experience. Stylish, informative, and ultimately, unforgettable.