Longtime readers and/or listeners of the Awards Radar podcast will likely know that the spooky season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Even though I’ve been too old for trick-or-treating for a long while now, and am probably too old for most adult-oriented costume parties at this point, that doesn’t stop me from celebrating the best way that I know how: by watching lots and lots of horror (or horror-adjacent) movies!
This is my third year in a row participating in the #31DaysOfHalloween challenge, which is exactly what it sounds like. Watching 31 scary movies in a month is quite the undertaking for even the most die-hard of gorehounds, but fortunately I haven’t had to do it alone. The first year we did this, Kelly was my girlfriend. The second year, she was my fiancé. This year, she is now my wife of 11 months, with our first anniversary just around the corner. Even if she’s not quite the cinephile that I am, we both have a ton of fun exploring all that the horror genre has to offer.
Rather than focusing on specific subgenres like we did last year, the 2022 slate has focused primarily on catching up with releases from the past few years that we haven’t had a chance to get to before now. In order to mix things up, we also threw in some older films and some personal favorites. If you follow me on Twitter (@MylesOnFilm) you may have seen my micro-reviews of each one corresponding to the day. But without further delay, here are my thoughts on all 31 spooky movies that we watched this month!
- Fear Street: Part One – 1994 (2021)
Dir. Leigh Janiak
How awesome is it that Netflix dropped not one, not two, but a whole new trilogy of slasher movies last year? Filled with plenty of period flair and an intense amount of lore that gets gradually spooled out over the course of the three films, this is the kind of thing that feels like a miracle in the modern horror landscape. Of the trilogy, this first one is easily the strongest, with twists and turns aplenty, some gruesome kills, and a bangin’ soundtrack that occasionally feels like it’s on the nose.
Spookiest Scene: The Scream-esque cold open with a criminally underused Maya Hawke is when the film feels the most dangerous and unsettling.
- Fear Street: Part Two – 1978 (2021)
Dir. Leigh Janiak
Outside of bookend scenes at the beginning and end that tie things back to the 1994 storyline, this middle chapter largely focuses on the antics and teen drama that are always to be found at a summer camp. This one benefits from the inclusion of Sadie Sink (soon to be seen in The Whale), who makes for an engaging protagonist, and there’s more than enough gnarly deaths and tantalizing new world-building to keep one engaged, but overall it’s not quite as focused as the previous entry.
Spookiest Scene: An extended sequence underground where some teens are trapped with no way out reminded me of The Descent in a very pleasing way.
- Fear Street: Part Three – 1666 (2021)
Dir. Leigh Janiak
The trilogy comes to an awkward, someone disjointed, but ultimately satisfying conclusion as the various plot threads get resolved with some spicy new twists that change everything we thought we knew about the first two films. The colonial era story makes the somewhat inspired choice of reusing the actors we’ve seen in the first two films, which helps it feel more connected but causes the period authenticity to suffer. It picks up momentum in the second half that’s largely concerned with wrapping up the 1994 storyline, and manages to end on a high note.
Spookiest Scene: Not exactly scary, but the scene where they trick the various killers into fighting each other is easily the coolest moment in the entire trilogy.
- One Cut of the Dead (2017)
Dir. Shin’ichirô Ueda
Here is a film that can’t be accurately described without spoiling some of its most delightful twists, and I certainly don’t want to spoil anything because this Japanese zombie movie is easily one of the highlights of the month. Suffice it to say that the first third concerns itself with an outbreak of the undead on a film set that’s all depicted in an impressive but occasionally stilted single take. The second third goes in a completely different direction, and the last third ties everything together, providing frequently hilarious backstory for moments that felt almost like mistakes. It’s incredibly meta, and if you’ve ever worked on a film set this is essential viewing.
Spookiest Scene: The initial realization that the film’s “director” plans to take full use of the real zombies for production value is scarier than any of the actual flesh-eaters.
- Terrifier (2016)
Dir. Damien Leone
As an independent filmmaker myself, sometimes it’s comforting to watch a super low-budget horror film that’s found a considerable audience and think to myself: “I could probably have made that.” That’s no knock on this incredibly visceral new-age slasher movie that makes the most of its limited resources, paving the way for some stomach-churning kills (there’s one in particular that I’m not going to be able to forget any time soon). Most impressively, it introduces Art the Clown, a hauntingly silent yet playfully vicious new horror icon who’s one of the best we’ve seen since the heyday of Freddy and Jason. The ending is a little muddled, and the dialogue throughout is pretty rough, but otherwise it’s a fun time if you can handle the gore.
Spookiest Scene: Let’s just say one of the main girls does the splits in a way that’s going to be difficult to come back from.
- Terrifier 2 (2022)
- Dir. Damien Leone
- One of the big financial success stories of the season, this sequel dials things up to 11 and insists on being bigger and better in every way. This works intermittently, as the kill scenes and the moments focusing on Art himself are better than ever. However, the film is almost an hour longer than its predecessor, and a lot of the extra runtime feels inessential at best. Multiple extended dream sequences, supernatural elements that are never adequately explained, and family melodrama that grinds the pacing to a halt all come together to create a feeling that less is more with this particular character. It’s still an incredible achievement (apparently taking 5 years to shoot with frequent delays) and I love that the horror community is rallying behind this new franchise, but hopefully Terrifier 3 scales things back a little bit.
- Spookiest Scene: Art never likes to just kill someone and move on when he can take his time to thoroughly mutilate them, and one particular victim of this in a bedroom scene is pretty shocking for just how far he takes things.
- Rating: 3/5
- Hellraiser (2022)
Dir. David Bruckner
It’s probably damning this reboot with faint praise to say that it’s the best entry in the series since the original, considering that the bar of quality for most of the Hellraiser sequels is frighteningly low, but this does feel like a return to form and keeps things refreshingly simple (not to mention placing most of the focus on the puzzle box and the Cenobites, which seems obvious but has rarely been the case). Jamie Clayton is a revelation as the new take on Pinhead, every bit as sinister yet allowing for slight traces of empathy. The human villain disappoints, and the addiction drama plaguing the protagonist is interesting but a little undercooked, keeping the film from greatness, but franchise fans should get a good kick out of it.
Spookiest Scene: Pinhead’s chains are every bit as effective at ripping flesh asunder as they’ve ever been, an effect that is very well utilized here.
- Smile (2022)
- Dir. Parker Finn
- Easily one of the most pleasant surprises of the month, and on my birthday no less! This is a top-notch jump scare generator, and while that normally wouldn’t be my thing, the execution here is so on point, and the pervasive atmosphere, killer sound design, and inspired mythology underneath it all gives the whole affair that “anything could happen” sense of dread, which lead to me watching a lot of the film through my fingers like the big scaredy cat I usually am not. Sosie Bacon delivers a star-making performance, and the absolutely insane places that the story goes made me feel like I was reading a Junji Ito story in the best possible way.
- Spookiest Scene: Pretty much any time one of the “smilers” teleports from across the room to right in front of your face through the power of editing, I jumped out of my seat.
- Rating: 4/5
- Glorious (2022)
Dir. Rebekah McKendry
The setup for this one is outstanding: a guy (Ryan Kwanten) is distraught after breaking up with his girlfriend, gets wasted at a rest stop, and while using the bathroom, he realizes that the stall next to him is occupied by a Lovecraftian monstrosity (voiced by J.K. Simmons, no less). The tête-à-tête that follows is fascinating, horrifying, existential, and only occasionally meandering. There’s a twist at the end that doesn’t completely work and renders the main character instantly loathsome, but other than that this is a fun, gross story about the end of the world.
Spookiest Scene: When we do finally get the chance to see what the eldritch god looks like, it absolutely lives up to what we think of when we talk about cosmic horror. Indescribable.
- Werewolf by Night (2022)
Dir. Michael Giacchino
I originally wasn’t going to count this one because it isn’t exactly feature length (clocking in at only 52 minutes), but there’s so much seasonal joy to be wrung from it that I couldn’t help but give it a shout-out. Fully committed to the old-school Universal monster/Hammer horror aesthetic, this Halloween Special is far from scary but is considerably bloodier than what you’d normally expect to see in the MCU. Gael García Bernal is an immediately likable presence, and his lighthearted dedication to the strangeness of the character and scenario are a pleasure to witness. Plus, the introduction of Man-Thing (aka Ted) is a massive highlight, and their chemistry together makes me very excited to see their further adventures.
Spookiest Scene: The werewolf transformation scene isn’t quite up there with An American Werewolf in London, but it’s still captivating, and refreshingly relies on makeup over CGI.
- The Night House (2020)
Dir. David Bruckner
Creepy, unsettling, and densely atmospheric, this is a beautifully rendered haunted house tale that is largely buoyed by another of Rebecca Hall’s many many excellent performances. The intersection of horror and grief is clearly an area that holds much interest for David Bruckner, and for much of the film’s runtime, it gives everything a slightly classier (I would even dare say, elevated) feel to it. That is, until he runs into the ending, which for my money completely undoes a lot of the goodwill that the film had earned by that point. It’s not a total wash, and it’s definitely worth checking out for horror fans, but the way that the story resolves felt considerably anticlimactic to me.
Spookiest Scene: Even though I don’t love what comes after, the moment where the presence that Hall has been interacting with makes itself known is legitimately terrifying.
- The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Dir. Drew Goddard
This one is an old favorite for both Kelly and I, and sometimes you just want the warm comforts of a film you already know that you love. A twisty, metatextual call-to-action for the entire genre to recognize its tired tropes and improve upon them, Drew Goddard’s directorial debut is filled with set pieces that ride the line between scary and funny with a grace rarely seen among genre hybrids. And of course, the third act reveal when the viewer comes face to face with the incredible scale of what they’re up against is every bit as mesmerizing as it was when I first saw the film over a decade ago. It’s an all-time great that still holds up today.
Spookiest Scene: There’s a few effective jump scares, but the scene when the elevators open and the security team gets completely pulverized remains one of my favorite moments in any horror movie.
- Halloween Ends
Dir. David Gordon Green
Boy, endings are hard, aren’t they? For the final installment in David Gordon Green’s incredibly top-heavy Halloween trilogy, he decided to focus not on Laurie Strode or Michael Myers (not that the film’s marketing department got the memo), but on some random kid named Corey. I don’t blame actor Rohan Campbell, who is doing his best with a very inconsistent character, but the decision to spend almost the entire movie with a character we’ve never met is perplexing at best. It’s an interesting enough character trajectory to make for a good movie on its own, but it never fully gels with the Halloween stuff around it, and then the character in unceremoniously taken out of the equation just in time for a rushed final battle between Laurie and Michael that wasn’t even remotely set up. Makes enough bold choices that it’s never boring to watch, but it’s hard to call this a good movie or a satisfying sequel.
Spookiest Scene: I wouldn’t call any of it especially scary, but there’s a kill scene in the sewer involving both Michael and Corey that’s far more erotically charged than I was expecting.
- Evil Dead (2013)
Dir. Fede Alvarez
If horror remakes get a bad rap, it’s probably because Platinum Dunes (among others) shoved so many subpar ones down our throats for such a long stretch of the 2000s. But there are some gems to be found, and this grisly reimaging of Sam Raimi’s classic is certainly among them. It trades out the original’s slapstick humor for a downright gleeful emphasis on body horror, and while it’s easy to miss the presence of an Ash-like figure, Jane Levy more than picks up the slack, delivering a badass final girl and a terrifying possession victim all in one performance. Anyone who gets squeamish around graphic bodily mutilation should probably steer clear, but for the rest of us, this is a more than worthy successor that sits comfortably alongside its iconic brethren.
Spookiest Scene: The creature that chases our heroine throughout the film’s climax is every bit as freaky as its over-the-top death scene is glorious.
- Raw (2016)
Dir. Julia Ducournau
I guess this was a stretch of films that really played up the more disgusting elements of life. A depiction of the intricacies and complexities of sisterhood takes a wildly carnivorous turn, and as a coming-of-age story it’s both horrendous and heartfelt in equal measure. Garance Marillier makes for a commanding lead, allowing her awkwardness and vulnerability to give way to something primal and ecstatic. Kelly and I are usually on the same page when it comes to movies, but there’s a lot of really intense scenes involving dead animals that made it completely unpalatable for her. I totally sympathize with anyone who can’t get into the movie for that reason, but I also found it so compelling that I couldn’t look away.
Spookiest Scene: The fate of a certain finger is more than enough to make the skin crawl.
- Titane (2021)
Dir. Julia Ducournau
This was a weird one. It blends so many genres together into a big soup that one would be forgiven for being unable to categorize it, but there’s just enough horror stuff during the first act (where our car-fucking protagonist has a brief but amusing stint as a serial killer) that I feel like it qualifies. The film excels at defying your expectations, so every time you think you have a handle on where the story is going, it swerves into a direction that couldn’t be more different from what you thought you were watching. These diverging narrative threads are all interesting, if a little bizarre, but I’d be hard pressed to say whether they completely come together by the end. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how sweet and emotional things get as it moves along, with a real tenderness between the two leads (played exceptionally by Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon). Not for the faint of heart, or for anyone who prefers a plot that’s either tidy or coherent, but it’s the kind of wild swing of a movie I love to see find the kind of popularity that it has.
Spookiest Scene: The logistics of the protagonist’s pregnancy (with a car baby, I might add) and her increasingly brutal attempts to disguise it are pretty uncomfortable to watch.
- Frankenstein (1931)
Dir. James Whale
I have a love/hate relationship with the classic Universal monster movies: I love their moody gothic aesthetic, but I hate most of the actual movies. The Wolf Man did very little for me, and my attempt to watch the original Dracula for the first edition of this challenge resulted in 75 minutes of intense boredom. So it was a delight to discover that the original Frankenstein, despite being made in the same era, feels infinitely more cinematic and involving. The details are different from the version of the story most are familiar with: the doctor’s name is Henry rather than Victor, and there’s no Igor in sight. But Boris Karloff’s performance is legendary for a reason, and the creepy atmosphere and haunting conclusion make this a monster movie that goes down very easily.
Spookiest Scene: It’s more than a little alarming to see just how quickly the townspeople get riled up and ready for blood, lending credence to the notion that man is the real monster in this story.
- The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Dir. James Whale
If the previous film is the first of the Universal monster movies that I’ve actually liked, then its sequel is the first of them that I’ve actively loved. Despite the title character only appearing onscreen for a few brief minutes, this film is everything I’ve ever wanted from this particular era of cinema. The performances are outrageously campy (shout out to Ernest Thesiger’s delectable line readings as the villainous Dr. Pretorius), the score is instantly memorable, the cinematography and especially lighting are to die for, and in general one can sense that director James Whale is having a lot more fun this time around, an enthusiasm that proves infectious. I don’t like to throw this word around too much, but for what it’s doing and trying to be, The Bride of Frankenstein is a masterpiece.
Spookiest Scene: The build-up to the creation of the new monster is nothing less than riveting.
- V/H/S/94 (2021)
Dir. Simon Barrett, Steven Kostanski, Chloe Okuno, Ryan Prows, Jennifer Reeder, Timo Tjahjanto
Real talk: I did not originally have this film on my list. I’ve seen the first two V/H/S films, and outside of an absolute banger of a segment in the second film (co-directed by Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto, the latter of whom returns here), I walked away with a distinct impression that this series is just not for me. But leave it to our fearless leader and podcast host Joey Magidson, who decided that it should be included so that we could all talk about it on a recent episode of our podcast. So watch it I did, and while it may not be the absolute worst thing I’ve ever seen, it was a pretty grueling and miserable experience. As we’ll see later on with Deadstream, there’s a way to use found-footage as an effective means of storytelling, but this ain’t it for me. A few of the segments had interesting ideas here and there, but the cumulative effective of the presentation (grainy, wobbly footage and intentionally bad sound design) mixed with generally sloppy storytelling just wasn’t something I could really get into. Suffice it to say I do not plan on watching the recently released V/H/S/99.
Spookiest Scene: There’s one jump scare during the segment based in a sewer that definitely got me. It was the only one of its kind.
- Saloum (2022)
Dir. Jean Luc Herbulot
One of the many things I love about horror is how seamlessly it’s able to blend and integrate with other genres. Case in point, you could easily reach the halfway point of this stylish Senegalese heist thriller without having detected anything remotely resembling horror. Colorful characters and tense conversations, sure, but nothing you’d define as scary. But as with From Dusk Till Dawn before it (a film with a lot of structural similarities), around that halfway point things take a sharp turn into the supernatural. While the intentionally vague forces that torment our band of survivors may lack visual interest, the film more than makes up for it with a diverse cast of characters that all provide easy rooting interest, especially with the performance of lead actor Yann Gael. It may not change your life, but it is very entertaining and achieves an impressive amount of pathos by the end.
Spookiest Scene: Before the evil force fully reveals itself, the protagonist’s monologue about his backstory and the real reason he’s come to this hotel is effectively chilling.
- Perfect Blue (1997)
Dir. Satoshi Kon
The age-old conversation about whether animation is just for kids should hopefully be dispelled over the course of this otherwise unrelated trilogy that all offer something haunting through the use of very different art styles. First up is this psychological thriller about a pop idol attempting to transition into the world of acting, which infuriates her fanbase and slowly starts to damage her mental health. Despite its age, this anime is impressively put together thanks to a surreal visual language and editing so razor sharp that it’s easy to relate to the heroine’s confusion about what scenes are real, which ones are part of a TV project she’s working on, and which ones are only happening in her mind. It’s a merciless condemnation of celebrity culture and fan entitlement that feels even more potent today.
Spookiest Scene: Any scene involving the deeply disturbed fan who appears to be stalking our protagonist will immediately fill the viewer with an intense amount of dread.
- The Spine of Night (2021)
Dir. Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King
Considering that it’s an art form seldom used by any filmmaker beyond Ralph Bakshi and Richard Linklater, it’s pretty incredible to see just how far rotoscoping has come with this century-spanning fantasy epic that apparently took seven years to make. Because its story jumps around in time from one set of characters to the next, each of them is only given a brief amount of time to create a memorable impression, which makes it that much more amazing that many of them do. The grotesque death scenes that befall much of the cast easily put the film into a camp of at least being horror-adjacent, although the combination of that and a shockingly casual amount of nudity do come close to feeling like edgy for the sake of edginess. However, the world-building is mesmerizing and bursting with imagination, and the animation itself is so gorgeously rendered that any shortcomings with the plot are easily forgiven.
Spookiest Scene: When the film’s main villain unlocks a new level of power, his torso splits open to reveal a massive vertical eyeball, which is just one of the film’s many stunning visuals.
- The Wolf House (2018)
Dir. Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León
To call this a horror movie feels like selling it short. This doesn’t even feel like a movie, necessarily: this is a work of art. This deserves to be kept in a museum and preserved for all time. The stop-motion animation mixed with an attempt to create the illusion of a story being told in a single take result in beautiful rooms, furniture, paintings, sculptures, and puppets all being constructed and disassembled before our very eyes. The fairy tale presentation works brilliantly with this impressionistic approach, crafting a viewing experience that you simply cannot look away from. Even if it’s not my personal favorite of the films I watched this month (through no fault of its own), it is the one that I would say everyone should watch, regardless of genre preferences, because there’s almost nothing like it in all of cinema.
Spookiest Scene: The loose single-take structure makes quantifying individual scenes somewhat difficult, but the unsettling presence whenever the “wolf” character is nearby, or the terrible choices made by the children towards the end with certainly stick with me.
- Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)
Dir. James Signorelli
Full disclosure, I could have put together a shortlist of 200 movies to potentially watch this month, and this one would not have been anywhere near it. But the 24th is Kelly’s birthday, and since we’d already knocked out a Hocus Pocus double-feature just before October started, it was her call what we watched on this night. What we watched, as it turned out, was one of our least favorite films of the lot, sadly. I never grew up watching Elvira, only knowing about her through pop culture osmosis, so this was my first proper experience with the character, and let’s just say it was a less-than rewarding one. She puts off a very nasty, self-centered energy that’s difficult to invest in, not to mention that 85% of the jokes in this so-called comedy simply relate to her boobs and the fact that she has them. W. Morgan Sheppard plays a surprisingly enjoyable villain, which makes the film perk up slightly whenever he’s on screen, but outside of that there’s really just not much to recommend here.
Spookiest Scene: Around the 45-minute mark, when we realized that we were only halfway through. If you want a less sarcastic answer, the transformation that Sheppard’s villain makes towards the end is actually pretty creepy.
- A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)
Dir. Siu-Tung Ching
Here’s a real odd duck of a movie: a wuxia-style martial arts epic that’s also an intimate love story between a tax collector and a demon that’s also a Sam Raimi-esque horror movie complete with ghoulish practical effects, hyperenergetic camerawork, and even a rap thrown in for good measure. It’s lovely to look at, with the kind of elegant costumes and elaborate choreography one might expect from the action side of things, while the romance is actually rather effective at making one root for a seemingly impossible pairing to end up together. The pacing is a little herky-jerky at times, the low budget is occasionally very obvious, and the editing (especially in the fight scenes or when ghosts show up) can cause whiplash, but there’s something so unique about it that it demands your attention even when you have no idea where it’s going to go next.
Spookiest Scene: There’s a big boss demon that our heroes have to fight in the film’s thrilling climax, and the reveal of just what’s underneath his cloak is pretty shocking.
- Deadstream (2022)
Dir. Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter
Found-footage film of the year? I think so. This inspired and often brilliantly executed look at a toxic content creator who tries to win back his fanbase after being cancelled online feels very modern but also maintains a more classic sensibility, especially in its depiction of the kind of unruly ghosts that would make the Evil Dead series proud. Though the use of the live-streaming conceit is well-utilized and injects fresh blood into some stale tropes (the protagonist is talking to his audience for most of the film rather than to himself, who frequently talk back via the chat with hilarious results), the real surprise is that the film manages to be genuinely scary at times, causing both Kelly and I to jump on more than a few occasions. The reveal of the malicious entity’s true motivation is genius, and the pacing kept us hooked from start to finish.
Spookiest Scene: The final conflict between our protagonist and the haunted house’s resident ghoul is practically dripping with tension, and the film as a whole is not afraid to get a little gross.
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Dir. Francis Ford Coppola
Happy 30th Anniversary to this wild, erotic, opulent, bizarre, occasionally stilted but always hypnotic take on the legendary vampire. Gary Oldman must have been famished, because he’s devouring the scenery left and right, creating what in my mind is the definitive on-screen interpretation of Dracula. Anthony Hopkins is also clearly having the time of his life, and even though Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder have received a lot of deserved flack for their appalling British accents, their straight-faced sincerity in the face of ravenous evil feels almost charming at this point (massive shout outs to the lunacy that Tom Waits and Richard E. Grant bring to the table as well). I’ve seen this movie so many times that any perceived flaws have withered away over time, and all I see is the beautiful score, the incredible costumes, the mind-boggling special effects. You have to admire the sheer bombast that Coppola brought to this classic tale, even if we bemoan that it’s likely to be the last great film he ever makes (though fingers are crossed for Megalopolis).
Spookiest Scene: To this day I still don’t fully understand what’s happening in the garden scene, but the visual of werewolf Gary Oldman thrusting his way into Sadie Frost is something that will likely always stay with me.
- Wendell & Wild (2022)
Dir. Henry Selick
Oh, how I’ve missed Henry Selick. One of the great stop-motion filmmakers of all time, whose work has always threaded the line between kid-friendly entertainment and nightmare fuel (for reference, his directing credits include Coraline, James and the Giant Peach, and yes, The Nightmare Before Christmas). He’s been gone from our screens for 13 years, but he’s finally back, and collaborating with Jordan Peele no less, leading to one of the most beautifully realized pieces of animation I’ve seen in quite some time. The childlike nostalgia that comes with seeing his depictions of ghosts and demons blend with Peele’s more socially conscious storytelling, and while the film might pile on one or two too many subplots (resulting in a slightly longer than necessary runtime), the sheer joy of filmmaking is palpable. Plus, it’s hard to beat the joy of hearing Key & Peele riffing together again as though they’d never stopped.
Spookiest Scene: The opening scene showcasing the loss of the main character’s parents is surprisingly impactful, and is a great way to establish the character and her trauma.
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
We’ve watched a lot of good-looking movies this month, but Ana Lily Amirpour’s directorial debut may take the prize for best cinematography, offering up sumptuous noir-esque visuals to compliment its solemn yet vibrant narrative. Sheila Vand makes a striking impression as the skateboarding vampire at the heart of the film, delivering a masterclass in minimalism while communicating oceans of loneliness. An unlikely connection occurs, and while the film occasionally meanders into less engaging subplots, this core relationship makes for a compelling through-line. Throw in an unconventional score, a stellar soundtrack, and a strangely comfortable dose of melancholy, and you’ve got something so beautifully distinct that it defies most conventions.
Spookiest Scene: When the girl threatens a young boy into being well-behaved, it’s enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
- Dead Snow (2009)
Dir. Tommy Wirkola
Released at a time when the zombie subgenre seemed like it would never go away, this Norwegian burst onto to the scene with an anarchic sense of fun and ridiculousness that never forgets to be just a little bit scary as well. I knew this was a must-watch for this year’s list, partially because it’s great and Kelly had never seen it, but also because we’re both incredibly excited for Tommy Wirkola’s next film later this year (the David Harbour-as-Santa vehicle Violent Night). The Nazi zombies are every bit as fearsome as I remembered, the use of blood and guts is playful to the point of ridiculousness, and when the action gets going, it allows for some outstandingly creative kills. Not fine art by any stretch of the imagination, but if you want something that’s both chilly and pulpy, this is a great watch.
Spookiest Scene: Perhaps the most uncomfortable moment is when one of the girls gets trapped deep in the snow, creating some pretty intense claustrophobia as she struggles to get out.
- Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Dir. Michael Dougherty
Eagle-eyed readers will no doubt realize that this article has gone up on October 30th, a full day before Halloween itself. How then, could I possibly be writing about this last film that I haven’t technically watched yet (or the previous entry, for that matter)? Well, as listeners of the podcast will know, I’ve watched this holiday classic many times over the years, which played into our discussion of the film from a few weeks ago. We’re particularly excited for this year’s viewing, because it will mark the first time that the film has been released to theaters. It’s a brilliantly varied anthology of loosely connected stories involving undead kids, serial killers, werewolves, and more, and it’s a crime that it was never initially available on the big screen before now. Hopefully the buzz from its re-release will pave the way for its long-in-development sequel, but for now we can enjoy this delightful concoction that celebrates everything we love about Halloween. From the opportunity to dress up and let out our innermost demons, to the superstitious practices and the sensation that spirits are walking among us, there’s something here for every kind of horror fan, making it the perfect conclusion to the month.
Spookiest Scene: Adorable trick-or-treater Sam enters the home of a seasonal grump played by Brian Cox in the final chapter, allowing for the most suspenseful moments in the whole film.
Look at you, you made it to the end! Since you’re here, I’d love to know: how many of these films have you seen? Which ones are your favorites? What did you watch to celebrate the spooky season this year? Leave your comments below, and I hope you have a very safe and happy Halloween!