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Movie Archive

31 Days of Halloween – Days 11 – 21

Time for October 11 through 21, a mix of foreign films, found footage nightmares, and scary TV time!

 Remember: They aren’t ranked and it’s not a countdown, but a list of suggestions I think will scare your face off—or make you laugh, or both! The list is drawn from all types of horror—monster movies, ghost stories, slashers, etc.—basically everything that ever scared me or was just fun to watch because sometimes, I like being scared. Everything’s broken down by the type of horror to expect, a quick plot synopsis, why the film is scary, what my favorite scene was (as non-spoilery as I can make them), why you should see the movie and suggestions for further viewing.  Watch one film a night for a 31-day Halloween horrorfest. Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

October 11:

RightOne

 Let The Right One In (2008)

 Directed by Tomas Alfredson

 Starring Kåre Hedebrant, Lena Leandersson, Per Ragnar, and Henrik Dahl

 Rated R; Running time 1 hour, 54 minutes

 Type of horror: Vampire

 Synopsis: Swedish film in which a bullied 12-year-old boy, Oskar (Hedebrant) becomes friends with a vampire, Eli (Leandersson)

 Why it’s scary: Oskar stays friends with Eli even after he learns of the vampirism

 My favorite scene: The way Eli “floats” when she jumps off a jungle gym

 Why you should see it: Let The Right One In is moody and atmospheric. It’s hard not to have sympathy for Oskar, the 12-year-old who is bullied and alienated, but the film also generates sympathy for Eli despite Eli’s blood-thirst. Oskar and Eli form a new sort of family that’s frankly heart-breaking. There’s also so much snow that you can’t help but shiver, even when nothing scary is happening onscreen.

If you like this film, you might like: Near Dark (1987), about a more voracious kind of vampire family.

October 12:

 HostGwoemul (The Host) (2006)

 Directed by Bong Joon-ho

 Starring Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-Bong, Park Hae-il, Du Na-be, and Ko A-sung

 Rated R; Running time 1 hour, 59 minutes

 Type of horror: Monster

 Synopsis: Combining elements of horror, social melodrama, and comedy, Korean film The Host kicks into high gear when a giant mutant fish rises from the polluted Han River near Seoul and grabs young Hyun-seo (Ko A-sung), whose family will do anything to get her back.

 Why it’s scaryThe Host taps into fears of environmental disaster, loss of loved ones, and single parenthood, among other themes.  The end of the film will leave you apprehensive about the future.

My favorite scene: The first attack, which is both frightening and strangely exhilarating.

Why you should see it: The Host is a well-made, involving monster film which manages to both scare and delight (it’s very funny in parts) while also making points about politics, family life, and pollution.  Ko A-sung’s a terrific actress who makes you care about Hyun-seo’s fate, and again, that scene when the monster first attacks is heart-poundingly thrilling.

If you like this film, you might like: Jaws (1975), which has the same mix of family drama and scares, even if we now know sharks don’t behave that way.

October 13:

Audition

Audition (Ôdishon) 1999

Directed by Takashi Miike

Starring Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Miyuki Matsuda, and Renji Ishibashi

Rated R; Running time 1 hour, 55 minutes

Type of horror: J-horror, psychological

Synopsis: Japanese film in which a producer arranges fake auditions so his friend, Aoyama (Ishibashi), a widower, can meet someone new. Unfortunately, the woman, Asami (Shiina), the widower is drawn to turns out to be unhinged.

Why it’s scary: Dating’s hard enough as it is without finding out your love is a psycho-killer

My favorite scene: Three words: “Kiri, kiri, kiri”!

Why you should see it: Japan’s Miike is an acquired taste; his films are graphic and intense, and Audition, with its hard-to-watch torture, is no different. The scenes will make you cringe, but they also mean something in the context of the film, illuminating Asami’s tortured psyche.

If you like this film, you might like: Two more psychological horrors: Play Misty For Me (1971), Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut, about a DJ who makes the mistake of dating an obsessed fan; and Misery (1990), one of the few Stephen King stories to be successfully adapted to the big screen, about another obsessed fan who meets the object of her obsession.

October 14:

Ringu

Ringu (1998)

Directed by Hideo Nakata

Starring Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Miki Nakatani, Yuko Takeuichi, Hitomi Sato, and Rei Ino’o

Unrated; Running time 1 hour, 35 minutes

Type of horror: J-Horror, psychological, ghost

Synopsis: Japanese film in which a mysterious tape with a bizarre “film” on it brings death to those who watch it

Why it’s scary: TV is our friend. TV is not supposed to kill us. Homer Simpson would be horrified!

My favorite scene: Finding out what exactly is in that well

Why you should see it: Nakata is a master of tension and dread, and pays it off spectacularly when we finally get to see what’s so scary about the tape. Although I liked the American remake, the original Ringu gives more background as to why Sadako (Ino’o) is so vengeful, and spends more time building up suspense until unleashing a wave of horror on the audience.

If you like this film, you might like: The American remake, The Ring (2002), which changes the story up and makes the scares a little bigger, yet still manages to keep the sense of foreboding of the original.

October 15:

Dark Water

Dark Water (2002)

Directed by Hideo Nakata

Starring Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi, Asami Misukama, and Fumiyo Kohinata

Rated PG-13; Running time 1 hour, 40 minutes

Type of horror: J-horror, psychological, ghost

Synopsis: Another Japanese film in which Yoshimi (Kuroki), hoping to get full custody of her daughter, moves into a run-down apartment building where strange things keep occurring

Why it’s scary: Creepy little girls are creepy

My favorite scene: When Yoshimi goes up to the water tower and figures out what’s been going on

Why you should see it: Because it’s a well-done ghost story with genuine pathos and some great scares. As noted above, Nakata knows how to pay off extended feelings of dread.

If you like this film, you might like: The Others (2001), another haunted house film with a mother trying to protect her offspring from the unknown. But who really needs protection in this house?

October 16:

Cube

Cube (1997)

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

Starring Maurice Dean Wint, Nicole deBoer, Nicky Guadagni, David Hewlett, Wayne Robson, Andrew Miller, and Julian Richings

Rated R; Running time 1 hour, 30 minutes

Type of horror: Science Fiction/Horror hybrid

Synopsis: Canadian film in which a group of strangers wake up in a strange “prison” and have to band together in order to survive

Why it’s scary: Each room of the Cube may or may not have some sort of horrific death awaiting those who enter it. It’s up to the group to figure out which are the “safe” rooms if they want to escape.

My favorite scene: The opening sequence, which quickly lets you know just how horrifying the Cube can be

Why you should see it: Waking up without knowing what where you are is not necessarily nightmarish—until you find out the place you are is booby-trapped and constantly shifting, and the people you’re stuck with are just as freaked out as you are. Each character starts as a “type,” but Natali makes you care about their fates. The booby-traps are pretty ingenious, too.

If you like this film, you might like: Session 9 (2001), about an asbestos company hired to clean up an abandoned insane asylum. What could possibly go wrong there?

October 17:

Dead Alive

Dead Alive (1992)

Directed by Peter Jackson

Starring Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody, and Ian Watkin

Rated R; Running time 1 hour, 41 minutes

Type of horror: Zombie horror/comedy

Synopsis: New Zealander film in which the mother of shy Lionel (Balme) is bitten by a Sumatran rat monkey and turns into a brain-eating zombie. Lionel has to contain the outbreak while keeping his budding romance with Paquita (Peñalver) alive

Why it’s scary: Well, it’s scary and funny—mostly funny. First, the Sumatran rat monkey puppet is hilarious, and then there’s stuff like the dinner sequence that will make you squeamish even as you’re laughing at how ludicrous it is

My favorite scene: The modified lawnmower scene (also possibly the goriest thing ever committed to film)

Why you should see it: Also known as Braindead, Dead Alive is impossibly gross and incredibly funny. Jackson is a master of squirmy, laugh-out-loud horror, and this film has an overflowing amount of squirms and laughs—and blood. Lots and lots of blood.

If you like this film, you might like: Shaun of the Dead (2004), a very funny movie about what happens when the zombified meet the zombies.

October 18:

PA1

Paranormal Activity (2009)

Directed by Oren Peli

Starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat

Rated R; Running time 1 hour, 26 minutes

Type of horror: Found footage, psychological, ghost

Synopsis: Katie (Featherston) thinks something is haunting her, so Micah (Sloat) sets up a camera at night to catch whatever is causing the weird disturbances in the house

Why it’s scary: The minimalism of the film, going back and forth between hand-held camera footage during the day and static camera action at night, creates great amounts of anxiety.

My favorite scene: Finding out what is stomping up the stairs at the end—EEEEK!

Why you should see it: By switching back and forth between the shaky-cam and the static-cam, the film’s dynamic teaches you to be afraid less of the chaos of the hand-held footage than the straightforward stillness. It’s usually the other way around, and Peli exploits this dynamic, slowly twisting the knife until you are practically begging for the killing blow. The static film in itself is very unsettling, even when nothing more than a door is creaking, and I was ready to crawl out of my skin by the time of the climax.

If you like this film, you might like: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) and Paranormal Activity 3 (2011). Yes, it’s the same concept repeated to diminishing returns, but the filmmakers still manage to wring some good scares out of it.

October 19:

Blair Witch

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez

Starring Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard

Rated R; Running time 1 hour, 24 minutes

Type of horror: Found footage, psychological

Synopsis: A group of college students set out to explore the legend of the Blair Witch and are never heard from again.

Why it’s scary: The mother of all found footage films, The Blair Witch Project set the found footage craze in motion, and it wasn’t until Paranormal Activity that anyone has been able to match its unsettling tone.

My favorite scene: Mike in the corner. I knew I was sold on the movie when I woke up in the middle of the night a few days later thinking, “Why? Why is he standing there like that!?”

Why you should see it: The Blair Witch Project is an exercise in psychological terror. Fifteen years and many clones later have not diminished its power to unnerve. The film pulls scares out of thin air like a magician pulling coins from behind your ear; like The Haunting from Part 1 of this list, you never see what’s after the students, but the sounds and movements create enough of a presence that you know whatever it is, it’s very, very bad news.

If you like this film, you might like: The Haunting (1963). Yes, it was on Part 1’s list, but it bears repeated viewing.

October 20:

Trilogy

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

Directed by Dan Curtis

Starring Karen Black, Robert Burton, and George Gaynes

Rated R; Running time 1 hour, 18 minutes

Type of horror: Anthology

Synopsis: Trio of horror stories starring Karen Black in four different roles.

Why it’s scary: A Zuni fetish warrior doll comes to life. Comes to LIFE, people!

My favorite scene: When Amelia (Black) sits, waiting for her mother to come over, and smiles that horrible smile <shudder!>

Why you should see it: It may seem cheesy nowadays, and the first two stories in the trilogy are a bit dated, but the third one, “Amelia,” with Black vs. that terrifying little doll, is superbly freaky. The sounds that doll makes still haunt my nightmares.

If you like this film, you might like: “The Crate” short in Creepshow (1982), an anthology film made for theaters (thus a little more gruesome).

October 21:

Afraid of the Dark

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

Directed by John Newland

Starring Kim Darby, Jim Hutton, William Demarest, and Barbara Anderson

Unrated; Running time 1 hour, 16 minutes

Type of horror: Haunted house

Synopsis: Small demons infest a house inherited by a couple with a troubled marriage

Why it’s scary: No one believes Sally (Darby) because of her neurosis.

My favorite scene: The one at the dinner table. What’s that pulling on Sally’s napkin…?

Why you should see it: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is spooky. Little monsters whisper for Sally to join them, and when she seeks support from her husband, he dismisses her fears as mental instability. Is Sally simply seeing things? Or are the demons truly trying to drag her to hell with them?

If you like this film, you might like: Avoid the recent remake of Dark and see Duel (1971) instead. A crazy truck driver chases Dennis Weaver down a deserted highway in this Steven Spielberg-directed classic tale of highway terror.

 

Check out the other 2 parts of the 31 days of Halloween movie list I wrote here:

Part 1: www.thenerdelement.com/2014/10/01/31-days-of-halloween-days-1-10/

Part 3: www.thenerdelement.com/2014/10/21/31-days-of-halloween-days-22-31/

Video from YouTube; pictures from Rotten Tomatoes

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