As you all already know, I love horror movies. I watch a lot of them, as many as I can, but there are only a select few that have actually scared me: The Exorcist, The Blair Witch Project, Ju-on, Scream, Hellraiser, The Innocents, Black Christmas, Event Horizon.
Every year I try and watch more in the hopes of finding one that’ll make me feel terrified because I’m dead and jaded inside and feel nothing. But being a horror fan comes with a lot of disappointment. I love the genre, but I’m almost at the point now where I’m scrapping the bottom of the barrel for new content. So every year I try and cast a wide net in the hopes of finding something that will really click and make it hard for me to fall asleep at night.
This year had some mixed results. I wasn’t really going for a particular vibe, but it looks like I caught up on some contemporary horror films and branched out into ‘80’s camp.
Here’s every movie I watched this October and what I thought about them for your reading pleasure, ranked from best to worst. Were any of them effective at scaring the shit out of me? You decide.
Shutter (2004): When it comes to films about ghosts and hauntings I think that Asian cinema really does it best and this 2004 film from Thai filmmaker Banjong Pisanthanakun is no exception. In this film, a ghost is more than the spectre of someone who’s dead – it represents secrets, repressed memories and the pain that comes with grief and regret.
I appreciate a good gut punch of sadness in my horror movies. Horror isn’t just about blood and gore, it’s about confronting the things that haunt us – like our dark side or the things that we keep buried beneath the surface of our daily lives. Shutter reminded me a lot of Ju-on in that they both focus on a horrific event and the ramifications that come to haunt the living. It also had some of the creepiest moments I’ve seen in a while along with a really tight script that slowly unravels the mystery of the haunting. So well done, so relevant and so genuinely spooky and sad. Check this one out if you haven’t seen it, it won’t disappoint.
The Wailing (2016): Speaking of emotional gut punches… meet The Wailing. The film focuses on a series of gruesome deaths and murders in a small South Korean village that the locals blame on a Japanese stranger. Dark, gory, mysterious, surprisingly funny at times, this is really a masterpiece and one of the best modern horror movies. It also has the most intense exorcism scene I’ve ever seen in a horror movie performed by a swaggy shaman. I’m now in love with the shaman by the way. This film has some real depth and an ending that you’ll think about for days. Don’t sleep on it.
Night of the Demons (1988): I actually have a lot of gaps in my horror movie knowledge when it comes to those made in the 1980’s. I just haven’t bothered with a lot because so many of them are considered “bad” movies. But when I watch them, and especially one like Night of the Demons, I don’t really understand how they can be considered terrible movies because they end up being so much fun. This movie was a delightful surprise and such a blast to watch, especially since I saw it presented by Drunken Cinema. I had no idea what I was getting into and I’m glad I didn’t because there is an amazing scene in the movie that I have never seen before in my life and I appreciated having my jaw drop. I’m going to talk about it, so if you haven’t seen it yet you’re going to want to skip ahead.
No really, I’m going to ruin something for you and it’s better if you see it without knowing this part.
Look, I’m being serious. If you haven’t seen this movie, STOP READING. You DON’T want to know about this part because it’ll ruin the surprise.
Okay, Linnea Quigley, as a demon, shoves a tube of lipstick INTO HER NIPPLE!!?! I’ve never seen anything like that, therefore this movie is amazing. It’s really campy and, at times, pretty gross and scary. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, but maybe I’m too sheltered. Campy horror shit at its finest, truly.
Kwaidan (1965): I wouldn’t necessarily call this a horror film in the same way that I wouldn’t say that The Shining is a horror movie. In the case of both, they’re art films. Kwaidan retells four Japanese folk tales about ghosts. This film was so breathtakingly beautiful – I swear, I’m not exaggerating – and it’s the type of film I can watch over and over again and still find something new in it. I’m not very familiar with the tales the film presents, or about the symbols in Japanese folklore in general, so while I wouldn’t say that I totally understood everything that happened, I was still taken in by the gorgeous filmmaking and storytelling. This is some high-brow, art-house horror shit. Watch it to be blown away by what horror can be.
Happy Death Day (2017): I wasn’t sure how this was going to go, but watching it was a great ride. It’s definitely reminiscent of Scream, but with a lot more comedy. Tree Gelbman is murdered on her birthday, but gets to keep reliving the day over and over until she figures out who’s trying to kill her. She’s kind of an asshole and isolates everyone around her while being part of a bitchy sorority, so it’s also about her trying to be a better person while evading her inevitable death.
I feel like there aren’t enough horror movies set at university, so I loved the setting and the bitchiness of the main character. It kind of loses itself near the end and wraps up a little too nicely, plus the red herrings don’t really make much sense, but I appreciated it for trying to be different. It was a lot of fun and I think I liked it better than It Follows (yeah I said it), but I’m 100% against it becoming a franchise. (I’ll probably still see the sequel though, that’s just who I am.)
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2017): Another Korean horror film (I’m telling you, Korean cinema is where it’s at these days) that really delivered. A team of 20-somethings go to a local abandoned asylum to record any ghostly activities while live streaming it, hoping to go viral and make a ton of money. It doesn’t do a lot to reinvent the wheel, but the characters are really cute and they have good chemistry (and good screams). There are a lot of references to other horror movies that are fun to see, as a horror fan. It’s also probably the best looking found footage film I’ve ever seen. A really fun watch!
The Initiation (1984): I’ve started to develop a thing for horror movies set in sororities (see: Happy Death Day). Kelly is being initiated into an uppity sorority and she and her fellow pledges have to break into her father’s department store after hours to steal a security guard’s uniform. The problem is that an unseen killer is stalking Kelly. Like all movies from the era, it’s fairly sexist but the female characters in it are actually pretty stable and well-rounded and also push back against stereotypes. Campy and stupid with some good kills, although the ending is a little obvious.
The Ghosts of Edendale (2003): This is from the team behind The Last Broadcast and, to be honest, this one was a bit of a challenge for me, at first, because I hate the look of films shot on video. Honestly, it just looks so horrible and washed out and low budget. Ugh. But despite my bias, I actually really liked this. It’s a horror movie set on the outskirts of Hollywood and while it may be a little predictable and the main character is a little too oblivious, there are some decent scares and the effects are also pretty cool.
Annabelle: Creation (2017): I don’t think I need to give you the synopsis for this film. It’s part of the Conjuring series and is a prequel about the haunted doll that we see in the opening of The Conjuring (the first one). I actually enjoyed watching this, but I’m pretty sure it’s only because I have a thing for haunted dolls. Great scares and beautiful production design, but it’s nothing original. The whole series is starting to feel like some Marvel universe shit by trying to fold in all the other creepy characters from the franchise. Plus one for the creepy doll, but it’s forgettable otherwise.
Nightmares (1983): I love a good horror anthology, but this one was underwhelming. There are a lot of recognizable actors from the era, which is fun, but it’s not much more than that and some of the tales fall flat. The best one is about a haunted arcade game and stars Emilio Estevez – watch it just for that piece.
Wishmaster (1997): I had no expectations for this movie. I hadn’t even heard about it until I watched it so to say that it exceeded my expectations isn’t an overstatement. The film is still not that good though, so don’t get it twisted. It’s some bland tale about a Djinn being released from a jewel and bringing about hell on earth. There are three cool things about this movie that make it worth watching: the grimy kills, cool practical effects (except for the Djinn who looks like a Buffy villain of the week) and there are cameos from the biggest horror movie villains. If it had a better script and actual character development, it could have been a lot more fun but here we are.
The Changeling (1980): I had a lot of people tell me how scary this was and if I had seen it at a earlier age maybe it would have scared me more, but at this point this isn’t that different than dozens of films I’ve already seen. It’s basically the same story as The Ring. That’s not to say it’s a bad film (it’s very well made), it just didn’t leave that much of an impression on me.
The Eye (2002): I love the premise of this movie and it has some good scares, but it also didn’t leave a lasting impression. Maybe because all I could think of was the Jessica Alba remake. Pretty conventional overall and didn’t have the same punchiness and pace as Shutter, which has a similar vibe.
WNUF Halloween Special (2013): I loved the fact that this felt like I was watching a TV special taped off of the TV in the ‘80’s, complete with commercials, but the story is just not there and the acting is pretty bad. It ultimately feels like a rip off of Ghostwatch without the scares. Another example of how remakes, even tangential ones, can never match the originals.
Trilogy of Terror (1975): You know I love Karen Black. I was really excited to watch this, but it didn’t hold up. Everyone loves the doll story, but I found it more funny than scary. Watch it for the legend that is Karen Black, but don’t expect to be surprised by any of the stories.
Butterfly Kisses (2018): At first I liked it because it feels like one of the first movies directly inspired by The Blair Witch Project and I LOVE that movie. It had a lot of promise, but doesn’t really go anywhere and the film just kind of ends without any resolution, story-wise or thematically. The main problem is that the characters are just too stupid to sympathize with. A couple of film students play with fire by trying to conjure the local legend of Peeping Tom via film. Peeping Tom appears after you stare for hours at the end of the tunnel and then every time you blink he comes closer and closer to you until you die. I just don’t understand why the characters would keep turning the camera on and off to bring Peeping Tom closer. Bad decisions all around. Fun for the burns on film students (as a former film student myself), but otherwise forgettable.
Slender Man (2017): I slept through the majority of this movie, so I can’t tell you much about it other than it was so boring I fell asleep. Some nice effects and scare sequences, but there’s no effort to build a plot or characters around an urban legend that originated on Reddit. Also, how am I supposed to feel for characters that willingly summon a demon via the Internet? Stupid.
The Unnamable (1988): Another cheesy ‘80’s movie set at university, except this one is actually terrible. Most of the movie is just a bunch of obnoxious white yuppies wandering around an abandoned house for what feels like hours. Boring, skip it.
Halloween 4 – 6: At the risk of alienating a lot of people, I have to admit that I’m just not that into the Halloween franchise. I’ve watched the original a few times but it never resonated with me, the sequel was okay, but I love Halloween 3 because they drop the Michael Myers shtick. None of these movies were good: the fourth one was kind of fun, the fifth one I can’t even remember and the sixth movie was a total mess but features an unintentionally hilarious performance by a young Paul Rudd. Not a total waste of time, but I think I’m done with this franchise for a while.
Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000): This has nothing to do with the first movie and is so ridiculously terrible I can’t believe it actually got a theatrical release. It also features the most unrealistic film school I’ve ever seen. What professor would ever tell a film student that their serial killer movie idea is good, nay brilliant? Feels like it was trying to go for a Scream 2 vibe except it totally missed the mark. Not scary and not fun, but you will probably be amused by how dumb the whole thing is.
Our House (2017): Just terrible – terrible and boring. It felt like I was watching a student film, so I was shocked to find out that this is a remake of a film that’s barely ten years old. This is where the Ontario Arts Council is putting money when it comes to Canadian film? What is going on here? You know there’s a problem in the industry when new voices are overlooked to tell a generic horror movie that’s already been made.
What are some of your favourite scary movies? Tell me in the comments so I can add them to my list for next year!