October Horror Movie Challenge 2013 – week four, part two

THIS IS IT. The last post of the October Challenge for another year. With a tally that’s close to twice the minimum requirement, it’s time to close the books on another Challenge well spent. There were few films that I didn’t care for, but a lot of first time views that were simply outstanding. I also spent a lot of time revisiting favorites that I haven’t seen in a long time. All in all, it was a lovely Challenge. Here below are the final views for the month.

Scream 3 – repeat – as much as I like the Scream series, this one is kind of lost on me. The series had always been a blend of horror and satire, but this one falls too far into the goofy side of things for my taste, and the first act almost plays more like a Scary Movie film than a Scream movie. I get why people like it – it’s fun to see Parker Posey try to out-act Courteney Cox – but overall, this one seems out of place.

The Haunting of Julia / Full Circle – ftv – low-key adaptation of Peter Straub’s “Julia,” starring Mia Farrow in the title role. Some effectively creepy moments in the first and final acts can’t really make up for a middle third that drags along in this story of a woman who botches an emergency tracheotomy on her young daughter. Haunted by the sudden death, Julia leaves her husband and moves into a new house, which is haunted by the spirit of a young girl. The middle of the film sort of forgets that it’s a horror film and becomes more of a mystery. Still, not a terrible film, but keep your expectations low.

MST3K: SoulTaker – repeat – oh lord, I do love Mystery Science Theater 3000. I try to watch at least a couple of MST episodes during the Challenge for levity’s sake, and since there were a few on Netflix streaming, I opted to revisit SoulTaker, starring Joe Estevez and Robert “oh z’no” Z’Dar. I guess there’s a plot about a group of teenagers who die in a car crash but are caught in a kind of in-between state, trying to outrun the SoulTakers who transport them to Heaven (or whatever), but really, who’s paying that close of attention. The scariest thing here is Z’Dar’s face.

Not Martin Sheen.

Hocus Pocus – repeat – annual classic set in Salem, Massachusetts, about a boy who, while trying to impress the hottest girl in school, inadvertently resurrects the legendary Sanderson sisters, who were witches way back in the 1600s. This film is incredibly goofy, and its fanbase is largely built of people who watched it as kids and have a high nostalgic value of it, but I do love it. Bette Midler is obviously having the best time here as the oldest Sanderson, Winifred; while Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker play the younger two sisters with equal relish. A silly good time.

The Monster Squad – repeat – often referred to as “The Goonies for horror kids,” this is one of the better young adult horror films, because it stands up pretty well over time. Dracula, Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Mummy are back to take over the world, and it’s up to a ragtag group of kids to stop them. There are genuine moments of fear here, as director Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) isn’t afraid to kill off a few characters, making the stakes very real. There’s also real emotion, particularly when Frankenstein’s monster says goodbye to his new friend at the end of the film. It’s sad that Dekker didn’t have a bigger career.

Phantom of the Paradise – repeat – another personal favorite, about a songwriter whose music is stolen by an unscrupulous record producer. William Finley takes the lead here in Brian De Palma’s riff on Phantom of the Opera and Faust, and it’s a shame he wasn’t in more films with more prominent roles. For my complete thoughts on Paradise, you’ll have to pick up a copy of the upcoming book, “Hidden Horror,” which contains 101 essays on lesser-known horror films from a variety of authors, some of whom are personal friends. How’s THAT for a shameless plug?

hidden horror plunger
Suck on that, Beef!

The Undertaker and His Pals – repeat – this one was requested by my pop, who saw this at the drive-in years ago. The story is simple: an out-of-luck undertaker and his diner-owning pals turn to murder to keep both their businesses running. Loaded with groan-worthy puns and a lot of wacky situations, this film is far more comedy than horror, although there is enough H. G. Lewis-style gore to keep most horror-hounds happy.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things – repeat – an early Bob Clark-directed movie about some theater kids who go out into a cemetery to perform a phony conjuring spell but end up actually raising the dead. Frequent Clark collaborator Alan Ormsby plays the pretentious theater director to the nth degree, and his comeuppance is so, so very satisfying. This film kind of overstays its welcome for about 20 minutes longer than it needs to, but it’s still damn entertaining.

The People Under The Stairs – ftv – Wes Craven’s suburban fairy tale about a boy who, while attempting a home burglary, gets trapped in the home of a family of crazed killers. This is one of those films that perfectly balances horror and humor, with Wendy Robey and Everett McGill as the villainous Robesons. Brandon Adams is a wonder as Fool, the young hero tasked with saving the Robesons’ daughter, who is kept under lock and key. It’d be nice to see more black heroes in horror films, so pair this one with stuff like Night of the Living Dead and Attack the Block for maximum entertainment.

Fetch me my good apron, honey.

Something Wicked This Way Comes – repeat – full review at Bemused and Nonplussed.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – repeat – this is one of mom’s annual viewing requests, and it never fails to be an enjoyable watch. It’s the usual bungled situation for the comedy duo, but with the addition of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man. Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. reprise their most famous roles, and listen carefully at the end for a voice cameo from Vincent Price. Another silly bit of fun for a late October evening.

MST3K: Manos: The Hands of Fate – repeat – this is one of the best MST episodes, hands down, no contest. The film itself is one of the worst ever made, the plot something about a family who gets lost on a road trip vacation and winds up at Valley Lodge. It’s a haven for a kind of cult of scantily-clad ladies led by “The Master,” who looks like Frank Zappa and Freddy Mercury got together one night. And how can anyone forget the lodge caretaker, Torgo, who is apparently a satyr, but just looks like a guy with beefy thighs.

Hug me.

The Nightmare Before Christmas – repeat – a dual-holiday animated classic that finds the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town on a mission to celebrate Christmas instead, with dire consequences. Solid animation, a timeless soundtrack, and a wonderful voice cast make this a great film to watch at both Halloween and Christmas.

Arsenic and Old Lace – repeat – a delightful Halloween treat starring an increasingly and hilariously agitated Cary Grant as the only sane member of his family, although as the film progresses his sanity comes into question. You see, his aunties are poisoning off (or mercy killing, if you want to call it that) any boarders who come to stay in their spare room, his cousin Teddy believes he is the first President Roosevelt, and his other cousin Jonathan is a murderous doppelganger for Boris Karloff (which should have been the film’s greatest gag, as Karloff played the role in the stage version but was unable to act in the film – as it stands, Raymond Massey does a fantastic job filling in here). It’s amazing to watch Grant slowly start to fall apart as the film progresses.

Trick ‘r Treat – repeat – instant classic anthology film whose stories weave in and out of each other with an almost-seamless perfection. Urban legends form much of the base for the film, and the combination of horror and black comedy with a pitch-perfect cast make for a must-watch annual favorite. There’s also a sequence here that makes me cry every damn time I watch it, which says a lot for director Michael Dougherty, who is bringing us a much-anticipated sequel.

Halloween – repeat – John Carpenter’s greatest horror achievement that belongs to Debra Hill as much as it does to Carpenter himself. A group of girls are terrorized on Halloween night by a masked killer; this film set many of the puritanical rules of the modern slasher film – don’t have sex, don’t drink or do drugs, or you’ll wind up dead. Every time I watch this, I feel like I’m watching it for the first time, it’s aged so well. Everything significant about Halloween has already been said, and far better than I could ever phrase it anyhow. A perfect capper to a fantastic month.

Hello? Yes, this is killer.


OHMC Final Tally:

30 first time views
31 repeat views

61 total films

Challenge complete.


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