Thursday, October 6, 2016

Total Skull - Horror Movies Watched in Sept. 2016

October is traditionally a month in which I watch little else but horror movies, but the spookshow train left the station a month early this year. Horror flicks I watched in September, 2016:

Rob Zombie's 31 isn't a surprising movie. The plot, which centers on a group of carnival workers being abducted and brought to a nightmarish factory to be hunted down by crazed killers in a contest put on for the enjoyment of rich folks, mixes "The Most Dangerous Game" with a hellish take on American Gladiators. Although that premise is somewhat well-worn at this point, and the film itself sometimes recalls Zombie's prior (and better) movies, there is something interesting in the commentary about how the underclass gets pitted against itself for the benefit of the enfranchised in America. Also, forget Suicide Squad, 31 has the better Joker.

I originally saw Rob Zombie's Halloween remake in a theater where, oddly, Alice Cooper and his band and crew were sitting nearby and watching also. I remember having mixed feelings about it at the time, so I thought I would give it another viewing to see if my impression of it would change. I always thought the first half of the movie, in which we get a long look at Michael Myers's terrible home life and the events leading up to him being locked up as a dangerous killer, worked well to establish a gritty, grindhouse tone; this time, I found the rest of the movie more compelling--Myers having a reason to stalk Laurie Strode adds texture to the surface of the slasher genre, as does the film's lurid ending.

Jennifer's Body is another movie I couldn't get on board with the first time I saw it, but I have since come to enjoy it on its own kitschy level. I think the movie would be stronger if it were willing to go further into horror territory at points instead of hovering in the borderland of horror-comedy, but the parts of the movie that work do work well. It is crazy how dated many of the references and allusions are, not even ten years later.

Whoever recommended this to me owes me a god-damn apology. Utterly devoid of anything interesting, Oculus is a movie content to drift in a Sea of Beigeness. Can we call for a moritorium on horror movies as metaphors for white people in bad relationships? I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw the Blumhouse logo come on screen.

I avoided the sequel to The Woman in Black for a long time; I really liked the first one, but Angel of Death seemed destined to be a hollow capitalization on the previous film's success. But it turns out that this is a decent movie. It is not nearly as atmospheric as the original film, and relies far too much on audio to provide moments of fright, but this is a better than average take on the British ghost story. It's the Atonement of horror movies.

It's hard to believe that a movie with two women cited as co-writers in the credits has such a superficial take on the horrors of the beauty industry. Much Nicholas Wending Refn's earlier effort Valhalla Rising, The Neon Demon posits that style can completely replace substance. I...disagree. Although the visuals and imagery are often striking, there was not nearly enough story here to make for a satisfying experience. 

If Wake Wood is the Irish answer to Pet Sematary, it clearly didn't hear the question properly. There is the shadow of a good idea here, but it's let down by the low budget and lack of commitment to fleshing out a story. The absence of any surprising or twists on familiar burial ground also plays heavily to the movie's detriment; turns out that raising the dead is a bad idea, who would have thought?

The Quiet Ones is a great example of how aiming for a PG-13 rating can squander any potential a movie might have. There was maybe a better film struggling to get out of this one--the 70s British setting had potential to go in a doomy direction or a psychedelic occult direction, the premise had a bit of Machen and Wheatley to it--but the movie's unwillingness to go there held it back from being anything more than mediocre. I'm more and more convinced that if you're going to make a ghost movie you have to commit to going Full Uncanny.