31 Days of Horror 2019: Week 5

If you’re reading this, it means that I’ve at least survived to the evening of October 30th. Whether I get through Halloween itself remains to be seen, but I somehow managed to make it this far. This has been my busiest, most hectic October to date, made even busier and more hectic thanks to my ridiculous dedication to watching a horror movie a day, and then writing about it. This is my 8th article of the month (there were three parts to my Ettington Park series and five weeks of movies to write about) with a total count of approximately 21,000 words.

But it has been an absolute pleasure sharing my thoughts with you, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as much as I have. By the way, did anyone notice that I used alternate posters for all of the movies I watched again this year? I wanted to add a little extra fun to the mix…

Anyway, here’s my final horror selection for 31 Days of Horror 2019. It begins with a few Tim Burton works, and ends with a Swedish vampire movie and the definitive Halloween classic.

DAY 28

Title: Corpse Bride
Year Released: 2005
Rating: PG

First viewing: No

Quotable Moment: “I’ve spent so long in the darkness, I’d almost forgotten how beautiful the moonlight is.”

Summary: When a nervous groom-to-be accidentally proposes to a corpse while practicing his wedding vows, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead. And married.

Terror Trivia: After a fruitless search for someone to provide the voice for Bonejangles, Danny Elfman sang the role himself even though it made him hoarse.

My reaction: All of Tim Burton’s stop-motion animation films are masterpieces…the sheer craftsmanship and attention to detail have earned them that classification. The Corpse Bride stands out amongst them because it’s the most picturesque of the bunch. The story isn’t as compelling and the songs aren’t as good as the ones in The Nightmare Before Christmas, but that’s a pretty high bar to try to meet. Like Nightmare, though the setting of the movie may appear to be macabre and/or scary, nothing can be further from the truth. Although the Land of the Dead has a number of distinct features one would only find in the afterlife (like a “2nd Hand Shoppe” full of actual hands), it’s also more colorful and welcoming than the realm of the living. And the dead characters are often more lively and have better personalities than some of the living ones. They’re kind and noble and fiercely loyal. Indeed, the majority of the malevolence present comes from the land of the living—a woman being forced to marry in order to save her parents from the poorhouse, a man who kills his fiancée so he can steal her money…it’s not the dead you need to worry about in this movie. Small children might be scared by some of the images, but they’ll also love the beautiful bride and some of the sight gags.

DAY 28 (continued)

Title: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Year Released: 1993
Rating: PG

First viewing: No

Quotable Moment: “Just because I cannot see it, doesn’t mean I can’t believe it!”

Summary: While questioning who he is and what he wants out of life, the king of Halloween Town stumbles across Christmas Town and decides to take over this newly discovered holiday.

Terror trivia: Tim Burton was inspired to write the poem upon which the story is based when he saw Halloween displays in stores being taken down and replaced by Christmas decorations.

My reaction: I’m one of those people. You know what I mean. I’m sure you’ve seen them around. The people who possess ridiculous amounts of The Nightmare Before Christmas paraphernalia… who don’t participate in arguments about whether it’s a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie because they know that it’s both. Not that it matters, because their precious Nightmare odds and ends are worn or displayed or used year-round. Because that’s how devoted, how obsessed they are. Yup. That’s me. There’s something about this movie that really strikes a chord with a certain type of person, and I’ve never quite seen (or experienced) anything else like it. For better or worse, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a certified phenomenon. Like Corpse Bride, characters that would typically be portrayed in a negative light are given the benefit of the doubt. Yes, the inhabitants of Halloween Town can be scary, but that’s their job. They’re not malicious, they’re bringing the necessary amount of frights required for a perfect Halloween. It’s a novel idea that works well, and might actually help a child get over some of his/her fears (though it may also create new fears in certain children). This time around I surprised myself by singing along to all the songs, a habit I loathe in others. But when I realized what I was doing I couldn’t bring myself to stop. Watching this movie elicited such joy in me that I refused to temper my enthusiasm. Everyone should see this at least once. Even if you end up not liking it, you should be able to appreciate the time, energy, and skill required to make this full-length stop-motion work of art.

DAY 29

Title: Vincent
Year Released: 1982
Rating: G

First viewing: No

Quotable Moment: “While other kids read books like Go Jane Go, Vincent’s favorite author is Edgar Allan Poe.”

Summary: A seven year old boy uses his imagination to pretend that he’s Vincent Price.

Terror trivia: This short marks the first appearance of the Saturn Sandworm later seen in Beetlejuice and A Nightmare Before Christmas.

My reaction: Because this animated short is just over six minutes long, it’s my go-to choice on a day that I don’t have time to watch a full-length feature. I’m glad I saved it… Tuesday was a ridiculously long day. This piece is absolutely delightful, allowing us to enter the imagination of a young boy who appreciates the darker side of life. As a child who loved when the skeletons crawled out of the cauldron in The Black Cauldron (I was five) and who was captivated by the character of Darkness in Legend (I was five when it came out, but I don’t think I watched it until I was seven or eight), I can completely relate to this pint-sized horror enthusiast. Tim Burton sends a very clear message to his audience with this work—dark does NOT necessarily mean bad or evil—a message repeated in many of his movies, including the two I just wrote about. You can check out this lovely homage to one of the masters of horror, who also narrates the short, here.

DAY 30

Title: Let the Right One In
Year Released: 2008
Rating: R

First viewing: No

Quotable Moment: “I’m twelve. But I’ve been twelve for a long time.”

Summary: A lonely boy befriends a young vampire who helps him face the classmates that bully him.

Terror trivia: The sound of someone consuming several different types of foods was used to create the sound effects portraying the biting of flesh/drinking of blood.

My reaction: Years ago when one of my friends found out that I like vampires, he recommended this movie to me. It’s very different from the typical vampire fare—there are no capes or bats, no sparkling or forbidden love—though it does adhere to certain hard-and-fast rules: our vampire doesn’t age, she needs blood to survive, and she has to avoid sunlight. In an interesting twist, she has an adult companion who does her hunting for her; he finds victims, kills them, then collects their blood for Eli, our little vampire girl, to consume later. The relationship between the two remains relatively ambiguous, though it’s clearly odd and makes me uneasy. The main focus is on the friendship she strikes up with one of her neighbors, a solitary boy named Oskar who has a secret fixation on true crime stories and is constantly picked on at school. Their awkward initial exchanges and slowly blossoming relationship are in stark contrast to the animalistic violence Eli is capable of. She encourages Oskar to stand up for himself, to fight back when necessary, which is more than any of the adults ever do for him. And that ends up making all the difference. There are many horrors in this film, but the worst are the ones that are committed by the humans. If you’re a vampire fan looking for something special, this is for you. But be forewarned, it’s in Swedish so you either have to watch it dubbed in English or with subtitles (I prefer the latter).

DAY 31

Title: Halloween
Year Released: 1978
Rating: R

First viewing: No

Quotable Moment: “I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up, because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”

Summary: A man who killed his sister when he was just a child returns to his hometown to commit more murders.

Terror trivia: Originally intended to cover the span of several days, the movie’s timeframe was shortened over budgetary concerns.

My reaction: Every year I watch Halloween on Halloween. It’s just common sense. I’m not particularly fond of this franchise, but I don’t dislike
it. It’s no Nightmare on Elm Street, but it’s definitely better than Friday the 13th. Jamie Lee Curtis became famous playing “final girl” Laurie Strode in this movie, though she doesn’t rate as high on my “final girl” list as Nancy Thompson of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street does. It’s not her fault—she wasn’t given the same opportunities Nancy had to show off just how smart and capable she was. That fact was remedied in the new sequel that was released last year. Also titled Halloween, a much older, much wiser Laurie has spent her entire life preparing for the return of Michael Meyers, which allows her to shine in ways she didn’t before. She’s grown into a complete badass, seemingly prepared for anything, yet is also fragile and suffering from the deep psychological scars she sustained in high school when her friends were senselessly murdered. I considered watching the more recent film for my final foray into horror (at least for a little while), but ultimately decided that I should stick with the original.

That brings me to the end of this year’s 31 Days of Horror. Thank you for joining me—it’s been a scream! I’ll meet you back here next October. Until then, unpleasant dreams…

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