31 Days of Horror: Week 2

31 Days of Horror

Week 2: October 8 – October 13

The first week of 31 Days of Horror is always the easiest. After that, various obligations inevitably rear their heads. Some are in the form of tedious work responsibilities, while others are much more palatable creatures in the form of lively social engagements. Either way, they’re time-consuming events that make watching a movie a day all the more difficult. But as I declared last week, I’m resolute in my decision to continue this yearly ritual even if it means losing a few hours of sleep here and there.

Since time is not on my side right now, let’s get right to it, shall we? This week’s journey into the world of horror involves of a wide variety of topics including God and ghosts, corpses and curses, and wax museums and waterfalls.

DAY 8

Title: Frailty

Year Released: 2001

Rating: R

First viewing: No

My tagline: In a world full of demons, be the ax-wielding hand of God.

Summary: A father has a vision and becomes convinced that he and his sons have been called upon by God to rid the world of demons.

Terror trivia: Bill Paxton’s directorial debut.

My reaction: I think this may be one of the most perfect horror movies ever made. Everything about it is exceptionally well-done – the script, the casting, the directing, the locations, the performances, it all comes together to create cinematic gold. I’m hesitant to give too much away because this is the kind of movie where it’s best to discover the story on your own, but I will say that it’s one of those rare instances where the ending MAKES the movie. Until I reached a certain point in the plot (you’ll it know it when you see it), I had enjoyed the film and thought it was pretty good. But one scene changed everything, and the decent movie suddenly metamorphosed into an excellent one. In my opinion, it requires a minimum of a second viewing because knowing how it ends can completely change the way you watch it. Plus it’s always fun to go back and look for the details you missed the first time around. I think it’s also worth mentioning that the characters of the two sons are incredibly well-written and the actors are spot-on with their performances. I’m always impressed by people who are able to write children’s roles realistically, and that’s definitely the case here. To conclude, I’d say Frailty is essential viewing for horror fans. Initially you might not be impressed with this seemingly ordinary movie, but like a prospector you must be patient and invest the time and effort necessary to uncover its riches. I promise you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.

DAY 9

Title: Crimson Peak

Year Released: 2015

Rating: R

First viewing: No

My tagline: Sometimes the ghosts aren’t the ones you should be afraid of.

Summary: An innocent young woman marries a dark, enigmatic man, and is swept across the ocean to his beautiful, decaying mansion. But life with him and his unmarried sister isn’t as delightful as she had hoped it would be.

Terror trivia: Allerdale Hall was built from scratch on a soundstage.

My reaction: The first time I watched this (in the movie theater), I thought it was just ok. I bought it on Blu-ray anyway because the visuals were absolutely stunningly beautiful, as I’ve always found Guillermo del Toro’s movies to be. Even if you don’t care for the movies themselves, his attention to minute detail is undeniable. Because I wanted to share some of these features with you, I considered including links to videos specifically discussing the construction of Allerdale Hall and the creation of the costumes, but all of them include spoilers sprinkled throughout, so I thought it best to omit them. The house is a masterpiece of epic proportions, so much so that I’m unable to adequately describe it; it’s something that one must experience for oneself. The fact that it isn’t a real house, and that it was destroyed after filming, breaks my heart. If ever there was a building I’d want to visit, this would be at the very top of my list. And though I’m always quite hesitant to apply the word “favorite” to anything, I must confess that the costumes in this movie are my absolute favorite of all the movies I’ve seen. I’m especially smitten with Lucille’s gowns – all dark and constricted and wonderfully exquisite. I’ll even go as far to use the word “favorite” again, as it perfectly encapsulates my regard for the blue dress with black accents that she dons in Allerdale Hall. And while I’m not as big of a fan of Edith’s wardrobe, she does wear some lovely pieces, including an eye-catching travel coat with matching hat. (Some of the costumes are featured on this website, but if you want to avoid spoilers, I’d recommend not reading the accompanying text.) Attractiveness alone is not enough to keep one coming back over and over, however, and if this was just some pretty picture I’d tell you not to bother with it. I’ve found that my affection for the movie has grown with each viewing, so I encourage you give it a chance, though it may not be to everyone’s taste.

DAY 10

Title: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Year Released: 2016

Rating: R

First viewing: Yes

My tagline: The dead don’t all get to rest in peace.

Summary: When a father-son team of medical examiners try to determine the cause of death of an unidentified young woman, strange things start to occur.

Terror trivia: The director was inspired to make a horror movie after watching The Conjuring.

My reaction: I must’ve seen this movie on one of those “great horror movies you’ve never heard of” lists because, well, I’ve never heard of it before. I’ve found some hidden gems on such lists (next week I’ll be re-watching one), but I’ve come across some awful ones along the way too. I guess this movie lands somewhere in the middle, since I don’t regret watching it and I’m not sure I want to watch it again. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t mind gore with purpose, so I was surprised by the fact that some of the more graphic depictions of an autopsy (such as removing organs and weighing them) bothered me. While I appreciate the realism, I’m not sure all of those scenes were necessary. I’m happy to report that most of them took place early on when we’re first introduced to the morgue, and I wonder if their purpose was to educate those unfamiliar with the process so they can appreciate what makes Jane Doe’s autopsy so unusual. Because her post-mortem is rife with odd features and inexplicable damage to her internal organs, she becomes a puzzle for the two men to solve. As their examination progresses, however, bizarre events start to transpire, and the danger they’re in intensifies with the discovery of each additional injury. I don’t have much else to say about it, other than the fact that it did provide the requisite scares, and the story is distinctive enough that you might want to check it out.

DAY 11

Title: The Ring

Year Released: 2002

Rating: PG-13

First viewing: No

My tagline: Watching a VHS tape can kill…better stick with Betamax.

Summary: As a journalist searches for the cause of her niece’s untimely death, she stumbles across an urban legend about a videotape that kills you after watching it.

Terror trivia: The tree featured in the movie produces fruit that bears the same name as one of the characters.

My reaction: I like to watch this movie on a rainy day since it takes place in the Pacific Northwest and rains on and off throughout the story…that’s been a difficult feat the past few years, so I was overjoyed that we actually had a few days of showers this week. It really sets the mood when it’s raining inside the TV and outside the house, a kind of mother-nature driven surround sound, if you will. In any case, this movie is a remake of the Japanese film Ringu (believe it or not I’ve seen the original and didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the American version, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise since I previously confessed to typically falling in love with the first version of anything I’m exposed to). And while many people are weary of movies that have undergone digital color grading, I think the blue tones work well with this piece, to the point that they become part of the story itself. In the same vein, the score emphasizes different aspects of the narrative nicely, standing out enough to convey the right emotion without being so noticeable it becomes a distraction. The plot is a race against time as a woman frantically attempts to undo a curse she might have brought upon herself by watching a tape that’s rumored to cause the death of anyone who sees it. She has seven days to figure out who made the tape, how it was created, and why watching it has fatal consequences before she becomes another casualty. I’ve watched this so many times that it doesn’t scare me anymore, but I’m a sucker for movies that imbue their characters with interesting backstories, which brings me back to it year after year.

DAY 12

Title: Vincent

Year Released: 1982

Rating: G

First viewing: No

My tagline: You can be anything you want if you have an active imagination.

Summary: A young boy named Vincent fantasizes that he is Vincent Price.

Terror trivia: Vincent Price (who narrates) said that this short was the most gratifying thing that ever happened to him.

My reaction: This is my “I don’t have time to watch a movie today” selection because it’s only 6 minutes long. It’s a charming story, made even more so by the fact that Vincent Price himself narrates the piece. He clearly had a great time doing it – you can hear it in every word he utters. I appreciate that Tim Burton portrays the character of Vincent as a good little boy who just so happens to enjoy the horror genre, when so many other people might imply that his darker inclinations are a sign that something’s wrong with him. And although his pursuits occasionally get him in trouble, there’s nothing nefarious about a child being a bit of a nuisance now and then. In fact, isn’t that the whole purpose of childhood, to make a mess and annoy your parents? Vincent does just that, but with a twist. Watching this stop-motion film is one of the highlights of the season for me, and at such a short run time I’m adamant that everyone should see it.

DAY 13

Title: Backcountry

Year Released: 2014

Rating: R

First viewing: Yes

My tagline: Stay out of the woods.

Summary: When a young couple ventures into the wilderness for a camping trip, they end up facing a seemingly unstoppable foe.

Terror trivia: Loosely based on a true story. (WARNING – don’t click on the link if you don’t want spoilers.)

My Reaction: I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into with this one, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. Whenever the setting involves a forest, there are so many possibilities as to where the danger may lie. Are there creepy people lurking in the dark? Could there be vicious animals waiting for the right moment to pounce? Will nature itself unleash its terrible wrath upon you? Or will your hubris be your own undoing? This movie will keep you guessing which of these factors is the most likely culprit (at least for a while), and when all is revealed you’ll be cheering on the characters as they fight for survival. Parts of the movie are highly improbable, but I was able to overlook them in the spirit of allowing for some dramatic license. The main female character initially annoyed me because she wasn’t making much of an effort to help her boyfriend do pretty basic stuff, like pack the car or land the canoe, though she eventually started pitching in more later on. The main male character seemed like a nice enough guy who possessed a decent amount of knowledge about hiking/camping and nature, but what fool would refuse the offer of a map of the area? That HUGE red flag occurred early on, making me wonder if this was going to be a Blair Witch-type situation without the witch, but fear not, the lack of a map ends up being the least of their problems. If you enjoy camping I’m not sure you should watch this movie because you may never want to venture into the woods again after seeing it. And if idea of communing with nature has never appealed to you, it’ll convince you that you’ve been right all along.

Do you have a movie you’d like to recommend? Do you have any thoughts on the movies I’ve already written about? If so, add your comments below…

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