October 22, 2017

October 2017 Horror Watching, Part 2

creepy child horror landscape

I already shared a list of the horror films I watched during the first half of October 2017, and you'll find the next batch below. As usual, it was a mixed bag with some great ones and some stinkers. I've long thought that this is one of the things that differentiates horror fans from fans of other genres: we horror fans know that we'll have to wade through quite a bit of crap to find the good ones.

So far, I can't say that I've noticed much of an improvement in the quality of the horror movies available on cable as October has progressed. I remain optimistic that there will be some better options, but we'll see.

  • The Darkness (2016) - Despite some big names in the cast, I had never heard of this one. I suspect this is because I watched it shortly after watching one of those many awful SyFy originals, but I didn't think it was half bad for a PG-13 horror flick. Its biggest problem was the complete lack of originality. It used the same family-takes-sacred-objects-home-and-gets-haunted plot we've seen countless times. This made it feel like I'd seen it before even though I know I hadn't. I can't pretend it was scary, so I think the main thing that stood out to me was what a decent cast can bring even when they don't have much to work with. It might not be a bad option for families with younger children, but it isn't one I'd want to see again.
  • Eraserhead (1977) - I know many won't consider this horror, and most will conclude that I'm a moron for saying what I'm about to say. This was the third time I tried to get through this celebrated cult classic, and I finally gave up. As much as I love the atmosphere and appreciate the art of the film, I can't help suspecting that this one just might not be for me. Every time I've tried to watch it, I end up getting distracted. Someone comes to the door, I get a phone call I have to take, the dog starts bouncing off the walls, something. This time, it was all of those plus having to clean up an expected mess in the kitchen. If I try to watch it again, it will be by myself in a dark room when I think I'm unlikely to be disturbed. I don't think I'd ever recommend this to someone looking for a horror film, but I hope to get through it one of these days anyway.
  • Wind Chill (2007) - Two college students who don't know each other and meet through a rideshare are driving home together in the winter when their car runs off the road. They are trapped in dropping temperatures overnight and soon discover they are not alone. I thought this one was pretty good for fans of supernatural horror even though I'm not sure any of the supernatural elements were as scary as the idea of freezing to death in one's car, and that was my primary complaint. It is also true that the two characters were unlikeable in the beginning of the film, but I think this might be a rare case where that actually worked by slowly increasing the tension. I could imagine myself wanting to watch this one again at some point.
  • 976-Evil (1998) - I'll just get this out of the way and say I love this flick. It falls squarely into the so-bad-its-good category, but I recognize that the much of appeal is nostalgia. Not only do I remember seeing this in the late 80s, but this film is truly stuck in the 80s. The hair, the clothes, the attitude. The plot is about as simple as could be: a bullied kid gets possessed by a demon over the phone and takes out his frustrations on the bullies. Think of a very low-budget Teen Wolf if it was rated R, directed by Robert Englund, and Teen Wolf was evil. There's nothing scary about this one, the special effects are bad, and I've never been sure whether it was trying to be funny. I'd recommend this one only to fans of low-budget B-movie horror (e.g., Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator) who have a fondness for the 80s. It is hard to imagine anybody else wanting to sit through it. As for me, I may have to add it to my collection.
  • Turistas (2006) - Despite decent casting and a great location (Brazil), this one really fell flat. The evil-foreigners-prey-on-American-tourists thing was already played out when this one was released, and it did not hold up well today. I thought this one had potential, but it did nothing to stand out from the crowd and was surprisingly disorganized. It took forever to get to the horror, and there was little more than disappointment when it did. I could not connect with the characters and ended up feeling strangely disinterested in the whole thing. That's often a sign of poor writing and/or direction, both of which seemed to be issues here. I can't recommend this one and have no interest in seeing it again.
  • Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) - I loved Insidious, bought it shortly after seeing it for the first time, and would recommend it to anyone who likes supernatural horror and doesn't mind PG-13 flicks. I enjoyed Insidious: Chapter 2 as well, although I did not think it was quite as good as the first one. It was a proper sequel in that one really needs to watch the first one in order to make any sense out of it. Chapter 3, on the other hand, was a prequel to the first film. As a fan of the first two, I was pretty sure I'd like this one. While I did enjoy it, I thought it was the weakest of the three films. I'd still recommend it to fans of the first two. I'll also share something I've noticed about all three of the Insidious films that might affect your enjoyment of them like it did mine: these are films that really need to be watched from a high-quality source (i.e., Blu-ray) with the audio cranked up. I've seen all three on Blu-ray and on cable. The difference in each case was so dramatic that the cable versions felt flat and were far less enjoyable. The muted colors and muffled audio from the excessive compression do not do these films any favors.
  • Horror of Dracula (1958) - There are so many good Dracula movies that picking one's favorite is almost impossible. Many actors of put their stamp on the role, but I'd have to say that Christopher Lee's take on the character is one of my favorites. This flick strikes me as one of the more faithful adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with Lee delivering a more sinister version than we see in some other films. While Both Lee and Peter Cushing would go on to appear together in many other Dracula films, this one always stood out to me. I can't say it is scary or delivers anything you haven't seen before, but I always enjoy it.
  • The Other Side of the Door (2016) - Take Pet Sematary, skip over the pets and go straight to the child, and set the whole thing in India, and you'll have the general idea for this one. A mother who has recently lost her son learns about some ritual magic from her housekeeper that will allow her to briefly communicate with her dead son as long as she does not open the door separating them. Of course, she opens the door and lets something horrible into our world. The Other Side of the Door was not well-received by most critics, but I have to say that I liked it even if it wasn't terribly original. I thought that the Indian location was a nice touch, the acting was fairly good, and it delivered a few scares. This was the second time I'd seen it, and I'd watch it again.
  • Edge of Winter (2016) - Some will object that this wasn't a horror flick at all but more of a dramatic thriller. I see their point, but I could also see placing this in the psychological horror category. It was a simple but effective story of a recently divorced father attempting to spend time with his two sons as he slowly falls apart. It was well-acted and did a good job of building tension throughout much of the film. I thought the last third was fairly disappointing but still managed to enjoy it for the most part. This one seems to have very mixed reviews, which makes it tough to recommend. I liked it but probably wouldn't watch it again.
  • The Sandman (2017) - Let's wrap this up with a real stinker. This was another SyFy original that made me wonder why I continue to bother with them. It had lots of positive buzz, evidently because Stan Lee produced it. Unfortunately, the monster did not strike me as even remotely scary. That tends to be a fatal flaw for this sort of film, and it was in this case. The story, such as it was, also didn't make much sense. I was hoping for something that would at least be creepy, but I found it boring enough that I nearly turned it off mid-way through.
On to the third and final part of this series.