October 25, 2020

When It Comes to Horror Movies, Weird Works

creepy bird skull

I have been watching lots of horror movies this October, as is my annual tradition; I just haven't been writing about any of them. At least, I haven't until now. Instead of providing a list of every horror film I have seen during October as I have in some years or writing brief reviews of some of what I've been watching as I have in other years, I wanted to do something different and tell you about what has been most notable so far in a few fun categories.

I decided to be far more selective about what I watched this October than I think I ever have been. Normally, I watch as many horror flicks as I can and focus on re-watching many of my favorites. I didn't feel like doing either of those things this year. Instead, I sought out a combination of older films I had never got around to seeing and some newer ones that sounded too strange to resist. A few old favorites did find their way in, but that only happened when whatever I started with was so bad that I needed something I knew I'd like to balance it out.

The Best of the Mediocre

Nothing I've seen so far was what I'd characterize as good, but that's okay given this year's goal of seeking out films I missed or never heard of. Of everything I've seen so far, what did I enjoy the most? That award would probably have to go to Basket Case (1982). I'd certainly heard of it, knew it was considered a classic, but somehow never managed to see it. I won't pretend it was a good film, and I don't think it would have scared me even if I had seen it as a child. Still, I did enjoy it for what it was. Incredibly primitive low-budget horror that was just kind of fun.

I will add an honorable mention in this category in the form of You Should Have Left (2020). While this one seemed like more of a mysterious drama or a thriller than straight-up horror, it wasn't bad. The strong cast and interesting setting worked even if the story was a bit odd.

The Worst of the Worst

There have been many solid contenders for this category, so this is a tough call. I'd have to go with All Hallows' Eve (2013) since it got my lowest rating and managed to be far worse than what I was expecting. I've never been a fan of horror anthologies, which this was. I somehow went into it without knowing that was the case or I probably wouldn't have bothered. That said, it was easily the worst horror anthology I can recall seeing. One of the segments, the one with the clown that would eventually get a spin-off film, was passable. The rest of it was not.

There was an honorable mention for this category too because I found The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) to be almost as bad. I don't typically like the found-footage genre, but I had been assured that this was one of the good examples of the genre. It wasn't. It was so incredibly boring that I struggled to stay awake. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen, but it never did.

Biggest Disappointment

Of all the films I have watched so far, one had been on my must-see list for some time: Don't Look Now (1973). This was a classic horror films with excellent reviews on IMDb, a strong cast, and at least an award or two to its credit. I just knew I was going to love it, and I was horribly wrong. About the only things it had going for it were Donald Sutherland and a classic 70s vibe. I found it a real stretch to think of it as a horror film at all, and I found it almost as boring as The Poughkeepsie Tapes. I'm typically a fan of slow-moving psychological horror, but this was just slow-moving. What a letdown! Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) was much better.

Pleasant Surprises

The first of two that I'll mention was Along Came the Devil (2018). Yes, I know this was a bad film, but let me explain. If there is one thing I have learned to do as a result of watching lots of horror movies during the last several years it is to turn off the film the moment "Gravitas Ventures" appears on the screen. This has to be one of the most inept companies involved in film these days, and I have not even mildly enjoyed anything they have done. The quality of their films is typically a few notches worse than the in-house crap one finds on SyFy. They are so bad that I really have started turning them off when I see the logo. I forced myself to keep watching this one, and it was easily the best work I've seen from Gravitas. Admittedly, that's not saying much. It still came off like a low-budget rip-off of The Exorcist, but I have to give it credit for being much better than I thought it would.

The other pleasant surprise but for entirely different reasons was Backcountry (2014). It was pretty much your standard backpackers-get-lost-in-the-woods before being attacked by a bear flick, but I thought it worked pretty well. It had a great red herring early on and managed to be the only film on this list that was mildly scary. Getting lost in the woods is scary, and the idea of being attacked by a bear is scary. It delivered on both.

Weirdest

That's easy. The award goes to Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made (2018). I can't say it was particularly good or bad, but it definitely managed to be weird. It opens as a pseudo-documentary talking about a lost film from the 1970s that is cursed and supposedly kills almost anyone who sees it (not a terribly original concept). It then proceeds to show the entire lost film which involves a pair of children digging a hole to hell. Do they get there? I'll say this for Antrum - it held my attention, and I found myself thinking about it the next day. Even if it wasn't a great film or scary in the slightest, I'd call that a win.

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