By Arts Editor Brendan Barlow
Every October, for the last three years, I take on a rather large project. Each day I sit down and watch one horror film that I have not seen before. While I try to watch movies from before the current year, it’s inevitable that some do sneak in. I decided, this year, to share the films I watch with you, dear readers. This is the first part of that little experiment, with the first 15 films that I have seen this month so far. I will follow up in the next issue with the remaining films, but you can also follow along, and read the full reviews over at my horror review website barleydoeshorror.wordpress.com.
October 1: Witchboard (1986)
Beginning the month, I dove right in with the 1986 disappointment Witchboard. It’s a pretty uninspired horror film that doesn’t offer up a whole lot, unfortunately. There are some great ’80s stock characters, the psychic in particular cracks me up. It does have a few hilarious special effects and goofy moments, but it doesn’t manage to strike the balance that might call it “so bad it’s good”. The story is simple: woman plays with Ouija board, gets possessed, tries to kill people. Pass.
October 2: My Little Eye (2002)
Released the same year as Feardotcom and Ghost Ship, My Little Eye oozes with early 2000s sensibilities and hairstyles. Sadly, even with a surprise-cameo from a young Bradley Cooper, My Little Eye doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of genuine entertainment. A group of twenty-somethings are participating in an internet reality show which requires them all to stay in a house for six months, with a prize of one million dollars, if they all stay. A reasonable set up, but it falls victim to over-stylish editing, and breaking the format it sets up more than once. Pass.
October 3: Ils (2006)
Finally, things are starting to look up this month. This 2006 French home-invasion(ish) movie was a genuine breath of fresh air, especially considering the two duds that started off this month. It’s easy to write this off as a mean-spirited film, and you might be right. That said, Ils offers more in the way of creativity and tension than one might expect. Essentially, you follow a couple who live in an isolated home and are tormented by hooded hooligans. It’s mean, it’s tense, and it’s entertaining. Recommend.
October 4: Noroi: The Curse (2005)
There was so much potential in this movie, and there’s still plenty to enjoy. A Japanese found-footage mockumentary, Noroi’s biggest issue is it’s run-time of nearly two hours. There are a number of different story lines, all of which seem to interact and inform each other. The trouble is that they become really convoluted and a little hard to follow by the time the finale comes around. The basic story is that of a documentary filmmaker exploring the legend of Kagutaba, and the curse associated with it. It’s got some pretty scary moments, and does work in some places. Unfortunately it’s just a bit long and needlessly complex. Kind of Recommend.
October 5: Lights Out (2016)
Lights Out is a perfect scary movie for this season. The premise is set up and executed really well, creating one of those scary movies that is fun to watch and offers up some thrills and chills. I’d call this one a good “date-night movie”, but it’s still satisfying on your own, or with a group of friends. The story is a bit weak, and some of the plot conveniences are a bit stupid, but it worked for me overall. The story is simple: a girl and her family are tormented by a ghost that can only be seen when the lights are off. It’s simple, it’s dumb, and it’s a bunch of fun to watch. Recommend.
October 6: Neon Maniacs (1986)
Neon Maniacs is the movie you didn’t know you wanted, but is absolutely missing from your life. A bunch of monsters who live in the Golden Gate Bridge emerge at night and start murdering people for no clear reason. There are a huge variety of bizarre themed monsters, including “hang-man”, “soldier”, “cave-man”, and “lizard cyclops”. The one real problem is that it needed to be gorier. The exact same premise with more over-the-top kills would have made a significantly better experience. That said, this is great, and captures everything we love about ’80s B-movies. Recommend.
October 7: Abattoir (2016)
There’s really not much to say about this one, other than to say it’s not worth your time. An eccentric man collects the rooms that murders were committed in, and is building some kind of impossible house out of them. It’s a bit too dense for its own good. It is clearly trying to set up a cinematic universe that isn’t going to happen, and it was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Repo! The Genetic Opera), who really isn’t a terribly good filmmaker. Not great, not horrible, not worth your time. Pass.
October 8: Dead of Night (1945)
I loved this movie. Easily one of the earliest examples of a horror anthology that I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. In short, a man arrives at a house to do some work, and immediately recognizes the people in the house from a dream he had. Inspired by his seeming supernatural connection to them, the others in the home begin to share their own tales of the supernatural. This really is a great film, and while it absolutely has some of the cheesiness you would expect in a film from the ’40s, there are also some great spooky moments that make this stand out. Strong Recommend.
October 9: The Fair Haired Child (2006)
I fell behind a little at this point in the month, what with Thanksgiving and all of that, so I dipped into my box set of the television program Masters of Horror. The Fair Haired Child is surprisingly scary, but that comes primarily from the design of its monster. The costume is unsettling, and the movements of the actor (with the help of some editing) really bring it together. Another simple story: a girl is kidnapped as a sacrifice by a family who wants to resurrect their son. While the ending is pretty dissatisfying, the movie as a whole is entertaining. Recommend.
October 10: Cigarette Burns (2005)
Another episode of Masters of Horror, this time directed by the legend himself, John Carpenter. That alone should be enough to sell you on it, but then that would be a lazy review. The episode features a pre-Walking Dead Norman Reedus, and the always haunting Udo Kier. Reedus plays a man who hunts down rare film prints, and Kier plays a rich eccentric who wants his services to hunt down a film that is alleged to make viewers violent. It’s a great episode with a simple premise, and offers up enough mystery and enough gore to satisfy any kind of horror fan. It was enough to ensure that I’d be finishing off the box set that I have. Recommend.
October 11: Stage Fright (1987)
This fun, and underrated ’80s slasher was shot in Italy, and I’m fairly certain uses a lot of Italian actors who are speaking English phonetically. A lot of the dialogue seems to have been dubbed, for some reason, and this actually makes the movie more endearing. It’s the story of a group of actors who lock themselves in their practice space, unaware that a murderer is in there with them. The plot is simple, but loaded with goofy conveniences that had me rolling my eyes. That said, the kills are entertaining, and the design of our killer is very memorable. If you’re a fan of ’80s slashers check this out. Recommend.
October 12: Blood Creek (2009)
It’s a genuine surprise to me that more people don’t know about this film. It was directed by the now infamous Joel Schumacher (Batman and Robin), and stars Superman himself, Henry Cavill, as well as the always fantastic Michael Fassbender. With such huge names attached, it’s surprising that it hasn’t received more attention. Fassbender plays a Nazi who manages to find himself some magic runes that give him the power to bring things back from the dead, and makes him somewhat immortal as well. It’s bloody, entertaining, and has a zombie horse. What more do you need to get excited about something? Recommend.
October 13: Eyes Without a Face (1960)
I’ll say right now, the less you know about this one going in the better, so I’m going to keep this particular review short. A doctor becomes obsessed with getting his daughter a new face after it is completely disfigured in an accident that he caused. The movie is beautiful to look at, the black and white makes it striking and unique, and offers up some creepy and disturbing scenes that caught me by complete surprise. Strong Recommend.
October 14: From Beyond (1986)
Based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, From Beyond offers up everything that that statement might imply. The story: two scientists have invented a device called “the resonator” which seems to allow them to see creatures from another dimension. After this costs one of the scientists his life, and the other his sanity, a psychiatrist attempts to have the living doctor replicate the experiment. What follows is a whole lot of body-horror, trans-dimensional monsters, and a healthy dose of blood, guts, and sex to make this a quintessential ’80s horror movie, and one that is a blast from start to finish. Recommend.
October 15: Don’t Breathe (2016)
While I absolutely had some problems with the shallow characters, and the at times plain stupid dialogue, it’s hard to deny that Don’t Breathe is a very effective and entertaining horror film. When a trio of young thieves enter the home of a blind veteran in order to steal money from him, they find themselves in a deadly game of cat and mouse, and uncover a shocking secret about the resident. It works, and it’s pretty simple. Be ready for The Blind Man (as he’s credited) to have the teleportation powers of Jason Voorhees, and revel in the sound of his gravel-and-glass-gargle voice. It’s a fun movie, but absolutely far from a perfect one. Recommend.
Brendan is a horror-loving, left-leaning, feminist presently studying at Vancouver Island University in the Bachelor of Social Work Program. He has been a lover of all things arts and entertainment for as long as he can remember, with a particular fondness for horror films and other spooky media. He lives in Nanaimo with his partner Melissa, and their cat Adler.