You know, Halloween Month (known to regular people as October, I guess) has not been going as it normally does for me. I’m just not feeling it as much as usual, and #31HorrorFilms31Days actually feels like a bit of a struggle for the first time ever. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it’s horror’s fault (I would never blame you, horror). There have been some amazing movies in the last several months; in fact, it’s been one of the best years for horror that I can remember. But it kind of seems like all the great movies came out before October, and there’s very little left to look forward to or enjoy right now. And some of the movies I am still looking forward to aren’t coming out until November or December (Trash Fire, The Monster, Evolution, The Autopsy of Jane Doe). So I’ve mostly been watching old favorites and, honestly, a lot of middling horror that's been sitting in my Netflix queue forever.
BUT, I guess that isn’t terrible news – it means I saw a lot of great (or at least noteworthy) horror in September, and I think I have some excellent stuff to look forward to as the year comes to an end. So let’s take a little look.
The Neon Demon (2016). Girl moves to L.A. to become a model and becomes wildly successful – not least because she’s only 16 (15?) years old. As a comment on our society’s obsession with youth, this wasn’t half bad. As a piece of entertainment… well, let me put it this way: I’m a huge fan of movies that don’t make a ton of narrative sense, but are gorgeous to look at and pick apart, and even I didn’t really like this movie. It is lovely to look at, but the message behind the pretty imagery is so overt and simple, there’s not much to say once the credits roll. Like a pretty face in a magazine, there’s just not a lot beneath the surface that makes this all that worth delving into.
I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016). John Wayne Cleaver is a teenager with all the markers of a sociopath (with a name like that, what did his mother expect?), but who’s trying very hard to be a good person. When a serial killer comes to his town, John becomes obsessed with catching and stopping him. I liked so much about this movie – the bleak setting, the excellent acting (Christopher Lloyd!), the weird premise. On those points alone, I would recommend it. But there’s also a lot that’s just… strange. For example, the fact that John’s mother knows he has homicidal tendencies and he’s been seeing a psychiatrist about it just seemed odd and a little weirdly blasé. There’s also a big twist that completely changes the genre of the movie from what you thought it was to what it really is… and how much you like that twist will probably determine how much you like the film. I enjoyed it overall, but I didn’t love the direction it took once the twist was revealed – but like I said, that’s more about personal preference in terms of genre than a comment on the quality of the film.
Into the Forest (2016). Give me Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, and a post-apocalyptic premise, and I am all in. This is a fairly simple story: two sisters come of age in the wake of a massive (worldwide?) power outage. There are no zombies, no radiation poisoning, and hardly any characters other than the two women, but it’s an affecting little drama nonetheless. I suppose it’s a stretch to call it horror, but it has many of the same themes as any great apocalypse horror flick, as well as some gut-wrenching moments – and this is my blog, dammit, so I’m recommending it.
31 (2016). I was excited about Rob Zombie’s latest (and notably, crowd-funded) film, because it seemed like the story was contained enough that it might not have the same issues as so many of his other films. Although there certainly were things I liked about 31, it unfortunately still suffered from its fair share of poor writing, dialogue, and pacing (and… not beat a dead horse, but its reliance on Sheri Moon Zombie’s acting). For example, I loved how video-gamey the setup and progression was: the captured and unwilling “contestants” are put in a closed-course maze of sorts and forced to fight increasingly bloodthirsty killers to the death. However, the finale was an immense letdown that soured the entire film for me. Worth watching once if you’re a Zombie fan, but I seriously doubt non-fans will find much to like.
Don’t Breathe (2016). I wrote a bit about this movie here, but the general gist of it is: I loved this movie. It was full of twists and turns and suspense that truly never lets up until the credits roll. I can only hope that director Fede Alvarez and actress Jane Levy continue to work in horror, because Don’t Breathe and Evil Dead (2013) were two of my favorite horror-watching experiences in recent memory. Don’t Breathe is a movie like The Strangers, in that I imagine I’ll be able to watch it for years to come and still feel thrilled by it, despite knowing what’s coming.
Satanic (2016). What is with all these horror movies with adjectives as titles? Although I’ve liked some of them (Insidious, Sinister), I hate the trend, and this film’s title is as generic as the movie itself. Well, maybe that’s not entirely fair. I did enjoy the setup: four friends on their way to Coachella (yeah…) make a detour in L.A. to tour true-crime occult sites and encounter a mysterious woman who knows quite a bit about one particular crime. That’s kind of a great premise, if you ask me. I would watch that movie, in theory (minus the Coachella part). But what starts out as a mildly intriguing affair devolves into something so full of horror clichés and so dull, I couldn’t possibly recommend it in good conscience.
The Forest (2016). I know this came out quite a while ago, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, so I thought I should mention it. A woman heads into Japan’s Suicide Forest (yes, that is a real, and really creepy, place) to find her missing twin sister. There’s nothing revolutionary, or even very unique, about this movie aside from the setting, but it hit all the right notes as far as creeping me out while watching it in my house on a dark night alone. I’d give it a shot, especially if Japanese-inspired horror tends to spook you like it does me.
Tell Me How I Die (2016). I could barely finish this one. Students looking for a way to make extra cash agree to take part in an experiment that has unexpected (and frankly, ridiculous) side effects: chiefly, they allow some subjects to see the future. Oh, and there’s also a serial killer on the loose inside the lab, because how else are you going to spice things up? Actually: there are a million other directions this movie could have gone that would have made more sense and been more entertaining.
Friend Request (2016). I actually didn’t finish this one. Let this be the death knell for social media-themed horror movies, please. (I know it won't be.)
What movies have you seen lately? What are you looking forward to?