Okay, so normally I do a thing around Halloween about the scary shows we’ve been watching, and what I’ve thought. This month has been a little crazy (the overworked kind, not the psycho-killer-with-a-knife kind). But hey, just in case you wanted to catch some good scary shows, here are my impressions on what we’ve managed to catch.
Personally, we’re not big fans of gore, shock-horror, “torture porn,” Satanic horror, or anything like that. Our favorite films are usually supernatural thriller / horror. We want to be spooked, scared, chilled, but not grossed out. So far this season, we’ve managed to avoid all but one serious stinker, so it’s already an improvement over the last year or two (where, with a few shiny exceptions, everything we saw was crap).
A Quiet Place: A family lives in silence on their farm on an Earth invaded by impossibly fast, powerful, but blind predators with incredibly accurate hearing. This one is probably the winner for the season. I heard a lot of hype about how good this one was, and so I was prepared to be disappointed. It couldn’t POSSIBLY live up to all that praise, right? Well, it did, at least in my mind. Solidly put together, few missteps, and it ended at what I thought was the perfect point, refusing to overstay its welcome. It stars and is directed by John Krasinski, one of the stars of The Office. (He’s also in Amazon’s Jack Ryan series, which is also excellent and defied my expectations.)
Train to Busan: A fantastic zombie apocalypse film from South Korea. I’m not a big zombie movie film. I don’t hate them, and I have some favorites in the subgenre (usually comedies), but they nailed this one pretty well. And yeah, it’s all fast zombies. ON A TRAIN. But no Samuel L. Jackson. But good, tense, and not too gory.
Split: I don’t trust M. Night Shyamalan anymore. Not since Lady in the Water. This is the first one I’ve really liked since The Village, I think. A man with multiple personalities (the film lampshades the discredited nature of this condition nicely) has had several nasty, dangerous personalities reappear…. preparing the way for a previously unseen “beast” to emerge within him. He / they kidnap three girls, and they struggle to escape before the monstrous transformation.
American Poltergeist: This one was by far the biggest stinker of the bunch, but it was so unintentionally funny that I couldn’t hate it. Everything about the movie is bad, but at least it keeps moving … in a lurching, old-school zombie kind of movement… so it’s not as boring as some horror movies on Netflix that look like 18 minutes of story mixed into 90 minutes of of footage that is supposed to cause tension or something. But I won’t go so far as to say this one is in the “so bad it’s good” category. It ain’t.
The Haunting of Hill House: This has disrupted all other scary-show watching this year. We’re about two-thirds of the way done with it, so it might still suck. But so far, in spite of being “Netflix Slow” in points, it’s kicking butt. Especially with the extra game of “spot the ghost,” because they are often there in a scene, if only for one camera shot. They are just part of the setting… until they become part of the plot. Anyway, the show seems to be true to the spirit of Shirley Jackson’s novel, albeit not so much on the details. But so far, it’s excellent Halloween season viewing.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: The trailer looked great. We watched one episode so far. I’m somewhat intrigued and everything seems to be done pretty well (and I love Michelle Gomez!), but the Satanic references and some confusing, muddled motivations in the first episode are just a little much. I liked some of the ideas (probably based on the source material) and the horror-comic style, but I finished the first episode without feeling a lot of interest in seeing the second. I’ll probably give it at least one more episode to win me over, but right now the feeling is “meh.”
Happy Death Day: This one was a pleasant surprise. It’s a smart, sharp movie about a stalking killer wearing the baby mask of the worst college sports mascot ever… mixed with Groundhog Day. Every time our girl Tree gets offed by the bad guy, she wakes up and has to live the same day over… only this time, she hopes to solve her own murder from previous incarnations and actually survive. It doesn’t go well, and what’s worse, she doesn’t have “infinite lives” – her body is showing signs of the previous mortal injuries and she is growing weaker with each iteration. And her killer is really good at chasing her down. She also goes through her own personal Phil Conners-esque transformation / character arc after dying… a lot. Anyway, this is a relatively clean (PG-13) flick and a lot of fun.
Tucker & Dale Versus Evil: Yes, I talked about this one a few years ago. We re-watched it, mostly to get the taste of American Poltergeist out of our mouths. Tucker & Dale Versus Evil is straight-up black comedy that inverts the “killer hillbilly” genre. It stars Alan Tudyk, and if you can handle most horror-comedies with moderate gore, it’s definitely worth a watch.
Have a happy Halloween, folks!
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