Favorite Horror Films – 2 out of 5 Skulls
2 OUT OF 5 SKULLS – creepy
Check back throughout the month because we will be updating it weekly with a ton more great films for your October.
I can’t believe it’s taken this long for us to recommend Coraline. Commonly thought of to be directed by the claymation master himself, Tim Burton, it was actually directed by Henry Selick. The film, based on a children’s book of the same name, follows a young girl, Coraline, who has just moved into a new home. While her parents are preoccupied by work and unpacking, Coraline explores her new home, and finds a small door where a path opens at night. Coraline follows this path and enters a new world where her parents are attentive and caring, there’s food she loves, and things that cater to her interests everywhere. Yet, there’s a catch, everyone in this world has buttons for eyes. When proposed to stay in the new world by sewing on buttons for eyes, Coraline begins to see this fantasy world unravel. Now as an adult, I can see how this film not-so-sneakily looks at how lack of attention to a child can have a great impact on a child’s life. As the parents become more and more annoyed and engulfed in their own tasks, Coraline frequents the new world more and more. Luring her into what turns out to be a horrifying place. Coraline also does an incredible job in animating the entire film. Mostly done in stop-motion Claymation, the textures, color, and feel of Coraline’s worlds are masterfully depicted in this animation style. It’s rare to see a film animated in this way. Coraline made me fall in love with Claymation and stop-motion animation when I first saw it when it came out. The film has stuck with me as a nostalgic return to the whimsical world that animation can bring us.
They Live (1988)
John Carpeter’s 1988 They Live tells the story of a construction worker—played by wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper, filling the spot usually occupied by Kurt Russell in Carpenter’s movies—who stumbles upon a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see under the surface of the media bombarding us every day. The glasses reveal the subliminal messages of mass media, as billboards and advertisements are replaced by words and slogans like “OBEY,” “CONFORM,” “CONSUME,” “STAY ASLEEP,” and “THIS IS YOUR GOD” and some people are revealed to be grotesque aliens hiding openly in society. This is a John Carpenter movie, so it may not be subtle, but that’s not the point—the social commentary rings as true today after thirty-some years of neoliberalism dominating America’s politics since Reagan. But it’s also fun as hell, and it’s worth a watch if only to see Rowdy Roddy Piper walk into a bank with dark shades, hoisting a shotgun, and calmly proclaiming “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
Vampires vs The Bronx (2020)
Vampires vs The Bronx is the most fun horror movie of 2020. It features 3 teens from the Bronx (obviously) who are seeing their neighborhood taken over by gentrifiers who are buying out all of their favorite businesses. Also 1 of these corporate vampires happens to be a group of real life vampires. The teens along with the help of their local bodega owner (The Kid Mero), seek to take the fight to the vampires and protect the neighborhood. Yes, its basically a NYC version of Attack The Block, but its still great so get over it.
As someone who lives right on the edge of the Dominican Bronx community featured in the film, I can say that they very well represented the attitude of the people, their culture, and what their response would be if vampires really started showing up. A little bit scary, but also a lot of fun. I mean, Method Man plays a priest. This is going to be a great addition to my favorite October films.
The Cube (1997)
There have been a bunch of movies that are essentially the same plot: a bunch of random people must escape a super complex and sadistic trap, Saw of course has become the most famous for repeating this concept in all of its sequels, but there have been many films that follow this pattern. However, 1997’s The Cube was the first to really do this trope well, and therefore has become a truly influential film in the horror genre.
What makes it so great? It has a crazy and interesting concept, good acting, a beautiful set, and just enough twists to keep the viewer guessing. The film follows a handful of seemingly unconnected people who wake up in a deadly maze which seems to be in the shape of a giant Rubik cube. Each square is a different room, and can access all the squares neighboring it, but some rooms are equipped with deadly traps. Can the crew figure their way through the maze and each other to the exit? Tune in to find out. Its that simple, or is it.
Pumpkinhead is a weird movie, and yet, a classic! It’s a film about a poor rural dude whose son is accidentally killed by a group of rowdy biker teens. Naturally, he wants to get revenge, so he visits the local witch lady who helps him summon a murderous swamp demon known as Pumpkinhead. Pumpkinhead then sets out on what could only be described as a rampage. The special effects for the monster are the perfect balance of hokey and spooky, and the acting is equally cartoonish and sincere, and somehow it all works. Pumpkinhead might not make a ton of sense, but it’s a classic for a reason, it’s just a good time. – Henderson
Don’t Look Under the Bed (1999)
Everyone talks about “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” as the scariest entry in kids’ thriller television, but may I introduce you to the “Boogeys” of Don’t Look Under the Bed? Mysterious things like dogs appearing on roofs, alarm clocks setting off in the middle of the night, and “B”s painted everywhere begin to appear in Frances Bacon McCausland’s (Erin Chambers) hometown of Middleburg. When her little brother’s imaginary friend Larry Houdini (Eric “Ty” Hodges II) appears only to her, it’s up to the duo to try to catch the Boogeyman before it’s too late for Darwin (Jake Sakson). The Disney Channel Original draws on some of the scariest tropes in horror, from moving dolls to shadowy creatures under the bed, but also tells a powerful story of family trauma and healing. For all of its heart, it will still have you checking under your bed and pulling the blankets over your head in fear of your neglected Boogey. – Amanda
I Sell The Dead (2008)
I Sell The Dead is the story of a pair of grave robbers in old timey England, who steal bodies to sell for some cash. Who hasn’t been there themselves, amirite? While laboring through their profession and schemes, they come across some vampires, zombies, and other crazy creatures, which they realize are worth even more money than your traditional dead peasant dude. Talk about a dark plot, but the black humor keeps things fun.
The effects are simple but well done, but the writing and actors make the movie. Right off the bat you’ve got Dominic Monaghan from Lord of the Rings/Lost as an imprisoned grave robber and Ron Perlman from Hellboy as a drunk monk. Death is present in every scene but everything down to the soundtrack has a silly feel, making for just under an hour and a half of dark jokes and good performances. – Henderson
The Host (2006)
The first time I wrote about this movie, director Bong Joon-ho was a little know Korean filmmaker, years later I revised it to mention that he had also worked on the successful films Snowpiercer and Okja, and now he is known as the guy who shattered all the records at the Academy Awards with the release of Parasite. The point is, he has long been an extremely talented filmmaker and he is now becoming only more popular and recognized for his work. However, The Host has remained one of the lesser known gems of his past work.
This true creature feature, is the story of a blue collar family who owns a snack stand by the Han river in South Korea. The slacker dad, his darling daughter, the kind grandfather, the athlete aunt, and the businessman uncle, all scratching out a living on the edge of the city. Unfortunately for them, that also happens to be the place where an American doctor is dumping chemicals, and a giant mutant squid creature arises.
Incredibly well acted performances by the entire cast, an engaging screenplay, and CGI that somehow continues to hold up, make The Host a truly special work by the young future icon, and also its a ton of fun. I mean there’s a freaking squid eating people. – Henderson
Attack The Block (2011)
John Boyega has become known for his role in Star Wars, but that wasn’t the first time he was fighting aliens! Attack The Block is an alien invasion movie that takes place in a housing project in London. Instead of a worldwide takeover, one project building is just getting pelted with bear-like space creatures who are hungry for humans. John Boyega and his crew of teenager fight the monsters and try to save the block!
This film has great acting from the entire crew of teens and children, a nonstop action storyline, and nice support from the creature design which is memorable and fun without being too terrifying. I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy it, especially with it’s short run time, and it helps that under its popcorn sweetness, there are scrappy working class ethics and a deeper message. – Henderson
The Others (2001)
The Others, like The Sixth Sense, is a movie that is ruined if you give away too much of the plot, so I won’t do that. But if you go into this film with no prior knowledge or summaries in hand, you will be surprised and scared throughout by this classic ghost story. Nicole Kidman (star power) plays a mother of two children in the early 1920’s. Her husband has been missing at war for some time and she has started to lose it. Now the children (who are allergic to light?), have begun to see ghosts in the house. But when the Mother starts to see things too, she really begins to go nuts. The new staff of servants however seem unbothered by the disturbances. Are they in on it?
I first watched this film as a kid in my uncle’s hunting cabin and it scared the wits out of me. Something about the fog, darkness and creepy historical setting stuck with me. The film relies on a few too many jump scares sure, but it’s really the atmosphere and the mother’s unnerving performance that make the film work. There is very little gore and special effects in this film, so it really is a traditional ghost story. The powerful performances and spooky happenings will keep you up. – Henderson
This film takes a very simple and frequently done horror film setup (group of people fight off bad thing in an isolated place) and does it well. I will tell you right now 99 out of 100 films with this exact setup suck for one reason or another. Either the creature is stupid, or the characters are unlikeable, or the acting is pathetic. Somehow Splinter avoid all of these pitfalls and is a very cool, well done, entertaining little adventure.
The film starts when a raccoon infected with the splinter virus attacks a gas attendant turning him into a mangled splinter monster himself. The Splinter creatures are really unique and interesting. Splinter, for lack of a better name, is a spikey blood mold that infects humans and animals through their blood and then controls their bodies. Think the ‘The Thing’ meets ‘Terminator 2’. If it cuts you, you’re either infected or dead or both. Strap in yourself in for the ride. – Henderson
Re-Animator is certainly a contender for the best B movie ever. Sure it doesn’t really make “logical sense”, but it plays by the rules of its own wacky universe. Like other classic B movies, (Braindead, The Stuff, Evil Dead) this film attempts to gross you out with cartoonishly gory scenes and zany one liners. But unlike most average films of the genre, the result is hilarious. Is this a good movie? Questionable, but I guarantee that you will enjoy it.
This is a film that starts with a doctor’s eyes exploding out of his head, and the main character exclaiming in dead pan, “I gave him life.” Uh, not exactly. The plot is pretty basic. A mad scientist med student (Herbert West) discovers that by injecting dead things with his “re-agent” they will come back to life as murderous zombies. A+ invention if you ask me. He gets his roommate on board, and they start injecting everything they can find. It goes about as badly as you can expect. The practical effects and unpredictable plot keep things moving, but it is the singular performance of Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West that makes Re-Animator (and the excellent sequel) so enjoyable. Definitely give this one a watch and let the madness flow. – Henderson
Dale and Tucker vs Evil (2010)
Often hillbillies and country folk are the monsters in horror movies (Wrong Turn, The Hills Have Eyes, etc.), but what if we were just misunderstanding them? This very simple question makes up the plot of the horror-comedy Dale and Tucker vs Evil.
The film is the goofy gory story of 2 country dudes, Dale and Tucker, (very charmingly played by Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk), who head off to the country for vacation and encounter some college kids looking to party in the woods. The college kids instantly think that the country folk are monsters that need to be avoided. When one of the college girls falls into the lake and is saved by Dale and Tucker, the college crew assume she is going to be murdered. The movie then proceeds to show as the frat boys continually injure and murder themselves in an attempt to “save” their friend. Dale and Tucker just keep being stuck in situations that do not look at all like they’re innocent. This simple silly story is carried by the good acting by the leads and the overall cartoonish feel of the whole film. – Henderson
WaxWork, (not to be confused with the inferior House of Wax) is an 80’s horror comedy that is a perfect mix of creepiness, practical effects, blood splatter, wacky storyline, and insane quotable lines “BUT MOM, I NEED THE CAFFIENE, BADLY”. Basically, it’s the story of a bunch of rich college kids that enter a wax museum where the figures come alive. “Weird place for a waxwork, maybe they don’t like customers.”
As they enter each exhibit, they get sent into the world of each setting, its just too bad that instead of celebrity wax figures, they are all murderers and monsters. It’s pretty basic and predictable plot, and the characters are pretty standard 80’s horror fare, but the setup allows the teens to fight against all sorts of different monsters including vampires, the phantom of the opera, a werewolf (played by Gimili from LOTR), a goblin alien thing, and more.
Is this a “good” movie? Hmm… no not really, and I don’t think it even tries to be, but it’s a fun watch. If you like what you see, the sequel is somehow equally as insane and even features a little Bruce Campbell. Like I said, this plotline allows for some pretty fun horror setups. – Henderson
The Gate (1987)
Not everyone wants to be absolutely horrified every time they turn on a horror film. Sometimes you have a mixed crowd or just kids present. The Gate is the perfect movie for those situations. It’s the story of 2 kids who find a magic hole in their yard that leads to “a sleeping race of demons older than the bible”, (sure), when home alone for the weekend and haunting ensues. As with many horror films, this entire movie is carried by a handful of excellent child actors. The crew enlist the older sister and her grouchy 80’s friends to fight back the demons and close the hell gate.
This one borders just the right level of spookiness and animation without getting too horrifying for a rookie horror fan. Even better, its one that not many people have seen before. Which if you ask me, makes for a happy haunted Halloween for the whole family, or just a good night in on the couch. – Henderson
If my childhood is any indication, Tremors was the best horror movie ever, resulting in 9-year-old Hope watching it anytime it was on and annoying my parents until they bought me the entire Tremors saga. Even though this campy, sci-fi film about killer worms in the earth was mocked endlessly on release, there are others out there like me that have an undying appreciation for this tailspin of a flick.
Reaching cult-like heights, there is something about this b-rated, horror-comedy-western (?) featuring incredible dialogue by Kevin Bacon, himself (The man says “motherhumpers” seriously in one scene) that is preposterously lovable. It plays to its strengths, never pretends to be anything but a game of “Don’t Touch the Lava” with “graboid” monsters (that were taken as inspiration for Stranger Things’ Demogorgen), and has just enough action intertwined with a funny script to keep it a horror classic that anyone can watch and find something they enjoy. And if you do, there’s several sequels that are just as ridiculous as the first. – Hope
The Changeling (1980)
After an old composer dude loses his family in a horrible car accident, he becomes super depressed and moves into an old house which happens to be haunted. The old classic formula, but this movie is 1 of the OGs of the genre. Its pretty serious, and more gray and sad than frightening terror, but sometimes that’s just the sort of horror movie you need. Dealing with death is mostly sad and gray and cloudy, not usually a thrill a minute.
The ghost brings itself out slowly at first, but as the hauntings grow in intensity you will feel more drawn into its story. Who knew about the ghost? Was this house purchase a trap all along? This film, along with the Poltergeist, created the genre which has been much imitated, but this film might be one not every horror fan has seen. No gore. Good Acting. No CGI, a pure classic. “Its an old house, it makes noises”. A well made spooky film. – Henderson
The Stuff (1985)
The Stuff is a nearly perfect film. Its silly, its weird, its creepy, its full of quotable lines, and it has a powerful and thoughtful anti-capitalist message. Yeah, this one has meaning folks. For some reason, films that critique our consumer society don’t get the press they deserve. Hmm… well this is like a 1980’s version of Sorry To Bother You, and it cuts just as deep while still being a fun watch even a one-percenter could enjoy.
The Stuff is a movie about a great new food product that everyone loves, it tastes good, and once you try it, you want to have more! It practically sells itself! Does anyone even know what it is? Who cares! Its spreading so fast and everyone is getting rich! The only people investigating the tasty blessing are The Stuff’s competitors, big ice cream corporations through a spy named Mo “Money”, a cookie entrepreneur “Chocolate Chip Charlie”, a disgruntled former employee, and a random child who happens to see The Stuff moving on its own. The film shows as The Stuff dominates American society and becomes the most popular food item on the planet, before exposing its… side effects. The first time you watch this movie you will be tuning in for the roller coaster ride and fun practical effects, but on the second watch you’ll be taking notes for your Marxist thesis. – Henderson
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