For those that like a little dose of fictional fear and thrill each October, there are endless Halloween movie candidates. This year’s lineup for me was:
- The Boy
- The Endless
- Creep 2
- Hold The Dark
I plan to also watch a couple TV shows, which I’ll cover later.
- The Haunting of Hill House
First up was Creep 2, the sequel to Creep. I liked what Creep set out to do: a serial killer first-person story in the genre of found footage. That’s an interesting hook. The sequel took the now-franchise to new areas, yet I found it lacking. It’s so persistently odd, and not in a good way. I was pretty bored.
Hush is a home invasion movie.
That’s probably enough for you to form an opinion right there. It usually is enough for me. These kinds of movies are punishing to both their characters and their audiences. Watching them is an act of both sadism and masochism. They’ve been called “torture porn” and for good reason.
The interesting hook with this Hush is that the lead is deaf and mute. And its slightly redeeming quality is that the bad guy gets his in the end too.
Next up is The Boy. I really liked this one! It’s small in scale with a simple premise: An old couple in a huge gothic mansion care for a life-sized boy doll, roughly the age of 8 years old. Why? Maggie from Walking Dead comes to babysit and things go creepy from there. It’s tightly claustrophobic and well-paced. I wasn’t bored at all.
There’s also one hell of a twist.
Next is The Endless. Though not expressly a Halloween movie, this bizarre mind warp of a cult movie fits right in there tonally.
Two brothers return to a religious community they fled 10 years ago to better understand what they left. The Endless quickly becomes an hallucinatory X-Files. You’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s not. There are genuine moments of dread and mystery though these are undercut by oddly misplaced humor.
Still, this little gem does a lot with very little.
Tis the season for creepy cult movies I guess. Here’s another, though more focused on fearful Halloween themes. In Apostle, A man returns to retrieve his sister from a turn-of-the-century cult.
This one is more similar to the amazing The Witch, where the insane images of long-ago religious fundamentalism create intense dread and despair. I was quite amazed with what Netflix pulled off in terms of production value; you can see and feel it in the period costumes and setting.
It’s been compared to The Wicker Man — Apostle clearly borrows heavily from it. It’s expertly paced, careful to unveil its dark shadows slowly. When something shocking happens, it’s such an intensely abrupt interruption as to make you shutter.
Toward the third act, the grand guignol gore really ramps up exponentially. That either delights or repulses you, depending on your horror tastes.
Either way, Apostle doesn’t disappoint.
The Holidays is an anthology movie, several directors bring their short films together into a single movie. The connecting thread between them all is each focuses on a holiday of the month. I like this little movie’s earnestness. I’m reminded of the far superior VHS (not its sequel).
The holiday films are:
This was a fun little creep fest that starts out innocuously in a high school bullied protagonist setting. And then it suddenly gets dark with bloody revenge. The ending is goofy but playful.
St. Patrick’s Day
My god, what a fever dream of a film! It’s delightfully gruesome but impossible to follow.
Easter was delightfully sacrilegious. What happens when the Crucifixion and the Easter bunny have a twisted love child? Watch to find out.
A young woman with a curious inverse-fertility disorder seeks out alternative healthcare from an women’s cult in the remote desert. What could go wrong? The barren cult members keep her in a drug-induced state for her birthing capacity, but is she just carrying another Rosemary’s Baby?
I was really blown away by this chapter. The story was expertly crafted, tight and creepy. It was well-lit and shot. Every little detail sucked me in immediately.
A woman receives a mysterious package from her long lost father. There are audio recordings inside of him and a much younger her. Yet, the story becomes dreamlike, as the timeline gets blurry.
I won’t talk more about the details. They should be experienced first hand . It’s truly a great film. It’s demonic and brutal in its starkness. The thing nightmares are perfectly made of.
Internet cam girls get their comeuppance on their pimpy landlord. It was predictable, but perfectly serviceable.
This one was really fun. It was like a lost episode of Dark Mirror, where a father steals a popular virtual reality gaming system for his kid’s Christmas present. The hook though is that this VR thing is capable of showing your what you want to see. When he peers into it, he’s forced to grapple with what he did, along with his wife’s alter ego.
New Year’s Day
This one wins hands down (or off). This one was so gleeful in classic horror tropes. The villain is not necessarily who you think it is. There’s abduction, ax wielding mayhem, and most importantly, splatter.
Hold The Dark isn’t strictly a Halloween or horror movie. Although it is horrifying. Technically, you’d probably call it a psychological drama, or a crime thriller. There are no ghosts and ghouls lurking around corners, no jump scares.
Instead, the trauma is very earthbound. The dread is bleak and natural. It takes itself very seriously, which I appreciate; there’s not an ounce of camp in this one.
A disturbed Alaskan mother is convinced that her son has been taken by wolves. Her psychotic veteran husband returns from battle to make amends. And an outsider naturalist comes to lend a hand. The desperation of the characters is equaled by their frozen surroundings. The howling of the wind and the howling of the wolves makes for an inhospitable landscape.
It’s a finely crafted film with mood abounding, brought to us by Jeremy Saulnier. He also made Green Room and Blue Ruin, both amazing crime films of stark brutality. It shows here too, though with less focus.
While the soundtrack was stunning, the ending of Hold the Dark was frustratingly esoteric.