Film Challenge: 31 Days of Horror 2013

On my Letterboxd account this month I have partaken in the film challenge, 31 Days of Horror. This month, I watched a horror film every day in celebration of Halloween.

Here’s a list of what films I watched:

Film 1 – Teeth (2007) –

Not to be taken seriously, Teeth is twisted and outrageous all at the same time, but it ends up being actually rather good for a B-movie type horror. It is quite dark at times, but it’s hard not to laugh at it with such a bizarre premise at the same time. The mix between comedy and horror works well, though. The idea is bold and certainly original, but this pays off for first time director Mitchell Lichtenstein. It really could have gone either way, and I’m sure you won’t be expecting much from it at first either.

Film 2 – Sinister (2012) –

Them last two seconds made me jump, but that was about it; I found the trailer a lot creepier than the film itself. It was very slow and I found it very hard to get into, but I did enjoy the concept of the story.

Film 3 – Arachnophobia (1990) –

I remember being made to watch this as a child and a lot of the scenes certainly stuck in my head, as watching it again around 15 years later felt like I had watched it only yesterday. I’m not scared of spiders but seeing them close up and in such large numbers is terrifying. But Arachnophobia is quite a fun film, too. Jeff Daniels is fantastic in the lead and he makes it all the more enjoyable.

Film 4 – Candyman (1992) –

Let’s just say that I wouldn’t be afraid to say Candyman’s name in front of a mirror. The only part that scared me about this film was when something fell over in the room next door as I sat watching this in the dark and home alone. I’m sure it was a lot scarier back in the 90s but it felt like too much like an investigative thriller than a horror to me, and there was very little to be scared of.

Film 5 – Carrie (1976) –

Based on Stephen King’s novel, Carrie is a fantastic horror purely because of its lead performance and character development. Sissy Spacek is excellent in the lead and I haven’t been able to watch her in anything since without feeling terrified. Them final few minutes too: jeez. I couldn’t leave my room for ages after this film ended!

Film 6 – The Mist (2007) –

Also based on a Stephen King novel, The Mist is a more than decent creature-feature sci-fi horror. I love the ending of this film! Everything else I find pretty mediocre – the poor effects of the creatures themselves, the huge gaps between scares – but I do enjoy the focus on the individual people in this situation, especially the crazy religious preacher.

Film 7 – Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (2012) –

I enjoyed the first Silent Hill film because the ‘monsters’ or whatever they were terrified me: the rigid movements, the slow pacing – everything about them had me crawling into a ball and hiding behind a pillow. But the monsters weren’t so good in this film and I didn’t feel scared in the slightest, even if they were the focus of it. The story just seemed pointless, making the film come across as an unnecessary sequel.

Film 8 – FearDotCom (2002) –

Just going to go with the obvious “Shitdotcom”. I first watched this at a sleepover when I was in my early teens and I remember being scared of it at the time, but it really hasn’t lived up on this rewatch.

Film 9 – The Human Centipede 2 (2010) –

There’s too far, and there’s TOO FUCKING FAR! Obviously this is a film we already know to go into with an empty stomach and a very open mind. The first film was successful[ish] because it worked well as a horror film, despite its outrageous and stomach-churning premise. But this is something different. This second instalment seemed to take every opportunity to be the most disgusting film ever made, going to the extremist levels to be as disturbing as it possibly could.

If there wasn’t that scene with the baby then I probably wouldn’t feel so strongly – although I was gagging long before that – but that scene really did push the boundaries. And I didn’t even watch the banned version!

Film 10 – The Evil Dead (1981) –

Evil Dead is an early low budget horror at its best. Having seen the remake earlier this year, I wasn’t expecting to like the original with new and exciting technological advances to compare with, but it was brilliant to see where 2013’s Evil Dead was derived from.

The use of sound is absolutely terrifying, this being my favourite quality of the film, and the gory effects are actually pretty impressive. It’s obvious that a lot of these effects are real, which is slightly laughable at times, but this is what also makes the film so scary and effective. Its age and low budget certainly show but that’s definitely a beneficial characteristic, showing you exactly why people called this one of the most original horrors of its day.

Film 11 – Hostel (2005) –

I quite like an Eli Roth horror, he certainly knows what he’s doing. But then if you have the support of Quentin Tarantino behind you things are always going to be the creepiest and goriest that they possibly can. Take the eyeball scene, for example. Brutally horrific.

Hostel is a good horror, making sure that you’ll be terrified of any hostels you may visit in the future, and throwing so much gore and violence at you that you have to turn away from the screen constantly.

Film 12 – House of Wax (2005) –

If only this film was as scary as its poster. But with a cast including Chad Michael Murray and Paris Hilton, were you really expecting that much? It is quite creepy and has a few scary moments, but the characters are awful and the violence and gore is just terrible.

Film 13 – Dead End (2003) –

Strange and twisted, but you can really laugh at it so it’s a fantastic horror… in its own way. It’s still pretty scary despite how absurd and oddly fun it is, as well, so despite how terrible it comes across it’s still very likeable.

Film 14 – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) –

I’ve only seen some of the more recent Nightmare On Elm Street sequels and spin-offs so it was a treat to see the original. This is a real horror classic, one that scared me a lot more than I thought it would with its slightly dated appearance, but the gore was effective and the effects were pretty decent. Some of the performances may have been poor but that’s typical for most horrors, and with Johnny Depp supporting it couldn’t be faulted really. The lead as Freddy is incredible, however. Wes Craven has created an excellent character and Robert Englund suits him perfectly.

Film 15 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003) –

Rob Zombie certainly knows the horror genre well, and he works with some of the best characteristics of a good horror to make his own. But the story was a little too fucked up and messy for me to enjoy it fully. It was one of those horrors that didn’t scare me, just uncomfortably crept me out. The beginning and the end were the best parts, I felt, tying the film together well, but it all felt very similar to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, just with additional psychopaths.

Film 16 – Child’s Play (1988) –

They really don’t make horror films like this any more. You don’t need horrible clichés, just a creepy, ginger doll. It’s a completely original idea but everybody seems so into it that you can’t help but join in the non-stop fun. But whilst Child’s Play is now an iconic character who is mostly known for his humour and crude behaviour, you can’t forget that this is also a great slasher film. Equally scary and entertaining, this is definitely one of my favourite horror franchises.

Film 17 – Demon Under Glass (2002) –

Winner of the Outstanding Vampire Feature award at the International Vampire Film Festival and directed by Jon Cunningham, Vampire opens with a CSI-type scene as a group of FBI detectives undergo a scenario to try to find an untraceable killer at loose in LA. Known for leaving his victims bloodless, he is nicknamed Vlad. Assumed to be a mythical creature, a real-life vampire, he is captured and imprisoned in a medical centre by a secret military unit where he is subjected to medical experiments in an attempt to discover the source of his power.

The captive vampire, Simon Molinar (Jason Carter) is an immortal, middle-aged man who burns in sunlight, equipped with fangs and all, unlike the overly attractive vampires that glitter in sunlight and fall in love with human beings that are portrayed in vampire films today. Simon takes us back to the classical stereotype of a vampire, more commonly related with Dracula.

The film does try to capture the ‘sexy side’ to vampires that we are also often presented with, though. Detective Gwen Taylor (Denise Alessandria Hurd) constantly fantasises about sleeping with the vampire, using flashbacks to their kiss on the night of capture. Kira Reed, who plays Chloe Martin, also makes an appearance as a prostitute handed over to Simon in a ten-second raunchy scene before her brutal death is sprung upon her. But these scenes are not in such a teenage-fan-loving way, it’s more like they’ve been cut out of a cheap porno.

It’s obvious that the film is low-budget – average actors that you’ve never heard of before, dodgy camera angles and slightly awkward pauses between dialogue – but it should still be credited for its unique plot, dodging the typical vampire clichés that are currently dominating our screens. The film offers an original take on the oh-so-many vampire films we see lately, focusing on trying to understand this mythical creature by working with it. It skips the decorative toping of the use of attractive cast members used in today’s films that has completely changed the meaning of a vile, blood-sucking monster, and instead sticks to the mysterious legend that has intrigued us for centuries.

Film 18 – I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) –

From the same writer as Scream, it’s a predictable American teen horror but it’s the cast make that make this such a 90s classic. If you could handpick a cast for a 90s horror, I don’t think you could get much better than Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. There are some dumb moments in the plot, but I Know What You Did Last Summer is 100-minutes of harmless fun and it is a film that is full of nostalgia for me.

Film 19 – Scream (1996) –

When you think of slasher films, you instantly think of Scream. It is undeniably a 90s horror classic.

It’s hard not to think of Scary Movie with every scene when you watch this more recently, but that just shows how good of a horror film this was to begin with. Playing on clichés such as the stereotypes of high school teenagers, creaky doors, and weak attempts to fight back, Scream proves that this horror tropes can work well when they are used right. Then again, with director Wes Craven behind the screen, you wouldn’t expect anything less.

Film 20 – Hollow Man (2000) –

I remember not being allowed to watch this when it was first released, but also peaking behind the door to certain scenes that have stuck in my mind since. With this and the look of the poster, I thought I was in for a really scary horror when I put this film on. Whilst in small parts I would still put this under the horror genre, it’s more of a suspense thriller than anything else. But still, full of suspense (rather than fear) I was. Kevin Bacon is excellent whether he’s on-screen or not, and the effects for its time are excellent.

Film 21 – Halloween (1978) –

This is the first film I have watched this ‘Horroctober’ that I have been disappointed in. Usually, the first film in a big horror franchise like this is the best in the series, so let’s hope that’s not the case this time around as I’m not sure I would want to sit through this again.

For a starter, nothing happened until about 80 minutes in, after a decent but brief introduction into the story. Then I was just angered by everything that did happen. Let’s just say that if I had to face a psychotic murderer then Jamie Lee Curtis would be the last person I would choose to face my odds with, but if I had to choose the killer, it would probably be this guy. They were both so useless.

Film 22 – The Bay (2012) –

At times this felt like the parts that happened off-camera in Paranormal Activity; I wasn’t that scared by what we did see and it could have gone a lot further. I liked the way the story was told with its documentary style, but it worked more as a mockumentary than a horror.

Film 23 – An American Werewolf in London (1981) –

Probably the best werewolf horror ever made, and the only one that will leave you scared of walking alone on a country road late at night. An American Werewolf in London is a fantastic horror, with the classic scary soundtrack to top it off.

Film 24 – Dreamcatcher (2003) –

Having spent the morning catching up with Homeland, it was an excellent surprise to see Damian Lewis in this. The cast was pretty decent and I looked forward to the four main actors chemistry, but unfortunately, they weren’t together long enough to make the most of that. Then again, it is a horror film so that’s to be expected, and certain scenes did put me off my ice cream, at least.

Film 25 – Night of the Living Dead (1968) –

I thought I had put on the wrong film just because of the sheer quality of this film; it has aged incredibly. I didn’t love it because the pace was slow (albeit suiting the zombie genre well) but it’s obvious what a big influence this early horror was and still is.

Film 26 – The Innkeepers (2011) –

Slow, boring, and scary for a mere three seconds. There was no atmosphere or suspense despite the story heavily relying on these two things, so I couldn’t get into it at all. I’m pretty sure the ghost was only a Tim Burton styled Johnny Depp, as well.

Film 27 – Flowers in the Attic (1987) –

This was one of my mum’s favourite films, so I grew up watching this at least once a year… I’m not even joking. What was wrong with you, Mum?! As a child I didn’t really pick up on a lot of the darker subject matters, I just knew that the mother was a very nasty person. Growing up, it’s so much darker than I ever could have imagined. I hear the books are much better, but without having read them I felt that the story was disturbingly engaging, even with poor acting and bad dialogue, so much so that it will leave you rigid in shock by the end.

Film 28 – Maniac (2012) –

From the very start, distinguishing that every shot is filmed from the murderer’s point of view, it’s obvious that Maniac is going to be a film that will draw you into its disturbing and psychotic story. From then on, it’s hard to pull away. This camera work has such a big impact, as Maniac could have very easily been just another mediocre remake of a horror classic if it wasn’t for this one characteristic making it original and more powerful. I’m yet to see the original so I can’t compare, but as a stand-alone film I found Maniac to be just what I wanted from a horror film; gory, creepy, even somewhat emotional, but at the same time, a character story that’s interesting to see unfold.

Film 29 – Let the Right One In (2008) –

I watched this without realising I had already seen the English remake, Let Me In, but from very early on I picked up on the similarities and familiarity in its setting. Watching Let the Right One In has certainly made me think more highly of the remake, but this original is something else.

Watching the original, it’s more obvious to see that Let the Right One In, and the novel it is based on, isn’t just a horror story. It may be centred around a character that is a vampire, but it is also a coming of age drama centred around friendship, family, and love.

Film 30 – Let Me In (2010) –

I re-watched this after watching the original, Let the Right One In. After seeing the similarities and familiarity in its setting, I think much more highly of this remake on a second viewing. Not only is it a great remake, but it is also a good stand-alone horror. This remake may be slightly unnecessary with such a classic original film that was released only five years ago, but it’s so rarely that remakes are done this well.

Film 31 – Antichrist (2009) –

I understand that Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg work closely with director Lars von Trier, but you have to wonder what on earth possesses them to get involved with such a script. Absolutely gross, but effectively intense and impacting and a really disturbing psychological horror.

Film 32 – The Collector (2009) –

Intended to be a Saw prequel, The Collector is an intense horror with a great villain obsessed with torture. With more story than expected from such a horror, this is one of those films all about the gore and how the next death will happen. I’m looking forward to watching the sequel anyway because, like the Saw franchise, this film can go anywhere and even if the story doesn’t, it’s bound to get gorier.

Film 33 – Halloween II (1981) –

I can’t get into these Halloween films. I’ve loved all of the other early horror franchises I’ve started watching this October (Nightmare On Elm Street, Child’s Play, etc.), but the Halloween franchise is the only one that is letting me down. Nothing ever happens until the final ten minutes, and by the time it starts to get interesting it ends.

Film 34 – V/H/S/2 (2013) –

I wouldn’t say that I liked the first V/H/S film but it had its scares and I felt like it was showcasing some great work. This sort-of-prequel of anthologies, however, felt very uninspired. Gorey and creepy each in their own ways, I didn’t overly enjoy any of the four short films on their own.

Film 35 – Urban Legend (1998) –

A typical high school 90s horror drawing on the likes of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, but despite its similarities and predictability, this is a horror that I really enjoy watching.

I love the concept of exploring these different urban legends with horror elements and it makes for great slasher fun. I also love the cast, especially with an appearance from Jared Leto, but I remember this most for Rebecca Gayheart’s brilliantly over-exaggerated performance.

Film 36 – Carrie (2013) –

Carrie is the exact example of a film that shows you why people can enjoy a remake so much when they haven’t seen the original, but also why those who have seen the original dislike even the concept of a remake. On this rare occasion, I have seen the original film many times and loved it; it’s a horror classic, and as most will agree, it needn’t have been touched. But this remake is only bad in comparison. I think that if I hadn’t seen and loved the original, then this recent adaptation of Stephen King’s book would actually have been really good. And that’s because I didn’t have any major problems with it, my only two flaws being that Chloe Moretz is far too pretty for such a role, and that the brilliant soundtrack made the film come across as a high school drama rather than a horror; the balance was just a little off, and whilst I enjoyed some of the gory additional scenes/alterations from the original film, this remake just didn’t scare me.

Film 37 – Evil Dead (2013) –

With some excellent gore, Evil Dead was more about the violence and blood than the scares. I enjoyed the drug addiction side-story at the beginning, which I thought was an original opening, but being a remake of a classic of horror that helped to define the genre, everything after does feel a little cliché. However, it was one that didn’t want to end.

Evil Dead is a great horror; it does everything that a horror film is supposed to do, and more. It’s a very decent remake and it plays on the original story in a much scarier way.

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About Charlie Morris

Proofreader and film blogger living in Cornwall.

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