Film Challenge: 31 Days of Horror 2018

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 – Insidious 4: The Last Key (2018) –

The Insidious films have been some of the very few horror films that I have liked over the past few years. The first two were great, and the third was average but likeable. But this one is pretty forgettable. It seems like a spin-off rather than a follow up as it doesn’t have the same feel to it as the others did. The distinguishing characteristics of the franchise have gone and, instead, this instalment is exactly like every other horror that you’ve seen this year – lacklustre and unoriginal. It spends too much time on irrelevant subplots rather than on the connections to the original films that would have made it work so much better.

Film 2 – Don’t Hang Up (2013) –

Terrible acting, terrible characters, and a terrible script. And the twist is obvious and the ending is cliche, so it really doesn’t have much going for it. The only good thing I found was that it does have some tense moments which are what kept me watching.

The concept is fine, but it would have been a lot better if the twist was that it was a massive prank set up by both of the teen’s parents to teach them a lesson for being such dicks.

Film 3 – Jigsaw (2017) –

I’ve always loved the Saw films, but the last two haven’t been great. This latest instalment is a step up from them, however. It’s certainly not as good as the first two or three, but It’s probably the best Saw film in the last 10 years. I love how they keep finding a way to make the story work all these years later. I mean, they find any way possible to do so, but I quite liked how this one was worked into the franchise.

It may not be a great, but it definitely has its gorey and tense moments which made it better than I expected it to be.

Film 4 – The Babysitter (2017) –

It’s every boy’s dream to have Samara Weaving as their babysitter. Who am I kidding? It would be my dream to have her as a babysitter! Until it all turns into a nightmare, obviously. But Judah Lewis absolutely kicks ass!

The Babysitter brilliantly plays on its stereotypes whilst McG holds back just enough to keep this over the top horror/comedy simple but incredibly fun. It’s a perfect balance of its genres and gives just enough plot and story for it to work so well without ruining the gorey adventure that it can be loved for.

Film 5 – Friday the 13th (2009) –

These horror reboots always have their pros and cons. The cons are that they can never live up to the original horrors when they follow the plot so closely, but the pros are that they’re usually a lot gorier so the death scenes are often more impacting.

However, more blood doesn’t always make for a better film. This latest instalment plays on too many of the outdated cliches of the original films and doesn’t modernise itself well. But, that being said, the Friday the 13th films are all pretty similar in plot, so this reboot actually fits in quite well to the franchise as a sequel.

Film 6 – Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) –

Another new beginning for the Friday the 13th franchise, but one that should have probably come a lot sooner. It’s exactly what you would expect from the franchise, but it does a lot of it much better. This is probably my favourite instalment since Part 2, anyway.

Film 7 – Before I Wake (2016) –

Watched for Jacob Tremblay, but it’s a shame that he’s asleep for most of it.

A good horror concept, but it definitely isn’t taken far enough. The ending, especially, is disappointing, although I really liked the explanation about why Cody dreams about what he does. It just isn’t explored well enough in this final third to give the emotional kick it could have.

There are so many bad horror films out there at the minute and I definitely wouldn’t put this in the same category as them. The performances are good and there’s definitely something to it, but it just doesn’t do what it intended to.

Film 8 – Seed of Chucky (2004) –

Who knew that this was where the Chucky franchise was heading?! Well, after Bride of Chucky there wasn’t too much hope left for it, but a pants-pissing, gender-confused murderous baby? Ah, why not. It makes me laugh at how ridiculously insane it is, so it’s not all bad. At least it sticks to its guns, although it could have been gorier. Also, I absolutely love Jennifer Tilly’s voice.

Film 9 – A Ghost Story (2017) –

This is a ghost story I definitely wasn’t expecting. I loved David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints which also starred Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara so I was very much looking forward to this. And although we don’t get to see much of either Affleck or Mara, their presence lingers like C’s ghost and you can feel their amazing chemistry in the empty rooms.

Whilst there was so much that I was craving to see, A Ghost Story gives you absolutely nothing in regards to what you would expect from it. And that’s probably why it has had such an effect on its audiences. Its bleakness is as powerful as any emotional journey that it could have followed.

Most of all, A Ghost Story is beautifully atmospheric. Although some of the silent parts feel a little tedious, Daniel Hart’s score brings every little thing to life. There may be very little happening in many of the scenes, but the music absolutely mesmerizes you, drawing you into the tiniest movement.

Film 10 – Annabelle 2: Creation (2017) –

I didn’t think much of the first Annabelle film and this one isn’t any better. Whilst the one thing that the first film had going for it was how creepy the doll was, this film couldn’t even get that right. There were some decent gory bits and a few squeamish moments, but the story itself was incredibly dull.

Starring Lulu Wilson, as well, who was in Ouija: Origin of Evil, I felt like I was watching the same horror film, as I struggled to find this film’s identity or anything that distinguished it from any other horror of the past couple of years.

Film 11 – Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) –

An interesting way to bring Jason back to life and to also “kill” him at the end. You really can’t appreciate these films when you watch them back to back, though. I’ve had far too much Jason in my life at the minute.

Film 12 – Don’t Look Now (1973) –

Adapted from a short story by Daphne du Maurier, one of my favourite authors, I had to give this a second watch as I just couldn’t get into it on my first viewing. Although there were still parts which I found quite boring, I really got into it on my second viewing, which made the final 10 minutes all the more impactful.

Film 13 – The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) –

As a horror film, I thought that the story was a really interesting take. And then I realised that it was loosely based on a true story which makes it even more interesting. This could have been just another horror film about The Exorcism of Someone or Oher, but the backstory and courtroom drama at the centre of the story makes it stand out from the many others and is, instead, quite effective.

Film 14 – The Boy (2016) –

So I actually kind of liked this. I was expecting it to be everything that you would normally get from a horror film like this. A creepy doll that is obviously alive in some way. You’re waiting for its head to turn or for it to do a creepy laugh. For it to kill. But this film turns all of these cliches on its head, becoming more of a thriller than a horror. It wasn’t a particularly stand-out film, but the haunted house atmosphere was captured really well and the original twist makes a satisfying surprise.

Film 15 – Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017) –

I’ve often wondered why they don’t make scary films happen in the daytime. That way, you wouldn’t just be afraid of what’s lurking in the shadows at nighttime, you’d be scared of everything! But no. It doesn’t work like that. And Jeepers Creepers 3 is a prime example of why you shouldn’t make a horror film that is set in the day, as it makes one of the scariest horror characters become laughable.

The first Jeepers Creepers is a brilliant film, but the second is one of the films I remember for scaring me the most. But this third instalment is truly awful. There are a few good ideas involved, such as the van being full of death traps but, other than that, there was nothing scary about this film.

Film 16 – Leatherface (2017) –

I much preferred this to the 2006 origin story of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The characters were developed well which isn’t something we normally see with a film like this, and I really enjoyed the story. The gore was good, bordering on the edge of being over the top at times, but the acting was surprisingly the thing that stood out, for me. Sam Strike was brilliant, although I would have liked to have seen more of Finn Jones.

Film 17 – 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 18 – Curse of Chucky (2013) –

Going back to the style of the first two Chucky films, this film seems to erase Bride and Seed of Chucky from memory and try again. Some may appreciate that, others may not.

Personally, I prefer the focus here. The focus on Chucky himself and his personal desires, instead of having too much comedy to fall back on. There aren’t any real surprises since everything is so over-explained and it’s not particularly scary since Chucky isn’t really that scary, but it is slasher fun and a decent example of how to revisit a franchise.

Film 19 – The Belko Experiment (2016) –

I don’t know exactly what James Gunn wrote because there is very little beyond a basic premise, but there’s so little to think about that it’s almost fun. It’s just blood and gore for the pure sake of it. Usually, I would love an ending like that, but I fully expected it having seen it so many times before, so poor attempt at a twist there.

Film 20 – Gerald’s Game (2017) –

I watched this because it seemed to have the whole cast of The Haunting of Hill House in it so I was curious to see that (and being a Stephen King adaptation always makes it sound worthwhile!).

Carla Gugino gives an excellent performance and the first half is quite tense and intriguing, but the last 10 minutes or so don’t come together well at all. However, THAT scene is gross gross gross.

Film 21 – Screamers (2016) –

Aside from the fact that screamers are about 20 years old and nobody is bothered about them anymore, I enjoyed the concept of this film in the beginning. The found-footage style of filming suited it really well, and I was interested in seeing how the story developed. Then, when the crew get to the house, the atmosphere was tense and I jumped with every scream. But then it just ends. This easily could have been quite a decent horror film if the story was given some kind of conclusion, but it just gives up which was a huge disappointment.

Film 22 – The Hills Have Eyes (1977) –

A great horror franchise created by Wes Craven. The remakes are more sickening and scarier, I would say, but this original is more of a psychological horror that really plays on your mind. It’s gritty and raw, just how a horror should be.

Film 23 – The Ward (2010) –

Lacking in atmosphere and decent effects, but I quite enjoyed the story and twist. Or maybe I just enjoyed Amber Heard.

Film 24 – House On Haunted Hill (1999) –

I haven’t seen the original so I can’t comment on this being a remake, but I like the combination of mystery and horror. It was like a haunted Clue, even having that sense of ‘fun’ at times. The horror elements themselves were pretty poor visually, but it has a good premise so it’s made me want to watch the original.

Film 25 – Pyewacket (2017) –

This is a slow burner and takes a while to get into, but the final 20 minutes make a great turn of events. ‘Real horrors’ such as this one are always more impressive than ones that try to scare you in ridiculous ways, as Pyewacket tries to leave you feeling a genuine kind of terror, instead. Good performances but the first half did need filling out some more.

Film 26 – From A House On Willow Street (2016) –

From the poster alone, you can tell that this is the kind of film that has put more focus on looking good than telling a good story. And when that’s what happens with a horror, that usually means that there’s a lot of blood splattered everywhere but a lot of characters that you don’t care about. The story sounds pretty intriguing and starts out okay, but it quickly becomes boring and predictable and really doesn’t come to much.

Film 27 – The Apparition (2012) –

I spent so much of this film thinking “Hmm…Ben looks familiar.” I can’t believe that it was Sebastian Stan and I didn’t even realise! I’m also very disappointed that Luke Pasqualino was in this for barely a minute.

The film itself is disappointing. It’s barely a horror until the final 20 minutes. Before that, there’s not even any jump scares to make it seem scary. It could have done a lot more with its premise.

Film 28 – Wrong Turn 6 (2014) –

I haven’t seen any of these films since the first one so I don’t know know how the franchise has managed to get this far, but it seems a bit of an odd place to end up.

There are very little scares but there is some gore and plenty of sex, which is to be expected. And with the horror element lacking, that meant that the film attempted to work on having an actual storyline, instead. I guess that’s why I didn’t dislike it since it was actually going somewhere, but it ultimately felt like a wasted effort. More horror was needed, even if that meant I had to hate it for being all blood and incest. I guess you can’t win.

Film 29 – The Grudge (2004) –

Mixing American and Japanese horror, The Grudge scares the living hell out of me every time, and for that it is one of my favourite horrors. Sarah Michelle Gellar gives a decent lead creating a believable tension, and the whole atmosphere of this film keeps you constantly on edge. I slept with the lights on for weeks after first seeing this, and I’m still terrified of attics.

Film 30 – Don’t Knock Twice (2016) –

I had no idea what was going on. It looked well-acted and the cinematography was good, but it just wasn’t engaging enough and I very quickly lost track of/stopped caring about what was going on.

Film 31 – I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House (2016) –

A beautiful narrative and atmosphere and Ruth Wilson gives an exceptional performance, but it was very slow and stretched out so I struggled to get into it.

Film 32 – The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) –

Good performances from Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox which were enjoyable to watch and an interesting story with some very creepy moments.

Film 33 – The Descent (2005) –

I didn’t think that this would hold up too well when rewatching it nearly 10 years since my last watch, but it’s just as scary as I remember.

It’s bad enough feeling the claustrophobia of being trapped in these dark caves, but when we see what’s lurking in the shadows, the dark is nothing in comparison. The Descent is tense and creepy and there are many brilliant scenes and gory moments. Most of all, I’m surprised by how confident this film is in itself. It doesn’t try to scare you by making you jump; it just has a genuine uncomfortable atmosphere that puts you on edge. It is so well-paced and acted that it really is one of those horror films that will give you nightmares.

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About Charlie Morris

Proofreader and film blogger living in Cornwall.

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