Film Challenge: 31 Days of Horror 2019

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 – The Silence (2019) –

Based on 2015 novel, which predates the script for A Quiet Place, it would be unfair to make any comparisons, but obviously there are similarities in the story. The performances are good and the film only highlights why I’ve always wished that Stanley Tucci was my dad. There are a few tense moments but the ending is poor so it leaves you on a bad note.

Film 2 – Final Destination 5 (2011) –

The best part about this fifth Final Destination is the suspense in the killings of these survivors. As with the other films, there are various clues given to how somebody might die – the shadow of a clawed man, the flash of a bus in the reflection of a window, the focus of a faulty fan – but this film works at its best.

Whilst you can sit guessing how they are going to die for minutes beforehand, speculating from this mass amount of clues (like the constant collection of candles lit around the death scenes; you’d have they would have learnt by now!), these focuses tend to only harm the victims or set up a much more brutal death. The suspense is painful, but it’s the final blow to the body that will utterly shock you in this instalment, as the makers show no fear of blood and gore. They certainly go all out with this film.

Film 3 – The Nun (2018) –

I love Taissa Farmiga. She’s amazing in American Horror Story so I had some [not particularly high, but some] hopes for this. I enjoy The Conjuring films but haven’t liked any of their spin-offs as of it, but this is definitely a much better quality instalment. It’s definitely spooky, with thanks to the religious premise, although I don’t think the story comes across too well.

Film 4 – The Fog (1980) –

I prefer John Carpenter’s other horror films, but there’s no denying that he knows the genre well.

Film 5 – In The Tall Grass (2019) –

So, I won’t be going in any tall grass for a while. Sorry, guys. I’m leaving you to fend for yourselves.

Part of me really enjoyed this film. It’s certainly very creepy, and I kind of like that it absolutely makes no sense, partly because that means I’m not left too terrified to go to sleep (although I did have to run to the bathroom and back super quickly in the dark because all of the screaming made me feel on edge).

But I really wanted things to be explained more at the end, to know what this mysterious evil was and to see why this was all happening. Because I still don’t really know, so that’s left me feeling quite neutral about it all.

Film 6 – Us (2019) –

The only thing that I was having a problem with was the final twist at the end. At first, I wasn’t able to piece together how this would work properly/if it was a valid concept or just a final push for a big shock. But then I read a great article on Collider which made me realise how brilliant this twist was. The website comments that: “The reason the doubles are ‘soulless’ isn’t because the soul couldn’t be copied, but because they never had a chance at one in the first place.”

And that really helped me to piece it together for me. The concept of nature vs nurture and how our surroundings and privileges, things that we don’t necessarily have a choice in, shape who we become. It’s rare that a film explores the lack of choice we have in whether we are the good guy or the villain, so I think it’s amazing how Jordan Peele does this.

Film 7 – The Open House (2018) –

I don’t know if I loved the ending of this film or completely hated it. Throughout the whole film I was thinking, “Okay, but this better link into open houses in some way and not just be set up.” So many times the characters commented on how weird the concept of an open house was, but as I tried to think of explanations for what was going on, I couldn’t think of any that would adequately link to the open house whilst to why this family are seemingly being targetted.

So whilst the film does link to open houses well, it doesn’t round the families story up at the same time. And I don’t know which way I would have preferred for it to have gone. I was left thinking, “Well, that was disappointing, but at the same time that’s exactly what I wanted it to do.” So I don’t know.

The story is quite slow and it’s not particularly scary, nor is as psychologically traumatising as I think it hopes to be, but I do like a film that explains its paranormal activities (if just to make me sleep easier at night) and it was certainly worth the watch. And Dylan Minnette is great, so that certainly helps.

Film 8 – The Final Girls (2015) –

For one thing, a mother-daughter relationship between Taissa Farmiga and Malin Åkerman is enough to make me watch this. I always want to see more of Alia Shawkat, too.

I really like the concept of the film with its 80s style really suiting the horror-comedy/slasher-parody genre. But the more I think about this film, the more I dislike it. There are some really bad effects and it gets a little too cheesy by the end, but the cast is great and there are a lot of fun throwbacks.

Film 9 – Possum (2018) –

I love that this films visual style was inspired by public information films. It certainly has the lingering unsettling feeling to it. Harris’s performance is phenomenal and I’m sure that the short story that this is based on is just as chilling and unnerving as this film is. It will certainly stay with you.

Film 10 – Hostel: Part III (2011) –

I was expecting a bland story and dislikable characters but I thought they would at least up the gore. But it even lacks that. Everything about this film is poor.

Film 11 – Thinner (1996) –

I really like the premise of this film which is based on a Stephen King novel, but it really wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

From the start, Robert John Burke’s appearance and performance make this seem like a spoof, but I thought that was fine as long as it eventually scared me. I really prepared myself to be disgusted by the appearance of a man cursed to get thinner and thinner, thinking I was going to see effects on the same level of Cronenberg’s The Fly with flesh dripping off and gruesome detail. But that’s really not what this film is, and the poster is far scarier than anything that happens.

If this book were adapted today, the horror elements would be emphasised so much more and would much better suit the premise, but this adaptation just doesn’t go far enough.

Film 12 – Sinister 2 (2015) –

I didn’t particularly enjoy the first film although I did enjoy the concept, so it was interesting to see the story progress. But it really wasn’t scary or creepy or tense or… anything that a horror film should be. The performances are pretty poor, although I did enjoy seeing Shannyn Sossamon, but the ending is the worst thing about this.

Film 13 – The Possession of Hannah Grace (2018) –

Just another predictable and lacklustre Possession of [Insert Name Here] film. Shay Mitchell gives a good performance but her character lacks any depth, the effects are poor, and the film lacks any decent scares (although the atmosphere is set up well) or originality.

I’m really scared by dead people creeping around on all fours with their creaky bones and there’s a lot of that going on in this, but even that didn’t have much of an effect on me. Plus, it completely serves her right for working in a morgue at night on her own. What was she expecting?

Film 14 – Zombieland (2009) –

Funny and gory, Zombieland has a great and constantly entertaining story with a number of brilliant standout scenes.

A great debut for the director and all of the cast are fantastic. I especially love Bill Murray’s cameo.

Film 15 – The Ritual (2017) –

I love the casting in this. Rafe Spall, Coronation Street’s Robert James-Collier, and the always impressive Arsher Ali. They’re a great group to go on an adventure with and all give excellent performances.

Alongside the beautiful imagery and settings, The Ritual delivers an impactful Norse folk horror. The atmosphere is creepy and set up really well, and the monster itself has a great appearance, giving similar vibes to The Blair Witch Project and The Witch. It’s definitely one that will keep you awake at night.

Film 16 – Urban Legends 3: Bloody Mary (2005) –

It seems to have no link to the original Urban Legend film or even any urban legend at all and definitely doesn’t to be attached to the franchise in any way. They could have done something great with these films but, instead, we’re left with this.

Kate Mara is enjoyable enough but the tone is all over the place, the effects are awful, and it’s just very, very dull.

Film 17 – Get Out (2017) –

I was told to expect a really fucked up ending, so I was constantly waiting for something bigger to happen… I probably would have enjoyed it more if the film hadn’t been so hyped up, but I just wasn’t that shocked by it in the end because I was always thinking that something more was coming.

That being said, I loved the build-up, the unsettling tension, and the brilliant performances from Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, and I can’t wait to see more from Jordan Peele.

I’m definitely going to give this another watch soon, and I know that I will appreciate it a lot more a second time around because it is only the lack of surprise that is overriding how impressed I was with the quality of the film-making.

Film 18 – An American Haunting (2005) –

Interesting to see Rachel Hurd-Wood in a horror role as I grew up watching her Peter Pan, although Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, and James D’Arcy don’t add much to this.

The links between past and present really aren’t explored enough, nor is the issue of sexual abuse which is used as merely a subplot. I actually found it quite offensive as to how badly they dealt with the issue.

Film 19 – Prevenge (2016) –

I was really looking forward to this. Partly because I enjoy Alice Lowe, partly because I’m pregnant and thought the concept would be quite funny. Whilst I enjoyed how the story played out, I don’t think I was in the mood for this type of gore today. On any other day, I imagine I would have found Tom Davis’ balls falling off quite funny, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

Still, Alice Lowe is great and I love the British comedy cast, although I do wish we got to see more of each character and more of the past.

Film 20 – Overlord (2018) –

It takes a while to get into but it’s an enjoyable, gory zombie movie once it does.

Mixing zombies with a WW2/Nazi premise has probably been done before, although I imagine not too well, but Overlord is fun, if a bit lengthy, and gruesome and it has a good cast, too. Also, I could listen to Pilou Asbæk all day long.

Film 21 – Vacancy (2007) –

Enjoyable performances from Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson but I found everything else far too underwhelming. There’s not a lot of blood and gore as you would expect from a premise like this. Instead, it relies on building up a tense atmosphere which it manages to do well enough.

Nothing like a near-death experience to bring a married couple who absolutely hate each other back together again.

Film 22 – Deep Blue Sea (1999) –

Yes, I am giving this film 4 stars! Deep Blue Sea is absolutely brilliant. The effects are awful, the accents are awful, but it’s not ‘so bad it’s good’, it’s just bloody good! I could watch this every day of the week and not get bored of it.

Film 23 – The Bye Bye Man (2017) –

“DON’T THINK IT. DON’T SAY IT.” That’s fine, because I probably won’t think about him again after writing this review.

The premise is good, playing on the idea of Freddy Krueger and the sense of fear, but you will not be left fearful of this guy. The Bye Bye Man is bland and uninteresting with dull characters, poor performances, and a lack of intensity and scares.

Film 24 – 1922 (2017) –

“In the end, we all get caught.” Yeah, I think that was a given. Based on a novella, this film adaptation feels very drawn out and leaves you feeling somewhat frustrated by the end. The performances are good and the atmosphere is effective enough, but it’s mostly boring and would have worked much better as a short film.

Film 25 – Creep (2014) –

The horror is subtly used throughout this creepy thriller through the found-footage style of filming and well-paced character development. Mark Duplass is brilliant, almost adding a sense of dark comedy but ultimately revealing something much more chilling.

Film 26 – Patient Zero (2018) –

It certainly feels a lot more dated than it is but I didn’t think that this was as bad as the reviews suggest. Matt Smith, Natalie Dormer, and Stanley Tucci are all enjoyable (as is John Bradley for some extra Game of Thrones casting!). I also thought the story worked well, trying to do something new with the genre, although not coming across as anything too original in the end. But I certainly don’t think that this is an awful films by any means, and maybe they could do something better with the sequel that was obviously intended.

Film 27 – The Descent: Part 2 (2009) –

With Shauna Macdonald returning to lead this sequel, it doesn’t come across as a completely unnecessary follow-up and goes in the only direction you would want it to go, but it was always going to be difficult for them to do something new with what was a very successful predecessor.

And that’s where this film fails, relying too much on jump scares, gore, and loud noises to scare viewers, without giving them anything substantial.

It certainly scares and the violence is quite brutal, keeping some of the qualities of what made the original such a great horror, but the horror elements feel forced this time around, working rather as a distraction for everything else that it lacks.

Film 28 – Halloween (2018) –

I feel like this is the sequel that Halloween needed a long time ago. I’ve only seen the first two films in the original series, but it has always been one of the more difficult horror franchises for me to get into. Whilst I enjoy the first film for the influence that it has had on horror films, this is the first Halloween film that I have really loved.

Jamie Lee Curtis is great and there are some excellent story developments, as well as being beautifully shot and filled with some great action and suspense. Just like all Halloween films, it is the final half an hour or so that is the most intense, as everything leads up to the stand-off that we have been wanting to see most of all.

Also, if I were Laurie Strode, I’d be the one abandoning my family for being so ignorant of my traumatic past. They should have known better, although Judy Greer does more than make up for it.

Film 29 – Ghost Stories (2017) –

The poster for this on Netflix is very misleading as I thought it was going to be led by Martin Freeman and be a lot more serious, but I wasn’t completely disappointed with what I ended up with. Instead led by Andy Nyman and with some great supporting roles from Freeman, Alex Lawther and Paul Whitehouse, Ghost Stories is a well-executed low budget British horror. It’s well-acted and well-written and, although the final twist may be unoriginal for some, I think the final hit leaves an already interesting story on a disturbing and memorable note.

Film 30 – Final Girl (2015) –

This would have worked much better as a horror film than the thriller it turns into. Either way, it needed so much more explanation of the contexts that it so briefly sets up. Instead, it either comes across as unbelievable or having no purpose. Abigail Breslin is okay but she doesn’t pack enough of a punch, unlike her role in Zombieland which we needed a bit more of. There grounding is definitely there, but nothing is developed well enough.

Film 31 – Amityville II: The Possession (1982) –

I didn’t like this to begin with as it’s obviously very dated and so much is packed in that I found it hard to believe that the practical effects involved were ever found scary, but the more gruesome they got, the more I enjoyed it.

There’s definitely too much incest involved and there are some weird territories explored, but it was great to see the prequel/origins to a haunted house horror story that I’ve seen so many times. I don’t know if it intends to be, but the horror tropes make for quite a fun possession film in the end.

Film 32 – [REC] 3 (2012) –

It definitely has a different feel to the first two films but it brings them together well.

I’ve read a lot of reviews saying that this is a poor horror film, but if you think of it more of a rom-com gone wrong then I thought that this was a lot of fun. Obviously, that shows the difference in tone compared to the first two films so maybe it would have worked better as a standalone film, but I enjoyed the wedding premise and a white bride covered in blood, carrying a chainsaw is a great look.

Film 33 – Look Away (2018) –

India Eisley looks a lot younger than 26, which is why she suits playing a 17-year-old so well, but that also means that the more mature themes feel awkward and unnecessary.

I like the roles that mirrors play in horror films and I wanted Airam to take over as, let’s face it, Maria is having a shit time and has the worst family and friends. It doesn’t really achieve anything in the end, though.

Most of all, Maria needed to be an older character and played by an older looking actress for the psycho-sexual horror elements to work. Instead, it all ends up feeling a little too creepy.

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About Charlie Morris

Proofreader and film blogger living in Cornwall.

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