October 2019 was the month of watching a lot of classic or unconventional horror but I wanted to share the films I watched and enjoyed this October. I didn’t do 31 films, I did not have time for that with my work schedule so I tried squeezing in as much as I could. These are organized by year of release.
Please check out these films if you have not already!
House of Wax, 1953, dir. Andre De Toth
Vincent Price is amazing in this role as our protagonist (Henry Jarrod) to antagonist. He has some great physical acting throughout the film and you do root for him up til a certain point and then you want people to just live to the end. I also enjoyed the supporting actors (Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jone, Paul Picerni and Charles Bronson). The one thing that made me go “hmm” was the ending, which comes to this huge climax and the ending was unsatisfying? I guess I wanted something bigger to happen to Jarrod (maybe he becomes a wax figure and mounted in his museum) but it wasn’t a bad ending at all. It was a “that’s it, that’s all that happens?”
House on Haunted Hill, 1959, dir. William Castle
Another Vincent Price led film, this was not on purpose at all. I was very excited when I saw this available on Amazon Prime. I watched it, I loved it and I would watch it again. The premise is that Price (Frederick Loren) and his wife Annabelle (played by Carol Ohmart), are hosting a party at this haunted mansion. If they survive the night, they will each be given $10,000. However things do not go as planned, other people in the party are conspiring together, there are some great jump scares as well. The scares can come off as gimmicky which I also contributed to being in 1959, these most likely scared audiences then. As for the ending, I like how open ended it is, you can draw your own conclusion of what is to come. Apparently there’s a color version available as well!
Blood and Black Lace, 1964, dir. Mario Bava
To find this film on Prime, I was very excited to watch this. I remember seeing clips of this film featured on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments (it is on youtube in parts) and you don’t get the full gist of what the film is until you sit and watch it. The premise is that murders are taking place in and around a fashion house and the victims are its models. It’s glamorous, it looks and feels expensive and modern. The costume (or fashion) is amazing and the biggest part is how Bava uses colors. It’s such a colorful, vibrant film despite being a horror. You hear about Bava and Italian horror/giallo and when you experience it, it’s more than just stab and scream. It’s visually orgamsic. The one thing I did not enjoy was this constant slapping women thing. It happens maybe 2-3 times but I was very much “why are we doing this?”
Black Christmas, 1974, dir. Bob Clark
Another film seen on 100 Scariest Movie Moments. This is also available on Prime and I will consider Black Christmas as one of the first slashers. The premise is quite simple: a group of sorority girls are being stalked during Christmas break at their sorority house. I only recognized three faces in the film (Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder and John Saxon) but other supporting actors are great in the film. There is so much emotional turmoil and you become invested in these girls’ lives quickly. It touches on relationships, family dynamics, women’s health, alcoholism, mental health (and illness) and more. Of course this isn’t what you’d immediately promote in a horror but if you watch and you start picking up hints here and there, it’s obvious. It’s more than just a slasher film set on around the Christmas holiday, it has human elements that is a stand out among cult classics.
Deep Red, 1975, dir. Dario Argento
Up til Deep Red, I’ve only seen two Argento films but maybe four or five where he was involved in other aspects (writer, producer creds). Deep Red reminded me so much of Suspiria (which came out 2 years later). I think this is a blueprint to what Suspiria would become. It’s a wild film, another addition to the giallo/Italian horror category. If you don’t know, he and Bava were very close as well as with his son Lamberto so I saw a lot of similarities or just in general, how Italian horror films are done by the masters. Deep Red is a film about a man who is a musician (David Hemmings) who is caught up in a sweep of murders that have a supernatural element. There’s childhood trauma, breaking and entering, amazing use of colors and background and Argento’s former partner Daria Nicolodi (also is Asia Argento’s mother) also stars in the film. I enjoyed her on screen as well.
Shock, 1977, dir. Mario Bava
Clearly I’ve seen a lot of Italian horror because this is the third one on the list. This is considered one of Mario Bava’s last films that were theatrically released. Shock stars Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner and David Colin Jr., and it is about a woman and her son returning to their former home with her new spouse but the home is possessed/haunted by the son’s father and the son is also possessed in flashes. This is the first film that I’ve seen where… it looked rural, it looks rugged, very 70s, it’s not glamorous and beautiful like Blood and Black Lace. It’s grainy, a bit predictable but the movie is really guided by Nicolodi who I think this is probably one of her best appearances on screen. She’s not supporting like Deep Red or Suspiria or Phenomena. She’s carrying the film and I was very much impressed with her. It’s not my favorite Bava film.
Inferno, 1980, dir. Dario Argento
I can’t escape Italian horror! As you can see, I’ve consumed a lot of it within a month. Inferno is one of the three films in the “Three Mothers” trilogy so I have yet to watch the other which is The Mother of Tears. Each film, Suspiria, Inferno and Mother of Tears is centered around “mothers” aka evil witches or the heads of these covens. The premise is a young man is looking for his sister who has disappeared but she also lives in an apartment complex that also has a history with witches and witchcraft. So the film is a deep dive of his search but also there is an interesting concept with the witches who control darkness, tears and sorrow, written in books and these books are being collected and hunted down. I feel like I would have to watch the film again to fully understand what I watched and perhaps take notes too. There are some memorable moments such as the beginning where there’s an amazing underwater sequence that I love. There are also easter eggs of Argento’s other works in the film (even Nicolodi is featured) and you see his signatures throughout the film whether it’s the use of colors, the cinematography or the ending where there is fire, darkness is being destroyed in fire as our protagonist escapes… sounds a lot like Suspiria’s ending… I liked it.
Chopping Mall, 1986, dir. Jim Wynorski
What a switch up from all the italian horror, right? Chopping Mall is fun. Chopping Mall is entertaining. I used to work in retail (in a mall) so mall culture is still present however this is the 80s which is probably the height of that. It takes place in one setting and we stay there the entire movie. The characters are generic minus a couple of them that stand out, the protagonists look like the little cousins to Battlestar Galatica’s Cylons. If you cannot guess what the movie is about: a group of teens are up against these robotic guards in the mall who are on this killing spree. And for those who are fans of the youtube platform Dead Meat or the podcast (which is done by James A. Janisse and Chelsea Rebecca), there’s a snippet of Chopping Mall featured in their opening… quoted by Dick Miller, he says within Chopping Mall, “…But if I ever find the little bastards that do this, they’re dead meat.”
Waxwork, 1988, dir. Anthony Hickox
80s horror has a different vibe about them. I knew this film was going to be gimmicky, some comedic moments, not too serious but I was pleasantly surprised by how fun the movie was. Is it the greatest film ever? No. Is it entertaining? Yes. Horror films should be entertaining or interesting to watch in some way and Waxwork provides that. This is also the one movie I took notes while watching so let me brief over my notes. I have to give a nice shout out to the SPX by Bob Keen who I think did some great makeup and effects work, basically practical effects. I thought the concept of the actual wax museum/display was unique, different. I like the idea of time travel or being sucked into the display where you are trapped and you become a part of it. I also liked the idea that it’s almost knowing what your heart’s desire is, especially for two of the female characters. One is looking for a “man” not a “boy”, wanting maturity, mystery, and she gets it in the form of a vampire and the other girl, Sarah, well, she’s got this urge to be submissive, let someone control her, explore her sexuality because it seems that she is not the type to expose herself in that manner. Also, she has a fascination with Marquis de Sade. Nuff said.
Tales from the Darkside, 1990, dir. Jim Harrison
A more recent watch (last week) into the viewing party. I am a big fan of the television series, I do own a couple of vhs tapes that have maybe 4 episodes each and like The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt, I tend to steer clear of the movie versions for fear of “will I like the movie? Will the movie be a re-hash of previous stories or will it be more original?” I’m glad to say that Tales from the Darkside: the movie is more original. If you follow me on instagram (@ shotsofhorror), I did a mini review of it and my favorite segments are as follows: Cat from Hell, Lot 249 and then Lover’s Vow. The last two could be switched around, depending on mood or which day you ask me which was my favorite. There’s also an intro/outro with Deborah Harry (as a witch) and a very young Matthew Lawrence as the child who is potentially going to get eaten by said witch. The film definitely gives off “commercial” horror aka you have a mummy, witch, a black cat, monsters, good guys, bad guys. There’s a lot of familiar faces (Julianne Moore, Christian Slater, William Hickey, James Remar, Rae Dawn Chong, Steve Buscemi, Deborah Harry) and the stories might seem predictable but all around fun.
Trick r Treat, 2007, dir. Michael Dougherty
Despite doing this film in a post on tumblr, I hadn’t seen this film. I bought it on a whim a couple of weeks ago and I finally watched it and I loved it. Trick r Treat is an anthology film where the connecting ties are that they all take place in one night, in one town and our little enthusiast, Sam, is making sure people are into the Halloween spirit. If not, he gets very upset and takes it into his own hands. I would love a collectible or pop of Sam, I think he would be a great addition to my collection. Back to the film, it’s fun, gory, has elements of fantastical sequences and I think all of the acts are great. It reminds me of Creepshow, especially the comic book aspect of it with panels, going from comic strip into “real life” and the best thing of all is that Trick r Treat is not boring. You can easily get bored during an anthology film but if it does it right (Creepshow, Trick r Treat, Tales from the Hood, VHS, Twilight Zone: the Movie), it’s worth watching more than once.
Hereditary, 2018, dir. Ari Aster
Shocker, right? I hadn’t seen Hereditary prior to watching this film finally. There are only a small handful of films that have disturbed me or have stayed with me after watching. Hereditary is now one of them. I didn’t know what to expect in this. I remember a lot of praise for Toni Collette’s performance (accurate) in this film and all the twists and turns it has to offer. It is a psychological horror which is one of my all time favorite sub genres in horror and I was so moved emotionally and mentally throughout. Collette’s performance is amazing, you feel her turmoil and her pain and the supporting cast is also really great at creating this atmosphere of… almost feeling trapped and having things set in motion and you cannot control it. The shock for me was seeing a certain death comes out of nowhere and I was devastated. The physical performances from the actors are great as well. If you don’t enjoy psychological horror, you might not be into this or even films that have disturbing content.
*Sneak Peek of horror films seen this year*
The Love Witch
The Monster Squad
Have you seen any films this year for the first time? Do you like classic horror or more modern? It’s been awesome to watch these films for the first time and understanding why some are considered classics, great or just… okay.
stay tuned kiddies.