Brief Thoughts on Every Horror Film I Watched in October – Andrew Williford

Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart
One of my all time favorites. I'd even argue it's one of the greatest American films of all time. This is the kind of stark, boldly political genre cinema we need more of nowadays. Showed this one to my girlfriend and she loved it! One of her new favorites.  

Dawn of the Dead (George Romero, 1978)
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart
Finally saw this one! I've been dying to see it for nearly a decade but never found a way to watch it. Probably my least favorite of the trilogy by default, but it's still a fascinating, gripping watch. 

Hungry Wives (aka Season of the Witch) (George Romero, 1972) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars 
Feels a lot like Shirley Jackson on quaaludes. The horror of domesticity and patriarchal control is pretty damn palpable here, even if it doesn't ring quite as powerfully as its influences. 

The Crazies (George Romero, 1973) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars
Not really a surprise that this one rings just as true nowadays as it probably did at the time, if not more so. Definitely messier than Day of the Dead (1985) but early remnants of the military as the real monsters (or rather the real zombies in this case) is just as appropriately infuriating. 

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (Xavier Burgin, 2019) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars 
I get the feeling this probably feels pretty rudimentary to many film scholars and historians, but I loved learning what I did from this one. I also just really enjoyed that this is presented as a hangout for black filmmakers and scholars to talk about this stuff. 

Final Destination (James Wong, 2000) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars
This one's just plain fun! The idea of a slasher villain not just controlling but being the environment, being this truly intangible force, makes for a lot of really creative set pieces. 

Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars
I was never really a fan of this one, but it finally clicked for me this time around. Watching this as just a mood piece, as purely aesthetic, makes it a lot more enjoyable. Far from my favorite Dracula film, and far from what I love about the book (we'll get to that soon), but definitely a good deal better than I ever gave it credit for. 

Broken Contact: A Poltergeist Story (Casey Nolan, 2020) 
Letterboxd Rating: 1/2 Star
Not just awful but reprehensible. I have absolutely zero patience for "documentaries" that only spend the whole time lying. But if you're going to do that, at least put in some effort to make it marginally convincing; don't just press your fingers into the ouija board so hard we can see it bending. 

The Funhouse (Tobe Hooper, 1981) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars
Thirteen-year-old me was wrong and very dumb. This is just awesome. It's more meaningfully in conversation with the history of the horror genre than a lot of what we tend to get nowadays. Not to mention, the climax is absolutely hypnotic, in no small part due to the incredible score. 

The Binding (Domenico Emanuele de Feudis, 2020) 
Letterboxd Rating: 2 Stars 
This really feels like it was building to a significant narrative twist but the writer thought that it would be too predictable so they shifted to a twistless direction but forgot to edit the first half to fit that new direction. Makes the climax feel a lot emptier than it seems to think it is. Really a shame given the efforts of every other cast and crew member on display here. 

Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart
One of the most thoroughly accomplished and deeply haunting pieces of filmmaking to this day. I want to more films that behave like this one does, embracing the idea of visual poetry rather than just acting out prose on the screen. 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars + Like/Heart 
This one is still astonishing to this day, even if it does start to wear out its welcome after a while and the ending is kind of bullshit. But it is still hypnotic and striking in its best moments. 

Day of the Dead (George Romero, 1985) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart
I had never completely registered just how miserable this one is for most of the runtime until my girlfriend told me she wasn't even sure if she wanted to keep watching. I'm glad she held out because the pervasive frustration of having to deal with Romero's far more explicitly fascistic soldiers makes the bloodbath ending so much more satisfying. 

Dead Set (Yann Demange, 2008) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars
This time, my girlfriend was the one showing me a zombie movie. Almost as miserable as Day and bleak as the ending of Night but still downright hilarious a lot of times. This film made me realize that shaky-cam really only works as a core component to a film's aesthetic when it taps into post-9/11 trauma and paranoia, so it only works sometimes here. Still a damn good ride. 

The Tell-Tale Heart (Ted Parmelee, 1953) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart
Still gives me chills to this day, James Mason's haunting and unruly cries festering in my mind. Does more with the medium in just eight minutes than a lot of what we get these days. One of my greatest influences and one of my absolute favorite films ever. 

Stage Fright (Steve Box, 1997) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars 
Traumatized my girlfriend when she was a kid. Pretty dark turn for Aardman Animations. I also love how it plays around with nonlinear storytelling. Not often that an animated film for kids does stuff like that. 

Exeter (Marcus Nispel, 2015) 
Letterboxd Rating: 3 Stars 
I'm a little on the fence about this one. I love the idea of putting slasher movie characters into an exorcism film without an exorcist to help them. And I kind of admire it for going off in so many crazy directions and having fun with it. But I think it also just bites off a little more than it can chew narratively. 

The Haunting of Bly Manor (Mike Flanagan, 2020) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars 
Flanagan's most ambitious even if he only directed one episode out of nine. I'm not sure if I prefer this or Hill House (2018) - this one's ending certainly fits its story a lot more cohesively than the other's - but I think I'm going to continue to return to both of them every year. Can't wait to read the book! 

Saint Maud (Rose Glass, 2019) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars 
I'm hoping that I'll like this one even more on a rewatch (my girlfriend now lists it as one of her absolute favorite horror films, and she's pickier than I am). I'm a bit nervous that I'm not going to find any other meanings beyond the small handful that are already clear upon first viewing. But I'm still very excited to watch it again, if only because one scene scared the hell out of me on nearly every level in a way I haven't felt in almost ten years. 

Oculus (Mike Flanagan, 2013) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart
I still don't get why so many people don't like this one. I find the idea of a haunted mirror to be really thought-provoking and chilling. This finally became one of my favorites this year because I get to see it as Flanagan's cinematic signature. It doesn't wear its influences on its sleeve but it combines them to great effect. 

The Curse of Frankenstein (Terence Fisher, 1957) 
Letterboxd Rating: 3 Stars 
Gore effects, set design and all are fantastic. And Peter Cushing makes for a truly awesome Victor Frankenstein, especially a villainous one. But I still can't fully get behind a Frankenstein film that treats the Creature as a mindless beast rather than the abandoned child that he actually is in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's novel, that diminishes his very conscious rage to unconscious murderous tendencies created by a lesser brain. Still fun, though. 

The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart
Still unnerves me after four years. I love Eggers's approach of grounding the narrative in historical reality only to dive even further, thus immersing us so fully in these people's religious paranoia that we just live it the way they do. By the ending, no extratextual reading even matters. The Devil is no metaphor; he just is. 

Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart 
I kind of get why a lot of people are frustrated with this film's almost cold and detached attitude toward its characters, its so intensely omniscient visual narration, its narrative being so perfectly woven yet also incredibly messy. But I still find this one really effective, mainly due to the inherent contradiction between that tightness and that messiness. I find a good deal of truth in it. 

Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars 
I don't have much to say about this one. It's awesome but it's not my favorite from Argento. Oh, and also that score is just perfect. 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Paul W.S. Anderson, 2016) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars
These movies are good. I'm not looking for a fight about it. Retribution (2012) and The Final Chapter in particular are fantastic. These are blockbuster action/horror movies where the narrative gladly takes a backseat to the sheer kinetic momentum of the action and they are all the better for it. 

The Dark Half (George Romero, 1993) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart
This is actually one of the best adaptations of Stephen King's work I've ever come across. I feel confident in saying that even having not read this particular novel because this just feels more like King's writing than most other adaptations. 

The Cleansing Hour (Damien LeVeck, 2019) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars
This one is just plain fun. It's really nice to see something I thought was just going to be a pretty small scale horror not-so-gradually morph into something much more ambitious. It has some serious issues (mainly in the way it disposes of an LGBTQ+ character for no reason) but the rest of it is just plain crazy. 

32 Malasana Street (Albert Pinto, 2020) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars
This was another pleasant surprise - thank you, Shudder. I don't think I've ever seen a Conjuring-style ghost story where capitalism and social prejudices are the actual villain rather than the ghost. This one's pretty strong overall. 

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (Joe Berlinger, 2000)
Letterboxd Rating: 3 Stars
Honestly, this one is better than I thought it would be. I really admire its metatextual ambition and I definitely had fun watching it. But it's also just really awkward the overwhelming majority of the time. 

Excision (Richard Bates Jr., 2012)
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars
I have never been so consistently and viscerally uncomfortable during a horror film. It's not just the body horror and the other traditional(?) horror elements. It's the depiction of parental abuse and neglect. I wasn't even sure of how I felt about this one at first, but I can't help but admire how it's managed to stick with me for the past week. 

Salem's Lot (Tobe Hooper, 1979) 
Letterboxd Rating: 3 Stars
I finally managed to sit down and finish this one after trying three years ago. I think the distance from the source novel helped with viewing this. It's not great. It's definitely too slow a lot of times and the dialogue scenes can be pretty awkward, especially the exposition and pontificating. But I think the slowness and the resulting comfort with the environment makes the times when the vampire appears so much more frightening. 

His House (Remi Weekes, 2020)
Letterboxd Rating: 2 Stars
I hate that I was so disappointed with this film. I thought from the premise that this would be really, really interesting politically minded genre work. And it kind of is in a way. But it also isn't near as biting as it should be. The role of the bigotry the two central characters suffer ends up playing a very minor role. I don't like that the horror elements are relegated just to the traumas the characters experienced before they arrived in the UK. I don't know why the white supremacy depicted is just a side obstacle and not positioned as the true villain. 

Dracula (aka Horror of Dracula) (Terence Fisher, 1958) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars 
Now one of my favorite Dracula adaptations. I do think the two Nosferatu films and Coppola's 1992 adaptation are more accomplished pieces of filmmaking, but this is easily the best piece of storytelling of these adaptations. It's much more faithful to the spirit of the book, or at least what I love about the book. Those facing confronting Dracula, especially Van Helsing, aren't doing so just because he's this ultimate evil and the battle is epice. They do so to protect the people they care about. Every stake through the heart is an act of love. Peter Cushing is the BEST Abraham Van Helsing. 

House of 1,000 Corpses (Rob Zombie, 2003) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars
Once again, I discover that my initial opinion of a Rob Zombie film was incorrect. This one is awesome. It's such a crazy fun roller coaster of a film. 

Halloween (Rob Zombie, 2007) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart
Okay, it's official. I love this one. Just about everything that used to bug me now feels extremely close to my heart (except for the rape scene, that's still too much). The way this film draws subtle parallels between the Halloween of Michael's childhood and the Halloween of his adulthood hint at a more cosmic presence, very much akin to the atmospheres of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) and I am here for it. 

Halloween II (Rob Zombie, 2009) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart
One of the modern masterpieces of American horror cinema and one of my favorite films of all time - shares a tie only with The Night of the Hunter (1955). Zombie's stripping down of established archetypes only to remold them into more nuanced human beings will never cease to amaze me. This film and its immediate predecessor combine for some of the most genuinely gripping and emotionally resonant cinema I've ever come across. 

The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars 
Had a much better time watching this one with my girlfriend than I did on my phone in a moving car a few years ago (17-year-old me was also very dumb). This is just such a bizarre film and its so fascinating and fun specificially because it is so bizarre. 

The Curse of the Werewolf (Terence Fisher, 1961) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars
I'm particularly drawn to werewolf stories in much the same way I'm so drawn to Shelley's Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde. I connect deeply with the guilt and self-loathing felt in the aftermath of outbursts and indulgences in one's anger. This film explores those feelings in a very unique way and I am so glad I finally watched it. 

Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars + Like/Heart 
One of the greatest films of all time. A piece of modern American folklore. A cinematic campfire story that feels pretty cozy for most of the way but leaves everyone quiet on the ride back home. Still hypnotizes me. 

Apostle (Gareth Evans, 2018) 
Letterboxd Rating: 5 Stars 
I'm really grateful that this one exists. I don't know if I've ever come across an original horror film that feels so much like it was adapted from a giant, bat-shit crazy 400-page folk-horror novel. But I enjoy the hell out of it every step of the way. 

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1982) 
Letterboxd Rating: 4 Stars 
So, I watched this on November 1st so this is technically cheating, but I don't care. I meant to watch it. I finally watched it. And it's a fun ride. It's definitely got some guts compared to a lot of other horror films. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: