Every Halloween Day I choose to write up a movie that I deem special. One that has ideal Halloween merit (at least in my eyes.) This year I decided on something slightly different than what I’ve done in the past. Every year up until now I’ve chosen a pretty well known film, either a staple of the genre, or a perennial Halloween classic. This year I decided to choose one of my all time personal pleasures, and what I think could quite possibly be one of the most under-appreciated horror films of the 70’s (or any time period actually). This year I give you the gem that is Tourist Trap. I LOVE this movie. It is so bizarre and so fantastic, that I’ve made it my goal here to spread the good word to as many folks as I can outside of the horror realm who may not even know of this film’s existence. The premise is a solid horror staple. A group of teens on a road trip has their vehicle break down in the middle of nowhere Americana. They come across a nice old man who offers to help them and takes them back to his place. Oh, but his place just happens to be a homemade museum full of creepy mannequins. Yep. Mannequins. Plus, the man has a crazy brother that has a pension for murdering people. And to make things even worse, the damn mannequins seem to come to life. What the hell is going on here? Well, there’s someone with telekinetic powers. Creepy mannequins. A masked sociopath named Davey. Creepy mannequins. Amazing acting by classic western actor Chuck Connors. Creepy mannequins. A dark and eerie atmosphere that engulfs you from the very beginning. Oh, and did I mention the creepy ass mannequins??? Yep, that’s what this film is about – the mannequins. These babies are absolutely haunting. Their off-kilter appearance makes you wonder, “is there actually a dead body under there?” Every time one turns his head, opens its eyes, or even worse… speaks or laughs, it shivers your spine. I’ll make you this deal. Watch the opening sequence of this movie. If you aren’t completely unnerved and intrigued by the first 5 minutes or so, then feel free to move on. But I guarantee that as soon as those mannequins start to cackle their horrific high-pitch cackles, you’re sold on this film. This movie is unnerving, bonkers, and amazing. It’s a perfect film of the time period, even including a pre-Charlie’s Angels Tanya Roberts. The score nails it, adding an entire extra layer of awesome. And just wait until the final frame of the film. It’ll haunt you, I guarantee. I’m telling you, Tourist Trap really needs more attention. It deserves a place in the upper echelon of horror flicks, which is why I decided to make it my extra special Halloween choice for 2016. Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy.
Well freaks, that does it for 2016’s October Horror Picks. I hope you had as much fun as I did. So many movies. So many scares. Many of you agreed with my choices. And just as many disagreed. That’s what art is all about. I love it. Thanks everyone. Have a great November and beyond. See you in 2017!
Damn you, James Wan. How do you keep this up? Every single horror film you work on is directed better than your previous effort. It almost hurts me how good you are at your craft. The Conjuring 2 is your latest example. Oh man, I loved the first Conjuring. LOVED. It was so classic, so amazing, and so downright scary, that I didn’t think a sequel stood a chance at holding any weight against it. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Conjuring 2 is practically a perfect sequel to the Conjuring. I go back and forth on whether I like this one or the original better, and I swear I can’t decide. It takes everything that worked in the first one and ups the ante to an insane and intelligent degree. It’s still got the classic feel. It’s still got great characters that you actually care about. And it still has countless scares that jolt the living shit out of you. The story here continues the exploits of the Lorraine and Ed Warren, the paranormal investigators. This time it takes them overseas to England to help out a single mother and her family from another horrific spirit. Most movies would be perfectly fine focusing on this storyline, but not The Conjuring 2. It adds more spirits into the mix, as well as a parallel storyline for the Warrens themselves. I swear this film has a little bit of everything. And can we talk about the terrifying nun? Dear God some of the scenes with the nun are stone-cold haunting. In fact, this entire movie brings the dread to such an insane level that I found myself gripping the armrests in the theater the entire time. My fingers were numb afterward. Wan builds so much suspense, mixed with sections of pure unnerving horror, that even when nothing is happening you’re freaked out that something is any second. Basically you’re never at ease. That, my friend, is the epitome of well-made horror. We’re so lucky as horror fans, and fans of movies period, to have these Conjuring films. I know there are more spinoffs coming, which is fine I guess, but let’s maybe hope that James Wan has ooooone more adventure with the Warrens left in him. I can’t wait to see how he decides to one up himself yet again.
Time for another one of my guilty pleasures. Actually, I take that back. I don’t think I have to call it guilty, because this movie rocks. The 1988 Blob is an updated remake of The Blob from 1958 starring badass Steve McQueen. This time around Kevin Dillon takes over that role. Yeah, I know Johnny Drama doesn’t quite hold a candle to Bullitt. But in this 80’s universe, Dillon fits right in. Plus, you’ve got genre favorite Shawnee Smith as well. Oh, and did I mention this was directed by Chuck Russell, and co-written by Frank Darabont? Yep, pretty sweet. The basic plot is essentially the same. Meteor falls to Earth containing some kind of pink goo, and suddenly it starts engulfing everyone that stands in its way. The more people it eats, the larger it gets. Simple and awesome. This updated version is an amalgamation of a 50’s old tyme monster movie and an 80’s horror-gore flick. To me it’s the perfect little combo. It’s still got all the awesome campiness of the old school, mixed with the state-of-the-art practical gore effects of the time. Let’s be honest, when you talk about The Blob, you’re talking about the special effects. And holy dog shit, they are amazing. The stop motion effects of the blob are just as campy as you’d think, but the gore it creates far surpasses anything you expect. See, this time around the blob isn’t happy just eating you. This time the blob is going to melt your skin, eat your bones, break you in half, and basically turn you into a viscous pile of goo. This blob is a masochistic sociopath. There are so many amazing gore effects that I don’t even know where to begin. Should I start with the bum’s corroding half-body, the melting sewer child, the phone booth exploding woman, or the poor man pulled down the garbage disposal? I can’t decide. And trust me, that’s just touching the surface. The Blob is awesome fun. If you want to just have a goofy good time and enjoy some amazing 80’s gore, this really is the whole package. Just jump in and let it engulf you.
Yes, I’m aware this one is not out for home viewing yet. But I put this absolutely incredible film on here for a few reasons. First, this list comes to its 2016 end in only a few days (*sniff) and I figured it’d be a nice thing to do to put something on here that you could look forward to watching in the next month or so. It’s forward thinking, people! But mainly, I couldn’t help myself because this film FREAKING ROCKS YOUR WORLD. Just when you thought you were done with zombies, and that well had been drained of all originality and substance at this point, along comes Train to Busan. Train to Busan is like a shot of adrenaline that never lets up. The story follows a father taking his daughter on a high-speed bullet train to Busan. But unbeknownst to them, well, the entire country around them has broken down into chaos. Some kind of virus turns people rabid and sadly one of them has gotten on to the train. What follows is an insane zombie roller coaster ride that never lets you catch you breath. There’s a great array of well fleshed out characters from all classes of people, young and old, rich and poor. There’s definitely a class warfare aspect to this film, which adds an interesting layer. If some of this sounds familiar, it should. There are many similarities here to another amazing Korean train movie, Snowpiercer. But that’s a good thing because I LOVED that film. The zombies here are extremely fast paced like 28 Days Later or World War Z, but they disturbingly creak and contort like jacked-up marionette puppets. It’s a hauntingly simple twist on the normal zombie and it works in spades. Plus, the sheer amount of zombies attacking in hordes, literally piling on top of each other in rabid insanity, makes for some incredible visuals and some insane suspense. Mark my words on this one — see it immediately. It’s worth every second of your time and just SO good. When Korea does a movie right, they REALLY do it right. I absolutely love Train to Busan and can’t recommend it enough.
Yep, it’s time. It’s time I finally put Monster Squad up in this bitch. This baby is one of those childhood classics that will always stick with me no matter what. I know I’m not the only child of the 80’s that has a connection to this flick. I mean, how couldn’t you? It’s basically The Goonies, but with monsters. “SIGN ME UP!” says 10-year-old Jeff. The premise is about a bunch of kids in a monster club who calls themselves into action when the real monsters suddenly show up in their town. Versions of Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and even The Creature from the Black Lagoon are all on board here. The effects were all famously done by Stan Winston, and are some great variations on the classics. It’s childish fun, but with some oddly adult 80’s flair thrown in. In fact, I rewatched it recently and, wow, it’s amazing how unbelievably un-PC this flick is. It makes me remember all the phrases and insults that kids used to say to each other back then. Gay slurs and fat jokes run rampant. This aspect of this film is a little cringe-worthy by today’s standards, but in the 80’s it was just par for the course. But getting that out of the way, the movie itself is still a rollicking good 80’s childhood throwback. It’s silly. It’s goofy. It’s got an AMAZING 80’s music montage that rules. It’s got awkward conversations about who’s a virgin, and discussions about “Wolfman nards.” The 80’s pedigree is solid. It’s directed by Fred Dekker, who did one of my other 80’s favorites Night of the Creeps. Plus it’s written by both Dekker and Shane Black for hell’s sake. God bless Shane Black. At just over 80 minutes, Monster Squad is quick and to the point. I love sub-90 minute movies. LOVE. Enjoy yourself a bizarre, childish yet adult, un-PC trip down nostalgia lane. It’s just a good time.
Here’s another gem that came out of nowhere for me. It’s such an amazing feeling when I hear absolutely nothing about a movie, yet notice one of my favorite actors in it, check it out blindly, and I’m completely wowed by it. That’s exactly what happened here. I Am Not a Serial Killer is a little low budget, down and dirty Irish film, that just happens to be so unique it hurts. When a movie feels fresh and enters into unseen territory nowadays, don’t take that lightly. It’s not an easy thing to do in today’s day and age. This film is about a teenage boy that has been diagnosed with “sociopathic tendencies.” In essence, he’s obsessed with serial killers, and is convinced that he himself is eventually going to turn into one. We follow his confusion, his struggles, and his total unease with his own self. It’s a really fantastic character study unto itself. But then things get even trickier when a serial killer has apparently entered his small snowy town and a body count begins to add up. To say any more from here would be a complete travesty to the film. Because figuring out exactly where it’s going to go is part of the fun. The story is intriguing. The character development is extraordinary. And the acting is top notch. I mentioned that I noticed one of my favorite actors was in this? Well, that just happens to be Christopher Lloyd. And this just may be his greatest performance. How people are not talking about this film, and his performance in it, is mind-boggling to me. He is so incredible as the boy’s elderly next door neighbor. The range you see from him almost makes you completely forget about Doc Brown (almost.) Anyway, trust me on this one. Just watch without any previous knowledge and go along the journey blindly. It’s a seriously engrossing adventure.
Every once in a while a movie comes out that is SO niche and SO insane that it blows me away how it even got made. Luckily for me the insane niche that this movie tackles just happens to be one of my all time favorite subjects. I’m talking about Italian giallo cinema. The Editor is both a total parody, and at the same time an absolute celebration, of one of horror’s greatest subgenres. If you’ve seen any Dario Argento or Mario Bava movies at all, you at least have an inkling of what you’re in store for with this film. Holy crap, I love The Editor. At times while watching it I felt like it was tailor made for me. But you should know ahead of time that this is a TOTAL niche film and is definitely not for everyone. I would guess the majority of people will have no clue what the hell this movie is trying to do, and dismiss it entirely. So be it. For the rest of us, we’re in giallo heaven. Honestly, I’m finding myself at a loss of where to even begin talking about this movie to a general audience. Hmm, well, let’s start with saying that Italian giallo’s have some very specific aspects to them. There’s a lot of sex. There’s a lot of violence. There’s a lot of sexy violence, as well as violent sex. The whodunit mystery plots usually revolve around a serial killer, usually killing women, and usually black gloved. There’s a ton of bold color saturation, insane lighting, hyper-realistic camera moves and some insane visuals. Oh, and let’s not forget about the bad English dubbing (and acting). The Editor has all of this in spades, including the bad English dubbing! Oh man, this film is hilarious. It is so violent there are moments that give early Peter Jackson a run for his money. But the violence is so over the top, it hardly seems real at all. This film is about an editor that was supposedly the best in the world before he had a nervous breakdown and cut off all his fingers. Now he was unable to edit anymore and finds himself working on sleazy films to make ends meet. But when people on the production start dying all around him, he becomes the key suspect. It’s just amazing how apt this movie is at playing with the genre it’s mocking. But the filmmakers obvious love giallo films, because even when it’s making fun of them, you can tell it’s because they love them. Look, there’s hardly anything else I can say about this insane movie. If you love giallos, have a warped sense of humor, and don’t cringe at a ton of violence, sex and nudity, then you’re in for a treat. Oh, and Udo Kier has a small part too, as if you needed any more reason to watch.