Posts Tagged ‘October Horror’

Rather than subject you guys to weeks of drawn-out “Here are the horror movies I watched this year” posts, I thought I’d bang them out all at once.

The Fog – I was really excited for this movie to be about pirate-ghosts, and was hugely let down when it turned out to be about leper-ghosts. I don’t know why. Though I’m sure Braak could break it down for us.
On the upside, I would like Adrienne Barbeau to narrate everything now, please.  (more…)

A Hierarchy of Monsters

Posted: October 28, 2009 in Braak
Tags: , ,

Over at io9, they’re doing another one of those “who would win?” voting contests, this time between classic horror monsters.  This is, obviously, madness–the general population is ignorant as to the nature and danger of assorted monsters, and consequently their opinions on the potency of those monsters is suspect.  This is evidenced by the very first competition:  “Zombie versus Mummy,” in which Zombies won by about 30%.

This is nonsense, and it needs to be rectified.  I am going to explain the order that the monsters go in, so that it can be settled.  In the future, if your children ask you, “Who would win in a fight?  The Mummy or the Wolf-Man?” please refer them to this list, as it will save a lot of time.


Welcome to my fourth annual October horror movie extravaganza, (“Stomping Around in the alien1Dark IV: The Stompening!”). Every October, I get together a list of well-regarded (and not-so-much) horror and sci-fi flicks that I was never allowed to watch as a kid (and avoided in favor of detective movies as a teen), to see if A) they’re any good, and B) if they’re actually scary.

The reason I do this is because one night I got stood up. I did what anyone in this situation might: I moped around the house. Unfortunately, moping when there is no one around to watch you being miserable is sort of like just being an asshole at yourself, so I decided I needed a distraction.

Alien Vs. Predator (heh, I accidentally mistyped “Alien Loves Predator”) was onDemand. And as I sat through 85 interminable, baffling, borderline incompetent minutes of this utter piece of crap movie, it dawned on me – I’d never seen the original Alien.


There are no monsters in The Signal. There’s just us.

As zombies have come back into vogue, it’s become standard in movies to develop a new angle (“What if zombies were fast?”, etc.). When The Signal started off by infecting an entire city via a bizarre transmission through the TV, radio, and telephones, I thought, “OK, cute twist, being made zombies by our own technology.”

Then, ten minutes later I found myself quite proud of the movie for not using this as an explanation for zombies, but rather for a violent mass psychosis. This is different. As one character explains it:

“People going crazy in their head all over. At first, it’s just murder. The crazy, you know, kill anybody, everybody, each other, indiscriminate. It looks like chaos. But then I realize they’re thinking. Then I get really scared because it’s rational. They know what they’re doing. I mean, they think it makes sense, but it doesn’t make any sense. It’s different for everybody. Let me tell you, they are going to fucking murder the world.”

Suddenly we realize we’re not watching a “survive against monsters” movie. We’re watching what happens when everyone goes mad at the same time.


A young couple is staying at a secluded family cabin after a wedding – and after a rebuffed proposal by the boyfriend. So things are…tense. They are made decidedly more tense when a silent, masked trio targets them for a terror campaign. They spend the entire night meticulously working the couple’s nerves with a series of physical and psychological attacks, until morning brings the inevitable confrontation.

“This isn’t a horror film,” says director Bryan Bertino of his movie, “It’s a terror film.” And he is absolutely right. The Strangers is a film entirely concerned with terrifying its audience, and in that sense, it’s very effective.


Jaime had suggested Dolls, a horror movie that scared her when she was young. And the premise – killer porcelain dolls – is one that easily gives me the willies.

(There was this show when I was little, “Tales from the Dark Side.” It was so scary to me, as a four-year-old, that the credits alone gave me nightmares. In particular was this quick-zoom up to the face of a porcelain doll, who opened her eyes right as the music vamped up. Scared the crap out of me.)

So I had a good feeling that Dolls would push those irrational-fear buttons I look for in horror movies.

It took me ten minutes to realize it was a comedy. It took me 20 (and IMDB) to realize it was horror-comedy by the guy who directed Re-Animator. And only after learning that did I decide to soldier on through another hour of vaudevillian acting, silly special effects, and a plot that went for cutesy fun (something about finding your inner child…or else!) when it had the potential for real scary moments.

A week after watching, and I’m still trying to figure out just what didn’t work with John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness.

It’s a great idea for a story: an author, equal parts Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, has somehow managed to inflict his horrific imagination upon the world at large. Or maybe it’s all his publisher’s grand hoax. It’s up to insurance investigator Sam Neill to figure out the truth and its consequences.

The problems start with Sam Neill as the cynical investigator. I spent too much of the movie distracted by his occasionally disappearing accent. Sometimes he sounds like his own Australian self, sometimes he sounds like he’s putting on a crap Brooklyn accent, and sometimes it falls in the middle.

It’s a weird distraction not at all helped by his co-star Julie Carmen, who chose exactly the moment my girlfriend woke up from a nap to watch the rest of the movie with me to start acting…well, like a shitty actress who didn’t know what she was doing.

What separates “The Blob” from the 200-odd movies featured on “Mystery Science Theater”? In two words…quality control.

It’s not a scary movie, it doesn’t have an awesome budget, and in its first half-hour, it tends to meander a bit before getting back to the plot.

The Plot, such as it is: blob attacks old man in the woods, then the doctor who’s treating him, then disappears for a long stretch of movie, while Steve McQueen and the gang go looking for it. Then all of Phoenixville tries their best to kill it, proclaiming the situation hopeless after each attempt.

I always think back to something MST3K’s Tom Servo said regarding movies like this: “To be fair, the producers weren’t really expecting anyone to be watching the movie by this point – everyone was supposed to be making out by now.”

The Day the Earth Stood Still is generally regarded as a “hippie” sci-fi film. And on the face of it, that’s true. But there’s a darker agenda under the surface.

The story is about an alien who shows up in the middle of Washington, D.C. and says, “I need you humans to come together and listen to my important message of universal peace,” only to have the designated government official respond, “Hoo-boy, did YOU not get the memo about how we handle things on this planet.”

As the alien Klaatu, Michael Rennie’s response is an expression of beatific condescension, a look that says, “You stupid apes just aren’t picking up what I’m laying down here, are you?”

Scaaary Old Man

Scaaary Old Man

It’s a cold, boring day at the office, so I’m going to talk about H. P. Lovecraft again. Because that’s my thing.

Here’s something interesting:  Lovecraft is widely-recognized as a genius of horror.  His books all have pull quotes from Stephen King and Clive Barker, introductions by Robert Bloch and Joyce Carol Oates and Neil Gaiman, and are adorned with descriptors like “legendary master of the macabre.”

Personally, though, I’ve only ever found three of his stories to be especially creepy.