October Horror Movie Challenge: 31 in 31.

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Welcome to the human race...
DAY 18

Zombieland: Double Tap
Ruben Fleischer, 2019


Several years after the zombie apocalypse happens, a tight-knit group of survivors must start traveling again when one of their number goes missing.

When doing October horror-watching last year, I found myself pondering whether a film centring around a horror staple like vampires should automatically qualify as horror regardless of how much it was actually trying to be horrifying - Queen of the Damned is ostensibly about an ancient vampire queen plotting the apocalypse but it seems much more concerned with its protagonist's rockstar career. 2009's Zombieland obviously involved the flesh-eating ghouls of the title, but they took something of a backseat to a shambolic road movie about a quartet of misfits who learned to trust one another and have fun in the midst of a desolate wasteland that frequently seemed to forget about the presence of zombies entirely. As such, I definitely questioned its claim to being a legitimate horror (especially when it cracked the Top 100 Horrors list over so many more deserving titles) and did not find its other qualities altogether endearing. So why bother with Double Tap, the long-gestating sequel that only seems to promise more of the same? Because even I had to concede that there is some shred of potential to its core concept of bickering leads travelling cross-country and fending off the undead in a comedic fashion and maybe - just maybe - the creators would've done something to refine proceedings into something I could genuinely enjoy.

Unfortunately, Double Tap is barely any better at fulfilling that potential than the original. The opening montages hint at various changes like evolving zombies that resemble Left 4 Dead's "special infected" or emotionally volatile characters like Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock {Abigail Breslin) getting restless with the stagnant status quo set up by decidedly more inflexible characters like Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) or Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), to say nothing of actually introducing more live characters for the group to rub up against (the standout being Zoey Deutch's airheaded Madison whose improbable survival is outdone only by her capacity for ditzy one-liners). Beyond that, the concept of Zombieland becoming clever parody simply by inverting zombie tropes is taken to a whole new level with so much of the plot resting on the backs of non-violent characters like Madison or the hippie commune that practises a particularly strict no-guns-allowed policy (much to the chagrin of our main heroes, especially gun-loving Florida man Tallahassee). Most zombie films will take it for granted that everyone who survives a decade into the zombie apocalypse will be used to killing to survive so I guess it is something to see how out-and-out pacifists would survive the zombie apocalypse (enough that I sort of want to see a whole movie about how they'd even make that work) but here it just comes across as an extremely contrived means of justifying all of Tallahassee's tendencies that drove Little Rock away in the first place and makes me question where this film's priorities truly lie.

It sucks, then, because in certain respects Double Tap does represent a significant upgrade from its predecessor. Bringing in Park Chan-wook's regular cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon gives this the slightest but most necessary elevation over the thoroughly flat shooting this could have had (there are at least a couple of notable long takes, one of which is a not-too-shabby brawl), which is a shame when the action is cut to ribbons as it is during one scene involving a coach liner. The film also understands the need to acquiesce to certain trappings of the zombie genre by allowing characters to get infected and become zombies, actually giving some weight to the proceedings that even the super-powered "T-800" zombies (because calling them "Terminator" zombies isn't specific enough, it seems) don't quite seem to manage on their own. Even small touches like that aren't enough to override the film's haphazard approach to comedy where everything is commented upon (including the endless comments) and self-referential cameos go into overdrive at multiple points as if the film lacks faith in its original material (most notably in a sequence involving a pair of uncanny doppelgangers). And why shouldn't it? This is very much a piecemeal script that shows its age not just through its dated jokes (even allowing for the film's world-ended-in-2009 milieu) but also through its more obviously updated aspects. Even if you show up for some fun zombie carnage, you're liable to be left wanting - even one scene referred to as the "Zombie Kill of the Year" just made me wish I was watching 1992's Dead Alive instead. That's Double Tap all over, really - there's virtually nothing here you couldn't get from watching (or even playing) most other pieces of pre-existing zombie-centric media and its distinguishing features tend to be for the worse.

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Welcome to the human race...
Good to see the other hates-everything-he-watches guy approves of my life choices, I guess.

Unlike MV, I don't even have the excuse of watching for HoFs or anything like that. I do this to myself on purpose.



October 17th




Happy Birthday to Me(1981) feels like a story where the writer had the ending first and then worked his way through to the beginning. It's just a dull fairly average film that didn't work for me. I doubt I'll remember anything about it 2 weeks from now. I could barely track the characters and the twists so that was a bit of an issue.






October 18th








Blood Moon (1990) this is an Australian slasher and basically an exploitation film first with it as a slasher second. It's a bad slasher it doesn't really have much in the way of a theme or solid concept. I did though enjoy it mostly because the killer is this schlubby cuckold who decides to take his sexual frustrations out on the young women and men in a catholic school.






Welcome to the human race...
DAY 19

The Keep
Michael Mann, 1983


In 1941, a squad of German soldiers are tasked with occupying a Romanian castle but soon learn that it is home to something sinister.

I'm kind of impressed that this is considered the irredeemable black sheep of Mann's filmography - even Blackhat has its ardent defenders, after all - but hey, I definitely had to see what would happen when this guy of all guys made a straight-up horror film (and one steeped in wartime atrocity at that). Unsurprisingly, I can't argue too strongly with those who would consider it a misfire - much of its entertainment value comes less from it being truly horrifying than from it being the kind of Pure Aesthetic lightshow that one might expect from someone who had previously directed the overtly stylish Thief (with another catchily foreboding score by Tangerine Dream to boot). It shows signs of a troubled production and being vastly cut down to a manageable length (Mann's original cut was apparently 210 minutes?!), but at least that means it moves at a clip and gets by on its most essential scenes. As for its actual content, I did like its story - it's not especially subtle in invoking how the malevolent forces contained within the keep are capable of mirroring the evils of the men who provoke it and preying upon those who could be considered to be good. At the very least, I wasn't bored with the proceedings.




October 19th






Welcome to Spring Break aka Nightmare Beach (1988) is one of these films where you wonder if the producers just spent the money on cocaine and tried to hook up with the actresses. Really if you think about what the people making this film likely appropriated it's kind of an awesome film. The plot is a killer biker is given the chair and a mysterious cyclist starts picking off spring breakers with electricity. The film has a pretty good score and a good percentage of the film is dedicated to wet T-shirt contests and bikini contests and just general nudity.


(it's really a one star movie but it's trashy fun)



DAY 19

The Keep
Michael Mann, 1983


In 1941, a squad of German soldiers are tasked with occupying a Romanian castle but soon learn that it is home to something sinister.

I'm kind of impressed that this is considered the irredeemable black sheep of Mann's filmography - even Blackhat has its ardent defenders, after all - but hey, I definitely had to see what would happen when this guy of all guys made a straight-up horror film (and one steeped in wartime atrocity at that). Unsurprisingly, I can't argue too strongly with those who would consider it a misfire - much of its entertainment value comes less from it being truly horrifying than from it being the kind of Pure Aesthetic lightshow that one might expect from someone who had previously directed the overtly stylish Thief (with another catchily foreboding score by Tangerine Dream to boot). It shows signs of a troubled production and being vastly cut down to a manageable length (Mann's original cut was apparently 210 minutes?!), but at least that means it moves at a clip and gets by on its most essential scenes. As for its actual content, I did like its story - it's not especially subtle in invoking how the malevolent forces contained within the keep are capable of mirroring the evils of the men who provoke it and preying upon those who could be considered to be good. At the very least, I wasn't bored with the proceedings.

I have a soft spot for The Keep as well. In the end it kinda fails to deliver but along the way the there's lots of positive stuff in it. Also it's one of the few war themed horrors that have somewhat unique stories so that's a big plus as well. It's been few years since I last saw it so not sure of my rating but I'd assume it would be around that same 3/5.
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#18 Livid (2011)

I wasn't too sure what to expect from Livid. It's made by New French Extremists behind Inside (which I haven't seen but I'm somewhat aware of its reputation), the streaming service I watched it from was quoting a review that referred to it as giallo inspired and majority of IMDb reviews I glanced were mostly just asking "WTF?".

It's pretty safe to say that Livid has elements that to a degree satisfy the expectations from all three points. It's violent (not necessarily if compared to New French Extremes), it has quite clear Argento influences (not his gialli though but his supernatural horrors like Suspiria) and it definitely doesn't bother to explain how or why some of the stuff happens.

Livid starts slow and while it's pretty clear from early on that it's about burglars getting more than they bargained for it's not exactly predictable. This comes at a cost though and there are aspects of the story that aren't given any explanation; it's like individual scenes seem more important than the whole (I do agree that some of the scenes are really nice and creepy). Too many (or wrong kind) unanswered questions weigh this down a bit which is a shame because Livid had a lot of potential.




28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
This year was a difficult one for me. I entered a script writing contest and the month of October we had to read all the entries and provide feedback. That's where most of my time has been. Since I only get free time from 9:00 PM till I go to sleep, my movie watching has sort of taken a backseat to that.

I still am keeping up to date on what everyone else is doing though and you guys rock.
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Suspect's Reviews



A system of cells interlinked
Harpoon

Grant, 2019





Didn't expect much from this, but it was a pretty taut little thriller. Three friends are stranded on a yacht, tensions and suspicious percolate and then boil over, after which a melee ensues. A fair amount of effective comedy puts this into the horror comedy genre, but that doesn't detract from the tension.


Children of the Corn

Kiersch, 1984





Not as terrible as some King adaptations, but still not great. I remember liking this more when I was young, but it doesn't hold up well. Courtney Gaines is still fun to watch as Malachi, but overall, this is sort of a boring affair.


Wolfen

Wadleigh, 1981





While the film makers were clearly attempting to create a classic, a slightly confused screenplay and a muddled message bring this one down. The cinematography is measured and creative, Albert Finney is on the screen, and Edward James Olmos appears in a odd turn as a sort of shamanistic Native American, the overall thrust of the proceedings comes off in an abstruse manner. I like this film, but it could have been better with a few tweaks. Kudos to the effects guys for creating the precursor to the predator vision effects and really the overall approach to something stalking people with enhanced senses.


Brightburn

Yarovesky, 2019





I had heard plenty of bad things about this, but ended up liking a bit more than I thought I would going in. The acting is a step up from you usual horror fair, and I liked that it pushed back on the now tired superhero genre. I like that it didn't play the epic card, focusing mostly on the character play. A bit too gory for my taste, but not a terrible flick.
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A system of cells interlinked
Whoops, forgot one...

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Siegal, 1956





Fantastic stuff. I waffle back and forth on whether or not I like this more than the 1978 remake. I definitely like the end of the 70s version more, but this one is pure class.



Welcome to the human race...
DAY 20

The Company of Wolves
Neil Jordan, 1984


A young woman is warned by her grandmother about the dangers posed by wolves who live in the forest.

A decade before giving the vampire genre one of its most lavishly pseudo-revisionist renditions with Interview with the Vampire, Neil Jordan offered a similar take on the werewolf genre, albeit one that ultimately builds on a simple hypothesis - what if the wolves that were such a staple of old folk tales were all actually werewolves? A simple idea - almost too simple as much of the story revolves around retelling the story of Red Riding Hood but with extra stories about wolves woven into the mix (most of which are told to Red Riding Hood by her grandmother), making this feel awfully protracted across ninety-odd minutes. As with Interview, eventually it's more enjoyable to marvel at the production design than the actual meat at the story, which I suppose is trying to underscore the cautionary nature of the original tales by interrogating how much they end up restricting women and creating situations where someone like Red Riding Hood or the other story protagonists might push back against their damsel roles. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate into a particularly compelling movie and I just have to shrug it off as another attempt at doing a subversive fairytale movie that's got the right idea but struggles to really make me care.




I remember having to watch that and read The Bloody Chamber (we were studying women in literature and Angela Carter was one of them) for English at college. I remember it causing a bit of a stir in the 80's, but I couldn't see what the fuss was about. Not that that should be a surprise to anyone here.



When I was a kid I liked The Company of Wolves a lot but it's got worse on every rewatch. There are some nice scenes but it's not much of a movie. I think I gave it 2/5 as well on latest viewing.



#19 Fright Night (1985)

Horror comedy and tribute to both Hammer horror and Dracula films in general. I'm not usually a fan of horror comedies and while Fright Night is easily above average as such it's still very mediocre movie. For me the biggest issue was writing; vampire's behavior makes no sense (drawing that much attention on purpose seems suicidal) and most of the tributes felt forced. Also Evil was extremely annoying character even for an 80s teen movie. Marcy D'Arcy looked kinda hot though.




Welcome to the human race...
DAY 21

Silent Hill
Christophe Gans, 2006


A woman takes her troubled adopted daughter to what she believes to be the daughter's hometown but soon discovers that the entire town is haunted.

I think this earns so much of its reputation as one of the best videogame movies (if not the best) simply for not trying to be an action movie like the others, playing to a whole different set of expectations as a result. Having never played a Silent Hill game and watched this twice, I question how much it really does work as its own thing. As I learned while watching Brotherhood of the Wolf last year, Gans really seems to have trouble with pacing - this definitely doesn't feel like it needs to go past the two-hour mark. The entire sub-plot with Sean Bean's character, while ultimately necessary to the whole film, really could use some tightening as its running parallel to Radha Mitchell's already-protracted A-plot only serves to drag out proceedings for the sake of frequently clumsy (and possibly redundant) exposition. Beyond that, the attempts to render the eponymous locale as it alternates between foggy ghost town and scorched hell-hole are relatively well-realised even though that rarely translates into effective horror no matter how many instances of creepy monsters and mutilated flesh get thrown at the screen - if anything, this tends to be more effective when it's not actively trying to terrify or sicken. As such, I can respect the work put into realising the atmosphere of Silent Hill (and it has a solid score to boot) but I don't think this really gains anything a second time around. While I appreciate that it tries to be different from your average videogame movie and technically succeeds, I don't think that clearing one of the lowest cinematic bars in existence necessarily makes this good.