It’s only the first part of October and as far as the movies are concerned Halloween is upon us. Perhaps it’s in honor of the midterm elections—which certainly have all the elements of Halloween—but it seems that this is the most Halloween-centered October in living memory. Well, certainly the most in my living memory. Starting with the October 1 releases, there are no less than nine horror pictures slated to appear—like genii from the bottle—by Halloween. This doesn’t even take into account special showings and TV screenings. I’m not complaining, mind you, but it does seem unusual.
There’s the possibility that the best of the new releases has already happened with Matt Reeves’ Let Me In this weekend. There’s also the possibility that local screens won’t be graced by Hatchet II and I Spit on Your Grave: Unrated (yes, “Unrated” appears to be part of the title). I’m not sure that I’d have any great trouble bearing up under those omissions myself, but there’s likely someone out there who’s actually all a-dither over the prospect of them. Anyway, let’s take at least a furtive look at what lies in store for the spooky season.
As it stands at this writing, the only one of the new movies I’ve seen is the aforementioned Let Me In, and since I’m reviewing it, I won’t go into it in any detail here—except to note that it at least doesn’t disgrace the 2008 Swedish Let the Right One In, which it remakes (perhaps too faithfully). Sometime this weekend I’ll catch up with Case 39—the long-delayed thriller with Renee Zellweger, Ian McShane and Bradley Cooper. Yeah, it’s been pretty consistently flayed by the handful of critics who’ve bothered to review it. Certainly director Christian Alvart’s Pandorum (2009) doesn’t help to make a persuasive case for the film, nor do the occasional comparisons I’ve seen to Orphan (2009). However, the promise of Bradley Cooper puking wasps is not without its appeal, and I simply don’t trust horror movie reviews. Why? Mainstream critics tend to be impressed by the damndest things and genre-specific critics are too often like cheerleaders doling out praise simply because it’s a horror picture.
That said, I can work up no interest whatever in the low-rent Chain Letter, which smacks of amateur night (that’s usually the case when Carmike Cinemas pick up a horror film). The plot—to the degree I can understand it—sounds like rubbish and the production values appear to be marginal at best. I admit that Brian Orndorf’s review in which he claims that director Deon Taylor is “arguably the worst director of 2010” is tantalizing in its way. It isn’t, however, tantalizing enough to keep me from awarding co-critic Justin Souther the pleasure of this one. He’ll thank me ere the weekend is out, I suspect.
There’s possible value in Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take, which opens next weekend. Granted, Craven is awfully hit or miss and the misses tend to outpace the hits. For that matter, using 3D as a hook is about a half-dozen movies late to be impressive— and I’m being generous. Still, the concept—a serial killer stalking some kids who were born on the day he was supposedly killed—has a nicely Nightmare on Elm Street-ish vibe to it. While that may not be original, it’s at least territory that Craven is expert at exploring. Maybe I just want Craven to make another good movie for old time’s sake. Whatever the reason, I’m on his side till he proves I shouldn’t be.
Unless one of the limited titles—Hatchet II or I Spit on Your Grave: Unrated—goes wider, it looks like the only thing horrific for the week of the 15th is Jackass 3D, and while I don’t doubt for a moment that it’ll be horrifying (hell, it’s horrifying that it was made), it’s not technically a horror picture. But on the 22nd we get two shots of the supernatural and it seems unlikely the two films in question could be more different.
Paranormal Actvity was the surprise seasonal hit of 2009—famous as the movie that derailed the Saw franchise by knocking the wind out of Saw VI and turning a huge profit. Of course, since it cost somewhere around a buck and a quarter to make, there was little chance it wouldn’t make money. It really wasn’t all that scary of a movie, but the shrewd ad campaign managed to make viewers spook themselves into believing it was—at least, that’s my theory. A sequel was inevitable and here it comes—complete with a heavily-guarded plot. About all we know is that it features the apparently possessed Katie Featherston character is back onhand. Well, we also know that Paramount is giving the finger to Lionsgate by opening Paranormal Activity 2 the week before Saw 3D: The Final Chapter.
In a completely different realm, there’s Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter from a screenplay by Peter Morgan (The Queen) and starring Matt Damon, Cecile De France and Bryce Dallas Howard. Yes, it’s certainly a story involving the supernatural, but it’s doubtful that it will qualify as an outright horror film. Being an Eastwood film, it will almost certainly be the polar opposite of Paranormal Activity 2—glossy, professional-looking and slick. I’m far from convinced that it’s going to be horrific, but I’m intrigued by the possibility of Eastwood—especially at this late date in his career—dabbling in the genre. We’ll see.
The 29th is reserved for Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, which promises to be the last Saw movie—according to the trailer anyway. I put no stock whatever in the title. Remember there were seven movies following in the wake of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)—and that was before the damned thing got “rebooted.” So will this really be the end of the Howdy Doody from hell and his Rube Goldberg instruments of torture and death? My best guess is that it all depends on how well this one fares. And if this doesn’t do all that well—hey just pick another potentially lethal tool and start all over again. While I think we can rule out Dremel and Belt Sander as possibilities, Cleaver kind of appeals to me. It could star Jerry Mathers, too.
This, however, only takes in the commercial offerings. The Asheville Film Society offering for Halloween week (on Oct. 26) is the 1939 Bob Hope version of The Cat and the Canary, which is appropriately seasonal. And that week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show (on Oct. 28) is a double feature of Michael Curtiz’s Doctor X (1932) and Tod Browning’s Mark of the Vampire (1935)—two films that really represent a classic Halloween feeling to me. Of course, it’s not horror, but it is what’s called “cinema of the fantastic” on Oct. 29 with the AFS showing of the complete version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), which is booked for one show only at The Carolina at 7:30 p.m. (Details about tickets are coming.)
Even the Hendersonville Film Society is getting in on the action, but they have the good (?) luck to find their Sunday showing actually falling on Halloween proper. With that to work from, how could they really ignore the opportunity? Well, whether they could or not, they aren’t and are running Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie (1943)—an undisputed classic of the genre and a strong contender for the best of the Val Lewton produced horror pictures of the 1940s. Don’t be fooled by the silly catchpenny title, this is mood atmospheric stuff.
And for those who prefer to do it all at home, Turner Classic Movies has gone quite berserk in the matter. It started last night with a run of Hammer vampire movies, which they followed with the ludicrous Psychomania (1973) and the trashy and tepid Daughters of Satan (1972) in which a young—and pretty inept—Tom Selleck plays a character so dim that he kind of deserves to die. (As a Brit sports car enthusiast, I’d say he at least deserved a good talking to over the tacky custom paintjob on the late 1950s MGA he drives.) The movie is, in fact, so bad that it could easily be mistaken for a TV “Movie of the Week” except for the grauitous topless women.
It doesn’t stop there. TCM’s Friday night schedules on Oct. 8, 15 and 22—and then on Oct. 29 it becomes non-stop horror through Halloween. This means 44 horror movies in a row. If that’s not enough to get even the staunchest horror fan through the weekend, I don’t know what is. But just in case it’s somehow not enough, there may be more yet to be announced. There’s at least one more thing in the works, but we’ll have to wait on that.