Running Ravenous Monster is a passion project. It costs time. It costs money. It requires labor. The reward is writing about a topic I love for an audience I appreciate. I enjoy it because, like you, I’m a horror fan through and through. So, when October rolls around I get insanely happy and insanely busy in equal measure.
Of course, there are a million new movies to cover. However, I’m also a family man, and my daughter goes Halloween-haywire too, so I make sure to facilitate her enjoyment to the best of my ability. And my wife is no stranger to horror-nerd proclivities, herself. So, to say our Octobers are booked full is an understatement.
But I do still need some me-time.
Every October, I participate in a private 31 Days of Horror group comprised of underground genre filmmakers, writers, critics, and podcasters. It’s become one of the things I look forward to most about Halloween season. For the entire month social media stops being an insufferable wasteland–festering away while fomenting the end of democracy and depressing the masses–and it becomes the thriving community its potential has alluded to since the mid-aughts (mostly). For these 31 days, I get to interact with some real freaks, weirdos, sickos, and outsiders. In other words, I’m among my favorite, like-minded people, and it’s a blast.
The idea is to watch a movie each day of October and then share your immediate impression of it with the group in a short post. I almost never complete the entire challenge because it’s difficult to watch 31 movies in 31 days, no matter what the circumstances. But this year—so far—I’ve come close, and that’s meant that I’ve watched what scientists refer to as “a shit-ton” of horror flicks.
This year’s movies run the gamut from the biggest, newest releases—which are first-time viewings for all of us—to things I’ve watched every year since the early-‘80s. My daughter, who’s eight, was bound and determined to watch some “real” horror with me this year, and my wife always has a few picks as well. So, I’ve consumed a bit of every strain, flavor, and era of horror cinema this month and I figured, why the hell not share some of the high- (and low-) lights with you all?
The following are my immediate impressions of some of the films I’ve watched so far this month (it’s Oct. 27 as I write this). These are entirely informal. In fact, they’re overly informal. They are not revised, or ruminated upon, or polished by the clarity of retrospection. Some of them barely make sense! To put it another way, these are unfiltered movie reactions from your Editor-in-Chief that were never intended for you to read. Don’t say I didn’t warn you….
Have fun, Horror Fans, and Happy Halloween!
A QUIET PLACE PART II
This was a wife/husband watch. We saw the first one in the theater and enjoyed it well enough. Serious props to Jim Halpert.
This one was enjoyable, too.
It adheres to a standard sequel formula by loosely recreating the original movie beat by beat, but creatively twisting or broadening the scope of each beat, so that we end up with a bigger, crazier version of what worked the first time. In theory, at least.
And that’s fine, but I think I enjoyed it a bit more the first time, before we already knew the “rules” of this story.
Also, I am not a fan of this level, or style, or whatever of CGI. Those elements didn’t look good.
Otherwise, this was not a bad way to spend a couple hours.
I went into this one 100% cold–no trailers, no commercials, not even a tag line. I knew exactly three things: it’s called Barbarian, it involves an Airbnb, and it’s generating buzz.
I won’t write too much because I thought it was great, but I suspect that the less you know, the better.
I found it legitimately creepy at points. It’s occasionally darkly funny, but just enough to balance the griminess of the rest of it. It unapologetically takes a few tried and true tropes and spits them out in a completely unexpected, extremely effective way.
I found it to be a solidly gnarly, true horror film and I highly recommend it.
My daughter and I were at Spirit Halloween a couple weeks ago and she saw their line of Beetlejuice merchandise which piqued her interest.
Like many of you, I’ve seen this a million times, beginning when it was in theaters. The last time was probably 20 years ago.
It’s still fun. It’s a tight movie with, for my tastes, just the right amount of Tim Burton-ness included. While I certainly appreciate his “thing,” the older I’ve gotten, the less I enjoy his directorial thumbprint all over every pixel of every frame.
Sidenote: I’d love to see him tackle something that’s 100% aesthetically and tonally different than the rest of his canon. I think that would yield fascinating results.
My wife, like me, has seen this lots and she enjoyed it again this time. My daughter loved it. And bottom line, Michael Keaton is a pleasure to watch in anything.
Tonight felt like a good time to jump in my time machine and throw this in the VCR.
An ultra-low-budget contemporary of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but even more directly inspired by the Ed Gein situation that went down in the land of beer and cheese a couple decades earlier.
This one is an all-time favorite of mine. It features super early, gnarly Tom Savini effects, loads of proverbial cheese, and a grimy vibe that can’t be replicated on purpose. My copy has a weird little Gein documentary included.
Fun fact: I ate an unusually large amount of various smoked meats during this viewing. It somehow felt a little diabolical. Also, predictive text wants ‘diabolical’ to be ‘diabetic’ and now I’m really freakin’ out….
At some point I’ll get back to watching movies I haven’t seen before, but first…another favorite….
British soldiers expecting to rendezvous with a Special Ops team while on a training exercise deep in the Scottish Highlands find themselves under siege by A PACK OF FUCKING WEREWOLVES!!!
WHAT?!!! Yeah, that’s right.
[By merely typing those words, a kaiju of 10-year-old me sprang into existence in an alternate universe and is destroying a city. Shame.]
As if that isn’t enough to pique your interest, one of the most fascinating things about this production is watching a neophyte Neil Marshall learn how to be outstanding by figuring out how to make an ambitious werewolf movie with a dearth of resources and experience.
He rides the chops of his outstanding ensemble cast, featuring some faces that rose to prominence later in Game of Thrones, and his great script to create what for me is everything I could ever want in a wolfman flick.
It’s definitely a test run for The Descent, but with dudes and lycanthropes. I love it. I highly recommend it.
This was another daughter pick. Back in September, I showed her a bunch of trailers for classic horror flicks. She was really intrigued by the trailer for this, and she’s been begging to see it ever since.
I figured, of all the slasher classics, this one has the least blood and fewest boobs, so we went for it. By the time we got to Act Three, she was cracking jokes to diffuse the tension like an old pro.
My opinion of this one goes without saying. But I did note that after all these years, it’s really starting to feel incredibly tame by the modern standards of not only horror movies but even genre TV shows. It’s also remarkable just how many horror movie tropes were born here.
Great movie. Fun night.
I’ll keep it brief. The two most surprising things for me were:
I had extremely low expectations and even so, this managed to come up profoundly short of them.
There’s an objectively talented group of filmmakers behind this franchise entrusted with the monumental task of somehow tying a bow around this thing to one extent or another, and of all the myriad ways to do it, somehow THIS was what we ended up with.
It’s like a carnival of bad ideas (if carnivals were long and boring, I guess). For me, this one missed the target entirely.
Like many of you, this is another favorite of mine. It was my wife’s pick, tonight, as she’d never seen it and it’d been several years for me.
Talk about injecting something COMPLETELY different into 1987’s horror zeitgeist! The aesthetic of this has been so often imitated that I think people have forgotten how absolutely next level it was when it dropped.
Watching tonight reminded me what a “holy shit!” sequence the prologue is and how it removes any sense of familiarity from everything that follows.
They stretched the hell out of their $900,000.00 budget, but the lack of money and the relative lack of experience in certain key areas make this pretty rough around the edges in several respects, too.
But I liken that to sitting at your favorite Sicilian restaurant right after you’ve told the dude who just grated a mound of fresh parmesan on top of your plate of Caponata to stop.
It’s like, of course there’s cheese! And it’s exquisite!!
I’m a huge fan of the original Hellraiser as well as “The Hellbound Heart” novella. I also largely enjoy the first sequel. I’ve seen the third and fourth movies, and that’s as far as it goes for me with this franchise.
[Sidenote: In the ‘80s I rented EVERYTHING, and one night in 1987 I happened to rent Hellraiser and Evil Dead 2 together and had one of the best movie-watching nights of my entire life.]
I know a lot’s already been written here about this one and I certainly don’t have any profound insight to offer. I wanted to like it, but it was not to be. For me it was an overly long, convoluted mess. Everything got thrown against the wall and yet not one thing stuck. I found it one dimensional and boring.
There are a few scenes/shots of Cenobites that are effectively creepy, for sure. They’re just way too few and far between to justify the nearly two hours of everything else.
This was yet another family viewing and it was my first time. My wife is a bit younger than me, and it was her pick. So, she’s got that nostalgia thing happening, but…
Like, if I was in Guantanamo Bay and they put me in a room with Bette Midler wearing that outfit and doing this shtick? I’d pretty much instantly tell George W. Bush all my secrets.
Aside from the occasional burst of Halloween atmosphere, I really did not enjoy this. And of course, I’m already on the hook for part 2….
I’m not sure my kid even liked it, but maybe I’m just seeing it all through grumpy, old lenses.
HOCUS POCUS 2
This was a mom/daughter pick. Its release was the catalyst for our watching the original last week. I really didn’t like that one, and, unsurprisingly, I struggled mightily getting through this one.
I don’t get it. But I’m old and grumpy so I don’t think I’m the target demo. Anyway, empty calories serving a Fandom to which I don’t belong.
This is another all-time favorite of mine, and I had the Blue Underground release over on the shelf, still shrink-wrapped, so I figured what the hell?
Joe Spinell and Bill Lustig conspired to make a sleazy, brutal, and disturbing little masterpiece told from the perspective of a demented serial killer who’s losing his grip on what’s real.
It’s exemplary of the confluence between one of my favorite cinematic eras and one of my favorite cinematic regions. I mean, pop this in and you can practically smell the puddles of piss up and down 42nd Street.
One thing that really struck me this time was how impressively prescient this was in that it got an incredible number of things right about the way serial killers operate. And this was way before any of that information was really available outside of those fields of study.
It features a truly great performance by Spinell. Also, Tom Savini goes ham.
We liked this well enough. Great setting. Tight, classically composed story. Nice, svelte run time. This was another daddy/daughter pick, and it ended up being right on the edge of what she can deal with. She didn’t find it scary; in fact, she digs the creep-factor part of this stuff more than anything. She’s just really squeamish. I told her CGI gore doesn’t count, but she wasn’t buying it.
This is yet another family watch. My daughter thought it was pretty awesome. And I hadn’t seen it in at least a couple decades. It’s a touch rougher around the edges than I remember it being, but it still holds up really well (even though the movie’s objective correlative is an ancient, 400lb TV that goes to static late at night…might as well have been a dinosaur bone to my kid).
Back in 1982 we didn’t have much…but we sure had HBO!! So, from ’82 through ’83 my brother and I watched Poltergeist and Jaws 3 like seven times per day. So, this movie was for sure an early influence on my movie sensibilities. Hungry little fucker watching ghost flicks.
This was another daughter/dad watch. I’ve been in love with this one since it was released, and I thought it was a perfect time to share it with the kiddo.
An outstanding Lance Henriksen performance. A creepy-assed mountain witch. A great monster. It’s an impressive directorial debut from the great Stan Winston and a perfect Halloween time watch.
My daughter thought this was amazing. We had lots of fun.
*She also noticed a “dead guy’s” eye move and was for the next forty-five minutes an expert on how one should comport oneself when pretending to be a corpse.
THE BLACK PHONE
I read the short story this was adapted from a long, long time ago and while I remember really enjoying it, I don’t remember the actual story, which is weird. Right?
What’s also weird is that watching this movie didn’t ring any bells either. That’s some old man brain shenanigans, there. Then again, I just got done playing a gig, and I watched this a couple nights ago. And I’m tapping this out on my phone. Like, a team of the world’s top scientists couldn’t invent a worse time for me to be doing this.
Anyway, I mostly enjoyed this. It’s great looking and it sounds fantastic, too. This is a rare movie that gets its era’s aesthetic correct, for the most part. Things look and sound like the late-‘70s/early-‘80s.
It relies on a largely child cast and so you get what you get with that. And don’t scrutinize the central conceit of this at all. It doesn’t make any sense. Just go with it.
Also, this comes from the King Family Canon, so pretty much everyone and everything has ESP. Stray dog? Straight up mind reader. Squirrel that steals your birdseed? He can hear your inner monolog.
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY
Tonight seemed like a great night to get my Fulci Fix. This is the third film in his “Gates of Hell” trilogy and it’s probably the most coherent of the three. Even so, like all Lucio Fulci movies, it’s wacky-bananas before the opening credits even roll.
It’s every bit his signature Italian Gothic Horror meets Exploitation Splatter. A spectacularly gory fever dream. And probably his take on Lovecraftian horror.
I find every single frame of this to be an absolute pleasure on the eyes, and every shot is compelling and beautiful/creepy. And yet…you have to endure kung fu flick-level dubbing and some performances that are so bad, it’s hard to believe they were done in earnest. But, you know, that comes with the territory.
It features another great score by Walter Rizzati that, along with everything else, makes this movie extremely evocative of its era. And I’m an absolute sucker for it. 1981 underground Italian cinema with New York City connections? You can’t go wrong!!
For me, these “Gates of Hell” flicks are great Halloween time viewing.
THE NIGHT HOUSE
This was another solo watch for me. It’s been on my radar since last year and I found it really impressive. It fell short of great for me by unraveling a bit in the third act. The resolution gets a little too convoluted for its own good. But it’s not enough to derail an otherwise well-crafted movie.
It gets a ton of mileage from some top-notch performances and a pretty brilliant sound design. It’s also an unashamed horror flick made for adults by adults which was a nice change of pace.
I highly recommend it but be warned…there’s some really traumatic nonhorror shit depicted in it that may not be for everyone.
This is a Larry Cohen joint from 1985 and when I was a ‘tween I saw it several times and enjoyed it, but I haven’t seen it since.
I was an unusually discerning movie watcher as a kid, so I was pretty surprised tonight to discover the multifaceted badness of this. Some of it is at least hysterical.
The strangest component of this thing is the portrayal of our protagonist, David, the investigator. The actor, a thirty-ish guy inhabited by the soul of a fifty-ish guy, plays our hero as kind of an assistant college football coach in the SEC with a sub-80 IQ and a quaint, folksy hatred of women type of dude.
Peering into this story through this character’s eyes was quite the time. I feel like I should probably have a word with 1980s me.
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT
I couldn’t settle on anything tonight, saw this, and went for it. This was pretty fun. It clocks in at 55 minutes which is unusual but appreciated. It’s a ’40s-style pulp/noir tale of monster hunting, powerful ancient relic wielders, and werewolf shenanigans. It’s full of action, creepy set-pieces and it’s thick with Halloween vibes. Not a bad way to spend an hour this month.
This was my first solo flight this year. As I’m sure you know, it got lots of hype and as hard as I tried to temper them, my expectations were a little hot going in.
From a technical perspective, I loved it. It looks great. It sounds great. It’s well acted. You get the idea.
I love how the premise of this inverts a slasher trope that’s been beaten to death, first in earnest and later ironically.
Once the homicidal shenanigans began to unfold, things got a lot more conventional, and the plot started requiring herculean levels of concentration to keep myself engaged lest I scrutinized anything I was watching for even a second. Even for a slasher flick, this one almost became too nonsensical for my bruised and battered suspension of disbelief to withstand.
Overall, though, I mostly enjoyed it.