6WH: Week 6.5 - Speed Round and The Big Day

It's hard to believe that Halloween has already come and gone. These 6 weeks of horror movie watching seem to go faster every year (and hitting up Fantastic Fest probably accelerated things this year as well). Well, as usual, I haven't written up all of the movies I've seen this Halloween season; perhaps it didn't fit with a given week's theme, or perhaps I just didn't have much to say about it. Whatever the case, I typically do a quick roundup of them all during the last week of the marathon, so here goes:
  • Stake Land - Get it? It's a vampire movie and Stake is in the title. Yeah. So it's actually a well executed Vampire/Zombie Apocalypse style adventure, with one of the best badasses of the year (will certainly be nominated in the KMAs). It's reminiscent of Westerns and features a lot of road-trip tropes, which is a nice combo. Very enjoyable, though also quite cliched in some respects and I don't think it ever really catapulted me beyond my typical post-apocalyptic story complaints... Still worth a watch, especially if you're not averse to zombies/apocalypse movies like I sometimes am... **1/2
  • The Sentinel - Leave it to the Catholic Church to devise the most arcane and bizarre way possible to choose the new guardian (aka Sentinel) of the gates of hell. I originally watched this for the Haunted House week, but it got bumped from the writeup when I saw PA3 in the theater. It's a very unusual movie that often doesn't make much sense, but which features some mildly effective sequences. I don't think I'll find myself recommending this often, but it's not bad either. Ultimately, I don't think it really hits the mark, but again, there are some interesting elements. **
  • Insidious - Another film from Haunted House week that I just didn't write up, perhaps because it is so similar to Paranormal Activity (and I was already writing about that). But this is one of the better executed versions of the story, and I did really enjoy it. Quite solid and well worth a watch. ***
  • M - Fritz Lang's classic tale of a serial killer (of children, no less) who runs afoul of the local criminal element (in a beautifully ironic twist, the police get so frustrated that they can't find the killer that they crack down on the typical criminals, who quickly get sick of this and resolve to find the killer themselves so that they can get back to business as usual). Lang's brilliant expressionism, along with great performances and photography, make this film an absolute classic. I don't know how well it qualifies as a "horror" film, but it's certainly along those lines, and it's an amazing film, among the best of all time (I can't believe it's taken me so long to get to this). ****
  • Dylan Dog: Dead of Night - A breezy and fun sorta horror-detective-adventure film, it falls apart towards the end, but I had a fun time with the movie. Ultimately nothing particularly special, but I have to say that I enjoyed Brandon Routh in this (and in some other recent things I've seen). **1/2
  • The Beyond - Lucio Fulci's goretastic zombie flick (one of many, actually) is well worth a watch for fans of gore, though that's all it really has going for it. There's a really evocative prologue, and that's referenced later in the movie, but Fulci doesn't show much interest in exploring that side of things, instead preferring to devise new and interesting eye-gouging gags (and there's a really good one in this movie, too). Fun stuff, just don't look for anything deep here... **1/2
  • Martin - George A. Romero is known for his Zombie movies, but I think it's a shame that he only seems to make those (I presume part of this is that he can only really get funding for zombie stuff), as Martin is one of the most original and unique takes on a vampire story out there. The titular Martin thinks he is a vampire, but not a "magical" vampire. He doesn't have fangs, can't transform into other animals, sees himself in mirrors, and has no problems with sunlight, garlic, etc... But he methodically traps his victims, sedates them, cuts their wrists with razor blades, and drinks their blood (generally framing the murder as a suicide). Romero preserves the ambiguity of Martin's true nature, which works best, and the film never seems predictable. It references and comments on the typical tropes of vampire tales without actually succumbing to them - an impressive feat. It's not perfect, and it can get a bit slow at times, but I think it's the most interesting film I saw during this year's 6WH. I now need to see what other stuff Romero has done outside of zombies... ***1/2
  • Just Before Dawn - Not sure where I heard about this, but it was one of those movies that was in my Netflix queue for years and basically came to my house by accident. And it's pretty good! It's a kinda hybrid of hillbilly horror, demonic possessions, and slashers. Certainly not a perfect movie or even a great movie, but pretty effective for a movie with such a familiar premise (kids in the woods run afoul of demonically possessed hillbillies!) It's also pretty well shot too, elevating it above a lot of its contemporaries. **1/2
  • Masters of Horror: We All Scream for Ice Cream - An interesting concept that's ultimately squandered. I mean, how hard is it to make clowns scary? Not very. But they manage it here. I wasn't angry I watched it or anything, but I found it pretty unfulfilling. **
  • Horror Business - I'm usually a sucker for Horror documentaries, but this one ended up being unwatchable (I gave up after about 30 minutes). The problem here is that the interview subjects are mostly... unsuccessful. There are some famous folks here, but they're clearly short, extemporaneous interviews that were gleaned from other appearances. Most of the interviews are with folks like Mark Borchardt (the subject of American Movie). None of these movies that are referenced seem particularly good or interesting. Since I didn't finish it, I won't rate it, but I didn't really enjoy what I did see.
  • Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film - Ah, now here is a horror documentary that gets things right. This one is mostly about the history of American horror, and it's quite good, though I will say that I didn't really glean any sort of new insights into horror films or the history of the genre. Still, if you're in the mood for this sort of thing, it hits the spot... **1/2
  • Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film - Another horror doc, one that I've actually talked about before and which I seem to watch every year. It's a decent movie, but I think the only reason I like watching it is that I really enjoy slasher films.
  • Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI - It's one of those films I'm inexplicably fond of. Among the first self-aware slashers (a decade before Scream), it's probably also my favorite of the Friday the 13th films. How many franchises can claim that their 6th installment is actually the best entry?
  • Phantasm - Another yearly tradition, I've inexplicably seen this movie more times than I care to admit (I believe in the triple digits). A ton of fun.
  • Halloween - Of course, I finish off every 6 Weeks of Halloween marathon with the classic slasher. Do I really need to say anything else about it? A nearly perfect movie.
So there you have it, another year, another crapload of horror movies. Excluding all of my Fantastic Fest movies (all 19 of them), I watched 27 horror films (and about 6 TV episodes). Including FF, that makes for 46 movies, which is still falling far behind Kernunrex (who watched a whopping 61 1/3 movies and 27 episodes of TV shows), but I'm quite happy with the season. Like every year, I'll probably end up watching some more horror flicks into the holidays, but posting on the blog will return to normalcy soon.