Ah, October, truly the most wonderful month of they year. To celebrate, Morb will watch a horror film a day until the big day, the rule being I can't have seen them before. Now, as I'm practically marinating in horror films for the rest of the year anyway, the hard part was finding new titles that are actually worthwhile.
I've witnessed some poundingly bad ones and some achingly average ones and there have been a few that I really should have seen already, but there have been one or two sneaky little surprises so far. These aren't necessarily THE films you should watch for the lead up to Halloween but hopefully they'll inspire you to look further afield than the obvious picks for your horror fix. So we begin - Week One
OCTOBER 1ST - CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944)
I began the month with a film my mother tried to force me to watch when I was little, insisting it was good. I kicked off within minutes -'There's no monnnnsters! Where's the cats?!' Turns out we were both right. This is a melancholy fairytale about a lonely child who makes friends with a ghost. What's that got to do with the title? Nothing. At all. It's a sequel to Cat People, a film about a woman who believes she will turn into a panther if she gets intimate with her husband. Good excuse. Said woman makes an appearance as the ghost but that's as far as the connection goes. This is a beautifully shot mood piece directed by Robert Wise, who would go on to make that other terrifying classic about monstrous children - The Sound Of Music. Give this one a look for a gentle, atmospheric look at a creepy world through a child's eyes rather than for outright frights.
OCTOBER 2ND - Q-THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)
As a horror fan, you build up a tolerance to films other people would regard as silly, you take for granted there might be a touch of the ludicrous and continue watching, feeling a strange pity for those people who can't hang up their hang-ups at the door. And then you watch a film like Q and realise, sometimes, they are completely right. It's basically a cringe filmed for 90 minutes. I'm fine with a reincarnated flying Aztec god nesting in the spire of the Chrysler building, eating roof-top sunbathers and spraying their guts down on the heads of New Yoikers on the go, in fact, I welcome it, but the plasticine monster that stop motions its way across the screen looks so much like something your moderately talented 6 year old nephew squishes together in arts and crafts, you can't help but join the angry villagers.
OCTOBER 3RD - WIND CHILL (2007)
A couple of college kids sharing a ride home for the Christmas season crash straight into a snowbank and strand themselves in a haunted forest, battling to survive the cold as much the ghosts. There's a bang of straight-to-dvd off this one and it features an interesting deliberately unpleasant performance by Emily Blunt as a complete tool of a heroine who you'd happily smother in a snowdrift. The film meanders towards rather than aims for a creepy conclusion and it never chills us as much as does its trapped protagonists but there's still something goofily charming about it. This fits exactly into the point I made in the last review, when you reaaaally love creepy things you can forgive some stupidity and be charmed by a relatively slight piece of work. Just make sure that view doesn't carry over into your love life.
OCTOBER 4TH - TO LET (2006)
Continuing in the age old horror traditions of 'standing there and doing nothing rather than helping while the killer bashes your friend', 'being too emotionally drained to call loudly for help' and 'waiting downstairs while your partner runs back up to get the keys', films like these make me wonder, maybe these people are actually incredibly lazy rather than terrified? It would explain a lot. This Spanish mini-film from Jaume Balaguero, the director of the excellent zombie movie Rec, concerns a couple who go to check out a new apartment and then get terrorized by their potential landlord all throughout the huge empty building. It certainly has its moments but when the heroine can't tell emergency services the location of where she's trapped, although she must have known the address as she was HOUSE HUNTING, or figure out where her boyfriend is although she's just closed the door on him while looking at his unconscious body, it makes it seem like she's actually not bothered, or too lazy, so I couldn't be bothered either.
OCTOBER 5TH - IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994)
John Carpenter is a curious one. From the debut wallop of Halloween onto the massively underrated The Fog and stone cold classic The Thing, his trajectory was stratospheric. So just how did he devolve into putting unconvincing wigs on children for the abysmal Village Of The Damned remake, unconvincing wigs on vampires in Vampires and keeping a straight face whilst directing an alien warrior race who communicate in a language that sounds as if Chunk from The Goonies was yodelling? It was certainly a case of diminishing returns and diminishing budgets as his career progressed. In The Mouth Of Madness stars Sam Neill as an insurance investigator searching for a missing author whose apocalyptic novels seem to turn their readers insane. This initially fun flick seems to sit so squarely in the middle of these two periods that the HP Lovecraft inspired first half eventually dissolves into HP Sauce for the second.
OCTOBER 6TH - BANSHEE CHAPTER (2013)
This film exists for one noble reason alone, to creep the hell out of you. Once a small thing like plot is got out of the way, in this case, an experimental drug which not only expands the mind but turns it into a receiver for evil entities, the film settles down to the serious business of scaring the viewer, and it does so admirably. Full of reporters just determined, DETERMINED, to investigate teeny tiny noises, scientists deciding to turn OFF the lights for their experiments, the heroine taking a nocturnal drive out to the desert just to have a little look, everything here is designed to hammer home the chills. There's not that much more to it, it's not particularly clever and it's really just a collection of scenes rather than a storyline, but if you sit down, preferably alone, with the lights out and the volume up, you'll find it won't be long until hands slowly creep up to cover your eyes. Hopefully they'll be your own.
OCTOBER 7TH - LIFE AFTER BETH (2014)
When you look at the cast involved and the wide release this film has achieved considering Jeff Baena is a first time director, you can't but wonder 'Who the hell has HE been sleeping with?' Managing to make coming back from the dead seem boring, this is as charmless, stale and padded as a resurrected Joan Collins Dynasty gown. Dane De Haan plays a guy you would die to get away from, not the reverse, who gets a second shot with his undead girlfriend - patient zero to a zombie apocalypse. 'Cleverly' describing itself as a zom-com-rom-dram, sigh, that trumpeted, exhausting unoriginality signposts that even if by some miracle you did manage to enjoy this smug, watery, stew , you couldn't admire it as much as it admires itself.
So to sum up week one, I'll be adding Curse Of The Cat People to my collection while if it's a scare you're after, look out Banshee Chapter