Note: The adorable kitty in my featured image is my cat, Flopsie! Isn’t he the perfect representation of Halloween? 🐈⬛
What’s poppin’, y’all? Every October, I always say that I’m gonna watch a plethora of scary movies for Halloween, but thanks to my busy schedule and other interesting movies/TV shows airing at the same time, I can never completely carry out my plan. I either end up watching a few horror films the last few days of the month, or I’ll look at two or three sporadically throughout October. However, 2020 changed that.
Due to the quarantine, I now have more time to watch all the scary movies I want to see. As a matter of fact, I decided to have a Halloween Extravaganza of sorts. My plan is to watch one horror flick per day (in all honesty, I still miss some days and I have to play catch up, but so far, I’m keeping up with my schedule for the most part). At the end of each week, I’m gonna come back here and give mini-reviews on the films I viewed. The majority of them are beloved scary movies that I’ve seen a million times over, but there’ll be a few newbies mixed in there as well.
Now let’s get this party started!
Day 1: Get Out
I decided to start the Halloween Extravaganza off with the film that instantly transformed former Mad TV alum Jordan Peele from a comedian to a master of horror. Get Out tells the tale of Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an African-American photographer who’s dating a Caucasian woman named Rose (Allison Williams). Rose invites Chris to meet her parents during the weekend of their yearly get-together, and while there, Chris is alarmed by the partygoers’ inappropriate behavior toward him. Chris also can’t help but notice the few black people in the area are a bit off, to say the least. Little does Chris realize there’s something much more sinister going on…something directly affects him.
Get Out was such a fresh take on the horror genre. The movie was full of creepy characters and mounting tension, but it also provided biting social commentary. Despite how liberal Rose’s parents and their friends believed themselves to be (“I would’ve voted for Obama a third time!”), they still looked at black people as property; secondhand citizens that could be used as they saw fit. Not only that, the villains coveted what black people had due to buying into stereotypes. We’re all more stylish, athletic, and possess more sexual prowess. All that’s true, but that still doesn’t justify their behavior. Just kidding. 😂
Day 2: Us
I decided to continue with the Jordan Peele collection and watch Us for the second day of the Extravaganza. Us is about a woman named Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), who as a child, had a traumatic encounter with a little girl that was her exact double. Years later, Adelaide’s family decides to spend their summer vacation at her childhood home in Santa Cruz, and all the old memories of Adelaide’s confrontation with the other girl begin to surface, as does mounting paranoia. Adelaide’s suspicions are realized when she comes face to face with her doppelganger again. Only this time, the double brought along her own family, who are all identical to Adelaide’s husband and children…and who have all arrived carrying malicious intent.
I did a review for Us last year, and I’ll reiterate what I said before: it’s not Get Out Part 2, so you shouldn’t go in expecting that. However, like Get Out, the film still brings truly horrific scenes as well as social commentary on how America treats disenfranchised people. I didn’t like Us quite as much as Get Out, but that’s not to say that I didn’t love the film at all. Us is an extremely entertaining flick that further solidified Jordan Peele’s status as a great filmmaker. Check it out if you haven’t.
Day 3: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been one of my favorite horror films since I was 12 yrs. old, so I knew it’d be a part of the Extravaganza. The film takes place in 1970s San Francisco, where strange aliens arrive to escape their dying world. The aliens take the form of little pink flowers growing out of pods, and days after landing on Earth, many of the inhabitants of the city began acting strangely. Health Department workers Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) and Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) notice something’s not right and soon learn that the aliens are replacing human beings and using the pods to do it. Can Matthew and Elizabeth save humanity?
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a bonafide classic. I love how there’s a feeling of unease throughout the movie from start to finish. In every scene, something feels slightly off, and it’s mostly due to the film utilizing those nifty ’70s cinema techniques. The strange angles, shaky cam, and extreme close ups (namely the ones on seemingly unimportant items) work in tandem to create tension and anxiety. Then there’s the graphics. The practical visual effects used to show the aliens’ takeover was spot on. There’s really something to be said about using old school, practical graphics vs. CGI. I mean, when CGI is great, it’s great. However, when CGI is bad, it’s horrendous. There actually is a CGI moment in the film that’s pretty well done, considering the movie was released in 1978. It has to be seen to be believed.
Day 4: The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods is about five college friends that spend a weekend at the titular cabin in a remote forest. Little do they realize their vacay is a meticulously planned plot devised to have them all sacrificed to appease ancient gods. If the organization planning the sacrifice fails, the results will be disastrous.
When I first watched The Cabin in the Woods, I wasn’t able to see the film in its entirety and I was pissed that one of my favorite people in the movie died (if you’ve been a long time member/reader of this blog, you’ll know who I’m talking about). However, I kept hearing so many accolades for the film that I decided to give it another chance, so I sat down and watched the film again from start to finish…and I loved it. The Cabin in the Woods is one of my favorite horror movies. Like Scream, it makes fun of all the horror movie tropes we’ve come to know over the years, but The Cabin in the Woods takes it a step further: it explains why all those tropes are even in the film. There’s not too many people that haven’t seen this film at this point in time, but if you’re one of the few, please check it out. You won’t regret it.
Day 5: Carrie (1976)
For those of you that live under a rock, Carrie tells the story of the eponymous teenager (Sissy Spacek) that’s mercilessly bullied by her classmates and horribly abused by her religious fanatic mother (Piper Laurie). Once Carrie officially enters womanhood—and by womanhood, I mean having her first menses, much to her mother’s chagrin—she learns that she wields a special kind of power: telekenesis. As Carrie learns more about her power, popular student Sue Snell (Amy Irving) asks her boyfriend Tommy Ross (William Katt) to take Carrie to the prom, mainly out of guilt for previously teasing Carrie. Carrie accepts the invitation, but between her mother’s apprehension over Carrie’s newfound power and maturity, and queen bee Chris Hargensen’s (Nancy Allen) desire to pull the ultimate prank, prom night takes an unexpected turn.
Carrie is another horror film I’ve loved since I was a child. The opening credits scene had me nervous about starting gym class in junior high, but I digress. Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I love the ’70s cinema techniques used in the film (except the excessive nudity; what the hell was the deal with the ’70s and all the extra damn nudity!?). Carrie didn’t exactly use the same weird camera angles, but they did utilize really cool split screens and lighting to set the mood and show different POV’s. I always loved the anti-bullying message this movie sets. I mean, if this movie isn’t a lesson about not bullying people, I don’t know what is. While searching for a good clip to use for my blog post, I came across a video essay on YouTube entitled Carrie: The Teenage Nightmare, which explains how teenage life in high school can be a horror flick all in itself, thanks to bullying, having certain expectation thrust upon the students, and negative self-image. Really deep.
Day 6: The Owners
The Owners is a film set in the UK countryside that depicts a story of four 20-somethings that rob a wealthy elderly couple. Unfortunately for the wannabe robbers, the couple comes home, and what should’ve been an easy score quickly devolves into a nightmare.
Out of all the movies in my Halloween Extravaganza, The Owners is the first new film I watched, and I enjoyed it, for the most part. However, I must warn y’all…It’s not a perfect movie by any means. The first half drags a bit, and the flick tends to follow the trope of the bad guy, the worse guy, the guy along for the ride, and the extra added bonus of the girl that was drawn into a situation she didn’t want to be in from jump street. I’m not totally against the trope; I’ve just seen it executed better (the 2005 Bruce Willis vehicle Hostage is a prime example of that). Then there’s a character in the film that’s too much of an idiot…I mean, seriously. I’m scratchin’ my head on how a grown ass person can be that damn dumb. Despite all that, the movie keeps you intrigued until the very end, and some of those visual effects will make you squirm in your seat. The best thing about this movie? My girl Maisie Williams aka Arya Stark is playing the lead!
Day 7: Fright Night (1985)
The minute I learned Fright Night was available on Amazon Prime, I knew it had to be a part of the Extravaganza! Fright Night tells the story of teenager Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), who has an interesting new next door neighbor in Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon). Jerry is sexy, charming, and has a way with women. However, when Charley notices a coffin being moved in Jerry’s cellar and that all the women who come over to visit end up dead, Charley soon deduces that Jerry is a vampire (and not the Edward Cullen kind)! Charley’s own life—as well as the life of his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and buddy “Evil” Ed (Stephen Geoffreys)—is in danger when Jerry is made aware that Charley knows his secret. Desperate, Charley turns to former horror movie star turned TV host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) for help. Can they stop Jerry before it’s too late?
Fright Night will always hold a special place in my heart, considering that I’ve loved this movie since I was about 4 or 5 yrs. old. I watched the 2011 remake a while back, and there was just no comparison. The 1985 version reigns supreme. One really cool thing that I appreciate more now than I did as a kid were the practical special effects that movie used. They were very well done, especially to say they were applied in 1985. There is one CGI effect in the film that’s horrid, but the other special effects are gold. Not only that, but the club scene that’s featured midway through the film captivated me as a little girl, and it has the same effect on me to this day. The only real gripe I have with the movie is Peter Vincent. I get that he was supposed to be a skeptic when it came to the existence of vampires, but it turned out he was a bit of a punk on top of everything else. It’s sad when the 17 yr. old kid is braver than you, my dude. All you youngins check out the ’85 version of Fright Night. You won’t be disappointed.
Day 8: Bats
In Bats, a small Texas town is terrorized by giant, ugly, murderous versions of the titular creatures. After a teenage couple is killed, Dr. Sheila Casper (Dina Meyer) and her assistant Jimmy Sands (Leon) are called in to assist local Sheriff Emmet Kimsey (Lou Diamond Phillips) in killing the bats. However, every method the group uses to rectify the problem fails, and the bats’ taste for murder seems to increase as the attacks become more and more vicious. Will the group succeed or die trying?
This another Halloween Extravaganza film I watched for the first time…technically. When Bats was first released on video circa 2000, I tried to watch it, but I ended up falling asleep on it. I initially chalked that up to me being tired (I was on vacation during my Freshman year of college, after all. That was a trying year). However, after watching the entire film 20 yrs. later, I can see why I passed out after the first 20 min. Simply put, Bats isn’t a good movie. Sit tight; this review is slightly longer than the others.
***SPOILER ALERT!!*** THIS MOVIE ISN’T REALLY WORTH YOUR TIME, BUT IN CASE YOU’RE STILL INTERESTED IN SEEING IT, THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS CONTAIN SPOILERS! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
Firstly, I have issues with the plot. Dr. Alexander McCabe (Bob Gunton) aka Evil Ass Warden Norton from The Shawshank Redemption purposely engineered the bats to kill human beings. Why? What was his endgame? Deep Blue Sea, another film from 1999 that featured extremely large killer animals, had a plot that took a similar direction, but it was better executed. It explained why the characters found themselves in such a shit show. After Dr. McCallister watched her father slowly succumb to Alzheimer’s, she vowed to create a cure. She learned mako sharks never show signs of degenerative brain disease as they age. The doctor needed to harvest the sharks’ brain protein to make a cure, but their brains weren’t large enough to do so. She and her best friend tampered with the sharks’ genetics to make their brains larger, and the sharks gained near human intelligence. Chaos ensued. In Bats, Evil Ass Warden Norton (he’ll always be Warden Norton to me) just made the bats homicidal omnivores because…reasons.
I know some of you are probably thinking, “Why does there have to be a purpose? He was just crazy!” The movie was fine with having people believe that too, but it just doesn’t fly with me. While enrolled at Clemson, my psychology professor once taught me something I’ll never forget: crazy/misguided people still possess some sort of reasoning in their mind. It may not make sense to the rest of the world, but it makes sense to them. In Speed, Dennis Hopper’s character felt the need to blow shit up and get paid to exact revenge on the LAPD for doing him dirty (which they did). In Misery, Annie Wilkes kidnapped Paul Sheldon because he was her favorite writer, and later, he would be the sole key to bringing her favorite literary character back to life. Just being insane isn’t reason enough to unleash demon-like creatures and put humans at the bottom of the food chain.
Also, the special effects in this movie were weak sauce. I can’t remember the last time I saw such wack CGI and green screen! It’s a shame that Fright Night had better special effects in 1985 than Bats did in 1999! Then there’s Leon, who was there just to be the black, somewhat funny comic relief. I chuckled at a few things he said and did, but I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Why do we always have to be the scary ass comic relief in movies and TV shows?” I know most black folks don’t fool with bats in real life—no less ugly killer bats—but still! Just kiddin’. 😂 The only scene worth watching is near the end when Lou Diamond Phillips finds himself in the bats’ roost, standing chest deep in bat guano (💩). Other than that, skip this one.
So what did y’all think about the movies chosen for the first week of my Halloween Extravaganza? Do you agree with what I picked? Do you agree with the reviews I wrote for them? Are you interested to see what week two will bring? Let me know in the comments section!
––Written by Nadiya