15/31 Days of Horror 2015— A Memoir So Far

It’s October 16th. This is the second year in a row I’ve chosen to watch a Horror movie that I’ve never seen every day in October. Certainly not an outstanding (or even original) feat, except for one massive challenge. I’ve seen everything.

I’m the co-host of the longest continuously running film podcast on the internet. It’s called Double Feature. And one look at the website will tell you that Eric, my co-host, and I tend to lean toward the horrific. And so now, eight years into that on top of my goth kid youth has left me, say, a bit ravenous for new, exciting horror films I’ve not seen, new or old. And now that Horror is strong in the independent vogue, it’s even tougher to find outstanding ones.

I also have an amazing edge due to the reach of our show. Last year, to poor results, I went ahead and scoured various “Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen” lists and braved long scrolls of the IMDB top Horror lists and, ultimately, ended up sitting through a bunch of 90-minute bombs. But, this year, I thought better. I reached out on social media and a slough of folks who are already painfully familiar with my tastes responded. In taking their suggestions, I’ve really only had the best results this year.

If you’re familiar with my show, you know that we always shy away from taking negative perspectives on anything we see; even the occasional aforementioned bomb with get the star treatment. After all, who the fuck are we to decide what someone’s going to connect with? So don’t expect a rating or a hierarchical list here. Just a very short profile on some excellent movies, and a tiny jab at the rougher picks, which I will admit with full honesty were all my own suggestions.

Oct. 1st — Witching and Bitching (2013)

There is no single image that can fully illustrate this movie.

Spanish visionary Alex De la Iglesia has tone in a stranglehold for the entirety of this one. The hilarious comedy elements never overtake the dark beats that prove the mark of a strong Horror movie. Witches, lore, blasphemy, and sex. It’s the perfect makeup of scale and pace to keep a bizarre father/son film on the tracks.

Oct. 2nd — Hausu (1977)

Par for the course

Hausu is apparently a classic in the Horror world that I’d never been made aware of. Once you’ve seen this movie, everything else you’ve ever seen becomes a bit more digestible. It’s unhinged insanity at its finest. Without completely leaving the ground, Hausu celebrates everything that slasher culture would take for granted; cookie-cutter characters meeting their characteristic ends, random cats for cheap scares, it’s all in there and it’s impossible not to enjoy. Absurdism and the 70s, a match made in Japan.

Oct. 3rd — Street Trash (1987)

From the gutter to the stars!

Webster’s dictionary defines “horror” as “a very strong feeling of fear, dread, and shock.” So Street Trash would have to fall under the “shock” header. But one of my definitions of “horror” is “if Fright-Rags has a shirt of it, it’s horror.” So Street Trash can double down. It nestles really nicely in the video nasty world of “The Stuff” and anything Henenlotter (or anything gooey and 80s). But Street Trash manages to tie in some lovely John Waters-y “Pink Flamingos” disregard for taste or tact. The colorful and ambitious gross-out effects are definitely what puts this beast on the map for anyone looking to squirm and laugh and maybe throw up in their mouth a little bit.

Oct. 4th — The Gallows (2015)

“Is that what I think it is?”

By day 4, I was looking for something new and back into the mainstream. That’s about what I got with The Gallows, except I think, by now, its mainstream buzz may have tittered away. Low budget, found footage seems to be one of those things that nearly goes away until someone redefines the idea, a la “Blair Witch” and “Paranormal Activity”. While I wouldn’t expect a multi-million dollar franchise out of The Gallows, there is something inherently unsettling about being locked in a school overnight.

Oct. 5th — The Nightmare (2015)

We’ve all been here.

Horror documentaries tend to be some of the more inventive and interesting docs I come across. But The Nightmare, a profile about sleep paralysis, might take the cake. It takes a LOT to scare me, it does happen, but so rarely that I don’t even go looking for it anymore. So imagine my surprise when I found it in a documentary about a condition I don’t even have. Part of it, admittedly, comes from being a skeptic and knowing it’s not real most of the time, but that’s tough with The Nightmare. The narration is so inventively woven that, by the time the big crazy things are being put forward, I’ve already swallowed a little more than I thought I would. It’s unsettling and creative. And it’s even better with the lights off.

Oct. 6th — End of the Line (2007)

More of this and less the other things.

On Double Feature, Eric and I always (ALWAYS) discuss spoilers and the nature of what that might be. We both agree that even a title or a casting announcement could spoil a movie, let alone a poster. End of the Line is something I found on one of those lists I mentioned earlier and, at first glances, it’s a creepy underground creature flick about the subway system. But what’s REALLY going on, and what’s the icing on the cake is that those creepy crawlies are kind of not a thing. Instead, you’re given throngs of religious zealots leading a Jonestown 2000 revolution globally and it just so happens, they might be on to something. Really, though, this one had me at cross knives.

Oct. 7th — Cooties (2014)

The cast, alone, is magic.

From the writer of Saw, and Insidious 1, 2, and 3, and Dead Silence, comes the funniest R-rated, kid-stomping zombie movie I’ve ever seen. A massively strong cast leads a rampage against a Poultrygeist-esque situation at their elementary school. And, again, it’s R-Rated. Which means kicking kids in the face gets the pass. As if this all weren’t enough, the honed and poignant writing by Leigh Whannell really keeps the slaughterfest from getting stale and easy like zombie comedies tend to. Can’t recommend this enough.

Oct. 8th — Mimic (1997)

Hello, creatures.

Guillermo del Toro and I have a weird relationship (and it gets weirder on Day 13). I want to like everything he does, but I just never love it. Except Hellboy. I haven’t seen everything and I’m wide-open most of the time. Mimic is the oldest Del Toro movie I’ve seen and it actually helps make a little more sense of things. The strengths of Mimic are, without a doubt, the creatures and the good ol’ SciFi plotlines. The weakness, the biggest one, is the 90s. I’ll admit, I have little affection for the 90s look in cinema, but I have a full blown love for these big bugs clomping around all over Mimic.

Oct. 9th — Knock Knock (2015)

Deafening me won’t bring back your god damn honey!

With “The Green Inferno” finally landing in theaters, it’s an unfortunate pun to call Splat Pack alum Eli Roth an acquired taste, but that’s really the truth. Fans of Double Feature know our affinity for this guy, but what might come as a shock is how much I hated “Cabin Fever” the first time I saw it. I laughed at it and then bought the DVD (sucker) just to show it to friends to laugh at. But eventually upon the repeat viewings, I realized that maybe the movie knew it was hilarious. Maybe it wasn’t coming from a place of earnesty and maybe the maestro behind it was an exploitation fan who had wasn’t peddling “nuance” and instead felt like schlocking fun around. Enter “Knock Knock”. A movie that is not for everyone. It’s over the top, grating, ignorant, trite, and leans a bit too heavily on Keanu Reeves’ “Wicker Man” moments. But never let it be said that it’s not fun and new. I’ll admit, I balked a bit at first, but in retrospect, Knock Knock is a fucking blast. And again, Eli Roth is challenging his fan base, not just catering. End fellatio.

Oct. 10th — Dead & Buried(1981)

You won’t believe what happens next!

Another video nasty masterpiece that slipped under my radar, Dead & Buried is everything you want from a late-night horror tale. An outsider comes into a small town only to unravel a big, scary violent secret of murder most foul and cameras most flashed! Truly, though, Dan O’Bannon is involved and that, to me, is all you ever need to know. The scribe is likely most renowned for his Alien script, but to me, Dan O’Bannon is The Return of the Living Dead and Lifeforce and Dark Star and essentially anything you remember taking a terrifying fucking stroll through the uncanny valley. Effects work is always shining. And Dead & Buried is no exception. As far as what you want goes, this one has it all.

Oct. 11th — DEATHGASM (2015)

Because lower-case is for pussies.

One of the perks of living in Austin is Alamo Drafthouse. And one of the perks of Alamo Drafthouse is getting to see something like Deathgasm. The best way to describe Deathgasm is to imagine if Peter Jackson we still back in his squishy-flick hayday and was handed a script by Edgar Wright about the heaviest garage band in the world. Or at least New Zealand. But fuck that, none of those people are involved, this is a brand new outstandingly sharp comedy-splatter masterpiece and it should be championed on its own merit. It absolutely never slows down. Blending metal iconography with the outsider goth falls for popular girl thruline makes Deathgasm, easily, one of the best new movies I’ve seen this year.

Oct. 12th — De Lift (1983)

You had me at “killer elevator”

We have the Netherlands to thank for this gem, most specifically Dick Maas. A movie about a murderous office elevator may seem like a weak high-concept disaster, but somehow, De Lift has it all together. All of you knowitallists who continually shout to dim characters making silly calls will probably find some solace in the rationale as to the true danger of this machine. And those, like myself, who wince ever so slightly at haunted items, be they houses or lamps, will be ecstatic to know that we’re talking sci-fi when it comes to the why of the elevator’s sentience. All of this, of course, we know better than to ask for when delivered the premise, which is why De Lift really does set itself far outside the lazy horror flick aesthetic.

Oct. 13th — The American Scream (2013)

Kind of cheating, I know.

The American Scream is second documentary on the list. We covered it extensively on the show, so don’t bother with this, go listen there or on iTunes.

But fear not, I did some extra credit on Day 13.

Crimson Peak (2015)

Glorious gooey ghosts.

Guillermo del Toro’s latest gothic melodrama is already polarizing critics. And for one silly kid who can’t get into Senor del Toro, it was a welcome sigh of relief. Aside from maybe Hellboy, Crimson Peak is, by far, my favourite piece of the del Toro filmography. Probably because I’m so deeply affectionate for the old Hammer Horror films as well as a strong visual placement and aesthetic. Smatter in a bit of practical effects and top it of with some cherries of ultraviolence and you have something even Mia Wasikowska can’t unravel. While it may leave the true Guillermo del Toro fan a little wanting for whimsy, it’s dark tone and strong nods to the behemoths of its past makes for an incredibly compelling ghost tale, even if the plot itself isn’t vastly orignal.

Oct. 15th — Boxing Helena (1993)

Blinded by subtlety.

Critically panned, publicly forgotten, Boxing Helena is something of an oddity on all accounts. Firstly, as an inclusion on this list, the erotic horror categorization is stringent but (see Day 3) we still get the shock factor. Maybe it was the time passed since it was released, or maybe spirits are just high being waist-deep on this journey, but I enjoyed the living hell out of this underbed critter of a movie. It’s got “razzie” written all over it, but as Showgirls continues to light up my life, so does Boxing Helena. The story is new, dark, twisted, and affectionate. The performances are on point and Bill Paxton’s screen time is riotous. While this may be far more a case of “up my alley” than “underrated masterpiece”, I can’t help but think that the flack on this slice of insanity might be a little harsh. Boxing Helena manages to shine through all the vaseline smeared about the camera lenses.

So there we are, the first half of October is behind us and we’re on to part two. I plan to do a follow-up after the ride is over to highlight the other picks and what those will be, I still don’t know. But if they’re half as good as the first fifteen, I’ll be more than happy. Follow along, check out our show, and watch more fuckin’ film.