By Scott Dorward
A Month of Horrors
Halloween is here! After the year many of us have had, ghosts, ghouls and leering jack-o-lanterns feel like light relief. What better way is there to escape from real horrors than through some imaginary ones?
In readiness, I have spent this month posting a horror film review every day. If you want to skip this waffle and get to the good stuff, just scroll down. You’ll find a full list with links titled 2020’s Films.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
These reviews have been my way of taking part in the October Horror Movie Challenge. Everyone their own approach, but the basic rule is that you need to watch a horror film every day. Some people create categories according to when the film was released, where it comes from, or who made it. You can find a heavily gamified version over on the OHMC subreddit, for example.
The only hard rule I followed was that the films had to be ones I hadn’t seen before. Part of the appeal of the challenge is that it gives me an excuse to catch up with things I’ve been meaning to watch for years. That said, I did try to include films from all over the world and from a variety of eras.
So, how did it all go?
I seem to have chosen wisely this year. While not every film worked for me, there were comparatively few stinkers. And there were a number of films I genuinely loved.
Through a combination of luck and my predilection for folk horror, I managed to pick a few films rooted in fairy tales. This is one of my favourite strands of horror. Fairy tales are meant to be scary. The bogles will feast upon the marrow of anyone foolish enough to defang their stories!
In other years, Evolution would have been my pick of the month. While it may not sound like a fairy tale, with its weird seaside community and strange medical experiments, it hits all the right notes. It is one of the most imaginative bits of storytelling I have seen in a long time and a beautiful film to look at.
Until the last day, I thought Tigers Are Not Afraid was going to win the top spot. This story of Mexican street children trapped in the scariest kind of fairy tale reminded me of Guillermo Del Toro at his best, mixing harsh realities with childhood wonder and supernatural horrors. It is one of the best horror films I have ever seen.
But, just winning out, we have In Fabric. This is the latest film from Peter Strickland, a British director who came to my attention with the remarkable Berberian Sound Studio. Once again, he combines horror with absurd humour to create something deeply unsettling. Watching this film is like seeing everything I love about the stories of Robert Aickman brought to life on the screen. Simply astonishing.
There were still a few disappointments this year. I had heard good things about The Stepfather and was hoping that my assumption that it was a generic ’80s thriller was misguided. Sadly, while it had a memorable villain, it was terribly by-the-numbers and predictable.
Although I grew up with Hammer Horror film and love them to this day, their version of The Mummy failed to excite me in any way. Considering the talent on both sides of the camera, this should have been much better.
The only film I actually disliked, however, was Eaten Alive, Tobe Hooper’s 1976 follow-up to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Everything about it rubbed me up the wrong way, from the impenetrable sound to the sheer grubby misanthropy of the whole thing. And, worst of all, it was boring. There is nothing worse in a horror film than that.
And the Weird
Dear lord, did I watch some weird films this month! One of my great pleasures in horror is films showing me things I haven’t seen before. After almost 50 years of watching such things, weirdness is like horror Viagra for me.
While Voices From Beyond is far from Fulci’s best work and is quite tame by his usual standards, it was still unusuall enough to engage me. The Witch Who Came From the Sea was unexpectedly and jarringly strange, like Repulsion had bought a case of cheap gin and gone on a three-day bender. And Two Thousand Maniacs! was aggressively odd enough to warrant the exclamation mark in its title.
Even faced with such competition, however, Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood stands out as the weirdest film of the month. It’s almost impossible to believe that someone made this thing deliberately. Watching it feels like a psychotic episode.
What About You?
What films have you been watching this month? Have I covered any of your favourites here? How badly have I got these reviews wrong? You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord. We are always happy to talk about horror films! No need to wait until next Halloween.
- 1 – Baskin (2015)
- 2 – The Bar (2017)
- 3 – The Editor (2014)
- 4 – The Beach House (2019)
- 5 – The Mummy (1959)
- 6 – The Wind (2020)
- 7 – Tigers are Not Afraid (2018)
- 8 – Voices From Beyond (1991)
- 9 – Dearest Sister (2016)
- 10 – Patrick (1978)
- 11 – The Transfiguration (2016)
- 12 – The House at the End of Time (2013)
- 13 – The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
- 14 – The Hallow (2015)
- 15 – Night of the Demons (1988)
- 16 – Deep Dark (2015)
- 17 – The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)
- 18 – Black Sheep (2006)
- 19 – The Battery (2012)
- 20 – Eaten Alive (1976)
- 21 – Satan’s Slaves (2017)
- 22 – Evolution (2015)
- 23 – The Mortuary Collection (2019)
- 24 – Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973)
- 25 – The Dead Center (2018)
- 26 – Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)
- 27 – Here Comes the Devil (2012)
- 28 – Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
- 29 – Gretel & Hansel (2020)
- 30 – The Stepfather (1987)
- 31 – In Fabric (2018)
Challenges of Yesteryear
This isn’t the first time I’ve done one of these review marathons. I also tackled the OHMC back in 2013 and 2014. If you take a look at those pages, you’ll find similar post mortems with links to reviews of all the films I reviewed that year.
I shall try not to leave it six years before I do this again. While it is a lot of work, it is also terrific fun. And it’s always nice to have an excuse to watch a stupid number of horror films.
A Final Note
Please do look around at some of our older film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!