All Hallows’ Evening is arguably my favorite holiday. If it lands between Thursday and Saturday, it’s filled with people of all ages letting their moral and cultural guards down to enjoy everything from hunting for the one house that’s handing out king size candy bars to dancing their sexy costumes off at drunken parties that last through the night.
However, if Halloween falls on any other day of the week, like it does this year, my favorite thing to do is stay home and enjoy a flurry of Horror films. Depending on how old you are, that might sound like a lame plan for a holiday as spookily glorious as Halloween. But being a child of the 80’s, I was spoiled with characters like Michael Myers, Pinhead, Freddy and Jason. I had the terrifying visuals of Ridley Scott’s better Alien film and the suspense of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Jaws actually changed my behavior and kept me out of the ocean. And best of all, our paranormal movies didn’t consist of poorly written found footage gimmicks. We had Poltergeist and The Exorcist.
In preparation for this Halloween, I did a little research and previewing to make sure I could scare the pants off my date. Literally. But as you can gather by the title of this article, I was left scared that as a Horror fan, I might never be scared again.
CGI, 3D and other technological advances didn’t just blind the filmmaking skills of George Lucas—they fully corrupted Horror. There are few exceptions, but the genre that I once loved is now full of tricks—3D being the worst. The gore era led by Eli Roth and the people behind the Final Destination series gave us some shocking death scenarios, but didn’t leave audiences scared. The first Saw movie and The Blair Witch Project were both smart, but weren’t really scary. To be honest, the only recent movie I can think of that was actually scary was Ringu. Unfortunately it was soured by the American remake.
My personal Halloween Horror Movie Marathon consisted of over 10 movies, but I’m only going to talk about three, one from each of the last three years: Insidious (2010), The Cabin in The Woods (2011) and Sinister (2012). This brings us to the part of the movie blog article where we drop SPOILER ALERT.
Insidious was a valiant attempt at a possession story. Or at least it begins that way. It builds up a decent amount of suspense and thrill around a typical loving family. But Insidious’ twist is that it’s not a possession story at all. It’s actually a battle for possession resulting from the child’s ability to astral project (induce an out-of-body experience). Insidious then ignores one of my golden rules of Horror—the monster in your mind is scarier than anything you can create. There are rare exceptions to that rule. Insidious isn’t one of them. The demon is almost laughable once he gets a good amount of screen time. Then, in typical Lionsgate fashion, the Horror movie ends with a final twist that leaves the bad guy alive to kill you when you get home. Dun dun dun. Overall, Insidious was entertaining and worth seeing. It’s just not scary or memorable.
The Cabin in The Woods was interesting and pretty clever. Like the Scary Movie franchise, it’s very aware of itself and the Horror genre as a whole. I’m not going to ruin this one because it’s something that you have to see. Like Insidious, it’s a very entertaining movie and worth the praise it’s gotten. The problem is that The Cabin in The Woods is a little too clever for its own good and would probably be better served as an episode of The Twilight Zone instead of a full-length movie. It has a few plot holes that don’t ruin the movie, but are obvious. That being said, if you like Horror movies and monsters, see The Cabin in The Woods. Just don’t expect to be scared.
That brings us to this year’s big Horror offering, Sinister. This one stars Ethan Hawke who delivers a surprisingly good performance. As the trailer reveals, Sinister’s plot revolves around photographic evidence of a ‘sinister’ appearing before people die and Ethan Hawke’s character has to find the thread. My only knock on Sinister is that if you pay close attention to the poster and trailer, it’s a little predictable. Director Scott Derrickson does manage to paint an incredibly creepy picture though. The suspense is great, it’s full of shocking moments and the death scenes stay with you. The story of the ‘sinister’ character is also intriguing and handles the paranormal without being silly. Sinister won’t keep you up at night or give you nightmares, but for 110 minutes, it will entertain you, keep you on the edge of your seat or in your date’s shoulder, and occasionally scare you.
I hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween this year and here’s to the production of more legitimately scary movies!