31 Days of Halloween, Day 21: Re-Animator

p9427_p_v8_aaI was promised H.P. Lovecraft!  What I got were a few references and zero Cthulhu.  Well, I guess I haven’t actually read the Lovecraft novella this was based on (“Herbert West: Reanimator”).  My own fault.  I guess for me what was missing was a Lovecraftian “feel.”  This was straight out of the 80s.

There are, however, plenty of buck-naked corpses floundering around, lots of grisly medical scenes, and some pretty cheesy special effects.  This is a plot that has been done many times before and since – one could even argue that Frankenstein is also a reanimator, although his tale is less wacky and full of bizarre moments with a head on a table.


  • The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) – Another mad scientist, another head on a table.  The MST3K version is the one I watched and it was great (possibly one of their best).
  • The Fly (1986) – Cheesy special effects and Jeff Goldblum.
  • The Lazarus Effect (2015) – A group of scientists work to reanimate animal corpses, but after their project is shut down and their lead researcher dies, they decide to reanimate her.  Also death by e-cig.



31 Days of Halloween, Days 19 & 20: Killer Mermaid and the Presidential Debate

mv5bmjaymzq2otc4nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwndc0mdizmje-_v1_sy1000_cr006911000_al_Yesterday I had planned to finish watching Killer Mermaid after work, but instead chose to watch something more horrifying… the Presidential Debate.  Without going too much into politics, I will say that I feel like any outcome from this election will result in something awful.

Part of what influenced my decision was the fact that halfway through Killer Mermaid, I still hadn’t seen any killer mermaids. There’s some old fisherman-type dude who seems a whole lot more deadly.  Then all we get is a photo that the characters mistake for a girl in a well who they have to rescue.  There seemed to be… too much plot?  Or maybe too much talking, because I totally zoned out while this group of tourists talked and drank and seemed to have some petty issues with each other.

FINALLY – one hour into this 1.5 hour movie, we see the mermaid!  Her voice lures in the men, and her tail is terrifying!  Also her face changes from beautiful to hideous!  The special effects in this are so amazingly bad that one of the horrified female tourists is swiped into the well by the mermaid – like, why would you be standing that close?  Okay, so I’d say the special effects are actually pretty decent when it comes to the mermaid, it’s just that it’s super obvious when camera angles are avoiding the need for special effects, so all we see is the mermaid’s gray hand swiping and the girl falling into the water.  But still, the fisherman dude is more deadly, especially with that grapple hook of his.

It’s no small wonder that this movie has had several different title changes (from Mamula to Nymph to Killer Mermaid).  It’s that bad.

For more terrifying creatures who haunt the waters, try:

  • The Host (2006) – The creature in this South Korean movie is a deformed amphibian.  This is very clearly the highest quality film on this particular recommendation list.  Good horror, but also has some humor, too.
  • Pirahna 3D & 3DD (2010 & 2012) – These remakes take all the campy stuff from the original and make it that much bigger.  The first one has a cool cameo from Richard Dreyfuss – the original Pirahna movie was a parody of Jaws, and his character here is a parody of his Jaws character.  The second one has a cameo from David Hasselhoff.  Good cheesy fun, if a little overly-focused on boobs.
  • Sand Sharks (2011) – You want bad special effects?  Here you go!

31 Days of Halloween, Day 18: Teen Witch

p11602_d_v8_aaIn one of my recent searches I stumbled across this beauty, which had been lost to my subconscious for a good reason.  From the opening that made me wonder if I had somehow accidentally turned on a Michael Bolton music video, to the odd musical numbers, this was a trip back to the 80s.  So many cliches!  The mean popular girls, the shoulder pads, the nerd who can somehow transform into a beauty who is obsessed with the jock (who has a heart of gold, naturally).

I definitely didn’t remember (or perhaps these things went over my head) the sex ed class wherein the class clown reels off a list of penis synonyms, or the nerd that the main nerd is tricked into going to a dance with who repeatedly tries to grope her.  But luckily our heroine is about to turn 16 and come into her witchy powers.  Now everything she wishes comes true!

So, why does she have to learn actual spells in Latin, when she can just wish her little brother to turn into a dog?  Who knows!  The next obvious step is getting the popular girls to turn on themselves and spell the jock to fall in love with her.  One of her clever plans is to have the jock come over to do schoolwork and she hides all the chairs in her room so they have to both sit on the bed.  Naughty, naughty!

Some of my favorite moments:

  • Teen witch pulls out a voodoo doll.  Mom: “Oh, isn’t that cute!”
  • Rap battle
  • Random saxophone solo
  • The bedazzled jean jacket, heels with ankle socks, hair teased to the sky

Want to experience a piece of the magic?

There are only a handful of other Halloween films that can compete with this, such as:

  • The Craft (1996) – Witches in full mid-nineties glory, but basically the same plot.
  • Hocus Pocus (1993) – This one stands the test of time much better than Teen Witch, but it’s still a lot of fun!
  • The Worst Witch (1986) – Tim Curry is so… dreamy?  This stars a young Fairuza Balk (of The Craft fame).  You really need to watch to the end for that awesomely awful musical number.

31 Days of Halloween, Day 17: Blair Witch

mv5bmji0nteymja3nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwodk5otu4ote-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_I was one of those people who bought into The Blair Witch Project hook, line, and sinker.  I totally thought it was real documentary footage.  I watch the mockumentary aired on TV about the Blair Witch.  And the whole thing freaked me out.

I felt betrayed when I discovered that it was all a marketing gimmick, but not so betrayed that I didn’t watch Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.  In contrast to the first movie’s complete shaky-cam style, this one involved professional filmmaking as well as cameras set up to capture video.

When I saw that another Blair Witch movie was coming out, I thought it was a remake of the original – but it is actually more of a Blair Witch 3.  The brother of Heather from the first movie finds footage on YouTube that suggests his sister might be alive.  With the help of a bunch of friends, including aspiring filmmaker Lisa (I’m pretty sure she’d flunk out of film school based on this footage…) he tracks down the guy who posted the video and convinces him to take them all into the woods to where the footage was filmed.  In addition to the shaky handheld cameras, we also are treated to a drone camera that ends up being useful about once before crashing.

Despite the motion sickness, and what ends up being essentially the same movie as the first – we get the same creepy noises at night, the same stick people appearing in the trees, even the same house at the end and a vaguely similar speech into the camera as “I’m so sorry…” – this premise still has the power to freak me out.  What this movie does have that the original and the sequel don’t is a glimpse of the Blair Witch herself, and it’s quite chilling, especially combined with further information about how the Blair Witch died (which I believe is new, I don’t recall this from the mockumentary).

So, while you can probably watch this movie without having watched any of the others, I’m going to recommend:

  • Curse of the Blair Witch (1999) – The Sci-Fi Channel’s “documentary” about the making of the Blair Witch Project. (I’ll be rewatching this one myself!)
  • The Blair Witch Project (1999)
  • Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)


31 Days of Halloween, Day 16: No One Lives

p9758980_p_v8_aaSo this movie was quite different from the Netflix description!

What Netflix says:

Driver and his girlfriend Betty kidnap Emma, a teenage heiress. They’re run off the road by robbers, who discover Emma and are determined to collect the reward for her safe return. But there’s something even more dangerous lurking in the woods.

While I can’t exactly dispute the fact that the heiress is kidnapped, it is said repeatedly throughout the movie that “Driver” does not  have a name.  Is “Driver” just the way the credits refer to him?  And the only thing dangerous lurking in the woods is “Driver.”

The movie begins with Emma, the heiress, dangling from a tree, scratching out a message that says “Emma Alive.”  Flash to 8 months later, and the hunt is still on to find Emma.  At first I thought Driver and Betty were also looking for Emma.  They seem to have an odd relationship even before they are besieged by the robbers – a deadly family of criminals who try not to kill as they rob houses but somehow it happens.  As Driver and Betty are held at machete-point, Betty decides the best option is to cut her own throat on the machete.  This allows Driver the chance to escape and brutally murder the dude with the machete.  Meanwhile, the robbers have stolen their car, but in the trunk they discover Emma, who says that “he” will kill them all.

Thus commences a scenario wherein the bad guys are chased by a worse guy, a guy who is seemingly immortal, with deadly assassin skills.  Driver enjoys killing his victims in extremely brutal ways and there are buckets of gore as well as a lot of psychological cat & mouse stuff.  Much better than I thought it would be!

This isn’t a wholly new concept – here are a few others that are similar:

  • Fallen (1998) – This serial killer can jump from host to host.
  • Last House on the Left (1972, 2009) – The original was much edgier than the remake (which was itself an adaptation of “The Virgin Spring”) – basically, daughter is violently raped and killed by a band of psychos, who later arrive at the parents’ house seeking refuge from a storm.  But the killers don’t realize that the parents know they killed their daughter, and exact their revenge.
  • Taken (2008) – Some kidnappers discover they have kidnapped the wrong guy’s daughter – “I will find you, and I will kill you.”
  • Taking Lives (2004) – It’s hard to track a serial killer who can take on the identity of his victim…

31 Days of Halloween, Days 14-15: Miss Peregrine & Sanctum

It’s been a busy couple of days!  Last night I went to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which isn’t exactly a horror movie but it has some very creepy elements.  I loved all of the books – unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the movie.

If you have read the books, the first 75% of the movie is pretty much what you would expect.  The first book in the series ends with the children in a boat on the ocean, setting out to rescue Miss Peregrine.  And here (or perhaps, a little before this point) is where the movie jumps the rails and forges its own path leading to a modern-day skeleton war.  That’s right, I said skeleton war.  The tone of the first part of this movie fit the book so well: creepy, but not without humor.  The ending was a big ol’ campy mess.

Today I went to the Boston Book Festival, and at the YA Horror panel, the authors (Margot Harrison, Dawn Kurtagich, and Kim Savage) had a few horror movie suggestions.  Most of them I’d already seen.  The one I hadn’t rated on Netflix was Sanctum, a thriller about cave diving (Margot’s book, The Killer in Me, apparently involves a creepy cave).  About halfway through, I realized I had seen Sanctum before.  But it was a good thriller about how people react when things go wrong.  Being trapped underwater is a huge fear of mine, so this – more than the cave thing – made this scary.  Also that one woman who get her hair caught and her scalp starts ripping off…

Since Sanctum is the clear winner for closest to being a horror movie, I will based my recommendations on that (and suggest you read the Peculiar Children books instead of seeing the movie!).

  • Descent (2005) – This was another of the movies recommended by the YA horror panel.  It’s more about the caving experience, and I certainly do not ever want to go caving after seeing it.  I also liked that all of the cavers were female, it’s fairly unusual in a horror movie.
  • Open Water (2004) – Part of my water fears involve not being able to see clear to the bottom (hence why I prefer swimming in pools).  Something touches my leg underwater and I can’t see, I’m outta there!  So the idea of diving in open water, in the middle of the ocean, would freak me right out.  Add to that missing the boat back and finding you and your spouse stranded in shark-infested waters, and maybe you will join me.  I also wrote about this one in my series Based on a True Story if you’re interested in seeing how realistic it is.
  • Sphere (1998) – Okay, so also jellyfish freak me out?  This movie has a great cast and it is psychologically very creepy, in addition to all the horrifying ways you can die at the bottom of the ocean.


31 Days of Halloween, Day 13: My Bloody Valentine 3D

I’ve seen this one before, several times, but it was high time in the month to watch one of my favorites!  A few years back I made up a drinking game for this movie that had only 4 rules:

  1. Drink when someone dies
  2. Drink when someone says the word “Valentine”
  3. Drink when someone drops an f-bomb
  4. Drink when a light gets smashed

This movie starts off with a “Happy fucking Valentine’s Day” and soon enough, eyeballs are being speared out and heads are being cleaved in half with shovels.

I prefer this version over the original, which to me felt a little slow and centered around a Valentine’s Day dance.  Apparently the original was so violent that 9 minutes had to be cut to get it down to an R-rating.  The remake certainly ups the ante with a nude scene that is over 10 minutes long.  But the major bonus with this movie?  Jensen Ackles.  Yes, I’m a huge fan, although I saw this before I was a fan of Supernatural.  There’s even a Supernatural episode called “My Bloody Valentine” in reference to it – Supernatural has also poked fun at Jensen’s co-star Jared Padalecki’s movies (like House of Wax).

I’m enjoying the carnage (without alcohol tonight), and instead of recommendations, I’ll suggest you check out the movies and episodes I’ve mentioned above.