This week's horror moviefest started with two movies that scared me into a comedy-horror.
I often compare The Exorcist to The Conjuring as a benchmark for terror. I read the novel by William Peter Blatty in junior high - my mom had passed it on to me as was her practice when she finished a book. Not that I was particularly prodigal but early on, it was clear I shared her penchant for horror. It wasn't until high school that I saw the movie with a friend who found it silly. Seeing a movie with others has its benefits and its drawbacks. When the entire theater is really into it and everybody screams at the right moments, a film can take on a whole new level of terror - such is my memory of Carrie. And when your date scoffs at the film as mine did during The Exorcist, it can bump it down a notch. Since then I have had a hot/cold relationship with this film. This time as I watched alone in a dark room, I felt the adrenaline move in with a sense of what real evil might look like - and I paused to let the dog in. The music was groundbreaking and as I look back at this film 35 years later, I can only say that more bells would have been better. If you haven't listened to entire suite of Michael Oldfield's "Tubular Bells," you should. Even if you are among the many who choose to avoid this film, you will recognize the theme and I'll bet it draws a bit of a chill. But it is the music on the album that was not in the movie that terrified me.
The second movie this week was Ouija: Origin of Evil. The little girl stars in Annabelle: Creation while her older sister played the younger Kaylie in Oculus. My husband and I have a few rules when it comes to Halloween. No clowns, no spiders, and no Ouijas. The first two are my rules and the third is his. So I watched a second terrifying movie alone in a dark room. And this one is damn scary. The subtle manner in which the child's face changes, and the mouth that opens just a bit too wide, are the stuff that nightmares are made of. This is a film about the Ouija so expect some of the standard fare, but the way this one is presented combined with the strength of the characters sets this apart from its peers.
I discovered Tucker & Dale vs. Evil last year when I first heard the term "comedy-horror." This delightfully hilarious film combines the simple innocence of two hillbillies with the the prejudice of city kids in a setting out of Friday the 13th. How many movies have we seen where the music and camera angle tell you to be afraid and you're screaming at the television to "get out of there and call the police?" I would say one too many for the college kids while the conclusion reached by the hillbillies is even funnier.
The rest of the movies this week were reruns, but very good reruns. Like the second and third chapters of Insidious. The sequel is about as good as a sequel can get without being better than the original. Insidious Chapter 2 is woven so masterfully into the first film that you could convince yourself they were filmed at the same time. I rate it a half skull lower than the original simply because it is not the original and while I loved having more of the same, the only thing new was the back story. Which is really, really good so this is a series where you don't want to stop at the first chapter.
I suggest you don't stop after the second chapter either. Insidious Chapter 3 is a pretty good prequel and while I held back half a skull from its predecessor, the incident that brought Elise out of retirement and paired her with those goofy assistants is worth the time. Familiar themes from the Further are present so it is up to the haunting to carry the thrills - but how do you top the original? With an awesome car accident scene, a bad assed demon and a helping hand from mom. Okay, you probably can't top the original but after you watch this will want to watch the final chapter when it releases next year.
I rounded out the weekend with a handful of favorites: The Grudge, Conjuring 2 and The Cabin in the Woods. Don't judge The Grudge with it's slightly lower rating. I go back to my daughter's house in Japan every time I see it. A chip off the old block, she didn't have the nerve to watch when she lived in Japan but as soon as she returned home this was the first horror film she chose. Conjuring 2 is terrifying, but less so than its predecessor - and really, we're just splitting hairs here. And finally, what do you get when you combine The Evil Dead with The Truman Show, 13 Ghosts and Clash of the Titans? Add Chris Hemsworth then top it off with a maniacal ending and you have a modern favorite with a conclusion I did not see coming.
Up next, the epilogue to an epic Halloween.