Welcome to the last weekend before Halloween. Sort of. Since Halloween is on a Monday this year, the weekend before Halloween qualifies as Halloween. How I love to bend the rules and stretch out my favorite holiday as long a possible. So let's get started.
Oculus is Latin for "eye." If you've ever read your ophthalmologist's medical records, he or she would have used OD to describe your right eye (Oculus Dexter) and OS to describe your left eye (Oculus Sinister). So while this feels like a good reason to name a scary movie Oculus, the title of this awesome flick is a reference to the architectural definition, an oval window or opening. A portal. Every time I watch Oculus I swear I can't remember what is coming up next. This movie has a way of disorienting the viewer by taking us back and forth from the past to the present to the paranormal - is that real or a vision? This is one of the more intense films on my list that keeps me in suspense in spite of multiple reruns.
Creepshow is another comic book made for the big screen with five "terrifying" stories written by Stephen King. I'm not sure terrifying is the right definition but then maybe I'm not the standard against which terror should be measured. I read The Exorcist in junior high. This film has a great line-up of actors like Hal Holbrook, Ed Harris, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson and Adrienne Barbeau. This is where you roll your eyes and say . . . who? Trust me, they were hot in 1982. Did you know that John Carpenter was married to Adrienne Barbeau? Or that Carpenter directed The Fog co-starring Andrienne Barbeau and Ed Harris? Or that he directed Stephen King's Christine? Or that Ed Harris starred in Needful Things while his wife, Amy Madigan, starred in The Dark Half - both Stephen King movies. Yeah, Hollywood can be loyal that way which is sort of cool. Oh, and there is the master himself, Stephen King, who makes more than his usual cameo appearance. My favorite part just might be the voodoo doll. If you like this film there is a sequel. Which you probably already know if you like this film.
Moving to the truly terrifying, The Omen. I read this book while working my first job as a clerk at the local dry cleaner; I was 14 or 15. Unlike the really cool food service jobs ("Welcome to Arctic Circle, may I take your order?"), the dry cleaner was pretty quiet which gave me a lot of time to read or do homework. It was actually pretty sweet but at the time, I was sort of jealous of my sister whose job was selling tickets at the movie theater. Except for the occasional customer picking up or dropping off, or when my uncle/boss was around, the only noise in the place was an old radio. What a great setting for a ghost story. Or an anti-Christ story. The Omen originated as a screenplay and the book was based on the screenplay - released as part of the publicity campaign. I guess that is why the book follows the movie so well. You know the creep poem that is supposedly from the book of Revelations? Nah. Written for the movie and very well done, I might add. Forty years after its release The Omen still delivers scares and chills without CGI. Ranked as the 14th scariest movie of all time, Damien's smile in the final scene has to be one of the scariest moments in movie history. How do you even get a little kid to do that? Forget it, I don't want to know. Damien was Harry Stephens' only role as an actor despite his performance which you have to admit is pretty amazing. He did have a cameo as a reporter in Damien: Omen II, but that's it. It seems like such a waste, with a sinister smile like that. The film is rumored to be cursed as a result of several disasters surrounding the cast and crew. Gregory Peck and the film's screenwriter took separate flights to the UK for the filming - both planes were struck by lightening. The producer was nearly struck by lightening himself while in Rome. The director's hotel was bombed by the IRA and while he was not injured, he was later struck by a car. After shooting on location in Israel, Peck chartered a private jet for his return to America. He canceled his plans and the jet was rented to a group of business men who all died when the plane crashed. On the day of a shoot, several members of the crew survived a head-on crash. I'd skip the sequel, too.
I had heard very mixed reviews about The Witch so when I spotted it on Netflix, I decided to check it out for myself. I gave this film 2½ skulls with a promise to watch it again - with subtitles. The Witch is a New England folktale that sets the stage for witchcraft against a backdrop of a religious family's battle to survive after being cast out of their community. I probably missed 75% of the dialogue because the accents were so strong I just couldn't understand what the actors' were saying. It didn't occur to me to simply turn on the subtitles at the time, and I struggled through the film. You can argue that if you have to struggle just to hear what's being said, it isn't worth it. Entertainment isn't supposed to be that hard. I can see your point, but I don't find many bad horror movies and this is a different kind of scare. Plus the whole witchcraft hysteria of that time period is fascinating to me. So I'll give it a neutral rating and a better chance another time.
The second movie of the Insidious trilogy is as good as the first movie. That's my opinion. And it's my blog. But I'm open to comments so if you don't agree, let's chat. The way Insidious 2 was woven into the first chapter was done so exquisitely that I would believe both movies were made at the same time, resolving beautifully at the end. Sort of. I don't think they were made together, but the film is that good. This movie also shouts out to other films on my horror list. There is an African painting in Elise's home that also appears in Daniel's study in Paranormal Activity 2 and in grandma's house in Paranormal Activity 3. You know you're going to go back and watch now, don't you? The actor who plays young Josh also plays young Tim in Oculus in a common theme where he sees an older version of himself. And what about that creepy hospital? Have you seen it before? Well, it has been in 30 other horror movies including Halloween 2. How's that for Hollywood horror loyalty? My only disappointment of Insidious 2 is the ending which suggests a sequel another chapter that we hoped would be as masterfully woven into the trilogy.
The Thing is one of my husband's favorite movies; it is probably on his top 5 horror movies of all time. I am talking about the re-make because I have not seen the original. I know there is an original because I've seen Halloween. I like this movie well enough I guess, but for some reason this is one film where I find myself easily distracted. That would be my flaw, not yours or his or John Carpenter's. In fact, it is Carpenter's favorite of the movies he directed. Truth be told, I don't know why I find myself checking my iPhone or starting dinner during this movie. I mean, The Thing is full of a deliciously handsome Kurt Russell - a man I fell in love with when I saw The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and one who is just as handsome today. So now you know my dirty little secret and I really doubt Goldie Hawn will hunt me down. This sci-fi horror takes place in the Antarctic (a set created in the heat of LA) and makes us afraid to believe that somewhere in the frozen depths of Hell is an evil more ancient, more alien, more dangerous than any modern demon. When you put it that way, this is a pretty great movie. And despite my ADD and the film's lack of box office success, it has a respectable cult following. It is tradition in British Antarctic research stations to watch The Thing as part of their Midwinter feast and celebration held every year. And it hits my Halloween moviefest. Every year.
Look up "A Cabin in the Woods" or "Cabin in the Woods" in IMDb and you won't find one of my favorite, original scary movie flicks. In fact, you just might miss this multiple skull feature that I describe as The Evil Dead meets The Truman Show and Thir13en Ghosts. THE Cabin in the Woods starring features what may be the hottest actor in recent filmography, Chris Hemsworth. Yeah, it's not just about Kurt Russell over here. The Cabin in the Woods is so original in the horror movie genre, with an opening scene that was apparently designed to confuse the audience. The director grew up in Los Alamos, where scientists who build nuclear weapons masquerade as normal people during their off time. I've heard of scientists who try to be normal by doing crazy things like baking cupcakes and blogging about Halloween to hide their inner nerd.
My little brother turned me on to this movie a few years ago when he responded to my Halloween moviefest status on FB by citing this film, followed by "don't tell the kids." My brother is a better parent than I am; he has standards for the content his children watch on television and in the theater. But he's still human, and he's my brother, which means he is compelled to watch scary movies during the Halloween season. So he does what any good parent will do - watches this movie and then keeps it to himself. And FaceBook, of course. Thank you bro for this movie; I would like to think I would have discovered it on my own but you helped me along. This film boasts one of the most epic climactic scenes I have ever watched, earning it extra skulls. If you have seen the movie, you know what I am talking about. If you haven't seen it . . . well what are you waiting for?! Not available for free, you might have to cough up three bucks to watch this one. Take it out of your beer fund. PBR is overrated.
In the spirit of Insidious, Paranormal Activity 2 is, in my humble opinion, as good as the original. Like any sequel, or prequel (is there a term for concurrent quel?), a bit of the mystery is lost because out of the gate you have already figured out Paranormal Activity's secret. It isn't real. If you've ever watched any of the Paranormals as reruns, you already know this and if that ruins it for you . . . well, you make me sad. I will never stop being creeped out by what might happen when I sleep. I have exterior security cameras that often make me wonder what the hell is going on late at night in my neighborhood. That combined with my status as a lifelong insomniac, I would never film what happens while I sleep inside. It's like jumping into the bed and pulling the covers over your head when you hear a ghost. You don't really want to know. Both of the Paranormal films (I haven't gotten to 3 yet) were promoted by Christopher Chacon, a world-renowned paranormal expert. Paranormal expert. I went to college for like a hundred years and never saw any classes that would take me down that career path. He is my hero.
I closed out the third week of Halloween moviefest with my grandkids, a ghost tour, and a late night viewing of The Grudge. Remember, I'm that parent which means I'm that grandparent. I put The Grudge in the same category as The Ring, but unlike The Ring, the American version of The Grudge takes place in Japan. My daughter lived in Japan for several years and I was so lucky to spend some time with her. Japanese homes really do have that creepy attic and the type of construction that you see in this film. In true Japanese tradition, the cast and crew went through a ceremony where they were blessed so that nothing bad would happen to them during the filming. Our friends from The Omen might have followed that tradition. To this day, when my daughter is around for some scary movie action, I always pull out The Grudge and remember those awesome Japanese attics.
Nine movies this week, which doesn't include the two times I watched Oculus and Conjuring 2. I mentioned my daughter was in town and she wanted to watch movies she hadn't seen before. Only one new film that needs a re-screening for full assessment. I'm thinking that as I get closer to the big day, the classics and old friends are how I get into the spirit of the Halloween season.
We're almost there, stay tuned and keep watching.