100 horror films in the 100 days leading up to Halloween
The next ten films I watched all featured in this year’s Grimmfest programme. Some I reviewed as part of RSC’s Grimmfest coverage, some I watched independently… they’ve all been reviewed here before (by myself or someone else on the team) so this piece will be shorter than the last few, just summarising what I discovered.
Re-animator (1985, USA), directed by Stuart Gordon
Sometimes I can’t believe the gaps in my film-watching history: I’ve seen a huge range of films, but I haven’t seen Re-animator until now! I think for a long time I mistakenly assumed a lot of 80s horror films (and some from the decades either side) were either cheesy or stupidly over-the-top; and it’s only in recent years that I’ve had both the chance and inclination to find out.
I’m aware also that the blend of comedy and horror doesn’t always sit comfortably with me, too – which was another obstacle – but I’m very glad I watched this: the humour was about the plot rather than jokes as such, and the plot itself took so many ludicrous side turns that I couldn’t quite guess where it was going to go next. And great to see where Barbara Crampton started… read the full review for more.
Await Further Instructions (2018, UK), directed by Johnny Kevorkian
Instantly landed within my three top favourite Christmas horror films (along with The Children and Krampus); I’ll have to watch the lot again to determine the order. This one is a perfect blend of horror and satire – with a chilling conclusion – and set firmly at Christmas time too.
Await Further Instructions will be coming to cinemas in December; in the meantime, read my full review (as part of our Grimmfest coverage).
Framed (2017, Spain), directed by Marc Martínez Jordán
Home invasion film for the YouTube generation: an absolute riot… and I mean that in a really vicious sense. It was difficult to watch at times, due to over-the-top violence combined with how plausible it was, but that only served to reinforce its warnings.
See my full review for more.
Dead Night (2017, USA), directed by Bradford Baruh
Bloody and entertaining, but confusing. It’s about yet another group of people spending a break at a cabin in the woods and meeting something evil. But are there witches in the forest, or is it something weirder? And what’s Barbara Cramptons’ politician character got to do with anything?
I’m not sure how I feel about the format either, which is part traditional horror/thriller and part TV-style journalism reviewing the events from an official angle. Dead Night is very nicely made, but I wasn’t convinced any more than Jonathon was in his review.
The Witch in the Window (2018, USA), directed by Andy Mitton
Now this one was great quality and a lovely thoughtful contrast to other more hectic or violent films. The Witch in the Window showed herself gradually, but persistently; adding supernatural tension to a troubled family… father and son spent a few weeks to build bridges, but would Lydia let them?
The acting, pacing and cinematography all shone in this film. See my review for more of what made it great.
Satan’s Slaves (2017, Indonesia), directed by Joko Anwar
Funny, this one was the complete opposite to Let’s Not Meet: better acting and production than story… But the production – especially some of the framing and other visual effects – was a thing of beauty. Some say it has too much in common with other films about families bound to the Devil and suchlike, but I was so drawn into it that I hardly noticed until looking back afterwards.
I’ve already sought out another film directed by Anwar… Read my full review to see why I liked it so much.
Pledge (2018, USA), directed by Daniel Robbins
On the surface, Pledge is a film about young men trying to figure out how to fit in at university; though it is also about risk, getting out of your depth, and different kinds of power. Pledge is full of shocks and tension… and is not one to watch on a full stomach!
Very impressive acting and packing… read my full review for more.
Alive. (2018, USA), directed by Rob Grant
Alive is an excellent mystery horror, which may look familiar at first, but sticking with it will pay off.
Pacing is an issue, though: sometimes Alive struggles with the fine line between slow and tense, and there’s an unnecessary mid-credits scene which kind of softens the sharp impact of the conclusion; but overall, Alive is more satisfying than not.
Read my full review for more.
Anna and the Apocalypse (2018, UK), directed by John McPhail
Morgan reviewed this one at Grimmfest, and I was lucky enough to have a second chance to catch it at Mayhem, where Anna and the Apocalypse was the opening feature.
And I loved it. There was an excellent mix of entertaining with poignant, and it was thoroughly – but not depressingly – British. The only issue I found was the sound, in that the lyrics weren’t always clear… but if it’s now heading towards becoming a singalong musical in the USA, that may have just been the screening I was at.
One to watch out for when it hits the cinemas nearer to Christmas.
Nightmare Cinema (2018, USA), directed by Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryûhei Kitamura, David Slade
Morgan reviewed this one too; and again, I got to see it at Mayhem. Fabulous anthology: not a single dud amongst them, but I really loved both the variety and the scares. Some of it was surreal, some violent, but nearly all of it full of unexpected twists and turns. Richard Chamberlain as a plastic surgeon baddie!
Not so sure about the projectionist (Mickey Rourke) who linked them, or indeed whether any link was necessary… in terms of links, my other/previous favourite anthology, Southbound, did it much better. I’ll definitely be recommending this when it becomes more widely available, though.
Check out the rest of my #100DaysOfHorror countdown and feel free to contact me on Twitter if you have “must see” suggestions for me.
Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.