100 horror films in the 100 days leading up to Halloween
And so, I reach the end of my countdown, covering 100 horror films in the 100 days leading up to (and including) Halloween. They were all first watches, some classics and some relatively unknown.
There have been 24 films set in forests, eight films by women directors (yes, I’ll try to find more next time), twelve films about bereavement or grief, three that I want to buy to keep, six featuring puppets or mannequins, and five films starring Barbara Crampton.
I’ve covered films from a range of countries:
- Argentina (x 2)
- Australia (x 3)
- Austria (x 1)
- Belgium (x 2)
- Canada (x 6)
- Czech Republic (x 1)
- Denmark (x 1)
- France (x 3)
- Germany (x 3)
- India (x 2)
- Indonesia (x 1)
- Ireland (x 2)
- Italy (x 6)
- Japan (x 2)
- Philippines (x 1)
- Russia (x 1)
- Spain (x 5)
- Sweden (x 1)
- Taiwan (x 1)
- Thailand (x 1)
- UK (x 18)
- USA (x 58)
And half old, half new, over a good cross-section of decades:
- 1930’s (x 1)
- 1950’s (x 1)
- 1960’s (x 2)
- 1970’s (x 13)
- 1980’s (x 12)
- 1990’s (x 5)
- 2000’s (x 11)
- 2010’s (x 55, including 21 from this year alone)
There are still more terrific horror films I’ve not yet seen, probably even whole subgenres. Please do let me know of any “must see” recommendations… and I’ll look forward to having your company when I do it again next year.
Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel (2018, USA), directed by Stephen Cognetti
Contrary to all expectations, this one was unfortunately painful to watch: unlike the first (and successful) film, Hell House LLC II had the appearance of being thrown together quickly, because of its poor writing and poor acting. Found footage particularly relies on suspension of disbelief, which isn’t at all a reasonable ask with patchy acting.
On the plus side, this sequel was equally well made, and at least they had the scary clowns, though not as many as before. See my full review for a little more insight (though I confess there wasn’t much more insight to give).
The Velvet Vampire (1971, USA/Philippines), directed by Stephanie Rothman
This was a film that I’d never heard of until I went hunting for horror films directed by women. In my view, it’s a hippy-style exploitation fantasy, rather than a horror, and stars the recently departed Celeste Yarnall.
The Velvet Vampire is a very clear inspiration for the visual style in Anna Biller’s The Love Witch. It’s gorgeous to watch, especially the desert scenes; but barely exciting and not at all scary.
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972, USA), directed by Bob Clark
I’d heard of this film by name a number of times, but never anything about it. Now that I’ve seen it, though, I have no idea why it has endured: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things has minimal plot, amateur quality actors, and clearly very cheap production. It’s about a theatre company who visit a cemetery to get some practice at, oh I don’t know what, some commitment to their part thing that the director has cooked up; it’s all very sketchy.
Great zombie effects though… When they finally get around to it.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982, USA), directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
This is the Halloween film which is infamous for being nothing to do with any of the others. I’m perfectly OK with that and was curious to see what a separate entry in the hypothetical anthology looked like. It was mostly quite naff though, with a plucky heroine and a bad guy reveal that could have come straight out of Scooby Doo. On the plus side, the mannequins were very creepy (sue me: my favourite Doctor Who adventure is “Spearhead from Space”) and some nasty head-squishing deaths.
I consider this a novelty in my series and watched so that I know what the fuss was about. And it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me…
Terrified AKA Aterrados (2017, Argentina), directed by Demián Rugna
You want creepy? Terrified is a deeply creepy film. Mostly due to the visual effects, mind you, rather than the story: Terrified is about a district of Buenos Aires with paranormal activities reported, and although some of the incidents are pretty shocking (especially the first), and the acting excellent, the film does not have a satisfying conclusion or even hang together with much logic.
I watched it, enjoyed it, and then thought “what?” Still, I’m glad Shudder is showing films from all around the world.
Psychophonia AKA Deadly Signal (2016, USA), directed by Brianne Davis
At last, another horror film directed by a woman; this time, I didn’t go hunting for it, but it crossed my radar because it landed on Amazon Prime.
Psychophonia is an odd story, about a woman (Vedette Lim) whose husband is abruptly killed near the beginning of the film, and who then starts to receive strange phone calls. What was odd about the story was the links between the murder, a swingers’ club and spirituality, all of which are rather tenuous. The reveal of the antagonist was quite spoiled with overacting too.
Like Let’s Not Meet, Psychophonia appears to have been made with more passion and commitment than money, and I have great respect for the efforts; though something tells me Davis will do much better than this in future.
Wolfen Ninja AKA Wolf Devil Woman AKA Lang nu bai mo (1982, Taiwan), directed by Ling Chang
Another film directed by a woman, and this time in a style I’ve not come across before. Sure, I’ve seen modern martial arts classics such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero; but nothing of that ilk from the eighties, and certainly nothing like Wolfen Ninja!
Wolfen Ninja is an adorable blend of simplistic and flamboyant, made with real affection for folklore, costume and so on. The only thing that tipped this film over the line from fun to silly was the American dubbed voices. But I loved it nonetheless; hence the score.
Lisa and the Devil AKA Lisa e il diavolo (1973, Italy/West Germany/Spain/USA), directed by Mario Bava
Oh, I loved this film and might watch it again soon. I loved that it was unafraid of showing symbols as people, and visions as though they were real. Lush melodrama, atmospheric production and lavish sets, puppets and – yes – Telly Savalas. What more could you want?
A surreal and mesmerising film, Lisa and the Devil is about a tourist (Elle Sommer) who gets lost and finds herself taken in by strangers, and staying at an old mansion. Murder, betrayal, seduction and nightmare follow, spinning poor Lisa around until she has no idea any more what is real… And neither does the viewer.
The Visit (2015, USA), directed by M. Night Shyamalan
The description of The Visit didn’t sound terribly inspiring (children go to visit grandparents?) when it first came to the cinema, but since then I became aware of the film’s weird reputation, so gave it a try when it appeared on TV. And yes, I was gripped from the start: everything about The Visit made me nervous.
Simply put it is about two kids (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) who go to visit their grandparents for a week… having never met them before. The old couple behaves a little oddly at times, and gradually the children find it more and more unsettling. And then we find out why.
The acting is remarkable, the pseudo-documentary style works, and nearly everything about The Visit is believable. However, I was very uncomfortable with the treatment of mental illness here, which is why I’ve not scored it higher.
Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018, UK), directed by Crispian Mills
Well, this was not the great film I expected it to be. Since Shaun of the Dead, there is an appetite and expectation for good horror comedy if the names on the poster read Pegg and Frost, but Slaughterhouse Rulez did not deliver.
Sorry to end my project on a downer. Here’s my full review if you want to know more.
Check out the rest of my #100DaysOfHorror countdown and feel free to contact me on Twitter if you have “must see” suggestions for me.