Currently Listening to: Sincerely by Dude York
It is the beginning of my favorite time of year. The holy trinity of months. The final quarter of the year. The intro to Christmas. Nah, but Halloween is cool too. I always LIKED Halloween when I was a kid, but only loved it select few years. Maybe it was the years that I had an especially great costume that I remember loving like when I was Mr. Fredrickson from the movie Up or Indiana Jones or being Dracula either time. I never had a bad costume, but I definitely had my favorites. I could probably tell you my least favorite though since there’s this infamous picture of two year old me having a meltdown dressed up as a lion. Maybe I was just getting in character for being the cowardly lion from Wizard of Oz or I was getting in character to be a total wimp. Thankfully that only lasted a few years.
Funny enough, I actually like Halloween a lot more now than I did when I was a kid. The parties are always a great time, haunted houses have become a must every year now, and the candy consumption grew too thanks to being older and having a debit card with access to bags of Sour Patch Kids and Kit-Kats. My new favorite tradition though is watching horror movies. It wasn’t until I was about 13 or 14 that I really started to adopt scary movies as an every year occasion. I can’t credit it to Poltergeist since even though I love it now it scared the living shit out of me as a kid. If I HAD to credit one movie though it’d probably be The Conjuring. That really spiked my adoration.
So since it is October I thought it would be fun to break away from my traditional blog format and make a list of five great horror movies and five not so good ones. This is completely subjective, but I definitely feel strongly enough about a few of the worst. Shall we begin, Clarice?
Also worth noting, this is ONLY THE BEST this entry. The worst list will be out in a few days!
5. Get Out
I think most people around my age can distinctly remember the time that they first saw Get Out. It seems like people either really love this movie or really hate it. Why they would hate it I have no idea, unless you are like my parents and aren’t especially fans of horror movies. I was kind of late first watching Get Out since I had missed it initially when it first came to theaters. It wasn’t until it was offered as an inflight movie that I got an opportunity to watch it. Within the first five minutes I was absolutely hooked. The tension and buildup with the longshot of the man talking on the phone walking to his car in a dimly lit neighborhood while someone lurks in the background was terrifying. Only then to follow it up with Childish Gambino’s Redbone? Ridiculous!
I don’t know if anyone else could relate to this, but I truthfully had no idea what was going to happen next. The writing is so strong and has so many plot twists that I did not expect whatsoever. The fact that something that seemed like a typical slasher flick at times turned into a commentary on racial injustices and prejudices in America is unheard of and ultimately welcomed with open arms. All while simultaneously terrifying the audience with gruesome depictions of violence and ‘wanting to see the world through a black person’s eyes’. It’s such a great concept.
Good acting is usually not something that is a highlight of most horror films, but I think Daniel Kaluuya as Chris was stellar. From the first moment I saw him tear up while being hypnotized at the beginning of the film I was like damn this guy can act! His TSA buddy was really entertaining too and made for great comedic relief.
What impressed me the most though is the fact that the dude that wrote the Key and Peele substitute teacher sketch directed AND wrote the script for arguably one of the most important horror movies ever still blows me. I was just waiting for the teacher to pop out at the party in the middle of the film and greet the main character, Chris and say ‘ah you must be Cha-ris’, only to knock him out for correcting him. The former Cubs manager, Joe Maddon was also great as the dad in the film. Nice try ‘Bradley Whitford’ we know this was your victory lap after the 2016 World Series win.
While I do love Peele’s second film, Us, more than this one it feels more like a thriller than a horror movie so that’s why it makes this list.
4. It Follows
They should’ve just renamed this movie ‘Wrap it Before You Tap It’. You might have never heard of this movie, but you deserve to and lucky for you I’m about to half-ass explain it!
It Follows is about this teenager who goes on a date with a guy who acts kind of strange, but you know looks trump strangeness (explains why people are attracted to Ted Bundy nowadays). Their date ends abruptly, but it was good enough for them to have a sexual encounter. After this night, strange things begin to happen. She discovers she is being stalked by a creature that takes over as different human beings in order to disguise itself. Why is this happening? The guy she slept with was blessed with an STD that causes this strange being to stalk whoever contracts the disease and follows them until they kill them. I’ll leave it at that because the mystery of how to get rid of it is what makes it so gripping.
Anyone that watches any horror movie in some capacity knows that most ‘scary’ movies nowadays will just scare you with a loud sound to make you jump, but what actually happens is less than scary or just flat out dorky. It Follows doesn’t do that at all except for maybe one or two times. The rest is just based off of pure uncertainty. Often you’ll see silhouettes or anthropomorphic figures in the background and it just has you guessing if that is the creature coming to kill her or if it’s just some Chad ripping his JUUL.
When a movie has a great soundtrack it earns bonus points. It Follows has a very memorable synth-driven, 80s inspired soundtrack and I love it. I would definitely buy a physical copy if my pockets didn’t have moths flying out of them. It also helps with building tension which some may seem as a cop out for natural tension, but who cares it sounds dope.
3. The Conjuring
One of the first dates I ever went on was to see this movie and I was visibly terrified. Of what though? The person I was with? The fact it could be super scary? That it was an R rated movie and I was just a lil boy? That popcorn was $7 and I didn’t have the chore money to afford it since I blew it on the ticket? If you guessed the fact that it was scary then you are correct! To be fair though, I would’ve accepted any answer.
The Conjuring is different than most horror films or truthfully I should say WAS different than most horror films. Seems as though there are so many movies that attempt to replicate the magic of it and just nobody gets close. Hell, even the own franchise tries to replicate it and it doesn’t work! Shoutout to The Nun, you’ll see that title later (subtle foreshadowing, right?). This movie has so many memorable moments that made me dig my fingers into that faux velvet seating in the theater. The hide and go clap scene is iconic at this point and still trips me out, the scene in the basement/cellar I can’t remember which, but whatever it’s terrifying and haunted me for a straight week.
What I really respect about this movie is that it took a seemingly dead format of the ‘based off of true events’ format and made it seem real. The two paranormal investigators showing their work to the college class makes it seem very cinematic too. Smart. I’m glad they made the investigators intellectual and not like an episode of Ghost Hunters where grown men are screaming because they think they heard a ghost whisper ‘hot cheetos’ and then play it back with voice-over saying “did this ghost say hot cheetos? We can’t be sure”.
The effect and makeup in this film are worth mentioning too. The design of Annabelle before she had her own spinoff franchise was definitely an image that stuck with me. The demons also looked really realistic, given I’ve never seen a demon but if I did I can imagine it’d look like that. Unless you count Trisha Paytas then I’ve definitely seen a demon and that characterization is awful.
2. It (2017) and It Chapter 2 (2019)
The first IT came out on my birthday and it was probably one of the most memorable birthdays because of it. I remember seeing Atomic Blonde with my friends that summer prior and they showed the first five minutes as a teaser and we were all like “wOOOoooAAaaaaHHhh we gotta see that man!” That small teaser ended up being better than Atomic Blonde, but anyhow. IT is easily my favorite modern horror movie and for good reason. It’s scary as FUCK.
I don’t care what anyone says I got ridiculed by my close friends for thinking it was scary, but damn did you not see Pennywise?! Bill Skarsgard did amazing as the titular clown/alien. His voice has almost become as meme-able as Christian Bale’s deep, raspy Batman accent. The beginning scene of the film where little Georgie (r.i.p. my guy) meets Pennywise in the drain in an attempt to retrieve the boat his older brother Bill made for him is the perfect intro to what kind of villain he is and the voice changes to sound more enticing to his victims.
What REALLY set the tone for what was to come was when they actually showed Georgie’s arm being bitten off and you see him crying and desperately attempting to escape with just a nub oozing blood down the drains and getting dragged down there. As often as kids are in peril in horror films it’s not often you see a kid actually get hurt, let alone killed on screen like that. This made me fearful of what was to come since the stars of the film are kids too and kind of made me sick to my stomach. Not due to fear, but because I snuck sushi into the theater and that shit on screen was gross. I felt dirty eating raw fish after seeing some little kid get his arm ripped off. I was worried I’d feel something stuck in my teeth and just pull out a piece of yellow rain jacket.
Fun fact: I didn’t eat sushi for a good two months after this.
What follows after this amazing opening scene is a series of terrifying events like being chased by a leper through an abandoned courtyard, blood blasting through a sink drain, and seeing hands of people clawing for life trying to escape behind a fiery door. The child actors make this movie what it is. I was laughing my ass off the entire movie, not in a messed up in the head kind of way, the movie is actually supposed to be funny I promise. The adults are all creeps though and I don’t understand why they were all made out to be these disgusting characterizations. It was nevertheless very entertaining though and fleshed out certain characters.
The second IT movie isn’t as good as the first one, nor does it completely follow the same rules as it which was kind of disappointing. The whole point is that the adults can’t see Pennywise and within the first 10 minutes an adult was killed. What? Maybe Pennywise was homophobic or something since they are the only LGBTQ characters presented at the time (THERE’S better foreshadowing for you). It makes sense that the kids from the first movie can see him since they survived, but not just some random dude at a carnival.
The two IT movies are kind of like the Alien franchise, one is more of the horror movie and the other is more of an adventure. IT Chapter 2 feels more like an adventure than the first one did. (Almost) All the characters coming together 27 years later to defeat Pennywise felt like a band of childhood friends trying to reconnect and conquer at the same time and less like a ‘oh no a clown!’ kind of take.
Whoever was in charge of casting seriously didn’t get paid enough. The grown up versions of the kids from the first film all made so much sense. I just don’t understand why they got the Old Spice guy to play adult Mike. Unless they combatted Pennywise with the 24 hour sweat resistance power of deodorant. Bill Hader and James McAvoy were perfectly cast though and they felt the most like their character from the film prior.
The thing is though, this movie isn’t really great by any means but I don’t care at all it’s just fun. The movie exceeds 2 and a half hours and it felt like an hour. The thing I can’t really give a pass to though is how they defeated Pennywise and how he looked like a deflated baby afterwards. Did Pennywise never go to middle school? If he went to middle school I can guarantee you he would’ve been dead in like 15 minutes after walking through the halls. If hate words killed him he wouldn’t have lasted in 2020 either
- Halloween (1978)
My parents always warned me as a kid that if I watched scary movies I would get really bad nightmares. They said this about Jurassic Park when I was like six and guess what I watched Jurassic Park. Did I have nightmares? You bet your ass I did! Flashforward a decade later though and I just got done watching Halloween for the first time. Alone. With no one home. Lights off. Shit.
I think at the time Halloween was really the only slasher movie I had seen, unless you count Saw which I thought was pretty good. Halloween elevated my thoughts on horror films in general. I continued to think about this movie for weeks after. I worked at Party City during this time too and I vividly remember a Michael Myers mask popping out at me while looking for a costume and jumping a foot in the air.
Like It Follows, Halloween has an amazing score. Everyone knows the infamous Michael Myers theme, but there’s something supremely haunting about the rest of the score which was composed by John Carpenter, the director, himself.
To Halloween’s credit, this movie opens with a homicidal mental patient escaping from a mental hospital and goes off into the countryside and he isn’t afraid of hiding in clear daylight. I don’t know there’s something kind of sinister about that, like he knows that if he kills someone in clear sight his reign of terror will end, yet he isn’t afraid to make himself apparent. The scene where he is hiding in someone’s yard while staring at teens walking back from school is a perfect example.
Halloween is an asshole. The filmmakers get so much tension built up and all these warning signs that something bad is going to happen and nothing does and I LOVE THAT. The whole time I was like ‘nah NOW he’s gonna get ’em!’ and I never knew when he would do it until he did.
The last 20 minutes are perfect. The chase between Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael is super realistic and extremely intense. With every footstep and creak of floorboards I found myself gripping into my own hands. The worst is when you think it is all over and he died, but SIKE he dipped and left. What?? After all that he’s still out there? No way man, no way.
Scream 1 or 2 (more funny than scary)
The Cabin in the Woods (very creative, just not really scary)