That’s not weird at all. Nope nope nope. It’s just one of many unsettling things I’ve seen in the past week, as part of my horror watching binge.
To kick off October, aka Shocktober, I published two different horror lists on Kotaku. The first one, 31 Movies For Hardcore Horror Fans, is for genre hounds looking for new blood. The second one, 31 Movies For Horror Newcomers, is a guide to horror, past and present. It’s not a “best of” list, but it’s pretty close.
With the first week of October behind us, that means I’ve watched a fair number of movies in the past seven days. Five, in fact! (The point of Shocktober isn’t to watch every single movie, but have a reason to watch waaaay more than usual.)
Until now, I’ve been sharing my thoughts on a new horror podcast, Til Death Do Us Part, which I co-host with my wife. You can listen to the first two episodes on iTunes or stream ‘em over here, and new episodes go up every Thursday! But if you don’t have time for the podcast, I’ve scribbled some impressions below, too.
BTW, if you click on the titles of each movie, you’ll get linked to a trailer.
It’s been a while since I’ve left a theater genuinely unsettled, but the closing act of Goodnight Mommy left me rattled. It’s a gamble whenever a movie employs child actors, but the twin brothers of Goodnight Mommy are terrific; I could have watched them laugh, play, and fight for hours. Buying their relationship is key, too, since it’s what leads them to act drastically when it appears their mother has returned home from facial surgery...changed. Kids are impulsive and naive, and their youth makes them hard to take seriously. But what’s a child to if they genuinely believe something is amiss? Who would believe them? It’d do the movie a disservice to say more, but I’ll say this much: it’s not what I expected.
Unfriended is an awful name, but the movie’s framing is worth the eye roll. While it may technically be a “found footage” film, that’s not entirely accurate. Unfriended takes place entirely on the desktop of the film’s main character, as they swap between Skype, iMessage, Facebook, and other pieces of their desktop. The movie never breaks this rule, allowing innocuous things like a read receipt for a text message or the “someone is typing” animation to build tension. It’s bizarre...but it works? And if there’s one thing harder than employing child actors, it’s making teenagers likable. Granted, the cast is still grating, but the kind of grating I remember my friends being like at that age. It’s not exactly scary, either, but some of the twists had me howling out loud.
I love a good horror comedy. For a genre about death, it helps to lighten up the mood every so often. Though Cooties comes in the impressive wake of Cabin in the Woods, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Army of Darkness, and other films, it’s endearing enough to make a mark. It’s made with love. The film’s mild twist on the undead trope—it doesn’t impact anyone who’s hit puberty—is interesting enough to overlook how the zombie part is pretty forgettable. What makes Cooties work is the stellar cast—headlined by Elijah Wood, Allison Pill, and Rainn Wilson—who are clearly having a blast. They bounce off one another in quick-witted fashion, delivering one-liners fast enough that you can’t help but smile. I’ll never feel a desire to watch Cooties again, but I enjoyed my time there.
Do I love Jurassic Park? Yes. Do I love Michael Crichton novels? Yes. Have I seen Westworld? Yes. Could I have answered that last one in the affirmative a week ago? No. I’m not sure why Chrichton’s directing efforts have gone over my head, but Westworld is a total delight. You can see the inspiration for Jurassic Park in this 1973 film, and even if you’re watching them in reverse order (like me), Westworld feels fresh. The first half of Westworld, which sets up these futuristic robot-fueled theme parks, is sunny and idealistic science fiction. The second half of Westworld, in which man’s hubris runs into unintended consequences, is pure horror. You can see where Halloween, Terminator and others directly lifted inspiration; Yul Brynner’s silent gunslinger is terrifying.
Wow. I was supposed to watch this film last year, as part of Shocktober 2014, but it didn’t happen. What a mistake! A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the first vampire film I’ve enjoyed in...ages? I’m not one for vampires or werewolves, but this was something else. Beautiful, methodic, and thoughtful, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is also tremendously empowering. Vampire films tend to focus on men-turned-fangs seducing women, but this is quite the opposite. The Girl—she’s never given a name—has reasons for stalking the darkness that go well beyond fresh blood. It’s tempting to call A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night slow, but it’s in line with the old school, black-and-white aesthetic. This movie takes its sweet time to arrive at where it’s going, but when it does—hoo boy.