2016, Ava's Possessions, Baskin, cinema, Clown, film reviews, films, Freaks of Nature, Green Room, Halloween, Halloween traditions, High-Rise, Movies, Nina Forever, The Alchemist Cookbook, The Funhouse Massacre, The Gateway, The Greasy Strangler, The Witch, Under the Shadow
As horror fans, we all get stuck in the same rut of seasonal, Halloween-oriented films: Carpenter’s Halloween, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Trick r Treat, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, et al…There’s nothing wrong with any of these films, mind you: they’ve been regular parts of my October viewing for much of my adult life, after all. That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t other films than these.
In the spirit of The VHS Graveyard’s year-long salute to 2016 horror, we now present thirteen new films that absolutely deserve a spot in your last-minute October film screenings. The films run the gamut, with only one unifying factor: they were all the creme de la creme and handily exemplify all of the best aspects our beloved season. With no further ado and in no particular order, then…the thirteen films you should watch before the clock stricks midnight on Halloween.
If you’re a horror fan, I’m assuming you’ve already seen The Witch: good…see it again. If you haven’t seen Robert Eggers’ ode to the Black Mass, by all means, see it this October. The combination of creeping dread and in-your-face-horror is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to the season of the witch.
In order to be truly frightened, you must be tossed into a completely alien, nightmarish sceanario. Enter Baskin: a Turkish horror film that applies a modicum of logic and an acre of “What the fuck?!,” this is the closest that modern films have come to approximating either Clive Barker’s seminal Hellraiser or any of Lucio Fulci’s batshit beauties. If your stomach is weak, prepare for deja vu on your appetizers.
Addiction can be terrifying: ask any junkie or alcoholic out there. Is it worse than demon possession? We better go to the panel. Jordan Galland’s Ava’s Possessions repositions that proverbial “morning after” by way of The Exorcist: what if you did terrible, horrible things while possessed by a demon…and then had to go through the 12 steps of atonement? What if you…ya know…aren’t really that sorry? Simply fabulous addiction via Beetlejuice parable that’s as funny as it is shocking.
My early pick for one of the top films of the year and still in the running, Ben Wheatley’s distopian look at a class-segregated London apartment building in utter crisis is nothing short of masterful filmmaking. Like a great work of art that affords new understanding with every viewing, High-Rise (masterfully adapted from the J.G. Ballard novel) is one of those films that functions equally well as art (the film really is a beautiful, Kubrickian wonder) and absolute, soul-sucking horror.
Who says that Halloween isn’t a time for love? If anyone doubts the notion, pop in this heartwarming tale about a young man, his dead girlfriend and new lover and the ways in which they all learn to live (and love) together. Equal parts erotic, revolting and thought-provoking, Ben and Chris Blaine’s indie marvel will make you rethink the difference between devotion and obsession…along with things better left to individual discovery, shall we say.
All curtains hung in the shower of a particular run-down apartment building happen to disappear into thin air. The current tenant decides to figure out what’s going on, plunging us all headlong into the kind of metaphysical horror that splits the difference between David Lynch and David Cronenberg, ending somewhere in the general zip code of H.P. Lovecraft. If Halloween is about getting creeped out and worrying about what might be lurking around the corner, do not pass Go and head straight to this micro-budget jewel.
Beginning life as a fake trailer and ending as one of the best, flat-out horror films of the year, Clown is nothing short of a revelation. If you want a no-holds-barred (child killing is abound), kill-em-all creature feature, you could do a lot worse than this chiller about a father who puts on a clown suit and just can’t seem to take it off. The origin story is genuinely badass, the kills are intense and plentiful and the monster is one for the ages. Killer clowns are all the rage, this season: might as well watch it done right, eh?
A punk band (led by the late Anton Yelchin) lands a gig at a secluded dive in the middle of the Oregon wilds.Turns out the place is a neo-Nazi stronghold and our hapless heroes have the great misfortune of witnessing something they’re just not supposed to see. Forced to hold up in the aforementioned green room of the bar, the film is one non-stop seige, Assault on Precint 13 writ on the head of a pin, featuring some of the most heart-stopping, frightening and unforgettable setpieces of the year. Regardless of your personal definition of “horror,” any of the scenes involving the ravenous attack dogs more than fit the bill.
The Alchemist Cookbook
Nothing says “Halloween” like misguided deals with the Devil: it’s a combo as classic as peanut butter and bananas! This year, skip Rosemary’s Baby and set your sights on Joel Potrykus’ latest descent into madness, The Alchemist Cookbook. The Evil Dead by way of Waiting for Godot, this slowburner will reward patient Halloweeners with a truly gonzo finale that will make you second-guess that planned trip to turn lead into gold, in the middle of the woods: It’s probably not worth it.
The Greasy Strangler
A timeless story of father-son rivalry, The Greasy Strangler would be right at home on the Hallmark Channel, provided said station specialized in prosthetic dicks, buckets of grease and more eye-popping mayhem than Rikki-Oh could dream about in a lifetime of cinderblock snoozing. As sleazy as a skid-row grind-show, this is a trip to a dirtier, grungier time. If you can’t get a little sleazy during Halloween, though, when can you?
Under the Shadow
Iranian-made chiller set during the Cultural Revolution and war that’s been compared to The Babadook but is really its own special brand of madness. This slow-burner, about a mother struggling to separate nightmare from reality in a (literally) crumbling apartment, takes its time to let loose with the pure hell but, when it comes, it’s a real kick in the face. Intelligent, creepy, thought-provoking and as well-made as a Swiss clock, this is one that has the making of a “future classic” written all over it.
The Funhouse Massacre
Sometimes, you just want an old-fashioned, blood-n-guts slasher, seasoned with a liberal dose of humor: Funhouse Massacre has those eyes dotted with little smiley-face xs. A group of insane killers escape from the local insane asylum and slip into their respective exhibits in seasonal house of horrors, ala Waxwork by way of Hatchet. Fun, memorable villains? Check. Bloody kills? Check. Likeable, strong victims? Check. Exquisite sense of what made the best ’80s and ’90s B-horror films work? Check and mate.
Freaks of Nature
Above all else, Halloween should be fun and nothing says “fun” quite like vampires, zombies and humans fending off an alien invasion together, right? Freaks of Nature is flat-out-fun from start to finish, featuring a mob of great actors (Denis Leary, Keegan-Michael Key and Joan Cusack, to name but three) and a seemingly endless number of classic horror and sci-fi references. Put this on after the trick ‘r’ treaters leave and pop the keg on the adult cider: this is the perfect way to end the season.