Annual Halloween Watchlist: Week 2


This week we’re getting all psychological up in here as we explore the darkness of suburban life, the pain of moving on, and the horrific domino effects that lead a society into authoritarianism. Strap yourselves in, guys. We’re going deep into the dark recesses of humanity’s mind…

10/8 – Raw


This was one of the grossest coming-of-age stories I’ve ever seen. Its immersive atmosphere and provocative visuals leave you in a continuous state of unease and fascination. But its inconsistency in its tone essentially undermines what the film was trying to convey. This is Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Carrie but without Carrie’s subtlety and Chainsaw’s macabre, over-exaggerated characters. It’s an ambitious mediation on human appetite itself and the lengths we go in fulfilling said appetites, but it is, however, far too graphic for my taste. It’s one of many films out there where its poor execution undermines its stellar direction, screenplay, and acting. All sizzle and no steak. ~ I give it a 3/5

10/9 – M (1931)


I intentionally ignored M for the longest time, believing it was a silent film. But it wasn’t until after watching Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times that my opinion on silent films shifted. As such, I was ready to dive right into what’s considered the most influential thriller in all of cinema, and to my relieving surprise, I was glad it wasn’t a silent film. I immediately engrossed myself in this film, which wasn’t hard considering I was on a four-day serial killer binge-watch on Netflix before watching it. I was aware of M’s influence and hype, but I wasn’t prepared for how easily it exceeded my expectations!

Even though the film centers around the efforts of Berlin’s police and the criminal underworld in finding a child serial killer, it’s mostly a procedural film at its core. And yet, it’s not in Peter Lorre’s terrifying performance as Hans Beckert, or its gothic atmosphere, or its suspenseful tone that we see the true horror of this film. No, the true horror lies in the public’s reaction to the events in film.

Much like real serial killers, Lorre’s Hans Beckert uses the flaws in law enforcement and society’s neglect towards the downtrodden to his advantage when fulfilling his so-called need to kill. As a result, Beckert unintentionally brings these issues to light during his killing spree, fueling the public’s need for immediate justice, even if it means ridding due process and the rule of law. Although Germany didn’t experience an influx of serial killers, these were the general anxieties many Germans had when this film premiered in 1931, and if you know your history, a certain someone, with serial killer qualities, used these same anxieties to his advantage two years later and brought about one of the darkest eras in human history.

M is a gripping film with equally gripping subtext. It’s a time capsule of a world slowly going mad and serves as a warning to remind us how quickly we can lose ourselves in our need for justice. ~ I give it a 4/5

10/10 – Gremlins


I don’t get the sensation surrounding this movie. I’m sure I’m gonna get some flax from some of my older peers, but Gremlins is nothing more than an 80s B-Movie, and that’s okay. It’s funny and doesn’t take itself too seriously, and there are times when it pulls at your heartstrings out of nowhere, but I feel like this is one of those movies that you had to watch as a kid to fully appreciate it. The acting is fine, and I’m happy this movie put Joe Dante on the map, but I think Cujo did the whole “traumatic homicidal pet” concept better, in my opinion. I’m more of a Small Soldiers kid than a Gremlins kid but to each his own. ~ I give it a 2/5

10/11 – Onibaba


Onibaba suffers from the same issues Raw does. It’s beautifully shot and excellently written with stellar acting, but it fails in execution. This is mainly due to its pacing and tonal inconsistencies; however, its ending more than makes up for its methodical slow burn. Better yet, Kaneto Shindo used the same concept of Onibaba and refined it further in his 1968 masterpiece, Kuroneko. It’s definitely worth watching on a windy autumn night. ~ I give it a 3/5

10/12 – Fright Night (2011)


2011’s Fright Night brought the classical vampire back to its roots of a methodical, undead creature of the night, with a thrust for blood and world domination. Up to that point, Vampires were primarily seen as edgy, emo boys that sparkled in the sun with Kristian Stewart. And while the Blade and Underworld franchises continued the monster’s gothic reputation, their characters elevated the vampire to a more heroic status on screen. Yes, the bad guys were still vampires in those franchises, but they didn’t possess the same amount of gravitas the lead actors had throughout their respective films.

The reboot fixes the original film’s problems while keeping in touch with it at its core. Colin Farrell’s Jerry Dandrige is far more menacing than his 1985 counterpart and the stakes – pun intended – feel higher as Anton Yelchin’s Charley Brewster and David Tennant’s Peter Vincent comically struggle to put an end to Dandrige’s nefarious machinations.

Fright Night isn’t a vampire film where it completely revitalized the sub-genre, but it laid the groundwork for creatives to tell original stories that continue the monster’s classic tradition. It’s a fun romp that respectfully pays tribute to its source material while tweaking it for a better viewing experience. Also, any movie with Colin Ferrell and David Tennant in it will immediately grab my attention. Those two are severely underrated, especially Ferrell. ~ I give it a 3/5

10/13 – A Ghost Story


My first David Lowery movie was actually The Green Knight. It was one of my most anticipated films last year, and it quickly became an all-time favorite of mine. So when I found out he made a somber horror movie involving ghosts, I did everything in my power to find this film and what I got was a slow meditation on the nature of eternity.

It’s a beautiful film about life and death, but this film doesn’t really get going until after the 45-minute mark. If you thought Onibaba’s pacing was sluggish, wait until you see the pie scene. I also thought some scenes felt completely disjointed and often contrasted with Lowery’s astonishing directorial style. However, what I initially thought would be a waste of my time turned out to be one of the most poignant films about the fears of moving on. It’s a chore to get through, but it’s a rewarding experience nonetheless. ~ I give it a 3/5

10/14 – Blue Velvet


I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie so unsettling yet so beautiful at the same time. As soon as you begin, its creepy, manufactured pleasantness leaves you questioning what exactly is happening underneath it all. The hallmark of any good mystery is how quickly it enthralls you into its world, and David Lynch successfully does that and more!

Lynch’s trademark surrealist style is often seen as an excuse to compensate for his lackluster writing, but I never saw that criticism one bit throughout my viewing. In fact, it amplifies his views about the dark world deep within suburbia and the double lives we live, be they a product of reality or fantasy. While it is a mystery, Blue Velvet is more of an indictment on America’s insistence on being puritans in public and perverts in private, as well as how long before one’s private life becomes a detriment to their public life.

This disturbing carnival ride stuck with me long after it ended, and I expect this film to gnaw at my brain for quite some. To think this was only my second David Lynch film. ~ I give it a 4/5

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