Just like that, October has come to an end. 31 horror movies later, my brain feels only slightly melted and my watchlist is a bit shorter. The challenge was a great chance to revisit old favorites like The Woman in Black and Crimson Peak while also giving me the push to watch classics I’d missed out on like Friday the 13th and Poltergeist.
Oct. 25: Underwater (2020) dir. William Eubank
The challenge: Watch a horror film that features Kaiju (a.k.a., a giant monster)
Pros: Kristen Stewart with a bleached buzz cut
Cons: Predictable at times
I’ll be the first to admit it: I did not have high expectations for Underwater. I came for Kristen Stewart alone but I left pleasantly surprised by how good the movie was. The setup is classic: a massive monster looms and a group of people awaits the impending attack; bringing to mind creature features like Alien, Godzilla, and Jaws. But this time, it’s a sea monster attacking an underwater drilling station with the crew inside. It’s not the most groundbreaking, but Underwater is a fun watch especially for Kristen Stewart stans.
Oct. 26: The Last House on the Left (1977) dir. Wes Craven
The challenge: Watch a film that has been remade (but watch the original!).
Pros: Super satisfying ending
Cons: The editing is jarring
Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left is gruesome, weird, and horrifying. Two teenage girls are brutally attacked after trying to hitchhike to a concert. After the attack, the perpetrators are welcomed into a nearby home where, unbeknownst to them, the parents of one of the victims live. The premise is creative and makes for a thrilling movie but the execution of the film does not match the story. An oddly upbeat soundtrack and unconventional editing clash are distracting and make the film have a confusing tone, almost like a comedy that happens to have a prolonged sexual torture scene in the middle. It feels very uncomfortable and borders on inconsiderate to people who have experienced sexual violence. Unless you feel the need to watch everything Craven directed, it’s safe to say you can skip out on The Last House on the Left.
Oct. 27: Gretel & Hansel (2020) dir. Oz Perkins
The challenge: Watch a horror film that stars kids.
Pros: Mesmerizing visuals
Cons: Almost dizzying at times due to fisheye and swirling camera movements — something to keep in mind if that affects you!
Before we talk about Gretel & Hansel, I must mention that Oz Perkins also directed Legally Blonde and that fact alone should pique your interest. In his iteration of the classic Grimms’ fairy tale, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) is the main character. She and her brother enter the woods to find food and work when they happen upon a witch who offers to let the siblings stay and be fed in exchange for their help around the house. The witch shares her ways with Gretel, leaving her with the choice of living as a witch herself. This non-traditional take on the classic fairy tale makes the story feel more modern by giving Gretel agency and complex character development, two things fairly absent from the original story. The visuals depart from fairy tale adaptations as well, taking a much darker, gloomy tone perfect for spooky season.
Oct. 28: The Stepford Wives (1975) dir. Bryan Forbes
The challenge: Watch a horror film that features a heavy metal soundtrack – I had to scratch the original pick I made to watch this for a grad school class I’m taking.
Pros: Clever satire
Cons: It’s not subtle in the slightest — they spell out the metaphor
The Stepford Wives is a cult classic for good reason. The satirical horror film draws attention to the mundane, patriarchal nature of life for white women living in suburbia. The film follows Joanna (Katharine Ross) after she moves from the city to a suburb named Stepford with her husband and children. As her husband acclimates to the new setting, Joanna becomes increasingly uneasy: nearly every woman she encounters is a housewife who focuses only on cooking, cleaning, and attending to her family, with no trace of her own personhood or passions. As the film goes on, Joanna unravels the dark reason the women in Stepford are so compliant: their husbands are having them replaced by robots. The metaphor is made with a heavy hand, but it effectively points out the sexist nature of many men’s expectations of their wives.
Oct. 29: The Other Lamb (2019) dir. Małgorzata Szumowska
The challenge: Give a movie (you didn’t enjoy much) a second try!
Pros: Haunting imagery
Cons: The movie takes a little time to find its footing, but once it does it’s well worth it.
On my first watch of The Other Lamb, I had trouble getting into the story and set it aside for another day which turned into a few months. I’m so glad I returned to it for this challenge, though. The Other Lamb rewards viewers who wait. The film is about Selah (Raffey Cassidy), a young woman born into an isolated cult consisting of a male leader referred to as the Shepherd, his wives, and their children. Through the course of the film, Selah’s doubt builds and boils over in a haunting series of events. It’s frustrating to watch at times due to the antiquated gender roles imposed by “The Shepherd,” but for those who stick it out, the third act is highly cathartic.
Oct. 30: The Hunger (1983) dir. Tony Scott
The challenge: Watch a vampire movie from the 1980s.
Pros: Impeccable casting
Cons: Drags for a little bit in the middle
The Hunger is an experience in film viewing. The cast and premise sound like the result of mad libs, but it works: Susan Serandon, Catherine Deneuve, and David Bowie are in a complicated love triangle with two of them being vampires and one being a doctor specializing in sleep and aging research. The erotic vampire flick has a solid cult following in the LGBTQ+ and goth communities due to the film’s notorious lesbian seduction scene and the overall dark aesthetics.
The film is visually stunning and more interested in atmosphere that plot clarity, making it a good choice for watching in a group setting since you won’t miss much if you want to catch up with a friend during the slower parts.
Oct. 31: Halloween (1978) dir. John Carpenter
The challenge: Just watch Trick ‘r Treat … Happy Halloween!
Pros: Jamie. Lee. Curtis.
Yes, I betrayed the challenge on this one but in my defense, I prefer Halloween to Trick ‘r Treat. John Carpenter’s Halloween has the perfect blend of autumnal atmosphere and classic slasher elements. On top of that, the film gives us one of the most famous characters in the horror genre: Jamie Lee Curtis’ breakout performance as Scream Queen and Final Girl Laurie Strode.
In case you missed them, you can find the previous week’s roundups here. All in all, there’s now a collection of 31 mini reviews to help you find a film for your next horror movie night. I wouldn’t exactly recommend watching 31 in a row but if you need a jumping off point, here’s a list of all the films with five star reviews from the challenge that I highly recommend:
- Scream 2 (1997)
- Poltergeist (1982)
- Donnie Darko (2001)
- The Invisible Man (2020)
- Halloween (1978)
Header image courtesy of Compass International Pictures