PREVIEW: November 2020

October 2020 has been a busy month, with content published daily as part of The First Annual October Scare Fest, and then some. November 2020, however, is looking set to be very different. The UK is entering a full Lockdown for four weeks this Thursday, to reduce the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. While I do support this governmental decision (it was inevitable and is a necessity, which I would prefer to happen sooner rather than later), I cannot help but feel a little saddened that this means that cinemas will be closing again.

Nevertheless, I will get content published to this blog as streaming services will continue to provide new films. I do not know exactly what this blog is going to look like during November, re. new content, but I promise that I will continue to be publish here.

Thank you as ever for visiting this blog and, while I as always wish you Happy Reading, I most of all hope that you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe during these tremendously uncertain times!

The First Annual October Scare Fest

Throughout October 2020, I have done The First Annual October Scare Fest on this blog! What did that look like? Well, every day of the month I did a post about something that was in some way related to horror, scares or the macabre! Some of the things I wrote about were most definitely horror, whereas others were absolutely not, but nevertheless had creepy or sinister elements, had chilling premises or concepts, had unsettling qualities or moments. Hence it was the “October Scare Fest”, not the “October Horror Fest”.

Below is the full list of posts, in order of publication:

  1. FILM REVIEW: Horror Hospital (1973, Anthony Balch)
  2. LITERATURE REVIEW: Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945)
  3. FILM REVIEW: Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020, Osmany Rodriguez)
  4. FILM REVIEW: Trick ‘r Treat (2007, Michael Dougherty)
  5. FILM REVIEW: Leprechaun (1993, Mark Jones)
  6. FILM REVIEW: Freaks (1932, Tod Browning)
  7. FILM REVIEW: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper)
  8. FILM REVIEW: Mickey’s House of Villains (2002, Jamie Mitchell/Roberts Gannaway/Tony Craig/Rick Calabash/Mike Moon)
  9. FILM REVIEW: Behind You (2020, Andrew Mecham/Matthew Whedon)
  10. FILM REVIEW: Saint Maud (2019, Rose Glass)
  11. VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014, Monolith Productions)
  12. FILM REVIEW: Casper (1995, Brad Silberling)
  13. FILM REVIEW: Friday the 13th (1980, Sean S. Cunningham)
  14. TELEVISION REVIEW: Toy Story of Terror! (2013)
  15. Top 5 Horrifying Harry Potter Curses
  16. Top 5 Horrific Game of Thrones Deaths
  17. FILM REVIEW: Pixie (2020, Barnaby Thompson)
  18. FILM REVIEW: Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School (1988, Charles A. Nichols)
  19. LITERATURE REVIEW: The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde, 1890)
  20. FILM REVIEW: Volver (2006, Pedro Almodóvar)
  21. FILM REVIEW: Scoob! (2020, Tony Cervone)
  22. FILM REVIEW: You Should Have Left (2020, David Koepp)
  23. TELEVISION REVIEW: A Close Shave (1995)
  24. Top 10 Favourite Ghost-type Pokémon
  25. FILM REVIEW: The Craft (1996, Andrew Fleming)
  26. FILM REVIEW: Shaun of the Dead (2004, Edgar Wright)
  27. FILM REVIEW: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005, Nick Park/Steve Box)
  28. FILM REVIEW: King Kong (2005, Peter Jackson)
  29. FILM REVIEW: The Craft: Legacy (2020, Zoe Lister-Jones)
  30. FILM REVIEW: Hubie Halloween (2020, Steven Brill)
  31. FILM REVIEW: Halloween (1978, John Carpenter)

I had a fantastic time doing this, and look forward to doing it again in October 2021!

FILM: Halloween (1978, John Carpenter)

Welcome to this, the thirty-first instalment in The First Annual October Scare Fest!

Halloween (1978) theatrical poster.jpg

Slasher-horror Halloween was distributed by Compass International Pictures. On Halloween night 1963, 6-year-old Michael Myers (Will Sandin) murders his older sister (Sandy Johnson) and is sent to a mental institute. Fifteen years later, the adult Michael (Nick Castle) escapes and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, with his psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) pursuing his trail. Masked and armed with a knife, on Halloween night Michael starts to stalk teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends, and starts to kill them one-by-one. Will Loomis catch up to Michael and stop him before he kills them all?

PROS

  • John Carpenter’s direction is focused and coherent, his genius coming through his slow-burn approach, which beautifully crafts atmosphere and tension, and he brilliantly crafts shocks through implication rather than explicit depictions.
  • Screenwriters John Carpenter and Debra Hill created a brilliant antagonist in Michael Myers, not only in his stalking and killing, but in Loomis’s conveyance of his truly evil nature, and his being a hulking presence with a simple look.
  • Cinematographer Dean Cundey brings a cold, eerie visual quality to every scene, which compliments John Carpenter’s direction, and his best crafting of tension is his use of point-of-view shots from Michael Myers’s perspective.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis is an excellent lead, giving a naturalistic and suitably subdued performance, which perfectly compliments Donald Pleasence’s stoic and tense turn, with which he perfectly conveys how truly threatening Michael Myers is.
  • John Carpenter also composed the iconic Halloween theme, which is effective in its simplicity and is a genuinely spine-tingling piece which immediately gets the viewer on edge from the very opening title card.

CONS

  • Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent here, but the other actors and actresses playing teenagers are not – some of them really could not act for toffee and are very much laughably bad here.

VERDICT: 9/10

ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: People claim that modern horror films are often bad due to a low budget…this film was made for about $300,000 and is one of the most effective and significant horror films of all time.

FILM: Hubie Halloween (2020, Steven Brill)

Welcome to this, the thirtieth instalment in The First Annual October Scare Fest!

Hubie Halloween poster.png

Comedy-horror Hubie Halloween is distributed by Netflix. Hubie Dubois (Adam Sandler) is Salem’s town simpleton, bullied by many but still putting everyone before himself, and taking it upon himself to ensure the townsfolk’s safety on Halloween. However, on Halloween night, people start to go missing and Hubie becomes determined to catch the kidnapper. While it is assumed that a recently-escaped patient (Rob Schneider) from the nearby mental institute is responsible, the perpetrator may be closer to home for Hubie than he realises.

PROS

  • The Halloween celebrations feel authentic due to abundant mise-en-scene and costume designs, and good use of low lighting in some atmospheric moments.
  • Adam Sandler has good energy, while Steve Buscemi and Ray Liotta provide some memorable moments, and even Rob Schneider gives an okay performance.

CONS

  • The key issue is that the film is not funny, with pathetic verbal gags, countless ridiculous slapstick moments, and far too many unnecessary sexual jokes.
  • Unfocused direction and screenwriting that presents multiple concepts and subplots, many of which go nowhere and are seemingly forgotten.
  • The constant nods to older horrors and Adam Sandler films get tiresome, and one wishes that the writers had spent more time focusing on the narrative.
  • Adam Sandler’s energy does not stop Hubie being a highly irritating hybrid of his characters from previous films such as The Waterboy and Jack and Jill.
  • A number of supporting cast members are very poorly utilised, and the talents of June Squibb and Michael Chiklis especially feel wasted.

VERDICT: 4/10

FILM: The Craft: Legacy (2020, Zoe Lister-Jones)

Welcome to this, the twenty-ninth instalment in The First Annual October Scare Fest!

The Craft - Legacy.png

Supernatural-horror The Craft: Legacy is the sequel (which feels more like a reboot…) to The Craft, and is distributed by Sony. Teenager Lily (Cailee Spaeny) has unique powers and, upon starting at a new school, she meets Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lourdes (Zoe Luna), who all have powers too, and the four form a witch’s coven to realise their full powers. Although things start out very well for them as they begin to use their abilities, Lily starts to realise that there may be more to her stepfather-to-be Adam (David Duchovny) than meets the eye, and that he might pose a great danger to her and her new friends.

PROS

  • A few interesting concepts, particularly the girls using magic to make school bully Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine) super woke and sensitive.
  • A unanimously good cast, the four leads having a great sense of camaraderie, and Cailee Spaeny and Nicholas Galitzine having real passion.

CONS

  • The first two-thirds are basically a beat-for-beat remake of the original, while the climax is basically a beat-for-beat remake of that of 2019’s Black Christmas.
  • Multiple subplots are introduced and then seemingly abandoned, while the climax’s aftermath is illogical and has some glaring plot holes.
  • The film is technically a sequel due to a twist revelation in literally the closing minute that had lots of potential but amounts to nothing at all.
  • As the above points suggest, Zoe Lister-Jones’s direction and screenwriting is uncertain, and the final film feels both mis-edited and unfinished.
  • The practical make-up effects are poor, but the CGI is absolutely atrocious, reflecting that the budget was not enough to realise the vision.

VERDICT: 3/10

FILM: King Kong (2005, Peter Jackson)

Welcome to this, the twenty-eighth instalment in The First Annual October Scare Fest!

Kingkong bigfinal1.jpg

A remake of the classic monster film from 1933, King Kong was distributed by Universal. During the Great Depression, ambitious filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) hires a cast and a ship’s crew to go to the legendary Skull Island. Upon arriving, his lead actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is snatched by a giant ape whom the natives call Kong (Andy Serkis). Led by screenwriter and Ann’s love interest Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), the crew embark on a rescue mission, a dangerous quest in which they will encounter pre-historic creatures and giant insects. However, Ann and Kong come to bond with each other, as his protective instincts towards her make her see beyond the monster on the outside.

PROS

  • Director/co-writer Peter Jackson’s passion is seen in his energy and his choice not make a carbon copy of the original, by putting a clever variation on Kong and Ann’s dynamic and creating a longer and more perilous rescue mission.
  • The solid ensemble cast have good chemistry with each other, but the real star is Andy Serkis’s brilliant motion capture performance as Kong, proving that his turn as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy was not a one-hit wonder.
  • Outstanding visual effects which are rich in detail and, while the titular Kong is the highlight, the dinosaurs and giant insects are visually striking to look at, with quite shocking aspects which reflect Peter Jackson’s filmmaking roots.
  • Very detailed production and costume design authentically recreate 1930s’ New York (both the glamour and depravity), and give Skull Island the quality of a dense and perilous jungle that is perfect for the narrative’s adventurous aspect.
  • James Newton Howard’s score perfectly compliments the film, reflecting the character’s emotions wonderfully, further evoking viewer investment, and a fast tempo makes the more thrilling scenes even more engaging.

CONS

  • At around three hours long, the film would certainly be a bit more concise if Peter Jackson were to cut out some flimsy attempts at humour and some of the more ridiculous moments in scenes with dinosaurs and giant insects.
  • While technically brilliant, the finale atop the Empire State Building is anti-climactic after so many extended fight scenes with dinosaurs and giant insects.

VERDICT: 8/10

FILM: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005, Nick Park/Steve Box)

Welcome to this, the twenty-seventh instalment in The First Annual October Scare Fest!

British poster featuring Wallace and Gromit, with a giant carved pumpkin reads "WG" behind them. The title "Wallace & Gromit The Curse of the Were-Rabbit", the text "Something wicked this way hops.", and the names of director, producer, music composer, and screenplay appears at the right.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is the feature-length debut for the iconic claymation duo and the eleventh animated film from DreamWorks to be released in cinemas. Eccentric inventor Wallace (Peter Sallis) and his highly intellectual dog Gromit run a pest control business, which is beloved by the townspeople who do not want their entries in the upcoming annual Giant Vegetable competition spoiled. However, mere days before the competition, giant vegetables start to get eaten by a were-rabbit, which Wallace and Gromit vow to catch. However, the were-rabbit may be closer to home than they actually realise.

PROS

  • An altogether brilliant and wonderfully eccentric screenplay, which is consistently fast-paced and near-faultlessly mixes verbal and slapstick gags with character-driven drama and suitably subdued horror tropes.
  • The heart of the film is in the dynamic between Wallace and Gromit, in which every thing they do for each other is clearly rooted and motivated by a deep bond and love for each other that can overcome any obstacle.
  • Incredibly detailed animation in every frame, the small details boasting some clever little visual gags, and the characters are incredibly expressive (especially Gromit, whose thoughts and emotions are conveyed wordlessly).
  • Through brilliant screenwriting and detailed, creative animation alike, there are frankly ingenious references to classic horror/monster films, including Frankenstein, King Kong and The Wolf Man.
  • Peter Sallis’s voice performance as Wallace is as wonderful as ever, and other standout voice performances come from Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Peter Kay, Liz Smith and Nicholas Smith.
  • A catchy score by Julian Nott which has a tone that feels just right for a film set in rural England, and a tempo that compliments narratives fast pace perfectly.

CONS

  • Occasionally there are what can only be described as Dad Jokes in scenes which play it a little safe by not being quite so inventive with humour.
  • The finale of the film does feel a little bit rushed and haphazard in its execution.

VERDICT: 9/10

FILM: All My Life (2020, Marc Meyers)

All My Life, 2020 film, official poster.jpg

Based on a true story, romantic-drama All My Life is distributed by Universal. Sol (Harry Shum Jr.) and Jenn (Jessica Rothe) are embarking on a new life together and organising their wedding. However, when Sol is diagnosed with cancer and told that the odds are not in his favour, it makes everything uncertain – both the long-term and the immediate.

PROS

  • The concise narrative considers mortality through a well-meaning depiction of the strains which serious illness can put upon relationships and future plans.
  • The film is ultimately carried by Harry Shum Jr. and Jessica Rothe, who each give a passionate and nuanced performance, and have excellent chemistry.
  • The leads are supported well by an ensemble who are clearly invested in the project, which is reflected in their performances.

CONS

  • While it may (at its root) reflect the true story, the start of Sol and Jenn’s romance is essentially “insta-love” and feels quite contrived.
  • Even the more sombre moments are rather romanticised with an unnecessary and ultimately inappropriate Hollywood sugar-coating.
  • The dialogue is pretty clunky at times, while most of the supporting characters lack any real characterisation.

VERDICT: 5/10

FILM: Shaun of the Dead (2004, Edgar Wright)

Welcome to this, the twenty-sixth instalment in The First Annual October Scare Fest!

Shaun of the Dead film poster.jpg

Zombie-comedy Shaun of the Dead is distributed by Universal and kicked off Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. Slacker Shaun (Simon Pegg) does not visit his mother (Penelope Wilton) as often as he should, and spends most of his free time down the pub with his best friend Ed (Nick Frost), which leads to his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) dumping him. He wakes up one morning, conscious that he needs to change and decides to sort himself out…only to discover that the zombie apocalypse has begun. Armed with a cricket bat and a spade, Shaun and Ed head off to pick up his mum and Liz, and take them to local pub The Winchester, where they will wait it out in the warmth and security. But circumstances change along the way, making it all the more unlikely that their plan shall succeed.

PROS

  • Edgar Wright’s passionate and energetic direction is focused without being rigid, making for a concise film with a clear vision coming through.
  • Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s screenplay is mostly well paced with a good balance between comedy and drama, focus on characters rather than situations, gags which are clever and quirky, and inspired horror film references.
  • A unanimously strong cast, with particularly memorable turns from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy.
  • Effective and detailed make-up creates zombies with a haunting quality, while fake blood is used vividly in both injury details and brilliant splatstick moments.
  • Here we see being born the Edgar Wright filmmaking style (originally teased in Spaced) – super-cuts, fast editing and true respect for the 180 degree rule.

CONS

  • The climax is quite rushed compared to the rest of the film and far more intense, thereby feeling somewhat out-of-place.
  • The finale and epilogue are a bit rushed and muddled, with a feeling of uncertainty which is exacerbated by the fact that they are played straight.

VERDICT: 8/10

FILM: The Craft (1996, Andrew Fleming)

Welcome to this, the twenty-fifth instalment in The First Annual October Scare Fest!

four young student girls walking in the rain towards the viewer with the film's title , credits and release date below them.

Supernatural horror film The Craft was distributed by Columbia Pictures. Sarah (Robin Tunney), a troubled teen with supernatural abilities, has just moved to Los Angeles. At her new school she becomes friends with Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True) – social outcasts who are rumoured to be witches. Together, the four start to perform witchcraft in the hopes of their dreams and desires coming true. Naturally, they are delighted when their spells work and they realise that they are capable of witchcraft, but soon Sarah, Bonnie and Rochelle start to regret their decisions, especially as Nancy becomes increasingly obsessed with the power that her abilities can give her.

PROS

  • The First Act fleshes out the main characters and give good reasons for us to sympathise with them and want their lives to improve, while the Second Act creates some unsettling moments by depicting the outcome of their spells.
  • There are some atmospheric scenes throughout the film, which make good use of low lighting, shadows and storms, while some very unsettling imagery is crafted in the climax through use of snakes, rats, maggots and scorpions.
  • Good performances from the four lead actresses. They may not be Oscar worthy, but they have good camaraderie and throw themselves into the film with real energy – especially Fairuza Balk.

CONS

  • The narrative as a whole is quite rushed, and this becomes most apparent in the Third Act, which is the most convoluted and contrived of the lot, with too many daft ideas for its own good and some unnecessarily farcical moments.
  • A subplot involving Chris (Skeet Ulrich) is very muddled in its conception, continuity and overall execution, ultimately existing as a plot device, but one which feels tiresome and somewhat out-of-place.
  • A pretty forgettable supporting cast, whose characters receive minimal characterisation, and amongst which there are some poor performances, including those of Skeet Ulrich, Christine Taylor and Breckin Meyer.

VERDICT: 5/10