31 Days of Scares – Day 16 – Horror Movie Picks From Dockery


Creating this list of movies to watch on Halloween was an intricate process. The first draft was an attempt at listing the “best” movies you could watch, but all that ended up being was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre eight times and then links to YouTube videos of baby otters. The second draft was an attempt at listing movies that “you might not have seen before,” but about half way through that one, I realized that the reason that most of these films remain unwatched is that the filmmakers replaced plot, cinematography, and special effects with sheer boredom.

This third and final draft centers on movies that “I want you to see.” These aren’t the best movies you’ll see this month, as we’re all currently living in the DRFG period of human existence (During the Release of the Film Gravity), but they all have a certain merit to them that makes them undeniably entertaining. Sometimes that merit is a dinosaur suit that looks like it was made out a dildo specifically designed to pleasure leather couches, but it’s a merit nonetheless.

Onto my Horror Movie Picks to Watch on Halloween.

Castle Freak (1995)

Directed by: Stuart Gordon

Castle FreakI didn’t like director Stuart Gordon growing up. I first started getting into horror when I was about 13, and I didn’t quite grasp all the violent humor that his films contain – all the awesome, drippy goodness. I watched Re-Animator, saw that it had more jokes than The Exorcist, and immediately wrote it off as silly. Now, I realize that Re-Animator is the closest thing that our world has to another book of the Old Testament. His name might not carry the same weight as someone like John Carpenter or Wes Craven, but Stuart Gordon’s films are relentlessly fun.

Castle Freak is one of his many collaborations with actor Jeffrey Combs, another guy I didn’t appreciate until I was un-stupid enough to like good things. The film was inspired by an HP Lovecraft story, but “inspired” is about as far as it goes, as it’s much more of a slasher story, and I mean that in the best way possible. It centers on a misshapen freak who has been hidden in the dungeon of a castle for years. The freak, sick of being chained to a wall, manages to escape and terrorize anyone who thinks that the castle might be a suitable place to hang out in.

Castle Freak is an extremely lean movie, and a blast to get through. There isn’t any extra fluff or unnecessary parts, which is surprising, considering that it’s based on Lovecraft. Due to this, you’d think the film would devote half its time to describing the gloomy walls or something.

The Funhouse (1981)

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

The FunhouseThis spot on the my list of horror movies to watch on Halloween came down to two slasher films: Humongous and Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse. In the end, I decided on The Funhouse, as Humongous isn’t very good at all. It’s pretty bland and its shot so darkly that you’d think that it was a moral statement against film lighting. The Funhouse has its bland points, but it looks fantastic, and it is full of the weirdness that makes Tobe Hooper one of my favorite directors.

The best example of this weirdness is the face of the “monster,” named Gunther. You’d expect something more classically hillbilly-ish, something along the lines of Friday the 13th Part 2 or Hooper’s own Eaten Alive. Instead, we get the head of something very alien, far removed from anything we’d ever expect from a non-radioactive person. While the reveal of the creature’s face creates a weird contrast to the rest of the film, it certainly makes the film’s villain more memorable than most of the sea of forgettable slashers, which basically found the biggest stunt man and decided to just give him a cheek scar and a goatee.

The Last Dinosaur (1977)

Directed by: Alexander Grasshoff and Tsugunobu Kotani

The Last DinosaurThe Last Dinosaur will never win any awards for its technical achievements. The men in the dinosaur suits move around as if they woke up one day encased in rubber and couldn’t stop having panic attacks. For example, the triceratops is very obviously two men in a suit, synchronize human centipede-ing, and while the tyrannosaur is the titular last dinosaur, it’s also the last shred of dignity slowly going extinct over the course of 92 minutes for the man inside that suit.

The tyrannosaur of the film looks like the Toho creation/Godzilla cohort Gorosaurus, and if you like the silly Japanese giant monster movies of the ’70s, you’ll like The Last Dinosaur. The tone of the film wildly ranges from odd seriousness to lunacy, especially with the attempts to kill the T-Rex, which only escalate in silliness as the film goes along.

The Lords Of Salem (2012)

Directed by: Rob Zombie

The Lords Of SalemI don’t think the stars will ever align, and Rob Zombie will create a film that satisfies him, his audience, and critics. People tend to talk about him as if he’s not reaching his fullest potential, and I think they misunderstand that Zombie isn’t making films to touch the bar that other people set for him. He’s creating films that touch the bar that he sets for himself. He will be continually judged based on the standard set for all films, and that’s okay, but expecting him to create a movie that suddenly leaps into the pantheon of classic horror films, simply because “he has the potential to do so,” is misguided. Zombie creates films for Zombie, and The Lords Of Salem is no different.

It is, however, radically different from anything he’s ever tried before. Many compared Lords to films by Kubrick or Polanski, but it doesn’t feel anything like them. It’s beautifully shot, and very slow burning, but while usually slow burning horror films use the pacing to accentuate on the suspense, Lords rarely feels like its building to anything. The story doesn’t follow any concrete path, and instead, Lords is almost dream-like, mixing these long, slow sequences with explosions of sound and violence.

Zombie has stated that he’s sick of doing horror films, and is now moving on to a film based on the history of a real hockey team, and possibly his long-awaited road movie Tyrannosaurus Rex. I find it unlikely that Lords will be his last attempt at scary movie-making, but if it is, I appreciate it. Lords is 100% Zombie, a sincere attempt at expanding his horror spectrum past Otis Driftwood and Michael Myers.

Dockery gives us three more, no four, no three… bah… he gives us more Horror Movie Picks to Watch on Halloween…
31 Days of Scares

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