You guys are kicking dick on the Scary Movie Challenge! Make sure after you watch these movies, you enter your seven word reviews here!
Scream 2 (1997, dir. Wes Craven) While not as good as the first Scream, Scream 2 is much closer in quality to the original than to its far inferior later sequels. I've always felt Scream 2 was underrated and the college setting makes me feel like revisiting this one the most out of all the Scream movies. I don't think the humor holds up all that well, but the suspense set pieces still do. It feels like a time capsule of the late '90s in a fun, nostalgic way. Plus, it has one of the most surprising kills in horror history -- one that gives the movie stakes that prevent it from veering into parody.
Erich: Pumpkinhead (1988, dir. Stan Winston) My first pleasant surprise of Scary Movie Month, this '80s horror flick marked the directorial debut of late special effects legend Stan Winston. The title monster is a demon summoned by a grieving father (played by Lance Henkriksen) to take revenge on the teenagers who accidentally killed his son. Winston's artistry and attention to detail are all over the film, with spooky sets and top-notch creature design (even if it looks a little too much like certain Aliens). The movie works because Winston grounds it in a rural world of hollers and ancient magic—the kind of place you'd expect to find a cabin getaway for doomed teens. Although the basic story is cartoonish in broad strokes, Winston and company make the characters more than fodder and stereotypes. Of the kids targeted by the demon, only one is a real jerk; the rest are believably freaked out by the accident and try to help the child. Henriksen undergoes his own transformation, reacting to the events like a normal person would. His anger about his son's senseless death becomes a thirst for revenge that dissipates once he sees and feels the horror he has unleashed on the outsiders and himself.
Though bloodier and humorless, Pumpkinhead comes from the same place as Killer Klowns from Outer Space, another horror movie made by FX artists. Winston didn't do much directing after Pumpkinhead. His only other feature was the kids movie A Gnome Named Gnorm. I've never seen it, but based on the poster it looks scary for different reasons. We're lucky Winston spent the remainder of his career bringing life to movies like Terminator 2, Batman Returns, and Jurassic Park, but this movie makes me sad he never made another creature flick of his own.
Let The Right One In (2008, dir. Tomas Alfredson) Young Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is having troubles at school. He meets a new tenant in his apartment complex, young Eli (Lina Leandersson) who seems mysterious and wise beyond her years. Together, the two find unique and interesting solutions to all of Oskar's problems.
Already the subject of an award-winning podcast, I am recommending Let The Right One In this week on the off chance that one or two of our loyal listeners and readers have not seen it yet. I would argue that this is a perfect film: perfect cast, perfect script, perfect direction. I have been screening it in my class for the last five years, and every time I see it again, I am more impressed. Although I find the film's pace more deliberate than glacial, be aware that some viewers complain about this. Stick around for the last fifteen minutes, one of the greatest conclusions in horror film history.
This film takes the conventions of both the horror film and the vampire film and stands them on their heads. Let The Right One In makes more trenchant observations about the nature of relationships than other films that are specifically about relationships.
American Mary (2012, dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska) This one was first recommended to me by F-Head Shannon Briggs during Junesploitation. It's something of a mess, but it's one with a lot on its mind and its own personality. It's nice to see a horror movie that's very much its own thing. The movie can't stick the landing, but there's a lot here for horror fans -- especially those who feel like they've seen it all -- to like, and the lead performance by Ginger Snaps's Katharine Isabelle is really great. Plus, this was recommended to me and now I get to recommend it to all of you, so it's kind of like Pay it Forward. Which is next week's pick.