Devil (2010, dir. John Erick Dowdle) What a pleasant surprise. On evidence of its trailer, Devil looked to be a ridiculous PG-13 horror movie that I had little interest in watching. As it turns out, it's a fun little horror movie with a great lead performance by Chris Messina and energetic direction from John Erick Dowdle (who made the equally energetic and fun As Above, So Below this year). Everyone seems to be trying to make a good movie here and that counts for a lot.
Monsters (2010, dir. Gareth Edwards) I’m a big fan of monster, horror, and sci-fi movies, so of course a movie that combines all three is right up my alley. A meteor exploded and spread tiny alien eggs all over the Mexico and parts of South America; the problem is once these eggs hatch, they turn into giant squid-like monsters wreaking havoc across the countryside. The infected areas are quarantined with limited access in and out. The story follows an American Journalist who is hired to escort a woman out of the plague zone. I’ve said before that I love movies that do a lot with tiny budgets, and Monsters does just that. The movie was very good at showing the beauty in what has become this deserted wasteland and what type of people live there. It is a rare horror movie that also makes a statement about who we are as a people, and makes its political leanings very evident. It was a small movie that had some big ambitions, and while it missed on some of them, I think it hit close enough to the mark to be enjoyed.
The Innkeepers (2011, dir. Ti West) My nemesis Mike recommended this film in one of the very first Netflix This Movie! #ScaryMovieMonth columns in 2012. But sowhat/whocares? The movie's STILL on Netflix, and if you haven't seen it yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? It's a slow-burn haunted house (hotel) film, and I love it. Scary and funny, with solid performances by Sara Paxton, Pat Healy and the ghost of Kelly McGillis.
Erich: The Den (2013, dir. Zachary Donohue) Here's the thing about Scary Movie Month: while I enjoy the old classics as much as the next F-head, I have this need to search out the unknown. This involves sampling a lot of random Netflix horror movies that aren't very good. It's all worth it for that feeling of discovery when I stumble on the next big thing. The Den isn't that movie, but it's close. At the very least, this the closest any recent movie has gotten to making a case for found footage. The Den is the story of a grad student who witnesses a brutal murder while researching a Snapchat-style webcam site. Most of the movie is shown as footage captured on computer desktops and mobile phones. Think that one segment from V/H/S/2, or the video chat scenes in Paranormal Activity 4 (only better). This recommendation isn't for everyone. If you're looking for something light and fun this week, look elsewhere because The Den isn't that. It's kinda mean-spirited, and there aren't any happy endings. Still, it builds tension and nails a lot of details about modern technology. It also captures the horrific feeling that no matter where you are on the Internet you're only a handful of clicks away from the worst of the worst. Except for F this Movie!. You're safe here.Carrrie (1976, dir. Brian De Palma) Netflix has both versions of Carrie; you can watch the 2013 remake with Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, but I'd recommend that you go with the original classic starring Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. Brian DePalma's film is perfect at capturing all the right beats while playing the long game, and Piper Laurie is one of the most terrifying characters in a horror film. Plus John Travolta is in this movie as...himself? Or maybe it's Vinnie Barbarino, who is totally not at all like John Travolta. It doesn't matter, because the 1976 version of Carrie is creepy in all the right ways and has an amazing and iconic climax (insert joke here).
Citadel (2012, dir. Ciaran Foy) At 18 years old, writer/director Ciaran Foy was randomly attacked by a group of crazies and threatened with a used hypodermic needle. As a result of the attack, Foy suffered from agoraphobia for some time. This trauma in Foy’s life was the inspiration for Citadel, a small, creepy movie that tells the tale of Tommy, a young man who witnessed his pregnant wife get beaten and stabbed with a needle by a group of mysterious kids, all while he was helpless to intervene. Tommy’s wife dies as a result of the attack; however, the baby survived. Tommy must now take care of his child while struggling with the demons, both figuratively and literally, that haunt him since his wife was ambushed. Strong direction and a very good lead performance by Aneurin Barnard make Citadel well worth your time.
Big Ass Spider! (2013, dir. Mike Mendez) If you're a casual horror fan who doesn't have the taste for the kind of crazy hardcore shit many of us seek out during #ScaryMovieMonth, allow me to recommend Big Ass Spider!. It's a PG-13 horror comedy that emphasizes fun over scares or violence. Even if you ARE a hardcore horror fan, check it out -- it's a movie made by a huge horror geek (Mike Mendez) that pays loving tribute to the giant bug movies of the past while still incorporating a modern sensibility. The CG effects are inconsistent, sometimes looking really good for the film's extremely low budget and sometimes looking like typical SyFy stuff. It's worth watching just to see the many ways Mendez avoided making precisely one of those SyFy movies; it was originally called Mega Spider, which is exactly what you'd expect one of those cheap, shitty movies to be called. But Mendez fought for the proper title, and it's just one example of evidence that this movie knows exactly what it wants to be and does its best to entertain on those terms. It's fun, it's short, and it has a terrific opening sequence set to a cover of "Where Is My Mind?". I like the rest of it, too.