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My Halloween 2020 Movie Marathon: Week 2 (9/27–10/3)
I finally watched A Nightmare on Elm Street, Beetlejuice, and many more.
This is my diary for my 2020 Halloween Horror Movie Marathon. It will be a six week long journey where I squeeze in movies anytime I can. I want to spend this time watching movies I feel like, as a self-proclaimed horror movie buff, I should have seen by now — like Frankenstein, The Shining, Hereditary, and many others. I am calling the marathon “Season of the Witch” after Halloween III, the only film in that franchise I have missed. This is a time for me to fill in the gaps in my horror knowledge. I will keep my thoughts on each film brief as there will be quite a few per week. Thank you for joining me on this spooky, seasonal journey.
#19: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Retelling of Washington Irving’s story set in a tiny New England town. Ichabod Crane, the new schoolmaster, falls for the town beauty, Katrina Van Tassel, and the town Bully Brom Bones decides that he is a little too successful and needs “convincing” that Katrina is not for him.
Does anybody watch this for Mr. Toad? Really…
All joking aside, the Sleepy Hollow component is probably the definitive version of the story. It’s perfectly illustrated, a great mix of fun and spooky, and the music bumps. It’s also narrated by Bing Crosby, who was the perfect choice thanks to his cool-as-ice timbre.
#20: Sleepy Hollow (1999)
New York detective Ichabod Crane is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of mysterious deaths in which the victims are found beheaded. But the locals believe the culprit to be none other than the ghost of the legendary Headless Horseman.
I have conflicting opinions on this one. On one hand, I would have really liked for this to stay closer to the source material. The excellent production design, Burton’s clear vision, and Depp’s surprisingly strong performance could have all been elevated by staying closer to the original story. A true adaptation could have become a seasonal favorite for me. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
On the other hand, the film still works. It’s an interesting mystery and it definitely passes the spooky vibe check.
One I liked more than I thought I would.
#21: The Fan (1996)
When the San Francisco Giants pay center-fielder, Bobby Rayburn $40 million to lead their team to the World Series, no one is happier or more supportive than #1 fan, Gil Renard. When Rayburn becomes mired in the worst slump of his career, the obsessed Renard decides to stop at nothing to help his idol regain his former glory — not even murder.
Up until the climax, this probably could have been a lot more. But the ending was a solid payoff. Anchored by two strong performances from Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes, whose work I’ve seen little of. Looking forward to more in the future.
I also think I liked the movie way more than I should have just because it was baseball. If it was a basketball movie, I would have thought it was boring.
#22: Creep 2 (2017)
After finding an ad online for “video work,” Sara, a video artist whose primary focus is creating intimacy with lonely men, thinks she may have found the subject of her dreams. She drives to a remote house in the forest and meets a man claiming to be a serial killer. Unable to resist the chance to create a truly shocking piece of art, she agrees to spend the day with him.
I was really unnerved by the original film in this series and I went into this one with low expectations from what I had already heard about it.
I appreciate them trying to mix it up and give Yosef, the titular creep, a true match in Sara, but this attempt to be unpredictable accidentally leaves the horror out. It’s unsettling, but only because the things they’re doing are uncomfortable, not because it’s truly scary.
#23: Deathtrap (1982)
A Broadway playwright puts murder in his plan to take credit for a student’s script.
This is how you fill a movie with twists and turns, surprises and shocks, without it feeling like you’re trying too hard. So well crafted that it feels effortless.
Michael Caine was electrifying. This is my first Christopher Reeve performance outside of Superman and he was exuberant.
And I’m at the point where I’ll watch any Sidney Lumet film.
The tragedy of this film is that it is probably significantly more meta on the stage, so it likely works better there. There’s a self aware layer we miss on film.
#24: Hell House (2001)
A look at the “Hell House” performed annually in October by the youth members of Trinity Church (Assemblies of God) in Cedar Hill, Texas (a Dallas suburb) — seen by over 10,000 visitors each year.
The strength of this documentary is its ability to get out of the way. With limited interference and only the occasional talking head, you get to truly follow these people, with limited showmanship on their part. Of course what they are doing and how they are doing it is showy enough to keep the film interesting without much spice needed from the filmmakers.
#25: Funny Games (1997)
Two psychotic young men take a mother, father, and son hostage in their vacation cabin and force them to play sadistic “games” with one another for their own amusement.
Sort of a bummer for me. One of the many films I’ve watched recently where I expected too much based on its reputation. I thought it was perfectly fine, but nothing about it felt particularly chilling for me.
#26: American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020)
Using raw, firsthand footage, this documentary examines the disappearance of Shanann Watts and her children, and the terrible events that followed.
Feels wrong to include this in my Halloween marathon, but considering it’s scarier than half the things I’ve watched so far, it’s in.
I’m really into the doc’s use of real footage and zero commentary. This is our second documentary in a row like that. However, I think they had a difficult time pacing because of it. It manages to drag around the 60 minute mark when things become clear, all the way to the end.
#27: Lo (2009)
Love presents many challenges to couples…but none so daunting as the one Justin faces with his girlfriend April…
I used to watch filmmaker Travis Betz under his moniker The Receptionist on YouTube via the now-split up collaborative channel The Rough Cuts. He was the most creative and distinct of the bunch and as a kid, I learned a lot about weird and bizarre cinema thanks to him.
He would often talk about the work of David Lynch, and you can see the Lynchian influence in this film — one that’s been in the back of my mind for about 10 years now.
With a limited budget and only three days (!) of filming, there’s a lot to respect here. The demon makeup is top tier, especially for an indie movie. And despite limited resources, the intent of the cinematography is there.
But unfortunately, I don’t think it all came together for me. They did their best squeezing their huge ideas into a small budget — with mixed results. I’m glad I’ve finally seen it now though.
#28: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Teenagers in a small town are dropping like flies, apparently in the grip of mass hysteria causing their suicides. A cop’s daughter, Nancy Thompson, traces the cause to child molester Fred Krueger, who was burned alive by angry parents many years before. Krueger has now come back in the dreams of his killers’ children, claiming their lives as his revenge.
As I use this horror movie marathon to catch up on films I feel like I should have seen by now, I knew this was going to happen — I would watch quite a few movies where I respected the movie much more than I liked it. Nosferatu, Dawn of the Dead, and now Nightmare.
The effects are great 80s fun and I enjoyed the overall vibe, but in general I struggled with it. What are the rules of the dream world? Really not clear to me. Maybe they sort that out in the sequels, if I choose to watch those someday.
#29: Tread (2019)
Pushed to his breaking point, a master welder in a small town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains quietly fortifies a bulldozer with 30 tons of concrete and steel and seeks to destroy those he believes have wronged him.
Any documentary that uses dramatizations feels dated as that doc technique has been more or less retired for awhile. I understand that they didn’t have much of a choice with limited footage and only a few photographs — but the acting and direction are unbearably hokey at moments, which really brings down the tension.
#30: The Devil All The Time (2020)
In Knockemstiff, Ohio and its neighboring backwoods, sinister characters converge around young Arvin Russell as he fights the evil forces that threaten him and his family.
Have you ever watched a season of a tv show and thought, “I probably could have watched the first and last episode and gotten all that mattered.”
I know that I have.
This is like if you did that.
#31: The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
A hotshot lawyer gets more than he bargained for when he learns his new boss is Lucifer himself.
This movie is so bizarre for so many reasons, including, but no limited to, the completely bonkers final 30 minutes, Al Pacino’s usual shenanigans, and Keanu Reeves’ reprehensible Southern accent.
#32: Beetlejuice (1988)
Thanks to an untimely demise via drowning, a young couple end up as poltergeists in their New England farmhouse, where they fail to meet the challenge of scaring away the insufferable new owners, who want to make drastic changes. In desperation, the undead newlyweds turn to an expert frightmeister, but he’s got a diabolical agenda of his own.
Relentlessly fun, this madhouse circus keeps you revved up for every minute of its runtime.
I’ve been on a big Tim Burton kick lately, especially as his stuff is perfect for this time of year. Expect more.
If you are interested in following along with my marathon in real time or if you are interested in seeing my rankings of the films so far, you can follow my list on Letterboxd:
Stats for Week 2: Films Watched: 14, Minutes Watched: 1,395 (23.25 hours) Most Watched Decade: 1990s (4 films) Favorite Film: Hell House (2001), Worst Film: Lo (2009)
Stats for Marathon: Films Watched: 32, Minutes Watched: 2,925 (48.75 hours) Most Watched Decade: 1990s (7 films) Favorite Film: Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Worst Film: Black Sabbath (1963)
What’s Coming Up Next Week? The Shining, Blow Out, Jennifer’s Body, and many more.
Credit: Each plot synopsis comes from Letterboxd via TMDb.