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My Halloween 2020 Movie Marathon: Week 4 (10/11–10/17)
I finally watched Dial M For Murder, The Nightmare Before Christmas, 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.
#48: Dial M For Murder (1954)
An ex-tennis pro carries out a plot to have his wife murdered after discovering she is having an affair, and assumes she will soon leave him for the other man anyway. When things go wrong, he improvises a new plan — to frame her for murder instead.
Classic noir, something we just don’t get enough of anymore. Always suspenseful, always one step ahead of you, it has its reputation for a reason. One of my favorites of the marathon so far.
#49: Bone Tomahawk (2015)
During a shootout in a saloon, Sheriff Hunt injures a suspicious stranger. One of the villagers takes care of him in prison. One day they both disappear — only the spear of a cannibal tribe is found. Hunt and a few of his men go in search of the prisoner and his nurse.
Horror and westerns. A combination no one asked for. It’s like one of those Glee mashups. I thought maybe this could change my mind, but it only confirmed my suspicions that it probably wouldn’t work. It’s like when they had Watermelon OREOs.
#50: Frogs (1972)
Jason Crockett is an aging, grumpy, physically disabled millionaire who invites his family to his island estate for his birthday celebration. Pickett Smith is a free-lance photographer who is doing a pollution layout for an ecology magazine. Jason Crockett hates nature, poisoning anything that crawls on his property. On the night of his birthday the frogs and other members of nature begin to pay Crockett back.
Why did I watch this? For Ray Milland, the day after watching Dial M For Murder? Nope. Because I’ve seen the poster at Alamo Drafthouse and I thought it was funny.
The movie’s not really funny. It’s just bad. It’s the stock footage for me.
#51: Scooby-Doo Meets Batman (1972)
Scooby-Doo Meets Batman is a video compilation from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. It consists of two episodes from Hanna-Barbera’s The New Scooby-Doo Movies, “The Dynamic Scooby Doo Affair” and “The Caped Crusader Caper”, where Scooby-Doo and the gang team up with Batman and Robin to capture Joker and the Penguin.
Is it a movie? No. But it’s on Letterboxd, so I’m counting it in my marathon. I always associate Scooby with Halloween.
They just don’t make ’em like this anymore, which is a real shame. This is classic Saturday morning fun.
#52: Scooby-Doo (2002)
The Mystery Inc. gang have gone their separate ways and have been apart for two years, until they each receive an invitation to Spooky Island. Not knowing that the others have also been invited, they show up and discover an amusement park that affects young visitors in very strange ways.
I gave this film 4/5 stars. Yes, you read that correctly. 4 stars. The same thing I gave The Shining.
And I have no shame.
This movie is FIRE. It goes way harder than it has any right to, and neither of us, myself or my girlfriend, could get over however every single scene transported us back to childhood. We both watched it a million times as a kid and I think I honestly I like it MORE now.
#53: Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
When Mystery, Inc. are guests of honor at the grand opening of the Coolsville Museum of Criminology, a masked villain shows up and creates havoc before stealing the costumes of the gang’s most notorious villains…Could it be that their nemesis, mad scientist Jonathan Jacobo has returned and is trying to recreate their deadliest foes?
The first movie this is not. The music doesn’t bump as hard, the jokes don’t land as smoothly, and most of all, it’s not even close in terms of nostalgia.
But you know what? I think this series gets a bad rep. It’s a great homage, it calls back to all the best moments and monsters in the cartoons, and it’s damn fun. I wish there were more.
#54: Jennifer’s Body (2009)
A newly possessed cheerleader turns into a killer who specializes in offing her male classmates. Can her best friend put an end to the horror?
This just isn’t a movie for me. And that’s okay!
#55: The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
A European prince terrorizes the local peasantry while using his castle as a refuge against the “Red Death” plague that stalks the land.
The plot of the short story (one of my favorites from Edgar Allan Poe) doesn’t start until over an hour into this 90 minute movie, if that gives you an indication of how much crap they made up to stretch it to full length.
I really wanted to like this. I really did. Vincent Prince, Roger Corman, lavish sets and costumes, and, of course, Poe. But you have to wade through so much to reach any semblance of the short story and the potentially searing modern day relevance.
#56: Phantom of the Megaplex (2000)
Pete Riley is a 17-year-old who lands a part-time job at a multiplex in his neighbourhood. However, when a big night comes, Pete has to contend with disappearing staff, malfunctioning equipment, and a broken popcorn machine.
It’s a television movie, about the power of cinema, that I watched on a streaming service, all created by the most powerful media conglomerate in the world.
You could write tomes on the irony present.
And even Mickey Rooney barely makes it watchable.
#57: Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019)
Scream, Queen! examines the infamous homoerotic subtext and the special place the film holds in the Nightmare franchise as well as the gay film canon. Partly in thanks to evolving social mores, Nightmare on Elm Street 2 — which was considered controversial at the time of its release — is now being looked back upon with a new appreciation and fondness by horror aficionados and fans of the series.
Mark Patton has such an interesting perspective that so few people share. His insight on the intersection of horror and queer cinema is uniquely his own and it was interesting to hear his story, his ups and downs, and how he overcame the struggles the industry forced on him.
In a season where most movies are filled with destruction and pain, it was nice to watch a movie filled with healing.
#58: Frankenweenie (1984)
When young Victor’s pet dog Sparky (who stars in Victor’s home-made monster movies) is hit by a car, Victor decides to bring him back to life the only way he knows how. But when the bolt-necked “monster” wreaks havoc and terror in the hearts of Victor’s neighbors, he has to convince them (and his parents) that despite his appearance, Sparky’s still the good loyal friend he’s always been.
I love it when an artist has their unique style from the very beginning of their career. Burton was always Burton and even in a 20 minutes short, he shows what he can do best — take vibrant source material and put his unique stamp on it to elevate in some way. I’ve been loving his work lately.
#59: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tired of scaring humans every October 31 with the same old bag of tricks, Jack Skellington, the spindly king of Halloween Town, kidnaps Santa Claus and plans to deliver shrunken heads and other ghoulish gifts to children on Christmas morning. But as Christmas approaches, Jack’s rag-doll girlfriend, Sally, tries to foil his misguided plans.
It’s almost impossible not to at least appreciate the clear stylistic choices, fan favorite music, and very difficult to pull off stop motion.
But this just ain’t it for me. I feel like a lot of this movie’s endurance is fueled by nostalgia, of which I have none for this one.
Also it’s a Christmas movie, not a Halloween movie.
#60: The Haunted Mansion (2003)
Workaholic Jim Evers and his wife/business partner Sara get a call one night from a mansion owner, Edward Gracey, who wants to sell his house. Once the Evers family arrive at the mansion, a torrential thunderstorm of mysterious origin strands them with the brooding, eccentric Gracey, his mysterious butler, and a variety of residents both seen and unseen.
Watched the VHS a million times as a kid. Watching it again didn’t bring back the memories I wanted it to. But it’s also surprisingly not as bad as I thought it would be.
#61: Hocus Pocus (1993)
After 300 years of slumber, three sister witches are accidentally resurrected in Salem on Halloween night, and it is up to three kids and their newfound feline friend to put an end to the witches’ reign of terror once and for all.
I want to be a Hocus Pocus stan, but I just never will be!
#62: Villains (2019)
When their car breaks down, a couple on the run headed southbound for a fresh start in the Sunshine State break into a nearby house looking for a new set of wheels. What they find instead is a dark secret, and a sweet-as-pie pair of homeowners who will do anything to keep it from getting out.
I could just never get into this. I don’t think it ever found its footing tonally and it falls into a classic trap — when the movie has a 90 degree pivot every 5–10 minutes, you’re just waiting for the next turn out of curiosity, not genuine interest.
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 4: Films Watched: 15, Minutes Watched: 1,343 (22.4 hours) Most Watched Decade: 2000s (5 films) Favorite Film: Dial M For Murder (1954), Worst Film: Villains (2019)
Stats for Marathon: Films Watched: 62, Minutes Watched: 5,724 (95.4 hours) Most Watched Decade: 2010s (13 films) Favorite Film: Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Worst Film: Wrinkles the Clown (2019)
What’s Coming Up Next Week? King Kong, The Addams Family, more Hitchcock, and much more.
Credit: Each plot synopsis comes from Letterboxd via TMDb.