It’s that time of year, and on top of any Halloween horror titles I’ve already added to the full holiday horror page this year, here’s my rundown of a handful more new ones to add to your October watchlist.
HALLOWEEN PARTY (2018)
Running less than forty minutes long, this holiday horror short is a good warm-up for your main features. It’s loaded with Halloween atmosphere and takes place in 1995, so there are plenty of Easter eggs from the 90s to keep an eye out for.
A bit of a slow burn carried by the lead’s intriguing performance, the film focuses on a guy preparing for a Halloween party…yet the only person who shows up is someone he didn’t invite…
It’s quite deceiving because you really don’t know what you’re in for or where the film is heading, but there are plenty of mysterious moments along the way to keep us guessing.
In the end it’s a low-key denouement and feels like a Tales from the Crypt zinger, but there is definitely plenty here to satisfy horror fans.
POSSESSION DIARIES (2019)
It looks like another one of those low budget camera POV/possession type movies…which is exactly what it is…but it’s also a Halloween film!
Possession Diaries manages to deliver more Halloween atmosphere than many Halloween horrors that are pumped out every year. That’s mostly because it takes place during the week leading up to Halloween, entirely in one bedroom all decked out for the holiday.
As far as horror movies go, it’s fairly generic. Weird stuff goes on in this girl’s bedroom after she uses a Ouija board, so she starts a live feed to document it. While most of the footage comes from the computer camera’s POV, the film smartly takes the liberty of breaking webcam POV mode when it wants the flexibility to deliver more of a story.
For instance, the girl has nightmares, obviously not caught on camera, which are some of the best “scary” scenes in the film, including a deliciously devilish demon sequence that was my second favorite part of the film.
My first was a suspenseful little scene that makes great use of a Jack ‘o lantern.
Oh! The opening scene, while not even necessary to the plot, also has a good creepy moment.
Anyway, the lead girl talks to the camera a lot, interacts with a few people who come into her room, gets numerous weird phone calls, and eventually starts acting strange. An hour into the movie there’s even a sudden, brief exorcism! Considering the title, I guess it was a necessary evil (or casting out of evil). But honestly, the half hour after that scene is rather anticlimactic.
CANDY CORN (2019)
This one comes to us from the director of Honeyspider, another Halloween horror movie. I had to go read my blog about that film because I couldn’t remember it at all. Not even the blog helped refresh my memory much beyond me being disappointed in the film.
The same is the case here—and I fricking blind purchased the dang Blu-ray of this one! Candy Corn is definitely more polished with good Halloween atmosphere, an effectively crafted score, and even classic Carpenter’s Halloween fonts for the opening credits.
Plus, it features plenty of horror veterans, including Pancho Moler (31, 3 From Hell, American Fright Fest) as a carnival leader, Malachai from the original Children of the Corn refreshingly in a starring role as the sheriff, and PJ Soles and Tony Todd, both in throwaway cameos.
To me, Candy Corn feels like another generic Halloween slasher with a sort of scarecrow corpse killer taking down victims. The kills are not particularly gory, suspenseful, or creative, and even the concept of the killer filling their throats with candy corn is not fully realized. And the film becomes repetitive: there’s a kill, the sheriff examines the crime scene, the main group of kids in the movie worries what this could mean for them, rinse and repeat.
The main group of kids is a bunch of bullies planning to prank an odd kid their leader refers to as a faggot. It’s astounding that writers can’t resist using that derogatory term just for the hell of it. Sure it might be realistic that jerks would throw that word around, but filmmakers don’t have to follow what culture dictates—they can also be leaders in not propagating toxic culture.
The prank plot is a bust, the odd kid ends up dead, and the carnival owner brings him back to life as a vengeful scarecrow corpse killer.
And there lies my biggest disappointment. I don’t care enough to be scared. The bullies deserve to die. My moral compass won’t let me feel anything for them. There’s simply no one for me to root for in this film except the killer. And I don’t like rooting for killers when I sit down to watch a scary Halloween movie.
SCARIEST NIGHT OF YOUR LIFE (2018)
This haunted Halloween attraction film, shot found footage style, takes its time getting to the best part (the last twenty minutes), which to me, is fricking awesome. Sadly, the film is loathed by Amazon reviewers that probably didn’t bother reaching the end.
Compared to a majority of found footage films out there that are painfully boring until the last few minutes (I won’t even mention the agonizing queen of found footage films), this one at least keeps us occupied with a tour through a pretty damn atmospheric haunted attraction.
For Halloween, a small group of friends goes to a secluded, unadvertised extreme haunt. There’s definitely too much pointless banter between them before they even get to the haunt—just like every other damn found footage film—but this is what makes it feel like we are actually there with a group of friends.
The film does something I think is brilliant. It makes the haunt feel surprisingly tame and disappointing. Just like a real group of friends, this group chats with the haunters in costume, mocks them, and complains about how lame the haunt is. The weirdest thing they experience is some geek who keeps catching up to them wanting to join them.
Once we have our guard down, things start to ramp up. The kids go from one kill room to the next, and the haunt performers become increasingly weird and immersed in their stories as they torture and kill victims. It becomes so real and the rooms feel so genuine that some of the kids want to bail.
I personally loved the final act of this film. As the kids try to get out, the footage is claustrophobic, the sets are grisly, they run into some freaks we hadn’t seen earlier, the lack of any score makes it feel like we are trapped in the tight spaces with them, and there’s a clown—one of the most played out baddies of the genre—who is creepy as fuck in a very different ways for a change. The actor is perfect.
Finally it’s time for the overhyped hit of the season thanks to Eli Roth’s producer stamp of approval and it being co-directed by the writer and the producer of A Quiet Place, which is on my list of most overrated flicks of this decade.
Haunt is the haunted attraction flick for those horror fans that demand sleek, polished, mainstream horror.
The opening scene will remind die-hard fans of the original Elm Street for various reasons, and the next scene of a festive house getting hit by a pumpkin while a TV inside is airing the usual—Night of the Living Dead—definitely gets you in the Halloween spirit.
Then we meet a group of kids heading to a haunted attraction. Rather than the usual haunted attraction filled with haunters jumping out at them, this one mostly involves the kids weaving their way through various mazes and stupidly following instructions on signs to do things like sticking their hand in a hole in a wall. Silly kids. That’s what dicks are for.
This goes on for the first forty-five minutes before the fun finally kicks in. What to say? It’s definitely entertaining in a total pop horror way.
All the jump scares rely entirely on loud orchestral stingers, the gruesome gore makes up for that fact, the haunters that pursue them are effectively ominous, and the battle to the death is a blast. Also, some fans might appreciate that the film sticks to serious, never trying to inject humor into the mix.
I love that the final girl goes through serious hell, but it astounds me that seasoned horror filmmakers would use an absurdly overused cliché like the ***SPOILER*** old switcheroo—she kills one of her own friends who has been thrust in her direction with a baddy’s mask on. Ugh. Really?
Meanwhile, the final “revenge” scene is so ridiculous that I can’t even bother being annoyed by it. This movie just is what it is and will probably become a “classic” while loads of similar indie films fade into obscurity.