Leftover Candy

I managed to watch and write about AT LEAST one horror movie or TV show every day for the month of October, but would you believe there are still some others that I didn't get around to writing about?  Well here they are, like your day-after tummy ache.


The Babadook - 2014
Written & Directed by Jennifer Kent

Oh BABY!  What an excellent find for my actual Halloween night movie.

Amelia is a widowed mother trying to raise a smart, creative, albeit undeniably weird son who has not yet learned to manage his fear and anger.  Her son, Robbie is deeply concerned with threats to home and family, likely due to the fact that his father died in a car accident while driving his mother to the hospital to deliver him.  This makes him unnervingly clingy with Amelia, and also compels him to create and build oddball weapons like a catapult backpack (thus breaking a window).  Amelia feels like she's at her wits' end.  Robbie's weirdness has begun to isolate her from the friends she'd ordinarily rely upon for support.

One evening at bedtime, Robbie pulls a book off the shelf that Amelia has never seen before, a strange and seemingly handmade pop-up book called Mister Babadook.  The book tells the story of a monster who comes into your home and will not leave, ultimately bringing death.  Robbie is both fascinated and terrified by it, and Amelia cannot get it away from him fast enough.  First she hides it, but he finds it.  Then she tears it to bits and throws it away, but it comes back, pieced back together.  Robbie becomes increasingly freaked out about the Babadook coming to kill them, and his anxiety transfers to her and the lack of sleep spreads her even thinner.

Not since The Shining have I seen a movie that so successfully treads the path between psychological and supernatural horror, and this might even do a better job of blurring the two.  The question of whether the Babadook is a real thing or simply the product of Amelia's beleaguered and exhausted mind remains fully alive all the way until the end, and even now I still wonder.  The fear of what Amelia fears and what she might do are authentically terrifying.  In the meantime, the world actually behaves much as the world actually does, with social workers showing up to check on Robbie, thus introducing another threat to home and family.  I think a LOT of parents will be able to relate to the horror of Amelia's desire to protect her son crossed with the uncertain feelings that come when your kid JUST WON'T STOP even when you feel you've got nothing left.

This is a GREAT and genuinely chilling horror movie.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown - 2014
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
based on the 1976 film by Earl E Smith
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

This is a slasher, but it's a slasher with some of the self-awareness and cleverness of Scream minus much of the wit and humor.  It's a more earnest mystery in which the town of Texarkana is subjected to a series of slasher-style murders that parallel a case from the 40s and a film about the case from the 70s.  Too much of the story is dependent on us believing that Addison Timlin's character is an outcast in town (evidently because she reads), but at least there IS a story rather than just a bunch of running around getting stabbed.  It really makes an effort at illustrating the way fear can grip a community and even tries to give the protagonist a character that extends beyond being afraid and screaming all the time.  And the gore still manages to be gory!  It is, after all, still a slasher, but I found it to be an entirely tolerable entry in a field predominantly occupied with ugly, mindless garbage.

Summer Of Blood - 2014
Written & Directed by Onur Turkel

If you can make it past the first half an hour or so of the lead character Erik's unrelentingly awful personality, you might find this a mildly rewarding vampire tale, but that's a REALLY BIG "IF."  I stopped the movie twice, he was so freaking unbearable.  I almost couldn't go on.  He's an emotionally crippled 40 year old who uses unfunny humor to deflect E-VER-Y-THING away from himself while simultaneously making everything ABOUT himself.  When his girlfriend of three years (which frankly, strains all belief) proposes over dinner, he can't even treat her with the dignity of addressing the subject head-on.  When he finds a man on the street with his throat torn open, he can't stop babbling to the guy about bullshit long enough to call 9-1-1.  He's a hollow, self-centered hipster douchebag asshole.  Naturally it's set in Brooklyn.  Maybe if you're the kind of person who can tolerate the uncomfortable humor of The Office you'll be better equipped to tolerate Erik, but it was psychologically agonizing for me.

Until he meets a vampire who tells him to shut up for a minute.  The vampire takes him to the core of his self-loathing, then releases him from this life of suffering.  ...Into a whole new undeath of suffering!  The second half of the film plays with the concept of vampirism in some interesting ways, and it's both satisfying to watch Erik suffer as well as seeing him become more human in his post-human condition.  There IS something here, but the buy-in may be too much for some viewers to handle.

Mercy - 2014
Written by Matt Greenburg
from a Story by Stephen King
Directed by Peter Cornwell

At the intersection of late life dementia and the corrupting influence of witchcraft, there is grandma Mercy.  Throughout the movie, her grandson tries to help her, suffering as she is in her drug-induced haze, uncovering family secrets and local legends about witches, only to discover too late that they are one in the same.  There's an idea here, but the execution is so lackluster and unengaging, the climax so lacking in character, that it's really irrelevant what the idea was.  It's been squandered to the point of nonrecognition, just like grandma Mercy.

Hour of the Wolf - 1968
Written & Directed by Ingmar Bergen

Just in case you were wondering, no, this is not a werewolf movie.  I know I was thrown by that.  But it does qualify as horror in a creeping dread, losing one's mind, Ingmar Bergman kind of way.  An artist (Max von Sydow) and his wife (Liv Ullmann) move to a remote island where they can be alone so the taciturn artist can paint.  Despite their apparent isolation, the nearby town seems to be haunted with elements of his past centering around a lost and scandalous love which is perhaps more likely what he's really fleeing.  It's VERY slow and observes no obligation to explain itself, but it builds a deep sensation of "WTF" until its disturbingly bizarre climax.  At least ONE person here is insane, and it might be you.


American Horror Story
Season Three: Coven - 2013
Created by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy

I liked Season One a lot, despite some structural flaws.  I LOVED Season Two which avoided those flaws and excelled in its structure and characterizations.  I knew that a lot of people had really been daffy for Coven so I was looking forward to it.  But it mostly left me flat.

Coven centers around a school for witches in New Orleans as they enter into a time of transition where one Supreme witch will fall and another will rise.  And that's really about it.  Structurally, it's much more soap operatic than either season prior.  The characters aren't as well developed, thus their personal stories have much less driving motive, and are poorly differentiated.  Basically it's a big ol' back-stabathon with literal back-stabbing and the characters are frequently resurrected from their stabbed backs.

Jessica Lange is back to playing a bitchy Southern belle, which is how a lot of people like her but I find terribly tedious.  I was never clear on whether the school for witches was an actual school of if that was just their cover for a place to hang out because not once did any teaching ever occur until everyone had to get up to speed for the big showdown.  There were exactly TWO plot threads that I found to be worthwhile.  One, concerned Kathy Bates as Marie Laveau, a thoroughly evil witch from before the Civil War, cursed with immortality and newly exhumed into a world where a black man is president (in other words, your standard Tea Party voter) and her relationship with Gabourey Sidibe as Queenie, more-or-less well-meaning (but not above her own back-stabbery) young black witch from Detroit.  They had a great dynamic and an interesting story between them that was largely separate from other goings-on.  The other was the relationship between Lange's Fiona Goode and the newly reconstituted ghost of the Axeman of New Orleans, whose spirit has lingered in the coven's house since they stopped his murder spree in 1919.  The whole affair is creepy and unseemly and leads to a sweet piece of cosmic justice in the end.  Danny Huston, as the Axeman, really makes this subplot worthwhile.  Again, it's largely isolated from the rest of the story and allows for some authentic moments of character.  I also liked the character of Misty Day, but she really got shorted on the story side of things.  The actress, Lily Rabe really deserves a more complete story arc in one of these seasons.

By and large, it ends up being a big soap opera where survival of the bitchiest wins the day.  If I wanted to watch that, I'd watch... I don't know because I don't want to watch that.  Is there something that combines Dynasty with Designing Women?  Real Housewitches of New Orleans?  Feh.

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