So for Halloween this October, my husband and I tried to find a lot of new horror films that I hadn’t seen before. I was a bit nervous of being scared but I enjoyed them a lot more than I thought I would. This isn’t the type of thing I usually post but there wasn’t much to report about my book; the editing has chugging along well, so I thought I’d post something different for Halloween, and I had a lot of fun making this list.
(Tie) 1. Midnight Mass:
Wow. This one was special. It’s hard to get across just how good it is. I had unfortunately seen some spoilers before watching, but thankfully it was so good that my enjoyment of the show wasn’t really affected. The first few episodes do start out slowly, but that’s not a bad thing. It spends time fleshing out realistic and sympathetic characters and setting up a mysterious and intriguing plot that makes you want to keep watching. It was so tempting to binge watch this show but we kept it to 1 episode per day so that it wasn’t over too soon.
The story really takes off around episode 3 onwards. Even though I knew what was coming, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I will say though, although marketed as a horror, it’s not frightening and there are almost no jumpscares, though there is a tense atmosphere. The focus is very much on the characters and the story. There were a lot of bold choices in the show. One in particular in episode 5 which I didn’t see coming despite knowing the plot. My mouth was open for about 10 minutes straight towards the end of that one, it was something I had never seen done before. I thought the rest of the show might have peaked there but the last episodes just got better and better. The finale was a real gut punch but also felt perfect for the characters, and it stuck in my mind for days afterwards, which is a good sign.
Every actor was fantastic, but I think that Hamish Linklater as the new priest was the standout performance. Although Samantha Sloyan was also particularly good as one of the most detestable villains I’ve seen recently.
The show was so full of emotion, and I definitely teared up multiple times throughout. I also thought the spiritual topics were handled well and didn’t force the audience to think one way or the other. The monologues were a problem for some people but I thought they were very touching for the most part, especially in episodes 4 & 7. Overall this show was beautifully directed, acted and written, it’s one of the best things I’ve seen all year and I’d give it a 10/10.
(Tie) 1. Sinister:
I’ve seen quite a few horror films now since my husband introduced me to them. I’ve enjoyed most of them a lot, and I’ve felt the suspense and jumped when the loud noises come, but I’ve only been genuinely scared once, until I watched Sinister. The title seems perfectly appropriate for the film, as that’s the feeling that it gives off, especially in the first two acts. While there are a few regular jumpscares that make use of the usual suspenseful music and a loud noise, most of the terrifying scenes in the movie are so much better than that. I first realised how different it was during the second tape scene. There’s calm, happy footage playing, then suddenly without any booming noises, without any warning at all, it just cuts to something completely horrific. Then the creepy music comes in, and it’s not just loud music, but it’s deeply intense and strange.
This is how all the tapes go, and it’s fantastic. There’s no way of knowing when the horror will come, which is especially relevant to the lawnmower tape. I had been warned of that scene beforehand but it still made me physically jump, it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen.
The story is good too, it felt like a crime/mystery for the most part which kept me interested. Ethan Hawke was especially good in the film, towards the latter half he looked very convincingly exhausted and close to madness. I heard some complaints about the supernatural aspects of the story, but I wasn’t bothered by it. Perhaps it would have been even better with a serial killer instead, but I certainly didn’t mind the demon and occult stuff, as it didn’t really take up too much of the run time. Besides, the supernatural story allowed for the ending which I loved, so it was fine with me.
The soundtrack was amazing, and was a massive factor in how scary the film was. In particular, during all of the tapes, and in the scene when the family flee the home. I was also really impressed with the sound effects, which is something that I usually wouldn’t notice or pay much attention to. At multiple points throughout the film I heard noises of the tape machine setting up while the family were doing normal things like making coffee. I thought I was looking too far into it but it kept happening, so I’m pretty certain it was deliberate and if so, it was really well done and added to the uncomfortable atmosphere.
Lastly, the directing was noticably good, there were a lot of beautiful shots, and things that were framed perfectly within a scene. One in particular being a murder shown through a reflection in a pair of glasses, which was stylish, but also kept the violence from being too gratuitous. Overall this film was utterly terrifying, with such high class scares and a stifling atmosphere. I’d give this a 9/10.
2. The Omen (1976):
This film was yet another pleasant surprise. I hadn’t heard too much about it, but I liked the idea of an evil kid story with creepy religious undertones. I was taken aback (in a good way) too see how quickly things get going with the fantastic birthday party scene. I thought they were going to keep up the happy family stuff for longer but I liked that it managed to shock me. The story from there onwards was really good, and I thought it was an engaging mystery. The tone of the film was a strong point, it was very creepy and intense, and there was a certain sadness throughout which was unexpected but definitely a positive thing. There seemed to be a focus on the characters over too much action, and I thought it was actually quite emotional, especially near the ending.
The acting was good overall but Billie Whitelaw was really great as the terrifying nanny. The deaths and action scenes in the film were actually impressive given the time, especially the beheading scene. Most of the film is intense, with an oppresive atmosphere, but not too scary, but when the finale comes it does get scarier, and there is a particularly good scare involving the nanny.
I think the ending is fantastic although it is really sad, and quite disturbing, even though the audience knows how evil the child is, it’s still very uncomfortable to watch. The final shot is fantastic too and is one of the best instances I can think of where evil wins in the end. Overall I really enjoyed this film, and I think it’s an emotional, strong story with a brilliant sense of dread and an iconic ending. I’d give it a 8.8/10.
3. Child’s Play:
I never expected that I would be watching this film. I remember being really scared of it as a kid after overhearing creepy rumours at primary school. I thought I could handle it as a newly turned adult though, and although I winced at some broken bones, I really enjoyed it and was pleasantly surprised. I had heard a lot of people saying that the film is really cheesy, but I disagree. Maybe the sequels are, but I think this one is genuinely good. The doll itself is a great design and I can see why it’s become so iconic. The child performance was believable, and I found myself feeling really bad for the kid.
The story is fun and not as corny as it sounds, and it doesn’t waste any time getting in to the action. The effects on the doll are amazing and the first time it moved and talked, I was really impressed. Especially at the ending, when Chucky has been burned, it looked really freaky, in a good way. It wasn’t exactly terrifying, but there is enough violence to feel like a horror. Overall, this was a fun, exciting film with a much better story and characters than I expected. I’d give it 7.8/10
4. The Conjuring 2:
I found that despite most review scores, I actually slightly preferred the second film. The acting was still really good from everyone, but I thought Madison Wolfe as Janet was a particularly good child performance. The story was engaging once again, and I was surprised to see quite a lot of emotional moments in this one which was nice. James Wan’s directing also felt more prominent in this film, with really interesting camera work. As for scares, I thought this one was consistently creepy, with one scene involving a tree especially keeping me on edge. The jumpscares involving the tent were also very effective to me. I’d give this an 8.6/10
5. The Conjuring:
These two were the films we chose to start with this October. I wanted something a bit more easy to watch but still scary, and I was very impressed with both of them. As for the first movie, the story and characters were engaging, the acting was good all around, but Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson stood out. The child actors were also pretty good since that can be hard to get right. As for scares, the 3rd act was particularly strong and I found it quite creepy. If I would change one thing, I would probably have wanted a bit more backstory for the demon, maybe giving it more of a connection to the family, but overall I’d give this an 8/10.
6. Insidious 2:
I found this film managed to make me jump more than most of the others. There was a great twist which I really didn’t see coming, and it added to the lore of the first movie in a satisfying way. Patrick Wilson was particularly great in this one, but the other actors were good too. Overall, I’d give this 7.8/10
7. The Night House:
This film definitely felt more like a character drama rather than a horror up until the finale. That’s not a negative though. The story is engaging and mysterious, it can be quite complicated at times but things become clearer further along. It is a very emotional plot, with the heavy themes of suicide and grief which give the film it’s dark, sad tone. There isn’t really much scary here until the very end, it definitely focuses more on the mystery than the horror, providing a slow burn of clues about the secret life of someone who has died, and therefore can’t explain themselves, which is really interesting.
I think the strongest aspect of the movie is definitely Rebecca Hall’s acting. She is absolutely fantastic, and can go between opposite emotions realistically. Her portrayal of a grieving woman is one of the most true to life that I’ve seen, and I would even say she deserves some award nominations.
Some people weren’t keen on the ending, I didn’t mind it, but I would say it was quite bleak, perhaps even depressing in a way. This is probably not a feel good film for most people, and it’s not something you would watch if you were having a bad day. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good movie though, and I’d give this a 7.8
We watched this film on a day when we had been out and about in the city. I had been really tired so I wasn’t sure if I would appreciate it properly. I’m pleased to say though that this film captured my attention and kept me awake. The family was very believable, and the supporting cast provided quite a bit of levity. It was very scary, especially the use of that old song. However, the 3rd act became quite wacky at times, that wasn’t always a negative though and it was really entertaining. I’d give this a 7.6/10
9. Ouija: Origin of Evil:
We heard about this one from its reputation of being much better than the original Ouija film, which was apparently not so good. I’d say it probably is, as it was really enjoyable, right up until the last scene.
Something really impressive about it was the way it was made to seem like the 60s. Little marks came up on the screen at times like old films, and cuts between scenes had that tiny little glitch that there used to be. On top of that there was clearly a lot of effort put in with the sets and costumes to look accurate as well which was nice.
Almost everything else in the film was good, we only had one problem with it, which was the ending. In the last few scenes, they set up the method of getting rid of the ghosts. Then in the finale, they use that method, but only a few seconds later the ghosts return anyway without explanation. It feels confusing and as though it rendered some past scenes pointless. Then one character dies, but is brought back for one last shot at the end, again there isn’t a clear explanation, it just felt very out of place to me. Overall, this was an enjoyable horror film with good acting and production, that was just slightly let down by its ending scenes. I’d give it a 7.
10. Manos: Hands of Fate:
This one walks the line between funny and boring, similarly to birdemic, but to me, ultimately it does succeed, and falls on the side of ‘so bad it’s good’. The characters are all horribly stereotypical and exist to spout out hilarious cliches. The character of Torgo however, defies this and is unpredictable. The plot is overly simple and quite unimportant, and things seem to happen for no reason.
In some way, although this film is completely awful, there is a strong sense of dread coming from the bizarre music and the awkward camera work. Maybe in a better production this would have been utilised properly, but then, the film wouldn’t have been so fantastically funny. I’d give this 4.5/10 for entertaining me.
11. The Boy (2016)
Well this one was odd. As we watched it, I could definitely pick out some flaws, mostly bad editing choices (like zooming in on goat heads with no reason and no thematic relevance multiple times.) The dialogue was also quite unsubtle at times, the jumpscares were very weak and empty, and there were two pointless dream sequences that drained the tension away. That kind of stuff can be overlooked though if the rest of the film is good. And there are some good things here, mostly, the Brahms doll itself was a really creepy design that could’ve been scary if used right. The plot idea also had potential, I think that it could have actually been effective if it was handled a bit differently.
Unfortunately though, there is a twist towards the end that renders most of what came before absolutely pointless. When the third act came I was getting ready for a fun finale and hopefully a good resolution to the story, but this ending didn’t resolve anything, instead we were left with a barrage of unfinished plot threads and questions that don’t ever get any answers.
In particular, how did the man living in the walls get in and out in time to move the doll without being seen? Why did the parents bother to take care of the doll like a child when they knew their actual child was still in the house? Why did they commit suicide? Why was there such a focus on the woman breaking the list of rules when it’s completely irrelevant to the plot. I think the most disappointing thing is that the man in the walls twist makes the whole idea of the doll totally irrelevant. I would seriously have preferred the doll to be possessed despite how overdone that is since it would have fit better with what had come before. Especially with the theme of child death, which ends up being unexplored and just used as a cheap backstory.
Ultimately it was a flawed film with some good ideas, which were doomed by an awful twist ending, reminiscent of one of the worst M. Night Shyamalan movies. I’d give this a 4.5/10
I’m not sure if Birdemic really counts as a horror. It’s ripping off The Birds (an actually great horror movie) though, so I’m counting it. I love bad things, books, films, art, among others, so I wanted to enjoy this film a lot. I ended up conflicted about it. One one hand, there are a lot of laughable aspects that are enjoyable to experience. However, the fun parts are very much weighed down by an equal amount of boring parts. For example, the opening credits with that totally unfitting music is hilarious, I nearly choked while laughing the first time I saw it. Although, once it’s been going on for 3:39 (yes, I timed it) it becomes a lot less funny, and a lot more tedious.
Overall, I do think that the good outweighs the bad, and I would still recommend this as a ‘so bad it’s good’ film. The most enjoyable things are; the awful acting, terrible and unsubtle dialogue, bad camerawork and sound design, but best of all has to be the infamous CGI birds. They can be found upside down, clipping through each other, exploding, and being taken down by coathangers. The worst thing is really just the editing, making scenes drag on for too long, ruining some of the fun. This is clearly a 1/10 film, but I have to give some extra points for the enjoyment, so I’ll go with a 3/10.
13. Slenderman (2018):
Oh dear. This was just awful. Everything in this film was just bad. The acting was terrible and wince-worthy, the writing was abysmal, the tone was nonexistent, the pacing was rushed, and worst of all, it was the least scary horror I’ve ever seen. Overall, I could go on for hours about how terrible this one was, but I do give it one point back for being so bad that it was funny. So I’d give it a 2/10. Link to full review: