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    Closed Off Circle 5: Halloween

    –Corey Wagner

    Horror movies aren’t really my thing. It’s not that I’m opposed to the genre; I just think a lot of them are poorly made. Despite being lukewarm on the genre, leading up to Halloween I have been watching several movies that are, at the very least, on the fringe of the horror genre. Oddly enough, it was reading Scott Snyder’s Wytches that set me on this path. Originally, I tried out some horror audio books. What I discovered after about 20 minutes, however, is that I (still) don’t care for audiobooks. I then decided to just go the movie route.

    One of the first movies I decided to watch was Trick ‘r Treat. Directed by Michael Dougherty (also director of the upcoming film Krampus) and released direct to DVD in 2009, Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology horror film that follows four stories that take place on Halloween in a smaller town. What works with this movie is what most horror movies fail at. The acting throughout is actually solid, featuring the likes of Brian Cox, Anna Paquin, and Dylan Baker. The movie is also very fun and doesn’t take itself too serious (not exactly Evil Dead 2 levels, but still). Just as important, the movie doesn’t focus on just gore or jump scares as the basis for the horror. Highly recommended.

    The next 3 movies all came out just last year: The Babadook, It Follows, and Starry Eyes. For my tastes, all three were fine, but I would consider them all to be very much above average horror films. Starry Eyes and It Follows stand out for having exceptional scores. Of the three I enjoyed Starry Eyes the most, but it’s probably the least appealing to general audiences. I’ve seen multiple comparisons to David Lynch and David Cronenberg in reference to the movie and I can’t say they’re completely off-base. The movie came across as a combination of Rosemary’s Baby, Mulholland Drive, and Suspiria. Oh, and it’s gross. Very gross. Recommended! (all of them).

    Speaking of Rosemary’s Baby, I watched it for the first time this month. Even though it is considered a classic, I had heard that it was very dated and didn’t hold up. I don’t agree. Released in 1968 and set during the mid-1960s, I thought the movie seemed ahead of its time by about a decade. It is a slow movie and (arguably) not much of a horror movie by modern standards. However, I thought it was well made and I enjoyed the creepy vibe throughout. Mia Farrow puts forth an Oscar-worthy performance in my opinion (she wasn’t nominated).

    The last couple of years there have been some excellent vampire movies released. Some of these are hardly horror but all are very enjoyable. The New Zealand mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows might not be very scary, but it does play with several vampire tropes in an amusing way. Think of it as the vampire version of Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is another very recent vampire movie that is interesting. It is much more about style and atmosphere than horror, however. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is much more artsy than scary. In many ways it reminds me of the recent Jim Jarmusch vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive. Lovers is the better film but I would also refrain from calling it a horror movie.

    Eventually my interest in horror did spill over in to fiction. Inspired by my film habits, I decided to give John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In a chance. I really enjoyed both film adaptations (Swedish version Let the Right One In, American Version Let Me In), so I was assuming/hoping that the source material would also be quality. I am only about half way through the novel, but it has me hooked more than any fiction book has in a while. I wouldn’t consider myself a vampire enthusiast but, coincidentally, ‘Salem’s Lot is one of my favorite Stephen King novels  Some other vampire movies that I would recommend:

    Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) – I don’t particularly care for silent cinema all that much. I find Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake (starring Klaus Kinski) to be superior to the original. Roger Ebert included this movie in his “Great Films Collection.”

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – Keanu Reeves performance aside, I think this is a very good movie and really the only thing Francis Ford Coppola directed after Apocalypse Now that I find even remotely interesting

    Cronos (1993) – Guillermo Del Toro’s first movie. The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth are also worth checking out. He is also the director of the new movie Crimson Peak.

    The horror genre over the last few years has been growing on television. The Walking Dead is one of the highest rated cable shows ever and season six just began. Fear the Walking Dead, a spinoff, just finished a fairly well received season as well. The Walking Dead isn’t the only newer series, however. Seemingly every network is trying to get in the horror genre now: Penny Dreadful (Showtime), American Horror Story (FX), Hemlock Grove (Netflix Original), Z Nation (Syfy), Bates Motel and The Returned (A & E), Salem (WGN), From Dusk Till Dawn (El Rey Network), Black Mirror (Originally a British show, future seasons are Netflix originals).

    The Walking Dead, of course, is adapted from the comic of the same name. Again, it was Scott Snyder’s comic Wytches that inspired my viewing and reading habits over the last month. Snyder is probably best known for writing the Batman title over the last 4+ years. His horror-tinged series The Wake took me by surprise earlier this year. American Vampire, his comic series focusing on vampirism throughout American history, has been one of my favorite comics over the last 5+ years. It’s also worth mentioning that Snyder wrote probably the best run of Swamp Thing since Alan Moore. Other modern horror comics I would recommend: Bedlam (Nick Spencer), Colder (Paul Tobin), Bad Blood (Jonathan Maberry), the original Hellblazer run (various authors), and it may be a stretch to include these two, but Gaiman’s Sandman series and Jeff Lemire’s run on Animal Man fit tonally with the rest and, more importantly, they’re both great.

    I’ll keep my Halloween musical recommendations to a minimum, as my musical taste can be a little out there, but Ryan Gosling’s band Dead Man’s Bones self-titled album from 2009 is excellent and definitely has a fall/Halloween feeling/atmosphere. Don’t just take my word for it, here’s a previous review from DCPL staff: http://www.dcplibrary.org/news/2585

     

    Items featured in this post:

    DVDs:
    American Horror Story, The Babadook, Bates Motel, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, Evil Dead 2, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, It Follows, Let Me In, Let the Right One In, Mulholland Drive, Nosferatu (1922), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Only Lovers Left Alive, Pan’s Labyrinth, Penny Dreadful, Rosemary’s Baby, Shaun of the Dead, Starry Eyes, Suspiria, Trick ‘r Treat, The Walking Dead, What We do in the Shadows, Z Nation, Zombieland

    Comics:
    American Vampire, Animal Man (Jeff Lemire), Bad Blood, Batman (Scott Snyder), Bedlam, Colder, Hellblazer, Sandman (Neil Gaiman), Swamp Thing (Alan Moore), Swamp Thing (Scott Snyder), The Wake, The Walking Dead, Wytches

    Books:

    Let the Right One In
    More from John Ajvide Lindqvist

    ‘Salem’s Lot

    Music:
    Dead Man’s Bones self titled album

     
     
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