As we near the end of September, we move into my favorite time of year. I love autumn, and not just for the fall foliage I get here in my beloved New England. October ushers in horror movie season, with just about every week offering up a new scare to the masses. It would be easy to brush off horror movies as being cheesy and undeserving of praise. And frankly, some are cheesy and undeserving of praise. But there are many hidden gems out there that embrace the fun factor in filmmaking and prove that even a genre laden with blood and guts can have some aesthetic value. From the early classics with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, to the terror-inducing The Exorcist and The Shining, they all have a place in film history. I’m happy to say that recent years have produced more flicks into the fray that may stand the test of time.
Trick ‘r Treat – Michael Dougherty’s 2007 fright fest is such a gleeful mix of scares, twists, and gore it’s a shame that the studio decided to keep it on a shelf for so long. It’s rare that a movie shocks me anymore seeing as how a “twist” ending has become so commonplace there’s nothing twisted about it. This movie will keep you on your toes. With interweaving tales of a seemingly mild-mannered high school principal, teenagers on the prowl to terrorize their proposed victim, and a mysterious observer with a burlap sack pumpkin head, I can guarantee that the shock you feel as events unfold is only enhanced by the shock of how well this film’s made.
Cabin in the Woods – If you’re a fan of Joss Whedon (or even mildly familiar with his work on Buffy), you should be well aware going into this one that it will be anything but normal. Writer/director Drew Goddard’s vision has Whedon’s wry humor all over this. You may find yourself laughing more than shrieking from this one, but it doesn’t make it any less effective. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just say this: it’s refreshing to see a movie play with the typical horror genre conventions and mock them endlessly. In the end, it kind of makes all humanity seem like suckers, but man, what a ride.
Absentia – My brother stumbled on this 2011 low budget indie on Netflix and it is an ever present reminder that a quality film does not need millions to be made. An eerie tunnel, a missing husband, and a mystery that pays off with the slow dread that most big budget horror flicks can only dream of.
Paranormal Activity – I’m sure many people scorn this 2007 offering from Oren Peli for reigniting the “found footage” craze. But love it or hate it, there’s a reason this franchise is so popular. It leans on the idea that what isn’t seen is often the most terrifying; a train I wish more horror filmmakers would jump on board. It’s very easy to show a person something they fear, but often it is our own imaginations that can do the most damage.
I’m always on the lookout for the next great horror classic, and each October brings an onslaught. It’s hard to pick through the din, but every now and then you can find a diamond in the rough. What will this year bring?