Monthly Archives: October 2011

31 Days of Horror Movie: Halloween (1978; R; 91 min)

For me, Halloween is the ultimate scary movie. Every year I try, and fail, to watch it all the way through without having to turn it off. This year, I almost succeeded: I only paused it once! Of course, it was very sunny outside and I sat way, far away from the screen, but…baby steps!

John Carpenter’s masterpiece was filmed in just 21 days for only $320,000 in 1978. Carpenter also created all the music for the movie, which to me, is the bow on the present that is this super scary movie. Just hearing the opening score or the pounding piano sequence that plays whenever Michael Myers is on the move can make my heart rate jump and my insides turn to jelly. So, thanks to Mr. Carpenter, our Halloweens will never be the same!

Now, all that being said, Halloween the movie does have its problems, too! Read on…

Halloween opens in 1963, when a six-year-old Michael Myers stabs his sister Judith to death on Halloween night (Problem: his stabs don’t actually land anywhere near his sister). Fast forward 15 years, and Michael’s doctor, Doctor Loomis (the amazing Donald Pleasance), is going to visit the insane asylum where Michael lives, in an effort to make sure he never gets out. But he’s too late. Michael has just broken out and he manages to steal the car Loomis is in, heading back to his hometown of Haddonfield (yes, it’s a problem that somehow Michael can drive).

Meanwhile, three teenagers named Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Linda (one of the mean girls from Carrie and who says “Totally” every 5 seconds), and Annie (the production designer’s wife, who is possibly the worst actress in the history of horror films, is annoying, and yells all her lines) are preparing for Halloween night in Haddonfield. Laurie and Annie will be babysitting children just across the street from each other, while Linda plans to party with her boyfriend. Now the boy, Tommy, who Laurie is babysitting, warns her as they walk to school, telling her to not go near the abandoned old Myers house ’cause it’s haunted. Yet, and this is a problem: Annie picks up Laurie in her car, in full sunshine, to go to the houses where they are babysitting, and when they arrive it’s full dark outside, and she’s babysitting Tommy, who lives close enough to walk the same way to school with her. Huh?

Okay, so back to the story. Michael has been following Laurie all day. She has noticed him several times (cue creepy music) but thinks it’s just her imagination. Now, if I saw a tall man in coveralls wearing an expressionless mask standing among my hanging sheets in the backyard, I’d freak out. But not Laurie.

So, it’s Halloween night. Dr. Loomis has taken up post at the old Myers house to await Michael’s return. But he’s too late, ’cause Michael is after Laurie and her friends. As the night unfolds, teenagers neck (and more, in about 3 seconds flat!), none of the kids being babysat get to trick-or-treat (yes, that’s a problem), and Michael starts picking the teens off, one by one. But will he get to his ultimate goal, Laurie, before the night ends? Or will Dr. Loomis catch him just in time?

Additional insights: While this may sound like your everyday teen slasher flick, it’s not. Carpenter uses lighting and scene setting to build amazing tension and suspense. Often we can see Michael and know he’s just a man, yet his dead eyes let us know evil resides within, evil that cannot be reasoned with, evil that cannot be stopped. And perhaps the simple storyline makes his evil all the more scary to watch. All in all, an amazing movie (despite the storyline problems) that will remain in my top three for a very long time!

  • Top Scare: Every one with Michael and the piano music
  • Heartbeats: 4 3/4 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense factor: 5 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 17 and up, for nudity and theme of storyline
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31 Days of Horror Movie: IT (1990; Not Rated; 192 minutes)

What’s more creepy than an evil clown? An evil clown holding a fistful of balloons, with fangs and a cackling, maniacal laugh (portrayed by the genius Tim Curry no less), who can take the shape of the thing you are most afraid of. A clown who lures and murders the children of a town (Derry, Maine) every 30 years, for hundreds of years, and who only the children can see and hear. A clown called Pennywise by name, but IT by a group of misfit 11 year-old friends who have formed The Losers Club, and who are being targeted and hunted not only by a group of bullies from their school, but by this evil entity in clown form as well. A clown that claims, “I’ll drive you crazy and I’ll kill you all…I’m your worst dream come true. I’m everything you ever were afraid of!”

Based on the pulse-pounding book by horror master Stephen King, IT is set in two main time periods, thirty years apart, and follows the same group of seven friends (six boys and one girl) as they realize they must stick together to survive. As children, Bill’s younger brother Georgie is one of IT’s victims. He is visited by Pennywise first, then one by one the others are too. Finally, each one admits that the clown has visited and threatened him or her, and they form a plan to kill IT. But they do not succeed, and all but one move away, losing all memory of what happened thirty years ago.

Flash forward thirty years and children are once again dying. Mike, though, has stayed as librarian in Derry, and he calls each one back to fulfill a promise they have made to kill IT if it ever returns, and put an end to the evil once and for all. As each receives the call, the memories start to return, and they merge on Derry to face Pennywise. But IT has other plans for them…

My take: all in all, a great premise, likable characters (and a fabulous cast) and lots of scares, even if some of the ending does feature some B-movie type hijinks. Plus I guarantee you’ll think twice before attending the carnival again!

  • Top Scare: All with Pennywise
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense factor: 3 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 14 and up

31 Days of Horror Movie: Paranormal Activity 3 (2011; R; 85 min)

Note to self: do not pump up on caffeine, on an empty stomach no less, before going to see a scary movie in the theater! Let’s just say the guys behind me had a good laugh (or ten) watching me jump out of my seat every time something scary happened!

And plenty of great scares there were, with lots of tension and suspense built in too, in this third installment (the prequel) of the Paranormal Activity franchise. That’s why I was so disappointed with the ending of the movie, which to me felt like it didn’t really fit in with the other two movies and explain what happens in PA and PA2.

Going way back to 1988 when Katie and Kristi were young girls, PA3 lets us see how they came to be “haunted” when they were all grown up. In this installment, young Kristi (played by the adorable and believable Jessica Tyler Brown) has made a new, albeit invisible, friend named Toby. She seems to be scared of him to some degree, as he wakes her at night and asks her to do things in the house. Around the same time, her mother Julie and Julie’s live-in boyfriend Dennis start hearing odd noises in various parts of the house. Dennis is a wedding videographer in the days of good ol’ VHS, so he sets up a couple of cameras around the house to see if he can capture anything on tape.

As September unfolds, and a babysitter is scared out of her wits during one parents-night-out, Toby becomes more and more posessive of Kristi and hurtful to the others in the house. At first they try to ignore what is happening around them, but soon can’t continue pretending nothing is really happening, especially as the video footage adds up and up.

Unfortunately, when Kristi’s grandmother enters the picture to offer assistance, the movie starts going downhill fast. The ending seems contrived and not in keeping with the “spirit” of what happens to the girls later in life. If you want to watch the movie for some great scares, you’ll definitely find them here. But if you want to wrap up the trilogy in a nice, neat, and dare I say, believable, fashion, you’ll need to hope for an alternate ending when the movie is released on DVD.

  • Top Scare: Early in the movie
  • Heartbeats: 4 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Scare factor: 4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up (even though it’s rated R, which I feel it didn’t deserve at all)

31 Days of Horror Movie: Urban Legends (1998; R; 99 min)

Nothing like a good urban legend to base a series of murders on, huh? At least that’s what’s happening at Pendleton College in New Hampshire, where a group of college friends begin disappearing one by one to the tune of famous urban legends.

But who could be the one doing such a thing? Could it be Professor Wexler, who was the sole survivor of a massacre at the school 25 years ago and who teaches a class each year on urban legends (think “pop rocks and soda will make your stomach explode” and “two teenagers parked in a car in a remote area are stalked and killed”). Or could it be a creepy, quiet janitor who roams the school hallways watching the kids? Or perhaps someone like the Dean of Students who’s only worried about the school’s rep, or a local campus police officer Reese (played by the always amazing Loretta Devine) who channels Foxy Brown? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s one of the kids themselves, offing classmates one by one?

And of course, the next question is “Why”? Why are the kids being slayed and why in such an artistic manner? Or are they simply victims of a random killer, or killers, who just happen to use a style that fits in with the urban legends that are so popular and renowned?

And, finally, my own personal questions: Why does everyone in the movie seem to own the same oversized parka? Was it on special on QVC one day? Didn’t it come in any other colors?

The answers to these questions (well, all but the last set) are offered up in the final minutes, with a bonus of TWO surprise-twist endings. Just don’t answer the phone while you’re watching this movie and babysitting…the killer on the other end just may be upstairs!

  • Top Scare: Creepy Janitor
  • Heartbeats: 2  out of 5
  • Gore factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense factor: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up

31 Days of Horror Movie: The Sixth Sense (1999; PG-13; 107 min)

This “new classic” is still on my Top 7 list of horror movies because it’s just everything you could want in a scary, yet thought-provoking, movie. Written and directed by one of my favorites, M. Night Shyamalan, and featuring one of his signature surprise-twist endings, The Sixth Sense stars Bruce Willis as Dr. Malcolm Crowe. Crowe is a reknowned child psychologist in Philadelphia who begins to see an anxiety-ridden 9-year-old boy named Cole (Haley Joel Osment in an amazing performance) whose parents have divorced and who has a secret he does not want to share with others.

Quietly, slowly, Dr. Crowe and Cole develop a trusting relationship, until Cole is ready to share his secret (in a haunting whisper of a voice): “I see dead people.” It seems Cole can see what others cannot, and dead people are trying to communicate with him, leaving him terrified, petrified, and horrified at his predicament. Dr. Crowe suggests Cole should try to find out what the dead people are trying to tell him, and to help them if he can. When Cole undertakes this task, we are all able to feel with breathtaking fear what young Cole is experiencing.

Meanwhile, Dr. Crowe is having troubles of his own. Since being shot by a former patient the year before, he has been feeling distant from his wife Anna. And Cole’s mother, Lynn, who does not know his secret, is trying desparately to help her son with the problems he is having at school and at home, which have her baffled and concerned. In the end, each person finds his, or her, way to accept what life has become and who they really are.

  • Top Scare: Way too many to mention just one!
  • Heartbeats: 4 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 3 out of 5
  • Suspense factor: 4 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: Mature 13+

31 Days of Horror Movie: The Haunting of Molly Hartley (2008; PG-13; 82 min)

I was worried this was going to be a standard teen horror movie, but was happy to discover it was suspenseful, with lots of quick-cut scares and tension. The end, however, was a disappointment, especially the final 5-10 minutes and what I consider a cop-out twist in the final scene.

Molly Hartley and her father are looking to start over. Molly’s mother is in a mental institution for trying to stab Molly in the chest with scissors to prevent her from turning 18 (“It’s coming for you…I can’t let the darkness take you” and all that).

So Molly enrolls in a new prep school, complete with all the yuppy mean-girl cliques and dreamy, athletic boys. She is befriended by a very religious girl who is always trying to “save” her. Molly also is hearing voices, has various hallucinations, especially ones involving her mother trying to kill her, and suffers from some physical ailments as well.

Meanwhile, Joseph, the dreamy boy in Molly’s classes, tries to get to know her better. On the night before Molly turns 18, Joseph throws a party while his parents are out of town (movie parents are always conveniently out of town, it seems) and invites Molly. She sneaks out to attend the party, but soon realizes this may be a very long night when her mother, and others with a different agenda, try to seal her fate once and for all.

  • Top Scare: Two involving animals
  • Heartbeats: 3 3/4 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense factor: 3 3/4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 13 and up

31 Days of Horror Movie: Frostbiten/Frostbitten/Frostbite (2006; Not Rated; 102 min)

Oh, what a fun time I had with this Swedish subtitled movie! I don’t think it was created to be a campy, B-style horror movie (in fact, it seems to have won some international awards of some sort), but that’s what it is. If you like some laughs with your vampires, Frostbitten is for you!

The movie opens in 1944 Ukraine with German soldiers coming upon a cabin in the snowy woods. Seeking shelter, they break in to spend the night. Little do they know what awaits them as they sleep, but the coffins in the basement are your top clue.

Cut away to present-day Norbotten, where polar night has begun (darkness for a full month). Dr. Annika and her 17-year-old daughter Saga have just moved in. Saga is quickly befriended by Vega, a punk-type teen with a drug habit. She invites Saga to a party many of the kids at school are throwing that night.

Meanwhile, Annika meets Professor Beckert, a researcher working at the hospital where she is now working. Beckert has a weird connection with a girl in a coma at the hospital, whom he force-feeds red pills. Two interns at the hospital find the pill stash and one, Sebastian, takes one. He is soon hearing dogs talk to him. When he goes to his girlfriend’s house to meet her parents, he snatches the pet bunny for a nice, bloody feast while the family sits at the table awaiting his return. In the bathroom cleaning up, he begins to notice fangs growing and panics. Soon amazingly clean, he exits the bathroom and begins smoking (not cigarettes, but smoking from his head) when his girlfriend’s father, conveniently a priest wearing a cross, speaks to him. The pet dog laughs maniacally while thanking Sebastian for ridding the household of the rabbit.

Still with me? Okay, good. Now, back at the party, some crazy teen boys spike the punchbowl with the red pills Vega has since snatched from Sebastian. As girls gossip on the couch, vampire teens pull others over the back of the couch to quench their thirst and create more vampire teens. The gossip girls don’t even notice, until one is finally bitten awkwardly on her forehead. A neighbor woman calls the cops, complaining that the teens across the street are “climbing the walls” (which they are, literally)! Saga manages to escape the madness, but is chased by, and throws yard decorations at, vampire Vega who is soon crying out, “Stop throwing gnomes at me!” Saga escapes again but is surrounded by more teen vamps as the cops arrive.

But wait…we also now learn of the dark past of Beckert and the girl in the coma, and as Annika is held prisoner by Beckert, he transorms into an ugly vampire man. He chases her through the hospital (and by chasing, I mean crawling quickly along the ceiling) as she tries to escape and save the girl too, all while trying to get back to Saga.

Back at the party, one teen tells the cops, “Don’t worry, it’ll be over soon. Dawn is just a month away.” The good part is, the movie is over sooner than that and you can once again get your laughs from a rom-com, not a Swedish import.

  • Top Scare: Vampire man
  • Heartbeats: 1 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 1 1/5 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up, due to partial nudity and gore.

31 Days of Horror Movie: Devil (2010; PG-13; 81 min)

I am a huge, HUGE fan of M. Night Shyamalan, so I have no idea how I didn’t realize Devil was one of his movies. Okay, technically, he’s the producer, but it still features his signature twist ending and deliciously spooky, good vs. evil storyline, plus lots of great “quick scares” as well!

Set in a Philadelphia high-rise, the story begins with a suicide jump and a detective who is investigating. Very soon, though, he discovers an elevator in the same building has stopped around the 21st floor, with five people stuck inside. One of the men inside is a temp security guard, but otherwise, we know nothing at first about the other two men and two women who are trapped.

Now, think of pure Hell, and you can be sure there’s annoying elevator music playing in every stuck elevator, right? And if you’re stuck with others, you can be sure they are people you’d never want to hang out with (think salesmen and cranky old bats) for a few minutes, muchless a few hours. Oh, and you can be sure your bladder is nice and full, too. Now you know what these trapped people are enduring as the movie unfolds.

Meanwhile, two security officers, who can see inside the elevator and talk to those trapped, but not hear them talking back, are asking a maintenance man to fix the elevator. While waiting on his efforts, one officer notices the lights keep going on and off in the elevator, and when they go off one time, one of the women is bitten badly on her back. Upon reviewing the security tape, he sees what he believes is the Devil’s face. He immediately tells the other officer and the detective that he believes this is the Devil’s Meeting, when “the Devil takes human form to torment the damned on Earth before stealing them away.”

As the movie continues, one by one those trapped in the elevator meet horrible deaths when the lights go off. Each one suspects each of the others of being a murderer, and the detective is doing all he can to reach them before another one dies. We also learn more about the Devil’s Meeting from the religious security officer, so we know the killings won’t stop until the Devil gets the one he is truly after. The plot thickens, connections form, and blood flows until the surprise ending brings us full circle and we can once again ride an elevator without a care in the world, except where to look and how far away to stand from the weird dude wearing the winter coat in July.

31 Days of Horror Movie: The Birds (1963; PG-13; 120 min)

I couldn’t let my 31 Days of Horror go by without viewing one of Hitchcock’s classics, with all its suspenseful, if kitschy, drama. So I chose The Birds, one of my favorites I hadn’t seen in a long time.

Melanie Daniels is a blonde, stylish, chain-smoking socialite in San Fransisco. Upon visiting a deluxe pet shop, she has a run-in with Mitch Brenner, a lawyer who is looking for a pair of lovebirds to give his extremely younger sister Cathy (yes, she really is his sister…this is the 60s after all) for her 11th birthday. Melanie decides to surprise Mitch by dropping off the lovebirds at his Bodega Bay farm, north of the city. She rents a skiff and motors across the bay in a green skirt and jacket, high heels, and pearls, with her legs crossed the whole way. Then she opens his door and goes on in, leaving the birds and a note. Upon returning from her prank, she is attacked by a seagull, but never fear as Mitch has spied her arrival, driven around the bay to meet her, and saves the day.

In no time flat, Mitch is introducing Melanie to his insufferable mother (whom he calls “dear” and “darling”), the lovely Jessica Tandy. Cathy, who looks to be about 14, becomes immediately attached to Melanie and invites her to stay for her birthday party the next day. At the party, the children are attacked by a flock of seagulls. Later, having retired to the living room for tea and cigarettes, Melanie and Mitch’s family are attacked by hundreds of yellow-winged sparrows (huh?), who fly out of the fireplace and amazingly do not leave a single “poo bomb” in the room! All Mitch can think to say is, “Sure is peculiar…”

Soon, flocks of birds are attacking other townspeople, killing some too. Crows, seagulls, sparrows. But a manly (yet female) elderly ornithologist, while lighting up, declares it impossible for birds of different species to flock together. Hmmm. And another woman in town tells Melanie it’s all her fault, because she is “evil, evil”! Hmmmmmm. As the birds continue to attack, the brandy flows, and the cigarette supply runs low, the townspeople finally decide to start believing this can really be happening. And meanwhile, Melanie’s same green suit continues to look fresh and clean, and her complicated up-do is always lovely as can be. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

  • Top Scare: All of the bird attack scenes
  • Heartbeats: 2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 3 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 13 and up

31 Days of Horror Movie: The Changeling (1980; R; 115 min)

I had a recurring dream as a kid, well, more of a nightmare. It featured a long, dark staircase leading up to a dark, closed door. An attic door of some sort. Somehow, I always stopped myself before opening the door, knowing whatever was behind it was more than I could handle. It seems The Changeling knows about my nightmare, because its tagline is: Whatever you do, don’t go into the attic. Of course, I had to watch this movie to finally find out what might have been behind that dark attic door.

George C. Scott is John Russell, a man whose wife and daughter are killed by an out-of-control truck on a snowy November day in New York. Months later, John tries to move on with his life by taking on a teaching position in Seattle (he is a composer/pianist). He decides to rent an enormous old stone mansion nearby from Claire, a volunteer with the town’s Historic Preservation Society.

Soon, Russell begins hearing loud thumping noises at 6 am, followed by the discovery of faucets running and tubs full. Minnie, an old biddie at the Society, tells him, “That house is not fit to live in. No one has been able to live in it. It doesn’t want people.”

Well, Russell is not deterred, so he starts searching the house for clues. He soon discovers a concealed door leading up to an attic room, where he finds a music box which plays the exact same tune he thought he had just composed himself, an old-fashioned child’s wheelchair, and a book with the year 1906 on the front. He and Claire begin to investigate the home’s history, but files have mysteriously gone missing. They do, however, discover that a doctor lived there at the turn of the century with his daughter Cora and son Joseph, and that Cora was killed by a coal car as a child.

Russell invites a medium to the house for a seance, and soon learns the pounding noises and ghostly happenings lead back to the child Joseph, who asks for Russell’s help. Meanwhile, a Senator Joseph Carmichael, who is on the Society’s Board of Directors, begins to fit into the puzzle, as do his father, an abandoned well, a necklace with a medal, and a police detective. And all lead back to the attic room, and the young boy’s haunting cries of “Father, father…”

  • Top Scare: Mirrors
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 1 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up

31 Days of Horror Movie: The Rite (2011; PG-13; 114 min)

Anthony Hopkins and a based-on-true-events exorcism…you had me at Anthony Hopkins.

After seeing his evil side in The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, how can I turn away from an inspired Hopkins performance simply because it’s another movie about a doubting Catholic (which is getting old, old, old)? Okay, I can’t.

So I didn’t turn away, but seminary student Michael Kovak wants to. Raised by the uber creepy Rutger Hauer as his father Istvan Kovak, a mortician, Michael just can’t wait to get away. So he goes to seminary because his late mother always told him he was touched by the hand of God. As the date of his final vows looms, Michael decides to leave the seminary, citing lack of faith. Enter a priest who has seen a different side of him, and who wants him to head to Rome to give “exorcism school” a go.

Soon Michael’s doubting is noticed by a journalist, Angeline, and the top dog, Father Xavier, who is teaching the class. Father Xavier sends Michael to meet Father Lucas (Hopkins), who performs so many exorcisms he can take calls in the middle of them and still stay on task. Michael still doubts, even when one case, the lovely, young (and pregnant) Rosaria is spitting up long iron nails and talking to him in other languages. But as Rosaria’s possession grows more extreme and violent, and two personal connections to the evil show their face, Michael must decide once and for all if he truly believes not only in the evil he is witnessing, but in God himself.

  • Top Scare: A cat
  • Heartbeats: 3 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 3 1/4 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 3 3/4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 14 and up, due to a couple of sexual references by The Devil himself

31 Days of Horror: The Haunting of Sorority Row (2007; Unrated; 86 min)

If you like a good laugh with your “horror,” this is a good movie for you. Not that the movie is funny. But you will laugh AT the movie as you watch it, it is that bad!

A Lifetime made-for-TV movie (that should have been the tipoff, right there!), this wanna-be horror movie is set in a college sorority during Hell Week. Sam is a freshman pledge trying to balance sorority hazing rituals by queen-bee “sisters,” with homework and a nerdy boyfriend, Oliver (her high school sweetheart who is obsessed with ESP and the paranormal).

Now, this is a big, old sorority house, with long hallways of rooms, yet we only see about 10 total “sisters” the entire time. And 5 of them are pledges. So when one by one, the sisters start breathing in (or out) a cold fog, and disappearing or dying, the house gets pretty empty, pretty fast. Add in the mysterious disappearance exactly one year ago of a freshman pledge, and you get the basic plot idea. The burning, no, freezing, questions are: will Sam escape the killer cold-fog, will Oliver or a new boy named Spencer capture Sam’s heart, will the queen-bee hazers get their come-uppance, and will anyone stay awake past the first 20 minutes to even find out?

  • Top Scare: hahahahah
  • Heartbeats: 1 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense factor: 2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 13 and up, if you must

31 Days of Horror: Let Me In (2010; R; 115 min)

When Stephen King, the King of Horror himself, says a movie is “the best American horror film in the last 20 years,” I pay attention. Honestly, I’m not sure I agree with him on the “best in 20 years” part, but I do agree this is a great horror movie, and do highly recommend it.

Let Me In, based on a Swedish film and book called Let the Right One In, is a lovely, haunting, sad vampire love story where no one sparkles and no one becomes a werewolf. Set in a wintry 1980’s small southwestern town (yes, I said wintry southwestern town), Let Me In is the quiet story of how two people can be drawn to one another, even if and when they know it’s an impossible thing. It’s the story of friendship and love. And it’s a story of youth in all its complexities.

Owen, a lonely 12-year-old who lives with his mother, sees an odd girl about his age (Abby) move into an apartment next door one night. Seems she never gets cold and doesn’t wear shoes in the snow. She arrives with an older man, her “father.” Right off, Abby tells Owen she can’t be his friend. And boy, does he need one, as he is mercilessly bullied at school by Kenny and his two sidekicks. Nevertheless, a shared love of puzzles brings Owen and Abby together, and they begin to develop a friendship, hanging out and talking in the evenings in the building’s snowy courtyard.

Meanwhile, teens in the small town are going missing, and we learn that Abby’s “father” is the reason. He must bring blood to Abby and others so they can survive. When he is in a crash, however, and sets himself on fire to escape recognition, Abby’s world starts to unravel and the only one she can turn to is Owen. But will he accept her for who, and what, she is? Or does friendship and love have its limits?

  • Top Scare: Not really scary
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 4 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 3 3/4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up due to some nudity and cussing

31 Days of Horror: Tips Your House Might Be Haunted

It seems people in movies and on TV shows who so obviously live in a house with ghosts or other spirits, just can’t accept the fact that houses should not glow and doors should not suddenly lock or unlock on their own. They don’t seem to believe their house truly is hosting a party of the paranormal, and so call in the “experts” to take readings and the such, when in fact, all they really need to do is refer to my handy checklist below. It’s specially designed to take the guesswork out of the haunting once and for all!

Simply put a G (for Ghost) next to any of the items below you have experienced in the past year or which describe your living situation. Then total up your G’s and refer to the chart at the bottom to discover whether your house is merely a bit “different” or whether you need to hightail it out of there ASAP!

1. Your house sits on top of, or near, an ancient Indian burial ground, or a pet or other cemetery.

2. You have a housekeeper or butler, of indeterminate age, who “came with” the house.

3. Your house seems to attract lots of flies or spiders.

4. Your house’s upstairs windows look like evil eyes.

5. A kooky person nearby is always warning you, “That place is evil!” or “You’re gonna die!”

6. You have a door under your main staircase which always seems to lock on its own, or pull-down attic stairs which always seem to be calling you forth.

7. Your dog barks at thin air and your cats screech at the basement door.

8. Your realtor mentioned once (very quickly and quietly) that another lovely family just like yours had once lived there, and no one seems to remember where they moved on to.

9. Your basement hosts an old, creaky elevator used in olden days to transport animals for slaughter and curing.

10. You often think you hear angelic children singing when you light a fire in the fireplace.

1-3 G’s: Consider having your house blessed.

4-6 G’s: Call in The Exorcist.

7-10 G’s: Burn the place down and move to Rome.

31 Days of Horror Movie: The Resident (2010; R; 91 min)

So not purely a horror movie, The Resident is still a suspensful thriller with a good cast. And, okay, the building is kind of old and scary, so that makes it a bit more on the horror-movie side than not. See, horror movies really need a good, creepy building to help them make you squirm. Think the Bates Motel. Think Michael Myers’ childhood home. Think Amityville Horror’s all-seeing-eyes house. The list goes on and on!

Now, back to the movie.

The Resident stars Hilary Swank as Juliet, an ER doc who’s just separated from her husband Jack and is looking for a place to live. She conveniently finds an unbelievable deal on a huge (by NYC and any other city’s standards) apartment in a building owned by Max (hot, hot Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Max lives there with his withering, old grandfather August, while he is renovating the apartment building. He moves in and out of rooms and behind walls to get around the building, and we soon learn he has developed a wee bit of a crush (!!) on Juliet. So much so, in fact, he takes to drugging her wine so he can lick her pinky while she’s knocked out. And use her toothbrush. And, uh, “hang out” in her tub.

Juliet meanwhile decides to give Jack another chance, and begins seeing him. She can’t figure out, though, why she keeps oversleeping each day. So, putting two and nine together, she decides to hire someone to install security cameras in her apartment. Huh? Wonder if I missed something there?

Anyway, as Max’s little crush gets more and more out of hand, and Juliet’s recycling bin for bottles gets more and more full from all the wine she drinks each night, and as August gets creepier and creepier, The Resident builds to a bit of a long, drawn-out conclusion that will nevertheless make you think twice before renting from a hot landlord in NYC!

  • Top Scare: Bathroom
  • Heartbeats: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 3 3/4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 17 and up