Tag Archives: October

Give This, Not That: Halloween Edition

 

 

Back by popular demand!

halloween candy bowl

Want to be the cool house on the block come Trick-or-Treat time? Sure, the headless ghoul and ghastly sound effects – not to mention swirling fog and creepy doorbell – will go a long way. But to truly take your place in the hall of fame, you need to master The Give. To help you out, I’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to treats every kid worth her princess ball gown or his superhero cape will be looking for October 31st, along with the sure-to-scare-away equivalent:

First, the basics. Whenever possible, give:

  • Candy                  NOT         Candy Corn, Fruit, or Raisins
  • Full Size              NOT         Fun Size or Mini
  • New Candy         NOT         Last Year’s Easter Candy

chocolate bunny

Once you’ve mastered Candy 101, you’re ready to move on. Give:

  • Chocolate                           NOT     Breath Mints
  • Sour, Sweet, Gummy    NOT    Atomic Fireball, Tabasco Jelly Beans
  • Laffy Taffy                         NOT     Bit-O-Honey or Licorice
  • Caramel Anything           NOT     Coconut Anything (sorry Mounds)
  • ANYTHING ELSE           NOT     Pecan Logs, Sixlets, Necco Wafers

necco wafers

 

 

 

 

Finally, when you’re ready for the Advanced Give, give these a try:

  • Gross-out Candy (Zit Poppers, Gummy Tongue, Box of Boogers, Ear Wax Candy)

zit poppers

                                                                       NOT

  • Goodies you may have on hand (Beer Nuts, Clif Bars, or 5-Hour Energy)

5 hour energy

Now that you’re all set to be the best house on the block come Halloween night, be sure to follow this last piece of advice: GIVE IT ALL AWAY (your skinny jeans will thank me come Thanksgiving!).

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31 Days of Horror: Oculus (R; 2013; 104 min)

oculus

 

Ever feel like a horror movie has the possibility of being a great scare, yet it falls just short? That’s how I felt about Oculus. Even though it did have some scary-ish moments, and a decent horror movie premise underlying it all, it never managed to pull me out of my living room and into the spirit world like it could have.

Switching back and forth – sometimes quite confusingly (the director’s intention) –  between today and ten years ago, Oculus is the story of two siblings, Tim and Kaylie. Tim has just been released from a mental institute where he was being treated after murdering his parents as a young boy a decade ago. But Kaylie wants to prove via an elaborate set-up of alarms, switches and cameras that the murderer was actually an evil spirit residing in the antique mirror hanging in their father’s office, known as the Lasser Glass, and that the spirit has been murdering its owners for hundreds of years. A la Stephen King’s IT, Kaylie also wants Tim to keep his promise of coming back and helping her to take care of the spirit once and for all. The problem is, Tim doesn’t remember the events quite the same, until he is caught up in Kaylie’s efforts and starts to relive the night in question. But the evil that resides within the mirror has many tricks up its sleeve, all designed to prevent Tim and Kaylie from accomplishing their goal. The question is, who will be victorious?

  •  Top Scare: Evil Spirit in office
  • Heartbeats: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 3 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up

 

 

31 Day of Horror: Mama (PG-13; 2013; 100 min)

mama

When two girls, Victoria and Lilly, are found after being left alone in a cabin in the woods for five years, their uncle takes on the challenge of trying to raise them. With the help of a psychiatrist, he and his girlfriend begin to make progress, such as getting them to walk upright and stop eating cherries for every meal (or certain creatures, as eventually becomes the case). But it soon becomes clear that they weren’t alone in that cabin after all – Mama was with them. And Mama does not want to give them up quite so easily.

With an almost unrecognizable Jessica Chastain, and an adorable Megan Charpentier as Victoria, Mama has a solid, believable cast. The majority of the movie is suspenseful, quite scary, and a bit gruesome, thanks to some great special effects. I was disappointed in the surreal-type ending, however, and wish the movie had stuck more closely with its horror theme. All in all, a great scare for your 31 Days of Horror.

  • Top Scare: Any with Mama
  • Heartbeats: 4 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 14 or 15 and up

31 Days of Horror: House at the End of the Street (PG-13; 2012; 101 min)

house at end of street

With Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, and Elisabeth Shue, I was happy to give this movie a try, and I’m glad I did. Though not the scariest of plots, it did have a few good jump-out-of-my-seat moments, some good suspense, and an interesting story. Plus, it had not just one, but two or three twists thrown in, and I’m a sucker for plot twists!

Teenager Elissa (Lawrence) and her wildish mom Sarah (an amazing-looking Shue) have just rented a house in the woods. They got it for a steal since the house next door was the location of a family slaying – a not-quite-all-there girl (Carrie Anne) had murdered her mother and father one night before disappearing into the woods to never be seen again. When they discover the girl’s brother, Ryan, has moved back into the abandoned house after many years staying with an Aunt, Elissa strikes up a friendship with him. As the friendship deepens, Sarah tries to put a stop to it, but Elissa is too clever for that.

Now, Ryan is a quiet, shy type of college kid, fixing up his family home in hopes to sell it one day. But as time goes on, we learn that there’s something very odd going on in Ryan’s house, something that involves Carrie Anne, who may or may not have disappeared for good on that fateful night. And just when you think you’ve figured it out – TWIST – you have to look at things differently. And as soon as you’re comfortable with that -TWIST – you have to figure it all out again. But it doesn’t stop there…you’ll be thinking this movie through right up to the very end!

  • Top Scare: In Ryan’s house
  • Heartbeats: 3 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 3 1/4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 14 and up

31 Days of Horror: The Cabin in the Woods (R; 2012; 95 min)

the cabin in the woods

Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: five college friends head for a remote cabin in the woods. When strange things begin happening, and they are soon dying one by one, they realize they are not alone.

What? Stop? Are you sure?

But if I do, you’ll never discover the mind-bending secrets you can only discover if you watch this unique version of the story. Secrets too big and, um, different, to reveal here! Suffice it to say, you won’t want to miss this cult classic brought to you by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, if only so you know the secret(s) and can yuck it up a bit in the process at not only the storyline, but the acting too. And maybe enjoy a few small scares here and there as well.

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

31 Days of Horror: The Conjuring (R; 2013; 112 min)

the conjuring

Wow, wow, and wow! I’d heard great things about this movie, so wanted to be sure to include it in my 31 Days of Horror. I’m just glad I didn’t watch it late at night!

The Conjuring is based on real-life husband and wife team, Ed and Lorraine Warren, and their most difficult case as demonologists/paranormal researchers. In 1971 Rhode Island, the Perron family has just moved into an old, creaky-door house they got for a steal (uh, oh…red flag!). Almost immediately, they begin to hear strange sounds (flag), and soon discover the house’s boarded up cellar, stocked full of old furniture, toys, etc. (flag). The youngest of five daughters, April, soon has an invisible playmate (flag). The Mom is noticing strange bruises on her body (flag). And another daughter is seeing people and being tugged at while sleeping (flag).

Now, before you say, “I’ve seen this kind of movie a hundred times,” just wait. Because before you know it, the scares kick up a notch or twelve, with scares aplenty. You’ll be squeezing that pillow pretty tightly in no time flat! Because as soon as the Perrons decide to enlist the Warrens’ help, the spirits and demons living in the house start getting pretty mad about it all, and try to put a stop to their every effort. Adults, children, pets – all in the crosshairs. The question is, will the Perrons and the Warrens all make it through to tell the tale?

With amazing timing, special effects, lighting, and cast, The Conjuring is the perfect combination of “truth and scare,” one you won’t want to miss!

  • Top Scare: Very hard to choose, but I’ll go with bedroom scene
  • Heartbeats: 4 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 4 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 or 16 and up

Give This, Not That: Halloween Edition

halloween candy bowl

Want to be the cool house on the block come Trick-or-Treat time? Sure, the headless ghoul and ghastly sound effects – not to mention swirling fog and creepy doorbell – will go a long way. But to truly take your place in the hall of fame, you need to master The Give. To help you out, I’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to treats every kid worth her princess ball gown or his superhero cape will be looking for October 31st, along with the sure-to-scare-away equivalent:

First, the basics. Whenever possible, give:

  • Candy                  NOT         Candy Corn, Fruit, or Raisins
  • Full Size              NOT         Fun Size or Mini
  • New Candy         NOT         Last Year’s Easter Candy

chocolate bunny

Once you’ve mastered Candy 101, you’re ready to move on. Give:

  • Chocolate                           NOT     Breath Mints
  • Sour, Sweet, Gummy    NOT    Atomic Fireball, Tabasco Jelly Beans
  • Laffy Taffy                         NOT     Bit-O-Honey or Licorice
  • Caramel Anything           NOT     Coconut Anything (sorry Mounds)
  • ANYTHING ELSE           NOT     Pecan Logs, Sixlets, Necco Wafers

necco wafers

 

 

 

 

Finally, when you’re ready for the Advanced Give, give these a try:

  • Gross-out Candy (Zit Poppers, Gummy Tongue, Box of Boogers, Ear Wax Candy)

zit poppers

                                                                       NOT

  • Goodies you may have on hand (Beer Nuts, Clif Bars, or 5-Hour Energy)

5 hour energy

Now that you’re all set to be the best house on the block come Halloween night, be sure to follow this last piece of advice: GIVE IT ALL AWAY (your skinny jeans will thank me come Thanksgiving!).

31 Days of Horror: Sinister (R; 2012; 110 min)

sinister

After finding out another horror movie blogger rated this movie as a true scare, I couldn’t wait to watch it. And for the most part, it’s a good, creepy, pulse-pounding tale. I was somewhat disappointed in the ending, however, as well as the not-too-creepy makeup artistry (I’m being careful to not give too much away here) on some key players in the end. Nevertheless, I do recommend this as a good addition to your 31 Days of Horror.

Ethan Hawke is superb as Ellison Oswalt, a hush puppy-wearing true crime writer who moves his unknowing wife, son, and daughter to the scene of a murder/abduction to research his latest book. When he finds a box of 8mm home movies in the attic of the new house, each depicting a family’s murder from some past time and place, he begins to piece together the story of a serial killer in action over several decades.

As his son’s night terrors increase in number and intensity, and his daughter begins to paint dead girls on the wall, and strange noises awake him (and only him) each night, and a sinister boogey man appears in each home movie, and…you get the idea…Ellison continues his research and his drinking. But can he piece together the clues and solve the mystery before he loses his sanity, his family, and his beloved cable knit sweater?

  • Top Scare: Home Movie
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 or 16 and up

31 Days of Horror: The Last Exorcism Part II (PG-13; 2013; 88 min)

last exorcism 2

After seeing and hating The Last Exorcism during a past 31 Days of Horror, I didn’t hold out very high hopes for this installment. Yet the first two minutes showed such promise. Alas, it was not to be, as I spent most of the movie watching the clock and yawning. Literally. At eleven o’clock in the morning!

TLE II follows the same Nell Sweetzer from the original, as she is living in a kind of half-way house for troubled girls in New Orleans. Everyone seems to think Nell came from a cult due to her odd behavior and innocent ways. But as she starts to come out of her shell, and even falls for a boy, she also reverts back to seeing and hearing from the demon who possessed her before. And he wants her back in a very, um, complete way. As voodoo, religion, and sexual tension mix and Nell and her housemates try to act scary or scared, the movie spirals down, down, down to its ridiculous conclusion, leaving the door open for another installment. Let’s hope whatever possessed these people to make such bad movies gets properly exorcised before that happens!

  • Top Scare: First two minutes
  • Heartbeats: 1 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 1/4 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 14 and up, due to sexual nature of some scenes

31 Days of Horror: Paranormal Activity 4 (R; 2012; 88 min)

paranormal activity 4

I remember it like it was yesterday: the creative movie that was Paranormal Activity, with all its tension, heart-pounding scares, and terror. Then along came PA 2, perhaps better than the original. With PA 3, I had a few good scares, but laughed at the ending. And now, here’s PA 4, promising that “all of the activity has led to this!” Who can blame me for being hopeful?

Alas, as you can probably guess, PA 4 is but a mere shadow of its name. A long trudge through boring days of a teenage girl, Alex, and her family, who have taken in the new neighbor boy Robby when his mother ends up in the hospital. Alex’s boyfriend Ben teaches her to set up computers throughout the house to capture the odd happenings that start as soon as Robby arrives. Loud noises at night? Yup. Unexplained trails of toys leading to nothing? Sure! Little boys who walk around the house and yard at 3 am? You bet. Thrills and scares to make you scream and jump? Well, no. Of the only three scares I had in the whole movie, two were at the very end and were related to jump shots by the camera (the other, another jump shot closer to the beginning of the movie).

So, yes, I was surely disappointed. I guess the writers had to wrap up the storyline somehow, but this wasn’t even close to being worth the title. Save yourself the rental fee and relive PA 1 and 2 for the best scares of the series.

  • Top Scare: Bedroom shot near end
  • Heartbeats: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 1 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: ages 13 or 14 and up

31 Days of Horror: The Awakening (R; 2011; 107 min)

the awakening

I was so glad to have taken a chance on this instant-watch movie on Netflix…a true ghost story with smart acting and an engaging plot.

Set in post-war 1921 London, The Awakening follows Florence Cathcart, an uppity young writer and ghost researcher who has dedicated her days to exposing hoaxes which prey on those experiencing loss after World War I. Summoned to a boys’ boarding school in the countryside to explain recent sightings of a ghost, Florence is all science and reason. She uses her extensive knowledge and skills to lay traps for the foolish person trying to scare those at the school. The list of suspects is not too long: a hateful caretaker, a cruel teacher with an odd medical condition, the old headmaster, an odd yet kind cook/housekeeper, a handful of mean boys who shun and tease the weaker among them relentlessly, and Robert, the war-damaged man who brought her to the school to begin with.

As her investigation takes her deeper into the workings of the school, we also learn more about what propelled Florence to enter into such an unusual field of study and career path. And as we learn more about the estate’s history, we discover that maybe, just maybe, there might really be a ghost residing within. How else can you explain some of the things which are happening even as Florence continues laying her traps and finding reasonable explanations? Or is it all just her mind playing tricks on her too? Will she find the answer she is seeking for herself and the school?

The Awakening features many twists and turns, with lots of great scares, wonderful mood lighting and sufficiently creepy characters. But more than that, it’s an intelligent ghost story that doesn’t rely on gore to do the hard work. I highly recommend it during your 31 Days of Horror.

  • Top Scare: Little figures
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 4 1/4 out of 5
  • Recommended for 17 and up, due to full frontal nudity

31 Days of Horror: Dark Skies (PG-13; 2013; 97 min.)

dark skies 3

Keri Russell sans twisty hair? Okay, maybe I can manage. And I’m kinda sorta glad I did.

Dark Skies is a supernatural horror movie with a decent premise: unusual, freaky things are happening in the Barrett household, especially to the youngest member Sam, and those beings responsible are not stopping until they get what they really want. As horror movie parents go, Lacey and Daniel are good ones to have because they don’t just dismiss these odd occurrences and get on with their days as so often happens in these movies (that dismissal is left up to a local, cocky police officer they keep calling in to help them figure it all out). Lacey especially works hard to figure out how, say, toasters and plates and glasses came to be stacked-floating in her kitchen one morning and her kids have strange markings on their bodies. Despite not being able to convince me she actually bore two kids – her body is way too underdeveloped for that – she is very convincing in her passionate fear for their safety. And with decent scares stacking up as well as mugs and appliances, this movie leads us on a tense, if odd, path towards a twist ending a la M. Night Shayamalan’s Signs.

  • Top Scare: Seeing “others” each time
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up

31 Days of Horror: The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georga (R; 2013; 100 min.)

haunting of connecticut 2

After loving the scares from The Haunting in Connecticut, I was anxious to see THIC 2! Unfortunately, like most sequels, this installment left much to be desired.

The setting: 1993 rural Georgia, where these events supposedly occurred. The I-refuse-to-believe-that-weird-and-unexplainable-things-are-really-happening-despite-my-meds Mom: an unbelievably skinny (yet curvy), and gorgeous, country-girl named Lisa who is settling into a new house along with her forgettable husband (see, I can’t even remember his name), daughter Heidi (a bright spot in the movie), and also-gorgeous sister, Joyce. Seems the females in this family have a “gift,” you see, and are able to see things others can’t because they were born with a veil on their faces. O-kay.

Now, this new abode is located, it turns out, on the property which used to house a Stationmaster of the Underground Railroad (a taxidermist by trade), and later was owned by a bigoted Mr. Gordy, and which is still haunted by many ghosts and, um, others. As Heidi continues to speak to dead people and goes missing again and again, and Lisa continues to deny her “gift” while curled up half-submerged in a tub, and Joyce continues to be the cool cowboy boot-wearing Aunt, and what’s-his-name is forced to leave his day job as a police officer over and over without getting fired, the tension builds until finally, the family is forced to discover the property’s true past to try to save their daughter once and for all.

To be fair, while the first half of the movie nearly left me comatose, the action and scares did pick up a little after the mid-way point. Never was I truly terrified or jumpy or any of those reactions I look for in a scary movie. It was all just a little too, well, boring. If you want to learn more about the Underground Railroad, well, this movie is not really for you. And if you want a good scare, well, again, not for you. But if you need something long to sleep by, you’ve found your match.

*Top Scare: Creature man in long coat

*Heartbeats: 2 out of 5

*Gore Factor: 2 3/4 out of 5

*Suspense Factor: 2 out of 5

*Recommended for: 16 and up, due to theme and gore

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

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