October has arrived! Or SHOCKtober if you're into macabre punnery! And much like ominous elevator doors opening to release thousands of gallons of blood into a hotel lobby, so too do our televisions unleash a seemingly endless onslaught of scary movies right into our living rooms! So in observance of the first official weekend of the Halloween season, stock up on candy corn and soda pop and call up all your favorite neighborhood buddies to invite them over for some scary movie marathons! You will be thrilled and chilled to your bones by the cornucopia of TV's horror offerings, but we've highlighted our favorites below for your spooky pleasure. [SINISTER CACKLING FOR SOME REASON]
[Note: Listed times are generally Pacific Daylight Time & listed networks are HD whenever possible. Plese do verify your local listings.]
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Guys, I know. You're probably going, "I only like the first one," but I'm here to tell you that YOU ARE WRONG. This one is the best one. The third one. First of all, it was written by Frank Darabont, so that's a surprising level of talent right there. But also it contains a part where Freddy Krueger shoots up a recovering addict punk rock girl using his syringe-fingers. Rude! But yeah, anyway, the plot goes like this: The last remaining Elm Street kids all have mental problems and have been institutionalized, a dilemma made somewhat more annoying when Freddy Krueger starts picking up where he left off. But this time the kids learn a neat new trick: They can transform themselves into dreamland superheroes and fight back! Hence the titular Dream Warriors. All this is beside the point, though, because the best part is when we learn about Freddy Krueger's backstory and someone dramatically describes him as "the bastard son of a hundred maniacs." So good.
Ghoulies is not that great of a movie, let's be honest. It was part of that weird wave of movies that arrived in the wake of Gremlins but got basically everything wrong about why Gremlins was so great. On the upside, the puppets in this one are memorably disgusting, and the badness of the Ghoulies franchise DOES make them very watchable. Anyway, in this case the titular Ghoulies are actually demons summoned by some ill-advised Satan worshippers. Also, a young Mariska Hargitay is in this thing, but you Mariska Hargitay fans probably already knew this. I know how Mariska Hargitay fans get! And just FYI at one point a Ghoulie comes out of a toilet BYEEE.
BBC America, 6:00pm & 8:30pm on BBC America
You dirty birdies can have your Titanix and your Hairy Laws, but for my money Kathy Bates will never top her performance as Annie Wilkes, the deranged fangirl of James Caan's bestselling author character. I mean, we all know Stephen King was clearly working through some issues with his fans when he wrote this book, right? I hope that for Misery's inevitable remake it'll be updated to make Annie Wilkes super active on Tumblr. Because Tumblr is a hornet's nest of troubled fangirls sometimes? Yes. Anyway, watch Misery and you'll never be more grateful to have functional ankles!
Trick 'r Treat
For a while there Bryan Singer had this pair of overachieving young dreamboats writing all of his movies, but then one of them went off on his own and wrote/directed Trick 'r Treat, surely one of the most underrated horror movies of recent years. Michael Dougherty's nasty little anthology movie tells a handful of interlocking tales all set on the most over-the-top depiction of Halloween since the one in Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, and Dylan Baker all play either sympathetic or psychotic characters, but the whole movie is stolen by this little guy pictured on the right. What a rascal! A murderous, hateful rascal!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Again, you're probably like, "Get out of here with this Platinum Dunes abomination." And again, that's just plum hasty. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original version spells "Chain Saw" as two words) is the only decent movie Platinum Dunes has made, PLUS it improves on the original masterpiece in at least one respect: Mike Vogel in a tank top. (Or, I guess, Jessica Biel in a tank top, if that's more your speed.) But yeah, while few things will ever top the fever dream LSD trip of the original, I do quite like this remake for its atmosphere and occasional beauty. There is one frustrating part where the Jessica Biel character takes shelter from Leatherface in an abandoned slaughterhouse, and when I first saw this in theaters, that was the moment when the crowd lost sympathy for her entirely. One gentleman shouted "Aw naw! Man, cut that b*tch UP!" and the whole crowd started laughing. I don't know, you probably had to be there.
DeadHeads, 2:00pm, Showtime
Evilution, 2:00pm & 8:30pm, Chiller
Exit Humanity, 6:00pm, Chiller
Grace, 9:00pm, FEARnet
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, 5:00pm, FEARnet
I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, 3:00pm, FEARnet
Ice Spiders, 2:00pm, Syfy
Infestation, 12:00pm, Syfy
Mimic 2, 6:00pm, Syfy
Motel Hell, 11:30pm, Turner Classic Movies
The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, 1:30pm, Turner Classic Movies
The Killing Strain, 4:00pm & 10:30pm, Chiller
The Woods, 11:45pm, IFC
Valentine, 3:30pm, LOGO
When a Stranger Calls, 2:40pm, Starz
Wishmaster 2, 1:00pm, FEARnet
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
I hope that we, as a society, can accept that this Dawn of the Dead remake is one of the best zombie movies ever made. Sure, the running zombies thing remains controversial, but if we're being honest the biggest objection anybody has to this film is its title. But the original Dawn of the Dead still exists, and it is still great! Other than that, this flick pretty original in its own right. Frightening too: In particular the opening ten minutes in which Sarah Polley's early morning suburban reverie is interrupted by the girl next door. Plus, you know, this movie also has the wheelbarrow woman. And the baby. And Ty Burell. There's something for everyone!
Yes, this is the first gay slasher since, I don't know, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, but don't let that the gay angle eclipse the fact that Hellbent is also solid slasher flick. The who-will-die-next victims are young gay guys instead of college co-eds, and the setting is the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival rather than a sorority house, but other than that, Hellbent has some truly old-fashioned horror instincts. Disclosure: It's shot on video and has a budget of about $5, but Hellbent gets more right than wrong. It's no Halloween or even Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter (what is?) but Hellbent is a refreshing diversion that eschews some of the slasher subgenre's more tired cliches while celebrating its best ones.
Or, if you'd prefer to watch a ladies-only horror film, you can't do much better than The Descent, Neil Marshall's fantastic subterranean spelunking nightmare. When a group of sporty and sometimes overdramatic friends decide to explore some Appalachian caves, they encounter more than a few hazards along the way: Collapsed caves, broken bones, interpersonal squabbles, and a race of blind, slimy humanoids who are STARVING. So it's like shopping at Ross Dress For Less basically. Haha just kidding BRB need to go buy $1 underwear. Anyway, yeah. The Descent is a modern classic, and at the risk of being controversial, its direct to video sequel isn't half bad either.
Widely considered The Scariest Movie of All Time (not by me though, I'm not religious enough), The Exorcist is a masterpiece of atmosphere and imagery. You can have your pea soup spewings and crucifix masturbation, but for my money the scariest scene is when Regan's at the hospital having tests done. So unsettling! And there's also, you know, the recurring subliminal images of THAT FACE or also the Pazuzu statue lurking in the shadows. That's the stuff that gets me. Unrelated: I recently saw a stage production of The Exorcist that starred Brooke Shields as the mom. It was not very good!
The Signal is a microbudget three-part indie film about a mysterious TV broadcast that turns its viewers into rage-filled murderers. (The Lost series finale?) Anyway, it's hit and miss, particularly the middle section that plays like a Loony Tunes cartoon. But lead actress Anessa Ramsey is really good, and the film creates a terrific dread-soaked atmosphere frequently scored to a haunting cover of Joy Division's "Atmosphere." So yeah, this thing isn't perfect, but like many horror fans, I feel like I'm basically panning for gold when it comes to modern horror. The Signal has more than a few nuggets of goodness buried in it, so for that reason alone I'd recommend it.
Turner Classic Movies, 1:15am
Let's Scare Jessica to Death
Haha, okay, let's get something straight. This movie is DATED. And slightly unscary. But also VERY creepy? I dig it. It follows the titular Jessica as she is released from a mental institution and retreats to the countryside for some R&R.; Unfortunately she begins to experience tons of sanity-threatening incidents involving ghosts or vampires that are either real or figments of her imagination. Let's Scare Jessica to Death is definitely more Picnic at Hanging Rock than I Spit on Your Grave. From the dreamy tone to '70s fashion, let's just say I'm pretty sure Sofia Coppola owns this on Blu-Ray.
28 Days Later,
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, 1:00am, Encore
Acolytes, 2:05am, Sundance Channel
Army of Darkness, 11:15pm, Encore
Blackout, 6:00pm, Chiller
Boogeyman, 1:00pm, Syfy
Carny, 11:00pm, Syfy
Cherry Falls, 4:30am, HBO2
Crazy Eights, 3:00am & 9:30am, IFC
Critters 3, 6:05am, HBO2
Dark House, 2:00pm, Chiller
Dead & Breakfast, 3:00pm, FEARnet
Exit Humanity, 12:30am, Chiller
Family Plot, 8:00am, Chiller
Final Destination 2, 1:20pm & 9:40pm, Encore
From Within, 1:00pm, IFC
Ghosts of Goldfield, 10:30pm, The Movie Channel
Grace, 11:00am, FEARnet
Husk, 4:00am, Syfy
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, 9:00am, FEARnet
I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, 3:00am, FEARnet
La Monja, 1:00am & 1:00pm, FEARnet
Nine Lives, 9:00pm, The Movie Channel
One Missed Call, 3:00pm, Syfy
Open Graves, 9:00am, Syfy
Primal, 9:00pm, Syfy
Queen of the Damned, 7:00pm, Syfy
Reeker, 6:00am & 8:00pm, Chiller
Resident Evil: Afterlife, 9:00pm, USA
Riding the Bullet, 9:00pm, FEARnet
Rise of the Dead, 12:30pm, Chiller
Severed: Forest of the Dead, 4:00pm & 10:00pm, Chiller
Shutter Island, 11:00am, USA
Stigmata, 5:00pm, Syfy
The Children, 4:45am,11:15am, and 9:45pm, IFC
The Cursed, 11:00am, Syfy
The Dark, 11:00pm, FEARnet
The Eye, 3:00pm, IFC
The Messengers, 2:00am, Syfy
Triangle, 4:00am, Chiller
Haute Tension (High Tension)
Alexandre Aja's breakout hit Haute Tension is one of the best horror movies ever made that is almost completely ruined by one of the worst twists in horror history. If you've seen it you know what I'm talking about. The flick is about a young woman (Cécile de France) who visits her friend's family's home only to witness their systematic murder at the hands of an intruder. Then things turn into a chase film as our heroine chases after the killer (who'd also abducted her friend). Seriously, it's almost heartbreaking how terrible the final twist is because until that point this flick is one of the scariest, goriest, and most compelling thrillers ever filmed. Rumor has it Aja included the final twist on the suggestion of Luc Besson, but I'm really hoping by now he's come to his senses and would consider releasing a director's cut without it. Because GAHH!
The Movie Channel, 2:15pm
Speaking of twists, I am not trying to brag when I say that I guessed The Others' twist after seeing THE TRAILER. That being said, knowing a twist shouldn't—in theory—ruin a viewing experience if the movie has a lot going for it otherwise, and The Others definitely does. Nicole Kidman stars as a mother of two in the post-war British countryside who must deal with the arrival of three creepy new servants and a possible ghost situation. Haunting, elegaic, and downright terrifying, this is one of those movies hinged around a BIG REVEAL, but still would've been good without it.
The Thing (2011)
We all, as a collective society, cringed at the idea of remaking John Carpenter's fantastic classic The Thing. It didn't even matter that Carpenter's movie itself was a remake, just keep your hands off The Thing, modern Hollywood! On the upside, The Thing 2K11 does a few things right: Having Mary Elizabeth Winstead for a lead and also positing itself as a prequel rather than a remake. (Though, let's be fair, this is VERY similar in structure and tone to John Carpenter's.) Still though, when this movie works, it works. Hard to be mad about that, you know? I like being scared, and this is a well-made horror film. We'll allow it. (Again: Just panning for gold here.)
Final Destination 2
I love the Final Destination franchise so much that I'm afraid it means I have mental problems? Because these films are definitely not good for society right? Probably the best one is this one, Part 2. Not only because its opening freeway car crash catastrophe is like something straight out of my nightmares, but its kills, twists, and surprises come at such a rapid clip that it feels like the fastest 90 minutes possible. Criminal Minds' A.J. Cook stars alongside Ali Larter as just a couple of gals trying not to be turned into human-shaped blood balloons. A tale as old as time.
Syfy, 11:00pm & 1:00am (Monday)
Leprechaun & Leprechaun 2
Haha all right, so. Long before Friends and even longer before Leprechaun ventured into the Hood, an old-nosed Jennifer Aniston faced off with a truly nasty trickster from the Emerald Isle (Warwick Davis). Like most rational viewers, I always root for Leprechaun. He just wanted "m'gold!" Put down that shotgun and give him back his gold, Jennifer Aniston! Anyway, because Syfy just gives and gives and gives, here they're airing the first two Leprechaun movies back to back! Essential viewing.
Blade II, 4:30pm, Syfy
Cameron's Closet, 7:00pm, FEARnet
Children of the Corn, 10:30am, Syfy
Dead & Breakfast, 1:00am, FEARnet
Dream House, 11:15pm, HBO2
Family Plot, 12:00am, Chiller
Ghosts of Goldfield, 1:30am, The Movie Channel
Growth, 3:00am, Syfy
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, 7:00pm & 10:00pm, TV Guide Network
Idle Hands, 5:00pm, FEARnet
Lake Placid, 4:50pm, Cinemax
Nine Lives, 12:00am, The Movie Channel
Not Against the Flesh, 11:30pm, Turner Classic Movies
Perkins 14, 10:00pm, IFC
Primal, 7:00pm, Syfy
Queen of the Damned, 2:30pm, Syfy
Resident Evil: Afterlife, 3:01pm, USA
Riding the Bullet, 11:00am, FEARnet
Stag Night, 2:45am, HBO2
Superstition, 12:30am, IFC
The Bride, 2:55pm, FEARnet
The Dark, 1:00pm, FEARnet
The Hills Have Eyes Part II, 12:30pm, Syfy
The Possessed, 3:00am, Chiller
The Rite, 1:05pm, Cinemax
Trick 'R Treat, 5:30pm, LOGO
Underworld, 8:00pm, Cinemax
Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, 9:00pm, Syfy
[REC] 3: Genesis
Fans of the mostly excellent first two films in this Spanish found-footage zombie series might be shocked to learn that this third installment not only ISN'T found-footage, it's an homage (in tone at least) to the Evil Dead series. So yeah, it's a pretty fun hour and a half. Taking place before the events of [REC], this chapter plunks us into the middle of a lavish Spanish wedding just as the mysterious demon-virus is loosed by a drunken uncle. From there the separated bride and groom must find each other while also fighting off their bloodthirsty relatives. Keeping in mind this movie is not even trying to be a thoughtful horror exercise, you may be surprised at just how much fun it is.
The Tall Man
After his controversial masterpiece Martyrs broke the ankles of the horror genre, director Pascal Laugier now brings us The Tall Man, his English language follow-up. While this film does not contain pervasive, stomach churning, audience pummelling violence, it still bears the hallmarks of a Laugier film: Twists, and lots of them. Jessica Biel stars as a small town doctor whose son goes missing. Was he taken by the titular boogeyman allegedly responsible for dozens of other disappearances in the town? Or is the answer much, much weirder? Honestly, I really liked this movie, but like Martyrs I can't actually recommend it. Let's just say that its best surprises hinge on subverting audience expectations, which could have the unintended consequence of leaving viewers disappointed. I for one appreciate The Tall Man's audacity, though.
You know, I'm still wrestling with my thoughts on V/H/S. It's certainly one of the best horror films of the year and may one day be considered a classic. Essentially an anthology film consisting of found-footage segments each directed by up and coming horror filmmakers, V/H/S is all over the place, quality-wise. And while its less-good moments border on dire (not to mention some pervasive misogyny almost ruins the whole thing), the highlights are so good they're basically transcendent. A segment involving a debaucherous motel tryst gone awry has popped up in my nightmares already, and the final segment is so fun/good I wish a whole movie was made of THAT. But anyway, yeah. It's not perfect, but this is a horror film that can't be denied.
If you've seen director Ti West's previous film House of the Devil, you know he prefers slow-burn horror. Like, VERY slow-burn horror. (And if you haven't seen House of the Devil yet, RUN DON'T WALK. You only get to see it for the first time ONCE.) Anyway, The Innkeepers tells the tale of two bored hotel employees who work the final weekend before the hotel shuts down for good. And they may or may not encounter ghosts! But honestly, the real pleasure is the easy chemistry that stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy share. Simply hanging out with them is a pretty solid way to spend 90 minutes. (And that is mostly what you do in The Innkeepers!)
Before he made this film but after he made Saw, Director James Wan made Dead Silence (the super boring haunted ventriloquist dummy movie), which was so terrible it made me not want to see Insidious. But then I saw Insidious and it is kind of terrific? Yeah, obviously the last 20 minutes are a disaster, but for my money this film has some of the best jump scares of any horror movie ever. Its basically about a family whose house becomes progressively more haunted after one of the children falls into a mysterious coma. On its face this is a haunted house film, but with a really cool twist on the genre and some fantastic performances by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne. So yeah, James Wan is allowed to keep making movies. I'll allow it.
Haha you've seen this already right? Man I hope so, because if you haven't then I really regret using this picture on the right (to be fair, it's on the cover of the DVD). I mean, I know we shouldn't go through life letting so-called spoilers ruin our entertainment experiences, but few movies really rely on the character reveal quite like this one. What seems at first like a romantic comedy, Audition instead turns into one of the most demented and disturbing exercises in madness ever to come out of Japanese cinema. WHICH IS SAYING SOMETHING.
Let the Right One In
Accept no substitutes. If your childlike-vampire-next-door horror drama does NOT contain an insane scene in which a woman is attacked by dozens of cats, then it is BULLSH*T. In this original Swedish version (later remade in English as Let Me In), a lonely boy befriends his mysterious new neighbor only to discover that she is not quite as young as she looks. He also learns several more disturbing things about her, like the fact that she is A VAMPIRE. But really, tune in for the simultaneously poignant yet sinister drama, and stay for the CGI cat nightmare. Just some truly remarkable cinema right there.
Will YOU be watching scary movies this weekend?