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Spooky Time Discussion and Recommendations!

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him and such)
Hi there! With spooky season upon us, 'tis the time when my wife and I take in some frightful flicks. I didn't see a Halloween movie thread, so I thought this could be an all-purpose place to discuss what terror (or comedy based on scary tropes) is gracing our screens.

Also, I'm looking for some recommendations! This is particularly tricky because we're relatively new parents, and since beginning that journey, my wife has had a really hard time dealing with anything that emphasizes child death, grieving parents, or a parent-child relationship undergoing trauma due to one or both being in severe danger. These elements can be present, but if they're given particular focus, it's not a good time. I've been reading up on holiday-appropriate movies I haven't seen, and it's tricky trying to get an idea of the presence of these things without spoiling myself. I understand this is really murky (and even she doesn't really know what will make her uncomfortable until she sees it), so I don't expect any thorough screening in any recommendations, but maybe it's just something to keep in mind. Idiot teens played by adults are fair game!

Things we have liked (though some of this was before our parental status):

The Babadook (possibly my favorite horror movie, and I know my wife really liked it too. Probably about our upper limit in terms of terror)
Get Out
Us
Poltergeist
Psycho
The Birds
Invasion of the Body Snatchers ('50s version)
Cabin in the Woods
X-Files
Scream
Trick r Treat
Halloween '18
Gremlins
Ghostbusters
Assorted old and new Twilight Zone
Early Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
The MST3K episode Werewolf
The Rifftrax version of Night of the Living Dead

Also, we both consider Jurassic Park our favorite movie of all time, though we've had serious discussions on whether it's acceptable to watch as an October/Halloween movie (the conclusion was, yes, it's allowed as a monster movie, but its setting makes it a much better summer movie, or a post-holidays winter movie to remind you of nicer weather. Basically, it's evergreen, and more seasonal stuff should take priority unless there's a real movie drought).

Popular Halloween things we've seen that one or both of us are not crazy about:
Evil Dead 1-2 (I generally enjoyed them, though there's some thoroughly unpleasant content in there, and I generally enjoy the TV series...she wasn't into the movies and never watched the show. I think my Michigan upbringing and Michigan State alum status compel me to give this franchise more slack than I otherwise would)
Alien (one of my favorite movies ever; she thinks it's okay)
John Carpenter Thing (similar story to Alien)
Jeff Goldblum Fly (I think it hits our limit on grossness, though I'm very impressed with it and like a lot of the movie)
Nightmare before Christmas (I admire what went into it, but I think my exposure to the big-time fans of this movie soured it for me before I ever saw it)
Halloween (I like it; she doesn't)
Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein (my absolute favorite horror-comedy; she was lukewarm on it)
Nightmare on Elm Street (We both appreciated aspects of this one, but felt they really didn't carry the whole movie well)
Haunting (the first movie): Considering the things we usually like, I really thought this would be a home run for both of us, and I was greatly looking forward to it. But neither of us really got into it, and I don't fully understand why.
Later Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Why is there so much teen (character and actor) sexy time? Why is there at least one musical number every episode now? We almost finished the third season (is that still the latest one?), but we just couldn't take this show anymore.

We're not fans of jump scares and excessive gore, though neither are dealbreakers. We generally prefer creepy, atmospheric scares, though I always admire a well-designed monster. A mix of tamer and scarier stuff is good. Stuff that employs lots of Halloween/crisp autumn/trick-or-treating atmosphere is good, though obviously (by the list above) not a requirement. Movies or TV (or even one spooky/special episode of an otherwise non-spooky TV show) are all good.

Things we had heard of and may be interested in. Judging by the above, affirmation/warnings on these would be appreciated:
Apparition (I had this written down from a list I had started after Halloween last year, and looking now, I see there are at least 3 released in the 2010s alone? And at a glance, none look good? Why did I list this? Is one of these Apparitions secretly an underappreciated gem?)
Netflix's Haunting of Hill House
Upgrade
Invisible Man 2020
Mars Attacks
The Shining
Spellbound
Thing from Another World
Event Horizon
 

Falselogic

Techno-Threadcromancer
(they/them)
I always recommend House on Haunted Hill (1959) starring Vincent Price another classic is 13 Ghosts (1960), there is a 2000 remake but I don't like it as much. Disney's Black hole is another weird horror film, especially the end its just so bizarre. You might want to try Del Toro's Crimson Peak.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I enjoyed Upgrade, but it's really not a horror movie, unless you were especially spooked by Robocop.

Fright Night is in the uppermost tier for Spook-em-ups for me. Weens can get no more Hallowed
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
This is not spoopy but both the time of year and the fact that it is a bit morbid, I suggest starting the season with Hitchcock's romantic comedy The Trouble With Harry, a film where couples get together over burying and digging up the same corpse over and over. Its not very Halloween but its very autumnal.

If you want a quiet, slow burn horror film, I recommend Ti West's The Innkeepers. People have also said House of the Devil is great but I've yet to see it.

Want to see a zombie movie that's not too gory (though a bit) but still good. I recommend Train to Busan. In many ways, it is the platonic ideal of a popcorn zombie movie for everyone in the way that World War Z failed to be (IMO). It sticks close to formula and isn't particularly deep beyond the message of "let's trust each other" but it is still an incredibly enjoyable ride from start to finish.

It Follows is very good.
 
I will always recommend Netflix's Hill House. There's maybe 3 or 4 jumps scares in the entire series and the rest is just how well the tension is created and sustained across the episodes. It does focus on parent-child relationships, so be warned.

Event Horizon though...Look, I love the movie, it's one of my favorites and I own it on DVD. But it gets very gory in the third act, especially if you find eyeballs getting gouged out horrifying. Not quite as bad as The Fly/Cronenberg horror, but pretty close.
 

R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
I recently watched The Car, wherein Josh Brolin’s dad has to contend with a murderous car that may or may not have a driver.

The Shout Factory! app has a bunch of horror movies that are varying levels of good to very bad.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
I love John Carpenter, so The Fog and The Thing get my recommendation, however The Thing is full body horror and The Fog does have some child peril
 

Zef

Find Your Reason
(He/Him)
Yep, It Follows is definitely very good. And it stays with you. Pun (Not) Intended.

Event Horizon is extraordinarily gory. I love the film to bits because of its concepts and themes, but it does need a content warning if you actively dislike gore.

On that note, if the gore and violence in Alien and The Thing are divisive, you can try out Carpenter's second-best known Apocalypse Trilogy film, In The Mouth of Madness. It is almost entirely psychological horror and has atmosphere and unsettling moments to spare.

The Changeling is an absolute classic

The first The Conjuring is a serviceable horror film. I haven't seen any others in the "cinematic universe." (I'm actually also looking for opinions on that, as well as the Insidious franchise.)

I didn't particularly buy into Sinister the first time I saw it, but it grew on me a bit on a rewatch.

Oculus has a mind-breaking premise and you can feel the tension rise exponentially as the horror unfolds. I sympathized with the characters, but there's divided opinions there.

Mama is horror with heart. I love it, but it's much more of a supernatural drama with scary scenes than a full-blown horror film.

The American versions of The Ring and Dark Water are fantastic. ESPECIALLY the latter.

For J-Horror, those two are also damn great, and I prefer the Japanese Dark Water over the Japanese Ringu here as well. The Grudge is one of the better ones; the theatrical version isn't anywhere as gory as the straight-to-video. Pulse has such heavy atmosphere it is downright oppressive. Audition is basically a pressure cooker that builds up almost excruciatingly slowly before blowing up in a writhing mass of disturbing imagery.

The Korean A Tale of Two Sisters is one of the most frightening films I've seen.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
Insidious 1 is about on par with The Conjuring 1 for me. Not very gory, and not even very scary. Just a fun spooky story.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Since Zef brought up the second best known of Carpenters Apocalypse Trilogy, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t give a nod to the third; The Prince of Darkness, a story about a theoretical physicist who finds a big jar full of Satan Juice buried in a church, it’s waking up, and boy oh boy is that worse than you can imagine.

It’s quite probably my favourite horror movie that makes things Scary because they’re WEIRD, and also... manages to make things regular scary as well because Johnny C was really good at that back in the 70s and 80s
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
I always recommend The Invitation when people want a horror movie that's light on violence, but it has the prior death of a child baked into the plot pretty deeply.
 
I completely forgot about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! If you've read the books as a kid, I highly recommend this as it captures the dread they conjured up. If you haven't read the books, still watch the movie as it's pretty good. And it's PG-13, so not too gory at all. Unless you find spiders boiling out of a face horrifying. Then you're kind of fucked.
 

ASandoval

Old Man Gamer
(he/him)
Hey so for reasons I've spent the last couple of years watching a bunch of no name horror movies across Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu on the look out for anything at least somewhat worthy of note. I've watched a ton of stinkers as you can imagine but I've also found some really cool things hidden among the trash you might not have tried out. Here's a few, and if I remember any others I'll come back and post them

Seven In Heaven: Starting on the lighter end, this is a teen adventure/horror movie that feels like an 80s teen romp as much as it does a spooky story about two teens awkwardly forced into a closet and then emerge in a parallel universe, but that's just the beginning. Every time you think you get the idea of where the film's heading, it takes a detour and is spooky, disturbing, funny and exciting in equal measures. For those who grew up on Alone in the Dark, this is like a movie version for older kids and teens. On Netflix.

Await Further Instructions: A Christmas family reunion for a UK Based family goes weird when black walls surround the house and keep them from leaving. If you're like me and get anxious about the conversations that might arise during Holiday get togethers, this movie takes that dread and amps it up about a hundred times. This one also isn't afraid to get weird and gets very Cronenberg-esque at the end. Also on Netflix.

Mike Flanagan has already gotten a couple of shout outs here with Hill House and Oculus, so if you enjoy those maybe also try Before I Wake, a Netflix original film about a kid whose nightmares come to life in a semi-Silent Hill esque way. I also don't remember this one being too gory if that's not your thing.

Speaking of Flanagan, you have to pay for it but I also really enjoyed Ouija: Origins of Evil, a prequel to a movie I haven't seen. It's a period piece set in the 60s with amazing set design and use of color and surprisingly effective, disturbing moments despite the PG-13 rating.

In The Tall Grass: This one might be a little more well known since it's based on a short story that was a joint venture between Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, but I have to give it a shout out for how well it does weird - a field in the middle of the American Midwest doubles as a temporal maze that defies all time and space. This one is very high concept and does tend to get lost in the weeds (ha) a bit with the lore, and it has real problematic elements (CW: infanticide, sexual assault) but is weird and effective horror.

Triangle: If you want temporal paradoxes like the above in a slightly more palatable package, Triangle is a really fun haunted ship movie that is both about time and space turning over on themselves as it is a slasher movie. It probably won't stay with you in the same way but a good romp all the same. On Amazon Prime.

Wounds: This is a Hulu original based on a true story and its a bit of a slow burn. It's also a movie about the toxic masculinity of the main character which can make it a bit rough in the beginning since we're with them for so long. But this was a deeply unsettling, horrorific film that I'm still thinking about now a month after having viewed it. But as the name suggests, it's also heavy on the body horror and gore. I'd compare it to Event Horizon which has come up a couple times now, where it's only on screen for a second or two at a time, but what's there is pretty extreme. Decay and rot are big motifs of this film to, so if bugs aren't your thing as well, maybe skip this one. Haven't checked out the story its based on but I really want to now.

There are more, that's just what I remember from the top of my head. I'll be sure to come back, including any I watch over the next month.
 
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Exposition Owl

Hoot, indeed!
(he/him/his)
I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House is in some ways more a tone poem than a conventional narrative, but I liked it. If you’re in the mood for an atmospheric, dreamlike ghost story, maybe give it a shot—it’s available for streaming on Netflix. There’s no gore to speak of, and none of the relatively few characters in the movie are related to any of the others.

I should also mention that, while The Shining is very good, the horror at the heart of it is mostly about abusive family relationships, so maybe think twice before seeing that one together.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Oh, the original Cat People. Those Val Lewton movies are largely good but they tended to stretch thin conventional definitions of horror but Cat People was very much a weird classic horror tale about sex and repression.

Oh and this coming month on Criterion is a ton of 70s horror. One is a weird little "folk horror" movie called Let's Scare Jessica to Death. Its a quieter movie until the end but its pretty good.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
They maybe don't have the same ciritical or popular acclaim as many of the other movies posted but Creepshow and Cat's Eye are a couple of my favorites. Cat's Eye maybe has something that your wife might not like but I think it's far less severe than the similar content in Poltergeist so maybe it won't be an issue. Creepshow is more gruesome than gory so I think it can suit your tastes there.

Evil Dead 1-2
Have you watched Army of Darkness (Evil Dead 3)? I remember it shrinking the h and enlarging the c when compared to (the reputation of) its predecessors. But I might be wrong about that.
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
I'm trying to do one movie every night for the month of October. Last night was The Monster Squad and tonight's gonna be, I dunno, Night of the Creeps or something.
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
Mike Flanagan has already gotten a couple of shout outs here with Hill House and Oculus, so if you enjoy those maybe also try Among the Sleep, a Netflix original film about a kid whose nightmares come to life in a semi-Silent Hill esque way. I also don't remember this one being too gory if that's not your thing
I went looking for this one 'cause it sounded good and it turns out it's called Before I Wake. Among the Sleep was a video game.
 

ASandoval

Old Man Gamer
(he/him)
I went looking for this one 'cause it sounded good and it turns out it's called Before I Wake. Among the Sleep was a video game.
That's a fun slip seeing as I haven't played that game yet. 😅

Post edited, thanks for the heads up!
 
I'm trying to do one movie every night for the month of October. Last night was The Monster Squad and tonight's gonna be, I dunno, Night of the Creeps or something.
Night of the Creeps is great. Its probably in my personal top 20 horror movies.

I watched the Vast of Night on Amazon Prime. I would say its more sci-fi than horror; but I highly recommend it. Its a low budget movie with very likable characters and it has a nice 90 minute running time. The movie is set in the 50s or 60s and it has a period charm to it.

I watched Deadly Instincts which was also on Amazon Prime (its no longer available). Its a terrible 90s movie...but I enjoyed it. A meteor crashes on a campus and an alien is inside the meteor. Horror shenanigans occur.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him and such)
Thank you for the many thoughtful recommendations! Accessibility is another matter, but between our current streaming services and local library, we should be able to check out a few of these.

We kicked off the month’s viewing with The Shining. I don’t know what I can possibly say about this movie that hasn’t already been said, but it’s a really unnerving slow burn. This Nicholson fellow, he’s going places, I tell you. I knew a lot of key lines/scenes through cultural osmosis, but context made a big difference in many cases (I had no idea how “all work and no play...” was actually used in the film, and that was an incredibly effective moment). Good start to the season!
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him and such)
More spooks:

House on the Haunted Hill was a delight!

We're a few episodes into the Haunting of Hill House Netflix series. So far, so good! Some effective child acting, a slowly unraveling mystery, and constant paranoia (I'm scouring the background all the time with this show). We're certainly intrigued.

The Invisible Man 2020: Unsettling and heavy in an effective way. We liked it; we just didn't walk away feeling chipper at the end. It's crazy to me that this was made for $7 million.

The Wolf Man 1941: I'm well aware of what I'm signing up for when watching movies of this vintage, but this movie sure is from the '40s, isn't it? I'm only really familiar with Lon Chaney Jr.'s Wolf Man via Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein (and reading a lot about movie monsters when I was a kid), where he's a weary, tragic figure who's essentially resigned to being an unkillable horror and tries to keep himself locked away in wolf form and use his experience and immortality to put a stop to other monsters (just writing out that description of a major character in an Abbott & Costello movie makes me all the more impressed with the film). Obviously this film is when he first becomes a werewolf, so that weariness and experience isn't there, but I'm not appreciating the creepy stalker we get instead!

I read that there was a point where the story never revealed whether he was really a werewolf, and it emphasized the psychological and mystery elements more (and they are still present and effective to a degree). It's hard to say whether that would have been for better or worse, but it's interesting context.

One aspect to the movie's credit is the setting. The perpetually fog-draped village and neighboring woods are about as iconic of Halloween locales as it gets.
 

Daikaiju

Rated Ages 6+
(He, Him)
Schlocktober returns! Behold... Tammy & The T. Rex!
(Be advised, there are some gory bits in the clips used.)

 
If you like The Haunting of Hill House, check out it's sequel series The Haunting of Bly Manor that was just released. Mike Flanagan once again crafts a delightful mystery to solve. And the kids in this one are amazing.
 

MikeDinosaur

(He/him)
Not that scary, and occasionally gory but in a fun way, Theater of Blood was a great find this week in the Criterion channel. Vincent Price is a spend Shakespearean actor who kills all of his critics in set pieces inspired by the plays. Super campy, Vincent Price is having the time of his life. The movie seems to have a pretty deep hatred for the British upper class. The lower classes are all apparently rummies who'll kill for a bottle of purple wine cooler, but they're more appealing than the miserable newspaper columnists.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him and such)
The Haunting of Hill House series is complete! My previous comments held true to the end, with a heaping dose of gut-wrenching on top of it (but also some very optimistic beats. It very much captured a family dynamic). I'm not quite prepared to fully delve into my thoughts, but that was very, very good. Also: (I'll spoil to be safe, but just some fairly non-spoilery character observations in here:
other family members kept attributing the kids' (especially the twins') scary experiences being Theo messing with them, and both twins talk about how no one ever believe(s/d) them, but we sure see a lot of Theo sticking up for both of them to her parents and the caretakers alike, investigating the scary basement on her brother's behalf, and checking out the spot in Nell's room even though she really doesn't want to (until Nell pushes far past her boundaries). I see you Theo, and I appreciate you!

Does Bly Manor have (asking about the presence/lack of a plot element)
child murder/death
in it?
 

Vaeran

yeah yeah yeah yeah
(he/him)
Last night on Netflix I watched Truth or Dare (2017), a movie about college students forced by a supernatural entity to play a deadly game of Truth or Dare. Not to be confused with Truth or Dare (2018), a... movie about college students forced by a supernatural entity to play a deadly game of Truth or Dare.

I cannot give it my highest recommendation.

The film's first and most baffling sin is that apparently the writer/director has only heard of the game of Truth or Dare by vague description. Bizarrely, here all the players write down questions and dares on index cards and mix them up in one big pile to be drawn from at random. At no point in the movie is anyone given a choice between "truth" or "dare." That's not how it works!

Secondly, the movie has the conceit that the punishment for failing to perform a dare is... being forced to perform the dare. (The oft-repeated line is "do the dare or the dare does you.") The first dangerous dare given is "put your hand on the hot stove," and when the dude refuses to do it, an unseen entity turns on the stove and forces his hand down on it anyway. So there's zero tension because everything's a foregone conclusion as soon as the dare is announced. There's a lot of hand-wringing from the characters along the lines of "hurry, we only have two minutes to do the dare!!" when all that means is you have two minutes to do whatever you like before you're made to do it anyway. Might as well just relax!

I'm generally not big on nitpicking movies (especially horror movies, which are generally held to a lower logical standard), but these are two really serious flaws with the premise! Whatever, it's probably fine.
 

Falselogic

Techno-Threadcromancer
(they/them)
Some podcast recommendations for this time of year! Spooked by WNYC is good, as is Scared to Death. The first is people telling their own supernatural experiences the second re-tells famous supernatural experiences and then reads reader submissions.

You're Wrong About is not a spooky podcast but it does have some good episodes about spooky things! The Satanic Panic, Snuff Films, Slasher Films, Urban Legends, and Creepy Encounters. This is one of my favorite podcasts, two Queer people talking about historical events and how society got them wrong or remembers them wrong and what it tells us about ourselves, either then or now. Spoilers its never about Satan/Serial Killers/Whatever and it is almost always about white middle-class anxiety!
 
I watched Bloody Birthday. Its horror movie where the villains are smug evil elementary school kids.

The villains, 3 evil elementary school kids, are born on an eclipse. They don't get light from the Saturn when born and they have no emotions as a result. Thus they naturally want to kill every adult and child once they reach their 10th birthday. It makes a lot of sense.

The protagonists, 1 nice elementary school kid and his teen sister, slowly catch on that the evil kids are behind the murders in town. Murders victims include teens making out in a graveyard, a father, a teacher, teens making out in a van, and a sister. The father and sister are related to one of the evil elementary school kid. She kills 50% of her family.

The evil kids are such smug assholes that I was hoping the evil kids would be harmed. The evil kids are not harmed. But one of the evil kids gets thrown in a trunk by the teen sister which was pretty funny.

Bloody Birthday is 100% 80s horror trash, but I had fun with it.
 
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