It's the middle of the November (no idea how the hell that happened), and this month's Cutting Room is here to dive into all the horror flicks we checked out during the tail-end of October leading up to Halloween, and for the early part of November. CR is a monthly post where we all do short, single-person reviews for movies we’ve watched on our own.
We have a long list of films to review, and while the movies you see here haven’t come up quite yet, they may receive the full review treatment in the future. Let us know if you have some thoughts on any of these movies, and check out past posts in the "More Horror" section!
It Comes at Night (2017)
I’ll get right to it. This is a really good movie. And this really good movie has a really cool title. However, the title is pretty much completely unrelated to the movie and the events that take place in the narrative. I don’t think it’s too spoilery to give that PSA right now. If you’re expecting something, anything, to be coming at night, you will likely be sorely disappointed. I think this movie fell into the same trap as Robert Eggers’ The VVitch in a lot of ways. It is a decidedly slow-burn, character-driven drama with heavy horror elements that was somewhat betrayed by a marketing campaign that painted it in a much different light. I wholeheartedly recommend watching this film, but it’ll go over better if you know what to expect.
8 Ski Poles
This is a movie that I wasn’t terribly excited to see. It took the constant rumbling about how good it was AND the fact that it started streaming on Netflix for me to pull the trigger. I’m happy I did. This is a beautiful, gorgeous, really good looking flick. It carries a dreamlike quality to an otherwise gritty and dark storyline, and it actually packs a lot more of a horror punch than I was anticipating. If I have one gripe, it's that I wasn’t able to care a ton for the characters though I feel the movie wanted me to become invested. Regardless of that little hiccup, the recommendation is an easy one to make. Watch this movie. It’s one of the best of the year.
Tales of Halloween (2015)
6.5 Little Clay Men
This is a fun little anthology that was one of the many cycling through my playlist leading up to Halloween. It’s really silly and really dumb. Don’t expect this to scare your pants off, but do expect it to keep things light and provide the kind of spooky fun that would be excellent fodder for a Halloween party. I actually think I’d put this on over something like Trick ‘r Treat in that setting strictly because of it’s extremely bite-sized segments and overall lighter tone. This movie never asks you to take it seriously, and it’s vastly better because of it.
6 Doll Houses
I’m the last one to weigh in on this, and I think I probably liked it the least when compared to the other guys. I thought every segment of the anthology was serviceable but a few days’ separation proved them all to be relatively forgettable for me. My favorite aspect of the film was far and away the stop-motion dollhouse that served as the interstitial between the different segments. The only problem is that you could pretty much get the same results by watching a Tool music video, which is way faster. All wheat, no chaff.
5 “True Stories”
Like a lot of people, I listen to the Lore podcast. Aaron Mahnke really struck gold with that shit. His stories are in-depth and interesting. My interest was piqued when I heard he was going to be getting a show on Prime. I gave it a try and for the most part, it’s the podcast with visuals. I thought some of the early episodes had very little to offer over their sound-only brethren. Some of the later episodes and the finale, in particular, found their footing though and added some really cool depth to what, if you’re like me, you’ve heard before in one of the podcast episodes. Watch if you’re a fan. Skip if you aren’t.
Haunters: Art of the Scare (2017)
7 Liability Waivers
I checked this out right before Halloween and it didn’t disappoint. I thought it was an interesting look into the lives of people who run a wide variety of haunts, from mom & pop operations that spring up on neighborhood streets each year for a little extra oomph during the annual rounds of trick or treating, to the ever-evolving brand of “extreme haunts” out there to give people a seriously fucked up experience. I wish the documentary would have gone into more depth on the in’s and out’s of how those work from a legal standpoint, but overall, this was a solid look into a culture that I am pretty far from identifying with.
The Babysitter (2017)
I watched this almost exclusively because Mark sang its praises from the rooftops, calling its second act, “perfect”. To be clear, no. It was not perfect. This was a fun flick that didn’t require many brain cells and required very little of you as a viewer in order to keep up. It was as funny as it was scary (if not more so), and there were an abundance of really solid acting performances. My problem with this movie is that it doesn’t feel like it needs to exist. There’s a certain lack of heart that I had a really hard time putting a finger on. It’s like a delicious looking meal that is actually bland as fuck, leaving you to scour the fridge for condiments that haven’t a prayer of really helping with the overall lack of flavor.
Creep 2 (2017)
7 loops of “Sara Loves Her Juicy Fruit”
When I first heard the premise for Creep 2, I was a little dubious of how it would work. The concept of a woman answering a classified ad of someone claiming to be a serial killer made almost no sense to me. Turns out, she can just flat not believe his claim and it’s all ok. I thought this movie did a tremendous job of expanding on Mark Duplass’ character, which is actually a really difficult task. He lost some of the creepy, icky surprise factor that he carried in the first film, but the dynamic between him and the main woman was way stronger than between him and director Patrick Bryce in the first movie. She pushes his character more, and that’s a really good thing.
The Circle (2017)
Is social horror a thing? I’m not sure this movie is honest-to-god horror. It doesn’t build dread. There aren’t really any jump scares. What this movie deals in is discomfort. It makes me profoundly uncomfortable, and that is not something I get a lot of in movies. I hate this movie because how much it makes me squirm while watching it…. And I think that actually might mean that it’s a pretty solid horror movie. Also, while we’re on the subject of this movie, can we all just agree as a people that Ellar Coltrane (that kid from Boyhood) is one of the worst actors of all time? Like, fundamental wiring-is-wrong-in-his-brain levels of bad at acting? Why is he in the same movie as Tom Hanks and Emma Watson?
The Babysitter (2017)
7 Books of Shadow
The Babysitter is a Netflix original that is definitely not a remake of the scholastic television series The Babysitters Club. I was apparently literally the only person who thought that might be the case. What this is is an incredibly fun flick with a damn near perfect 2nd act. If you are looking for a Friday night movie to kick back and enjoy without thinking about anything heavy put this one on. It’s beautiful people chasing each other around making jokes about stuff while causing wanton destruction.
Gerald’s Game (2017)
6 Reinforced Bed Posts
Gerald’s game is also a Netflix movie, though it is based on a Stephen King novella. I have to say, it’s core concept is one of the most unique you will ever come across. I can’t think of a single other movie that is similar to this in almost any way. The idea here is that a couple, falling out of love, take a vacation to a remote cabin. While they are just getting into some kinky acts things take a turn when the titular Gerald dies, and his wife has to figure out how to escape from her handcuffs. This is equal parts family drama and psychological horror, with a big dose of OH MY GOD DON’T DO THAT. Unlike The Babysitter this is not a happy movie, but it is worth a watch if you’re in for more of a unique experience.
2.5 Filled-in Wells
This is… well… this is another Netflix movie. This one is also based on a Stephen King story. I went on a bit of a tear this month. Of the three, this will be the one I recommend least. This movie is as exciting as watching corn grow, and despite the presence of murderous rats and a pretty well-executed ghost can really only be described as horror-ish. I’m sure it was spooky in book form, but the existential terror of having your life fall apart because of some bad choices doesn’t translate well to screen. They can’t all be winners, Netflix.
Alien: Covenant (2017)
3 Neutrino Bursts
Wow. They’ve really lost control of this franchise. What started as a tense and dreadful movie about beasts stalking you from the darkness is now a movie about them attacking you in the form of dust and robots becoming self-determined. We need to stop the impossibly bad decision making. We need to resume the subtle sci-fi world building. We need to take the aliens back to stalkers that intelligently hide in the shadows and not berzerkers that are born of dust particles. This isn’t an utterly abysmal movie, but it is close to the basement of what AAA horror can bring to the table (especially within an established franchise). There’s good acting and good effects (despite very heavy CG), but they're ultimately in service of an utterly banal plot.
Tales of Halloween (2015)
6 Douchebag Candy Stealing Parents
This is an anthology movie centered around the happening of a sleepy burg on Halloween night. It will draw many comparisons to its genre cousin, Trick R Treat, and I think in general it will stand up well in that regard. Tales of Halloween has twice as many stories as TRT, and makes the smart decision to introduce all of them in the opening credits. That way, you can jump from one story to the next without having to break flow for credits. You get a pretty decent smorgasbord of acting talent with some notable cameos thrown in. With as many short films crammed in here you’d think they’d step on each other's toes, but interestingly each remains pretty untouched by its brethren. Honestly, the only big complaint I had about this one was why do all Halloween movies have to include a “check your candy” disclaimer? Has the razor-poison candy thing ever happened anywhere this century?
The Prophecy (1979)
3 Sleeping Bags
This is the level of B-movie that you need to be utterly smashed to watch. Just finished a marathon Beirut session with your legacy frat-buds? Well, I have a movie for you. The Prophecy is a 1979 flick about environmentalism, racism, classism, and radioactive monster bears. I should note that this is racism and classism as handled in a way that really only the 1970s can handle. It… uhhh… it beats you over the head with it in a way that is simultaneously well-meaning and exponentially more racist. I will say there is a scene where a certain victim explodes into feathers after being attacked by a monster. So at the very least, it has that going for it.
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
6 Worn Out Dumb Waiters
This was better than I was anticipating. I was out on this movie based on what the first one ended up being. Maybe I need to revisit it, but honestly, Annabelle was a terrible film as far as I can remember. I had based my expectation of this movie on its predecessor. Did this break down walls or introduce anything novel? No, but what it did do was execute. You’ve seen these scares before. You’ve seen these characters before. Hell, you’ve seen this movie before. If you’re going to be derivative at least be polished, and that is what this movie is bringing to the table.. Watch it if you’re in the mood for a standard AAA blockbuster horror that doesn’t rock the boat, but also doesn’t disappoint.
One part House of Leaves, two parts Devil in the White City, and about a billion parts generic haunted-house movie. When I picked this movie as my darkhorse back in February, I did so because the concept seemed remotely interesting and the cinematography looked decent. I also did so because it had some really solid 90s-esque narration at the start. This is essentially a perfect background movie. It’s interesting enough to distract you when you get bored with whatever it is you’re doing at the same time, but it’s also boring enough to get you back on track after a scene or to. Honestly, just throw this thing on in the background whenever you’re half-heartedly working on something.
STRANGER THINGS 2 SECTION
Like the rest of planet earth, we watched Stranger Things as quickly as our eyeballs would allow. Therefore, it's getting a special treatment.
8.5 Three Musketeers Bars
Like the rest of the planet, I love Stranger Things. Season two was bigger and more badass than the first, and I really loved the way the series expanded on its characters by branching them out and developing different relationships between the various inhabitants of Hawkins. I might be the only one to like the new bully, but if nothing else, red ranger provided an excuse for a large majority of the glam metal in the soundtrack, so kudos. Also: Steve is the MVP. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
6.5 Gelled Mohawks
Stranger Things 2, notable not Stranger Things Season 2, was a competently made followup to the first series. As the first series was a phenomenal work, having a “competent” follow up was probably the best we could’ve hoped for. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the first season, but it’s still certainly a great addition to the canon. Everything Stranger Things 1 did well, number 2 does equally well. The series excels on the development of realistic and lovable characters who are thrust into bonkers apocalypse scenarios. Here’s the thing about ST2, though, there is a giant gaping glaring awful insult in this season that is wholly encapsulated in episode 7. Let me do you a favor… you can skip episode 7 in its entirety. It is utterly irredeemable and there is seriously no new information that you need to take away. It will make the series worse if you watch it. Open letter to the Duffer Brothers: don’t include that plotline in season 3. Don’t include it in a spinoff. Don’t acknowledge it at all moving forward and we can all just collectively agree it didn’t happen. Please god for the love of all good that is left in this world, don’t turn Stranger Things into Punk X-Men.