10 Great Overlooked Halloween Movies

Halloween is the best time of year. One of the best ways to celebrate the best time of year is to watch Halloween movies. There are of course a limitless amount of films you could watch. However, many online lists seem to only acknowledge the usual suspects. I totally support watching John Carpenter’s Halloween or Hocus Pocus a few thousand times. Still, there are many other seasonal movies out there that deserve a view. I put together a list to spotlight a few of those hidden gems. My only criteria is that Halloween/Autumn must play a major role in the film. Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get to it.

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WNUF Halloween Special

The WNUF Halloween Special is one of the most charming films on this list. This found-footage treasure is designed to mimic a late 80s live news broadcast. The film takes place on Halloween. It follows a reporter and psychic duo that go to film inside an allegedly haunted house with a violent history. Needless to say things go wrong, very wrong. The best aspect of this film is that the filmmakers inserted faux commercials into the movie. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the VHS/cable years, give this film a go.

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Hell House LLC

I’m surprised this one hasn’t been more popular. It has positive reviews, but still it seems to have slipped under the radar. The film opens with glitchy footage of a massacre unfolding at a haunted house attraction. From there, the film moves backwards showing the team dealing with strange occurrences while building the haunt of their dreams. I like this film, because it paints a solid picture of the amount of work and stress involved in running a haunt, even without the genuine paranormal happenings.

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Boys in the Trees

If you follow me on Twitter, then you probably already know I’m a fan of this one. This Australian supernatural drama follows two teen boys reconnecting on Halloween night. Throughout the night the boys are forced to confront death and learn some very painful, very adult lessons. Like the works of Ray Bradbury, this film captures the beauty and sadness of Halloween.

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Riding the Bullet

I think many people didn’t enjoy this one, but I’m a big fan. This Mick Garris film is an adaptation of a Stephen King story. It revolves around a suicidal artist forced to hitchhike on Halloween night to see his dying mother. During his trip he is pursued by a phantom driver, who wants him to choose between his own life and his mom’s. The film is set in 1969 and uses some of the best music of that era. In addition to the music, there is an uncanny quality to much of the imagery. Take for example, the school bus full of people in costumes on an otherwise empty road. It’s this poetic nature of Riding the Bullet that keeps me coming back over and over again.

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The American Scream

The American Scream is a 2012 documentary about home haunts. The documentary details the experiences of three different families as they plan, build, and tear down their haunts. The film’s director, Michael Stephenson was the kid from Troll 2. He went on to direct Best Worst Movie, a documentary that explored the making of Troll 2. Like Best Worst Movie, The American Scream paints honest portraits of its subjects, warts and all. The film manages to be humorous, awkward, and endearing all at the same time.

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Murder Party

This is a low budget, high enjoyment film. The plot follows a loser guy who finds a mysterious invitation to a Halloween “murder” party. He puts on his finest cardboard robot costume and heads to the address on the card. When he arrives he discovers a group of college students who wish to murder him in the name of art. This situation would be terrifying, except the group of wannabe creators are woefully incompetent. Having run in the “art school” crowd, I was amused by many of the character tropes in this movie. Combine the wacky cast with Halloween mischief, and this film is an all around win.

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Satan’s Little Helper

When I first watched this movie, I thought it was going to be awful. I mean, the cover looks dreadful. However, it ended up being an excellent Halloween treat. This dark comedy involves a little boy with a sister complex that teams up with a serial killer to get rid of his sister’s boyfriend. The boy is a fan of a game called “Satan’s Little Helper”. In the game, you have to help Satan kill people to win. When he spots a guy dressed as the devil killing someone, he interprets it as fate and this is where their merry killing spree begins. This film is both wildly funny and twisted. If you’ve got a wicked sense of humor, this film should tickle your funny bone.

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Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman & Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein

I included these two together, because I bought them in a double feature pack. Though only the Wolfman one seems to be set around Halloween. Anyway, these straight to video movies were meant to be homages to the Abbott and Costello Universal horror-comedies. While these films may have been marketed to kids, I think the adult fan will enjoy them even more. Both films contain plenty of references to the Universal monster movies . For example, Alvin believes his neighbor, Lawrence Talbot is a werewolf. If you like the Chipmunks, classic horror, or animation you need to see these movies.

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Once Bitten

Most of the old Jim Carrey films seem to have long lifespans in the public consciousness. Yet Once Bitten was poorly received, so I almost never hear it mentioned. Yes it’s juvenile as hell, yet I personally find this film to be a lot of fun. It uses every vampire joke ever. However, those tired jokes feel right at home with Carrey’s exaggerated acting in this cheesy 80s romp. The best part of the film involves a dance off at a high school Halloween party. What more could you ask for?

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I’ve Been Waiting For You

This movie is really hard to find. I mean, it was hard to even find an image from the film. It’s possible, but not easy. It’s a made for TV movie based on a Lois Duncan novel. The plot follows a teen girl that moves to a town in New England. The mystery begins when a stranger calls and tells her “I’ve been waiting for you.” From then on, she is buried neck deep in the town’s secrets. The film is set in Autumn and involves witchcraft and curses. If you’re a fan of Practical Magic or The Craft, you’ll probably like this movie too.

There you go. Ten great Halloween films that you might have missed. If you have more recommendations or you want to discuss my list, drop me a comment or hit me up on Twitter @HallowsHaunts.

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IT- No Clowning Around

 

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It has only been out for a week, and it’s already completely smashed box office records and blown up social media feeds. It’s seeming likely, that this latest Stephen King remake/adaptation will be the biggest horror movie of the year. Perhaps I’m a bit late to the game, but I figured I’d chime in anyway. It’s taken me some time to compile my thoughts on this one. My feelings are rather jumbled.

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For those of you that have somehow remained unaware, It follows a group of kids trying to stop an ancient evil disguised as a clown. Of course the first element I need to address is the clown, Pennywise. While Tim Curry left some large clown shoes to fill, Skarsgard is a worthy replacement. Skarsgard’s Pennywise doesn’t speak as much as Curry’s, but he’s just as menacing. His fish like eyes that tend to cross, and the weird way he trails off when speaking hint at him being something far more sinister. In the book, it’s quite clear that Pennywise is a Lovecraftian-ish entity. While Curry’s interpretation is more entertaining, Skarsgard’s feels more in line with King’s original vision.

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While Skarsgard’s performance is top notch, it’s the kids who carry the movie. Each of the children stand out as individual characters. Not a single one of them failed to measure up. The interactions between them are humorous, emotional, and authentic. The relationships of the kids in It have been compared to that of the children in Stranger Things. That’s a fair comparison, and audience members that enjoyed one are bound to enjoy the other. While the young actors of It deserve the most credit for bringing their roles to life, director Andy Muschietti is owed praise as well. It can be difficult to work with child/teen actors, and Muschietti managed to bring the best out of all seven of them. Sophia Lillis as Beverly is particularly enchanting. I can see her becoming a household name.

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In addition to the acting, there’s also some bloody good cinematography. The version from 1990 was made for television, so the shots are practical rather than artistic. The new film is a theatrical release with a huge budget, so Muschietti was able to integrate more cinematic camera techniques. The movie is full to the brim of grand drone shots of Derry and slick slow-motion. The scene that stands out for me is the one where Beverly is listening to the voices bubbling up from the sink drain. Then the entire bathroom is splattered with blood in slow motion, while she screams her head off.

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Unfortunately, not all of the visuals hold up. I had a problem with the lighting in most of the interior scenes. While the low lighting worked for the outdoor scenes, it made the indoor scenes just too dark to see. Sometimes even the characters eyes weren’t lit. It’s a small thing, but it makes a world of difference. Horror filmmakers need to learn that just because the subject matter is dark, it doesn’t mean it has to be visually dark.

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I also took issue with the majority of the scary scenes. There is something going on in the current state of horror, where every horror scene is designed to be manic. That’s definitely the case with It. The cuts are too fast, the sound is too loud, and the camera motion is just excessive. I’m a slow burn fan, so I prefer the creeping dread that exists in the form of stillness, or perhaps a room that’s just too quiet. Maybe the climax scene could have benefited from the chaos, but when every Pennywise scene is that wild, the effect wears off fast. It seems like it’s trying too hard. Think about being at a haunted house. What’s creepier, the guy in a mask shouting in your face, or that thing in the lurking in a corner that you only get a glimpse of?

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As long as we’re discussing the scares, I should point out that there were a few questionable effects. For the most part the movie used practical stuff, thank God. Still there were a couple times I caught some weird CGI. The most glaring example is at the beginning. Pennywise is tempting Georgie to get closer to him. Georgie moves in slowly, and then Pennywise opens his ridiculous CGI mouth and chomps down on Georgie’s arm. I wouldn’t say it ruined the scene, but it made it less enjoyable for sure.

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My complaints aside, I’d still give this film a favorable review. If I had to offer a grade, I’d give it a solid B minus. I explained my issues with it to a friend, and he made the point that this movie still signifies that big budget horror is moving in the right direction. I have to agree. While It is not a great film by any stretch, it stands miles above the likes of other theatrical horror films. Still, I think I’ll stick with wacky Tim Curry.

Do you want more AHH in your life? Follow my personal Twitter account @LolaTarantula and our blog @HallowsHaunts.  We can also be found on Facebook All Hallows’ Haunts.

Annabelle Creation: They’ve Created a Monster

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Please note: Annabelle in italics refers to the film, while plain text Annabelle refers to the character.

Annabelle: Creation is the cinematic form of Frankenstein’s monster. By that I mean it’s a bunch of parts stitched together to make an abomination trying to pass itself off as the real deal. The film desperately tries to cram in all of the usual possession film tropes in order to create tension. Since the tension is never allowed to evolve naturally, the results feel heavy handed and laughable. At this point, Hollywood’s desperation to imitate the James Wan aesthetic is nothing more than a pathetic cash grab.

This catastrophe revolves around a group of young orphans sent to live in the country with a couple of doll makers. These doll makers are of course the creators of the original Annabelle who was modeled after their daughter. When their daughter dies tragically, they seal her room away with the doll in it. The arrival of the young girls triggers her awakening. Terror ensues.

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The first problem of Annabelle: Creation is that there is just too much happening. The film tries to introduce about 50 set pieces. There’s a tea set, a dollhouse, a scarecrow, a stairlift, and more. While each of these elements could be wicked cool on their own, none of them are ever given the proper amount of time to shine.

Then we have the forced supernatural atmosphere. I’m convinced someone over at Blumhouse has a checklist of all the cliches that need to be shoved into every modern horror film. Annabelle: Creation provides all the usual suspects including loud string music, fake jump scares, and little girls bending like contortionists. Unfortunately all of the tropes leave little room for actual plot. For example, a demon possesses the doll, and it needs a human host. Why? I couldn’t tell you. It already has a physical form. Plot holes like this can be found popping up throughout the entire movie.

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Another unavoidable issue with the film is that the doll is absurd looking. They tried way too hard to make her look creepy. No one would buy a doll that ugly. She looks like a Halloween decoration. Dolls are inherently creepy. It’s just unnecessary to take it so far. In a campy film like Dolly Dearest, this approach works. However in a gravely serious supernatural horror/drama it does not.

In all honesty, I’ve never cared for Annabelle. I didn’t like her in The Conjuring. The Annabelle portion of The Conjuring always seemed out of place, like that subplot was an afterthought. I absolutely despised the first Annabelle spinoff, and this latest addition isn’t much better.

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Annabelle: Creation does contain some spooky stuff, but the majority of the film is messy and unentertaining. While the setting and costumes are appealing, no amount of scenery can make up for the lack of a good story. I love The Conjuring 2 and Ouija: Origins, but I’m starting to think it might be time to put the “little girls getting possessed” narrative back into the coffin. Anyone with me?

If you want to read more articles like this one, follow our blog and be sure to follow us on Twitter @HallowsHaunts. For professional inquiries reach out to us (allhallowshaunts@gmail.com). I can also be found on Etsy, selling stuff for weird girls on my store page, Lola Tarantula.

Halloween Horror Nights at Midsummer Scream

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One of the biggest attractions at Midsummer Scream is always Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. Every year fans gather in a room to hear any bit of news from HHN’s creative team, John Murdy and Chris Williams. This panel always draws an enthusiastic bunch of haunt fans, and this year was no exception.

Before jumping into the new stuff, they provided some background information regarding how they became involved in Horror Nights. Both men painted rosy pictures of their childhood love of monsters, and how it inspired them later in life.  None of this was news to me, but Murdy and Williams were as charismatic as usual, so it was still entertaining.

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As for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights, they walked the audience through pictures chronicling the process of building The Shining maze. They promised the Grady sisters, room 237, Danny on his tricycle, “Here’s Johnny”, and of course the famous carpet. Murdy stated that his goal with this maze is to capture the slow burning dread of the movie.

They delved into scare zones a bit, too. One of the scare zones will be Hell on Earth set in New York City. Guests can expect to see an assortment of demons roaming the streets. HHN always creates top notch monsters/effects, so haunt lovers will definitely be in for a devilish treat.

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Finally, for those super fans, Universal is bringing back their VIP tours known as the R.I.P. Experience. This walking tour includes front of the line passes to everything in the park, free valet parking, special entry, a buffet dinner, and reserved seats for shows.

Keep your peepers here for updates about Halloween Horror Nights. Also be sure to follow us on Twitter at @HallowsHaunts. We’ve got lots of spooky stuff in store this Halloween season, and you won’t want to miss it.

 

It Comes at Night… Sort Of

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Theatrical horror releases have been pretty thin this year so far. So when I saw the trailer for It Comes at Night, I couldn’t wait to get out and see it. The limited cast and ambiguous threat had me hoping for something like It Follows, but the film that was advertised wasn’t exactly the film I saw.

It Comes at Night centers around a family living in a post apocalyptic world where infection lurks around every corner. The film opens with the family being forced to kill the diseased grandfather.  It’s an introduction that packs an emotional punch and sets the tone of the movie quite well.

From there on, our young protagonist Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) struggles to come to terms with the emotional reality of the situation. He is overcome by ghastly nightmares involving the sickness and his grandfather. Then one night a man breaks into their home. His parents (Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo) and the intruder, Will (Christopher Abbott) form a tentative agreement to pool their resources. Will retrieves his wife and child (Riley Keough and Griffin Robert Faulkner) and the two families begin living together. At first, things are great, but then suspicion and paranoia begin to propel them all in a violent direction.

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It Comes at Night has a lot going for it. The performances are top notch. I was especially partial to Harrison and Keough. All of the characters are well rounded and they all feel like real people. The relationships between the characters and the mounting tension create a palpable sense of dread. I’d compare It Comes at Night to The Walking Dead. Both rely on characters in desperate situations facing heavy moral dilemmas, where neither party is right or wrong.

In addition to the characters, the architecture of the cabin allows for a unique setting. With its narrow passages, woodwork, and the surrounding forest it presents a wide range of cinematography options.

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The soundtrack consisting of a lot of low key drumming also stands out. It’s a sound I definitely haven’t heard in any other recent horror movie, and its a nice break from the usual orchestral or synth music that seems to pervade the genre.

Unfortunately, for all of its positives, It Comes at Night still doesn’t feel like much of a movie. It was halfway over before I could even figure out exactly where the plot was going. It’s only about 90 minutes, but it feels about twice as long. The supernatural threat alluded to is nonexistent. All of the nightmare fuel imagery is from Travis’s dreams, and those dreams are a rare occurrence throughout the film. In fact, not much happens in the movie at all. The characters are almost enough to make up for this, but not quite.

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I tried to pinpoint why this film felt so lackluster for me, because on paper I should love it. Usually, psychological slow burn films are my favorite, but this one didn’t stick the landing. I think it’s because many of the scenes don’t serve to drive the story forward, so it starts to feel stagnant. When the climax finally came, it was about what I expected. Then it just sort of ends. Everyone in the theater started grumbling, saying things like “That’s it?”. I liked It Comes at Night, and I’m glad it’s out there because it is something fresh in this landscape of Alien and Annabelle sequels. Just don’t expect it to live up to the hype.

Split- M. Night is officially back!

Every horror fan knows that M. Night Shyamalan has had a rocky career. He’s hit some high highs, but unfortunately he’s also hit some extreme lows. In 2015 he gave us the Wayward Pines series, which I’ve yet to finish, but showed promise. He also released The Visit which falls into a weird gray area where it manages to be both awesome and awful. His latest film, Split places him firmly back into good filmmaker territory, well at least for now.

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Split follows a teen outcast (Anya Taylor-Joy) and two of her classmates (Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula) that are captured by a man with multiple personalities (James McAvoy). The girls must figure out how to stay alive, and how to protect themselves from their attacker’s 24 identities.

Split relies on heavy tension and well crafted characters to hold the viewer hostage until the very end. Each one of McAvoy’s personalities is unique and feels like an actual person, or perhaps even something supernatural. He sheds personas with ease, allowing him to shift back and forth between characters. Like his captives, the audience is left waiting for him to snap and change into someone or something else.

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The film tackles issues of mental illness and abuse with an unexpected level of compassion. Split makes you feel for McAvoy’s character, even as he commits horrific crimes. There is great deal of debate about whether Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder even exists. For the purposes of Split, DID is both a gift and a burden. McAvoy’s character, possesses a multitude of talents, due to the diverse nature of his personalities. However, it makes life difficult for him, as he essentially has 24 identities competing for control, and some of them have bad intentions. In addition to DID, Split also delves into abuse. Both the protagonist and the antagonist are victims of child abuse. This is intriguing, because in a sense it makes them kindred spirits, who have wound up on different paths.

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Split is a great theatrical horror film to kick off 2017. It’s smart, it has fully developed characters, and one hell of an ending. Hopefully M. Night can keep producing quality work like Split.

 

The All Hallows’ Haunts 2016 Awards

With 2016 almost in the books and 2017 right around the corner, the team here at All Hallows’ Haunts thought it would be fun to look back at what we thought was the best of the best in 2016. So, without further ado, here are the All Hallows’ Haunts 2016 Awards.

Movie

Andy’s Pick- Hush

Lola’s Pick- Train to Busan

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TV Show

Andy’s Pick-  The Exorcist

Lola’s Pick- Stranger Things

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Creepy Album

Andy’s Pick- Metallica- Hardwired To Self-Destruct


Lola’s Pick – Birdeatsbaby- Tanta Furia

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Book

Andy’s Pick- Maggie Goes To Hollywood & Maggie Reloaded by Kate Danley

Lola’s Pick- I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

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Convention

Andy’s Pick- Midsummer Scream 

Lola’s Pick – Midsummer Scream

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Unique Event

Andy’s Pick- Serial Killer Speed Dating

Lola’s Pick- Halloween Club’s 4th Annual Spookshow

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Play

Andy’s Pick- Demonic Housewives

Lola’s Pick – Wicked Lit

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Haunt

Andy’s Pick- Knott’s Scary Farm

Lola’s Pick – Knott’s Scary Farm

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Haunt Show/Attraction

Andy’s Pick- Queen Mary’s Freak Show

Lola’s Pick- Micah Cover’s Haunted House Calls

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Maze

Andy’s Pick- Shadowlands (Knott’s Scary Farm)

Lola’s Pick – Shadow Lands (Knott’s Scary Farm)

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Scare Zone

Andy’s Pick- The Hollows (Knott’s Scary Farm) 

Lola’s Pick – Fiesta de los Muertos

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