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Movies to put you in the halloween spirit

October 30, 2008

As published in the Oxford Town

The horror genre hits us in waves; October being the tsunami with countless DVD releases and new scary movies in the theaters. There is something perfect about watching scary movies as the fall sets in around us. The crisp leaves and cold air lend itself to shivers, and when combined with zombies, psychopaths, or internal demons, October should be the official Horror Movie month. Here is a look at what is available right now for your rental and theatrical viewing pleasure (or scares!).

Spooky Theater Sightings

Already out in theaters is the conclusion (or so they say!) of the popular slasher series, “Saw V.” Personally, I don’t want to see “Gilmore Girls’” Scott Patterson get mutilated as Agent Strahm who is on the path of discovery of Hoffman, reprised by Costas Mandylor, as the new killer.

If you are a “Saw” fan, then you recall that Hoffman was introduced as the forensics expert in “Saw III” and was caught in a trap in “Saw IV” but somehow survived. The final moments in the last movie reveal a tape in the stomach of one of the victims warning Hoffman that he will not go untested.

David Hackl, production designer for “Saw II” and “Saw III” and Assistant Director for III and IV takes on the directorial duty for the fifth in the series. As a first time director, Hackl has been around the Saw series long enough that he shouldn’t have too many problems in keeping the same gory tone. Rated R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language and brief nudity.

Out in theaters tomorrow, Halloween, is “Eden Lake,” your typical teenage slasher film and “The Haunting of Molly Hartley,” actually a thriller with some promise.

First, “Eden Lake,” a predictable survival horror/torture porn kind of film (thanks “Saw” for inspiring a million more of these beastly little flicks), attempts to terrify you as you watch a couple try to fight back from the dreadful “hoodie” gangsters. That even in their scary urban outfits manage to be camping out in the woods. Hmm. Did I mention this is British? Imagine “Clockwork Orange” meets “Saw” and you have James Watkins directorial and writing sophomore attempt. However, it must be good enough because the film led to his directing “Descent 2” set for 2009. If you are a horror fan, pay attention to Watkins because he is moving up the horror food chain quickly. Rated R. Duh. It’s horror.

If nightmarish chasing through woods that eventually leads to a bloody demise is not your sort of thing, then there is always “The Haunting of Molly Hartley.” The directorial debut of Mickey Liddell, producer of former television shows “Everwood” and “Jack and Bobby,” the movie promises to be the next popular, yet mediocre, teen thriller. Up and coming celebrity Haley Bennett stars as Molly, a 17-year-old girl that moves to a small town after her mother suffers a psychotic break. But once there, voices and visions haunt her and she is forced to face the truth of her life path. The film is rated PG-13 for strong thematic material, violence and terror, brief strong language and some teen drinking.

October DVD Rentals

If you are too chicken, like me, to get scared in a dark theater, then you can rent some scary movies to watch safely at home. Besides countless classics like Halloween, there are lots of new films out for rent this month. Here is a look at some of the highlights.

One of the best new horror movies out there today is “The Devil’s Chair,” by newcomer Adam Mason. Only his second film, the chair is a wicked tale of two horny drugged up teenagers (cliche!) that open up a modern Pandora’s Box. Imagine Hellraiser meets Freddy Krueger. Yes, I am pointing out horror cliches for a reason, Mason turns all the classic 80s horror flicks on their head into a disturbing, yet cheesy, new flick. Critics typically hate the reveal of the demon, but besides that, are unanimous in saying horror fans need to pay attention to Adam Mason. If you are a horror buff, than you know, cheesy and disturbing in one film is a hard thing to balance, but Mason handles it smoothly. The film is not yet rated in the US but has received the equivalant of an “R” rating in other countries.

One of the other great cheesy yet disturbing horror films out now is “Dance of the Dead.” The film can be rented, or purchased alone, but I highly recommend buying it as part of the the box set with seven other horror films from around the world.

Along with this zombie prom flick is the Italian gore fest “The Last House in the Woods,” the vampire nest thriller “Brotherhood of Blood,” the Russian ghost tale, “Trackman,” the Finnish claustophobic nightmare “The Dark Floors,” a scary teacher thriller from Denmark “The Substitute,” another Denmark college scary tale, “Room 205,” and the Russian prequel to The Reeker, “No Man’s Land: The Rise of Reeker.” All of the films on their own are available for rent, but as one entity released by Sam Raimi’s GhostHouse Underground company and subsidiary of Lionsgate, the box set is a horror buff’s dream.

“The Strangers” premise is your typical couple in the woods attacked by unknown assailants. It was despised by most critics and has not done much better with horror fans, but here is why you should watch it: Bryan Bertino is a brand new director – as in at 31 years old directed his first ever film that happened to be a horror film starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. While the movie may not have lived up to its hype, Bertino just might. Watch “The Strangers” to get an idea of his work before you dive into his next film in 2009, “Alone,” about a shut-in that begins seeing things and is forced to decide whether to leave the apartment or face whatever is inside. Nicole Kidman is producing and is just one of many who are starting to pay attention to this young director.

Also out right now is “Zombie Strippers,” an instant classic B comedy-horror starring Jenna Jameson (yes, that one!). There is a plot, but I am going to assume most guys who rent it are not in it for the storyline much like most of Jameson’s previous work. Robert Englund also has a role in the film, which brings the quality level up by a point or two. But don’t rent this expecting a great horror film, this one is just for laughs and a whole lot of T&A. Rated R for strong violence and gore, sexuality/nudity and language.

And last but never least, is the 30th Anniversary Box set of “Halloween” just released on Tuesday. Halloween fans would do better to shop around if wanting to purchase a box set as this version has the original 1978 film and then Halloween 4 and 5. Sure it also includes some bonus material including the BlueRay disc of the film, but I’d wait cause there is always the 40th anniversary and who knows, they may put together a better package deal than this one. Still, as always, Halloween (the 1978 version) is always worth a rental come October 31st.

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