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10/01 Direct Link
Here's a horror movie about two axe murderers, living separate lives.

They meet on the internet. They have coffee and a nice walk, and one of them makes the joke he always makes: "It's nice to meet someone nice on the Internet, and hey, it turns out neither of us is an axe murderer!"

At this point, they both reach for their axes. There's a glimmer of recognition. They're both axe murderers, and they go on a spree. What a romp! Then the people they axe-murdered become dancing skeletons, and the skeletons chase them all around the city. Fun!

10/02 Direct Link
Here are two people whose lives are linked: their happiness and life satisfaction are inversely related. When something makes him happy, she finds herself unaccountably depressed. When something bad happens to her, his life seems to brighten up, and vice-versa.

They had spent their early years wondering about the unpredictable ups and downs of life until one day they met. A strange attraction pulled them together. Was it love? At first it felt that way, until he found himself delighted when her beloved goldfish died. The horror of this movie is in the things they do to each other.

10/03 Direct Link
The Brainiac (1962)
Chano Urueta

SCARINESS: *
FUN: **
ROMANCE: *

(A magician executed by the Mexican Inquisition returns 300 years later to kill the descendants of those who wronged him.)

It's goofy, the monster is charmingly lame, and if you invited a girl over to watch this with you, you could stick your tongue out at her like the monster does and see what happens.

In the briefest and most egregiously tacked-on romantic subplot I've ever seen, the magician decides he's in love with the lead actress, but this feeling only lasts a second before he decides revenge is more important.

10/04 Direct Link
I think we should have a zombie movie set in the early waning days of the Roman Empire.

We could have a politician, a legionary, a citizen, and a priest, and due to the disaster their stories could intersect in interesting ways. We should hear about the Emperor from time to time, but never see him. How would Roman society react politically, socially, religiously, militarily to the zombie menace? What parallels (without too much stretching) could be drawn to contemporary American society?

Don't pretend you're "so over" zombies... you want to see a legion take on a zombie horde, right?

10/05 Direct Link
Nightbreed: The Director's Cut (1990)
Clive Barker

SCARINESS: *
FUN: *
ONE-LINERS: *

(A young man discovers the secret underground world of monsters, and must protect them from the real monsters: humans.)

The feeling you get from this movie is that the special effects crew locked the real director and screenwriter out of the studio and decided to make it themselves. Their time consumed by creating the impressive costumes and sets, they asked a committee of hyperactive eleven-year-olds, none of whom could agree on the direction the movie should take, to write the screenplay. The result is an attractive mess.

10/06 Direct Link
When the Halloween spirit has gripped you, ordinary objects become sinister agents of destruction. See: The Laundry Pile.

A young wizard animates his laundry, but the laundry is dirty and therefore EVIL. Evil socks, borne by the wind, spread throughout the land animating other laundry piles. The clothes' goal is to destroy those who stained them.

How? Maybe they starch themselves to a high degree of stiffness and use a stabbing attack? We'll figure it out.

Can the wizard defeat the laundry before it's too late? I'm guessing clothing (even if evil) is fairly vulnerable to fireballs, so yes, probably.

10/07 Direct Link
Teeth are scary. The shape of teeth, the fact that there are so many of them, the fact that they have a 'pulp' and a 'root'... Teeth freak me out.

What if there's a new candy bar, very tasty, and it's EVIL, and it rots your teeth out, also makes them evil, and they jump out of your mouth and attack you. Let David Cronenberg direct it, he'll play up the "body horror" angle so much, I think this would be really scary. I'm not saying the teeth have cute cartoon eyes like in toothpaste commercials, they're REALLY SCARY TEETH.

10/08 Direct Link
The Dead Zone (1985)
David Cronenberg

SCARINESS: **
FUN: ***
REALISM: ****

(A man gains psychic abilities after a car crash, and grapples with the consequences of his frightening visions.)

First of all, this is more a "thriller" than a horror movie. I saw "Stephen King" and "David Cronenberg" and "Dead Zone" and I made some assumptions. Also, I just want to watch anything that has Christopher Walken in it. He adds one FUN star to anything he's in, even when he's sad and subdued, as he is most of the time in this one.

The modern political connection adds one SCARY star.

10/09 Direct Link
I like a supernatural horror movie for Halloween.

Who are you? You're a dude in a mask who kills people? Are you ghostly? Are you a skeleton? No, just a dude? Get out of here, then.

I also mainly like horror movies that are goofy, even if (more like especially if) the goofiness is unintentional. This is why you will rarely see me watch recent (post 1990s?) horror movies. They try to be deadly serious and eliminate all goofiness, which is a recipe for boredom. More often than not I'm sitting on my couch folding socks while I watch these.

10/10 Direct Link
I found an intact jelly donut on the hood of my car this morning. (I did not eat it.)

This is the new heartwarming Halloween movie series.

There is a string of inexplicable but delightful happenings in a small town. Donuts here, friendly chalk messages there, and people in the town are worried.

The culprit is a friendly Boo Radley-type figure who might be female, just to make her a variation on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, only slightly creepier and less competent. She wants to make people happy, and is motivated by a desire for friendship and validation.

10/11 Direct Link
Theatre of Blood (1973)
Douglas Hickox

SCARINESS: **
FUN: ****
HAMMINESS: *****

(An insane Shakespearean actor murders the critics who denied him an acting award.)

This was classified under "Horror" and it stars Vincent Price and Diana Rigg, so it was an easy choice. It turns out that it is more a "comedy with lots of murder" and not a horror movie at all, but we can (let's agree) let it slide since Vincent Price is in it.

If you're a Shakespeare fan, if you like B-movies, if you harbor(ed) a secret and forbidden love for Diana Rigg, check it out.

10/12 Direct Link
Spellbinder (1988)
Janet Greek

SCARINESS: **
FUN: ***
WITCHCRAFT: ***

(A man takes in a woman who has supposedly escaped from a coven of witches, but the coven wants her back.)

Talk about subverting the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope! She cures his back pain, cleans up his apartment, charms his friends, and sleeps with him to boot! She turns his boring world upside down!

I think this is the best movie I've seen this month. Others have been more fun or more scary, but watching the guy from Wings fight a karate witch is just so much more than I ever expected.

10/13 Direct Link
I am taking extensive notes while watching these movies. I want to share some of my actual notes from Spellbinder:

* Mr. Friendly from Lost w/ mustache and mullet says "Fuckin' A!" -- cf. that guy from Office Space

* "It's playtime!" Horror movies and cringey one-liners: what's the connection?

* KARATE WITCH???!!! This movie just earned an extra star

* Karate witch not as hot as she thought^

* Satan worshipers thoughtful to write "SATAN RULES" on cave wall

---

^ spoiler

In my notes for Theatre of Blood I made a table to compare the meth addicts in that movie to Willy Wonka's Oompa-Loompas.

10/14 Direct Link
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi

SCARINESS: **
FUN: ****
STU: *****

(A documentary about a group of vampire roommates and their everyday lives.)

This is a semi-"dry" mockumentary like Best in Show, so if the humor in that movie was as invisible to you as a vampire's reflection is to himself, you won't like this one.

The vampires' relationship with Stu was possibly my favorite thing. I liked Stu a lot. What an absolute legend!

The extra star for scariness comes from the banal and humorous protrayal of undead evil, to which I am categorically opposed.

10/15 Direct Link
We now return to the Steamed Dumpling Halloween Horror-Fest, brought to you by:

--

There's nothing like an autumn breeze, and there's nothing like a HONEYCRISP APPLE. Sweet, tart, and juicy, we think you'll agree: "They're not as overrated as everyone says."

--

BUTTERNUT SQUASH: "Instead of potatoes"

Roast one in the oven, and your family will come running for the squashy goodness.

--

Friends, did you ever consider a world without leaves? Well, you like breathing, don't you? Leaves help plants provide nutritious oxygen, and kids can't get enough of their great leafy taste. LEAVES: "Don't leave them off your plate."

10/16 Direct Link
You know how in commercials you'll have a guy kneeling at his bathtub saying, "Soap scum! How am I supposed to deal with it?" and *WHOOSH!*, Slippy, the Soap-Scum-Hating Snake appears and tells him that he has the answer, and that it is SCUZ brand bathroom cleanser?

And how if the guy will only do his evil bidding, he can have a complimentary bottle of SCUZ brand bathroom cleanser, which makes soap scum disappear like magic? And the guy, still kneeling, pledges himself to Slippy, such is his hatred for soap scum?

There's a horror movie there somewhere.

10/17 Direct Link
for the kids,

here's a charming young Jack o' Lantern, voiced by whatever pre-teen actor is all the rage these days, and he has his group of Halloween pals like a witch and a ghost, and they want to try candy, so they decide to enter the human world to go trick-or-treating, but they are fish out of water who have to figure out smartphones and rap and algebra and hula-hoops and American slang, and there's a montage in which they gradually learn these things, and one of them, let's face it, is going to sing

10/18 Direct Link
It (1990)
Tommy Lee Wallace

SCARINESS: ***
FUN: ***
PERSISTENT BUT ULTIMATELY INEFFECTUAL BULLIES: ****

(Seven friends who fought a murderous monster as children must regroup as adults to defeat it once and for all.)

With its made-for-TV production values, bizarre, incongruous montages, solid performances, and Tim Curry as both comic relief and Being of Pure Malevolence, yes, this is a solid Halloween choice.

"Scariness" is a difficult rating. I give this one three stars because certain scenes are going to stick in my memory. I don't want Tim Curry to greet me from a storm drain, clown makeup or no.

10/19 Direct Link
Here's a horror scenario for you:

The pumpkin industry has grown in power and influence for the past decade, and in 2016, sensing its moment has come, it decides to strike. "Big Pumpkin" infests every foodstuff and non-foodstuff with pumpkin spice flavor.

At the head of this group of lobbyists and thugs is the Great Pumpking himself, a large evil monstrosity with a dirty little vine in every pie our society holds dear.

Can a magical pumpkin-hating wizard cat defeat the Pumpking, break this vile spell, and free the unwitting public from the flavor sensation they never wanted?

10/20 Direct Link
The Vampire's Coffin (1958)
Fernando Méndez

SCARINESS: *
FUN: **
CINEMATOGRAPHY: ***

(Upon his revival, an ancient vampire hypnotizes one person, kills three, and annoys two others.)

Like many vampires, this one is in love with a woman who wants nothing to do with him. This one stands apart in his desire not just to give her jewelry, but his jewelry.

The final fight sequence is only the second worst of the movie. "Now you'll know what it's like to fight a vampire," he says, as he turns into a bat and half-heartedly tries to fly into the main character's hair.

10/21 Direct Link
CHORUS:
Edentulous, it means "no teeth,"
Edentulous, it means "no teeth,"
Edentulous, it means "no teeth,"
Wow-wow-wow NO TEETH.

Edentulous Charlie was a deep-sea fish.
True to his name, he had no teeth, for
'edentulous' means "no teeth."

(chorus)

Edentulous Charlie searched high and low for his one true love.
They found each other and promised to swim through life together.

(chorus)

Edentulous Charlie is a fish hero
Edentulous Charlie cannot fail
Edentulous Charlie gonna fish-gum your finger
Edentulous Charlie wag his tail

Some say Edentulous Charlie will return some day
When he is needed most.

10/22 Direct Link
Tales from the Dark Side: The Movie (1990)
John Harrison

SCARINESS: **
FUN: **
80s: ***

(A young boy tells three horror stories to delay his impending consumption by a witch.)

Look for 80s stars in every nook and cranny of this film.

This is an anthology of three short horror films. The first one is good and fun, the second one is fun but not good, and the third one is good but not fun. If you are having a Halloween party and you want to put something on in the background, you'll be happier with 1982's Creepshow, which is more consistent.

10/23 Direct Link
I am not normally a big movie fan. I might watch a movie every other month on average.

This year, though, the bad horror movies have been a welcome form of escapism from reading/writing/thinking about the election. It is so bad. It hurts. I just want it to be over so we can all start to recover from it. Whatever you believe, I imagine you agree the past year has been "Sad!" and damaging to our society.

So yeah, I don't want to live in the real world this month. Horror movies seem quaint and cheerful by comparison.

10/24 Direct Link
Steamed Dumpling's Pumpkin Beer Reviews (2016)

Hi there, folks. Some of you might remember my heinous anti-pumpkin rant last week, and I just want to tell you how sorry about that I am. I do apologize to all. (*Dead-eyed stare*)

Pumpkin is an important component of North American agriculture. Pumpkins means jobs. Jobs means success (*droooool*). Success means pumpkins.

You should buy as many pumpkin's products as you can, including pumpking's beer. Here's a local brew that I should like to review.

SCARINESS: *
FUN: *****
PUMPKIN: ***********************************

(Pumpkin's pumpkin pumpkin.)

Drink it at your local marketplace. Worship the Pumpking, also.

10/25 Direct Link
The most disturbing thing in a film or TV show is when a normally good and reliable character gets mind-controlled and starts working for evil.

This is kind of a standard trope, and I always find it disturbing because they always mind-manipulate the one character you think you can trust.

So who can you trust then, huh? Me? No. The evil pumpkin has taken over my mind, too. That's the thing, you'll trust me, you'll turn your back, and I will betray you, and being manipulated into betraying people who trust me is something I'm really afraid of.

10/26 Direct Link
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Fred Dekker

(Brain-eating slugs turn college students into zombies.)

SCARINESS: ***
FUN: ****
80s: ****

Just after I was talking about mind control being scary, here I get a movie about mind-controlling slugs. This movie was made in 1986, but it somehow feels like a loving parody of 80s horror movies. It's really good. If you're looking for a fun and slug-filled evening with an obnoxious 80s friend, gratuitous toplessness, cheesy hard-boiled cop dialogue ("Thrill Me!" is how this guy answers the phone!!!) and more, you can't go wrong with Night of the Creeps.

10/27 Direct Link
We have vanilla ghosts and chocolate bats. They have faces that I made with icing. They looked cool and sophisticated in my imagination, like an adult made them, but they just came out looking goofy.

Making and decorating two batches of cutout cookies is an entire evening's work, so there was no movie tonight, and my thoughts are so occupied with cookies that I can't even come up with a horror movie that isn't "evil cookies come to life, etc..." which is too bad even for today's studios. I wouldn't get past the front door with the evil cookie angle.

10/28 Direct Link
I think one of the reasons I like slightly older horror movies is that special effects had only come so far, and they couldn't rely on computers for everything.

You want to make a good horror movie? Institute a "no computers allowed" rule. Claymation? Yes. Stop motion? Yes. People who are trained in moving in creepy ways? That's great.

Rule 2, get unknown and untested actors.

Rule 3, get a writer who is a little bit nutso, and rule 4, get a director who thinks the writer did an amazingly good job. That's a movie I really want to see.

10/29 Direct Link
My super-attractive coworker told me I should wear a costume on Monday, but I don't have a costume, so now I am trying to come up with costume ideas as a route to spending time chatting with s-a.c.

First, glasses are a limitation. I can't just be a vampire, I have to be a vampire with glasses, which is not as good.

Second, I hate a pun costume. "Oh, what are you?" someone says, and you explain the pun, and they wish they hadn't asked.

Third, I can't go as myself. "Be yourself," they say, but it's bad advice.

10/30 Direct Link
The Babadook (2014)
Jennifer Kent

SCARINESS: ****
FUN: *
PSYCHOLOGY: *****

(A mother and her son deal with a terrifying presence in their home.)

This was really a good one, and completely unlike what I was expecting. This film explores the internal horror of grief and madness in a stylish, terrifying, and unique way.

Also, the first half or so explores the idea of "film as contraceptive," as in, it will make you want to avoid having and/or being around children forever.

The second half makes you think about reaching out to people you know who have lost their spouses. It's powerful.

10/31 Direct Link
Do I have to go back to reality tomorrow? Can't I live in the safe and cozy world of horror at least until 2017? This month has been like a nice cocoon or shell. I wrote and thought about incredibly stupid things, but nothing real. It's so tempting to slip into that, and there are so many ways to do it.

Reality is dark and cruel and harsh, but it needs us. We can make it better and brighter and gentler if we try. I do believe that. That is why we are here. I'm going to do my best.