Welcome to my grand gesture to celebrate Halloween, the best time of the year. Shudder is celebrating 61 Days of Halloween over the course of September and October, so I am going to join in the fun. Over the course of 61 days, I will be watching 61 movies.
Crazy? Maybe. I have been live-tweeting them as I watch. However, I am also going to be doing these weekly wrap-ups to rank the films I watch throughout the weeks. So, here are the five films I watched during week one, ranked. These aren’t so much reviews but more of impressions about the experience of these movies.
#5 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula
I hadn’t seen Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Dracula in about a decade prior to watching it and I remembered why I hadn’t seen it in a long time. This was my second movie of the week, but my least favorite of the bunch.
The film gets some things right, but I do not think Coppola is the best choice of a director for a vampire film. The film has the requisite sumptuousness of heavy shadows and Edwardian grime befitting Dracula, but the pacing, mixed-bag practical effects, an performances leave something to be desired.
Part of my experience in watching these films is the process of live-tweeting. So please enjoy the Twitter thread of my reactions to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
#4 – The Shed
The Shed, a Shudder Exclusive, was a fun vampire film and I’d argue a better vampire film than Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This was my third movie of the week but only ranks in at number four.
The film is a fun little romp through a simple concept: A vampire is trapped in a teen’s shed and he can’t seem to keep people from getting killed by it. The film has some natural contrivances and becomes a home invasion film in its last 20 minutes, but for the most part, it is solid. The copious dream sequences are a bit of an oddity and the characters are written very broadly, but if you want to see a vampire really mess people up then you could do worse than The Shed.
#3 – The Nightshifter
The rank of three here carries the suggestion that this film, the fifth of my week, is strictly average, but that is not the case. The Nightshifter, a Shudder Exclusive, skews more towards the really, really good end of my spectrum and is only third on this list because of simple numbering. The film has some elements of other, stronger films, but the overall experience is well worth your time.
This is a fun ghost story made in Brazil. Does the film have some logic problems? Sure, what horror films do not? But the core concept, a morgue-worker who can talk to the dead is immediately used and blows up in the faces of the protagonist and his family. The story follows a man who exploits his gift of being able to speak to the dead for petty revenge which results in the death of his wife, turning her into a vengeful spirit who wreaks havoc on her family.
#2 – The Room
Number two on my list, The Room, a Shudder Exclusive, is an exciting film of the dark side of wish fulfillment. This was my fourth movie of the week. The film follows a married couple who move into a strange old house with a dark history and a hidden room – a room which can make whatever objects one wishes for. The couple, dealing with an inability to have a child logically makes the worst decision they ever could in this situation and the horrifying implications.
The film is very moody and has an air of European sophistication as the terrors it delves into are more metaphorical and psychological. The performances are strong overall, with a notable exception. The ending is also simultaneously expected but also raises many difficult questions. The Room is definitely one of Shudder’s smarter offerings and offers a modern gothic horror that doesn’t revolve around monsters. It’s not perfect as it can get bogged down in pacing issues, but it is still worth a watch.
#1 – Color Out of Space
My favorite movie in this first week is the Shudder Exclusive Color Out of Space. It was also the first film I watched. The movie is pretty much exactly what I was hoping for coming in: A good adaptation of Lovecraft’s source material, visually inventive, full of weird mutations, and off-the-rails Nicolas Cage.
The film follows the tragedy that occurs on the farm of the Gardner family, outside of Arkham, where they encounter a strange meteor from space that begins to alter their lives in dramatic and alien ways.
The movie is a great modernization to Lovecraft’s original story of isolation and Richard Stanley has more than earned a crack at another Lovecraftian adaptation. Some plot contrivances are handled pretty well, so even a modern world with cell-phones still evokes the isolation of the original story. There is some dodgy CGI here and there but for the most part, the delivery of the visual oddities associated with the titular Color is well done.
You can catch my live impressions here:
I started the week by just choosing movies at random, but then I discovered that Shudder posts a weekly schedule of premieres for the 61 Days of Halloween event.
So, next week, here are the film you can expect me to rank.