The 31 DAEs of Halloween 2022: A Recap

This Halloween hangover has got legs, I can already tell. How is it that the spooky season has once again slipped through my fingers? Fake blood was spilled by the barrel. Vampires fed and the virginal shed, copious amounts in both cases. Every moon was just as full as your kid’s goody bag. And what a costume they’re wearing, might I say! Verily, I applaud you for raising your children right. While a certain breed of seasonal-affective lunatic, no doubt adorned in tinsel and stinking of eggnog, likely sprung from their long autumn’s nap and began decking every available hall the moment the clock struck November 1, I instead find myself in a rather ruminative mood. I’ve long wanted to do a “31 days of Halloween” horror/sci-fi/dark comedy movie marathon of my own instead of just paying accidentally selective, inevitably (and embarrassingly) insufficient homage one viewing at a time. I think about it almost every year without fail, but this is the first time I actually determined to do it, let alone somehow pulled it off. The logistics were certainly daunting – especially with multiple out of state trips to plan around – but the payoff was a beautifully extended one and oh so very sweet. Zombies slunk and slathered while slashers chopped teenagers into so much Cobb salad or fine mist, and a great time was had by all, regardless of their respective heart rate. It’s left me more than a little obsessed, and in a mood to recap. Not nearly enough things went bump in the night for my taste, it seems, though plenty did. Maybe next year.

31 days, 31 movies. The final lineup appears below, in alphabetical order and alongside a vanishingly few choice comments. I’ll try not to belabor any of those points, and resist the temptation to file them down into an errant, wieldable fang or stake. I know you lot have got chestnuts to roast, after all:

  • Astonishing Tales (Shudder) This elegant and restrained animated anthology, in which the ongoing existential conversation between a telepathic raven and the immortal spirits in a graveyard he’s visiting manifest as a series of Poe adaptations, was no big deal but still a neat way to kick off the festivities.
  • Barbarian (HBO Max) Should at the very least give viewers significant pause before scheduling their next AirB&B stay. This is well worth your time, though not quite as free-wheeling and psychotic as the pre-watch hype suggested. Beware spoilers like the plague, and avoid peripheral downtown Detroit for good measure.
  • Beetlejuice (Blu-ray) – Clever, charming, endlessly inventive “Haunted House in reverse” yarn, wherein the nouveau riche living irritate a kindly young dead couple whose space they invade until someone even more obnoxious takes center stage, finds Tim Burton directing a perfect cast at the dizzying height of his powers. Some directors do peak with their second feature.
  • The Cabin in the Woods (Blu-Ray) What was conceptual brilliance a decade ago kinda reeks of meta radioactivity today, but I still find it tons of fun after multiple viewings.
  • Chopping Mall (Shudder) Dirt cheap but strangely enduring, if not exactly endearing, ’80s cult fave. Killer security ‘bots malfunction during an overnighter, with uniformly stupid results. If I’d seen it at the age of 12 instead of Jason Lives, maybe I’d be a Belieber too, who nose? Thank Elvira for small favors. 
  • Creepshow (Blu-Ray) Already reviewed twice elsewhere on this site, so I’ll spare you the soliloquy. Suffice it to say that Romero + King + Savini (+ Fluffy + Undead Nate + Upson Pratt + Aunt Bedelia + Ed Harris dancing, et. al.) = Best anthology ever. Period.
  • Deadstream (Shudder) Fun and surprising found footage goof about a smarmy internet celebrity who gets his comeuppance from an eventful and escalating live-streamed night spent in a haunted house.
  • Evil Dead [2013] (Hulu) Terrific, inventive, overwhelmingly visceral reimagining of the original Raimi classic, casting aside any hint of the sequels’ humor in favor of hurricane squalls slinging blood, guts, and yet more blood. Loved every second.
  • The Exorcist (Blu-Ray) William Friedkin’s notorious blockbuster about an innocent young girl’s path of demonic possession is the rare movie to take both religious faith and skepticism with appropriate gravitas. 50 years later and still quite possibly the naturally tensest movie in history. All-time performance by Ellen Burstyn. Breathtaking.
  • Friday the 13th [1980] (Blu-Ray) Already discussed ad nauseum on this site, so no soliloquy forthcoming, sorry. Some movies are just perennials, and still reliably awesome fun. Kinda makes me wish I’d gone to summer camp as a kid, though prolly not as a teenager…
  • From Dusk ‘Til Dawn (Blu-Ray) This O.G. Tarantino/Rodriguez joint, as a pair of desperados and the family they’ve kidnapped stumble into a seedy Mexican strip club that barely functions/qualifies as the front for a nest of eccentric vampires, is still great fun despite its clunky moments. Also, Salma Hayek FTW.
  • The Furies (Shudder) This bloodthirsty Aussie take on Hunger Games-style survival competitions gets the interpersonal relationships right even when the action lags, boasts a solid, slow-rolling, stealth feminist premise, and features an ending that both makes sense and satisfies a good bit more than what got us to that point.
  • Halloween [1978] (Theater) All hail the king – including and ESPECIALLY that namesake menagerie of sequels, reboots, and spin-offs of wildly varying quality. Twelve swings, twelve misses so far (one day I’ll update the rankings, promise), though the Carpenter original remains peerless, and proved to be the perfect way to end the month’s festivities.
  • Halloween Ends (Peacock) Most recent and, despite the intriguing characterization throughout, most disappointing modern Halloween sequel. Not an awful movie by any means, but also definitely not nearly what was advertised. Looking forward now to David Gordon Green’s forthcoming, inevitably interesting and respectable Exorcist reboot, which he will then dash against the rocks until goodwill seeps from the head wound by needlessly making it into a trilogy. This/he/we should’ve stopped at H:40. While we were all ahead.
  • Hellraiser [2022] (Hulu) Overly deliberate but still imaginative reboot I didn’t hate as much as everyone else, apparently. Too many cenobites, though some of the designs were admittedly killer, plus a story and human characters patently unworthy of comparison to the Barker original. Still, gnarly enough and not bad. Long live the female Cenobite Priest.
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser II (Blu-Ray) This was a rewatch at least a dozen years in the making, and while it’s not as amazing as I’d remembered, it also didn’t disappoint. If the series had invested in Clive Barker’s sensibilities going forward instead of becoming a rolling tax shelter housing ever-diminishing returns, it could’ve really been something. Still is, honestly, if/when you focus on the first couple.
  • House of Wax [2006] (Blu-Ray) Period-appropriate nu-metal soundtrack aside, I’ve got a lot of lingering affection for this reboot, which this rewatch only affirmed. Creepy and creative, unpretentious and ambitious, with lots of live Elisha Cuthbert and dead Paris Hilton. Honestly, what’s not to like?
  • It Chapter One (Blu-Ray) The first and far superior chapter of the latest King blockbuster franchise plays like a standalone movie and is all the better for it. Lots of effort invested in setting a great small town scene, plus evoking the pains and pangs of adolescence. The kids and Skaarsgard as an over the top Pennywise the Dancing Clown are all pretty great. Too bad they have to grow up for the sequel.
  • Krampus (Peacock) Surprisingly good PG-13 Christmas horror yarn about a crabby extended family’s snowbound visitation by a malevolent goat-horned/hooved creature, the fearsome “anti-Claus” of German myth, and his gleeful minions. By turns super-tense and damned amusing, this could well eventually muscle its way into my yearly holiday movie rotation.
  • Nightmare Cinema (Shudder) Undistinguished horror anthology, despite the presence behind the scenes of Joe Dante and Mick Garris, that plays off the unifying concept of deeply flawed but relatable pedestrian passers-by watching slack-jawed as their nightmares unfold on screen. Mickey Rourke as “The Projectionist” is definitely not the next horror icon in waiting.
  • Pieces (Shudder) Bloody, hysterical, occasionally bloody hysterical ’80s hyper-slasher that at least more than justifies its immortal VHS tagline, “You don’t have to go to Texas to have a Chainsaw Massacre!”. Barely ever clothed, barely even coherent, but still way fun.
  • Poltergeist (Blu-Ray) Tobe Hooper haunts Spielberg’s trademark SoCal suburbia in the most credible screen ghost story since Robert Wise’s 1960 The Haunting. The movie that put Reagonomics and demonic toy clowns on roughly equal footing as instruments of evil. It retains its power some 40 years later.
  • Prince of Darkness (Peacock) Every year or three, it seems I take a fresh run at John Carpenter’s “distracted grad students vs. occult homeless (featuring Alice Cooper!)” battle royale Prince of Darkness in hopes that it will finally click. While this time maybe came closer than most, the end result is still a disjointed mess with distracting casting and a fatal lack of forward momentum. Looks like I’ll see you again in 2025, Liquid Satan!
  • Psycho [1960] (Blu-Ray) Hitchcock’s clockwork mechanism in gaudy black and white is his first and greatest horror movie and an easy top five overall even amongst the tallest of the tall trees. The shower scene remains a technical marvel/watershed/object of water cooler obsession and the protagonist switcheroo it kicks off remains one of the most audacious plot developments in movie history. ‘Twas a genuine pleasure to catch its legendary trailer at GFC before my viewing of Halloween.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Blu-Ray) Campy, kitschy, and utterly carefree, the evolving erotic awakening of white bread wonder-couple Brad and Janet under the mischievous tutelage of cross-dressing mad scientist turned Halloween party host Dr. Frank-N-Furter is a toe-tapping hoot that only drags in two or three places, maybe four. Tim Curry is utterly fearless and a goddamned force of nature.
  • Stakeland (Peacock) Imagine Zombieland sans humor or any concern for commercial appeal, with the walking dead element replaced with creatures of the night by the cryptful. Reminiscent of the superior wintry vampire gauntlet 30 Days of Night and aimless even for a road movie, Stakeland’s central surrogate father-son relationship is surprisingly strong and ensured Stakeland II a place in my streaming queue, however little I might realistically think of its prospects.
  • Terror Train (Shudder) Another meandering, undistinguished example of the ease with which Canadian quickies could get released during the height of the ‘80s Slasher craze. Mostly notable for its novel college party train setting, yet-undiscovered magician David Copperfield providing the onboard entertainment, and Jamie Lee Curtis seemingly unsure of her good girl/bad girl alignment for a change. Sorry, but such dim diversions simply do not a riveting 90 minutes make.   
  • They Live (Blu-Ray) Following Prince of Darkness, John Carpenter’s anthropological study of inner-city Los Angeles continues in this street/gut level alien invasion movie. Economical where Prince was bloated, intelligible where Prince was not, They Live is anchored by a terrific lead performance from pro wrestling god Roddy Piper, a truly killer hook – that all levels of American life have been infiltrated by sinister aliens only visible via the use of specially tinted luxury sunglasses – and one of the greatest back-alley fistfights ever committed to film. Quite possibly Carpenter’s last exceptional movie, and one that still delivers the goods.
  • Trick ‘r Treat (Blu-Ray) As the name implies, Trick ‘r Treat is a poison-tipped love letter to everyone’s favorite holiday, weaving four stories steeped in autumnal lore together into a slick, effective anthology. Consistently engaging and surprising, well-acted and even better written, Michael Dougherty’s passion project breakthrough becomes more a seasonal classic with each passing year.
  • Watcher (Shudder) A tense, claustrophobic “fish out of water gets stalked” story so good that it inspired my first DAE review in just under a year. Do read all about it here.
  • The World’s End (Blu-Ray) The final film in director Edgar Wright’s beloved “Cornetto Trilogy” is at once arguably its most thoughtful and its most fun, as 40-year-old suspended adolescent Simon Pegg prods his reluctant crew of grown-up British school mates into recreating a legendary pub crawl that just so happens to coincide with the end of the world. Sharp and frenetic, not so much bloody as gooey, with a great deal to say about the black hole power of delusional nostalgia before flipping the world that final bird and exhaling. Grab a pint or four and check it out.

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