The Shining

I’ve finally taken the time to catch up with the rest of the world and seen one of Jack Nicholson’s most famous movies, The Shining. Due to the fact that the movie’s been out almost forty years now, I kind of knew what I was going into when I started watching it, but, for those who are still curious, here’s a recap.

Jack Torrance and his family, Wendy his wife and son Danny, move into the Overlook Hotel for their winter season so Jack can become the caretaker. However, the longer they stay in the empty hotel, all alone and snowed in, it becomes clear that something is deeply wrong with the hotel, finally affecting Jack, and causing him to turn on his family.

To start, I do want to say that the movie is incredibly good, as it is Stanley Kubrick. The entire two-hour running time, I was genuinely uncomfortable and anxious, sometimes even jumping a little at scares that would have been predictable in any other movie. It’s very well-paced, and has several details that throw the viewer off, or keep the setting as unbalanced as possible. That being said, as I’m extremely familiar with the book, there were certain things that didn’t translate as well to film. I’m not saying that Kubrick should have gone in the same direction as King when it came to the plot, as we all know how absolutely boring the 90s miniseries was, but certain things didn’t seem to do much more than just create a creepy atmosphere. For example, Tony, Danny’s seemingly imaginary friend that warns him of the future, vanishes almost completely after Danny is attacked by the woman in room 237, which makes it feel as if he could have been removed from the movie entirely with very little change. Also, while I honestly believe that Jack Nicholson was having the time of his life while playing Jack, and it is one of his most well-known roles, the character of Jack isn’t that interesting in my opinion. From his first appearance, he comes off as a genuinely creepy person, rather than a victim of the hotel’s ghosts. If I weren’t familiar with the book, in fact, I wouldn’t have even known that Jack was a recovering alcoholic, something that was instrumental when it came to his corruption by the ghosts. Once again, I’d like to say that Nicholson was doing the best he could in the role, and clearly brought his A-game, it just wasn’t a role I could get particularly invested in. However, I do truly feel as though Kubrick’s style shines through in this movie. This was actually one of the first Kubrick movies I ever saw, and his ability to create uncomfortable atmosphere, as well as his directing choices, are truly admirable. I feel that other horror movies I’ve seen have tried to create a similar experience, but none have come close to this. From the ever-changing hallways and design of the hotel, to the nail-on chalkboard style music, The Shining truly manages to bring the fear from the original book to light in a whole new format. I hear a lot that Stephen King wasn’t a fan of this movie, and, from the point of view that Jack’s struggles with alcohol were based on his own experiences, I can totally understand why, but I think the movie did a great service to an already famous classic, in a way I don’t think could ever truly be repeated.

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Halloween (1978)

Review:

Halloween, the movie series that was never meant to be about Michael Myers, has become a staple of the titular holiday, though I don’t think they’re working on the franchise anymore. The movie actually holds a special place in my heart, as it was one of the first horror movies I could watch without running screaming from the room, which is so much more of an accomplishment than it seems.

The movie begins in 1963, with a teenage girl being stalked through her house by an unknown threat on Halloween night. The killer-in-the-making puts on a mask, sneaks into her, room, and then brutally stabs her with a knife. We get a nice shot of her bare chest, before the movie remembers that it’s a horror movie, and the killer is eventually revealed as her six year old brother, a boy named Michael Myers. Fifteen years pass, and the now adult Myers escapes from the mental hospital he’s been locked in, dons his coveralls, and returns to his home town to murder again. Eventually, however, after murdering a girl without pants on, and a couple who decided to have sex in the bed of their best friend’s parents, he’s eventually thwarted by the combined effort of a young Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence.

I feel that, for it’s day, Halloween is actually a very good movie. It started a lot of horror tropes that have become staples of films such as Friday the 13th, such as people having sex resulting in death, the silent serial killer, and the obvious sequel hook at the end that’ll result in a franchise desperately trying to justify the actions of their main villain. That being said, I do feel that there are a few out of place things done in this movie that exist seemingly to annoy me personally. For one thing, the actions of the characters that die seem downright strange. I’m not sure if sneaking into a neighbor’s house to have sex was a thing in the seventies, but it just feels like a strange thing to do nowadays. They don’t know what kind of nasty stuff those people have done in that bed, and they’re just going to have sex in it? I don’t know if this was normal, so, if it was just something the youths did in the seventies, excuse my confusion. Also, the fake out deaths that Michael goes through get a little ridiculous the longer it goes. I can surviving a hanger through the eye-hole, since there’s the chance she actually missed the eye, but living through a knife to the stomach, a knitting needle through the neck, and six or seven bullet holes is a little less likely in my opinion, especially considering the fact that the sequels confirming him as a supernatural being hadn’t happened yet. I don’t care how emotionless you are, at some point, one of those is going to make you die. I can’t help picturing him limping away after the sequel hook, quietly gurgling an oath of vengeance before collapsing a few feet away.

However, as much as those things do annoy me, I still have to say that the movie’s still pretty strong. The acting is pretty good, and Jamie Lee Curtis is surprisingly proactive when it comes to not getting herself killed. As I recall, she was responsible for at least three of those four fakeout deaths I mentioned earlier. Not to mention, Myers is genuinely creepy with how he just appears and disappears in scenes without warning. I do recommend it quite a bit, especially if you want to see where a lot of older tropes of horror came from.

 

Monster House

This honestly isn’t the movie I thought I’d be doing as part of the October movies, but it’s one I grew up with. I remember when I first saw it on Cartoon Network, I was actually kind of surprised that it was allowed to air, considering the time it came out. I wasn’t used to seeing more than typically safe programs on that channel at the time. Monster House is….interesting. To start off, yeah, it’s creepy-looking. It was made by the same people who did the Polar Express movie, which was kind of known for it’s creepy cgi. This movie does a little better in that department, but it’s still a little uncanny to look at. The story, however, is still actually really good for a movie for it’s animation. The story follows a boy named DJ, who, after he believes he’s killed his crotchety old neighbor, finds the man’s house seems to have come alive and is out for revenge. Without spoiling too much of the plot, I can say that it is a fairly entertaining movie to watch at Halloween, and the plot may genuinely surprise you. There are a few issues I have with the movie, namely the presence of an annoying fat sidekick, a concept that was kind of outdated in the early 2000s, and really feels dated now. It wouldn’t be such an issue, except the character contributes very little to the overall plot, until the very end, and it honestly would have been extremely easy to just replace him with a different character. As far as potential triggers for the movie, I think the overall concept of the plot may cause a lot of concern for viewers. The house itself comes alive, eating those who trespass on it’s lawn or territory. If you feel anxious about scary imagery, which is very prevalent throughout the film, you might have a bit of trouble with this. The shots of the inside of the house are extremely creepy, and can be unsettling for some viewers. The house’s backstory, which involves the gruesome death of a woman drowning in cement, may also cause some problems as well. As I stated before, the CG is very creepy, and may take some getting used to, and certainly doesn’t help the unsettling images. However, like I said before, the story, as well as most of the characters are genuinely engaging, and if you’re a fan of Steve Buschemi, he does a fairly good job as the elderly neighbor. Overall, it’s an interesting movie, to say the least.

Hellboy

Hellboy, directed by the visual genius Guillermo Del Toro, is adapted from the Dark Horse comic book series of the same name. Due to the fact that it’s from the early 2000s, the cgi isn’t as fantastic as it could be, and we’ll see how the reboot of the series goes, but it still has a lot of Del Toro’s personal style when it comes to monster designs. To begin with, the introductory scene where the Allied forces try to stop the portal from opening, there are a few genuinely uncomfortable moments. For example, one of the characters is pulled into the portal, which is too small for his body at the time. Unfortunately, this means that his body is agonizingly compressed to fit into this tiny space. Throughout the movie, the various creatures, in spite of the early and imperfect cgi, do look genuinely frightening, and the idea of them harming a crowd at one point could be quite frightening. There’s also a bit of fridge horror at some points, such as the backstory of the main love interest involving her potentially burning a playground filled with children alive by mistake. Over all, many of the characters could be very troubling for younger or anxious viewers as well. For example, one of the followers of the main villain is a sawdust-filled, nazi samurai of sorts, who is near impossible to defeat. Most of the fear of the character comes with what we don’t see, as it’s implied most of his body has been completely altered by unknown and unseen experiments. The climax involves an eldritch being of a sort being summoned to earth, potentially destroying millions of lives in the process. Not to mention, the religious imagery, and the appearance of the main character may cause some severe discomfort for some. On the other hand, this is one of the best-looking superhero movies I’ve ever watched. Del Toro, as usual, has his own unique style that it’s very easy to admire. If you’re already a fan of the original comic series, or are interested in seeing a pretty cool-looking movie, I highly recommend it.

Coraline

Coraline, the stop motion movie adaptation of the classic Neil Gaiman book, is one of the single most horrifying PG movies I’ve ever seen. The film, following a young girl slowly becoming trapped in a magical world determined to destroy her. This film is filled with scary imagery which, depending on the type of child, may scare younger viewers. The movie doesn’t have any blood or gore, in it, but the themes of abduction and abuse prevalent throughout most of the movie may raise some uncomfortable feelings or memories for certain viewers. Not only that, but it also has quite a bit of body horror, including a character midway through a transformation into a pumpkin, a child character with their mouth stitched open into a forced smile, and two characters turned into putty and being mushed together. There is also a scene involving the ghosts of murdered children, which ramps up the intensity by including themes of child death to the story. Coraline is meant for children, but it is by far one of the most intense children films I’ve seen since Secret of Nimh. And at least that one didn’t actually kill any kids. However, while there are several scenes with uncomfortable situations and disturbing situations, the animation and story are both fantastic, with a compelling style. If you’re able to handle the darkness, I strongly recommend the film, especially if you want to see more from Nightmare before Christmas’ director, Henry Selick.

Paranormal Activity 2

Paranormal activity 2, much like in the vein of the original film, is very big on what isn’t shown onscreen to supply the scares. Most of the film, as is par for the course in this series, is dedicated only to moving objects subtly on camera to create a feeling of general unease for the audience. However, about halfway through the movie, the family dog is affected by the supernatural events going on in the house, and it’s never confirmed as to whether or not the animal lives. From what I remember of the film, the animal is not shown being harmed in any way onscreen, so any concerns you may have as to something like that can easily be avoided. Throughout the movie, an infant is constantly endangered, and stalked by danger. Also, the end is dedicated mostly to jumpscares, which can be extremely anxiety-inducing, especially if you are caught off guard. Finally, the end involves two characters being killed onscreen, both in very shocking and unsettling ways. When I was watching it, I was caught off-guard due to how the rest of this movie has been relatively painless and bloodless. However, the one of the last two deaths involve quite a bit of blood, and may leave the viewer feeling very anxious.

Goosebumps

The Goosebumps movie, while based on a surprisingly creepy book series, is very light on the violence and gore. In the spirit of the original books, most of the disaster is aimed at how kids would view something on the scale of the climax. Scenes where characters are frozen, attacked by werewolves, and zombies all stay completely bloodless, while still managing to translate the fear well enough. However, it should be noted that, completely out of the blue at the halfway point, a teenage character very suddenly appears to have been eaten onscreen. While he turns out to be fine, it can be very jarring if you’re not expecting it. Overall, the film has a lot of bloodless carnage, but some very scary imagery. As a whole, if you feel anxious about zombies, monsters, puppets, and an unexpected scene that seems as if a child is being killed. However, due to the fact that there’s a lot of carnage with various scary creatures, I probably wouldn’t recommend that younger viewers watch this without a parent nearby, or unless they’re prepared and don’t mind this kind of imagery.