[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] [THE FINAL GIRLS]

Well, we’ve come to the end of another year of 31 Days of Horror, and it pains me to see another year come to an end, but unfortunately, there are 11 more months in the year, and we just have to move on…

But First! We have a little housekeeping to attend to. This is something I’ve wanted to include for some time as an added bonus, my 5 picks out of the last 31 days, my Top 5 from the pack, my Final Girls for 2021!

5. Wolf
Wolf was a first-time watch for me this month. My wife was on a werewolf kick, and we’ve owned it for years, so getting the chance to see it finally was terrific. Jack Nicholson is such a compelling lead because even though he’s a little too smarmy, Nicholson infuses him with enough charisma to make his plight all the more exciting. James Spader was a solid foil to Nicholson, and Michelle Pfeiffer had such great chemistry with Jack that I found myself wishing his Joker had teamed up with her Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman movies. It’s a horror film that is very 90s, very slow-burn, and very entertaining.

4. Saw III
While James Wan and Leigh Whannell would stay on as producers for the rest of the Saw sequels, this was very much their swan song as storytellers…at least, for now. And what a finale for the story they began two years prior! Saw III very well could have been the end of the franchise, and it completes this cycle of films quite nicely. Saw III has some of the more impressive traps, but its strengths lie in the character and mythology development at play here. The evolution, not only of John Kramer, but especially of Amanda Young, is quite powerful tragedy, and the way it weaves her throughout the Jigsaw legacy works really well in fixing some questions that I had about previous entries. It’s a Saw movie that does everything that Saw movies do but it does them quite well.

3. Godzilla vs. Kong
Godzilla vs. Kong is the first MonsterVerse that I didn’t get to catch in theaters, and I really wanted to go, but I wasn’t vaccinated yet, so I stayed in and caught the film on HBO Max, and even there, this is a movie that excels, finally, in figuring out what made the Toho kaiju films so entertaining: small human character stories that no when to take a back seat, spectacular action, and a focus on monster mythos over petty human drama that the worst of the American attempts have floundered in. I loved that the film promised a winner, and we got one, but then we got so much more. The entertainment value of this film alone makes it wholly rewatchable, as long as you keep the popcorn flowing.

2. New Nightmare
New Nightmare isn’t one of my most-watched Krueger movies, but its quality is without question. It’s a movie that shouldn’t work, but Wes Craven’s singular vision and his moxie as a director led to a fascinating reality-bending little horror movie, one that expands the mythology of Krueger while simultaneously bringing closure to his story in a satisfying way. Its ambition bests the more highly-regarded Scream, as well.

1. The Frighteners
The best film I talked about this entire month ended up being the first movie of the month, Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners. I make no apologies for continually singing the praises of The Frighteners, and I’m not stopping any time soon. I’ve learned recently that a good number of Horror Films in my Top Ten are horror comedies, and The Frighteners handles both genres in equal form. Michael J. Fox was a great lead, and it’s tragic that his health issues forced him into retiring from leading-man roles. He worked quite well with Jackson, and the rest of the cast understood Jackson’s vision and gave their all to their respective roles, creating a fun, creepy, and exciting fantasy/horror/comedy hybrid that checks all the boxes in style.

So there you have it: my Final Girls, the best of 2021’s 31 Days of Horror! What are your favorite films from this year’s list? Let me know, and what films should I cover next year? Don’t forget that this site exists the rest of the year as well, and as 2021 comes to a close, we’ll be talking about the big films from this year. Come along and join me!

-Kyle A. Goethe

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