[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] THE FINAL GIRLS

The 9th year of 31 Days of Horror has come to a close, and as we look forward to the holiday season, the tentpoles to close out the year and the influx of awards season fodder, we must take a moment to look back at this year’s 31 Days to the added bonus installment, my 5 picks from the last 31 Days, my Top 5 from the pack, my FINAL GIRLS of 2022!

5. Black Roses
I was hesitant to watch Black Roses. For all the rock-n-roll horror I’ve seen, very little of it has worked as well as I’d hoped. Black Roses, however, won me over with its practical effects and well-crafted production. The music seemed authentic, the narrative was exciting and all-around entertaining, and it left me wanting more. A movie that ends up being style over substance works well when the style is this strong, and I bought into it. Sure, there are some unnecessary sequences, like a faceless woman caressing her breasts for 2 minutes straight without progressing any semblance of plot, and a subplot involving a potential romance between the lead teacher and a student (it doesn’t go anywhere, but it also doesn’t really add anything of value to our lead character). With all that, though, Black Roses was immensely fun, full of cheese, and exactly what I needed.

4. Popcorn
A loving homage to the films of William Castle, the ultimate horror salesman and king of the gimmick, Popcorn is a horror fan’s horror movie. A slasher set during an all-night horror marathon at a rundown movie theater, Popcorn has an almost anthological appeal in that it features a number of fake movies playing the theater while the real movie is playing for us viewers. It’s got a mostly appealing cast of young fodder and legends of the craft, and a style that creates a lot of pop in the set design and cinematography. It’s a shame that this one is so hard to find in the streaming landscape (I caught it on Shudder, though who knows how long it’ll stay there), because I really feel like this one more wide appeal than expected for horror fans.

3. Lifeforce
Tobe Hooper is a visionary director, but I’ve always been a bit critical about some of his popular works. Lifeforce, his science fiction epic, is pretty damn incredible. I was in love with the stylistic choices he makes her, adapting the novel The Space Vampires, he creates an entirely new monster mythology and imbues it with familiar language and ideas. He also called the film his Hammer Horror, making his movie in the style of the popular horror studio, and it shows. Lifeforce ends up being one the most unique films in his catalog, and the finished product is an excellent showcase for his skills.

2. Jacob’s Ladder
I’ve consistently seen Jacob’s Ladder in the conversation for one of the best horror films of all time, and while it exists in this multigenre landscape, it’s an incredible feat in confusion. I’ve seen it twice, the second time working almost as good as the first, Adrian Lyne knows exactly how long to keep the narrative moving forward before tossing another wrench into the story and twisting it into a different direction. There were several times that I had this movie figured out and then almost immediately had my expectations upheaved by a new story elements that changed my perspective, and the way this one ended, even though it performs one of my least-favorite types of plot reveals, it does so better than any other film could have. Ultimately, this is an emotional film, it breaks my heart to watch it unfold, and yet it’s a tragically depressing story of hope, not an easy feat to master.

1. Hellraiser
Now, it almost had to be Hellraiser, but I stand by the choice. Pinhead’s franchise may not be on the pop cultural level of Freddy, Jason, or Michael, but I would argue that the original film, directed by first-time director Clive Barker (and based on his novella The Hellbound Heart), is one of the absolute best singular horror stories that the genre has to offer. What’s so astounding is that, while the Cenobites are certainly a horrifying concept, the movie isn’t really about them. I would argue that the narrative could just be about the human characters, Frank, Kirsty, Julia, and Larry. There’s a compelling dramatic and horror take on the material right there. The Cenobites are the icing on the cake here, and they elevate the entire narrative. Hellraiser is a great start to the franchise that significantly dropped off after the fourth installment.

There you have it. The 5 best films from this installment of 31 Days of Horror. What are the best movies you watched this Halloween season? Let me know in the comments!

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 29 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, Karen Black
Screenplay: Rob Zombie
89 mins. Rated R for strong, sadistic violence/gore, sexuality and language.

Rob Zombie (Halloween, The Lords of Salem) had a good thing going with his music career when he was offered the chance to help design a haunted attraction for Universal Studios. This work helped to get Universal Horror Nights back up and going after a long hiatus for the theme park’s October attractions, and it also inspired Zombie to attempt a first feature film. That’s at least how the legend goes. Well, no matter what you think of Zombie and his directing career, you have to give him credit for helping bring Universal Horror Nights back.

It’s Halloween Eve 1977, and a group of cross-country youths, in search of unique roadside attractions, come across a gas station/horror museum/fried chicken joint run by Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig, Kill Bill vol. 2, Jackie Brown). Upon hearing the legend of Dr. Satan, a sadistic psycho who was hanged nearby, they plan a route to find the hanging tree, but they are stopped by a flat tire. They end up following a hitchhiker back to her home where her family is taking part in unusual Halloween traditions. As the night progresses, it becomes clear that this family has no intention of letting the youths go free.

I had trepidations about seeing this film for the second time. I initially hated the film, and I was only convinced to watch the follow-up, The Devil’s Rejects (a movie I really enjoyed), because I was told how different it was from the original. While, on second viewing, the film does not become perfect, I was surprised by how much more I liked it. Zombie has often been seen as an imitator of Tobe Hooper, and he was definitely influenced by the acclaimed Texas horror maestro, but I see him as an extension (for better and worse) much like how Brian De Palma took elements of Alfred Hitchcock to their logical next step. That’s not to say that Zombie improves on Hooper, but like any artist, there’s a through-line that allows Zombie to put his voice into those influences. If Tobe Hooper was the chicken-fried horror master, then Zombie’s is more chicken grease. His is smuttier, angrier, meaner, and sloppier, and that will work for some and fail to resonate with others (Hooper himself praised the finished film). I’ve always leaned toward the former.

I was really taken with the tension and confusion elements of the narrative, as events cycled out of control for our heroes. Perhaps it’s the fact that, last time I saw the movie, The Office was not on television yet and we had not yet been blessed by Rainn Wilson as Dwight, but I really rooted for 3/4 of the youths (less love for the annoying character played by Chris Hardwicke), and I wanted to see the triumph, though internally I knew that it was not in the cards for this movie.

Zombie made a good call on his first feature, understand the hell that the MPAA puts on filmmakers, so he shot two versions of all violent sequences, one with more blood and gore, one with less. This helped him to push the film as far as he possibly could while still satisfying the studio. That keeps the gristle on this greasy film, and it was especially helpful as Zombie took his work-in-progress studio-hopping, as new regimes at some studios changed their minds on his grizzly film and others didn’t like Zombie’s vision.

The biggest problem with House of 1000 Corpses is the truly-annoying and nauseating cutaways, based on the Manson recordings. None of these cutaway video interview moments add anything of value to the narrative, and there’s a lot of the film’s worst moments (and Zombie’s worse tendencies) at play in these cutaways. I think the movie would better (and faster, more frenetic) without them.

House of 1000 Corpses is an acquired taste. I can understand anyone who loves it, and I totally get why someone would hate it. The movie’s aged much better than expected, though it still leaves a bit to be desired. It shows an early director swinging for the fences, and I can appreciate that above all else.

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, click here.

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 28 – Blood Dolls (1999)

Director: Charles Band
Cast: Jack Maturin, Debra Mayer, Nicholas Worth
Screenplay: Charles Band
84 mins. Rated R for horror violence and gore, language and some sexuality.

We don’t talk much about Full Moon Features, and this year, I want to change that. I could go the route of talking through all the various Puppet Master movies, but I wanted something I hadn’t seen before, so I perused my video collection, and I came across Blood Dolls, another of the killer toy subgenre, directed by Charles Band (Trancers, The Gingerdead Man). Hey, the poster looks cool, so it can’t all be bad…

Virgil Travis (Jack Maturin) is a wealthy and secluded psycho who has spent his youth being tortured with unusual body modification, resulting in a tiny head. He’s been wronged by a great many people in his life, and now he has plans in place to get his vengeance. Virgil’s created a few living dolls from the bodies of his victims, and these toys will exact his toll upon the others.

Sometimes, I wonder if people even believe the plots for these movies are real. How do I justify the time I just spent explaining this insanity? I don’t know, folks, but I watch a lot of crap for you all. Blood Dolls is part of that crap. I understand that a lot of Full Moon films exist in that campy silliness that is so endearing to so many people, and I have quite a few that I love within that realm. Puppet Master…The Gingerdead Man…but c’mon, people, Blood Dolls? Really? This was one of the longest 84 minute movies I’ve ever subjected myself to.

I can’t think of a single strength here. Virgil Travis is a terrible villain. He’s not intimidating, nor is he interesting, the tiny head thing is weird, and he honestly looks better in the creepy mask and should’ve kept that on the whole movie. That still doesn’t excuse the nasally voice throughout the movie. None of the victims, or cannon fodder, are developed enough to be memorable past the run time.

We have to talk about the ending, or lack thereof. We get to the abysmal finale, including a wedding that really came out of nowhere without any purpose. I don’t even understand how that’s an ending on its own…but then it isn’t. Mr. Mascaro, a random henchman character with supposed ties to Demonic Toys, comes onscreen to tell you that there is an alternate ending, but the way this new ending fits into the narrative doesn’t even make story sense. It’s just another scene with slight alterations to the story but it repeats elements that wouldn’t have happened twice, and it became all the more frustrating.

Blood Dolls isn’t even a complete film, and the wasted time is infuriating. It’s not just one of the worst movies I’ve seen this month; it’s one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 23 – Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Director: Adrian Lyne
Cast: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello, Matt Craven
Screenplay: Bruce Joel Rubin
113 mins. Rated R.

I think I actively avoided Jacob’s Ladder for a number of years. My reasoning isn’t quite sound: I had a feeling it wasn’t really horror, and I had this general idea that I knew where the film was headed, and it carried a legendary status among non-horror fans as a horror classic, which made me question its validity within the genre. As stated, this is not sound reasoning, but it’s the reasoning I had. Eventually, at the behest of my Kyle & Nick on Film co-host, Nick, I finally got around to seeing Jacob’s Ladder.

Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins, The Shawshank Redemption, Top Gun) is a Vietnam vet who’s been trying to get back to a normal life. He’s in a passionate relationship with a co-worker, Jezebel (Elizabeth Pena, The Incredibles, Rush Hour), and he’s got a doctor helping him fix his back and spine from his military time. On the outside, life seems to be returning a semblance of normality, except that Jacob is seeing things that aren’t there, or are they? Now, Jacob can’t discern what’s real and what’s a dream, does it matter, and what’s happening to him?

Jacob’s Ladder is a film of patience. It doesn’t really answer any questions until the final few minutes. There are layers to the story that peel back, and you get some clarity on the narrative, but every time I felt like I was starting to understand, the narrative added a new kernel of information that changed my perception on the story. The screenplay, by Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost, Deep Impact) was a much longer and more overwhelming story, but director Adrian Lyne (Deep Water, Lolita) took the narrative and ran with it, creating a more confusing but never frustrating watch. I was willing to trust the film and the filmmaker on good faith that the conclusion would be satisfying, and that trust was paid off in full. It seems like the kind of narrative that had a number of interesting potential conclusions, so each time Rubin’s script disregards one satisfying reveal to twist the knife further, it’s a risk, and yet when it reached the ending, it made for a movie I wanted to immediately rewatch and discuss with someone.

Tim Robbins is able to tackle this interesting cold-to-warm presence in many of his roles, and he would become more notable for this in The Shawshank Redemption. He can appear to be so cold, weightless, blown in by the wind when alone, and yet he can have a vibrancy in scenes with Jacob’s friends and family. It’s that ability to shift his character tone to match the scene and still remain convincing as Jacob that makes him one of the more powerful presences on film up to today.

My favorite shared scenes in the film come from Jacob’s interactions with his doctor, Louis (Danny Aiello, The Godfather Part II, Leon: The Professional). There’s a fatherly, guiding way that Aiello plays Louis, a teacher of mentor to Jacob in his time of need, Aiello’s portrayal comes off as more than a physical doctor, but a metaphysical, psychological, and emotional presence trying to give Jacob all the support he can. Side note: Lyne partnered with real chiropractors to ensure authenticity in these sequences, which is commendable and always appreciated.


Lyne made some changes to the finite rules of Rubin’s script, mainly in how he portrays the various horrors presented to Jacob. Rubin’s script has literal demons showing up, complete with horns, hooves, and wings. Lyne decided to make the creature effects more diverse and unique, and he uses in-camera trickery to unnerve both Jacob and the audience. The decision was made to accomplish all of these effects during production, a smart move considering that most early-90s CGI tends to age rather poorly. Some of the effects, including the use of low frame rate to create the unsettling shaky vision, are still being used in films today. It’s also notable that Lyne ensured that Jacob and the various visions never appeared in the same shot so that there’s a distinguish between the very-real Jacob Singer and the potentially unreal visions.

Back to the literal take in Rubin’s screenplay, Lyne’s choice to use elements from Jacob’s life in the finale made for a horror film that has a surprising amount of hope, and both times I’ve watched the film, this finale brought me to tears. The uncredited (and very young) Macauley Culkin as Jacob’s dead son coming to console him and guide him up to the next place is absolutely shattering. Lyne’s choice of using the staircase as a ladder after the odyssey takes him away from his family and brings him to the sexual, carnal Jezebel only to welcome him back home brings Jacob full-circle to what really mattered to him throughout his life, his home, his family. I usually hate endings where the entire movie is a dream, and I kept assuming that was a distinct possibility, but this time around, it was very effective for me. I think that’s because Lyne’s execution doesn’t undermine the journey he’s been on. While his body didn’t physically go on this journey, but to his brain and soul, this all really happened on his journey up the ladder.

It’s easy to see the influence of Jacob’s Ladder on modern horror, even as far as being a inspiration for the Silent Hill video game series. While there are a few story logic problems I have with narrative (nitpicks for the most part) and I’d have rather gotten a clearer look at some of the practical effects, Adrian Lyne’s horror show is well worth checking it, and then thinking on it for a bit, and then watching it all over again. Jacob’s Ladder comes highly-recommended.

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 21 – Bloody Moon (1981)

Director: Jesus Franco
Cast: Olivia Pascal, Christoph Moosbrugger, Nadja Gerganoff, Jasmin Losensky
Screenplay: Erich Tomek
90 mins. Not Rated.

About a year ago, I came across the complete Video Nasty list, a compilation of all the films censored, prosecuted, or banned in the UK due to inappropriate conduct. This was all in the past, of course, even though a number of these films still have bans or alternate cuts decades later, oftentimes due to violence or sexual themes. There are over 160 films that have been considered Video Nasties in some way, and I made it a goal to try and catch them all, a difficult quest. Sure, you have the first two Friday the 13th Films and Dawn of the Dead, but you also have Cannibal Holocaust and The New York Ripper. Many of the titles were international releases with multiple titles, and some can only be found on YouTube in heavy edits. But I was vigilant, and I still am, as today I was able to knock another off the list with Bloody Moon. Is there a moon in the film and does it require stitches? Let’s find out together.

Miguel, a sexual deviant, has been released from the asylum into the care of his sister, Manuela (Nadja Gerganoff). Manuela works at a boarding school that specializes in language arts in Costa Del Sol, a Spanish resort. Upon arrival, Miguel becomes enamored with the young student, Angela (Olivia Pascal, Behind Convent Walls, Vanessa). At the same time, bodies are piling up in the area surrounding the school, and all signs point to Miguel’s fragile psyche. Is he back to his killing ways or is there a new killer in Costa Del Sol?

For director Jesus Franco (Vampyros Lesbos, Venus in Furs), I’d only ever seen one of his films, the notorious Oasis of the Zombies, so I didn’t have a lot of faith going in. Bloody Moon ended up being an improvement over Oasis, while still being very messy. Being a slasher film in 1981 didn’t help to get this film any notice, as the period of horror from 1980-82 was mostly slashers trying to break in after the success of Halloween. Some survived, and some slipped into obscurity. In fact, had it not become a Video Nasty, Bloody Moon could have completely disappeared from the conversation. Hell, that’s why I sought it out.

All that being said, the movie isn’t all that good. There are several ideas at play here in the screenplay from Erich Tomek (Real Men Don’t Eat Gummi Bears, Three Man and a Half), but the narrative gets so lost in introducing stock characters at a frenetic pace that it’s hard to distinguish who is who as the movie chugs along. At times, it felt like two movies, one of them a standard slasher with a group of fun and goofy teens getting picked off one-by-one, and a weird family drama. They rarely felt like they crossed over, so it depended on both halves of the film to lift each other up, and they didn’t really.

That doesn’t stop the movie from being entertaining, occasionally in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way. There are a number of unusual character interactions, and a number of truly memorable sequences of violence that elevate the material above the poorly constructed. Is it enough to make a great movie? No, but scenes like the iconic saw blade sequence work well as tension builders. Franco also conveys the themes of judgment and reformation well enough by asking us if the convicted and former criminals are guilty by reason of association or if we can move our judgment away from Miguel to see another potential threat, or are the dangerous people in our society immovable? His movie doesn’t answer the question in a tied-up bow, but he’s asking us to look inward, and I found that to be powerful, albeit in a somewhat clunky narrative.

Bloody Moon is a strange movie, yet for all its faults, I’m glad I saw it. It was an exciting enough film if you’re into low-budget messy horror, and while it’s a movie I can’t fully recommend, it does have an audience, and for those willing to go on the journey, there’s fun to be had here.

-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of Jesus Franco’s Oasis of the Zombies, click here.

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 20 – You, Me & Her (2014)

Director: Sarah Doyle
Cast: Shannon Woodward, Tina Majorino, Paula Jai Parker, Nicholas Cutro
Screenplay: Sarah Doyle
20 mins. Not Rated.

Today, I wanted to spend some time looking at a short film, and I found an entire short film collection called Etheria over on Shudder. The series focused on emerging women filmmakers, and I decided on a short film from early on in the collection, You, Me & Her.

The plot of the short is quite simple: 30 alternate versions of the same woman, Anna (Shannon Woodward, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, TV’s Westworld), from different realities all end up at a place called the Department of Parallel Resettlement, and the Anna in our universe realizes all the ways she’s become the absolute worst version of herself from any reality.

This was an okay little short film, certainly well-done from a technical place. Writer/Director Sarah Doyle was able to juggle a lot of footage and keep the flow moving nice enough, even if the narrative falls off the rails by the end. The concept is simple, Doyle makes a few interesting notes about whether we would even want to see the world from a different perspective, if that would ruin our perception of self, and Woodward makes for an interesting and accessible lead character in Anna.

It’s just that screenplay doesn’t seem to justify 20 minutes, that Doyle’s technical skills are on display, but her ideas do run out of steam by the end, and I’m left wondering if there’s too much run time or not enough narrative thrust to account for it.

All in all, You, Me & Her is an accessible little short film that shows promise with a solid enough little character journey that will, at the very least, ask some compelling questions. It’s a little messy by the time it reaches the finale, but there’s some good in there too.

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 19 – The Wasp Woman (1959)

Director: Roger Corman
Cast: Susan Cabot, Anthony Eisley, Barboura Morris
Screenplay: Leo Gordon
63 mins. Not Rated.

The 1950s in horror were full of scientific perversion, either giant monsters or mad scientists turning regular humans into monsters. It’s not an era that I’m as aware of until the last few years, and even then, I’ve only scratched the surface, so I thought we’d take a deep-dive on a 50s horror movie (potential) rip-off of The Fly with The Wasp Woman.

When her cosmetics company starts losing large swaths of profit, owner Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot, Kiss of Death, The Enforcer) starts getting desperate. She used to be the face of the company, but the years have taken her youth away. When she meets the disgraced Dr. Eric Zinthrop, who says he can use enzymes from the royal jelly of a queen wasp to reverse the aging process, Janice sees a way to save the company and her youth. She begins the process with Zinthrope, but when he disappears in the middle of her treatments, she starts suffering some of the horrifying consequences.

The Wasp Woman is the kind of film that breezes along rather swiftly, running just over an hour (72 minutes with the television cut, featuring a new prologue by Jack Hill and added scenes), and that might be its saving grace. While it isn’t confirmed as ripping off The Fly, it matches a number of elements from that classic, just on a smaller budget and a lesser scale. With a campier tone and some unconvincing makeup effects, the film tries to be a dramatic and tragic tale of age and the struggle to find purpose in a society obsessed with youth, but it ultimately can’t rise to that level.

The concept is silly, and the follow—up is sillier. The film’s poster depicts a wasp with a woman’s face, but the end result is more the exact opposite. The score by Fred Katz ended up appearing in at least 7 films (Katz was notorious for submitting and selling the same score over and over. Roger Corman himself cameos as a doctor who doesn’t do a great job saving the patient, perhaps a metaphor for the director’s battle to save the film? Again, this movie can work in the right mood, a couple of friends together, not taking it seriously, just enjoying the silliness, but it’s just a little too bland at times to be a cult classic.

The Wasp Woman was released in a double-feature with The Beast from Haunted Cave, and maybe together they constitute a singular-enough experience of two half-worthy films becoming one. This is a film for hardcore Roger Corman fans and few else, though it can be fun with beer and friends if that’s what you’re looking for.

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 17 – Halloween Ends (2022)

Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Will Patton, Rohan Campbell, Kyle Richards
Screenplay: Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
111 mins. Rated R for bloody horror violence and gore, language throughout and some sexual references.

It’s been 44 years since the world has been introduced to Michael Myers. In that time, we’ve had multiple timelines, retcons, and various mythologies, and in 2018, that was wiped clean (in a move I don’t generally agree with) when director David Gordon Green (Stronger, Our Brand Is Crisis) entered with a new take, a direct sequel to the 1978 original, bringing back a new iteration of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies, Trading Places) and streamlining the narrative for general audiences and the uninitiated viewer. Now, the final film in Green’s trilogy has arrived, Halloween Ends. For this lifelong Halloween fan, the expectations were high, and can Green’s finale stick the landing?

Four years after Michael Myers rampaged through Haddonfield, leaving numerous bodies in his wake, including Laurie Strode’s own daughter, the town has never truly recovered. Laurie has believed that, while Michael has not been seen since, his presence has poisoned the town, leading to murder, suicide, and a Haddonfield that is slowly consuming itself with hatred. Laurie has done everything in her power to get over the anger of the past, purchasing a new home for her and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak, Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List, Son), and trying out normalcy for once. When she sees another young man, Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell, The Professor, Operation Christmas Drop), struggling to live life in a town that sees him as another damaged soul, she takes a liking, introducing him to her granddaughter and trying to get him on the right path. It seems like Haddonfield might just heal, but unknown to its residents, Michael Myers is still in the town, just biding his time, ready to return.

As always, Jamie Lee Curtis is incredible in the role of Laurie Strode. She’s officially been in more installments of this franchise than Donald Pleasance, and with this newest trilogy, she’s truly gotten the spotlight to shine. This is as much, probably more, her story as it is Michael’s. This final chapter spends more time seeing her struggle to get right in her own mind than it does watching Myers hack-and-slashing. I particularly liked seeing her having fun, or trying, as Laurie, joking with Lindsay Wallace (Kyle Richards, Eaten Alive, The Car) or flirting with Frank Hawkins (Will Patton, Minari, After Hours). She’s a fully fleshed-out character in Green’s films.

The town of Haddonfield continues to be presented as a town in grief, stuck in trauma, but a fully-realized home to many captivating characters. When I talked about Halloween Kills, I discussed how real the town had felt, as Green had several background characters in Halloween 2018 return in Kills and fill out the town. That’s something that has lacked in just about any of the other sequels in this franchise. That continues, to a smaller extent, in Halloween Ends. That includes the rather inspired turns by Patton and Richards, who both continued to shine in this installment.

As a fan of Opening Credits, I have to celebrate the absolute perfection of this entire trilogy’s credit sequences. Having the 2018 Halloween showing a rotten pumpkin reforming, Green is telling us that we’re going all the way back to the beginning. In Halloween Kills, we get a number of Jack-o-Lanterns flying at us, symbolizing the mob mentality of Haddonfield, and with Halloween Ends (using a Blue Halloween III font), we get a series of Jack-o-Lanterns bursting through each other, as Green shows up how evil begets evil in this town, a theme for the finale.

Halloween Ends succeeds at looking back at the iconography of the entire series and playing it, sometimes as an expectation, other times like a subversion meant to showcase how far we’ve come on this journey, and how, while some things change, some things remain the same. The use of cues like “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and certain visuals from the original film, like Michael’s sitting up behind Laurie, are excellently pursued and make their mark. The same can be said of the opening scene, one that plays to its subversions while also pushing the narrative forward. Even the marketing (I only watched the first teaser) subverts expectations in a clever way.

Green and his co-writers, Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, and Danny McBride, certainly swing for the fences with this final installment. It could have been an easy assignment, getting Laurie and Michael back together for one more throwdown, but they elected to take a different path, for better and worse. I’ll give credit where it’s due, Green and his team accomplish two tasks that most of the other sequels were too afraid to go for (I can’t get into either story point in a non-spoiler review), and that’s impressive. There’re two paths that the narrative takes, one of them the obvious continuance of the Laurie and Michael thread. That plot is disregarded for a while in favor of the new story path. I’m fine with that, but by the time it gets back around to this main path, so much time has been afforded to the alternate path and so little is focused on the Laurie and Michael story, leaving it as a bit of an afterthought. I really admire the new path, but I wish we’d had a more interesting story for Michael’s return to the narrative.

James Jude Courtney (Far and Away, When a Man Loves a Woman) again knocks it out of the park as The Shape/Michael Myers, and my hope is that he continues on with the role in the next reboot, but I feel that the film under-utilizes Myers. Going back to my earlier statement, I actually really like the other direction they go in, but I wish that Michael was more of a physical presence running concurrently to it. It’s interesting how light on violence the end product is, most of it cutting away outside of one or two really grisly moments, and I think that The Shape could have done more outside the inevitable.

I’m happy that a film called Halloween Ends has an actual ending to the saga of Laurie and Michael with a definitive closure, though I won’t go into any detail on that. The Ends in Halloween Ends is conclusive, and I’m happy that each of Green’s films have a cohesiveness but end up being very different films. I think a lot of us viewers tend to review films based on our expectations, critiquing based on the film we wanted and not the film we got (though if you hate the movie, I can understand). On rewatch my opinion hasn’t changed on the positives or the negatives, but here’s hoping the rumors of an extended cut are true, because I’d love more time in this world. This final (until the inevitable reboot) chapter won’t work for some, but I rather liked it, flaws and all.

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.
For my review of David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express, click here.
For my review of David Gordon Green’s Your Highness, click here.

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 3 – Torture Ship (1939)

Director: Victor Halperin
Cast: Lyle Talbot, Irving Pichel, Julie Bishop, Sheila Bromley, Anthony Averill
Screenplay: Harvey Huntley, George Wallace Sayre
57 mins. Approved.

Every once in awhile, my wife and I will go picking around in the movie room I have in the basement, and we’ll randomly pick a horror film we’ve never seen, know nothing about, and have no preconceived notions, and we’ll watch it. This occurred the other night. After several titles came up, I found a title that seemed very unique: Torture Ship. Let’s unpack this horror film from the director of White Zombie.

Set on a private ship belonging to Dr. Herbert Stander (Irving Pichel, Destination Moon, Tomorrow Is Forever), a mad scientist who has taken to performing disturbing experiments on “the criminal mind” of notable criminals who have captured and are residing aboard.

Torture Ship is based on the Jack London story “A Thousand Deaths,” but I’ve never read it. To my understanding, that story is one of the earliest, if not THE, to be published. London’s story does seem to be much closer to the film Flatliners than the 1939 film we’re discussing today. Torture Ship seems to concern a “mad scientist” and some “experiments” but the film lacks a number of defined characters and plot points. It opens in such a bombastic place with criminals looking to take the ship back, but at that point, we don’t know who owns the ship and who these guys are and why they are captives and what’s going on. This is all well-and-good, but I think the film takes too long to never give the necessary information.

The saving grace of the film is the performances and the swift pacing. I’m specifically talking about Irving Pichel as the devious Dr. Stander, who carries a presence across the entire narrative, and Lyle Talbot (Three on a Match, TV’s The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) as the nephew of Stander, Bob Bennett, who is the chief among the experimented. Director Victor Halperin (Party Girl, Nation Aflame) seems to run to the finish line in a number of films, and Torture Ship is no exception. The movie cruises and, at less than an hour, it creates a pacing where one tends to feel lost, but I was also curious for the layers of the story to unravel (even though several of them do not).

Torture Ship is an absolute mess, though thankfully it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and a few elements actually seem to show an inspired idea that could be played out rather interestingly if the story were to be remade or re-adapted. As it stands, this version, while not a total loss, but a loss nonetheless.

-Kyle A. Goethe

[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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