Don’t stab the messenger repeatedly.
Duh, October is when the horror movies get released. We all seem to want a dose of terrified adrenaline to course through us this month so that we more fully appreciate our relatively safe and un-haunted houses. It’s a luxury that people with food, clothing, and shelter have.
The big budget superhero film model has done a number on the world of commercial cinema, and it looks like horror movies are seeing the effects. All the good talent is being used up for over-the-top blockbusters, small (but well-backed) independent movies, and the increasingly amazing Netflix, Amazon, or HBO program lineup. Where is The Ring? Where is The Blair Witch Project? Paranormal Activity? 28 Days Later?
Probably some really scary independent horror movies are being made-and certainly some great international ones are–but you know…it’s Richmond. We only get the most heavily promoted, the ones they think our market will watch, the lowest common denominator.
Here’s what you can go see this Halloween season. Showtimes for Movieland are accessible behind this very link!
The Last Witch Hunter
Starring Vin Diesel and Elijah Wood
This film, which topped out at 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, is…I guess what Elijah Wood is doing these days? The Last Witch Hunter seems to be an attempt to cash in on superheroes, making Vin Diesel a guy who is the ONLY THING standing between us and “the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history.” God, I so hope this has Elijah Wood playing the Wicked Witch of the West, or maybe the Witch Who Gets Pushed into the Oven by Hansel and/or Gretel.
Watching The Last Witch Hunter is like sitting by while someone else plays a game whose coolness eludes us. — Bilge Ebiri for Vulture
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
Starring Chris J. Murray and Brit Shaw
Another 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, and we’re firmly into “Quick annual regurgitation of successful original” territory. I won’t lie, I was ultimately terrified by Paranormal Activity after many hours of believing I was quite all right. And I was, until I tried to go to bed that night. But that’s the mark of any good horror movie, right?
The Ghost Dimension is only the fifth in the series but feels like at least the 12th, and the premise is simple: A camera films scary things!
If we’re lucky, the producers will keep their promise not to make any more. — Josh Bell for Las Vegas Weekly
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska
Oh, good! A Guillermo del Toro flick (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, Hellboy). Top critics1 gave this one a 59%, which is like an F in standard grading terminology. It’s a “supernatural mystery,” in which a girl goes to a red mountain. A “crimson peak,” if you will. And because I enjoy Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chasten, AND Mia Wasikowska, I will do them a favor and see this movie, even if it looks overly special effect-y with a twist that will probably disappoint. I can’t decide why I’m so pessimistic, guys! Possibly because this film looks like it was art directed by the person who did Busch Gardens’ “DarKastle.”
Or, apparently, it was inspired by the look and feel of The Shining, according to J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader? What! The stark, plain, and bright sets of Kubrick’s masterpiece sure make blood stand out a lot more sharply than does a dark tangle of CGI blues and blacks.
Del Toro just goes for effect, and the effect he seems to be going for here is something like, “Ew, Guillermo, that’s really gross.” — Mick LaSalle for San Francisco Chronicle
Starring Jack Black and Dylan Minnette
A family-friendly flick that is probably worth the money to go see, provided you go during the day and sneak in your own snacks! R.L. Stine fans are now old enough to have kids of their own, and theoretically, both parents and (older) kids will enjoy this fun thriller that is reported to be lively, humorous, and full of scares that make you jump (not scares that make you wake up screaming in the middle of the night). Could it be that Goosebumps will be the next family scary movie that endures through the ages?
Goosebumps is no Gremlins, but for some of the running time it does have a bit of a classic ’80s feel about it. — Peter Turner for Starburst.
Hotel Transylvania 2
Starring Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, and Selena Gomez
Apparently enough people watched 2012’s Hotel Transylvania to warrant a sequel, which critics give a 41%, presumably accompanied by the sigh of someone whose time has just been wasted. Various scary-movie-trope favorites are represented here, but at least this one deals with the concept of inter-species love? Also, how do the undead procreate? I never got that far into the Twilight series. At any rate, these hopefully aren’t conversations you’ll have to handle with your kids, because you should probably take them to Goosebumps instead.
“Hotel Transylvania 2” is an unfortunate throwback to about 20 years ago, when animated movies were more widely accepted as cinematic babysitters. — Peter Hartlaub for the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Always toggle to Top Critics! ↩