I respect Tim Burton’s legacy a lot and I admire what he was going for with “The Corpse Bride.” Not a lot of mainstream directors aspire to deliver movies that are more bent toward the Gothic sensibility with homages to folks like Edward Gory. Burton is a man who clearly has a love for the style, and I love it as well. Sadly, “The Corpse Bride” is a weaker approach toward the stop motion animation that Burton was mostly known for with “The Nightmare Before Christmas” for a long time. The aforementioned film is so much more charismatic and entertaining than “The Corpse Bride” in the end. Granted it’s not an awful movie, but it just feels like Burton is trying to recapture the brilliance of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
“The Day of the Dead” is such a fascinating holiday filled with so much interesting lore, that there’s a lot more material left for five more animated films of this ilk. Jorge Gutierrez has spent a long time trying to expose audiences to Latin and Hispanic heroes and complex characters, and with “The Book of Life” he succeeds yet again. “The Book of Life” is a wonderful animated romance in the vein of the classic Disney films, but it’s also a respectful tale set amidst the backdrop of the Day of the Dead. A group of rowdy grade schoolers are in for a unique field trip when they’re taken in to a museum by a mysterious tour guide who relays to them an epic story of love, life, and death. Set in the Mexican town of San Angel, we meet three childhood friends Manolo, Maria, and Joaquin, all of whom have spent enormous amounts of time together and are facing adulthood with pressures to grow up and realize their potential.
David Decoteau’s “Nightmare Sisters” is the result of economic independent horror filmmaking and one of the finer artifacts of eighties horror sleaze. It three of the most iconic scream queens in movie history working together to dole out the best comedy that they can. “Nightmare Sisters” is a silly and often weird horror film that is oddly bloodless, considering it spends a shocking amount of time setting up the fact that our trio of lusty protagonists becomes man eating succubi. In either case, “Nightmare Sisters” is a kitschy bit of eighties exploitation that garners a unique history behind with DeCoteau using the remaining funds for “Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl O Rama” to complete this movie. That’s just economic and smart thinking.
In writer/director Benjamin R. Moody’s film, the lead character is one hell of a fighter, but her trauma may be having the best of her as she sees signs of her attacker throughout her life and can’t quite let go. Camryn, the only survivor of a massacre in the woods is trying to live with PTSD and survivor’s guilt. As she is taken in by a new group of friends, the killer from her past may be haunting her. The lead character he creates here is a strong young woman but she does not have much of a back story outside of being the only survivor from a massacre during a camping trip to the woods. The other characters, her new friend and potential love interest Nick and his roommates have more set up than she does almost. They are presented and explained quickly but it gives them connections and personalities.
For folks that didn’t know if “Trick r Treat” would end up as a one and done horror classic, or end up becoming a full fledged dynasty, creator Michael Dougherty is nice enough to team up with Legendary Pictures to deliver “Days of the Dead.” Michael Dougherty pens the introduction to “Days of the Dead,” where still uncertain if a sequel would ever blossom back in 2015, helped build this anthology to keep Sam alive in our hearts. “Days of the Dead” is a mid-quel ripped directly out of the “Trick r Treat” universe, the graphic novel unfolds five stories involving Halloween and Autumn that tries to recapture the spirit of the original film. With the mid-quel being a graphic novel, Dougherty side steps the interconnected story format from the film and bonds the tales mainly through our beloved Sam.
Boris Karloff is deliciously spooky as the narrator who unfolds a trio of stories in Mario Bava’s immortal “Black Sabbath*.” Each tale involves people whose demons come back to haunt them in one way or another. Mario Bava is excellent in depicting various shades of terror, devoting bold and stark palettes of colors to each segment that add to the EC Comics vibe that Bava inadvertently conveys. “The Drop of Water” is the best and arguably most iconic of segment in horror movie anthologies, involving the classic comeuppance of a grave robber. In the early 1900’s, nurse Chester is called to a large house once owned by an elderly woman who was also a medium. After the elderly woman dies while seemingly in a trance, Nurse Chester arrives to discover the gruesome visage of the woman and helps to dress up her corpse alongside her incredibly terrified house maid.
Robert Eggers’ debut “The Witch” is a marvelous and absolutely mesmerizing film. It’s not just an incredible horror film, but a fantastic examination of how a family basically tears itself from inside out due to ideas of resentment, sexual repression, and pure isolation. Not many directors debut with a bang, but “The Witch” is a slow burn horror film that begins with the fuse burning and burning until Eggers delivers something of a humongous explosion that will leave audiences speechless. Eggers sets his film on 17th Century New England, where a patriarch of a small family named William is threatened with banishment by a puritanical plantation with his wife, daughter Thomasin, younger son Caleb, and fraternal twins Mercy and Jonas. Vowing to free himself of the puritanical village, William builds a secluded farm at the edge of the woods, swearing to thrive with his family at his side.
Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” is easily one of the greatest horror movies ever made. It’s one of the very few horror movies I can call perfect, and I rarely ever do that. Argento’s horror film about a ballet academy with a hideous secret is a marvel for the eyes, the ears, and for horror audiences that enjoy brain food with their cinema. Jessica Harper is excellent as young Suzy, a ballet dancer who travels to Germany to attend a very elite ballet school. Upon the surprising realization that she hasn’t been allowed to enter the school thanks to a late entry, she is surprisingly allow to attend when a student is mysteriously and gruesomely murdered in her apartment. Suzy immediately begins to become attuned to her surroundings, and finds her environment within the militant and unusual ballet school most unsettling, to the point where she begins to fall ill, and experiences unusual events.