October 23rd, 2015

Dark City

Halloween Countdown, Day 23

It's film time! Every year about this time I think about good Halloween films (not necessarily horror movies, and definitely not lame slasher pictures, but suspenseful, atmospheric films that put a chill up the spine) that are "off the beaten path" -- that is, films that are independent, foreign, direct to DVD or VOD, or somehow under promoted, and thus might easily slip under the proverbial radar. Not the classics. Not the usual suspects.

Today I have a few new recommendations to add to the list, based on this past year's viewing. (We accessed all of these via Netflix.) Here they are, in reverse chronological order.

  • Stonehearst Asylum (2014) Based on a tale by Edgar Allan Poe and starring Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, and Kate Beckinsale... need I say more? In the words of Film Journal International, "While the film lacks the macabre humor of the original story, it does an excellent job of conveying the creeping horror of Victorian medicine." Delicious.

  • As Above, So Below (2014) I know I'm in the minority here, but I really loved this film. A trip by urban explorers into the Parisian catacombs becomes a journey of alchemical transformation. Okay, this had me at "Parisian catacombs," but I was delightfully surprised by characters actually being smart in a crisis, having meaningful backstories, and seeking redemption along the way.

  • Housebound (2014) This New Zealand horror comedy about a woman under house arrest in what may be a haunted house was a morbidly pleasant trip, alternately wacky and spooky.

  • Cut Bank (2014) This small-town murder thriller may err on the predictable side, but outstanding performances by the likes of Bruce Dern, John Malkovich, Billy Bob Thornton, and Liam Hemsworth make it memorable.

  • The House at the End of Time (2013) This Venezuelan horror-suspense film is a must see. I don't want to spoil it in any way. This may be my favorite pick this year. You want to see this. You do.

  • After (2012) When two bus crash survivors awake to discover that they are the only people left in their town, they work together to unravel the truth behind the strange events. A bit saccharine, but worth seeing.

  • Citadel (2012) I'm still not sure what I think about this Irish psychological horror film, but months later I'm still thinking about it, so that's noteworthy in itself. I'm now horrified of high rises for an all new reason.

  • The Brøken (2008) This understated doppleganger film plays out much like a modern-day Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Quiet and disturbing, and I mean that in a good way.

  • Wicked Little Things (2006) This is a film about the Appalachian children who died in a mine coming back to haunt the mine-owner's descendants. It's exactly what it says on the tin, no real surprises. What sets this apart is beautifully atmospheric shots of the woods and a spectacular sense of place. Visually memorable.

  • Breaking Dawn (2004) No, this is not that Breaking Dawn. This is cerebral little film that rewards careful watching. Dawn is a young medical student is charged with uncovering the murder of a mental patient's mother. Or is she? Well crafted and satisfying. And spooky.

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    Your mileage, of course, may vary.

    Okay, you're turn: what under-the-radar, off-the-beaten-path, Halloween-friendly films do you recommend?