It’s October again. Our favourite occasion is almost here to greet us. I’m still upset about missing out on all the fun at Eli Roth’s Goretorium, all thanks to being born and bred nowhere near Vegas. But the cheerful tradition of 30 days of horror lives on! So here goes the 2012 Horror Challenge.
Enjoy, and happy Halloween!
Day 01: A horror movie that delivered a scary theatrical experience.
I first saw The Mist with no knowledge of its premise, which made for the most fantastic theatrical experience. This unexpected favourite is revelatory of the worst in human nature, more frightening than that in monsters.
Day 02: A disappointing or unnecessary remake.
When A Stranger Calls featured one of the most suspenseful openings in the horror genre. Still, that is no reason to expand the 20-minute sequence into an unnecessary full length feature. The 2006 remake takes the reductive plot and further diminishes it into a predictable mess of an urban legend, told too many times before.
Day 03: A scene or image burned into your mind.
The infamous splinter-in-the-eyeball image in Lucio Fulci’s brilliant Zombie Flesh Eaters seared into my mind for years, as did the zombie-versus-shark sequence (for a different reason).
Day 04: A movie that kills off countless main characters.
Slashers never end, until none or one is left standing. But those will be obvious choices. Instead, I pick my favourite George A. Romero film of all time, Dawn Of The Dead (though many characters did start off dead).
Day 05: Excellent use of sound effects.
Sound plays an important role in the surreal dream sequences of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Not forgetting, the screech of Freddy Krueger’s claws against metal will haunt your nights.
Day 06: Doesn’t seem to scare other people as much as it scares you.
The Last House On The Left‘s exceeding brutality is hard to watch. Its realism is perturbing, making it one of the most harrowing horror movies ever made and remade.
Day 07: An incredibly twisted movie.
Japanese horror jumps to mind. From Ichi The Killer to Tomie, J-horror never fails to make an impression with bizarre, unbounded themes. The violence is brutal while false snuff films are more often than not, realistic. Guinea Pig 2: Flowers Of Flesh And Blood is one such striking film, as is the rest of the series for that matter.
Day 08: A terrifying inanimate object.
I’m going with Hellraiser‘s puzzle box. The movie speaks for itself.
Day 09: A movie that you like to show people.
While We Need To Talk About Kevin isn’t strictly a horror film, the psychological drama radiates genuine terror. Fear is portrayed not just through the adept acting, but the striking symbolism through carefully-designed sets and chosen colours. Each repeated viewing comes with new discovery, a sure sign of a remarkable character study.
Day 10: A great sequel.
The depraved Firefly family returns in The Devil’s Rejects. This sequel possesses a darker story that proves more intense and developed than its predecessor. The ending could not be more effective and dare I say, even poignant.
Day 11: Wonderful use of lighting.
Dario Argento’s Suspiria is lit unnaturally bright and vivid. The surreal, terrifying atmosphere accomplishes this lasting otherworldly nightmare, bringing out unmatched beauty in horror.
Day 12: Plot you would least like to end up in.
I wouldn’t want to end up in a M. Night Shyamaladingdong plot, because nothing will make sense. I would never ever want to wake up in Cube either, since I’m really bad at math.
Day 13: A formidable antagonist.
Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter deserves every mention. But he never quite overshadows Ralph Fiennes, who plays the equally formidable and chilling Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon. We certainly owe him awe.
Day 14: An egregious misuse of the “based on true events” claim.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and – call me a disbeliever – every exorcism movie ever.
Day 15: A painfully suspenseful movie.
The Serpent and the Rainbow enters the odd, eerie and very foreign world of voodoo. Tortured in the most nasty way imaginable and buried alive in a coffin, the plot develops in unpredictable ways. This certainly qualifies as more than suspenseful.
Day 16: A frightening dream sequence/hallucination.
In Rosemary’s Baby, a mother lives a demonic nightmare that blurs the line between reality and dream. If she carries the child of a demon is unknown, as she finds herself descending into madness.
Day 17: A bad ass post/pre-kill one-liner.
“Groovy.” – Ash, Evil Dead. I mean, come on.
Day 18: A movie with unsettling scenery.
Stanley Kubrick takes this. His constant daring use of an almost-too-perfect symmetry in the endless hallways of The Shining instills chilling terror. The odd shot design presents a lingering and unsettling atmosphere. While I was looking for pictures, I came across this wonderful video of Kubrick’s one-point perspective shots here.
Day 19: A horror movie that gives you nightmares.
A scene that haunted my childhood years was the dozen of arms reaching through the wall, clutching Sarah in Day of The Dead. The nightmare was as creepy to me as it was to her.
Day 20: A great remake.
It’s funny how The Thing can be the answer to both a great and a bad remake. The great remake is of course John Carpenter’s The Thing. The exciting classic brilliantly overshadows the original The Thing from Another World. I sometimes forget that it is a remake at all. Though marketed as a prequel, the 2011 movie with the same name seems more like an uninspired rehash to me.
Day 21: A horror movie that only makes you laugh.
There is no telling if Deep Freeze is a parody or a spin-off of the above movie. But it is so bad that it is sort of good.
Day 22: A frightening child actor.
I love Jodelle Ferland in Tideland, but it is really her excellent performance in Silent Hill that makes her one of my favourite actresses of all time. Her dual role as the innocent child and her darker self is pertinent to the moody atmosphere of this great video game adaptation.
Day 23: Graphics that pull you out of the movie.
When the furious goat bleats “whore” in Drag Me To Hell, I cannot help but erupt with laughter. Though to be fair it is more of a comedy horror, and a brilliant one at that.
Day 24: An effective jump scare.
Thai horror Shutter genuinely makes my skin crawl. Its jump scares are made even more effective by the red-lit darkroom and the perfect use of sound. Perhaps the most effective jump scare is, without spoiling anything, at its very end.
Day 25: Excellent use of soundtrack.
Repo! The Genetic Opera. Come to think about it, musicals may not count. But I want to plug this movie anyway, because it’s ingenious.
Day 26: An aggravatingly incompetent protagonist.
I’m spoilt for choice. How many times could someone have walked out the door, but chose to explore strange noises, cry out ‘hello’, and stroll their way into the homes of notorious killers? Piranha 3D and its sequel qualify as a grand pool of incompetence, right?
Day 27: A terrifying creature.
In The Fly, the gradual transformation from man to Brundlefly is terrifyingly gruesome. And David Cronenberg’s mind must be an odd place to live in, I would imagine.
Day 28: A horror movie that is hard to watch.
Slice, contort, heal, repeat – the notion of Hell’s torments is a terrifying prospect. The graphic portrayal of such Jigoku feels like a bizarre dream state that can sometimes be hard to watch.
Day 29: A great horror movie with a terrible cast.
The intriguing concept and build-up of suspense in Cronenberg’s Scanners were impressive, while the exploding heads undoubtedly made an impression. But the atrocious, sometimes hilarious acting by Stephen Lack is an utter letdown.
Day 30: Your favorite final scene, scare, or image.
Balkan’s attempt to open the nine gates ends in him dousing himself with gasoline in the finale of The Ninth Gate. But of course there are so many more excellent final scenes. Oh, we have such sights to show you…