Spooktober 2017: The Return

By Ezra Stead 

As always, I am not finished almost exclusively watching horror movies for the year, nor will I be once Halloween night has come and gone; this will likely continue throughout November. However, in the interest of providing this list with some sort of seasonal relevance, now is the time to tell you about a handful of the movies I’ve watched so far in this, the best of all possible seasons. As it happens, this year I ended up watching a high percentage of iconic franchise entries, so, forsaking some other great ones I discovered that don’t fit into this category (Pretty Poison and The Blackcoat’s Daughter in particular are a couple of real gems), let’s take a look at some noteworthy sequels, in the order in which I viewed them.

CULT OF CHUCKY—I don’t think any horror franchise in movie history has reinvented itself so drastically as this one. The success of the original Child’s Play (1988) led to two more of the same, basically, before series mastermind Don Mancini took it into full meta-comedy mode with Bride of Chucky in 1998, following that up with the unfairly maligned Seed of Chucky in 2004. Curse of Chucky came along in 2013 to bring the series back to real horror, with fewer nudges and winks, and with this latest entry, Mancini has struck the perfect balance, and made the best Chucky movie since Bride, at least. It’s rare for the seventh entry in a franchise to be this good.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2—speaking of franchise reinvention, this 12-years-later sequel to one of the most unassailable classics of the genre is an interesting case of “the more things change…” From its opening scene to its Breakfast Club-parodying poster art, all indications are that this one is playing the mayhem for laughs, much as franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street and the aforementioned Chucky would do in their later entries. However, it’s really just not very funny; it’s more like the kind of thing the insane, self-mutilating hitchhiker from the first film would find funny. Most of this supposed comic relief comes from Bill Moseley as Leatherface’s brother, “Chop-Top,” but, again, it’s more grotesque and grating than actually funny. The onscreen gore is ramped up considerably from the first entry (some of Tom Savini’s best work, which is saying a lot), but the presumably higher budget actually hurts the overall scare quotient, since a lot of the original film’s impact came from its almost documentary-style realism, especially in that legendary first appearance of Leatherface. All in all, this one is a big step down, but still an interesting oddity in its own right.

PSYCHO II—this is the only one of the five on this list I had seen before, albeit so long ago I only really remembered two particularly gory moments. I’m pleased to report it holds up extremely well and is, in fact, my favorite one on this list. Though it was released over 20 years after the original, director Richard Franklin and screenwriter Tom Holland (director and co-writer of the original Child’s Play, among others) fully embrace the pulp sensibility Hitchcock intended with a wonderfully trashy story of revenge and mental instability unencumbered by the original’s unwanted respectability (and featuring a young Dennis Franz in the part he was born to play: sleaze personified). This is truly a movie meant “to make people scream and yell,” just as the Master always wanted.

SAW VI—I often affectionately refer to horror as “my disreputable genre” (as in the phrase—to be uttered in a slightly defensive tone—“I love my disreputable genre”), and nothing is more disreputable than the Saw franchise. Well, maybe not nothing; I’m pretty sure even Saw fans mock devotees of the Human Centipede movies. Whatever, I’ve seen all three of those, and now I’m only two movies away from finishing the Saw series (or at least catching up, for now). In both cases, one is enough for most mentally healthy people, but while I watched the second and third Human Centipede with far more morbid curiosity and mild shame, I have to admit I genuinely enjoy the Saw movies. They really tap into a dark, vindictive part of human nature, something possessed in greater quantities by some of us than others. The farther along you get in the series, the less plausible the plotting becomes, but even the lesser movies (i.e. the ones after the first three) deliver exactly what you’ve come to see. You sick bastard.

HELLRAISER: INFERNO—as a huge fan of crazy-ass monsters, I’ve always held the Hellraiser franchise in high regard, and of course I also love Clive Barker’s Nightbreed for the exact same reason, so what a delight it was to see Nightbreed star Craig Sheffer in this one, not to mention the always great James Remar. I can’t properly evaluate this one’s place in the entire series because that series is massive and I’m barely halfway through it, but I would probably personally rank this one second only to the original. Now it remains to be seen if the sixth one can top it.

Happy Halloween!

Ezra Stead is the Head Editor for MoviesIDidn’tGet.com. Ezra is also a screenwriter, actor, filmmaker, rapper, and occasional stand-up comic who has been previously published in print and online, as well as writing, directing and acting in numerous short films and two features. A Minneapolis native, Ezra currently lives in New York City, where he is working on his first novel.

For more information, please contact EzraStead@MoviesIDidntGet.com

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