It has become a trope of sorts to discuss the stark difference that a year can make, especially when comparing 2021 to the year that came before. For example, 76.8% of people aged 5 and older in King County, Washington are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but the vaccines weren’t even widely available around this time in 2020. I can personally cite the fact that around this time last year, I had not been in a wrestling ring for over six months, I was trying to get used to being back in the office after almost no face-to-face human contact for months, and I still wasn’t allowed to cross the border into Canada. Fast-forwarding to October 2021 – I’m fully vaxxed, I’ve been back at training for six months, I have had new responsibilities at work since August, and I’ve been going back and forth across the northern border every few weeks. Things are looking up, but they are also more difficult, which leads to the other notable difference between this year and last: my yearly horror movie binge.
Last year I went above and beyond by consuming 61 movies in 61 days throughout September and October. Let me tell you now that I will very likely never have the time/energy to pull that off again – at least not for the foreseeable future. That said, what this year’s binge lacked in quantity, I think it made up for with quality (or at least it allowed me to check off a lot of movies that I’d had on my list for ages). I also played a little fast and loose with the rules this year. But before I dig into the specifics, let’s go over the 31 movies that made the cut this year:
- The Void
- Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales
- Fear Street Part One: 1994
- Fear Street Part Two: 1978
- Fear Street Part Three: 1666
- 30 Days of Night
- Muppet Haunted Mansion
- Spiral: From the Book of Saw
- The Purge
- The Purge: Anarchy
- Trick ‘r Treat
- Daniel Isn’t Real
- Halloween Party 1989
- The Purge: Election Year
- The First Purge
- Happy Death Day
- Happy Death Day 2U
- The Forever Purge
- Dawn of the Dead (2004)
- The VelociPastor
- Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin
- Grave Encounters
- Grave Encounters 2
Right up top, let me address the fact that there are a few items on this list that could arguably be considered NOT movies. Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales, Muppet Haunted Mansion, Halloween Party 1989, and The VelociPastor are all fairly short in length (around 45 minutes for most of that list, with 1989 clocking in at under 30) but I wanted to watch them, they were all VERY FUN, and it’s my gimmick so I’ll watch what I want. VelociPastor, in particular, was way better than I expected and Halloween Party was an adorably fun romp of a bunch of high schoolers making a slasher flick – seriously, it’s on YouTube. Go watch it.
With that distraction out of the way, I’m just gonna run through the list and note anything remarkable thoughts or feelings I have regarding certain titles. The Void and Daniel Isn’t Real are two different takes on cosmic horror, both of which were enjoyable but I liked the latter a bit more. I’ve been meaning to watch Daniel for a while, due to the lovable presence of Patty Schwartz (PARTY TIME) and he did not disappoint.
There are a few horror/comedies on this list too, including Freaky and the Happy Death Day movies, and they’re all great. Happy Death Day 2U leans more into SciFi territory than horror, but the original is definitely horror so I’ll say it’s grandfathered in. Freaky is way better than it had any right to be and I’d highly recommend it.
My relationship with Malignant is…complicated. I can’t get too in-depth into it without entering some wild spoiler territory, but I’ll tell you that I went from being intrigued to laughing at it to being disappointed by it and finally appreciating it for what it was. All that said, I think it’s definitely worth the watch just to experience the wild ride. It’s also set in Seattle, so a local reference for your boy.
I had friends trying to get me to watch the Fear Street movies since the first one came out, but I’m glad that I waited to watch them all at once because the first one didn’t quite grab me as much as the other two did. I never read the books so I knew nothing going in, other than what the trailers showed. I really enjoyed the unique storytelling device of each movie revealing what happened in the past. Though I could see the twists coming a mile away, that didn’t make them any less fun.
Speaking of obvious twists, there are also a couple of long-awaited sequels to well-established horror franchises on this list that…were not what I hoped for. I won’t go too much further into what happens in Spiral: From the Book of Saw and Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, in case you want to check them out for yourself. I think neither of them is terrible. That said, if you’re looking for a pretty decent found footage horror movie like the original Paranormal Activity series – I’d highly recommend the Grave Encounters movies. They scratch that itch much better than Next of Kin does and are super meta, including a fun critique of ghost hunting shows and horror movies. They were also filmed in the infamous Riverview Hospital near Vancouver, BC, so another local shoutout.
I learned after reading the 30 Days of Night comic for Comic Relief that it actually came first, not the movie. So I figured it only made sense to watch the movie based on the comic, and I was not disappointed. Both are neat little vampire stories based on a very simple concept. Check out the comic discussion to read my overall thoughts on the comic. (Cheap plug!)
The Purge movies could be a whole blog unto themselves. Earlier this year, after the prevalence of social justice protests and the political violence that came in response (see the recent Rittenhouse trial verdict), I was very wary of this franchise because it seemed to me (in the advertising at least), that they kinda glorified far-right violence. I posed the question to Twitter and received a few answers that noted that The Purge presents more of a critique of violence and politics in America, and I can see that after watching them. They’re not great movies – (especially the middle sequels) – but the original, the first sequel, and the most recent one (The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy, and The Forever Purge, respectively) held my interest while delivering a powerful, if not eerily realistic message. Trigger warning for those who may be sensitive to that kind of violence, especially in light of recent events. Also, I kinda think only the first one is actually a horror movie. The rest are just action/survival.
We’re running up the word count, so I’ll do a speed round of the flicks that don’t really fit into a category before we get to the main events. Parents is a weird, obscure cannibal story that was quite the trip. Seance was a random Shudder find that conjured up Scream vibes. Shakma was a movie I’ve been meaning to watch for a bit, inspired purely by a favorite podcast of mine, We Enjoy…, which always signs off with a line from the Shakma trailer: “SHAKMA!” Much to my surprise, that line never appears in the actual movie, which is about a killer monkey slaughtering medical students as they play a live-action role-playing game. Needless to say, it’s totally worth the watch. Possum is a psychological thriller about a man and his puppet with some very haunting imagery, especially for arachnophobes. This was my first time watching the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead and what can I say? It clearly set the standard for a lot of zombie movies that would come after it. It’s a classic. Misery was a leftover from my last horror marathon when I was trying to watch as many Stephen King flicks as possible, and a really good way to satisfy my craving for a cozy horror movie.
Finally, let’s wrap things up with my two favorites from this year: Trick ‘r Treat and V/H/S/94. These two are stellar and oddly enough, they both use anthology storytelling. I know V/H/S/94 is part of a larger series, none of which I’ve seen, but they are at the top of my list for next year. I loved the different vibes each story gave off. One moment I was laughing, then I was scared, then it felt like I was playing a video game. They were just all so good and so different. And it’s all shot in found-footage! I’m late to the party on Trick ‘r Treat but it’s been on my list for ages and I’m so glad I finally got around to it. It also has so much variety – good humor, actual scary bits, etc. I could see it being a yearly tradition.
That’s it! Have you watched any of these movies? Do you have any thoughts about them that I didn’t cover? Do you have any suggestions for my next marathon? Let me know!
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2 thoughts on “31 Days of Nightmares”
There are four Purge movies? I watched one of them with my son and while the story was good it displayed a world gone mad in a disturbing way as it related to mass manipulation.
I’m one of those people who watch a horror, suspense, or thriller movie and get pissed off at the actors making dumb decisions. Then again imagine how long a movie would be if the main players turned around and decided to stay home because it is safer. Duration of under 5 minutes.
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There are actually five movies at this point, plus a two-season series (which I will likely never watch). I also enjoy watching the main characters in horror movies make bad decisions, but with all the content in 2021, I honestly wouldn’t be sad about an anti-climactic five-minute horror flick.