Filmsmiths Essentials, Spooky Scary!

Well it’s here, everyone’s favorite time of BOO! …did I scare you? I did, admit it. Anyway, it’s spooky time here at Filmsmiths HQ and boy are we excited. We’ve already stuffed our Snickers with razor blades and Nick & Zach have their Sexy Siskel & Ebert costumes ready to go, but Halloween is still almost two weeks away! I guess we’ll have to pass the time with some great Halloween film classics. Here are some of our favorite spooky flicks, all of which are available on Netflix streaming for your spooky viewing pleasure (have I used the word ‘spooky’ enough yet? It’s Halloween, get it?):

 

Raw (2016) – Patty Williamson

Raw

Nothing says Halloween like sibling rivalry mixed with a little cannibalism.

Ghosts, goblins, haunted houses? Meh. That’s all standard Halloween fare. My pick for a film to help
you celebrate the dark holiday is a 2016 French/Belgian film titled Raw. Now, be warned, the film is
subtitled, so you’ll need to be able to pay a little extra attention to the film. But you’ll soon forget the
subtitles, as the story will leave you totally engrossed. Warning number two, the film is not for the faint
of heart.

The film opens as innocent vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) grabs a quick dinner with her parents
on her way to college. Her mother overreacts to an errant meatball found in her daughter’s pasta dish,
and we instantly suspect our protagonist Justine has been overly-sheltered by her helicopter parents.
How will this intelligent, quiet girl deal with the stresses of veterinary school? As the film progresses, the
answer becomes apparent. Not well. Justine breaks out in hives and seems on the verge of a nervous
breakdown for much of the film. What’s more surprising is her coping mechanism; our heroine develops
a taste for raw meat. And as the film progresses, human flesh.

To say more would give away too much of the twists and turns of the plot. Garrance Marillier delivers a
stunning performance as Justine. She is able to convey the main character’s desperation and confusion
and quickly switches from innocent to evil so effortlessly, it’s hard to figure out whether you should
empathize with her or not. Ella Rumpf plays Justine’s sister Alexia, who is a year or two ahead of her
sister at vet school. Rabah Nait Oufella puts in a solid performance as Justine’s gay roommate, who
becomes the subject of a rather fierce sibling rivalry between the two sisters.

When it’s all said and done, Raw, directed by Julia Ducournau, is a well-paced, suspenseful and
somewhat disturbing coming-of- age tale. Beyond the cannibalism is a smart portrayal of dysfunctional
family dynamics, and the dark side of college culture. Justine withstands relentless hazing, professors
that hope for her to fail, all the while navigating her blossoming sexuality. Raw sets a new standard for
horror/suspense and is sure to be just what you crave to satisfy your Halloween viewing.

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Eliza McGowan-Stinski

Nightmare

I don’t even know where to begin… I just get so giddy thinking about this film. The Nightmare Before Christmas was created by the one and only Tim Burton, scored by Danny Elfman, and directed by Henry Selik. It’s a stop-motion animated musical feature film about Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, and his attempts to bring Christmas back to his home after an accidental visit to Christmas Town. It’s so cute and creative and quirky, and I may be speaking from nostalgia, but if you don’t also love it, your opinion is wrong and your childhood was sad and boring. But don’t worry; it’s never too late to start your annual tradition of watching one of Tim Burton’s most well known works of art.

The animation is really quite impressive, the characters and production design is all so marvelous and original, and the voice talent (led by Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, and Catherine O’Hara) is super fun! And of course, the music is – kisses fingertips like an American person mocking the stereotype of an Italian person reveling in the perfection of a plate of totally-American-Italian-spaghetti – so great. It’s beautiful, charming, mysterious, creepy, fun, quirky, and JUST SO GREAT. The Nightmare Before Christmas was released in 1993, but the character of Jack Skellington is still in the trying-not-to-be-mainstream-pop-culture, so if you’re looking for any costume ideas… you’re welcome. But seriously, this is a wonderful film for people of all ages, and the perfect whacky story to get you in the “This is Halloween!” mood.

 

It Follows (2015) – Nick Potter

I can’t remember the last time that a horror film ever made me feel quite the way that I did in the movie theater in late March of 2015. I’ve gotten that feeling from other films, but hardly ever by a horror film. I was dumbfounded, left awestruck and speechless in my seat through the end of the credits. While I tried to talk about the film afterwards, I wasn’t finding the room for anything that felt up to par of what I had just witnessed.

It Follows is one of my all-time favorite horror films already. The only two that I rank higher (on a very informal list) are Alien and The Thing, which is saying something. Just about every single aspect of this film works for me. Let’s start with the concept: a monster that is sexually-transmitted. On that bit alone, it’s a fascinating exercise of a film. I’ve argued for a while that isn’t scary seeing something happen, but that the true fear comes in the anticipation. The growing dread of waiting for something bad to happen is what is most effective in a horror film. It Follows gives you a few minutes at the top to breathe, but things do not slow down once they kick off. What better way to improve tension than with a monster that exclusively walks in a straight line toward you? Add in that it has the ability to change it’s form means it could look like literally any person at any time. THAT is what fear is.

David Robert Mitchell’s direction is precise, and he has a masterful grip on the tension throughout. The breakthrough performance from young Maika Monroe anchors the film in a wide-eyed terror. Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis creates a gorgeous and hypnotizing vision of Detroit while also avoiding playing it up for nothing but ruins, which is appreciated by the Michigan audience (that would be all of us). The true star here is most likely the electronic score from Disasterpeace, which feels like it would fit in perfectly with much of John Carpenter’s oeuvre, and is still endlessly playable.

Jumpscares and loud noises aren’t how horror is made; it’s all in the slow dripping dread and tension that It Follows does better than most films. That makes it one of the best horror films of the 21st century by far, and a perfect Halloween viewing.

 

The Babadook (2014) – Dylan Clauson

The Babadook

Jennifer Kent’s 2014 horror flick follows Amelia (Essie Davis), the single mother of the emotionally disturbed Samuel (Noah Wiseman). After her husband’s death, Amelia struggles to cope with Samuel’s emotional problems on her own. One day, she finds a strange book in the house and sits down to read Samuel the story of the Babadook, a poorly-drawn monster that lives in the shadows. Amelia’s unease with the book worsens as Samuel becomes obsessed with the Babadook, turning into horror after she burns the book only to find it restored to her shelf in pristine condition. The dark specter terrorizes the mother and son, testing the boundaries of their relationship.

I chose this movie for one simple reason: it is the first horror movie in years, maybe ever, that evoked an emotional response from me. I wasn’t frightened or nervous after watching The Babadook, I was uneasy. The credits rolled and I suddenly felt uncomfortable in my own home, on my own couch, as if something was just…off. I had to stay up extra late to watch a few episodes of Parks & Rec as a palate cleanser before bed. Can you really ask for anything more from a horror movie? Combine this with Davis’ performance and some haunting cinematography and music, and you have an absolute must-watch.

 

With Halloween quickly approaching, be sure to take some time and catch up with these great films, all of which are available on Netflix streaming. What are your favorite movies to watch for Halloween? Let us know in comments below.

Dylan Clauson

A good, good beard boy that studied broadcasting and film at Central Michigan University, where I learned how to pretend that I know what I'm talking about.

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