Shocktober: Week Three (And Four?)

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patrickklepek

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Edited By patrickklepek

I didn't agree to participate in Iron Galaxy's 24-hour stream for Extra Life until the last second, so my Shocktober reaction pieces have been thrown entirely off course in the last few weeks. It also feels good to blame everything on Dave Lang. It feels...right. The natural order of things. (Did you watch him play P.T.?)

A teaser for my Halloween costume, smokin' Jay Cutler.
A teaser for my Halloween costume, smokin' Jay Cutler.

In any case, I've still been watching some films, albeit at a slower pace than earlier in the month, both fueled by interruptions and my wife being out of town for part of October. Since we watch horror movies together, if she's not around, I'm forced to…I dunno, watch documentaries? Real movies? Jeez.

Since I'll probably watch a few more movies after the Shocktober deadline has come and gone, we'll probably do one more Shocktober post next week with some thoughts on the month's lineup, what we might change next year, and list off the movies that I wasn't able to get to.

Thanks for tuning in and sharing, y'all. I'm very sad this is almost over!

Kill List (2011) by Ben Wheatley

Five minutes into this one, my spidey senses were tingling. That tingling was my wife shoving her elbow into my stomach and remarking "We've seen this before. Remember it had the really fucked up ending with [blank] [blank] and [blank] when [blank] does [blank]?" Then, your brain does the really weird thing where it all comes rushing back. Yep, we'd seen this before. Oops! Still, it's recommended. Great movie.

The Loved Ones (2009) by Sean Bryne

Even though I'd announced Shocktober 2014 would be free of torture porn movies, one managed to sneak itself onto the list. Sorry about that. I'm not explicitly opposed to torture porn movies, but I've found the subgenre hardly has anything to say beyond grossing the hell out of you. Plus, so many torture porn films get hung up on sexually exploiting women to freak you out, when the reverse never, ever happens.

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In that sense, The Loved Ones flips expectations. The monster at the center of everything is a woman, one who has never been able to find the affection she's looking for. It might have something to do with killing every man she's fallen for, but who am I to tell her what's best?

Torture porn movies tend to be about one thing: making the audience deeply uncomfortable by putting the victim through a harrowing series of attacks, all while hoping they're given a chance to fight back. Torture porn and revenge fantasies can be separate subgenres, but it's common for them to mix. Few films are truly hopeless, and torture porn operates under the idea that both the viewer and on-screen victim are surviving current events, knowing it will change.

The Loved Ones tries to give the audience a reason to breath easier by making you laugh. The Loved Ones is not Dead Snow 2 or Grabbers, leading to a confusing and inconsistent tone. One second, it's making light of the violence. The next, we're watching a slow, lingering shot of a nail being driven through a foot. It's possible to mingle tones to keep an audience surprised, but The Loved Ones doesn't pull it off. You're left wondering what kind of movie they wanted to make. There are two of them in there.

Also, this is yet another horror movie that senselessly kills a dog to make you pissed off. Argh.

Atrocious (2011) by Fernando Barreda Luna

There's something interesting about watching a foreign language film, horror or not. Besides exposure to different cultural interpretations of fear, my inability to parse the nuance of the language being spoken means the acting can be subpar, and I don't really notice. Given how poor acting tends to be in found footage films, getting a leg up in this regard is nice. Maybe the acting in Atrocious is fine? Who knows!

The Quintanilla family has decided to spend quality vacation time at an old summer home. The brother and sister we spent the most time with during Atrocious are co-hosts of a YouTube channel that investigates local horror myths, giving the narrative decent justification for cameras on all the time (though not a particularly good justification for why the cameras are so expensive looking and professional?). The duo quickly learns of a local story involving Melinda, a girl who went missing but now haunts the woods. You're not supposed to be in the woods at night (obviously), as she might find you. And you never look at her.

Not much happens in Atrocious for a while. It's how found footage films works best, as the anxiety comes from waiting for the tipping point. You know it's all about to fall apart when the family dog is found dead at the bottom of a well. (Once again, can we effin' stop it with the blatant emotional manipulation via animals?)

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Lots of horror films, especially found footage ones, work in cycles. Nothing happens during the day, and everything goes wrong at night. Though nothing happens at night in Atrocious for a while, when it flips the switch, it never stops. I can't remember if Atrocious maintains a singular first-person camera shot for its entire ending sequence, but it's pretty close. Essentially, the closing 30 minutes are completely viewed through the brother's lense, as he whips around a confusing maze hiding something stalking him.

It's utterly unbearable, as Atrocious refuses to provide the viewer with any moment of relief. The camera whips back and forth over and over, but nothing's revealed. A common trick is to have the camera whip to the right, then quickly whip to the left and reveal a jump scare. That basically never happens in Atrocious, forcing the viewer to endlessly grip their couch. See, when the jump scare happens, it means you'll probably have a minute or two to calm down, as scares are scattered. Atrocious, however, says "no."

Escape From Tomorrow (2013) by Randy Moore

Escape From Tomorrow is not a good movie, but it's gutsy as hell. The acting is poor and the story is batshit insane, but Escape From Tomorrow's sheer existence is reason to check it out.

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Jim White's family has decided, like many others do every year, to spend a few days at Disney World, staying overnight at one of the park's many resorts. Towards the end of the trip, he receives a call from his boss. Jim's lost his job, and this triggers a series of seemingly psychotic episodes out of his control. To the viewer, it means Disney World becomes a living nightmare.

If you're not aware, the vast majority of Escape From Tomorrow was shot, guerilla-style, inside Disney World. We're not just talking people walking around Disney World, we're talking lengthy sequences within the rides themselves. Disney didn't sign off on the film, and they probably would have every legal right to stop this movie from being distributed. It didn't.

The ballsy nature of the film's setting (and how it was shot) makes Escape From Tomorrow required viewing, and it's not until about halfway through when the magic begins to wear off and it becomes apparent the script is a mess. Escape From Tomorrow wants to tell a story about consumerism and the pretty lies places like Disney tell about life (read: nothing ever goes wrong, and everyone's happy!), but it never sticks the landing. The message is muddled by overlapping storylines that never work out.

Still, watching It's A Small World become something out of a Puppet Master film? Totally worth it.

The Borderlands (2013) by Elliot Goldner

Watching The Borderlands, I realized there might be too many found footage films in the lineup this year. Though we're on the backend of the craze, there's still lots being made, even if very few of them actually benefit from people holding the cameras. Still, like the best of them, The Borderlands concocts a decent excuse for it, as we follow a group of skeptics in the Catholic church investigating proof of miracles.

If you've seen one found footage film, you've seen 'em all. Lots of them rely on the same tricks, and while the tricks remain marginally effective, they lose impact as each new movie deploys them the same way. In that respect, The Borderlands isn't anything new, and it means being patient for a good while.

BUT.

The Borderlands is probably worth watching for the ending alone. It's ridiculous. I'm not sure what happened, but it's certainly...different...than any horror ending I've seen in a long time. The implications are pretty wild, and while the plausibility is fairly out there, it left me wide-eyed.

Exists (2014) by Eduardo Sanchez

The quality of horror films is such a crapshoot, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to have high expectations for the co-director of The Blair Witch Project's return to the genre he helped define. The Blair Witch Project might be my favorite horror film of all-time. I've told the story before, but it caused me to spend an entire summer staying up until dawn, using the sun peering over the horizon as an excuse to sleep.

It's impossible to expect Eduardo Sanchez to capture lightning in a bottle a second time, but Exists commits a series of storytelling sins, making Exists Shocktober's biggest disappointment.

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A group of kids head to an uncle's hunting house in the middle of the woods, a place historically known for Bigfoot sightings. The names of the characters don't matter, since the movie doesn't spend any time developing them. Exists is, above all else, about showing off the not-that-impressive Bigfoot costume they have. Hell, in the first few minutes, the movie shows us the damn creature. The reason The Blair Witch Project or any monster movie works is because it teases out the reveal. The moment a monster enters reality, it's far less scary, but Exists provides what amounts to nearly a full body image of Bigfoot as soon as things begin.

I wasn't sure what to make of this decision. It could have been a genius sleight of hand, bucking narrative expectations. That's not the case. Exists wants to show you that Bigfoot is hanging around at every available opportunity. We see him during the day. He stalks the kids at night. There's absolutely no mystery to his presence in Exists, making it impossible to figure out how he's managed to stay hidden from cameras all these years. In Exists, Bigfoot is a camera hog.

And while it's expected characters in horror movies will make stupid decisions to move the plot along, one of Exist's pieces of cannon fodder does something so inexplicably stupid halfway through I started yelling at the TV. Boneheaded decisions are one thing, boneheaded decisions without emotional merit are frustrating. It's just a way to put the characters in danger yet again.

Nothing works here. Comedian "Bobcat" Goldthwait recently directed another found footage horror film about Bigfoot, Willow Creek, and it's way more effective. Skip Exists and hangout with Goldthwait.

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deactivated-599a406a582b6

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Hard to believe Shocktober's over already. At least it was a pretty darn enjoyable one. (Not that it ever isn't enjoyable.)

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cyberfunk

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KILL LIST KILL LIST KILL LIST

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hassun

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#4  Edited By hassun

A lot of disappointments it seems.

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MildMolasses

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#5  Edited By MildMolasses

I watched the Kill List (I believe based on an earlier Shocktober list) and I disagree with a recommendation. I think that movie is nonsense, start to finish, and by the time they get to the ending, which I had previously seen used in a film from Serbia, I just wanted it to be over.

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cooljammer00

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I wanna hear more about the Death Spa!

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DinkeyDoo

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I remember seeing the trailer for Escape From Tomorrow and thinking it looked very strange and creepy. Then I watched the whole movie. It is pretty bad. Horrible acting, and I was creeped out by how the Dad acts around the two girls in the park.

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davidmerrick

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It's too bad that Exists is such a disappointment, because Sanchez's earlier movie, Lovely Molly, is hands down one of the best horror movies I've ever seen, a worthy successor to Blair Witch, and among the scariest things ever.

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THE_RUCKUS

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horror continues to be like gambling las Vegas casino probably going to be disappointed at least 9 out of ten

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emfromthesea

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@patrickklepek Have you ever seen the film Hard Candy? (the one starring Ellen Page) It's another flip on the standard tropes of the torture porn genre.

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nonekjr

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Haven't seen a horror movie since the 15th. Kinda burned out early on. But I've started watching the new season of American Horror Story, played Neverending Nightmares and yesterday I picked up Costume Quest 2. So there's that.

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jstaunton

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#12  Edited By jstaunton

Escape from Tomorrow is a disaster of a film. Just bad from start to finish. The Borderlands' ending is - for me - its worst part. Just a mindless jump from what was a fairly scary film to ludicrous horror genre nonsense.

Kill List remains one of the most overrated and bizarrely-liked films I've ever seen. Pretentious and with an ending that tries to be clever, but fails.

The Loved Ones I didn't like either, but I can't remember why.

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Tortoise

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Aww, I thought The Loved Ones was pretty good. It had interesting production design and music. Not fitting into a very narrow genre pigeon hole is surely a good thing.

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cornfed40

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I couldnt have been more disappointed by The Borderlands. 45 minutes in, still not even one shot of Claptrap. I couldnt watch it anymore

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Winternet

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I didn't mind the almost irrelevant storyline in Escape From Tomorrow and I enjoyed the very "unacting" acting of it all. The multiple "chase the french girls" sections were a great example of the "story" level and the amateurism quality of the acting.

3 out of 5

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DeepSpace9MM

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I thought Exists had a few good moments, but, yeah, overall it's kind of a disappointment. Where Blair Witch stuck with building an atmosphere throughout the film, mostly because of the budget I would gander, Exists kind of degenerates into a typical found footage movie with way too many jump scares towards the end. Some of the camera work is at least interesting though. I still need to see Willow Creek but so far everyone has told me it's borderline unwatchable, so we'll see. Maybe next Shocktober.

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paulunga

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I'm not sure wether it's saying something about you or me, but I don't really care all that much about a dog dying in a movie. At least not any more than a human being. I don't think it's supposed to be emotional manipulation the way you seem to think of it every time it happens, either. I mean, the dog scene in The Thing was fucking terrifying and awesome, but I didn't think to myself "aw, the poor puppies :(".

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Napstar

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The Loved Ones is a great film. It's not your average schloky horror movie but a great look into the lives of broken people. The moments of dark humor aren't there for the audience's amusement, instead they give us a look into the distured psyche of the torturers, think the craziness/goofiness of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family but better.

Definitely watch it, going in knowing as little as possible.

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ShaggE

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I really liked The Loved Ones. It's rare for a torture porn movie to be "fun" like that one was.

11 months until the next Shocktober! :D I think I'll celebrate with 11 months of horror movies.

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originalgamer

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I loved Exists, although it's almost the polar opposite of Willow Creek. Willow has an effective slow build and really spends time to get you involved with the two characters. Exists on the other hand is a ballsy action-horror thrill ride. It knowingly indulges in itself and has fun with its (admittedly terrible) archetypical characters. There's some fantastic scenes in it and it has some real momentum when it gets going.

It was especially interesting seeing how different those two films turned out as I had them both in my own October list and they both had very similar base ideas.

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MrMazz

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#22  Edited By MrMazz

Man I wisehd escape from tomorrow was actually good. The idea of secretly filming at D Land is incredibly novel and than it just wasn't capitalized on and heck I like surrealist films but just something was off

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BBQBram

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I was creeped out by how the Dad acts around the two girls in the park.

That was the whole point. Mid-life panic and implications of hebephilia as the buried undercurrent of the squeaky clean morals projected by corporations like Disney.

Though I agree the move was pretty terrible aside from the gimmick. I love Disney, and while I appreciate the attempt at deconstruction, it often comes off as sophomoric and vapid. Of course a giant corporation built on family entertainment isn't in the business of exploring the dark side of humanity. It deals in escapism and nostalgia. But this film is the equivalent of a skull with Mickey Mouse ears - mighty rebellious if you're thirteen and just realizing that yes, there are other agendas at play than the common good.

It could have been great. It could have been Lolita in the Magic Kingdom.

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PoorTommy

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#24  Edited By PoorTommy

God bless you for watching these modern horror movies, but they just don't seem like my cup of tea. If only these movies were Italian-made, replete with black leather gloves, foreboding point-of-view stalker scenes, and bare chested demoniacs.

Oh, where are you, my worthwhile modern gialli?

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donedoof

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i watched the battery on Halloween and i highly recommend it, even if its no longer October. for the budget they managed quite a bit, very well shot and clever.

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SaturdayNightSpecials

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Okay this is not related to any of these movies (though it is a found-footage film) but I need to say this somewhere.

I saw Noroi: The Curse for the first time last night. It's really truly exceptional. Old news, maybe, since it came out in 2005, but on the subject of J-horror I see a lot more people mention Ringu or Ju-On than Noroi, probably because those were remade in English. I like Ringu a lot. Noroi makes Ringu look like a hobo.

You, person reading this right now: if you are capable of liking horror movies in a non-ironic way, you need to see it. And don't be drunk or have annoying friends with you. That's a great way to not enjoy a horror movie.

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happymeowmeow

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In the last two weeks I've watched:

Omnivores (2013)

The Horde (2009)

Here Comes the Devil (2012)

Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013)

Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)

Lair of the White Worm (1988)

Mine Games (2012)

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

Sightseers (2012)

Shrooms (2007)

Mr. Jones (2013)

The Monkeys Paw (2013)

Monkey Shines (1988)

Beneath (2014)

The Caller (2011)

There's four I'd recommend on this list: two of them are found footage types, The Taking of Deborah Logan and Mr. Jones. Deborah Logan is about a documentary crew filming a woman who they think has advanced Alzheimers and is surprisingly well made. Mr. Jones follows a couple who have moved to a remote cabin to film a nature documentary and they find out their neighbor is a famous reclusive artist, it's more of a mind trip kind of horror than physical and even if the very end was pretty predictable I enjoyed it.

Lair of the White Worm is a bit hard to judge because I'm not sure if some of the things that come off as campy were meant to be shocking. I'd lean towards intentionally campy with scenes like Amanda Donohoe preparing to rape a sacrifice to the great white worm with a giant white dildo. The whole movie is pretty nuts but never stops taking itself seriously which is a definite plus. Stars Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi!

The Caller is the last movie I'd recommend, mostly because of its premise (which I won't spoil, sufficed to say it has something to do with a phone) which took me by surprise, creeped me out, and made me wonder what the hell I would do to get out of the protagonists situation (as absurd as it was).

Overall a good shocktober. I got burnt out in the middle, but saw enough decent new movies that it was worth it. Everyone with Netflix instant should watch Witching and Bitching.

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Sinusoidal

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@patrickklepek Escape from tomorrow is "gusty" as hell? Interesting descriptor... ;-D

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#29  Edited By mr_creeper

Ended up watching zero scary movies this month...

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teh_destroyer

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I followed your list this year Patrick and it was a fun challenge, because I got tired of the genre around night #20, but I was to far down this rabbit hole to stop.

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SneakyPickle

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#31  Edited By SneakyPickle

no mention of where all the spookins went?

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Okay this is not related to any of these movies (though it is a found-footage film) but I need to say this somewhere.

I saw Noroi: The Curse for the first time last night. It's really truly exceptional. Old news, maybe, since it came out in 2005, but on the subject of J-horror I see a lot more people mention Ringu or Ju-On than Noroi, probably because those were remade in English. I like Ringu a lot. Noroi makes Ringu look like a hobo.

You, person reading this right now: if you are capable of liking horror movies in a non-ironic way, you need to see it. And don't be drunk or have annoying friends with you. That's a great way to not enjoy a horror movie.

pretty sure @patrickklepek had this in his list last year, I'm still unable to get a copy

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Sydlanel

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#34  Edited By Sydlanel

Really @patrickklepek? You find most torture porn is based around the sexual exploitation of women?

I don't mean to start a debate for misogyny in torture porn flicks, but I have often found that the genre often focuses on ideas of emasculation too... Or maybe it's just the ones I've seen. It even might just be Antichrist stuck in my head.

anyhow, yes.. Kill list.

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playastation

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@sydlanel: Maybe he's literally JUST talking about Hostel. I found that. But then again I haven't seen any other torture porny movies. Unless you talk about the remake of I Spit on your Grave?

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Sydlanel

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#36  Edited By Sydlanel

@playastation: Yeah, I'm not sure of what defines "torture porn" now. I do suppose Hostel tends to do that, but I've only seen the first two. I'd say that a movie like Audition definitely fits (a lot of Takashi Miike films do), but they are kind of foreign to that term. I wans't particularly speaking of that, but I suppose I spit on your grave remake could be considered that as well ( is revenge torture porn a separate genre?), that one has both sides f*ckedupness.

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Patrick, thanks so much for adding something for the horrorhounds to Giant Bomb. I was surprised to see how many movies on your list were new to me. I'm a little late to the party here, but I wanted to post some of my Shocktober notables, too.

American Mary- My favorite this year by far. Katharine Isabelle (from the very enjoyable Ginger Snaps series) is a med school dropout that finds an alternative career path in illegal body modification procedures.

Deliver Us From Evil- A very good possesion movie, inspired by the stories of an ex-cop and self-described demonologist. Also, the demon's name is The Jungler.

Escape from Tomorrow- Weird.

Afflicted- A really interesting take on the stale found footage genre, but I won't spoil the hook. Solid acting too.

All Cheerleaders Die- A fun comedy horror romp, and it's nice to see the often-abused cheerleaders (in the genre, at least) get their revenge.

Nurse 3D- Homicidal sexy nurse. Don't bother.

Would You Rather- Torture porn, so that probably excludes a lot of people, including Patrick. But Jeffrey Coombs is in excellent form as a wealthy man who throws a dinner party for a group of strangers. They all hope for a large payout at the end of the night- all they have to do is win a game.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer- This one is often seen on lists of top genre movies, so I finally gave it a shot. Interesting to see Michael Rooker (from The Walking Dead) in his cinematic debut role. Strong performances from the three leads, though extremely dated.

The Child's Play/Chucky series- It had been over 20 years since I saw the first 3, and they hold up surprisingly well- thanks in large part to Brad Dourif's balls-out voiceover of the homicidal Good Guy doll. Then the series went downhill in Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, introducing comedy by way of a doll family dynamic. There's also a remake, called Curse of Chucky, that supposedly returns to the roots of the original, but I haven't seen it yet.

Thanks again to Patrick and all the commenters that listed new movies for my queue.