It’s Halloween soon, so to get you in the spirit I’m taking a look some seasonal treats that should fit the bill. As the weather draws in and the days get shorter, head down to your local cinema and catch a ghoulish treat, or stay wrapped up indoors with a home entertainment release to mark All Hallows Eve in style.
VENOM (out now)
One of Spider-Man’s greatest foes heads to the big screen for his first solo movie. With Tom Hardy at the helm and a whole world of expectation heaped on its shoulders, it’s sad to see Venom turn out so disappointing. The story follows disgraced journalist Eddie Brock (Hardy) as he investigates the inner workings of the LIFE Company, fronted by the mysterious Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). He’s captured a mysterious alien goo that attaches to its host and feeds off them. When one of the ‘symbiotes’ attaches itself to Eddie, he transforms into the monstrous Venom. A wasted supporting cast, poor CGI and a lack of characterisation makes this a huge missed opportunity.
THE NUN (out now)
Credit: Warner Bros
Having pulled in an absurd amount of money already, The Nun is due to get another resurgence at the UK box office this Halloween. The premise is as close to a horror ‘sure-thing’ as you can get… after the mysterious death of a Nun at a remote Romanian church, the Vatican send a priest and a young trainee nun (Demián Bichir & Taissa Farmiga) to investigate. When they get there, they soon find that a demonic force resides in the abbey and is looking to get out. Coming off the back of a successful series of films in the Conjuring universe, The Nun should have been an easy win but it’s bland, tonally off, doesn’t actually feature much of The Nun itself and most baffling of all, not very scary.
THE FOG (out Oct 31st)
John Carpenter’s seminal classic gets a 4K restoration on Halloween night, before heading to Blu-ray. Perfect for October 31st, it remains one of Carpenter’s finest works (and dare I say, has aged even better than Halloween itself). Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins and Hal Holbrook star in this terrifying tale of a sleepy costal town that is overrun by a dense fog one stormy night. But there’s something lurking within the fog, which creeps across the land on the centenary of a ship that mysteriously sank in its waters. An unmissable horror gem that still leaves shivers down your spine.
POSSUM (out now)
Credit: Bulldog Film Distribution
Perennial bad guy Sean Harris stars as Philip, a troubled children’s puppeteer who returns to his childhood home to try and lay to rest some inner demons. But they aren’t ready to die just yet, and force Philip to confront a ghastly nightmare that has plagued him for years. Alun Armstrong is creepy as hell as the mysterious Maurice who still lives in the house; and what exactly is in that bag that Philip carries around with him all day? You won’t want to know. Shot like those British 1970’s public service adverts that left a delectable mark on a generation, writer/director Matthew Holness (from cult hit Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) makes sure that this will linger long in your mind. Be warned, this isn’t a comedy.
THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS (out now)
Horror supremo Eli Roth tries his hand at his first family movie, in the macabre The House with a Clock in its Walls. It’s based on the beloved novel by John Bellairs and scripted by TV legend Eric Kripke (whose past credits include Supernatural, Timeless and Revolution). Jack Black stars as Jonathan Barnavelt, who takes in his orphaned nephew Lewis (Owen Vaccaro). Before long, Owen realises that his eccentric Uncle has special Warlock powers, which he reluctantly agrees to train him in, along with his next door neighbour Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett). Owen learns that their house has a curse on it that could spell the end of days, unless his Uncle can locate a mysterious clock that’s buried somewhere in the mansion walls. Perhaps a little too dark for younger audiences, the film does have charm and a nice visual style, in this frightfully fantastic family adventure.
HALLOWEEN (out now)
After countless sequels and lots of false starts, we get a true sequel to the original Halloween movies, with Jamie Lee Curtis once again reprising her role as Laurie Strode. After yet another inept security detail lets Michael Myers escape from his psychiatric imprisonment, the masked killer makes his way back to the old neighbourhood for some good old-fashioned slasher fun. But Laurie is ready and waiting to finally confront her nightmares and end Michael’s reign of terror for good. The film has been marketed well and whilst it won’t reinvent the wheel, it will deliver a decent horror film for fans to enjoy on October 31st. But let’s hope this really is the final chapter, and Michael can finally rest (in pieces).
THE LITTLE STRANGER (out now)
Based on the acclaimed novel by writer Sarah Waters, this effective chiller is directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Room). It’s after the War, and Doctor Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is called to the decrepit, crumbling manor of the Ayres family. Once the toast of the town, they have fallen on hard times and bad luck. Faraday’s mother used to work as a maid for the Ayers family many years ago, so he has fond memories of the house and its inhabitants. He is tasked with treating Roderick Ayres (Will Poulter) who has been badly injured at war. Whilst treating him, Faraday strikes up an attraction to Caroline Ayers (Ruth Wilson), Roderick’s sister who looks after the family, including matriarch Mrs. Ayers (Charlotte Rampling). Mysterious goings-on at the manor soon take a tragic turn as Faraday looks to understand what curse has befallen Ayers Manor. A wonderful, traditional ghost story with plenty of suspense and slow-burn tension that will keep you guessing throughout.
HOME ENTERTAINMENT TITLES
GHOST STORIES (out now)
Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s popular stage performance comes to the big screen in this effective and suitably British chiller. After receiving a mysterious summons to investigate 3 unexplained cases, Professor Goodman (Nyman) gets more than he bargained for, and unearths some scary demons from his past in the process. To tell more would give too much away, but the cast are great, including Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther, with the scares plentiful and, at times, quite brilliant. It’s just a shame that the ending doesn’t make much sense – but don’t let that put you off.
THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (out now)
If a hack and slash horror to the dulcet tones of 80s soft rock is your thing then you’ll love The Strangers: Prey at Night. The plot for this is paper thin as a family of 4 (among them Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson) head to an abandoned trailer park on route to somewhere else. They get there and discover that three crazed attackers are stalking them. The gore factor is accounted for, there’s some genuinely (and I hope intentionally) funny bits and the soundtrack is great. This won’t win any awards for originality and is probably best left to the hokey-horror fans who will laugh at it more than with it. That said, there are at least 2 great scares in it.
THE FIRST PURGE (out now)
Dubbed ‘The Experiment’ by the government, this prequel starts with a new political party called The New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), who have quickly gained support and finance from (among others) the NRA. Before long, they get elected into Office and once there, and with the help of Dr. Updale (Marisa Tomei), the NFFA pick Staten Island for a test subject. Updale is the architect of a social experiment to see if a 12 hour, penalty-free purge can reduce the crime rate. Giving citizens a free pass to commit crimes and purge their systems of any built up rage and violence, the controversial scheme is voted in despite waves of opposition. Now with a matter of hours to go before ‘The Experiment’ begins, we get introduced to some of the locals facing a tough night ahead. This is far more entertaining than expected, and look out for Y’lan Noel in a star-making leading turn as local crime lord Dmitri.
HEREDITARY (out now)
Credit: Entertainment in Video
Screen legend Toni Collette once again steals the film in this dark and disturbing horror that has some genuine moments of terror. After the death of her mysterious mother, Annie (Collette), her husband (Gabriel Byrne) and their two children begin to experience some strange occurrences as secrets of their family’s hidden past come back to haunt them. Writer/director Ari Aster has delivered a horror that frequently shocks and that has more than one effective twist to skewer your expectations. It also possesses an ending that wouldn’t be out of place in that golden era of 1970s cinematic horror.