Sunday, November 6, 2011

2011 October Horror Challenge (Part 7: Day 25-31)

Get caught up on the Challenge here if you missed any of the previous installments:

It is the Middle of November and I'm just now getting around to writing the final piece on the October Horror Challenge. The Challenge was going along fine until October 29th, when we got a big early-season snow storm. We lost power for two days and had a lot of limbs that came down around our property, but were very lucky to have not sustained any major damage to our house or cars. Unfortunately, two days of movie watching were missed because of Mother Nature's little pre-Halloween practical joke. I also missed an event (and a movie) that I've been looking forward to for a long time. Without further delay I now present the final chapter of the 2011 October Horror Challenge...



It took me five days, but I finally watched a Bela Lugosi movie to celebrate his birthday on October 20. I saw "Spooks Run Wild" (1941) today. While it's more of a comedy than a true horror movie, it does have Lugosi and a lot of elements of the "old dark house" genre of movies from that era. It was good for a few laughs, but overall I wasn't too impressed with the film. The most interesting (and oddest) moment was when members of The East Side Kids pulled the old prank of having someone get down on their hands and knees behind a victim while someone else pushes the victim over the first person. In this case the "victims" were Bela Lugosi himself and his diminutive cohort. I know that Bela did a lot of stuff after "Dracula"--much of which was less than stellar--but I'd have to think that he might have considered this moment to be a career lowlight.

Later in the day I watched "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948) with my Little Monsters. Since I already watched it earlier in the month with The Little Monster I didn't count this viewing toward the Challenge total. It was still a special moment though. First, I was psyched that The Little Monster (big sister) herself suggested watching it when she got home from school. Second, it was the very first time that The Tiny Creature (little sister) experienced the movie. In fact, it was one of the first "Monster Dad"-type movies she's seen with me at all--a very good way to start. And third, it's just a great movie!

My Little Monsters watching "A&C Meet Frankenstein"



I've had "Happy Hell Night" (1992) sitting in my Netflix queue for quite a while. I didn't know much about it. In fact, I had forgotten why I even added it to the queue. Well, it was simply because the movie had Darren McGavin ("Kolchak: The Night Stalker", "A Christmas Story") in it. It turns out that maybe I should have left it sitting in the queue...or deleted it from the queue all-together. It wasn't a very good movie at all. I feel pretty secure in saying that it was the worst thing I watched in the entire Challenge. Darren McGavin's part was small and not very good either. I kind of feel bad for him to have been in this wreck and wonder why he agreed to take the part at all.

Item No. 38: THE THING

Now, one might look at the Challenge and say "Hey, you already watched 'The Thing'. How can you be counting it again?" Well, on October 26th I finally got around to going to the movies and seeing the brand new version of "The Thing" (2011). It's only the second new release I saw as part of the Challenge (along with "Contagion"), and was a definite highlight of the month. A good antidote for the unfortunate experience of "Happy Hell Night" earlier in the day. This version of "The Thing" is actually a prequel rather than a remake. But it has the look and feel (as well as the title) of John Carpenter's 1982 version of "The Thing". It could have been disappointing to find that this supposed prequel was so similar to the 1982 version, but that wasn't the case. The 1982 version was a GREAT movie, so it's not a bad thing that this one emulates it so closely. I wasn't even too bothered by the CGI effects (usually something that I don't like). They really managed to capture the spirit of Carpenter's movie. And at the end there is a little epilogue that ties it in to the 1982 movie perfectly. You could easily watch this one and the 1982 version back-to-back. I'll probably try to do that once this one comes out on DVD.

One final thing that made this movie a highlight of the Challenge was that I saw it with one of my best friends. This was special because I watched the 1982 version for the first time back in 1985 with this same friend. We had just gotten our first VCR and I was experiencing all kinds of R-rated movies that I'd rent from our local video store. To top it all off, my friend's son also joined us for this late-night, mid-week showing of "The Thing". He is only a few years younger than we were when we first watched the 1982 movie, so it felt a bit like passing the torch to the next generation.


Item No. 39: SH! THE OCTOPUS

This movie was a bit of an unexpected addition to the Challenge. I heard from a friend that the Warner Brothers Shop website was making "Sh! The Octopus" (1937) available for free streaming for a limited time for a few days before Halloween. They usually sell the movie as part of the Warner Archive series. I had never even heard of the movie, but am not one to pass up something that's free! It didn't do a lot for me, but I'm always glad to see something a bit different to broaden my horizons a bit. Like "Spooks Run Wild", "Sh! The Octopus" utilizes the popular "old dark house" setting. But in this case the "old dark house" is actually a lighthouse. Also, like "Spooks Run Wild", this one was more of a comedy than a horror movie.


Continuing the trend of watching Bigfoot-related films for this challenge ("Creature from Black Lake", "The Snow Creature", "The Curse of Bigfoot", "Bigfoot Lives"...) I watched "The Werewolf and The Yeti" (1975). This film (aka "Night of the Howling Beast") is one from a long series of werewolf films starring Paul Naschy. I picked this one up on DVD-R from eBay around five or six years ago (mainly because of the yeti/Bigfoot connection), but have never watched all of it until now. It's actually my first Paul Naschy movie. I've been meaning to check some of them out--especially since he passed away a couple years ago. The plan was to watch this one and Naschy's "Fury of the Werewolf" (1972) for the Challenge too, but ran out of time. It was pretty good schlocky fun, but I kind of wish that there had been more of the yeti in the movie. The werewolf and the yeti look pretty similar. After the yeti (at least I think it's the yeti, though it could have been the werewolf) attacks some people before the opening credits we don't see the creature again until the end of the film.


Item No. 41: THE FLY

Yes, I've already watched "The Fly" this month. But that was the 1958 original. After seeing the whole 1958-65 trilogy of "The Fly", "Return of The Fly" and "Curse of The Fly", I decided it was time to see David Cronenburg's remake of "The Fly" (1986) again. I saw this one when it first came out, and most recently saw it on DVD a year or two ago. Even though it hadn't been all that long since I'd seen it I just wanted to watch it again after seeing the originals.


Another film I've owned for a while on DVD but haven't gotten around to watching was "Terror in the Midnight Sun" (1959). I've been wanting to see this one since seeing a trailer for it on Something Weird Video's sampler DVD many years ago. This Swedish monster movie features a giant hairy alien monster (think giant Bigfoot-type creature), which unfortunately only shows up toward the end of the movie. It was a little slow in places, but still a fun bad movie. The Swedish-ness of it reminded me of the Danish-ness of the classic monster flick "Reptilicus" (1961). The Little Monster watched a little bit of this one toward the end. Even though it has a giant monster, she didn't find it particularly scary. "Terror in the Midnight Sun" also marked the second Swedish movie of the Challenge (after "Let The Right One In").


Saturday, October 29th was the date of the big freak Nor'easter snowstorm that wreaked havoc with the Challenge. We've seen snow in New England earlier than this, but not usually so heavy. In our town we got about 8-9 inches of wet, heavy snow. The problem was that most of the leaves were still on all the trees--meaning there were a lot of snapped limbs and toppled trees causing lots of property damage and widespread power outages. We lost power on Saturday afternoon and didn't get it back until Monday, the 31st. This meant two full days of no power to watch DVDs or stream movies on the Roku Box.

Here's our house after the Oct. 29=30 snow storm


Sunday, October 30th was supposed to be one of the highlights of the month for me. The New Hampshire-based Horror Host show Saturday Fright Special was putting on their sixth Spooktacular show in Keene, NH (see poster for the event above). I'd been to the last two shows and was looking forward to this one. The feature movie was "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man" (1943). Since The Little Monster was familiar with the classic Universal monsters Frankenstein and The Wolf Man (not to mention Dracula) from watching "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948) I figured she'd enjoy seeing this one too. The show went on as planned, but because of the effects of the storm we were not able to attend. What was going to be one of the highlights of the month became one of the biggest disappointments.

Here's the promotional ad for Spooktacular VI


Halloween, and the last day of October, was another disappointment. We still didn't have power, and there were still a lot of snow and downed trees all over the place. Things were so bad that many towns were postponing the Halloween Trick or Treating. Our town put it off until Friday, November 5th. This was the first time I could remember that Halloween was celebrated on a day other than October 31st. The only good thing about the situation was that it actually extended the holiday a lot further than normal. Usually November first brings an abrupt end to what had been a monthlong build-up toward Halloween and everything shifts to looking ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Before we got power back in the mid-afternoon I was able to attend National Amusements' Silver Screen Classics show once again. They had been showing Alfred Hitchcock movies through October as part of the series. Unfortunately, the movies weren't ones I could add to the Challenge. They were suspenseful and thrilling, but simply not what I could consider "horror". Today's movie was "The Lady Vanishes" (1938). A good film that I had never seen before, but once again not something I could add to the list.


We did eventually get power back and I was able to watch one more movie before the month ended. George Pal's "The War of the Worlds" (1953) seemed an appropriate way to finish out October. Even though the movie doesn't take place on Halloween, it always reminds me of the holiday because of Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds". It's an all-time favorite of mine too, so it's always something good to see.



October was over, but I felt it was okay to extend the Challenge for one more day (and one more movie) since I lost two full days when the storm caused so many problems (not the least of which was the loss of electricity). Since I was so disappointed to have missed Saturday Fright Special's Spooktacular on the 30th, it seemed like watching "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man" (1943) would be a very appropriate way to finish off the Challenge. The Little Monster didn't have school (cancelled for the second day because of the storm) so she was able to watch the movie with me. It is an okay movie, but a little slow in places for a five-year-old. Frankenstein's Monster shows up about halfway through the movie, but the climatic meeting between the monster and the Wolf Man doesn't happen until the very end--and it seems just a bit quick and anti-climatic after waiting so long for it. The Little Monster did a good job of paying attention during all the non-monster build-up. Along with the unofficial theme of Bigfoot-related movies, the Challenge also featured a few werewolves too. The Wolf Man showed up in both "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" and "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man", and Paul Naschy played a werewolf in "The Werewolf and The Yeti". As mentioned above, I was also going to watch "Fury of the Werewolf", but just ran out of time.

Monster Dad: 44
October: 31

Well, that's the end of the 2011 October Horror Challenge. I consider it to be another successful Challenge. The numbers weren't as high as last year's Challenge, but I watched far fewer TV show episodes and other non-movie programming. Even eliminating stuff like the two "The Walking Dead" episodes I watched, "The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special" and the Bigfoot episode of "Monster Quest, that sill leaves 40 movies. And if you don't count "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man" because it was watched on November first, that still leaves the total at a respectable 39. Not too bad. As I said last year, this is my Challenge with my rules. As far as I'm concerned, the final score is indeed 44-31. If I decide to take up the Challenge again next year, it will probably have a new name that better reflects the kind of stuff I want to watch. Until then, keep watching the skies!

From "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man"


  1. I always link the WAR OF THE WORLDS film to Halloween, as I remember Channel 38 used to show it on Halloween night. Many trick-or-treating sessions were brought to an abrupt end for me as a kid because I wanted to get home in time to see WAR OF THE WORLDS on WSBK!

  2. Good point. I'll bet that's another reason I associate the film with Halloween as well!