If you are like me, the first of November is a tough day to deal with. Sure we can celebrate Day of the Dead, but after months of planning Halloween has come to an end. No more creepy decorations, no more candy, and the local cable stations stop featuring horror flicks on a daily basis. Well at least we had a great month of crowd pleasing genre flicks that haunted our cinemas, right? Eh, not exactly. In fact, this past October was a dismal time for scary movies opening at a theatre near you. Even the generally lucrative PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise suffered an extremely weak opening stateside - foreign box office was a little less spooky for THE GHOST DIMENSION. So what gives? Why is it that we keep wanting horror to find its way into theatres around this time of year, but nobody seems to go?
There is certainly no denying that the movie choices weren’t exactly stellar. Aside from CRIMSON PEAK - which I personally loved, but it turned off some due to the whole gothic romance aspect it seems - the choices were weak. Audiences have been tiring of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY since the dismal fourth installment. And then there was Vin Diesel in THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, a movie that appeared to have more in common with a SyFy Channel exclusive than a feature film. Finally, you had the horror comedy SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. Personally I found laughs in this ridiculous flick, but with popular television like The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, people may not be terribly keen on a zombie comedy. The only feature to make any real impact was the Jack Black family friendly frightmare GOOSEBUMPS, which has done well and earned solid reviews and word of mouth.
But is quality the real problem? That would be easier to swallow had we not seen two hugely successful thrillers open in October of 2014 that were by and large considered pretty damn awful. OUIJA somehow garnered a very strong 50 million in the states alone - with over 100 million worldwide - and then there was ANNABELLE. The second film, opening earlier in the month, scared up a shockingly impressive 84 million stateside alone. Probably thanks to the help of the far more satisfying THE CONJURING, this scary doll earned near 257 million worldwide. The critical reception for neither film was very good, and frankly, it would be difficult to find very many horror fans that actually liked either of these flicks.
Not surprisingly, the best horror that came out this past October 2014 happened to be in limited release and VOD. And yes, this appeared to be common in 2015 as well. The best time you could have had at a slasher film - even with a PG-13 rating - was the absolutely addictive THE FINAL GIRLS. This comic, spooky, heartbreaking flick had an incredible cast, and it most certainly should have opened wide. While I haven’t seen BONE TOMAHAWK or TALES OF HALLOWEEN, I’ve heard some good buzz from both, especially BONE which featured a fantastic cast, one that includes Patrick Wilson and Kurt Russell, as well as some inspired genre favorites like Sid Haig and David Arquette. With TALES, you had nearly every single VIP in the indie horror world today involved.
The best movie going experience that I had last month was the Fathom presentation of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN - with a special introduction from the man himself. The 1978 classic played on a big screen once again, and still managed to capture the audiences attention with its suspenseful tricks and treats. Look, you can’t compare modern horror to what is considered one of the best horror films ever made, but there does seem to be a fast food approach when it comes to the genre oftentimes - as there was before and after the release of HALLOWEEN. That said, whether it is the quality of the films or too many other holiday options, as much as we want to experience an adrenaline thrill ride in the cinema, it looks like that is getting far more difficult to recapture.
Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but are genuine big screen scares in October a thing of the past? Let’s be honest, how many of us sat home with Netflix or any number of streaming channels to catch our favorite horror flicks this year? And how many made their way into the theatres to catch one of the new releases mentioned? You can put the blame on outrageous ticket prices for sure. You could also question whether the quality of the features is worth spending a ton on. It’s too bad either way because the experience of sitting in a darkened theatre with a group of like minded individuals is a great way to celebrate horror. And while for me, CRIMSON PEAK was well worth checking out for it’s old-school vibe, none of the others really offered a need to see at the cineplex level of excitement. Maybe it is foolish, but I keep hoping for a stellar scary movie going October. Is 2016 going to be any different? Once again, we’ll have to wait and find out.