Monday, November 2, 2020


And that, friends and fiends, brings us to the end of yet another OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE and Scare-A-Thon 2020!

As always, the Challenge itself is to watch (at least) one fright flick for each of those glorious 31 days that make up the month of October, 16 of which must be first time views. I am happy to report that we have accomplished that lofty goal and that along the way, thanks to the generous hearts and minds of fans like you, over $3,300 has been raised for BOXVILLE, with additional funds still coming in, making this the most successful Scare-A-Thon to date! (Yes, you can still drop a line at if you wish to donate!)

My thanks to everyone who participated in some way, whether it be reading the reviews, making a contribution, watching alongside, or just stopping by to chat. It makes the long nights go by much easier knowing that one’s efforts are noticed and appreciated. Hope you found a few new suggestions for future movie nights along the way!

Below are the 31 “official” features viewed (with links to the full-length reviews), as well as 7 additional horror titles “just for fun” along with five additional civilian views just to break up the bloodletting. Beyond that, there are a bevy of additional OCD factoids you might get a kick out of… or you can just run for the exits like any sensible human being. The choice is yours.


Total Movies Watched: 38
First Time Views: 16
Total Scare-A-Thon Donations: $3,329.71

TOTAL TIME: 3696 min (61.6 hours)
LONGEST MOVIE: Yumeji (128 min)
SHORTEST MOVIES: Queen of Blood (78 min), Warning from Space (79 min), Shadow of the Cat (79 min)
OLDEST MOVIE: Warning from Space (1956)
NEWEST MOVIES: Antebellum, The Old Ways (2020)

COMMENTARY TRACKS: 3 (In the Mouth of Madness, Queen of Blood, Warning from Space)

Blu-ray/DVD review screeners: 21
Personal Library: 12
Internet/streaming purchases: 3
Public Library: 1
Redbox: 0
Borrowed from Friends: 0
Streamed by Friends: 1
Netflix: 0
Cinema: 0

Antebellum, The Blood Drinkers, Dahmer, Horrors of Spider Island, Nightwish, The Old Ways, Point of Terror, Zombie for Sale

Tales from the Darkside, The Untold Story, Warning from Space, X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes, Saw IV, Demons, City of the Living Dead

Darren Lynn Bousman (3), Lucio Fulci (2), Kevin Greutert (2), Bruno Mattei (2) 

Tobin Bell (7), Costas Mandylor (5), Shawnee Smith (4)

(USA, Italy, Japan, France, UK, Philippines, Germany, South Korea, Hong Kong, Spain)

Psycho Killers: 15
Ghosts/Hauntings: 2
Science Gone Awry: 3
Monsters: 5
Animals Attack: 2
Psychic Powers: 1
Vampires: 2
Killer Kids: 0
Zombies: 3
Aliens from Space: 2
Cannibals: 3
Werewolves: 0
Scary Clowns: 1
Anthologies: 1
Occult/Religious Horror (Satan/possession/demons/cults): 6
Mummies: 1
Big Bug Movies: 1
Based on Videogames: 0
Documentaries: 0 (although we did watch 7 episodes of Eli Roth’s History of Horror TV show)

(with links to full reviews): 








Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) d. Shuseke Kaneko (Japan) (3rd viewing) 

Kaneko, who helmed the enormously successful (both artistically and financially) Gamera reboots in the ’90s, takes the reins of the Godzilla franchise. Purists be forewarned: the boy wonder isn’t interested in slavish homage to the past. In fact, Kaneko basically rewrites the rulebook, setting up Godzilla as a unqualified evil monster, complete with dead, milky-white eyes facing off against Mothra, Baragon, and (in his only heroic appearance) King Ghidorah who are dubbed, fittingly enough, “The Guardian Monsters.” There’s a lot of brutal kaiju action, and the human casualties are addressed onscreen in more explicit terms than ever before. Despite its unwieldy title, this is one of the finest (and darkest) entries, featuring the most malignant Big G since his ’50s debut.

Saw II (2005) d. Darren Lynn Bousman (USA) (93 min) (3rd viewing)

This follow up to James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s surprise 2004 hit benefits from a larger budget, an expanded storyline and much, much better acting. Tobin Bell, the Jigsaw Killer from the previous installment, is back and given much more time in the spotlight – nothing new for horror movies, but Bell is powerful presence, subtly etching an intriguing, mesmerizing portrayal. Donnie Wahlberg plays a cop on Jigsaw’s trail, brought face to face with the vengeful antagonist when Wahlberg’s son is kidnapped and placed into a new game of survival with six other “contestants,” all of whom have something in common. Darren Lynn Bousman takes the reins as director (as he would for the next two sequels), adding more graphic gore and mayhem. The October franchise has begun.

Saw III (2006) d. Darren Lynn Bousman (USA) (114 min) (3rd viewing)

Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is back with a few more lessons about gratitude and sacrifice, but the terminal cancer that sparked his teachings has begun to take its toll. Now confined to a hospital bed in one of his own warehouses, he and protégé Shawnee Smith race against time to prolong his life while executing yet another labyrinthine challenge for his unwitting students. This time, grieving father Jeff (Angus MacFadyen, 11 years after Braveheart) is brought into the mix along with Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh), a brilliant but emotionally damaged surgeon. Easily the most mean-spirited of the Saw films thus far, with the torture devices increasingly elaborate and the splatter more in-your-face than ever. However, Leigh Whannell’s script (his last in the series) is tight and intelligent, providing what could have been a satisfying ending to the trilogy… had it not made so much money. (Nothing resurrects like a bucketload of bloody box office.)

Saw IV (2007) d. Darren Lynn Bousman (USA) (93 min) (3rd viewing)

The SAW films continue to extend and expand their intricate storylines, building upon peripheral characters and incorporating elements from the previous chapters, and delivering their patented twist ending sucker punches. While I wasn’t that big of a fan of the first film, I will confess admiration for the series as a whole, which has proven greater than the sum of its parts. This time, the gory set pieces are just as gruesome (in addition to the bloodletting, we are treated to one of the most astonishingly authentic autopsy scenes ever captured onscreen), the imaginative human traps just as ornate and complex, and the characters just as flat and two-dimensional, in spite of the capable performers inhabiting them. (The one exception is that of Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw, and that’s only because of the extensive backstory provided over the course of the series.) Returning to his annual director’s chair after SAW’s II and III, Darren Lynn Bousman does what they hired him to do and does it with aplomb, while screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan keep the plot twists and turns snarling like barbed wire.

Saw V (2008) d. David Hackl (USA) (3rd viewing)

Cue the microcassette recorder: “We at Lionsgate want to play a game. We want to keep squeezing the lifeblood of the Saw franchise and the wallets of the dedicated fanbase, but we’ve killed off the main character two films ago and have very little to work with. What will we do? Should we retire our cash cow with what little dignity it has remaining, or should we conjure a tired retread of the ‘group of people in a booby-trapped scenario’ in order to provide some truly gratuitous gore? Can we use the flashback technique and spin some more backstory for Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw? Should we give our lead role to Costas Mandylor, who possesses the screen presence of a bowl of cold oatmeal? The air is running out and we’re gasping our last gasp. Will you pony up your hard-earned cash and allow us to greenlight Saw VI? Make your choice…”

Saw VI (2009) d. Kevin Greutert (USA) (90 min) (2nd viewing)

My biggest beef, aside from the obviously anemic and padded plot, is the fact that for five films, Tobin Bell’s central character has been consistent in his M.O.: How much do you value your life, and what are you willing to do to stay alive? Suddenly, and this is hardly a spoiler, Jigsaw’s game is “Who will live and who will die?” with Peter Outerbridge's insurance agent forced to make executive (executive, execute…get it?) decisions as to which of his colleagues will meet their bloody ends, an “indictment” of the current health care crisis as subtle as a bowling ball to the nethers. Considering Jigsaw’s state of being, it seems a little late in the day to switch up his mindset. That aside, the gory set pieces continue to be just as gruesome, the imaginative human traps just as ornate and complex, and the characters just as flat and two-dimensional, in spite of the capable performers inhabiting them (with Bell’s Jigsaw the exception, due to the extensive backstory provided over the course of six features).

Saw: The Final Chapter (2010) d. Kevin Greutert (USA) (90 min) (2nd viewing)

The best thing I can say is that the “game” subplot is at least marginally engaging (as opposed to the tedium of the previous two installments), with fictitious Jigsaw survivor Sean Patrick Flannery tested via some of the most shamelessly sadistic traps yet. (I was pleased, it must be noted, that the ornate nature has been dialed back just a tad, imaginatively utilizing fishhooks and crazy glue to wreak havoc.) Meanwhile, the main plotline of Costas Mandylor’s Det. Hoffman concludes in a semi-satisfying fashion with a massive sweep of collateral damage, although director Greutert’s use of 3D is hardly what one can call inspired. RIP, John Kramer... please.


Anatomy of a Drum Solo (2005) d. Wachsman, Matthew (USA) (1st viewing)

Neil hits the skins and tells us why and how he does it. Fascinating.

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020) d. Fothergill, Alastair / Hughes, Jonathan / Scholey, Keith (UK) (1st viewing)

David tells us what a magical world we're living in and castigates us for not taking better care of it. Sobering and inspiring.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) d. Coen, Joel (USA) (2nd viewing)

The Coens overexert themselves trying to rat-a-tat-tat the comic beats. It's fun, but super forced.

My Octopus Teacher (2020) d. Erlich, Pippa, Reed, James (South Africa) (1st viewing)

Filmmaker Craig Foster takes us beneath the waves for this gorgeously photographed inter-species relationship drama. Simply sublime.

This is Spinal Tap (1984) d. Reiner, Rob (USA) (9th viewing)

In honor of the recent Zoom reunion, we had to bust it out. Result: Two solid weeks of singing "Rock 'n' Roll Creation" in the shower.

See you next year!!!!

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