My October 2023 Horror Watchlist
I’m sad that October is over, but I had a fun month of watching a horror movie daily. This was my ninth year in a row of doing 31 Days of Horror…I can’t believe 2024 will be year 10!
Although I had a busy month, I managed to squeeze in a movie a day, with the exception of one movie that I wasn’t able to finish. Here’s the full 2023 list of movies from my Bullet Journal, with my sad attempt to draw a Ghostface in an “o”…lol. Keep reading below for my thoughts on each movie!
October 1: Killer Klowns from Outer Space. I watched this 1980’s cult classic for the first time in 2018 and have only partly watched it maybe once since then. Killer Klowns stuff is popping up everywhere these days—I saw some toys and plushies at SDCC this summer, and Spirit Halloween has a ton of licensed Klown products (I dressed up as Shorty for Halloween!). I really liked the movie upon rewatch; the way it twists standard clown and circus elements is quite clever. Of course the 80’s score is great, too.
October 2: Eaten Alive! This 1980 Umberto Lenzi cannibal film is problematic in all the ways you’d expect. Starring Robert Kerman (Cannibal Holocaust) and Janet Agren (City of the Living Dead). It’s as if the elevator pitch was “What if Jonestown was located in an area surrounded by cannibalistic tribes?” The character of Jonas (Ivan Rassimov) was clearly inspired by Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple in Guyana, which made global news in 1978 for its horrific mass suicide. I can’t recommend this movie unless you’re interested in horror film history and criticism (which I am).
October 3: Hell Fest. Nothing too special about this 2018 slasher, though some of the haunt performers’ costume designs were pretty creepy. The killer’s mask was unsettling as well. I felt a touch of a Sleep No More vibe at times. Tony Todd (Candyman!) made a very small appearance as a Hell Fest performer.
October 4: Fantasy Island. For the first good chunk of this Blumhouse movie I was wondering how it would connect its characters’ seemingly disparate stories. It ended up being a little messy and unsatisfying for me, but had a great cast of recognizable faces.
October 5: Black Friday. A fun 2021 flick starring horror icons Devon Sawa and Bruce Campbell. The premise was clever and the script was decent, but I will say, the special effects in the big final sequence were quite chintzy. Overall, it was an enjoyable watch.
October 6: The Blackening. I had heard great things about this horror satire, so I was excited to watch it. The poster hooked me with the tagline “We can’t all die first.” The movie did not disappoint! I laughed out loud several times—and I was watching by myself, so that’s how you know it was funny. This is a clever cabin in the woods slasher, with a cast that’s almost entirely comprised of Black actors. Highly recommend.
October 7: Tales from the Hood. The tales in this 1995 Spike Lee-produced horror anthology are still highly relevant today. Particularly noteworthy is the N-word-spouting gubernatorial candidate played by Corbin Bernsen in a horrible wig, who might as well have served as a blueprint for a certain criminally-indicted presidential candidate. The character’s highly racist political campaign ad unfortunately feels like it could serve as an ad today. The film also tackles police brutality and domestic violence; it’s disturbing because of how prevalent these issues still are nearly 30 years later.
October 8: Totally Killer. This was a fun, colorful horror twist on Back to the Future starring Kiernan Shipka of Mad Men and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. With all the 90’s nostalgia going around, it was refreshing to see a movie (mostly) set in the 80’s. Time travel always gets a little muddled, and the killer reveal was a bit formulaic, but overall I enjoyed this Blumhouse movie.
October 9: Pet Semetary: Bloodlines. This was a very meh movie and I found myself picking up my phone to scroll through IG throughout its run time. Stephen King adaptations are usually at least halfway decent, but this one was a snoozefest for me.
October 10: Fear. I got about two thirds of the way through this 2023 horror film (not the 1996 Reese Witherspoon movie) and didn’t get to finish because of my schedule. I was watching it on a free 7-day Starz trial via Amazon Prime and had to cancel the trial before I had a chance to finish the movie. It was just alright, so I don’t feel like I missed out on much.
October 11: The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Not sure why I scrolled past this 2016 movie for so many years. It was great! Very creepy and chilling, with effective tension-building. I even liked the solution to the mystery. Excellent cast, too, starring Brian Cox (most recently known for Succession, but also from my favorite Halloween movie, Trick ‘r Treat! And McDonald’s ads on podcasts…cringe.), Emile Hirsch, and Michael McElhatton, who played the nasty Roose Bolton on Game of Thrones.
October 12: Class of Nuke ‘Em High. Troma sure loves its toxic-related content! I think I watched The Toxic Avenger for the first time last year (arguably Troma’s most well-known property), but it must have been after I completed 31 Days of Horror because I don’t have it on my list. This exploitation film features the hallmarks of a low-budget 80’s flick, including problematic content and gratuitous female nudity, as well as hilariously atrocious acting—particularly by one of the male leads, who was clearly reading his lines off camera.
October 13: Talk to Me. I had heard this recent Australian A24 release was good, and I thought it lived up to the hype. This seemed like one of those movies that’s best approached cold, so I actively avoided articles about it prior to watching. Without giving anything away, this movie is highly visceral, with unsettling and memorable imagery. This definitely goes on my recommendation list.
October 14: The Conference. Netflix churns out so much crap these days that my expectations for their content are low. So this 2023 Swedish slasher comedy was a really nice surprise for me. I figured out who the killer was fairly early on, but that knowledge didn’t dampen my enjoyment in the slightest. Worth watching!
October 15: The Invitation. A sumptuous update on the Dracula tale. The movie, starring Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei from Game of Thrones), was solid for the first half. I loved the setting, production design, and wardrobe; however, once the twist was revealed, the movie became less interesting. The special effects at the end were pretty bad, and the final scene was quite weak. Overall not a bad watch for a chunk of its run time, but it did not stick the landing.
October 16: Cannibal Apocalypse, aka Cannibals in the Streets. Another entry in the Italian cannibal film genre, but this one differed in that it was set (and partly filmed) in the US. Because its story didn’t center around a remote jungle locale, it’s not suffused with the cultural exploitation for which other cannibal films are known. The movie, starring John Saxon of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame alongside Giovanni Lombardo Radice (Bob in Fulci’s City of the Living Dead), is more akin to zombie flicks than other cannibal films.
October 17: Last Cannibal World, aka Jungle Holocaust. The first in Ruggero Deodato’s “cannibal trilogy” (the second being Cannibal Holocaust, which I re-watched last year). The movie featured Ivan Rassimov, who played the Jim Jones-esque figure in Eaten Alive! which I watched earlier this month. This film was more of a mixture of survivalism, exploitation of native cultures, and animal killing. And the music was a lot less funky than later cannibal films. Again, I can’t recommend this unless you’re interested in horror film history and criticism.
October 18: Cut and Run. The third in Deodato’s “cannibal trilogy,” though this film does not contain cannibalism. It’s more of a jungle action flick, so it does of course contain plenty of problematic material. I suppose this film is *slightly* more evolved than the prior two films in the trilogy. And there’s somewhat prescient use of live video feeds to film and broadcast news and tragedies from afar, something that’s just a part of life now.
October 19: The Birds. Would you believe I’ve never seen this Hitchcock classic in its entirety?! I watched clips of it in college film classes, and somehow didn’t even watch it when I worked at Turner Classic Movies right after college. I figured it was finally time! Hitchcock was known as the Master of Suspense for good reason. I did chuckle at the birds’ sound effects sounding more like screeching cats, but overall this film must have been so frightening for audiences 60 years ago.
October 20: The Sentinel. First I began watching Skinamarink, but it was so boring that I only got about 15 minutes in before I decided to switch movies. This is the first time during 31 Days of Horror that I’ve ever done so! Great decision, because this 1977 NYC-set movie set was wild and super entertaining. A+ cast, too.
October 21: Sick. I didn’t even realize until the end credits that this 2022 film was written and produced by Kevin Williamson of Scream fame. The movie wasn’t revolutionary, but I enjoyed this cabin in the woods pandemic slasher. A lot of pandemic-inspired movies are kind of annoying, but I thought this Blumhouse Peacock original was clever and well done. I appreciated the commentary on how the pandemic turned some folks into deranged lunatics.
October 22: The Void. This movie was a little messy, both in terms of visuals and in terms of story cohesion. I sort of understood the explanation for what was happening at a small town hospital, but it wasn’t fully clear to me. I got Frankenstein, Hellraiser, and Saw vibes while watching this—all great inspirations, but they didn’t quite come together in a way that fully made sense to me. One element reminded me of Stranger Things season 4, which came years after The Void, so I wonder if this served as an inspiration.
October 23: The Boogeyman. I watched this on a plane to LA. This movie is based on a Stephen King short story that I’m not familiar with, and it was just okay. The cast was great (Chris Messina, Sophie Thatcher from Yellowjackets, David Dastmalchian). But for a large chunk of the movie, I sat there wondering why the characters didn’t turn on the damn lights!!
October 24: They/Them. The ratings were low on this Blumhouse film starring Kevin Bacon as the leader of a “this isn’t a gay conversion camp” gay conversion camp. I wondered if the ratings were due to anti-LGBTQ+ folks leaving low reviews because of the title and subject matter. But the script was clunky and amateurish; I figured out who the killer is before the reveal. The movie was sometimes campy but in an unsophisticated way. The true horror is that conversion camps even still exist (and of course, how conservatives are coming for the LGBTQ+ community).
October 25: Basket Case 2. This sequel picks up right where the first left off, and introduces a coterie of “freaks.” The special effects crew must have had a blast creating these ridiculously over-the-top characters. Like its predecessor, this movie is batshit, campy, demented, gross…and fun to watch.
October 26: Basket Case 3. “Hey dude, you’re a dad!” Basket Case becomes a father in this continuation of the Duane-and-Belial saga. I don’t know how the actors were able to keep a straight face during the filming of any of these movies. They’re wacky as hell! Shoutout to the writer who included a Mothman reference in one scene.
October 27: Basket Case. After watching the second and third installments, I decided to revisit the original, which I hadn’t seen in years. It still holds up as a deeply wild low-budget 80’s horror movie. The stop motion-looking creature effects never cease to crack me up.
October 28: As Above, So Below. I downloaded this to watch on our flight home from LA. I picked it specifically because it’s set in the Paris Catacombs, which we visited on our vacation! This is a creepy, claustrophobic found footage-adjacent film. I thought it was well done. I especially loved that they had a scene, albeit short, that was actually shot in the public tour area of the Catacombs that we visited.
October 29: Demonia. This 1990 Lucio Fulci film was not all that great; I found it to be pretty slow. The gore was super low budget, which is always good for a laugh. A couple elements near the end of the movie were a bit nonsensical, and I didn’t love the music like I usually do in Italian horror. Meh.
October 30: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I spent about 20 minutes scrolling while trying to decide what to watch on the penultimate day, and settled on this classic. I’ve seen it a few times, but it still holds up as a horror masterpiece. It’s hard to imagine watching this in the theater in the 1974; it must have been incredibly disturbing.
October 31: The Hills Have Eyes. When I selected this Wes Craven film for my final movie of the month, I thought I had seen it before. As I was watching it, I realized I don’t think I had (though I’ve seen the 2006 remake). This original movie, apparently partly inspired by Texas Chain Saw, was a well done wild ride. And it starred scream queen Dee Wallace in an early horror role! This was my second movie this month featuring Michael Berryman (he was also in Cut and Run). I loved the 70’s disco horror music, and you can’t go wrong with a freeze frame ending, LOL.
Horror by the Decade
Each year I do a rundown of how many films from each decade that I watched. Here’s my 2023 tally:
- 1960’s: 1
- 1970’s: 4
- 1980’s: 6
- 1990’s: 4
- 2000’s: 0
- 2010’s: 4
- 2020’s: 12
My previous years’ watch lists:
There were really only a couple of duds on my watch list this year. I got at least a modest amount of enjoyment out of most, and really liked quite a few. It’s amazing how many older and cult horror films I still have yet to see. I can tackle some of them in 2024 for year 10 of 31 Days of Horror!