This is as far as I made it this year. Still, not too shabby!
Day 22) We Are What We Are
Oh man, this movie. If you can't tell, towards the end it got harder and harder to track down the stuff on my actual list (this happens every year), so I just grabbed whatever I could carry, and this was a great find. I'm told it's a remake of a Mexican movie (or based on the same screenplay, anyway), but the basic premise is: cannibal family in the American South. No, not that kind. It's actually very understated and gothic in feel; it builds the premise slowly and realistically, and by the halfway mark you start to realize the cannibalism is the starting point--not the main hook. Instead, this movie uses a stock horror situation to tell a very personal, emotionally wrenching story about family, love, and hope. Also, the ending scene has the savory kick-in-the-teeth intensity of old classics like Psycho and Night of the Living Dead, the kind where you can kinda guess what's coming but the tension winds so tight that when it breaks, you feel both revulsion at what you're watching and relief that the wait is finally over. If you can find it, definitely pick it up.
Day 23) The Fog (2005)
John Carpenter's original is quite possibly my favorite Carpenter film after The Thing (given I haven't seen them all yet). And the reason is the tone. The original The Fog has that slow creep that seeps into your bones and makes you cold before anything creepy even happens. Also, it has one of the best opening sequences I've ever seen, and that's what sets the tone. This remake has a pretty decent opening sequence--Pirate Ship On Fire! Well, okay, it's not technically a pirate ship, but it is pirate-ish looking, and it is on fire, and that's all good fun. It too sets the tone of the film that follows, but in this case we very clearly have less of a slow creep going on, and more of what I've come to expect from contemporary high-budget stuff: one death scene after another (actually, mostly near-death scenes in this case--hardly anyone dies in this movie, it's weird) with lots of screaming. It's better than I was expecting, and makes up in character what it lacks in atmosphere. I liked Maggie Grace's character a lot, which really surprised me, but I'm a sucker for reincarnation/retribution story arcs, so there's that. OH, speaking of Maggie Grace, shall we play the Multi-Fandom Plot Summary game? Because this cast is asking for it: Superman and Tanya of the Alaska Coven (whose Vampire Power is flashback visions, apparently) team up with Liz Sherman from Hellboy to fight Zombie Pirates!! (Yeah yeah, I know they're not pirates--shut up.) It's not as awesome as I'm making it sound, but it's on the less shabby end of the remake scale.
Day 24) Dracula Has Risen From The Grave
I mentioned this elseweb, but this particular marathon made me realize something: I prefer Dracula stories in which we don't follow the actual story from Bram Stoker's novel. There are so many more possibilities out there, and this is one of them. I loved everyone in the ensemble cast--everyone. They aren't dumb, they aren't obnoxious, and they aren't evil. And on the occasion they disagree (Atheist Suitor vs Priest Uncle) they're at least civil to each other, which is a nice change of pace from everyone just being mad at each other all the time. Also, damn, I keep forgetting what great presence Christopher Lee has, especially as Dracula. He can be standing in the corner of the room doing nothing, and he'd still be the most interesting thing in the scene. I'm not clear on exactly what his goal was here: "revenge" in a very vague sense? I don't know. It's light on plot, but strong on character, and that made it easy to watch.
Day 25) The Innkeepers
Speaking of strong on character, I might be a little in love with Sara Paxton right now. The premise here is both an homage to and a mockery of every "Ghosthunters" episode you've ever seen: this old hotel is going out of business, and on the last weekend, the sole two employees left decide to have themselves a ghost hunt and try to capture something on camera. There's not much motivation behind it--the hotel is closing either way, and they aren't particularly sorry to see it go; Pat Healy's character has a ghost-themed website and is sorta trying to get something to post on it; but mostly, they're just bored and killing time while the last hours of their employment whiddle away. It's so simply rendered, so ordinary in the lighting, framing, and prop work, that it really shouldn't work as well as it does. The only reason it works at all is because of Healy and Paxton's breezy, believable dialogue and casual intimacy. In a matter of seconds, I felt like I'd known these two forever, and kinda wanted to hang out with them and tell scary stories around a flashlight in the lobby. Also, it's funny--not all the way through, but again, the casual tone and realistic atmosphere brings in a sense of self-conscious silliness, neither taking itself too seriously, nor entirely writing off the phenomena that occur as faked or coincidental. Along with We Are What We Are, this is the kind of low-budget, character-focused storytelling that's been popularized by the success of Blumhouse movies. I wouldn't give them full credit for starting a trend just yet--I'll have to put myself through an entirely different marathon to reach that conclusion--but if this is what we have to look forward to in horror movies yet to come, I am all for it.