Halloween Report 2020: Best of the Swampflix Horror Tag

Halloween is rapidly approaching, which means many cinephiles & genre nerds out there are currently planning to cram in as many scary movies as they can over the next month. In that spirit, here’s a horror movie recommendation for every day in October from the Swampflix crew. Each title was positively reviewed on the blog or podcast in the past year and is currently available on a substantial streaming service. Hopefully this helps anyone looking to add some titles to their annual horror binge. Happy hauntings!

Oct 1: The X from Outer Space (1967)

“Between its adorable miniature space rockets, its goofball bird monster, and its willingness to pause any conflict for a jazzy soiree, this one’s overall tone is decidedly Cute. It only makes vague gestures towards the Horrors of the Atomic Age that usually concern the kaiju genre, while it mostly busies itself by having a swinging good time.” Currently streaming on HBO Max and The Criterion Channel.

Oct 2: Lily C.A.T. (1987)

“Weirdly, I’m not sure if Alien superfans would be the first audience I would recommend this to, unless their favorite detail from the original film happens to be Ripley’s relationship with her cat. This cheap DTV animation never had a chance to stack up to the original in a direct comparison, nor does it really attempt to. This film’s built-in audience is more likely nerds who salivate at the idea of any horror-themed anime or, more to my own alignment, weirdo genre enthusiasts who salivate over ludicrous killer-cat creature features like Cat People ’82, Sleepwalkers, and Night of a Thousand Cats. Surely, there’s some significant overlap between those two camps who will find its shapeshifting-feline-tentacle-monster genre thrills exactly to their tastes. If nothing else, it’s a very specific niche that strikes a tone no other Alien knockoff ever could—animated or no.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime and for free (with ads) on TubiTV.

Oct 3: The Platform (2020)

“This is an incredibly nasty slice of schlock with a deviously wicked sense of humor; it’s also a politically engaged provocation that’s obsessed with understanding & undermining the systemic power imbalances that keep us all stuck in place and at each other’s throats. It’s a perfect film to watch in these increasingly bizarre, dysfunctional helltimes where it seems like those very systems are crumbling before our eyes. It feels like there might be a chance that we’ll all soon break out of our own arbitrarily cruel rut and tear this prison down any day now – as long as we don’t eat each other alive before we achieve that solidarity.” Currently streaming on Netflix.

Oct 4: Vivarium (2020)

“A cartoon exaggeration of the long-simmering frustrations & resentments that accompany even the most successful of romantic partnerships. Gawks at the traditional, decades-long monogamous marriage as if it were a sideshow attraction at the county fair, amused but disgusted by the freakish unnatural behavior we’re all supposed to aspire to.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Oct 5: Viy (1967)

“The five-minute stretch that makes good on its long-teased witchcraft & devilry—boosted by an importation of Silent Era special effects into a 1960s filmmaking aesthetics—should leave an intense impression on your psyche that overpowers any minor qualms with its build-up. This is a quick, oddly lighthearted folk-horror curio with a fascinating historical context and an eagerness to wow the audience in its tension-relieving climax. That’s more than enough to melt my own horror-hungry heart, but your own mileage may vary.” Currently streaming on Shudder and for free (with ads) on TubiTV.

Oct 6: The Head Hunter (2019)

“Of course, audiences would generally prefer to see the offscreen battles than the daily preparatory chores & bloody cleanup aftermath we get instead, and the monster slayings themselves do essentially amount to an [IMAGINE A BIGGER BUDGET HERE] insert. Personally, I found this setup to be an impressive device in low-budget filmmaking shrewdness. It knows it can’t convincingly stage battle scenes on its limited production scale, so it makes up for it by leaning into what it can do well: grotesque creature designs & a nihilistic mood.” Currently streaming on Shudder and for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla.

Oct 7: Blood Quantum (2020)

“The real selling point is the way it finds yet another new application for the zombie apocalypse as a literary metaphor, which is quite a feat considering how many times that well has been returned to over the decades. Whether or not a new metaphor alone is enough to draw you back into the genre is up to you, as the film entirely plays it straight as a genre entry elsewhere. You have to be onboard for some of the same-old same-old to appreciate those new textures.” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Oct 8: Sea Fever (2020)

“I was genuinely chilled, especially once it hit a heated debate about the personal sacrifice of quarantining yourself for the greater, communal good. It was nice to see a scientist positioned as the hero in that debate for once, something I took time to note even while squirming in discomforting resonance at the thought of the film’s invisible, lethal enemy within.” Currently streaming on Hulu and for free (with a library membership on Hoopla.

Oct 9: Extra Ordinary (2020)

“Traffics in grotesque, horrific scenarios involving demonic possessions, domestic abuse, and paranormal sex fluids, but the characters who navigate them are so quietly sweet that you hardly notice how harsh or over-the-top the whole thing feels from afar.” Currently streaming for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy & Hoopla.

Oct 10: The Housemaid (1960)

“I absolutely loved this movie. It kept me on the edge of my seat for its entirety, and I was surprised to see how far it pushed the envelope. I was in complete shock by how dark certain parts of the film were, and that’s a film quality that I will always have mad respect for.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel

Oct 11: Zombi Child (2020)

“A from-the-ground-up renovation of the zombie film. Directly reckons with the racist, colonialist history of onscreen zombie lore, and pushes through that decades-old barrier to draw from the untapped potential of its roots in legitimate Vodou religious practices.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel.

Oct 12: The Lodge (2020)

“It’s unfortunately predictable, but it wears its horror influence on its sleeve, and there are no bad performances, with McHugh and Keough providing a strong backbone when the strength of the narrative atrophies a little.” Currently streaming on Hulu.

Oct 13: The Invisible Man (2020)

“It’s like a reinterpretation of Batman where billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne using his extraordinarily expensive gadgetry to beat up jobless street criminals is framed as a horrifying act – which is to say it’s a realistic, politically engaged interpretation.” Currently streaming on HBO Max.

Oct 14: Housebound (2015)

“Funny how this film’s humor now feels so familiar to a Taika Waititi brand of low-key absurdism but felt like a total anomaly five years ago.” Currently streaming for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla (or with ads on TubiTV).

Oct 15: I Was a Teenage Serial Killer (1993)

“As the title suggests by calling back to 1950s B-pictures like I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, there’s a playful sense of humor to this misandrist bloodbath. For instance, there’s a sickly-sweet dating montage our protagonist shares with a fellow serial killer while they cutely bond over cannibalism & genital mutilation. There’s also a seething, long-simmering sense of anger behind that playful façade, however, which mostly spills out in a final monologue where the teenage serial killer explains her motives to her last would-be victim. It’s the same anger that fueled most of the zines & records of the riot grrrl movement, a communal feminist frustration that rarely made it to the screen in any genuine form.” Currently streaming (with ads) on TubiTV.

Oct 16: Prom Night (1980)

“Between the gruesome kills and the dance floor glam of the disco prom, this eventually emerges from its formulaic slasher chrysalis to become its own beautiful specimen of cheap-o grime. Its earliest stretch is guaranteed to test the patience of audiences generally bored with by-the-numbers slasher ritual, but I find that sturdy plot template can be exceptionally useful in providing structure for over-the-top aesthetic & tonal choices like, say, a Disco Madness theme.” Currently streaming on Shudder or for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla & Kanopy.

Oct 17: Bloody Birthday (1981)

“If you cut the killer children angle out of the film entirely, this picture would be unmistakable as a cheap-o Halloween knockoff. Swapping out the looming presence of Michael Myers with a small cult of toe-headed rascals is a pretty substantial deviation from the Halloween slasher template, however, offering the Village of the Damned formula an interesting new subgenre avenue to explore. It’s an unholy marriage of two horror sensibilities that likely shouldn’t mix, and that explosive combination makes for a wickedly fun time.” Currently streaming on Shudder or free (with ads) on TubiTV.

Oct 18: The Pool (2020)

“Fun, upsetting trash that’s eager to push its limited scenario to its furthest extremes, alternating between slapstick gags & vicious cruelty without much notice. Weirdly, there’s also a thematic undertone that suggests it might be Pro-Life propaganda.” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Oct 19: The Tingler (1959)

“William Castle’s playfulness extends beyond his imagination for attention-grabbing gimmickry to push schlocky premises into the realm of vividly graphic, surreal art. I have not been giving him the respect he’s owed for that willingness to experiment with the boundaries of cinema myself, and The Tingler’s a perfect example of these experiments’ dual extremes as silly novelty & high art.” Currently streaming for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla (or free with ads on TubiTV).

Oct 20: Host (2020)

“It’s unlikely that we’ll see another feature film this year that so directly, accurately captures what life is like right now, and I’m honestly not shocked that my beloved Online Horror subgenre was the engine that got us there. It’s perfectly suited for that kind of of-the-moment documentation, with plenty of other entertaining payoffs besides.” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Oct 21: Wounds (2019)

“An unpredictable creep-out overflowing with genuinely disturbing nightmare imagery and a lived-experience familiarity with what it means to be a charming drunk who works the graveyard shift at the neighborhood bar. Its tale of emotional & spiritual rot for a hunky, barely-functioning alcoholic on the New Orleans bar scene is so true to life that I have an exact bartender in mind who the story could be based on (although he’s a dead ringer for Lee Pace, not Armie Hammer). ” Currently streaming on Hulu.

Oct 22: Angst (1983)

“An impressively upsetting mood, offering no reprieve from the suffocating psyche of its narrator – a nastily hollow man who kills because he wants to kill. There’s something about that total lack of motivation that efficiently chills my blood, maybe because it’s more reflective of real-life cruelty & violence than the class war callousness that usually commands the home invasion genre (usually with a much duller aesthetic palate as well).” Currently streaming on Shudder, Amazon Prime, and free (with a library membership) on Kanopy.

Oct 23: Luz (2019)

“As the story’s various competing fractions combine into one sharp-edged mosaic, the film achieves a deranged, sweaty, deliriously horny nightmare that all demonic possession media strives for, but few titles ever achieve.” Currently streaming on Shudder and free (with ads) on Crackle.

Oct 24: Color Out of Space (2020)

“The prologue before the meteor crash is a little creaky & awkward, recalling the tone of a VHS-era fantasy movie that never quite earned the forgiving lens of cult classic status. Once the horror of the Evil Color fully heats up, however, this movie is genuinely just as disturbing as anything Stanley accomplished in Hardware – if not more so.” Currently streaming on Shudder and free (with a library membership) on Hoopla.

Oct 25: Violence Voyager (2019)

“Feels as if it were made entirely by one loner-creep in some far-off basement, as if he were racing to publish his work before being raided by the authorities for crimes against society & good taste. It’s the rare work of modern outsider filmmaking that feels genuinely dangerous, with all the excitement & unease that descriptor implies.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Oct 26: The Faculty (1998)

“Like Terry Quinn’s iconic performance as the archetypal Stepfather or Corbin Bersen’s skin-crawling performance as the archetypal Dentist, Robert Patrick transforms the broad concept of the high school sports Coach into a classic movie monster abomination on the level of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, or The Wolfman. It would have robbed the film of some of its other post-Scream late-90s charms and transformed the endeavor into something much more thoroughly horrifying, but I think they could have easily reworked the entire premise to be about that one monstrous villain alone – under the title The Coach. His performance is that scary, and the real-life terror of sports coaches runs psychologically deep for many horror nerds.” Currently streaming free (with ads) on Vudu.

Oct 27: Wrinkles the Clown (2019)

“If you don’t mind being openly lied to/manipulated by a ‘documentary’ (think Exit Through the Gift Shop), it’s really fun. Lots of eerie commentary about what urban legends look & feel like among modern children online (and incidentally about psychological child abuse). It’s everything I wanted out of that so-so Slenderman doc on HBO a few years back.” Currently streaming on Hulu.

Oct 28: Doctor Sleep (2019)

“This film never feels its length, and the muted public reaction and mediocre box office returns are a personal disappointment; this film was never going to surpass The Shining, but it’s not far behind, and Flanagan was right to mix the original film’s solemn meditative qualities with occasional frenetic setpieces. In a lifetime of watching movies, I’ve never been so invested or felt so much tension in my spine when watching a scene of a man eight years sober struggle to not take a drink, even in Kubrick’s opus; it’s powerful movie-making at its best, and I can’t recommend it more highly.” Currently streaming on HBO Max

Oct 29: Queen of the Damned (2002)

“Still not convinced that the world ‘needed’ a nu-metal sequel to Interview with the Vampire, nor am I convinced that this is in any way a Good movie. By the time Aaliyah massacres an entire goth bar of vamp baddies with surreally cheap CGI hellfire I kinda warmed up to it as a novelty, though. Nothing wrong with enjoying a korny movie from time to time, and this might be the korniest.” Currently streaming free (with a library membership) on Hoopla.

Oct 30: Messiah of Evil (1973)

“You can approximate a nearly exact equation of what genre pieces were assembled to create its effect; it plays like a post-Romero attempt at adapting ‘Shadows over Innsmouth’ as an American giallo. However, you can’t quite put your finger on how these familiar pieces add up to such an eerie, disorienting experience. T hat’s just pure black movie magic, the goal all formulaic horrors should strive for but few ever achieve.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Oct 31: Phantasm (1979)

“This ‘Let’s put on a show!’ communal enthusiasm & D.I.Y. approximation of nightmare-logic surrealism is the exact kind of thing I’m always looking for in low-budget genre films. Its trajectory of starting with familiar regional slather locations like suburban cul-de-sacs, dive bars, and graveyards before launching into a fully immersive nightmare realm of its own design is a perfect encapsulation of how it somehow turned low-budget scraps into cult classic gold in the real world as well.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

-The Swampflix Crew

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