Jason’s 31 Days of Horror Movies – 2020 Edition!

Submitted by Jason Schoolcraft.

It’s 2020 and in mid-March, our world was turned upside down. Wear a mask. Social distancing. School canceled. Many working from home, if they still had a job. It seemed the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

Then it got worse, as horror conventions were canceled all over the country along with movie theaters closing. All big-budget theatrical releases were off the release calendar for the foreseeable future. The new normal was well, anything but normal. Things started to settle in and, if you were patient, you were rewarded with new horror and thriller films (if you were lucky, they were good). I felt what we needed was some of the old “normal” back, as it was last year before COVID-19 sacked the entire world.

Last year I wrote a piece called 31 Horror films in October I’d never seen before – the second in my series. As before, the challenge was to watch 31 films I’d never seen before in 31 nights and write my opinion on each. They could be new or old films, so long as they were new to me. It is always nice to find good “new” horror films, but a little sweeter finding a true gem. I decided to bring some normalcy back to the Terror Dave site, so I give you 31 DAYS OF HORROR PART THREE! After skipping the usual classics I found some new movies and a few I missed (or at the time didn’t care to watch). I hope this list inspires you to watch these horror films, after all, you just might be surprised!

1. Fade to Black (1980) – I was 14 years old and in my prime when this film came out. How did I not see it then, let alone since? At the recommendation of Terror Dave himself, I told him I give it a try. What a great film! The lead, Dennis Christopher was wonderfully cast as misfit movie lover Eric Binford who works at a movie distributing warehouse. As the movie progresses, Eric falls deeper into despair he seeks revenge against all who have wrong him. He also longs for the beauty Linda Kerridge, who bears a striking resemblance to legend Marilyn Monroe. I start my film quest on a HIGH note! 8/10

2. The Brides of Dracula (1960) – Peter Cushing’s 2nd and last go as Doctor Van Helsing. It seems Christopher Lee decided not to play Dracula again for the sequel. The story follows Van Helsing going after the handsome bloodsuckerCount Baron Meinster. Peter Cushing was excellent, great set, and the acting was very good. Loved it! 8/10

3.Dead (2020) – Its description says comedy. However, the movie is filled with dead people, murder, and the afterlife. For me, that is a horror film, not a true comedy so for this, we can call it a Horror-Comedy. It has the feel of Shaun of the Dead of Tucker & Dale vs Evil. This New Zealand film can be summed up as a pothead who can see and talk to the dead. The movie is funny, well written, and a nice take on the journey of our souls. Loved it!  8.5/10

4. Curtains (1983) – A horror film from the 80’s I’ve never heard about, could it be? This film came highly recommended, so my hopes were a little high. Seemed like a typical slasher film from the period. It has very good cinematography, some of the best kills and twists in the genre. The jump scares were well-conceived and executed (no pun there) in this film. I liked the ending. 7.5/10

5. Night of the Demons (1988) – I’m not usually fond of demonic spirits films, except a few like The Exorcist, Evil Dead, House, or The Shining. I read that this film ranked high with other titles I enjoyed, so I decided I needed to watch it. This movie takes place on Halloween night (I love this set up).  A group of kids decides to party at a boarded-up old funeral home where they inadvertently summon the dead. A pretty good film with some excellent practical effects; though no explanation as to the origins of their demonic possession. Fun film!  7.5/10

6. Hosts (2020) – It’s so refreshing, sadly not often enough, when you are genuinely surprised as you watch a new film. I heard about Hosts via a movie website where I read a good review. I decided the less I know the better, so I didn’t watch the trailer. It reminds me of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A top 5 film of 2020.  9/10.

7. Child’s Play (1988) – All I remember seeing was a bit of the trailer and a killer doll, which I thought was the worst of the “possession of inanimate objects” subgenre. Once I finally saw it, I was glad I did. Brad Dourif always seems to play the creepy guy and here, albeit, with short screen time, he portrays the killer doll exceptionally well. I suspect it’s what he is most known for (I know him best from Deadwood on HBO). Good cast of 80’s notables.  7.5/10

8. Candyman (1992) – Born from the ashes of the 80’s horror films like Friday the 13th, and dare I say EVIL DEAD, this is another revered horror film I never got around to watching. The film is a modern folk take starring Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd. As I began to watch, much of it seemed familiar. I enjoyed Madsen’s dedication to her role. Very good. 7.5/10

9. The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) – Ah, a T&A slumber party slasher film from the early 80’s, who doesn’t love that?  I loved the cheesy music too! As expected, lots of nudity and the killings were decent. Plenty of 80’s blood!  While the bodies start piling up, common sense is lost. Of course, they save the best kill for the end. A fun watch for slasher/massacre film lovers. 7.5/10

10. Straight Edge Kegger (2019) – I received this Blu-ray signed by the director as a gift! The cover says The Purge meets The Green Room and that is pretty damn close. When it turns dark and bloody there are some good kills. It took a while to get to know the main characters, but once you do, it’s a lot better. The soundtrack is heavy punk. It’s definitely worth a watch. 6.5/10

11. Are We Dead Yet? (2019) – Horror/comedy/heist which are my three favorite genres! Unfortunately, this film barely works on any of them. It’s a UK production with a good story concept. The cast is not spectacular, and the story could have used more work. Nothing stands out and this is not recommended. 4/10

12. Homewrecker (2020) – I have been waiting to see this film since I saw the trailer a month ago. A story of two women strangely connected. They attend the same gym and the same café and by chance end up at the same house. The film stars Precious Chong as Linda and I didn’t realize until after I watched it that she is the daughter of the infamous Tommy Chong of Cheech & Chong. I haven’t seen her before, but she plays a good crazy woman. Alex Essoe plays Michelle and is famous for Starry Eyes (2014). Almost the entire film are the women having an uneasy dance with each other. It slowly goes off the rails and gets dark. Enjoyable film. 7/10.

13. Werewolf of England (2020) – This film looks and feels like a film from the ‘60s and is a throwback to the earlier days of horror. It has a decent story but falls short on execution and acting. There are some good points to the film; just few and far between. If you are a fan of werewolf films, I think you should see it but it’s not re-watch worthy for me. 5/10  

14. Killer Rack (2016) – I have been waiting to see this film since its release. A friend of mine is in the movie but, unfortunately, that didn’t help me land a copy any sooner. This is a crazy film, just as the title implies with an awesome poster. Betty works in an office with mostly women and they all have bigger breasts. With her low self-esteem, she decides breast enlargement is the answer. What could go wrong? The legendary Lloyd Kaufman is in the film and it’s a pleasure to watch. It’s a fun time in the same vane as Little Shop of horrors, except with boobs instead of a plant (as well as more blood). One of the best comments I read about this film: “Killer Rack is the tits!” (wish I thought of it) 7/10

15. I Am Lisa (2020) – I got lucky again. A werewolf film (so many this year) that has a great twist. This film makes me excited again for werewolf movies! I need to find more! 8/10

16. Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot (2020) – Where the hell has Tom Green been? Yes, it’s a Tom Green film so enough said!  This movie is billed as comedy/horror. Green plays Ranger Billy Teal, a man out to prove Bigfoot doesn’t exist.  He’s confronted by a respected college professor who claims a mythical forest creature killed his wife, thus transforming him into a man haunted by obsession and revenge. All while a few locals are trying to make a ‘snuff’ film about Bigfoot! I kid you not!  Bad character and plot development. 5.5/10

17. 12-hour Shift (2020) – This film is not a horror film as described. First of all, the lead states she is starting to work a double as the film begins, so why the title ‘12-hour shift’ (aren’t double shifts 16 hours??)? Secondly, the only horror is a few odd killings and the selling of body parts. Angels Bettis is the main character, Mandy, whom many will remember from May (2002) or Toolbox Murders (2004). She was good as a deplorable nurse. David Arquette has a small role and is also a producer alongside his wife. The story centers around trying to find a replacement kidney for an organ trafficker. Some humor. Not much more.  6/10

18. Werewolf (2018) – A Polish film titled Wilkolak. I thought I was done with werewolf films for this list, but I found another one…or did I? Ten children are liberated from a Nazi concentration camp and find a hiding place. They must overcome hunger, thirst, and vicious dogs in an abandoned mansion surrounded by the forest. It’s a film about survival and the depravity of war. Metaphorically speaking the werewolves are about their survival and overcoming their freedom and what it will take. I feel the title of this film is misleading as it’s not the traditional horror genre, but horror nonetheless. Very good film. It’s heavy on the WWII storyline. 7/10

19. The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020) – This film boasts an incredible cast, great score, and beautiful cinematography. This was the last film from the late Robert Forester and his performance as the Sheriff of Snow Hallow is just perfect. So glad his last occurrence is so good and memorable. The film was written, directed, and stars Jim Cummings (whose first feature in 2018 was Thunder Road). Jim plays Deputy John Marshall, a divorced father of a teenager and a regular at AA meetings. And he’s got some serious anger issues. It seems the deputies are trying to shield the sheriff from the foils of the town; perhaps to get him an early retirement? There’s a murder, the first in years, and it’s gruesome. The town’s on edge and word on the street is that there’s a werewolf committing them. This film is tremendous on so many levels and as close to perfection as a movie can be. The SFX are awesome as well. I am going to preorder the Blu-ray ASAP and give it the highest score on the list. What an awesome film and definitely one of the top 5 of 2020! 9.1/10 

20. WNUF Halloween Special (2013) – The best-found footage film in years! This is a rebroadcast of WNUF Chicago TV (a fictional station) found footage from 1987. Here the local TV station goes live at the famous, and believed haunted, Webber House for an investigation. So well done! Loved it so be sure to find it and watch! 8/10

21. The Initiation (1984) – Just because the ‘80s was the golden age for slashers should not imply that every film from this period were good ones. That being said, this movie is just okay. The simple formula of sorority girls having a pledge night goes wrong. A dream from her childhood is stalking amnesiac Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga, one of the cutest of the ’80s horror women). She soon faces her past after coming to grips with her repressed memories thanks to a hypnosis study. Let the carnage begin! 7/10

22. Don’t Look Back (2020) –  I watched the trailer and it looked interesting. I also saw a reviewer give it high marks (8/10) which made me even more interested. The writer is Jeffrey Reddick (who wrote Final Destination), so I was in! We meet Caitlin Kramer (Kourtney Bell) who has witnessed her father’s murder. Traumatized and just trying to get back to normal, she once again witnesses a tragic death. This time she could have made a difference, but stood by and did nothing. Soon all the witnesses begin to perish. Is it someone trying to tie up loose ends or is this karma? The film has a big influence from religion and the story falls flat – almost like a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. I’m not sure what the reviewer saw that he gave it an 8/10, this film is 100% a TV movie and for horror fans not worth your time. Decent acting and storyline but overall a disappointment. 4/10

23. The Monster Squad (1987) – There’s good casting so let’s go. To start, it has a great director, Fred Dekker, and a superb writer, Shane Black. There is decent creature FX but still lower quality than expected. Basically, it’s another 80s horror film I missed. Now I will say this is a direct rip off from The Goonies but with more monsters (or the same people made both films). Visual effects were good as was the story. But the entire time I was thinking The Goonies was better. Good watch.  7/10

24. Absurd (1981) – An Italian horror/slasher film similar to those popular in the US at the time. What makes this movie different from many others is the gore which is over the top and was banned in the UK for many years. Our killer is a man on the run, with mysterious powers to regenerate, and with a priest in hot pursuit. Each killing becomes bloodier and gorier! Overall, the acting is not good, and the story is difficult to follow. Despite that, this is an absurdly good slasher that’s lots of fun. The soundtrack seems stolen from Pink Floyd at times. I viewed the uncut version with 3:55 minutes more gore. 7/10

25. The Tales of Strango the Clown: The Chronicles of Gillygutz (2020) – This movie was actually filmed during the covid-19 lockdown. I thought it was going to be straight on horror but it’s more of a CGI/ ZOOM type production. This is the description: “The tragic story of a high-powered business executive Lawrence ‘Strangio’ Del Rio who loses it all, forcing him down a dark insidious path of multiple gruesome murders under the disguise as Strango The Clown. The most notorious and vulgar standup comedian on the Dark Web (this move is not for kids!)”. I thought maybe this could be a good movie but, wow, was I wrong. I was hesitant to even have this on the list because it’s so bad. I left it on because every horror lover has been here – read about a film and everything looks good. You watch it and start pondering what else you could have done with that 90 minutes! 0/10

26. Tremors (1990) – Not sure how or why I missed this 90’s monster film. Maybe because I was a young father for the 2nd time with not a lot of time nor money for movies. Whatever the reason, this film was a great time! Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward were excellent as were the supporting cast was good also and the creature effects still hold up well. This is a film I would consider buying on Blu-ray. 7.5/10 

27. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) – What a great film I missed from 1983. It’s a really good story, albeit flawed, but still great! Casting it wonderful. It has a 95 minute run time but still has time for the characters to grow and make you care about them. Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce were outstanding. Such a young Diane Ladd! The two very young leads give great performances. Vidal Peterson (who went on to star in Deep Space Nine) and Shawn Nightshade, sadly IMDB has this as his last film. An excellent film that deserves a Blu-ray release. 8/10

28. Books of Blood (2020) – A journey into uncharted and forbidden territory through three tales tangled in space and time. Tale #1 I really enjoyed; it’s a story about loneliness and survival. Well cast and very good performance by Britt Robertson. Tale #2 was about a man that could speak to the dead. Very good! Tale #3 was the journey to find the Book of the Dead. The ending was a big surprise. 8/10

29. Big Freaking Rat (2020) – What would a horror movie list be without a mutant, man-made creature? In this case, it’s a giant rat. Most notable besides the giant low budget rat is the fact that ‘80s horror legend, Felissa Rose, from Sleepaway Camp is in this film. A shame she does not get more work. This is a fun film, worth a watch. The story is good. Acting not so much, and not enough of the rat! 7/10

30. The Funhouse (1981) – Another film highly recommended by a fellow Cinephile of horror – my good friend Lenny who rarely steers me wrong. The film has four high school friends who decide to spend the night at a traveling funhouse. The first to stand out was Kevin Conway – a veteran character actor who’s been in dozens of films. In this, he plays the barker. The kills were creatively good and the backdrop of a carnival always works great for horror. The “geek” or monster seemed so close to Jason in the original I had to go back and look. This monster was more deformed with greater protruding teeth! Great movie 7.5/10

31. Pumpkinhead (1988) – Last film for this list (not my last for October 2020)! Creature effects and sound was ahead of the time. Lance Henriksen is always excellent. You are really blown away when you get to see Pumpkinhead full on! It started out a bit cheesy, but the 2nd act kicks it up a notch. The 3rd act is full-on horror and revenge of a sort! Great film 8/10.

So now it is time for you to go back and try some of the films you missed or decided to skip.  You never know where you might find a gem! One last honorable mention is a new film Spontaneous. This film does not profess to be a horror film, but there is blood and gore from beginning to end. Worth a watch. 8/10

Jason Schoolcraft~

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