That’s 9 more reviews and this was easily my favorite batch of movies so far, with 5 making strong cases for the upcoming year-end Best Of list. Our Stream Picks Friday feature got benched this week, but will return as an every-other-Saturday thing, rotating with the Review Roundup. The next two weeks will see the introduction of a Spotlight feature, an article focusing on a specific movie, genre celebrity, or year in horror. So, this marks 50 days of Terror Spective, continuing to provide daily horror content free of ads and clickbait, and the plan is to keep it that way. Now, for each Roundup, I go over my review process to help explain how I decided upon a particular score. I look at premise, story, characters, pacing, visuals, acting, atmosphere, effects, music, and the presence and quality of what can just be called ‘horror elements’ (scares, gore, things like that). I don’t score each category individually – just weigh them all out against what works for or against the premise and crunch it all into a letter grade. The intention is that, if the idea behind the movie is solid and that movie is also well-made, then it will get a good grade regardless of what kind of horror movie it is – keep my personal preferences to a minimum to focus on the quality alone. So, with that, here’s the reviews:
Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil – 2018 – Grade: A-
Available on Netflix. Set in the Basque region of Spain, a government official arrives in a sleepy village still reeling in the aftermath of a civil war. He is in search of a blacksmith who allegedly absconded years earlier with a fortune of ill-gotten gold. Meanwhile, young orphan and local misfit Usue has the head of her beloved doll ripped off by bullies and thrown over the wall of the blacksmith’s forbidding makeshift fortress. These two sets of circumstances will collide to expose the fearsome blacksmith both to the horrors that he hides from and those he keeps trapped within. Full review here.
Halloween – 2018 – Grade: B
Now playing in theaters everywhere. Forty years after the infamous Babysitter Murders devastated the town of Haddonfield, the killer – Michael Myers – is being transferred to a lesser facility after decades of silence and docility. He escapes to continue his obsessive-compulsive killing spree, seeking out the one who got away, Laurie Strode, but she has spent her entire adult life waiting and preparing for this day. What she doesn’t count on is that her granddaughter Allyson will wind up in his path. Full review here.
Prodigy – 2018 – Grade: B
Available on Netflix. Child psychologist James Fonda is brought in as a consultant for a government project by an old associate. He is caught completely off guard by his new assignment – to counsel and evaluate a sociopathic super-genius child named Ellie who is handled as if she is a monster. How dangerous can this little girl possibly be?… Full review here.
Terrified – 2018 – Grade: B
Available on Shudder. Residents of a city street are plagued by intensifying supernatural phenomena that begins to claim lives in a violent fashion. In an effort to clear the name of a man falsely accused of his wife’s murder, three paranormal investigators and a police captain team up to discover the source of the malicious activity, which may be more horrible than they could have imagined. Full review here.
Unsane – 2018 – Grade: B
Available on Amazon Prime Video. Sawyer Valentini is a successful and ambitious business analyst with a tough-as-nails persona on the outside, but inside, she’s plagued by constant anxiety and depression following a traumatic stalking by a relentless admirer, David. When she seeks counseling for her issues, she is conned by an unscrupulous treatment facility into consenting to ‘observation’. Locked inside with no means of escape, her nightmare only worsens when a new orderly named George is a spitting image of her psycho stalker. Full review here.
Chopping Mall – 1986 – Grade: C+
Available on Amazon Prime Video, Hoopla, & TubiTV. A shopping mall installs a state-of-the-art security system, complete with three automated robots and steel shutters that seal the place tight from midnight to sunrise. On the first night of operation, an electrical storm shorts out the rooftop control unit, turning the security droids into haywire killbots. Meanwhile, four young couples have arranged an after-hours party at the furniture store. You see where this is going. Full review here.
Extraordinary Tales – 2015 – Grade: C+
Available on Netflix & Hoopla. An animated anthology of some of Edgar Allen Poe’s greatest stories – The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-tale Heart, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, The Pit and the Pendulum, & The Masque of the Red Death. They are thread together by a story of Poe himself in the embodiment of a raven debating the nature of his life and work with none other than Death, taking the form of a graveyard statue. Full review here.
Ghost Stories – 2018 – Grade: C-
Available on Hulu. Professor Philip Goodman has made a career of debunking claims of the supernatural and even hosts a TV show on the subject. He’s contacted by another academic, Dr. Charles Cameron – a fellow skeptic who happens to be his personal hero – who hasn’t much time left to live. The dying man challenges Goodman to debunk three cases that have shaken him to his core, leaving him to question his life’s work. What Goodman discovers may destroy him completely. Full review here.
Seven in Heaven – 2018 – Grade: C-
Available on Netflix. While at a keggar, Jude and June are picked to play the game Seven Minutes in Heaven, where a random couple go into a closet to maybe make out, maybe not. Jude and June don’t, as they’re not particularly fond of each other, but when they emerge, they find themselves in a different but similar reality – one where people are much more hostile, their friends hate them, and Jude is a wanted killer. Full review here.