HomeCommentaryOffbeat October, Vol. 4

Offbeat October, Vol. 4

We've got more October picks for you! This time, we step away from the conventional horror realm into drama, romance, and comedy.

This article was originally published on Film Yap and features writings
by authors not affiliated with Odd Trilogies.

October, a.k.a. “Spooktober” or “#SpookySzn,” is among the Internet’s favorite times of year to recommend movies. “31 Days of Horror!” “A Fright for Every Night!” We’ve all seen these “Ultimate October Watchlists.” Many offer up a good mix of horror classics, cult hits, and streaming gems. But often, we see the same titles over and over again.

The Film Yap presents its alternative: an eclectic collection of unconventional October movie recs. Some are horror, some are not! Many are critically underrated, and most go criminally overlooked this time of year. But on some wavelength or another, they all hit the season’s vibe. With “Offbeat October,” we state our case that these picks deserve to be added to your October viewing.

This week, we’re focusing on less-terrifying fare as we pick some dramas and comedies for (mostly) cozier viewing.

Summer School (1987)

How '80s Comedy Summer School Made Me Realize There Were Horror Fans Just  Like Me | Halloween Love

Even for a series with “Offbeat” in the title, Carl Reiner’s Summer School would seem an odd choice (given the “October” part). I’d argue, however, if you keep the movie’s ne’er-do-well, slacker, stoner duo Francis ‘Chainsaw’ Gremp (Dean Cameron, Ski School) and Dave Frazier (Gary Riley, Stand by Me) in your heart, it’ll be Halloween all year round. See, Chainsaw and Dave are just about the most devoted (and depraved) horrorhounds ever depicted on screen. 

They coerce their teacher Freddy Shoop (a very fun Mark Harmon) into screening Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for the class … even though they incessantly and hilariously mispronounce Hooper’s name. 

They scare off their substitute teacher Ms. Cura (Lucy Lee Flippin) by applying elaborately grotesque makeup on their classmates and themselves. (These designs were done by Greg Nelson, Norman Cabrera, and the uncredited legend himself, one Mr. Rick Baker.) That Chainsaw and Dave could craft effects this “ewwie” is about as believable as Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) doing the same in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (makeup maestros Alec Gillis, Tom Savini, and Kevin Yagher rocked the effects in that flick). It’s hard to believe Summer School got a PG-13 rating with how gnarly these effects get. I’m sure comedic context helped.

Chainsaw and Dave also both simultaneously romance Italian foreign exchange student Anna-Maria Mazarelli (Fabiana Udenio), who looks like she could’ve just stepped off the set of a Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci movie. (Udenio went on to star in Brian Yuzna’s Bride of Re-Animator and guest-starred on Freddy’s Nightmares.)

My buddy filmmaker Jakob Bilinski and I often refer to ourselves as the real-life Chainsaw and Dave, with both of us insisting we’re Chainsaw. If you haven’t seen Summer School (which was written and produced by Full House creator Jeff Franklin!!!), or if it’s been a minute since you’ve watched it, come see if you’ve got a little Chainsaw inside you too.

Summer School is available on Shout! Factory Blu-ray, to watch/stream on Starz, or to stream with premium subscriptions to Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling, and Prime Video.
by Alec Toombs

When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Every Single Outfit Harry Wears In 'When Harry Met Sally', Ranked | GQ

When looking for scare-free fall viewing, it’s always best to search for films that give off a warm vibe in their filmmaking. That’s where When Harry Met Sally… fits perfectly to watch at home when the leaves are changing and the weather’s getting cooler. Any time romantic comedies are brought up in conversation, this 1989 classic from director Rob Reiner and writer Nora Ephron tends to pop up, even all these decades later.

In When Harry Met Sally…, it’s all about the friendship of Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) over the course of 12 years. From their first encounter of sharing a drive from Chicago to New York City after finishing college, Harry talks about how men and women can’t be just friends since “the sex part always gets in the way.” Years later, they randomly catch up with each other repeatedly, detailing their respective lives with their views on relationships. But, sooner or later, it’s up to them to decide whether they can really become more than friends. 

Everything about When Harry Met Sally feels comforting in its 96-minute runtime. You can’t ask for a better will-they-won’t-they couple than Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as the titular characters since their decade-spanning chemistry is always excellent. You want them to be together while attempting to be friends. Matched with a great jazz soundtrack and authentic dialogue that pushed Ephron’s career forward, it’s the perfect movie to catch during autumn, thanks to Barry Sonnenfeld’s cinematography, capturing the beautiful scenery of New York that makes you want to take a walk in Central Park on a cool afternoon. 

So many iconic moments have never been forgotten since its release, especially the memorable “I’ll have what she’s having” scene at the deli, now a part of Hollywood history. I also must add it’s probably one of my favorite Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominees. I watched When Harry Met Sally… for the first time two years ago, and it remains an unforgettable rom-com.

This film can be streamed on Netflix and HBO Max or rented from Amazon and YouTube.
by DC Bolling

Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners Ending Explained: Captive To A Vicious Circle Of Victimization

Remember in “Vol. 1” when I talked about how mystery thrillers are great for fall viewing? I’m still on that train.

Prisoners is a masterclass in unraveling the everyman. Hugh Jackman’s Keller Dover is the “strong, stern, classically masculine” type. He’s a carpenter and a father, and that’s most of who he is. He’s probably Libertarian, potentially Republican. He loves his wife and children, and wants nothing more than to protect and provide for them. So far, it seems he’s done a great job. But when his daughter Anna goes missing on Thanksgiving (yeah, okay, sorry—I’m a month off), his self-made world of security and confidence quickly begins to crumble.

When the police investigators don’t give him satisfactory answers about the whereabouts of his daughter, we begin to see the monster within. A boiling blob of rage and corrosive masculinity, Keller finds who he thinks took his daughter, an intellectually disabled man named Alex (Paul Dano), and immediately takes depraved action to get the answers he’s looking for. Keller disregards the pleas of his closest friend to stop this path of destruction. He’ll not hear it. His daughter’s out there, cold and alone, and this bastard knows something. Because he has to. Keller needs him to.

Parallel to Keller’s story is that of Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), the lead investigator on Anna’s disappearance, and a seasoned vet who has, allegedly, never found a case he couldn’t solve. His record is impeccable. But with every dead-end and unrevealing stone Loki unturns, that record eats at him. Like Keller’s protector instinct, Loki’s obsession with success forces him to take some harsh liberties with the investigative process.

Prisoners shows us not only the dark dangers lurking outside our doors, but the dangers we pose ourselves, when our worldviews and moral codes are pushed to their limits. It’s a brilliantly brooding mystery that reveals more about its yearning protagonists than its shadowy villains.

Oh, yeah — why should you add this to your October watchlist? I like the notion of fall as a death or ending of things. Of course it’s all cyclical—tree or flower or squirrel or person, we’re back at it in the spring. But there’s a downwardness to autumn that fits perfectly with the spiraling of a dour psychological thriller like Prisoners. The film also employs its setting—the drab dampness of fall—as a tool with which to create that atmosphere of decline in its characters and their constructed reality.

Watch this one on a cold, grey, rainy day with some hot tea. It’s available for rent from Apple, Amazon, Vudu, and any of the major video-on-demand services.
by Andy Carr

Lost in Translation (2003)

Lost In Translation,' 15 Years Later: Sofia Coppola on Final Scene |  IndieWire

For me, the fall is always the time where self-reflection, melancholy, and relaxing vibes reign supreme. Nothing captures that perfectly like Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation: an atypical romance between two strangers roaming the streets of Tokyo together. This methodical, well-acted film focuses on the importance of human connection, especially to people who feel lost in their own lives. It pairs a phenomenally nuanced performance by Bill Murray with just as strong of a performance from a young Scarlett Johansson, following the pair as their snarky attitudes and free spirits lead them to connect on a level many rarely do with a stranger. 

While it’s certainly not the standard romance choice on a lazy day, there’s a sad yet endearing energy that makes Lost in Translation just as heartfelt as When Harry Met Sally or The Notebook. Coppola does a great job showing the importance of meeting new people, being vulnerable with others, and understanding that our low moments do not define where our life will go next. For a season that’s filled with spooky films, Lost in Translation shows that it’s okay to relax, be sad, and let the fall remind you of how there’s always good times right around the corner.

This film can be streamed through a Showtime subscription, which has a 30-day free trial.
by Logan Sowash

Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver (1976) | MUBI

One of the first films my father recorded off the TV with our top-loading Betamax (who knew?) was Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, for a couple of reasons. 1.) My father thought it was a great film. 2.) My dad did a six-month residency in New York City in 1975 to study new surgical techniques in the vascular field. He lived at the Hotel Olcott on West 72nd Street, the front of which was used in a scene in the film: an early montage of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) dropping off a fare, accompanied by Elmer Bernstein’s great score.

My father was always good about talking through a grown-up film. He did his best to explain Travis’s descent into madness. In my then-young film history, I had never experienced a film like this.

Taxi Driver is a horror film. 

In my high school years, I thought of Taxi Driver as a modern day Don Quixote. Travis Bickle’s windmills were a presidential candidate (Leonard Harris, who Travis fails to execute) and a pimp (Harvey Keitel, who meets an unpleasant end). Teenage prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster) was his Dulcinea. He is deemed a hero by the press and the city for “rescuing” Iris. Schrader and Scorsese have both said of the film’s ending that Travis is not cured, but rather a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Again.

I got to see a new 35mm print of Taxi Driver at The Music Box in Chicago for its 20th anniversary. The sold-out audience was mostly men. The first time we see Travis with a mohawk, a big chunk of the audience cheered.

Yes, Jaws scared the living shit out of me at age five, but I have been in oceans countless times since 1975 and have never seen a shark. Yes, Halloween shook me in a different way in 1978 when I was 8, but I have yet to see a human killing machine in a William Shatner mask.

Travis Bickle, on the other hand, is on Facebook and Twitter right now. He’s sitting next to you at the bar telling you (unsolicited) what is wrong with this country. King Kong nor Joker ain’t got shit on him.

p.s. – As great a cinematic achievement as Taxi Driver is, I don’t recommend showing it to that special someone early on in your relationship.

I had to learn that the hard way. Twice.

by Matthew Socey

Dead Poets Society (1989)

When talking about a movie that just screams “Fall,” and is devoid of any chilling characters or spooky scares, Dead Poets Society is one that captures that essence of October, at least in this writers’ eyes.

Set in the late 50s at an all male boarding school, the film centers around English teacher Josh Keating (played by the late great Robin Williams), who’s atypical teaching methods inspires his students to fall in love with the heart of poetry, discover their true selves, and express their real passions.

Full of heartwarming moments, tragedy, inspiration, Dead Poets Society is the kind of movie that makes you look at life in new ways after your first watch, and even holds up on a rewatch. Williams was truly one of the greatest to ever do it, and his performance as Josh Keating is one of his best achievements as an actor. That being said, the young cast around him is just as excellent, especially Robert Sean Leonard’s heartbreaking turn as Neil Perry, and a young Ethan Hawke in one of his very first roles as Todd Anderson. It’s a film that won’t leave your mind and will stick with you long after the credits roll. It’s also one of the first films that left such a massive emotional impact on me.

“Carpe diem.”

Dead Poets Society is available to rent on demand on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play.
by Nathan Richard
 | Website

Wishes he could forego sleep to watch more movies. Besides co-hosting Odd Trilogies and writing reviews, Andy builds Gundam models, loves on his three cats, and spends way too much time managing his Plex server. You can follow his movie-watching habits on Letterboxd.

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Freelance writer out of Indianapolis. Co-host of Odd Trilogies podcast. Whether it's films or television, I'm always down to watch!

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