HomeCommentaryOffbeat October, Vol. 5

Offbeat October, Vol. 5

With their last batch of October movie recs, Film Yappers return to spooky horror and hard-to-watch thrillers.

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.

With our fifth and final volume, we return to spooky horror and tense thrillers—though an eclectic mix of subgenres.

The Skin I Live In (2011)

Pedro Almodóvar has always had something a bit odd and kinky about his filmmaking – this is, after all, the guy whose first international breakout had a toy scuba diver swimming into the lady parts region of his female lead. But he’s never really been known as a director of horror or truly twisted movies.

At least, if you don’t count 2011’s The Skin I Live In, which in some ways may be his most boundary-pushing flick. Certainly, for me it’s one that resonates in his expansive oeuvre.

Antonio Banderas, who hadn’t made a movie with Almodóvar in more than two decades at the time, stars as Ledgard, a rich and controversial plastic surgeon who has been keeping a woman, Vera, captive in his home while experimenting for years on her using his radical synthetic skin invention. A widow, he is also carrying on an affair with her that is essentially rape, given her forced circumstances, though she is addled and ambivalent.

(Mucho big spoilers ahead). In perhaps the biggest gender-twisting shock since The Crying Game, it is revealed that Vera was actually a young man who assaulted Ledgard’s emotionally fragile daughter, eventually leading to her suicide. Ledgard captures and drugs the young man, over time using his medical skills to turn him into the sexual and spiritual replacement for his wife and daughter.

For me, Skin is right up there with Hitchcock’s Vertigo in its tale of powerfully perverted love, as a man forcibly transfers his obsession onto another human being. Of course, Almodóvar can be much more frank in his fleshy depictions.

Though described as a psychological thriller, The Skin I Live In really is what today we’d call a body horror film. It also eerily presages the current transgender crisis, with material sure to irk both some of its outlier activists and “groomer” reactionaries.

It’s at once creepy as hell, disturbingly carnal and completely psychotic. The Skin I Live in can be streamed on Hulu, or rented from a number of video-on-demand platforms.

by Christopher Lloyd

Cloverfield (2008)

Found footage movies have become one of the most tiring trends of Hollywood for nearly a decade now since they’re cheap to make and sometimes they aren’t that scary. However, one of the earliest to come out after the sleeper hit The Blair Witch Project was the sci-fi horror flick Cloverfield. Every time the sub-genre is brought up, this will be up for discussion despite not being a horror movie. Remember how genius that marketing campaign went when we all thought it was a brand-new Godzilla movie? Just the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty sold me. Was it a new Godzilla film? Close, but it’s one of the untouchable monster movies in recent memory.

Directed by Matt Reeves and produced by J.J. Abrams under his Bad Robot production company, it should’ve been a casual night for having a going away party for Rob (Michael Stahl-David), as he’s moving to Japan for his new job. All goes well until a massive earthquake erupts in Manhattan that turns out to be a gigantic monster wreaking havoc throughout the city.

The rest of the night follows a group of friends trying to escape from the city. The combined brains of Reeves and writer Drew Goddard put you on this unforgettable night that captured the realistic scale with a budget of $25 million. Even when you’re watching at home, it’s unbelievable how intense and immersive it gets when it feels like you’re holding onto the handheld camera in the middle of the action. Not once did I question why every moment had to be recorded. Some complained about how it gave them motion sicken, and I don’t understand that grip since I don’t remember being. However, it still freaks me out once we see the monster up close.

Cloverfield marked the first installment of what will become a surprise franchise. Years later, it was since followed by an underrated sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and one of the biggest disappointments 2018 offered in The Cloverfield Paradox. How I didn’t see this back in 2008 is still questioned by me to this day.

It can be streamed on AMC+ and rented from any number of video-on-demand platforms.

by DC Bolling

Kuroneko (1968)

About a year ago, I came across Kuroneko (“Black Cat,” in English) while strolling through Barnes & Noble during a Criterion Collection sale. I knew nothing about it but its intriguing box art made me think it was the perfect mix-up for the Halloween season. What I got as a result was an ethereal, tragic ghost story that should put director Kaneto Shindo on anyone’s radar. The tale of a samurai tasked with defeating ghosts leads to a film that creates a simple, haunting atmosphere unlike anything seen in a modern horror film. 

Kuroneko uses classic kabuki and Noh theatre techniques (as well as veteran actors from both crafts mixed into the ensemble) to give the film a stage-like performance feel, especially the ghosts. They’re given enough inhumanity to make every scene they’re in unsettling yet hypnotic. It also helps that the film has the tendency to give some creepy shots only a couple seconds of screentime, burning the images into the viewer’s brain while simultaneously making them second guess what they just saw. It’s a very theatrical film that doesn’t take away from the sad moments, the grit of the historical setting, or even the horror that comes from man rather than specter. Even after only seeing the film twice, there are still quick shots and sequences in Kuroneko that are burned into my mind with perfect clarity.

What more could you ask for from a ghost story?

Kuroneko is available through a 14-day free trial on The Criterion Channel (or $10.99/month).

by Logan Sowash

The Lost Boys (1987)

Between the supernatural creatures of folklore and the glittery vamps of today’s popular culture, The Lost Boys, a film that could have only existed in the 80s, gave us the coolest vampires ever. Thirty-five years after its release, it remains a cult classic, often found in local art theaters at midnight showings and referenced in modern-day vampire lore.

The film assumes that the audience is savvy and knows a little about vampires, sparring us a long, tortured backstory. While other cinematic bloodsuckers struggle with their existence as undead members of society, the Lost Boys embrace their way of life. Walking together in the supernatural cadence of charm and seduction, they hunt under the carnival lights among the comic bookstores, preying on intoxicated teens at metal concerts and riding motorcycles down the pier. The film’s tagline says it all: Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.

The film’s success, however, rests on the talented young cast of mostly unknowns who elevated the film to “one of the greatest movies of the 80s,” according to Rolling Stone Magazine’s “The 25 Greatest Movies of the 1980s” (2014). Schumacher had seen a young Kiefer Sutherland in At Close Range and cast the 17-year-old. Schumacher said, “he can do just about anything, you can see it in The Lost Boys because he has the least amount of dialogue of anyone in that movie, but his presence is extraordinary!” Indeed, Sutherland had only 30 lines of dialogue as the lead character.

The Lost Boys famously marks the first film starring Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, both 13, who became real-life best friends while on set and went on to star in nine more films together before Haim’s untimely death in 2010.

The film’s legacy in 80s pop culture secured its place as the ultimate teen vampire movie, proving that horror movies can deliver decades after their release.

The Lost Boys can be streamed from Showtime and rented from any number of VOD platforms.

by Julieanna Childs
 | Website

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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