Column: Embracing the horror, the horror

I have such conflicted feelings about October. On one hand, summer is officially, no question about it.

I  have such conflicted feelings about October.

On one hand, summer is officially, no question about it, over. The wind is picking up, heaters are being turned on and I’m getting up in the dark now, despite my body’s sensible protests.

But then again, there’s beautiful leaves, pumpkin-flavoured everything and blankets.

Oh, and blood-soaked movies. So it’s a bit of a toss up.

I love horror movies around Halloween time. I know they’re not everybody’s thing. It can be extremely difficult to find people to go see them with me, so I understand how many of you prefer to stay away.

For me though, they tap into that part of me that likes to be scared. Or challenged. Or disgusted. Why I enjoy that is up for debate, but I’ll leave that to the psychologists. Either way, there’s something inside of me that enjoys the thrill of testing my cinematic limits.

Then again, lots of people like roller coasters. I do not. I’ll get my scares from horror movies, thank you very much.

All of October I have been devoting my blog, CineFile, to watching the new horror releases in cinemas and on home video, as well as catching up with some classics (or not so classics) I missed to beef up my status as horror movie connoisseur. I call it my Horror Pledge 2012.

October has seen the usual release of a few mainstream horror movies, and the results have been less than horrific (“horrific” in this case being a good thing).

Sinister is the best of the bunch, even with a weak ending and a snuff film element at play that seems to turning people off. Personally I liked the whole gritty, 1970s film stock thing Sinister has going on, along with the general tactile feel of the movie.

Don’t get me wrong, the whole thing falls apart in the end, but the setup is fantastic.

Kicking the month off was The House at the End of the Street, which is nothing like The Last House on the Left. I doubt it’s even in the same neighbourhood. This is purely PG-13 horror, and not especially good PG-13 horror at that. All told, it’s a dull, unoriginal film that doesn’t even get the basics right. But Jennifer Lawrence is in it, so there’s that.

The Paranormal Activity series keeps chugging along with Part 4, out in theatres last weekend. I was a staunch defender of the franchise up until PA 3, when the whole thing really became too reliant on its own formula.

PA 4 is an improvement, but still offers nothing in the way of innovation or a developed mythology. Instead, there’s a lot of shaky camera work, a couple of genuine scares and lots of bumps in the night. The usual.

So this isn’t exactly a golden age of horror in the cinemas, but my journey into the horror backlog unearthed some gems.

High Tension (2003) is an intense French slasher film with some truly gnarly kills and an impressive devotion to quality filmmaking and atmosphere, even if the ending makes no sense. Day of the Dead (1985) is an obvious influence of The Walking Dead and, as the third film in George A. Romero’s original Dead trilogy, is a smart, but still fun zombie flick.

Hell-bent for leather is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), one of the most off-the-wall crazy, totally disturbing and discomforting horror films I’ve ever seen. It truly is bizarre and yet is somehow strangely brilliant. Highly recommended, but only for those with a strong stomach.

Come Halloween night, the genre essentials will still be there for you if you’re in the mood for some good horror. We’re talking Psycho (1960), The Shining, Romero’s Dead trilogy, Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (the original two), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Suspiria, Evil Dead II. The list goes on.

Have a spooktacular Halloween everyone.

To follow Horror Pledge 2012 and for full reviews of normal movies, check out CineFile at blogs.bclocalnews.com/cinefile.

Kyle Wells is a reporter with the Goldstream News Gazette.

kwells@goldstreamgazette.com