Halloween Scene: Stranger Things & The Like

stranger-things-posterHey, look, it’s nearly October and I’ve already watched a bunch of great stuff! Like the rest of the world, I fell in love with Stranger Things and even wrote a list for CBR about a dozen other movies and shows you should check out if you liked it as much as me. Regular readers won’t be surprised by how much I responded to the idea of a bunch of kids trying to stop something far beyond their natural abilities. Plus, it gave me a great reason to re-watch the likes of The Gate and Cloak & Dagger. Continue reading Halloween Scene: Stranger Things & The Like

Halloween Scene: The Hole (2009)

the hole Like a lot of kids my age, I loved The Goonies. As a kid, how can you not love a movie that gives people your age the opportunity to not only play hero, but to do so without the authorization or consent of adults. I’ve since gone on to discover other films from the 80s that had similar themes like The Lost Boys, Monster Squad, The Gate, The Pit and now, The Hole (even though it’s a much more recent film).

I’ve been seeing The Hole on Netflix for a while now, but just never got around to checking it out even with a pedigree that thanks to director Joe Dante who helmed Gremlins and Gremlins 2, two of my favorite movies. Well, last night I gave it a watch and not only loved the story, but also got pretty freaked out, something that rarely happens anymore.

The film follows brothers Dane and Lucas who have just moved to a small town with their mom. While horsing around in the basement, they discover a locked door in the floor that they open. After looking inside along with the cute neighbor girl, the three of them start getting haunted by supernatural representations of their deepest fears.

This movie is fantastic. I’m sure the few beers I had, lateness of the hour and general craziness of the week helped fuel my state of mind, but I haven’t been put into such a mood to be scared like this in a long time. It certainly helps that the film utilizes a scare device that I’m even more prone to reacting to now that I’m a parent: creepy kids. And boy, does Dante utilize them — or rather one — in this film to great effect. Speaking of which, I’m skipping the usual trailer because it gets into a lot more detail than I knew going in. If it sounds like the kind of thing you’d enjoy, just go watch it. 

I will say that the film isn’t perfect. While I found the fear manifestations very effective, I will say that being scared of a dead kid, a clown and an abusive father aren’t exactly the most original avenues. Still, I thought they were put to good use in the film. Also, back to the creepy kid for a second, there’s a really odd special effect done to her in an effort to give her movements a crazy, disjointed quality kind of like Samara in The Ring. Unfortunately, it really lets you know that you’re watching a special effect instead of making you wonder how they did that which can pull you out of the movie if you’re not already deep into it like I was. 

And I was super involved at this point. As much as I like the fear-based stuff, I also really enjoyed how these kids interacted with one another. Again, this feels like standard 80s stuff, but the older brother gives the younger one a hard time, but still clearly loves him. Then you bring in the cute neighbor girl who’s also smart and funny and brave and you’ve got a solid triumvirate to balance the film on. I really enjoyed all three leads — four if you count the mom who’s just trying to make things work for her family — especially Chris Massoglia who has a Millennial charm I couldn’t help but like. 

Overall, I found this to be a well constructed story the harkens back to many of the films I loved as a kid as well as ones I’ve discovered as an adult that have similar themes: kids dealing with supernatural threats without much help from the outside world. I enjoyed how the went kind of crazy with it in the last 20 minutes or so — though all the splitting up had me mentally yelling at my TV (it was late and that wouldn’t fly) — and overall felt like I had the kind of movie-watching experience that I haven’t had in a long, long time. I’d really like to check this film out on Blu-ray because there were a few other visual problems, but I chalked them up to uneven streaming from Netflix.  

Halloween Scene: The Pit (1981)

If the poster alone doesn’t make you want to watch The Pit, then I’m not sure if there’s any hope for you. This is a ridiculously weird and enjoyable little movie about a boy named Jamie who has a teddy bear who talks to him, knows about a pit in the woods with weird little monsters in them and a super hot babysitter (well, for the early 80s at least). But that’s not all, as Jamie spies on his neighbor (the local librarian), writes on the mirror while the babysitter showers, oh, and starts leading very stupid people to their deaths in the pit. Why are they stupid, you might ask? Well, they don’t see a giant frigging hole in the middle of a clearing. Not smart.

With all that, though, I still really enjoyed the movie because it’s just so strange. The kid who plays Jamie, Sammy Snyders, isn’t really a great actor, but that kind of adds to the mix of weirdness that is so appealing to me. He’s got a strange look with that protruding nose and a strange voice that makes him sound like a whiny cartoon character, but it all works because he’s supposed to be a strange little boy.

The movie itself doesn’t make a lot of sense, not because they don’t explain what the monsters are (they do), but because it feels like there was a lot of “oh shit” storytelling. By that I mean, the movie’s going along with Jamie being creepy and talking to his bear and then they’re like “Oh shit, we need to show and explain the monsters.” Then it goes to another part of the story followed by “Oh shit, he needs to start leading people to their deaths, let’s do all those right now.” The last 15-20 are pretty crazy with a series of things happening I wasn’t expecting including the last shot of the movie which I loved. Also, I’m still not sure what, if any, connection there was supposed to be between the bear (whose head we are shown moving independently, with no one else in the room) and the monsters, though I could have easily missed it as I wasn’t paying a lot of attention early on thanks to the movie’s lopsided sound quality.

So, no, it’s not a good movie by any means, but there’s a quirky quality to it that kept me interested the whole time, which is more than I can say for something like Cabin Fever 2 which I watched earlier last night. If you like movies that are so bad they’re good or, being nicer, a little off, then please do yourself a favor and check this one out.