October 2020 Review: The Best and Worst Movies I Saw Last Month
Updated: Feb 6
October is truly my Christmas. There is something truly special about a month dedicated to all things spooky, scary, and supernatural. I didn’t base any movie I watched on the season, and that might be something I change next year. One of my favorite first-time watches, which was a few movies shy of being in my top three, was The Mortuary Collection (2020), the only film that truly captured the energy I love feeling this month. Next year, I am going to try and mix in some re-watches that I know have this aesthetic along with some better curated first-time views.
After all was said and done, I watched 45 films this October and am very pleased with the choices I made. So far October has the highest average rating of any month of the year. Clearly, I did something right! Anyway, on to the main attraction!
WORST #3) Don’t Let Them In (2020); Director: Mike Dunkin; United Kingdom
Don’t Let Them In follows two social workers traveling to a remote case out in a countryside village. Of the pair, one is more strait-laced and no-nonsense, while her partner is a wisecracker trying to prove he too cares about his job. When they arrive, they find their charge restless and distraught over an unknown force terrorizing him, which they initially dismiss. Soon they realize that someone or something has besieged the house and time is running out before they take what they need from the dilapidated group home. I felt bad rating this film so low because it truly isn’t that awful. Sure, it has its problems; the effects are hokey, the story is pedestrian, and the action is pretty stagnant, but with the right budget and a bit more talent, this could have been a solid siege movie. Unfortunately, it relies on its third act reveal to be compelling and that just isn’t strong enough, or well-executed, to get it over the hump. You might be tantalized by the comparisons to movies made from the same vein but make no mistake that Don’t Let Them In is a tepid action horror film that is light on pretty much anything that makes it stand out from the crowd.
Overall Score? 4/10
BEST #3) Phantasm (1979); Director: Don Cascarelli; United States
A teenage boy, Mike, suspects something is amiss at his local cemetery after spying on a funeral of a family friend and proceeds to investigate. Soon he discovers that the local mortician, nicknamed The Tall Man, has been stealing corpses and turning them into his unwilling supernatural slaves. It’s up to Mike, his older brother Jody, and trusted adult Reggie to thwart whatever evil plan The Tall Man has concocted. I knew that Phantasm was a decently revered horror film but somehow, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Boasting a unique premise, likable characters, solid effects, and riveting chase sequences, Phantasm is an all-around blast of a horror film. While I do take issue with the writing at times, the charm of the film makes up for whatever narrative inconsistencies that arise. The mortuary scenes are particularly well-done, and the set design is impeccable. There is something so otherworldly yet pretty about the mausoleum within the basement. It doesn’t hurt that some of the film’s best sequences take place here. Classic horror through and through, Phantasm holds up well even by today’s standards, proving that good films do stay good for the rest of their lives.
Overall Score? 8/10
WORST #2) Coven (2020); Director: Margaret Malandruccolo; United States
A young woman gets caught in the crossfires of a sinister plot put into action by a powerful group of college-aged witches intent on summoning the goddess they worship. Coven has serious issues across the board. It’s riddled with cheesy dialogue, pathetic magic effects, dull characters, and quite possibly the most anticlimactic action sequences I’ve ever seen in a horror film. Seriously, the climax is just four women pointing at each other in the middle of an almost vacant city street at night. I struggle to think of one good quality or aspect his movie has going for it because its all overshadowed by both poor and ridiculous decisions. Forget that this movie’s sole reason to exist is to be a bigger rip-off and cash leech of The Craft than its 2020 sequel/remake was made to be. Forget that multiple scenes play out like a lame, softcore lesbian porn film made solely for straight men (and yes, I do need to clarify this). Forget that I’m almost out of space to explain to you why you need to avoid this movie. Cast a spell and make it vanish from your Amazon Prime cue before you make the mistake of investing 80 minutes into this mess.
Overall Score? 3/10
BEST #2) Frailty (2002); Director: Bill Paxton; United States/Germany/Italy
A mysterious young man shows up in an FBI Agent’s office ready to share his story of growing up with a serial killer father and why he suspects his brother to be responsible for a new string of killings. He explains that while growing up, his father, after an angel came to him in a dream, taught the duo how to seek out and destroy demons in order to keep humanity safe from their evildoing. Told mostly in flashbacks, Frailty is a taut drama horror film that thoroughly messes with your mind. Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey give excellent performances as Dad and Adam Meeks respectively. The true horror in Frailty is how it depicts the ease at which one person can slip into delusions and psychosis. Not everything is as it seems in this film but the characters wrestling with faith, doubt, and truth make for a compelling story filled with religious fright and fear. Frailty nails the landing too. Many horror films struggle with their endings, but Frailty hits the sweet spot by subverting expectations and delivering something unique and engaging. An off-beat and peculiar flick, Frailty is one film no fan of early 2000s horror should miss, no matter what angels or demons otherwise tell you.
Overall Score? 8/10
WORST #1) The Last Five Days (2020); Director: Clay Moffatt; United States
I’m big on found footage films because they have the ability to truly craft something special and unique by following a storyline that isn’t easy to translate to a traditionally shot feature. The Last Five Days is an abysmal attempt at utilizing the found footage subgenre, and, well, film in general. It’s almost as if an AI was forced to watch every found footage film ever made and was tasked with creating a script from what it learned and decided to make the biggest piece of clichéd trash it could possibly throw together. Two main characters are film students deciding what to investigate for their final project in class? Check. Not using a script and instead opting for barely coherent mumblecore dialogue that is as inane as it is mundane? Yep! Hokey premise predicated on the film’s obvious budget constraints that clearly shows a lack of knowledge on general scriptwriting and filmmaking? Done! I could go on, but I truly cannot stand the thought of spending more than 200 words on a film whose plot is literally about haunted fruit. Avoid at all possible costs.
Overall Score? 2/10
BEST #1) Possessor (2020); Director: Brandon Cronenberg; United Kingdom/Canada
Working at a swanky bar, a woman grabs a knife, walks up to a man and begins relentlessly stabbing him in front of horrified onlookers before dying by suicide by cop. Miles away in a secret facility, another woman attached to a strange machine rises from consciousness. The corporation she works for has created technology that allows their workers to take over the minds and bodies of others. They have perfected this technology and use it to carry out top-secret assassinations for high profile clients in exchange for money, power, and influence. Possessor is a mind-bending sci-fi horror film that features top-notch special effects, great acting, and an absolutely wild premise. I found myself on-edge and tense the entirety of the film, not exactly sure where it was going or what would transpire. What sells Possessor, however, is the story of Andrea Riseborough’s Tasya, the rising star assassin who is struggling with her mental state. Riseborough breathes life into Tasya’s spiral into violence and loss of identity. The dilemma of her job and the implications it has weigh on her, but ultimately her transformation goes beyond taking over other people and falls squarely on her own metamorphosis, potentiated by extreme violence of course. Possessor will win you over, whether you like it or not.
Overall Score? 8/10