Maybe stand-up comedy is not your thing, or you prefer chills over laughs. Either way, the annual Spooky Movie Festival is here to scare the shit out of you. From October 10th through the 19th, the festival resides at AFI Silver and offers the best in horror, gore, and extreme cinema. There are dozens of movies to sort through, so here’s our curated guide to ensure you’ll piss your pants (in a good way).
- Dark Touch. Friday, October 12, 9:30 pm.
Official synopsis: In a remote town in Ireland, eleven-year-old Neve (Marie Missy Keating) finds herself the sole survivor of a bloody massacre that killed her parents and younger brother. Suspecting a gang of homicidal vandals, the police ignore Neve’s explanation that the house is the culprit. To help ease her trauma, dutiful neighbors Nat and Lucas take her in with the supervision of a social worker. Neve has trouble finding peace with the wholesome and nurturing couple, and horrific danger continues to manifest. One of the breakout films from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (where it had its world premiere), Dark Touch one ups its Carrie-esque storyline with the same queasy goose bumps that greeted viewers of French writer-director Marina de Van’s cutting-edge tour de force In My Skin.
- Why you should see it: You can’t wait for the Carrie remake, which opens next week. Or you’re annoyed Carrie is remade at all – it’s an early Brian DePalma masterpiece – and you’d rather see a different take on a young girl with supernatural powers. This one looks like it cuts deeper.
- Haunter. Saturday, October 13, 7pm
Official synopsis: Lisa Johnson (Abigail Breslin) is one day shy of her sixteenth birthday. And she will be forever. She and her family are dead and doomed to repeat that fateful last day before they were all killed in 1985. Only Lisa has “woken up” and realizes what is going on. She starts to feel as if she is being haunted, but the “ghost” turns out to be Olivia, a very much alive girl who lives in the house in the present day with her own family. With her help, Lisa discovers that the house once belonged to a serial killer who kidnapped teenage girls and burned their remains in a hidden furnace room. When he died, he became a haunter – a powerful, evil spirit able to possess the living.
- Why you should see it: Abigail Breslin has become a canny actress; she chooses her parts well, and is unafraid of genre films. Plus it’s always interesting to see a haunting in reverse. I’m tired of watching a family get terrorized – I’m looking at you, Insidious – and the ghost’s perspective is much more interesting.
- Backweater. Sunday, October 13th, 5pm
Official synopsis: Cass and Mark are a couple on a camping trip to the distant countryside. When their seemingly secluded getaway is interrupted by an ominous scream, they start to think someone might be stalking them, and encounter two strangers who are also in the woods near them. Despite everything appearing to be harmless, they can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. The truth, however, is far more disturbing than meets the eye.
- Why you should see it: The one has less than 1,000 views on YouTube, yet it looks professionally done and the premise is intriguing. Don’t forget that many of the world’s best filmmakers got their start with genre film, especially horror, and this could be your early chance to see some raw talent.
- Dead Meat Walking: A Zombie Walk Documentary. Monday, October 14, 7pm
Official synopsis: A real-life zombie epidemic is spreading. Inspired by the increasing popularity of zombie movies and television shows, men, women, and children across the globe use gruesome makeup and costumes to become a rotting mass of zombies staggering through city streets. Featuring interviews with Norman Reedus, Academy Award®-winning makeup artist, and director Tom Savini—who provides new insights into his collaboration with the godfather of zombie cinema, George Romero — Dead Meat Walking is a fun and riveting documentary that offers a unique focus into the extraordinary and ghoulish pastime that has devoured the imaginations of zombie fans.
- Why you should see it: You don’t want to dress up like those weirdos, right? Yeah, neither do it, but their makeup is pretty cool. Zombies have ingratiated themselves into pop culture in a big way, so it’s about time someone made a documentary about the people who enjoy the undead a little too much.
- Art of Darkness. Tuesday, October 15, 7pm
Official synopsis: Liz (Emily Baxter) is a nurse who had to quit her job as she struggles to cope with the emotional stress of having lost a baby. With the debts piling up and her and her husband Ben (Martin Laurence) at emotional and financial breaking point, she takes a modeling job to help make ends meet. Arriving at the shoot, Liz meets Philip, an intense and successful young photographer and she feels flattered by his interest. But all is not what it seems in this remote middle class area, and while Liz poses for her new friend Philip (Ryan Elliott), she has no idea of the horror that is lurking in the shadow, until Liz finds a body. Panic stricken, she knows they have to escape and tries her only hope – Ben. Will their strained relationship hold up long enough for him to believe and save her? As the body count rises will she make it out alive? Or will the sinister game of cat and mouse end in a bloody masterpiece. Life Imitates Art. Art Imitates Death.
- Why you should see it: This is old-school exploitation at its finest. Why doesn’t like a creepy killer and scantily clad women in distress?
- Chastity Bites. Thursday, October 17, 7pm
Official synopsis: Notorious serial killer Elizabeth Bathory believed that bathing in virgin blood would keep her young and beautiful forever. Still alive today she’s found a perfect hunting ground for her “botox” as an abstinence educator in conservative America…but will a brave young blogger and reporter for the high school paper finally put an end to the Blood Countess’s reign of terror, and save her best friend from becoming the next victim? Fun and grisly!
- Why you should see it: There aren’t enough good horror sex comedies? Remember Jennifer’s Body? That was too self-aware that it’s self-aware. This one looks like the perfect combination of horror and satire. Also, I’m pretty sure there’s a blood orgy scene. Woohoo!
- Big Bad Wolves. Friday, October 18, 7pm
Official synopsis: A series of brutal murders puts the lives of three men on a collision course: The father of the latest victim now out for revenge, a vigilante police detective operating outside the boundaries of law, and the main suspect in the killings – a religious studies teacher arrested and released due to a police blunder. With elements of horror, crime thriller, revenge drama, and wicked black comedy, Big Bad Wolves takes genre-bending to bold new levels. This sense of originality, along with its subversive political subtext, the Israeli directing team behind the 2010 cult smash Rabies (Kalevet) have returned with an unsettling and unforgettable follow-up which is already being heralded as one of the best genre films of 2013.
- Why you should see it: So this festival attracts the fringe of the horror genre, for better or worse. Some amateur films are genuinely surprising (in a good way), while others are less successful. This one looks disturbing, sure, but it looks disturbing in an unusual way. I saw Rabies at the Tribeca Film Festival a couple years ago, and these Israeli filmmakers are the real deal.
There’s plenty more horror to check out. Go buy tickets and get terrified!