Halloween has come and gone, leaving horror movies in its wake like so many crumpled candy wrappers on my coffee table. Just as we kind of ignore Thanksgiving and skip from Halloween to Christmas, November’s horror release calendar makes me long for December when The Shape of Water will grace theaters.
And yet, even though it’s a slow time of year for horror movies, all is not lost. Yes, there are some real stinkers on November’s slate, but look at the bright side! I’ve found a few promising movies here, like My Friend Dahmer, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Mayhem, all of which have toured the festivals and gained critical acclaim as examples of innovative and striking horror filmmaking. Sometimes it’s the most unassuming horror movies that make the biggest impact, right?
Let’s check them out.
My Friend Dahmer (Limited)
“Jeffrey Dahmer struggles with a difficult family life as a boy. During his teenage years, he slowly transforms and edges closer to becoming a serial killer.”
I’m not sure if this can be called true horror, though it seems creepy enough. Jeffrey Dahmer looms large in the collective American pop psyche, conjuring up horrifying thoughts and descriptions about what he did to his 17 known victims. And yet this movie doesn’t focus on the more lurid parts of the story, instead choosing to tell Dahmer’s story before the murders, when everyone saw him as just a weird kid and he himself knew that something wasn’t quite right.
It’s always tricky to balance entertainment value and a fictionalized adaptation of real-life events with respect for victims and acknowledgment of a murderer’s crimes. The graphic novel that inspired the film (also called My Friend Dahmer) manages to depict Dahmer as a profoundly lonely and messed-up kid without excusing his crimes. Hopefully, the film can do the same, and I will definitely be watching this soon.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Limited)
“Dr. Steven Murphy is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon who presides over a spotless household with his wife and two children. Lurking at the margins of his idyllic suburban existence is Martin, a fatherless teen who insinuates himself into the doctor’s life in gradually unsettling ways. Soon, the full scope of Martin’s intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter his domestic bliss forever.”
I cannot wait to see this! I’ve been waiting since the Cannes Film Festival to see this film. It looks so new and fresh and creepy, with all the well-acted, impeccably framed and slowly mounting tension I am biased towards. I know, I know, this movie will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s totally fine. Personally, I love a good psychological horror movie, especially one with mysterious illnesses, shapeless revenge plots that only reveal themselves in the last few minutes, and nerve-shredding suspense.
Cute Little Buggers (VOD)
“From the Director of ‘DEADTIME’ and ‘Crying Wolf’ comes Cute Little Buggers! Will you let them take our women? It’s Gremlins meets Hot Fuzz set in the English countryside. When hostile aliens crash land on local farmland the villagers at the summer ball get suspicious when young women start going missing. The villagers soon band together around our hero Melchoir to fend off the invaders and bring back peace to the sleepy English countryside! B-movie laughs in this creature feature from Director Tony Jopia.”
Well, that’s a VERY generous synopsis the producers wrote for their film, because WUT?
Holy crap, I didn’t even make it ten seconds into this trailer before I had to pause it, stifle my laughter, and gather my composure before continuing. How dare they take the names of both Gremlins and Hot Fuzz in vain! How dare they sully Monty Python and the Holy Grail like that! What is that CGI? I know we’re scraping the bottom of the horror movie barrel this month, but come on! This looks so bad even the SyFy channel wouldn’t air it. Like…literally what did I just watch?
The Elf (VOD)
“Nick is haunted by night terrors stemming from a tragic murder he saw when he was young. After inheriting an old toy shop, he discovers a cursed elf doll sealed inside an ancient chest with a naughty list of his family’s names written on it. He soon discovers that the elf was an evil conduit meant to unleash a supernatural killing spree during the Christmas Holidays by whoever set it free.”
Damn it, you guys.
Chucky is one of my guiltiest pleasures, and as such, I would freakin’ love a killer Elf on the Shelf horror movie. I really would. No meditations on the commercialism of Christmas or the dark side of the holidays necessary—just make that shit funny and a little raunchy and very bloody and I would be on board in a heartbeat. It wouldn’t even have to be that good.
But it would have to be better than this mess right here. This looks sooooo bad. And not in an enjoyable, I-put-too-much-brandy-in-my-eggnog-but-fuck-it way.
I Remember You (VOD)
“An elderly woman hangs herself in a church. A grieving father searches for the truth about what happened to his missing son. And a trio of young city dwellers unleashes a sinister force when they begin renovating a cursed home on a remote island. They don’t know it yet, but each of these strangers is connected by a disturbing, decades-old secret a mystery that holds the key to a series of terrifying supernatural events. Based on the acclaimed novel by the “Queen of Icelandic Crime,” this atmospheric chiller is both a hair-raising ghost story and a powerful tale of life beyond death.”
Here we have what looks like a pretty average ghost-child horror-mystery. It’s a basic noir set-up, the kind that horror movies love to exploit, but with the added bonus of it being set in Iceland. While the movie looks like it has atmosphere for days, I’m not sure the plot is anything to get excited over.
Mayhem (VOD & Limited)
“Derek Cho is having a really bad day. After being unjustly fired from his job, he discovers that the law firm’s building is under quarantine for a mysterious and dangerous virus. Chaos erupts throughout the office as the victims of the disease begin acting out their wildest impulses. Joining forces with a former client who has a grudge of her own, Derek savagely fights tooth and nail to get to the executives on the top floor and settle the score once and for all.”
Mmmm, yes! Action-horror and workplace-horror? A mostly entertaining combination! Who hasn’t felt murderous at their corporate job?
I first mentioned Mayhem in my 2017 SXSW Horror Movies post, where the film earned critical acclaim. Variety described it as “smartly constructed and sardonically funny.” Nerdist declared it “a fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek, and appreciably gruesome piece of B-movie mania that will certainly strike a chord with anyone who’s ever spent time as an unappreciated office worker.” This might end up being a cult favorite in due course, à la Office Space.
“A paralyzed woman desperately tries to get her family and doctors to believe that she is being terrorized by a malevolent presence in her hospital room.”
Ehhhhh, I’m not sure about this one. It’s riddled with clichés—a partially paralyzed protagonist no one believes, a creepy hospital with a dark past, a creepy therapist who obviously has something to do with all this, and a monster with a ham-fisted name. And it doesn’t look that scary, at least not to me.
Angelica (VOD & Limited)
“In the Victorian era, a young wife and her husband go through a difficult time in their marriage after the birth of their child, which is heightened by a mysterious ghost that enters their house.”
Oh my, what have we here? A gothic psychological thriller-horror? Angelica looks like a great version of the classic Victorian ghost story, invoking everything from The Turn of the Screw to The Yellow Wallpaper. The film also looks gorgeous, with sumptuous costumes and lush sets. I’m a little curious about why this film took so long to be released (it was originally screened at festivals in 2015), but overall, Angelica is a delightful surprise for November horror.
What do you think about November’s horror movie releases? Are you going to see any of them?