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For a while, it seemed like Halloween was going out of style in the general public-- and it was unsettling. Kids were going to church parking lots for candy instead of trick or treating, the Halloween aisle was overrun in most places with some kind of generic fall decor (or worse-- Christmas shit in October), and the hottest costumes were all based on internet memes. The blasphemy knew no bounds, and the movement seemed to be winning the war started all those hundreds of years ago against the only enjoyable holiday. In my case, the effect may have been compounded, as I live in a town dominated by a single religious sect. Still, I think I had seen the signs on television and the net (aka my only access to the world outside this theocratic desert community) that the holiday was withering. Luckily, Halloween seems to be back in a stronger form, or at least the stores have separated their Halloween and multicolored leaf isles. I would argue that some of this glorious resurgence is due to the straight to DVD market. While the rest of society seemingly turned their backs on the spooky-ass traditions I hold dear, horror continued to produce holiday cheer annually. When it seemed like the end was near for what I called Halloween, it was a comfort finding a new, appropriately themed flick on the rack. Whether the filmmakers did this out of love of horror, the season, or just money---in my eyes, they took up arms to protect the only holiday that matters. On that note, here are a few from various corners of the genre released in the last ten years, chosen from the DVDs that litter my floor.

Tales of Halloween (2015)

Anthology films make an excellent fit for the holiday, harking back to the verbal traditions that kept the spooky soul alive long before cinema. Tales of Halloween pays obvious tribute to classics like Creepshow (1982) or Tales from the Darkside and even rounds up a great cast of cult legends. Of course, as per tradition, one of the stories isn't that great, but I'll let you decide which.
(IMDB - WIKI - On Amazon)

The Houses October Built (2014)

I will spare you the cliche horror fan "I don't like shaky cam movies" spiel. In fact, writing this, I can come up with several that have been worth the watch. I have also been known to defend The Blair Witch Project (1999), but only when watched on VHS (that's a different, future article). Undeniably, the subgenre has some lazy entries that even I can't enjoy, but it also gave the world The Houses October Built. Directed by co-writer Bobby Roe, the film packs some actual scares, uses the format to its advantage, and that doll face person-thing is creepy as shit. By taking a more classic approach to the content, the haunted fauxumentary and its sequel (to a lesser degree) both give the frugal gimmick some credence.

The Funhouse Massacre (2015)

The film's concept has been used repeatedly in the last few years, with varied results. This 2015 example goes for a dark comedy angle, using its barrage of character actors (including Robert Englund and Jere Burns) and comic book-like extremes. It's full of callbacks to the point of parody, has the pacing of a videogame, and pulls some punches on the gore, but it's an entertaining spread of cartoon antics. Plus, if you needed another killer-clown lady in your life, it's got you covered.

The Barn (2016)

Something about The Barn just warms my heart. Maybe, it's the lovingly crafted low budget practical effects, the classic approach to cornball genre fare, or the fact that it features one of Linnea Quigley's more memorable characters of the 2000s. Whatever it is, the overall feel does right by the holiday. I don't particularly like the fake film grain, but other than that, it's endearing and gory enough to have become a yearly watch. If Stranger Things is this brave new world's answer to 80s Spielberg and Stephen King adaptations, then The Barn brings back David DeCoteau and Charles Band from that same era.

Halloween Pussy Trap Kill Kill (2017)

This one is pure cheap, sleazy fun with over the top editing and a holiday theme. It is mostly a low budget Saw meets backwoods slasher, although the first fifteen minutes gave me a hint of Franco's Killer Barbys films with a touch of TCM 4. Also, Richard Grieco is in there as a redneck mechanic with a suspicious amount of plastic surgery, which is surprisingly effective.

Bad Apples (2018)

I have been a fan of Brea Grant since, by chance, I watched her in Best Friends Forever (which she co-wrote, directed and starred in) and Smothered (in which she killed people with big fake boobs) in the same night. Here, the multi-talented Grant plays a new homeowner who, while dealing with some personal tragedy, must survive a pair of demented trailer-kids in plastic masks on Halloween night. The pacing is a little wonky, but Grant’s performance carries emotion through the film's sluggishness, and there is a subtle quirky spin to the film's design. It doesn't explain much as far story goes, opting to add a murky supernatural bookend of sorts to its barebones home invasion plot and coming closer to a later season X-Files monster of the week episode than Straw Dogs. It's no hipster apocalypse, and it doesn't involve prosthetic weaponized body parts; however, I still find a lot to like.

Terrifier (2016)

Already the murderous star of two features and one on the way, Art the clown has become a fan favorite since his first appearances in the 2013 anthology All Hallows' Eve. Terrifier is Art in full bloom and relentless as fuck. It feels old-school beyond retro title cards or artificial technical flaws, and shows gleeful satisfaction with just being splatter fan-service. There is no story outside of a creepy guy in face paint gruesomely kidnapping and cutting up people on Halloween, but frankly, I'm delighted with that and could stand to see a few more.

By no means is this a comprehensive list or a "best of" for recent Halloween flicks. The above is more a rundown of newish films that cover a range of the genre and which bring me some holiday joy. There has been a generous output of themed horror, with some being better than others. As always, I encourage a policy of exploration. You never know-- Your next holiday cinema tradition might be something you find on the unloved rack at Walmart with the straight to DVD sequels and the bargain multipacks. Have a great holiday, don't take any unwrapped goods and stay spooky.


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