Double feature of Halloween thrillers

Entertainment Story. Art by Chris Brockman.

Entertainment Story. Art by Chris Brockman.

While offering a film review of a feature currently playing in theatres, there are limited enough options that in most cases you would have no trouble finding something that interests you there. Instead, navigate the endless databases of your Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, HuluPlus or Vudu streaming accounts to expose films that you may have missed, but are definitely worth your time. These online services are far more conducive to the munchies, bathroom and smoke breaks, and….. gory, late-night Halloween double features.

The first film is a 2011 British film by the name of Kill List. It is directed by Ben Wheatley, and stars Neil Maskell as Jay and Michael Smiley as Gal. Jay and Gal are two ex-military men who have transitioned into a crime-filled underworld as hitmen. Jay is still recovering from a botched assignment in Kiev eight months prior, and both Gal and Jay’s wife, Shel, think it’s time for him to get back to work. Gal was his partner in Kiev, but apparently he has fared better in the aftermath. One night at a dinner party he approaches Jay with a new assignment, and Jay reluctantly accepts; since he and Shel have run out of money from his last job.

This movie becomes mysterious and terrifying very quick as it becomes apparent that getting back to work is not what Jay needed to clear his head. Their new assignment targets three people that all seem to recognize Jay before he offs them, and to add to the creepy paranoia, they all tell him “thank you,” and seem to be delighted that he is finally there to kill them. As they complete their three-person assignment, they get closer and closer to a powerful and deadly cult. Meanwhile, Jay is becoming a volatile partner and appears to be losing his mind, all the while the cult is mounting what seems like a counter-attack on him. All this leads up to a mind-bending ending with no shortage of blood and guts.
In addition to this being a disturbing tale, it is also a very well done film. Ben Wheatley, the writer/director, does a masterful job at revealing only enough. If this weren’t the case the ending wouldn’t have the devastating effect that it does. The acting is solid and there is some very fine camera work. In many ways, Ben Wheatley is giving the horror genre some much-needed credibility. His fascination with psychopaths is apparent (much like his 2012 Sightseers) and his competency within the elements of cinema make Kill List a must see for a very dark and twisted Halloween pick.

The second pick, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, is a good film to end with if you prefer something gory and satirical. It is directed by Eli Craig, and tells the story of a group of college kids headed to the woods for a Memorial weekend camping trip. On their way to the campsite, they smoke marijuana and become creeped out by the locals at the “Last Stop” beer and gas store… I know it’s not original and that’s the way Eli Craig plays it. The first night, while the college kids are in the lake, Tucker, played by Alan Tudyk (42), and Dale, played by Tyler Labine (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), decide to go fishing. They are actually on a weekend trip to fix up a creepy old cabin they affectionately called a “vacation home”. After coming across them, the college kids mistake them for some murderous hillbillies and the hilarity ensues.

Assuming that Tucker and Dale are savagely murdering their friends, the kids try to kill the hillbillies and one-by-one the youngsters receive a Final Destination-style death. Meanwhile, Dale is distraught trying to figure out why the kids are so afraid of them and why they keep “killing themselves on [his] property”. It does have a bit of a twist near the end, because there actually is a murderous soul amongst them, only it is not who you’d expect.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a funny horror-movie, and most times humor and horror go hand-in-hand. The tone of this film is much like that of Shaun of the Dead, and several scenes had me laughing out loud. There are definitely some gruesome depictions making it a good Halloween feature for the gore-lovers amongst you. T&DvsE spoofs a pretty worn-out, scary-movie formula therefore it obviously doesn’t have the seriousness of a lot of scary features out there. But I think that’s what makes this film worth watching is that it’s a fresh look at a tired concept, and a funny one at that.  Besides, I figured you’d need a break after the psyche-hang-over you’ll no doubt have after watching Kill List.

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