With An Accent Recommends: Screams, Scares, and Frights – A Halloween Collection

With two weeks until Halloween we’re getting spooky with our recommendations this month. The Shows, Films, or Episodes below are sure to get you into the holiday spirit.

 

Dead Set – Recommended by Valerie Parker, Managing Editor

Dead Set is a 5-part British series from 2008 that asked the question “What would happen to the members of the Big Brother household if there was a zombie apocalypse?” Because Big Brother is HUGE in the UK, and well, they are sealed off from the rest of the world. So it’s an interesting question, what would happen?

Chaos, apparently. Only of course, those in the household don’t know it, until suddenly the doors open on eviction night and all hell breaks lose.

The story is told from the point of view of those in the household, those working behind the scenes of the series, and some of their loved ones outside who are desperately trying to get to the safe haven of the Big Brother household. With a guest appearance from Big Brother’s host, Davina McCall, and cameos from actual Big Brother UK contestants, the series is a thrill ride from start to finish. Scares, screams, and some pretty great laughs. Everything you want from a story with such a ridiculous, but quite intriguing, premise. It’s easily one of the best zombie stories out there (and predates The Walking Dead). Just be warned, these zombies do run, which did bother Simon Pegg, but even he admitted the series is so good that he was able to ignore it.

Dead Set just recently became available to stream on Netflix.

 

Mirror of the Witch – Recommended by Angela, Contributing Editor

While sinister magic and malevolent spirits lurk in every dark corner, a curse plagues the royal family of Joseon Korea, damning the dynasty to destruction and its members to suffering unless it can somehow be lifted. Yet the curse is of the royal household’s own making, revealing the central theme of Mirror of the Witch and the most frightening thing facing its characters: their inability to escape, no matter how much they struggle, their prescribed fates.

The villain and one of the main characters parallel one another: both were born into lower classes, both are constantly ground under the boot heels of their “betters.” Even though her methods are abhorrent the villain’s main goal is understandable: to destroy the system that will never allow her to live freely. That some of the supposed protagonists exhibit callous “morality” themselves to oppose her, all in service of upholding the monarchy, only makes it better. Viewers are lead to wonder: are these people, who brought the curse upon themselves, really worth saving; is their system really worth preserving?

Thus Mirror of the Witch is so good that I’m mad at it, mad that I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly. Because the romance, the usual main draw for me in a kdrama, is unacceptable; the actors are 15 years apart, the leading actress only 16 years old. It might be a non-issue for their characters given the time period, but pairing these actors is inappropriate and weird. Luckily they don’t do more (physically) than hug, even if their romance has some plot significance towards the end.

Everything else about Mirror of the Witch is pitch perfect. Its rich mythology is explored enough early in the series to draw viewers into this world populated by shamans both good and bad (and the gradients in between), of powerful talismans and intricate spells, of forlorn ghosts and wandering spirits, of the desperation and hope that drives humanity. The cinematography, editing, and writing are all beautiful and equal to the world-building, keeping viewers clicking “next episode.” If you want a creepy, atmospheric show to marathon in October, look no further.

Mirror of the Witch is available to stream on Viki, Dramafever, and OnDemandKorea.

 

Big Wolf on Campus – Recommended by Kelly Sarna, Contributor

Before there was the Teen Wolf TV series, there was Big Wolf on Campus. This Fox Family TV series (now known as Freeform) tells the story of Tommy Dawkins (Brandon Quinn), your typical football player upperclassman that’s got the world in his hands. That is, until his senior camping trip lives him bitten by a werewolf! Now instead of just dealing with his crush on Stacey Hanson, homework, and college applications, he has the added bonus of full moons, werewolf transformations, and his immense strength. At least he has horror movie fanatic best friend, Merton Dingle (Danny Smith) by his side to help him through his wacky werewolf problems.

If you’re a fan of over the top comedy, meta horror movie mentions, and a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, you’ll adore Big Wolf. Every fantasy/supernatural creature is featured, too! From mummies, witches, and ghosts, to, of course, vampires. Also don’t let the fact that it’s intended for a younger audience stop you from binge watching this werewolf series. It features several jokes and elements for appreciation only by adults (which completely went over my head when I watched this originally as a kid).

In terms of viewing the show, unfortunately you have to resort to sites like YouTube or purchase home-made DVDs online. That is unless, a streaming site like Netflix ever releases it. There aren’t any trailers for the series, but you can check out the catchy as hell theme tune/credits.

 

So Weird – Recommended by Roxanne, Contributing Editor

Often compared to The X-Files, but for kids, So Weird aired on The Disney Channel for three seasons from 1999 – 2001. The first two seasons follow Fiona “Fi” Phillips, a young teenage girl obsessed with all things paranormal. Traveling the country on a tour bus with her rockstar mom, older brother, and family friends, Fi manages to find something strange to investigate no matter what city they end up in. Of course, regardless of how many strange situations the other characters find themselves in, they remain skeptics, especially her brother Jack. The Monsters of the Week include many of what you’d expect – aliens, ghosts, werewolves – but also delve into some lesser known beings such as Tulpas, will o’ the wisps, and banshees. And sometimes there’s no monster, but just some seriously weird stuff going on; one of my favorite episodes involves a wormhole, time travel, and a lot of baseballs. Through her investigations Fi also slowly learns more about her dad, who died in an accident when she was three. Except maybe there was more to his death than anyone knew…

While still featuring comic relief to keep things from getting too heavy, the tone is darker than you’d expect from Disney, or really any TV show aimed at kids. There aren’t always happy endings, and the grief Fi and her family still show over her dad’s death tugs at your heartstrings. And had the show continued as originally planned, reportedly season 3 would have included Fi traveling to hell to save her father’s soul.

Unfortunately, after two seasons Fi was written out of the show, and replaced with Annie, a pop-singer who had a panther as her spirit animal. That’s honestly all I remember about her. Disney also pushed the third season into a much lighter direction, erasing much of what made the first seasons so memorable. Despite the lackluster final season, the first two can be watched on their own – that is, if you can track down the episodes online. Sadly, Disney has yet to release So Weird in any way, and reruns haven’t aired since shortly after the show ended. Still, seasons one and two are well worth watching if you can find them.

 

The House at the End of Time (La casa del fin de los tiempos) – recommended by Tatiana, Contributor

The House at the End of Time (La casa del fin de los tiempos) is a 2013 Venezuelan thriller that chills from the start. The film wastes no time, throwing us into a nightmare from the opening scene. The supernatural suspense mixes seamlessly with the complicated interpersonal relationship that might otherwise make this a family drama. Before you know the protagonist, before you even know her name, you feel for her plight. Dulce is played brilliantly by Ruddy Rodriguez both in the past and the present, and the biggest issue with the film is probably the quality of her aging makeup. But if you’re a fan of older horror films with less-than-special effects, then ignoring the makeup in favor of the gripping performance should be no trouble.

The movie goes back and forth between the past and the present, slowly building the tension while providing a haunting picture of a broken home life. If you can handle a slow-burn and enjoy psychological thrillers even more than slashers, then The House at the End of Time is perfect for you.

The House at the End of Time is Available on Netflix.

 

Train to Busan – Recommended by Miranda, Contributor

A mysterious outbreak triggers the zombie apocalypse in South Korea, and the passengers of a bullet train on the way to Busan struggle to escape the madness. A small group of innocent people try to fight off not only the vicious zombies but also the self-serving, even more vicious passengers who care only about themselves. There’s a young fund manager and his small daughter, a tough, working class husband and his pregnant wife, two teenagers, a homeless guy, and a couple of old ladies. It’s a diverse group of people who find ways to be resourceful while on board the train.

Train to Busan is a thrilling ride and totally entertaining. It’s a well-made, well-acted zombie film, with engaging characters and appropriately gory special effects. The story is pretty standard zombie apocalypse fare, made unique by the setting. The claustrophobia of the train helps amp up the tension, reminiscent of Snowpiercer. The frenetic, fast-moving zombies were also similar to those of World War Z, but Train to Busan has the advantage of having more interesting characters to root for. It ends on a bittersweet note, but the real fun is more in the journey than the destination.

Train to Busan is available on Netflix

 

Fringe: Season 2 Episode 9 – “Snakehead” – Recommended by Jeanne, Contributor

Shady human traffickers smuggling more than just human cargo, terrifying, larger-than-life creatures, a sinister bad guy in control of it all behind the scenes, and found family feels – this Fringe episode has everything.

If you never watched this FOX show while it was airing, you definitely missed out. However, it’s still well worth a watch. Starting right at the beginning is, of course, recommended, but if you just want a taste of an excellent ‘monster of the week’ episode to whet your appetite, “Snakehead” will more than meet those requirements.

After a cold open guaranteed to make you cringe and/or scream and/or turn away from the screen in horror, the FBI’s Fringe Division is called in to investigate when a damaged cargo ship washes ashore. It’s full of dead Chinese stowaways, several of whom are found with some kind of giant parasitic worm (also dead) attempting to emerge from their bodies. Eww.

From there, our team – Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Dr. Walter Bishop (the amaaaazing John Noble), his son Peter (Joshua Jackson), and Agent Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) – must discover who is smuggling these giant worms inside human hosts, and why. Don’t eat while watching this episode, unless you have an extremely strong stomach. And don’t watch without access to tissues, unless touching moments between family and friends make you cry a lot less often than they do for me.

Fringe just recently left Netflix, but it is available to stream on Amazon Prime. All five seasons are also available on DVD.

 

Repo! – Recommended by Katie Quinn, Contributor

Repo! is a wonderfully awful steampunk rock opera set in the not-too-distant future. Organ failure has become a rampant epidemic, but luckily GeneCo is there to provide organ transplants. There’s just one small catch – if you miss a payment, the Repo Man comes after you. GeneCo’s CEO is sick and dying and his three incompetent children are fighting to see who will take over when he dies. Meanwhile, the head Repo Man’s daughter just wants to see the outside world. There’s blood, death, music, teenage rebellion, family in-fighting, drugs, betrayal, and so much more. If you’re tired of Rocky Horror, but still need a so-bad-it’s-good musical to watch, Repo! is it.

If you ever wanted to see Anthony Stewart Head (aka Giles from Buffy) sing and murder while simultaneously playing the overprotective father, you’ve come to the right place. Additional gems: Paris Hilton’s face falls off while she sings and dances, and a brief cameo by the one and only Joan Jett.

Where to watch it: on DVD; active shadow casts in the US, UK, and Canada; rent on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play

 

The Guest (2014) – Recommended by Andrew Santos, Contributor

The Guest is a 2014 action/thriller written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard, the duo behind the very well received horror film You’re Next and the current Blair Witch sequel now in theaters. It stars Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) as David, a former soldier who befriends and injects himself into the lives of a family who lost their own son in action.

While not a horror movie per se, The Guest includes some fun horror elements and an overall eerie tone as the mystery behind who David really is begins to unravel. Dan Stevens really sinks his teeth into the role of David, owning every scene he takes part in and having the audience at times second guess whether or not he’s someone who can be trusted. As far as the story goes it’s very simplistic, though some of the more expository scenes can briefly take you out of the film.

One of the film’s strongest aspects is its soundtrack. Director Adam Wingard seems to take some inspiration from 80s action and horror films providing a soundtrack made up of an 80s synth-inspired score, reminiscent of old John Carpenter films like Halloween and The Thing, as well as some tracks worked in from 80s Pop and Punk musicians.

If you enjoy a good Halloween flick, but are more entertained by the action/thriller variety than check out The Guest. Taking place in a small town in October The Guest has Halloween written all over it as nearly every set piece has the theme for the upcoming holiday worked into it in someway, especially the film’s final climatic scene.

The Guest can currently be streamed on Netflix. Give it a watch.

 

Session 9 (2001) – Recommended by Tere Michaels, Assistant Editorial Director

Writer/director Brad Anderson (The Machinist, The Call) offered up this quietly creepy story, which slowly builds its story – a blue collar asbestos cleanup crew at a terrifying abandoned mental asylum who begin to disappear as the voices of a former patient’s multiple personalities narrate their story via old tapes.

Set at a real life abandoned mental hospital, Session 9 teases you with questions – are the men being possessed/haunted by former patients? By an evil force? Is there nothing supernatural at all? Until the final few minutes, you will be on the edge of your seat, wondering how it’s all going to play out.

This isn’t a slasher film or an overly “people die in various ways” sort of story. The escalating tension is woven between the shouts and whispers as the men begin to fall apart.

Session 9 puts you into the story as a character. You feel the men’s confusion and stress. You feel the walls of the asylum begin to appear more menacing with each passing scene. The words of the patient, telling her dramatic story of evil, begin to hold more meaning as each tape is played. No cheap scares here – this one is going to stay with you awhile afterwards.

Available on Netflix

 

A Girl Walks Home at Night – Recommended by MJ, Contributor

So, maybe you’re tired of the vampire genre, and think it’s played out. I understand. However, what if I told you there’s a recent black-and-white Iranian vampire film, that also could be called a Western? And it’s also written and directed by a woman (Ana Lily Amirpour)? A little less run-of-the-mill, don’t you think?

Here’s the IMDb description, submitted by the writer and director: “In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire.”

The vampire (played by Sheila Vand), whose name we never hear, is a bit of a vigilante: for example, she kills a drug dealer, which is how her life eventually intersects with the other main character, a boy named Arash (Arash Marandi) whose father is an addict. Another character of note is the prostitute Atti, played by Mozhan Marno, whom I adore as Samar in The Blacklist. The girl and Arash start a rather sweet, innocent relationship before they know each other’s darker secrets. It all comes to a head after Arash’s father catches the attention of the girl, however. The two must decide how to proceed, and whether their relationship is something that can continue.

In terms of blood and gore, this movie has just enough to still be called a horror movie, but it’s not a focus. Plus, the black and white film and the way it’s shot, overall, gives it a dreamlike quality that puts the audience at a distance from most potential shock. It is by no means fast-paced, and in fact I find it could have done with a little more urgency at points. Still, the acting drew me in, and at the end of the film I found that I could have happily watched more if there had been more to see. I recommend this movie, and not just for the uniqueness of its genre.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is available on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and VICE.

 

Tucker And Dale Vs Evil

As a person who is not a fan of horror films, I was not interested in watching truly scary films, (I still can’t bring myself to w atch The Omen in its entirety and I will forever be wary of Big Wheels. The Shining didn’t help either) so this movie was both a relief and a joy to watch. The movie is about two hillbilly best friends, Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) who just want to spend some time at Tucker’s new “vacation home,” a dilapidated cabin in the woods. On the way, they encounter a group of college kids who basically think they’re in a horror flick by way of Deliverance. And as soon as one of the coeds gets separated from the others, it does become a horror flick, but one that goes in unexpected directions. Also, did I mention that this is a comedy? It’s a comedy where people get killed in pretty hilarious ways, mind you, so there’s blood and gore, but it’s a comedy nonetheless. Misunderstandings abound, things escalate, and people die, once again, in many funny ways. It’s also a very sweet movie. Tucker and Dale are very good best friends and they’re always looking out for each other. Somehow I find their relationship more intriguing than the romance that’s in the movie, but Tyler Labine is delightful as Dale courting the coed, Allie (Katrina Bowden). Also, one of my favorite arcs in the movie is the abuse that Tucker goes through. Being stung by a bunch of wasps is just the beginning of the indignities. This movie takes all of the tropes of a horror film and turns it into comedy. It’s a fun watch and great for the person who cannot take a truly scary movie.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is available to stream on Netflix