Craig All Hallow’s Eve is nearly upon us, and that means it’s time to park yourself in front of a screen for flicks that inspire fright. There are decades of movies you could check out, but if you’re not interested in going too far back in film history, there have been a number of good features of terror that have come out in the past year.
Granted, there have been some 2013 releases that were duller than you’d hope (“The Call,” “World War Z”), gratuitous sequels (“Texas Chainsaw 3-D,” The Last Exorcism Part II”) or just plain ridiculous (“A Haunted House,” “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” “Scary Movie 5,” “R.I.P.D.”), but there’s always something worth watching come Oct. 31.
3 out of 4 stars
After years of living by themselves in a woodland cabin, two young girls (Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse) are found and sent to live with their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his not-so-maternal girlfriend (Jessica Chastain). As they all cope with their new family arrangement, the girls insist they are in the presence of a specter named Mama that has been taking care of them and isn’t pleased having her position usurped.
The extended, English-language version of Andrés Muschietti’s 2008 short film uses the familiar tropes of most horror movies, such as little kids who are always in a world of their own, yet still comes up with his own style. The influence from executive producer Guillermo del Toro is hard to miss, showing that unique mixture of beauty with people, places and things most would consider ugly.
3.5 out of 4 stars
Following the death of her beloved father (Dermot Mulroney), India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is awash in grief and anger, especially given her mother’s (Nicole Kidman) fragile state of mind. When her dad’s long-lost brother (Matthew Goode) pops in for the funeral, India is intrigued by the relative she never knew existed and more than a tad suspicious about his intentions.
“Scary” may not be the right word for a movie like this, but “creepy” undoubtedly applies, with an eerie, Gothic tone from beginning to end — not the least of which is the fact that the main character looks like Wednesday Addams with better fashion sense — that will leave you thoroughly unsettled. South Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park, creator of “Oldboy,” makes his English debut all the more memorable with visual flair in flawlessly edited scene transitions that add to the many layers of what we’re already seeing, which is pretty impressive to start.
2.5 out of 4 stars
In the near future, the past problems of the United States cease to exist, largely because of a program called The Purge, in which practically all crime is legal for one night per year, allowing the populace to get their urges out of their systems. Like many, the wealthy Sandin family would rather hunker down in their home than participate in the theft and murder that goes on outside their walls during the 12-hour period, but when a stranger (Edwin Hodge) enters their house, they are forced to deal with the kind of people who truly enjoy The Purge.
The home invasion genre — to which the recent “You’re Next” also adheres — affects viewers in more varied ways than other types of horror. Some may not raise an eyebrow at the idea of seemingly normal people turning on their fellow man just for the fun of it, while for others that may be their worst nightmare.
The story doesn’t tap into its full potential of how society might behave in utter lawlessness, but just tackling some of those concepts can sometimes be enough.
3 out of 4 stars
In the 1970s, husband and wife paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) find their biggest challenge yet with the Perron family, whose Rhode Island country house has caused them nothing but trouble with unusual occurrences that keep getting more dangerous and terrifying. As they learn the history of the property, the Warrens think this may just be the beginning of their assault from the spirit world.
Given the experiences of the real-life Warrens, whose work formed the basis of movies like “The Haunting in Connecticut” and “The Amityville Horror,” there is some leeway with what really happened and what is creative licensing, but who doesn’t love the classic tale of a happy family beset by evil spirits? A standard feature like this particularly is intriguing when stacked up next to director James Wan’s other 2013 film, the low-budget “Insidious: Chapter 2,” which also stars Wilson, to see if one of the new generation of horror auteurs can take on different kinds of projects.
And for those who hated “Saw,” Wan’s latest pictures are likely to be even more enjoyable.
If you go
“Gravity,” rated PG-13
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 91 minutes
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris and Paul Sharma
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.
A team of astronauts aboard a space shuttle find their mission and lives in jeopardy when they are hit by space debris, resulting in only two survivors (Sandra Bullock, George Clooney). The pair of them have little time to spare in figuring out a plan to get back on terra firma, and they’ll need all the luck and skill they can muster to survive.
Again, it may not be definitive horror here, but this movie will make you sweat and leave you gasping as if your oxygen tank were malfunctioning. The direction by Alfonso Cuarón is impeccable, with his lengthy trademark tracking shots relentless in showing the will to live in the harshness of outer space, astonishingly rendered as close as authentic as possible, or at least as much as you could hope, with simple scientific facts like the lack of sound waves in space acknowledged where they usually are ignored.
It’s probably not 100 percent accurate, but the pace is so well constructed, you won’t have the time or the need to question it. And if you don’t see it on a big screen wearing 3-D glasses, don’t even bother.
If you go
“Carrie,” rated R
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 99 minutes
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer and Portia Doubleday
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
Teenager Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) lives in fear — at school with peers who mock her awkwardness and at home with a mother (Julianne Moore) who barely lets her out of her sight. When a gym class prank goes too far, one of her classmates (Gabriella Wilde) tries to make up for her poor treatment by instructing her boyfriend (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the prom.
However, another classmate (Portia Doubleday) has different ideas for how the evening should go, setting in motion a night the town never will forget.
Stephen King had his first big success with this mangled twist on the Cinderella story, resulting in a watershed entry in the “scream queen” horror world, so it’s only understandable that an attempt to capture that novelty would fall flat. Moretz and Moore do well as the troubled teen with latent telekinesis and her half-insane, sadomasochistic, fundamentalist mom, but there’s little we didn’t already see in the 1976 version beyond the need to jump on the anti-bullying bandwagon.
As if this year’s reboot of “The Evil Dead” didn’t already prove it, horror remakes rarely give us anything other than the same story with different actors, but hey, once the blood starts flying, you might as well watch.
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.