The Bock’s Office: Halloween movies take all forms | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: Halloween movies take all forms

Manolo (voice of Diego Luna) meets his deceased mother (Ana de la Reguera) among the residents of the Land of the Remembered in "The Book of Life." The movie is about a young man traveling through the afterlife to be with the woman he loves.

Another October, another selection of horror-centric movies released in theaters. This year is no exception, whether your tastes lie with the extremely abject — in which case, be sure to check out Kevin Smith's "Tusk" — the sensation of a good old-fashioned seance — "Ouija" — or something that is only slightly in the neighborhood of the holiday like the dramedy "The Skeleton Twins."

Here's an assessment of some of the latest appropriate offerings.

"The Boxtrolls" — A boy (voice of Isaac Hempstead-Wright) brought up among a group of subterranean creatures known as Boxtrolls finds himself gaining an interest in the above world where they scavenge each night. With his family's numbers dwindling more and more, he must ally himself with a curious girl (Elle Fanning) to drive off the local exterminator (Ben Kingsley) who's been hunting him for years.

Another bizarre work from stop-motion animation studio Laika, the makers of "Coraline" and "ParaNorman," provides ooey-gooey, gritty steampunk fun with a gang of mini-monsters that look like a nicer version of the Gremlins, all of whom dress in discarded cartons that give them their names.

Hence their adopted pal's name, Eggs.

A fine mixture of grotesque and sweet is made better by a skilled voice cast that also includes Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Richard Ayoade and particularly Kingsley as the status-obsessed madman known as Archibald Snatcher, who only gets scarier when an ailment known as the "cheese fits" takes effect.

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"Annabelle" — Expectant 1960s California couple Mia and John (Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton) get the fright of their lives when their neighbors are killed by intruders, members of a satanic cult who also attack them. Some strange occurrences only further convince them that they need a change.

Moving to a new residence puts their minds at ease, but after their baby is born, the sense of unease is back, and Mia is certain all the trouble is coming from a doll in her collection.

The unassuming blonde with a painted-on smile that we were first warned about in "The Conjuring" gets her own movie explaining just what makes her so terrifying. Although far less absorbing than James Wan's haunted house tale last summer, there are some creepy scenes here, to be sure, and if "Rosemary's Baby" left you unsettled, this will definitely keep you awake at night.

"Dracula Untold" — The Middle Ages are a time of constant battles and deaths, and few have more blood on their hands than Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans), a Transylvanian prince who only desires to live out his life in peace with his family. The Turkish Sultan (Dominic Cooper) has other plans in mind, demanding the region grant him the lives of 1,000 boys to be trained among his troops.

In order to prevent this from happening, a powerless Vlad is faced with only one choice: strike a bargain with an ancient evil being (Charles Dance) residing in the mountains, a deal that will come at a terrible cost.

As if anybody cares about historical accuracy, yes, this was the figure who went on to become the most famous vampire of all. The rest of the myth is all mucked up as an unimaginative action flick starring someone who has nothing on Bela Lugosi, Gary Oldman or Christopher Lee.

The teleportation by bats trick is kind of cool and just as quickly becomes stupid, and few other things about Vlad make this any more memorable as another reimagining of classic characters in the vein of "I, Frankenstein" and the two Hercules films earlier this year. At least the script gets one element right, in that you become a vampire by drinking their blood, not vice versa.

If this is the first of a new line of Universal monster movies, that's really horrifying …

"The Book of Life" — In the village of San Angel, matador and aspiring musician Manolo (voice of Diego Luna) longs for the heart of Maria (Zoë Saldana), as does the town's most decorated warrior, Joaquin (Channing Tatum). When Manolo and Maria are torn apart, he is sent to the afterlife and the Land of the Remembered, but if he can prove his devotion, he may just be able to find his way back to her.

Reel FX Creative Studios goes all out in terms of color and design in this tribute to the Mexican observance of the Halloween-adjacent Day of the Dead, which explains why you see so many bone-bags throughout the decor.

Some excellent storytelling and original music by Gustavo Santaolalla and Paul Williams — such as the song "I Love You Too Much" — are marred by a very juvenile sense of humor and some eyebrow-raising portrayals of the culture in question, but it stops just short of being offensive.

This hardly seems like the new "Corpse Bride" or "The Nightmare Before Christmas," but any cartoon that promises all-you-can-eat churros in the hereafter is bound to have some fans.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

Halloween Movie Roundup

“The Boxtrolls,” 3 out of 4 stars

“Annabelle,” 2.5 out of 4 stars

“Dracula Untold,” 2 out of 4 stars

If you go

“The Book of Life,” rated PG

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 95 minutes

Starring the voices of: Diego Luna, Zoë Saldana, Channing Tatum and Ice Cube

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.