It's October! In the film world, this means two certain things — Oscar talk will begin to heat up uncontrollably as major contenders begin to appear left and right, and we will be bombarded with horror movie after horror movie, each trying to stake its claim as the scariest of the season. But this October offers something else a little cool, too: a good number of female-directed films. Although six out of twenty-three is still a horrible statistic, when you step back and consider how rare theatrical releases of female-directed movies are, six in one month is pretty damn awesome. Plus, five of the six are getting great reviews. So, what specifically does October have in store for us? Let's dive in!
Your Halloween Fix
V/H/S (Oct. 5)
Burglars are on the prowl for a VHS tape, but when they find that their target is a house full of VHS tapes, they have to start watching them one by one. And what a terrifying film festival that becomes. This horror anthology features terrifying short films by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Joe Swanberg, Ti West and more. It's finally hitting theaters after appearances at Sundance, SXSW, Toronto and Fantasia, although it's been on demand since the end of August. Reactions have been mostly positive, with the film garnering praise for breathing some fresh life into the found footage genre. As with all anthologies, some parts are stronger than others.
Hold Your Breath (Oct. 5)
Guys, they found an urban legend that hasn't been turned into a movie yet! Remember that thing where you're supposed to hold your breath when you pass a graveyard because otherwise you might breath in some terrible sort of ghosties? A group of campers find out the hard way it's true. Well done, director Jared Cohn, whose previous credits include "Underground Lizard People" and "Bikini Spring Break," and writer Geoff Meed, who is a stuntman and actor. The film stars Katrina Bowden from "30 Rock," the trailer is so phenomenally awful that it's kind of amazing and the alternate title is actually a hash tag. So, we're feeling pretty positive.
Sinister (Oct. 12)
Yet another horror found footage film getting great reviews! It's like the dawning of a new era. This one stars Ethan Hawke and is written by Ain't it Cool News scribe Massawyrm aka C. Robert Cargill, which is just all kinds of awesome for the geek community. The film is currently rocking 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is somewhat rare for this particular genre, and it's said by those in the know to be legitimately terrifying.
Paranormal Activity 4 (Oct 19)
Although they've attempted to keep the plot under wraps, a few bits have leaked out since a rough cut played at Fantastic Fest. Things get a little confusing (would we expect anything less from the guys behind "Catfish"?) so bear with us. The fourth installment is actually a sequel to "Paranormal Activity 2," which, if you'll remember, ends with the mysterious disappearance of Hunter, the nephew of Katie (Katie Featherston). When Alice (Kathryn Newton) takes in the neighbor's weird kid after something happens to his mom, all sorts of bad things start happening around the house. This movie will make all of the money. The end.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (Oct. 26)
The only 3D horror movie of the bunch this season, "Silent Hill: Revelation" is a sequel to 2006's "Silent Hill," loosely based on the entirely too-scary-to-play video game of the same name. The cast is delightfully solid, featuring Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell, Malcolm McDowell, Carrie-Anne Moss, and, most importantly, Kit Harrington from "Game of Thrones." While there are no reviews yet, the imagery in the trailer is certainly disturbing enough to warrant consideration for Halloween weekend viewing. Plus Kit Harrington. Just in general. Makes anything worth anything.
Something a Little Lighter
The Oranges (Oct. 5)
Leighton Meester alert! In "The Oranges," she's having an affair with Hugh Laurie, much to everyone's chagrin. Alia Shawkat narrates the movie, and it has a robust supporting cast that includes Catherine Keener, Allison Janney, Oliver Platt and Adam Brody. The film is directed by multiple Emmy nominee Julian Farino, premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Fest, and seems to have a good-natured screwball comedy feel to it, a sensibility that is always a plus.
That's What She Said (Oct. 19)
This film, directed by Carrie Preston from "True Blood" and "The Good Wife," is notable for one very important thing — no men utter a peep in the film itself. Assuming they talk about something other than men for the 90 minutes running time, this will get an A+++ on the Bechdel test. Unfortunately, early reviews aren't so great. You have been warned. Starring Anne Heche, Alia Shawkat, Miriam Shor and Marcia DeBonis.
Fun Size (Oct. 26)
Josh Schwartz, creator of "Chuck," "Gossip Girl," "The O.C." and more, makes his directorial debut with this Halloween-themed comedy, starring Nickelodeon girl Victoria Justice and "Suburgatory"'s break-out star Jane Levy. This is more or less the only movie aimed at teenagers being released in all of October. Unless you count "#HoldYourBreath." Which we don't.
Oscar Season Kick-Off
Argo (Oct. 12)
Who would have thunk during the Bennifer: First Edition days that Ben Affleck would become a reliably fantastic dramatic director? Following "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town" comes the first in Affleck's oeuvre that is based on a true story, and a fascinating one at that. "Argo" offers a stellar cast that includes Affleck himself, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston. This timely docudrama is sure to go far this awards season, especially given its warm reception at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. (We gave it an A.)
The Sessions (Oct. 19)
You may know this wonderful heartfelt dramedy that walked away with the Sundance Audience Award by its former title, "The Surrogate," but you don't need me to tell you that a movie with a new name can smell just as sweet. Indie film rock star John Hawkes puts in an Oscar-worthy performance as journalist Mark O'Brien, who has spent most of his life in an iron lung. Helen Hunt makes a triumphant return as the sex surrogate who helps him fulfill his wish to lose his virginity, and William H. Macy appears as his rather open-minded priest and friend. This is an absolute must-see.
Cloud Atlas (Oct. 26)
This divisive epic is directed by Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, and is based on the book by David Mitchell. After premiering at Toronto to wildly mixed reactions, "Cloud Atlas" secretly screened at Fantastic Fest to overwhelmingly positive results. With a strong ensemble cast led by Tom Hanks, a dizzyingly ambitious science-fiction premise and a runtime of two hours and 40 minutes, "Cloud Atlas" will either be nominated for all of the awards or shunned as simply genre fodder. (Check out our TIFF review here.)
For The Family
28 years after Tim Burton made the beloved short "Frankenweenie," the Halloween-y artist finally gets to bring his creation to life as a feature-length stop-motion film in 3D. Perhaps the most personal work Burton has ever produced, "Frankenweenie" is important to the legendary director's career in many ways. Not only does it circle back to his roots, but word on the street is that it is his best film in years. (Here's our review from Fantastic Fest.)
Here Comes the Boom (Oct. 12)
Look, they aren't going to stop making Kevin James comedies until you stop paying to see them. The film latest in the inexplicably lucrative career of James is kind of like "Warrior" if it were an "inspirational" "comedy," in that James plays a science teacher who takes up MMA fighting for cash prizes, that will then go towards his school's extracurricular program. The film also stars Salma Hayek because… Yeah, I guess that's what she's up to these days.
Taken 2 (Oct. 5)
The oft-imitated 2008 hit "Taken" gets re-"Taken" in this sequel written by Luc Besson and directed by a former graffiti artist whose chosen last name is Megaton. While it's far more of a action/thriller than a drama, but it had to go in one of these categories. Unfortunately, even Neeson's "special skills" can't save this film from what looks like a pretty poor reception. It's okay, Liam Neeson, you are allowed to falter every so often. No one is perfect, not even a perennial bad ass like you.
Butter (Oct. 5)
Nope, not even a cast comprised of Jennifer Garner, Olivia Wilde, Ashley Greene, Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone, Ty Burrell and Rob Corddry can save this dramedy about a butter-carving competition. "Butter" has been in limbo since premiering at Telluride in 2011 to less-than-favorable reviews. Okay, godawful, won't-watch-it-on-cable reviews. Sure, there are some creepos out there who will only see it for the Greene/Wilde kissing scene, but that's not going to be enough to snag "Butter" a decent opening weekend, even with a simultaneous on-demand release. (Here's our review.)
The Paperboy (Oct. 5)
This steamy Southern gothic film from "Precious" director Lee Daniels is causing a hubbub for at least a few rather bizarre scenes, including one where Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron's jellyfish sting wounds and another that features a sort of telepathic sexual act that must be seen to be believed. This is just one of five movies that Matthew McConaghey is appearing in, compared to costar Zac Efron's four, but it seems like not even McC's golden torso will be able to save this freak show.
Wuthering Heights (Oct. 5)
The latest adaptation of the Emily Brontë classic is a bit more on the experimental side, thanks to "Fish Tank" director Andrea Arnold and her co-writer Olivia Hetreed. With limited dialogue, natural light and with an unknown actor playing the adult Heathcliff, this is certainly not the version we read in high school. "Wuthering Heights" snagged the Best Cinematography prize at the Venice Film Festival, and is widely praised for DP Robbie Ryan's breathtaking visuals. This adaptation also marks the first time a black actor is portraying Heathcliff. The word is the film is much better for its fairly unknown cast and Arnold's direction. (Read our review here.)
Middle of Nowhere (Oct 12)
Director Ava DuVernay snagged the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival for this intimate indie about a woman torn between her husband in jail and the possibility of a new future for herself. Emayatzy Corinealdi stars as Ruby, with Omari Hardwick ("Sparkle," "The A-Team") as her husband Derek and David Oyelowo ("The Paperboy," "Red Tails," "The Help") as the friendly bus driver who makes her rethink her choices.
Nobody Walks (Oct. 19)
In what appears to be the most sensual offering of October, "Nobody Walks" is chock full of forbidden attraction in the forms of Rosemarie DeWitt, Justin Kirk, John Krasinski and Olivia Thirlby. Directed by Ry Russo-Young and co-written by "Girls"' Lena Dunham, this is one of many female-directed and -dominated October options. The film is available now on VOD.
Chasing Mavericks (Oct. 26)
Oh, dear. Gerard Butler is playing real-life surfer Frosty Hesson, who helps out a young buck named Jay Moriarty learn how to ride the gnarliest waves known to surfdom, the Mavericks. Jonny Weston plays Moriarty, who sadly passed away in 2001. It's co-directed by Curtis Hanson ("LA Confidential", "Wonder Boys") and Michael Apted (the famous "7 Up" series), but can we trust anything Gerard Butler does at this point?
Smashed (Oct. 10)
This dramedy about an alcoholic married couple snagged a Special Jury Prize at Sundance and a whole lot of buzz for its cast. Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Katie, a schoolteacher trying to get sober while she's married to Charlie, an active alcoholic played by Aaron Paul. The rest of the cast is solid as a rock; Nick Offerman appears as a fellow teacher who takes Katie to AA with him, Megan Mullally as the school principal and Octavia Spencer as Katie's AA sponsor Jenny. Sounds bleak, but it's said to be funny too.
Seven Psychopaths (Oct. 12)
This is writer/director Martin McDonagh's first feature since his wonderful dark comedy "In Bruges," in 2008, this time with 100% more Christopher Walken. How can you go wrong with a cast comprised of Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits (!!), Kevin Korrigan, Gabourey Sidibe, Abbie Cornish and a kidnapped Shih Tzu? Welcome to the weird, weird criminal world of "Seven Psychopaths." It got glowing reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival last month. (Here's ours!)
The Loneliest Planet (Oct. 26)
Happily engaged couple Nica (the charming Hani Furstenberg) and Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) are on a backpacking trip together in the Republic of Georgia. While in the mountains with their tour guide, Dato, something occurs that is so small, so fleeting, that if you look down at the wrong time, you will miss it. This moment is so powerful that it dramatically alters the dynamic of this seemingly perfect couple, perhaps forever. Guilt, shame, resentment and passive aggression swallow the second half of the movie, a sharp contrast from the light adventurous beauty of the first half. Writer/director Julia Loktev won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 AFI Fest for good reason; a film like this, with little dialogue and almost no action, could have easily crashed and burned in lesser hands.