The Scariest Month of the Year: October Horror Movie Preview

[caption id="attachment_9703" align="alignleft" width="220" caption="Lionsgate"]Saw 3D[/caption]

Welcome to Shocktober.

October is always a prime month for horror movies, and there seems to be even more blood-soaked offerings than usual this year.

There are no less than nine fright fests hitting theaters this month: Take a look at what tricks and treats are in store for you (including a sequel to the box office sensation "Paranormal Activity," and of course, another "Saw") -- and which ones are already underway (the critically acclaimed "Let Me In," among others).

'Case 39'

[caption id="attachment_9705" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Paramount"]Case 39[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 1

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper

The Horror: Zellweger plays a child services agent who takes in poor little Ferland, and soon strange and perhaps even demonic things start happening. Jodelle's agent might need to chill out with booking all this supernatural horror, as the poor kid's already been to hell and back at least six times with "Silent Hill," "The Twilight Sage: Eclipse" and even an episode of Showtime's "Masters of Horror." Though "Case 39" was made several years ago and is just now seeing the light of day, it looks toned down in comparison to director Christian Alvart's last movie, "Pandorum," which gave itself a heart attack from its own rapid-fire editing.

'Chain Letter'

Release Date: Oct. 1

Starring: Nikki Reed, Keith David, Brad Dourif

The Horror: Any movie that features both Keith David and Brad Dourif and whose script features the term "Teen Murder Spree" without a trace of irony has already scored some pre-game points. "Chain Letter" makes the case for actually following through with those annoying (and, until now, harmless) chain letters you get in your inbox every now and then -- after all, the sender might actually be some psycho killer who's taking it all a little too seriously. More cool horror cred: the cast also includes Betsy Russell, who currently plays Jigsaw's wife in the "Saw" movies.

'Hatchet II'

Release Date: Oct. 1

Starring: Danielle Harris, Kane Hodder, Tony Todd

The Horror: Eli Roth, the man who gave us the "Hostel" movies, seems to have embraced acting over directing, and now this fella named Adam Green seems to have poised himself as the next "extreme horror" wunderkind. The trailer for "Hatchet II" has one thing to sell you, without one ounce of subtlety: gore galore, uncut and uncensored. Green's got some chutzpah, that's for sure -- and it looks like "Hatchet II" does indeed deliver the, uh, goods.

'Let Me In'

[caption id="attachment_9139" align="alignleft" width="220" caption="Overture"]Let Me In[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 1

Starring: Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins

The Horror: Director Matt Reeves has delivered much more than just a shot-by-shot retelling (sans those pesky subtitles we Americans hate so much) of the acclaimed Swedish horror film, "Let the Right One In." "Let Me In" is its own beast, a beautiful and melancholy piece of work in its own right. The film is influenced by its predecessor, not dictated by it, and it's surprisingly full of... well, surprises, even for those of you intimately familiar with the original. Chloe Moretz delivers another excellent pop art performance, and Richard Jenkins, as her put-upon guardian, will break your heart.

'I Spit On Your Grave'

Release Date: Oct. 8

Starring: Sarah Butler, Chad Lindberg, Daniel Franzese

The Horror: There are a few horror films from the '70s that could be described as being... well, perhaps genuinely evil. Both "The Last House on the Left" and "The Hills Have Eyes" could certainly apply, and perhaps even "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." But the queen bee might very well be "I Spit On Your Grave" (aka "Day of the Woman"), which chronicles the plight of an aspiring writer who's repeatedly gang-raped, humiliated and left for dead by four fine fellows whom she later hunts down and rains holy hell upon. The remake looks to be a doozy, too.

'My Soul to Take'

[caption id="attachment_9714" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Universal"]My Soul to Take[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 8

Starring: Max Thieriot, Frank Grillo, Emily Meade, Denzel Whitaker

The Horror: Wes Craven returns to the teen horror genre with this 3-D tale about a serial killer who swore he'd return to murder the seven children who were born on the night he died. Now, 16 years later, horrible killings are happening to and fro, and one of the seven targeted youngsters seems to be the key in stopping the madness. This looks to be an amusing warm-up to next April's "Scream 4," where Craven will hopefully really deliver the goods, though it should be much fun to see the horror maestro dabbling in 3-D for the first time.

'Paranormal Activity 2'

[caption id="attachment_9715" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Paramount"]Paranormal Activity 2[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 22

Starring: Katie Featherston

The Horror: How do you up the ante from the first movie? Add a toddler, of course! Ghosts (or demons) and little kids make for all sorts of creepy discomfort -- throw a dog in there (that barks at things that WE CAN'T SEE OURSELVES) and you've got the perfect setting for the inevitable follow-up to "Paranormal Activity," a film that somehow remained pretty damn scary even when it started getting pretty damn silly.

'Monsters'

Release Date: Oct. 29 (currently available On Demand)

Starring: Whitney Able, Scott McNairy

The Horror: It'd be easy to describe (or dismiss) this film as "Cloverfield" meets "District 9" with an even more aggressive political agenda than the latter, but that would only get about half the job done. "Monsters" has a lot to offer on its own terms and goes places you really, really won't expect as two people travel through an alien-infested zone in Mexico. Not quite as expertly staged (or exciting) as its two main influences, but it might very well be scarier -- you can see it now On Demand, though we'd recommend waiting to see it in a theater, where no one is safe.

'Saw 3-D'

[caption id="attachment_9717" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Lionsgate"]Saw 3D[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 29

Starring: Tobin Bell, Cary Elwes, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell

The Horror: The "Saw" legacy comes to a close with this alleged Final Chapter. It's been quite ride with this series, which more or less succeeded in telling what were basically old-fashioned morality tales in the framework of the contemporary "torture porn" genre -- and it was aided immeasurably by Tobin Bell, who brought class and style to the party with his intelligent, sad and creepy performance as villain/anti-hero Jigsaw. Too often dismissed as simply tasteless gore fests, the "Saw" movies were actually -- more often than not -- clever exercises in genre filmmaking, and they were almost always at least one step ahead of the audience. Yes, it's definitely time to go, but we'll miss Jigsaw and his games, nonetheless.