The Scariest Month of 2012: October Horror Movie Preview

[caption id="attachment_149372" align="alignleft" width="300"]Sinister Summit[/caption]

Welcome to Shocktober. Get it? If not, you will soon!

October is always a prime month for horror movies (what with, you know, Halloween and all), and there seems to be even more blood-soaked offerings than usual this year, with no less than nine fright fests set to hit theaters over the next 31 days.

Take a look at what tricks and treats are in store for you, including the fourth installment in the "Paranormal Activity" series, a 3-D sequel to "Silent Hill" and a return to form for Tim Burton with the animated "Frankenweenie."


[caption id="attachment_149381" align="alignright" width="300"]Frankenweenie Disney[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 5

Starring: Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell.

The Horror: Heh heh, well, "The Horror" in that stop-motion animated kind of way. "Frankenweenie" tells the gruesome yet heartwarming tale of Victor Von Frankenstein, a young boy with a passion for homemade monster movies who resurrects his pet dog Sparky after the poor pooch is hit by a car. Victor then has to deal with a neighborhood suddenly up in arms and terrified of the back-from-the-dead canine, who's really just the same old lovable best pal he's always been (albeit now with a few scars and a couple of bolts in his neck). Screenwriter John August ("Big Fish") expands director Tim Burton's 1984 short film into what is reportedly a welcome return to form for the macabre filmmaker who's spent the last couple of years lazily churning out mildly amusing yet immediately disposable trifles like "Alice in Wonderland" and "Dark Shadows."

'Hold Your Breath'

[caption id="attachment_149382" align="alignright" width="300"]Hold Your Breath Asylum[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 5

Starring: Katrina Bowden, Randy Wayne, Erin Marie Hogan, Seth Cassell, Steve Hanks, Jordan Pratt-Thatcher, Gerald Webb, Darin Cooper.

The Horror: Previously called "#Holdyourbreath," though apparently the world isn't quite ready for Twitter-friendly titles just yet. An unofficial companion piece to "Urban Legend" (remember that one?) and a variation of sorts on the Denzel Washington thriller "Fallen" (remember that one?), "Hold Your Breath" warns us that you really, really should heed the old wives' tale about not breathing while you pass a cemetery, lest you welcome an evil spirit into your midst; a group of college kids learn this the hard way when one of their group ignores the warning, summoning the ghost of a serial killer that proceeds to possess the students and inflict lots of body-hopping carnage. You have to give credit to a horror film with a trailer that opens with attractive young people excitedly gathering for a camping trip without any sense of irony in a post-"Cabin in the Woods" world; double credit goes to Bowden for being a good sport and yammering the movie's entire premise shortly thereafter.


[caption id="attachment_149383" align="alignright" width="300"]V/H/S Magnet Releasing[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 5

Starring: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard, Hannah Fierman, Mike Donlan, Joe Sykes, Drew Sawyer, Jas Sams, Joe Swanberg.

The Horror: One of the past month's most popular On Demand titles gets a theatrical release for those who like their horror movies to be more of a communal experience rather than something for their own living room. Terror goes analog as a bunch of thieves are hired for the seemingly simple task of breaking into a house and stealing a single VHS tape; they find the house chock full of the old cassettes (really, what is it about an unlabeled VHS tape that makes it so ominous?) containing hours of "found footage" that prompt a six-part horror anthology film dealing with hauntings, possessions, scary monsters, running and screaming through the woods and, occasionally, fornication. At least one segment of "V/H/S" caused at least one audience member at this year's Sundance Film Festival to faint; the trailer certainly promises a wild ride of "Blair Witch"-style horror taken to even more lo-fi extremes, making for a "Creepshow" for an era where everyone with a Flip camera can make a damn movie.

'Grave Encounters 2'

[caption id="attachment_149385" align="alignright" width="300"]Grave Encounters 2 Tribeca Film[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 12

Starring: Richard Harmon, Stephanie Bennett, Leanne Lapp, Reese Alexander, Howie Lai, Duncan Playfair, Sean Rogerson.

The Horror: The "Grave Encounters" series follows in the footsteps of "The Blair Witch Project" and "The Human Centipede" by going self-referential for its sequel, following a film student obsessed with the original "Grave Encounters" who convinces his friends to join him on a visit to the condemned psychiatric hospital featured in his favorite movie. A grave mistake, of course, as the would-be auteurs soon find themselves trapped in a haunted house that unleashes its many terrors like a low-budget "Blair Witch" variation on the 1999 remake of "House on Haunted Hill." There's two of at least a half-dozen other movies that "Grave Encounters 2" seems "inspired" by, though there seems to be something of a foolproof clause to all of these "found footage" horror outings — even though they're all starting to reek of "been there, done that," they're usually still able to deliver at least a handful of pretty good scares.


[caption id="attachment_149387" align="alignright" width="300"]Sinister Summit[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 12

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Juliet Rylance, Michael Hall D'Addario, James Ransone, Clare Foley, Fred Dalton Thompson.

The Horror: Some good early buzz for this supernatural crime thriller from "The Day the Earth Stood Still" director Scott Derrickson describes it as this year's "Insidious," referencing director James Wan's surprisingly effective 2011 haunted house flick (that placed Tiny Tim's previously whimsical "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" as Track 1 on Satan's playlist). Another case for never, ever moving into a house where the previously tenants were brutally murdered (why would you ever do that, no matter what kind of deal you were getting?), "Sinister" stars Ethan Hawke as a struggling novelist and family man who discovers some old film reels in the attic that offer clues as to what happened to the family that was killed in the house nine months earlier; apparently, the culprit was an ancient pagan deity with a knack for snatching the souls of children — and that is now after Hawke's own kids. It's probably too late for this, but if possible, try not to watch the trailer, as it pretty much lays out all the beats of the film's first two acts (and a few from the third).


[caption id="attachment_149388" align="alignright" width="300"]Smiley AMC[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 12

Starring: Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson, Andrew James Allen, Roger Bart, Keith David, Toby Turner, Michael Traynor.

The Horror: Dammit, kids, when are you going to learn that urban legends are real? If you hear a story about a demented serial killer with rather distinctive facial features that can be summoned through the Internet, don't go testing to see if it's true or not. Because it is. Also, stay off the Internet! The protagonists of "Smiley" may not have any common sense whatsoever, but the villain at least makes quite an impression; to tell you the truth, we can't look at him for very long, lest we feel ourselves losing our own minds (and tempted to test the validity of certain urban legends on the Internet). Anyway, you've got to love a trailer that features Keith David as a condescending cop and a hysterical heroine exclaiming "He ripped my shirt!" Directed and co-written by 23-year-old Michael J. Gallagher, who's dabbling in horror for the first time after calling the shots on comedy TV series like "Totally Sketch" and "The Station."


[caption id="attachment_149389" align="alignright" width="300"]Citadel Cinedigm[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 19

Starring: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wunmi Mosaku, Jake Wilson, Amy Shiels.

The Horror: "An agoraphobic father teams up with a renegade priest to save his daughter from the clutches of a gang of twisted feral children." Heh heh ... oh, all right, we'll see it. Seriously, that might qualify as our favorite horror movie description of all time, though it remains to be seen whether the actual film lives up to it (and, honestly, how could it?). The trailer shows us a contemporary industrial wasteland not unlike that of "Attack the Block" and "The Raid: Redemption," though without the layer of stylized whimsy that keeps those films from being completely depressing as they depict harsh living conditions that have shaped the residents into hardened survivalists; "Citadel," on the other hand, looks like some really heavy stuff, complete with a protagonist who looks like he's on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown over the entire run of the film. Anyway, beware the children ... especially if they're wearing hoodies.

'Paranormal Activity 4'

[caption id="attachment_149391" align="alignright" width="300"]Paranormal Activity 4 Paramount[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 19

Starring: Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen, Tommy Miranda, Alisha Boe.

The Horror: Skype and even the Xbox Kinect make the horrors of "Paranormal Activity" more mobile (and consumer-friendly) in this fourth installment of a franchise that really started to show some wear and tear in the third one. "PA" gets less scary (and less interesting) the more it insists on expanding and explaining its absurdly convoluted mythology, though you have to give Paramount credit for at least trying to stick with the lo-fi style of the original no-budget film. As per usual, what few plot details have been revealed are vague at best, though with the new camera-ready gadgets we're obviously back in the present day (after jumping back to 1988, where VHS never looked so good, for Part 3), with the incorporation of laptop video chatting allowing for less static camera angles (and probably plenty of hand-held shaky-cam). Hopefully the series is set to get back on track with this fourth chapter after introducing the laughably ludicrous subplot involving a coven of suburban witches in the last one; as cool as the Kinect visuals look in the new trailer, what this franchise needs is a return to the technical and narrative simplicity that made the first film (and parts of the second) such a terrifying treat ... though, admittedly, we're not sure quite how it would be able to do that. Sigh ... it might be time to clean house.

'Silent Hill: Revelation 3D'

[caption id="attachment_149393" align="alignright" width="300"]Silent Hill: Revelation TriStar Pictures[/caption]

Release Date: Oct. 26

Starring: Adelaide Clemons, Sean Bean, Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Radha Mitchell, Malcolm McDowell, Deborah Kara Unger, Martin Donovan.

The Horror: We're not sure who saw the first "Silent Hill" movie and wanted it to, you know, continue, but here we have a sequel to the 2006 horror film that invented the very dangerous drinking game of taking a shot every time poor Sean Bean exclaims "Rose!" Players of the hugely successful Konami video game franchise should be delighted by the fact that "Revelation" more or less follows the storyline of "Silent Hill 3," the installment that introduced survival horror fans to the cute and sassy teenager, Heather Mason, who made the ridiculously long cut scenes more tolerable with her little temper tantrums. Here, Heather (Adelaide Clemens) journeys to the haunted/ cursed/ something or other town of Silent Hill after her father (Bean) disappears and she discovers that she's not who she thinks she is; working out an identity crisis becomes even more challenging when demonic nurses are out to stab you and Pyramid Head is swinging his mighty blade in your general direction — and in 3-D!

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