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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: October 28, 2014

Under-the-radar horrors from the last year can liven up your at-home Halloween movie marathon

Written by: Dennis Perkins
 Scarlett Johansson in “Under the Skin.”

Scarlett Johansson in “Under the Skin.”

Halloween is a time for many things: stomach aches, costume parties, smashing jack-o’-lanterns, calling the cops on jerks smashing your jack-o’-lantern.

But for film fans, it’s the time for horror movie marathons. And while the studios toss a few horror flicks onto the big screen every year, they’re traditionally a disappointment (although the adaptation of Joe Hill’s “Horns” looks promising this time around; see preview, M17), so those in the know book their own Halloween fright fests.

The problem is, those in the know have seen all the good ones and end up in the middle of a surly, Kit Kat-fueled funk when their adventurous DVD choices turn out to star someone who used to have her own show on Nickelodeon.

Well, the Indie Film desk is here to save your Halloween with this list of under-the-radar horrors from the last year or so. (All titles available on DVD from your local video stores.)

Lake Bell, Katie Aselton and Kate Bosworth in “Black Rock.” LD Entertainment

Lake Bell, Katie Aselton and Kate Bosworth in “Black Rock.” LD Entertainment

1. “BLACK ROCK”

Directed by and starring Maine native Katie Aselton (“The League”), this intense thriller (shot in Milbridge and on Flint Island, Maine) is an unusually smart and subversive take on the infamous and troublesome “rape/revenge” horror trope (think “I Spit On Your Grave,” “Last House On The Left”) – while still delivering some seriously intense shocks. Three women go camping on a tiny Maine island and find themselves in bloody danger when some unscrupulous hunters turn their sights on any woman who rejects their advances. Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth elevate and entire sub-genre with strong performances.

Alice Englert and Iain De Caestecker in “In Fear.” Anchor Bay Films

Alice Englert and Iain De Caestecker in “In Fear.” Anchor Bay Films

2. “IN FEAR”

When a young couple (Alice Englert, “Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D.” ‘s Iain De Caestecker) get lost on their way to an ominously remote Irish inn, they’ve got more to worry about than a delayed romantic getaway when strange, fleetingly menacing things start happening. Taking place largely inside their car, the film benefits from the actors (whose increasingly terrified bickering reveals the cracks in their relationship), and the accumulating desperation packed into the film’s brief running time. As mundane inconvenience snowballs into growing panic at things half-seen, the couple’s imaginations begin to run wild – or do they?

3. “RESOLUTION”

Remarkably inventive and darkly comic sleeper about a guy who chains his drug addict friend to a pipe in an isolated cabin in a desperate attempt to sober him up, only to be confronted with an ever more portentous series of omens and clues that suggest something in the house has frightening plans for them. Like the great “Cabin In The Woods” (which you should also take home), the film is slyly funny and well acted and builds to a climax that’s as genre-savvy as it is frightening.

A24   Scarlett Johansson in “Under the Skin.”

A24
Scarlett Johansson in “Under the Skin.”

4. “UNDER THE SKIN”

Not usually classified as a horror film but, honestly, where else would you put it? This mesmerizing, chilling film from director Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast”) follows blankly beautiful, near-silent Scarlett Johansson as she drives around Scotland, picking up men (which, admittedly, is not very hard.) What happens to them is as horrifying as it is mystifying, but it’s Johansson’s (and the film’s) detachment from what she does to us poor, dumb humans that becomes so unsettling.

5. “V/H/S/2”

Sure, it’s no “Damnationland,” but this ongoing (but, tragically, not Maine-based) horror anthology series continues to bring some excellent short-form horror tales to the screen. All anthologies are a mixed bag (although never, ever “Damnationland”), but this installment of the found footage horror series has two outstandingly terrifying shorts to its credit. In one, a zombie outbreak is seen through an unfortunate cyclist’s helmet-cam, and in the other, a documentary crew infiltrates a secretive cult – and finds out, in graphic and chilling terms, exactly what they’re so secretive about.

COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
FRONTIER, Brunswick | explorefrontier.com
Friday: “Let the Right One In.” Speaking of great Halloween viewing, Frontier brings back this haunting, disturbing, oddly touching sort-of vampire film about a lonely Swedish boy who finds a queasy kinship with the odd, pale girl who moves in next door and never goes out in the daylight.

SPACE Gallery, Portland | space538.org
Tuesday: “Hoax Canular.” Director Dominic Gagnon will be on hand to guide viewers through his strange, experimental film collaboration, which finds teens from around the world making deeply personal – and undeniably weird – webcam movies dealing with their anxieties that the end of the world is nigh.

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