The Horrific Monthly Review of October 2020

Don’t be fooled by the title, dear reader: I’m not one of those people who spends all of October watching horror movies. But the world we live in is horrifying enough for that adjective to apply to pretty much any month this year, isn’t it?

So as England prepares — not for No Time to Die, as we’d hoped for from November — but for Time to Try Not to Die in Lockdown 2, let’s look back at the month that was the tenth in the seemingly-never-ending year that is 2020…


#219 Lancelot du Lac (1974), aka Lancelot of the Lake
#220 Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
#221 Patrick (2019), aka De Patrick
#222 Dick Johnson is Dead (2020)
#223 The Good Liar (2019)
#224 Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
#225 Some Beasts (2019), aka Algunas Bestias
#226 Luxor (2020)
#227 The American President (1995)
#228 Down with Love (2003)
#229 Puzzle (2018)
#230 Misery (1990)
#231 The Mole Agent (2020)
#232 Waxworks (1924), aka Das Wachsfigurenkabinett
#233 Vampires Suck (2010)
#234 The Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
#235 Tim’s Vermeer (2013)
#236 Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Patrick

Tim's Vermeer

Crazy Rich Asians

.


  • I watched 18 new feature films in October.
  • That’s in the lower-middle for 2020 so far — 7th out of 10 months, to be precise.
  • Unsurprisingly, then, it fails to equal my 2020 average (previously 24.2, now 23.6).
  • It also fails to equal my rolling average for the last 12 months, but as last October was so poor (just four films), it still increases the average, from 19.9 to 21.1.
  • Continuing on the bright side, it surpasses the October average (previously 13.2, now 13.5).
  • #236 is also the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of October, besting #222 in 2018.
  • You might think that makes 2020 a lock for my #1 year ever, but it’s not so simple (as my previous overviews of predictions have shown). There are 26 films to go to a new record — 13 per month for November and December, which sounds very doable (my worst month this year totalled 12), but it’s worth noting that the November average is 10.4 and for December it’s 11.2, so never say never.
  • As for the once-seemingly-possible target of #300, that would mean 32 per month in November and December. Literally, not impossible (I’ve managed over 30 in two consecutive months twice before), but also not likely (I’ve only managed over 30 in two consecutive months twice before). Time will tell…
  • This month’s Blindspot film was supposed to be An American Werewolf in London. For most of the year I’d had that singled out to be October’s pick, for obvious reasons. I considered watching it earlier in the month, but decided to leave it for nearer Halloween. Then as Halloween neared I thought, “why not save it for the day itself?” Because Halloween is the last day of the month and the best-laid plans are apt to be upended, that’s why not! So, yeah — oops. I’m aiming to watch it today to catch up quickly.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Crazy Rich Asians and The Good Liar.



The 65th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I watched a lot of films I liked this month — indeed, there was only really one choice for the “least favourite” category. But in terms of favourites, it was quite easy to single one out, too, because one film really blew me away: Tim’s Vermeer, a documentary about the point where art, technology, and obsession meet. It’s fascinating and genuinely awe-inspiring.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
I was able to watch a few screeners this month for films showing as part of AMPLIFY! Maybe it’s wrong for me to pick one of those here (shh, don’t tell anyone!), but, well, Some Beasts was easily the worst film I watched this month. Not because it’s badly made, but a final-act plot swerve struck me as wholly distasteful and poorly handled. More on that whenever I get round to reviewing it.

Most Layers in a Title of the Month
Before viewing, I wondered if Crazy Rich Asians was about Asians who were crazy-rich or rich Asians who were crazy. Turns out, it’s both! So many layers! (Two. That’s two layers.)

Most Penises of the Month
One of Borat’s most famous scenes may be a nude wrestling/chase scene between two men, but that’s got nothing on Patrick, a whole film set in a nudist camp. (Don’t let that turn you off / switch you on, mind — there’s a lot of good stuff in Patrick, and the nudity is fairly incidental.)

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
…goes to my latest TV column again, for the fourth time this year. I’ve gotta say, this one did have one of my favourite header collages I’ve put together (the entire thing uses mirroring! Me so clever). (The highest film-related post was a distant second, Bloodshot.)



At one point I was over a month ahead on my Rewatchathon goal for the year. That lead has been slowly eroded, and now I’m officially one film behind. Still, with just two months to go, it’s certainly not impossible that I’ll get there.

#40 Live and Let Die (1973)
#41 Mystery Men (1999)

As a Bond film, Live and Let Die will get my ‘Guide To’ treatment at some point. For now, I put some thoughts on Letterboxd.

Superhero comedy Mystery Men was included in my 100 Favourites series back in 2016, but I hadn’t actually watched it in a decade or more. I’m happy to report that I did still enjoy it. It takes a while to warm up — basically until the whole team has been introduced, which takes longer than you might think — but, once it gets there, it’s frequently gold. Will it make the next iteration of my 100 Favourites list? It’s more borderline than I might’ve expected. It’s not a perfect movie, but it is very enjoyable overall.


Big titles have continued to flee, and with a new lockdown cinemas will be closing again, but a few releases did sneak out in the meantime, like acclaimed horror Saint Maud, and… um… Cats & Dogs 3? Eesh. London Film Festival organised outreach screenings across the UK, but the only one that made it into the schedule at my local was closing-night film Ammonite. And in the sort-of-cinema column, Robert Zemeckis’s re-adaptation of The Witches went straight to premium streaming. I wouldn’t pay £16 for a rental of that anyway, so the mixed-to-poor reviews certainly didn’t sway me.

Another re-adaptation, The Secret Garden, finally had a cinema release, but having been sold off to Sky as a Sky Cinema Original, it was more readily accessible at home. This month the streamer also offered up Underwater, Seberg, and films not starring Kristen Stewart, like Waves. But Now TV finally stopped giving me good cut-price offers to resubscribe, so I likely won’t be able to consider watching any of those until next Oscar season, when I resubscribe to watch the ceremony.

The other two big streamers had some significant originals too. Netflix offered yet another re-adaptation of classic English literature, Rebecca, plus Aaron Sorkin’s latest, The Trial of the Chicago 7; plus David Attenborough bio/polemic, A Life on Our Planet, and another Adam Sandler thing, Hubie Halloween. Over on Amazon, the headline grabber was Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (as you might’ve noticed in my viewing list, I finally watched the original in preparation, but haven’t watched the sequel yet), and a quartet of original chillers from Blumhouse — Black Box, The Lie, Evil Eye, and Nocturne — which I don’t think have garnered great reviews, but which look interesting nonetheless. Amazon also boasted another quartet this month: the Indiana Jones series. I’ve been meaning to rewatch them forever — indeed, I’ve owned the Blu-ray set since 2012 and never watched it. I ought to get round to that before they turn up on 4K and I buy them again…

And talking of purchases, I’m still failing to stop myself buying tonnes more stuff. Indy may not be on 4K yet, but that other Spielberg-related ’80s geek trilogy, Back to the Future, did make its bow on the format this month. Of course I bought it. I nabbed an even bigger box set in Amazon’s Prime Day sale: the Universal Classic Monsters complete 30-film Blu-ray set, which includes 38 films (because, thanks to Universal’s lazy bundling of existing sets, there are seven duplicate movies in the set (whole discs could’ve just been taken out), and one film they only count as an extra, the Spanish version of Dracula). Other horror-ish pickups included Indicator’s new Fu Manchu set (officially out tomorrow; I’ve already watched the first (#234 above)); Japanese classic House; and another Universal / James Whale / Boris Karloff effort, The Old Dark House (which I watched on streaming back in June and loved). New releases included interactive DC animation Batman: Death in the Family, 88 Films’ latest Jackie Chan classic, Spiritual Kung Fu, and an import of Requiem for a Dream in 4K (it’s out in the UK later this month, but the import was cheaper). Finally, a few more to rewatch in 4K, thanks to a 3-for-2 offer: Bad Times at the El Royale, Die Hard, and Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. Whew!


Lockdown 2: Covid Boogaloo.

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