Chester County Library’s Horror Movie Watch-a-thon

The leaves have changed their colors, the air is crisp, and every item in the grocery store aisle is now available in pumpkin flavor. If you’re like me, you can’t wait for Autumn to arrive. It means you can finally ditch your swim suit for those comfy fall sweaters and flannels; it means warming up with hot soups and ciders; but most of all, it means Halloween is finally on its way.

From the very first time I ever threw on a costume and went Trick-or-Treating, Halloween has always been my favorite day of the year. There is no day more theatrical, more indulgent, more in the spirit of good, weird fun than Halloween. It’s a celebration of our primal fascination with the things that scare us and an acknowledgement that many, such as myself, LOVE that feeling of scaring ourselves. Like many of you, that love for this holiday evolved into a love of the genre of horror. So, while I am sadly too old to dress up like Jason Voorhees and knock on my neighbors door demanding candy, I am NOT too old to compile a massive list of Horror films to binge my way through from now to November 1st. Since hanging up my mask, Halloween has become my yearly hunt for new or previously unseen Horror flicks to get me in the holiday spirit.

This year I want to share that list with you, in hopes that you may find some new favorites. And as someone who wants to make Halloween stretch out as long as possible, I am giving you 31 movies to watch; one for each day of October. So enough of the preamble; it’s time to get on with the scares!

October 1st: Jennifer’s Body

Starting off our list is the razor sharp Horror/Dark Comedy Jennifer’s Body. Though it initially failed to find its audience, this film has has one of the biggest turn-arounds in its reception both from critics and audiences. Written by Oscar-winning screen writer Diablo Cody, Jennifer’s Body is a movie that is much funnier, smarter, and deeper than the unfair false-perception it had been wrongfully stuck with. Thankfully, it seems to finally be getting the credit and love among Horror fans that it deserves!

October 2nd: Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn

First of all: YES you can ABSOLUTELY watch this movie without having seen the first Evil Dead film. This is especially true because this movie basically remakes the previous one within the first 15 minutes, but with a better effects budget and more confident director. Speaking of directors, this is only the 3rd film from a very young Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, The Quick & The Dead), and the movie is so good that it practically became his calling card for years. Evil Dead 2 is a gut-busting, laugh-a-minute riot, featuring some of the most slapstick gore you will ever see in a movie. Bruce Campbell delivers a comedic tour-de-force performance and Sam Raimi cultivates his signature style of frenetic camera work that has defined the rest of his career.

October 3rd: It Follows

I can say this confidently and without hyperbole: It Follows features one of the most CLEVER, most ORIGINAL new ideas for a Horror movie monster in decades! I won’t dare spoil the unique conceit of this movie because it is genuinely brilliant, so I will just ask you to please follow these instructions:
1) Do not look up anything about this movie before you watch it.
2) Go to one of Chester County’s many locations and get a copy of It Follows. (If your library branch doesn’t carry one on shelf, put it on hold and have it sent there.)
3) Watch It Follows (preferably at night with the lights off, for maximum spookiness).
4) Never look at a person walking behind you the same way EVER AGAIN!

October 4th: Magic

Before Chucky, before Annabelle, before Brahms “The Boy”, there was a foul-mouthed dummy named “Fats”. Though you may have never heard of his ventriloquist act with his human stage partner Charles “Corky” Withers, I can assure you it is one you will NEVER forget. Magic tells the story of “Corky” Withers (Anthony Hopkins), a young ventriloquist/stage magician on his way to fame and fortune. Withers believes his dummy Fats to be alive and has long conversations with him, though he expects this is simply a sign of his further declining mental sanity; an issue he’s hidden from his manager out of fear that it will obstruct his career. When his old high school crush comes back into his life, it creates a wedge between Withers and his Fats. Feeling pushed aside and suspecting that this new love will derail their rise to fame, Fats decides to get rid of the problem by any means necessary….
If you are like me and consider creepy dolls and ventriloquist dummies to be one of the most terrifying things to look at, then you NEED to watch this film. All the performances in this film are top notch, and feature mega-star talents such as Ann-Margaretand Burgess Meredith. However, it is an early-career Anthony Hopkins whos tragic Corky Withers carries the film on his trembling, haunted shoulders. Magic will keep you guessing about the truth of Fats all the way up until the end. The only question is: are you brave enough to make it that far?

October 5th: Us

Director Jordan Peele is the best thing to happen to Horror movies since John Carpenter and Wes Craven. After seeing Nope this summer, it feels more obvious than ever that Peele is truly here to stay. His first feature film, Get Out, was a cultural phenomenon, winning Peele an Oscar for Best Screenplay among a slew of other nominations including Best Picture. Following that as your debut horror feature is a steep hill to climb but, in my opinion, it is one which Peele surpasses by leaps and bounds with his sophomore horror film: Us.
Us follows a family, confronted by their own doppelgangers who have arrived outside their home to forever take their place. However, like all of Jordan Peele’s horror films, this premise is simply the initial pitch, a false-face preparing the audience to expect one thing while delivering an entirely different experience than you were anticipating. Also, like all of his films, Us is packed to the brim with symbolism and multiple meanings that will have you thinking about it for months after seeing it. On top of all of that, the film is lead by an incredible performance from Lupita Nyong’o who serves in the dual roles of “Adelaide” and her terrifying dark-mirror “Red”, a monster who feels instantly-iconic the moment she arrives onscreen. By the end of the film, Peele presents a thesis that feels both timeless and extremely relevant to the year it was made. While I have loved all three of his films, Us still remains my favorite.

October 6th: Greta

It’s really hard moving to a new city. You don’t know your way around; you are constantly worried about making rent or finding a place to live, and if that hasn’t don’t beat you down already, the crippling loneliness and isolation sure will. Greta is a story about two lonely people who are leaning on/ supporting each other as they both mourn their own separate losses. At least, that’s what what young Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz) thinks is happening when she befriends an older French piano teacher named Greta Hideg (the incomparable Isabelle Huppert). With Frances recently losing her mother, she is all too eager for Greta to takes her under her wing as a surrogate daughter. Unfortunately, Frances will soon learn that sometimes following your heart can lead you into the most treacherous of waters. Masterfully directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game), Greta will make you think twice before agreeing to accept that new friend request.

October 7th: The Brood

If there were a Mount Rushmore of Horror filmmakers, David Cronenberg has definitely earned a spot on it. Just some of his bona fides include: The Fly (1986), Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Scanners, The Dead Zone, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Naked Lunch, and Crimes of the Future, which released just this year! When it comes to body horror and ratcheting up tension, nobody does it like Cronenberg. But way before he terrified audiences with those films, Cronenberg cut his teeth on a little-known Canadian horror film called The Brood. The titular Brood are a roving hoard of murderous mutant children and they are as scary as they are small. This film is genuinely frightening, featuring some incredible sequences that will have you on edge as well as plenty of Cronenberg’s trademark moments of body horror to make you squirm in your seat.

October 8th: Candyman

Adapted from the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker, Candyman is an iconic and classic horror film; one which truly stands the test of time. From the very moment its hypnotic opening credit sequence begins, the movie casts a spell over its viewers, creating an atmosphere that feels like you are drifting through a waking dream. If I could compare this film to anything in the horror pantheon, it would be Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Like Dracula, Candyman is a decadent fairytale, yet instead of the gothic castles of Transylvania, it takes place in poverty-stricken slums of Calibri Green. The result is an atmosphere unlike anything I have found in a film before or since. It is both horrifying and romantic, gothic and modern, theatrical and stripped down, bleak and uplifting all at once. However, these juxtapositions only serve to heighten each other and create a horror experience that is a must-see for every fan. The cast delivers incredible performances; especially Tony Todd who imbues Candyman with a level of gravitas worthy of true monster icon status.

October 9th: Scream

It’s hard to think of a horror movie that is as much of a game-changer as Wes Craven’s 1996 teen-slasher Scream. When Scream hit theatres, it introduced a concept into the world of slashers that audiences had never seen before. After decades of teen-slasher flicks that had long cemented the same old tropes, Scream was the first film where the teenagers were not only aware of all those horror movies, but were as savvy about the genre as audiences had become. This simple, but inspired, new spin on an old genre allowed the film to set up all those well-worn horror film tropes and continually subvert them. Yet, the enduring legacy of Scream does not come from subversion or its sharp satire alone but rather from the duality of its approach. Scream manages to be both a critique on the slasher genre and one of the best and most fun slashers the genre has to offer. Beyond all of that, Scream is one of the most insanely re-watchable movies I have ever seen and it is on constant rotation in my house every Halloween. It’s hilarious, terrifying, and features an array of excellent performances that truly elevate an already a phenomenal screenplay from Kevin Williamson. While there have been many imitators of the meta-commentary horror movie, Scream did it first and Scream did it best.

October 10th: The Fly

Oh boy, looks like we’re back to Cronenberg on our list already! The Fly (1986) may still be, hands down, one of the grossest movies I have ever seen. The fact that it also manages to be one of the most tragically romantic movies I have ever seen is a truly impressive feat; but if anybody is at home melding gross body horror and romance, it’s David Cronenberg. This movie, which is a remake of the 1958 film of the same name, is widely regarded as one of the shining examples of the best film-remakes ever made, with an overwhelming contingent of audiences agreeing that it far surpasses the original. While the original is a fun B-movie capitalizing on the Sci-Fi boom of the Atomic Age, Cronenberg’s remake is a sophisticated and heart-wrenching tale about the horror of watching the one you love change in self-destructive ways and being unable to stop it. The metaphor has often been applied more directly to such experiences as slowly losing someone to a serious illness, but according to Cronenberg, the spiral of it’s protagonists Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) and Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) is meant to symbolize the horrifying process of aging. The film remains a technical marvel, featuring incredible practical effects that make Goldblum’s gradual transformation feel all too realistic, however the true special effect is the relationship between it’s two leads played by Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. The two dated in real life during this time and the true love they have for each other is so palpable on screen that no moment feels performative. You feel the genuine attraction, deep love, and eventual heart break as this monstrous transformation creates a growing wedge between the two. As Seth Brundle grows more outwardly hideous, his once-brilliant mind also begins to deteriorate. Veronica is torn between remaining there for the man she still loves and the pain of watching this thing slowly kill and replace every him. Cronenberg could likely have made The Fly with any two leads in these roles and still walk away with an impressive and well-received horror film. However, it is the casting of Davis and Goldblum that truly elevates this movie into something memorable as the two actors effortless transform Pulp Science-Fiction into a modern Greek Tragedy.

October 11th: Drag Me to Hell

After his Evil Dead films, Sam Raimi took a break from horror and changed the face of blockbuster cinema with his Spider-Man film trilogy. Due to negative reactions to Spider-man 3, Raimi stepped away from the superhero genre and returned to his horror roots with this lean, mean, nasty little flick that gave hardcore Raimi fans the comeback they long thought they’d never see. Drag Me to Hell is a true return to form for Raimi and a true successor to the Evil Dead films in its madcap camera work and gross-out sequences, designed to make you squirm in your seat. This is not to say that Drag Me to Hell has the same comedic tone as the Evil Dead films. On the contrary, Drag Me to Hell is a twisted morality tale; one where we do not delight in watching our well-meaning protagonist, Christine, suffer the curse placed on her head. This is a far different dynamic from the Evil Dead films where audiences derive heaps of pleasure from watching Bruce Campbell go through hell and back, however it is a constantly compelling one thanks to the sympathetic character of Christine, brought to life by Alison Lohman. Your heart will break for her and hope beyond hope that the promise of this film’s title does not come to fruition. I won’t spoil the ending here. If you want to know what becomes of poor Christine Brown, you’ll have to see the movie for yourself…

October 12th: Hereditary

In my humble opinion, Hereditary is not only one of the greatest horror films of the last 20 years, it is also simply a phenomenal film, regardless of genre. Hereditary is a movie where every aspect (writing, acting, cinematography, direction) is executed at such a high-level of craft that it is absolutely MASTERFUL to behold. To this day the film stands as one of my biggest gripes that it was robbed from ANY nominations at the Academy Awards, which is still well-known to look down their nose at horror films as lesser-art. When you see Toni Collette’s powerhouse performance, straddling a delicate balance between the subtle, mundane sides of grief and the world-devouring emotions she channels, you will agree that she not only deserved the Oscar Nomination for 2019’s Best Actress, but she deserved to win! Hereditary is truly a story about the horrors of grief, but where other films tackling this subject matter can often feel like a slow dirge, this film never lets up in its pace. Even during its calmest moments, the film pulsates with an otherworldly atmosphere lingering just out of frame and always keeps you on edge. Once you notice this unseen evil, you can feel it seep it’s way further onto screen, permeating every inch of empty space until the film is practically imprisoned by its presence.

October 13th: Malignant

Released just last year (2021), Malignant is the newest film to make our 31 day Horror Movie Watch-a-thon, but it is oh so deserving of its spot. Directed by early-mid aughts horror veteran James Wan who brought us such colossal hits as the Saw franchise, the Insidious franchise, and the Conjuring franchise, Malignant begins with Wan’s typical sleek visual style and, at first, seems like it will be more of his same, standard fair…
Then something unexpected happens. At some point near the middle of the movie, the story opts out of the traditional path you are expecting from this kind of film and, instead, chooses to take one of the craziest, most satisfying turns into left-field I have seen in recent memory. Suddenly, the film stops trying to look “cool” and fully embraces the goofier, more colorful side of horror, revealing its true face as Wan’s homage to the VHS era of 80s horror films. By this I mean a time where Horror films were all trying to develop new iconic monsters with unique, eye-grabbing designs that you could slap on the front cover of your VHS release. These posters were practically made to grab your attention when perusing your local video store’s horror section and, more than often, the cover promised a better movie than was inside the box. However, what they led with, was the look and the mythology as each studio tried to develop their own monster to compete with the likes of Chucky, Freddy Krueger, or Pinhead. It is this era of horror, an era which threw subtlety out the window in favor of developing something memorable, that Malignant seems most inspired by. Eschewing the gritty, modern aesthetic so ingrained in the genre by Wan himself, Malignant embraces its full-tilt craziness in a way that feels absolutely freeing. By the end of the movie, it feels like Wan is practically looking for any way possible to up the ante, and out-crazy himself. I can guarantee you that, by the third-act, you will be cheering the movie on as it purposely disregards its own reality and logic. In my opinion, its a step in the right direction for horror to embrace more dream-logic and Malignant does it so well that I feel fully invested in Wan’s future films.

October 14th: Hell Fest

Sometimes you aren’t looking for a horror film that is trying to completely re-define the genre. It’s like when you’re craving a a certain type of fast food. Sure you could grill up a homemade cheeseburger or even order one from a nice sit down restaurant, but in your heart of hearts, you know you are jonesing for the exact taste and experience you get from eating McDonalds. Its a particular flavor you are looking to satisfy and, darn it, when you’re in that mood, nothing else will scratch that itch. Now, I am not saying Hell Fest is the McDonalds of horror films, but rather that they share a certain strength. That strength is consistency. While some may see that as a knock against the film, that could not be further from the truth. Often times, what I am looking for in a horror film, and particularly a slasher, is to have a familiar experience to other films I loved. Sometimes all a horror movie needs to do is be genuinely well-made and scary. Being good and delivering what you are hoping for is, in itself, enough to be original and Hell Fest is a movie that delivers that in spades. Set in a horror-themed amusement park, a killer uses the cover of the park’s theatrical environment to effortlessly blend in with the costumed crowd and amusement park employees as he stalks a group of teenagers and murders them one by one. Already, the movie gives us a fun set-up, but it is truly thanks to a stellar cast of young actors that Hell Fest works as well as it does. Two young horror veterans in particular steal the show: Amy Forsyth (Channel Zero) and Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The TV Series). Both actors elevate the material with Taylor-Klaus providing a mercurial, fun-loving character who provides a lot of levity and Forsyth who grounds the main character of Natalie with a layer of realism, giving her more dimensions than you are anticipating. The final product gives you scary sequences that use its environment in clever ways, some truly vicious and creative kills, and it moves at a brisk pace that never lets up. Chances are you may not have seen this one, but because of its sheer precision and effectiveness at what it does, I can guarantee it is just waiting to be discovered as a hidden-gem!

October 15th: You’re Next

Continuing in the category of hidden gems, we have a really fun horror flick that truly slipped under the radar ever since its release to theatres in 2011. While it probably suffered from a lack of marketing, a cast of relative unknowns, and a visual style that unfortunately made it blend in with almost every other horror film of that time, You’re Next is a movie truly punching above its weight class. This movie follows a rich family who are gathering together in their country home for their parent’s wedding anniversary. This funny reunion of unique personalities and types, performed exceedingly well by the entire cast, is cut short when a masked killer attacks the home and begins killing them off, one-by-one. But, is this killer simply a crazed lunatic, or are they possibly someone with an axe to grind enacting their revenge?

October 16th: The Howling

Man, I love a good werewolf movie. Unfortunately, they truly to seem much fewer and further between these days. Fear not, because the Chester County Library system has got you covered with this movie that has more werewolves than you can shake a stick at. (Side note: has anyone ever attempted to distract a werewolf by waiving a stick at it?)
Directed by one of my all-time favorite film makers: Joe Dante (Gremlins, Inner space), The Howling follows an L.A. television anchor named Karen White (Dee Wallace). Karen and her husband Bill go to a resort colony after Karen suffers amnesia following an attack from a serial killer. While at the colony the couple are hunted by hordes of werewolves. It’s no surprise that Dante is comfortable around monster effects and, while all the acclaim goes to another 80s werewolf movie (An American Werewolf in London) for it’s superb transformation sequences, The Howling is certainly no slouch. The transformations, which are in camera and fully practical, are truly stunning to behold. Additionally, the werewolves in The Howling are some of the scariest looking werewolves on film in my opinion, and each sequence involved in Karen or Bill attempting to flee from them is genuinely harrowing!

October 17th: The Descent

The Descent absolutely and unequivocally RULES. It is a pulse-pounding, action-packed, thrill ride that is half adventure film and half monster movie. But what truly makes this movie one of, if not THE best horror film out of the early aughts are the unique protagonists set at the center of it. Unlike the cast of characters found in your more typical horror fair, the women of The Descent are introduced to us as people who eat fear for breakfast. They are thrill-seeking, adrenaline junkies, who’s long bond of friendship was built around their shared love of all things outdoorsy and dangerous. Whether it’s white water rafting, rock climbing, or in the case of this film: spelunking down the claustrophobic caverns of the Appalachian Mountains, there is no limit this gang of daredevils won’t cross. Yet, as the group encounters something else living within these tunnels, something that knows these caves like the back of its hand, their mettle will truly be put to the test. Who will survive and how will the find their way out? To find the answers, you’ll have to make…. The Descent.

October 18th: Hellraiser

The original two Hellraiser films are absolute masterpieces of horror that contain such creative and intricate lore that it truly could only come from the mind of someone as talented as author and director Clive Barker. Barker’s creations are singularly unique and Hellraiser is no exception. The story follows a woman named Julia whose passionate affair with her husband’s brother Frank comes back to haunt her (literally) when the opening of a strange puzzle box slowly brings him back from the dead. Frank’s body, which need to build itself back from nothing, requires the blood of male victims to make him complete again. Her blinding lust for Frank causes Julia to bring him all the bodies her beloved requires. However, when her stepdaughter Kirsty catches on to their plot and suspects that her father is next, she decides it’s up to her to solve the puzzle box and send Frank back to hell. This film is so lovingly made as Barker actually got to direct it himself. The end result feels like a complete vision, one which was fully-realized by its original creator.

October 19th: The Frighteners

Before directing the cinematic behemoth that would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson was someone who’s career was far more invested in the realm of horror. After a string of very interesting and distinctly different horror films such as Bad Taste, Dead Alive, and Heavenly Creatures, Jackson made what would be his biggest commercial film, with the Michael J. Fox horror/comedy, The Frighteners. The film follows Frank Bannister (Fox), a man who, after a tragic car accident that killed his wife, was left with the ability to communicate with the dead. So what has Frank been doing in the time since? He’s been using his powers to con people into believing that their homes are haunted. However, when an evil reaper begins to come collecting the souls of both the living AND the dead, Frank has no choice but to get involved in the fray before he loses any more potential customers. This movie is a special effects extravaganza with great performances from Scream Queen Dee Wallace and Scream King Jeffrey Combs, and genuine scares, all anchored by the undeniable movie-star charm of Michael J. Fox. If pure fun was a movie, that movie would be The Frighteners.

October 20th: Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow is the perfect movie to get you in the mood for the autumnal season and Halloween, in particular. Tim Burton’s film fleshes out the original short story by Washington Irving with his trademark gothic flare, turning the spooky campfire tale into a big-budget, period-piece, slasher.

October 21st: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

This movie is an acclaimed classic of cinema. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a harrowing tale about two sisters raised in the industry of old Hollywood as child actors. Now old and long irrelevant Jane (Bette Davis) is stuck with caring for her wheelchair-bound sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) in their decaying Hollywood Mansion. Jane, who always felt responsible for the accident that caused her sister’s paraplegic state has descended into madness over the passing years. In her maddened state, Blanche becomes her prisoner and is subject to various psychological tortures. The movie is legendary, and for good reason. Both performances of by Davis and Crawford are absolutely incredible and truly stand the test of time, even all these years later.

October 22nd: Fright Night

While this film was remade into an enjoyable movie with Colin Farrell, there truly is no replacing the original Fright Night. The performances of Chris Sarandon as the yuppie vampire who moves in next door and Roddy McDowell as the charlatan turned real life Van-Helsing are so much fun that I wish there were a whole series of further adventures. Impeccably directed by horror pro Tom Holland (Child’s Play), Fright Night follows a teenager well-known in his community as an avid lover of horror films. So when a vampire moves in next door and seems to be getting dangerously close to his single mother, it understandably becomes fairly difficult convincing anyone who knows him that he’s telling the truth. This is another movie that is highly inventive, has incredible practical effects, and is pure entertainment from beginning to end.

October 23rd: Re-Animator

Jeffrey Combs is an acting GOD. Between his iconic portrayal of Dr. Herbert West in the Re-Animator films, his scene stealing role as Milton Dammers in The Frighteners and a career made out of playing funny, off-kilter characters, he has well earned the title of cinema “Scream King”. This film is where that long run began. (Very) loosely based on the H.P. Lovecraft novel of the same name, Re-Animator tells the tale of Herbert West, an odd new medical student at Miskatonic University who has discovered a fluid which brings dead tissue back to life. Fellow student Dan Cain takes West in as a new roommate, and soon after, Dan and his fiancée Megan are roped into his research when they find West experimenting on their dead cat. However, Dan cannot deny his own fascination by West’s research, and soon enough, West convinces him to smuggle them into the hospital morgue to experiment on “larger subjects”. The two med students wind up causing a windfall of chaos, wreaking havoc on the lives of everyone around them. Can Dan trust the scientific intent of this creepy new roommate or has he unknowingly sealed his fate to a mad man?

October 24th: Eyes Without a Face

Eyes Without a Face is a 1960 French-language horror film co-written and directed by Georges Franju. The film is an eerie, atmospheric, almost dream-like tale about the horrible things we are capable of when driven by love. The story follows a father determined to use his talents as a master surgeon to perform a face transplant on his daughter, after she was horribly disfigured in a car crash. Well, that’s not necessarily so bad right? Unfortunately, the thing about a transplant is you need someone else to transplant the materials from. The father, along with his laboratory assistant Louise, proceeds to kidnap young women and brings them to their mansion where they will be rendered unconscious and prepped for surgery. Though this may sound like a truly gruesome and gory film, viewers should rest assured that this is not the case, likely due to the year it was made and the fact that it is in black and white. That does not mean it isn’t scary. On the contrary, the film is very effecting in its strange, dreary, almost supernatural tone which feels akin to that of a dark fairy-tale.

October 25th: Orphan

Just this month, a much anticipated prequel to this film was released called Orphan: First Kill. There is good reason why so many horror fans are a buzz with excitement about the new film, as the original Orphan is truly an unsung classic. Orphan features an impressive cast of performances including Peter Saarsgard and modern day Screen Queen Vera Farmiga who play the loving couple looking to adopt another child into their home. Little do they know that when they invite the seemingly sweet Esther, a nine year old orphan girl from Russia, to become a member of their family, they are opening up their home to a truly sinister presence. This movie is far too good to give any more details about, so make sure that you avoid any and all spoilers before watching!

October 26th: Black Swan

Horror is as wide and versatile a genre as any kind of film. While the genre can often be well-known for the movies that are cheap, gory, and downright exploitative, there are just as many examples of horror films that are high-art at its finest. Black Swan is a grandiose piece of cinema, directed with artistic precision from modern-day auteur Darren Arronofsky, the same filmmaker responsible for such art house hits as Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, The Fountain, and Mother! Black Swan is an Oscar-caliber film in all respects. The cinematography is decadent, brimming with operatic scale; the story feels wholly unique, and performances from its leads are stellar, with Portman delivering what could arguably be her career-best to date. However, one of my absolute favorite aspects of this film are its unique themes, primarily that of our obsession with perfection and the struggle of not living up to the ideal picture you have created in your mind. Maybe it’s the Virgo in me, but that is a theme that feels worthy of a big budget motion picture!

October 27th: Carrie

“They’re all going to laugh at you!” If there is one environment that feels like an endless breeding ground for the horror genre, it would be high school. For many of us, high school is brutal. It’s an unforgiving battle ground where it’s dog-eat-dog, kill or be killed, and if you want to survive, you better be good at shielding yourself because other teenagers can smell weakness. Before you know it, they’ve found what makes you embarrassed and left you gutted before your peers, all of whom abandon you for fear of suffering the same wrath. It is a place where only the strong survive.
Unfortunately for timid and newly-telekinetic teenager Carrie White, she is an open wound; an awkward girl born with a target on her back that is irresistible for the cruel and conniving girls at her school. When not tormented by the bullies at her school, Carrie suffers the wrath of a completely unstable, religious fanatic mother who subjects her to almost daily punishments as some twisted penance for her sins.
Yet what the world does not realize is that Carrie has a power bubbling up inside her; a power capable of great destruction; and with each insult hurled her way, with each prank played at her expense, Carrie White is that much closer to letting it out. Carrie is a film that is truly an embarrassment of riches. The story is based on the incredible novel written by master of fear Stephen King, the film features incredible (OSCAR NOMINATED) performances from both Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, and it is directed by legendary filmmaker Brian DePalma! What more could you possibly want in a horror film?

October 28th: Don’t Look Now

This one is a bit of a lesser-known flick, but one very much worth watching! Starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, Don’t Look Now is a horror-drama about a married couple still in the throws of grief after their daughter died in a tragic accident at a very young age. The two travel to Venice, Italy where Sutherland has taken on a job to restore a church. While there, he begins seeing a mysterious girl in the same red raincoat his daughter was in when she died and he becomes convinced it is his daughter. He becomes determined to chase down the stranger in hopes that he can bridge the gap between this world and the afterlife and bring her back. Has grief driven him to lose his mind or is there truly something supernatural about these sightings? If you really want to know the answer, you have to find out for yourself. But before you do, you better be sure you are willing to accept whatever the truth may be, because it may not be something you can un-see.

October 29th: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Before making the game-changing Scream, Wes Craven changed the horror landscape of the 80’s with this film. When I think of all the greatest entries in the genre, I am hard-pressed to think of a more brilliant idea for a horror movie than A Nightmare on Elm Street. If you have somehow come this far without seeing, or even knowing the premise of the film; A Nightmare on Elm Street follows a town plagued by a string of gruesome, yet inexplicable murders. The victims are teenagers, all of whom live on or have some connection to Elm Street. When our protagonist, Nancy, barely survives her brush with death, she learns the killer to be a man named Freddy Krueger; a man who exists only in dreams. What this means is that, when you are asleep, Freddy can get you and bend the rules of your dream to his will. This is a great excuse for the film and its subsequent sequels to construct some of the most elaborate and imaginative set-pieces featuring nightmarish imagery you won’t find anywhere else! It also creates a level of unfathomable, unconquerable dread like you have never seen. Let’s put it this way: You can over power Chucky, you can outrun Jason and Michael Myers, but at the end of the day, you can’t stay awake forever.

October 30th: Trick ‘R’ Treat

There is no movie that embodies the spirit of Halloween more than Mike Dougherty’s 2007 cult-classic Trick ‘R’ Treat. For lovers of this holiday, the film feels like a giant amalgamation of all the different aspects of Halloween that give us those nostalgic warm and fuzzy feelings. Well, maybe more cold and bloody, than warm and fuzzy, but nonetheless Trick ‘R’ Treat is an anthology film that remains an assorted candy bag with something for every horror fan. Monsters, serial killers, ghosts, zombies? This movie has got them all and more! While there are many contenders, no horror movie will get you in the mood for the holiday more than Trick ‘R’ Treat!

October 31st: Halloween

We’re finally here. October 31st. The greatest day of the year has come and what could be a more fitting tribute to this day than to celebrate by watching the one that started it all? When it comes down to it, John Carpenter’s Halloween has earned the right to claim the name of this holiday simply by being the greatest slasher ever put to film. It’s the film that invented the modern day slasher, pushing past what audiences had previously thought of as a horror film and pulling the genre into its next stage of evolution. No matter how many times I have seen it, the moment those credits start and Carpenter’s synth score kicks in, I become instantly transported to that feeling of watching it for the very first time. There is something so undeniably pure about Halloween. John Carpenter manages to tap into something that feels primal, elemental, as if it weren’t made by a crew of people but was, rather, an ancient object that has always been here, waiting to be discovered. There are some things that will just always feel right, no matter how “cliche” they seem. Watching Halloween on Halloween will always feel right.

So that’s it. 31 Horror films; one for each day of October. The only question is…. Are you brave enough to complete all 31 frightening features?

Eh, that’s okay. There’s always next year…


By Eric

Multimedia New Releases – October



Music


September Staff Picks

Felicia’s Picks

The Night of the Hunter

One of my favorite old films with gorgeous cinematography and set design. A great iteration of the “corrupt preacher” trope.

Igor / Tyler the Creator

A great, dreamy genre-bending album that was pretty popular on release, but is becoming underrated as time moves on. Definitely worth revisiting!

Eric’s Picks

Over the Garden Wall

This animated mini-series, which debuted on Cartoon Network back in 2014, is quietly one of the best, most fully-realized, and lovingly-crafted pieces of art of the last 20 years. Pulling its inspirations from illustrations by Gustave Doré, Hans Christian Anderson, children’s books of the 1800s, folk art and American music from the early 20th century, the series crafts an atmosphere that is at once both undeniably familiar and singularly unique.

The show features an incredible voice cast starring Elijah Wood, Melanie Lynskey, Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, and John Cleese. However, it is undeniable that the show’s true stand out is Elijah Wood’s 9 year old co-star Collin Dean who steals absolutely every scene he is in. Unlike most of today’s children’s programing, this series feels like a return to a time when children’s stories had genuine moments of fright and suspense. The gorgeous, rich, art design of the series is steeped in autumnal imagery, making it a perfect watch to get you and your family in the mood for the fall and Halloween season. For a more in depth review of this series check out this month’s blog post all about it by clicking the link below!


Dance Fever / Florence and the Machine

The fifth and most recent album from one of this generation’s most singular and consistently evolving artists, Florence Welch. Dance Fever delivers the same amount heart-swelling, emotional vocals and synth-rock bangers that fans come to expect from a new Florence and the Machine album while adding plenty of new colors to the band’s ever-expanding palette. Welch’s lyrics, in particular, reach a new stratosphere with this album, especially on tracks such as “Dream Girl Evil” and “King”, giving Dance Fever a level of richness that can only be mined from multiple listens.

Kim’s Picks

Hunting Eichmann

His facility with planning large operations, Adolph Eichmann ingratiated himself with such murderous Nazi delinquents as Reinhard “The Butcher” Heydrich and Heinrich Himmler, for whom he designed extermination camps for Jews and other “undesirables.”  Escaping from Europe at the close of the World War II, Eichmann made his way to Argentina, where in 1959 he was kidnapped by Israeli security personnel and transported to Tel Aviv by plane and tried for, among other charges, crimes against humanity, and he was executed by hanging in 1962.  Hunting Eichmann reads like a thrilling spy novel, but it’s all true and hard to put down.

The Getaway

One of the seminal action films for Steve McQueen and director Sam Peckinpah.  Getting the money, losing the money, getting it back again, and making the getaway.  Violent and occasionally amusing, as when on the train McQueen pummels a grinning Richard Bright (the Corleone family’s favorite hitman) who can’t believe he’s stumbled onto a stash of cash, and when McQueen and Ali McGraw slide from a garbage truck into a landfill. 

Jessie’s Picks

Firefly

This space western TV show is one of my favorite Science Fiction shows.  It has good worldbuilding, a great cast, and humor – a good fit for Guardians of the Galaxy fans! 

 

Lake Street Dive/ Side Pony

Lead singer Rachel Price has a great voice and it fits wonderfully with the group’s 60’s and 70’s inspired music. Check out the songs “Call Off Your Dogs,” “I Don’t Care About You,” and “Can’t Stop.”


By Eric

The FRIENDS of Chester County Library Fall Book Sale is Back for 2022!

(EXTON, PA) – THE FRIENDS OF CHESTER COUNTY LIBRARY Fall Book Sale is scheduled for next weekend, October 7th – 9th, 2022. A variety of books, music and movie CDs and DVDs will be sold at bargain prices. A huge selection of children’s books will be available in a separate room.

  • Friday, October 7, 6 to 8:30 p.m. — The sale starts for members of the Friends of the Chester County Library only (Memberships can be purchased on Friday night beginning at 5 p.m. at the membership table or in advance by mailing in the membership form available here.
  • Saturday, October 8, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. — The sale will be open to the public.
  • Sunday, October 9, 1 to 4 p.m. — During ‘Bag Sale Day’ we will supply the bag; you fill it and pay $10 (only $7 per bag with your FRIENDS membership). For less than a whole bag, the books will be sold at half-price.

We accept cash, checks, or PayPal. All proceeds from the Book Sale benefit the Chester County Library.

Charlton Heston:  The Sci-Fi Years

Charlton Heston was a leading man in his first movie, the noir Dark City (1950), and in 1952 famed director Cecil B. DeMille chose him to headline The Greatest Show on Earth, the eventual Best Picture Academy Award winner.  That led to another DeMille epic, The Ten Commandments (1956) with Heston as Moses.  Heston’s physical stature was perfect for such films, as Laurence Olivier observed.  In 1959 he won the Best Actor Academy Award for the title role in that most honored Biblical extravaganza, Ben-Hur.  That was followed in 1961 by yet another medieval epic, El Cid, with Heston as the Spanish knight negotiating his way between Christian Castile and the Muslims controlling southern Spain.  On a more modest scale came The War Lord (1964).  The knight Chrysagon (Heston) is entailed with protecting a Norman community threatened by Frisian marauders. 

An assortment of roles followed in various genres, some good, like the western Will Penny (1968), some merely fair like the WW II suspense film, Counterpoint, also 1968. 

The third time was the charm:  Planet of the Apes.  Writer and teacher Robert Castle wondered if Apes won the Honorary Academy Award for Makeup because the voters thought the primates in the same year’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey were actual apes!  So, 1968 was a key year in science fiction, which had been playing second fiddle to Hammer Studios’ horror films in the realm of the fantastic.  Apes and 2001 resuscitated the genre, and both were commercial successes. 

In his autobiography In the Arena, Heston said after finishing the Planet of the Apes shoot on schedule he had a drink with director Franklin Schaffner and told him, “I smelled a hit in this from the beginning,…” He was correct.  “It not only grossed enormous numbers, it created a new film genre:  the space opera.”

In 1971 the second outing in what would be a sci-fi triptych for Heston was The Omega Man, a new version of Richard Matheson’s tale of a future earth after a biological holocaust decimated the population and turned some into mutants—or vampires.  It followed the Italian rendering, The Last Man on Earth (1964) with Vincent Price and preceded the high tech I Am Legend (2007) with Will Smith. The Omega Man has several gripping scenes, e.g., Heston driving through a desolate Los Angeles; pulling a sheet from what he imagined to be couple of mutants but instead discovers the desiccated corpses of two lovers; battling his way back into his garage at nightfall against the crazed, robed and anti-technology survivors of the plague who now call themselves the “Family.”  Ron Grainer’s score enhanced the action.

In In the Arena, Heston said the shoot went smoothly and swiftly and was his first hit in four years.  He liked the final product. “It’s become something of a cult film since, still pumping in checks every so often.  I think we’d had a chance to make a really fine film of Omega, but I was quite willing to settle for a merely successful one at the time.

Soylent Green (1973) was, like The Omega Man, a bit “under-funded” but nevertheless possessed of some arresting scenes.  Heston played Detective Thorn, who in 2022 investigates a murder that leads to a shocking revelation.  Just what is the stuff people are eating?  Issues tackled include overpopulation, dying oceans, pollution, and the greenhouse effect.  Sound familiar? 

References

Heston, Charlton.  The Actor’s Life:  Journals 1956-1976.  1978.  

______.  In the Arena:  An Autobiography.  1995.

By Kim

Over the Garden Wall: A Favorite (New) Yearly Tradition

On November 3rd of 2014, an animated mini series called Over the Garden Wall was unceremoniously released onto Cartoon Network with almost no fanfare or hype, despite a cast which featured the likes of Elijah Wood, Christopher Lloyd, and John Cleese. The mini-series seemed to simply roll in with the autumn wind and ever since its brief 10-episode run from November 3rd to November 7th, it has become beloved as an autumnal re-watch, building legions of fans with each passing year. So what is it about this humble little “cottage-core” show that has caused it to amass such a massive fan base?

If you have never seen Over the Garden Wall, the story follows two children: Wirt (voiced Elijah Wood) and his much younger half-brother Gregory (voiced by Collin Dean), who have found themselves lost within a mysterious forest called “The Unknown”. With the aide of a talking bluebird named Beatrice (Melanie Lynskey), the boys try to find their way back home through the increasingly weird and spooky situations that each new environment thrusts them into. Each episode is structured around the trio wandering into a radically different area of The Unknown where they will encounter new characters, new problems to solve, and new clues to help solve the overarching mystery of the woods.

(Beatrice, Greg, and Wirt’s first meeting in the mysterious woods)

On paper that may seem like a fairly vague and possibly even “garden-variety” fairytale structure, but the success of Over the Garden Wall comes from its unique voice, proving that how a story is told is just as important as the story itself. Over the Garden Wall is primarily the brainchild of it’s creator and showrunner Patrick McHale, a man who was no stranger to the world of children’s animation or Cartoon Network for that matter. Prior to Over the Garden Wall, McHale had already built a strong relationship with Cartoon Network, previously working on such series as The Misadventures of Flapjack and the cultural phenomenon that was Adventure Time; a show whose style of humor and visual aesthetic still serves as the main influence on the landscape of modern children’s cartoons. It feels important to note Adventure Time, in particular, as it may be the closest comparison point that comes to mind when recommending this series. However, I would argue that the similarities between the two begin and end with their post-modern sense of humor, which bounces back and forth between being completely earnest one moment and joyfully flippant in the next. When it comes to their visual aesthetics, however, the two shows are night and day. Where Adventure Time’s art design is extremely modern, deploying its bright neon color palate to craft an environment so sugary it could give you a cavity, Over the Garden Wall is decidedly old-fashioned and familiar. Many fans have commented on their love for the atmosphere and art design of Over the Garden Wall, specifying that it manages to feel extremely familiar while remaining deceptively hard to identify what is so familiar about it. According to McHale, the show’s aesthetic was the culmination of a variety of different influences “including children’s books of the 1800s, folk art and American music from the early 20th century” (Day, 2014, para. 6). In a 2014 interview with the Los Angeles Times, McHale states “There are a lot of layouts borrowed from Gustav Doré . . . And also from Disney’s early ‘Alice’ shorts” (Day, 2014, para. 7).

For those who may be unaware Gustav Doré was a French illustrator renowned for wood-engraved illustrations. Some examples of his work can be seen in “The Divine Comedy” and “Paradise Lost”. As for the Disney Alice shorts’; in the 1920s, the Walt Disney company made shorts that were half live-action and half animated. Some other notable artistic influences are illustrations from old Hans Christian Andersen stories such as The Tinderbox, the “Dogville Comedies” shorts, vintage Halloween postcards, and chromolithography. All of these different visual influences become enmeshed to create the overall look of the show and it is truly astonishing how well each one fits together and serve to compliment each other. It is this level of care and detail that manages to serve the overall mood of the story; a seemingly warm and friendly mood that contains unexpected complexities and dimensions for both its characters and the story itself.

Visual Influences of Over the Garden Wall

One such added dimension is that the show takes on a noticeably darker tone with each episode, giving its protagonists real stakes and imbuing their circumstances with tangible weight. While a perfectly appropriate show for most families to watch together, there does tend to be some darker elements involving spooky situations or creepy looking monsters that may prove a bit too scary for some of the younger viewers. However, it is these surprisingly darker elements that make the program feel truly unique among much of today’s children’s programs; many of which avoid age-appropriate elements of suspense and horror all together for fear of negative backlash. This well intentioned choice can unfortunately result in content that talks down to children or patronizes them.

While the show arguably never strays too far into the Horror genre, it does allow itself to provide moments of true suspense and age-appropriate scares. This choice is one that is very much fitting with the subject matter of the show. McHale uses the more nightmarish imagery in a way that feels like he is acknowledging the roots of children’s fables from its earliest days. In fact, the majority of well-known children’s fairy tales are often greatly altered from the original versions which were often very horrific. (Look up the original versions of such stories as The Little Mermaid and Pinocchio if you don’t believe me.) While this is fun part of the show’s dynamic, the elements of horror would be nothing without the magic that lies at the heart of the story: the half-brothers Gregory and Wirt.

Moments of horror in Over the Garden Wall

Beyond the horror, beyond the humor, beyond the beautiful painted vistas of the show’s art direction; I believe that Over the Garden Wall has become a beloved piece of pop culture because of the story at its center: a story about the relationship between anxiety-ridden teenager Wirt and his silly, carefree, 5-year old brother Greg. There is something so simple, so elemental about their dynamic that their characters feel practically timeless. While much of their adventures has a humorous tone, the show does build to a truly cathartic and heartfelt conclusion which focuses heavily on the still newly burgeoning relationship between the two half-brothers. McHale and company do a truly great job developing such iconic new characters in Greg and Wirt that you instantly fall in love with; Greg in particular who was voiced by a real child which gives his character a special added layer of authenticity. In fact, even though seasoned veterans of the screen such as Wood and Lynskey deliver excellent performances, it is undeniably 9-year old Collin Dean (Greg) who steals the show.

In trying to synthesize why this mini-series has become a yearly re-watch for so many people, myself included, it is easy to see that there is a lot to love. It is genuinely funny for people of all ages; the art direction for the show is incredible; the central characters are lovable, and the performances are all top notch. But, if we are being completely honest, it’s also probably the fact that the show is brimming with Autumnal imagery and its the perfect thing to get you in the mood for the fall season.

So throw on your comfiest fall sweater, pour yourself some hot apple cider, and curl up with your family to start a new yearly ritual with this seasonal treat!


By Eric

References

Day, P. K. (2014, October 3). ‘Over the Garden Wall’ gets lost in creator’s imagination. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from ‘Over the Garden Wall’ gets lost in creator’s imagination 

October Adult Book Groups

Our Adult Book Groups are a mix of in person, hybrid, and virtual programs. Please see our October titles and dates below. The online groups are being held via Zoom. We are requiring registration for the book groups in order to send out the Zoom meeting information, if applicable. Click on the date below to register. Information on our adult book groups can also be found on our website: https://bit.ly/chescolibs-bookgroups

Evening Book Group
Monday, October 3, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar
Please note: This session will be held via Zoom. Registration is required.

Page Turners Book Group 
Thursday, October 13, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
This session will be a hybrid session, in person or via Zoom.

Comics Unbound Group
Monday, October 17, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
This session will be held via Zoom.

Whodunits Book Group
Wednesday, October 19, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
This session will be a hybrid session, in person or via Zoom.

Afternoon Book Group
Wednesday, October 19, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
This session will be held in person in the Burke Room at the Chester County Library. 

Registration is required for all book groups. Registration will close at least 2 hours prior to the scheduled start time of the book group. A Zoom link will be emailed to registrants 2 hours before the book group starts.  Make sure to check the email address you registered with to receive the link.  You do not need a Zoom account to attend the virtual book group.

These programs support the PA Forward Civic and Social Literacy Initiative.

CCLS/CCL Board Meeting

Due to the easing of COVID restrictions, the Board of Trustees of the Chester County Library System/Chester County Library will now be hosting their monthly board meeting as a hybrid offering. If you have always wanted to attend a meeting but haven’t had the time, this is your opportunity. Please click on this link at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 20 to join the Chester County Library System Board Meeting virtually; or attend in person at the Chester County Library, 450 Exton Square Parkway, Exton, PA. The Chester County Library Board Meeting will immediately follow. Find the Chester County Library Board Packet here.

If you are a person with a disability and wish to attend this meeting and require an auxiliary aid, service, or other accommodation to observe or participate in the proceedings, please call Chester County Library’s Administration Office at 610-344-5600 or email lharshaw@ccls.org to discuss how we may best accommodate your needs.

Chester County Library Housing Fair this Weekend

Chester County Library will host several social service organizations that offer assistance with various housing needs. Stop by the Reference Department between 9:30am-12:30pm to gather information, discover available services, build contacts, and improve your situation. The following organizations will be in attendance:

  • 211/United Way of Chester County
  • Chester County Department of Aging
  • Chester County Department of Community Development
  • Chester County Food Bank
  • CHOP Homeless Health Initiative
  • Domestic Violence Center of Chester County
  • Friends Association for Care & Protection of Children
  • Good Samaritan Services
  • Home of the Sparrow
  • Housing Authority of Chester County
  • Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania
  • Housing Partnership of Chester County
  • North Star of Chester County
  • Open Hearth
  • PECO Outreach
  • Veterans Multi-Service Center

Check back for updates. The event takes place on Saturday, September 17, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm

Sheri Houpt, a Housing Counselor from the Housing Partnership of Chester County, will also be holding Credit Workshops in the Story Time Room at 10:00, 11:00, and 12:00. Without good credit, it is nearly impossible to secure proper/stable housing, whether renting or purchasing. It can hinder you from securing a job and can impact the amount you pay for loans and insurance. During the workshop, HPCC will cover the basic principles everyone should understand including how credit is reported, the credit bureaus, FICO scores, and how to improve your credit situation.

The mission of the Chester County and Henrietta Hankin Branch Libraries is to provide informational, educational, and cultural services to the residents of Chester County so that they may be lifelong learners. Chester County Library & District Center is located at 450 Exton Square Parkway, Exton, PA. For hours or more information, visit our website at www.chescolibraries.org.

Multimedia New Releases – September



Music