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

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.

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

Celebrate Library Card Sign Up Month with Idina and Cara Menzel

September is Library Card Sign-up Month when libraries nationwide join the American Library Association (ALA) to remind parents, caregivers, and students that signing up for a library card is the first step on the path to academic achievement and lifelong learning.

Libraries play a crucial role in the education and development of children, offering a variety of programs to spark creativity and stimulate an interest in reading and learning. Through access to technology, media resources, and educational programs, a library card gives students the tools to succeed in the classroom and provides people of all ages opportunities to pursue their dreams, explore new passions and interests, and find their voice.

Throughout the school year, public librarians and library staff will assist parents and caregivers with saving hundreds of dollars on educational resources and services for students of all ages. A library card is one of the most cost-effective back-to-school supplies available! For younger children, we offer early literacy resources to help them learn to read and encourage school readiness.

For older children and teens as well as our adult patrons, we provide access to technology and digital tools such as 3D printers, crafting and sewing equipment, STEM kits, laser-cutting, computer programming, self-publishing resources, welding, virtual reality programs, collaborative workspaces, and GED resources. With a library card, families can also borrow one-day passes for free to visit various educational and cultural museums and historic sites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware with our Museum Pass Program.

Don’t know what to read next? Let our librarians help you with personal reading suggestions. Perhaps you want to learn a new language or research your family tree.  With the wide knowledge of our Reference librarians and free access to numerous databases such as Mango Languages, Ancestry Library Edition, and The New York Times we have you covered. Apart from our extensive multimedia and book collections and Reference databases, we also offer 24/7 online access to eBooks, eAudiobooks, and magazines with services such as Libby by Overdrive and Flipster. Our Business and Career Center offers job, career, and personal finance resources and workshops as well as free wireless Internet access to the public for use with personal laptops and other mobile devices.

This year, Tony Award-winning performer, actress, singer-songwriter, and philanthropist Idina Menzel (Frozen, Wicked) and her sister, author, and educator Cara Mentzel, will serve as honorary chairs of Library Card Sign-Up Month. Idina and Cara are excited to remind everyone that one of the best places to find your voice is at the library. During Library Card Sign-Up Month, they want us to explore all the library has to offer, like-new children’s books, access to technology, and educational programming. “It’s a little card that goes a loud way. Let your imagination sing at the library,” said Mentzel.

Since 1987, Library Card Sign-up Month has been held each September to mark the beginning of the school year. During the month, Chester County Library and its Henrietta Hankin Branch, along with libraries everywhere, continues to adapt and expand services to meet the evolving community needs. To sign up for a library card or to learn more about the library’s resources and programs, please visit

The mission of the Chester County Library System is to ensure that every resident has access to exceptional opportunities to read, learn, create, connect and contribute to a better quality of life. For hours or more information regarding our 18 library locations, please visit our website at

Transformative English-Language Movies of the 1960s

As in many other fields, from politics to race to women’s rights and culture in general, the 1960s was a boiling cauldron. So it was with movies, often then given the more prestigious appellation, the cinema. The movies discussed below are those that transformed film, some in a minor, others in a major way. 

In the sixties, film was taken more seriously by more people, especially coming of age baby boomers.  The cinema was deemed worthy of deep examination.  There was subtext.  More and more books appeared on the shelves.  Some were surveys (A Pictorial History of the Talkies), others star biographies (Citadel Press’s Films of… series, including Bogart, Dietrich, Garbo, Marx Bros.), still others academic investigations of film going back to the cinema’s origins (The Parade’s Gone By, Film:  An Anthology).

Some sixties transformative films:

The Magnificent Seven (1960).  How was this transformative?  It paved the way for other movies in which a select team, expert in various combative skills, formed to tackle a specific problem.  (See the blog post for April, 2022:  “Single Mission Team Players.”)  The Guns of Navarone (1961), The Dirty Dozen (1967), and more recently, Inception (2010) carried on this tradition.  It is a phenomenon, not a genre, as it crosses boundaries.

Psycho (1960).  Director Alfred Hitchcock, the “Master of Suspense,” took a more violent and edgy tack with this tale of a mother-fixated motel owner with distinctly misogynistic intentions.  Hitchcock used his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV crew, filmed in black and white, and gave his leading lady (Janet Leigh) short shrift.  Soon imitations of lesser quality appeared, e.g., Homicidal, Blood Feast.  In mid-decade slightly bigger budgets were given to what would one day be called “slasher” movies.  These featured up-and-comers as well as older stars (Joan Crawford in Strait-Jacket and Berserk!, Olivia De Havilland and Bette Davis in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte).

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961).  Novelist Stephen King hit the nail on the head when in Danse Macabre he wrote that this was the first time a filmmaker (director Roger Corman) showed his audience true visual horror:  a coffin, opened to reveal the female corpse within, buried alive as evidenced by her contorted face and hands petrified into claws, seeking to get out.  Graphic horror was on the rise, never to cease.   

West Side Story (1961).  This was a movie for people who didn’t or didn’t think they liked musicals, especially teenage boys.  It began with a bang:  aerial shots over New York City that dropped closer and closer to street level and the crummy tenements wherein rival delinquent gangs, the Sharks (Puerto Ricans) and Jets (white teens), vied for control of the mean streets.  When they started dancing, it was not seen as sissified.     

Lawrence of Arabia (1962).  The “thinking person’s epic” was director David Lean’s biography of T. E. Lawrence, who helped Arabs gain independence from the Turkish Ottoman Empire during World War I.  Desert vistas never before filmed astounded audiences, Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif became stars, the film won Academy Awards.  It remains a pinnacle of filmmaking.

Cleopatra (1963).  Often denigrated and mistakenly deemed a financial flop, this version of the Egyptian queen’s rise and fall has an incomparable Alex North music score, more visual sweep than previous iterations, such as the 1934 Cecil B. DeMille version starring Claudette Colbert; the set-bound, George Bernard Shaw play-based Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) with Vivien Leigh; and the cheapjack 1953 Serpent of the Nile with Rhonda Fleming and…Raymond Burr as Antony!  In reality, the 1963 version’s chief flaw is a dearth of battle action—and they had 3+ hours in which to do it.  The making of it was an epic story in itself.  The first director was fired, the first male cast dropped, filming switched providentially from England to Italy.  Test photos of Joan Collins suggest she would have been well cast.  In The Cleopatra Papers, publicists Jack Brodsky and Nathan Weiss concluded that a spectacle like this would not, could not, be made ever again.

Blow-Up (1966).  David Hemmings’ photographer may have caught a murder on film but by gosh he can’t prove it.  The Italian maestro Michelangelo Antonioni directed this, his first English-language film, to mostly critical praise, and though it was condemned by the Legion of Decency, MGM released it through a subsidiary.  Like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate, the commercial and critical success of Blow-Up helped topple the hoary old Production Code in 1968.       

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).  It would be two years before the Motion Picture Association of America would institute a new rating system:  G, M, R, X.  So this adult film had disclaimers on its poster: “Suitable Only for Adults” and “Important Exception:  No One Under 18 Will Be Admitted Unless Accompanied by His Parent.”  The film would net Elizabeth Taylor a 2nd Academy Award.  Her characterization of the foul-mouthed professor’s wife Martha was a far cry from Cleopatra

The Graduate (1967).  Like Who’s Afraid, this comedy-drama was a precursor to the barrier-breaking films that would appear in 1968 after institution of the new MPAA rating code.  A generation of college students latched onto it, feeling a kinship with Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman in a star-making role) having no idea what to do with his life and finding himself seduced by an older woman with a daughter to whom he takes a shine.  

2001:  A Space Odyssey (1968).  Master director of Paths of Glory, Lolita and Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick turned his sights on the past and potential future of humankind.  Many wondered what it meant and did not perceive Kubrick and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s view that modern and future technology is a mixed blessing.  (Think the now iconic HAL 9000, the mission’s computer gone insane.)   Critical opinion was all over the map, but 2001 became a cause to celebrate for youth and after a slow start vied with the distinctly old-fashioned Funny Girl as the year’s top grosser.  Indicative of the consternation it caused among critics and “anybody over 30,” 2001 was not nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.        

Bullitt (1968).  A standard but compelling detective story hearkening back to postwar police procedurals like The Naked City and T-Men is highlighted by Bullitt’s (Steve McQueen) pursuit through San Francisco of a car carrying two hitmen.  It remains the auto chase against which all others—and there have been many—are measured.      

The Wild Bunch (1969).  After the bloodbath that was 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde and the introduction of the MPAA code in 1968, director Sam Peckinpah created a new high in cinematic violence.  In 1913, aging outlaws played by William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson and Warren Oates are initially unaware that they are a dying breed held together by a faulty code of honor among thieves.  They have no hesitation in killing civilians when they rob banks or blow away army guards on a train carrying weapons they sell to a Mexican warlord.  By the end, however, they intuit that their day is over and resign themselves to their grim fate.  They’ll take many with them. 

Midnight Cowboy (1969).  The new rating code instituted in 1968 was still feeling its way, and Midnight Cowboy was given the X-rating as much for subject matter (a young Texas stud aims to make his fortune as a prostitute in New York and bonds with the tubercular con-man “Ratso” played by Dustin Hoffman) as for nudity or foul language.  Years later clearer heads changed it to the more applicable R.

Easy Rider (1969).  Dennis Hopper directed and co-starred with Peter Fonda in this unexpected biker hit and gave Jack Nicholson such a juicy part that he was immediately  propelled into a star role and an Academy Award nomination for 1970’s Five Easy Pieces.  Like The Graduate, Easy Rider decried a perceived loss of American innocence.  Its success led studios to attempt to duplicate Rider’s grosses by funding any number of similarly negative “youth” productions such as The Strawberry Statement and The Last Movie that even at the time were seen by many as naïve or self-aggrandizing.  (Peter Fonda had starred in another biker movie of note prior to Easy Rider:  1966’s The Wild Angels, whose claim to true significance is negated when Nancy Sinatra views Bruce Dern’s body and announces, “He’s wasted.”  The first notable biker movie was 1953’s The Wild One with Marlon Brando.) 

By Kim

Mental Health Fair at Chester County Library

(EXTON, PA) – Recognizing the frustrations in access to mental health care and the lack of information about what resources were available, Pennsylvania State Representative Kristine Howard began holding the Mental Health Fair in 2021. She noticed the urgent need for mental health resources and education, which had only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Many people were turning to her office for help finding care for their loved ones, and it was a natural decision to hold a Mental Health Fair to help inform the public about what resources were available.

This year, Representative Howard and the Chester County Library will co-host a Mental Health Fair on Thursday, September 8 from 3 -5 p.m. in the library’s Struble Room. Visitors can connect with resources from several local agencies and listen to local experts talk about the current condition of mental health in Chester County. Registration is not required.

 Speakers at the fair will include:

  • Kristen de Marco, Executive Director of Gateway Horseworks
  • Colleen Drake, Assistant Director of Business Development at Belmont Behavioral Hospital
  • Gerry Gonzalez, Community Relations Representative at Child Guidance Resource Centers
  • Leslie Holt, Co-Founder, and CEO of A Child’s Light
  • Michael Ivers, EMS Operations Chief for Chester County Emergency Response
  • Kate Lannan, Community Services Director at A Haven
  • Katie McGrath, Director of Outreach, and Olivia Kennedy, Outreach Liaison, at Sanare Today
  • Deborah Willett, Program Coordinator of GRANDFamily Connections of Chester County at Coatesville Center for Community Health

As an accessible community hub and advocate of circulating health literacy within the community, the Chester County Library is committed to helping connect the community with local mental health resources available to them. The Chester County Library is hoping to extend a lifeline to its neighbors and also demonstrate that they are an inclusive resource for all community needs. This event will give the community at large an opportunity to have open conversations without judgment and thereby also help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. For more information please visit or contact the Chester County Library Reference Desk at 610-344-5957. 

Chalk the Walk at Chester County Library’s New Parking Lot!

Chalk our Walk! We’re calling all artists to help decorate the sidewalk around the Library to celebrate the reopening of our parking lot. Decorate a block yourself, or share one with family, friends, or your organization. We’ll provide the supplies, you just bring your imagination!

Come by any time between 6:00 and 7:30, but please register first so we can guarantee everyone a spot. Register here.

All drawings must be family-friendly–no offensive, graphic, or political illustrations and no foul language, please.

Rain date: Friday, September 1

Virtual: Save Barnegat Bay’s Screening & Discussion of DRIFT, a documentary film

CHESTER SPRINGS Join us via the Henrietta Hankin Branch Library on Thursday, August 11, at 1 p.m. for a virtual discussion of DRIFT, a documentary film about New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay. Prior to the discussion, registrants will have special access to the film beginning August 4. The discussion will be led by Avery Lentini, Executive Assistant and Policy Advocate with Save Barnegat Bay. The organization, whose mission is to restore and protect the Bay and its ecosystem, has become a strong and independent voice for the Bay throughout the watershed, including all of Ocean and part of Monmouth Counties.

DRIFT, produced in collaboration with Monmouth University Production Services and directed by Erin Fleming, tells the story of Barnegat Bay through the voices and eyes of people who cherish the Bay as a natural, recreational, and economic resource for the local community and all of New Jersey. The film allows the viewer to DRIFT through 50 years of complex issues through a series of short vignettes, using a variety of perspectives, viewpoints, and experiences. Located on the east coast of New Jersey in Ocean County, the Barnegat Bay runs from the town of Bay Head all the way down to Little Egg Harbor. It is 42 miles long and has an area of 64 square miles.

Register here for this special event. For additional information, please contact Barbara Vitelli, Reference Librarian at

Second Bests: Filmmakers who Managed to Avoid the Sophomore Slump

sophomore slump refers to an instance in which a second, or sophomore, effort fails to live up to the relatively high standards of the first effort. (1)

It’s exciting when a new filmmaker manages to make a big splash with their first film. An impressive debut can, and often does, generate a lot of interest from studios and audiences alike. For many movie lovers, it immediately elicits the following statement:

“I can’t wait to see what they do next….”

Suddenly, there is the burden of expectation. Audiences who loved a director’s first film are now excited by the prospect of a whole career of great films. Off of just one great movie, we begin crafting our own narratives, asking questions like “Could they be the next Speilberg? The new Hitchcock?” Unfortunately for most directors, the second movie is often the one that faces the most scrutiny. It could be the added pressure of audience expectations or working with an expanded budget; either way, the second time around proves to be one that rattles many film makers and results in movies that are more or less considered to be an underwhelming follow up. This has become known among film and music circles as the dreaded “sophomore slump”.

While the sophomore slump has been well documented in the film industry, there are plenty of examples of GREAT follow-up films; some of which have become remembered as the high mark in a director’s career. All these films can be found in the collection of our Chester County Library Catalogue.

This month we at the Chester County Library Multimedia Department are giving you a list that proves that sometimes second truly is the best.

Alien (1979) / Ridley Scott

In 1979, director Ridley Scott followed up his debut film The Duellists (1977), with the Sci-Fi Horror masterpiece Alien. The film went on to become an instant classic , spawning its own franchise of 5 subsequent sequels with more on the way. Scott continues to have one of the most prolific careers a director can ask for, with a lifetime of impressive credits including: Blade Runner, Legend, Thelma & Louise, 1492, White Squall, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, All the Money in the World, The Last Duel and House of Gucci.

Lost in Translation / Sofia Coppola

It is not easy carving a name out for yourself as a filmmaker. Now imagine how hard it would be, if your father was a director known for making what many consider the greatest film ever made: The Godfather… It is still astounding to me that Sofia Copolla climbed out of such a looming shadow as her father’s career and truly created a style of film making all her own. Her first film, The Virgin Suicides, proved to many that Sofia was a true talent and could make a great film. It was her second film, Lost in Translation, which cemented her as a legend in her own right. Lost in Translation received critical praise and went on to be nominated for four Academy Awards including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Bill Murray), and Best Original Screenplay (which Sofia Coppola won). Sofia Coppola continues to have an illustrious career, making unique and expressive films such as Marie Antoinette, Somewhere, The Bling Ring, and The Beguiled.

Boogie Nights/ Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson was just 26 years old when his first film Hard Eight premiered and gained some significant attention at the Sundance film festival. I guess his youth helps explain how in just one short year, he churned out the magnum opus Boogie Nights, which chronicled the pornographic film industry spanning over the entire decade of the 1970s. It is a massive movie filled with incredible performances from an all star cast including: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds giving what is truly a career best performance, and most famously it is the film that convinced audiences that Mark Wahlberg was a true movie star. Anderson is no slouch, and continues to make some of the biggest and most artistically relevant films of this day and age. Later films in his career included Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice, and one of this year’s best films: Licorice Pizza!

Harold & Maude / Hal Ashby

After his 1970 feature The Landlord did moderately well, Hal Ashby’s second film Harold & Maude proved to become a well loved cult classic among audiences; so much so, that even in a long career with many well-received films, this is still considered one of his best.

Cabaret / Bob Fosse

While he admittedly had plenty of experience directing for the stage, Bob Fosse had only one previous film under his belt, when he directed the film that would forever change movie musicals. After a rather lackluster debut, with 1969’s film adaptation of stage show Sweet Charity, Fosse turned the tides with Cabaret, which went on to winning eight academy awards at the 1972 Oscars including Best Director, which he famously beat out Francis Ford Coppola who was nominated for The Godfather. Fosse’s filmography was incredibly short but Cabaret was as great and as big of a success anyone could hope to have with only the second film in their career.

Halloween / John Carpenter

John Carpenter is the master of genre film-making, but his stamp on the Horror genre is one that remains unparalleled to this day. Following his first major motion picture (we aren’t counting his student film Dark Star here), the crime/drama Assault on Precinct 13 is not an easy task. As far as first film’s go that movie is a hard act to follow. In fact the only way to top yourself is to absolutely change the landscape of film. Lucky for Carpenter, and for us, he did just that by making the ultimate Horror movie slasher with the original Halloween. There have been many slashers since, but none that served as such a monumental game-changer as this one.

Pulp Fiction / Quentin Tarantino

Possibly one of the biggest and most important step ups in a directors career is Quentin Tarantino’s progression from his exciting debut hit Reservoir Dogs to the cinema classic Pulp Fiction. While Reservoir Dogs is a fun fan favorite, it seems ironically sophomoric in comparison to the much more mature, better scripted, better acted, better shot follow up of Pulp Fiction. While the style and tone of both remain undeniably Tarantino, Reservoir Dogs feels like a rough draft or practice round for the Tarantino’s legendary and beloved second feature film.

Raising Arizona / Joel & Ethan Coen

Sometimes following up a movie that is completely from a different genre can be a great way to not become pigeon-holed as one type of filmmaker. For the legendary duo of the Coen Brothers that turned out to be the perfect move for their career, when they followed up their gritty and tense crime drama Blood Simple with their zany cartoonish love story between an ex cop and ex criminal that will make you howl with laughter!

The Matrix / Lana & Lilly Wachowski

The Wachowski Sisters are absolute filmmaking game-changers! They have constantly broke down boundaries and continue to push audiences to expand their minds and think outside of the box. It is insane to look back and realize that after their tremendous, but criminally underseen neo noir Bound, the made what was only their second major studio film which turned our to be The Matrix. As far as second movies go, there is no bigger jump in impact, quality and excellence in film making than making The Matrix as your sophomore film. That statement would be true following almost any film in a directors filmography and that is truly saying something.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre / Tobe Hooper

I will fully admit to still never having seen Tobe Hooper’s first film, Eggshells. While that film did not seem manage to much of a cultural impact, Hooper’s second film was an absolute lightning rod of a horror film and stands today as one of the most effective horror films ever put to film. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre invented an entire sub genre of horror, introducing a gritty, unpolished style that changed the landscape of horror films forever. Not too shabby for your second film.

Us / Jordan Peele

Finishing out our list is what could be possibly one of the best second films of recent memory. With Jordan Peele’s newest horror film Nope already in theatres, its a perfect time for audiences to go back and appreciate just how great his second film Us was. After Get Out served as on of the most impressive debuts that any Horror filmmaker could have hoped for (it even nabbed Jordan Peele an Academy Award for Best Screenplay), the prospect of following it up with a second film was a daunting prospect to say the least. Us managed to ratchet up the terror and show true improvements and strides in his approach to cinematography and composition. Us was a big success at the box office and yet it is still one of the most criminally underrated Horror films of the last ten years.

By Eric


Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, April 7). Sophomore slump. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 24, 2022, from