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What to Watch With Halloween Around the Corner

Halloween is almost here, but this week’s wide releases are not heavy on the seasonal scares. Filmmaker Deon Taylor releases his second 2019 feature, Black and Blue, a thriller starring Naomie Harris as a rookie cop struggling with her identity as a black woman and a police officer, while corrupt cops hunt her down. This week’s wide horror release, Countdown, is about a killer app, literally, and looks silly enough that it could work if properly balanced. Finally, The Current War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Nicholas Hoult as his electrical rival, Nikola Tesla, arrives with a stunningly effective trailer and unexpectedly weak reviews.

If you are looking for scary movies on the big screen, Ciné’s Schlocktoberfest revives 2018’s Knife+Heart Oct. 24–26, which enticingly sounds like a French giallo flick set in the gay porn industry. Takashi Miike’s First Love screens on Oct. 25 but sounds more akin to the prolific auteur’s crime output than his horror flicks. The original Evil Dead also screens on Oct. 25. Never fear—Ciné has some non-horror for the faint of heart. Enjoy Peter Bogdanovich’s nearly four-hour 2007 Tom Petty documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream on Oct. 26. The dual animal docs The Elephant Queen and Los Reyes will be hanging around with Judy at least through Thursday, Oct. 24.  

More scares can be found this week at Flicker. On Oct. 23, see my favorite adaptation of Dracula, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On Oct. 24, Count Zapula presents his annual Halloween airing of WNUF Halloween Special, a 2013 parody of a 1987 local television expose on the supernatural. Filmed during last year’s Wild Rumpus, Jorge Torres-Torres’ Night of the Rumpus screens twice on Oct. 25, the day before this year’s festival. In the intriguing, locally made horror film, unsolved murders haunt a town’s annual Halloween celebration, while something abominable grows in a nearby creek. On Oct. 26, see why Kathryn Bigelow’s excellent vampire western Near Dark lives on lists chastising you about the best horror flicks you have not seen. (RIP Bill Pullman.) A 1972 anthology written by Psycho’s Robert Bloch, Asylum, serves up scares on Oct. 28. Another killer kid—technically, he feeds his enemies to man-eating creatures in the woods—is on the loose on Oct. 29 in 1981’s The Pit

UGA’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta gets historically seasonal with The Witch on Oct. 28 at LeConte Hall. Tate does the time warp again with a live performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show from Oct. 24–27. The Quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend returns to the Georgia Museum of Art on Oct. 24. The Oglethorpe County Library shows my least favorite Harry Potter film (it is still not bad), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, for Yer a Wizard! Movie Night on Oct. 28. Now, are either of last week’s sequels worth the time and money?

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL (PG) Oddly, once freed from the narrative shackles of Disney’s classic animated feature Sleeping Beauty, the sequel to 2014’s Maleficent shows far more creativity than expected. The movie certainly separates itself from the forgettable blockbuster that preceded it, as well as the two glum Huntsman movies, with a plot that shares more DNA with the X-Men than Sleeping Beauty. I guess Disney figured it is never too early for your first lesson in genocide, as the crux of the plan hatched by Michelle Pfeiffer’s evil queen involves killing all the magical folk. 

The extremely high stakes of that unjustified slaughter generate far more of an emotional response than anything that happened in the preceding movie. The film finds far more humor in the discomfort Maleficent generates in everyone than its myopic slapstick. Just watch the villages react when she arrives for the worst family engagement dinner ever—a highlight sequence that shows how much more entertaining Mistress of Evil may have been had it focused on domestic squabbles, not genocidal massacres. Considering Disney is selling this movie as a seasonal release, it could have used a healthier dose of creepiness à la a daring family flick like Return to Oz.

ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP (R) Anybody remember anything about 2009’s Zombieland besides the Bill Murray stuff? Double Tap assumes as much, so the mid- and post-credits sequences send audiences off with sweet memories of the comic faking a hairball and braining zombies. What precedes these two brief moments is pretty amusing in its own right, even if the whole zombie apocalypse seems so 2010. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone remain appealing, while all-grown-up Little Miss Sunshine Abigail Breslin is given less to do once separated from the makeshift family. The characters may be flat and the concept reanimated, but the sequel is far fresher than its namesake brain eaters.