Analyzing This Year’s AMC Fear Fest Schedule AND Your Other Horror Options

Horror movie fans rejoice.  The greatness of October is upon us.  With 31 days in the month, there’s plenty of time to pack in the frights, while simultaneously not scaring your friends and family with your dedication to the horror genre.  Then again they’d probably prefer you watch a marathon of horror movies than dress up like a clown in the hopes of terrifying entire towns. We know that October and scary movies go together like fall and football, and one of the staples of the month is the annual horror movie marathon, AMC Fear Fest.  AMC recently released the schedule for its 20th anniversary Fear Fest, which kicks off Thursday, October 13th at 9am ET and doesn’t end until November 1st at 6am ET.  This year Fear Fest contains over 80 classic and recent horror movies to fill horror geeks needs for much of the month of October.  While the marathon doesn’t cover all the classics, it suffices by showing the heavy hitting flicks to appeal to both dedicated fans and newcomers to the genre.  Being that it’s on cable TV, you may miss some of the more explicit violence and language, but the scares are still plentiful.  Below I’ve analyzed the good and bad aspects of the marathon, as well as some additional movies to check out.

View the full 2016 AMC Fear Fest schedule here.

All time in ET

KEY TIME SLOT

October 13th, 7pm-11:30pm – Halloween 1 and 2

THE MOVIES

The movies in this year’s Fan Fest are the pretty standard set of flicks.  We have 6 instances of the staple Halloween series, 2 instances of the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play Series minus the first and last film, along with plenty of other standouts, including The Exorcist, The Omen, and Tremors. Noticeably absent are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Silence of the Lambs, Scream, my favorite film in the genre, and an assortment of popular Stephen King novel based movies including The Shining, IT, and Misery.  In fact, the amount of quality horror movies missing in 2016 is somewhat alarming.  Looking just at the 2015 Fear Fest, we’re missing the entire Leprechaun series, Resident Evil Series, and Scream 2 and 4, among others.  The 20th Anniversary Fear Fest will get a lot of promotion, but my early feeling is that it may disappoint for long-time fans of the marathon.  Then again, when you have your heavy hitters playing so many times, failure may not be possible.

Be sure to take caution running up and down these famous stairs on the campus of Georgetown University, and certainly take caution when watching The Exorcist (1973) Be sure to take caution running up and down these famous stairs on the campus of Georgetown University, and certainly take caution when watching The Exorcist (1973)

On to the positives though.  There are over 80 showings this year, and if you have an open schedule you’re still able to take advantage of a variety of classic horror films.  The Exorcist is regarded as one of the best and scariest horror movies of all-time.  The movie tells the story of a possessed teenage girl, whose mother summons the help of two priests to save her.  Fans in the Washington, DC area, enjoy the fact that the film takes place in The District and films many of its scenes on the campus of Georgetown University.  Long before I saw the film, I knew the terrifying tales of its origin, as my middle school cross country team frequented “The Exorcist Stairs” for intense workouts, making sure not to take a long tumble.  The Exorcist was the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and was also nominated for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director.  In fact, The Exorcist was so scary when it came out in 1973 that some theaters provided barf bags with purchase of the ticket, while some had paramedics on the scene.  One audience member sued Warner Bros. claiming that “he was rendered unconscious by the film, slid out of his chair, and broke his jaw.” The studio settled out of court.  The movie came in #3 on AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 THRILLS.  The Exorcist plays at 10AM and 3:15 PM on Thursday, October 20th and 3:15AM on Wednesday, October 26th.

Another horror movie on AFI’s list, The Omen, also follows a disturbed child, this time following young Damien after he is adopted by a family, unaware that he is in fact the Antichrist.  The movie is extremely terrifying on it’s own, but the stories of it’s cursed set only fuel the haunting speculations about whether the Antichrist actually had an effect on the filming.  Among the curses:

  • A special effects consultant being involved in a car crash after production closed that killed his girlfriend on Friday the 13th.
  • The production team rented a plane to take aerial shots of London.  The planned plane was switched at the last minute, instead going to a group of Japanese business men.  The plane crashed and everyone on board died.
  • Gregory Peck, who played the adoptive father of Damien, suffered through the suicide of his son two months before filming began.
  • The day after the movie finished shooting at a London safari, a zookeeper was killed after one of the Tigers used in filming was not properly secured.
  • An executive producer who early on in production experienced severe plane turbulence, was staying at a hotel that was bombed by the Irish Republican Army, but was not at the hotel during the bombing.  Later, he was en route to dinner at a restaurant that was bombed by the same army.  He missed that bombing by a few minutes.

Anyways, you get the gist.  There’s a lot of history surrounding The Omen, and the movie holds its own 40 years later, even if you ignore the eerie happenings before, during, and after filming.

Halloween has spawned the slasher genre, the ” final girl trope”, unfortunate endings for the sexually promiscuous and substance abusers, catchy horror theme songs, Jamie Lee Curtis’ career, and numerous memes, among many others.  Catch in during Fear Fest, or in theaters in October.

The marathon’s staple movie franchise is Halloween, which did more for the horror genre than simply placing the plot around the time of Halloween.  It is widely regarded as popularizing the “slasher” subgenre in the 1980s, and went on to spawn seven sequels, a remake by Rob Zombie, and a sequel to that.  There is talk of another Halloween project coming soon as well.  The original Halloween, follows Michael Myers, who as a six year old killed his older teenage sister, before spending 15 years in a psych ward.  Eventually, he escapes and returns to his native Haddonfield, Illinois, to return to his killing ways.  It becomes a theme throughout the series that he “the boogeyman” returns on Halloween, terrifying kids, putting trick or treating on hold, and leading to the entire town going on a manhunt.  Myers is commonly regarded as the top slasher villain of all-time, and many of his characteristics have gone on to be portrayed by future villains.  Myers always maintains a slow pace, moving at a sometimes comically slow speed, yet is always right behind the running victim.  Myers has extreme strength, being able to lift and move any and all objects to help him reach his goals.  Despite his notoriety and legend, he doesn’t mind walking about in the open, using that to his advantage by scaring his potential victims, then suddenly disappearing at next glance.  His strength and stature has helped him out over the years, and is the main reason he lasted 7 or so films during the original series.  Gunshots, stabbings, and long falls don’t phase him, and has led directly to many horror fans screaming “finish him!” at the end of movies.  When they think the villain is dead, many horror characters pick themselves up and move on with there life.  Halloween taught us you don’t walk away until you make sure the villain is dead.  Myers, although he first appeared in 1978, continues to live on in today’s social media age: He has some of the best memes available.

John Carpenter, the director and writer, went on to create great horror films and action thrillers like The Thing, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13, and Escape from New York.  Halloween was also the debut film for Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays the protagonist in the first two films, and the main target of Myers sadistic actions.  If you haven’t seen it recently or at all, take the time to make a date on your calendar for when it plays during the marathon, or see if it’s playing again in theaters near you.  New Orleans folks, it is playing at Prytania Theatre the weekend of Oct. 21 at Midnight on Friday and Saturday, and many other theaters across the country are showing it as well.  It is well deserving of the title holder during Fear Fest, and will continue to be the October horror movie champ for as long as Halloween takes place on October 31st.

MAJOR GRIPES

I love The Walking Dead, but GET THE MARATHON OUT OF MY FEAR FEST. I love The Walking Dead, but GET THE MARATHON OUT OF MY FEAR FEST.

A huge discrepancy between 2016 and 2015 that probably brings about some of the issues with this year’s Fear Fest, is that season 7 of The Walking Dead premieres on October 23rd, which is right in the middle of Fear Fest.  As is the norm on AMC, the network proceeds the season premier with a marathon of the previous seasons, which will go from Sunday, October 16th to Sunday, October 23rd.  Now the marathon will only be about half of everyday, but the problem is that it will be from about 6pm to 2am each day, meaning that literally no one with a normal 9-5 job or school schedule will be able to watch horror movies of “FEAR FEST” for an entire week.  The 22nd and 23rd, will be a full marathon of the last two seasons, meaning no horror movies at all.  The show has actually premiered in October for every season, and has taken a mid-season break in December and January since season 2, but that isn’t the issue.  The issue is the exact premiere date.  TWD premiered on October 11th in 2015, giving AMC full reign to use 4 days or so before to run the show’s marathon, with October 18th to 31st dedicated to the horror movies.  This October 23rd date really just screws with the whole set.  We’ve got Halloween very early on, then right at the end, and NOT once between October 14th and October 29th.  In the end, because 2016 starts earlier, we still get the same amount of Fear Fest days, but it just feels empty because it’s seemingly separated into two parts.

Additionally, Friday the 13th does not play in Primetime once.  That’s blasphemy.  It’s one of the creepiest movies ever made, with so much of it taking place in the dark woods of Camp Crystal Lake.  Friday the 13th plays 4 times: 9am, 5am, 6pm, and 5pm.  The latter two times are on the Friday and Saturday before Halloween. Possibly I’m missing something as a 25-year old living in New Orleans, but it seems to me that the best time slots are the weekday primetime slots.  I’m not going to commit to sitting down for 2-4 hours in the middle of a Saturday afternoon the weekend of Halloween.  For the Monday-Friday of the week not dominated by Walking Dead episodes, the primetime movies are 1408 and Carrie, Tremors 2 and 3, Child’s Play 3 and Bride of Chucky, and The Nightmare on Elm Street 1 and 2.  Solid films but this is why we need more dates.  Maybe I’m just old though and miss the days when I could sit in my room a majority of the day in college with Fear Fest on nonstop.

Other Horror Movies to Check Out on Your Streaming Devices

If you’re a true horror fan, you won’t be saving all of your movie viewing for AMC’s Fear Fest.  As great as it can be, the commercial breaks, and editing to remove some gore and language, may leave you wanting more.  Don’t worry, there are plenty of other horror movies for you to check out on Netflix and Amazon Prime.  The Amazon list is absurdly more complete than Netflix, with the latter inexplicably losing streaming rights to popular movies, including The Exorcist on Oct 1.  Some highlights below.

Netflix

  • Jaws
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Scream 2
  • Hellraiser
  • The Babadook
  • V/H/S
  • Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Amazon

  • Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • Scream 2
  • Carrie (1976)
  • The Faculty
  • Final Destination
  • The Mist
  • Misery
  • Rosemary’s Baby

Other Horror Movies to Check Out in Theaters

Don’t Breathe

Don’t Breathe, a great recent addition to the horror genre, has been on a tear in the box office since opening theatrically on August 25th.  The movie follows a group of three thieves who target unoccupied homes in and around Detroit.  Wanting to get out of the game, they plan one last heist, targeting an unassuming blind ex-veteran.  Covering the home invasion subgenre, the movie is equal parts scary/gory and thrilling.  It has an 88% Fresh Rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has grossed over $85 Million in the US as of October 5th.  If this movie is still in theaters near you, go and check it out.

The Shining

The ever popular 1980 flick returns to theaters for two days only, on Sunday, October 23 and Wednesday, October 26 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time.  The film follows Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family, as they head to an isolated haunted hotel in the winter to take care of the facility while it is closed for the season. The hotel has a violent and haunting past, which the family isn’t aware of until it’s maybe too late.  The film originally gained mixed reviews but has become a cult classic in the years since, and popularized the term REDЯUM.  It was ranked #29 on AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 THRILLS.  See if The Shining will be playing near you by viewing the listings here.

Closing

The horror genre is notoriously known as being way past its heyday.  However, with movies like Don’t Breathe, The Cabin in the Woods, You’re Next, Sinister, Insidious, and The Babadook, being released this decade, movie executives have shown that there are still plenty of ideas out there, and that the genre won’t just rely on watered down remakes.  And while we hopefully continue to see new great films, it’s great that the horror genre continues to show respect to its past, and fans continue to watch genre defining films from over 40 years ago.  October is Horror and Horror is October.

So Keep Calm Y’all and Watch Some Horror Movies

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