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Each month, we’ll take you on a trip down the proverbial video aisle to look at some of the latest and best indie horror releases you need to check out.

Down the Video Aisle

We’ve reached the month we’ve all been waiting for: October is here! This is Christmas time for all horror fans, the most wonderful time of the year. For many this month is a viewing frenzy of horror films, whether it be old favorites like Halloween and Night of the Demons, or tuning in to watch whatever is playing on AMC Fear Fest (104 titles are set to show this year starting October 13).

An exciting addition to this year’s Halloween season viewing is a dose of nostalgia with Nickelodeon’s limited revival of Are You Afraid of the Dark? on October 11th, count me in for that.

I have just one suggestion for the October movie watching extravaganza this year: Replace one movie you’ve seen a thousand times with just one title from this month’s new releases. There’s a number of spooky and fun films hitting VOD that are worth checking out, so why not give one of them a shot? That said, let’s start our Halloween walk down the video aisle and pick out a film or two!

STAFF PICK

Replace

(Available now on VOD and DVD)

Replace is a nice twist on the vampire story, but instead of fresh blood to stay alive, Kira requires fresh skin from her victims. Sounds a bit more messy than simply biting a neck, but the film is much more than a gore fest and has plenty to say about life and death.

Kira is an intriguing character and is played with a quiet bewilderment by Rebecca Forsythe. When her friend cuts her foot on some broken glass, the sight of skin stuck to a shard stops her eyes from moving, captivated by the fresh replacement before her. It’s a great moment for Forsythe, who flashes a wild discovery in her eyes, a moment of re-evaluation of what she needs to survive. There’s a wonderful scene in a morgue, Kira walking through the corpses doused in green light as layered organ music plays underlined by a steady, mechanical sounding heartbeat. The scene invokes rebirth as she cuts a swath of skin from one of the bodies in a Frankenstein-like attempt to complete her body. But the dead skin doesn’t take and, like Dracula, she needs the flesh of the living.

This is when Replace delves into the darkness of vanity, taking the lives of others in order to maintain a beautiful and youthful appearance. There’s a scene of Kira looking in the mirror and when her image reflects an old version of herself back to her, she screams at the sight. It’s not that Kira is dying, it’s that she’ll look like a monster if her skin condition continues to crust over her body, something she’s not willing to live with. Even her doctor (the great Barbara Crampton), can only seem to do so much for her. Although her interest in Kira seems to run deeper than just being a patient, and her too calm demeanor is an alarming mix of sweetness and mild obsession, adding an element of unknown danger.

All of this is quite the cocktail for the haunting journey of a young woman forced to watch her body decay, threatened to lose her looks decades before wrinkles naturally appear and take deadly measures because of it. Much is revealed as Replace unfolds. Themes of aging, memory, ghosts, death, vanity, love, and loss are all explored with a unique vision. The final act, despite a hiccup or 2 in pacing, is an exciting and surprising odyssey of revelation, a great and unforeseen ending to a provocative science fiction thriller with a strong message: Replacing what’s on the surface will conceal truth for only so long when what’s underneath is rotten.

“Kira’s skin starts to age rapidly, dry out and crumble away. But then she discovers that she can replace her own skin with somebody else’s.”

FIRST LOOK: THE TOP OF THE RELEASE PILE

Seeds

(Available now on VOD)

There’s an uncomfortable heartbeat to the film from very early on that is shrouded in the niceties of familial relationships. Trevor Long is wholly appropriate in the role of Marcus, a man who struggles to keep a “normal” life, but ultimately has plenty to hide. Long inherently possesses a cautious appearance, with his drawn face, receding hairline, and naturally down-turned mouth and eyes categorizing him as someone who needs to be given time before being trusted. The fact that Marcus has dreams of peeking in on his grown niece, Lilly, when she takes a bath or listening to her through the door as she actually does, doesn’t help. Seeds is about secrets of the deepest kind, of monsters, and they lay in wait of discovery at every turn.

But Long is talented enough to play Marcus as both a victim and a perpetrator, and his performance creates the driving conflict of the film eliciting both sympathy and disgust in tandem. The film also frames Marcus as both victim and perpetrator and doesn’t shy away from showing the beauty in even the most cringe-worthy moments. It’s a daring examination of temptation, forbidden attraction and the monster inside of a man on the brink of getting out.

Andrea Chen as Lilly confidently captures disturbing, fetish-like child qualities combined with adult know how, a mix that stirs up the secret desires within Marcus. She’s no little girl anymore, but Lilly knows how to manipulate her uncle into remembering her when she was, only now she has the figure of a grown woman to fuel the fire.

Seeds is a beautifully shot and compelling debut from writer and director Owen Long. A very dark mystery that observes the desires that live deep inside of us, of fighting to no avail and succumbing to temptation. And while some act on it and others don’t, perhaps the seeds of monsters are in all of us.

“When his increasingly depraved behavior spirals out of control, Marcus retreats to his family home along the New England coast. But instead of finding solace, Marcus is haunted by his darkest fears and deepest desires.” 

Burn

(Available now on VOD)

Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Melinda and Suki Waterhouse as Sheila are extraordinarily in tune with what their characters call for to set Burn out on the unpredictable path it follows. Melinda is a sweetly disturbed, well intentioned, lonely girl who forces awkward moments with customers and who dips her finger in freshly brewed coffee to feel the heat she wishes to have with a man.

There’s an off kilter emptiness to Melinda that Cobham-Hervey puts front and center with an appropriate misleading elegance, creating a complex and dangerous character in a standout performance. And Waterhouse steals every scene she’s in as the wise cracking Sheila who instigates and pushes boundaries with the chip on her shoulder and eye rolling attitude. The 2 are the perfect foil for Josh Hutcherson’s Billy, the would be robber who wandered into the wrong gas station. Hutcherson is effective here, perfectly charming and convincingly hot headed when his charm fails him.

Burn is a fantastic little thriller that unfolds slowly to reveal a twisted series of events, and its 3 stars are integral to its success in a dialogue heavy script. I don’t know if there’s good and evil in the gas station where Melinda works, maybe just a thin line in between the 2 extremes and Burn manages to toe that line and explore the grayest areas of life, the purgatory people create for themselves…or find themselves in.

It’s here where Melinda lives, on the edges of this thin line between good and evil in the seedy gas station of the highway called Paradise Pumps. And if heaven is paradise, this long night at Paradise Pumps proves that paradise is indeed lost. Burn is a great little gem, I hope people check this one out.

“When a gas station is held at gunpoint by a desperate man in need of cash, a lonely and unstable gas station attendant, tired of being overshadowed by her more outgoing co-worker, finds an opportunity to make a connection with the robber.”

Luz

(Available now on VOD)

Luz doesn’t play out like a linear story, it instead relies on a dream-like structure, meaning it doesn’t have much structure to speak of. This approach works to strengthen the film as Luz tells a frightening tale of possession and of the shifting psyche of the woman at its center. The film creates scenes out of moments and lingers on them like a dream would, as if they have no beginning and no end. They exist in an unknown space, and the visual exploration of this space is what makes Luz so mesmerizing and successful.

Jan Bluthardt is utterly menacing as Dr. Rossini. He reminded me of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, just a dangerous and wild presence. Him taking a pen out of a purse was a dread inducing moment, that’s the powerfully evil screen presence this guy has. Luana Velis as Luz is excellent as the troubled woman stalked by an evil spirit. She appears exhausted, tormented, and indignant all at once.

The film often has a foggy, lost appearance and feel to it, a nice aesthetic that mirrors the mindset of a woman being forcefully inhabited by an outside entity. At a brisk 70 minutes, watch this one straight through with no interruptions. You just might lose sense of being awake or asleep and find yourself in the space between, the transfixing realm where Luz takes place.

Luz, a young cabdriver, drags herself into the brightly lit entrance of a run-down police station. A demonic entity follows her, determined to finally be close to the woman it loves.”

TO BE WATCHED: MORE GREAT HORROR

Camp Wedding

(Available now on VOD)

Having to help decorate an old camp as part of a wedding party sounds like the worst kind of wedding task a groomsman or bridesmaid could be asked to do. But it does make for a pretty entertaining looking, humorous slasher flick! In terms of comedy, the preoccupied, bridezilla mentality seems to mesh well with the threat of a killer on the loose, and the movie looks to offer plenty of blood along the way as well. A bit goofy, sure, but flicks like Camp Wedding are perfect for mid week viewing to forget a long day at work.

“Mia’s destination wedding seems doomed when her bridal party is not too keen on doing all the work to transform a dilapidated summer camp into the venue of her dreams–when they begin to be killed off mysteriously, that doesn’t help either.”

Killer Sofa

(Available now on VOD and DVD)

What can really be said about this film? One look at the poster, let alone the title, shows you exactly what kind of ridiculousness you’re getting into with Killer Sofa. I just love the tongue in cheek, serious approach the trailer takes with such absurd material. The image of the killer recliner (yes, it’s a recliner, not a sofa…*shrug*), rising up in the smoke filled living room with its eyes full of menace just screams a good time. Check your brain at the door, this one should be fun.

“A killer reclining chair becomes enchanted by a girl and starts committing crimes of passion.”

Little Monsters

(Available 10/11 on Hulu)

Can we make a clause of some sort that says Lupita Nyong’o has to make at least 1 horror movie a year for the rest of her career? She gets to have a little fun along side the terror of a zombie outbreak here and, based on the trailer, it looks like her fun will be ours as well because Little Monsters looks like a blast! Her motherly/teacher instincts look to make a good duo with Josh Gad’s pessimistic, we’re-all-going-to-die attitude, and I’m digging the stay ludicrously calm for the sake of the children vibe. Looking forward to this one!

“A washed-up musician teams up with a teacher and a kids show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies.”

Trick

(Available 10/18 on VOD)

Wow! I have to say, Trick looks more brutal than I was expecting — and that’s a good thing. The trailer wisely doesn’t give too much away here but I am really into the procedural detective story mixing with the slasher vibe. I’m also digging the look of the killer. That pumpkin mask is like a twisted Ichabod Crane,  Ghostface, and Skeletor cocktail. Great cast as well, featuring Omar Epps, Jamie Kennedy, and Tom Atkins. Put Trick on your radar this Halloween, it just might be the start of a possible franchise.

“A no-nonsense detective tries to track down a serial killer named Trick, who is terrorizing a small town.” 

Girl on the Third Floor

(Available 10/25 on VOD)

Whoa… I can’t wrap my brain around this trailer (I watched it 3 times, I tried). This thing looks like one effed up full tank of nightmare fuel about to spill all over viewers, and I for one am looking to get doused! I’ve mentioned before that I love haunted house movies and Girl on the Third Floor looks genuinely creepy, like look under the bed, gets under your skin creepy and I’m counting the days until I can check this one out.

“Don Koch tries to renovate a rundown mansion with a sordid history for his growing family, only to learn that the house has other plans.”

The Gallows Act II

(Available 10/25 in select theaters and VOD)

Well, who would have seen this sequel coming? I must admit, I didn’t mind the original. I thought it was entertaining enough and was impressed by the performance of Cassidy Gifford. Writing and directing duo Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing return and this sequel appears to have a smart idea to turn the story into a slasher franchise, and if that’s the direction it’s going in I’m all for it!

“When Ana Rue transfers to a prestigious new acting school, she encounters a malevolent spirit after participating in a viral challenge.”

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