With the most frightful day of the year close at hand, many folks get into the Halloween mood by watching scary movies.
What follows isn’t a list of the best or scariest movies to watch. Instead, these are recommendations of recent films to skip this Halloween. Whether they’re boring, bland or rely too much on fake jump scares, there’s one thing all these movies have in common: they’re just not scary.
5.) “Annabelle” (2014)
So a movie about the creepy doll from “The Conjuring” should be terrifying, right? Not so much. The prequel to the 2013 horror hit squanders its potential.
“Annabelle” follows a couple (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) who experience supernatural occurrences involving the haunted doll after members of a satanic cult break into their home. While the premise sounds good on paper, the film itself is bland, with boring characters.
Not enough happens in the movie, although there’s one suspenseful sequence involving an elevator in a warehouse. Had there been more scares like that, “Annabelle” would be on a different kind of list. But the disappointing effort fails to do the notorious doll justice.
4.) “The Lazarus Effect” (2015)
It’s only 83 minutes long and on Netflix, so “The Lazarus Effect” might seem like a good watch with your popcorn and candy corn. The thriller about a group of researchers who figure out how to bring the dead back to life features a good ensemble cast and an intriguing premise, but it never lives up to it potential.
The film stars Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters and Donald Glover as the researchers who develop a serum intended to aid coma patients, but instead reanimates the dead. When Wilde’s character is accidentally killed during an experiment, her team uses the serum to resurrect her.
What we get is the horror version of “Lucy,” with Wilde’s character gaining evil powers and using them to torment her friends for no rhyme or reason. Philosophical conversations about religion versus science, which challenge the team to evaluate the moral consequences of their breakthrough, lead nowhere.
The only scary thing about “The Lazarus Effect” is how many unnecessary jump scares it resorts to before a fake-out ending destroys any good will.
3.) “Paranormal Activity 4” (2012) and “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” (2015)
Sparse and stripped down, the terrifying “Paranormal Activity” injected new life into the found-footage horror genre and launched a new franchise. The inventive series about a family haunted by a demon relied on simple but realistic effects to create genuine fright through its next two entries, “Paranormal Activity 2” and “Paranormal Activity 3.”
And that’s where I choose to believe the series ended. The atrocious final two films murdered a once-solid franchise.
“Paranormal Activity 4” brought in a new family experiencing the terror of Toby the Demon, but focused more on creating laughs than scares. The bizarre comedy/horror hybrid finally got good in the last five minutes – only to end!
The last installment, “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension,” killed any hope at redemption for the series. “The Ghost Dimension” isn’t scary at all, with forgettable characters and dull camera angles. For the first time, we “see” the activity – and it’s really bad CGI. “The Ghost Dimension” is the final nail in the coffin of a franchise that lost its spirit a long time ago.
2.) “Ouija” (2014)
A group of teenagers use a spirit board to communicate with their recently deceased friend. Add in some silly jump scares, and that’s all “Ouija” is about.
Based on Hasbro’s board game, the watered-down horror entry is incredibly dull and the acting is uninspired. I watched the movie with two friends, and both fell asleep during this snoozefest.
If you can stay awake, there’s an intriguing third-act twist. The filmmakers apparently realized the most interesting parts of “Ouija” revolve around this twist and used that to make their next movie: the vastly superior prequel “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” summoned into theaters last week.
With good acting, dedication to its 1960s period setting, prolonged suspense and creepy imagery, all signs point to yes for “Ouija: Origin of Evil.” This is the film they should have made first.
1.) “The Gallows” (2015)
Found-footage horror films have gotten a bad rap, and “The Gallows” does nothing to dispute that notion. Not only is this one of the worst horror movies I’ve ever seen, but this is one of the worst films I’ve suffered through in recent memory.
Twenty years after a student is accidentally hanged and killed during a high school play, the students at the school decide it’s a good idea to recreate the play. A group of students in the play are mysteriously locked in the school the night before the performance, and they try to survive the night while someone – or something – conspires against them.
“The Gallows” is boring and riddled with plot holes. The found footage technique works against the film as it utilizes confusing and dizzying camera angles. There are several scenes where I couldn’t tell what was going on.
Ryan (Ryan Shoos), the character in charge of holding the camera, acts overly obnoxious and annoying, which made the movie grating to watch. And the ending is just ridiculous.
Save yourself from “The Gallows” by not watching it in the first place.