Halloween doesn’t officially show up on the calendar until Oct. 31, though some fright fanatics like to celebrate it all month long. Hollywood’s no different – rolling out monster and slasher flicks one after another, showering the October box office with blood and gore.

 

Halloween doesn’t officially show up on the calendar until Oct. 31, though some fright fanatics like to celebrate it all month long.

Hollywood’s no different – rolling out monster and slasher flicks one after another, showering the October box office with blood and gore.

Do you like scary movies?

I can take them or leave them.

Halloween’s always been more about candy and carving pumpkins for me.

So I’m going to get all the horror stuff out of the way with one trick-or-treat bag of Reel Deal reviews.

The two flicks featured in this week’s column have one thing in common: The real monsters aren’t the undead, blood-sucking, zombiefied, vengeance-seeking creatures of the night.

The true terrors are the bullies.

‘LET ME IN’

Middle school is full of monsters.

Twelve-year-old Owen deals with them on a daily basis – in the form of a pack of sadistic, unrelenting bullies led by Kenny, who has that same cold, evil squint in his eyes as Scut Farkas in “A Christmas Story.”



The brooding, barefoot girl vampire he meets on the snow-covered jungle gym outside his apartment complex seems tame in comparison.

Of course, Owen doesn’t know she’s a vampire.

Abby seems no more or less odd than the typical 12-year-old girl really.

She tells Owen they can’t be friends – oh, and she says she’s not a girl.

When he lets her in – to his apartment and his life – he soon discovers that she’s there to stay.

He shares his Rubix Cube and Now-and-Later candy; she gives him advice on dealing with his bully problem. They communicate through the wall that separates their bedrooms by tapping out Morse Code – and she eventually, reluctantly, agrees to “go steady.”

It’s pre-teen romance at its purest – until Owen unwittingly coaxes out the monster living in the little girl’s skin, and witnesses her bloodlust firsthand.

“Let Me In” is the American remake of Norway’s “Let the Right One In,” a 2008 release hailed as the anti-“Twilight.”

Having watched this latest incarnation first, I see “Let the Right One In” as a perfectly fine first draft.

What “Let Me In” writer/director Matt Reeves (who collaborated with genius J.J. Abrams on “Cloverfield” in 2008 and the TV series “Felicity” from 1998 to 2001) manages to do is turn the volume up to 11.

He amps up the action and horror considerably – taking what occurs mostly off-screen and in shadows in “the Right One” and throwing it in your face.

He also strikes the soft and subtle notes more precisely, in my opinion – revealing more about the relationship between the young vampire and “her father,” which is the key to the whole movie. Richard Jenkins’ pained performance here is what makes most of the difference.

The addition of Elias Koteas as “the policeman” was also a good move. The nosy neighbor of “the Right One” is no match.

As Abby, Chloe Moretz (who played Hit Girl in last year’s “Kick Ass” and Angie in “Diary of A Wimpy Kid”) is bloody good. And as Owen, Kodi Smit-McPhee (the boy in last year’s apocalyptic epic “The Road” with Viggo Mortensen) is the quintessential wimpy kid.

“Let the Right One In” is a classier (better) kind of vampire flick – the blood flows slowly and smartly; the story sinking its teeth in until you’re powerless against it.

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Bullies are no laughing matter.

And recent real-life headlines make the subject matter of British slasher flick “Tormented” – in which a bullied teenager commits suicide, then comes back from the dead to exact revenge on his tormentors – even more disturbing.

What’s likely to give you nightmares are the prep-school jerks and their despicable, terrible mistreatment of a couple of outcasts.



As a monster movie, it’s pretty standard stuff – spewing fake blood and severed heads and limbs.

There’s some twisted satisfaction in seeing the tables turned on these terrible tormentors.

But it’s soon apparent that for teenage zombie Darren Mullet, there’s no gray area – and all bullies, no matter how severe or how bullied they are themselves, are going down.

Even Mullet’s unrequited crush, head girl Justine, might not make it out alive – as the future valedictorian cozies up with popular jock and bully Jason.

“Tormented” doesn’t take itself too seriously – it’s comparable to the “Scream” franchise in tone – and your enjoyment of it hinges on whether you do or not.

There are a few chuckles – from the ridiculous text-messages from beyond the grave, to the monster Mullet’s weakness: Asthma.

It’s also super-sexualized for a teen horror flick – and heavy on crude cursing dialogue.

But in the end, “Tormented” is more trick than treat.

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If you’re looking to scare up a good time, here’s what you can look forward to in theaters this month:



• “My Soul to Take” – Horror master Wes Craven directs a 3-D cross between his “Nightmare on Elm Street” films and “Final Destination,” in which a serial killer returns from the grave to murder seven children born the night he died. Standing in his way is one teen who apparently can see the killer’s crimes before they occur. Opening in theaters this weekend.



• “Case 39” – Renee Zellweger stars in this psychological thriller as a social worker who takes into her home a troubled young girl, only to realize later that she comes with some very evil baggage. In theaters now.



• “Paranormal Activity 2” – The low-budget, cheap-scare, home-security-camera phenomena gets a second go, with an under-wraps plot and probably a little more cash infusion. In theaters Oct. 22.



• “Saw 3D” – The seventh in the twisted serial killer Jigsaw’s saga gets a third dimension, and if you believe the marketing pitch will be the scariest of all “Saws.” Tobin Bell is back as Jigsaw; and Cary Elwes returns to the role he played in the original “Saw.” Due in theaters for Halloween weekend, Oct. 29.

Contact Robert McCune at 330-775-1124 or Robert.McCune@IndeOnline.com.