In Defense of 2018’s Horror Offerings

Last week, Vogue posed the question, remember when horror was good? The question was followed with the blanket statement that 2017 was a far superior year for horror, due to It, Split, and lesser-known indie and foreign flicks such as Raw and It Comes at Night. The writer, Taylor Antrim, also labels Get Out a “masterpiece of social horror,” but then surmises that because Get Out didn’t win the Oscar that year (Jordan Peele did, however), that the air went out of the genre. If anything, I would argue that 2018 was another strong year for the genre, extending the new golden age.

First, Antrim admits that A Quiet Place, Hereditary, and Suspiria are good films, but the writer tries to remove the horror label from them and instead calls them thrillers. This is what some critics tried to do last year when Get Out earned Oscar nods. There were articles about “post-horror,” socially conscious films concerned with bigger ideas than guts and gore. The genre, they argued, couldn’t handle such serious themes! I guess they never watched any of Romero or Hitchcock’s horror films. It is beyond me how Antrim can see these new films as anything but horror. The first 15 minutes of A Quiet Place are some of the most nerve-jangling scenes I witnessed in cinema all year. The rest of the film features creatures terrorizing a family. Citing Hereditary, Antrim says that the genre could use a dose of humor and fun. On the one hand, I’ll admit that humor and dark delight do have a place in horror. Get Out is a good example, as well as classics like Re-Animator and Dawn of the Dead. Other genre staples, though, like The Exorcist and Night of the Living Dead are pretty short on the jokes.  Would anyone question their importance to the genre because they lack punch lines?

Antrim saves most of the criticism for Halloween, this year’s highest-grossing horror film. The author’s main gripe is that the film simply wasn’t scary. I beg to differ. David Gordon Green’s film returns Michael Myers to a force of nature, and his kills are brutal without being gratuitous, unlike Rob Zombie’s two Halloween films. Perhaps more importantly, the reboot gives substance to the Final Girl, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), making her the hunter who wants to overcome her trauma. Even Antrim admits that the film is relevant in 2018 and the era of #MeToo.

Within the article, Antrim  says that Hereditary, A Quiet Place, Suspiria, and even the French film Revenge are good films, while trying to dislodge them from the horror label. All of these films belong to 2018, and all of these films fall within the horror genre. Vogue’s article is a continuation of the flurry of pieces last year that tried to discredit the genre. 2017 was indeed a great year for horror, but so was 2018. Hereditary, A Quiet Place, and Halloween raised a heck of a lot of money at the box office while being interesting films, short on jump scares. The year also produced a number of wonderful foreign and indie films, including Revenge, Terrified, The Witch in the Window, Ghost Stories, among others. As horror continues to do well at the box office and earn praise, it’s likely articles like Antrim’s will continue to be published. To that, I say, may the new golden age of horror extend well into 2019!

 

 

Political Predictions for 2018

Borowitz-Capitol-Citigroup

 

I’m taking a break from blogging about films, literature, and the horror genre to offer some political predictions for 2018. First, I will preface this post by reiterating what a news editor told me about 10 years ago when I worked as a full-time political beat reporter for a daily outside of Philly. Politics is fluid. Nothing is certain. Anything could change. If we’re talking about the 2018 mid-terms, which feel like the most consequential mid=terms in a long, long time, then we need to acknowledge that the 10 months that separate January and November is a very long time in politics. Anything can happen, and 2016 and 2017 certainly proved that.

1.The blue wave builds…. but when does it crest/peak? This is my biggest question heading into 2018. Just how big will the blue wave be? Any statistician or political junkie/pundit will tell you that there will be a blue wave next year. The Democrats lead on the generic ballot for control of Congress by about 15 points. Their margins are especially high among 18-34 year-olds and women. Their odds are split among independents. Meanwhile, The Hill and Politico reported last week that behind closed doors, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been fretting that the GOP may lose control of the House and Senate. So yes, a blue wave is building, but we won’t know how big it is until November comes and goes.

2. The Democrats gain control of at least one branch of Congress. If I made a bet on Democrats regaining control of Congress, I would put most of my money on Dems retaking the House. They need to gain 20 plus seats to make this happen. Yes, a lot of the districts are heavily gerrymandered, but the Democrats are running an incredible amount of candidates next year, especially compared to the GOP’s numbers and the number of GOP reps retiring, probably because they know a wave is coming. Control of the House will come down to suburban Philadelphia districts, suburban DC districts in Virginia, and a few districts in CA where the Dems should be able to topple some moderate GOP reps. It is also likely the Dems will win some seats in districts they typically wouldn’t win in other years because though Trump will not be on the ballot, he will still be a drag on the ballot for the GOP. In 2010, the GOP netted 63 House seats and 6 Senate seats. They obliterated the comfy majority the Dems had in the House and nearly retook the Senate, which they’d do two years later in 2014. Historically, the party that occupies the White House loses a lot of seats in the first mid-term. So, if the Dems retake any branch of Congress, my money is on the House.

3. The Dems don’t retake the Senate. This is the prediction I feel most iffy about. Since Doug Jones won in Alabama and will keep that seat until 2020, the Senate is now within Democratic reach. However, it is still a major, major uphill slog, even though the Dems only need to flip two seats for control. This prediction comes down to basic math. The Democrats have to defend 25 seats this year. The GOP only has to defend 10. The Democrats best chance to flip a seat is to defeat Dean Heller in Nevada, a state that has been trending blue since at least 2010. The path to the majority for Dems cuts through pretty red states, including Tennessee, Arizona, Mississippi, and Texas. Doug Jones won, but he won because of the awfulness of Roy Moore and because of incredible black turnout. The Dems may be able to repeat a similar turnout pattern in a state like Mississippi, but Tennessee does not have the make-up that Alabama has. Meanwhile, Texas is the great big elephant, the state that the Democratic Party is sure will trend purple in a few election cycles, but so far, that hasn’t occurred or even come close to happening. If the Dems are going to win a Senate seat in Tx by defeating Ted Cruz, then they are really, really going to have to focus on getting out the Hispanic vote and focusing on turnout in major cities like Austin and San Antonio. Is Democratic control of the Senate possible? It is, but it’s still unlikely.  The path for Democratic control is extremely narrow, and meanwhile, there are  A LOT of deep red state Dems on the ballot next year, including in the states of West Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota. The Senate map will be far, far more favorable to Dems in 2020 and 2022.

I will note that the health of John McCain in Arizona and Thad Cochran in Mississippi, both Republicans, also factor into all of this.

4. Dems win big at the state level and gain control of more governor’s mansions. Again, this comes down to math. There are a lot of blue state Republican governors on the ballot this year, including in Maryland and Illinois. In purplelish Maine, the unpopular GOP governor, Paul LePage, will be termed out. The GOP won a whole lot of governors mansions and state legislatures over the last two mid-term election cycles. In fact, one of Barack Obama’s legacies is the fact that his party lost a historic number of state houses under his tenure. This should really be the year when Dems reverse that trend. In fact, Obama has stated he plans to grow the Democratic bench once out of office. The Dems won a lot of state races in 2017, including in places like Georgia, Oklahoma, and Virginia. The party is poised for a lot of pick-ups at the state level this year.

5. Dems win the House but DON’T move to impeach Donald Trump. I don’t find it likely that the Democratic Party will seriously move to impeach Trump, unless Mueller really uncovers something huge. If a Democratic House majority drafted articles of impeachment once the new Congress is sworn in come next January, nothing would happen. I say this because the Senate has to convict. The Democrats won’t have 60 plus votes at the beginning of next year to convict and impeach the current sitting president. Impeachment is a fantasy of the left, but I don’t see a path for that to happen. I also don’t think it’s the best move politically for the Dems.

6. Donald Trump’s approval numbers stay in the mid-low 30s. Simply put, Donald Trump’s base loves him. They will continue to love him in 2018. They make up about 1/3 of the country. Trump is losing independents and white, suburban women. I don’t see him changing in the new year. I don’t see anyone around him making him change. He is even presiding over a fairly strong economy, but that hasn’t helped his numbers. He is who he is.

7. Donald Trump pushes for an infrastructure bill. This is something that I assume Dems would like to work with Trump on, but they won’t work with him if the infrastructure plan involves a complete privatization of the nation’s highways. I predict Trump will push an infrastructure bill early this year, but it’s only happening if he is willing to move to the middle on this, along with Ryan and McConnell. Otherwise, it’s not happening.

8. McConnell and Ryan butt heads over “entitlement reform.” I hate using the term “entitlement reform,” so instead, I’m going to use the term cut to benefits. House Speaker Paul Ryan really, really wants to slash the social safety net and cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, programs we all pay into via our taxes. Along with lowering the corporate tax cut, Ryan has dreamed of burning the social safety net since he was a college student reading Ayn Rand. He probably has enough votes in the House to do this, but the GOP only has a one-seat majority in the Senate now, due to Doug Jones. It’s hard for me to imagine how they pass any major cuts to these benefits in the Senate, but hey, crazier things have happened.

7. A deal is reached on DACA before the March deadline. Are we really going to be a country that boots 800,000 Dreamers? I sure as hell hope not. Most Republicans are not for ending DACA and kicking people out of the country that have been here since they were children. I don’t think Trump really wants to end DACA, despite his anti-immigrant fervor. I assume the parties will come up with an agreement, maybe by mid-January, when they need to fund the government again, since they only passed a short stop-gap measure before Christmas. I predict the deal will include increased funding for border security. I sure hope I’m right that they come to some deal here and protect the Dreamers….

8. Climate change will continue to wreck havoc and cause extreme weather globally, but the U.S. will continue to do nothing and Trump will continue to deny science, slash the EPA, and keep dismantling Obama-era environmental policies. We may be past the point of no return regarding climate change. 2017 saw a lot of extreme weather, and that will continue in 2018. Countries like China, India, France, the UK, and others will continue to take the lead on this issue, since the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement and has essentially given up being a leader on this issue under this administration

These are my predictions for 2018. Again, nothing in politics is certain, and 10 months is a very long time until the mid-term elections. That said, there are some trends from 2017 worth looking at, especially Democratic turnout and wins at the state level that are good indicators of where 2018 will go politically.

I hope that everyone has a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!