Time to Cue Up the Horror Flicks

Happy October! It’s that time of year when everyone is looking for that one good horror recommendation. First, let me state that if you want some solid suggestions, check out Horror Homeroom or Signal Horizon any day of the week for some of the best insight on contemporary horror.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll offer some suggestions for the major streaming networks. I will keep each list fairly short and try to offer recommendations beyond the usual mainstream fare. First up, I’m focusing on Shudder, the all-horror streaming network owned by AMC and also available through Amazon Prime.

Shudder

One Cut of the Dead (2019/Directed by Shinichiro Ueda) This Japanese flick is one of the most creative films available anywhere. Even offering too much of a description will give too much away. That said, it rewrites everything you think you know about the zombie narrative, and the closing minutes are one big kiss to independent film-making. It also begins with a 36-minute long continuous shot. Stream this now!

Tigers Are Not Afraid (2019/Directed by Issa Lopez) This Spanish film is beautiful, heartbreaking, and terrifying in its depiction of gang violence in Mexico. The child actors are simply phenomenal, and the fairy tale-like quality is reminiscent of early Guillermo del Toro. This is a must watch and will probably end up on several best-of lists at the end of the year.

Body Bags (1993/Directed by John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Larry Sulkis) This is  a rare anthology featuring three separate stories loaded with celebrity cameos, including Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, Tom Arnold, and John Carpenter as a wise-cracking mortician. Shudder is most likely the only place you’ll be able to watch this, so check it out while you can. It’s a fun horror comedy perfect for this time of year.

Incident in a Ghostland (2018/Directed by Pascal Laugier) This French film by the director of Martyrs is imperfect, especially in its portrayal of trans people, which, in this case, happens to be a one-dimensional central villain. While Incident in a Ghostland may not be as haunting or horrific as Martyrs, it still has a lot to say about trauma and fractured memory. The plot is simple: a mother and her two daughters suffer a terrifying home invasion during the first night in their new home. That story-line, coupled with the visuals, make this a must-watch. Laugier is one of the most interesting directors working in the genre right now.

The Old Dark House (1932/Directed by James Whale) When it comes to Universal’s first golden age in the 1930s, The Old Dark House is sometimes lost in the conversation. Everyone talks about Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and the Universal Monsters in general, but this is one of my favorite films from that era. Whale’s direction here is stellar in creating a creaky old house that travelers stumble upon. Then, they encounter a family with dangerous secrets. There is plenty of subtext to unpack here, and as usual, Karloff is phenomenal. Between Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, Whale created another horror masterpiece.

Other contemporary films to stream: Satan’s Slaves, The Witch in the Window, Terrified (a must see, one of the best of 2018), The Taking of Deborah Logan (Odd, creepy, unsettling, unique for the found footage genre), Hell House, LCC.

Classics to stream: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, Zombi, The Changeling, Deep Red, Hellraiser, Re-Animator, Phantasm, Henry, Black Christmas

TV shows to stream:

  • “Creepshow” Yes, the reboot is really that good! A new episode will air every Thursday through Halloween. Horror lovers shouldn’t miss this.
  • “Dead Wax” This is such a creative Shudder original about a record that kills people. Hopefully, it gets a second season.
  • “Channel Zero” This four-season series based on Creepy Pasta stories initially aired on the Syfy network  and was cancelled way too soon. The final season drops this month on Shudder.
  • “NOS4A2” A worthy adaptation of Joe Hill’s bestselling novel.

 

Up next, I’ll offer recommendations for HULU. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Finally, Something Regarding The Lighthouse

It’s been known for a while now that Robert Eggers, director of The Witch, was going to release a movie shot on 35 mm and filmed in black and white. It was also stated early on that it would star Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson stranded on a mysterious New England island in the late 19th Century. Other than that,  very little about the film was leaked. This week, however, the trailer finally dropped.

 

 

After watching this, I have many thoughts. First, the sirens and foreboding music that shortly follow the A24 opening credit are nerve-rattling, and after that, we get a little bit of the plot when Dafoe’s character asks Pattinson’s character what, exactly, would drive him to such an island. From the rest of the trailer, it’s clear that Pattinson’s character masks some kind of secret. We see him digging a hole shortly after Defoe’s character implies that he’s on the run from something. Did he commit a crime? Did he murder someone? We’ll have to see.

It’s also clear that this is going to be a film about descent into madness. We see the men hugging, drinking, dancing, shouting at each other, gripping each other’s throats, and losing all sense of time.  One of them even chases the other in pounding rain with an axe! At one point, Defoe’s character asks, “How long have we been on this rock?” When he asks that, the camera pans to Pattinson, who looks pale, wide-eyed, and dazed. Other brief flashes of various scenes appear to be hallucinations, maybe?

Additionally, the film looks just as atmospheric and brooding as The Witch, and like Eggers’ previous film, nature’s not apt to be kind to the humans .In The Witch, the crops rot, thus causing the 17th Century Puritan family to blame it on witchcraft and the oldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya-Taylor Joy). In this film, it’s clear the sea is just as harsh, busting through the windows of the lighthouse, while thunder and lightening crack outside. Furthermore, that sense of isolation that the Puritan family faces, due to the fact they were exiled from their community, only deepens the eventual madness and unraveling. It appears isolation has a similar effect here.

The film is scheduled for wide release on Oct. 18.

Horror Noire: The First Must-See Horror Feature of 2019

This month, the streaming service Shudder released its exclusive documentary, Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, based on the book Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present by Robin R. Means Coleman. For any horror fan or film fan in general, this doc is a must-see. Featuring interviews with black directors, actors, actresses, and scholars, the film traces the history of black representation in horror (and film in general), beginning with 1915’s Birth of the Nation to 2017’s Get Out. In an hour and a half, the doc analyzes where we’ve been and where we’re going.

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The film covers over 100 years and draws attention to certain time periods and eras to highlight racist stereotypes and also show the evolution of black horror. The doc begins with D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation and spends the necessary amount of time analyzing the impact that it had on public consciousness (President Woodrow Wilson screened it in the White House and praised it) and the racist stereotypes that it fostered, namely that black men were a threat to white women. The film’s positive depiction of the KKK helped contribute to the resurgence of the Klan during the Jim Crow era. The doc then looks at other early Hollywood films, including King Kong, and their presentation of the monster/Other, drawling parallels, for instance, between Kong’s looks and negative depictions of black Americans in advertising and print. It also looks at the trope of the “magical negro” and faithful servant.

From there, the doc points to Spencer Coleman, known for creating films with all-black casts for black audiences, as writing the first ever horror film with an all-black cast, 1940’s Son of Ingagi. Spencer went on to create other horror/fantasy films, but he’s a name relatively unknown in the horror community today. Horror Noire brings much-deserved attention to his historic role in the genre.

From there, the doc shifts to films of the 1960s and 1970s, including George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which featured a black protagonist Ben (Duane Jones), the cerebral vampire film Ganja and Hess, also starring Jones, and Blacula, a smart contrast to the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s. Then, the doc points out the regression that occurred in the 1980s, when black actors and actresses were  killed off early, especially in slashers, or only served the narrative of the white protagonists.

The doc ends with sufficient attention given to the 1990s and the 2000s, with the success of Candyman, Tales from the Hood, and most recently,  Get Out. Throughout the run-time, the doc boasts impressive interviews with a number of black filmmakers and actors/actresses, including Tony Todd (Candyman), Jordan Peele (writer/director of Get Out and Us), Rusty Cundieff (director of Tales from the Hood), William Crain (director of Blacula), Rachel True (The Craft), among many others.

Horror Noir is the first must-watch horror entry of 2019. It covers over 100 years of film history and underscores the various racial stereotypes that have existed during that time period. Yet, the film also shows where the horror genre is going and how it will continue to evolve and become more inclusive. Horror Noir also gives much-needed attention to films that have been forgotten over the years, including Son of Ingagi, Ganja and Hess, and Blacula, thus creating new audiences for those films.

 

 

 

 

Horror in 2019

Happy 2019!

With 2018 behind us, let’s look at some of the horror films dropping in 2019.

US

Slated for release on March 15, this is probably the year’s most anticipated horror film, especially after the success of 2017’s Get Out, which earned Jordan Peele an Oscar. While Get Out had some comedic beats, especially in the first half, US looks more like a straight-up horror film, with echoes of The Strangers and Funny Games, at least judging from the trailer.

 

 

 

A few weeks ago, it was reported that Peele had US star Lupita Nyong’o watch a list of horror films to prepare for her role. This list only adds to the excitement and features pretty diverse selections, everything from Let the Right One In to The Birds.

Pet Cemetery

The last few years have featured a serious resurgence of interest and fandom in Stephen King, both on the big and small screens, so it’s no surprise that one of King’s most popular novels is getting another adaptation. The latest  is directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer and written by Jeff Buhler. It stars Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, and John Lithgow. The trailer looks promising, and the film will be out in April.

 

The Prodigy

I’m unsure what to think about this film. Based on the trailer, it looks like it could be decent. Director Nicholas McCarthy does have experience in the horror genre. He was a writer for 2012’s The Pact and 2014’s At the Devil’s Door, and he directed a segment for 2016’s horror anthology Holidays. Maybe The Prodigy will be another solid entry into the creepy kid subgenre of horror,  a la The Omen. Who knows, but we’ll see once the film drops in February.

 

The Curse of La Llorona

This is another film that I think has potential. This supernatural horror film, directed by Michael Chaves,  is based on a Mexican folk tale about a legendary ghost called La Llorona. The film will be released in April.

It: Chapter 2

While I wasn’t a huge fan of the first installment of this remake, the second chapter is supposed to be darker and will feature members of the Loser’s Club all grown up, battling Pennywise one last time. I predict this will be the highest-grossing horror film of 2019. It comes out in early September. No trailer has been released yet.

The Lighthouse

Directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch), The Lighthouse is currently in post-production and was shot in black and white 35 mm. The film stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. Not much is listed on the IMDB page, other than this brief synopsis: “The story of an aging lighthouse keeper named Old who lives in early 20th-century Maine.” The Witch was one of the most atmospheric horror films of the last several years, so I’m excited to see Eggers’ latest effort, which will also be distributed by A24 films.

The Nightingale This film is currently making its round at the festivals, and I’m including it because it’s by The Babadook’s director Jennifer Kent. Here is the synopsis, “Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.”

I am sure there will be several films that make my year-end of list for 2019 that currently aren’t gaining much attention. Who heard of Revenge, Terrified, or Apostle a year ago?

TV:

In terms of TV, Shudder has green lighted Greg Nicotero’s (executive producer of “The Walking Dead”) reboot of Creepshow.  Nicotero promises the show will honor the legacy of Stephen King and George A. Romero’s original film. We’ll see. Speaking of Shudder, one of the highlights of 2018 for horror fans was the return of Joe Bob Briggs, who hosted three horror movie marathons dubbed “The Last Drive-in” for the streaming service. In 2019, he’ll be hosting a regular series. Long live Joe Bob!

Meanwhile, Jordan Peele is hosting a rebooted version of “The Twilight Zone” for CBS.  AMC has renewed the criminally underrated “The Terror” for a second season, though the new season won’t have anything to do with Dan Simmon’s novel. Season 2 will be set during WWII. Lastly, let’s hope that “Channel Zero” has at least one new season this year. Based on Creepy Pasta stories, “Channel Zero” is one of the most innovative horror television shows in years.

Happy New Year, and please feel free to comment about your predictions, hopes, or horror movies for 2019!

 

 

 

 

Review: Atterrados/Terrified, One of 2018’s Best Horror Films

Halloween is over and all that remains is leftover candy.  As 2018 winds down, the best-of lists will come into sharper focus. Though I haven’t yet produced a best-of list for horror films (I will at some point), I am certain that I will include the Argentinian film Atterrados/Terrified, one of this year’s most visceral and chilling films that no one is talking about.

Aterrados

It’s easy to see why Terrified was overlooked. 2018, like its predecessor, had a lot of mainstream horror hits and box office success, including Hereditary, A Quiet Place, and the rebooted Halloween. While those films were all great in their own way, 2018 proved that indie and foreign horror films like Revenge and Terrified bode well for the future of the genre. Director and screenwriter Demian Runga’s film pays tribute to the genre with callbacks to staples such as Pet Cemetery and The Grudge, while creating unique visuals and set pieces that are nightmareish and warrant sleeping with the lights on.

Set in a Buenos Aires neighborhood, Terrified follows three neighbors who are besieged by the paranormal. The first narrative focuses on a wife who hears voices in the kitchen. Shortly after dismissing the wife’s fears, the husband witnesses her body levitating mid-air in the bathroom, banging against the shower walls, leaving streaks of blood. This early set piece and disturbing visual sets the tone for the remainder of the film.

The middle of the film contains the most developed and haunting story. After a  little boy is hit by a bus and his mother is left to grieve, his corpse returns and sits at the kitchen table before a bowl of cereal and a glass of milk. As paranormal investigators and an ex-cop try to make sense of the situation, the camera zooms in on the boy’s rotting, decayed flesh. The viewer is left wondering if the boy moved on his own.  Are the dirty footprints the boy’s, or do they belong to a mother so grief-stricken that she dug up the corpse of her son? The physical manifestation of grief is why the film’s middle narrative is the strongest.

As the paranormal disturbances increase, there are no Ed and Lorraine Warren-type characters to solve the problem. Even the paranormal investigators and police officers view the situation in a rational fashion, deciding it best to rebury the corpse and be done with it. This is where the film breaks from The Conjuring, Poltergeist, and other demonic/haunted house type films. No one comes to save the day, essentially. The cops and paranormal investigators don’t try to defeat the evil. They merely accept it and try to resolve it, even if that means weighing down the corpse of a boy with cement so he can’t claw his way out again.

Terrified follows a less traditional narrative structure than most films, and at times, it feels like an anthology. The only connection between the characters is that they share the same neighborhood. No explanation is given for the evil, and yet, somehow the film works without it. The first story is a full-throttle assault on the senses, and from there, the viciousness and scares are unrelenting. Terrified is one of 2018’s must-see horror films.

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendations for Netflix Horror

As a follow-up to my post on recommended horror podcasts, I wanted to offer a list of my horror picks to stream on Netflix this October, or anytime for that matter! I tried not to include many picks that made my list last year, and I tried to highlight international and independent films.

The Witch (2015): This is one of my favorite horror movies of the last five years. Set in 16th Century Puritan America, this film is a slow burn,  filled with unsettling, bleak imagery. At its heart, The Witch has a lot to say about female empowerment and uses the trope of witchcraft/fear of the female to do so. Oh, and it has Black Phillip! Director Robert Eggers is likely to be a staple in the horror world for years to come. His next project is another horror film entitled The Lighthouse, and he’s working on a remake of Nosferatu.

The Wailing (2016): Netflix has a few solid Korean horror films. The Wailing tops my list. It is loaded with biblical imagery, and even though it’s nearly three hours long, it never feels bogged down. The film takes its time establishing its world and characters, but it gradually builds to a horrifying conclusion. It also has one of the best exorcism scenes.

 

 

Raw (2016): It’s fair to say that the horror genre still needs more female directors. That can probably be said about film in general. Director Julia Ducournau is on my list of young horror directors to watch. Raw borrows a lot from the French Extremity films of the early 2000s, namely in the way that it uses gore and color. This is a film to watch more than once, if you can stomach the cannibalism. Is it a metaphor for rape and survival? A female coming of age story? I don’t have all the answers, but I know that I enjoy this film more each time I see it.

Veronica (2017): Based on a true story about a teenage girl who was allegedly possessed, Veronica is directed by Paco Plazo, who also directed REC and REC 2. Watch them if you haven’t. So far, this has generally been a polarizing film, but I really enjoyed it. You generally feel for Veronica, especially when she’s burdened with taking care of her siblings, due to her absentee father and an overworked single mom.

Hush (2016): This made my list last year, but I’m including it again. The film centers around a deaf woman who is stalked and terrorized by a masked intruder for no apparent reason. What this film does with sound is the most unique aspect of the film, thus making it stand out from other home invasion horror flicks. Oh, and this was directed by Mike Flanagan, who directed “The Haunting of Hill House” series for Netflix, which has been all the buzz and streams later this month.

Under the Shadow (2016): Set in a 1980s, war-torn Iran, the story focus on a mother and a son who confront an evil invading their home. This film is heavy in its imagery and metaphors regarding war. It’s one of my favorite films of the last few years.

The Transfiguration (2017): This takes a lot of classic vampire tropes and flips them on their head. It also references what came before, including Let the Right One In, Dracula, and Martin. The film follows a troubled teen named Milo who thinks he is a vampire. Eventually, he forms a bond with another loner, Sophie. What’s reality and fantasy blurs as the film progresses.

 

Train to Busan (2016): Another Korean horror film makes my list. This is about zombies. zombies on a train! It doesn’t totally reinvent the zombie flick, but it does have characters that you give a damn about, and the setting makes for some unique and creative kills. James Wan plans to produce an American-made remake. We’ll see how that pans out…

The Ritual (2017): A British Netflix horror film based on a novel by the same name. What I really like about this film is its setting, the woods that engulf the group of friends who reunite after the tragic death of a friend. Oh, and the monster that comes in the final act is pretty cool, too.

Classics available to stream on Netflix: Hellraiser, It Follows, The Babadook, Children of the Corn, The Descent, Tucker & Dale v. Evil, The Conjuring, The Sixth Sense, The Strangers, Cabin Fever, Teeth, Seven, Interview with the Vampire