Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

“Your Friend Till the End!” The Scariest Creepy Dolls

Dolls, by their nature, are weird.

Think about it—they’re (often) miniature representations of people meant to be played with. They’re inanimate objects. With another person or an animal, there’s an exchange, an actual relationship of some kind. But with a doll, there’s nothing inside the doll to interact with. Yet we design them specifically to encourage that interaction. In fact, we craft dolls specifically to invite children and adults alike to construct identities for their dolls, to feel like there’s some kind of relationship there. Because dolls demand that the person invent a personality for the doll, a narrative for the doll, a ghost of a person to live within the doll.

That’s weird, right?

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Totally Rad: Mandy (2018) Review

If you’re feeling the 80’s revival happening in recent horror movies, check out Mandy (2018), starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow). Fresh off its screening at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Mandy might be Nicolas Cage’s best performance, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he makes another horror movie that’s as good as Mandy is.

Streamable on Shudder and available for rent on Amazon, Mandy starts as a love story that is then manipulated by hallucinogens, a psycho cult leader, some slashing, a little fantasy, and beautiful, bold colors.

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June Horror is Mostly Fizzle, Not Enough Sizzle

Horror fans, I’m back!

Not to dwell, but life has been a little crazy for me lately, and I had to take some time to take care of family stuff (mostly taking care of an adorable new human who is utterly dependant on others). I had to put my love for horror on the back burner, unfortunately. But the flame of horror love burns eternal, and I kept obsessing over the latest horror trailers even while changing poopy diapers and helping my new baby learn to grab stuff.

Now that things have settled a little bit, I am so excited to start up again. Let’s start with the June horror releases.

But you know what’s not so exciting? The slate of June horror movies. Of the big releases, only The Dead Don’t Die and MAYBE Child’s Play seem worthwhile. The Dead Don’t Die is fresh from its premiere at Cannes Film Festival, which would be a promising sign if it weren’t for all the less-than-stellar reviews. As for Child’s Play, I wasn’t super impressed by the trailer (though I like the tech updates they’ve made to the premise), but then I learned that Mark Hamill was voicing the Buddi doll, and now I really want to see it.

Annabelle Comes Home (alternate title: Conjuring Sequel 432: Electric Bugaloo) is…also coming out this month. Because somehow these movies keep making money. At least Patrick Wilson’s fine self stays employed.

As for smaller releases and VOD films, I’m disappointed, to say the least. Usually, there are a couple of hidden horror gems dumped into VOD land during June, but June’s offering does not inspire confidence. The only one that might have potential is Recovery. While that story could work so well for a horror film, I’m not convinced this low-budget effort makes the most of its promise.

Le sigh.

Here’s hoping July’s horror movie releases are more exciting. In the meantime, check out the trailers for June’s horror releases.

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Horror and the 2019 Cannes Film Festival

(To read my past coverage of Cannes, see my 2016, 2017, and 2018 posts.)

One of the more exciting trends in horror over the last few years has been the proliferation of horror movies making splash debuts at renowned film festivals. Horror has been defying expectations and proving the genre haters wrong by showing up and showing out at festivals like Sundance and SXSW. Even genre festivals like Fantastic Fest and Frightfest have increased their profiles to become hotly anticipated in horror and non-horror circles alike.

And as a horror fan, I feel like it’s about damn time. Many critics and filmmakers have turned their noses up to horror, so it’s nice to see the industry not only embrace horror but start to experiment with how the genre can tell compelling stories.

Cue the Cannes Film Festival, arguably the glitziest and most buzzworthy film festival in the world. In years past, horror films like Evil Dead 2, Pan’s Labyrinth, Train to Busan, and The Neon Demon. have garnered much attention and acclaim at Cannes. Additionally, Cannes serves as an important marketplace and networking nexus for filmmakers looking to secure additional funding or distribution for their horror films.  Such attention helps the whole genre do better, which is why I catalog the horror films showing at both the Cannes film festival and the Marché du Film (Cannes’ Film Market) every year.

This year’s Cannes festival doesn’t have as much horror as I would like to see (there’s never enough horror as far as I’m concerned). It’s disappointing that there aren’t more horror films at Cannes, but rest assured, those that will screen are ones to watch. This small but strong group of horror films promises to offer audiences a lot more than the same old tired remakes and half-assed slashers.

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“Sometimes, Dead is Bettah.” So Is Pet Sematary, the Novel

When I saw the trailer for Pet Sematary (2019), with John Lithgow as Jud Crandall, I felt excited. I’m usually skeptical of remakes, but since I liked the remake of IT (2017) with Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the clown, I’m kind of hopeful for upcoming horror remakes. And then it occurred to me: I hadn’t read the book. I’d seen the 1989 film more than 20 times – sometimes just playing it in the background at home while I did chores. I really like the movie,  but I didn’t know what I was missing until I soaked up the novel.

In case you don’t know, Pet Sematary is a story about the Creed family, who moves to Ludlow, Maine, and into a house beside the town’s pet cemetery (misspelled “Sematary” by local children who made the sign). Strange things occur as Louis Creed discovers what lies beyond the Pet Sematary – breaking his grip on sanity and morality.

I had some traveling ahead of me, and I wanted to make sure I read the book before the remake hit theaters. So the night before I headed off to Austin, Texas, for SXSW, I kicked off the Pet Sematary audiobook on my way. As soon as I began the audiobook, I was hooked. I listened during my drive. When I stopped for gas, I didn’t linger so I could finish the next chapter. After a few hours, when I rolled into Austin, I could already tell there were differences between the novel and the 1989 film. But I turned off the audiobook and began live-music-binging.

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My 10 Favorite Episodes of The Twilight Zone

What is it about the spooky, provocative short story that moves us so? Whether it’s listening to the big kids recount ghost stories around a campfire or reading creepypastas under the covers in the middle of the night, we cannot resist the pull of eerie, enigmatic stories that linger long after they’ve finished imparting their lessons.

Personally, I’ve been fascinated and transfixed by these kinds of stories my whole life. Ghost stories, urban legends, local folklore, internet nightmares–I love all of them. And one of the reasons why I love them so much is due, in large part, to watching The Twilight Zone with my grandmother.

Before I could really understand what I was seeing, I remember visiting my grandparents’ house and watching episodes of the Twilight Zone on what was once The Sci-Fi Channel. My grandmother, who was a loving and fun grandma, was also a well-mannered and restrained woman who never had a messy house and just wasn’t a fan of dark fiction, be it books or movies tv shows. (Assuming that it was a hard-hitting period piece or something, she and my grandfather once walked out of a screening of Men in Black. Another time, I made her watch X-Men with me, and she told me in that it was the worst movie she’d ever seen.) I wasn’t allowed to watch certain movies or TV shows because they were “unpleasant” or “inappropriate.” But for some reason, she didn’t mind The Twilight Zone, and she let me watch them. Sometimes, she watched them with me.

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Upcoming 2019 Horror TV – A Running List

With the plethora of fantastic horror available right now, it’s a great time to be a horror fan. Not only are horror movies getting better and better, told from a variety of viewpoints and with tons of cool new stories, but television is also experiencing a horror renaissance. And y’all, there are just too many options to choose from.

It all started with the premiere of What We Do In The Shadows this past week, which got me thinking–what other cool new 2019 horror TV shows have come out or are coming out soon?

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SXSW Review: Extra Ordinary Is The Most Charming Horror-Comedy

This year, SXSW was a hotbed of buzzworthy horror movies, many from first-time directors. That’s one of my favorite things about film festivals—new voices and diverse viewpoints are given their time in the spotlight, and we’re all the better for it. This is especially true for horror, which benefits drastically from creative, fresh voices. After all, the same old shit can’t be relied upon to continually explore our fears, and filmmakers shouldn’t try.

Of the horror-comedy films at SXSW, Extra Ordinary was my favorite. Though it wasn’t without flaws, it was a confident debut for its first-time directors. It was an original horror-comedy with a distinctly Irish flair. It is also the most adorable horror-comedy I’ve ever seen, and I enjoyed it immensely. Who knew that sacrificing virgins and exorcizing ghosts could be so uproarious and charming?

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Jordan Peele Cements His Status as a Horror Visionary with “Us”

With his remarkable feature film debut, Get Out, writer-producer-director Jordan Peele struck a nerve and captured the cultural zeitgeist. Many horror fans were in awe of the achievement and felt vindicated that a horror movie received such critical and commercial success. We wanted to see what he would do next—what message would he send: political, social, cultural, or a mix of all three? How would he deliver this message? What fucked up, masterfully directed story would he unravel?

Most of all, we wanted Peele to get crazy, so he got crazy.

it
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SXSW Review: Them That Follow

I find that one of the most appealing aspects of the horror genre is its versatility. You can have horror films set in a time and a place that we may never see, that we think we know everything about, that we live in currently. Because fear is a condition of the human experience, horror creeps into everything. It persists no matter the time or place, lurking behind scraggly trees, crawls between the thin walls of a dilapidated house, and stares back us from the faces of our loved ones.

Them That Follow, which recently enjoyed its Texas premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, exemplifies that same kind of quiet, inescapable horror. It’s the kind of scary movie that isn’t interested in crescendos of blood and agony. Instead, Them That Follow focuses on more abstract questions about the personal beliefs and instincts that anchor our lives, the questioning of which leads to quiet but crushing moments of horror.

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