It’s summer time, and that means lots and lots of blockbuster pictures. It also means we’ll be on a steady diet of action movies, which is both good and bad. Good because I freakin’ LOVE action movies. Bad because that means there aren’t a lot of horror movies.
But there is a ray of hope in summer: the action horror film.
The action horror film is an audience favorite, for good reason. A good action horror movie smashes together the jump scares and roundhouse kicks, supernatural elements and thrilling fight scenes. When a horror movie makes me squeal in fear, an action movie makes me squeal in delight.
An action horror movie makes me do both, which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining film-going experience. In the same spirit as a superhero film, an action horror movie lets me watch mega-powerful beings and monsters duke it out for my benefit, serving creepiness and gore the whole time.
I had hoped, sincerely, that Universal’s recent remake of The Mummy would satisfy my unquenchable thirst for badasses fighting monsters, but it sucks. Like, really sucks.
Side note: Universal really needs to get it together if it wants the Dark Universe to work.
Instead of slogging through a review of The Mummy, I decided to post about my favorite action horror movies. So here you go, thirteen awesomely cool, bloody action horror movies. They embody all the coolness of traditional action movies with the supernatural and horror baddies I love to watch. They may not be the smartest movies or the most culturally relevant, but they endure and impact audiences for years, and that’s something important.
I won’t lie, I was ready to be disappointed by Alien: Covenant.
When I finally walked into it, I did so with low expectations and gratitude that my ticket was free. An ardent fan of both Alien and Aliens, I’m still sore about how disappointing Prometheus turned out to be. I was hopeful that Alien: Covenant would be different, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath. I thought I’d learned my lesson about managing expectations.
So imagine my surprise and delight when Alien: Covenant turned out to be thrilling, scary, and downright thoughtful. Alien: Covenant, thankfully, broke new ground instead of rehashing Prometheus and took meaningful steps towards giving us the same kind of gruesome and disturbing space horror epics we all know and love.
Woohoo! June horror movies are here! There’s a lot this month, so strap in and buckle up because there’s wide array of films. There’s different subgenres, different levels of quality, and different levels of WTF-ness.
I need to apologize as well, because I’ve been traveling the last few days, which delayed my normal blog post schedule. Basically, I was traveling and boozing it up. Consequently, I wrote a lot of this in the Houston airport after drinking several glasses of overpriced wine (#noregrets). I am truly a Hemingway fan and wrote drunk and edited sober.
Can I just say that this was very fun to edit this? It was a challenge.
But anyway! Here’s your June Horror Movie list! You didn’t miss much from my post being late. Ooops!
***Mild Spoilers for The Vegetarian***
A core component of any good horror story is the characters’ apprehension of harm. Most of the time, the dread manifests as physical pain or violent death. Other times there are more abstract, existential ways of experiencing harm—a terrifying realization of past sins, slowly slipping into insanity, or losing one’s soul to a demonic entity. While physical pain will always be a powerful part of any scary story, an existential threat grabs me in a way most other types of horror don’t, probably because I have more to lose from an existential threat.
A realization that shakes a person to his core is, well, horrifying. It’s terrifying. Take the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus, who realized he had unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. Or The Orphanage, where protagonist Laura realized she was the one responsible for the slow death of her adopted son. Bodily harm is awful and painful, but an earth-shattering existential realization can destroy the very idea of who a person thinks she is.
It can be extremely psychologically tortuous to deal with something like that, to be confronted with our mistakes and the lies we tell ourselves. People go to great lengths to preserve the reality they wish to see, even at the expense of themselves and others.
It’s destructive on a profound level, even more so if I am responsible for the obliteration of my sense of self.
The idea of self-destruction, of an unsettling, dark urge to protect oneself, of refusal, of stubborn persistence, is what fascinated me about The Vegetarian. It’s a novel about confrontation, about purposeful “self-destruction.”
It’s time for the annual Cannes Film Festival! And that means there’s a whole new crop of Cannes horror films!
Cannes is one of the renowned and distinguished film festivals in the world, attracting talent and glitz from all over. The festival has proven itself to be an important predictor of award-winning and groundbreaking films. Among all those storied films, composed of equal parts Oscar-bait and innovative indies, are some of the best horror movies.
As I pointed out in last year’s post, films like It Follows, Green Room, Possession, and Evil Dead were all shown at Cannes. Cannes has always recognized good films, even if they do happen to be horror films.
**Very Mild Spoilers for The Boy on the Bridge. Full discloser, I was given an advance copy of the novel by M.R. Carey’s publicist.**
In a horror subgenre that often feels like it’s overflowing with the same old stories, M.R. Carey has a knack for the original and inventive.
With his 2014 novel The Girl with All the Gifts, he explored how what’s left of humanity persists 20 years after a cataclysmic pathogen transforms the majority of the population into mindless, vicious zombies known as “hungries.” It was a novel heavy on scientific research and crafted tension, delivering a nightmarish and realistic vision of how an actual zombie pathogen might behave, how the world would evolve, and how fearful and selfish human beings would struggle in the aftermath. I found it a fascinating approach to the zombie apocalypse, a survival tale with all the expected strained group dynamics coupled with fascinating science and difficult ethical questions.
Continuing his mission of smart, well-researched, compelling zombie novels, Carey has just published his latest novel The Boy on the Bridge with Orbit. And let me tell you, if you liked The Girl with All the Gifts, you’ll really like The Boy on the Bridge.
Lord, I’m dying of thirst over here! Where are all the summer horror movies?
There’s only one major, wide-release movie coming out in all of May 2017! That movie is Alien: Covenant, which I feel like I should be more excited about. If only I could get over my feelings about Prometheus. The other releases are all extremely limited releases that provide an interesting look into the state of indie horror movies. Another Evil and Berlin Syndrome are two film festival darlings. 7 Witches and Dead Awake seem like very low-budget horror movies, but not without their potential.
So while I am scrapping the bottom of the barrel with this month, there’s some good stuff here.
Check ‘em out!
The Tribeca Film Festival starts tomorrow! The film festival circuit is in full swing and Tribeca is the latest prestigious stop. And I’m going to tell you all about the featured horror films.
Tribeca may not be Cannes, but in its relatively short existence, Tribeca has proven itself a formidable and important film festival. Founded in 2002 by producer Jane Rosenthal, renowned actor Robert De Niro, and real estate mogul Craig Hatkoff, Tribeca has made a name for itself as a festival dedicated to presenting discerning and innovative filmmaking. More than the Cannes Film Festival or the Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca is about independent films over “prestige studio movies.”
This year, there’s a great mix of various horror subgenres, from serial killer movies to artistic slashers to psychological horror, with loads of films falling between those categories or smashing through them. I have a feeling that some of these feature and short films will go on to generate plenty of buzz. Hopefully, we will see general releases of some of these. I’m particularly excited about Hounds of Love, Psychopaths, and Retouch.
*Beware: Here be mild spoilers for Raw*
During my time blogging about all things horror, I’ve found that most serious horror fans by and large stick to their favorite horror subgenres. They may only dapple in other subgenres, occasionally dipping a toe into art horror or zombie flicks, but not often. I do this. I love moody, tense psychological horror, ghost stories, and taut thrillers with elegant displays of horrific violence. Slashers? Not really my thing. The Saw movies? Ehhh, pass. And body horror? Definitely not my thing.
For some reason, body horror is particularly challenging for me. Thus, I avoid it. This isn’t to say that I think body horror is bad or uncouth or less capable of artistic potential. I accept the importance of body horror as a subgenre that is, at times, most-equipped to explore themes like mortality, physical weakness, aging and disease, over-population, and the disconnect between our mental power and our bodily strength. After all, body horror is the most universal kind of horror, since everyone is stuck in a decaying body and marches through a field of pain and pleasure towards death.
There are times when even I can’t look away from a well-done, brilliant body horror film, when even I have to admit that I really, really liked it.
This is how I felt about Raw, a 2016 French-Belgian cannibalism and coming of age horror film that made waves at Cannes last year and was finally released stateside a few weeks ago.