Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

Author: SARussell (page 2 of 19)

9 of My Favorite Prom Horror Movies

Ah, the Prom Horror Movie. The guiltiest of my guilty pleasures!

They’re so cheesy, so campy, so over-the-top and wonderfully bad, though not always. Some prom horror movies have unexpected depth and nuance, exploring (sometimes clumsily) the dynamics of high school and the pressures of being a teenager. Just like the high school horror movie, the prom horror movie fumbles towards peering at the dark underside of the high school experience as memorialized in high school’s forever hyped event.

It makes total sense that prom is a big deal. In high school, especially the closer to graduation they are, teenagers find themselves stuck in a weird, awkward limbo where they don’t have the rights and privileges of an adult but know enough to want them, where the responsibilities and obligations of adulthood loom on the horizon. The intense desire for agency, meaning, and purpose melds with teenagers’ immature assumptions that agency, meaning, and purpose can be found in one glitzy, epic night.

Of course, it rarely happens that way. Prom night is almost never the incredible, life-changing event that Hollywood movies would have you believe. Most of the time, you get all dressed up in your high school best and spend a few hours swaying on the dance floor or sitting at your table with your friends, wondering why your crush hasn’t noticed how awesome you look. And then a drunk junior pukes Malibu all over the dance floor, and you and your friends leave and go to Denny’s on the way to someone’s house to watch Donnie Darko and try to sneak beer out of the garage refrigerator.

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Horror and The 2018 Cannes Film Festival

The Cannes Film Festival is officially underway! Yay for independent artsy films!

In the past, Cannes has given us not only buzzworthy prestige films from around the world, but it has also been a source of horror films outside the Hollywood mainstream. I’ve covered both the 2016 and 2017 Cannes Film Festivals, which introduced to the world to films like Raw, Neon Demon, Train to Busan, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. And that’s not to mention horror classics like Evil Dead or Pan’s Labyrinth.

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5 Mexican Horror Movies for Cinco De Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! In honor of Cinco de Mayo and Mexico’s unique artistic contributions to horror films, I’ve compiled a list of five awesome Mexican horror movies!

But before I get into the horror movies, let’s talk about the history behind Cinco de May. In case you didn’t know, May 5, 2018, is the 156th anniversary of the Mexican Army’s defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Long story short, Napoleon III wanted to take advantage of Mexico’s financially weakened position at the time and force Mexico to be a “dependent empire” to benefit French interests. Of course, Mexico was not having it, and they put up a fight. After France gained the early advantage, Mexico rallied and secured a massive victory, both strategically and morally, since the French soldiers were vastly better equipped and outnumbered the Mexicans 2 to 1.

So, just remember that when you’re throwing back margaritas and watching horror movies. These Mexican horror movies are scary, intense, and creative, combining elements of ghost stories, exploitation, and the magical realism for which Mexican horror is known.

Cheers!

mexican horror

El Espejo de la Bruja (1962) (The Witch’s Mirror)

In El Espejo de la Bruja, a witch schemes to avenge the murder of goddaughter at the hands of her husband, who then wastes no time in remarrying a clueless woman. And it doesn’t stop with the death of one woman—this film trades in dead women, which is interesting considering who the murderer is. The film creates a successful mix of classic gothic tropes, borrowing everything from Rebecca to Edgar Allan Poe to Eyes Without a Face. As a result, El Espejo de la Bruja is a moody, atmospheric horror film with sinister visuals, schlocky plot developments, and scares of varying effectiveness.

mexican horror

Alucarda (1977)

Alucarda, directed by Mexican horror director Juan Lopez Moctezuma, is a retelling of the classic gothic horror novella Carmilla. Alucarda (say it backward), an orphaned teenage girl with frightening powers who lives at a convent, strikes up a very close relationship with the new girl at the convent. Eventually, they form a blood pact with each other and start practicing black magic and get into all sorts of bloody, nude trouble. Alucarda tackles issues of sexual repression and Catholicism, but the film is focused on creating a crazy viewing experience with a ton of gore and nudity.

mexican horror

Santa Sangre (1989)

Alejandro Jodorowsky is a pioneer of avant-garde and surreal film. This Chilean-French director is particularly known for films like El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and his failed attempt to film a 14-hour film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. He also directed the Mexican surrealist horror film Santa Sangre.

Santa Sangre is…a lot to take in. It’s the somber story of a woman who, horrifically abused and mutilated as a young woman, perpetuates psychological and emotion control over her son. This woman, Concha, though armless, can control her son’s hands and force him to murder the women who compete for his attention. It’s surreal and violent and archetypal and horrifying, overflowing with images that will haunt you for a long time.

mexican horror

Cronos (really, any of Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish language films) (1993)

Guillermo del Toro has achieved massive success in the United States, culminating with his recent Oscar win for Best Director for The Shape of Water. Before he was raking in the accolades for his English language films, del Toro was a talented young director writing and directing Spanish-Language films.

His very first Mexican feature film, Cronos, was released in 1993 and has all the elements that would become part of his signature brand of storytelling. In Cronos, del Toro breathed new life into vampire mythology with the story of an elderly antique dealer who stumbles upon an otherworldly device that bestows eternal life on its owners for one small price—becoming a blood-sucking vampire. Little does he know the significance of the object and what other more powerful men want with it. Del Toro combines the classic tropes of vampire tales with his own affinities for Mexican magical realism, dark fairy tales, and the religious questions we dare not ask ourselves.

mexican horror

We Are What We Are (2010)

Did you know that 2013’s critically acclaimed We Are What We Are is a remake of a Mexican horror film? The plot is the same—the patriarch of a cannibal family dies unexpectedly and leaves his family struggling to continue their, um, lifestyle. It’s a very gruesome, disturbing film, one that explores suppressed sexualities, stifled anger, shared shame, dysfunctional family dynamics, corruption of officials, and socio-economic hierarchies. It’s a compelling family drama and grisly horror film rolled up together.

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May Horror – The Calm Before the Summer Blockbuster Storm

Well damn y’all, May horror isn’t what I thought it would be–low key and full of indie releases.

Not that it’s a bad thing. Some of the best horror movies are small indies and foreign films that don’t secure wide theatrical releases in America. I’m willing to bet that festival darlings like Beast and Revenge are more than worth a watch. Bad Samaritan and Family Blood are very intriguing, and It Came from the Desert looks horrendous, like, I-need-a-couple-of-drinks-to-get-through-it-but-that-could-be-fun-horrendous.

Check out the May horror movies below!

Enjoy!

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Unsane and the Horror of Ignoring Women’s Stories

As a genre, horror is especially adept at taking advantage of film’s voyeuristic nature and creating an uncomfortable vicarious experience. And more than any genre, horror can hack apart an audience member’s conception of fear and flip it on its head. The genre can sow horror and terror where the was none, forcing the audience to see once benign situations in a more sinister light (or shadow).

Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane, a film rooted in a young woman’s experience of being imprisoned in a mental asylum with her stalker, does precisely this. Unsane forces its audience to confront a premise that is scary for anyone, but for women especially. The film uses the negative cultural stereotypes we have of women and mental health to craft a film that recreates in lurid digital detail the discomfort and fear every woman has faced at some point in her life. It is a waking nightmare, less a work of fiction and more a worst case scenario of what happens when a man won’t take no for an answer.

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The Beauty: Be Careful What You Wish For

***Note: Some Spoilers for The Beauty***

The distrust between the male and female sexes has and will probably always be fertile ground for horror narratives. The difference between the sexes foster fear; the shared human experience between them gives form to that fear. We know what the other is thinking and what they might do to us. They are devils we’ve always known and could never escape.

As the saying goes, “Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.”

This is the plot of Aliya Whiteley’s The Beauty, her 2014 novella, which was published recently in the United States. In the dystopic near-future of The Beauty, a mysterious disease has claimed the lives of every woman and girl on earth. The men have grown old, and the remaining boys have grown into men. Some of these men inhabit what used to be a thriving off-the-grid community. Every day, the men busy themselves with all the various activities needed to keep the community running, unsuccessfully ignoring the fact that they are merely waiting to die. Every night, Nathan, the community’s storyteller, recounts stories of their dead women and idealized past. Nathan is on the brink of losing hope when their women come back, rising from their graves in the form of mushroom-woman hybrids.

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The Silence Speaks Volumes in A Quiet Place

*Be Warned – Very Mild Spoilers for A Quiet Place*

I’ve always said that, for any medium, the key to creating a compelling narrative is developed characters. This is especially true in crafting exceptional horror movies, where the disturbing events unfolding on screen pack an intense punch not just because of their scariness but because of the risk they pose to characters the audiences cares about. Yeah, a novel concept, good pacing, and deft camera work contribute, but no one cares about any of that if the characters aren’t watchable.

This is especially true for A Quiet Place, which wisely uses its script and actors as the foundation upon which the whole movie is based. Its inventive concept, heart-pounding scenes, and swelling tension would have fallen flat without the work that went into the script and the acting. In doing so, A Quiet Place stakes a claim as the first exceptional horror movie of 2018. (I know that’s not saying much when compared to films like Winchester or The Strangers: Prey at Night, but the rest of 2018’s horror movie faces stiff competition.)

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SXSW Prestige and Schlocky Flicks for April Horror Movies

I. Am. Pumped. April horror is chock full of all sorts of festival horror movies I’ve been waiting for, and they look great!

This April, we’re getting not one, not two, but three horror movies from last month’s SXSW, and they look amazing. I can already confirm that A Quiet Place, starring Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, is very good and highly enjoyable. That leaves Wildling, one of the festival’s unexpected triumphs, and Ghost Stories, a spectacularly moody British ghost tale.

And then, on top of everything, Marrowbone, the latest effort from Spanish filmmaker Sergio G. Sanchez (El Orfanto) drops this month. Swoon.

Also among the April horror releases are a few horror films that look cheesy, contrived, and quite frankly, delightful! Truth or Dare promises the kind of schlocky teenage horror we all secretly enjoy (don’t lie) while Bus Party to Hell demands to be seen on the strength of its title alone. I will oblige.

Seriously, this is a great month for both quality horror and popcorn-flick fun.

Check out the trailers below.

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Crack Open a Shiner and Settle In – It’s Time for SXSW Horror Movies!

Festival season continues with the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, which means there are new (and, hopefully, fresh) horror movies for us to peruse!

2018 marks the 25th year of the SXSW film festival. Just think of it–25 years of a fearless and unflinching commitment to emerging voices, diverse viewpoints, and plain crazy schemes that translate into memorable films! SXSW is known for its commitment to pushing the envelope of the film industry, and the horror industry knows this.

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Disappointing Film Review–The Strangers: Prey at Night

Early this week, I was invited to an advanced screening of The Strangers: Prey at Night. I was excited, mainly because I enjoyed 2008’s home invasion horror thriller The Strangers, back before I knew I was a horror fan. In fact, The Strangers was one of the movies that made me realize I did like horror movies after all, so it’s always had a special place in my cold, black heart.

However, The Strangers is far from a perfect movie. Upon watching it for the second time, I have wondered what it would have been like with better writing, among other things.

The news of a sequel ten years after the fact was exciting, if for no other reason than home invasion movies scare the crap out of me. There was a part of me that was curious to see if the sequel would improve upon the original’s shortcomings…or merely rehash the same old stuff.

Oh, but it was worse than that. The Strangers: Prey at Night was disappointing. I was not looking for a socially-conscious horror movie going into The Strangers, but dammit, I wanted an entertaining and skilled effort. And I don’t think that is too much to ask!

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