Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

Author: SARussell (page 1 of 20)

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Teen Drama & Resisting the Patriarchy

*Mild spoilers for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina*

To the delight of many horror fans (myself included) witches are enjoying a moment in the sun right now. This year has seen films like Hereditary and Suspiria make waves with their frightening portrayals of one of civilizations oldest horror archetypes. And now, Netflix has thrown its hat into the ring with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the horror comic of the same name, itself a dark reimagining of a beloved Archie icon.

Similar to the light and wacky ’90s show Sabrina the Teenage Witch, this new Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is a half-witch, half-human teenage girl, living with her magical aunts Zelda and Hilda. As if navigating the pitfalls of high school and teenager problems weren’t enough, Sabrina must also contend with the added responsibilities of her blossoming magical abilities.

That’s where the similarities end, because like the horror comic, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina casts Sabrina and the other witches as everything old-timey witch-hunts said witches were: full-on devil-worshipping cannibals who hold black masses in the woods and have a dangerous propensity to interfere with mortal affairs. In this new TV series, Sabrina must decide if she will embrace her human side and forsake her witch heritage, or if she will join her family by signing her name in the Devil’s book and give up the mortal world.

It’s a fun and macabre show, with lots of entertaining twists on old TGIF material. But more importantly, the fascinating thing about The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is how sharply it examines the power dynamics of being a witch. Power and influence trickle down from Satan, to his high priests (all men), to influential coven members, until those at the very bottom tear at each other for scraps. This dynamic is intentionally juxtaposed against Sabrina’s yearning to harness her fledgling powers and use them as she sees fit. Continue reading

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November Horror: Suspiria, Overlord, and A Christmas-Themed Zombie Musical

It’s officially November, which means that we’ve got a whole new slate of horror movies to discuss while steadily munching on leftover candy.

The months after October were usually devoid of quality (or even interesting) horror movies because the holiday season is the domain of awards seasons hopefuls. But that’s changed in recent years as more and more studios realize there is a year-round audience for horror.

As such, there’s a not-terrible slate of horror movies to choose from this November. Based on trailers alone, highlights include Luca Guadagnino’s stylish remake of Dario Argento’s classic Suspiria, WWII occult-horror Overlord, and zombie-musical-comedy Anna and the Apocalypse. (I’ve been waiting for that last one since I first learned about it at FantasticFest 2017! I never knew how badly I wanted a Christmas-themed zombie musical until then.) But November also has a large number of stinkers, like The Amityville Murders (can they stop with this franchise already? Lord have mercy), The Farm, and The Possession of Hannah Grace.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments!

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Apostle: A Promising Religious Horror That Should’ve Been a Miniseries

Every once in a while, a horror movie comes along that blows away audiences and critics alike. These films are nearly flawless, making perfect use of scares, genre conventions, plotting, character development, cinematography, and score to weave a bewitching triumph of filmmaking that both expands and transcends the genre.

Unfortunately, Netflixs’s Apostle is not one of these films. But damn, I had fun watching it!

Inspired by British religious horror classics The Wicker Man and The Devils, Apostle admirably bites off more than it can chew. Ambitious and thoughtful, it is a gory, thrilling film that needed more space to breathe to achieve horror greatness.

I get into a lot of spoilers here, so be warned. But that shouldn’t stop you from checking out Apostle.

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Halloween (2018) Review: Entertaining, Violent, and Thought-Provoking

***Warning! Spoilers for Halloween (2018)***

It’s a rare thing to see a horror movie sequel that expands upon and develops the source material in an exciting, worthwhile way. It’s even more unusual and unexpected for a film with as storied a following as John Carpenter’s Halloween. A groundbreaking film that spawned a stream of uninspired sequels, the original Halloween finally has a sequel worthy of its legacy in the latest Halloween film, from Blumhouse Productions.

This horror fan enjoyed the film immensely because it did much more than pay fan service to horror legend. Halloween (2018) dove deep into the genre in a way that slashers rarely do. Sure, it’s got the body count, jump scares, and genre conventions of a slasher (along with some clever role reversals and callbacks), but Halloween will be remembered as a meta-slasher.

halloween

40 years after the events of John Carpenter’s Halloween, Laurie Strode, the only survivor of that fateful night, is convinced that Michael Myers will come for her again. Between not treating her PTSD and struggling to live a functional life, Laurie has become a hardcore survivalist. But she’s lost a lot in the process. She has a strained relationship with her family—daughter Karen, son-in-law Ray, and granddaughter Allyson. She is a recovering alcoholic. She doesn’t seem happy at all. But at least she knows that when Michael Myers returns, she’ll be ready for him.

And sure enough, Michael Myers escapes from state custody the night before Halloween. He hasn’t forgotten about Laurie either, and he will stop at nothing before he finds her and kills her. After all, she’s literally the one that got away.

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Famous Actors Who Got Their Start in Horror Movies

Few things make me happier than finding one of my favorite actors starring in an old horror movie. The cheesier and more awful the movie, the better I enjoy the newbie actor’s performance. It’s comforting to know that these rich and famous actors, all at the top of their industry, started at the bottom like everybody else.

For a genre that doesn’t get much respect, horror consistently delivers new talent. Many of today’s A-Listers got their start in low-budget and shoddy horror films, while others were a little luckier with their early roles.

I figured, being as it’s Halloween time, I should pay homage to their early roles. First, it shows you just how much, um, range, some of these actors have (or not). Second, it’s fun to wonder how their careers would have been different had they not been Classroom Girl #1 in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary

There’s also something so delightful about knowing that Tom Hanks, one of my favorite actors, started his acting career in a horror/thriller with terrible dialogue and ATROCIOUS acting, as evidenced by this clip.

If nothing else, I hope you enjoy this list for its Bad Movie Night potential. Seriously, I’ve never seen Leprechaun or Hellraiser: Hell World (what an amazing title!).

So, without further adieu, here is a list of 20 actors who saw their film debut in horror, followed by 20 actors who had early roles in some “iconic” horror films.

Enjoy!

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October 2018 Horror Movies: Netflix to the Rescue

I have to be honest…I’m disappointed in the slate of horror movies for October 2018.

Shouldn’t the movie release calendar for October be overflowing with horror movies? I’m not even asking for good horror movies. I’ll take them all–well-made, shoddily-made, solid casts, bad acting, inventive premises, uninspired ripoffs–I don’t care.

Where are all the horror movies?

I suppose I should be thankful for the movies we have. After all, the latest Halloween comes out this month, and I could not be more excited! Netflix’s Apostle and indie film The Dark also look like great contenders for worthwhile horror.

In fact, I’m just going to spend a lot of my time on Netflix this Halloween. Between Apostle and Netflix’s new series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and The Haunting of Hill House,  Netflix seems like a sure bet for horror.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t check out the rest of the horror offerings this month. Maybe just…temper your expectations.

Enjoy!

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Revisiting Night of the Living Dead, 50 Years Later

The horror genre is littered with controversial films, films that inspired censorship and protests and extreme backlash. While controversy is certainly good for box office takes, it’s not always good for the critical interpretation of a film. Horror fans, especially, know that controversy does not always merit the backlash our favorite genre films receive. A violent or unsettling or difficult movie doesn’t mean it’s bad—sometimes, it means that the film has done its job.

Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero’s 1968 black-and-white exploitation classic, is one such film. What modern audiences see as an undisputed but perhaps dated work of essential horror, contemporary audiences were shocked and appalled by Night of the Living Dead. It was violent! It was gory! It tested the very boundaries of decency!

Despite its critical success, the movie simply did not deserve to exist, according to some critics. As the Variety review put it, “Until the Supreme Court establishes clear-cut guidelines for the pornography of violence, Night of the Living Dead will serve nicely as an outer-limit definition by example.”

But it’s precisely because of those outer-limits that films like Night of the Living Dead are essential. They ask us to question art, to question the way we tell stories. They force us to consider uncomfortable implications of what we’re seeing onscreen. In short, they ask what deserves to be committed to film and why.

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Totally Rad, Man: My Best Friend’s Exorcism Review

When I first heard about Grady Hendrix’s novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism, marketed as a cross between Heathers and The Exorcist, I just knew I had to read it. I love 80s nostalgia as much as the next person (since I am just barely a child of the 80s). I also love making fun of the 80s, what with the awful clothes and hair, the rampant and self-conscious conservatism, and the general tackiness.

And sure enough, My Best Friend’s Exorcism pays homage to this decade as much as it pokes fun at it. More than that though this novel is heartfelt and creepy, treading into the well-worn territory of fraught adolescent relationships. The result is a book whose nostalgia runs deeper than the pop culture references it deploys throughout.

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All the Fresh Horror Films at Fantastic Fest 2018

Festival season continues its steady momentum of exciting new horror movies this week at Fantastic Fest 2018. Held in Austin, Texas, Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the United States, which if you want a sneak peek of upcoming horror films sure to delight and shock, you pay attention to Fantastic Fest.

In Fantastic Fest’s own words, “The festival is dedicated to championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema, celebrating new voices and new stories from around the world and supporting new filmmakers. We are committed to supporting film in its most provocative, ground-breaking and lesser-known forms and giving the audience a chance to find new favorites and future genre classics.”

In the past, Fantastic Fest has screened horror films such as Zombieland, SplitDark SongThe Void, The Witch, We Are What We Are, It FollowsThe Babadook, and Sinister. Last year, Fantastic Fest screened The EndlessGerald’s Game, and Revenge, among others.

Essentially, Fantastic Fest is legit. And the list of horror films is long! There are 31 horror films total at Fantastic Fest! (It’s a sign!)

Even better, this year’s Fantastic Fest seems especially committed to showcasing horror films from all over the world–Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and Tunisia, to be exact. For horror fans like me, the chance to learn about new foreign horror is thrilling, especially when mainstream American horror fails to deliver.

Without further adieu, let’s check out what Fantastic Fest has to offer! Continue reading

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Honoring Underworld on Its 15th Anniversary

I rail a lot against bad horror movies, the kind that are excuses to inflict a lot of violence, gore, and bad writing on audiences. As a horror fan, I wish to hold the genre to a certain standard of storytelling because the genre has so much to offer. But I’m realistic, and if a horror movie doesn’t live up to those standards (or even try), all I ask is that it’s at least entertaining. There’s nothing worse than a boring horror movie that tries way too hard.

However, I must confess that I have my own horror guilty pleasures. These are films that I acknowledge are poorly made movies with a laundry list of flaws. Yet somehow, I love them. I watch them over and over.

And my favorite horror guilty pleasure is 2003’s action-horror classic Underworld.

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