***Spoilers for The Neon Demon Follow***
Unfortunately, 2016 hasn’t been the best year for horror movies, though it hasn’t been the worst either. In fact, 2016 seems to have been a moderate year, with some of the best films exhibiting hard-to-ignore flaws and the worst films showing flashes of promise. All the good films seemingly came out of left field while all we got from the hyped horror movies were splashy marketing campaigns and disappointment. For me, no other 2016 Horror Movie exemplifies this better than The Neon Demon.
After the horror movie drought that was the October 2016 film release schedule, November 2016 is a sight for sore eyes. With only a handful of movies, November gives us a ton of potentially beautiful and disquieting horror films. Naomi Watts returns to deliver the scares, the director of The Strangers puts forth a claustrophobic creature feature, and The Eyes of My Mother promises to be a wild ride.
Everybody loves a good monster movie. It’s thrilling to watch an abominable creature stalk and hunt unsuspecting people. It’s exciting to watch the unsuspecting people run and hide and eventually figure out a way to defeat the monster. And sometimes it’s even more fun when the monster isn’t defeated (at least you know you’ll get a sequel).
I’ve talked a little bit about how, in addition to entertaining us, horror mirrors our fears through various horror tropes and stock characters. It’s my hypothesis that certain horror villains and boogeymen represent specific human fears. While vampires, werewolves, and zombies could also be considered monsters, the important distinction those creatures used to be human and often retain a bit of their humanity. Monsters like the xenomorph in Alien or the shark from Jaws are beasts; they are scary because of their inhuman nature. We humans may think we’re the masters of our domain and that the natural world is ours for the taking, but it’s all an illusion. We know that deep down. Monsters represent a world that has broken free of human control.
As a devoted horror movie fan, I’ll be the first to admit that the market is glutted with horror movies, most of them terrible. And not in an enjoyable, over-the-top kind of way.
If you are a horror movie novice searching for a good horror movie, the simultaneous breadth of availability and lack of choice entertainment can be discouraging. Horror fans feel that way all the time, but we know enough that we can make solid recommendations.
With Halloween fast approaching, I decided to compile a list of horror movies with solid scares and terror but that are accessible to a wide audience. The following films are perfect for a Halloween watch party because 1) they are relatively easy to find on streaming services, 2) they’re actually well-made films, and 3) they scare audiences in thoughtful, enjoyable, entertaining ways.
Even if you’re a horror movie buff, I feel like this list is a nicely packaged bundle of great horror movies that present a strong argument for the merits of horror. These movies are harrowing, smart, witty, and funny. They are heartbreaking and profound. They reinforce the magic of telling stories through the medium of film and legitimize a genre that critics loves to hate.
Mild Spoilers for Goodnight Mommy
I’d like to preface this review by assuring you that I am no lightweight when it comes to watching horror films. On-screen violence and gore usually elicits the expected level of shock and disgust, while body horror reliably grosses me out.
Part of my love for scary movies is remembering that a movie is only a movie, and art is only art. The onscreen images are powerful, but they aren’t real. I’ve never forgotten that fact. I have never had to run for a bucket, nor have I fainted in a movie theater.
So when I almost fainted during Goodnight Mommy, it was because Goodnight Mommy is so precisely calibrated to create a deeply disturbing experience that I forgot to breathe.
As I lay on the carpet in my living room, waiting for the walls to stop swaying, I realized that Goodnight Mommy is one of the most harrowing horror movies I’ve ever seen. My friend spoke softly to me, coaching me through breathing exercises and assuring me we didn’t have to finish the movie if I didn’t want to. Which was so embarrassing, to say the least.
Finally! School is out, summer is here, and we’re finally getting some good horror movies!
After a few months of anemic offerings, June is stepping up to the plate with some heavy-hitting horror flicks. Of course, the biggest name here is The Conjuring 2, sequel to 2013’s box office smash The Conjuring. But there are some other big names here too, like The Neon Demon, which offers a look into the shadowy, dangerous world of the modeling industry, and The Shallows, which serves up a straightforward horror movie involving a stranded Blake Lively and a huge man-eating shark. I don’t know if you can go wrong with any of these films.
There are some smaller titles, mostly foreign films that haven’t gained much press here in the States. But don’t let that dissuade you from checking them out in either their limited theatrical release or their digital releases on VOD. Sometimes great horror movies come out of left field.
With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding a prestigious Hollywood event, you probably wouldn’t expect a glittering affair like the Cannes Film Festival to include hard-hitting horror films. Cannes is where Hollywood finds a steady stream of award-worthy and award-baiting movies, right? The heavy, boring, historical drama stuff, right?
That’s true. Cannes is prestigious for a reason. Every year, the festival showcases emerging talents alongside master filmmakers, and many of those films are either good enough or earn enough hype to be marketed as highbrow cinema.
But it’s also true that Cannes has a deep commitment to varied viewpoints. The festival loves innovation. It pays tribute to films from different countries, different voices, and different genres, including horror.
Oh May, such a beautiful month but oh-so boring when it comes to horror movies.
Maybe it’s because May marks the official start of the summer blockbuster season, so distributors dump their mediocre movies where they can, knowing full well that the new Marvel or DC movie will dominate the box office. Or maybe we just have to wait a little longer for the good stuff (July 1 for The Purge: Election Year!!!).
Whatever the reason, May’s list of horror movies leaves a lot to be desired. Some of these have potential, like Bite or What We Become. Hell, Most Likely to Die looks hilarious. So I should reserve judgment. And honestly, I tried.
At the very least, some of these could make a really good RedBox or VOD rental.
Check them out!
One of my biggest horror movie pet peeves is when characters die from making incredibly irrational, stupid decisions. Not when a character is stressed and freaks out, but when a character is a genuine idiot. I hate when that happens in movies because 1) most people aren’t that stupid, 2) convenient stupidity for the sake of moving the plot forward is the height of lazy, contrived writing, and 3) that shit isn’t scary.
I’d rather watch a movie where the characters are smart but woefully unprepared for the nasty situations they find themselves in. Helplessness is always scarier than stupidity.
And that’s why, despite my natural avoidance of super-gory horror, I really enjoyed Green Room.