**Beware: Here be spoilers For They Live.**
The 2016 Presidential Election is finally and mercifully drawing to a close. Regardless of political affiliations, it seems like the whole country reels from the drawn-out election cycle, temporarily traumatized by the mudslinging and grandstanding and pettiness. But this election has been one for the ages. I know everyone always complains that every succeeding election is worse than the one before, but this one was really, really nasty.
We are all overwhelmed by this election, a terrible yet fitting end to an exhausting year. Myself, I try to stay as politically connected as possible. I read the news, follow Congress’s lawmaking progress (or lack thereof), watch the President’s speeches, and read all the Supreme Court opinions I can reasonably fit into my life. So for this election, I gritted my teeth and surrendered to the vicious news cycle. I listened to stump speeches and watched the debates and did my research. It was draining. When I cast my early voting ballot, I was relieved because I thought I could stop caring for a while, until the next election cycle starts back up.
I threw myself into Halloween and friends and blogging. I tried and failed to distract myself. Not only was the election impossible to avoid, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I watched my horror movies and read my scary short stories and couldn’t help but ask myself, How will we express what this election has wrought? What art will come out of this election?
Which brings me to John Carpenter’s political sci-fi-horror B-Movie classic, They Live.
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.
I’ve always thought the werewolf was a fascinating horror archetype. I’ve talked about vampires, zombies, witches, and serial killers, and how all of those horror archetypes address certain human fears. Usually, vampires address fears about becoming lost to our desires and lusts; zombies are about becoming lost to a brainless, teeming hoard; witches are about the fear of too-powerful feminine influence; and serial killers are about the inherent ability and capacity of man to commit violent, unjustifiable murder.
And while all of these monsters address fears relating to control and human identity, no other monster encapsulates our anxieties quite like a werewolf. It’s no secret that civilization is a precarious balancing act between repressing and acknowledging our base, animalistic impulses. Werewolves personify the tension between our rational, controlled selves and our savage inclinations. Regardless of whether or not a werewolf can control his transformation, the opportunity to become a dangerous, uncivilized brute is a siren song few characters can resist.
Halloween isn’t solely about horror movies–Halloween is also great for disturbing short story or two. Or ten.
Personally, I don’t always have time to read the latest horror novel or unearth a classic gothic ghost story. So I settle for a shorter but no less unnerving story. For me, a good creepy short story is like a deliciously morbid morsel. For others, a short horror story is an easy way to step out of one’s comfort zone.
There are countless horror short stories, and I sure haven’t read them all. However, I did compile a list of ten of my absolute favorites, along with links for you to read them right now!
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.
In an earlier blog post, I asserted that Halloween is a valuable time of year for children because the holiday, as it has developed, enables children to safely engage in a variety of difficult topics. Halloween gently exposes children to human mortality and sinister forces, because there is no use in pretending these things do not exist. Children should be protected, but they will become adults soon.
I think screening children’s Halloween movies is an important way to engage children with these topics. They don’t always have to be about Halloween nor do they have to be straight up horror films. What these movies do is take scary and creepy stories and weave in uplifting and useful messages for children. These movies package unpleasant themes in a way children can manage and digest. They can absorb important lessons by feeling the age-appropriate shock only a horror movie can give you.
Though I didn’t quite realize it, children’s Halloween movies taught me some valuable lessons growing up. So I decided I wanted to take a trip back to Halloween Past. I decided I wanted to share my favorite children’s Halloween movies and some of the very personal life lessons I took from them. I hope kids in the future continue to watch these movies and learn from them, as I did.
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!
We’ve still got a long way to go until the spooky, bloody, and glorious horror films that dominate the release schedule in the summer. January and February can be really uneven when it comes to horror movies, giving us movies that run the gamut from inspired and well-crafted to lazy and cliché. But March 2016 serves up some really interesting horror releases.
The premiere of Season 10 of The X-Files has come and gone, and so far, I’ve been pleased.
While the first episode may not have been the strongest episode ever, it gave us a solid dose of those mythological in scope, all-encompassing conspiracy theories we’ve come to know and love. Episode 2 was way more solid, truth be told, and pulled no punches when it came to violence and gore, which was a pleasant surprise.
It is good to have the old X-Files back. Conspiracy theories are all well and good, yes, but I have to say that I prefer the monster-of-the-week episodes with lots of scares and gore. They affect me more, they arrest my imagination and my heart and genuinely terrify. Those episodes make me question so much as they confront me with truly horrifying stories.
It’s why I keep coming back to The X-Files. I love how The X-Files forces me to think even as it entertains me, even as it scares me.
So, to continue from this post, here is Part 2 of my list of X-Files episodes that continue to scare me. Again, these episodes are presented in the order they aired.
(Also, spoiler alert, though, for real, these episodes aired at least ten years ago, if not longer. At this point, it’s your fault if you haven’t seen them. But at any rate, if you haven’t seen The X-Files, watch the whole show and then come back.)
My first love was The X-Files.
As a child, I loved the show because it was smart and scary and grown-up. It had everything–monsters, aliens, unsolvable mysteries, government conspiracies, the quest for “The Truth,” and of course, Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. I didn’t always understand the implications of what happened in each episode, but I was transfixed. I couldn’t get enough of those weird, shocking, and eerie stories.