release of Midsommar, Ari Aster’s
follow-up feature to last year’s Hereditary,
folk horror is enjoying much deserved time in the spotlight. While the niche
horror subgenre is known to many a horror fan (folk horror is one of my
favorite subgenres), many curious viewers are at a loss when it comes to folk
horror. What is it exactly?
Of course, as many folk horror fans will try to explain, the subgenre is difficult to pin down. Some consider it a subset of religious horror, and while I see and respect that viewpoint, I don’t necessarily agree with that. The two subgenres are related; I see them as distinct. Perhaps folk horror and religious horror are sisters. They both explore man’s fear of his beliefs, of one’s faith being tested, and of watching religion corrupt its practitioners. But folk horror has a particular flavor, a certain aesthetic, which religious horror does not replicate.
If you’re feeling the 80’s revival happening in recent horror movies, check out Mandy (2018), starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow). Fresh off its screening at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Mandy might be Nicolas Cage’s best performance, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he makes another horror movie that’s as good as Mandy is.
Streamable on Shudder and available for rent on Amazon, Mandy starts as a love story that is then manipulated by hallucinogens, a psycho cult leader, some slashing, a little fantasy, and beautiful, bold colors.
(To read my past coverage of Cannes, see my 2016, 2017, and 2018 posts.)
One of the more exciting trends in horror over the last few years has been the proliferation of horror movies making splash debuts at renowned film festivals. Horror has been defying expectations and proving the genre haters wrong by showing up and showing out at festivals like Sundance and SXSW. Even genre festivals like Fantastic Fest and Frightfest have increased their profiles to become hotly anticipated in horror and non-horror circles alike.
as a horror fan, I feel like it’s about damn time. Many critics and filmmakers
have turned their noses up to horror, so it’s nice to see the industry not only
embrace horror but start to experiment with how the genre can tell compelling
Cue the Cannes Film Festival, arguably the glitziest and most buzzworthy film festival in the world. In years past, horror films like Evil Dead 2, Pan’s Labyrinth, Train to Busan, and The Neon Demon. have garnered much attention and acclaim at Cannes. Additionally, Cannes serves as an important marketplace and networking nexus for filmmakers looking to secure additional funding or distribution for their horror films. Such attention helps the whole genre do better, which is why I catalog the horror films showing at both the Cannes film festival and the Marché du Film (Cannes’ Film Market) every year.
year’s Cannes festival doesn’t have as much horror as I would like to see
(there’s never enough horror as far as I’m concerned). It’s disappointing that
there aren’t more horror films at Cannes, but rest assured, those that will
screen are ones to watch. This small but strong group of horror films promises
to offer audiences a lot more than the same old tired remakes and half-assed
When I saw the trailer for Pet Sematary (2019), with John Lithgow as Jud Crandall, I felt excited. I’m usually skeptical of remakes, but since I liked the remake of IT (2017) with Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the clown, I’m kind of hopeful for upcoming horror remakes. And then it occurred to me: I hadn’t read the book. I’d seen the 1989 film more than 20 times – sometimes just playing it in the background at home while I did chores. I really like the movie, but I didn’t know what I was missing until I soaked up the novel.
In case you don’t know, Pet Sematary is a story about the Creed family, who moves to Ludlow, Maine, and into a house beside the town’s pet cemetery (misspelled “Sematary” by local children who made the sign). Strange things occur as Louis Creed discovers what lies beyond the Pet Sematary – breaking his grip on sanity and morality.
I had some traveling ahead of me, and I wanted to make sure I read the book before the remake hit theaters. So the night before I headed off to Austin, Texas, for SXSW, I kicked off the Pet Sematary audiobook on my way. As soon as I began the audiobook, I was hooked. I listened during my drive. When I stopped for gas, I didn’t linger so I could finish the next chapter. After a few hours, when I rolled into Austin, I could already tell there were differences between the novel and the 1989 film. But I turned off the audiobook and began live-music-binging.
With the plethora of fantastic horror available right now, it’s a great time to be a horror fan. Not only are horror movies getting better and better, told from a variety of viewpoints and with tons of cool new stories, but television is also experiencing a horror renaissance. And y’all, there are just too many options to choose from.
It all started with the premiere of What We Do In The Shadows this past week, which got me thinking–what other cool new 2019 horror TV shows have come out or are coming out soon?
Want more SXSW horror besides Little Monsters? Check out my SXSW 2019 Horror Lineup post.
The zombie horror-comedy is so popular that it’s nearly a separate horror sub-genre. Films like Dead Alive, Shaun of the dead, and Zombieland have shown just how fun and raucous a zombie film can be without skimping on the gory set pieces we all love. But not all zombie comedies meet the mark. To be successful, a zombie horror-comedy must command two separate films in one, and as such, must strike a balance between the gravity of a zombie outbreak while creating relatable, funny characters.
At first, Little Monsters might seem like too risky a premise to strike that balance. Set in present-day Australia, Little Monsters follows Dave (Alexander England), who is crashing on his sister’s couch after his life craters. When he’s not smoking weed, he’s watching his adorable 5-year old nephew, Felix (Diesel La Torraca). Once Dave meets Felix’s lovely kindergarten teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), he decides to pursue her by volunteering to chaperone the class’s field trip to a local petting zoo. Little do they know that the American army base next door to the petting zoo has been secretly conducting zombie experiments (naturally). The zombies escape, of course, and Dave and Ms. Caroline find themselves responsible for the lives of eight adorable, innocent, precocious kindergarteners. And if that wasn’t enough, they must also contend with Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad), a highly annoying kids’ entertainer who shows his true sleazeball colors once shit goes down.
Adapting movies into television shows is always tricky
business. Just as with film remakes, television adaptations face a host of problems
from struggling to expand the scope of the original to failing to honor the
spirit of the source material. For every Westworld,
there are countless series that tried to adapt the likes of Blade or Taken. These series often fail to capture the spark of their
inspiration, either by neglecting to involve the original creative team or by
rushing production and failing to put forth a quality product.
However, judging by the pilot episode, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows series will succeed on both these fronts. Not only does the pilot capture the original film’s quirky and beloved sense of humor, but it also builds a firm foundation for what should be an entertaining and creative exploration beyond the original.
When it comes to genre and big-name film festivals, the South By Southwest (a.k.a. SXSW) Film Festival has always been eager to showcase horror movies. This acceptance of horror isn’t surprising considering how committed SXSW is to feature “genre standouts” and “celebrate raw innovation and emerging talent from both behind and in front of the camera.” Overall, films shown at SXSW cut across a wide range of genres, tones, and influences, often encapsulating Sci-fi/Horror, fantasy, intimate dramedies, high-profile comedies, and everything in between.
Essentially, SXSW is a really fun film festival, with way more audience favorites and diverse voices than some of the more prestigious festivals. The festival purposefully cultivates a certain rebellious spirit and often screens films that are both smart and crowd-pleasing, accessible yet weird enough to be worthy of the host city (Keep Austin weird!). Notable horror titles from past SXSW festivals include The Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blade 2, the original Cabin Fever, The Cabin in the Woods, Insidious, Penny Dreadful, Creep, The Invitation, Ex Machina, A Quiet Place, and Hereditary.
So yeah, horror fans should definitely pay attention to what comes out of SXSW.
Not only does this year’s slate look as impressive as ever, but Stories For Ghosts will also attend SXSW in person to cover as many horror films and TV pilots as possible! I can’t wait! No longer will I have to admire the festival from afar, as I did in 2017 and 2018. I’ll get to be on the ground, soaking up everything from Jordan Peele’s latest horror movie Us, to AMC’s new horror series NOS4A2 (based on Joe Hill’s novel, to indie films like Them That Follow and Darlin’. I feel like a goth kid in a Hot Topic all by myself with my mom’s American Express.