Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

Category: Devils (page 1 of 3)

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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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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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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What Horror Mega Hit Will Come from TIFF 2018?

Today is the official start of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which marks the unofficial beginning of “prestige movie season”! Every year, major studio and indie films vie for spots on the TIFF line-up in the hopes of garnering buzz and positive reviews to hype their releases. They’re also hoping for the kind of critical acclaim that wins films prestigious awards.

Unlike some other festivals of this caliber, TIFF always makes room for horror movies in their lineup. In recent years, TIFF has showcased films like The Grudge in 2002, Hostel in 2005,  Inside (À l’intérieur) in 2007, 2008’s The Loved Ones, Black Swan in 2009, The Lords of Salem in 2012, and Raw in 2016. Last year, TIFF screened mother!, Veronica, The Ritual (loved that movie!), Mom and Dad, and of course, Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning The Shape of Water.

This year, TIFF has an impressive slate of horror movies, from the highly anticipated Halloween to quieter entries like The Wind. I can’t wait to see which ones will make a splash!  Read on to see the full line-up!

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The Good, The Bad, and The Weird – August Horror Releases

There are a ton of new August horror releases this month, and a wide variety at that! That’s what I’m talking about! This broad array of new horror is what I’ve been missing from the last few months—a mix of big-budget wide releases, artsy indie flicks, and some bizarre low-budget films.

I’m excited for zombie-apocalypse film Patient Zero, as well as the moody, ghostly gothic thriller The Little Stranger. And of course, I can’t wait to see The Meg, because who doesn’t love a ridiculous action-horror movie about sharks?

Check out all of the August horror releases below! Enjoy!

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July Horror Movies: The First Purge and Lots of VOD Releases

Straight up: July horror is a little light on theatrical releases this month. But there are tons of VOD releases to make up for the lack of major July horror releases. Of course, I want to see The First Purge, which promises all the violent fun and heavy-handed metaphors we’ve come to love from The Purge series. I’m also interested by some of the quieter VOD releases, such as The Lighthouse, The Devil’s Doorway, and Dead Night. There are a bunch of other July horror films to choose from, so check them out!

Enjoy!

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Sabrina The Teenage Witch As You’ve Never Seen Her

Sometime later this year, Netflix will release a television series adaptation of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a horror comic that completely reimagines Sabrina Spellman of Archie Comics fame. It will star Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men, The Blackcoat’s Daughter) as the titular Sabrina. And much like the famous TGIF show Sabrina the Teenage Witch, this version of Sabrina will focus on her struggle to balance her witchy powers and duties with her yearning to belong with mortals. However, unlike the TGIF show, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina promises to be “worlds away” from the TGIF show and treat the story as “a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror, the occult and, of course, witchcraft.”

As a horror fan who firmly believes we need more witch stories, I could not be more stoked about this series. I love witches, almost as much as I love vampires. I love the recent witchy horrors, like American Horror Story: Coven, The Witch, A Dark Song, Hereditary. I love classics like Drag Me to Hell, The Witches, The Craft, Suspiria, Rosemary’s Baby, The Skeleton Key, and Black Sunday. The more witches, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

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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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March 2018 Horror – The Strangers Are Back!

It’s March, which means that spring is right around the corner. It also means that the steady stream of horror we’ve been enjoying this year runs a little slow during the spring months before the summer horror season starts in May.

But don’t fear! March promises some intriguing films, despite the short list of horror films this month. There are two great foreign horror films, the long-awaited sequel to The Strangers (2008), a documentary about a real-life haunting, and the latest psychological thriller/horror from Steven Soderbergh. It’s shot on an iPhone and Claire Foy gives a raw, frazzled performance that’s the exact opposite of her role as Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown (which I also love. I just love Claire Foy, and I can’t help it).

Check out the trailers below!

March 2

The Lullaby (Limited)

“A 19-year-old woman falls into a deep depression after the birth of her first son. In her paranoia, she begins to hear voices and comes to believe that a strange entity is haunting her child.”

What a coincidence (really!)! I was just talking about this South African horror movie as an example of foreign horror from the African Continent! It looks very creepy, though I can’t really discern the quality of the film from this trailer. I hope it’s a strong film, only because the subject matter and the hopeful exploration of post-partum psychosis deserve a nuanced discussed.

March 3

The Ravenous aka Les Affames (Netflix)

“A village in Quebec is terrorized by a flesh-eating plague.”

Here’s another foreign horror film for you—a zombie movie from Canada. Damn Canada! I know you’re very good at body horror, but not particularly known for your zombie films. Where did this artsy, old-school Romero, understated movie come from? It’s freaking me out. This is not good for my nerves, Canada, you must understand this. And I say that as a seasoned horror fan.

But seriously, I remember hearing about this movie when it was making the festival rounds at TIFF, and I understand it’s pretty good, both for its scares and its exploration of social themes. I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s popped up on Netflix. Add this one to the watch list!

March 9

The Strangers: Prey at Night (Wide)

“Mike and his wife Cindy take their son and daughter on a road trip that becomes their worst nightmare. The family members soon find themselves in a desperate fight for survival when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park that’s mysteriously deserted — until three masked psychopaths show up to satisfy their thirst for blood.”

I’m both excited and freaked out for this movie because, as far as horror subgenres go, home invasion movies burrow under my skin and stay there. The Strangers is widely regarded as one of the most intense home invasion horror movies in recent years, and for good reason, which makes The Strangers; Prey at Night a highly anticipated release. So far it seems to be getting some good reviews, but it’s still too early to tell which way this will go. Lucky for me, I get to attend a screening of the film tomorrow night, so stay tuned for my review!

 

March 16

Demon House (Limited)

“Paranormal investigator Zak Bagans buys a supposedly haunted house in Indiana and documents what happens when he moves in.”

Woooo a cursed movie! Earn your check, marketing team!

But seriously, this is a documentary about an actual real-life case, though I’m not sure how flexible the film is being with the term “documentary” here. The movie centers on a house that used to belong to the Ammons, a Gary, Indiana family that claimed they were being haunted and tortured by as many as 200 demonic entities.

I highly suggest reading the story as published by the Indy Star. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and creepier still, it’s written in a very even tone. It neither believes the Ammon family story about demonic possession nor does it deny the story—it merely lays out the story.

Essentially, I’m way more interested in the Ammons, their story, and a potential film adaptation about the intersection of socio-economic factors, psychology, and religion than I am with this documentary about a guy who buys the house after the family flees.

March 23

Unsane (wide)

“Sawyer Valentini relocates from Boston to Pennsylvania to escape from the man who’s been stalking her for the last two years. While consulting with a therapist, Valentini unwittingly signs in for a voluntary 24-hour commitment to the Highland Creek Behavioral Center. Her stay at the facility soon gets extended when doctors and nurses begin to question her sanity. Sawyer now believes that one of the staffers is her stalker — and she’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive and fight her way out.”

This film is on my list of Most Anticipated Horror Movies of 2018! I am always up for a good psychological thriller/horror, especially when you can’t be sure if the protagonist is crazy or not. While reviews have been positive, they haven’t been quite glowing. Despite that, I think the film will be worth seeing for Claire Foy’s performance, Steven Soderbergh’s experimental use of an iPhone for his single camera, and its a solid (though perhaps uninspired) psychological horror.

Are y’all excited for these movies! Tell me about it in the comments.

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A Survey of Foreign Horror Films – Africa

As I admitted in my last post, I do not have a strong foreign horror game.  Of course, I’ve seen a ton of foreign horror films from countries like Great Britain, France, Japan, Canada, and Mexico, and more than a handful of foreign horror films from countries scattered all over the world, but I remain woefully ignorant of the global body of foreign horror.

This is something that I need to fix. And I figured that the Olympics would be the perfect time to educate myself.

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