Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

Category: Film Review (page 1 of 4)

“Sometimes, Dead is Bettah.” So Is Pet Sematary, the Novel

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.

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SXSW Review: Extra Ordinary Is The Most Charming Horror-Comedy

This year, SXSW was a hotbed of buzzworthy horror movies, many from first-time directors. That’s one of my favorite things about film festivals—new voices and diverse viewpoints are given their time in the spotlight, and we’re all the better for it. This is especially true for horror, which benefits drastically from creative, fresh voices. After all, the same old shit can’t be relied upon to continually explore our fears, and filmmakers shouldn’t try.

Of the horror-comedy films at SXSW, Extra Ordinary was my favorite. Though it wasn’t without flaws, it was a confident debut for its first-time directors. It was an original horror-comedy with a distinctly Irish flair. It is also the most adorable horror-comedy I’ve ever seen, and I enjoyed it immensely. Who knew that sacrificing virgins and exorcizing ghosts could be so uproarious and charming?

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Jordan Peele Cements His Status as a Horror Visionary with “Us”

With his remarkable feature film debut, Get Out, writer-producer-director Jordan Peele struck a nerve and captured the cultural zeitgeist. Many horror fans were in awe of the achievement and felt vindicated that a horror movie received such critical and commercial success. We wanted to see what he would do next—what message would he send: political, social, cultural, or a mix of all three? How would he deliver this message? What fucked up, masterfully directed story would he unravel?

Most of all, we wanted Peele to get crazy, so he got crazy.

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SXSW Review: Little Monsters Has Lots of Heart and Zombies

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.

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SXSW Review: A Delightful “What We Do In The Shadows” Pilot

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.

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Not Your Average Demon – SFG Reviews “The Golem”

***Some Spoilers for The Golem (2018)***

Editor’s Note: I’m so excited and honored to announce that Stories For Ghosts has a new contributing writer, Andreana Binder! She’s a talented and whip-smart Houston writer who loves dissecting horror films and books, particularly when it comes to Stephen King and American Horror Story. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us. First up: Andreana’s review of The Golem.

As an audience, demons derived from Christian/Catholic belief, like in The Nun (2018) or The Conjuring series, are pretty common. Also fairly common are the demons with loose origins, like in Annabelle Creation (2017), and Insidious (2010). Most of the time, we’re dealing with demons from some version of Hell – and while it’s not uninteresting, it’s been done before.

That goes double for all the movies that include the Christian/Catholic Devil – again, the devil isn’t uninteresting, we’ve just seen him a lot. The presence of Christian/Catholic demons in religious horror films perpetuates itself, and while I always hope to see the demon story told differently, sometimes it falls flat. It’s kind of like Frankenstein or Dracula movies – same character, mostly the same strengths, weaknesses, and challenges – where we as an audience are counting on something “different” to occur. Because the story’s been told before, we may rely on other factors like the dialogue, direction, special effects, or cinematography to give us a fresh experience or an exhilarating ride.

Thus, lately, as far as demons go, I’ve been sitting back like, “Meh. Demons.” We don’t get too many movies about Haitian demons, or entities like Pap Legba (seen recently in American Horror Story: Coven.)

I haven’t seen any golems lately. So rarely are we presented with a story rooted in Jewish folklore that gives us a demon to wrestle with. And because I feel like I get heavy doses of demons from other belief systems, The Golem (2018), rooted in Jewish folklore and mysticism, was pretty refreshing.

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“Horror Noire” Is Required Viewing For Horror Fans

At its core, film entertainment should appeal to a wide array of people. Everyone loves a good story, even if that story originates from a time, place, or culture very different from one’s own. If the plot is compelling and the characters engaging, we can find just enough of ourselves in the narrative to feel a connection.

Too many audiences, however, find themselves excluded from these narratives, or worse, included as degrading stereotypes or bland caricatures. Representation matters, especially when one kind of audience is continually and persistently asked to empathize with characters who exist in a world in which a large portion of the audience does not exist. Or if they do exist, it’s as nothing more than condescending, perhaps even harmful stereotypes.

These shallow portrayals are the chief focuses of Horror Noire, the groundbreaking documentary, based on the collection of essays by Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman. Directed by Xavier Burgin, the documentary illuminates the historical depictions of black people in American horror movies. In exploring the representations of black people in horror, Horror Noire holds a mirror up to how societal attitudes towards black people shaped their appearances (if any) in horror movies and vice versa.

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Velvet Buzzsaw Review – Biting Satire and Disappointing “Horror”

Do you ever wonder how or why certain pieces of art are worth millions of dollars? I think about that a lot, especially as someone who loves art. As an art lover, it doesn’t always make sense to me how some pieces can sell for $90 million while others go ignored. Are we saying that those big-ticket paintings are better art than those that don’t command those prices?

Of course not. The art scene, where critics reign supreme, gallery owners function as gatekeepers, and everyone wants their cut, sounds like the very opposite of how art should be handled. It seems twisted and deeply nihilistic to reduce artistic expression to its dollar amount.

This is the premise behind Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan Gilroy’s latest effort. Fresh from its premiere at Sundance Film Festival, Velvet Buzzsaw is a satirical horror film that aims to tackle this vapid world and those who inhabit it.

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Sundance Review: Anvari’s “Wounds” Has Plenty of Shock But Lacks Depth

Hey Internet! Susie here! Please welcome Chris Shea, the newest Contributing Writer here at Stories for Ghosts! Chris is a Producer, Production Manager, Assistant Director, and Director based in Austin, Texas. He has so much filmmaking expertise, and I’m very excited to have him write for the blog! Enjoy his first piece!

***Note: Mild spoilers for Wounds***

Wounds opens and closes with the same image shown on screen to its audience. It’s dark, reminiscent of an H.P. Lovecraft novel, and it’s the driving force behind the film’s antagonist. The image, which seems more like a place, is a harbinger, a warning of the evils to come and possibly a commentary on our ever-present proximity to evil.

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Suspiria Review: A Mesmerizing Reflection on Abuses of Power

*Warning: Some Spoilers for Suspiria*

When I walked out of the theater after watching Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know how to feel. I didn’t know if I liked the movie or if I hated it. Oh sure, there was plenty of horrific elements and beautiful dance scenes and provocative imagery, but did I enjoy it? Was it a good movie?

And then I realized that I felt the same way after watching Dario Argento’s original Suspiria. I had to laugh. Even though the remake of Suspiria is a wholly independent film that stands on its own, it reminded me of the original in more than one way. Beyond the purposefully muted visual palate, the expanded plot, and the exploration of themes, Guadagnino’s Suspiria creates a similarly enigmatic and overwhelming horror film that compliments Argento’s work.

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