About ten or fifteen minutes into The Witch, I realized I was holding my breath. My shoulders were tense, shrugged up towards my ears as I sank further into my seat. I told myself to relax and just watch the movie, but I couldn’t. It didn’t help that I ended up curled up in my seat in preparation for the next insane development. And it didn’t help that the story became more and more unnerving and the scares more and more startling. Hours after the film had ended, I was still tense. I couldn’t stop revisiting the film, obsessing over certain scenes and replaying others in my head, desperate for details I’d missed.
It’s been a long time since a film, horror or otherwise, has provoked me like The Witch has. Few horror films have ever left me in a state of lingering physical discomfort. Not many horror movies have scared me like this, where I could not predict what fresh hell would come next. And few movies have left me this awestruck, because The Witch is one of the best horror films I’ve seen. It proves the level of art and craft the horror genre is capable of attaining.
And that’s because The Witch is not just a film. It’s an experience, a study in fear.
The Forest is not a good movie.
It’s an unfortunate truth that there are a lot of bad horror movies out there. Bad writing, under-developed characters, lack of scares, stupid endings. Sometimes it’s OK when a horror movie isn’t very good because I can find it enjoyable in other ways. Maybe a bad horror movie is so ridiculous and over–the-top that it’s an experience in its own right. Other times, however, I find bad horror movies maddening, especially when those movies could have been good and interesting and really scary, but instead they wasted all their potential, and I leave the theater bored, not scared, and dreaming about what might have been.
Cue The Forest, which definitely falls into the latter category.
This past week, I finally found and watched The Final Girls, which I had been dying to see for a while.
Upon locating that last RedBox that was saving a copy of the movie for me, I was ecstatic. I’d really enjoyed the trailer and was intrigued by the official synopsis. I was fairly confident that this film was going to be both a spoof and homage to the slasher genre. In other words, I figured that this movie was going to be another The Cabin in the Woods, or a slasher version of Shaun of the Dead. I don’t think I was wrong to think that, given the clear effort on the part of the film’s marketing campaign. A lot of the early reviews suggested that the film had promise, and so I allowed myself to get hyped.
(Here be spoilers.)
When is a scary movie not a horror movie?
I ask because I recently watched Alex Ross Perry’s enigmatic and tense film, Queen of Earth. The movie stars Elizabeth Moss (yay Mad Men!) as Catherine and Katherine Waterston as Ginny, two women whose once close friendship has become strained after each has suffered personal catastrophes.
Every once in a while, I find a hidden gem of a horror film. Something with a low but meticulously managed budget. Something that prefers spooky lighting to buckets of blood. Something inventive, moody, and unsettling. Something that I can’t stop thinking about, even a week later.
The most recent movie to make me feel this way was 2013 Venezuelan psychological thriller/gothic horror film La Casa del Fin de Los Tiempos, or The House at the End of Time. Written and directed by Alejandro Hidalgo, this movie is old-school gothic horror, in the same vein as The Others (which is one of my favorites).
I’ll be honest. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) had been on my to-watch list for a long time, but I was afraid to watch it.
Why? As far as horror movies go, it doesn’t have a notorious reputation like Martyrs or A Serbian Film. At first it seems like your typical found-footage-demonic-possession horror film, but unlike other found-footage-demonic-possession movies, The Taking exploits our fears of growing old and losing our independence. More to the point, the movie uses a character’s struggle with Alzheimer’s to propel the viewer into the horror of losing one’s mind.
When I finished watching Maggie, I was left in a state of mild disbelief. I knew going in that this movie wasn’t going to follow the expected path. The whole thing was marketed on that exact point. “Arnold Schwarzenegger in a zombie movie? You think you know what that looks like, but you have no idea!” Yet I wasn’t really prepared for how different the film would be from my expectations.
In case you haven’t heard, Maggie is the most recent entry in the zombie genre. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Wade Vogel, father to Abigail Breslin’s Maggie. It takes place on the edge of the zombie apocalypse, before society has completely disintegrated. The mysterious Necroamblist virus, which slowly turns people into flesh-hungry zombies, threatens to engulf the globe. The zombies are slow and lethargic right up until they attack, in true vintage-zombie style. And there is no cure.
After a month of crazy work-life imbalance, I’m finally posting my review of Spring, a brand new horror movie from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead. These guys are no strangers to the horror genre—Benson and Moorehead worked together on the 2012 horror movie Resolution. Benson also directed and wrote the “Bonestorm” segment of V/H/S: Viral. Spring, the most recent project from these up-and-comers, is available on certain online platforms.
I was excited to watch, hopeful that it would be another well-constructed, thoughtful horror movie. It did not disappoint.