Nothing says Halloween quite like a slasher film. A good, old-fashioned slasher will terrify you in the theater and keep you on edge for days later. If you’re anything like me, a good slasher will make you jump and screech and check the locks on your windows for days afterwards. You’ll tell yourself, this is stupid, that movie was stupid, and–HOLY CRAP WHAT WAS THAT SOUND?!?!
Because while slashers may be campy, cheesy, and perhaps a little dumb, they’re effective. We are simultaneously repulsed and drawn to this movies that are usually light on plot and heavy on violence.
I always have a hard time watching many serial killer movies if for no other reason than serial killers exist, and the crimes depicted onscreen could and sometimes do happen to real people. In serial killer movies in particular, much of the violence is directed towards women, which makes my viewing experience more difficult.
But I find such films can be worthwhile despite their grotesque, depressing subject matter. In our culture, we have a fascination with serial killers. They do not kill for reasons society considers “justifiable.” They seem to do the unthinkable, killing for pure personal gain, for profit, or to fulfill some twisted sense of morality. It seems to go against all human decency to kill so needlessly and frequently.
Our fascination expresses itself with many questions—how does the killer select his victims? Why those victims? How does he kill them? How long has he been doing this? How has he never been caught? Yet those questions come secondary to the ten-million-dollar question:
Why does he kill?
*Note: Here be spoilers for these demonic movies*
Of all the creatures in the world of horror, demons might be the scariest. Demons possess us, robbing us of our volition over our bodies. Demons manipulate us, using our own human impulses and emotions to lure us down a doomed path. Demons tempt us, reaching deep into our hearts and laying bare the black truths we don’t care to admit.
We think of demons almost exclusively in a religious context, especially considering how the three major monotheistic world religions have shaped the lore. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have their differing views about demons—how the present themselves, how they became demons, how they wield influence over the human realm. But they all agree that demons are malevolent spirits who have turned away from God.
Through multiple religious texts as well as some literary works, a common narrative has emerged: demons are ruled and led by Satan, a fallen angel. When God created man and exalted him above even the angels, Satan refused to obey God. For his insolence, Satan was cast out of Heaven, forever denied God’s grace. Ever prideful and bent on vengeance, Satan has spent every moment since his fall on a crusade the tempt humanity to turn away from God.
I’ll come right out and say it – most of the October horror releases are not good this Halloween. In fact, some of these look downright terrible.
I’m not mad, but I am super disappointed. I was looking forward to Rings and Underworld: Blood Wars. I was expecting a release calendar full of solid (or even just serviceable) horror releases, but not this year.
But then Rings was moved to 2017. And then Underworld: Blood Wars was pushed back to 2017. Naomi Watts makes her return to horror in creepfest Shut In, but that doesn’t come out until November.
Which leaves us with this random group of horror movies.
Seriously? I am so very underwhelmed. Not all of these are terrible—Under The Shadow seems promising—but when Boo! A Madea Halloween looks better than 5 out of 8 movies on the October release schedule, something is very wrong.
Mild Spoilers for Goodnight Mommy
I’d like to preface this review by assuring you that I am no lightweight when it comes to watching horror films. On-screen violence and gore usually elicits the expected level of shock and disgust, while body horror reliably grosses me out.
Part of my love for scary movies is remembering that a movie is only a movie, and art is only art. The onscreen images are powerful, but they aren’t real. I’ve never forgotten that fact. I have never had to run for a bucket, nor have I fainted in a movie theater.
So when I almost fainted during Goodnight Mommy, it was because Goodnight Mommy is so precisely calibrated to create a deeply disturbing experience that I forgot to breathe.
As I lay on the carpet in my living room, waiting for the walls to stop swaying, I realized that Goodnight Mommy is one of the most harrowing horror movies I’ve ever seen. My friend spoke softly to me, coaching me through breathing exercises and assuring me we didn’t have to finish the movie if I didn’t want to. Which was so embarrassing, to say the least.
Ah, Labor Day. The end of summer and the beginning of fall.
Labor Day means one last hurrah of beach trips, cookouts, and pool parties before fall officially begins. You have to pack away your bathing suits and flip flops and break out your booties and sweaters, even if the weather refuses to cooperate. Yes, we are all sad about summer leaving us, but fall is pretty great. Football season, family gatherings, pumpkin-spice everything (and making fun of pumpkin-spice everything), and most importantly, horror movie season!
Let’s be honest. Halloween is not about just October anymore—Halloween is taking over September as well. That’s good news for a horror junkie like me, especially because that means we get more and better horror movies in the weeks leading up to Halloween!
September promises to deliver something for everyone. We have so much to choose from! There’s When The Bough Breaks, a hybrid of The Hand That Rocks The Cradle/Fatal Attraction. There’s Demon, a creepy and moody foreign horror movie that explores the Jewish legend of the dybbuk. There’s 31, a vicious gore-fest from horror movie legend Rob Zombie, with offering all the absurdity I wanted from The Purge series. And there’s Blair Witch, the second sequel the iconic Blair Witch Project, back from the dead to reclaim its horror movie throne.
What makes a horror movie truly incredible? The same thing that makes any movie incredible—excellent writing, nuanced acting, gorgeous artistic design, daring cinematography, visionary directing, and a killer score.
Finally! School is out, summer is here, and we’re finally getting some good horror movies!
After a few months of anemic offerings, June is stepping up to the plate with some heavy-hitting horror flicks. Of course, the biggest name here is The Conjuring 2, sequel to 2013’s box office smash The Conjuring. But there are some other big names here too, like The Neon Demon, which offers a look into the shadowy, dangerous world of the modeling industry, and The Shallows, which serves up a straightforward horror movie involving a stranded Blake Lively and a huge man-eating shark. I don’t know if you can go wrong with any of these films.
There are some smaller titles, mostly foreign films that haven’t gained much press here in the States. But don’t let that dissuade you from checking them out in either their limited theatrical release or their digital releases on VOD. Sometimes great horror movies come out of left field.
With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding a prestigious Hollywood event, you probably wouldn’t expect a glittering affair like the Cannes Film Festival to include hard-hitting horror films. Cannes is where Hollywood finds a steady stream of award-worthy and award-baiting movies, right? The heavy, boring, historical drama stuff, right?
That’s true. Cannes is prestigious for a reason. Every year, the festival showcases emerging talents alongside master filmmakers, and many of those films are either good enough or earn enough hype to be marketed as highbrow cinema.
But it’s also true that Cannes has a deep commitment to varied viewpoints. The festival loves innovation. It pays tribute to films from different countries, different voices, and different genres, including horror.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Easter service, mulling over the more horrific aspects of many religious stories. As the gospel was read, I listened to all the details of Christ’s death and resurrection. I couldn’t stop thinking about how bloody and traumatizing the whole event must have been, on a physical, emotional, and existential level. And yet, this story brings happiness and comfort to millions of people. It’s not the only one either, since holy books are often filled with ghastly depictions of violence. It’s weird to think that these brutal stories are revered as sacred.