Everybody loves a good monster movie. It’s thrilling to watch an abominable creature stalk and hunt unsuspecting people. It’s exciting to watch the unsuspecting people run and hide and eventually figure out a way to defeat the monster. And sometimes it’s even more fun when the monster isn’t defeated (at least you know you’ll get a sequel).
I’ve talked a little bit about how, in addition to entertaining us, horror mirrors our fears through various horror tropes and stock characters. It’s my hypothesis that certain horror villains and boogeymen represent specific human fears. While vampires, werewolves, and zombies could also be considered monsters, the important distinction those creatures used to be human and often retain a bit of their humanity. Monsters like the xenomorph in Alien or the shark from Jaws are beasts; they are scary because of their inhuman nature. We humans may think we’re the masters of our domain and that the natural world is ours for the taking, but it’s all an illusion. We know that deep down. Monsters represent a world that has broken free of human control.
In an earlier blog post, I asserted that Halloween is a valuable time of year for children because the holiday, as it has developed, enables children to safely engage in a variety of difficult topics. Halloween gently exposes children to human mortality and sinister forces, because there is no use in pretending these things do not exist. Children should be protected, but they will become adults soon.
I think screening children’s Halloween movies is an important way to engage children with these topics. They don’t always have to be about Halloween nor do they have to be straight up horror films. What these movies do is take scary and creepy stories and weave in uplifting and useful messages for children. These movies package unpleasant themes in a way children can manage and digest. They can absorb important lessons by feeling the age-appropriate shock only a horror movie can give you.
Though I didn’t quite realize it, children’s Halloween movies taught me some valuable lessons growing up. So I decided I wanted to take a trip back to Halloween Past. I decided I wanted to share my favorite children’s Halloween movies and some of the very personal life lessons I took from them. I hope kids in the future continue to watch these movies and learn from them, as I did.
The Haunted House Movie is one of my favorite types of horror movies. Multiple factors contribute to my appreciation, but the biggest thing for me is what a haunted house movie accomplishes as a trope. Haunted house movies may not be the scariest genre, but it is certainly the most unsettling in my book. These movies are about the pollution of the sacred sanctuary of a home. Otherworldly forces beyond human control destroy the integrity of a house as a protective dwelling, which terrifies me on a deep level.
As a devoted horror movie fan, I’ll be the first to admit that the market is glutted with horror movies, most of them terrible. And not in an enjoyable, over-the-top kind of way.
If you are a horror movie novice searching for a good horror movie, the simultaneous breadth of availability and lack of choice entertainment can be discouraging. Horror fans feel that way all the time, but we know enough that we can make solid recommendations.
With Halloween fast approaching, I decided to compile a list of horror movies with solid scares and terror but that are accessible to a wide audience. The following films are perfect for a Halloween watch party because 1) they are relatively easy to find on streaming services, 2) they’re actually well-made films, and 3) they scare audiences in thoughtful, enjoyable, entertaining ways.
Even if you’re a horror movie buff, I feel like this list is a nicely packaged bundle of great horror movies that present a strong argument for the merits of horror. These movies are harrowing, smart, witty, and funny. They are heartbreaking and profound. They reinforce the magic of telling stories through the medium of film and legitimize a genre that critics loves to hate.
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.
One of my favorite things about horror movies is how long they’ve been around.
People started making scary films as soon as they could. Audiences have always loved going to horror movies. Films like Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were widely popular. A lot of these movies became genre classics. You’ll find them on many best-of-horror lists, where they are widely praised for employ innovative techniques and practical effects to terrify audiences.
There’s just one problem—the majority of those films are no longer scary by today’s standards.
One of my all-time favorite movies is 90s horror classic The Craft. I’ve loved this film since the first time I saw it, close to 20 years ago. I think it’s something of a perfect movie in many ways— gloriously 90s, unapologetically goth, and brimming with witchy fun. Those god-awful clothes? That terrible wig Robin Tunney wears? The maroon lipstick and smudged black eyeliner? Love Spits Love’s awesome cover of The Smiths “How Soon Is Now”?
Neve Campbell, what are you wearing?!?!
One of my biggest horror movie pet peeves is when characters die from making incredibly irrational, stupid decisions. Not when a character is stressed and freaks out, but when a character is a genuine idiot. I hate when that happens in movies because 1) most people aren’t that stupid, 2) convenient stupidity for the sake of moving the plot forward is the height of lazy, contrived writing, and 3) that shit isn’t scary.
I’d rather watch a movie where the characters are smart but woefully unprepared for the nasty situations they find themselves in. Helplessness is always scarier than stupidity.
And that’s why, despite my natural avoidance of super-gory horror, I really enjoyed Green Room.
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.