Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

Category: folklore (page 1 of 5)

Horror and the 2019 Cannes Film Festival

(To read my past coverage of Cannes, see my 2016, 2017, and 2018 posts.)

One of the more exciting trends in horror over the last few years has been the proliferation of horror movies making splash debuts at renowned film festivals. Horror has been defying expectations and proving the genre haters wrong by showing up and showing out at festivals like Sundance and SXSW. Even genre festivals like Fantastic Fest and Frightfest have increased their profiles to become hotly anticipated in horror and non-horror circles alike.

And as a horror fan, I feel like it’s about damn time. Many critics and filmmakers have turned their noses up to horror, so it’s nice to see the industry not only embrace horror but start to experiment with how the genre can tell compelling stories.

Cue the Cannes Film Festival, arguably the glitziest and most buzzworthy film festival in the world. In years past, horror films like Evil Dead 2, Pan’s Labyrinth, Train to Busan, and The Neon Demon. have garnered much attention and acclaim at Cannes. Additionally, Cannes serves as an important marketplace and networking nexus for filmmakers looking to secure additional funding or distribution for their horror films.  Such attention helps the whole genre do better, which is why I catalog the horror films showing at both the Cannes film festival and the Marché du Film (Cannes’ Film Market) every year.

This year’s Cannes festival doesn’t have as much horror as I would like to see (there’s never enough horror as far as I’m concerned). It’s disappointing that there aren’t more horror films at Cannes, but rest assured, those that will screen are ones to watch. This small but strong group of horror films promises to offer audiences a lot more than the same old tired remakes and half-assed slashers.

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March Horror Movies Deliver the Goods

Y’all, it’s a March Horror Miracle!

March is my birthday month, and the universe has seen fit to gift me (because it’s all about me) with a lot of new March horror movie releases! Many of these films were on the festival circuit in preceding months, and thus they have been on my radar for a long time. What did I do to deserve so many of them being released in my birthday month?

Where do I start? Of course, I am most excited for Jordan Peele’s Us, starring Lupita Nyong’o, which looks straight frightening. There’s also festival circuit darlings Climax, Book of Monsters, and The Field Guide to Evil. And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given a true gift in the form of Lindsay Lohan’s latest…um…role as a WEREWOLF in Among the Shadows, a cheeseball of a horror movie that will live in Bad Movie Night Infamy for years to come.

I love it.

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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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15 Scary Good Horror Novels for Your 2019 Reading List

I don’t know about you, but every year I make a resolution to read more horror novels. I experience varying levels of success each year (because life happens). Not that it stops me from buying more and more horror novels and adding to my already out-of-control horror novel collection.

Sigh. There are just too many intriguing horror novels out there, and so little time.

But I feel optimistic about this year! Really, I do. I am making a concerted push to read more in general, especially when it comes to my beloved horror genre. Just as I saw in 2017 and 2018, this year will see the publication of a ton of cool horror novels and novellas, so I certainly won’t have any problems finding good options. Choosing among them will be a different story, however.

All in all, there are 15 horror novels that have caught my eye so far, with something for everyone. Specifically, I’m interested in Caitlin R. Kiernan’s latest haunting short story collection, The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan; Josh Malerman’s new dystopic vision, Inspection; the gothic-inspired nightmare PEtra’s Ghost by C.S. O’Cinneide; Grady Hendrix’s delightful-sounding My Mom’s Book Club Killed Dracula; and the arresting A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs.

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Apostle: A Promising Religious Horror That Should’ve Been a Miniseries

Every once in a while, a horror movie comes along that blows away audiences and critics alike. These films are nearly flawless, making perfect use of scares, genre conventions, plotting, character development, cinematography, and score to weave a bewitching triumph of filmmaking that both expands and transcends the genre.

Unfortunately, Netflixs’s Apostle is not one of these films. But damn, I had fun watching it!

Inspired by British religious horror classics The Wicker Man and The Devils, Apostle admirably bites off more than it can chew. Ambitious and thoughtful, it is a gory, thrilling film that needed more space to breathe to achieve horror greatness.

I get into a lot of spoilers here, so be warned. But that shouldn’t stop you from checking out Apostle.

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All the Fresh Horror Films at Fantastic Fest 2018

Festival season continues its steady momentum of exciting new horror movies this week at Fantastic Fest 2018. Held in Austin, Texas, Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the United States, which if you want a sneak peek of upcoming horror films sure to delight and shock, you pay attention to Fantastic Fest.

In Fantastic Fest’s own words, “The festival is dedicated to championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema, celebrating new voices and new stories from around the world and supporting new filmmakers. We are committed to supporting film in its most provocative, ground-breaking and lesser-known forms and giving the audience a chance to find new favorites and future genre classics.”

In the past, Fantastic Fest has screened horror films such as Zombieland, SplitDark SongThe Void, The Witch, We Are What We Are, It FollowsThe Babadook, and Sinister. Last year, Fantastic Fest screened The EndlessGerald’s Game, and Revenge, among others.

Essentially, Fantastic Fest is legit. And the list of horror films is long! There are 31 horror films total at Fantastic Fest! (It’s a sign!)

Even better, this year’s Fantastic Fest seems especially committed to showcasing horror films from all over the world–Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and Tunisia, to be exact. For horror fans like me, the chance to learn about new foreign horror is thrilling, especially when mainstream American horror fails to deliver.

Without further adieu, let’s check out what Fantastic Fest has to offer! Continue reading

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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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Crack Open a Shiner and Settle In – It’s Time for SXSW Horror Movies!

Festival season continues with the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, which means there are new (and, hopefully, fresh) horror movies for us to peruse!

2018 marks the 25th year of the SXSW film festival. Just think of it–25 years of a fearless and unflinching commitment to emerging voices, diverse viewpoints, and plain crazy schemes that translate into memorable films! SXSW is known for its commitment to pushing the envelope of the film industry, and the horror industry knows this.

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A Survey of Foreign Horror Films – Oceania

I’m making solid progress on my global tour of foreign horror movies! Next stop: Oceania!

I’ve devoted my last few posts to educate myself (and my readers) about foreign horror, of which I now realize I knew *almost* nothing about. Not all the foreign horror is confined to countries like Great Britain, France, Japan, Canada, or Mexico, right?

Luckily for me, the ongoing Winter Olympics inspired me to research foreign horror the world over.

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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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