Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

Category: Horror Classic (page 1 of 5)

Halloween (2018) Review: Entertaining, Violent, and Thought-Provoking

***Warning! Spoilers for Halloween (2018)***

It’s a rare thing to see a horror movie sequel that expands upon and develops the source material in an exciting, worthwhile way. It’s even more unusual and unexpected for a film with as storied a following as John Carpenter’s Halloween. A groundbreaking film that spawned a stream of uninspired sequels, the original Halloween finally has a sequel worthy of its legacy in the latest Halloween film, from Blumhouse Productions.

This horror fan enjoyed the film immensely because it did much more than pay fan service to horror legend. Halloween (2018) dove deep into the genre in a way that slashers rarely do. Sure, it’s got the body count, jump scares, and genre conventions of a slasher (along with some clever role reversals and callbacks), but Halloween will be remembered as a meta-slasher.

halloween

40 years after the events of John Carpenter’s Halloween, Laurie Strode, the only survivor of that fateful night, is convinced that Michael Myers will come for her again. Between not treating her PTSD and struggling to live a functional life, Laurie has become a hardcore survivalist. But she’s lost a lot in the process. She has a strained relationship with her family—daughter Karen, son-in-law Ray, and granddaughter Allyson. She is a recovering alcoholic. She doesn’t seem happy at all. But at least she knows that when Michael Myers returns, she’ll be ready for him.

And sure enough, Michael Myers escapes from state custody the night before Halloween. He hasn’t forgotten about Laurie either, and he will stop at nothing before he finds her and kills her. After all, she’s literally the one that got away.

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Revisiting Night of the Living Dead, 50 Years Later

The horror genre is littered with controversial films, films that inspired censorship and protests and extreme backlash. While controversy is certainly good for box office takes, it’s not always good for the critical interpretation of a film. Horror fans, especially, know that controversy does not always merit the backlash our favorite genre films receive. A violent or unsettling or difficult movie doesn’t mean it’s bad—sometimes, it means that the film has done its job.

Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero’s 1968 black-and-white exploitation classic, is one such film. What modern audiences see as an undisputed but perhaps dated work of essential horror, contemporary audiences were shocked and appalled by Night of the Living Dead. It was violent! It was gory! It tested the very boundaries of decency!

Despite its critical success, the movie simply did not deserve to exist, according to some critics. As the Variety review put it, “Until the Supreme Court establishes clear-cut guidelines for the pornography of violence, Night of the Living Dead will serve nicely as an outer-limit definition by example.”

But it’s precisely because of those outer-limits that films like Night of the Living Dead are essential. They ask us to question art, to question the way we tell stories. They force us to consider uncomfortable implications of what we’re seeing onscreen. In short, they ask what deserves to be committed to film and why.

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Horror at the 2018 Venice International Film Festival

The Venice International Film Festival officially kicks off today, serving as one of the most important stops on the film festival circuit. Venice is one of the three most influential film festivals in the world, up there with Cannes and Berlin. As such, films showcased at Venice are regarded as being the crème de la crème, as prestigious films that aim to elevate the medium of film.

Of course, horror films are often overlooked. But not always.

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Revisiting a Slasher Classic on Friday the 13th

As a horror fan, I’m not fond of slasher films. But even I can’t deny the impact slashers have had on the genre. Like it or not, these films, often sparse on plot and heavy on gore and sex, have altered the course of horror movies, if not movies in general. Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Black Christmas, and Scream are all slasher classics that have left an indelible mark on pop culture.

So of course, with today being Friday, July 13th, I had to revisit Friday the 13th.

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Father Knows Best – My Favorite Horror Films for Father’s Day

Let’s talk about what it means to be a father. In our culture, a father is supposed to be a protector, a provider, the person responsible for the physical, mental, and existential well-being of his family. While both mothers and fathers face conflicts regarding their individuality and the demands of having a family, their duties are wholly distinct.

In many horror movies, a mother’s fears are tied to her biological function and are restricted to her relationship with her children. The anxiety here is that a mother might lose her autonomy to her children, that she might selfishly betray the sacred bond between mother and child, or that she will fail as a mother and be subject to a multitude of punishments. I delve into a lot of these movies in my post about mothers in horror movies, which you can read here.

When it comes to fathers, horror movies seem divided into two camps. In the first, a father struggles to fulfill his obligations (whether he’s aware of this or not is left to the individual film), thereby putting his family at risk. It’s only through his re-dedication to idealized fatherhood that he can protect his family. In the second, a man rebukes his fatherhood and the responsibilities that come with it because he is the nefarious threat to his family. On the whole, his obligations are to both his children and his wife (heteronormative families rule the roost in horror movies so far), and his duties arise more from social code than biological function.

It’s with these thoughts in mind that I created this list of horror movies that examine fatherhood. In these films, fatherhood is the glue that holds the family together and allows the family unit to become the fundamental building block of communities, societies, and civilizations. Whether these fathers fail or succeed in living up to the standard has profound ramifications for his family, which reflects our deeply held fears about the stability of our society.

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9 of My Favorite Prom Horror Movies

Ah, the Prom Horror Movie. The guiltiest of my guilty pleasures!

They’re so cheesy, so campy, so over-the-top and wonderfully bad, though not always. Some prom horror movies have unexpected depth and nuance, exploring (sometimes clumsily) the dynamics of high school and the pressures of being a teenager. Just like the high school horror movie, the prom horror movie fumbles towards peering at the dark underside of the high school experience as memorialized in high school’s forever hyped event.

It makes total sense that prom is a big deal. In high school, especially the closer to graduation they are, teenagers find themselves stuck in a weird, awkward limbo where they don’t have the rights and privileges of an adult but know enough to want them, where the responsibilities and obligations of adulthood loom on the horizon. The intense desire for agency, meaning, and purpose melds with teenagers’ immature assumptions that agency, meaning, and purpose can be found in one glitzy, epic night.

Of course, it rarely happens that way. Prom night is almost never the incredible, life-changing event that Hollywood movies would have you believe. Most of the time, you get all dressed up in your high school best and spend a few hours swaying on the dance floor or sitting at your table with your friends, wondering why your crush hasn’t noticed how awesome you look. And then a drunk junior pukes Malibu all over the dance floor, and you and your friends leave and go to Denny’s on the way to someone’s house to watch Donnie Darko and try to sneak beer out of the garage refrigerator.

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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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A Survey of Foreign Horror Films – Asia

I’ll admit, I’m not as informed about foreign horror films as I should be. For all my talk about seeing the horror genre as a window into the anxieties and fears of a culture, I’m dreadfully ignorant of many foreign horror traditions.

I felt even worse about my lack of awareness for horror films because of the Olympics. All these unique countries coming together in the spirit of peaceful competition, all those athletes sharing their gifts with the world? It’s beautiful and moving. We learn so much about each other from this magnificent event and put aside our differences to exalt the best of us together.

I freaking love the Olympics!

Consequently, with the 2018 Winter Olympics taking over television and the internet, I thought this was a perfect time for me to do some research about foreign horror films across the globe. And I found a lot of cool stuff.

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Horror Movies and TV Shows at the Golden Globes

It’s time for the Golden Globes!

First given in 1944, the Golden Globes are widely regarded as the official kick-off of Hollywood’s awards season. The Golden Globes are prestigious, given to the best in both Film and Television, which makes the Golden Globes a sort of hybrid between the Emmys and the Oscars. Unlike its big sister, the Oscars, the Golden Globes split the film categories into “Drama” and “Musical or Comedy” while eschewing categories for technical achievements, like cinematography and editing. The Golden Globes are focused on big names and talent, which ensures that a lot of beautiful people show up to the ceremony and a lot of people tune in to watch. (Also, they serve dinner and tons of booze during the ceremony, which means lots of drunk people. Always good for ratings!)

So while Hollywood doesn’t regard the Golden Globes as prestigious as the Oscars, Hollywood does see the Golden Globes as an opportunity to recognize achievement from a larger group of films. More importantly, the Golden Globes take place before the Academy announces Oscar nominations and give a sharp insight into who the Academy might choose to recognize that year.

You’d think that would have translated into more and more horror films receiving recognition, but alas, that hasn’t happened.

This year, however, The Shape of Water and Get Out are both nominated in film, with Stranger Things and Twin Peaks receiving some nominations in television. It’s heartening to see such recognition, especially for Get Out, which is more of a straight horror movie than The Shape of Water, but no less carefully and expertly made.

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Black Friday and Horror Films About Consumerism

Don’t let this post on consumerism in horror movies fool you into thinking I’ve been productive and industrious today.

On this, Black Friday 2017, I have spent an irresponsible amount of money not on friends and family, but on myself. I have no regrets. I didn’t even have to leave the couch to take part in the great American tradition of buying things I don’t need, the day after eating a ton of food I didn’t need.

But I loved it. I do it every year–I munch on Thanksgiving leftovers and hoard coupon codes, grabbing up books and music and clothes and makeup.

That got me to thinking about horror and the horror movies that tackle consumerism. Everyone knows about films like Dawn of the Dead and They Live, but the meteoric rise of material goods and availability post World War II has embedded itself into the very fabric of American pop culture. And whenever we bake something into our national consciousness, it comes out in our horror movies, sooner or later.

Again, some of those movies that confront our materialism are thoughtful horror movies that elevate the discussion. Others don’t pretend to be anything more than a fab 1980s slasher flick that just so happens to occur in a mall. Either way, consumerism in all its shapes and forms, from zombies to haunted malls to obsessive serial killers reflects this very American way of life.

Here are 9 movies (of varying quality) about consumerism, shopping, and the desire to acquire material goods.

Enjoy!

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