UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE 2018 NOMINATIONS
*Interested in what other awards shows have honored horror films? Check out my Golden Globes post here.*
The Academy Awards just announced their list of 2018 nominations, and it is so nice to see The Shape of Water and Get Out get some love!
I’m a huge film buff (I love movies in general, not just horror movies) and I enjoy watching the Academy Awards every year. I strive to see all the Best pictures, even if I don’t agree with the choices. Despite my love and respect for the Academy Awards, I am disappointed that many excellent films are completely overlooked by the Academy. Especially horror films.
I shouldn’t be surprised. The Academy has a lot of issues. The Academy is a notoriously conservative body, reluctant to reward risks or give credit to inventive and brave filmmaking. Lately, it seems like the more popular a film is, the worst its chances are for receiving any kind of recognition from the Academy, though there are notable exceptions. Why does the Academy pick certain films over others? I have no idea.
And while horror is criminally underrated and underappreciated as a genre, while turning out well-made and culturally resonate films, there have been several films that the Academy has lauded for achievements in directing, acting, cinematography, and other facets of filmmaking.
Perhaps the recognition of The Shape of Water and Get Out marks the turning of the tide. Let’s hope that the more and more high-quality, compelling horror movies are made, the more recognition is paid to this underrated genre.
***WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS FOR BOTH THE 1974 and 2006 BLACK CHRISTMAS.***
If you pay attention to movies at all, you’ve noticed the proliferation of remakes. Since the beginning of the film industry, producers and directors have recycled and revamped material. The remake has proved itself a trusted Hollywood standby, combining a tried-and-true formula with an audience that is (hopefully) willing to pay to see a rehash of a popular film.
To a degree, it makes perfect business sense. The story is already written. The original is already embedded in pop culture. And sometimes, a cult classic could use an upgrade, especially with a bigger budget and more experienced filmmakers taking the reins.
But more often than not, it seems that the opposite is true and that many remakes are unnecessary, paling in comparison to their storied predecessors. Such projects smack of opportunism and audiences can usually see right through it. We’ve all been there, rolling our eyes when a trailer for the remake of Poltergeist lumbers on screen or snickering to ourselves when we learn that Nightmare on Elm Street is getting a second reboot.
**Beware: Here be spoilers For They Live.**
The 2016 Presidential Election is finally and mercifully drawing to a close. Regardless of political affiliations, it seems like the whole country reels from the drawn-out election cycle, temporarily traumatized by the mudslinging and grandstanding and pettiness. But this election has been one for the ages. I know everyone always complains that every succeeding election is worse than the one before, but this one was really, really nasty.
We are all overwhelmed by this election, a terrible yet fitting end to an exhausting year. Myself, I try to stay as politically connected as possible. I read the news, follow Congress’s lawmaking progress (or lack thereof), watch the President’s speeches, and read all the Supreme Court opinions I can reasonably fit into my life. So for this election, I gritted my teeth and surrendered to the vicious news cycle. I listened to stump speeches and watched the debates and did my research. It was draining. When I cast my early voting ballot, I was relieved because I thought I could stop caring for a while, until the next election cycle starts back up.
I threw myself into Halloween and friends and blogging. I tried and failed to distract myself. Not only was the election impossible to avoid, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I watched my horror movies and read my scary short stories and couldn’t help but ask myself, How will we express what this election has wrought? What art will come out of this election?
Which brings me to John Carpenter’s political sci-fi-horror B-Movie classic, They Live.
I’ve always thought the werewolf was a fascinating horror archetype. I’ve talked about vampires, zombies, witches, and serial killers, and how all of those horror archetypes address certain human fears. Usually, vampires address fears about becoming lost to our desires and lusts; zombies are about becoming lost to a brainless, teeming hoard; witches are about the fear of too-powerful feminine influence; and serial killers are about the inherent ability and capacity of man to commit violent, unjustifiable murder.
And while all of these monsters address fears relating to control and human identity, no other monster encapsulates our anxieties quite like a werewolf. It’s no secret that civilization is a precarious balancing act between repressing and acknowledging our base, animalistic impulses. Werewolves personify the tension between our rational, controlled selves and our savage inclinations. Regardless of whether or not a werewolf can control his transformation, the opportunity to become a dangerous, uncivilized brute is a siren song few characters can resist.
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.
Halloween isn’t solely about horror movies–Halloween is also great for disturbing short story or two. Or ten.
Personally, I don’t always have time to read the latest horror novel or unearth a classic gothic ghost story. So I settle for a shorter but no less unnerving story. For me, a good creepy short story is like a deliciously morbid morsel. For others, a short horror story is an easy way to step out of one’s comfort zone.
There are countless horror short stories, and I sure haven’t read them all. However, I did compile a list of ten of my absolute favorites, along with links for you to read them right now!
The witch is one of the oldest villains in human civilization. Every culture has the concept of a human being, usually a woman, who has violated the laws of nature and society to gain immense power.
Her transgressions vary from culture to culture and religion to religion. In the western world, the witch has usually received her powers by signing over her soul to the Devil himself. Other times she has used some ancient, forbidden ritual to thwart God and order. Either way, the witch in a horror film is a dangerous woman. If you cross her, you will incur her horrific wrath. If you have something she wants, she will take it. Wither her cunning and mastery of black magic, the witch will gain dominion over your body and thoughts. They will force you to do unimaginable things.
That’s the legend, at least.
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?
Ah, the vampire. My favorite supernatural creature.
Vampires are cunning, sensual, and merciless. Vampires are effortlessly cool, fashionable, and glamorous. If I had to be any evil creature, I’d be a vampire, hands down, and I’d want my wardrobe to be stocked exclusively by Saint Laurent, à la Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger.
I’ve always been transfixed by how slick vampires are. They can go unnoticed inhuman society, benefiting from social mores when it serves and then stepping outside the bounds of human decency whenever they want. He (or she) embodies seduction and the willing surrender of control. They are more powerful than human beings, both in strength and intelligence, which is an essential characteristic. A werewolf or zombie is seen as a devolution of humanity, a descent into animal savagery or blank mindlessness. But a vampire is, for the most part, smarter than human beings. Like demons, they are dangerous not because of the threat of physical pain but because they can convince you to be the worst, coolest version of yourself.
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.