Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

Category: Horror Faves (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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Honoring Underworld on Its 15th Anniversary

I rail a lot against bad horror movies, the kind that are excuses to inflict a lot of violence, gore, and bad writing on audiences. As a horror fan, I wish to hold the genre to a certain standard of storytelling because the genre has so much to offer. But I’m realistic, and if a horror movie doesn’t live up to those standards (or even try), all I ask is that it’s at least entertaining. There’s nothing worse than a boring horror movie that tries way too hard.

However, I must confess that I have my own horror guilty pleasures. These are films that I acknowledge are poorly made movies with a laundry list of flaws. Yet somehow, I love them. I watch them over and over.

And my favorite horror guilty pleasure is 2003’s action-horror classic Underworld.

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The Terror is the Best New Horror Show For a Hot Summer

*Beware, here be mild spoilers for The Terror.*

Maybe it’s because I’m a life-long Texan and I have no concept of what real winter is, but I love horror movies set in cold climates. I find that there’s a certain exoticism to an icy, snowy horror setting, where the threat of freezing to death is just as real as being eaten by a monster. That’s part of what draws me to films like Let The Right One In, The Shining, 30 Days of Night, and, of course, The Thing.

Now that it’s the end of July, and because I live in Houston, this time of the summer is particularly brutal. To ignore the oppressive heat and humidity, I’ve been spending most of my time indoors watching television and sucking down cold drinks. Every Texan knows that the best way to take advantage of our powerful air conditioning is to watch a movie that makes you feel cold.

Which brings me to The Terror.

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Sabrina The Teenage Witch As You’ve Never Seen Her

Sometime later this year, Netflix will release a television series adaptation of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a horror comic that completely reimagines Sabrina Spellman of Archie Comics fame. It will star Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men, The Blackcoat’s Daughter) as the titular Sabrina. And much like the famous TGIF show Sabrina the Teenage Witch, this version of Sabrina will focus on her struggle to balance her witchy powers and duties with her yearning to belong with mortals. However, unlike the TGIF show, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina promises to be “worlds away” from the TGIF show and treat the story as “a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror, the occult and, of course, witchcraft.”

As a horror fan who firmly believes we need more witch stories, I could not be more stoked about this series. I love witches, almost as much as I love vampires. I love the recent witchy horrors, like American Horror Story: Coven, The Witch, A Dark Song, Hereditary. I love classics like Drag Me to Hell, The Witches, The Craft, Suspiria, Rosemary’s Baby, The Skeleton Key, and Black Sunday. The more witches, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

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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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The Unsettling, Profound Discomfort of Hereditary (2018)

After seeing Hereditary a few weeks ago, I left stunned, thinking that I hadn’t seen a horror film like Hereditary in a very long time. So much happened, much of it overwhelming in its emotional punch and terror. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I gave up trying to decipher things and instead just let memories of it come to me. It is one of the most genuinely horrific films I’ve seen recently. It’s also one of the most depressing films I’ve seen in a long time.

After weeks of not knowing how to write this review, I finally managed to lean into the film’s complexity. Hereditary is so good at unfolding itself, at managing what information it offers the audience and when. Not only does this model make for excellent slow burns, but it also mirrors the disintegration of the family as their first loss spirals into unimaginable horror. It is a tragic story, really, a film about a woman that unwittingly enables and fulfills her family’s nightmarish fate.

As far as horror movies go, Hereditary isn’t focused on entertainment, though I found the film entertaining in and of itself. No, Hereditary is more focused on using its story and characters to create a fundamentally unnerving experience. It explores how we are at our most vulnerable around our family members, and despite our fervent beliefs that we can ignore the scars and outrun the past, we can’t always. Continue reading

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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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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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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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