*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.
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.
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
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.
As a horror fan, I live and die for visually striking, beautiful horror films. It doesn’t matter what subgenre of horror it is or how gory it is—I love beautiful horror. The more provocative, the better. I can’t look away from a film like Suspiria or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I wouldn’t even if I could because I love the delicious contrast between watching something scary when it’s in a bold, ornate, artistic cinematic language.
Many horror films don’t bother with a strong, unifying visual concepts, so I find it refreshing when a film achieves a distinct cinematic style and tone. It’s even better when that distinct cinematic style transforms the horrors on screen into something gorgeous and compelling.
A beautiful horror film is special. A keen grasp of color and form and composition add layers of understanding to the story. An inspired eye deepens my apprehension, heightens my terror, and distills my horrific realizations into an unforgettable viewing experience. A beautiful horror film makes me wish I’d taken more film classes in college.A beautiful horror film scratches its way into my brain where it makes a permanent home.
A little while ago, I shared a list of my favorite beautiful horror films. The list included classic horror films with almost universally praised aesthetics, like The Shining or Let the Right One In. Lately, I’ve decided the time has come to publish an additional list including more of those visually magnificent films I love so much.
For this list, I’ve put together an eclectic group of beautiful horror films ranging from a noir-inspired B-movie to a French horror classic to last year’s prettiest and most disappointing movie. Here they are, in chronological order, resplendent and unsettling.