Stories For Ghosts

Horror Through a Literary Lens

Category: Real Life Horror (page 2 of 4)

My Five Favorite 2016 Horror Movies, In No Particular Order

I think most of us would agree that 2016 was a rough year, full of highs and lows. The horror movie scene was the same, full of some mediocre titles, but peppered throughout with both good and bad films. I, for one, loved a number of films that were very good and some others that were enjoyably bad (The Shallows is my new favorite guilty pleasure).

So, as a way to close the book on 2016, I’ve compiled a list of my five favorite horror movies of 2016. I’m not saying these are the best horror movies of 2016, because I haven’t seen every single horror movie released in 2016. I just really loved these five movies. I tried to represent a bunch of different types of horror films from the year. Some appealed to my own particular horror tastes and preferences. Others challenged my preconceived notions about the limitations of some horror-subgenres. They were all great movies that disturbed me in one way or another, sticking with me for days, even weeks.

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Originals vs. Remakes: I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas

***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 second reboot.

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They Live – John Carpenter’s Timeless Political Masterpiece

**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.

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Marfa, Train Tracks, and Haunted Hotels: The Best Texas Ghost Stories

October is slowly coming to a close, and Halloween is almost here. Since I’ve been doing my Halloween Blogging Blitz, I’ve reflected a great deal on scary stories. Why do we tell them? Why do we listen to them?

I hope that, if you’ve been following any of my posts, that you’ve learned that so many horror films and books are art. And as art, they help us reflect upon reality: our prejudices, our fears, our secret desires. The right ghost story has much to teach us.

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10 Creepy Short Stories You Can Read Right Now

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!

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I Put a Spell On You – My Favorite Witch Horror Movies

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.

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Did You Know I’m Utterly Insane? 9 of the Best Serial Killer Films

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?

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Creep Yourself Out – 10 of the Best Scary Podcasts

One of the regrets I have about growing up is that I no longer experience “Story Time.” It sounds silly, and maybe it is, but I really loved sitting quietly and listening to a teacher or parent tell me a story. Who didn’t love Story Time as a kid? Especially around Halloween, when the teacher might bust out a worn, cherished copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? Even as a teenager, when I attended summer camp, we regularly stayed up to tell creepy stories. We took turns telling ghost stories around a literal campfire.

Such stories, told with the human voice, possess their own kind of magic. There’s something genuine and compelling about a lone voice weaving a story in the night, while others listen in complete silence. There is the gravitas of ritual, the authenticity of an intimate story, and the hard-to-deny possibility that maybe it’s real after all. Without the spectacle of movies or the artful words of a book, you’re left with the truth, right? Possibly?

These days, I can satisfy my love for stories with movies, television shows, novels, short stories, and comics whenever I want. But they don’t approximate that shivery joy of listening to a person tell you a spooky story.

That’s why I love podcasts. With the right podcast, I can find that same thrill combined with wonderfully complex, creepy stories that fold and unfold, drawing in threads and characters and events that transport me to an entirely different world. Using only the power of the human voice.

In honor of Halloween, I want to share some of my favorite scary podcasts with you. These podcasts vary from graphic true crime, to macabre accounts of historical events, to fictional audio plays. They’re all compelling in their own ways, keeping readers, including myself, coming back for more week after week.

Enjoy!

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30 Years of IT – Stephen King’s Enduring Horror Classic

September marks the 30th anniversary of IT, Stephen King’s infamous 1986 novel. IT sold a million copies in its first run and spent weeks on the bestseller lists. Like so many of King’s horrific tales, IT has broken past the confines of the own story, spreading chills and scares through our nation’s pop culture and terrorizing children and adults alike. People who have never read the book or seen the movie still know who Pennywise the Clown is.

Case in point: when I was a child, all the kids at school knew about the killer clown from the sewer who murdered children. We’d all seen that black book with the blood red letters sitting on a parent’s bookshelf, just out of reach. Some of us had even seen parts of the movie. Many of us had no idea what the actual story was; it didn’t stop us. We whispered and teased each other about Pennywise, and no one really wanted a clown at their birthday party. Such was the strength of that symbol.

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Book Review: The Girl With All the Gifts

***Spoiler Alert: mild spoilers for The Girl With All the Gifts***

Stagnation is one of the unfortunate things avid horror fans deal with. For such a rich, dynamic, and prolific genre, horror often trades in the same old stories. Sometimes I feel like I’m experiencing the same serial killer thriller, haunted house short story, or post-apocalyptic zombie movie again and again. I’ve noticed a cycle to subgenres’ popularity, where one well-made novel or movie captures hearts, minds, and nerves only to inspire a lot of not-as-good imitations. Knock-offs are churned out in record time, and in the rush to get the product out, creators sacrifice quality and imagination.

This isn’t always a “bad” choice, since there is a lot of money in producing cheap and gory horror movies. It happened with zombies, possessions, and found-footage horror movies. It happens with vampire novels. These works have entertainment value, but they aren’t groundbreaking and become uninteresting.

As a fan, this vicious cycle frustrates and bores me. Horror is such a flexible genre, with great potential for constant reinvention. I always enjoy horror that offers something different.

Thus, whenever a movie or novel comes along that breathes new life into a worn-out subgenre, I can’t help but take notice.

Enter The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey’s innovative 2014 zombie novel. In a subgenre rife with the same old survivor story, Carey wrote a compelling zombie narrative reexamining many of the assumptions of the genre. The result is a novel that offers a fresh perspective on many of the tried-and-true themes of the zombie genre, including survival at all costs, us vs. them mentalities, and what it would take to rebuild a shattered world.

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