Happy New Year!
January is one of my favorite times of the year because there’s so much hope for this brand new shiny year we have before us. With a new year comes new surprises and delights, and I feel particularly optimistic since I think 2017 owes us for 2016. Hopefully that will extend to horror movies.
The good news is that, if the January horror movie release calendar is anything to go on, 2017 is off to a solid start. We’ve got some awesome horror-action films, a M. Night Shyamalan psychological thriller, and a promising urban legend supernatural horror movie, among others that could surprise us.
***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.
After the horror movie drought that was the October 2016 film release schedule, November 2016 is a sight for sore eyes. With only a handful of movies, November gives us a ton of potentially beautiful and disquieting horror films. Naomi Watts returns to deliver the scares, the director of The Strangers puts forth a claustrophobic creature feature, and The Eyes of My Mother promises to be a wild ride.
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.
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?
As a devoted horror movie fan, I’ll be the first to admit that the market is glutted with horror movies, most of them terrible. And not in an enjoyable, over-the-top kind of way.
If you are a horror movie novice searching for a good horror movie, the simultaneous breadth of availability and lack of choice entertainment can be discouraging. Horror fans feel that way all the time, but we know enough that we can make solid recommendations.
With Halloween fast approaching, I decided to compile a list of horror movies with solid scares and terror but that are accessible to a wide audience. The following films are perfect for a Halloween watch party because 1) they are relatively easy to find on streaming services, 2) they’re actually well-made films, and 3) they scare audiences in thoughtful, enjoyable, entertaining ways.
Even if you’re a horror movie buff, I feel like this list is a nicely packaged bundle of great horror movies that present a strong argument for the merits of horror. These movies are harrowing, smart, witty, and funny. They are heartbreaking and profound. They reinforce the magic of telling stories through the medium of film and legitimize a genre that critics loves to hate.
One of my favorite things about horror movies is how long they’ve been around.
People started making scary films as soon as they could. Audiences have always loved going to horror movies. Films like Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were widely popular. A lot of these movies became genre classics. You’ll find them on many best-of-horror lists, where they are widely praised for employ innovative techniques and practical effects to terrify audiences.
There’s just one problem—the majority of those films are no longer scary by today’s standards.
Bad news, horror fans, there are only three theatrical release horror movies in August. Three! And only one of them is a wide release!
I know, right? What happened? This summer started off strong with The Conjuring 2 and The Shallows. I know August is usually kind of “sleeper” month for movies, but this I was expecting more than this!
The good news is that two out of three of these horror movies look promising, in a RedBox or Amazon Prime kind of way. Hell, Don’t Breathe might be worth the price of a ticket just for the Silence-of-the-Lambs-esque night vision scenes.
Check ‘em out.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Easter service, mulling over the more horrific aspects of many religious stories. As the gospel was read, I listened to all the details of Christ’s death and resurrection. I couldn’t stop thinking about how bloody and traumatizing the whole event must have been, on a physical, emotional, and existential level. And yet, this story brings happiness and comfort to millions of people. It’s not the only one either, since holy books are often filled with ghastly depictions of violence. It’s weird to think that these brutal stories are revered as sacred.
There are some months where the horror movie fountain overwhelms with a wide selection of scary films across a plethora of subgenres. Other months, not so much.
April has turned out to belong to the latter category, with barely any wide-release horror movies to be found (though the one wide-release horror film looks awesome). But don’t despair! April has brought us a small but eclectic mix of horror movies covering a range of subjects. There’s a serial murder thriller aiming for social commentary, a vicious survival gore-fest, a moody and stylish exploration of insanity, and a darkly surreal collection of fairy tales.
So while you might be counting the days until June when The Conjuring 2 comes out or July for the Purge: Election Year, maybe expand your horror horizons and try a movie you wouldn’t normally watch. While most of these films have secured only a limited theatrical release, they will be available on VOD the same day.