Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

Category: Socially Conscious (page 1 of 2)

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival and Horror Movies

The time has come for the Sundance Film Festival 2019!

You guys, I’m so excited to see what all Sundance has in store for us on a horror front. Year after year, Sundance has provided some really cool cutting edge horror ranging from the commercially and critically brilliant (2017’s Get Outto some very intense horror films (like last year’s Hereditary).

In fact, Sundance has always been a showcase for up-and-coming horror. Sundance brought us last year’s Mandy and Revenge in addition to The Blair Witch Project, American Psycho, Saw, 28 Days Later, The Descent, and The Witch

Truly, the Sundance Film Festival is one to watch, which is why I’ve covered it for both 2018 and 2017. This year, I’m excited to see the wide array of horror films. There are so many! And so many different kinds. There’s the arthouse gore of Velvet Buzzsaw, the black comedy of Little Monsters, and survival horror of Corporate Animals. I can’t wait to see what films have legs and become future horror heavyweights.

Enjoy!

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My List of Most Anticipated Horror Films for 2019

A new year, a new slate of horror movies to anticipate. This year, as with nearly every year, there are so many horror films to choose from. And as with every year, there are some movies that look DOA (like La Llorona, which looks so cheesy) as well as some films that will blow us all away (Jordan Peele’s Us looks way intense, I’m ready but so unprepared at the same time).

That being said, this year’s anticipated horror list includes a whole lot of sequels (4 total) and remakes (2 total). 2019 is the year of Stephen King, as his stories have inspired THREE of the fourteen movies on my list. But there’s also a fair bit of original content, like Us, Brightburn, and Ma.

I’m just so excited to see all of these. As always, stay tuned for my reviews of these films! Enjoy!

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The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Teen Drama & Resisting the Patriarchy

*Mild spoilers for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina*

To the delight of many horror fans (myself included) witches are enjoying a moment in the sun right now. This year has seen films like Hereditary and Suspiria make waves with their frightening portrayals of one of civilizations oldest horror archetypes. And now, Netflix has thrown its hat into the ring with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the horror comic of the same name, itself a dark reimagining of a beloved Archie icon.

Similar to the light and wacky ’90s show Sabrina the Teenage Witch, this new Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is a half-witch, half-human teenage girl, living with her magical aunts Zelda and Hilda. As if navigating the pitfalls of high school and teenager problems weren’t enough, Sabrina must also contend with the added responsibilities of her blossoming magical abilities.

That’s where the similarities end, because like the horror comic, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina casts Sabrina and the other witches as everything old-timey witch-hunts said witches were: full-on devil-worshipping cannibals who hold black masses in the woods and have a dangerous propensity to interfere with mortal affairs. In this new TV series, Sabrina must decide if she will embrace her human side and forsake her witch heritage, or if she will join her family by signing her name in the Devil’s book and give up the mortal world.

It’s a fun and macabre show, with lots of entertaining twists on old TGIF material. But more importantly, the fascinating thing about The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is how sharply it examines the power dynamics of being a witch. Power and influence trickle down from Satan, to his high priests (all men), to influential coven members, until those at the very bottom tear at each other for scraps. This dynamic is intentionally juxtaposed against Sabrina’s yearning to harness her fledgling powers and use them as she sees fit. Continue reading

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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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All the Fresh Horror Films at Fantastic Fest 2018

Festival season continues its steady momentum of exciting new horror movies this week at Fantastic Fest 2018. Held in Austin, Texas, Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the United States, which if you want a sneak peek of upcoming horror films sure to delight and shock, you pay attention to Fantastic Fest.

In Fantastic Fest’s own words, “The festival is dedicated to championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema, celebrating new voices and new stories from around the world and supporting new filmmakers. We are committed to supporting film in its most provocative, ground-breaking and lesser-known forms and giving the audience a chance to find new favorites and future genre classics.”

In the past, Fantastic Fest has screened horror films such as Zombieland, SplitDark SongThe Void, The Witch, We Are What We Are, It FollowsThe Babadook, and Sinister. Last year, Fantastic Fest screened The EndlessGerald’s Game, and Revenge, among others.

Essentially, Fantastic Fest is legit. And the list of horror films is long! There are 31 horror films total at Fantastic Fest! (It’s a sign!)

Even better, this year’s Fantastic Fest seems especially committed to showcasing horror films from all over the world–Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and Tunisia, to be exact. For horror fans like me, the chance to learn about new foreign horror is thrilling, especially when mainstream American horror fails to deliver.

Without further adieu, let’s check out what Fantastic Fest has to offer! Continue reading

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July Horror Movies: The First Purge and Lots of VOD Releases

Straight up: July horror is a little light on theatrical releases this month. But there are tons of VOD releases to make up for the lack of major July horror releases. Of course, I want to see The First Purge, which promises all the violent fun and heavy-handed metaphors we’ve come to love from The Purge series. I’m also interested by some of the quieter VOD releases, such as The Lighthouse, The Devil’s Doorway, and Dead Night. There are a bunch of other July horror films to choose from, so check them out!

Enjoy!

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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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Unsane and the Horror of Ignoring Women’s Stories

As a genre, horror is especially adept at taking advantage of film’s voyeuristic nature and creating an uncomfortable vicarious experience. And more than any genre, horror can hack apart an audience member’s conception of fear and flip it on its head. The genre can sow horror and terror where the was none, forcing the audience to see once benign situations in a more sinister light (or shadow).

Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane, a film rooted in a young woman’s experience of being imprisoned in a mental asylum with her stalker, does precisely this. Unsane forces its audience to confront a premise that is scary for anyone, but for women especially. The film uses the negative cultural stereotypes we have of women and mental health to craft a film that recreates in lurid digital detail the discomfort and fear every woman has faced at some point in her life. It is a waking nightmare, less a work of fiction and more a worst case scenario of what happens when a man won’t take no for an answer.

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March 2018 Horror – The Strangers Are Back!

It’s March, which means that spring is right around the corner. It also means that the steady stream of horror we’ve been enjoying this year runs a little slow during the spring months before the summer horror season starts in May.

But don’t fear! March promises some intriguing films, despite the short list of horror films this month. There are two great foreign horror films, the long-awaited sequel to The Strangers (2008), a documentary about a real-life haunting, and the latest psychological thriller/horror from Steven Soderbergh. It’s shot on an iPhone and Claire Foy gives a raw, frazzled performance that’s the exact opposite of her role as Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown (which I also love. I just love Claire Foy, and I can’t help it).

Check out the trailers below!

March 2

The Lullaby (Limited)

“A 19-year-old woman falls into a deep depression after the birth of her first son. In her paranoia, she begins to hear voices and comes to believe that a strange entity is haunting her child.”

What a coincidence (really!)! I was just talking about this South African horror movie as an example of foreign horror from the African Continent! It looks very creepy, though I can’t really discern the quality of the film from this trailer. I hope it’s a strong film, only because the subject matter and the hopeful exploration of post-partum psychosis deserve a nuanced discussed.

March 3

The Ravenous aka Les Affames (Netflix)

“A village in Quebec is terrorized by a flesh-eating plague.”

Here’s another foreign horror film for you—a zombie movie from Canada. Damn Canada! I know you’re very good at body horror, but not particularly known for your zombie films. Where did this artsy, old-school Romero, understated movie come from? It’s freaking me out. This is not good for my nerves, Canada, you must understand this. And I say that as a seasoned horror fan.

But seriously, I remember hearing about this movie when it was making the festival rounds at TIFF, and I understand it’s pretty good, both for its scares and its exploration of social themes. I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s popped up on Netflix. Add this one to the watch list!

March 9

The Strangers: Prey at Night (Wide)

“Mike and his wife Cindy take their son and daughter on a road trip that becomes their worst nightmare. The family members soon find themselves in a desperate fight for survival when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park that’s mysteriously deserted — until three masked psychopaths show up to satisfy their thirst for blood.”

I’m both excited and freaked out for this movie because, as far as horror subgenres go, home invasion movies burrow under my skin and stay there. The Strangers is widely regarded as one of the most intense home invasion horror movies in recent years, and for good reason, which makes The Strangers; Prey at Night a highly anticipated release. So far it seems to be getting some good reviews, but it’s still too early to tell which way this will go. Lucky for me, I get to attend a screening of the film tomorrow night, so stay tuned for my review!

 

March 16

Demon House (Limited)

“Paranormal investigator Zak Bagans buys a supposedly haunted house in Indiana and documents what happens when he moves in.”

Woooo a cursed movie! Earn your check, marketing team!

But seriously, this is a documentary about an actual real-life case, though I’m not sure how flexible the film is being with the term “documentary” here. The movie centers on a house that used to belong to the Ammons, a Gary, Indiana family that claimed they were being haunted and tortured by as many as 200 demonic entities.

I highly suggest reading the story as published by the Indy Star. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and creepier still, it’s written in a very even tone. It neither believes the Ammon family story about demonic possession nor does it deny the story—it merely lays out the story.

Essentially, I’m way more interested in the Ammons, their story, and a potential film adaptation about the intersection of socio-economic factors, psychology, and religion than I am with this documentary about a guy who buys the house after the family flees.

March 23

Unsane (wide)

“Sawyer Valentini relocates from Boston to Pennsylvania to escape from the man who’s been stalking her for the last two years. While consulting with a therapist, Valentini unwittingly signs in for a voluntary 24-hour commitment to the Highland Creek Behavioral Center. Her stay at the facility soon gets extended when doctors and nurses begin to question her sanity. Sawyer now believes that one of the staffers is her stalker — and she’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive and fight her way out.”

This film is on my list of Most Anticipated Horror Movies of 2018! I am always up for a good psychological thriller/horror, especially when you can’t be sure if the protagonist is crazy or not. While reviews have been positive, they haven’t been quite glowing. Despite that, I think the film will be worth seeing for Claire Foy’s performance, Steven Soderbergh’s experimental use of an iPhone for his single camera, and its a solid (though perhaps uninspired) psychological horror.

Are y’all excited for these movies! Tell me about it in the comments.

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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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