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.
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.
***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.
Hello Internet! Sorry I’ve been away for a while. I had to take some time off for personal reasons. I’m back now!
I wish my first post back was a little more noteworthy; alas, December isn’t traditionally known for solid horror movie releases. December 2016 is no exception. There are only three horror movie releases this month, and despite the potential of Pet, there’s nothing here to write home about.
However, if you tire of all the great Christmas horror movies out there, give these a shot.
I’m excited to announce that I am going to attend a séance this Halloween! I’ve never been to one before, though I’ve always been very intrigued by them. It seems like much of the time, we horror fans never have the opportunity to engage with paranormal activity, let alone experience it. So when this opportunity came along, I leapt after it.
All that being said, I’m still a skeptic, albeit an open-minded one. I’ve visited purportedly haunted places as part of my Project Haunted House series. I’ve spoken to people who believe in ghosts and people who do not. I’ve come to the conclusion that the vast majority of ghostly activity is not supernatural has rational explanations. Séances alone are very open to criticism, with a history of fraudulent mediums and numerous public showings where séances were debunked. As Carl Sagan put it, “Seances occur only in darkened rooms, where the ghostly visitors can be seen dimly at best. If we turn up the lights a little, so we have a chance to see what’s going on, the spirits vanish.”
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.
Zombie movies might be the most enjoyable of all the horror movie subgenres, and for good reason. There’s something enthralling and thrilling about watching a group of desperate survivors cling to life and battle the undead. Full of campy fun and impressively gross scares, zombie films allow us to entertain secret fears (and fantasies) of surviving and kicking-ass in a post-apocalyptic world.
Zombies as a horror archetype go deeper than that. Unlike a vampire, which retains its capacity to reason, a zombie represents a human being deprive of all higher brain function. A zombie is a human being reduced to noting but a snarling drive to consume. They do not and cannot obey the social order. They don’t observe human decency.
In a zombie movie, anyone can be turned into a zombie; anyone can become lost to the zombie hoard. On the flip side, a zombie apocalypse is the perfect time find out what a person is made of and how far they’re willing to go to survive.
It’s kind of weird to think of a place where people don’t celebrate Halloween. As Americans, most of us have never known an October 31st that wasn’t observed with a nationwide costume party and ritualistic candy binge-eating. I for one do not remember a time where the 13 Days of Halloween movie marathon didn’t exist, nor can I recall a single time a grocery store wasn’t decked out for Halloween in October.
Of course, there are many reasons why Halloween, a festival with Irish origins, made its way to cultural prominence in America. And there are many reasons why the holiday didn’t spread to other parts of the world.
But as American pop culture spreads across the world, Halloween goes with it. Many countries have begun to celebrate Halloween with their own additions and twists, much to the dismay of some older and more conservative citizens. At the same time that young people and children gravitate towards the fun and macabre aspects of Halloween, people with religious and nationalist concerns regard Halloween with great suspicion, afraid that the American holiday will replace their own traditions.
When I have time, I read tons of horror novels. The written word is my first love–I have always loved how a novel can create immersive experiences with nothing more than precise language, a compelling story, and my own imagination.
But I’m also a lover of film, and admit that movies and books excel at different things. A novel might give you a shocking glimpse inside a character’s mind in a way a film could never replicate. But a film can take advantage of its visual medium to gracefully depict scenes that would be too clunky to write about. However, books and movies go hand in hand, and often times the stories I loved to read are made into wonderful film adaptations.
But sometimes there is a noticeable difference in quality from book to movie, especially in the horror genre. Sometimes, classic novels are butchered on screen, as if the filmmakers didn’t even try to capture the genius of the novel. Other times, a movie succeeds in cutting through the bloated prose of a book to deliver a sophisticated and streamlined version of the story.
I try to steer clear of comparisons because books and movies are fundamentally different, but I can’t always avoid it. So I decided to discuss some of my favorite horror novels that were later adapted into films. Some of these were faithful adaptions. Others were not and took a big risk in departing from the source material, with mixed results.
*Note: Here be spoilers for these demonic movies*
Of all the creatures in the world of horror, demons might be the scariest. Demons possess us, robbing us of our volition over our bodies. Demons manipulate us, using our own human impulses and emotions to lure us down a doomed path. Demons tempt us, reaching deep into our hearts and laying bare the black truths we don’t care to admit.
We think of demons almost exclusively in a religious context, especially considering how the three major monotheistic world religions have shaped the lore. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have their differing views about demons—how the present themselves, how they became demons, how they wield influence over the human realm. But they all agree that demons are malevolent spirits who have turned away from God.
Through multiple religious texts as well as some literary works, a common narrative has emerged: demons are ruled and led by Satan, a fallen angel. When God created man and exalted him above even the angels, Satan refused to obey God. For his insolence, Satan was cast out of Heaven, forever denied God’s grace. Ever prideful and bent on vengeance, Satan has spent every moment since his fall on a crusade the tempt humanity to turn away from God.