One of my favorite parts of the Halloween season are the TV specials.
As I’ve written about before, Halloween allows us to pretend to be someone you’re not for a little while. And Halloween allows our culture to engage in some some macabre activity that we don’t usually acknowledge. Death and violence are part of life, but Halloween helps us confront those unpleasant topics in a safe and fun way.
The Halloween TV special is part of that. Every show from The Simpsons to Mad Men has had Halloween episodes. For a short time, we get to watch our favorite characters explore secret sides of themselves, become monsters, run from zombies, and attend some of the craziest parties you’ve seen. It’s fun, it’s a little scary, and it’s an integral part of Halloween.
I’ve listed my favorite Halloween TV specials here. They range from silly to heartwarming to straight gross (looking at you, Community), but they’re all tons of fun, infusing Halloween scares into your favorite weekly shows.
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 that are both scary and 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 well-made films, and 3) they scare audiences in thoughtful, enjoyable, entertaining ways.
Even if you’re a horror movie buff, 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.
***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.
What makes a horror movie truly incredible? The same thing that makes any movie incredible—excellent writing, nuanced acting, gorgeous artistic design, daring cinematography, visionary directing, and a killer score.
With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding a prestigious Hollywood event, you probably wouldn’t expect a glittering affair like the Cannes Film Festival to include hard-hitting horror films. Cannes is where Hollywood finds a steady stream of award-worthy and award-baiting movies, right? The heavy, boring, historical drama stuff, right?
That’s true. Cannes is prestigious for a reason. Every year, the festival showcases emerging talents alongside master filmmakers, and many of those films are either good enough or earn enough hype to be marketed as highbrow cinema.
But it’s also true that Cannes has a deep commitment to varied viewpoints. The festival loves innovation. It pays tribute to films from different countries, different voices, and different genres, including horror.
Oh May, such a beautiful month but oh-so boring when it comes to horror movies.
Maybe it’s because May marks the official start of the summer blockbuster season, so distributors dump their mediocre movies where they can, knowing full well that the new Marvel or DC movie will dominate the box office. Or maybe we just have to wait a little longer for the good stuff (July 1 for The Purge: Election Year!!!).
Whatever the reason, May’s list of horror movies leaves a lot to be desired. Some of these have potential, like Bite or What We Become. Hell, Most Likely to Die looks hilarious. So I should reserve judgment. And honestly, I tried.
At the very least, some of these could make a really good RedBox or VOD rental.
Check them 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.
Texas is a unique place, full of crazy but true stories. It also has some demonstrably false ones that say a lot about Texas as a state. It’s a larger-than-life state, full of legendary characters and strange circumstances the give rise to the most bizarre stories. As such, Texas is the kind of place that easily lends itself to artistic expression, particularly in novels, paintings, TV, and movies. The horror genre is no exception, and there are some exceptional Texas horror movies.
In keeping with my Texas-themed posts this month, I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite Texas horror movies. These six films all take place in Texas and examine certain facets of Texas life and identity in one way or another. These films deal with religious doubt, big city vs. small town tension, criticisms of Texas culture, and lots more. These Texas horror movies are as imaginative and violent, just like Texas.
I don’t know about you, but my idea of a perfect date night is a indulging in a round of classy cocktails, enjoying a nice dinner, and afterwards, maybe going out to a bar or club. Wherever the course of the date takes me, it almost always ends with watching a film of some kind. And I almost always want to watch a horror film. Especially a romantic horror film.