Here in Texas, March is a bit of a tumultuous month. The weather is crazy, with hot days and chilly nights, and crazy pollen causing allergies like you wouldn’t believe. And the event scheduled is packed—you’ve got the weeks-long Cook-off and Rodeo, along with St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Break.
So too, the horror release schedule for March 2017 is a roller-coaster of horror movies. There’s blood and ghosts and humor and social commentary and fascinating stories. We’ve got some big, splashy gore fests in The Belko Experiment and Life, along with the artsy cannibal flick Raw. Later in the month, we see some pensive and creepy offerings with Dig Two Graves and The Blackcoat’s Daughter. And don’t overlook indie films The Devil’s Candy and Here Alone, both of which might prove to be pleasant, bloody surprises.
Let’s see where March takes us!
Raw (Limited, then expanding wide on March 17th)
“Stringent vegetarian Justine encounters a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world during her first week at veterinary school. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her principles and eats raw meat for the first time. The young woman soon experiences terrible and unexpected consequences as her true self begins to emerge.”
I’ve been waiting for this movie for months!!! Since last year’s Cannes Festival, to be exact. Cannibalism is still a huge taboo for literally all of humanity (rightfully so), but horror has normalized it to an extent, particularly within the context of the zombie genre. In a zombie movie, a person eating another person is so routine that that, in and of itself, isn’t shocking.
But when a nice college student starts eating people out of nowhere, you can’t help but take notice. Raw may not be the gore fest it was hyped as, but it is still going to be well worth your money. As Vulture put it, “Raw is certainly nasty, but its gore is strategic and sparse…It is, however, a very stressful film to watch from beginning to end.”
I can’t wait!
Personal Shopper (Limited)
“A young American in Paris works as a personal shopper for a celebrity. She seems to have the ability to communicate with spirits, like her recently deceased twin brother. Soon, she starts to receive ambiguous messages from an unknown source.”
How. Very. FRENCH.
Word is this film isn’t a typical horror movie, so don’t expect jump scares or intense chase scenes. It’s a ghost story wrapped up in a mystery and will feature creepy moments and a slow build of tension. And it won a ton of awards in France, so there’s that.
To be honest, I’m still not totally convinced this is a horror movie or even a “supernatural chiller.” Not every ghost story is horror, so if that’s what you’re looking for, Personal Shopper may not be for you. But I do think that this is a movie worth seeing.
The Belko Experiment
“The American Belko Company in South America is mysteriously sealed off at the start of work, leaving 79 people trapped in an office building, forced to kill each other or be killed.”
Work is such a huge part of our lives. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Time Use Survey, employed Americans spend 8.8 hours of the day at work. They also spend 7.8 hours sleeping. That leaves only 7.4 hours to spend time with family, work-out, enjoy leisure activities, clean your house, and anything else you need to get done. Which sucks.
Cue The Belko Experiment, which looks like a cross between Office Space and Battle Royale and combines all the awkwardness of the office with murderous group dynamics. The central premise of the film seems to be commentary not only on shallow nature of the office social structure, but the corporate attitude towards expendable employees. It’s a rather obvious metaphor, but it could be powerful.
The Devil’s Candy (Limited)
“A struggling painter is possessed by satanic forces after he and his family move into their dream home.”
I have to confess that this kind of film didn’t seem like my cup of tea. At first. However, I noticed several details and read some reviews. Now I think, you know what, maybe I will see this. It’s not my thing, but it seems promising for several reasons.
For one, the film stars Pruitt Taylor Vince, a character actor who I know best as Gerry Schnauz, a serial killer featured in The X-Files episode “Unruhe.” That episode messed me up. It actually still messes me up every time I watch it. And Mr. Vince is a large part of my experience. At the very least then, The Devil’s Candy has a formidable villain. And with Ethan Embry of Can’t Hardly Wait fame turning in a performance as a tortured artist and family man, I got to say that this cast looks great.
The film has also garnered mixed to positive reviews, which isn’t surprising considering the director is none other than Sean Byrne, whose debut was delightfully wicked film The Loved Ones. The Guardian’s review said that The Devil’s Candy “plays with the formalism of classic 1970s and 1980s horror” and is “as much a love letter to the various branches of the metal family tree as it is an exercise in tightly wound classic horror.”
Sometimes I find good horror in the most unexpected places. Maybe The Devil’s Candy will be that movie.
“Life tells the story of the six-member crew of the International Space Station that is on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. As the crew begins to conduct research, their methods end up having unintended consequences and the life form proves more intelligent than anyone ever expected.”
Alright, who else thinks this looks like an updated Alien without the grim spaceship and huge xenomorph? The whole premise is that a spaceship crew encounters extraterrestrial life and things go horribly wrong. This isn’t a bad premise, but we’ve definitely seen this before. Or have we?
I think the most interesting thing about Life could be the actual lifeform. I like the idea of dispensing with a big scary monster and using a smaller though no less vicious organism. Alien is one of the finest horror movies made and the monster is nightmare fuel, but that taps into our preexisting fears of big animals, right? But something without the characteristics of an animal, no arms, no stingers, no teeth—it’s a different challenge, isn’t it? How would you stop something so small?
Yeah, this looks like a rehash upon first glance. But I don’t want to write-off Life just yet.
“Widow Ruth is seven months pregnant when, believing herself to be guided by her unborn baby, she embarks on a homicidal rampage, dispatching anyone who stands in her way.”
Another unexpected entry, Prevenge hits a personal nerve for me. Like many young women my age, I am constantly asked about my plans to start a family. At times, I field everything from unsolicited advice about having a baby before thirty to helpful yet awkward tips on how to conceive. People mean well, but it’s very strange to be the target of such attention. I sometimes feel like it’s not really about me but about the baby, and I am a means to an end.
Which brings me to Prevenge, and its satire of this societal attitude that a baby calls all the shots. How far does this attitude extend? Where is the line between “The baby wants you to eat four cheeseburgers” and “The baby wants you to pick up unsuspecting men and murder them?” It sounds absurd, but I think that’s the point. I love it. I really want to see it.
Dig Two Graves (Limited)
“After 13-year-old Jacqueline Mather loses her brother in a mysterious drowning accident, she is soon visited by three moonshiners who offer to bring him back to life, but at a grim cost. As the dark history of her grandfather, Sheriff Waterhouse, is unearthed, the true intentions of the moonshiners come to light.”
Oooo, what a pretty little southern gothic tale we have here!
I want to see this movie just for the cinematography, but I’m also intrigued by the story. It’s bad enough that when a grieving young girl makes a deadly bargain with three strangers straight out of Something Wicked This Way Comes, but it’s even worse that there’s some dark family secret at work. Dig Two Graves seems every bit the tense horror movie about grief, regrets, and creepy snake-worshipping rituals I didn’t know I wanted.
The House on Willow Street (Limited)
“Kidnappers realize they’re in over their heads when they take a woman with a dangerous secret.”
Someone in the comments described this trailer as Don’t Breathe plus Evil Dead, which I felt was really spot on. I don’t have much to add to that assessment other than IFC Midnight hasn’t put out too many impressive horror movies. So, while The House on Willow Street looks a little better than the standard fair, it also looks jumbled and riddled with clichés from many different horror subgenres.
Ehhh, I’ll pass.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (Limited)
“During the dead of winter, a troubled young woman embarks on a mysterious journey to an isolated prep school where two stranded students face a sinister threat from an unseen evil force.”
Can this movie come out already? It feels like it’s been eighty-four years. Normally it’s a bad sign when a film’s release date is delayed numerous times.
However, I’m hoping that it was well-worth the weight, especially know that distribution heavy-hitter A24 has acquired rights to the film. If you’re not playing along at home, A24 distributed Best Picture Winner Moonlight, along with critically acclaimed films like The Witch, Room, and Ex Machina.
And if this brand-new trailer is any indication, The Blackcoat’s Daughter looks like a dark, moody number with atmospheric dread to spare. I’m hopeful.
Here Alone (Limited)
“A woman struggles to survive on her own in the wake of a mysterious epidemic, which has decimated society and forced her deep into the unforgiving wild.”
We’re all very tired of zombie/survival horror movies, right? I know I am. And yet, Here Alone seems promising.
Not every movie has to be an epic like World War Z, where the audience witnesses the complete desolation of human civilization. There can and should be more intimate stories, tales of individuals struggling in the aftermath. That’s where the humanity of the disaster lies. That’s where more hard hitting, emotional horror can be harvested.
When it comes to this film, I like that the scope of the story is so small. It’s about one woman who, like everyone else, survived the outbreak and is desperately fighting to survive longer. I really like how the movie creates her world for us. And I like how there’s a mystery surrounding the fate of her family. Here Alone seems poised to be a thoughtful, well-crafted zombie movie delivering both scares and difficult emotional moments.