Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

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Jordan Peele Cements His Status as a Horror Visionary with “Us”

With his remarkable feature film debut, Get Out, writer-producer-director Jordan Peele struck a nerve and captured the cultural zeitgeist. Many horror fans were in awe of the achievement and felt vindicated that a horror movie received such critical and commercial success. We wanted to see what he would do next—what message would he send: political, social, cultural, or a mix of all three? How would he deliver this message? What fucked up, masterfully directed story would he unravel?

Most of all, we wanted Peele to get crazy, so he got crazy.

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SXSW Review: Them That Follow

I find that one of the most appealing aspects of the horror genre is its versatility. You can have horror films set in a time and a place that we may never see, that we think we know everything about, that we live in currently. Because fear is a condition of the human experience, horror creeps into everything. It persists no matter the time or place, lurking behind scraggly trees, crawls between the thin walls of a dilapidated house, and stares back us from the faces of our loved ones.

Them That Follow, which recently enjoyed its Texas premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, exemplifies that same kind of quiet, inescapable horror. It’s the kind of scary movie that isn’t interested in crescendos of blood and agony. Instead, Them That Follow focuses on more abstract questions about the personal beliefs and instincts that anchor our lives, the questioning of which leads to quiet but crushing moments of horror.

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SXSW Review: Little Monsters Has Lots of Heart and Zombies

Want more SXSW horror besides Little Monsters? Check out my SXSW 2019 Horror Lineup post.

The zombie horror-comedy is so popular that it’s nearly a separate horror sub-genre. Films like Dead Alive, Shaun of the dead, and Zombieland have shown just how fun and raucous a zombie film can be without skimping on the gory set pieces we all love. But not all zombie comedies meet the mark. To be successful, a zombie horror-comedy must command two separate films in one, and as such, must strike a balance between the gravity of a zombie outbreak while creating relatable, funny characters.

At first, Little Monsters might seem like too risky a premise to strike that balance. Set in present-day Australia, Little Monsters follows Dave (Alexander England), who is crashing on his sister’s couch after his life craters. When he’s not smoking weed, he’s watching his adorable 5-year old nephew, Felix (Diesel La Torraca). Once Dave meets Felix’s lovely kindergarten teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), he decides to pursue her by volunteering to chaperone the class’s field trip to a local petting zoo. Little do they know that the American army base next door to the petting zoo has been secretly conducting zombie experiments (naturally). The zombies escape, of course, and Dave and Ms. Caroline find themselves responsible for the lives of eight adorable, innocent, precocious kindergarteners. And if that wasn’t enough, they must also contend with Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad), a highly annoying kids’ entertainer who shows his true sleazeball colors once shit goes down.

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SXSW Review: A Delightful “What We Do In The Shadows” Pilot

Adapting movies into television shows is always tricky business. Just as with film remakes, television adaptations face a host of problems from struggling to expand the scope of the original to failing to honor the spirit of the source material. For every Westworld, there are countless series that tried to adapt the likes of Blade or Taken. These series often fail to capture the spark of their inspiration, either by neglecting to involve the original creative team or by rushing production and failing to put forth a quality product.

However, judging by the pilot episode, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows series will succeed on both these fronts. Not only does the pilot capture the original film’s quirky and beloved sense of humor, but it also builds a firm foundation for what should be an entertaining and creative exploration beyond the original.

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The SXSW 2019 Horror Lineup Is Here!

When it comes to genre and big-name film festivals, the South By Southwest (a.k.a. SXSW) Film Festival has always been eager to showcase horror movies. This acceptance of horror isn’t surprising considering how committed SXSW is to feature “genre standouts” and “celebrate raw innovation and emerging talent from both behind and in front of the camera.” Overall, films shown at SXSW cut across a wide range of genres, tones, and influences, often encapsulating Sci-fi/Horror, fantasy, intimate dramedies, high-profile comedies, and everything in between.

Essentially, SXSW is a really fun film festival, with way more audience favorites and diverse voices than some of the more prestigious festivals. The festival purposefully cultivates a certain rebellious spirit and often screens films that are both smart and crowd-pleasing, accessible yet weird enough to be worthy of the host city (Keep Austin weird!). Notable horror titles from past SXSW festivals include The Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blade 2, the original Cabin Fever, The Cabin in the Woods, Insidious, Penny Dreadful, Creep, The Invitation, Ex Machina, A Quiet Place, and Hereditary.

So yeah, horror fans should definitely pay attention to what comes out of SXSW.

Not only does this year’s slate look as impressive as ever, but Stories For Ghosts will also attend SXSW in person to cover as many horror films and TV pilots as possible! I can’t wait! No longer will I have to admire the festival from afar, as I did in 2017 and 2018. I’ll get to be on the ground, soaking up everything from Jordan Peele’s latest horror movie Us, to AMC’s new horror series NOS4A2 (based on Joe Hill’s novel, to indie films like Them That Follow and Darlin’. I feel like a goth kid in a Hot Topic all by myself with my mom’s American Express.

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March Horror Movies Deliver the Goods

Y’all, it’s a March Horror Miracle!

March is my birthday month, and the universe has seen fit to gift me (because it’s all about me) with a lot of new March horror movie releases! Many of these films were on the festival circuit in preceding months, and thus they have been on my radar for a long time. What did I do to deserve so many of them being released in my birthday month?

Where do I start? Of course, I am most excited for Jordan Peele’s Us, starring Lupita Nyong’o, which looks straight frightening. There’s also festival circuit darlings Climax, Book of Monsters, and The Field Guide to Evil. And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given a true gift in the form of Lindsay Lohan’s latest…um…role as a WEREWOLF in Among the Shadows, a cheeseball of a horror movie that will live in Bad Movie Night Infamy for years to come.

I love it.

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Not Your Average Demon – SFG Reviews “The Golem”

***Some Spoilers for The Golem (2018)***

Editor’s Note: I’m so excited and honored to announce that Stories For Ghosts has a new contributing writer, Andreana Binder! She’s a talented and whip-smart Houston writer who loves dissecting horror films and books, particularly when it comes to Stephen King and American Horror Story. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us. First up: Andreana’s review of The Golem.

As an audience, demons derived from Christian/Catholic belief, like in The Nun (2018) or The Conjuring series, are pretty common. Also fairly common are the demons with loose origins, like in Annabelle Creation (2017), and Insidious (2010). Most of the time, we’re dealing with demons from some version of Hell – and while it’s not uninteresting, it’s been done before.

That goes double for all the movies that include the Christian/Catholic Devil – again, the devil isn’t uninteresting, we’ve just seen him a lot. The presence of Christian/Catholic demons in religious horror films perpetuates itself, and while I always hope to see the demon story told differently, sometimes it falls flat. It’s kind of like Frankenstein or Dracula movies – same character, mostly the same strengths, weaknesses, and challenges – where we as an audience are counting on something “different” to occur. Because the story’s been told before, we may rely on other factors like the dialogue, direction, special effects, or cinematography to give us a fresh experience or an exhilarating ride.

Thus, lately, as far as demons go, I’ve been sitting back like, “Meh. Demons.” We don’t get too many movies about Haitian demons, or entities like Pap Legba (seen recently in American Horror Story: Coven.)

I haven’t seen any golems lately. So rarely are we presented with a story rooted in Jewish folklore that gives us a demon to wrestle with. And because I feel like I get heavy doses of demons from other belief systems, The Golem (2018), rooted in Jewish folklore and mysticism, was pretty refreshing.

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Robert Aickman – The Best Horror Writer You’ve Never Heard Of

Editor’s Note: Greetings, dear reader! I am so excited to introduce Stories For Ghosts’ latest contributing writer, David Tobin! David is a longtime horror fan, especially when it comes to horror literature. As such, he thought it would be appropriate to introduce you to Robert Aickman, an incredibly gifted yet underrated writer of strange fiction. Glad to have you, David!

Robert Aickman is the genius of nightmare. His stories create a voiceless dread, feeding on characters and images that are endlessly disturbing. Sooner or later, reading him, you just want to wake up from what feels more and more like a very bad dream:

I caught hold of her left arm by putting both my hands round her wrist, and tried to lug her up toward me, so that I could feel her thrown against me, and could cover her neck and front with kisses, if only she could make me want to … I gave this great, bad-tempered, disappointed pull … She came up towards me and then fell back again with a sort of wail. I was still holding on to her hand and wrist … What had happened was that I had pulled her left hand and wrist right off.

“The Swords” (1975) From Cold Hand In Mine
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“Horror Noire” Is Required Viewing For Horror Fans

At its core, film entertainment should appeal to a wide array of people. Everyone loves a good story, even if that story originates from a time, place, or culture very different from one’s own. If the plot is compelling and the characters engaging, we can find just enough of ourselves in the narrative to feel a connection.

Too many audiences, however, find themselves excluded from these narratives, or worse, included as degrading stereotypes or bland caricatures. Representation matters, especially when one kind of audience is continually and persistently asked to empathize with characters who exist in a world in which a large portion of the audience does not exist. Or if they do exist, it’s as nothing more than condescending, perhaps even harmful stereotypes.

These shallow portrayals are the chief focuses of Horror Noire, the groundbreaking documentary, based on the collection of essays by Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman. Directed by Xavier Burgin, the documentary illuminates the historical depictions of black people in American horror movies. In exploring the representations of black people in horror, Horror Noire holds a mirror up to how societal attitudes towards black people shaped their appearances (if any) in horror movies and vice versa.

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Velvet Buzzsaw Review – Biting Satire and Disappointing “Horror”

Do you ever wonder how or why certain pieces of art are worth millions of dollars? I think about that a lot, especially as someone who loves art. As an art lover, it doesn’t always make sense to me how some pieces can sell for $90 million while others go ignored. Are we saying that those big-ticket paintings are better art than those that don’t command those prices?

Of course not. The art scene, where critics reign supreme, gallery owners function as gatekeepers, and everyone wants their cut, sounds like the very opposite of how art should be handled. It seems twisted and deeply nihilistic to reduce artistic expression to its dollar amount.

This is the premise behind Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan Gilroy’s latest effort. Fresh from its premiere at Sundance Film Festival, Velvet Buzzsaw is a satirical horror film that aims to tackle this vapid world and those who inhabit it.

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