After the intense year of horror movies that was 2017, I’m confident that the 2018 horror calendar will be just as full of solid and groundbreaking films.
True, there are lousy horror movies every year, but there is an undeniable upward trend of quality, well-made horror movies. This year, the 2018 horror release calendar has a bevy of goodies for us, like from horror novel adaptions Annihilation and Birdbox, the latest entry in horror franchises such as The Purge: The Island and The Nun, and brand new stories like A Quiet Place and Slaughterhouse Rulez. There’s so much I don’t really know what to be more excited for, but the new Suspiria reimagining (don’t call it a remake!) is probably the 2018 horror movie I’m most anxious for.
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 was a kid, my parents had a peculiar Halloween tradition. Every Halloween, after my sister and I had returned home with our hard-earned candy, my parents levied a Candy Tax against us. We were told that this national tax was paid in exchange for parents inspecting the heaps of Halloween candy children received through trick-or-treating. I went years believing this boldfaced lie, reluctantly “paying” my candy tax of mini Milky Ways and boxes of Dots, while Tootsie Rolls were tax exempt. It wasn’t until much later that I realized what a hilarious and kind of messed-up tradition that was.
I have this really bad habit where, when I’m home by myself, I hop on the internet and venture into dark corners to find scary stories. Sometimes I go to Wikipedia and fall into a black hole of unsolved mystery pages, emerging hours later. Sometimes I go to true crime sites and then I have to get up and double check to make sure all the doors and windows in my house are locked. If there’s a spooky story on the internet, I’ll probably read it and freak myself out. But, my favorite internet scary stories, hands down, are Creepypastas.
I don’t know why I do it–maybe I get bored, maybe I have an overwhelming case of morbid curiosity. I don’t know why, but I love Creepypastas.
Part ghost story, part urban legend, part cursed email chain, these tales thrive for the same reasons folklore thrives. We love to hear outlandish, frightening, gruesome stories, and even the tiniest kernel of truth puts us under a spell. Creepypastas (so named for its original term of “copypasta” which refers to copy-and-pasted text that has gone viral) are user generated, meaning any random person on the internet has the power to contribute a creepy story.
The internet can be a nasty place, but Creepypastas are one of the nice (albeit weird and terrifying) parts about the internet. People from anywhere in the world can read a person’s strange story and have an immediate reaction. Indeed, Creepypastas are shared everywhere. People who have nothing else in common might bond over the chills they felt after reading a particularly good Creepypasta. Authors have gone on to write whole novels out of their Creepypastas, and Creepypastas have been adapted into short films on Youtube. There are whole communities devoted them writing and sharing them. They spread and grow and develop their own gravitas, their own lore.
In a way, Creepypastas are the 21st century equivalent of ghost stories told around campfire.
So come, gather round and let me share with you some of my absolute favorite awesome Creepypastas. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments!
I’ll come right out and say it – most of the October horror releases are not good this Halloween. In fact, some of these look downright terrible.
I’m not mad, but I am super disappointed. I was looking forward to Rings and Underworld: Blood Wars. I was expecting a release calendar full of solid (or even just serviceable) horror releases, but not this year.
But then Rings was moved to 2017. And then Underworld: Blood Wars was pushed back to 2017. Naomi Watts makes her return to horror in creepfest Shut In, but that doesn’t come out until November.
Which leaves us with this random group of horror movies.
Seriously? I am so very underwhelmed. Not all of these are terrible—Under The Shadow seems promising—but when Boo! A Madea Halloween looks better than 5 out of 8 movies on the October release schedule, something is very wrong.
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.
In my last post, I explored the historic origins of Halloween before it came to America, turns out, this secular American holiday started out as a Pagan celebration in the British Isles. Thanks to the influence of the Ancient Romans, I persisted into the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church strategically turned the holiday into a celebration of saints, martyrs, and the faithful dead.
There are tons of similarities between present day Halloween and Halloween as it was celebrated hundreds of years ago—costumes to scare away bad spirits, veneration for the dead, respect for the bounty of all before the long winter, and community unification. For a time, Halloween held religious significance for its participants; yet this is not the case for most Americans.
Let’s dive in, starting with the birth of America.
Halloween’s current incarnation as an American holiday is focused mainly on secular pursuits. As I wrote about in my latest blog post, Halloween is a time to come together and indulge a part of ourselves we don’t acknowledge during the rest of the year. We dress up, we throw spooky parties, we trick-or-treat. We also spend a ton of money on Halloween, shelling out nearly $7.4 billion dollars for Halloween in 2015. $2 billion dollars of that was spent on candy alone. It proves to be a nice shot in the arm for the stock market, buoying the economy until the holiday shopping season rolls around.
Halloween has come a long way from its beginnings as a harvest festival, from the ancient Celts to the Romans to Medieval Catholics to Irish immigrants traveling to America. Halloween, like all holidays, speaks volumes about the society that celebrates it. As the people observing Halloween evolve, so does the holiday. The magic of holidays like Halloween lies in the threads of truth that speak to all peoples. There are certain rituals that have persisted and will persist in for as long as we celebrate Halloween, cutting across gender, race, religion, socio-economic position, geography, ethnicity, and nationality.
It’s October 1st! The official start of the Halloween season!
If you’re an American, chances are you’ve encountered the signs of Halloween long before today. Grocery stores have already set out candy and decoration displays. Target and Walmart are stocked with the season’s most in-demand costumes. Party City is running commercials for tacky gothic decorations and cheap costumes during every commercial break. And while you might proclaim your annoyance at these opportunistic cash grabs, the truth is (if you’re reading this) you secretly relish all these things as harbingers of Halloween.
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.