Right now in Austin, Texas, film lovers from all over are converging to revel in their love of film. But not just any kind of films–weird films. Gory films. Films that make people squirm in their seats one minute and laugh out loud the next. I’m talking about Fantastic Fest 2019, the largest genre film festival in the United States.
Fantastic Fest 2019, as in past years, is devoted to horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and “just plain fantastic movies from all around the world.” Further still, the festival “is dedicated to championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema, celebrating new voices and new stories from around the world and supporting new filmmakers.” Over the years, the festival has put its money where its mouth is, having screened the world premieres of John Wick, There Will Be Blood, Zombieland, Split, and Apostle.
This year, Fantastic Fest 2019 has several notable films, including the world premieres of the latest Stephen King adaptation In The Tall Grass and horror anthology The Mortuary Collection. I’m particularly excited for Nic Cage’s Color Out of Space, The Lodge (from the team that scarred me forever with Goodnight Mommy), and documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street. Also, if I’m being honest, this Wrinkles the Clown documentary looks wild.
Earlier this month, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2019) delighted audiences and critics with a brand new slate of exciting films, not least among them being horror movies.
I just love festival horror films. Most of the time, horror
films that make the festival circuit are much more exciting and innovative than
your run-of-the-mill major studio, teen-horror flick. They may not be the best
movies in the world, and they may not be the scariest, but I feel that such
films should be encouraged and promoted. Why watch the 8th Paranormal Activity movie when you could
see something new and daring from some up-and-coming talent?
Enter TIFF 2019, which has done a stellar job of showcasing groundbreaking horror movies, some of which even went on to become huge hits commercially and critically speaking. TIFF 2019 has shown such films as The Grudge (2002), Hostel (2005), À l’Intérieur (2007), Black Swan (2009), The Lords of Salem (2012), The Ritual (2017), and Halloween (2018), among many others.
This year, the star at TIFF 2019 is Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, a moody psychological-horror film starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattison. The film is his follow up to The Witch, which took the horror genre by storm, dividing audiences and igniting a debate about what horror movies can do. Also at TIFF 2019 is the latest Nic Cage B-movie horror flick, Color Out of Space. There’s also a bunch of indie horror films with promising premises and fresh, hungry talent in front of and behind the camera.
Check out the TIFF 2019 lineup below!
You know how sometimes there’s nothing good to watch? So many cable channels, so many streaming services, so many Blu-rays in your house, and yet you can’t find anything remotely interesting to watch? Either you’ve seen all the horror movies you own, or everything airing looks lame. So you end up watching The Office or Parks and Recreation for the five billionth time, or whatever your I’m-bored-and-want-the-TV-on show is.
Well, buckle up buttercup, because it’s time for the 2019 London FrightFest Film Festival! This year marks the 20th anniversary of FrightFest, which is kind of insane when you think about all the amazing horror movies that have graced this horror-focused film festival. The list of groundbreaking and iconic horror FrightFest films is very long—Audition, Ginger Snaps, Pan’s Labyrinth, Martyrs, and The Babadook all count themselves members of this club, just to name a few.
This year, FrightFest will screen over 80 horror films (So. Much. Horror!), which means that BUCKETS of upcoming horror films are about to flood the market looking for distributors. And that means you’ll be seeing those films shortly, either in theaters or on streaming services. Even the most difficult to impress gorehounds and the pickiest psychological horror fans are sure to find something to like.
(To read my past coverage of Cannes, see my 2016, 2017, and 2018 posts.)
One of the more exciting trends in horror over the last few years has been the proliferation of horror movies making splash debuts at renowned film festivals. Horror has been defying expectations and proving the genre haters wrong by showing up and showing out at festivals like Sundance and SXSW. Even genre festivals like Fantastic Fest and Frightfest have increased their profiles to become hotly anticipated in horror and non-horror circles alike.
as a horror fan, I feel like it’s about damn time. Many critics and filmmakers
have turned their noses up to horror, so it’s nice to see the industry not only
embrace horror but start to experiment with how the genre can tell compelling
Cue the Cannes Film Festival, arguably the glitziest and most buzzworthy film festival in the world. In years past, horror films like Evil Dead 2, Pan’s Labyrinth, Train to Busan, and The Neon Demon. have garnered much attention and acclaim at Cannes. Additionally, Cannes serves as an important marketplace and networking nexus for filmmakers looking to secure additional funding or distribution for their horror films. Such attention helps the whole genre do better, which is why I catalog the horror films showing at both the Cannes film festival and the Marché du Film (Cannes’ Film Market) every year.
year’s Cannes festival doesn’t have as much horror as I would like to see
(there’s never enough horror as far as I’m concerned). It’s disappointing that
there aren’t more horror films at Cannes, but rest assured, those that will
screen are ones to watch. This small but strong group of horror films promises
to offer audiences a lot more than the same old tired remakes and half-assed
February hasn’t always been a strong month for horror. In fact, the early part of each year used to be seen as a dumping ground for meh movies for the entire film industry. And when it came to horror, a lot of those films were not really worth anyone’s time.
But thanks to the horror boom, which has revitalized the genre, we’re seeing interesting, high-profile horror releases year-round. This February is very strong, with splashy new horror movies straight from the festival circuit (Velvet Buzzsaw and Piercing), solid wide releases (The Prodigy and Happy Death Day 2U), and one VOD release that infuses the Frankenstein mythos with Jewish folklore (The Golem).
February also sees the release of an important and illuminating documentary, Horror Noire, about the historical role of black people both in horror films and behind the camera.
So yeah, February horror has a lot to offer. Enjoy!
***Warning! Spoilers for Halloween (2018)***
It’s a rare thing to see a horror movie sequel that expands upon and develops the source material in an exciting, worthwhile way. It’s even more unusual and unexpected for a film with as storied a following as John Carpenter’s Halloween. A groundbreaking film that spawned a stream of uninspired sequels, the original Halloween finally has a sequel worthy of its legacy in the latest Halloween film, from Blumhouse Productions.
This horror fan enjoyed the film immensely because it did much more than pay fan service to horror legend. Halloween (2018) dove deep into the genre in a way that slashers rarely do. Sure, it’s got the body count, jump scares, and genre conventions of a slasher (along with some clever role reversals and callbacks), but Halloween will be remembered as a meta-slasher.
40 years after the events of John Carpenter’s Halloween, Laurie Strode, the only survivor of that fateful night, is convinced that Michael Myers will come for her again. Between not treating her PTSD and struggling to live a functional life, Laurie has become a hardcore survivalist. But she’s lost a lot in the process. She has a strained relationship with her family—daughter Karen, son-in-law Ray, and granddaughter Allyson. She is a recovering alcoholic. She doesn’t seem happy at all. But at least she knows that when Michael Myers returns, she’ll be ready for him.
And sure enough, Michael Myers escapes from state custody the night before Halloween. He hasn’t forgotten about Laurie either, and he will stop at nothing before he finds her and kills her. After all, she’s literally the one that got away.
Few things make me happier than finding one of my favorite actors starring in an old horror movie. The cheesier and more awful the movie, the better I enjoy the newbie actor’s performance. It’s comforting to know that these rich and famous actors, all at the top of their industry, started at the bottom like everybody else.
For a genre that doesn’t get much respect, horror consistently delivers new talent. Many of today’s A-Listers got their start in low-budget and shoddy horror films, while others were a little luckier with their early roles.
I figured, being as it’s Halloween time, I should pay homage to their early roles. First, it shows you just how much, um, range, some of these actors have (or not). Second, it’s fun to wonder how their careers would have been different had they not been Classroom Girl #1 in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary.
There’s also something so delightful about knowing that Tom Hanks, one of my favorite actors, started his acting career in a horror/thriller with terrible dialogue and ATROCIOUS acting, as evidenced by this clip.
If nothing else, I hope you enjoy this list for its Bad Movie Night potential. Seriously, I’ve never seen Leprechaun or Hellraiser: Hell World (what an amazing title!).
So, without further adieu, here is a list of 20 actors who saw their film debut in horror, followed by 20 actors who had early roles in some “iconic” horror films.
The horror genre is littered with controversial films, films that inspired censorship and protests and extreme backlash. While controversy is certainly good for box office takes, it’s not always good for the critical interpretation of a film. Horror fans, especially, know that controversy does not always merit the backlash our favorite genre films receive. A violent or unsettling or difficult movie doesn’t mean it’s bad—sometimes, it means that the film has done its job.
Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero’s 1968 black-and-white exploitation classic, is one such film. What modern audiences see as an undisputed but perhaps dated work of essential horror, contemporary audiences were shocked and appalled by Night of the Living Dead. It was violent! It was gory! It tested the very boundaries of decency!
Despite its critical success, the movie simply did not deserve to exist, according to some critics. As the Variety review put it, “Until the Supreme Court establishes clear-cut guidelines for the pornography of violence, Night of the Living Dead will serve nicely as an outer-limit definition by example.”
But it’s precisely because of those outer-limits that films like Night of the Living Dead are essential. They ask us to question art, to question the way we tell stories. They force us to consider uncomfortable implications of what we’re seeing onscreen. In short, they ask what deserves to be committed to film and why.
There are a ton of new August horror releases this month, and a wide variety at that! That’s what I’m talking about! This broad array of new horror is what I’ve been missing from the last few months—a mix of big-budget wide releases, artsy indie flicks, and some bizarre low-budget films.
I’m excited for zombie-apocalypse film Patient Zero, as well as the moody, ghostly gothic thriller The Little Stranger. And of course, I can’t wait to see The Meg, because who doesn’t love a ridiculous action-horror movie about sharks?
Check out all of the August horror releases below! Enjoy!
Ah, the Prom Horror Movie. The guiltiest of my guilty pleasures!
They’re so cheesy, so campy, so over-the-top and wonderfully bad, though not always. Some prom horror movies have unexpected depth and nuance, exploring (sometimes clumsily) the dynamics of high school and the pressures of being a teenager. Just like the high school horror movie, the prom horror movie fumbles towards peering at the dark underside of the high school experience as memorialized in high school’s forever hyped event.
It makes total sense that prom is a big deal. In high school, especially the closer to graduation they are, teenagers find themselves stuck in a weird, awkward limbo where they don’t have the rights and privileges of an adult but know enough to want them, where the responsibilities and obligations of adulthood loom on the horizon. The intense desire for agency, meaning, and purpose melds with teenagers’ immature assumptions that agency, meaning, and purpose can be found in one glitzy, epic night.
Of course, it rarely happens that way. Prom night is almost never the incredible, life-changing event that Hollywood movies would have you believe. Most of the time, you get all dressed up in your high school best and spend a few hours swaying on the dance floor or sitting at your table with your friends, wondering why your crush hasn’t noticed how awesome you look. And then a drunk junior pukes Malibu all over the dance floor, and you and your friends leave and go to Denny’s on the way to someone’s house to watch Donnie Darko and try to sneak beer out of the garage refrigerator.