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!
***Mild Spoilers for The Terror: Infamy***
During the second semester of my first year of law school, I took Constitutional Law. I remember feeling so excited about this course because of all the landmark cases I would study and how much more I would understand about my country. Our Constitution is a complex document—hell, the ink was barely dry on the Constitution before the Founding Fathers started fighting about what it all actually meant. Consequently, The Supreme Court has used the powerful tool of judicial review to shape this country by deciding on the most pressing issues of the day. I couldn’t wait to read Brown v. The Board of Education (1954) (racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional), Miranda v. Arizona (1966) (suspects in custody must be actively informed of their 5th amendment rights if their statements will be used against them at trial), and Texas v. Lawrence (2003) (laws prohibiting private homosexual acts between consenting adults are unconstitutional).
Any halfway decent attorney will tell you that America has done some shit in its past that we’ve never fully processed let alone apologized for. Supreme Court decisions are no exception. Some decisions are a black stain on our country and our ideals. Decisions like Korematsu v. United States (1944), which held that the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII was constitutional and integral to our national security.
What does all this have to with AMC’s horror television series, The Terror?
What is it about the spooky, provocative short story that moves us so? Whether it’s listening to the big kids recount ghost stories around a campfire or reading creepypastas under the covers in the middle of the night, we cannot resist the pull of eerie, enigmatic stories that linger long after they’ve finished imparting their lessons.
Personally, I’ve been fascinated and transfixed by these kinds of stories my whole life. Ghost stories, urban legends, local folklore, internet nightmares–I love all of them. And one of the reasons why I love them so much is due, in large part, to watching The Twilight Zone with my grandmother.
Before I could really understand what I was seeing, I remember visiting my grandparents’ house and watching episodes of the Twilight Zone on what was once The Sci-Fi Channel. My grandmother, who was a loving and fun grandma, was also a well-mannered and restrained woman who never had a messy house and just wasn’t a fan of dark fiction, be it books or movies tv shows. (Assuming that it was a hard-hitting period piece or something, she and my grandfather once walked out of a screening of Men in Black. Another time, I made her watch X-Men with me, and she told me in that it was the worst movie she’d ever seen.) I wasn’t allowed to watch certain movies or TV shows because they were “unpleasant” or “inappropriate.” But for some reason, she didn’t mind The Twilight Zone, and she let me watch them. Sometimes, she watched them with me.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I don’t know about you, but every year I make a resolution to read more horror novels. I experience varying levels of success each year (because life happens). Not that it stops me from buying more and more horror novels and adding to my already out-of-control horror novel collection.
Sigh. There are just too many intriguing horror novels out there, and so little time.
But I feel optimistic about this year! Really, I do. I am making a concerted push to read more in general, especially when it comes to my beloved horror genre. Just as I saw in 2017 and 2018, this year will see the publication of a ton of cool horror novels and novellas, so I certainly won’t have any problems finding good options. Choosing among them will be a different story, however.
All in all, there are 15 horror novels that have caught my eye so far, with something for everyone. Specifically, I’m interested in Caitlin R. Kiernan’s latest haunting short story collection, The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan; Josh Malerman’s new dystopic vision, Inspection; the gothic-inspired nightmare PEtra’s Ghost by C.S. O’Cinneide; Grady Hendrix’s delightful-sounding My Mom’s Book Club Killed Dracula; and the arresting A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs.
The time has come for the Sundance Film Festival 2019!
You guys, I’m so excited to see what all Sundance has in store for us on a horror front. Year after year, Sundance has provided some really cool cutting edge horror ranging from the commercially and critically brilliant (2017’s Get Out) to some very intense horror films (like last year’s Hereditary).
In fact, Sundance has always been a showcase for up-and-coming horror. Sundance brought us last year’s Mandy and Revenge in addition to The Blair Witch Project, American Psycho, Saw, 28 Days Later, The Descent, and The Witch.
Truly, the Sundance Film Festival is one to watch, which is why I’ve covered it for both 2018 and 2017. This year, I’m excited to see the wide array of horror films. There are so many! And so many different kinds. There’s the arthouse gore of Velvet Buzzsaw, the black comedy of Little Monsters, and survival horror of Corporate Animals. I can’t wait to see what films have legs and become future horror heavyweights.