***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?
With summer drawing to a close, I find myself contemplating how the
meaning of “summer” has evolved throughout my life. As an adult, summer means vacation,
renewed gratitude for Texas-proof air conditioning, and drinking copious
amounts of rosé poolside. As a teenager, summer was consumed with plans to drop
the ten pounds that held me back from being irresistible, scrape together spending
money, and secure a sensitive-but-jocky boyfriend. As a kid, summer was
dominated by summer sports camps, vacation bible schools (blergh), and babysitting
gigs. Whatever my plans, summer means watching tons of TV shows and movies,
which prevent me from getting too bored and getting into too much trouble.
As a kid, I watched so many movies. Everything from old black and white
classics to mediocre romcoms to trashy teen slashers. I especially adored those
adventure movies of the 80s, the iconic films where a group of scrappy latchkey
kids, preteens like I used to be, face a fantastic and dangerous challenge.
Just like with the enticing and taboo slashers where teenagers talked and acted
like adults, so too did those 80s movies suck me into dream worlds where kids
answered the frightening and tempting call of adventure. The threat of injury
and death were always very real. The threat lingered constantly, and the
vicarious possibility of being the casualty, of never making it back home, of becoming
stuck in the nightmare world, was all too compelling.
Those stories have always spoken to me as well as an untold number of my contemporaries. This is the reason why Stranger Things, fueled by what critics merely assume to be nostalgia, enjoys immense popularity.
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 the plethora of fantastic horror available right now, it’s a great time to be a horror fan. Not only are horror movies getting better and better, told from a variety of viewpoints and with tons of cool new stories, but television is also experiencing a horror renaissance. And y’all, there are just too many options to choose from.
It all started with the premiere of What We Do In The Shadows this past week, which got me thinking–what other cool new 2019 horror TV shows have come out or are coming out soon?
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.
*Mild spoilers for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina*
To the delight of many horror fans (myself included) witches are enjoying a moment in the sun right now. This year has seen films like Hereditary and Suspiria make waves with their frightening portrayals of one of civilizations oldest horror archetypes. And now, Netflix has thrown its hat into the ring with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the horror comic of the same name, itself a dark reimagining of a beloved Archie icon.
Similar to the light and wacky ’90s show Sabrina the Teenage Witch, this new Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is a half-witch, half-human teenage girl, living with her magical aunts Zelda and Hilda. As if navigating the pitfalls of high school and teenager problems weren’t enough, Sabrina must also contend with the added responsibilities of her blossoming magical abilities.
That’s where the similarities end, because like the horror comic, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina casts Sabrina and the other witches as everything old-timey witch-hunts said witches were: full-on devil-worshipping cannibals who hold black masses in the woods and have a dangerous propensity to interfere with mortal affairs. In this new TV series, Sabrina must decide if she will embrace her human side and forsake her witch heritage, or if she will join her family by signing her name in the Devil’s book and give up the mortal world.
It’s a fun and macabre show, with lots of entertaining twists on old TGIF material. But more importantly, the fascinating thing about The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is how sharply it examines the power dynamics of being a witch. Power and influence trickle down from Satan, to his high priests (all men), to influential coven members, until those at the very bottom tear at each other for scraps. This dynamic is intentionally juxtaposed against Sabrina’s yearning to harness her fledgling powers and use them as she sees fit. Continue reading
*Beware, here be mild spoilers for The Terror.*
Maybe it’s because I’m a life-long Texan and I have no concept of what real winter is, but I love horror movies set in cold climates. I find that there’s a certain exoticism to an icy, snowy horror setting, where the threat of freezing to death is just as real as being eaten by a monster. That’s part of what draws me to films like Let The Right One In, The Shining, 30 Days of Night, and, of course, The Thing.
Now that it’s the end of July, and because I live in Houston, this time of the summer is particularly brutal. To ignore the oppressive heat and humidity, I’ve been spending most of my time indoors watching television and sucking down cold drinks. Every Texan knows that the best way to take advantage of our powerful air conditioning is to watch a movie that makes you feel cold.
Which brings me to The Terror.
It’s time for the Golden Globes!
First given in 1944, the Golden Globes are widely regarded as the official kick-off of Hollywood’s awards season. The Golden Globes are prestigious, given to the best in both Film and Television, which makes the Golden Globes a sort of hybrid between the Emmys and the Oscars. Unlike its big sister, the Oscars, the Golden Globes split the film categories into “Drama” and “Musical or Comedy” while eschewing categories for technical achievements, like cinematography and editing. The Golden Globes are focused on big names and talent, which ensures that a lot of beautiful people show up to the ceremony and a lot of people tune in to watch. (Also, they serve dinner and tons of booze during the ceremony, which means lots of drunk people. Always good for ratings!)
So while Hollywood doesn’t regard the Golden Globes as prestigious as the Oscars, Hollywood does see the Golden Globes as an opportunity to recognize achievement from a larger group of films. More importantly, the Golden Globes take place before the Academy announces Oscar nominations and give a sharp insight into who the Academy might choose to recognize that year.
You’d think that would have translated into more and more horror films receiving recognition, but alas, that hasn’t happened.
This year, however, The Shape of Water and Get Out are both nominated in film, with Stranger Things and Twin Peaks receiving some nominations in television. It’s heartening to see such recognition, especially for Get Out, which is more of a straight horror movie than The Shape of Water, but no less carefully and expertly made.
Today is Friday the 13th, which makes it a perfect release date for Amazon’s new series, Lore. This new anthology series is directly inspired by Lore, an awesome and exquisitely researched podcast started by novelist Aaron Mahnke.
And I could not be more excited. Lore is one of my favorite podcasts.
As a podcast, Lore retells old legends, myths, and real-life ghost stories from America and Europe, but these aren’t your average campfire takes. Mahnke is a wonderful storyteller who carefully researches and questions the stories he tells, all of which weaves a stunning picture of human nature. You may have heard stories of the Moth Man or the Jersey Devil or Elizabeth Bathory, but never like this. And Amazon’s new series continues this tradition by adapting Mahnke’s podcast episodes for the small screen.
In honor of the new series, I wanted to share my 13 favorite Lore episodes with you. It was no small task to narrow down the 70 (and counting!) episodes to 13, so I had to make some hard choices. I hope you enjoy them!
One of my favorite parts of the Halloween season are the TV specials.
As I’ve written about before, Halloween allows us to pretend to be someone you’re not for a little while. And Halloween allows our culture to engage in some some macabre activity that we don’t usually acknowledge. Death and violence are part of life, but Halloween helps us confront those unpleasant topics in a safe and fun way.
The Halloween TV special is part of that. Every show from The Simpsons to Mad Men has had Halloween episodes. For a short time, we get to watch our favorite characters explore secret sides of themselves, become monsters, run from zombies, and attend some of the craziest parties you’ve seen. It’s fun, it’s a little scary, and it’s an integral part of Halloween.
I’ve listed my favorite Halloween TV specials here. They range from silly to heartwarming to straight gross (looking at you, Community), but they’re all tons of fun, infusing Halloween scares into your favorite weekly shows.