***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.
Early this week, I was invited to an advanced screening of The Strangers: Prey at Night. I was excited, mainly because I enjoyed 2008’s home invasion horror thriller The Strangers, back before I knew I was a horror fan. In fact, The Strangers was one of the movies that made me realize I did like horror movies after all, so it’s always had a special place in my cold, black heart.
However, The Strangers is far from a perfect movie. Upon watching it for the second time, I have wondered what it would have been like with better writing, among other things.
The news of a sequel ten years after the fact was exciting, if for no other reason than home invasion movies scare the crap out of me. There was a part of me that was curious to see if the sequel would improve upon the original’s shortcomings…or merely rehash the same old stuff.
Oh, but it was worse than that. The Strangers: Prey at Night was disappointing. I was not looking for a socially-conscious horror movie going into The Strangers, but dammit, I wanted an entertaining and skilled effort. And I don’t think that is too much to ask!
*Mild Spoilers for Hounds of Love*
Despite being a seasoned horror fan, there are a few subjects really scare me. Serial killer movies, for instance, make me profoundly uncomfortable and anxious. Such stories lack the supernatural and fantastical elements of other horror movies, which I often use to create a degree of psychological distance between myself and fear. But serial killers are real. They target real people. The only psychological distance I can use to insulate myself from this fear is the fact that a serial killer has not come after me thus far.
Despite being a tough movie to get through, I thought Hounds of Love was amazing. I think it’s one of the best horror films of the year for both filmmaking technique as well as its exploration of female identity in a male-dominated context. Hounds of Love finds unexpected resonance not because of its male serial killer, but because of his female accomplice.
Mild Spoilers for Goodnight Mommy
I’d like to preface this review by assuring you that I am no lightweight when it comes to watching horror films. On-screen violence and gore usually elicits the expected level of shock and disgust, while body horror reliably grosses me out.
Part of my love for scary movies is remembering that a movie is only a movie, and art is only art. The onscreen images are powerful, but they aren’t real. I’ve never forgotten that fact. I have never had to run for a bucket, nor have I fainted in a movie theater.
So when I almost fainted during Goodnight Mommy, it was because Goodnight Mommy is so precisely calibrated to create a deeply disturbing experience that I forgot to breathe.
As I lay on the carpet in my living room, waiting for the walls to stop swaying, I realized that Goodnight Mommy is one of the most harrowing horror movies I’ve ever seen. My friend spoke softly to me, coaching me through breathing exercises and assuring me we didn’t have to finish the movie if I didn’t want to. Which was so embarrassing, to say the least.
This past week, I finally found and watched The Final Girls, which I had been dying to see for a while.
Upon locating that last RedBox that was saving a copy of the movie for me, I was ecstatic. I’d really enjoyed the trailer and was intrigued by the official synopsis. I was fairly confident that this film was going to be both a spoof and homage to the slasher genre. In other words, I figured that this movie was going to be another The Cabin in the Woods, or a slasher version of Shaun of the Dead. I don’t think I was wrong to think that, given the clear effort on the part of the film’s marketing campaign. A lot of the early reviews suggested that the film had promise, and so I allowed myself to get hyped.
(Here be spoilers.)
When is a scary movie not a horror movie?
I ask because I recently watched Alex Ross Perry’s enigmatic and tense film, Queen of Earth. The movie stars Elizabeth Moss (yay Mad Men!) as Catherine and Katherine Waterston as Ginny, two women whose once close friendship has become strained after each has suffered personal catastrophes.
I’ll be honest. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) had been on my to-watch list for a long time, but I was afraid to watch it.
Why? As far as horror movies go, it doesn’t have a notorious reputation like Martyrs or A Serbian Film. At first it seems like your typical found-footage-demonic-possession horror film, but unlike other found-footage-demonic-possession movies, The Taking exploits our fears of growing old and losing our independence. More to the point, the movie uses a character’s struggle with Alzheimer’s to propel the viewer into the horror of losing one’s mind.
After a month of crazy work-life imbalance, I’m finally posting my review of Spring, a brand new horror movie from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead. These guys are no strangers to the horror genre—Benson and Moorehead worked together on the 2012 horror movie Resolution. Benson also directed and wrote the “Bonestorm” segment of V/H/S: Viral. Spring, the most recent project from these up-and-comers, is available on certain online platforms.
I was excited to watch, hopeful that it would be another well-constructed, thoughtful horror movie. It did not disappoint.