Defining Horror

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that IT dropped last weekend and has absolutely been killing the box office (pun probably intended). There has been a multitude of praises showered upon the movie (most of which I agree with––my review is forthcoming; I want to see it again before reviewing!), but, of course, there have also been some critiques. The most interesting “critique” and, perhaps, the most frustrating, is the notion that IT isn’t a horror movie.

You can probably tell by my use of scare quotes that I highly disagree with this. I’m a bit biased, because I did love this film, and I wish nothing but wild success for the kids of this movie and Bill Skarsgard––who nails Pennywise. But, again, my formal review is forthcoming.

I concede to the fact that the movie does spend a long time building the relationships between the Losers Club. But, they had to do this, otherwise why would the audience care or root for these twelve-year old kids? The strengths of this story hinges entirely on the Losers Club. They are the most important piece. Without this strength, the story just isn’t successful.

That all said, IT is about a monstrous “clown” (Pennywise is actually the embodiment of fear itself and chooses its form based on the victim’s fear, but he’s mainly a clown in this movie) that hunts and slaughters children. The movie opens (spoilers?) with Georgie, a six-year old boy, getting his arm bitten off, bleeding into the street, screaming wildly for help before Pennywise drags him into the sewer. The movie doesn’t shy away from showing this young boy in pain, dying. This opening scene could be the definition of horrific alone.

But, where IT shines is not in its supernatural monstrosity––both the movie and the novel–-but in its concern and reflection on the true monsters of the text: humans. In Derry, children shout and scream for help, to no avail. They find themselves ignored by the adults around them. Or, in the case of Beverly, assaulted by them. Pennywise, in part, is so successful at drawing in children because the adults don’t do anything about it. They put up ‘missing’ signs and then just forget until the cycle repeats itself. The Losers Club learns, at a young age, that they can’t rely on the adults around them. They have to find and kill Pennywise themselves. Throughout the movie, various kids repeat the phrase “but it’s supposed to be summer break; we should be having fun.” But, they’re not. They’re terrified, and alone, and the ignorance or maltreatment from the adults is reinforced each time the audience is reminded that these kids aren’t able to act as kids should. There’s been a loss of innocence.

Now, I would agree with the statement that IT isn’t a terrifying movie. I wasn’t really scared. I was creeped out, because there are plenty of disturbing images, but I never felt truly frightened. That’s an entirely personal reaction though. As I like to joke, I’m dead inside, so naturally I didn’t get scared. (I’ve earned many a metaphorical gold star from Last Podcast on the Left). Some folks were terrified, though. I don’t think you can label a movie as “not horror” just because you, personally, don’t find it horrific.

Again, this movie is about a killer clown. How can you not consider it horror? Granted, this is being said at the same time that some folks are deciding that we’re living in a “post horror” era. Another statement that I don’t buy––just because a movie doesn’t have gratuitous blood or a chainsaw wielding maniac who likes to wear people’s faces, doesn’t mean it isn’t horror. There are other horrific things in this world, like the fact that it’s 2017 and people are still being shot for the color of their skin.

This has been a long enough rant, but I figure I should probably post some of the qualities that I look for when I’m watching a horror movie, seeing as how the title of this post is “Defining horror.”

  1. Some sort of supernatural (or sci-fi) entity. The devil, evil fairies, ghosts, killer clowns.
  2. Invasion (a la The Strangers, The Purge, etc)
  3. Gratuitous violence and/or nudity
  4. A haunted object
  5. A pushing past some sort of boundary, usually to the extreme (biting off a child’s arm and dragging him into a sewer, perhaps?)
  6. Abandoned houses, asylums, etc
  7. Blasphemy–-though this closely aligns with #5

There’s probably more, but that’s what I can think of right now.

What do you think? I’d love to know. I’m hoping to see IT again within the next week, so I can get my review out. I will say this: go see it in the movie theatres. It’s a fantastic film, and it’s so funny. I highly, highly recommend it.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

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Trailer Tuesday: Escape Room

It was bound to happen eventually: there’s a horror movie being released about a group of friends getting caught in an Escape Room. Certain elements from the trailer seem awfully familiar to Saw (or literally any other horror movie that involves people trapped in a room fighting to get back out). If I watch this, it’s definitely going to be when it’s on Netflix. It looks pretty predictable and unoriginal.

It looks like the movie is going straight to DVD and VOD, so we’ll see how long it takes before you can stream it for free, if it’s a movie that’s up your alley.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

Trailer Tuesday: The Monster Project

I first heard about The Monster Project while recently binging Modern Horrors’ podcast (which you should definitely listen to if you haven’t already–-they’re so entertaining). Their episodes are split into three parts, and Mathieu’s movie popped up in their “News” section of this episode. Now, this movie looks pretty ridiculous. The premise is that a documentary crew hires a bunch of people who claim to be monsters, and then find out they really are (dun dun dun!). The effects don’t look that amazing, either, but it’s possible they’ve done some extra editing since the trailer dropped. In short: This movie doesn’t look like it’ll be movie of the year, but it does look entertaining. The campy premise just speaks to.

I kind of wish The Monster Project had an October release, but alas it comes out 18 August.

Stay tuned for my review of Wish Upon, which will be coming out this week!

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

Trailer Tuesday: What the Waters Left Behind (2017)

I knew nothing about this movie, so I made some observations while watching. They were:

  1. What the fuck is with the thumbnail?
  2. Johnny Cash! Yes!
  3. Digging the tone of this so far.
  4. Oh shit––the music got real intense, real fast.
  5. That’s a lot of blood.
  6. Animal imagery––I’ve got a lot to say about animals in horror movies. I should write that blog post.
  7. That’s a lot more blood.
  8. They put THAT in the trailer?
  9. Holy fucking shit that looks amazing.

I cannot wait to see this film.

I haven’t found any news as to when this will get released––hopefully soon!

Until next time, stay scary.

––E.

Best Horror Movies to Check Out on Netflix

I love watching movies–obviously. They’re one of my favorite ways to pass the time; this means that I’ve watched most of the horror movies that are currently on Netflix. (Please add more, Netflix.) Knowing this, recently, a friend asked for some horror recommendations, so I’ve compiled a list of my favorite horror movies currently available to stream on Netflix (USA). These are in no particular order, save for Starry Eyes at #1, because it’s my favorite.

starry-eyes-dvd20coverStarry Eyes (2014)

Starry Eyes is probably my favorite indie horror movie. It tells the story of a young, hopeful actress who stumbles upon a secret Hollywood elite that promise her fame and fortune–for a price, of course. This movie is well acted, and has great cinematography. It’s definitely a body horror film, so it gets quite…intense. It’s well worth it, though. I highly recommend, and this is a film I’ll purchase if it ever leaves Netflix. I love it that much.

 

mv5bmmu0mjblyzytzwy0mc00mjlilwi3zmutmzhlzdvjmwvmywy4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_It Follows (2015)

I first saw It Follows in theatres, and it was a perfect theatre experience. However, it’s a movie that doesn’t lose its atmosphere in its transition from cinema to streaming on your computer or TV. If you haven’t seen this film, all you need to know is that a young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after a sexual encounter (the metaphor is strong with this one). What works the most for me in this film is the cinematography and the music. They’re both fantastic.

honeymoon_film_posterHoneymoon (2014)

Honeymoon is a quiet horror film. It’s subtle, and moves slowly. It’s beautifully shot, and well acted, and definitely deserves a place on this list. I love this movie. All I’ll say is that a newly married couple go on their honeymoon (surprise, surprise), but things start to go awry when the husband finds his wife wandering and disoriented in the woods one night.

 

 

would_you_rather_posterWould You Rather (2012)

Would You Rather is the one “trash” horror film I have on this list. This isn’t a great film, by any means. But, it is really entertaining. The acting is okay, and the twists and turns aren’t original, but I have a soft spot for horror movies that focus on a group of people locked in a room or house who have to play some sort of game to survive (see also: House of 9, Nine Dead, and obviously Saw).

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The Babadook (2014)

Australia has been on its game horror wise, and this movie is no exception. That said, this is probably the most polarizing film on this list. People either love it or hate. I’m of the love it camp–I think this movie is beautifully shot, and Essie Davis is fantastic as Amelia–a single mother still haunted by the violent death of her husband, who has to raise her son alone. She’s not a great mother, and her relationship with her son at the beginning of the film is, well, horrifying. Davis still manages to make her character sympathetic, though, which I commend her for.  You’ll like this movie if you like subtle horror that doesn’t focus on blood and gore.

220px-pontypoolposterPontypool (2008)

Pontypool is more of a psychological thriller than a horror film, except for a few horrific moments near the end of the movie. It follows a talk radio host’s discovery of a deadly outbreak in his town of Ontario while he’s on the air. This is one of the few Canadian horror films I’ve seen, and like many of the movies on this list, it’s a lot more subtle than your usual run-of-the-mill Hollywood horror films.

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Under the Shadow (2016)

Under the Shadow is an Iranian horror film about a mother and daughter who are struggling to survive in post-revolution, war-torn Theran in the 1980s, and discover a sinister presence haunting their home. I’ve not seen many Middle-Eastern horror movies, something that I’ve been trying to rectify as of late. Under the Shadow is more a movie about relationships than it is about the horror, which I loved. It’s a horror movie with a lot of heart, that’s also well acted and directed, and I loved how rooted it was in its culture. I highly recommend this if you’re trying to get into more foreign horror films, particularly those set in the Middle East. This one won’t disappoint!

3b31ae06a27cc58e_hush-poster-150dpi_v8-xxxlarge_2xHush (2016)

Mike Flanagan is easily becoming one of my favorite current horror directors in the US right now. His direction and vision is a much needed breath of fresh air in the horror genre. Hush employs a more original take on the home invasion sub-genre of horror by having a deaf woman as its protagonist. It’s tense, and well acted (though I do wish that an actual deaf woman was playing the role, because representation).

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Last Shift (2014)

Last Shift is a horror movie that took me by surprise. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It’s extremely well done for a low-budget horror film–it managed to have more successful scares than the popular, big-budget horror films that I’ve seen lately. It details a rookie cop’s first shift in a closing police station. Naturally, supernatural hijinks ensue. This is one that you want to make sure to watch in the dark. It’ll add to the overall ambiance of the film.

thesacramentfilmfestivalposterThe Sacrament (2013)

The Sacrament is the one film on the list that is based on something that happened IRL. It follows a young man who tries to find his missing sister (accompanied by a camera crew, because found footage), and finds that where she’s been living–known as Eden Parish–is a bit…off. Again, this movie is pretty tame for most of the film, although it does maintain a tense atmosphere once they get to the cult–I mean, community. Once the denouement happens, though, it all goes to shit. Very quickly. All I’ll say is, don’t drink the kool-aid, kids.

 

If you haven’t seen any of these, enjoy your Netflix binge. If you have, let me know what you think!

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

Trailer Tuesday: Rupture

A horror movie with Noomi Rapace? Sign me up.

From the trailer, it looks like Rupture follows abduction from a mysterious organization and her subsequent attempt (s?) to escape from their grasp. It looks like there is a shape-shifting, or possible alien theme to the movie. The organization is trying to unlock a gene that Rapace and others like her have that leads to “the rupture.” It reminds me, in all honestly, of Cú Chulainn’s Torque (á la The Táin).  I’m excited about this movie because 1) Noomi Rapace and 2) the colors look brilliant. I’m a fan of super over-saturated color schemes, and this looks like it might deliver on that front. Plus, it promises to deliver some grotesque moments of body horror.

Rupture comes out in the States on 28 April 2017.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

Trailer Tuesday: The Void

Okay. I’m going to try not to get my expectations up too high for this movie, but–it’s being compared to John Carpenter’s The Thing, which is my favorite horror movie of all time. Now, I’m obviously not expecting it to fill me with the joy that The Thing fills me with but it looks like it could deliver some of those same warm, fuzzy feelings. Plus, I’m always a fan of movies where a group of people are stuck in a building or a room and have to try to get out, but they’re surrounded by creepy (slightly Ku Klux Klan-y) enemies.

And, there are tentacles. Tentacles.

The Void comes out on 7 April (whoo!) and I’ll certainly be trying to see it ASAP.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.