Before I started studying horror as a path toward getting a doctorate, I’d never heard of Tod Browning’s Freaks. In fact, I’d only vaguely heard of Tod Browning. I’d seen his 1931 rendition of Dracula, featuring Bela Lugosi, one fall night quite a few years ago, when Tinseltown was doing a double feature of Browning’s Dracula, followed by the far superior Spanish version of the film shot the same year (on the same set, but at night, with a different director). I suppose back then I thought of myself as a bit of a horror connoisseur, but perhaps I was basking in my own ego – and that ego was eclipsing all my knowledge of what I didn’t know. Because what I’ve learned since I started reading about horror is that Tod Browning is considered a central auteur in the horror field. In terms of horror cinema, he’s easily one of the genre’s founders, and with good (varying) reasons. Continue reading “My First Viewing of Freaks (1932)”
Michael and I were just sitting around on a slow Saturday afternoon, without much on the agenda. While horror movies tend to be night-time fare for us, the feeling of an afternoon movie on a warm June day just sort of says summer vacation (present summer vacation for me, imminent summer vacation for Michael), so we decided on a 12:10 showing of Ma. My excitement about the film was considerable, but my trepidation about the film regarded the possibility that all of the really shocking, provocative elements of the film may have already been showcased in the trailer – I thought. I was prepared – similar to the situation I experienced with Brightburn –to see a film that didn’t offer much beyond the preview attractions. And while it is true – we get a glimpse of a lot of gore before the movie – there’s so much more to the film than the previews indicate, and Octavia Spencer captures a complex, layered, troubled character with unquestionable perfection. It’s hard to call Ma the best horror movie of the spring, with gems like Us and Pet Sematary gracing the screen, but it can certainly compete. As a heads-up, I have all but given up on writing spoiler-free reviews, so my apologies, but spoilers will abound in this piece.Continue reading “Partying with Ma on a Sunny Summer Saturday”
Well, the long-awaited evening arrived. I’d been looking forward to Brightburn with at least tenuously high expectations since Michael told me about the premise oh-so-many-months ago. The film’s situation sounded fascinating – an inversion of the Superman mythos, in which Superman is embodied in an evil 12-year-old child – and the previews looked plenty scary. Couple that with the fact that I really like Elizabeth Banks – and she’s one of the main forces behind Shrill, a show I’ve been singing the praises of a la twitter for months – and this was definitely a film I had to see when it came out. “How about we see it Saturday” Michael suggested sweetly. I replied, “I’m going on Thursday night when I get off work, whether you go with me or not.” So, I’m not quite sure if I would have put my money where my mouth was – I don’t go to the movies alone much, and I hadn’t asked anyone else along – but luckily, Michael capitulated, and after a quick four hour shift at Torrid, I met him at the coffee shop across the street and we zipped to Tinseltown, where we were two of six people in the theater to see one of the first screenings of Brightburn.Continue reading “Feel the (Bright)Burn: Strengths and Shortcomings of the Inverted Superman Mythos”
It is just a screen. I tell myself. Nothing but some actors playing out a ghost story on the screen. You’ll be 35 years old in a couple months—you can do this. My self-assurance slowly lapses into condescension as I secretly lambast myself for being so afraid. After all, do I not write on a horror blog? Am I not focusing my dissertation on some element of the horror genre? Some of this stuff is, indeed, second nature to me –werewolves and vampires have never scared me, and I’ve seen The Shining at least fifty times by now—but something about a well-made ghost movie, one that I haven’t already watched on repeat, really has the ability to de-stabilize my zen. With the right directing and producing – the appropriate manufacture of jump scares – I can find myself fighting the urge (and sometimes giving into the urge) to cover my ears and eyes as I’m watching a particularly suspenseful horror film. It’s rare that I react this way, but it does occur—which, I might mention, is another reason I love the horror genre. For as many of these films as I’ve seen, the right one still has the power to scare the $#!+ out of me.Continue reading “A Macabre Mother’s Day for a Macabre Horror Mother: Contemplating the Woman in Black”
As I’ve been off working hard at life, Hollywood has been working even harder to create a deliciously rich amalgam of Spring horror movies and to thus to pull me back toward my long-neglected blog. The list that Michael and I started composing after watching horror movie previews turned out to be too noteworthy to ignore. Couple that with the fact that I’m feeling chatty lately (more in the mood to shout from a roof top, less in the mood to crouch in a corner) and you have a recipe for my first self-composed blog post in exactly three months. I don’t claim this to be an exhaustive list of all-things-horror being released in the next few months, but I’m trying to be fairly thorough with the rather abundant supply of scary that’s headed toward the theaters. The first two entries on this list are films I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, and the rest are films that haven’t been released yet, but that I’ll be sure to see when they are released. For your ease-of-reading, I’ve arranged the films by release date, accompanied by trailers. My discussion, of course, will be slightly more thorough for the two films I’ve already seen. In any case, here they are: five films to consider if you need a (decidedly terrifying, unnerving, exhilarating) movie night any time soon.Continue reading “A Horrific Spring: Recently and Soon-to-Be Released Horror Movies”
It seems only appropriate that my first fear is attributed not to a George Lucas film, but instead a film from his friend and early rival, Steven Spielberg.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking – Jaws. After all, I live in Massachusetts where Jaws was filmed and we have great white sharks often roaming our nearby beaches in the summer.
No, my friends, you are wrong. Instead, my first fear that I can remember is E.T.Read more
Well, unsurprisingly, it’s three in the morning and I’ve decided to write a blog post. You see, I was reading On Monsters: An Unnatural History of our Worst Fears by Stephen T. Asma, and his writing is so fluid, his stories so interesting, his points so insightful, that I got inspired to write. In general, I find that as I read more for my comprehensive exams, I tend to get so enthusiastic that I feel I absolutely must release some of my excitement through writing. And, I have the perfect fodder for a blog post this evening. Michael and I went to see a showing of Escape Room tonight, and we both really enjoyed the film. Given that I’ve been reading about monsters and horror non-stop over break, my mind started playing with the movie in light of what I’ve been reading, and I jotted down some thoughts earlier. So, here’s what will probably be a fairly short little post on Escape Room. I’m not one for rating or grading movies, so while I won’t give it a rating, I’ll say it’s an interesting example of a horror archetype we’ve been seeing a lot of recently, and it’s a genuinely engaging film with (my favorite!) mostly likable characters! As such, I highly suggest you check it out. But…I’m no good at writing without spoilers, so those will inevitably follow this paragraph. Beware!!Continue reading “Escaping the Atypical Monster in Escape Room”
When I was thirteen, my family and I took a trip to Florida. I certainly wasn’t too old to love Disney World (I’m still not) but I was most excited to visit Universal Studios. After all, commercials for Universal Studious basically consumed cable tv stations in the mid 90’s, and my imagination took flight when I saw the commercial for the Jaws ride. Out of the depths of murky nothingness, a giant shark rises beside passengers in a boat, its face partially distorted by the flamboyant, spasmodic flashing lights that eclipse its visage and make the shark look more than a little surreal, and infinitely menacing. I was simultaneously horrified and titillated by the prospect of actually riding the Jaws ride and experiencing the enormous, foreboding shark for myself. Continue reading “In the Jaws of a Classic: An analysis of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws”
After watching Hereditary – which I never blogged about, in part because of a perceived inability to say anything unique about it – I thought I’d seen it all. Hereditary is one of the most disturbing horror films I’ve seen in some time, a sickening romp through the cackling, bloody underworld of death, grief, and witchcraft combined. Nonetheless, Michael and I watched The Eyes of My Mother yesterday, a movie I decided to put on my list for comprehensive exams when I heard about it at a pop culture conference. Let me tell you: it was disturbing. Nonetheless, it was a fascinating film that said a lot about certain types of madness and (perhaps) about how such madness evolves. I’ll be including, in my piece, Michael’s take on the main character, along with my reaction to his opinion and some observations about the film in general. As a warning, this film is not for the faint of heart, and it may sit with you for awhile after you watch it. That said, let’s talk about, perhaps, the general experience of watching The Eyes of My Mother along with some of the questions it raises. Continue reading “Monstrous Undertakings in The Eyes of My Mother”
It was another day of mild to moderate chaos at the local video store where I work. Michael came in to procure movies that we would watch later that evening. He held up a few options in front of me and prompted me to pick the one in which I was the most interested. I immediately selected The Howling. Having never seen the film, I’d only heard it alluded to briefly in Scream, and I knew only that it was a canonical werewolf movie. I wasn’t really expecting to be scared, and to be honest, it didn’t scare me…that much. The film was a lot more well-made and in general a lot creepier than I’d anticipated. That aside, I kind of found myself wracking my brain for some sort of way to break the film apart or put it into perspective. As I watched I scribbled down notes, but I wasn’t getting the insights I’d hoped for. Despite my difficulties really analyzing this film, I think I’ll discuss in general why I like this movie, with an emphasis on the fact that it inverts the typical werewolf movie “rules” in a couple of ways and consistently highlights its own fixation on “the body” or “the flesh.” Continue reading “A Howl for the Howling”