In an undergraduate classroom, even one full of English majors, it can be hard for nineteenth-century literature to turn heads. “Achingly dull” or “overly wordy” are typical responses to the Victorians. Despite its place in our cultural imagination, Dracula doesn’t incite average readers to clamour for Bram Stoker’s foundational novel. But by the time Dracula’s three sultry vamp ladies crawl suggestively down Jonathan Harker in bed, who is insensate with fear and “languorous ecstasy,” students realise this isn’t some stuffy sermon on middle-class morality they’re dealing with. The assumed Victorian prudishness doesn’t fly, but catapults out the nearest window. This isn’t what they were expecting. Certainly not from 1897. But why not?
Horror can be a phenomenally surprising genre. For every handful of unimaginative paint-by-numbers slashers, there comes a film genuinely distinctive and unforgettable. Swallow, the debut feature of director Carlo Mirabella-Davis, is one of those films.
To say that Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the cornerstones of modern horror is an understatement. What has been one of its enduring impacts, at least to me, is the sharp juxtaposition of what could be argued to be a family movie against almost casual brutality, tuning viewers in across the span of decades to a story of fear that feels timeless at its core.
Even though they have arguably been around since Frankenstein and the inception of horror, medical horror films have been in retirement for quite some time. American Mary and the remake of Flatliners are perhaps the most recent examples for the 2010s, even though it’s a setting ripe with horrific potential, as proven by the popular franchise Re-Animator. Netflix’s newest horror film Eli documents the horrors of the cost of private medical care in the United States alongside the usual fears that accompany a hospital setting: patient vulnerability during treatment, suspicious staff members with questionable motivations, and the possibility that the hospital itself might be haunted. It also raises several interesting questions regarding informed consent: how much should a patient be allowed to know about his or her condition if it puts the entire world in jeopardy?
Last summer, alone, I decided to watch The Ritual on Netflix. I’ll admit, despite being a horror fan and generally desensitised, I was spooked. The tension of the first half and the eerie imagery of the second half got me, but I enjoyed myself. I was clearly in a particular type of mood because the next night I saw The Forest come up on my suggestions. Always down for a horror movie rooted in mythology and folklore, feeling like I wanted to watch more people get lost in the woods for some reason, I decided to give it ago.
I was sorely disappointed.
In Search of Darkness, now available to pre-order, is a documentary love letter to American 80s horror films. It examines the films of each year consecutively, interweaving them with discussions on different topics, from special effects to the decade’s iconic women of horror. You can read what I thought in my review. David Weiner is the writer and director of In Search of Darkness and, with excitement and press coverage ramping up, we had a chat about the film’s making.
Stephen King. Even as a kid, I knew that that name attached to a film title meant that I was going to be freaked out. Both of my parents were avid horror fans, so I became acquainted with cinematic monstrosity at a rather early age. I cut my teeth on It, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Pet Sematary, and Halloween. As a result, it isn’t very often that a scary movie really gets me. However, if someone were to ask which movie scared me the most, my answer wouldn’t be a major title. Nor is it one that seems to get a lot of attention. It is, however, a Stephen King film; one that left a mark, or rather, a scratch on my psyche that I’ve only truly begun to understand as an adult: Sleepwalkers.
Coming to this new Netflix horror over a week after its launch and, being a user of Twitter, I was subjected to a range of diverse opinions. And some strong emotions too. At first I thought, “what’s all the fuss about?” In the Tall Grass got off to a promising start – the production was slick and stylish, the idea was novel and, at first glance, quite neat and concise. But as the running time dragged on, In the Tall Grass progressively lost its way.
In Search of Darkness, a crowdfunded documentary that showcases 80s horror, is the ultimate nostalgia trip. For anyone who grew up in the 80s or otherwise quenched their passion for horror on the films of this decade, this 4-hour-plus love letter will have you pining for the days when more was really more – more blood, gorier special effects, but not necessarily more budget. Nor, when we look at the 80s oeuvre as a whole, more quality.
Alien is very possibly my favourite film. I certainly spend much time overthinking it, as anyone who’s read my recent article on its Gothic roots will already know. Imagine my annoyance, then, when I realised I would miss the limited theatrical run of the film’s new documentary, Memory: The Origins of Alien, directed by Alexandre O. Philippe. Imagine my comparable delight when it suddenly became available to stream through the website of the trusty old BFI.