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.
The Devils is Ken Russell’s notorious 1971 historical drama telling the extraordinary story of a case of possession in 17th century France, in the city of Loudun. I start with possession because, were this any other story, that would be the most extraordinary part. But this isn’t a film about possession; it is a film about the dangers of religion and politics colliding, and it’s message is as resonant today as it was on release (and on publication of the Aldous Huxley book, The Devils of Loudun from 1952, on which the film is partly based).
It Chapter Two is the much-anticipated sequel to Andy Muschietti’s 2017 It, following up twenty-seven years after where It left off. The child members of the Losers’ Club have grown up and grown apart. Apart from Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), who stayed in their childhood home of Derry, Maine, all of the other Losers moved across the country and have completely forgotten about their previous battles with the homicidal supernatural entity which appears to the children as Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård). After a string of child disappearances, Mike calls the other Losers, instructing them that it’s time to make good on the promise they made twenty-seven years ago to return if Pennywise ever comes back.
The nightmare was real. Sitting in Ava Chitwood’s course on Greek civilization, my phone starts going off. Loudly. Dr. Chitwood was the kind of professor who inspired both fear and fascination. No doubt, those of us majoring in classics adored her but nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted to get on her bad side. I remember once advising a friend of mine, “if you’re late, just don’t go.” Truth be told, she just didn’t have time for any college-age bullshit. This was the kind of professor (icon) that would throw you out for yawning too loudly. So, you can imagine the fear, the panic, and utter desperation I felt as my phone starts ringing. There I am, tearing through my bag, praying she doesn’t kick me out, when my hand finally finds the phone. I silence it, drop it back in the bag, and pick up my pen. Dr. Chitwood is just standing there silently, eyes locked on me. “In 44 CE,” she continued, “…there was a sudden outburst of music.” She winked at me and, I swear to God, it felt like a wink from Fate, herself!
William McGregor’s feature debut Gwen is not your typical horror film. In fact it’s not really a horror film. What is terrifying about this film is its grey, trudging depiction of the harsh reality of life in the Welsh countryside of Snowdonia at the turn of the nineteenth century. Eleanor Worthington-Cox plays Gwen, a teenage girl whose father is away fighting in the army, struggling alongside her severe, exhausted mother Elen (Maxine Peake) to look after her little sister and prevent their small farm from falling into the hands of the local quarry owner, Mr Wynne.
“Science fiction plucks from within us our deepest fears and hopes, then shows them to us in rough disguise: the monster and the rocket” – W.H. Auden
You may believe that Alien is a science fiction film. After all it’s set in space with all the hypersleep pods and computer terminals and rumbling star-drives you might want. The story happens in some distant (but not too distant) future where humanity feels at home travelling the gulfs between stars. It is, perhaps most pressingly, called Alien.
You may believe that Alien is a science fiction film and it’s not an absurd position to hold. It’s just wrong.
Editor’s note: as this is an analysis of the film Midsommar, there be spoilers ahead.
Midsommar is Ari Aster’s latest horror offering following 2018’s Hereditary, and sees a group of friends who travel to Sweden for a festival that only occurs every 90 years, only to find themselves amongst a pagan cult.