Scary stories aren't just entertaining; they confront us with truths about the world. I aim to acknowledge and appreciate horror for what it does best--telling powerful stories that speak to us in a way no other genre can.
The Cannes Film Festival is officially underway! Yay for independent artsy films!
In the past, Cannes has given us not only buzzworthy prestige films from around the world, but it has also been a source of horror films outside the Hollywood mainstream. I’ve covered both the 2016 and 2017 Cannes Film Festivals, which introduced to the world to films like Raw, Neon Demon, Train to Busan, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. And that’s not to mention horror classics like Evil Dead or Pan’s Labyrinth.
Unfortunately, the actual Cannes festival is light on horror movies this year, screening only one new horror film (two if you count the screening of The Silence of the Lambs during Cinema de la Plage). While the Cannes Marche du Film (the Cannes Film Market) is always chock-full of horror films of all caliber, it’s really hard for a little ol’ blogger like myself to gain access to the schedule in advance, since I’m not an industry insider. Boo!
However, we can always count on the Director’s Fortnight and Frontières showcases. These platforms may not be part of the official Cannes Film Festival (Lord knows they should be), but they are part of the general festivities and take advantage of the frenzy of activity surrounding Cannes. The festival (and its associated events) is where distributors come to buy the rights for those indie horror films we might not ever see, and for that, yay Cannes!
So, without further adieu, here are the horror films at Cannes this year.
“USA in the 1970s. We follow the highly intelligent Jack over a span of 12 years and are introduced to the murders that define Jack’s development as a serial killer.
We experience the story from Jack’s point of view, while he postulates each murder is an artwork in itself. As the inevitable police intervention is drawing nearer, he is taking greater and greater risks in his attempt to create the ultimate artwork.
Along the way we experience Jack’s descriptions of his personal condition, problems and thoughts through a recurring conversation with the unknown Verge – a grotesque mixture of sophistry mixed with an almost childlike self-pity and psychopathic explanations. The House That Jack Built is a dark and sinister story, presented through a philosophical and occasional humorous tale.”
Set in the primal wilderness in the year 1983, Red Miller has fallen deeply for the beguiling Mandy Bloom. But the life he has made for himself comes suddenly and horrifyingly crashing down when a vile band of ravaging idolaters and supernatural creatures penetrates his idyllic paradise with vicious fury. A broken man, Red now lives for one thing only to hunt down these maniacal villains and exact swift vengeance.
House of Sweat and Tears is a tension-filled atmospheric horror film by female director Sonia Escolano. It follows “She,” the leader of a violent cult, and the loosening of her grip on its members. This begins when a mysterious man plagues the dreams of one of its devoted members, leading to her suicide. Will “She” maintain control of the cult? Or will this outsider corrupt them all?
A hack filmmaker wastes the money lent to him by a mysterious organization, and so has to take matters into his own hands by locking a cast of actors in a house and becoming the villain in his own slasher movie.
Married couple Karen and John have lost the spark of life since learning they were unable to conceive. Now, they are almost like living zombies, imprisoned by everyday life. When the world is hit by a pandemic that actually turns people into the walking dead, the couple must lock themselves in their apartment while waiting for rescue. With the world outside falling apart, they are forced to find their way back to each other and reclaim their lost love.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! In honor of Cinco de Mayo and Mexico’s unique artistic contributions to horror films, I’ve compiled a list of five awesome Mexican horror movies!
But before I get into the horror movies, let’s talk about the history behind Cinco de May. In case you didn’t know, May 5, 2018, is the 156th anniversary of the Mexican Army’s defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Long story short, Napoleon III wanted to take advantage of Mexico’s financially weakened position at the time and force Mexico to be a “dependent empire” to benefit French interests. Of course, Mexico was not having it, and they put up a fight. After France gained the early advantage, Mexico rallied and secured a massive victory, both strategically and morally, since the French soldiers were vastly better equipped and outnumbered the Mexicans 2 to 1.
So, just remember that when you’re throwing back margaritas and watching horror movies. These Mexican horror movies are scary, intense, and creative, combining elements of ghost stories, exploitation, and the magical realism for which Mexican horror is known.
El Espejo de la Bruja (1962) (The Witch’s Mirror)
In El Espejo de la Bruja, a witch schemes to avenge the murder of goddaughter at the hands of her husband, who then wastes no time in remarrying a clueless woman. And it doesn’t stop with the death of one woman—this film trades in dead women, which is interesting considering who the murderer is. The film creates a successful mix of classic gothic tropes, borrowing everything from Rebecca to Edgar Allan Poe to Eyes Without a Face. As a result, El Espejo de la Bruja is a moody, atmospheric horror film with sinister visuals, schlocky plot developments, and scares of varying effectiveness.
Alucarda, directed by Mexican horror director Juan Lopez Moctezuma, is a retelling of the classic gothic horror novella Carmilla. Alucarda (say it backward), an orphaned teenage girl with frightening powers who lives at a convent, strikes up a very close relationship with the new girl at the convent. Eventually, they form a blood pact with each other and start practicing black magic and get into all sorts of bloody, nude trouble. Alucarda tackles issues of sexual repression and Catholicism, but the film is focused on creating a crazy viewing experience with a ton of gore and nudity.
Santa Sangre (1989)
Alejandro Jodorowsky is a pioneer of avant-garde and surreal film. This Chilean-French director is particularly known for films like El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and his failed attempt to film a 14-hour film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. He also directed the Mexican surrealist horror film Santa Sangre.
Santa Sangre is…a lot to take in. It’s the somber story of a woman who, horrifically abused and mutilated as a young woman, perpetuates psychological and emotion control over her son. This woman, Concha, though armless, can control her son’s hands and force him to murder the women who compete for his attention. It’s surreal and violent and archetypal and horrifying, overflowing with images that will haunt you for a long time.
Cronos (really, any of Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish language films) (1993)
Guillermo del Toro has achieved massive success in the United States, culminating with his recent Oscar win for Best Director for The Shape of Water. Before he was raking in the accolades for his English language films, del Toro was a talented young director writing and directing Spanish-Language films.
His very first Mexican feature film, Cronos, was released in 1993 and has all the elements that would become part of his signature brand of storytelling. In Cronos, del Toro breathed new life into vampire mythology with the story of an elderly antique dealer who stumbles upon an otherworldly device that bestows eternal life on its owners for one small price—becoming a blood-sucking vampire. Little does he know the significance of the object and what other more powerful men want with it. Del Toro combines the classic tropes of vampire tales with his own affinities for Mexican magical realism, dark fairy tales, and the religious questions we dare not ask ourselves.
We Are What We Are (2010)
Did you know that 2013’s critically acclaimed We Are What We Are is a remake of a Mexican horror film? The plot is the same—the patriarch of a cannibal family dies unexpectedly and leaves his family struggling to continue their, um, lifestyle. It’s a very gruesome, disturbing film, one that explores suppressed sexualities, stifled anger, shared shame, dysfunctional family dynamics, corruption of officials, and socio-economic hierarchies. It’s a compelling family drama and grisly horror film rolled up together.
Well damn y’all, May horror isn’t what I thought it would be–low key and full of indie releases.
Not that it’s a bad thing. Some of the best horror movies are small indies and foreign films that don’t secure wide theatrical releases in America. I’m willing to bet that festival darlings like Beast and Revenge are more than worth a watch. Bad Samaritan and Family Blood are very intriguing, and It Came from the Desert looks horrendous, like, I-need-a-couple-of-drinks-to-get-through-it-but-that-could-be-fun-horrendous.
Check out the May horror movies below!
Bad Samaritan (Wide)
“A young valet breaks into a man’s home and discovers a terrified woman who’s chained and gagged. After notifying the police, he soon becomes the target of the psychopath’s wrath as he tries to rescue the victim that he left behind.”
Bad Samaritan - (2018) Official Trailer - Electric Entertainment - YouTube
Family Blood (Netflix)
“Ellie, a recovering drug addict, moves to a new city with her two teenage children. Struggling to stay sober, her life changes when she meets Christopher, who is a different kind of addict.”
FAMILY BLOOD Official Trailer (2018) Horror Movie - YouTube
“In a small island community, a troubled young woman falls for a mysterious outsider who empowers her to escape her oppressive family. When he comes under suspicion for a series of murders, she defends him at all costs.”
BEAST (2018) OFFICIAL UK TRAILER HD - YouTube
“Jen is enjoying a romantic getaway with her wealthy boyfriend — until his two sleazy friends arrive for an unannounced hunting trip. As tension mounts in the house, the situation abruptly and viciously intensifies, culminating in a shocking act that leaves Jen left for dead. Unfortunately for her assailants, she survives and soon begins a relentless quest for bloody revenge.”
REVENGE Official Trailer (2018) Action Movie HD - YouTube
“Stranded in rural Australia in the aftermath of a violent pandemic, an infected father desperately searches for a new home for his infant child and a means to protect her from his own changing nature.”
Cargo | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
“Students fight to survive a weekend in the woods.”
FERAL Official Trailer (2018) Horror Movie - YouTube
(Poltergeist owns “They’re here.” You can’t use it. Stop it.)
It Came from the Desert (VOD)
“A pulpy, action monster movie, inspired by Cinemaware’s cult 1980s video game “It Came from the Desert”. A nostalgic tribute to creature features from the 1950’s, It Came From The Desert features rival motocross heroes and heroines, kegger parties in the desert, secret underground military bases, romantic insecurities…and of course giant ants.”
IT CAME FROM THE DESERT Official Trailer (2017) Giant Ant Horror Action Movie HD - YouTube
What May horror movies are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!
As a genre, horror is especially adept at taking advantage of film’s voyeuristic nature and creating an uncomfortable vicarious experience. And more than any genre, horror can hack apart an audience member’s conception of fear and flip it on its head. The genre can sow horror and terror where the was none, forcing the audience to see once benign situations in a more sinister light (or shadow).
Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane, a film rooted in a young woman’s experience of being imprisoned in a mental asylum with her stalker, does precisely this. Unsane forces its audience to confront a premise that is scary for anyone, but for women especially. The film uses the negative cultural stereotypes we have of women and mental health to craft a film that recreates in lurid digital detail the discomfort and fear every woman has faced at some point in her life. It is a waking nightmare, less a work of fiction and more a worst case scenario of what happens when a man won’t take no for an answer.
Unsane is about Sawyer Valentin, a young woman who has upended her entire life to escape her stalker. Now that she has a new job and new apartment in a new city without any friends or family nearby, Sawyer finds herself in an emotionally raw state. She refuses to form friendships at work. She limits her dating life to casual hook-ups. She lies to her mother about her life. And she keeps seeing her stalker everywhere, even though she knows he couldn’t have followed her. So Sawyer goes to talk to a mental health professional about her problems, which goes well enough until she ends up committed for a week. She insists she’s not crazy, but her protests only convince the doctors of her mental instability. Even worse, she begins to see her stalker at the mental hospital, posing as one of the attendants. Is she crazy? Or has her stalker finally tracked her down?
Claire Foy as Sawyer is simply brilliant. If you’ve ever seen her on The Crown, you know she’s skilled at portraying the British stiff upper lip. But Foy has range. As Sawyer Valentin, she is just barely holding herself together under a cracking demeanor. She veers between being coldly professional, shallowly chipper, and unapologetically forward. She’s aggressive, angry, and afraid. For a good chunk of the film, you aren’t sure if Sawyer is crazy or not, which is due mostly to Foy’s undeniable skill. I loved watching her onscreen, and I thought she carried the movie. She’s one to watch.
Foy is, undoubtedly, the star of Unsane, but she isn’t the only great actor. Jay Pharaoh, of Saturday Night Live fame, is a pleasant surprise in his role as Sawyer’s fellow inmate and sarcastic friend who knows all the dirty secrets of the shady medical facility. He is also fun to watch, mainly because he gets to explore his dramatic side in one of Unsane’s more horrific scenes. His chemistry with Foy is a much-needed source of levity in the film, and their interactions serve to remind the audience of how effortless and fun flirting should be.
And Joshua Leonard, who plays David Strine, Claire’s alleged stalker, is terrifying. His performance is a study in pathetic neediness, unquestioned entitlement, toxic masculinity, and explosive anger. He’s the unholy hybrid of a Nice Guy and an incel subreddit. He is the embodiment of the relentless would-be suitor, fawning over Claire one minute and committing horrific violence the next. If only she would just accept his love, he would not have to be a murderer, gosh!
Certainly, they all had great material with which to work. The characterizations are consistent, strong, and nuanced throughout, giving even minor characters room to leave a mark on the story instead of merely existing as prop devices or set pieces.
In general, Unsane puts a fresh spin on the old horror trope of the young, attractive, but overly-brash young woman whose experiences are dismissed as generic “craziness” until it’s too late.
And women understand the horrifying realism of it all.
We have our own stories of Davids, who got frustrated when negging didn’t work on us, who catcalled us and then vomited a stream of profanities when his “compliments” were not acknowledged, who won’t stop staring at us across the office, and who developed an obsession and won’t accept the objective truth of the situation.
We’ve heard stories about the girl who rejected the guy stalking her, and the cops couldn’t do anything about it until he murdered her. We have all internalized the ways we must be prepared to drastically alter our lives to protect against a man who refuses to respect a decision not to date him.
Every woman at that screening knew how that works and how little is done about it.
Unsane refuses to whitewash or excuse David’s behavior, consistently presenting his pursuit of Sawyer as creepy and inappropriate. From the start, we see that Sawyer’s feelings of discomfort and apprehension are justifiable. In one striking scene, we learn the drastic steps Sawyer took to protect herself, all because one guy couldn’t take no for an answer.
That’s why, in my screening, the women seemed so much less affected than the men. Yes, the male members of the audience were appropriately repulsed and shocked, but they also laughed and giggled nervously at inappropriate moments. I suspected that many of the men in the audience resorted to that defense mechanism because they did not know how to handle their vicarious experience of Sawyer’s situation. They were not used to feeling that kind of fear.
A large part of that reaction is due to the societal expectation that stalking is largely a woman’s problem, one that is handled privately and with shame. Both men and women can be victims of stalking, though women are much more likely to experience stalking (according to the Stalking Resource Center, 6% of men have experienced stalking, while 15% of women have). On top of that, both men and women are conditioned to think of certain stalking behaviors as romantic and flattering, and encouraged to think of the stalker’s threatening behavior as simple “persistence.”
A major success of Unsane is demonstrating how that is not the case. The film forces its audience to confront the psychological toll stalking has on victims and how destructive it is to ignore women’s very real fears. It also demonstrates how that kind of violent, destructive male entitlement harms both woman and men, adding a new dimension to the paradigm that must be explored.
It is telling then that Unsane incorporates an incredible sub-plot of predatory health insurance. Comparing and contrasting the methods by which a stalker and a sophisticated insurance scam can gaslight victims, abuse personal rights, and manipulate legal institutions says a great deal about the demented incentive structures our society allows to persist.
The film’s cinematography underscores this point. I’ve always thought of cinematography as akin to syntax in a novel. Like bad writing, bad cinematography distracts and undermines the story. But great cinematography, like great writing, not only tells the story in a skillful way but enhances the thematic elements of the film.
Unsane was famously shot entirely on an iPhone. Lots of people had lots of opinions it, but I think it was an inspired choice. The limitations of the iPhone created the murky scenes, desaturated and oversaturated tones, and disoriented frames that Soderbergh clearly wanted.
In this day, almost everyone has a camera phone, which enables them to snap photos and take video of anything and everything whenever they wish. It also means the average person risks being photographed or recorded simply by leaving her house. Someone can capture your likeness with more ease and accuracy than ever before. And now we know what powerful corporations are doing with our data, all captured and mined from iPhones.
The iPhone was integral to the visual language of the film, using the frantic, lurid, distorted visual aesthetic to underscore both the mood of the film and supports a larger message about the intrusiveness of technology and abuse of autonomy.
Unfortunately, for all the pointed and unflinching examination of the systematic ways women are maligned and ignored, Unsane fell into a few tired old horror pitfalls.
For one, the pacing was uneven. For the first two acts, the film is a slow burn, and the measured pace works nicely to create an atmosphere of dread and tension. It was challenging to follow the slow-moving camera through empty hallways and harshly lit rooms because the audience is so afraid of what might appear on the screen. In the third act, however, the film seemed to sputter, and not in a way that reinforced Sawyer’s experience. It dragged down the film despite the heart-pounding climax.
Unsane’s villain also veered into tired Slasher territory, where the villain is impossibly smart, unbelievably efficient, and lucky as hell. He takes advantage of several large plot holes to torment Sawyer and eliminate anyone who tries to help her. David is already terrifying with his irrational pursuit of Sawyer and capacity for violence, yet Unsane insists on giving him near-prescient levels of stalker ability. Ultimately, this makes him a caricature and not realistic portrayal of a depraved stalker.
On the whole, Unsane captured the horror of being the canvas on which a man paints an entire narrative about “you” and how much “you” can give him. It made clear that, in such situations, the threat of what he will do to you if you deviate from his narrative lurks in the background. And Unsane demonstrated how minimizing the experiences of women can produce results just as terrible those threatening women.
The film’s timing couldn’t be more appropriate, especially when the #MeToo movement and the bravery of many victims of sexual intimidation and assault shed light on profoundly harmful human behaviors. I am glad that it was a difficult film to sit through and that so many people were made uncomfortable by what they saw. I hope they will learn something from the film.
The distrust between the male and female sexes has and will probably always be fertile ground for horror narratives. The difference between the sexes foster fear; the shared human experience between them gives form to that fear. We know what the other is thinking and what they might do to us. They are devils we’ve always known and could never escape.
As the saying goes, “Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.”
This is the plot of Aliya Whiteley’s The Beauty, her 2014 novella, which was published recently in the United States. In the dystopic near-future of The Beauty, a mysterious disease has claimed the lives of every woman and girl on earth. The men have grown old, and the remaining boys have grown into men. Some of these men inhabit what used to be a thriving off-the-grid community. Every day, the men busy themselves with all the various activities needed to keep the community running, unsuccessfully ignoring the fact that they are merely waiting to die. Every night, Nathan, the community’s storyteller, recounts stories of their dead women and idealized past. Nathan is on the brink of losing hope when their women come back, rising from their graves in the form of mushroom-woman hybrids.
They are The Beauty, and though they are walking yellow fungi with psychic abilities, they have tits and asses, which is good enough for the men. Caught between their repulsion and intense longing for the emotional and physical relationships they’ve missed, the men accept their new mushroom-women as mates. They pray that things might go back to normal, which is not what their new partners have in mind.
The premise of The Beauty is captivating and provocative. Like a demented fairy tale, The Beauty explores themes of gender politics, identity, and the stories we choose to tell ourselves. Without ever offering her opinion, Whiteley examines subjects like a dying community, political tension, gender reversals, sexuality, pregnancy, and the loss of autonomy. Then she examines how those subjects stoke fear in men and women alike. The Beauty is a meditation on masculinity in the absence of conventional femininity—asserting that masculinity is predicated if not dependent on a static definition of femininity.
That’s why, when the Beauty first appear, the men are so happy. In a darkly comic development, the men are repulsed for all of five minutes before they start pairing off with their Beauties. They cuddle and fuck their Beauties, settle into domestic routines, and treat them as they did their womenfolk. At first, the Beauties fall into well-worn relationship dynamics and do not challenge the social order of the community. All they do is coo and comfort, a melding of mother and lover.
That is, of course, until it becomes clear that the Beauty were never playing that game. It dawns on the men that their new girlfriends were never alien-but-feminine helpmeets. They have a collective agenda, and even though the men are disgusted, almost all of them aren’t disgusted enough to stop it.
Whiteley never allows her Beauties to devolve into a kind of evil-plant-abomination-seductress trope. They are more than temptresses or sirens. They are intelligent beings that genuinely seem to care for the men, and although they foist a horrifying fate onto the men, that fate is a hopeful one. It just so happens to fly in the face of the structured order, and it just so happens to drastically recast the dynamic between the men and the mates.
In doing so, The Beauty also plays around with established dualistic tropes by layering them over the conflict between masculinity and femininity—civilization vs. wilderness, patriarchy vs. matriarchy, sex vs. death, war vs. peace. For such a straightforward premise, Whiteley explores a great deal, purposefully raising more questions than she answers.
And if the idea that a whole group of guys is so lonely they’ll put their dicks in anything wasn’t disturbing enough, the book gets way creepier and much more disgusting.
As a lover of horror novels, I often find that such books are frightening but only in an abstract way. Rarely can a horror novel make me jump or cringe or cower as a horror movie can. The Beauty has the distinction of being one of the few books I’ve read that has made me squirm. It was so gross–womb-like caves, mushroom-woman-human sex, man-on-mushroom-woman and mushroom-woman-on-man violence and sexual assault, shriveled boy parts, and revolting new orifices where they shouldn’t be. David Cronenberg would be proud, and I would not be surprised if he influenced Whiteley’s imagery, which both alien and familiar, full of dark sexual forces as well as strict biological functions.
The body horror appears throughout, especially towards the end. While disgusting, Whiteley is very restrained in her depiction of physical and biological horrors, resisting the urge to plunge headlong into the nastiness and instead focus on key details. In a way, her approach makes the descriptions grosser, because they don’t rise to the level of ridiculousness. As any horror fan knows, the more ridiculous a reveal, the easier it is to dismiss it. Whiteley avoids that trap.
That being said, I was constantly struck by the instances when the pacing and tone of The Beauty undermined the narrative.
The pace is steady and unvaried. At times, this works to produce a riveting discord between terrifying events and the matter-of-fact retelling of the narrator, like he’s taking us through a slow-motion nightmare. But it doesn’t always land as it should. Some critical scenes forfeit their punch to maintain the pace. Additionally, the tone was a little ham-fisted, a little forced, a little on the nose. To be fair, this effect could be due to Nathan’s narration (he is a storyteller after all), but it distracted from the story in ways I’m not sure were intentional.
I also found the ending much too rushed. Because the climax was so brutal, I was left flipping through the book, searching in vain for the rest of the story. I understand why Whiteley made the choice she did, but it felt like a little bit of a cop out, a sidestep to avoid the fallout from the story’s violent climax. I mean, shit went down! The ending didn’t seem thematically cohesive and let me down as a reader committed to seeing this weird, gross story through to the end. However, the rest of the book was so compelling that I’ll forgive the ending. A little bit.
On the whole, the book is successful, restrained but effective in its use of body horror to explore societal constructs and gender swaps. Whitely has a lot of talent and a knack for wonderfully morbid stories that mirror the realities we struggle to confront. I can’t wait to read more of her work.
*Be Warned – Very Mild Spoilers for A Quiet Place*
I’ve always said that, for any medium, the key to creating a compelling narrative is developed characters. This is especially true in crafting exceptional horror movies, where the disturbing events unfolding on screen pack an intense punch not just because of their scariness but because of the risk they pose to characters the audiences cares about. Yeah, a novel concept, good pacing, and deft camera work contribute, but no one cares about any of that if the characters aren’t watchable.
This is especially true for A Quiet Place, which wisely uses its script and actors as the foundation upon which the whole movie is based. Its inventive concept, heart-pounding scenes, and swelling tension would have fallen flat without the work that went into the script and the acting. In doing so, A Quiet Place stakes a claim as the first exceptional horror movie of 2018. (I know that’s not saying much when compared to films like Winchester or The Strangers: Prey at Night, but the rest of 2018’s horror movie faces stiff competition.)
A Quiet Place takes place in a world where an unthinkable catastrophe has occurred—nightmarish creatures, from God knows where, have descended upon the Earth and, as far as anyone knows, decimated the population. These creatures are blind, but that only means they hunt humans and animals alike using a keen sense of sound. Anyone wishing to avoid an attack must be careful not to make a single sound that might attract the attention of the monsters. Surviving in the midst of this new world is the Abbot family, comprised father Lee (John Krasinski), mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf. The Abbots have adjusted, somewhat, to life in their new silent world, but every day is a struggle to avoid the detection of the three monsters that roam the area just outside their family farm. And doesn’t take much for things to go horribly wrong.
The script is so, so strong. Just…a ton of scenes that were nerve-shreddingly tense on top of excellent writing. I want to grab the screenplay for A Quiet Place, along with the screenplays for Get Out and The Witch, and study all three them. Those films anchor their narratives in rich and nuanced relationships. They all create a full world with flesh-and-blood characters, crafting moments of emotion and nuance and conflict and terror. All three are lean, mean, structured, and taut.
However, I particularly enjoyed how A Quiet Place layered meaning and significance in every scene. Each of the introductory scenes had the dual purpose of building the world and also setting up a specific plot detail or character’s development later on, and did so in a very organic, elegant way. That’s so difficult to do, especially in a film where no character can easily dispense the exposition necessary to establish the rules for the audience. A Quiet Place excelled at that challenge. The script invoked aspects of the family’s new reality throughout the film, everything from the clever use of waterfalls to symbols of the collective guilt they feel regarding an early traumatic event. Every scene either struck a match or lit a fuse (or both!).
Given the strength of the script, the actors were free to flex their acting muscles. Emily Blunt is, unsurprisingly, the acting star in this movie, as her character carries the majority of the suspenseful and emotionally impactful moments mostly by herself, and mostly without speaking. But all the actors turn in magnificent performances. Millicent Simmons, who is deaf herself, is a very skilled actress and will be a force to watch as she continues to build an impressive resume (she has won numerous awards for her starring role Wonderstruck). Noah Jupe plays his character with timidity and fear that never feels over-the-top. John Krasinski infuses his character with a restrained stoicism that portrays masculine wisdom and strength while just barely concealing his character’s unrelenting guilt and fear. His is a deceptively simple portrayal.
And speaking of Krasinski, I can’t say enough about his direction of A Quiet Place. He managed the building of this new world very well. The film is very well paced. It’s not what I would call a beautiful horror film, but damn if he doesn’t know how to capture cinematic, arresting shots of the family’s existence and the danger that threatens it. His use of visual jump scares is pretty good for a horror movie, but his auditory jump scares make me want to learn how sound editing and mixing work. Clearly, Krasinski understands how to mount tension and sustain it. I especially appreciated all the “silent” moments, when a character refused to express themselves to another. No gestures. No sign language. No facial expressions. Krasinski says so much with so little.
More than that, A Quiet Place is obviously an extremely personal film for Krasinski. Emily Blunt is his wife, with whom he has two daughters. While the film explores themes concerning parenthood in general, he has baked into the film his feelings about fatherhood, the responsibilities and sacrifices and heartbreak and fear. He has taken great care to imbue A Quiet Place with those complicated emotions as well as his devotion to his family.
The Not as Good
There wasn’t much I didn’t like about A Quiet Place, but the film wasn’t flawless.
The biggest issue was the depiction of monsters, which are computer-generated. They look very CGI’d, and therefore will not age as well as the rest of the film. Also, there were certain shots where I could tell that the monster wasn’t in the same physical space as the characters. In fact, the monsters reminded me of the pitfalls of “showing the whole monster,” because they were much scarier when I could only catch a glimpse of a claw or a dark shape moving in the background.
Additionally, some scenes seemed to be way too dark. It was hard to see what was happening at times, and I missed a particular plot point because of it. To be fair, I’m not sure if that was due to the movie theater I was in, or what.
Lastly, and this is nitpicky, but there was one pivotal, heartbreaking scene that was portrayed in a very sentimental way, too sentimental considering the rest of the movie. While I agree that the scene itself was narratively necessary, it would have been better for Krasinski to restrain himself from pulling on the audience’s heartstrings that hard. But again, this is a very small critique.
All of those small flaws don’t detract from the brilliance of scenes like this one.
The More I Think About A Quiet Place, the More It Moves Me
But the message of A Quiet Place is ultimately uplifting, despite being the saddest horror film I’ve seen in a while. Parenthood, family dynamics, collective trauma, and individual guilt carry immeasurable weights. If we choose to bear these responsibilities alone, we risk losing that which we meant to protect–our families. In a terrifying world, our burdens are too heavy to carry alone; we can and must find strength, love, and compassion in each other.
A Quiet Place, like many excellent horror films before it, finds a new way to explore aspects of the human condition. By gifting the audience a story with a fully realized cast of characters, each with their own objectives and fears and crosses to bear, A Quiet Place exemplifies how horror movies can speak volumes in ways conventional dramas can’t.
I. Am. Pumped. April horror is chock full of all sorts of festival horror movies I’ve been waiting for, and they look great!
This April, we’re getting not one, not two, but three horror movies from last month’s SXSW, and they look amazing. I can already confirm that A Quiet Place, starring Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, is very good and highly enjoyable. That leaves Wildling, one of the festival’s unexpected triumphs, and Ghost Stories, a spectacularly moody British ghost tale.
And then, on top of everything, Marrowbone, the latest effort from Spanish filmmaker Sergio G. Sanchez (El Orfanto) drops this month. Swoon.
Also among the April horror releases are a few horror films that look cheesy, contrived, and quite frankly, delightful! Truth or Dare promises the kind of schlocky teenage horror we all secretly enjoy (don’t lie) while Bus Party to Hell demands to be seen on the strength of its title alone. I will oblige.
Seriously, this is a great month for both quality horror and popcorn-flick fun.
Check out the trailers below.
A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place (2018) - Official Teaser Trailer - Paramount Pictures - YouTube
Alright, so I’ve seen this movie already, and it’s really, really well done. It’s earned rave reviews and made a bunch of top ten lists from its debut at SXSW last month. The trailers are everywhere, and with good reason.
That being said, this trailer is a better representation of the film than the super jump-scary ones circulating right now. This film is extremely tense, with all the careful attention to detail and characterization one expects from a delicious, slow-burn horror movie. Those other trailers don’t market A Quiet Place in this way, which sucks and means marketers don’t trust the movie to sell itself.
It’s good. Go see it.
The Endless Teaser Trailer #1 | Movieclips Indie - YouTube
Who doesn’t love a creepy cult that messes with the laws of time and physics? I know I do! This trailer looks unsettling and weird, but nothing in it really suggests that it will be scary. A compelling portrait of two brothers digging into their shared traumatic past? Sure. A horror movie? Maybe not.
It doesn’t help that Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead comprise the same team that produced “horror” movie Spring (2014), which was a beautiful, poignant love story that was decidedly not a horror movie, despite the film’s insistence that it was. We’ll see if The Endless is scarier than Spring, but I’m not holding my breath.
Truth or Dare
Truth or Dare Trailer #1 (2018) | Movieclips Trailers - YouTube
LOOOOLLLL this looks like a hybrid between The Ring and Final Destination, and I love it! There’s just something wonderful about a super contrived plot and kooky death scenes played with a straight face! This movie looks stupid, but I would be lying if I said that Blumhouse’s recent batting average and my predilection for cheesy horror hadn’t convinced me that I need this movie now.
MARROWBONE (2018) Official Trailer (HD) Anya Taylor-Joy, Mia Goth - YouTube
I was already convinced to see this movie because of the one-two punch of actresses Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) and Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness). But then I learned that the film was written and directed by Sergio G. Sanchez, who wrote El Orfanto, which is one of my favorite haunted house movies ever. This trailer is atmospheric and suspenseful and full of magnificently captured dread, which gives me hope that Marrowbone will continue in the great Spanish tradition of ghost stories. If the reactions to the film’s TIFF appearance are anything to go by, Marrowbone is well worth your attention.
Bus Party to Hell
BUS PARTY TO HELL Official Trailer (2018) Tara Reid Horror Movie HD - YouTube
Grab the vodka and break out the Jello shots, I just found my next bad movie night selection! I don’t even know where to start with this—burning man, a ripoff of The Hills Have Eyes, cults, Tara Reid? You know what, the fewer questions I ask, the better!
WILDLING Official Trailer (2018) Liv Tyler Horror Movie HD - YouTube
Aw, man, this looks more sad than scary. Wildling seems like an ominous, profound film about the pain of adolescence and being an outcast. I’m pretty intrigued, not least because it debuted at SXSW last month to critical acclaim. The Hollywood Reporter loved it, going so far as to name it one of its Critics’ Picks: The 10 Best Films of SXSW 2018. I hope it lives up to the hype.
#Screamers - Official Trailer #1 - YouTube
I was skeptical about the quality of this trailer, mostly because movies with “#” in their titles usually suck and most found-footage is completely stale now. But…well…this film seems to have a surprisingly relevant message about our social media/internet content obsessed society. It doesn’t look like the best movie ever, but I may have to give #Screamers a shot.
GHOST STORIES Trailer 2 (2018) - YouTube
Yaaaas I love British horror! Especially when it uses the full atmospheric and moody potential of the English countryside. Right off the bat, Ghost Stories is doing a lot to invoke the classic British horror films of the 60s and 70s, particularly the plot and thematic elements of The Wicker Man. It did pretty well at SXSW, and while it may not be the most groundbreaking film ever, it is certainly a type of film we need more of.
Festival season continues with the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, which means there are new (and, hopefully, fresh) horror movies for us to peruse!
2018 marks the 25th year of the SXSW film festival. Just think of it–25 years of a fearless and unflinching commitment to emerging voices, diverse viewpoints, and plain crazy schemes that translate into memorable films! SXSW is known for its commitment to pushing the envelope of the film industry, and the horror industry knows this.
Just like its contemporaries, like Sundance and Cannes and TIFF, SXSW has an excellent track-record of bringing indie horror to broader audiences. In the past, SXSW horror films have included foreign horror films like Ils (Them), Pontypool, Lake Mungo, Attack the Block, and Under the Shadow, along with American films like Insidious, The Evil Dead remake, Starry Eyes, and Hush. Specifically, last year, SXSW horror films included Prevenge, where a pregnant woman’s fetus urges her to commit multiple murders; Tragedy Girls, an indictment of the fame-obsessed culture made ubiquitous by social media, and Mayhem, a bloody and fun workplace slaughter-fest.
This year, I’m excited about all the world premieres, like A Quiet Place, Field Guide to Evil, and What Keeps You Alive. I’m also super duper excited for Hereditary, which is my most anticipated SXSW horror film thus far. Ah, but the best part of SXSW horror is the underdogs–those films that flew under the radar until they debuted to wild acclaim.
To that end, here are all the SXSW horror films of the year. Below, I’ve listed all the slated screenings at SXSW, organized by their respective categories. I wonder which ones will make a splash.
HEADLINERS – Big names, big talent: Headliners bring star power to SXSW, featuring red carpet premieres and gala film events with major and rising names in cinema.
Synopsis: “In the modern horror thriller A QUIET PLACE, a family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threaten their survival. If they hear you, they hunt you.”
Here’s the trailer!
A Quiet Place (2018) - Official Trailer - Paramount Pictures - YouTube
MIDNIGHTERS – Scary, funny, sexy, controversial – provocative after-dark features for night-owls and the terminally curious.
Blood Fest (World Premiere)
Synopsis: “Fans flock to a festival celebrating the most iconic horror movies, only to discover that the charismatic showman behind the event has a diabolical agenda. As attendees start dying off, three teenagers with more horror-film wits than real-world knowledge must band together and battle through every madman, monstrosity, and terrifying scenario if they have any hope of surviving.”
Here’s the trailer!
BLOOD FEST Official Trailer (2018) Horror, Comedy - YouTube
Synopsis: “A 20-something finds a cache of hidden files on his new laptop and is thrust into the deep waters of the dark web. From the makers of Unfriended, this thriller unravels in real-time, entirely on a computer screen. A warning for the digital age.”
Field Guide to Evil (World Premiere) (Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Poland, Turkey, U.S.)
Synopsis: “The Field Guide To Evil is a global dark folklore anthology featuring tales from eight acclaimed filmmakers from their country of origin. Creepy tales of possession, curses, love, lust, and envy. Directed by some of the most exciting new directorial voices in genre; including Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy), Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy), Agnieszka Smoczynska (The Lure), Katrin Gebbe (Nothing Bad Can Happen), Can Evrenol (Baskin), Calvin Reeder (The Rambler), Ashim Ahluwalia (Miss Lovely), and Yannis Veslemes (Norway).”
Synopsis: “Ghost Stories” stars Nyman as Professor Goodman, a psychologist and skeptic, who has his rationality tested when he stumbles across a long-lost file containing details of three terrifying hauntings. He then embarks on a mission to find rational explanations for the ghostly happenings. Paul Whitehouse (“The Death of Stalin”) and Alex Lawther (“The Imitation Game”) also star alongside Freeman, known to audiences worldwide as Dr. Watson in “Sherlock.”
Synopsis: “When Ellen, the matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited. Making his feature debut, writer-director Ari Aster unleashes a nightmare vision of a domestic breakdown that exhibits the craft and precision of a nascent auteur, transforming a familial tragedy into something ominous and deeply disquieting, and pushing the horror movie into chilling new terrain with its shattering portrait of heritage gone to hell.”
I’ve already posted this freaky trailer, but let’s post it again!
Hereditary Official Trailer #1 (2018) Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne Horror Movie HD - YouTube
Synopsis: “When Chelsea and her friends get in trouble with the cops, they flee the city and go on the run. Fueled by a hallucinogenic drug called Echo, they hope to lay low—and get high—in an old family hideout in the woods. But Chelsea’s got reservations about going back to nature and secrets she’s not sharing with her friends. When a shot rings out, her past comes crashing back, and the punks find themselves pitted against the local authority— an unhinged park ranger with an ax to grind.”
Synopsis: “Melanie Thomas is an American artist whose latest show recounts the infamous Irish urban legend of Father Alistair Burke, who painted a portrait of 8-year-old Siobhan Callahan in 1986. Days later, Siobhan went missing on the very morning that her figure miraculously vanished from the painting as well. Though absolved of any wrongdoing, Burke abandoned the priesthood and went into self-exile.
After receiving a bad review before her opening, Melanie is contacted by the reclusive Burke, who offers to fly her to Ireland to create a new sculpture that he will help her to sell while she’s there. Telling no one where she’s going, Melanie never stops to consider that some urban legends are real.”
NARRATIVE SPOTLIGHT – High profile narrative features receiving their World, North American or U.S. premieres at SXSW.
Synopsis: “Anna (BEL POWLEY) spends her entire childhood under the care of a mysterious man she only knows as Daddy (BRAD DOURIF). He keeps her locked in an attic making her fear the Wildling, a child-eating monster that roams the outside. At age 16, Anna is freed by small-town sheriff Ellen Cooper (LIV TYLER) who helps her start a new life as a normal teenager. But as Anna’s body begins to blossom, her childhood nightmares return with a vengeance, leading to the conclusion of a dark secret…”
Which SXSW horror movies are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments.
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!
Apparently, it was. I wish I’d had some wine to drink.
But before I get into all that, let me first point out what I liked about the film, which showed real improvement over certain aspects of the first film.
The plot is pretty much the same set up as the original. Dollface, Pin-Up Girl, and the Man in the Mask (I prefer to think of him as a cross between Scarecrow from Batman Begins and the killer from The Town That Dreaded Sundown) pick their victims for a night of murderous fun, settling on a vacationing family of four. Mother Cindy (Christina Hendricks), father as Mike (Martin Henderson), sweet son Luke (Lewis Pullman), and struggling daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) are on their way to a spend time at their family’s vacation rental trailer park by a lake. Of course, things don’t go as planned because the Strangers show up and wreak havoc.
I have to give credit to the characterization present in The Strangers: Prey at Night. The victims, a whole family, were fleshed out with backgrounds and motivations and emotions other than mere survival, like real people! I saw quirks, interactions, tender moments, and little flashes of their fears and insecurities before the horror, which made the characters and the film much more compelling and entertaining. There was even more characterization for the Strangers themselves, which was great! I wanted to see more about the strangers and how they interact as a group, but this aspect is the least of the film’s problems.
On the whole, I was pleasantly surprised at how much more the film did for its characters. I actually cared about these characters and felt more invested in them than I did for the couple in The Strangers (I didn’t want to see them die; I just didn’t feel anything for those two cardboard cutouts).
As such, the acting in The Strangers: Prey at Night, was miles better than in The Strangers. Who knew that giving actors stronger material pays dividends in the form of more realistic and nuanced performances? Especially when you hire great actors like Christina Hendricks?
Again, the characters felt like real people, and the actors brought a lot of unexpected emotional impact to certain scenes that might have come off as corny or overwrought with a lesser cast. Sure, not everything was well done, but again, this was such a welcome improvement.
I also liked the myriad of conscious references and homages offered up to 1980s slashers. No doubt a large part of this decision is based on the popularity of Stranger Things and the resulting obsession with all things 80s, but I don’t mind. Call me sentimental, nostalgic, whatever; I enjoyed it.
Up until a point.
The first half of the film handled its influences with a steady hand. An ironic soundtrack of peppy 80s pop music to set scenes and create unease. Liberal but not overwhelming use of classic slasher camera work like zoom, POV, and pan shots. A clever reimagining of the classic slasher camp setting. And, of course, an homage to the Final Girl. I enjoyed all of that. Good job so far.
The first two acts did a lot of good work to build towards a solid, crowd-pleasing resolution only to stumble along the way and, eventually, fall completely on its face by the end. Alas, The Strangers: Prey at Night, did not trust its own ability to create and sustain suspense. The movie decided that it wasn’t big, crazy, or shocking enough, and ceded ground to plot holes too big to ignore and characters too stupid to function.
I was so frustrated to see it completely waste all its early success, all its creepy fun and heart-pounding tension. The bathroom scene with Christina Hendricks? Good stuff! The gut-punch of a scene with the dad in the minivan? Even better! That pool scene full of neon and desperation? Perhaps the best part of the movie! Why waste them?
Why would you undercut the explosive scene between Scarecrow-Stranger and our juvenile delinquent, dedicated Ramones fan Final Girl? That good stuff! It was entertaining! The whole movie theater cheered when that happened! Why, after those high points, would you then defy the entire point of your movie and run headlong into the arms of a stale genre trope?
The whole premise of the Strangers as characters is that they are entirely possible in the real world. Unfortunately, acts of senseless violence and murder happen all the time, and for reasons we will never know. For no other motivation but that they felt like it, three individuals could try and succeed at torturing and killing people they’ve never met before.
For all our attempts to make the world safer and to protect ourselves, it is entirely possible in this messed up world we live in that three people could just decide to murder you one day. Neither decency, minding your business, nor staying in your house will protect you. You might still come face to face with a murdering psychopath.
But inherent in this premise, which seeks to tear down the delusions and misconceptions we have about our relative safety, is that if victims have to play by the rules of the real world, so too do the Strangers themselves. Because they are people. Not supernatural beings. Not inhuman monsters. They are people just like us.
Granted, The Strangers had a lot of problems with treating its villains as flesh and blood people. There were a lot of scenes where it seemed like the director wanted them to pop up over here or peek out over there, without any rhyme or reason to their actual movements around the property. The Strangers: Prey at Night has the same problem. It did, however, manage to stay on this side of disbelief for most of the movie, despite the questionable propensity of the Strangers to magically pop up out of nowhere.
Given the attempts at brutal realism early on, why then does The Strangers: Prey At Night seek to make their villains nearly indestructible, especially at the end, where it tried to throw out as many indestructible villain fake-outs as it could? It undermines the very kind of horror upon which the film is predicated.
(And then to culminate in reference to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? I cannot even! First, weren’t y’all trying to pay homage to 80s slashers? Don’t you know The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was from the 70s and, while hugely influential on future slashers, is not really considered a slasher? And secondly, how dare you bring The Texas Chainsaw Massacre into this mess?!?!)
And then there’s the stupidity! The characters were just so stupid at times! They did things that didn’t seem realistic. I’m not talking about having a rational reaction to being attached since most people cannot remain logical under such circumstances—I’m talking about character consistency. There were very significant points where characters acted in ways that a terrified, adrenaline-fueled person would not act. I found it painfully clear that these instances were due to the filmmakers trying to shoehorn a particular outcome while avoiding the work to plot it correctly.
Because here’s the thing about ANY story: if it’s your movie, then you’re in charge of setting the audience’s expectations, and regardless of subject matter or aim. You have the first 10-15 minutes where you get to set the rules for everything that comes later, and the best part is that the audience is willing to listen to what you have to say. We believe you. We’ll stick around to see where this goes.
Therefore, you must be careful when you try to “subvert audience expectations” that you don’t actually end up changing the rules YOU SET because that shit is a cheap, lazy tactic. You are not slick for trying it. You are not daring or edgy; you are untrustworthy as a storyteller.
All in all, it felt like The Strangers: Prey at Night squandered its chance to be better than the original. Again, I did not expect this film to give me a new type of horror experience or open my eyes to a social ill, but I did expect it to entertain me as a taut horror/thriller. I wanted to be unsettled and scared. It started off on track but then went off the rails.
And now, I just keep thinking about the fun, disturbing slasher it could have been.
It’s March, which means that spring is right around the corner. It also means that the steady stream of horror we’ve been enjoying this year runs a little slow during the spring months before the summer horror season starts in May.
But don’t fear! March promises some intriguing films, despite the short list of horror films this month. There are two great foreign horror films, the long-awaited sequel to The Strangers (2008), a documentary about a real-life haunting, and the latest psychological thriller/horror from Steven Soderbergh. It’s shot on an iPhone and Claire Foy gives a raw, frazzled performance that’s the exact opposite of her role as Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown (which I also love. I just love Claire Foy, and I can’t help it).
Check out the trailers below!
The Lullaby (Limited)
“A 19-year-old woman falls into a deep depression after the birth of her first son. In her paranoia, she begins to hear voices and comes to believe that a strange entity is haunting her child.”
THE LULLABY Official Trailer NEW (2018) Horror Movie HD - YouTube
What a coincidence (really!)! I was just talking about this South African horror movie as an example of foreign horror from the African Continent! It looks very creepy, though I can’t really discern the quality of the film from this trailer. I hope it’s a strong film, only because the subject matter and the hopeful exploration of post-partum psychosis deserve a nuanced discussed.
The Ravenous aka Les Affames (Netflix)
“A village in Quebec is terrorized by a flesh-eating plague.”
THE RAVENOUS (2018) (LES AFFAMÉS) Official English Trailer (HD) FRENCH ZOMBIES - YouTube
Here’s another foreign horror film for you—a zombie movie from Canada. Damn Canada! I know you’re very good at body horror, but not particularly known for your zombie films. Where did this artsy, old-school Romero, understated movie come from? It’s freaking me out. This is not good for my nerves, Canada, you must understand this. And I say that as a seasoned horror fan.
But seriously, I remember hearing about this movie when it was making the festival rounds at TIFF, and I understand it’s pretty good, both for its scares and its exploration of social themes. I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s popped up on Netflix. Add this one to the watch list!
The Strangers: Prey at Night (Wide)
“Mike and his wife Cindy take their son and daughter on a road trip that becomes their worst nightmare. The family members soon find themselves in a desperate fight for survival when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park that’s mysteriously deserted — until three masked psychopaths show up to satisfy their thirst for blood.”
The Strangers: Prey at Night Trailer #1 (2018) | Movieclips Indie - YouTube
I’m both excited and freaked out for this movie because, as far as horror subgenres go, home invasion movies burrow under my skin and stay there. The Strangers is widely regarded as one of the most intense home invasion horror movies in recent years, and for good reason, which makes The Strangers; Prey at Night a highly anticipated release. So far it seems to be getting some good reviews, but it’s still too early to tell which way this will go. Lucky for me, I get to attend a screening of the film tomorrow night, so stay tuned for my review!
Demon House (Limited)
“Paranormal investigator Zak Bagans buys a supposedly haunted house in Indiana and documents what happens when he moves in.”
Demon House - TRAILER - YouTube
Woooo a cursed movie! Earn your check, marketing team!
But seriously, this is a documentary about an actual real-life case, though I’m not sure how flexible the film is being with the term “documentary” here. The movie centers on a house that used to belong to the Ammons, a Gary, Indiana family that claimed they were being haunted and tortured by as many as 200 demonic entities.
I highly suggest reading the story as published by the Indy Star. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and creepier still, it’s written in a very even tone. It neither believes the Ammon family story about demonic possession nor does it deny the story—it merely lays out the story.
Essentially, I’m way more interested in the Ammons, their story, and a potential film adaptation about the intersection of socio-economic factors, psychology, and religion than I am with this documentary about a guy who buys the house after the family flees.
“Sawyer Valentini relocates from Boston to Pennsylvania to escape from the man who’s been stalking her for the last two years. While consulting with a therapist, Valentini unwittingly signs in for a voluntary 24-hour commitment to the Highland Creek Behavioral Center. Her stay at the facility soon gets extended when doctors and nurses begin to question her sanity. Sawyer now believes that one of the staffers is her stalker — and she’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive and fight her way out.”
UNSANE | Official Trailer | In theaters March 23 - YouTube
This film is on my list of Most Anticipated Horror Movies of 2018! I am always up for a good psychological thriller/horror, especially when you can’t be sure if the protagonist is crazy or not. While reviews have been positive, they haven’t been quite glowing. Despite that, I think the film will be worth seeing for Claire Foy’s performance, Steven Soderbergh’s experimental use of an iPhone for his single camera, and its a solid (though perhaps uninspired) psychological horror.
Are y’all excited for these movies! Tell me about it in the comments.