Posted on August 25, 2016

Trailblazing Self-Reflection and Postmodernism in Student Bodies (1981)


I can think of no better way to exemplify my gluttonous yet astutely reflective consumption, digestion, and regurgitation of horror than by beginning with a film that does much the same. The 1981 Paramount Pictures film Student Bodies film gained a cult like following after it re-emerged on late night television via USA Up All Night which showcased other greats such as Reform School Girls (1986), Summer School (1987), and Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989). Read more

1. mask in window
Posted on August 23, 2016

Short Cut: You’re Next (2011)


Director Adam Wingard’s most high-profile project to date, Blair Witch, the sequel to Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s 1999 The Blair Witch Project, is due to arrive in theaters on September 16—and so I wanted to take a closer look at Wingard’s earlier films. He is, I think, a director to watch, and horror fans aren’t the only ones who should be watching.

My post today is on You’re Next, released in August 2011. It is a wonderful foray into the home invasion film, with a little slasher plus Home Alone thrown into the mix. Everything works in this film—the direction, the cinematography, the screenplay by Simon Barrett, the pacing, the acting (especially Sharni Vinson, who is brilliant as the surprising Erin).

What’s great about You’re Next, in fact, is that it is consistently surprising. I’m not going to give it away entirely but I do want to make the point that the invaders are not who and what you might think they are. You’re Next offers us what seem like conventional bad guys, clearly demarcated by the masks they wear. The preview plays up the film’s structuring dichotomy between the perfect family within the luxurious home and the masked marauders prowling outside, attacking from beyond the mansion’s sheltering walls. Here’s the preview if you haven’t seen it: Read more

1. Nerve poster
Posted on August 19, 2016

Nerve (2016): The Most Dangerous Game


The more horror I read and watch, the more I realize that certain stories are repeatedly told over the decades. Different generations will create different variations, but the story will fundamentally be the same. This is by no means a bad thing: we create our world by telling stories, and some stories are just so crucial to the human condition, so much about who we are, that they need—they demand—to be re-told.

One extremely important story in the horror tradition is the story of the dangerous game. It originated (in modern form, anyway) in the 1924 short story by Richard Connell called (not surprisingly) “The Most Dangerous Game.” It’s been made into several films over the decades (e.g., RKO’s faithful 1932 adaptation, The Most Dangerous Game, starring Joel McCrea, 1961’s Bloodlust!, 1994’s Surviving the Game, with Rutger Hauer and Ice-T, and 2004’s The Eliminator). The most recent incarnation of the dangerous game story, I would argue, is Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s Nerve (2016). Read more

Posted on August 16, 2016

Chicken Hawk (1994): Documenting Perversion


Like many, the recent social media explosion erroneously linking Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump to the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) gave me more than a little pause.[i] Given what I research, I’d heard of NAMBLA but was under the impression that they had disbanded. A quick perusal of the organization’s website and Wikipedia page confirmed that it is still active although on a very marginal scale.[ii]

One thing that did jump out at me in this reading was a listing for a 1994 documentary entitled Chicken Hawk: Men Who Love Boys. Immediately, the title was what caught my eye, as “chicken hawk” is an outdated term that was once actively used within the queer community to describe an older man who pursues a much younger man.[iii] That it would be used in this context to describe pedophilia was disturbing to me on a variety of levels and so I set out to watch it for myself (it’s readily available on YouTube).

Part of me really wishes that I hadn’t.

Read more

13 women lead
Posted on August 12, 2016

Thirteen Women (1932): The Slasher that Started it All


If you love horror films, you’ll want to watch the classic Thirteen Women (David Archainbaud, 1932). It’s a little-known film that, four decades before The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Black Christmas (1974), and Halloween (1978), mapped out the contours of the slasher plot.

Myself and Gwen have recently written an article about the film: “Thirteen Women (1932): An Unacknowledged Horror Classic,” published in the Journal of Film and Video 68, no. 1 (Spring 2016). I’m just hitting a couple of the highlights here, so if you want more analysis, that’s the place to go.

We didn’t conjure our idea up out of thin air. Some film critics had already nodded to Thirteen Women’s anticipation of the slasher sub-genre. For instance, in his review of the DVD, which was released as part of the Warner Archive Collection in 2012, John Beifuss notes that Thirteen Women is “not exactly a horror film,” yet he goes on to map numerous of its “horror themes,” drawing a line to both Friday the 13th (1980) and the Final Destination franchise (2000-2011). [i] We disagree with Beifuss’s hedging: Thirteen Women is in fact a horror film. Read more

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