Bird Box (UK: Harper Voyager/ US: Ecco Press, 2014)
When characters in horror films hear a strange noise, the first thing they do is investigate, despite the audience shouting at them to run the other way. More provoking than going to see what caused the noise, however, is not being able to do so. In Josh Malerman’s novel, Bird Box, characters and the reader must react to sounds without being able to see. And therein lies the horror.
Like Night of the Living Dead, something has happened to the world, and no one knows why. The reports come in gradually at first, then like a flood: people are turning violent and committing suicide, taking anyone close enough with them. It is eventually surmised that these tragic victims have seen “something,” to cause their actions: creatures who suddenly walk among us. No one knows who or what they are, what they look like, or what they want because anyone who sees them loses their mind and dies.
PG-13 96 mins. Stacy Title USA 2017
The Bye Bye Man is a decent horror film. I can’t say it’s terribly innovative but it was enjoyable enough—and interesting enough—for me to recommend it.
In some ways, The Bye Bye Man feels like something of a throwback to the 1990s and early 2000s. It evoked Candyman (1992), Final Destination (2000), and The Ring (2002)—with a nod to the more recent Slenderman mythology.
What follows is my list of films which reveal the horrors of caregiving. The role of caretaker requires you to give something of yourself, sometimes giving more than you have to offer. This is a precarious assignment that takes a toll on the physical as well as the psychological self. One must make moral decisions and selflessly sacrifice time, patience, and dreams. Ineffective caregivers sow the seeds of lasting consequences for themselves and others. Needless to say sometimes there is a backlash for giving so much of one’s self. (For the purposes of this list, I tried to stay away from using examples of parents as “caregivers”.)
I finally got around to watching two films that kept turning up on the best horror of 2016 lists—and while I could not agree more that Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe belongs at the top of that list, James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 shouldn’t even be up for consideration.
The only things that really excited me about Conjuring 2 were the mid-1970s English setting of the film, which felt very authentic—the clothes, the school satchels, the cars, the music, the posters of Starsky and Hutch—and the genuinely creepy nun (and, sure enough, there’s a spin-off called The Nun in the works; doesn’t anyone remember how horrible Annabelle was?). Aside from that, Conjuring 2 was a huge disappointment, and not least because it served up exactly the same plot as The Conjuring (James Wan, 2013).
In the beginning of 2016, Robert Eggers’ The Witch confounded audiences with its slow, not particularly scary take on “a New England Folktale.” In that film, a young woman faces the tyranny of religious and familial oppression in early Puritan New England while also trying to avoid the very-real menace from the film’s title. Different in almost every way, Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits (2015) seems at first like a sports movie, as it follows a young woman who switches from boxing training to a competitive dance squad housed in the same community center in modern day Cincinnati. Soon, though, the film’s real genre takes hold as women in the crew start to experience mysterious seizures that scare the other members of the squad. Neither film will inspire any screams of terror nor will any viewers’ hearts likely start racing except in appreciation for excellent filmmaking, though both films have terrifically creepy scores and feature some standard horror scenes. What patient audiences will discover, especially if they watch the two films as a double feature, is their shared examination of puberty’s perils for young women when they grow up in places where they are not allowed to be their full selves.