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Posted on February 19, 2018

Podcasts as Horror Storytelling

Elizabeth Erwin

You can’t expose yourself to grisly images and concepts on the daily and not have a strong stomach. And so it was with more than a little surprise that I found myself having to repeatedly take a break from episode 10 of the fantastic Charles Manson’s Hollywood podcast, which recounts in grisly detail the murders that took place at Sharon Tate’s home in 1969.

Now none of these details were new to me. In fact, I’d go so far as to say there may have been elements left out in the telling. But the very intimate nature of listening to the description of events instead of reading it or watching it impacted me in a way for which I was wholly unprepared. And so it got me thinking about the ways in which podcasts are revolutionizing the horror experience for fans. Read more

Posted on February 10, 2018

The Ritual: Best Horror Film of 2018 So Far

Dawn Keetley

The Ritual just arrived on Netflix US on February 9, 2018, after general release in the UK and Ireland last October. It’s directed by David Bruckner (The Signal, 2007, and the “Amateur Night” segment in V/H/S, 2012) and co-written by Joe Barton and Adam Nevill. Nevill wrote the fantastic novel of the same name (2011). (Aside: go and read the novel.) Since I loved the novel, I’ve been following the film with anticipation, and so part of me expected disappointment as I began it as soon as it was humanly possible for me to do so on the day it arrived on Netflix. I was not disappointed. Far from it. In fact, The Ritual is my favorite horror film of 2018 so far.

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Posted on February 3, 2018

3 Films That Can Help You Understand Phantom Thread

Guest Post

Phantom Thread is Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, and I left the theater trying to figure out what to make of it. The story is simple: dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) meets a waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps), and they begin a relationship in which she becomes his new muse and must find her role in her new life while vying for his attention with Reynolds’ high-class clients and his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville). Soon, Alma begins to assert herself as the primary woman in Reynolds’ life and eventually demonstrates the implications of that role to him and the audience. Phantom Thread is a beautiful movie but the great camerawork and outstanding performances hide layers of meaning based principally on the complicated relationship at the center of the movie.

Although the film is a romance, there are some horror and thriller elements that helped me comprehend what was happening. To understand some of these aspects of the film better, I recommend thinking about it in relation to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Psycho, as well as Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper.

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Posted on January 5, 2018

3 Films That’ll Help You Understand The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Dawn Keetley

If you’ve watched Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), you may well have walked away baffled. I know I did. But in a good way. The film is intriguing enough that it draws you in, makes you think—even if it’s only to ask: “What the hell was that all about?”

The plot follows successful cardiologist Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), who has befriended the son of a patient who died on his operating table. Martin (Barry Keoghan) seems content at first just to meet Steven for coffee and desultory conversation, but it soon transpires that his relationship with the man who operated on his father is more complicated: he wants, as he says, “an eye for an eye.” He wants Steven to sacrifice one of his family members—his wife Anne (Nicole Kidman), daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) or son Bob (Sunny Suljic)—to balance the family member Martin thinks Steven took from him. The characters all speak in monotones and reveal very little of their underlying thought or emotion: the style is detached, and environments, houses, hospitals, cities, fill the frame, representing the attenuation of human motivation. It’s hard to know, in short, why characters do what they do.

In an effort to illuminate Lanthimos’s film, here are three films with which its meaning seems to me interwoven. Thinking through each of these films to Killing of a Sacred Deer sheds light on both.

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Posted on December 26, 2017

Apocalyptic Religions in The Mist

Guest Post

With the onslaught of Stephen King adaptations hitting movie screens and televisions this summer, headlined by It and Gerald’s Game, it’s easy to forget about the Spike television adaptation of The Mist. The Stephen King novel has already been adapted for the screen once, in Frank Darabont’s well-loved 2007 film. So why bother with a series? The answer isn’t all that clear, as the series stumbles around for ten episodes, never quite finding its footing. It departs wildly from the source material, reveals itself to be severely out of step with the national tone regarding sexual assault (especially given Harvey Weinstein’s uncomfortable presence as executive producer), and features far too many scenes of people standing around and talking. But as a scholar of the Bible, I found myself intrigued by the religious viewpoints on display, which make for an interesting contrast with the film version.

In both adaptations, a group of people are stranded as a mysterious mist envelops the surrounding area. The dangers of the mist are clear in the film; it harbors monstrous, carnivorous beasts. In the series, the danger is less clear, as the mist seems to call up memories, regrets, and various other nastiness which are more specific to the individual’s fears. In either case, the results of staying in the mist too long are not pretty.

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