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Posted on October 18, 2017

Happy Death Day and Life’s Trauma

Dawn

With Happy Death Day, Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions continue their string of innovative and high-quality horror films (The Purge, The Gift, Split, The Visit, Unfriended, Get Out). Directed by Christopher B. Landon and written by Scott Lobdell Jr., Happy Death Day is, of course, not completely original (what is?). Its premise echoes the 2017 teen drama, Before I Fall (Ry Russo-Young), which is based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Lauren Oliver. And it is deeply and self-consciously indebted to the brilliant Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993). That said, though, while Happy Death Day isn’t groundbreaking, it is a fresh approach to the slasher film. Its success is due not least to the fabulous performances of its two leads—Jessica Rothe who plays Tree and Israel Broussard as Carter. The supporting cast is also great, including Rachel Matthews as uber-bitch sorority queen, Danielle.

The film follows college student Tree after she wakes up on her birthday in a relative stranger’s (Carter’s) dorm room after a night of hard drinking. She cavalierly goes through her post-debauch day, revealing how fundamentally unpleasant she is to everyone around her. On her way to a party that night, she’s murdered by a masked figure—only to wake up in Carter’s room on her birthday again. The day keeps repeating and, as you might imagine, Tree experiences a variety of shocked and panicked emotions before she starts trying to take control of her experience, figure out what’s going on, and stop the cycle.

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Posted on October 4, 2017

31 Found-Footage Horror Films for October

Guest Post

Found-footage horror has been one of the most creative and provocative subgenres of horror since Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez released The Blair Witch Project in 1999. For your Halloween viewing, our guest writer Brooke Bennett has created a calendar of the best found-footage horror for you to watch in October. You can download the calendar as a pdf document (just in case you don’t get through them all in October). We hope you enjoy them–and feel free to jump onto the comments section and post your thoughts about our choices, along with any films we omitted. What found-footage horror films do you think should be on every horror fan’s list?

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Posted on October 3, 2017

90s Rewatch: Fear and a Teen Girl’s Guide to Love and Sex

Guest Post

James Foley’s Fear (1996) is probably one of the more neglected horror films. Its antagonist is not the typical movie monster. No demons, vampires, or masked murderers are featured in this flick—just a violent teenaged sociopath named David (Mark Wahlberg). What’s more, cinematic versions of obsessive lovers were embodied almost exclusively by females in the late eighties and early nineties—for example, Fatal Attraction (1987), Single White Female (1992), The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992), Poison Ivy (1992), and The Crush (1993). In Fear, however, the shoe was suddenly on the other foot.

As a teenybopper, barely into double digits, I felt an instant attraction to Fear. I had discovered Sleeping with the Enemy not long before, but David’s erratic aggression was something else entirely. As I watched him, I realized domestic violence was not restricted to the adult world; it could potentially play out among mall rats and cool kids. Suffice it to say, the movie shaped my initial understandings of young men and turned me off to dating in my teens.

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Posted on September 27, 2017

IT’s Homely Horror: What to Do with a Haunted House

Guest Post

While praising the cast of Andy Muschietti’s 2017 adaptation of IT, A. O. Scott repeats a comment my friends keep saying about the film: it’s old horror hat gone wild. Scott, in his New York Times review, specifically argues that with the advent of CGI in modern horror films comes artistic repetition:

“Movie monsters resemble one another more and more, and movies of distinct genres feel increasingly trapped within the expected.”

Yet, beneath the expected jump scares, the uptick in gore-filled moments, and what some call the over-exposure of the titular monster, IT brings the horror mode under critique. Unlike Scott, I argue that Muschietti is engaging in a rather nuanced play on the stock elements of horror that so bothered reviewers. In short, that feeling of being “trapped within the expected” is exactly the intent of the overt and arguably overused horror in this adaptation. Muschietti’s film turns the conventional images of horror against the audience, forcing us to work through our own expectations operating within the genre. In this way, IT becomes more concerned with how horrific imagery can be used to hide and deflect from the reality it represents.

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Posted on September 25, 2017

Fantastic Fest: Maus and the Horror of War

Dawn

Get Out’s Jordan Peele and Blumhouse Productions’ Jason Blum are not alone in arguing that politics are crucial to the horror film.[i]  Spanish director Yayo Herrero’s film Maus had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 22, 2017, and it is a deep dive into the politics of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992 to 1995), its lingering aftermath, and the current tensions in Europe surrounding immigration and terrorism. Both in his introduction to Maus at Fantastic Fest, and in the Q&A afterwards, Herrero insisted that politics are crucial to horror, that horror is good because of its politics. He also made the point that what is important about Maus is not any particular message, which he resisted stating directly, but the debate that it will stir up. And, indeed it will stir up debate.

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