Browsing Tag

horror film

Posted on December 14, 2017

The Doll: Horror and the Human Barbie


The Doll, which was released in December 2017, is the second horror film written and directed by Susannah O’Brien, president of Sahara Vision Productions. O’Brien’s first horror film, Encounter, was released in May 2016, and she has a third film, Hallucinogen, due for release imminently.

The Doll is set in motion when two men, Andy (Anthony Del Negro) and his roommate Chris (Christopher Lenk) order a Russian escort from a distinctly shady website. This brilliant maneuver is supposed to make Andy’s girlfriend Shannon (Isabella Racco) jealous so she’ll come back to him. (The fact that Shannon walked out on Andy because he was making out with two women in their pool doesn’t seem to occur to Andy and Chris, who are immediately revealed as not the smartest tools in the toolbox.) Anyway, the Russian woman knocks at the door and Chris and Andy are suitably impressed by the looks of Natasha, played by the so-called “human Barbie,” Valeria Lukyano. Natasha doesn’t just look like a Barbie, she acts like one too, engaging in strictly minimal communication. And even though they supposedly think she is an actual human, Chris and Andy treat Natasha disconcertingly like a doll. “Where shall we put her?” asks Andy. And they proceed to put her in the attic–over and over. Happily (for this viewer at least), Natasha may not talk much, but she is handy with a knife. The plot thus follows her killing spree (which she engages in for reasons which are entirely obscure), intertwined with the much less interesting drama of Andy and Shannon’s love life.

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Posted on November 14, 2017

Interview with John Carpenter: Horror Films Reinforce Our Fear Instincts

Guest Post

With his classic suspense film Halloween from 1978, John Carpenter launched the slasher subgenre into the mainstream. The low-budget horror picture introduced iconic Michael Myers as an almost otherworldly force of evil, stalking and killing babysitters in otherwise peaceful Haddonfield. It featured a bare-bones plot, a simple, haunting musical score composed by Carpenter himself, some truly nerve-wracking editing and cinematography, and it spawned a deluge of sequels, prequels, rip-offs, and homages. There’d be no Scream films without Halloween, no Friday the 13th franchise, no “rules for surviving a horror film.” Cinema—suspense and horror cinema in particular—would be a lot poorer without Mr. Carpenter’s massive influence.

Halloween is now hailed as a masterpiece of horror, consistently showing up on “Best Horror Films” lists, but it has also sparked controversy over alleged misogyny and sadism. In this film, some critics argued, young women are punished for having premarital sex—all but the chaste “Final Girl.” Michael Myers, they claimed, was an agent of conservative morality, and viewers indulged misogynistic, sadistic pleasures by identifying with him. But that approach is misguided. Myers is an agent of pure, anti-social evil, and the characters who are killed are the ones who fail to be vigilant. The film does not invite us to identify with Myers—it invites us to identify with his victims. The pleasure of watching Halloween is the peculiar pleasure of vicarious immersion into a world torn apart by horror.

I spoke to Mr. Carpenter as research for my book, and the rest of this blog post is a transcription of that conversation.

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Posted on October 18, 2017

Happy Death Day and Life’s Trauma


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 September 17, 2017

Aronofsky’s Mother! Unabashed Misogyny


This post contains spoilers; I thought about it long and hard but was unable to write about Mother! without discussing the ending.

Darren Aronofsky’s most recent film was preceded by a suitably vague trailer that quite effectively, as it turned out, disguises what his film is actually about.

And much of the film, like the trailer, is intriguing because it doesn’t give away what’s going on, what kind of film Mother! is. It trades in many horror film conventions, raising all kinds of expectations: there’s a couple isolated in a house, each with a mysterious past; there’s a house that seems itself to be sentient, alive; there are uninvited guests who quickly turn hostile (is this a home invasion film?); and there’s an uncanny pregnancy (Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is one of the principal cinematic touchstones of Mother!). Jennifer Lawrence does a great job of playing the standard “haunted house” protagonist, especially after she becomes pregnant, a woman who may or may not be seeing what’s actually there, may or may not be experiencing hallucinations. Indeed, for much of its run-time, Mother! seems like a gothic horror film, a subgenre that is notable for featuring strong women and feminist themes.

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Posted on September 15, 2017

Horror Island: The Difference Between Scary and Spooky

Guest Post

Despite having “horror” in the title, Universal’s 1941 film Horror Island (George Waggner) isn’t particularly horrific. Sure, some people get murdered off-camera and a corpse gets shoved into knight armor, but precious few viewers—either then or now—would ever suffer nightmares from this film.

In short, Horror Island isn’t scary, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer horror fans. In fact, it’s an immensely watchable hour of entertainment. Why? Because it’s spooky.

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