Browsing Tag

horror film

Posted on May 17, 2017

Why You Should Watch Hammer’s The Plague of the Zombies

Dawn

If you haven’t watched the 1966 Hammer film, The Plague of the Zombies (John Gilling), you should. Much of it is fairly standard Hammer fare—set in the nineteenth century, stagey dialogue, filmed on artificial sets—but it has moments of real power, and it’s an important entry in the zombie tradition.

The Plague of the Zombies is a crucial link between the zombie revolution that was about to hit the screens two years later—in George A. Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead—and the zombie films of the 1930s and 1940s, which drew up Haitian lore and in which zombies were mindless bodies under the control of an evil (white) man.

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Posted on May 9, 2017

The Eye vs. The Eye

Guest Post

If you’re a serious film fan, you probably have a kneejerk (but totally appropriate!) negative reaction any time you hear about an American remake of a beloved movie from another country. Who among us has not been burned? Who doesn’t have that one favorite film from abroad that was eventually sullied (or even ruined) by Hollywood ignorance/excess/apathy/all of the above?

For me, it was the 2004 Thai horror movie, Shutter, which was crazy scary and climaxed with a final reveal (I won’t spoil it here) that chilled me to the bone, only to be transformed four years later into a disappointing cash grab starring Dawson Creek’s Joshua Jackson.

For others, perhaps it was the British cult classic, The Wicker Man (1973), which was recycled into the unintentionally campy Nicolas Cage movie of the same name in 2006. Or maybe it was the R-rated J-horror classic, Ju-on (2002), which became the nonsensical PG-13 Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle, The Grudge (2004).

But believe it or not, I’m not a rabid purist. I do acknowledge that there have been solid remakes in the American canon, horror and otherwise. For example, as much as I (and the rest of the world) love the chilling Let the Right One In (2008) from Sweden, I think Let Me In (2010) is remarkably well-crafted and surprisingly moving, emotionally, in ways the Swedes never intended.

So it was with an open mind that I recently approached watching, after all these years, the 2008 American remake of The Eye (2002). I saw the Hong Kong-made original when it first came out, in a small theater that no longer exists, and it instantly became one of my favorite horror films of all time.

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Posted on May 5, 2017

Roadkill: Art or Exploitation?

Dawn

Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) famously opens (after the credit sequence) with what has to be one of the most famous shots of roadkill in horror—a dead armadillo on a hot Texas highway. The shot is an establishing shot, but it also predicts something of what is to come. The young and attractive main characters, speeding past the charnel houses of a forgotten part of Texas, will soon find other kinds of “animals” who have been left behind by civilization, abandoned by the side of the road of progress. And then they themselves will also become a kind of roadkill.

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Posted on April 7, 2017

Chopping Wood in The Witch and The Amityville Horror

Dawn

Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2015) is a horror film, to be sure, although most critics have tended not to treat it as a genre film, focusing on its impressive innovations in production, narrative, and cinematography.

Every time I’ve watched the film, though, I’ve been struck by the scenes of Ralph Ineson’s William, the Puritan patriarch, furiously chopping wood. He does so three times (that magic number) and each time he is more disturbed. These scenes stand out not only because lumber is pretty much the only thing the struggling family has in abundance but also because it strikingly evokes The Amityville Horror, both the 1979 original (Stuart Rosenberg) and the 2005 remake (Andrew Douglas).

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Posted on February 22, 2017

Is Insidious Really about Race?

Dawn

The horror film is notoriously white, which is why I’m writing this in great anticipation of the release on Friday February 24 of Jordan Peele’s Get Out–a serious horror film that directly confronts racial difference and division. Peele has said that the idea for his film initially came to him during the 2008 Democratic primary and that, over the years, he became more and more convinced that “especially after Obama’s election . . . the U.S. was ‘living in this postracial lie.’” Peele’s target in Get Out, he says, is “the liberal elite,” who tend to believe they are above—past—racism.[i]

The release of Peele’s film, which takes aim at the idea that we are “postracial,” joins the recent publication of Michael Tesler’s book, Post-Racial or Most-Racial?, about the increasing racialization of the US during the course of Barack Obama’s presidency. Tesler points out that before Obama’s election in 2008, “race-based and race-evoking issues” were “largely receding from the national political scene.” Obama’s two terms as president, however, have ushered in what Tesler calls “a ‘most-racial’ political era” in which Americans are more divided “over a whole host of political positions than they had been in modern times.”[ii]

If America has become still more profoundly divided by race over the course of the last nine years, it’s worth asking, where is the evidence of that divide in the horror film, a genre that has long been (rightly) declared to be adept at representing the social and cultural conflicts of its historical moment?

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