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horror

Posted on November 6, 2017

Behind the Eclipse: Complicating Sexual Assault in Gerald’s Game

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Mike Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game (2017) is, shot for shot, one of the most loyal Stephen King adaptations to hit the screen. The premise of the film and the novel (1992) is, for Stephen King, very simple. Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald Burlingame (Bruce Greenwood) travel to their secluded lake house in an attempt to save their failing marriage. Gerald’s solution to their sexual stagnation is a pair of handcuffs. Jessie plays along with his game, witnesses her husband’s fatal heart attack, and finds herself alone.  The terror of the story, like its protagonist, is confined. The book and the film are compelling, however, because the terror is not in the house or the ravenous dog feasting on Gerald’s decaying body. For Jessie, the fear is spawned by being bound and alone, with only the repressed terror of her past.

In Gerald’s Game, Stephen King crafts one of his most feminist novels. His original intention was to pair the story with Dolores Claiborne (1992) as they both take place at (the fictional) Dark Score Lake during a full solar eclipse. Unfortunately, the pairing never happened, but we did end up with two separate books that work well in establishing a purely feminine viewpoint within the Stephen King universe. In Gerald’s Game, Jessie Burlingame becomes our window into a world that has been darkened by broken trust and a darkened sun.

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Posted on October 13, 2017

Why You Need to Watch the Child’s Play Franchise

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The Chucky movies get a bad rap. Honestly, any horror film that openly embraces comedy has an uphill battle when it comes to critical recognition. Most people will simply write off Child’s Play and its six sequels because of its killer-doll premise, its parade of one-liners, or its simple longevity. How could a franchise with this much ridiculousness possibly be good?

That kind of thinking is a huge disservice to the franchise. Why? Because the Chucky films have spanned generations, outlived most of their contemporaries, and evolved into one of the most interesting franchises in horror history. Its secret weapon is the seeming contradiction of constant reinvention within remarkable consistency.

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Posted on September 27, 2017

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

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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 20, 2017

Where to Start with Silent Horror Films

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Everyone knows the image: a bald, pale figure with impossibly long fingers rises out of his coffin. That’s of course Nosferatu, one of cinema’s great horror icons. Silent films are such a part of our culture that we can recognize so many moments from them, even if we haven’t seen a single movie. If you’ve ever wanted to check out silent horror films but were unsure of where to start, this is a list of the ten most representative films of the era. Made across two continents and two decades, these touch on everything from slashers, to the supernatural, to body horror.

As of this writing, most of these films are easily available on YouTube, but the best place to watch them is through one of their many DVD reissues. Silent films often get a bad rap simply because people don’t have access to prints that aren’t fuzzy, jumpy, and incomplete. That said, you really should watch these movies any way you can. They’re not just an educational look at how horror cinema started. They’re also scary as hell.

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Posted on September 8, 2017

Not so Funny: The Peculiar History of the Creepy Clown

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Clown hysteria may seem relatively new, but it is hardly a modern phenomenon. For many audiences over the centuries, the clown’s seemingly joyous face has detracted from something more sinister—some darker, hidden quality in the character. As a type, the creepy clown comes to us from centuries past. Like Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT, the clown is the monster that escapes a prior age, returning once again to stalk our nightmares.

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