What follows is my list of films which reveal the horrors of caregiving. The role of caretaker requires you to give something of yourself, sometimes giving more than you have to offer. This is a precarious assignment that takes a toll on the physical as well as the psychological self. One must make moral decisions and selflessly sacrifice time, patience, and dreams. Ineffective caregivers sow the seeds of lasting consequences for themselves and others. Needless to say sometimes there is a backlash for giving so much of one’s self. (For the purposes of this list, I tried to stay away from using examples of parents as “caregivers”.)
Endings are crucial in horror. During the reign of the Motion Picture Production Code (1934-1968), evil had to be punished, which obviously dictated a certain kind of ending—an inevitable and often abrupt closure that restored the status quo. (Remember the evil Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed , struck by lightning at the end, a conclusion most definitely not in the novel.)
It wasn’t until 1968, after the demise of the Code, that modern horror saw its first truly shocking and nihilistic ending in George A. Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead. The protagonist of the film (Ben [Duane Jones]), who was the sole survivor of a night of carnage after a group trapped in a farmhouse were attacked by ghouls arisen from their graves, was shot in the head by a posse “cleaning up” the staggering zombies. There was closure here, but it wasn’t about the destruction of the monster but of the good guy. And, if order was restored (which is arguable), it was indiscriminately brutal. Then came the slashers of the 70s and 80s and, as great as many of them are, they did usher in the kind of ending that unfortunately still prevails in much horror: monster dies; monster isn’t dead; monster is even more angry; cue sequel. Such endings can be shocking, but the shock is cheap, and it really isn’t that shocking after you’ve watched enough of them. Read more
I should preface this by stating that I was traumatized by Girl Scout camp long before I saw any of these films. I was an awkwardly shy kid away from home for the first time in the middle of nowhere with only one friend. The food sucked, the lake was icky (reminded me of “The Raft” segment from Creepshow 2 ), and I swear I pulled latrine duty every time. Frankly, I might take a night at Camp Bloodbath before I would go back to Girl Scout camp. By no means do I shudder from the great outdoors, but let’s just say I would take my chances in an urban jungle long before I would canoe down the Cahulawassee River looking to play Dueling Banjos with the locals. From a horror film stand point, I just feel as if things work out better for folks in the city than in the woods. Whether it is a vacation getaway in the woods, a week at summer camp, or some time to hone your cheerleading skills, these films offer little respite for the weary. As we embark on the summer of 2016, maybe some of these films will help you decide whether you would rather camp along the Appalachian Trail or book a room at the Hyatt this year.
I was watching the SyFy channel last night and blissfully re-indulged in the 2012 film, The Possession. During the commercial breaks (yup, no DVR here folks) I had an average of 2-4 minutes to ponder random things. Why did Rachel Maddow show up as my college roommate in my dream last night? And, more importantly, why are there so many boxes in horror films!? Of course, when I have important things to do like write a dissertation, I suddenly found it much more imperative to test my horror knowledge and see how many horror films prominently feature boxes. Every good scientific experiment needs rules, and I decided to rule out boxes in the forms of coffins, sarcophaguses, music boxes, jack in the boxes, and other banal background boxes.
I thought to myself, people love to look at why horror features so many clowns, children, and dolls, so why not boxes and crates?[i] Whose curiosity isn’t piqued by a mystical box that holds treasures unknown? Take for instance the story of Pandora’s Box, eons of pirate treasure stories, and geeks like myself who will scour the area in hopes of finding a geocache that is probably only filled with a pencil and a button. Boxes evoke the unknown; they conceal and contain both wondrous and horrible things. And in many of these films, the boxes hold a component of weighty choice…a path not taken or a rule broken. Each container holds a picture of what we reveal, what we hide, and who we are. I hope you will join me in avoiding real work to enjoy this list with me! (Beware of some plot spoilers) Read more
Sunday March 20 is the first day of spring, but it also seems that winter is making a last stand in the northeast, a last sheet of snow and ice likely to blanket many parts of the region.
In honor of winter’s likely last resurgence, I’ve made a list of five horror films set in frozen landscapes that you may not have heard about—and that are all really worth watching. It’s a beyond-The- Shining-and-beyond-The-Thing list—for all those who love the harsh bleakness, the existential desolation, of those snow-blasted films.