We continue our article of Stuart Gordon with part 2 of 3 from last week's article "Ranking Stuart Gordon's Lovecraft Saga."
Music is such an important tool for filmmakers and storytellers alike. It guides you along in a scene or sets the mood. It can be just as much of a character as the people you see on screen.
But what is the purpose of music in a horror film? Why do we need music, and what does it do to our audience? How does it make them feel? Better yet, how does it make you feel?
Perhaps it’s the desire for a good laugh in these trying times, but there’s something endearing about the silliest of B-Horror films, the ones where characters barricade themselves in a large structure using everything from guns to rakes to make one last stand. Of course, these films aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I give credit where credit is due. And yes, Eight Legged Freaks is an underrated film.
The horror genre is no stranger to films about women suffering in an abusive relationship or as the victim of a patriarchal mindset. Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, and most recently, The Invisible Man all come to mind. Swallow, written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, takes the well-known storyline about a woman trapped in an unhappy relationship and does something incredibly unique with it. The female lead, Hunter (Haley Bennett), has pica, a disorder that causes her to eat nonfood items. Yet, this very disorder gives her a sense of agency that she’s never felt. The real horror is the fact that Hunter feels so powerless that she resorts to swallowing objects, while the real monsters are her dismissive husband and his work buddies and family who view her solely as subservient to her husband.
Everyone is familiar with the writings of Stephen King, Clive Barker and Dean Koontz. They are the heavy hitters of horror literature. There are some novelists that often get overlooked by Hollywood and the average horror reader. I am an avid reader of horror and I would like to share with you some summer reading of the “Lesser known” novelists who aren't named Stephen King.
Have you ever noticed how dramatic lighting can be in some of your favorite horror films? The silhouetted killer in the dark street, the glowing red eyes in the dark room, the broken flashlight that flickers and reveals the monster.
Those were intentional, important choices that the director and cinematographer chose to use to force the audience to feel a certain way. The way you use light can easily make or break a film. Let's figure out why lighting is important.
On March 24, 2020, prolific cult filmmaker, Stuart Gordon, passed away at the age of 72. When I was first getting into horror, I discovered reruns of Showtime’s Masters of Horror on Sunday nights on the Chiller Network. The series was a short lived, but an engaging, episodic horror anthology in which horror filmmakers, old and new, would direct one episode per season. This was a gateway for me to explore the works of filmmakers I would come to find entertainment and influence from. Some of these filmmakers included Don Coscarelli, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, and of course, Stuart Gordon.
Shark movies are essentially broken down into three tiers. The first tier has Jaws, which chomps down on most competitors. The second includes the worthy efforts that have good characters and a sense of fun or dread. And then there’s the lowest tier with titles like Sharknado. Yes, I admit it, I’m not a fan. I grew up watching every cheap sci-fi film I could, but everyone has their limit. Combining sharks with other elements usually falters for me unless it’s the cool laser sharks of Aquaman. But I digress.
So what does it take for a shark movie to at least be good? Personally, I think it’s any film that can find the right balance. How much violence is needed? How much should we care about the characters? What dramatic speeches will be stated near the water? I’ve only seen a handful that reach the second tier and, with quarantine keeping many indoors, I decided to revisit one of my childhood favorites, a fun little thriller called Deep Blue Sea.
We all have small beginnings, especially within the film industry. For movie directors, before the jump into larger budget films, they have to demonstrate what they’re capable of via indie/smaller budget films. For some, it takes one mere film before a big production studio notices them. For others, it could be a couple of more films. Part of making it within the film industry is just sheer luck at times. But over the last few years, big-budget films, in this case $100 million plus, especially within the superhero genre, are bringing in indie horror directors and giving them the opportunity of a lifetime. There are a handful of horror directors who have made the jump into the superhero genre, but within this article I’m going to take a look at James Wan, David Sandberg, Sam Raimi, Scott Derrickson, and James Gunn. Some notable, honorable mentions include Tim Burton, who directed Beetlejuice and Batman (1989) and Zack Snyder, who also started off with a zombie/horror film titled Dawn of the Dead and later went on to direct Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, and Justice League
Henry James’ classic 19th Century ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, has had a bit of a revival lately. The Turning, released earlier this year, is loosely based on the novella. Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor, directed by Mike Flanagan, has finished filming and most likely will debut this fall. There have been countless other screen adaptations, but few come as close to matching the complexities and ambiguities of the novella as 1961’s The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton. From the casting, to the atmosphere, to the camera work, The Innocents is a faithful and frightful adaptation.