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.
Kathryn Bigelow is a name that will go down in film history as the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director. That is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a legacy of what can be called one of the most unique cinematic evolutions, with a filmography that spans almost 30 years, leading to her Oscar, and has carried her farther into the 21st century. Early in her career, like many filmmakers, she cut her teeth making genre films, giving us Point Break, every dad’s favorite Patrick Swayze film.
Long before that, Bigelow’s early work experimented with the then dying western genre. Unable to fully fund a straightforward western film, Bigelow was convinced by Hitcher writer, Eric Red, to combine the western with a more profitable genre. With vampires going through a resurgence in popularity throughout the 1980s, Bigelow was able to find funding for her solo debut film, Near Dark, under the now defunct De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. Sadly, due to the company’s bankruptcy, Near Dark received very little promotion and an even shorter release, dooming it as a box office flop. With the advent of home video and HBO, Near Dark has developed a devoted cult following, becoming one in the holy trinity of 80s vampire fare, standing alongside the likes of Lost Boys and Fright Night.
If you’re reading this article, you may be an aspiring filmmaker or already established, maybe even an award-winner with worldwide fame. For the most part, you and I are in the same boat. We’re not exactly famous, but we’d like to create work that can be recognized and appreciated.
A great place to start is by making a horror film. It’s affordable, rather straightforward, and in high demand. But the real question is, how do you make one and why should you make one? Well, let's go through the list together.
Two masterful film directors, John Carpenter and Wes Craven, have made their mark on the horror genre and the broader film industry. Beginning in 1978 with John Carpenter’s Halloween, and spanning almost 20 years, these auteurs have left an indelible footprint in Hollywood. They are the reason why the slasher genre became popular and why certain aspects of the horror film persist.