I was previously unaware that actor Bill Paxton had also been a director briefly, but upon discovering this fact, I was curious to know what the Aliens actor had done with his feature debut, Frailty. In short, it’s a quiet gem that walks the line between police procedural and family drama with ease. It’s entertaining, to be sure, but it also has some deep and disturbing questions worth considering before living in an isolated farmhouse.
It might be an insulting understatement to say that 2020 has been a particularly tumultuous year, especially in political terms. As a reaction to the general creep of far-right politics, tensions mounting due to pandemic, and continued deaths of marginalized folks via unlawful force by the police, we have seen perhaps the largest movement of solidarity in protests of our generation taking place. According to the New York Times, the current Black Lives Matter protests are the biggest social movements in American history, even beyond American citizenship. We live in a time where it feels like long ignored crimes against humanity are finally being addressed on a national scale. Those complicit in it may face proper consequences. How appropriate then, that we have a movie from emerging Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante that fits the mood perfectly. Even better, the film in question La Llorona uses a ghost story's framework to tell a story of cultural trauma and hold those responsible accountable.
Ah, navigating the world of dating, such fun. What could be scarier than putting yourself out there? What if they don’t like you? What if you don’t like them? What if they’re an axe murderer? Well, you get the idea. You never know what you’re getting into when you leave your comfort zone. Sometimes, we are so wrapped up in our own insecurities that we’re not sure if we will ever find “the one.” These real-life elements can be the setup to some great romantic comedies or you know, scary movies. This is the situation rendered in Marc Cartwright’s recent short film, We Die Alone.
Over the last twenty years, musician/filmmaker Rob Zombie has carved out one of the most dedicated fan bases and intense filmographies of any director in the horror genre. Loud, violent, flashy, and vulgar, Zombie has been going against the grain of mainstream horror throughout the new millennium, earning his place in the pantheon of the 2000’s Splat Pack. After breaking out with his most well-known feature, The Devil’s Rejects, and his notorious Halloween duology (which I’m actually a big fan of), Zombie needed to return to his roots and do something original. And this something was an idea that he had been kicking around for over half a decade based on the Salem Witch Trials. To this day, The Lords of Salem is the real stand out of Zombie films, no murderous clowns, no slashers, and unfortunately, no Bill Mosely or Sid Haig (the latter was drastically cut from the final film). But that’s what makes some films interesting, right? When a director steps out of their comfort zone and experiments with newer subjects, you never know what you’ll get.
As long as there have been movies, there have been movies about mermaids. As far back as 1916 with A Daughter of the Gods, we have been finding ways to realize sirens unto the screen. Perhaps it is the mix of the aquatic, erotic, and the uncanny that draws us to them like the sailors featured in their stories. Yet, they are very rarely utilized within horror cinema. True, we have the cult classic Night Tide (Curtis Harrington, 1961), but mostly, the portrayal of merfolk has been more whimsical and light-hearted, exemplified by the undeniable icon of the subgenre The Little Mermaid (Ron Clements and John Musker, 1989). And yet, within the last decade, we have seen an utterly idiosyncratic take not just on the genre but also on that original fairy tale itself. Hailing from Poland comes The Lure, a queer musical body horror film about backstage drama and merfolk.
Carrie: Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.
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There has been a strange nostalgia for the 1980s over the last 10-15 years, including countless remakes of iconic horror films from that decade, including Friday the 13th (2009), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Evil Dead (2013), and Child’s Play (2019). Meanwhile, "Stranger Things" has become such a cultural phenomenon that the upside down is now part of our lexicon. It’s no surprise then that there’s a new documentary celebrating that era in horror. In Search of Darkness, written and directed by David A. Weiner, features commentary on several films from that period and interviews with genre heavyweights, including Kane Hodder, Heather Langenkamp, Doug Bradley, Joe Bob Briggs, John Carpenter, Sean S. Cunningham, just to name a few. The doc’s greatest strength is that it never leans into nostalgia too much and instead offers insightful perspectives on the films and characteristics of that decade.
Stephen King...enough said. He’s been a literary boogeyman in our lives for almost fifty years, and despite a roller coaster ride of addictions and close calls, he shows no signs of retiring. At his best, King can make you scared to look in a storm drain, and even at his worst, you’re still curious to know just how “off the rails” something can go.
Having grown up watching and enjoying Deep Blue Sea, I still went into this threequel with extremely low expectations. Some would say that’s to be expected with the way that shark movies have been for years, with just a few films being able to distinguish themselves. So the big question is, was Deep Blue Sea 3 able to transcend the mold? Not really. But is it what you expect and a little bit more? Perhaps.
There are horror icons, and then there’s Vincent Price. Beginning his career in the Universal Monster Era, Price would find his calling playing the bad guy with his piercing stare, infectious voice, and arguably the best villain laugh. From William Castle to Roger Corman, Price could add class to even the schlockiest of cheese. Even through all the schlock, he does retain a few uncut gems, including one of his unique roles that came right at the tail end of his golden age, and has fallen under the radar: his 100th film, 1971’s The Abominable Dr. Phibes.