R.L. Stine’s young adult book series Fear Street was the “grown up” Goosebumps. Books about teens for teens, which allowed for slightly more suggestive horror content. If Goosebumps was a G, Fear Street was a hard-PG. Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street: 1994, the first in a trilogy of adaptations for Netflix, is firmly R-rated.
I was a Goosebumps obsessive as a kid. I wanted to join the Goosebumps fan club (a real thing), in which I would receive a book every month and updates on all new things Goosebumps. Alas, the club was defunct by the time I signed up—it probably had been for years, considering Stine concluded writing the original series of books when I was three. Fear Street, on the other hand, completely Continue reading Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021) Movie Review→
Director Tim Hunter is perhaps best known for the crime drama River’s Edge starring Keanu Reeves. He has since directed the occasional feature, but most of his work is done on television programs. Fittingly, his Smiley Face Killers has the appearance of a teen drama show (like Riverdale or Scream: The TV Series, two shows Hunter has worked on).
I don’t say this disparagingly; it is simply an apparent feature. The young actors are lit and shot like they are models in an advertisement. Soft focus accentuates them in the frame. Soft, high key lighting highlights their features. At one point, a major character strips down and takes a shower, and the camera lingers on Continue reading Smiley Face Killers (2020) Movie Review→
May (Brea Grant), the protagonist of Lucky, suffers the condescending disinterest of the police, reductionist head-shrinking of social workers, and emotional manipulation and gaslighting of her partner (Dhruv Uday Singh). Oh, and she also gets attacked by a masked man every night of her life.
Lucky, written by Grant and directed by Natasha Kermani, is a lean (perhaps too lean) horror satire that imagines society’s patriarchy, microaggressions, and trauma as a surreal nightmare cycling again and again with no end in sight. As far as “social horror” goes, it’s a pretty perfect premise.
The film starts as a fresh twist on an old favorite. May and her husband Ted are attacked in their home by an intruder in the middle of the night. Only, Ted is shockingly nonplussed by the situation. In fact, Continue reading Lucky (2021) Movie Review→
Osgood Perkins’ Gretel & Hansel, produced by Orion Pictures and Bron Studios, reverses the names in the title of the classic Grimm’s fairy tale. This is an intentional choice. Not only is Gretel arguably the protagonist of every major iteration of this story, but this version makes a concerted effort to address the gender differences between its title characters.
It is an interesting direction to take a familiar fairy tale, one that could bear rich thematic fruit. Unfortunately, Rob Hayes’ script makes statements toward this theme without much elaboration and with only a cursory connection to the fairy tale text. The film begins with Continue reading Gretel & Hansel (2020) Movie Review→
Following the huge success of Gore Verbinski’s The Ring in 2002, The J-horror franchise Ju-on was remade in the United States as The Grudge in 2004. It was also a success. In the first weekend of 2020, another remake of Ju-on appeared in theaters to little fanfare. To Sony, it seemed like a good idea. The time gap is big enough. The January market is (while a notorious dumping ground) not a moneyless area for horror.
And the premise of Ju-on, like any good myth, is worth retelling. The concept of a house whose primary tenant is a spiritual curse is (while by no means wholly original) intriguing. The story moves from Continue reading The Grudge (2020) Movie Review→
I have to admit: I can’t remember a whole lot about The Gallows, the micro-budget horror film from 2015 that found a massive ROI despite strong negative reaction from audiences and critics. What I do remember is being unimpressed. But the film was financially impressive enough, shoring up almost $43 million on a reportedly $100,000 budget. Certainly enough to warrant the greenlight for a sequel.
Crawl must have been a terror to shoot. Taking place in Florida during a hurricane, nearly every scene in the film is drenched. The actors are consistently wet and trudging through waist-high water. Rain is constantly falling. The water budget on this thing must have been massive.
And for what?
Alexandre Aja has made a name for himself in the horror community, but when I look at his filmography I’m hard-pressed to understand how. I understand this may draw the ire of Continue reading Crawl (2019) Movie Review→
The 1989 Pet Sematary film is insane. By today’s standards, it is a dated horror aesthetic, and its scare factor is minimal. But its climax is a circus act of violent hilarity.
It makes for a good campy half of a Stephen King double feature, which is how I first came upon the film. Juxtaposing it with Kubrick’s The Shining may have caused some tonal whiplash, but that only amplified the enjoyment of seeing an undead child prey upon a rural family and their neighbor, played by the often imitated yet inimitable (sorry John Lithgow) Fred Gwynne.
Confusion washed over me when I first saw the trailer for Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Pet Sematary remake. What tone could this film possibly strike that would grant it success? The original was not Continue reading Pet Sematary (2019) Movie Review→
Jordan Peele understands the horror movie industry. Given he came out of the Blumhouse label with his directorial debut, the massively successful Get Out, this is no controversial statement. But his adept understanding of what works and doesn’t work about a horror film does not end at Jason Blum’s low-risk, high-reward model.
On June 6, 1944, the dawn of D-Day, a plane of American soldiers are crossing over enemy lines with a crucial assignment: take down a German bunker sited under a church tower so the military fly boys can give cover to the boats landing on the beaches. As we learn this mission, sitting in the rattling confines of the flyer where characters’ voices are muffled under the constant thrum of the war around them, the plane is shot out of the air. The few survivors must pick up the pieces of the fractured mission and carry on, knowing that failure to set explosives on the tower could mean the failure of the entire D-Day operation.
Oh, and there are Nazi zombies, as well.
Overlord, the new film from Julius Avery and produced by J.J. Abrams, takes the concept of insidious WWII Mengele-inspired experimentation and broadens it to horror genre extremes. B-movie horror extremes, in particular.