Tag Archives: horror movies

Devil Town: A Short Film Review

piuyfvbsjhgs1z4ixkmww8zfz7-hfyxado1tt5eisqc6npa2j5_o1xdezck5h3p4rdblj2gwwhfzjmupgctijf3hkwoowaut34jih51s0uy_hymq_cg5ivjyjx4gs8mrlscold2fgz5dat-j5fnkscyik2zbtd-2vf_adftpmbd54esgp0jtlfdranfhnlem5niid4ocWe open on a late afternoon as a ragged street preacher prophesies impending death and doom to disinterested passers-by. Among their number is Patrick Creedle (Matthew Hebden of Cartwheels and The Basil Brush Show), a character as fantastically despicable as his phone conversations are loud and abusive.

Which, for the record, is very.

Creedle steps into a local cafe for a coffee, unaware that the street preacher has followed him inside. Cornering Creedle at his table, Rime of the Ancient Mariner-style, the street preacher demands a few minutes of his captive’s time to relay a tale of creeping horror.

Hebden’s performance is definitely the highlight of the film, appearing instantly despicable without being cartoonish. He’s very much the self-absorbed ***hole that we know to well, and in his more sympathetic moments, Creedle could very much be us if we were caught on a bad day.

Our street preacher (Johnny Vivash of The Creature Below and The Collaborators) does a decent job of portraying a schizotypal vagrant who might not be quite as crazy as he first sounds. His insistence that a dark conspiracy is afoot grows increasingly eerie with every desperate whisper. Continue reading

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CWR’s Halloween Recommendations IV

Well my repellent readers, after a horrific hiatus Culture War Reporter’s is back from the grave to fight for your faithful following. And we start with one of my personal favorites, our fourth annual Halloween movie recommendations! Now let us feast!

The Perfect Host

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As a rule, I don’t consider “comedy horror” to be a legitimate subgenre of horror. Things are either scary or they’re funny and mashing ’em together in a movie usually makes sure that it’s neither. That said, 2010’s The Perfect Host may well change my mind about that. Imagine if Hannibal was a black comedy and you pretty much have this delightful hidden gem. We bear witness to an evening of strange events as a conman knocks on the wrong door and gets more than he bargains for. And since you’re wondering, yes, that is Niles from Fraiser. He actually makes a pretty compelling villain.

 They Look Like People

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This is, without a doubt, one of the single best movies I have ever seen.

I cannot sing its praises enough. I’d spend a whole blog post breaking down all the things that make it awesome, but I don’t want to give away a single second of it. Know only that a young man receives a surprise visit from a childhood friend. What follows is a slow-burning, subtle, and staggeringly realistic film in the vein of such masterpieces as Stoker and It Follows. Amazingly written, beautifully shot, and utterly compelling. If you watch literally nothing else on this list, watch this.

 We Are What We Are

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It’s about a family of cannibals. But you knew that. You’d know that from the trailers, from the first five minutes, or from having watched even an episode or two of X-Files. But fortunately, the folks behind We Are What We Are know that you know that, and spend their time making this film less about any cliched twist (though there is certainly an unexpected jolt at the end) and more about painting a vivid and haunting picture of American Gothic. Beautifully shot, amazingly acted, and with a much needed degree of self-awareness that raises this film head and shoulders above it’s just-for-the-fans brethren. Continue reading

What Are We Afraid Of?

Well folks, October has come and gone, and gone with it is the movie industry’s litter of trope-y, recycled Halloween cash-ins.

Yes, I’m talking about you. Now get out of here. Scram.

This means we can get back to the horror movies being made as movies first, rather than cynical money-grabs.

Excluding the Paranormal Activity franchise, but obviously that goes without saying…

See, say what you like about horror flicks (and there’s no shortage of criticism to be leveled), I do truly believe this is a genre just as important as any other- heck, possibly even more. At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s a better gauge for contemporary culture than the things we fear most as a society. Continue reading

CWR’s Halloween Movie Recommendations II

Well readers, it’s that time of the year again.

Decorations are going up, costumes are coming out, and here at your favorite blog in the whole wide world, we’ve got your latest batch of chilling and thrilling movie recommendations.

Let’s get to it.

Splice

You know all those classic monster movies with heavy-handed messages about scientists playing God?

This isn’t one of ’em.

Quite the opposite, in fact: Splice is arguably a movie showing just the reverse, the danger of not providing scientists with the necessary resources and trust. And while that’s a long overdue message, beyond that, Splice is a simply fantastic horror flick. Well-acted, well-funded, well-shot, and even if you manage to see certain plot points coming, they’re only made all the more disturbing for it. Continue reading

Fixing Exorcism Movies

The Exorcist came out in 1973, and while pretty tame by today’s standards, was nonetheless an iconic film which arguably gave birth to the entire “exorcist-film” genre.

Of course, by “genre”, I mean a number of studios have been trying to make the exact same ****ing movie every single year and show no signs of stopping anytime soon.

We’re just now in July and we’ve already had a few out churned out, though what got me on the subject have been the non-stop ads for Deliver Us From Evil, the latest cash-grab which look like a soulless mash-up of both the exorcist and zombie apocalypse flicks.


Yeah. Possession that somehow spreads a la zombie-logic. Let’s go ahead and start right there.

Continue reading

The Horror, The Horror

Today, I’m going to talk about horror.

Not “frightening stuff,” mind you- horror. There’s a distinction, you see.

Fright is the simple biological jolt you get when something startles or surprises you- a door being slammed, a discordant note blaring out of nowhere, and so on. Tragically, the title of “horror” gets slapped on things (typically movies) that merely have “jump-scares.” Horror on the other hand, is anticipation and dread at the perception of something threatening on a fundamental level.

So why talk about this? Because despite the outcry of some, horror- especially horror movies- holds a special place in our culture. Indeed, horror holds a special place in all cultures, and has since the first Cro-Magnons huddled around some arctic fire and whispered about strange and terrible things lurking just outside the circle of light. What we’re afraid of tells just as much about us as what we admire; a perfect example being Evan’s post on the remake Red Dawn. Evan cites that one of the reasons the new version doesn’t work is because the concept of the US being invaded is today laughable (especially by North Korea, whose entire population could fit into LA county with room to spare), whereas in the 1980s, the fear was far more realistic, or at least, believable.

Now I’m not here to analyze the past decade’s better horror movies and tell you what it is that we seem to be afraid of (not right now, anyways). In this post I’ll just be breaking down the three basic kinds of horror we seem to be responding to.

Fear For Self

First, we have the fear that attacks our egos- not “egos” as in pride, but “egos” as in the psychological term for you. This fits into the greater psychological element of “external anxiety,” meaning the stress we feel as a result of outside factors, such as school, our jobs, hunger, pain, and so on. When we’re afraid for our safety, or empathizing with characters in a movie or TV series who are fearing for their physical safety, we’re looking at this “fear for self” kind of horror. A good example would be any serial killer or monster movie- Psycho or Jaws being the best examples. Now usually we tend to botch this kind of horror, because the protagonists in movies or stories do things we would never do (blonde female college camper running through the woods at night, I’m talking about you). However, when it’s pulled off well, it leaves a noticeable mark on us. It has been said that Jaws created a significant drop in beach-goers after it was released, and you are a dirty liar if you say you’ve never once looked behind the curtain when you go into the bathroom.

Fear Of Self

Just as we have anxieties that stem from external factors, we have stresses and fears that come from within us: “Internal anxiety.” It was theorized by early psychologists, Freud in particular, that our mental issues were a result of us denying or repressing elements within us, most notably the “id”- that part of our mind with all the bloody, vicious, sexual animalistic drives that typically didn’t mesh well with Victorian (or any) society. As with the ego, horror works on this pathway as well- our fear of ourselves. All that madness and evil that we, for the most part, pretend isn’t there. The most obvious examples of this would be werewolf movies and vampire movies (obligatory “**** you, Twilight“) and most any film depicting a change or evolution the protagonist- see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Wolfman, Dorian Grey, etc.

Fear Of No Self

Lastly we have stress and anxiety attacking (or coming from, depending on how you look at it) the “superego”- that element of our mind consisting of our real or imagined nobility, propriety, decency, etc. Here we encounter “existential horror,” more often called “cosmic horror.” This particular form of horror can be found in movies where the protagonists are fighting a losing battle against some massive, all powerful being- typically otherworldly in nature. Alien invasions and zombie uprisings are both good examples. Here we’re confronted with the fear that we are, in spite of all of our strength, morality, charity; in spite of our humanity, we are actually inconceivably small and insignificant. Ants who have just become aware that there are beings in the universe of incomprehensible magnitude whose simple existence negates everything about them. That unique feeling of powerlessness is separated from “ego fear” in that this form has a distinct hopelessness, rather than helplessness, attached to it.

Of course, every horror story has all three of these elements in it, but what kind of horror story it winds up being depends entirely on what is emphasized. Take AMC’s The Walking Dead– you’ve got your physical fear of the zombies, your id-based fear at what this new world is bringing out in you, and the general horrific despair at the absolute hopelessness of your situation, both in the face of zombies and the truth of human nature. What you wind up being afraid of depends on which element really gets pushed (survival, rationality, hope) and of course, what you individually, and we as a society, find most terrifying.

So what do we fear as a society right now?

Well, with the rampant popularity of zombie stories, and “disaster” films such as Cloverfield, Skyline, and even the whole “Slenderman” craze; it seems to me that we’re torn between physical and existential horror. And perhaps in an economic depression, that’s understandable- after all, we’re confronted with the physical job of keeping afloat in a rough time, and as the crisis drags on and on, the general feeling of hopelessness with regards to our general situation. We respond to characters whose immediate needs are threatened and characters who are struggling to maintain themselves in the face of cosmic nothingness.

At least, that’s my take on it. Feel free to debate me in the comments, and stop by tomorrow for another Shame Day installment.

Porn Is Not Poltergeists

So last Friday I came across the following trailer for a movie called Harmless. Here it is:

In the spring semester of last year I took a writing class called Literary Nonfiction. One of the required reading pieces was Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, by Andy Crouch. The general gist of the book was that as Christians we have the ability to create our own culture. We live in the world, but we don’t need to be of it. If we can’t find anything out there that we can agree to be part of than we can make our own.

That being said, I’m not sure that I can necessarily support this film. I understand why they did it, though. I’ve seen Paranormal Activity; I understand the way fear is exacerbated by the intimacy of the  mockumentary format. I get that if you want to talk to people about your faith movies are a great way to do it, and the horror genre is an extremely popular one. The problem is that it’s ridiculous.

I won’t lie and say that pornography is all well and good. I do believe that it is degrading to women and can be extremely harmful to relationships and families. I will even go so far as to say that there is a dangerous spiritual component involved, but this is not the time or place to discuss that. I can also tell you what porn is not, though. Porn is not poltergeists.

I can’t agree with a film that could potentially be more ridiculous than the 2006 film Facing the Giants. Trailer seen here:

This was a film that just dripped with cheese.  It’s difficult for me to put into words how awful it was. The messages were certainly positive, but weren’t delivered in a way that was well-written or even believable. If Christian media wants to be taken seriously by those outside of its target audience it has to at least be a decent example of its art form.

I’m all for Christian media, or at least media with a Christian message of sorts. Ted Dekker’s novels Blink and Thr3e are well-written and actually very good. What I wish is that this would spread to the film industry, that as Christians we could do better at making and affecting culture around us, instead of creating something laughable.