As episode one ended with Natalie Keene’s death, episode two begins with her funeral. Here, Camille must finally show her face to the whole town in quite a public way, all while trying to report this story. We begin to see Camille battling memories and anxieties, not just associated with her mother, but with returning home to a town full of secrets and whispers. Episode two explores the toxicity and gossip of Wind Gap, the anxieties that arise when coming home and the destructive ways we cope with those anxieties.
As Camille sits at the funeral, Jackie mutters a stream of gossip right into Camille’s ear, pointing out who is who in the family, remarking about Natalie’s brother crying too much, and more. Not even funerals are sacred in this town — in fact, this just throws more fuel on the gossip fire. The gossip only continues at the funeral reception in the Keene home. The whispers are amplified when Camille arrives, making you painfully aware that people are talking about her. It echoes the experience of returning home so well: you enter a crowded house, pretend to smile, but have a heightened sense of awareness as people stare too long or whisper behind their glasses. How does Camille cope? The drink, of course.
Shambling zombies, covered in blood and gore, hungering for human flesh, approaching a small group of hopeless survivors – we’ve seen it in The Walking Dead, iZombie, World War Z, Resident Evil and countless other pieces of horror media. The zombie has become an inescapable cultural figure that’s found, not just on TV or movies, but on shirts, hats, board games, phone cases, and more. But we wouldn’t have this cultural zeitgeist without George A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic, Night of the Living Dead. With almost no budget, Romero defined the horror genre and broke through societal taboos around race, class, and nihilism. Romero rejected conventional horror tropes and created something that reflected a nation in shambles during the Vietnam War, as well as the corrosive effects of capitalism on society as a whole.
The film’s protagonist, Ben (Duane Jones), is a Black man. While Ben’s race is never explicitly addressed in the film, it is hard to ignore as the rest of the cast is white. Unlike the other white characters, Ben has the most control of the situation, immediately taking the role of the group’s leader. When he arrives at the farmhouse, he begins to board up the windows and doors by tearing apart the stereotypical home of the 1960s family. He pulls apart tables, chairs, and parts of the kitchen to keep the undead out of the home; to protect those in the house he must literally tear it apart.
Having siblings is difficult, to say the least. You love each other, but that doesn’t come without conflict. A lot of it. They steal your clothes, rat you out to your parents, break your stuff, and blame you for their problems. What could make that worse? The trauma of living in and escaping a UFO death cult. This is the scenario brothers Justin and Aaron find themselves in Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s newest film, The Endless.
A decade after their escape, the brothers are living together in the real world. But it isn’t easy. They are barely scraping by at their cleaning jobs and previously being part of a UFO death cult isn’t helping them in the dating department. In separate interviews with who is assumedly a social worker, both brothers reveal their issues with the other. To Aaron, played by co-director Aaron Moorhead, his older brother is too bossy and demanding. To Justin, played by co-director Justin Benson, it is exhausting to keep taking care of his baby brother. To add to this stress, a mysterious videotape arrives on their doorstep, which sends them back to the cult’s settlement, Camp Arcadia. This sets off a life-altering chain of events where they come to learn that the cult may have been right all along. Saying any more would spoil the film’s bizarre and delightful twists.
Horror is gay. It’s a genre about, among other things, destroying societal conceptions of heteronormativity and domesticity. Gay horror fans like myself see ourselves in these narratives about monstrosity and “otherness” and take hold of them, making them our own. In his book, Queer Horror Film and Television: Sexuality and Masculinity at the Margins, Darren Elliott-Smith says, “…the study of monstrous homosexuality in the horror film has also revealed the celebratory pleasures offered to queer, gay and lesbian viewers’ oppositional identification with the very same monsters that threaten the norm.” Our identities threaten heteronormativity and we cheer on those monsters that do the same. Horror is not only about queerness, but is shaped by queerness, with LGBTQ+ directors, like Clive Barker and Don Manici, creating horror classics such as Hellraiser and Child’s Play, respectively.
While gay horror directors and fanatics have helped shape horror film, their work is eclipsed by toxic tropes created to “other” LGBTQ+ characters and make them into villains. Horror ultimately reflects societal fears and for much of recent history, society has been afraid of gayness and the threat it poses heteronormative conceptions of family and relationships. While our current cultural context is evolving into a slightly more accepting one, this genre has perpetuated toxic tropes, two of which that I’ll discuss here, that depict LGBTQ+ characters as deviant, horrific monsters.
We may only be halfway through the year, but there have already been plenty of great movies to sink our teeth into. From slow-burn indie darlings to crowd-pleasing blockbusters, the past six months have provided something for all tastes, proving that we don’t have to be mid-awards season to experience great cinema. Check out the following 15 films that we think are the best of the best:
Grief, guilt, and mental illness are not unusual themes in horror film. We’ve seen them in The Babadook, The Witch, It Follows, the list goes on. But Ari Aster’s debut feature film, Hereditary, takes the struggles of grief to another horrifying level. What he creates is a tense, devastating, and at times difficult to watch, look at the trauma we suffer at the hands of our family and how that trauma lives on past death.
Hereditary opens on the grieving Graham family. Annie, played by the phenomenal Toni Collette, has lost her mother and is trying to work her way through this loss with support groups and working on her artistic miniatures. Meanwhile, her husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne) tries to maintain some semblance of normalcy with their son, Peter (Alex Wolff), and young daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro). But slowly everything begins to fall apart into a very dark place. Telling you any more about the plot would ruin the film and this is best viewed without any idea of what to expect.
Good horror television is difficult to come by these days. Sure, there is the exploitative and ridiculous American Horror Story, but not many that rely on a slow, atmospheric pace that creates thick-as-fog tension like AMC’s, The Terror, whose finale aired last week. The Terror introduces a new type of horror television, one that is disgusting, devastating, and thoughtful. It marries the supernatural with the potential of a desperate and terrified man, to create a freezing tapestry of unspeakable horrors.
Based on the 2007 novel by Dan Simmons, The Terror follows the failed Franklin expedition made up of two ships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, from 1845 to 1848. Led by Captain Sir John Franklin (Ciaran Hinds), their mission was to trek into uncharted Arctic territory in search of the Northwest Passage. However, Sir John was perhaps not the best choice for this journey, and his poor decision making leads to the ships becoming trapped in ice. What comes next is the slow unraveling of the ship’s crews and leadership, with help from a strange polar bear with a human face called Tuunbaq and something very wrong with their food supply.