How do you create a follow up to one of the most influential and beloved horror films of all time? Director Mike Flanagan has an answer: you don’t simply retread The Shining, you craft a response to to it. Straight off the success of his acclaimed Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House, Flanagan sinks his teeth into his most daring project yet, whilst still retaining the emotional authenticity that has made his work a standout amongst his mainstream horror peers. The result is Doctor Sleep, a messier beast compared to the unnerving precision of Kubrick’s masterpiece, but one that is distinctly bold, sentimental, and of its own identity.
Doctor Sleep‘s biggest strength is that it is not interested in trying to recapture the glory of its 1980’s predecessor; it instead tries to make sense of it. The film follows an older Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) struggling to cope with the evil he experienced at the Overlook Hotel, as well as battling severe depression and alcoholism. His hopes of recovery and peace are soon interrupted by Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl who shares Danny’s powerful shine. Bonded together, they are then hunted by the True Knot, a cult that feeds off of the souls of children, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). The plot is heavier on building the lore and rules of the universe as opposed to than the minimalist sensibility to The Shining. Sometimes that feels quite overbearing and midichlorians-esque, but it has its benefits.
If The Witch was Robert Eggers’ cinematic interpretation of a ‘New-England Folktale’, The Lighthouse is an archaic, 19th century, sailors’ sea shanty brought to the screen. Yes, that’s right — the new atmospheric, slow burn, character-driven, A24 released horror film is here with a substantial October opening and a potential low CinemaScore. What it does have, however, is a strong two-man show, a square 1.19:1 aspect ratio, and a deep love for the visual motifs of the German Expressionist movement; Through that, Eggers successfully harkens back to a horror era gone by whilst still offering enough originality, drama, examinations of masculinity, sexual frustration, and plenty of bodily fluids along the way. That’s a pretty stormy sea to navigate! Avast, me hearties.
In case you were wondering what the hell The Lighthouse is actually about, the plot details and trailer for the film are vague for a reason. The film opens with two lighthouse keepers, the ever-iconic Willem Dafoe, and the newly accepted indie darling Robert Pattinson, as they arrive at a remote New England island. Soon, they are stranded by the onslaught of a storm where their sanities are tested and all concept of time gets lost in the ether. Terrorized by shreiking mermaids and angry seagulls, the relationship between the two lighthouse keepers shifts with nearly every scene in hellish isolation and the deep repression that comes with it.
If you are familiar with Eggers’ debut, The Witch, you’d understand Eggers is committed to his period aesthetics. He has his actors speak in ye olde tongue, and every mannerism, voice inflection, accent, and piece of slang is accounted for — but on top of that, The Lighthouse decides to be a lot less straightforward and more minimalist than The Witch. The result is a film that can be a bit hard to swallow (not unlike Dafoe’s lobster) but relishes in being a bizarre, Lovecraftian, atmospheric and performance-driven showcase that’s fascinating to see unfold.
October is finally upon us! It’s the time for cozy sweaters, making everything taste like pumpkin and, most importantly, horror films. Of course, sometimes it can be hard to decide what to watch, and if you are anything like me, one is never enough. That is why, for each week in the month of October, Much Ado About Cinema’s Monster Mash series is providing you with a double feature program and delving into why and how they go together like fava beans and a nice Chianti.
For our second Monster Mash, we’re delving into the power of television told through vaginals body horror in the horror classics Poltergeist and Videodrome.
Every town has an urban legend. In my hometown, there was the Goatman, hills where your car would get pushed uphill by ghosts, crybaby bridge, and much more. For director Matthew Currie Holmes, his hometown legend is Buckout Road, located in Westchester County of upstate New York State. It is rumored to be the most haunted road in the U.S., so of course, Holmes had to make a horror movie about it. His debut feature film, The Curse of Buckout Road, takes a few of the tales associated with the haunted road and weaves them into a horror movie perfect for lovers of urban legend.
Aaron Powell (Evan Ross) has traveled back to his small hometown to visit his grandfather and local psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Powell (Danny Glover). While trying to get back into a routine, Aaron realizes something horrible is happening around town and it seems to be linked to the cursed Buckout Road. Three college students, Cleo (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) and twins Derek (Jim Watson) and Erik (Kyle Mac), did a class project on the road and how its stories are just stories. But, after being plagued by horrific nightmares that center on Buckout Road, they fear they’ve been cursed by whatever haunts their town. They must all band together to figure out if they can defeat whatever forces lurk on Buckout Road.
First, the lights start to flicker. Then, you hear a quiet tinkling of bells. You turn to find the source of the noise and find a woman hiding in the shadows. Her face is covered with long, black hair and her hands are pressed together in front of her. As she gets closer, she looks up and reveals her unnaturally large eyes. This is the last thing you see before she claims your eyes. This is Shirai-san, the ghost of Otsuichi’s newest film, Stare, which premiered this year at Fantasia.
So often, American film tropes are looked to as the golden standard, a potential guide for international filmmakers who want to make it big in Hollywood. But there is nothing more satisfying than seeing an indie horror film that is not from the U.S. utilize certain tropes in order to highlight a unique story. This is the case in Harold Hölscher’s feature film debut, 8: A South African Horror. Hölscher gives a well-tread story of worlds colliding a breath of fresh air by incorporating South African folklore, racial tensions, and beautiful visuals. 8, while not persistently scary, is a melancholy fairytale the likes of which the Grimm Brothers have never seen.
The film begins in 1977 with a downtrodden trio heading to their new home. Couple William (Garth Breytenbach) and Sarah (Inge Beckmann) have taken in his sister’s child, Mary (Keita Luna), after her parents’ deaths. Each is full of their own sadness, from mourning parents to mourning the inability to become pregnant. But this farm will be a fresh start for them, a place where they’ll come together as a family. Then, they meet Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe), a mysterious man who lives in the woods surrounding the farm who carries a suspiciously large bag. He asks William for a job, explaining that he once worked for William’s father and would love to help in anyway he can. Mary and Lazarus strike up a friendship, finding understanding and compassion in one another. Yet, he is not what he seems.
It all starts with a harpoon, a spear-like weapon used for fishing that can pierce flesh at astonishing speeds. So it makes sense to gift a harpoon to your friend with anger management issues, right? This is how Rob Grant’s newest film, Harpoon, opens, with a simple gift to an angry man. What ensues is a tale of resentment, friendship, and toxic masculinity on the open sea.
Richard (Christopher Gray), Jonah (Munro Chambers), and Sasha (Emily Tyra) are a trio of misfit friends with a rocky history. Richard is wealthy and has an extremely short temper, which was inherited from his father. Jonah is mopey and was constantly berated by his parents, until they died. Sasha, Richard’s girlfriend, is their reluctant caretaker who must play the referee between their antics. And we are introduced to this strange trio in a moment of violence: Richard beating Jonah’s face in while Sasha screams for him to stop all over a misunderstood text message. They explain they were texting about Richard’s birthday present, a harpoon with a mahogany handle.