Badass Women, Stunning Visuals, and Subverting Expectations: Looking Back at This Year in Horror

2018 was a year of amazing horror films. While a certain Vogue article may disagree, 2018 was a year for pushing boundaries in the genre and creating complex female characters who weren’t just vehicles for over-the-top sex scenes. It was a year where “woman” no longer meant singular sex object, with films like Revenge, What Keeps You Alive, and Cam. It was a year of experimentation, as seen in Mandy and Possum, which create unique, and psychedelic, visual experiences. While the past five years have been full of this kind of boundary-pushing, from The VVItch to Get Out, 2018 continued to showcase the diverse voices in the horror community and demonstrate how the face of horror is changing.

While this piece will primarily highlight the positives of horror in 2018, this was not a year without its failures. The Nun, Truth or Dare, Winchester and more made up this year’s big blockbuster releases, and all were met with a resounding shrug; these movies made to draw the big crowds to the box office instead kept the horny teens away. The two horror films that drew crowds this year were A Quiet Place and Hereditary, two films that strayed away from the typical horror narrative and created unique stories that perhaps wouldn’t always make their way into the mainstream. Despite the bigger name flops, indie horror filmmakers really showed up to create pieces of horrifying media that resonated both throughout the horror community, and in some cases larger audiences.

Redefining Genres

Rape-revenge films are commonly exploitative, over-the-top, and torturous to their female characters. Think of films such as I Spit on Your Grave or Ms. 45. But, director Coralie Fargaet wanted to change this with Revenge, a film in the vein of the French New Extremity that uses rape as more than a plot device or site of spectacle.

Continue reading “Badass Women, Stunning Visuals, and Subverting Expectations: Looking Back at This Year in Horror”

‘Overlord’ Is the Kind of Over-The-Top, Bloody Escapism That We Deserve

In the first year of my mom and dad’s marriage, my mom remembers coming home late to see my dad sprawled on the couch, exhausted, watching Die Hard (1988). When she asked him what had made him decide to watch this particular film so late in the night on a weekday, he replied, “I’ve had a stressful day. I just needed to watch people blow up.” Although not nearly as charismatic or witty as John McTiernan’s modern classic, my father’s exhausted confession perfectly sums up my feelings about Julius Avery’s Overlord (2018).

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Podcast #1: Halloween, Horror, and Childhood Scares

Dear Much Ado readers, get ready to be listeners!

We’re so proud to share the first episode of our podcast with you. It’s been a year (and a month) since we opened Much Ado and we could never imagine how far we’d come in such a short time.

On our Patreon page we set a goal of $75 to start working on our podcast and this month we hit that goal, thanks to your help! Every time we gain a new Patron, we come one step closer to saving enough money to pay to our writers. You can help us with as little as $1.

Our first episode is about, as it should be on October 31st, Halloween! Podcast host Charlie Dykstal talks with our writers Mia Vicino, Mary Beth McAndrews and Tyler Llewyn Taing about horror films that scared them in childhood, jump scares and how cathartic horror films can be.

Listen to the first episode on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play. Don’t forget to subscribe for upcoming episodes and share your feedback with us on twitter or via e-mail at muchadoaboutcinema@gmail.com.

‘Halloween’ (2018) is an Effective and Gory Examination of the Lasting Effects of Trauma

On Halloween in 1978, Michael Myers came home. Now, 40 years later, he’s back again with a vengeance. One of the most iconic figures in horror history, Michael Myers is evil incarnate, a potentially supernatural figure who wants nothing more than to kill. However, there is a massive shift in the most recent addition to the Halloween franchise. Instead of focusing on this figure of evil incarnate, the film offers are poignant portrayal of trauma and its effects on both the survivor and their family. While showing plenty of disgusting kills, the focus falls away for Myers and onto the women of the Strode family.

Halloween takes place 40 years after the events of the 1978 Halloween. Director-writer David Gordon Green has erased all previous sequels in the Halloween canon, eliminating claims that Myers is Laurie’s brother and that he is some kind of supernatural figure. Don’t worry, the film makes plenty of crowd-pleasing allusions to the previous films. 40 years after the horrors enacted by Myers, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is living in fear and isolation, with an estranged relationship with her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak). Laurie’s preparations for Myers’ inevitable escape are not in vain; he breaks out, and he’s ready to terrorize Haddonfield yet again. You can expect a series of ridiculous and gory deaths, but also surprisingly touching and emotional moments between grandmother, mother, and daughter. Plus, John Carpenter returns to score the film, which is an added bonus. Continue reading “‘Halloween’ (2018) is an Effective and Gory Examination of the Lasting Effects of Trauma”

Halloween Horrors: A Gory Reimagining of the Slasher Film in ‘High Tension’

The slasher film is a quintessential subgenre for horror, giving the world figures like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger: all male figures chasing women with knives. But for this week’s horror recommendation, I’m bringing you a slasher of the likes you’ve never seen. Alexandre Aja’s High Tension takes the slasher film and turns it on his head. It is essential viewing for fans of the genre and of the portrayal of gender in horror film.

High Tension follows student Marie (Cecile de France) and her friend, Alex (Maïwenn) as they travel to Alex’s family home in the French countryside. It is a secluded place, quiet and surrounded by corn, perfect for studying, Alex says. However, there isn’t much studying when a deranged killer arrives at the home, killing Alex’s family and kidnapping her, leaving Marie behind. What ensues is Marie’s quest to save her friend from the psychopath and prove how much she cares for her. Continue reading “Halloween Horrors: A Gory Reimagining of the Slasher Film in ‘High Tension’”

Halloween Horrors: Coming of Age and Little Monsters in ‘Der Nachtmahr’

Coming-of-age stories are no stranger to the horror genre. The emotional turmoil, bodily transformations, and anxieties that come with teenage years are ripe for the horror picking, from Ginger Snaps to Raw. Sometimes, you think you’ve seen all the different variations of these stories. Then you see something new and exciting, something that blows your mind using a strange little puppet monster. My next recommendation for this month of horror is The Nightmare, or Der Nachtmahr.

The 2015 German film follows party girl Tina (Carolyn Genzkow) as she navigates a life of house music, drugs, boys, and anxiety. As the bass pumps ever louder and the lights never stop flashing, Tina loses herself in the music, a momentary reprieve from the pressures of being 17. However, she can’t escape for too long, because her fears take a physical form: a little gremlin creature with which she is mentally linked.

Continue reading “Halloween Horrors: Coming of Age and Little Monsters in ‘Der Nachtmahr’”

Searching for Justice in ‘Hold The Dark’

Jeremy Saulnier is known for violence, from his 2013 film Blue Ruin to 2015’s Green Room. His films are relentless, bloody, and exhausting. But his most recent film is another creature entirely. Hold the Dark, released on Netflix, is a slower, quieter meditation on violence that explodes into something weird and fascinating. It appears to be a simple man versus nature tale, but becomes a story motivated by revenge and a deranged sense of justice.

Hold the Dark, based on William Giraldi’s novel of the same name, follows wolf lover and author Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) as he travels to Alaska. Why Alaska? He receives a strange letter from Medora Slone (Riley Keough) about a wolf who took her child away. It is a strange, almost cryptic letter, but Core still decides to help the grieving woman before her husband, Vernon (Alexander Skarsgard), returns from war. What Core finds in the Alaska village of Keelut is something much bigger than a hungry wolf. He finds grief, anger, frustration, and vengeance.

MV5BZTIyYWRmZGQtYzVlMi00NmU2LTlkN2MtMzU2MTYyNDkxNzNjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTY3NDU0NzQ@._V1_Keough delivers a chilling and unsettling performance as grieving Medora. She sets the tone from the very start as her low voice reads her letter to Core. Sadly, she disappears too soon into the film. I found myself missing her unnerving stare and strange sayings. However, Skarsgard delivers on the unnerving stares. He is absolutely terrifying in this film, despite barely saying a word. He is a silent force, stalking the cold Alaskan night with a gun and crossbow.

The setting of Hold the Dark is central to the film’s meditation on violence and pain. The Alaskan wilderness is harsh and freezing. It is wild, relentless and doesn’t care about a human’s need for heat. The humans that call it home are reflecting the natural world in their own actions. The vastness of the wilderness, and what it holds, is just as terrifying as human’s capacity for violence.  Continue reading “Searching for Justice in ‘Hold The Dark’”