This past year audiences were given a wide selection to choose from in the horror genre ranging from throwbacks of 1970’s horror to fun comic book adaptations. Contemporary political influences such as the #MeToo movement also made their mark on the genre. My personal tastes reflect the terror of slasher flicks to the suspense of psychological thrillers. I composed the following list as items I would recommend to audiences for their thought-provoking ideas or the sheer fun in the entertainment they provide. Whether people end up loving or hating them, I believe there is something worthwhile to see in each selection.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Based on the 2014 comic book series from Archie Comics, Netflix scores another binge-worthy win with this hilariously fun and dark update of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Kiernan Shipka (Flowers in the Attic) effortlessly anchors the rest of the cast in the title role. She is forced to balance life with her mortal friends alongside the pressure from her supernatural family to accept a life of worshipping Satan. Through exorcisms, dream traps, and misguided spells each episode reveals a different piece to the mysteries of Greendale. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a satiating series for horror fans that enjoy supernatural teen dramas with a macabre sense of humor. I found myself staying up to all hours with the reasoning: what is just one more?
This is the film I know is going to lead to a bombardment of reader comments below. Knock yourself out. Hereditary is a polarizing film that made me cringe, jump, and scream at the screen. From Muriel’s Wedding to The Sixth Sense, Toni Collette is hands down one of my favorite actresses. In this feature from director Ari Aster, Collette sheds away one dark layer after another as Annie Graham. She gives a tour-de-force performance that leaves the viewer’s mind spinning. And she is terrifying! Personally, I was ambivalent about the movie’s “twist ending.” They could have gone in a dozen different directions and the final one appeared haphazardly picked. Still, there were a couple of wtf moments that made me jump. Like my other pick Suspiria, people are going to love or hate this one albeit for different reasons. But everything with the daughter…Come on!
Playing off a myriad of modern-day technological fears, Netflix’s Cam is a smart look at the seedier side of the internet. Lola is a cam-model hoping to crack the Top 50 when someone steals her identity. Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale) portrays this young woman unashamed of her profession. Lola only keeps it a secret until she knows she is the best. In many ways this career is safer than comparable in-real-life professions; however, there are still obvious risks. For instance, one never knows who is watching online. Identify theft is also a serious problem that can ruin a person’s life.
Isa Mazzei, Daniel Godhaber, and Isabelle Link-Lev have shaped a fast-paced, female-driven story based on Mazzei’s own experiences. The best part of Cam is how the filmmakers refuse to participate in making Alice/Lola a vulnerable girl forced to do this kind of work. Instead, she is the force to be reckoned with refusing to give up not only her identity but her happily chosen profession.
As I emphasized in my original review, the 2018 update to Dario Argento’s Suspiria is not for everyone. Again, audiences are going to love or hate this flick. As a fan of the original, I question some of the remake’s choices and the overall length. I did enjoy the way in which Guadagnino incorporated ballet in the narrative structure and not just as an arbitrary device. The director’s intention was to invoke strong feelings from the viewer and in this aspect he succeeds. These feelings could range from disgust to shock. It’s not all Guadagnino, though. Chloe Grace Moretz (Patricia Hingle) has led the other women in stating how much input and collaboration they had in designing the roles the viewer watches on screen.
Feminism in horror (or any genre) does not (nor should) imply simply having gun-toting women kicking ass left and right. Feminism is about equality. And to have a film such as 2018’s Suspiria showing women that are bankrupt, immoral, and have an incredibly large amount of untapped power is so important right now. So, many, many films have shown men in these types of roles, and in Suspiria these women have power. They do not use this power for good. Some of them fail and others succeed. Unlike the original’s mild flirtation with witchcraft and ballet, this update relies heavily on both to tell an overwhelming and complex story. The women in this “cover version” are in a coven; however, this is a fractured coven illustrating the destruction that comes with division.
I am a big fan of the Halloween franchise. My house is cluttered with posters, Funko statues, and novelizations. In fact, I just finished reading the novelization of this current film. Which I loved almost as much as the vehicle returning Jamie Lee Curtis to the franchise. With the exception of leaving out Danielle Harris (and a little FYI, recent reports have revealed her character was apparently in early scripts), there was much to celebrate with this new release. My only other complaints centered on too much focus of the wrong teenagers and the out-of-place subplot with Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer). Inserting itself as the new Halloween II, this flick directed by David Gordon Green revitalized the style of the original. A feat hoped for but not quite achieved by every other director, Green utilized the simplicity of John Carpenter’s seminal masterpiece to breathe new life into the franchise.