“Horror is a boundary-defying genre that invades other genres,” writes Jane Hu at the Los Angeles Review of Books‘ new blog. “It’s sort of like melodrama in that way, and indeed it’s often difficult to note where melodrama stops and horror begins. Like melodrama, horror might be better described as a mode than a genre, especially since even within the category of horror, we have the slasher, the psychological thriller, the Gothic, the paranormal, and oh my goodness this list needs to be updated…. But the thing about horror is that, even if you find gross-out flicks ‘gratuitous’ or distasteful…, the very concept of horror almost obviates that criticism. What happens to the accusation of ‘gratuitous’ when applied to a form that, by definition, seek [to] push and reorganize boundaries? It’s exactly what seems excessive that makes horror so deliciously ambivalent, as well as so difficult to dismiss.”
Kick off Halloween week by catching up with Not Coming to a Theater Near You‘s tenth and final 31 Days of Horror. Here, for example, is Steve Macfarlane on They Came Back (2004): “The widespread fear of a freakout is what keeps [Robin] Campillo’s revenants unnerving, but where Boyle (or Romero before him) spun drama from the risk of a human ‘turning’ at any second, They Came Back elegantly renders the cruel, punishing inner defeat of watching a loved one fail to turn back.”
Cinespect is also reviewing its way through its own 31 Days of Horror; the AV Club is going for a more modest 10 Days of Horror, and in one notable piece, Scott Kaufman argues that editor Eric Strand is just as responsible for keeping Donnie Darko (2001) creepy as is director Richard Kelly.
In a smartly designed special feature for the LA Weekly, Amy Nicholson profiles “a generation of writers, directors, actors and producers—all in their early to mid 30s, all based in Los Angeles—[who] found each other and together found their voice by making horror films. While a parallel class of young filmmakers on the East Coast found critical acclaim directing micro-budget mumblecore dramas, L.A.’s indie crew is carving a riskier path to lasting success with micro-budget cerebral chillers that eschew cheap kills and studio interference. Call it mumblegore.” Among those who pop up here are E.L. Katz, Adam Wingard, AJ Bowen, Simon Barrett, Jacob Gentry, David Bruckner, Roxanne Benjamin, Ti West, Keith Calder, Jessica Wu, Amy Seimetz, and Joe Swanberg.
“What still scares us in horror movies?” Noel Murray, Tasha Robinson, and Scott Tobias talk it over at the Dissolve. Also, each day this week, the staff will be recommending one underrated horror film. Today, Noel Murray‘s going for David Cronenberg’s Stephen King adaptation The Dead Zone (1983).
“I Married a Witch, René Clair’s 1942 fantasy, starring Fredric March and a dizzy Veronica Lake, is an upside-down comedy, where darkness descends upon screwball romance as easily as sorcerous smoke figures encircle their hapless victims,” writes Brian Doan at Cinespect. “It’s an alchemy of close-ups, pratfalls, wistful glances, and sublime pacing; in his booklet essay accompanying the new Criterion edition of the film, filmmaker Guy Maddin describes Clair’s mode as the ‘near-musical’: ‘a poetic world in which one’s heart can always be heard but the quotidian sight of a slammed door or heavy footfall may be allowed the dignity of muteness.'” More from Chris Cabin (Slant), Jake Cole (Film.com), J. Hoberman (Artinfo), and Nathan Rabin (Dissolve, 3.5/5).
Farran Nehme on The Uninvited for Criterion: “Lewis Allen’s 1944 beauty is an early example of a true cinematic ghost story—one that doesn’t pull away the curtain at the end, Toto-like, to reveal a human manipulating the levers—and it has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the finest films of that genre to come out of Hollywood in the forties. It works the nerves slowly, delicately. The fear plays out against a literate and witty script, with several romances, both open and covert, going on simultaneously. The jokes may be telegraphed, but never the jolts.” More from Bill Ryan, who’s asked Richard Harland Smith to write about Dorothy Macardle’s original novel, and Keith Phipps (Dissolve, 4/5). Criterion’s also posted Sam Weber‘s drafts for the cover design.
At Little White Lies, Paul Risker has sorted “through 90 years of cinema to present a guide to the best horror films you’ve never seen,” and “we begin our journey with the horror genre’s original sin of Faust’s pact with the Devil.” For the Stranger, Kelly O rounds up 30 scary movies.
“How do we account for the tenacious grip that this outwardly ridiculous figure holds on the imagination?” At Sundance Now, Nick Pinkerton goes long on H.P. Lovecraft.
Trailers from Hell has relaunched with a new site
There’s an Italian Horror Blogathon going on at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies; and the Film Experience is spending this week with witches.
At To Be (Cont’d), Bill Ryan and Keith Uhlich are discussing Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt.
The San Francisco Bay Guardian‘s Cheryl Eddy calls up Daniel Farrands to talk about his 7+-hour doc, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th.
Jim Knipfel at the Chiseler: “The story of Burke and Hare, these two rare souls who didn’t share the common fear of corpses, who saw them instead as a simple commodity and life as something that got in the way of making money, went on to inspire books, radio shows, songs, and a surprising number of films which remain interesting to this day, not only for their different approaches to the story, but for their historical accuracy as well.”
At Ferdy on Films, Roderick Heath goes back to 1973: “The Exorcist gets off on the spectacle of the transgressive, the nascent punk spirit of the demon’s mockeries of all settled structures, whilst contriving to box them in and redefine them as forbidden, in turning the liberationist urges of the previous decade into a leering caricature of adolescent anarchic impulse. And yet The Exorcist resists being belittled by such objections.”
Relatedly: “One weird kink of The Bible Belt,” writes the Dissolve‘s Noel Murray, who grew up there, “is its love/hate relationship with the occult…. Here’s what was off-limits, according to many of the people I grew up with: books about witchcraft, the writings of Anton LaVey, Ouija boards, New Age crystals, pentagrams, albums with backward masking, and the music of most heavy-metal bands…. Yet here’s what was okay to enjoy, according to those same chums and acquaintances: The Omen. The Amityville Horror. Rosemary’s Baby. The Exorcist. These movies passed muster because they didn’t encourage people to dabble in the dark arts; they warned people. More to the point, they acknowledged the existence of God, the influence of Satan, and the truth of the Bible. They were visual representations of that old Louvin Brothers song: ‘Satan Is Real.'”
At Slant, Jordan Cronk revisits Georges Franju‘s Eyes Without a Face (1960), “a work of a wizened cinephile playfully exploiting the genre’s most primal strategies while employing outlying techniques familiar to fans of American film noir and the then-burgeoning nouvelle vague.”
David Kalat celebrates the “twisted artistry” of “one of my all-time favorite thrillers,” Henri Georges Clouzot’s “gloriously macabre” Diabolique (1955) and sets it next to “one of its many knock-offs,” Hammer’s Scream of Fear (1961). Also at Movie Morlocks, Jeff Allard, Dennis Cozzalio, Greg Ferrara, Paul Gaita, Nicholas McCarthy, and Richard Harland Smith discuss Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976).
The BFI’s launched a blog for its months-long Gothic series, and, for the eighth time now, Reverse Shot has rounded up “A Few Great Pumpkins.” At Twitch, Peter Gutierrez previews the Golden Age of Spanish Horror Cinema series running from Wednesday through November 10 at New York’s Anthology Film Archives.
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