Friday, October 5th
On the 5th day of October, we come to our first truly frightening film, 2015's "The Witch". This is an easy title for everyone to find, as it is streaming on Netflix.
If the 80's were about the slasher films, 90's about fusing franchises with teen horror films, 2000's about torturous films like "Saw" and "Hostel", the 2010's have been all about the "Art House" horror film. This decade was ushered in by "Black Swan", "Kill List", and "You're Next", paving the way for independent studios like A24 and Blumhouse to usher in a new age of horror films.
Some might be scratching their heads at my suggestion that Blumhouse is an independent studio, but at their core, they truly are. Have you seen the budgets for most of their films? They can take risks on a film like "Upgrade" or "Get Out" because their investment for return is so low. Horror has never been a genre that requires a huge budget, usually the classic ones are on the lower end of the dollar scale anyway.
"The Witch", from A24, falls into the Arthouse category maybe more than any other film before it, and was very divisive with audiences. Much like this year's "Hereditary", the critics raved all over "The Witch" while about half of the audience wondered what the fuck they had just watched. They were upset with their perceived lack of "payoff", while the other half of the audience was mesmerized by a horror film unlike anything they had ever seen before.
There are some elements of the film that are admittedly difficult for most audiences. For one thing, the language of the film might be english, but it's written in a way that most people are not used to. The main characters are Pilgrims, early settlers right outside the city of Salem, Mass. Every word they speak has a different cadence to it, but it is very poetic when you pick up its rhythm. The easiest way to do this is to watch the film with the subtitles on. Jess and I tried this when we got a chance to watch this at home, and it made a world of difference to the story.
Another barrier might be the overtly religious tone of the film, or maybe more correctly, the anti-religious undertones. The family is leaving their church because the rules are not as strict enough for their liking. They feel it would be better to live outside, not conforming to what they would need to do to exist within the society that is forming. The easiest prey are always the ones who stray away from the pack, and that is what happens when a true Witch claims the family as her target. Just mentioning their goat, Black Phillip, will send Jess running up a wall, which is fun to do. The story of how this religious family, a really hypocritical one that holds themselves in esteem above all others, is tempted and torn apart by evil really got underneath our skin in a wonderful way.
The daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) was one of my favorite characters in recent horror. Her story of being the scapegoat, the one blamed for her body naturally developing, for just existing, was one that I found really compelling and easy to identify with. It's maddening how members of her family remain silent while she is accused of things that they had done instead, like stealing a cup, or making a deal with someone they shouldn't. Her tale is that of a woman who is constantly told that she is something evil, so why not find a way to show them what true evil really looks like?
This is a four and a half star movie, one of the best that recent independent horror has to offer.
"Masters of Horror: Chocolate"
"Chocolate" was a really fun episode from series creator Mick Garris. Two of the best Stephen King adaptations, "The Stand" and "The Shining" (yes, I like the miniseries that stays faithful to the book as well as the Kubrick one), so he held a pretty good slot amongst the horror community before creating the "Masters" series. Now he has the "Shock Waves" podcast, which is an entertaining one to add to your listening queue.
The star of "Chocolate" is an all grown up Elliot from ET (Henry Thomas) going by the name Jamie in this. He works at a food additive factory. While coming up with a chocolate flavoring, he becomes psychically linked to a mystery woman, feeling every single thing that she feels when he is transported into her body. He even feels it when she is beaten, and then kills her attacker. The sensation of adrenaline from the kill combined with a sexual experience from earlier cause him to think he's in love with the woman, and becomes obsessed with tracking her down.
This one had a satisfying conclusion that withstands the test of time so far. I actually think this one may have aged better than when it came out in 2005. Hell, with all the nostalgic throwback to the 80's right now, this entire series from Mick Garris was ahead of its time. Every one of these feels like it is from the peak time period the film makers worked in. The effects are practical, dialog is fun, and semi-tasteful nudity is rampant. This is a series that would make any Joe Bob Briggs fan giggle with glee, and I can be counted amongst that group.
All the episodes of this series are streaming on Screambox.com right now, which pairs perfectly with a Roku. Aside from the 2 episodes earlier in the first season, I recommend this series highly.