Director: Karyn Kusama, Annie Clark, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vuckovic, Sofia Carrillo
Women have been making waves in horror more than ever recently, but it’s fair to say that their presence in a directing or writing capacity is still a distinct minority. It’s a discrepancy that has been noticed, and the idea of an all female-helmed anthology film is perhaps a way to try and bridge that gap. By promoting the work of women who are eager to be part of what is traditionally a boys club maybe the genre will open itself up to a richer variety in storytellers. XX bills itself on this premise alone, without any other connecting themes – a dangerous route to take, for many reasons. And while XX is only moderately successful as an anthology film, it’s an encouraging step forward for the genre itself.
Sadako Vs. Kayako
Directed by: Koji Shiraishi
I don’t know why we love to take cultural titans and pit them against each other so much. What is it about characters who are able to dominate their genre so well that makes us want to watch them compete for our attention? From Batman V Superman to Freddy Vs. Jason, and all of the Godzilla Vs Monster-of-the-Day films, this has long been a tradition of film making. This time, it was the chance for some of our favorite Japanese ghost ladies to take the spotlight.
Sadako Vs Kayako is as much of a mess as you’d expect it to be, and you’ll love it all the more for that.
Sadako Vs Kayako begins its story with friends Yuri and Natsumi; after attending a class discussing urban legends, including one involving a cursed video tape, Yuri finds herself roped into helping Natsumi with a VHS transferring project she’s working on. When they go to purchase a VHS player from the store, they find it already has a tape inside. Curious, they decide to give it a watch, and soon wish that they hadn’t.
Director: The Guard Brothers
The dreaded remake: the word alone makes most of us cringe. Often with good reason, as there have been a number of beloved horror classics that have been ripped apart in the process of trying to re-purpose them for a different audience. A film like A Tale of Two Sisters is rightfully one of the films lauded as a classic of the genre, and so the idea of an attempted remake of this gave me pause – would they be able to retain any of the qualities that set a film like that apart to begin with, or would it simply blend into being another tale of a generic horror remake?
The Uninvited seems to attempt to take a third option, which is to use the concept of the original film as a launching pad to create something different from the source material. Whether or not you find it successful in that attempt will depend on how much leeway you’re willing to extend to it, and how able you are to separate the concept from its origin.
The Uninvited focuses on Anna, a teenage girl who is finally being released from a psychiatric institution, following a suicide attempt mitigated by her mother’s untimely death in an accidental fire. Upon returning home, she is happy to reunite with her sister, and remains cordial with her father, but has an icy relationship with her father’s fiance, Rachel. While Rachel seems eager to mend their relationship at first, it soon becomes clear that there is something strange about her mysterious past. Between this and the increasingly strange and terrifying events surrounding Anna, she begins to suspect that not all is as it seems.
The Winter People
By Jennifer McMahon
Grief and isolation and popular recurring themes in horror fiction, for good reason: they bring out the dark sides in human nature. Time and time again, we see what people are capable of doing in the name of grief – and when no prying eyes are watching them. The Winter People takes these themes, with a dose of maternal love, and fosters them into a haunting tale of loss and desperation.
The Winter People follows three concurrent stories: that of Sara Shea, and her life with her husband and daughter in the early 1900s, mostly seen through Sara’s journal entries. These moments are interspliced with the point of view of Ruthie, a young woman who feels directionless in life, until she discovers that her mother has gone missing one morning, and finds Sara’s old journal among her things. There is also Katherine, who is grappling with the loss of both her son and her husband, and wants to resolve the mystery of her husband’s death once and for all.
I’ve never been much of a fan of Young Adult fiction. Blasphemous, I know. Ever since I was young, I buried my nose into the horror books that were intended for adults. This isn’t because I think Young Adult fiction is bad – a lot of it is really high quality, and perfect for its audience. It just wasn’t for me, and I occasionally felt that it was either watered down, or talked down to me about more serious subjects. With this in mind, I’ve come to appreciate Young Adult fiction more as I’ve gotten older, and I truly enjoy finding books in the genre that I connect with.
Recently, I attended a panel at New York Comic Con about horror Young Adult fiction, hoping to find something that caught my attention. When author Danielle Vega described her novel, The Merciless, as a throwback to 90s slasher films, with a heavy dose of Mean Girls, I was intrigued. I ended up grabbing a copy of the book that day, and finished it within hours of beginning it.
Sofia Flores is used to being the new girl. Being the child of an army nurse, she generally starts a new school every six months, and almost never makes a real connection with any of her classmates. That seems to change when she starts school in Friend, MS, where he almost immediately is befriended by Riley, a beautiful and popular girl that Sofia considers way out of her friendship league. Being in Riley’s clique seems too good to be true, and that might be right; for one, they’re convinced that another classmate, Brooklyn, is a demon that needs to be saved from herself. And they want Sofia’s help to do so.
Since almost the moment his instant classic The Sixth Sense was released, M Night Shyamalan’s reputation has been on the decline. Reaction to his films in the past handful of years has been mixed at best (The Village) and an absolute critical disaster at worst (The Last Airbender). His name has grown to be synonymous with hokey, over the top twist endings and disappointment. Still, when advertisements for The Visit began popping up everywhere, I couldn’t help but be compelled to check it out and see what he might bring to the table.
Did The Visit disappoint? It certainly doesn’t have the depth or emotional resonance of his stronger early material, such as The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, but it is an entertaining and solid horror film, with a great infusion of comedy.
Here’s a bit of a non-confession: I love pop music. It’s not even a guilty pleasure. I’m in no way ashamed of this fact. I don’t care if it’s boyband jams from the 1990s, a trashy Ke$ha tune, or some obscure J-pop group – I will probably love it. So when I found out that there’s a horror film with a premise centered around an all-girl Korean pop group, I was pretty ecstatic. As far as I was concerned, it could go one of two ways: it could be fantastic, or it could be terrible in the most wonderful of ways. It was win/win for me.
Eun-ju, a former back up dancer, is now a member of the all-girl Korean pop group, Pink Dolls. The group routinely under performs and gets ignored by most major media outlets; this, plus the fiercely competitive nature of her fellow group members causes a lot of tension and strife within the band. Things seem to take a turn, however, when Eun-ju discovers an old tape of a scrapped music video for a song called White. The group’s manager latches onto the song, and their first performance with it is an instant hit. While this seems to be the break all of the girls were hoping for, there’s also something sinister about the song, and the fate of each girl who tries to sing it.
I have something of a complicated relationship with Ryan Murphy’s works. I was an avid fan of Nip/Tuck, and followed it through until the very end, and so I knew full well going into American Horror Story the gamut of quality his shows can range through. They can be captivating, in a manic sort of way, or they can fall apart completely, tripping over loose plot threads as they go down. So where does the first chapter of American Horror Story fall? It seems to have a good amount of both the peaks and valleys that Murphy’s shows can create, all in one season.
Murder House is the first story of the series, and it tells the tale of the Harmon family in their move from Boston to L.A. The move is facilitated, primarily, by an affair Ben had with a young student of his back in Boston. This causes friction between him and his wife, Vivien, as well as distress for their teenage daughter, Violet. However, once they move into their new house, they begin to understand that what they were running away from is not nearly as bad, or as dangerous, as what they face in their new home.
We all like a good love story. You know the kind: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy becomes girl’s mind slave, boy murders girl in a jealous rage, girl respawns to spread her evil enslavement powers across the world. You know, the usual.
Many people are familiar with Junji Ito’s famously deranged manga, Tomie, and its depiction of a monster that takes the form of a teenage girl and ensnares the mind of every man she meets. Being such a well-loved piece of horror fiction, I imagine there was a lot of clamoring for a film adaptation of his work, and anticipation for what kind of terror it could bring to the screen while telling Tomie’s unsettling tale.
Vampires. The word alone will likely draw an image immediately to mind. Chances are, each one of us will have a slightly different image. Vampires being such a versatile creature in fiction, I’ve begun to consider them on a bit of a sliding scale: one end being the fully romanticized, all but human portrayals, where the vampires have a full range of intellectual and emotional capability. The other end has the feral, bestial type, controlled by insatiable bloodlust. What you see will mostly depend on your personal taste.
The Strain leans on the latter end, with mixed results. The creatures presented are undoubtedly frightening, but what, if anything, makes them distinctly scary as vampires?