By Mark Cox
We live in scary times, and American cinema is responding by using horror to analyze and illuminate our modern world. With a slew of frightful flicks hitting the silver screen and streaming services this fall, RED turned to Metropolitan State University of Denver’s film experts for their picks. Here's what cinema buffs Vincent Piturro, associate professor of English and Cinema Studies; Eneri “Netty” Rodriguez, associate director of the Gender Institute for Teaching and Advocacy; and Charles Hoge, senior lecturer of English will be watching for a good scare.
This looks like a class-based version of 2017 hit “Get Out," said Hoge. After marrying a wealthy young man, a blushing bride must undertake an unusual family tradition – surviving a murderous “game” of hide-and-seek in a sprawling mansion while her heavily armed in-laws try to kill her. As she steadily bashes her new relatives into bloody pieces with sturdy household items, our plucky star embodies the familiar horror trope of the final girl – young, female, resourceful and refusing to be killed. The film's suggestions that the very rich see the rest of us as playthings to be destroyed at a whim, the movie subtly reflects the dark side of our growing economic divide.
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It's one of the most prolific horror movies of all time, and now “The Shining” is finally getting a sequel, said Rodriguez. Director Mike Flanagan has promised a cinematic experience that will both stay true to Stephen King’s source novel and reconcile any differences with Stanley Kubrick’s original film. That’s a tall order, since fans tend to be devout to either Kubrick’s movie or King’s book but typically not both. Ewan McGregor stars as a grown-up Danny Torrance, now a struggling alcoholic still plagued by the horrific events that occurred many years ago at the Overlook Hotel. His attempt at a normal life goes awry upon meeting Abra, a teenager who can also “shine” (she has a fusion of telepathy and clairvoyance). Hopes are high for this one.
“The Witch” (2015) was one of the best films of the decade, said Piturro. A period piece about a 17th-century family in New England whose son disappears, it's atmospheric, intense and skin-crawling. Impressively, it also marked the feature-film debut of writer and director Robert Eggers; his follow-up looks like it might be every bit as distinctive. Starring Willem DeFoe and Robert Pattinson, it's shot entirely in black and white, and the trailer is unlike anything else you’ll see this year. I can assure you that nothing will sparkle in this moody and nightmarish yarn about lighthouse keepers in late-1800s New England, and come opening weekend, fans of “The Witch” will be waiting eagerly in line.
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Who knew the undead could be so much fun? Like the original "Zombieland,” this irreverent sequel reveals the post-zombie apocalypse world to be a mostly amusing, occasionally frightening, place, Hoge said. This time, the reunited cast are shooting and chopping their way through an overgrown, zombie-infested-Washington, D.C. It’s worth noting that each of the lead actors here (Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and Jesse Eisenberg) is either an Oscar winner or a nominee, which is very unusual for a goofball horror comedy – but they're clearly having a blast. And while surviving the zom-pocalypse generally brings out the worst in movie humanity, this gang stays connected and loyal to one another in ways that oddly suggest there may be hope after all.
As one of our most widely adapted authors, Stephen King has seen almost 50 of his stories reach a theatrical release, Rodriguez said. Even folks who despise horror have likely dabbled in one or two of his novels-turned-films. (“Shawshank Redemption” or “The Green Mile” anyone?) This latest chiller contains a simple but unnerving premise: A brother and sister enter a tall grass field after hearing a boy’s cries for help … then can’t get back out. Worse, it looks like the field they’re exploring might be harbouring something very sinister. Yikes. Leave it to King to transform something as harmless as grass into a terrifying horror prop. Even the trailer will send a chill running down your back.
This is a haunted house horror movie with a dash of supernatural thriller, a la “The Shining,” Piturro said. A man with a checkered past sets about renovating an old house, while he and his wife are expecting their first baby. Then, bad things start to happen: Doors spontaneously open and bang shut. The sink clogs with mysterious long hair. Pipes start excreting dark, bloody matter. And then the titular girl-next-door “appears” and starts entangling our guy in a clearly unhealthy relationship. Is this the man’s past coming back to haunt him – or is something else actually haunting him? This is sure to be a fun one.
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This old-school movie plays with a popular horror trope: “Extinct” technology, rather than being merely unfamiliar, turns out to be haunted. haunted, Hoge said. Given a Polaroid camera from an antique shop, our protagonist naturally takes pictures of all her friends. But, uh-oh. A mysterious shadow appears in the developed pictures, which seems to foretell very bad things happening to everyone it attaches to. Cue numerous scary apparitions, sudden screams and grisly endings. If you’ve ever taken an unwise picture that you later thought came back to haunt you, this film will show you that things could have been much, much worse.
Blumhouse Productions used to be known for low-budget horror films, but recent hits such as “Get Out” and “BlacKkKlansman” (both Oscar-nominated) have changed all that. And now here comes this remake of a festive horror classic that inspired John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and helped jumpstart the whole slasher genre. This is also the first Blumhouse movie to be written and directed by a woman (Sophia Takal). And judging by the trailer, it promises a feisty new twist on the classic female tropes of the slasher movie era: These women are fighting back! An earlier remake in 2006 really tanked at the box office and is universally disliked in the horror world, so this new version better be up to the task.
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