Horror Chick

"The Woman in Black": Everything Old Is Good Again

Horror movies are beset with misconceptions, the greatest being: "How can you watch those things!? They're all fatuous violence and gratuitous boobs!" Which is kindof like saying, "How can you read those feminist blogs?! They're all alluvial deposits of man-hating penis envy!"

The truth is that the horror canon, like any other film group, contains a vast spectrum of work ranging from smack-somebody awfulness to transcendence. The only thread holding it all together is that every horror film DEMANDS something of you—that you abandon the safe, bucolic cognition of your daily reality and confront the darker aspects of being alive. Some movies do this by plopping a likable protagonist [...]


'Straw Dogs': 40 Years After The Original, It Still Sucks To Be A Man

Whenever men have described to me what it's like to be male, it sounds friggin' awful—a nonstop blitzkrieg of Hobbesian brutality. Your life, as they depict it, is a war on two fronts: the front that wants to get laid, and will do whatever it takes to do so, and the front that must fight off other men. Both require totally different skill sets, and a loss on either shore is devastating. A friend told me that when he walks down the sidewalk, other (usually larger) men will step in his path to launch a game of Chicken, and they’ll slam into him unless he pulls away. (A guy did [...]


‘Scream 4’: The First Mainstream Feminist Horror Film

Scre4m’s task was never easy. Not only was it rebooting the first "self-aware horror franchise" and hauling the institutional weight of a generation, it was also selling its shtick to a new batch of teens so savvy they can plug their tongues directly into iPads to sync their brains. Remember the halcyon innocence of 1996? How tickled we were that a horror movie was listing slasher-flick rules and mocking Richard Gere? Yeah, kids now consider that about as edgy as a Nu Shooz reunion tour.

And sure enough, no one wanted to see it. Opening weekend was dismal, grossing a mere $18.7 million (which ain’t bad for a horror [...]


'The Rite' Wants You to Believe in God (and Anthony Hopkins)

I hate to call atheism "cool" these days. "Cool" is a word for pork belly entrées or jeggings or "homemade artisanal spirits" (a.k.a., moonshine), not the ideological choice to disbelieve in a higher entity. Nonetheless, fully (and publicly) embracing religiosity and all its hymn-reading cross-loving righteousness is very distinctly uncool.

All of which presents an interesting backdrop for an exorcism film that takes place in the Vatican (The Rite, in theaters today). The built-in skepticism of the digital age sets up a hefty challenge before the first camera ever rolls: How the hell do you sell a movie about devout Catholics fighting hordes of tongues-speaking slime-spitting demon-hosts to [...]


‘Paranormal Activity 3’: Humans Are Suckers, And That’s OK

When you’re making a horror movie, the hard part is always human diversity—you have to trigger fear for the largest number of people, which is tough since we’re all a slightly different brand of crazy. Sometimes filmmakers go too specific—targeting agoraphobics, or those random people with papaphobia (uncontrollable fear of the Pope) or even the weirdos who shriek at the sight of wet bread. This tactic always fails. The trick is to find an element of the human psyche that’s ALWAYS ready to be freaked out. Which is what the Paranormal Activity series has done so effectively. No matter who you are, you have a bed that you go [...]


'Fright Night' Has No Business Being This Good

Some horror movies want to turn your stomach into fermented battery acid. Some want to slap you with political/gender/socio-cultural statements. And some are just there to bring the awesome (and shower you with ironic gore). Which brings us to Fright Night, opening today.

The 1985 original was one of those tepid '80s movies that make us olds feel all nostalgic but, at the end of the day, was truly crap. The premise was your classic “fear thy suburban neighbor” scenario: teenage kid lives with single mom in Anywhere, USA and discovers the cool single guy next door is a vampire. Clichés and lame special effects abound, [...]


‘Insidious’ and the Sacred Rules of Ghost Movies

What happens when James Wan, the Sultan of Saw (which, let us never forget, is the most important film series ever made) makes an old-school ghost movie?

Well, for one, he steals. From Argento, Polanski, Spielberg, Amenábar, even Shyamalan (who, let us not forget, did make one great ghost movie). And yes, James Wan even steals from himself. When faced with the prospect of a meat-and-potatoes horror film, the maestro of torture fetish has spackled together bits and shards from nearly everything in the genre, forming a pasty drywall that’s scary in some places, and just silly in others. And thus we have Insidious—in [...]


'The Thing' Is A Replicant Sent To Suck All Joy From Monster Movies

Monsters aren’t inherently interesting. Sure, by virtue of their being strange and menacing and outside the periphery of normal existence, they’ll usually hold our attention for 90 minutes or so. But their scariness is all in the context and presentation. And just as it’s possible to take a transcendent ensemble cast and putrefy it by adding Eli Roth (yes, I’m still pissed about that), so is it possible to make an utter yawn-fest monster flick. Case in point: The Thing, which opens today.

I’m one of those assholes who can prattle on for days about the 1982 version—seriously, just ask anyone who’s gotten stuck talking to me. [...]


'Final Destination 5': Death's A Great Punchline (That Needs A Better Setup)

We don't do much with death in media. While pop culture is packed with anal sex jokes and headlines likening the Dow to a high-class hooker, the actual mechanics of death are one of the few things we bypass. Call it the last taboo. 

Movies wade through death in a variety of ways. Typically, there’s buildup to a tragedy, with a focus on the pain of loss and the hardship left in its wake. Death is used alternately as character forger or plot device (is the hero really dead?? He CAN’T be!!). But horror films enjoy a singular relationship with death. Horror alone has our permission to [...]


‘Red Riding Hood’ and the Gripping Jaws of Sexless Teens

Teenagers aren’t having much sex these days. And why should they? If it’s not the AIDS resurgence or public displays of adolescent pregnancy, it’s HPV, or syphilis (yes, syphilis) or any other number of other pestilences that rot your organs and turn your genitals to corrugated mush.

So does all this adolescent celibacy mean that today’s teens are less horny than their free-love Baby Boomer predecessors, or the angst-ridden millennials, or any other group of teens in history? Not a chance. If there’s one universal of the human condition, it’s hormones: Our biochemistry is primed to make us breed, and that means endless streams of panting, [...]