4th of July Horror Movies

(Welcome to Now Scream This, a column where horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato tell you what scary, spooky, and spine-tingling movies are streaming and where you can watch them.)

Matt: As America’s day of independence approaches and people ready their President Bill Pullman tweets, my mind still pulsates with horrific thoughts. It’s how I’m wired. I’ll be right there chugging Budweiser from “AmeriCANS” and grilling patties of red meat in the name of our founding fathers, but before such festivities provide their patriotic distractions, let’s not forget the flaming hellscape we currently live in. God bless America, forever and always my home – now let’s talk about the movies that refuse to sugarcoat the paranoia around us and how we’re all doomed to OH LOOK PRETTY FIREWORKS! 

Chris: In honor of the 4th of July, Matt and I are devoting the latest Now Scream This to films that celebrate not the American Dream, but the American Nightmare. What a twist! I don’t want to launch into a political screed here, but as you crack open a cold one and chow down on some hot dogs to celebrate America’s birthday this week, it’s almost impossible to ignore how tumultuous the mood of the country has become here in the hell year that is 2018. So with that in mind, here’s some all-American horror. 

Always Shine

Now Streaming on Shudder

Matt: Sophia Takal’s Always Shine was shot and finished ahead of its time, unbeknownst to anyone involved how Donald Trump’s inauguration would elevate gender themes to higher-than-intended levels. In the film, Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald fight against one another as women pitted in competition when they should be allies. Failed by social norms that force female identities all about being thoughtless, submissive playthings for men to flaunt like trophies. Powerful women are viewed as threats and not permitted the success of arm candy dollies who know their place, which stings so much more given Trump’s denouncement of accusers and an air of misogyny that’s been stoked under the current regime. Always Shine was supposed to be exaggerated at best, but alas, life and art collide in a way that’s tragically recognizable as both lead actresses produce an outstandingly acted cry for help in the form of Takal’s getaway thriller.

“It’s a women’s birthright to be attractive and charming.” A bowl of flowers on the “table of life.” Yeeeesh, please watch this movie.

Chris: This movie is phenomenal. If the Academy was really worth a damn, they would’ve nominated Mackenzie Davis for Best Actress for this film in a heartbeat. Always Shine is like Mulholland Drive meets All About Eve, and once it ends, you won’t soon forget it.

Willow Creek
Now Streaming on Shudder and Amazon Prime

Matt: Every country has at least one speculated urban legend told by those who’ve dared to admit personal sightings. Scotland has the Loch Ness Monster. Slavic folklore has Baba Yaga. America has Sasquatch or Bigfoot, who has attracted quite the following of seekers hellbent on proving said myth’s reality. Filmmaker and comedian Bobcat Goldthwait is one such “Squatcher” – actual nickname for people who hunt Sasquatch – and his 2013 film Willow Creek is a fictional tale of US-bred terror that lurks within our borders. Carloads of tourists flock to Willow Creek every year in hope of catching a glimpse of their great white buffalo, which is exactly what Jim (Bryce Johnson) and Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) do. While some might mock those at Willow Creek who’ve devoted their lives to Bigfoot-themed pancakes and cabin walls full of blurry “evidence” photos, this is about what happens when your wildest dreams are proven right – and they fight back. Kudos to Mr. Goldthwait for this found footage camping thriller worth all his wildest “Squatchin’” theories, along with one 20-minute-ish long take inside a tent that shows the former Police Academy crackup is far more than a pitchy voice.

Chris: What’s fun about this film is that is starts off a bit silly, then gradually turns into something surprisingly unpleasant. Much like me after I’ve had a few brewskies at your BBQ

Get Out
Now Streaming on HBO GO

Matt: If I need to explain why Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a horror movie, your last name is probably “Armitage.” While we’ve come a long way from where racial injustices first began, there’s still – by virtue of evidence even in the last few years – a long way to go. Get Out is a commentary on so many different paranoias projected through an artistically genius genre lense, because Peele needs people to listen. Everything from the deer imagery to blatantly obvious takeovers of culture that occur when wealthy white suburbanites inhabit the bodies of hand-picked colored targets. Decades from now, people will still be referencing Bradley Whitford’s line about voting for Obama a third time or Catherine Keener’s swirling-spoon hypnosis that unlocks Peele’s “Sunken Place.” Daniel Kaluuya represents the desperations of too many who’ve been failed time and time again; Allison Williams the mousy harvester who sent internet theorists into turmoil just by refusing to mix Fruit Loops with pure, angel-white milk.

Peele puts his message in terms that anyone can understand, hoping to reach wider audiences who awaken to the world around them (directly influenced by police shootings making news rounds during the film’s production).

Chris: Every now and then, someone realizes that the horror genre can be more than jumpscares and rehashes. Peele’s Get Out is a brilliant example of this: a creepy, funny piece of entertainment that just also happens to have one hell of a message. Peele has said he plans to stick with the horror genre for a while, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about that.

The Crazies (2010)
Now Streaming on Starz

Matt: Romero remakes have and will forever be a horror genre staple (hell, how many Day Of The Dead revamps are there). Breck Eisner’s The Crazies is no shock by existence, but it is surprisingly well adjusted as a 2010 update. It’s the American dream gone to hell. Timothy Olyphant’s first action is to protect fans and players at a local baseball game from the “crazed” gunman in centerfield. We know Ogden Marsh’s resident has been infected by Trixie, a Rhabdoviridae prototype biological weapon that the US government accidentally unleashed when a transportation craft goes down. Cleaner protocols are enacted, quarantines are established that study instead of help, and innocent lives are ended in ruthless manners. Simply enough, Ogden Marsh is doomed by the very elected officials who should be there to protect it. Given our current political climate, I haven’t been this seen since my girlfriend described “Drunk Donato” as “incredibly sweet and utterly destructive.”

Chris: People don’t really talk about this remake much, and that’s a shame. It’s well-made, and will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. I mean that as a compliment. Also, you can’t go wrong with Timothy Olyphant.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Matt: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s red, white and blue-blooded remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown is small-town terrorization that needs to be talked about more. In it, Charles B. Pierce’s original Texarkana slasher exists as a film based on real murders. This causes a copycat “Phantom” killer to surface years later who replicates the film’s death sequences as means of homage. Hollywood is blurred with reality. Media coverage and the furthering of a legend brings about someone trying to capitalize on the same popularity by way of reenactment. There may be more to the story than this – townsfolk histories and a path paved some 60-ish years prior – but twisted American ideal ring rather loudly right now as politicians and online “influencers” find it easier to build brands based around outrage that garners attention in any form. Times change, and so can a film’s meaning. In this case, Gomez-Rejon’s paint-by-numbers slasher is now built on history repeating itself with a public audience.

Chris: Please don’t be angry with me, dear reader, but I find the original Town That Dreaded Sundown to be boring as sin. Aside from the admittedly badass title, the film drags, and the only memorable scene is when the killer murders someone with a trombone (I’m not kidding). The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake, however, is a pleasant surprise. It’s also very clever, and not in an annoying, “Look how clever this movie is!” way. I dig it.

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