“The world is a really complicated place right now. America is a really complicated place right now. And I’m not a politician or an activist, but I do feel a responsibility to put positive, powerful, meaningful messages out into the world…you don’t have to be a superhero to do that.”
That was how filmmaker Julia Hart described the concept of her 2018 sci-fi thriller Fast Color, which now feels like a watershed moment. Starring a nearly all-female cast, it offered a unique twist on the everyman crime-fighter genre and demonstrated the potential of a story about a super-powered being.
Superhero movies, to be fair, have always carried undercurrents of political and social commentary – that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, a friendly, neighborhood hero who saves New York City from a violent threat came to fruition in the aftermath of 9/11 felt powerful in 2002 and still carries weight. However, over the past few years, portrayals of powerful loners and their ability to shake up the status quo have been fervently more prominent.
Extra points if the film in question is punk as fuck. For all its critical analysis, Adam Egypt Mortimer’s Archenemy works first as a spectacularly violent, gritty reimagining of a champion’s origin story. It’s a superhero movie, only the setting isn’t a brightly lit suburb in Glendale with plain white walls, or a vast alien kingdom upheld by a devout army.
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“There are monsters out there,” Ted Raimi states emphatically at the Shelter-In-Place edition of Telluride Horror Show. Hosted by Fangoria’s Meredith Borders, Raimi has everyone in stitches in the Deathly Spirits chat, a virtual cocktail hour offering viewers an opportunity to mix Ted’s drink recipes and engage with the genre favorite after the screening of his new short film Red Light. Hoping to turn this short film into a full length feature project, Raimi explains how initially, the plan was to just go ahead and make the movie. Sadly, like many in the entertainment industry, the outbreak of COVID-19 put plans on hold.
“We shot a proof of concept, it was never meant to be a short, but then COVID hit and we were boned,” says Raimi. “Like everybody else in the world, our plans got waylaid. We thought, what are we gonna do? We can’t take this to producers now. We thought well, let’s take it to film festivals. We can do that. Even though they’re virtual, like this awesome one. We’re just pleased as punch that it’s here. We’re looking for finance right now, and with the amount of positive response it’s gotten, I can’t imagine it’ll be long.”
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American Horror Story. Black Mirror. Room 104. Channel Zero. The Mortuary Collection. Monsterland. Creepshow. Scare Me. Nightmare Cinema. Scare Package. Books of Blood. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. 50 States of Fright. Into the Dark. Welcome to the Blumhouse. The Twilight Zone. Horror anthologies are all the rage across various media right now, and the Shelter-In-Place Edition of Telluride Horror Show is no exception.
A collection of selected short stories, anthologies come in the form of literature, television shows, movies and more. Typically running somewhere between ten to thirty minutes, segments may either make up several chapters within one whole picture, like in Tales from the Hood and John Carpenter’s Body Bags, or they may be relegated to one story per episode, as is the case with cult classics like Tales from the Crypt and Masters of Horror. Most contain wrap-around stories which explain the reasoning behind the varied stories, and some even feature a dryly sardonic host, such as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, or the Crypt Keeper. Some anthologies may devote entire seasons to one plotline, like The Act, while others land somewhere in the middle, like Lovecraft Country, which follows a monster-of-the-week scenario not unlike The X-Files, but simultaneously carries an overarching villain that comes to a head over the course of the season a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
When it comes to the types of anthologies at Telluride, there’s a little something for everyone.
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In Danse Macabre, Stephen King’s 1981 critique on horror fiction, the author examined popular culture in film, books and television, reflecting on what makes for a good fright, and why terror is such an important commodity. “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones,” he wrote. “A good horror story is one that functions on a symbolic level, using fictional (and sometimes supernatural) events to help us understand our own deepest real fears.”
Years later, science would prove King right. A new study conducted by a group of researchers – Coltan Scrivner, John A. Johnson, Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, and Mathias Clasen – from the United States and Denmark sought to discover whether or not horror fans are better adept at handling the stresses of everyday life, especially when faced when extenuating circumstances, such as a deadly pandemic on a global scale. Their work was recently published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences and funded by the Research Program for Media, Communication, and Society at the School of Communication and Culture at Aarhus University.
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A spiritual sequel to the Bernard Rose’s 1992 horror movie of the same name, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman returns to the now gentrified neighborhood of Cabrini-Green in Chicago, Illinois, back where the legend began. Now, nearly 30 years later, DaCosta is hoping not only to frighten audiences with her vision, but to make them question what exactly it is that makes them so afraid.
“Maybe you’re watching horror and you’re scared because of the very literal ghost that’s in the room,” muses DaCosta. “But I think, in a horror like this, we want you to also understand why the character’s scared. Not just about the ghost, but what the ghost represents. I find that really fun.”
Clever, poignant and creative, it’s easy to understand what Jordan Peele saw in the Little Woods director. A lover of 1970s cinema and a determined writer since the very first time she watched Apocalypse Now at the tender age of 16, DaCosta is an exciting up-and-comer with a vast ocean of ideas, including how to breathe new life into the old bones of Candyman.
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Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself wondering halfway through Lawrence Michael Levine’s Black Bear just what the hell is going on. Levine intends for his characters to be off-kilter. At least, at first. Influenced by filmmakers like Hong Sang-soo, Levine’s sophomore feature is less about following a straight narrative and more about the longtime screenwriter giving himself permission to explore the unconventional. To bask in the beautiful loneliness that inevitably comes with the curse of being a creative. A girl in a bright red bathing suit on a washed out dock alone at sea. Wood paneled walls conflating claustrophobia with feminine wiles. A young vixen slow dancing in the corner, swaying alone, playing at romance. A ravenous bear stirring up trauma wherever he goes. These images are captured by a shy, distant camera that grows more fervent as the movie rolls on, like a wallflower blooming to life and getting swept up in the storm.
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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything.)
Director Aneesh Chaganty, co-writer Sev Ohanian, and producer Natalie Qasabian previously brought us the 2018 nail-biter Searching. Now, they have given audiences an exciting new thriller featuring a paraplegic lead. Kicking off the first night of Nightstream, a collaborative virtual film festival from the organizers of Boston Underground, Brooklyn Horror, North Bend, Overlook and Popcorn Frights Festival, Run tells the story of a teenage girl who uses a wheelchair and her overprotective mother.
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A decorated military veteran suffers a traumatizing event in the line of duty and heads to the city to recuperate, only to find more trouble lying in wait. Sudden Death. Speed. Skyscraper. Under Siege. The Rock. Passenger 57. White House Down. Con Air. Die Hard. Whether it be wreaking havoc on a bus, calculated action within the confines of a small ship or ravaging the top floors of the Nakatomi Plaza, the notion of a highly skilled assassin winding up at the wrong place at the wrong time and having to fight his way out is a narrative that many action movies have come to follow, with little distinction between the masses.
Luckily, The Doorman is here to put a new spin on the old familiar trope by giving audiences what they really want: The Midnight Meat Train director Ryûhei Kitamura guiding action star Ruby Rose in a bloody battle down to the last man standing.
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Cool Posts From Around the Web:
A big trend in 2020 genre releases has been scary movies that take place on the water, but forsake the traditional aquatic horror tropes. William Eubank’s Underwater is a cautionary tale about what happens when you awaken a sleeping giant; Jeffrey A. Brown’s The Beach House is a Lovecraftian home invasion thriller; Neasa Hardiman’s Sea Fever is a contagion drama that stresses the value of community; and the McManus brothers’ The Block Island Sound applies doomsday conspiracy theories to the mysteries of the vast open blue.
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Early in Natasha Kermani’s surreal and sharply sardonic horror movie Lucky (which I saw at this year’s online-only Fantasia Film Festival), Brea Grant’s sovereign May awakens in the night to find a man outside her window, staring back at her. Petrified, May hisses at her husband Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh) to wake up, telling him there’s a man outside, to which he casually replies, “Honey, that’s the man”. Bewildered, May demands to know what he’s talking about. “The man who comes every night and tries to kill us”. Beside herself, May stares mouth agape at her partner, who coolly rises from the bed, grabs a golf club, and heads for the bedroom door. “May come on, get up, we have to fight for our lives now”.
To her surprise, Ted was right. In a Twilight Zone-esque turn of events, the same masked man arrives every night at her door like a traveling salesman, peddling pretty blades and squabbles in the kitchen, disappearing just as quickly as he appeared, seemingly invincible. This déjà vu repeats often enough that May grows weary, unable to break her loop. She stabs and kicks and punches and shoves, but no matter how much blood she spills, the man reappears every night, ready to tussle. An apparition in the gloom, quiet like a fight.
It may come across like a peculiar plot device, or a melodramatic metaphor about the indifferent stars above. Yet, this is not the only recent film to portray a young person caught within the confines of a time loop. It was only a few months back in July when Max Barbakow released his film Palm Springs on Hulu. Beguiling, heady and hilarious, the romantic comedy starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti as two single people stuck at the same wedding forever doubles as an eerie reminder of the repeating dystopia we find ourselves in while quarantined at home in the middle of a pandemic.
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