Horror Movies Set During the Day

Horror architectures and pitch darkness are not inseparably intertwined. It’s a common misconception purported by spooky cinema itself. Don’t get me wrong – James Wan’s signature manipulation of outreaching shadows showcases why bumps in the night scare with ease (one of many examples). But what about the alternative? Thrill me in the sunlight, and you’ve conquered one of the hardest, most unforgiving subgenres. What I, so professionally, dub “Sunny Scary.”

With Ari Aster’s Midsommar primed to issue merciless dread while sunbeams celebrate pastels and blossoming springtime bulbs, I’m reminded of films that have accomplished similar feats. The original version of The Wicker Man, without hesitation, comes to mind as Summerisle‘s Celtic rituals unfold during off-kilter May Day festivities. Sergeant Howie’s investigation becomes more and more unsettling during inappropriate May Pole teachings or blatant missing child coverups. As “killer doll” movies prey upon innocence exploited, so do films that shatter daylight reprises via sacrificial damnation. One man’s discovery of unspeakable truths played out in plain sight, framed and illuminated with the festive enchantment of something much happier (without flaming effigial crosshatches).

Read More »

They Come Knocking Review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature the first Friday of every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark series has, as critics and audiences seem to agree, somewhat of a “sustainability” problem per episode. November’s Flesh & Blood and October’s The Body might fare better at a tight sixty minutes, but drawn out between eighty and ninety minutes, feature lengths do no favors. Adam Mason’s They Come Knocking, alternatively, is a meatier, more complete tale of Father’s Day and folklore. Every minute feels earned, as sympathetic notes of grief tie into a larger supernatural story centering around the “Black Eyed Kids” urban legend spoken around campfires.

Anthony Scott Burns may have cornered the market on Father’s Day horror with his haunting Holidays segment, but Into The Dark follows with a strong counterpunch of compassionate storytelling and creepy-as-hell kiddo horrors.

Read More »

All That We Destroy Review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature the first Friday of every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

Chelsea Stardust’s All That We Destroy is the antithesis Mother’s Day feature to Troma’s splattery, schlocky exploitation (Mother’s Day) that once dominated May’s most honorable Sunday (for genre fans). Where Charles Kaufman favors shock and awe, Stardust brings method and layered trauma to this month’s Into The Dark segment. It’s a portrait of a serial killer under mama’s containment, but not in a mentor/trainee scenario. Screenwriters Sean Keller and Jim Agnew splice scientific reinvention, parent/child complications, and the unanswerable constants of human nature into a true crime podcast’s next subject. Making a murderer, Into The Dark style.

Read More »

ParaNorman Revisited

(To celebrate the release of Missing Link, we’re revisiting the stop-motion animated films of Laika this week and discussing why they’re so special. Today: ParaNorman is the kind of kid-friendly horror movie that could transform a youngster into a genre fan for life.)

My transformation into the horror-lovin’ goblin y’all know around these parts was not a graceful one. Early childhood memories are those of anxious fear. Hiding from Child’s Play commercials, avoiding Party City depots during Halloween, and so on. It wasn’t until my later high school years where “so bad it’s good” trash masterpieces sparked my spooky-but-outrageous interests. College is where I dove headfirst into the meanest, most vile terrifiers the genre has to offer, then started gradually working backward. Again, not very methodical. In a different life, I would – and should – have started with a balanced introductory horror tale for the whole family such as Laika’s ParaNorman: satire, homage, and chilling goosebumps bedtime story all rolled into one stop-motion-magnificent package.

It’s no surprise that Laika cuts through festering flesh to expose the immeasurable deepness of our human experience. By embracing horror, creators Chris Butler and Sam Fell provide commentary on death, grief, and acceptance with unflinching steadiness. Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) can see bodyless souls trapped on Earth until their unfinished business is completed, whether that be protection from a townwide witch’s curse or grandmother’s vow as a guardian angel. ParaNorman wastes no time becoming an allegory for providing comfort in death since those long buried still live on in our remembrance or actions, never mincing words nor message.

So how does Laika achieve this understanding without scaring children into existential confusion? Through a genre veteran’s appreciative lens, no less? By embracing what horror fans have known all along – there is no greater, more comforting feeling than confronting our fears face to cackling face.

Read More »

I’m Just F*cking With You Review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature the first Friday of every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

Those (not so secret sociopaths) who cite “April Fools” as their favorite holiday are in for a treat thanks to Into The Dark’s April offering I’m Just F*cking With You. Director Adam Mason blends serial killings with “practical jokes” and creates Hayes MacArthur’s Chester Conklin – a sleazy motel manager/bartender/Hawaiian shirt enthusiast with a demented funnybone. He may be one of the series’ most memorable villains yet, but I’m Just F*cking With You is a one-note gag drawn out with elongated delivery. Solid novelty, even if a little more workshopping would have helped.

Read More »

Mike Ahern and Edna Loughman’s Extra Ordinary comes together as the tonal lovechild of Jared Hess and Taika Waititi, playfully mocking horror beats instead of unleashing them. It’s more a cutesy rom-com with expelled ectoplasm goo than completionist horror dive into Drag Me To Hell territory, but when subdued haunting gags land, laughs project with ease. Expect dry Irish wit, flamboyant musicians selling their souls for another hit record, and home appliances that wave at you. Quite a motley assembly of descriptors, yet together, they make for one uniquely lighthearted horror comedy that’s a cut above ordinary.

Read More »

Adopt a Highway review

Actor Logan Marshall-Green’s directorial debut Adopt A Highway feels tailor-made for Austin’s South by Southwest Film Festival. It has nothing to do with horror, mind you, despite Blumhouse’s production banner. What could double as an acoustic country ballad whispers a nomad folk tale about one simple task: getting by. Indie bloodlines run through Marshall-Green’s jailhouse poetry without overly romanticized narratives, more appropriately about passing moments than revelations. It’s about muttered dialogue, directionless trajectories, and a most relatable assessment of life not going as expected.

In other words, humanity as we know it. Read More »

villains review

Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s Villains isn’t their first genre rodeo, and it shows. Their feature debut Body ignited their affair with home invasion horror, Stake Land II sucked some serious sequel blood, and their script for Don’t Kill It burst with howlin’ mad body-possession beats. So what makes Villains their most gratifyingly unstable and deliciously dark midnighter yet? Simplicity in casting: Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe. Maybe that’s my specific answer, but I’d watch these two imitate Bunny and Clive (bargain bin versions) until the proverbial cows come home.

Granted, there’s far more to the morally blurry Villains worth pondering than two charismatic and devious burgeoning criminals, but try not falling head-over-heels with Berk and Olsen’s daydreaming amateur fugitives. Read More »

The Highwaymen Review

John Lee Hancock’s The Highwaymen is a poster child for Netflix Originals when it comes to noting how “unparalleled creative freedom” isn’t always beneficial. Cinematography paints an early 1900s Texas frontier where Wild West lawlessness gets a Tommy Gun upgrade, and performances are as prolific as the names attached, but oh how dusty a biographical drama that cannot sustain over 120 minutes. Breathless prairies with Dust Bowl destitution become repetitive; characters over explained after we’ve already established persona, motivation, and presence. Hancock’s dramatic retelling is a slow, sluggish boar without a leash, inching closer and closer to known finality. A less-than-exciting homage despite scenic reverence paid in listless, contemplative stares that mull the distressing fame of Bonnie Parker (Emily Brobst) and Clyde Barrow (Edward Bossert).

Read More »

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Good Boys review

There is, despite countless American Pie and Road Trip spin-offs arguing otherwise, an art to shaping R-rated comedies. Rawdog raunchiness and “F-bombs” alone don’t equate to laugh-a-minute genius.

Take a movie like Good Boys. Gene Stupnitsky’s hilarious adolescent comicality boasts heart, message, and humor in the precisely right places. Lesser creators would’ve leaned heavily on cursing “tweens” thinking with their pre-pubescent naughty parts, yet Stupnitsky and co-writer Lee Eisenberg dare to focus on a heartwarming story about coming of age with sixth-grade understanding, and then fill in the anecdotal kinky playthings and pornography gags. Read More »