Momoiro Clover Z—these color-coded idols have performed your favorite anime themes, opened for Gaga, and dazzled 150,000 people at Japan’s National Olympic Stadium with their kinetic live act. But in 2010—before they added the Z, before they were Momoclo or MCZ—they were merely Momoiro Clover. They were simply six high school girls with a dream, who were about to have an enterprising horror filmmaker plunge them into a living nightmare.
The Witch, Robert Eggers’ 2015 debut film, tells the story of a Puritan family exiled from the Massachusetts Bay colonies for patriarch William’s (Ralph Ineson) unorthodox beliefs. While the haunted house story is the traditional model of American familial horror—The Shining’s domestic terror growing like a goldfish to fit its massive new tank, the alienating and all-consuming vastness of the titular building in The Orphanage—The Witch instead treats the house as a fragile membrane between love and ruin, the family’s rough homestead on the edge of a vast wilderness a visual metaphor for the precarity of their bond.
Cartoons were strange in the early aughts. It was a time when up and coming animators and writers were given free reign to create imaginative, idiosyncratic children’s shows. The best of the bunch that have survived in popular culture—your Rugrats, your PowerPuff Girls, your Dexter’s Lab—have stuck around because they experimented with visual styles and themes that made a palpable impression on children of that era.
In 2018, “creepypasta” is a household term. Internet ghost stories aren’t restricted to the dark corners of obscure message boards anymore—they play out in original video games, YouTube videos, and even on professionally-produced television shows. Despite the vast and various types of creepypasta, all of it is, in some way, an exploration of the hopes and fears of a generation. It’s a way to make sense of the things we deal with in our respective days and ages—in other words, it’s folklore.
The Lost Boys is a kids’ movie—it’s all about sex. Or let me put that another way—the monsters of kids’ media tend towards a didactic form of moral panic. In American movies of the 80s and 90s, it manifests primarily as a thinly-coded stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS—anti-social violence, infection, disease and gay sex mutually imply each other according to the bizarre and homophobic torsions of the culture industry. That’s especially true for The Lost Boys, a horror-comedy that picks up the Peter Pan mythos and plunks it down in a California of the dilapidated 1980s.
When Ridley Scott’s 1979 sleeper hit Alien arrived in theaters, it revolutionized special effects and kicked the wheezing horror genre into high gear. While Alien is without question Scott’s best movie, tightly paced and claustrophobic, Swiss painter H. R. Giger’s legendary creature design is what sets it apart from everything that followed it. Aliens, its 1986 James Cameron-helmed—yes, he used to make good movies—sequel, builds on and exaggerates Giger’s work so effectively you’d be hard-pressed to find modern sci-fi unmarked by its slimy fingerprints.
Who doesn’t have strange, vaguely off-putting memories of childhood nightmare fuel? You know, those cartoons pitched to youngsters that were full of of imagery and implications sure to terrify you for weeks to come. The shows that were clearly not age-appropriate, and that you can’t believe you sat through now that you look back and see just how disturbing they were.
The portal to the fifth dimension has opened yet again. The Twilight Zone is coming back, and this time, Academy Award-winning director and comedy king Jordan Peele will be behind the spooky wheel. What can we expect from this latest edition of the anthology classic? To answer that question, we have to enter the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge… we have to enter The Twilight Zone.
France, 1981: the Italian film Cannibal Holocaust is released to theaters and the magazine Photo claims that its depictions of butchery were real. Its director Ruggero Deodato is brought before French courts to disprove the allegation and to explain why the film’s cast have been suspiciously absent from the public eye. Deodato acquiesces and produces his actors, revealing that they had agreed not to appear in other media for one year to preserve his film’s illusion of authenticity—an illusion that was perhaps too successful if it landed him in a French court, and an illusion that worked only because Cannibal Holocaust wasn’t a conventional movie. Instead, it allegedly depicted what was recovered from the expedition of a doomed documentary crew filming cannibal tribes in the Amazon rainforest: “found footage.”
In many ways, womanhood in the Western world is a zero-sum game. You’re the “it” girl or you’re nothing. You’re beautiful or ugly. You’re virtuous or evil. You’re fresh or you’re spoiled. But where does this brutal, winner-take-all model leave friendship between women? Or romance? If another woman’s beauty could spell irrelevance for your own, how could you feel anything for her but paranoia and jealousy? Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2016 horror thriller The Neon Demon, the story of a young, beautiful ingenue breaking into the modeling scene in LA and running afoul of a coven of envious women, digs its gleaming talons deep into that question.
Last week, things got a little out of hand. It all started with the rise of the camcorder trash-auteur—but soon there were woodchipper massacres, black devil dolls from hell, and the carnal delights of an invisible ghost son sexily blowing at his mother’s hair.
You’ll be begging to go back there soon enough.
In the days before the analog extinction, a most prominent purveyor of physical media emerged. Now a fetishized monument, it was at the time considered by many to be a scourge upon the once proud institutions of the drive-in and the grindhouse. Tumbleweeds rolled across vacant lots once lined with cars—their windows steamed, the vans a-rockin’ while the fleapit movie houses of New York’s 42nd Street were on the docket for Disneyfication. Overtaking their spot atop the movie watching world was the video rental shop. Or, as it was known by the ancients, the video store.
As a genre, horror focuses overwhelmingly on women. Our bodies are its medium, whether sensuously posed and slathered in gore or twisted into monstrous forms to reflect our fears and anxieties. Think of Dario Argento’s lovingly butchered maidens covered in gallons of vibrant red paint, or the Alien Queen hunkering bloated and distended among her thousands of eggs, a monstrous reflection of Ellen Ripley’s maternal instincts. But for all horror’s fixation on our suffering—sometimes gratuitous, sometimes revelatory—and inner lives, horror films actually written and directed by women are few and far between.
On the list of things that can really put a damper on your day, demons are surely up there. Vomiting, speaking in an extremely deep voice, and being forced to disembowel your friends in a secluded cabin are but a few of the common annoyances a demon can bring into your life. In rare cases, they can even lead to the kissing of Satan’s butthole. To protect yourself from these threats, you must first know your enemy. Which is why I’ve decided to teach this advanced course in demonology.