Of all the many sub-genres in horror, the slasher is probably my favorite. There aren’t many good ones, but even the bad ones tend to deliver exactly what we want from the formula. They’re horror movie comfort food, and Shudder is offering an entire buffet this October.
February is known as Women in Horror Month, when the spotlight is put on female filmmakers working inside our favorite genre, and many horror sites run pieces about movies directed by women. And that’s great! But there’s no reason why that spotlight should be limited to only one month, particularly when there are so many brilliant and talented female filmmakers working in the genre. Why not use this October to hit up these titles on Shudder and get to know some of the most exciting female voices in horror right now?
As horror fans, we are constantly seeking out the new and the different. Because the genre is marked by so much sameness—sequels, franchises, remakes, copies of copies—it can sometimes be a challenge to find those horror films that truly carve out their own space. They don’t even have to be great movies, necessarily; many times, “different” is enough to make us happy.
It’s hard for horror filmmakers—or filmmakers of any genre, for that matter—to sustain their greatness. Changes in how movies are made, decreasing budgets, even just the passage of time impacts the quality of their output as the years go by, to the point that sometimes the work they’re doing near the end of their respective careers is unidentifiable as their work.
Horror was in a weird place in the early 1990s. Most of the big franchises of the ’80s had more or less run their course, and in their place were a handful of new “icons” that would be turned into franchises whether it was warranted or not: the Child’s Play movies continued to be a growing concern, as did Candyman and Hellraiser and Leprechaun. One attempt to launch a new franchise that never quite took was 1991’s Warlock, which inspired two sequels of varying quality before calling it quits. All three films are now gathered together on Blu-ray for the first time as part of the Warlock Collection, the latest in the Vestron Video Collector’s Series from Lionsgate.
Like with any long-running slasher movie franchise, every horror fan has a favorite Nightmare on Elm Street sequel when asked. The most popular response is Dream Warriors, which, based on anecdotal evidence, many fans prefer even to the first film. Some like its follow-up, the Renny Harlin-directed The Dream Master, best. Very rarely, if ever, do Nightmare fans name the fifth installment, 1989’s The Dream Child, as their favorite.
I can still remember going to see James Gunn’s debut feature Slither on opening night in March of 2006. It was to be my birthday movie, so myself and a group of friends all got together at the movie theater, ready to check out what Gunn had in store for us. I was the only one among us with an awareness of his work, having followed his career as a screenwriter during his days at Troma through The Specials, the two live-action Scooby-Doo movies, and, most notably, his 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. Because I knew what to expect from a James Gunn movie, naturally I loved Slither. My friends did, too. The rest of the nearly empty theater seemed puzzled and disgusted by it, though, and I knew that night that the movie was going to die a quick death.
When a filmmaker creates a number of movies that qualify for masterpiece status, it becomes nearly impossible to quantifiably conclude which one stands above the rest as his or her single greatest achievement.
After nearly 40 years in the business and with 22 officially credited features as a director, Mario Bava made his final feature film with 1977’s Shock, also known to U.S. audiences as Beyond the Door II. Just three years after its release, Bava died of a heart attack. He was 65 years old.
As the film that bridges the two decades of Mario Bava’s output as a director, 1970’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon feels strangely trapped between two worlds. It contains the traces of gothic horror with which Bava made his name, as well as elements of the supernatural and the psychosexual leanings of the giallo genre he more or less helped create. At the same time, it’s steeped in dazzling colors and psychedelia—it feels seedier than his usual output even though it’s far less graphic than some of his other works.
Gothic horror found its way into the American mainstream in the early 1960s courtesy of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations for American International Pictures. Movies with a tortured Vincent Price brooding around darkened castles, longing for the spirits of some long-lost love were reaching audiences on the same screens as Frankie and Annette and the Beach Party series—and from the same studio, no less. Over in Europe, though, it was a totally different story.
Though he worked across a number of genres, be it fantasy with Hercules in the Haunted World, science fiction with Planet of the Vampires or the crime thriller with Rabid Dogs, the great Mario Bava will forever be most closely associated with horror. His work in the genre is both groundbreaking and legendary, its influence felt across a wide swath of filmmakers and films. Traces of his gothic horror movies can be seen as recently as 2015’s Crimson Peak, while his 1971 effort A Bay of Blood inspired countless slashers, none more than Friday the 13th. It is his 1963 thriller Evil Eye, however, that would help create a genre both known and beloved by fans of Italian horror: the giallo film.
Confession: I have never been much for religious horror. I blame this on a secular upbringing, which has left me ill-equipped for faith-based fear dependent on devils and possession for scares. Don’t get me wrong; I can appreciate the brilliance of The Exorcist and I can buy into these ideas just as easily as I can buy into monsters and vampires and killer toys, but I also recognize that these kinds of movies tap directly into a certain portion of horror fandom while leaving me cold. It’s not you, religious horror movies. It’s me.