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haunted house

couple having a picnic on the floor
Posted on November 12, 2020

“We lost her when we crossed the sea”: His House Review

Guest Post

Last year, I reviewed Beneath Us (2019) for Horror Homeroom–a film that positioned immigrants to the US in literal and figurative subterranean spaces beneath American society. Tellingly, that film took far longer to get a release in the land of its origin than it did in Europe. His House (2020) landed on Netflix recently, a film that pairs haunted house horror tropes with the plight of immigrants into Britain, and offers a useful comparison between horror films stemming from migration out of Africa into Europe and from South America into North America. As these examples attest, and sitting as they do alongside a spate of lyrical, challenging and important films that deal with racial disparity, from Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) to Antebellum (Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, 2020), genre filmmaking, especially horror, often has licence to address these topics in a far more nuanced and complicated manner than straight dramas, and potentially to reach far greater audiences. Read more

Posted on December 2, 2017

I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives, Dies, and Haunts in the House

Guest Post

I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House begins with the anticipation of certain death.

I have heard myself say that a house with a death in it can never again be bought or sold by the living. It can only be borrowed from the ghosts who have stayed behind.

In this 2016 Netflix original, directed by Osgood Perkins, Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson) enters the house of the dying author, Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss), to serve as her live-in nurse. Lily spends solitary months caring for Ms. Blum, and the film follows her at a sometimes excruciating pace. Ms. Blum refuses to call her anything but Polly, whom Lily learns is the lead character in one of Blum’s books: a character who suffered a horrible murder but whose ending was never fully told. The ghost of this character (Lucy Boynton) begins following Lily about the house, unbeknownst to her. The death that the house has been waiting for becomes three as Polly’s end is briefly shown, Lily never reaches her 29th year (as she predicts in the first few minutes of the film), and Ms. Blum dies without her caregiver. The film slowly unravels the theme of three different relationships in regards to these deaths: 1) that of the dying and a caregiver, 2) that of an artist with her work, and 3) that of the living with the dead. Ultimately, these relationships grow so neatly and subtly tangled that they become inseparable

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Posted on September 27, 2017

IT’s Homely Horror: What to Do with a Haunted House

Guest Post

While praising the cast of Andy Muschietti’s 2017 adaptation of IT, A. O. Scott repeats a comment my friends keep saying about the film: it’s old horror hat gone wild. Scott, in his New York Times review, specifically argues that with the advent of CGI in modern horror films comes artistic repetition:

“Movie monsters resemble one another more and more, and movies of distinct genres feel increasingly trapped within the expected.”

Yet, beneath the expected jump scares, the uptick in gore-filled moments, and what some call the over-exposure of the titular monster, IT brings the horror mode under critique. Unlike Scott, I argue that Muschietti is engaging in a rather nuanced play on the stock elements of horror that so bothered reviewers. In short, that feeling of being “trapped within the expected” is exactly the intent of the overt and arguably overused horror in this adaptation. Muschietti’s film turns the conventional images of horror against the audience, forcing us to work through our own expectations operating within the genre. In this way, IT becomes more concerned with how horrific imagery can be used to hide and deflect from the reality it represents.

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