Browsing Tag


two dolls sit on swings in the middle of a desolate town
Posted on June 19, 2022

10 Scary Small Towns in US Horror

Guest Post

The culture wars in US politics have become fixated on the rural-urban divide ever since rural voters in just the right mix of states elected Donald Trump to the Presidency in 2016, launching a thousand ethnographic think-pieces in big city news outlets about the worldview of small-town white folks who had long been overlooked by mainstream media.

But anxieties about rural America have long animated a certain corner of the US horror tradition, in stories about seemingly wholesome small towns hiding dark secrets behind their façade of normalcy. Or stories of decrepit small towns where the people and communities left behind by globalization and urbanization have turned monstrous and vengeful, at least in horror films. Read more

Posted on July 14, 2020

From Poltergeist to Pennywise: Why Creepy Clowns Scare Us

Guest Post

In 1982, my family piled into our Ford station wagon and headed for the local theater to see Poltergeist. I was ten at the time, the youngest of four children. Ten is an age where you begin to fear things on a deeper, more cerebral level. But the movie was rated PG, so we went with it.

Today, this movie would easily warrant the stronger PG-13 rating. But there was no PG-13 in 1982. It was either G, PG or R. So the Motion Picture Association went for the middle ground. Bear this in mind, as we revisit the movie through the eyes of a ten-year-old.

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Posted on January 25, 2020

Stephen King’s Endings and the Case for Sentimental Horror

Guest Post

From online discussion boards to quips in the 2019 film adaptation, It Chapter Two, there’s one truism Stephen King fans and critics alike have long accepted: King can’t stick a landing. But I’ve always found the ending of his massive coming-of-age horror classic, It, fitting and, dare I say, satisfying. Trying to tease out why the ending works for me—why I believe it rings true with the rest of the novel and is not simply the tacked-on excuse of a writer out of ideas—became a minor obsession that finally culminated in this essay.

The ending is as follows: In 1950’s America, seven children defeat It, the primordial shapeshifter that most often appears in the guise of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Grown up, the protagonists realize that It survived, forcing them to face off against the monster once more. After an apocalyptic struggle, they finally destroy It through the power of their friendship. Fairly standard, but the reviews and articles claiming that the ending is pat, predictable, and void of complexity beg to differ. The headline of a review in Vulture more or less sums up these feelings with the claim that “A Sentimental It Chapter Two Needed More Pennywise.”[i] Read more

Posted on January 19, 2019

Have Recent Horror Films Accurately Captured Grief?

Guest Post

From societal issues to internal psychological havoc, horror has historically painted our micro and macro humanistic torments on the big screen. It creates new thruways for an alternative method of confrontation with what troubles us. However, there’s a particularly sinister and damaging emotion that each and every one of us likely has to meet with at some point in our life: grief. And grief hasn’t always been effectively depicted in film. There are tremendously individualized intricacies associated with grief that make it difficult to depict the introspective experience of grief rather than a voyeuristic expression. However, the horror genre is certainly one that has the capability to do so. While the complexities of grief stray far outside of fear, there are plenty who argue that horror should be defined by much more than how much it scares viewers.

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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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