Saturday, May 27, 2017

5 Atmospheric Horror Films to Watch (+ Book News!)

Sometimes being a writer feels so very incompatible with being anything else – a businessperson, a self-promoter, a social media maven. I think it’s imperative for so many writers, myself included, to carve out a fair amount of solitude in order to get into a mental state that allows for creativity. If anyone was wondering where I’ve been lately, well, I’ve been trying to make that creativity thing happen. More specifically, I’ve been trying to finish my book.

The good news? The book is done, and I’m really, really excited about it. You’ll be hearing much more about that in the near future (I swear!). The bad news is that means I’m now facing a slew of new “writer responsibilities,” many of which (like that self-promotion thing) are relatively new to me. This blog had to take a bit of a backseat while I was writing the book, and it seems like that’s a trend that’s going to continue, unfortunately. I wish I could do my day job, write a book, promote that book, and still write a blog post every week, but I’m not that writer. At least not yet.

In any case, I hope you’ll stick with me if you’ve enjoyed my writing in the past, because this blog is definitely not going anywhere. Horror is still my number one love – my book is about final girls, after all – I’m just not able to maintain the schedule that seems required these days to keep the social media machine happily fed (things move off the timeline and into the ether so dang quickly, don’t they?). But I’m in this for the long haul, and I’m hoping this blog will only become more expansive and a bigger part of my life in the future. I love writing about horror; I love the art it’s brought into my life and I love that it’s connected me with so many cool people. Y’all are awesome, truly.

Anyway, onto the real reason you came here, right? Some people call them slow, other people call them boring… but I call these movies masterpieces of ambience and suspense. And I think I’m right.

A Dark Song. This is the movie that inspired this post; it absolutely drips with eerie, unsettling atmosphere. The film plays out as a chamber piece, with a bereaved mother and a bitter occultist living in an isolated farmhouse and undergoing a grueling, months-long practice in the dark arts. If magic is real (fingers crossed), I imagine this is what it’s really like to attempt something as monumental as contacting the spirit world. It’s not a fun, spooky foray into Ouija boards and chanting for an evening – it’s methodical, arduous work and true self-sacrifice. This film captures that.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this movie before, and its unhurried approach to the teen slasher film. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but I love that the film has this leisurely, summer-hot, hormone-soaked aura that just radiates from the screen. It gives viewers the heady feeling of being a teenager again, unsupervised and surrounded by members of the opposite sex that you’re only just beginning to figure out. Then it adds in a little murder.

Only Lovers Left Alive. Where would a depressed vampire spend an eternity making sad music and finding minimal enjoyment in things he once loved (like blood popsicles, for example)? In the bleak, under-saturated landscape of Detroit, of course. This film appeals deeply to the emo kid in me, while also being sleekly artistic and, let’s just say it, really fucking cool. This is a film that lets you indulge in the melancholy suspicion that humankind is probably ultimately doomed, while also feeling like if we’re going to go out with a whimper rather than a bang, Jim Jarmusch’s way is the way to do it.

The Innkeepers. Ti West’s film The House of the Devil rightfully gets a ton of kudos for its authentic 70s throwback style and its subtle, creeping sense of dread, but if I were pressed to pick a favorite film of his, it would be The Innkeepers. For all of Devil’s retro charm, Innkeepers has a leg up both character and story wise, and it manages to ratchet up the suspense with an even more agonizingly slow burn than its predecessor. Frankly I recommend both films, but everything is a contest these days, isn’t it?

Lords of Salem. I’ve heard it said that you either love Rob Zombie or you hate him, and I’m here to make a rebuttal. Personally, I find his films to be a mixed bag, and I often find myself enjoying some parts of his films but not others. Lords of Salem fits into this category for me, because while the story isn’t totally there, the environment and its accompanying mood act as characters – ones that I adore. This film is sinister, grungy, and neon-lit; and while the music is nothing mind-blowing, it fits the tone of the film perfectly, folding itself into the dark parts of your brain where I imagine it will stay for quite a while.

What about you? Do you like slow burns like these movies, or do you find the burn a little too slow? Any favorites? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!