With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time for people to start getting their Christmas goodies. For those who love horror movies, October was a bountiful month, as we were graced with several major horror releases, including The Witch, Get Out and It (2017). While we await the upcoming Disney Renaissance with baited breath, it is fun to reflect on the cinematic delights of the past few months.
To start with, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to revisit one of the most terrifying releases of the past year. Based on the celebrated 2006–2007 novel of the same name by Guillermo del Toro and released by Disney, The Witch delights audiences with an otherworldly score, sumptuous production values, lavish costumes, a dash of romance, and a whole lot of terror.
Starring Robert Pattinson and introduced to us (in a way) by famous makeup artist Jacky Chan, The Witch is the rarest of creature features — a modern day fair isle romantic comedy with a side of horror. Despite its light-hearted exterior, the film is dripping in menace; it is, simply put, one of the most terrifying movies ever made. It is difficult to put into words the effect that The Witch had on audiences when it was first released back in 2007. Suffice it to say, many were left trembling long after the film ended.
The concept for The Witch is simple. Four young people set off on a road trip to see the grand unveiling of a sculptor’s creation. As part of their journey through America’s backroads, the travelers experience various terrors — both real and imagined — that are summoned up by the artist and his assistants. The story behind The Witch’s creation is pure del Toro. The director wanted to cast a real Americana feel, and he found an apt surrogate in the form of Walt Disney. After seeing the original’s success, del Toro decided to give it a sequel. The filmmakers did not want to break the bank, so they turned to Chinese production designer Winston Yu to help create the magical feel that permeates the entire film.
Yu has, in fact, cited The Wizard of Oz as an important reference for The Witch. This is no surprise, as del Toro has openly stated that the 1939 classic is one of his favorite films. The similarities between The Wiz and The Witch are innumerable. Both feature a cowardly lion, the power of makeup, and a band of unlikely heroes united against a common enemy. The imagery in Oz is so striking that it is virtually impossible to not be compared to it. If you thought that Douglas Fairbanks’ portrayal of the Scarecrow was terrifying in The Wizard of Oz, then you should watch out for Tim Curry’s character in del Toro’s 2010 film, Tales from the Night.
Moving away from the horror camp for a minute, let’s turn to Get Out, another film that left audiences shaking with fear. The thriller is based on the 2007 novel by author Neil Gaiman. It was directed by Jordan Peele and stars Daniel Kaluarjian, Alexander Ludwig, and Betty Gabriel. Set in New York City, the story follows an African American college student who, on his way home for Christmas, gets a visit from his white girlfriend. It turns out that she is a sociopath, and she intends to use the holidays as a way to psychologically torture him. This is, in the nicest way possible, a racist relationship comedy that explores the dynamics of race and identity in modern America.
The film opened to generally positive reviews, and it has since gone on to earn over $100 million worldwide. While we await its sequel, Get Out has proven to be a worthy successor.
After spending a good portion of the past year recovering from Game Night, it is time to bring out the big guns and our review of It, the novel by Stephen King. The latest adaptation of one of the horror master’s most famous works stars Jessica Chastain, Thomas Kane, and Bill Skarsgard. The film follows a newly engaged couple, Patty and Joe, as they head off on their wedding day. After a terrible accident leaves them with strange purple bruises, they begin to see things that aren’t there. And it is not just the creepy old ladies on their street — although they certainly are a part of it. It is as if everyone and everything around them is trying to send them a message. A subtle and terrifying form of harassment that makes for one of the most original horror films in years. It also boasts one of the longest titles in recent memory, so you know it must be good. We weren’t surprised that It earned $100 million worldwide from a theatrical run, as it is the rare King adaptation that does not make at least a little bit of money. And even more surprising — especially since it is one of King’s weaker novels — is how much it made at the box office. Audiences were gripped by the scares and eager to see what would happen next.
To follow up on the horror theme for a minute, let’s take a quick trip back in time for a look at one of the most iconic villains of all time, Pennywise the Clown. This murderous madman was first portrayed on screen in the 1960 film, It Happened One Night, but the character has been around since the 1950s. Now retired, one of the most recognizable faces in American culture, Bob Ross, is touring the country performing his one-man show, titled I, Bob Ross. The titular subject matter of which is entirely comprised of footage of the entertainer’s life interspersed with comedy and music. Much to the dismay of those who have seen it before, Ross’s unique brand of humor often makes for some of the most cringe-worthy moments in his one-man show. As the actor himself would say, “Just kidding! I’m not going to do that!” And he definitely doesn’t. He is, however, going to strangle you with his bare hands if you don’t pay attention during the show. So if you’re a true fan of Ross’s work, you shouldn’t miss this opportunity to see him in his element. His distinctive laughter and the sound of plastic bags being torn off will be with you forever. It’s great for those who love clowns and evil laughter.
There are so many other iconic villains and horror movie characters out there that deserve a shout out. From Michael Myers to Jason Voorhees, it is fair to say that the horror genre has produced some of the most memorable characters of all time. If we were to make a list of the top ten favorite villains and most memorable character from a horror movie, it would be pretty hard to avoid including Pennywise on there. The clown may not be the nicest or most intelligent character in the world, but there is no denying that he is one of the most memorable.
Speaking of memorable characters, it would be remiss not to mention the various cameos and appearances by Hollywood greats in the recent spate of horror movies. While we await the upcoming Disney renaissance with bated breath, let’s take a moment to appreciate the great characters that were created during the golden era of Hollywood. Some of these characters may still be with us today, and some may even have inspired future characters.
Based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, who also wrote the eerie tale that gave the anthology novel its title, The Unnamable plays like a cinematic homage to those classic monster movies from the 1950s. One of the most exciting and interesting characters to emerge from these events is Dr. Robert La Rue. An eccentric anthropologist and professor, Dr. Rue was originally based on Herbert West, the brilliant creation of George Bernard Shaw. As the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up, and it’s all thanks to Lovecraft’s imaginative mind.
The list of great characters is endless, but let’s not forget about the terrifying creatures that roam the Earth in search of food and sacrifice, either. While we’re at it, maybe we should also name the great horror movie directors and the visionary monsters that they created. Guillermo del Toro, H.P. Lovecraft’s grand-nephew (and frequent collaborator), Dario Argento, and Stephen King are just a few of the notable names that come to mind.
With Christmas coming up, maybe it’s time for fans of horror and otherworldly delights to find a way to honor these great characters and movies with some awesome costumes. Who knows? Maybe this year will be the year that we see a resurgence of the classic monsters. Wouldn’t that be something?