Little Miss Scare-All

A college goth trying to find her way in the world.
Forget Netflix: 3 streaming services for horror lovers

Forget Netflix: 3 streaming services for horror lovers

The dawn of horror streaming services is upon us, and it’s not going to be found on Netflix.

A variety of websites have been popping lately, challenging the aforementioned streaming services giant in regards to the theatrical realm of terror. This attack should come as no surprise; Netflix’s horror section is notoriously bad. Gems such as The Guest and Starry Eyes shine on the site’s list of movies, but even that doesn’t make up for the general lack of watchable horror.

If you’re not an enthusiastic lover of the genre, I would recommend to stay with the popular streaming service; there’s a thin surface to scratch, but its enough to satisfy the itch of a casual viewer. If you’re a horror lover like me, however, then these streaming additions have the ability to be heaven.

Here’s the top three you should keep your eye on:

1. Shudder

(photo courtesy of Shudder)

(photo courtesy of Shudder)

The most popular of these streaming services additions comes from the workers over at AMC. The site is still in a stage of infancy, as seen by the fact that the service is only available in the U.S., but it’s alluring nonetheless.

It follows the expected pattern of debuting movies every month, but it conquers Netflix by allowing members to have a say in what those movies are. To put in a request, one only needs to provide the name of the film and the director involved. If the member wishes to be informed if and when the movie is added, they can include their email in the request form.

This local library-esque way to manage the business shows a care for the customer that Netflix seems to lack sometimes. I wonder whether this form of conducting business will continue as the company settles its roots and moves past the beta stage.

For a service that’s still in its beginnings, it’s surprising to see that its digital library is so vast and full of movies worth watching.

There’s some big name classics (Carnival of Souls, An American Werewolf in London) placed against more recent releases (Kill List, I Saw the Devil), combining itself into a succulent, bloody feast. There’s some bad movies, of course (please don’t watch Exorcismus), but that’s to be expected.

It costs $4.99 a month, but it’s only $49.99 if you pay for the year all at once. If you’re not sure whether you want to commit or not, a two-week trial is available.

2. Screambox

(photo courtesy of Screambox)

(photo courtesy of Screambox)

Screambox has been around for a year now, and, like Shudder, is in its beta stage. Despite that there’s no big name company backing this project, it has done well for itself, having gained a bit of a following on social media.

New movies are added every week, but the types of movies that are added tend to be for a more niche audience. Even the about me page for the site talks about their less-than-commercial collection, mentioning that those involved want to avoid putting up mostly old school horror that everyone knows about.

What’s found instead is a lot of foreign movies originating from Europe and Asia as well as some lesser known American releases.

There’s some downfalls here. With such a limited budget, I don’t see this site having an overly impressive stockpile any time soon. Even now, the shelves look a little bare. If any of the services on this list is to fail, it’d be Screambox. No matter how good your product is, you usually need something well known to draw people in, and Hellraiser along with a few Elvira titles isn’t going to do it.

This site is more for the horror fan that has already seen the majority of the genre and now wishes to explore a much more obscure path.

A monthly subscription is available for $3.99. For those looking to try out the service, there’s a 30-day trial period. It’s currently not available in the app store.

3. SundanceNow

(photo courtesy of SundanceNow)

(photo courtesy of SundanceNow)

I know, I know. SundanceNow isn’t exclusively a horror streaming service  it offers many genres to choose from  but it has such an impressive horror section that I had to add it to the list.

All the movies listed on the site are independent releases. Other than with exceptions like The Babadook, this makes it harder to find the movies available here on other streaming sites. That’s the allure of it all and the only upside.

Unless you’re rolling in the deep end of a pool full of money, SundanceNow isn’t the most economical option to get your horror fix. At first, it’s easy to believe that these movies are offered for free because registration costs nothing, but that’d be too good to be true. Once it comes to actually watching something, you have to pay for the movie individually, with most of them being close to $5 to stream or download.

It’s a little treat you can offer yourself every once in a while and is also a means of keeping up with the indie horror releases that gather buzz on the web.

 

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Ghost’s Meliora is a church full of love and acceptance

Ghost’s Meliora is a church full of love and acceptance

(photo courtesy of Ghost)

(photo courtesy of Ghost)

Sweden’s exploration into metal has a history of holding on closely to Satanism. Lyrics weave in and out of dark tales of the Devil and surge with crackled voices and accompaniment. It’s become expected of the country’s musical contribution.

What Ghost’s Meliora offers us instead is hope. The story of the Antichrist hasn’t been abandoned, but it now runs parallel with a light for us to follow, a light that will lead us to peace.

The band continues to hold their influences for all to see being that the church-driven bridges are built around the strength of old horror soundtracks. The influence is a strong one that adds familiarity, not in a Top 40 kind of way, but in a sense that ties listeners together into a communal experience.

And here I was worried that the band wouldn’t evolve. Foolish of me, really.

Following their self-made tradition of having the opener define the sound of what’s to come, the brevity of “Deus Culpa” and “Infestissumam’ are replaced with the 5:15 length of “Spirit.” We still have the spooky choir we experienced in the previous release’s title track but with added funk. It’s happier almost, already taking the form of the freedom theme this entire piece is about.

It’s uplifting and the setting up of a Satanic adventure.

What follows is “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” quite easily the weakest song on the album. The Ghost-sound is there, certainly, but almost stereotypically so. We have the verse, the sinister repetition of the song title, the church-like highs, the grandiosity of the bridge. I would have liked a bit more departure and not so much predictability here.

Things are revitalized again with “Cirice,” an oddly comforting track that also happens to be the longest. “Church” is the word we’re presented here, making it the first of two times the word pops up in a Meliora song title. In the previous albums, the lyrics were told like a story. Here we start to feel like we’re in mass, with our corpse-paint pope speaking directly to us.

Despite the extravagant feel of Ghost’s sound, you start to feel singled out. Papa is talking directly to you, and you better listen, because here’s someone that cares.

The brief intermission of “Spöksonat” is a beautiful track in which nothing but a harp is played. At its end, for a moment, there’s silence. Then “He Is” begins to play, and everyone at mass stands up now to sing together. It’s the oldest feeling track and by far the best. Although it tiptoes on the edge of cheesiness, it feels right. It feels safe.

The softness of it all slips into “Mummy Dust” where the groove is kicked back up again and continued with the classic rock-feeling “Majesty,” which holds itself like Deep Purple Mark II.

Everything culminates with “Devil Church” and “Absolution.” Mass is about to end and the preacher’s message of the day is to be told. Every hit at the strings and every slash at the symbols is not a condemnation of sin but an appreciation of self.

(photo courtesy of Ghost)

(photo courtesy of Ghost)

Before, “Cirice” spoke to us about how our souls aren’t tainted, “even though you’ve been told so.”
Now we’re told that “all those things you desire/you will find there in the fire.” Behind their masks and showcases of faux-Satanism, you start to believe that the members of Ghost really want the best for those tuning in.

“Deus in Absentia” starts with a finalizing sound, much like the concluding vibe of a movie’s final scene. The clock is ticking in the background and everything seems to be coming to a close. Meliora translates into “the pursuit of something better.” The choir pleas for it wholeheartedly, and it’s this plea that closes out the album.

If Ghost were really in the pursuit of something better, then they definitely found it.

 

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Bad horror flicks are as necessary as good ones

Bad horror flicks are as necessary as good ones

The acting is more cringe-worthy than the kills, jump scares run amok and clichés find their foothold in every scene.

It’s a bad horror movie through and through.

No matter how much I love the genre, I can’t deny that the majority of it ranges from mediocre to mind numbing. Every time I turn on my TV, I seem to come across another uncreative, supposedly scary addition to the film world that will quickly be forgotten by history. I don’t plan to watch most of these, but occasionally one surfaces that’s so bad that I have to tune in.

I’m not the only one; part of being a horror lover, especially a dedicated one, deals with willingly running into terrible, badly written theatrical arms. We relish it, and there’s a reason why.

(photo courtesy of Dimension Films)

Rubbernecking is alive and well, as exemplified by the thousands of angles this scene is shot at. (photo courtesy of Dimension Films)

Think back on the car accidents you’ve driven past. Your eyes are more focused on the scattered steel than on the road ahead of you, and the way that passenger door is crushed resembles a silent death notice. Traffic slows as every driver looks on, and even though you know it’s not something you should be looking at, you watch on, mesmerized.

If you added some cheesy one-liners and handed us viewers a bucket of popcorn, that reflex ends up resembling the horror experience. Looking into the eyes of death, in this case, a nonsensical one, demands you to stay on the channel.

Hell, it’s fun.

Take for example Hard Rock Zombies. This eighties production is kissed with gratuitous nudity and twists that make no sense. It’s one of those pieces of art (yes, I said art) that shouldn’t capture your attention but will anyway.

Hitler shows up at one point, only to become a zombie of the non-hard rock denomination a few minutes later. The campy way of shooting the characters’ exaggerated deaths makes no sense, just like the setting it all takes place in. After the second montage, I lost track of how many times they crept up in such a short movie.

The eighties was an interesting decade indeed. (photo courtesy of Patel/Shah Film company)

It was an interesting decade indeed. (photo courtesy of Patel/Shah Film company)

This was bad, really bad. When I saw this one, I had been spending the week watching critically acclaimed movies, and then there was this.

But I enjoyed it. It was hilarious, in a sadistic sort of way, to realize that these actors would have put this gig on their resume.

Much like Santa’s Slay and ThanksKilling, Hard Rock Zombies is intentionally deplorable, but that’s not the case most of the time. While the aforementioned have unearthed the formula of the bad movie and have used it to their advantage, others are just examples of poor filmmaking.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror is the first to come to mind. The forced dialogue pairs well with the pathetic attempt at special effects that the actors blindly try to respond to. Watching this movie is the definition of secondhand embarrassment, especially when one remembers that it’s supposed to be a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

It’s unintentional gems like this one that work perfectly for group viewings. Every character exchange merits a laugh, and it’s a nice way to take the edge off if the last few horror films you’ve watched are more on the serious side.

(photo courtesy of Moviehead Pictures)

I’m shaking. Whether from laughter or fear, I can’t tell. (photo courtesy of Moviehead Pictures)

These works are never going to win Oscars, but they’re always going to be made. Whenever an impressive film comes out, a million godawful ones will follow. It’s comforting that they’re so dependable.

Bad movies serve this world and they serve it well.

 

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The pursuit in Everlasting pushes theme of commonality

The pursuit in Everlasting pushes theme of commonality

The idea of characters taping their own story has been saturated by a slew of exorcism tales and the endless Paranormal Activity series, but indie film Everlasting has taken a refreshing approach to it all.

I was recently emailed a screening of this film by writer and director Anthony Stabley, but prior to this, I had only ever heard of its name. When I started to explore the official website and watch the trailer, I was drawn by dark qualities and a tinge of sexiness that cast a shadow on the events.

The story follows Matt Ortega (Adam David) as he films a student project about his girlfriend Jessie (Valentina de Angelis), who plans to move to Los Angeles to become a model. It starts with a viewing of young, complicated love, but Jessie’s story is quickly interwoven with the present facts of her murder, which remains unsolved.

It’s this tendency to flip flop in between moments of time that grants Everlasting a pass for its shooting technique. It’s not a cheap attempt at making the viewer feel closer to the murder or give the cinematography a rough cut. Its purpose is to provide a documentary environment in order to control the presentation of facts.

Surrounded by the countless other models looking for work in LA, Jessie is but a number. (photo courtesy of Super Grande Films)

Surrounded by countless other models looking for work in L.A., Jessie is but a number. (photo courtesy of Super Grande Films)

At first, it might seem like the acting is exaggerated, but it’s fitting, in the way that teenagers and many of those involved in the arts wish to feel smarter than they are, in the way that people act differently when filmed. It works for the circumstances.

The acting of Elisabeth Röhm (Stalker, American Hustle), who plays Jessie’s mom, provides a more natural feel. The side struggle she experiences is deeply believable through her presentation of confusion and anguish. Her role is a small one, but she defines every scene she’s in.

Unfortunately, there are some holes scattered throughout the movie. A hidden door leading into the earth is shrugged away despite being given a hint of importance. Jessie’s sudden thirst for rough sex is constantly brought up but the reason for this is never made clear. A character introduced during the L.A. move-in period has vital information without a suggestion as to why he may have it.

These develop more into annoyances and momentary distractions than significant problems, but one in particular stayed with me.

What pushes Matt into his search for the truth is an envelope he was sent containing a tape of Jessie’s torture. Immediately, a question should be put into the audience’s mind: Why doesn’t he turn this all in? Surely the police would be more equipped to find the killer.

Matt is determined to do this almost entirely on his own. (photo courtesy of Super Grande Films)

Matt is determined to do this almost entirely on his own. (photo courtesy of Super Grande Films)

“The person responsible would go to jail, and then what? Nothing. There would be no justice,” says Matt. The movie would not have go on as it did without this belief, and it’s for this very reason and this reason alone that it seems that the character thinks this way. As a kid with a camera, it could make sense that he would want to film the discovery, but the idea that this would somehow align with a form of justice doesn’t add up.

Those going into a viewing of Everlasting should not expect a typical horror or mystery movie. The gruesome elements and the search for the truth are mere backdrops in Matt’s journey. Unlike many movies that build up the drama after a murder, this one does not.

It’s a matter-of-fact story that depends completely on the film’s recurring theme: We are but one in a million. It’s easy for us and our pain to get lost alongside those who are exactly how we are. Maybe the truly horrifying idea of Everlasting is that we’re not special after all.

And to some, if not most people, that can be absolutely terrifying.

 

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Horror’s youthful obsession centers on optimism and obliviousness

Horror’s youthful obsession centers on optimism and obliviousness

We like them young and eventually covered in their own blood.

When a new horror film is let loose onto the world, there’s a good chance that a teenager or a 20-something-year-old is going to suffer, and rarely do they go at it alone. They are massacred in groups, slaughtered mercilessly. For having sex. For being curious. For enjoying life a little too much.

It’s addicting, both for the minds behind the genre and for the viewers looking on. Whether the film ends up being garbage or not doesn’t matter. What it comes down to is that seeing the young die is fun. It’s ironic that the age group that should be furthest from the grave is the one that reaches it the most quickly, but maybe that’s what’s so enticing about it all.

Elementary school age

(photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television)

(photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television)

The younger they are, the more sinister the murder, which is why witnessing these kids crumple can be so shocking.

The opening scene of It establishes this quickly. Children, especially at the age presented here, do not know much about fear. Follow your parents rules, and do your homework. Their worries are simplistic. They have yet to be taught about the evil around them, aside from being told that strangers are not to be trusted.

This makes Georgie’s “Do they float?” question all the more chilling. This isn’t just about Pennywise making a kill. It’s about luring in this child through his lack of knowledge. It’s an attack on innocence, a metaphorical death once the boy’s heart stops beating. This becomes the genre’s ultimate attack: the ending of something pure.

This side of horror isn’t visited as much as the ones listed below, but its execution is probably the most memorable.

Angst-driven and stupid

(photo courtesy of Bounty Films)

(photo courtesy of Bounty Films)

With age, this tactic slides into the teenage and college years. Conversations with peers are accompanied by moments of bratty self-absorption. This no longer becomes an attack on innocence. This type of horror comes to dole out punishment, and instead of rooting for the hero, the audience is encouraged to root for the villain.

Chris Hargensen is one such character. Her snide remarks to Miss Collins in Carrie set her up for a satisfactory piece of revenge. Viewers are led into the heart of the killer, making the fatal blow a vicarious experience for all. The audience’s deadly desire is what kills the character.

Other horror films might focus more on the bubbly nature of this time. Teenagers and those that have just left those years think that they can get away with anything. It’s common for them to voluntarily walk into the arms of the Angel of Death.

The women of The Human Centipede have exchanges of no real importance other than to subconsciously signal a lack of brains. No one forces them into the house of Dr. Josef Heiter. Same goes for the students in 2010’s Frozen. The trio’s drama is petty, and they can only blame themselves for being stuck in a ski lift.

The path to survival is an IQ test, with wrong answers cleansing the world of the intellectually challenged. This is the age group most commonly exploited, with the horror genre implying that they are the most undeserving of life.

Calm and comfortable

(photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

(photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

On the edge of youth are those fresh out of college who are starting to develop stable lives. They believe that there’s an endless line that leads into marriage, children and travel. The idea of an obstacle appearing never crosses their minds.

Optimism, or obliviousness at the very least, makes for the perfect victim.

Last year’s Honeymoon which I didn’t think was as great as people said, but that’s a different story altogether – shows us newlyweds Bea and Paul on the days following their wedding. Marriage equals happiness, right? They certainly think so. What should be the happiest moment of their existence becomes the darkest as the comfort they expected unravels.

Characters at this stage are portrayed as the most content. They’re past the struggles of school and getting to know who they are, yet they are far away from thinking about retirement and last testaments. These films don’t make us root for their deaths. What happens here is the breaking down of ease and freedom. It’s a reminder that life can always be cruel and caging, no matter how old you are.

You should never let your guard down.


As the genre continues, I would hope to see more films covering the topics of old age. Will the future portray the elderly as more accepting of their demise or will the trope examine those that want to live, if only for a little longer? What do you think, or do you believe that horror’s prime focus will always be the young?

 

Don’t forget to follow me on social media!

Twitter: @TheKimSlichter

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