American Horror Story is one of those shows whose existence never ceases to surprise me. Not because it's bad though, bad shows getting green-lit doesn't surprise me much anymore. AHS is a unique beast all its own with each season having different characters, locations, and themes with actors coming and going like a revolving door. If it were any other show this would raise red flags for any backer but the creators (also producers) happen to be Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk who gave us the popular and successful TV series 'Glee' which focused on the goings-on of a fictional high school glee club. So it's bound to do well somehow, right?
Now that quite a few seasons have been released it's quite easy to see the perks of having such a format. No storyline can be drawn out to a point where the audience no longer cares, returning actors get to show off just how talented and versatile they are (and aren't forced to return), and the intrigue of what each new season will bring is more than palpable every time. But the true key to its success is how the strange stories they tell manage to captivate and astound with each new episode. It's like a soap opera on acid with lots of disturbing and deep-seated issues, all while paying tribute to beloved genres of horror. Oh how I love it!
There's always speculation from fans as to what the next season's 'theme' will be and while nothing has been confirmed for their upcoming season there is talk of the creators attempting to get the rights to a character the internet knows and loves: Slenderman.
You thought I was kidding about the 'love' thing, didn't you?
For those of you living under a rock, Slenderman is a being created from a photo contest on the website 'somethingawful'. He is always depicted as being very tall and slender (obvs) with no face and wearing a black suit, necktie, and slacks. Normally he likes to hang out in the woods, blending in with the trees or will stalk children to make them disappear forever. Ever since this contest and a short horror game starring him got released, he's become something of an internet god and has been firmly planted in the annals of pop culture.
As to his involvement in AHS, we have no clue. Fans have already begun to theorize that he will be the focus of the next season while others believe him being in the show may be a clue as to the theme of the season as a whole. Now, the info was given to the media by an 'anonymous source' and in a matter of days after this news yet another 'anonymous source' said that the rumors were not true. Not too helpful to tell you the truth. But I'd like to believe that ole Slendy will finally get some primetime attention, though my prediction for the season will differ from some, if not most, fan theories.
As mentioned before, each season has a 'theme'. The first season was a take on the haunted house story and was followed up with a story about a mental asylum. After that we got a season about witches, so you see every type of horror is being represented. I doubt they would dedicate an entire season solely to Slenderman as he isn't horror staple that's stood the test of time. But at his core Slenderman would fit into two realms of horror that never fail: Urban Legends and Scary Woods.
Think of how many scary urban legends there are; Bloody Mary, the Hook-Hand Man, the Vanishing Hitchhiker, and Bunny Man Bridge. See! And I could think of those in a matter of seconds! Now think of how much horror has taken place in the woods. Yeah, pretty much all of it.
What if the next season revolved around a creepy stretch of woods that has some gruesome or mysterious history involving those that live on its' edges? You don't even have to make Slenderman real, you could have him be a recurring figment of someones imagination. Or maybe it takes place in a rural town where urban legends are treated with more seriousness as they're so disconnected with the rest of the world. Once again, Slenderman doesn't have to be real but it would be super cool to have him become a problem in the town as children begin to disappear. Heck, for all I know Slenderman may only get cameo appearance in a season with a different theme altogether!
The other sad but real possibility is that the 'anonymous source' who started this whole thing is only pulling our leg to get us excited at the prospect of Slenderman teaming up with the messed up world of AHS. If it is indeed not true than I implore Murphy and Falchuk to note the collective 'squee's coming from horror nerds everywhere and 'make it so' for a
Halloween in early 1900s was cray...
It's officially Halloween season! Yay, my obsession with creepy things and horror is temporarily acceptable! I'm so ready for this, you guys. I got my pumpkins picked out for carving, decorations are being put up as we speak, and all the horror movies are in queue. Most of the movies are a bit older but that's because they're the best! Yes, we've gotten some incredible additions to the horror genre in the past decade or so, but not the home runs that were coming out in the good ole days.
My guess is as good as yours when it comes to figuring out why so many classic horror movies have remained firmly in the past, but I can share with you my 'educated' guess. Horror was still being explored in the industry, and in the 70's through the early 90's the restrictions for what you could film were becoming fewer and fewer. Breakthroughs were made not just in special effects but also in sound design and editing which greatly shape the mood and atmosphere of a film, particularly horror. Filmmakers were experimenting and taking risks, something you'll be hard pressed to find nowadays.
While I can't say that I don't enjoy a select few of the films that have come from the latest trends in horror films, I can say that they are becoming tiring. The monsters of choice are Vampires and Zombies while we also get demonic possessions or haunted houses filled with jumpscares. Once again, there's nothing wrong with these kinds of films but it’s become the entirety of the genre. From what I've seen from the films of the past, you could have your pick from dozens of different types of ghouls and monsters.
Why don't we go back to that? Back to exploring every facet of horror that mankind has come up with and finding ways to make it fresh and intriguing. If Hollywood ever decides to take the initiative to do that, then I have some suggestions.
With X-Files coming back, you know that little green men with huge heads is going to be coming back into vogue! They most certainly don't have to fit that description, though, as the Kubrick film 'Alien' demonstrated. What's nice about aliens as a concept is that you can get creative with how they look, attack, and interact with their environment. They're supposed to be wildly different from humans; that's what makes them aliens for Pete's sake! Another excellent example is 'The Thing,” one of my favorites! How crazy did those aliens look? The only recent and decent films to come out about aliens, IMO, were 'Signs' and 'Dark Skies' and even those could have been greatly improved. At their core, aliens represent a fear of anything different from ourselves as well as the fear of being taken over by something foreign and losing a sense of self. Too bad Hollywood hasn't realized that this is a fear that can always be effective because it's as old as humans themselves.
These guys get the shaft way too often. All they seem to do is live in the shadow of vampires, which is completely unfair! I think that the thing hurting werewolves the most is that they're associated with ‘roided up hairy men, which can be a hard thing to take seriously. What's missing with the modern interpretation of werewolves is the animalistic ferociousness that they originally had. An unquenchable desire to kill and destroy without preference or mercy. Hollywood would need to take a leaf out of, believe it or not, a card game I'm a fan of called 'One Night Ultimate Werewolf'. It's a fast paced game where the players or 'villagers' have to figure out who the werewolf is while the werewolf plays innocent to keep from getting caught and continue to kill the other villagers. When you take out any aspect of fun from that scenario, it becomes quite frightening. Imagine it now: a small isolated village is suddenly plagued by violent deaths obviously caused by a werewolf but no one knows who it is. Tension, paranoia, and mystery would run rampant and it would be fascinating to watch as a film.
Do you have any idea of the kind of messed up monsters other cultures have come up with? There are many that are quite similar to the ones we're familiar with; Chupacabras are a close, Mexican cousin to what we know as the werewolf. But then you have Japan and their turtle-like water monster called a 'Kappa' that attacks it's victims by sucking their intestines out through the poor souls' anus! Hollywood could go two ways with monsters like these. The first is to make a tongue-in-cheek film in the same vein as the ‘Leprechaun’ series or ‘Slither’, which would be amazing with the right people at the helm. The second would be to have an American travel to another country where its corresponding monster will stalk and eventually try to attack them. The mood could be similar to one I picked up on in the American version of 'The Grudge'. When traveling to a different country, nothing is familiar and there's a sense of dislocation and isolation that can make the fact that a creature you know nothing about following you all the more terrifying.
Seemingly Innocent Female Serial Killers
If I had a dollar for every serial killer film where the killer was male, I'd be rich and probably set for life as the trend continues. But the ones that truly scared me were the female killers, because girls can be terrifying. I know, I am one. Gender norms are the biggest reason for why this is the case because women are generally seen as gentle and nurturing, and when the opposite becomes true, it's shocking and throws people for a loop. But the ones that creep me out the most are women who appear to be helpless or innocent but slowly become cold and sometimes bloodthirsty. Annie Wilkes (played by Kathy Bates) from 'Misery' may be the most famous example but we also have Glenn Close's character in 'Fatal Attraction' and Jennifer Jason Leigh in 'Single White Female'. Why this type of character is never seen in today's movies is beyond me. If you want true gender equality in Hollywood, then they've got to acknowledge that both sexes are capable of horrendous things.
Seriously, this is a huge oversight by anyone who is responsible for making films. I've seen a few smaller budget films here and there but nothing from mainstream productions and it's infuriating! H.P. Lovecraft created the infamous tentacled being and wrote many books that not only make you poop your pants in fear but shake you psychologically! Just think of how amazing the film would look with the advanced computer effects we now have access to. Otherworldly sea creatures from different dimensions, ridiculously creepy cults, and bone-chilling descents into madness, I mean, c'mon! What are you doing over there, producers, twiddling your thumbs?
There's nothing that gets to the little scaredy-cat in all of us quite like a creepy witch. Every culture has their own version of one, and you can't walk through the seasonal department of any store in October without coming across at least one rendition of the old hags. So why are they so unpopular in films? There was ‘Blair Witch Project’ of course and then ‘Drag Me to Hell’ (which was more entertaining than scary) but not much else. One could argue that the plot developments of the Paranormal Activity franchise include witches but they certainly aren't the main focus. I can see how real life Wiccans may become offended or how the trope of scary old lady could be hurtful, but 'Carrie' dishes on fundamentalists and 'Insidious 2' has a troubled trans serial killer so, to me, anything can be fair game. If you look at the overall idea of what witches are, they represent both a fear of the decrepit and aging as well as serve to make children wary of strangers or strange situations. If a movie was made with a child protagonist(s) then you'd be well on your way to making film gold. Scary, creepy gold.
Well that about covers my horror wishlist, now let's hope a bigwig in L.A. steals one of these ideas! What monsters and antagonists would you like to see more of in films? Please tell me in the comments! I'm quite curious...
Yes, I've had a bit of a preoccupation with scary things as of late but can you blame me? Stores are already putting out Halloween decorations and there are trailers for horror films everywhere. Hey, if we're gonna start celebrating Christmas right after Thanksgiving then why not start celebrating Halloween now!
But seriously, I've gotten into the spirit of the season and lately there hasn't been a better way to bask in the spookiness then by listening to some music fit for the mood. No I'm not talking about One Direction (sorry, it was far too easy), I'm talking about soundtracks. Whereas most normal beings have popular music in their library, mine is filled with soundtracks from all manner of films, video games and television shows. It's not that I think all pop music is bad (though some of it REALLY is), but to me music is supposed to inspire and speak to you in a way that nothing else can. Soundtracks do the trick for me. I know I'm not the only one, everyone within my geek clique owns at the very least several soundtracks, all of which they highly recommend.
Today I'm going to recommend a soundtrack perfect for the Autumn season, one that you'll want to listen to with all the lights on: Silent Hill.
Or if you're a glutton for punishment, listen to it with headphones on in the dead of night.
Silent Hill is a PlayStation video game that came out in 1999. It was helmed by Konami Entertainment and created by Keiichiro Toyama who is also known for the 'Siren' series. Silent Hill is considered by many to be the father of all current survival horror games as it brought new and creative ideas to the horror genre. Rather than simply throwing monsters and scary locations at the player (though it certainly does that as well), SH gets under the players skin by playing with the psychological aspects of horror. We follow a widowed father named Harry Mason as he traverses the small town, 'Silent Hill', to find his daughter, Cheryl. As he explores the not-so-abandoned town he stumbles into an occult plan to bring about a terrifying deity that my have some connection to Cheryl.
The game masterfully makes the player on edge during each second of gameplay. I won't get too far into why the Silent Hill game or the series in general is so amazing, as I'll probably go over it closer to Halloween, but I will tell you why the soundtrack is a huge part of it's success.
A huge component of horror is atmosphere. If you can't convey a sense of dread or unease then it'll be harder to make others feel anything, let alone scared. Akira Yamaoka composes a soundtrack that perfectly conveys what SH is all about. The opening theme sets up the game perfectly, the urgent strumming of the mandolin at the beginning has a haunting, creeping melody to it which goes into a more 'rocky' portion of the song that, while catchy, feels vaguely sorrowful and hopeless. When listening to the soundtrack on it's own you'll discover that most of the songs can't quite be classified as, well, 'songs'.
It is cold, hard ambient music that barely contains a melody. They're constantly riding the line between music and noise. Yamaoka relied heavily on industrial music as the influence for his music. 'Beats' and 'melodies' are made from clanging metal, disembodied growls, crazy rapid drums, static, ghostly cries and even rasping breathing. Imagine running from monsters all while that plays incessantly in your ear. Don't get me started on the theme in the final battle; the high-pitched static feels like it's trying to grind you into submission. I nearly had a real life panic attack when I tried to soldier on and beat the final boss!
'Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God!' ~Me
However, like the opening theme, there are some normal songs scattered amongst the more terrifying tracks. The song 'Not Tomorrow' is a sad, guitar heavy melody that fits very well with the scene it's paired with. 'Killing Time' sounds like it should be in a grindhouse flick with a freaky as heck guitar. 'She' is a rather emotional ballad that reminds me of a certain famous folk rock song. While I swear that I've heard 'Silent Hill (Otherside)' in an episode of Twin Peaks.
All in all, the SH soundtrack is designed to make you feel distressed and paranoid and it does the job perfectly. I actually wouldn't suggest you listen to the soundtrack by itself too often, as it does it's job too well. You'll start seeing things out of the corner of your eye and swear on your grandmothers grave that someone or something is watching you from out the window. But for ambience at a Halloween party or even a haunted house? Definitely. Still, I encourage you to buy the album if only to appreciate the genius and importance this music had on a genre that's going strong to this day. If only the games they made today had this caliber of music...
Would you agree with my opinions on the game and it's soundtrack? Is there another soundtrack I should talk about? Let me know in the comments below! And please support these amazing artists by BUYING their songs and not downloading!
Last week in my post about underrated fantasy, I brought up a movie called The Witches so it should go without saying that I like media about the topic. In all the hoopla about vampires and zombies over the past few years, it seems like witches have been lost in mix and forgotten about. Back when I was growing up, witches were in almost everything and we had great TV shows like Sabrina The Teenage Witch, movies like The Craft and the Blair Witch Project and there was that whole Harry Potter thing.
But recently, it seems like media makers are ready to shine a spotlight on witches once again with shows like Salem, American Horror Story: Coven, and most recently, this new film simply titled, The Witch. The trailer was just released today.
I'm not only excited to see the movie because as you know I'm a horror nut, and it has witches, but also because it may signal a shift back to real horror movies and perhaps an end to the lazy Blumhouse-esque 'found footage' horror films which have become the reality TV of feature films.
After I saw the trailer, I read that this film was screened at Sundance earlier this year and earned rave reviews. Hopefully it does well and we can finally get back to real horror films.