There is a term in rap/hip-hop culture called Crate Digging. It means endlessly trawling through classic funk, soul & every other kind of record imaginable, looking for the rarest, choicest samples.
The task of any modern journalist, especially one writing for the glowing screen, is divided. On one hand, you are expected to provide new and insightful content on what has come before, reviews, and on the other, people want to know about the freshest, hottest news updates. There’s really no need to endlessly rehash what every other publication out there is writing about, with places like Rue Morgue and Fangoria already doing such a fantastic job, telling what’s out there in the darkness. It falls upon dedicated individuals, like myself and the other writers for Amazing Stories, to provide their own personal perspectives on the state of genre fiction in every medium, digging the crates and reporting on the process.
I do my best to keep up-to-the-minute with what’s going on in the horror industry, but it’s been tough operating on a shoestring budget. I swear, I’ll bring my thoughts on Mama, the Evil Dead remake, Lords Of Salem, as soon as I get a paycheck and can afford to go to the movies again. In the meantime, I will share some morbid treasures from this last week’s excavation, enough to keep you drowning in blood, afraid to go around dark corners for another week!
Horror Movie Of The Week
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone
If you’re anything like me, you’ve despaired at the state of modern horror, automatically turning away from anything post-2001, as an endless stream of direct-to-DVD serial killer films and Hostel and Saw knock-offs clog your screen with unnecessary gore to cover up a lack of plot and talent.
My black heart nearly started beating again once I realized that, starting in maybe 2010 or so, somebody seems to have hit the pause button, and people started making innovative, inspiring horror films again.
Sinister tells the story of Ellison Oswalt (played by Ethan Hawke) and his family, as they move into a house that was the scene of a particularly gruesome crime. Oswalt is a failing true-crime author, looking for his big break, and is willing to risk the perils of hell to get there. He ends up finding a box labelled Home Movies in the attic, that turns out to be home-made snuff films, with an unidentified killer documenting his handiwork, going back to the mid-60s.
Things take a turn for the mysterious as Ellison Oswalt begins to notice a shadowy form that appears in the margins of the films. Clues start to appear that suggest that the killer never really left.
A lot of the fun of Sinister is it’s mystery, which is one part urban legend, one part occult folklore, so I shall not give too much to say. Suffice it to say that the villain in this film is not entirely human, and is a classic new silver screen monstrosity, just begging for his own franchise. (Note to filmmakers: please don’t ruin this.)
Sinister begins with the home footage of a family of four being hung, in glorious grainy 8-mm: it’s strong stuff, and not for the faint- hearted (seriously, I could imagine this movie giving people heart attacks). It lets you know, right from the beginning, what you are in for, and it never lets up. Sinister uses almost every modern horror device with deadly effectiveness; the pop-ups, the tense squealing string score, found footage, cinema verite (hand-held, first-person perspective). Many horror fans find these tricks cheap, but like it or not, they’re part of the vernacular now, and we’ve got to deal.
Even though a lot of people hate it, the addition of the home movies adds an intriguing element of time and grit, with different eras and film qualities breaking up the uber-slick, 2012 production. The best horror movies always have an element of grime and grit, make you feel like you’re watching a scratchy old VHS tape, and Sinister incorporates that aesthetic, while still having the fast pace and shocks of New Horror. The acting is superb, and it is looks amazing; Sinister uses the best of the new while holding true to the classics.
This movie will keep you awake at night, with the lights on, praying the rosary and begging for dawn. Perhaps horror is not quite dead yet…
Reddit Of The Week
Reddit is called the front page of the internet, and if you’ve ended up here, you’re probably no stranger to it. Readers submit links that are voted up or down; it serves as a virtual meritocracy, yet another tool to help you wade through the dreck and find out what’s good. There’s a plethora of amazing horror Reddits out there, and we’ll be showcasing some of our favorites. Be advised, the fact that Reddit is the front page of the Internet, it serves as a collective id and is notoriously smutty and/or disturbing. A lot of the material is extremely unsafe for work, but it’s usually indicated as such.
GIFs are a hot commodity on the ‘net, little horrific slivers trapped in time; it’s a way to find the best moments that are easily shared. It can be useful to know about the best Reddits, to avoid having to delve through gigabytes of smut.
This is how Creepy-Gif describe themselves:
Those GIF’s you don’t Feel comfortable about…the ones that the longer they stretch on the faster your heart beats, your blood prEssure rises and your pupils dilate as you’re consumed by the anticipation of fear. Will you screAm or will you freeze? Still images may be creepy but when it moves, crawls, reaches or grabs that’s when the true nightmaRe begins.
A lot of the GIFs are like the suspenseful pop-ups in miniature, playing out for eternity. It’s a very modern artform, moving paintings or photo albums, and they’re very effective for delivering the scares. Creepy-GIF isn’t that active, it doesn’t have that many followers, but perhaps we might change that. They focus on the eerie and surreal, as well as the brain-numbingly terrifying. It’s nice to have a steady drip-feed of terror, at your command; a useful resource for finding the best of what’s out there.
Tumblr Of The Week
Art Merde (Artmerde.tumblr.com)
Reflections On Sin, Pain, Hope and the True Way
This Tumblr was picked almost arbitrarily, there are so many amazing horror blogs out there. Again, like with Reddit, having someone point the best Tubmlrs can be useful to avoid the endless troughs of porn gifs and over-the-top gore that would make Jeffrey Dahmer blush. I mean, I’m a hardened horror-phile, pretty much eat breathe and sleep this stuff, and sometimes I just have to stare, mouth agape. There are no censors on the internet, and it’s up to individuals to find exactly what they want.
Art Merde is a good place to start, as it’s more tasteful than many of the others. No naked ladies at all that I have seen so far, just chock full of artsy black and white photographs and classic horror movie imagery. Art Merde also serves as interesting illustration of how horror and dark imagery have infiltrated the other media.
You can also follow the author’s words at http://rowantreeswing.wordpress.com/
Download Of The Week
Illuminated Flash Horror Fiction and Dark Poetry
by Michael A. Arnzen
w/ graphic design by Nathan Rosen
Here’s a neat little vignette I found a few weeks ago. Meat Shots is billed as Creative Horror from Michael Arnzen, and it is just that. In the foreword, Arnzen describes the title:
A “meat shot” is a phrase I borrowed from adult films-but in this case it refers to a moment of extreme intensity in a horror film, when the camera gives way to a gory close-up. Horror fiction does something similar, when it makes the reader imagine something which would otherwise make them turn away. I think the flash fiction and poetry in this microcollection are like these intense moments, clipped from a larger story that you might build in your imagination.
. His is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, in a field that often rewards endless regurgitation of predictable forms, it is refreshing to see someone doing something innovative. Nathan Rosen’s graphic design is superb, and offsets Arnzen’s poetry and miniature psychodramas perfectly. This comes very highly recommended, and I personally can’t wait to dive into Arnzen’s other works. Tell your friends!
You can also follow along with Michael Arnzen and his various social networks at http://michaelarnzen.com/
Horrorscore Of The Week
Come Out And Play! by Kier-La Janisse
Come Out and Play by Kier-La Janisse on Mixcloud
I’ll leave you with some sounds, for this week’s edition. This is a mix that I found at Fangoria, created on the eve of the North American release of COME OUT AND PLAY, the remake of Narciso Ibañez Serrador’s WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? This is how she describes the mix:
Music that, for me, evokes the dark side of playground songs, childhood pathology and dogmatic ambivalence, but also celebrates the unique childhood imagination.
This mix features creepy tracks from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, The Innocents; weird tracks from Magical Power Mako; and excerpts from classic British Public Service Announcements like The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water. Come Out And Play! is an update on classic late-night radio, with all its inherent eccentricity. It’s a great way to hear some horror-inspired sounds that you might not have heard before.
Kier-La Janisse is the creator of the Cannibal Culture and CineMuerte magazines, as well as the CineMuerte International Film Festival. You can read more about her comings at goings at http://www.big-smash.com
That about does it for this week’s edition of Diggin’ The Crates. Let us know if there’s horror-related websites, choice films you’d like to see featured, or other horror media. We will continue to bring you the best that the horror genre has to offer.
I agree that the torture porn films are repulsive, and the endless stream of serial killers on TV and in movies is numbing and lazy, but I can't agree that turning off to horror films from 2001-2010 is a good idea. I'd argue that we've been in the midst of a horror boom for about a decade, maybe longer.
Not watching horror in that decade means you're missing out on amazing horror films like:
Antichrist (not nominally a horror movie, but I think it qualifies)
Red, White, and Blue
The Uninvited (the Korean version)
The Ring (US version)
The Grudge (US version)
All of these movies have varying degrees of supernatural horror and realist violence (so, depending on what you like and don't, you'll respond to them differently), but they're all excellent horror movies and challenging films. If you haven't seen them, I'd definitely recommend them.