I’ve seen Lauren Ashley Carter described as the “Audrey Hepburn of indie horror” and I was convinced that’s true by this film alone. She absolutely carries this dark little fever dream of a horror flick, filmed in black and white about a woman acting as caretaker in a large house with a dark past and a forbidden room. It’s beautiful and strange — much more atmosphere than story, and I highly recommend it if that’s your thing (as it is mine).
After becoming smitten with Darling, I thought I’d better watch more of Lauren Ashley Carter (and director Mickey Keating) so I continued with Pod. Carter is in a supporting role this time, playing the sister in a family with two brothers, one of whom appears to be suffering from paranoid delusions alone in a house in the woods somewhere. She and the other brother head up there to check on him and realizing how bad his state is, become increasingly concerned that he might have harmed someone. The movie ramps up the tension from there as you continue to wonder what is delusion and what is real. Gloriously bleak.
25. The Woman
One of the things that I truly love in horror is when the monsters are inverted — forcing us to examine the ways that our society protects some truly monstrous people from the consequences of their actions. The Woman is one of these movies; a lawyer finds a wild woman while he’s out hunting and decides to capture her. The rest of the movie is the gradual unfolding of how truly monstrous this man is, in stark contrast to this woman he tries to tame. It’s intensely violent and ugly, and difficult to watch, but well worth it, in my opinion.
26. The Handmaiden
This isn’t a horror, though it is sort of a gothic romance (though it turns some of the tropes of that genre on its ear), The Handmaiden is the latest from Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Stoker). It is possibly his most beautiful movie (although all of his movies are visually stunning) and definitely my favorite — a multi-layered feast of plots and counter plots, vile men and clever women, set against the backdrop of the Japanese occupation of Korea.
This movie starts off like a poem and ends like a late night cable movie, I’m afraid. It was quite enjoyable for the atmosphere, especially at first, but it eventually becomes frustrating for not really going anywhere or having much of a payoff. A young hospice nurse comes to care for a retired horror novelist in a spooky house — the nurse hasn’t read anything the novelist has written, however, because she’s easily frightened. Eventually, however, she gives in, and the book and the strange atmosphere in the house begin to meld until she’s absorbed by it entirely.
28. Dracula (1979)
Dracula with the gothic romance turned up a notch more than some other versions, with a score by John Williams, so familiar that I first thought the Imperial March was playing on Dracula’s first entrance. I’ve seen it before but it’s been a while — it’s still quite good though frustrating in some of the ways it’s very much a product of its time (the women are really objects to be moved around, for the most part — in stark contrast to the aforementioned The Handmaiden). Still, it’s a very beautiful movie, with gorgeous costume and set design, worth watching for that alone.
Ava’s Possessions asks “what happens after the exorcism?” and oh, I have such a soft spot for that question. It is, after all, the kind of question that motivated me to create Final Girls — I am the sort of person who asks after the movie ends “what happens next?” Ava goes to a kind of exorcism AA meeting, a support group for other victims of demonic possession (“we don’t call them the ‘d’ word” the group leader hisses), whose 12 step program involves going back and finding everyone that was harmed during the possession and making amends, if possible. In the process of doing so, things get a bit complicated for Ava and the movie starts to get a bit muddled as well, unfortunately. Still, a clever concept despite not being as well executed as I might have hoped.
Okay, so this movie was recommended to me about a billion times and I am SO SORRY I did not watch it sooner. I avoided it because I’m not particularly enthusiastic about zombies but seriously, don’t think of it as a zombie movie. It’s so much more than that, and it’s brilliant and funny and nihilist and about the power (and powerlessness) of words and you should really just see it for yourself if you haven’t already.
31. The Orphanage
A woman brings her family to the orphanage where she spent some of her childhood, now with the intention of turning it into a children’s home. Unfortunately, not long after they arrive, her son disappears and the orphanage appears to be haunted. So first off, I don’t recommend this if you are a parent or have dealt with the loss of a child, probably. I am neither but it still made me cry and broke my heart. It is a sad, beautiful and sometimes scary movie — but mostly sad. So much about grief and loss and destruction of innocence, it’s good but be prepared to be sad.
So many good movies to round out this last week! I didn’t end up tweeting as much about them when I was watching, partly because most of them sucked me in so much. I’m definitely seeing a lot of interesting indie horror lately, something that I hope continues. I also still have quite a few on my list, so I’m happy to say that despite an entire month of horror movie watching, I’m nowhere near running out.
Originally published on Medium.