Happy Thanksgiving horror family! It's that time of year again when we reflect on all that we're thankful for, and in the horror community, there was certainly a lot to get our fangs drooling and our bones rattling over this year...
...Between spooky blockbusters, meditative horror masterpieces, Oscar-worthy performances, chilling new shows, a renaissance of new perspectives in the genre, and everything in between, 2019 has been an exceptional year for horror, and so we thought we would collect some thoughts from our writers here at KHC and discuss what made 2019 a truly special year for the genre for each of us!
This year in horror I'm thankful for Sam Wineman, particularly his short film The Quiet Room and its scenes that showcase intimacy between gay men that comes from a place of nurturing, human compassion rather than sexual desire, and for utilizing a queer person of color as the protagonist. I'm excited for his upcoming Shudder documentary looking at queer horror, and thankful that he's emerged as a vocal LGBTQ presence in the horror community.
It’s that time of the year again when I finally have to accept that Halloween is over and the end of year Hallmark heavy holidays are upon us. I manage this feeling of loss by telling myself that Halloween wouldn’t be as special if it were celebrated year round. It’s totally true too. As I’ve thought about the coming months, its become evident that the gift of our beloved horror genre is one that keeps on giving! Sure, decorations of cauldrons and spooky yard props get replaced by Christmas trees and nativity scenes. It’s an abrupt transition not easily received by me, but the ever rapid production of horror and genre films still fill our streaming queues and multiplexes. January is always full of horror flicks that studios were reluctant to release anytime else. They’re the black sheep of the lot and I love it! The always charming, possibly disingenuous, Zak Bagans and his merry men of Ghost Adventures will enter another dumb, but entertaining season. We’ll also get steady horror releases throughout the year into the next Halloween season. So if you’re a weirdo horror hound like myself, don’t fret. We still have a wealth of things to look forward to!
Mary Kay McBrayer
I'm so grateful for another Robert Eggers movie. As a writer, I love that he builds an entire historical world, and as a research nerd, I love that every viewer can really tell that he KNOWS the setting. I felt that way about The Witch, and I feel that way about The Lighthouse, too--especially because of how deeply he dives into the folklore, and how he doesn't shy away from weird character quirks, like that masturbation scene he calls "inspired." That's an understatement. Without scripts and directors as fastidious as this one, we may never have learned what incredible acting chops Robert Pattinson has, what it's like to fuck a light, or what a mermaid vagina looks like, and that's really twisted and valuable information that the world of horror deserves to know.
While I did not enjoy Doctor Sleep on the whole, I was very much excited to see that the roles of Wendy, Young Danny, and Dick Halloran had been recast and reshot by some fabulous actors. While other films push for using CGI to de-age actors or bring the long dead back to life, Doctor Sleep made a much more effective and respectful decision in casting Alex Esso, Roger Dale Floyd and Carl Lumbly as Wendy, Danny, and Halloran (respectively). The ethics of using an actor's likeness in a film that they never agreed to be in is clearly questionable and I am thankful that Doctor Sleep did not require me to untangle this moral knot while watching a movie about psychic vampires. The performances that Esso, Floyd and Lumbly deliver give us a level of nuance and understanding that CGI just cannot match. The actors inhabit the characters that they are portraying. Conversely, using CGI to bring back Scatman Crothers for the role of Halloran would have served only to remind us that we are not watching Scatman OR Halloran on the screen. Instead, we'd be looking at a cute trick. Casting real, human actors who can put themselves into their roles grounded Doctor Sleep in story and characters. Seeing these performers onscreen reminded me that the world is constantly creating new actors to be excited about and new films for them to star in.
In the world of horror, the attention (and awards) frequently go to directors, writers, main characters, and special/practical effects, but this Thanksgiving season I would like to give thanks to a sometimes overlooked but crucial role in film: the character actors. These men and women appear in films year after year, but too often become limited to the title of “that guy who was in (random movie).” We saw a long line of well-crafted horror films (some assets to the genre, others not so much) over the past year, I want to recognize the character actors who helped bring these movies to life.
First, our most recent addition to the horror film-family is Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep in which we get to see Zahn McClarnon (Fargo series, Westworld) in the role of Crow Daddy. McClarnon plays the right-hand man and love interest of the main villain, Rose the Hat, so thank you Zahn McClarnon for presenting a deep character that goes beyond brainless henchmen.
The second movie I chose, The Curse of La Llorona, builds on The Conjuring universe and we see Raymond Cruz (Breaking Bad, The Closer) step away from his gang-related characters and brings us a former priest/current spiritual healer. Thank you, Cruz for oozing charm all over the screen and bringing some cheeky humor to the story.
And my last selection for releases this year, many thanks go to Octavia Spencer as the title character in Ma. This is a bold statement, but Spencer brings to life one of the creepiest female-leads of 2019. The movie definitely slipped under the radar for a lot of people, but Spencer’s performance earns this movie a watch. [On the topic of Ma, Allison Janney’s scene stealing performance also earns a special thank you].
And finally, I of course have to send a million thanks to the late Dick Miller (Gremlins, Chopping Mall) and Sid Haig (Spider Baby, The Devil’s Rejects). These men had very long careers as character actors and unfortunately both passed away this year. The horror community will miss Miller and Haig, but we will forever remain grateful for their contribution to films.
If anyone had told me, even ten years ago, I’d be writing anything serious and heartfelt about horror I’d have laughed in their faces in disbelief. Turns out facing the things you’re most afraid of can be an incredibly transformative experience, so here I am, reflecting on the things I’m most grateful for, and here it is right on the list: horror. I am thankful that my relatively newfound love of it has led me to working with some amazing people, and that there seem to be new avenues opening up all the time. Recently, though, I’ve grown most thankful for some people who have created work that has allowed me to deal with incredibly complex emotions in safe spaces. I feel without them I would have been just a little more lost. For Ari Aster, for Midsommar during a particularly rough relationship strife. For everyone to do with Anna and the Apocalypse for giving me a space to laugh, cry, and sing my way back to who I was before I forgot. For Mike Flanagan for making emotionally complex, real stories with just as much heart as horror. And, always, for Guillermo del Toro, who reminds me that there is beauty in the most unusual, outlandish, fantastical places.
Well kids, it’s that time of year where we start to consider what we’re thankful for in life, love, and horror. Since I don’t know much about the first two beyond the fact that I’m still breathing and that I do in fact love white wine, I’ll talk about horror. What I’m thankful for is less something specifically from this year, but rather something that’s been going on over the last several years: A horror renaissance. There’s been too many releases of note to mention here, but there’s been a resurgence of quality-crafted horror. Auteurs have emerged and the critics have taken note. Not that critical recognition qualifies a film, but it’s really refreshing to see critics lauding horror and giving credit where it’s due. Often, and much like with fiction, genre material has been overlooked or treated as a lower-tier, baser form of entertainment. Maybe it’s a changing of the guard as a different generation moves into the critic’s seat, maybe it’s the increase in the access filmmakers and storytellers have, whatever the case, I’m thankful.
*raises glass of white wine*
It's shocking to think we're almost at the end of another year. I started KHC just a little over a year ago to share my love and support of the horror community, and I've been shocked at how much it has grown in that short time, and at how much support I've gotten from you, the reader. I'm thankful for you and all of the people above, as well as the rest of the writers who contribute to KHC and keep it going, and my wife, Kriss, who recently became a co-host on the KHC podcast. All of them work incredibly hard. All of them are passionate. All of them are talented. And I couldn't feel luckier to be able to say they're not just my colleague, but my friends, and, dare I say, my family. I can't do this without any of you, and no amount of thanks can express that well enough.
I'm also incredibly thankful for Shudder. When I was a kid, being a horror fan was a lonely experience. There was no internet where we could all gather to share our love of the genre, and few people in my real life understood why the horror genre was special to me. I've gotten to know many of you thanks to Shudder, whether it's discussing the latest episode of Creepshow, or sharing in the unique bond that is watching The Last Drive-In with the Mutant Family. This service is a representative pillar of what the horror community should be. A welcoming place for all horror fans, one created by the fans, for the fans. They continue to bring us not just the classics we crave, but new genre fare from different perspectives, made by voices that should have had a say in the genre all along, and are finally getting the recognition they deserve, thanks to places like Shudder, and you, the members of the greatest fandom anyone could ever ask to be a part of.
Love all of you weirdos.