Madeleine Gaudin: What to watch in October
Every season is horror season when you’re living in a wasteland of violence and late-stage capitalism, but if I had to pick one month that most embodies the genre it would, of course, be October. Horror’s tricky — when it’s good, it’s good. But it can be difficult to begin when everything’s a remake of a remake or part of the “Saw” franchise. And that’s such a shame, because horror has so much capacity for beauty, humor and compelling narrative. If you want to be scared and unsettled and blown away, here’s what I recommend for the most wonderful time of the year.
Last year’s standout horror landed itself a number 10 spot on Daily Art’s coveted Best of 2016 list, and was even higher on my personal list. When a Puritan family living on the outskirts of a New England settlement begins to implode—dead crops, missing babies—their eldest daughter (played by the incredible Anya Taylor-Joy "Split") seems to be at the center.
Robert Egger’s directorial debut is stunning and horrifying. Egger — who’s set to direct the remake of 1922 silent classic “Nosferatu” next — is a production designer by trade, so “The Witch” has the kind of meticulous beauty and composition that usually fall by the wayside in horror.
Maybe I’m biased. Witches are the most appealing part of horror culture for me. I’m here for cauldrons and spells and black cats. I’m especially here for covens and sisterhoods and the part when a girl gets really mad and the weather gets bad. But “The Witch” brings the subgenre back to its historical origins and contextualizes the plight of a woman whose power transcends the limitations of Puritan life.
It’s a beautiful meditation on girlhood, family and dark magic. It also happens to have the single greatest jump scare of all time (that’s a fact). If you only have time — or the stomach — for one horror movie this month, make it “The Witch.”
“The Witch” is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
If you didn’t go back and watch (or hopefully rewatch) Tobe Hooper’s classic slasher film when he died in August, now’s your chance. This is probably the closest this list is going to get to canon or classic horror.
This movie is beautiful — absolutely stunning. It's also incredibly campy, the kind of low budget horror that amuses as much as it scares. Like “The Witch,” “Chainsaw” treats it’s monster — Leatherface — with an unexpected tenderness.
Every minute is amazing, but it’s worth sitting through even if you’re horror averse for the final shot. It’s poetry spun from what could have been just a dirty bloodbath. Hooper’s eye is unmatched and the emotional core of film is unrivaled in modern horror. This is master class horror. This is why I love movies.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
“It Follows” is just further proof of what I hope has already been made clear at this point: Horror can be beautiful. This movie does to home invasion narratives what “The Witch” and “Chainsaw” do to their respective subgenres. It reimagines what it means to be followed while playing within the rules.
A not-so-subtle metaphor for STIs, “It Follows” tracks a demonic spirit that manifests itself as different people, visible only to the person possessed, who follow you until they can reach and kill you. The only way to pass the demon off to someone else is by having sex with them.
It’s eerie and terrifying and a surprisingly poignant portrait of teen culture. Filmed in and around Detroit, it’s beautifully dark. This is the kind of horror that sits with you, crawls under your skin and unsettles you for days after it ends.
"It Follows" is available to stream on Netflix.
Okay, if you’re still looking for an ease-in to horror, the teen fare of the 90s and early 00s is a good place to start. The “Scream” franchise (especially 1 or 4) blend humor and horror, and “The Craft” does horror-lite unlike any other movie out there.
Go forth, get scared and please (please, please, please) watch “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”