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As you have no doubt noticed, 2020 has been a series of horrors. We all find refuge in various places, and one possibly surprising place is horror movies. The late great Wes Craven said that horror films don’t create horror, they release it. There is much to be said for this view, as horror offers a release and therefore, perhaps paradoxically, a containment for our fears. Settle down for ninety minutes or so, and in that contained space, we can experience fear in a way that is safe. It’s not like anything’s going to come out of the screen and get you, is it?

To that end, I will fill the month of October with horror films, and share my experiences with you, my lovely followers (whether or not you exist). The goal is 31, as you might expect. This journey through slashers, serial killers, vampires, monsters, zombies, body horror, psychological scares and more will include re-watches, some first-time watches, titles that I’ve been meaning to tick off, suggestions from the very fine podcast the Evolution of Horror. Maybe this will lead to a revision of my famed Frightful Five, which could expand to a Terror Ten. Whichever way it turns out, let’s have some safe scares in HorrOctober.





Any reboot/relaunch/remake/adaptation faces the triple-horned (or headed) dilemma of pleasing existing fans, introducing itself to new audiences and declaring its own identity. Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla achieves this in style by paying homage to Toho Studios’ Godzilla series, declaring its own identity, and exceeding expectations for a movie that centres on a huge monster stomping around a city. Some have complained that the titular character receives precious little screentime, but this seems churlish as the main purpose of Godzilla in any film is to smash things, be they cities or other monsters. By minimising Godzilla’s presence to his interaction with other monsters, Edwards not only focuses attention on the human characters but also creates a familiarity between them (us) and the giant, radioactive reptile. In doing so, the director echoes his debut, Monsters, which displayed a curious communion between its human and non-human characters. This suggests a common feature in Edwards’ cinema, drawing parallels between humans and nature. It will be interesting to see if Edwards continues this conceit in his future work, such as a sequel to Godzilla and perhaps in a galaxy far, far away

Frightful Five No. 3. “The Mist” (Frank Darabont, 2007) [SPOILER WARNING]

The Mist.jpg

A very recent addition, which I only saw earlier in 2012 on DVD.  After watching The Mist, I curled into a foetal position and whimpered for about ten minutes.  It is, quite simply, one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve ever had, and I dread to think how I might have reacted had I seen it at the cinema (probably would have had to be carried out on a stretcher).  The Mist is oppressive and disturbing, gruesome and horrifying, and delivers not one but two devastating blows at its finale.  Frank Darabont has directed some life-affirming cinema in the form of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.  With The Mist, you might just question the value of continuing to live.

This may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but The Mist is immensely powerful and committed to its bleak portrayal of people and their world falling apart.  The point at which The Mist declares itself as punishing and unforgiving is the first revelation of something nasty, and sets up the central conceit of horror both inside and outside.  Our hero, David Drayton (Thomas Jane), is in the storage section of the supermarket which has become a makeshift shelter.  He is there with some others, when tentacles appear out of the mist and ensnare the pleasant young man Norm (Chris Owen).  David rushes to his assistance, but Jim (William Salder) and the other men do not.  In similar siege movies, such as Night of the Living Dead (or any number of zombie films), a key element is disparate people banding together, conveying a sense of unity and people rallying against a common threat.  This does not occur in The Mist, and it is the first indication that the film will not only feature horrible beasties, but fairly ghastly people.

This is the film’s central conceit: when placed under pressure, people become selfish, cruel and stupid.  David remains the type of hero we want and that we would like to believe we would be, and there are some other positive figures in the besieged store such as Amanda Dunfrey (Laurie Holden) and Ollie Weeks (Toby Jones).  But the majority of the people turn the store not into a sanctuary, but a kangaroo court governed by mistrust, judgement and eventual “expiation!”  It is genuinely ambiguous whether the monsters outside are more horrific than the people inside, the eventual mob intent on casting blame, guilt and punishment upon scapegoats in the most merciless and pointless way.  The mob is engulfed by the preaching of Mrs Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), proclaiming all as damned within her view of the world.  The Mist can be read as a condemnation of Christianity, but the large biker (Brian Libby) who volunteers to go outside offers an alternative view: “Hey, crazy lady, I believe in God, too. I just don’t think he’s the bloodthirsty asshole you make him out to be.”  Christianity is not to blame for what occurs in The Mist, any more than the military despite their meddling in forces beyond their control.  The spilling of what could best be described as Hell into our world is not the focus – it is humanity’s inhumanity that provides the central horror.  This is what makes the film so terrifying – it is entirely believable that in a horrific situation, people would not react the way they normally do in movies, banding together to preserve humanity in the face of adversity.  Instead fear would take over, and frightened people are very dangerous.  That is really frightening.  Even the few who escape from the store end up giving in to fear.  Their final solution proves misguided, as the film demonstrates that the only thing worse than the end of the world is surviving it.  The Mist is a film about fear: its generation, its impact and its all-consuming power.