Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

Review: Jump scares, monsters abound in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

August 11th, 2019

Reading a book brings all manner of ghosts and monsters to life in Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.

Monstrous creatures from terrifying tales come to life for a group of teens in Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark, the new horror film produced by Guillermo del Toro. The movie is based on a series of children's books from the 1980s by the late amateur folklorist Alvin Schwartz (he died in 1992), who drew upon common folklore and popular urban legends for his anthologies.

(Some spoilers below.)

Technically, Schwartz was a curator, collecting scary stories from all over and preserving those oral traditions on the page. Remember that classic campfire ditty, The worms crawl in the worms crawl out/the worms play pinochle on your snout? So did Schwartz. You'll also find variations on the killer with a hook for a hand who preys on couples necking in parked cars. So, too, the hapless babysitter who discovers the call is coming from inside the house, along with plenty of other frightening fare. It's all delivered in a breezy, conversational format, complete with tips on how to most effectively read the stories aloud to scare your friends. (The 2018 documentary Scary Stories delves more into Schwartz's source material.)

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Posted in CBS films, film, film review, Gaming & Culture, horror, horror films, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark | Comments (0)

Midsommar is a muddled mishmash of pagan folk horror and slasher films

July 4th, 2019
Traveling to Sweden for a rare summer solstice pagan festival that only takes place every 90 years turns out not to be such a good idea in <em>Midsommar</em>.

Enlarge / Traveling to Sweden for a rare summer solstice pagan festival that only takes place every 90 years turns out not to be such a good idea in Midsommar. (credit: YouTube/A24)

A group of young Americans visit a remote Swedish village and find themselves at the mercy of a strange pagan cult in Midsommar, the second feature film by Director Ari Aster. The official synopsis calls it "a dread-soaked cinematic fairytale where a world of darkness unfolds in broad daylight." There are certainly fairy tale elements, but the film also owes a great deal of its aesthetic to 1970s pagan horror—especially the 1973 film The Wicker Man—and your standard slasher film tropes. But the various styles don't really mesh, and the end result is a film that is occasionally unsettling and disturbing, but never truly scary or surprising.

(Warning: spoilers below.)

Aster is a longtime fan of the horror genre and kicked off his career with a controversial short film called The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, in which a son develops a taboo incestuous relationship with this father. Hereditary, his first feature, also rooted its horror in dysfunctional family drama, with themes of trauma and grief—right before turning into a bone-chilling nightmare. It was lauded by critics as the scariest movie of the year and likened to such horror classics as The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby. Audiences, however, begged to differ; the average CinemaScore for the the film was a "D+." Hereditary still took in $79.3 million worldwide, more than recouping its modest $10 million budget.

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Posted in Ari Aster, Entertainment, film, film review, Gaming & Culture, horror, horror films, Midsommar | Comments (0)

A bride must play the most dangerous game in Ready or Not red band trailer

June 18th, 2019

Samara Weaving plays a new bride who must survive a deadly game of hide-and-seek in the horror/comedy Ready or Not.

A young bride's idealized wedding night takes a deadly turn when her eccentric new in-laws insist that playing a game at midnight is a family tradition in the red-band trailer for Ready or Not, a forthcoming comic horror film from Fox Searchlight. Per io9, "It's kind of The Purge meets every newlywed-themed gothic horror movie ever (Rebecca, Crimson Peak) but with a pitch-black sense of humor." That sounds like a winning combination.

Grace (Samara Weaving) can't believe her good fortune when she falls in love with Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien), a member of a wealthy gaming dynasty—although the family prefers the term "dominion." After a picture-perfect wedding on the family estate, Alex informs her that there's just one more formality to be observed: "At midnight, you have to play a game. It's just something we do when someone joins the family."

That game turns out to be hide-and-seek, except Grace soon discovers that, as played by the Le Domas family, it has less in common with an innocent children's pastime and more with the classic 1924 short story "The Most Dangerous Game." Grace is the prey, and she must elude detection until dawn to avoid being killed in a bizarre ritual sacrifice.

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Posted in comic horror, Entertainment, film, Fox Searchlight, Gaming & Culture, horror, Trailers | Comments (0)

Video: Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s horror relied on a bit of cheating

April 16th, 2019

Video shot and edited by Justin Wolfson. Click here for transcript.

2010 video game Amnesia: The Dark Descent is an obvious candidate for our eventual "best games of the '10s" list, owing to its revolutionary take on interactive horror. The indie game ushered in a new era of horror gaming, thanks in part to its brief, focused scope and its utter lack of weapons or combat. But how did the designers at Swedish game studio Frictional Games pull off Amnesia's scariest stuff?

The mouth of madness

In our video interview, Grip talks about how Amnesia came about after the completion of a creepy puzzle-platformer series called Penumbra. That series was built upon a physics system that let players pick up, stack, and contend with objects in the world in order to proceed, and Friction wanted to follow those games with a "good horror" experience, inspired in part by Konami's Silent Hill series.

The studio's original thinking for Amnesia revolved around forcing players to survive with a very old-school system of a life bar, but play-testing revealed that this focus either annoyed players or didn't scare them. The above interview delves a little more into experiments with things like a light-and-dark hiding system and how the game's "sanity" meter originally worked like a traditional "hit points" counter.

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Posted in amnesia, amnesia the dark descent, Ars Technica Videos, ars video, Features, frictional games, Gaming & Culture, horror, war stories | Comments (0)

I Like Scary Movies interactive horror exhibit is art for the Instagram era

April 6th, 2019
"Look dead. No, more dead." Ars writer in a horror playground inspired by 2017 film adaptation of Stephen King's <em>It</em>.

Enlarge / "Look dead. No, more dead." Ars writer in a horror playground inspired by 2017 film adaptation of Stephen King's It. (credit: Rachael Porter)

Horror movie fans are known for their love of immersive "haunts": special exhibits of events that pay tribute to their favorite films while letting the fans in on a bit of the scary action. That's the thinking behind I Love Scary Movies, a pop-up interactive art installation that just opened in Los Angeles.

I Love Scary Movies is the brainchild of "experiential" artist Maximillian Castillo (who goes by Maximillian), well-known for his interactive immersive creations, like a Snakes on Plane installation or a Pirates of the Caribbean walk-through for San Diego Comic-Con. He's also a horror movie buff, and the current exhibit—housed in the historic art deco building The Desmond, along LA's Miracle Mile—draws inspiration from five films in particular: The Shining, It, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Beetlejuice, and The Lost Boys.

"I wanted to do something that was more like an interactive art installation, something that isn’t your standard Halloween scare maze, which I love, but I feel like we can celebrate and interpret these movies over and over again," Castillo said in an interview. "Other than going through a walk-through maze once a year during Halloween, there’s really no other way to really enjoy these movies and dive deeper into the content of these films and these worlds."

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Posted in art, art of horror, film, Gaming & Culture, horror, horror films, interactive exhibits | Comments (0)

Terrifying trailer for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will give you mega-chills

March 29th, 2019

It's 1968 in the small town of Mill Valley, home to a haunted mansion and a mysterious book, in Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.

All those frightening tales kids tell around the campfires to spook their friends come to terrifying life in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a new film from producer Guillermo del Toro. It's based on a series of children's books from the 1980s by Alvin Schwartz, who drew upon common folklore and popular urban legends for his scary stories.

Remember that classic campfire ditty, "the worms crawl in the worms crawl out/the worms play pinochle on your snout"? So does Schwartz. It's the basis for his scary story "The Hearse Song." You'll also find variations on the killer with a hook for a hand who preys on couples necking in parked cars. So too the hapless babysitter who discovers the call is coming from inside the house, along with plenty of other frightening fare. (The 2018 documentary Scary Stories delves more deeply into Schwartz's source material.)

While the books are technically aimed at kids, the material is pretty dark, which is why the series has often been listed among the most challenged books by the American Library Association. People have objected to the violence in Scary Stories series—and illustrator Stephen Gammell's genuinely disturbing, surreal images only add to the potential nightmares. In fact, publisher Harper Collins released a new 30th-anniversary edition in 2011 that didn't include Gammell's original illustrations, causing an uproar among longtime fans.

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Posted in Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, Guillermo del Toro, horror, movie adaptations, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Trailers | Comments (0)

Jordan Peele’s Us should cement his status as a master of modern horror

March 22nd, 2019
Lupita Nyong’o stars as Adelaide Wilson, whose family encounters their own evil <em>doppelgängers</em> in Jordan Peele's new horror film, <em>Us</em>.

Enlarge / Lupita Nyong’o stars as Adelaide Wilson, whose family encounters their own evil doppelgängers in Jordan Peele's new horror film, Us. (credit: Universal)

A family is terrorized by their own doppelgängers while vacationing in Santa Cruz in Jordan Peele's new film, Us. With its spot-on writing and pacing and fantastic performances from its ensemble cast, the film should cement Peele's status as a master of modern horror.

(Mildest of spoilers below, because anything more would spoil the fun.)

Us is the much-anticipated follow-up to Get Out, Peele's surprise box office hit that earned more than $250 million and snagged Peele an Oscar for best original screenplay—the first time the award has gone to a black recipient. Get Out is a subtle exploration of racial tensions that quietly builds to reveal its horrifying premise and inevitably bloody conclusion. In Us, the theme isn't so much racial tension—it's exploring, in Peele's words, the myriad ways in which "we are our own worst enemies."

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Posted in Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, horror, jordan peele, reviews | Comments (0)

Danish haunted-house studies seek to reveal the seductive appeal of horror

February 13th, 2019
Visitors to a haunted house in Vejle, Denmark, respond differently to being confronted by "scare actors" depending on whether they are "adrenaline junkies" or "white-knucklers."

Enlarge / Visitors to a haunted house in Vejle, Denmark, respond differently to being confronted by "scare actors" depending on whether they are "adrenaline junkies" or "white-knucklers." (credit: Andrés Baldursson, Baldursson Photography)

It's no secret that many of us here at Ars are genuine fans of horror. As a child, I would compulsively devour horror short stories and watch classic movies on late-night TV, like Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) or I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). Then I'd lie awake at night in terror, convinced a werewolf was lurking just outside my bedroom window. (In reality, it was a trick of light and shadow against the curtains.) That's the central paradox of horror: we both fear the experience of watching a scary movie, or reading a terrifying book, and compulsively seek it out

According to Mathias Clasen of Aarhus University in Denmark, we seek out being afraid in controlled settings as a means of confronting our fears in a safe environment. Clasen specializes in studying our response to horror in books, film, video games, and other forms of entertainment, and he is the author of Why Horror Seduces. It's one way we can explore "issues of morality and evil and the contours of our own psychological landscape," he said. "We find and challenge our own limits. And we may even practice coping strategies. It does not make us fearless, but it does seem to make us better at regulating fear."

Like me, Clasen has a lifelong love of horror, even though as a child he was terrified of scary stories. "I would have nightmares and would sleep with the lights on," he admitted. That changed in his teenaged years. "What psychologists call a hedonic reversal took place," he said. "I started feeling this weird attraction [to horror] that I couldn't really understand." He devoured the writings of Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft. While earning his various degrees in literature, he found a rich collection of dark gothic material in the English literature canon.

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Posted in culture, Gaming & Culture, horror, personality traits, Psychology, science | Comments (0)

Not even the bathtub is safe in new trailer for The Curse of La Llorona

February 12th, 2019

A ghostly presence targets two young children in new trailer for New Line Cinema’s The Curse of La Llorona.

Fresh off the blockbuster success of Aquaman, director James Wan has produced a upcoming film that returns to his horror roots. And judging by the latest trailer, The Curse of La Llorona will offer chills aplenty in the same spirit as his Conjuring and Insidious franchises.

The titular ghost La Llorona (which translates as "The Weeping Woman") is based on Latin American folklore; there are many variants, but the film seems to be based on the Mexican version. A beautiful young woman named Maria marries into a wealthy family, and because her new in-laws disapprove of the match, the newlyweds build a home in her rural village. She bears her man two sons, but he eventually abandons her for a younger woman. A distraught Maria drowns the boys in a blind rage and then drowns herself.

For this crime, she is barred from the afterlife. She is condemned to spend eternity looking for her lost sons, trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead. Her constant weeping is why she is called La Llorona, and legend has it that, if you her wailing, you will have bad fortune and possibly die. La Llorona also kidnaps children wandering alone at night, mistaking them for her dead sons, and she is said to drown those children, too, all while begging for forgiveness.

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Trailer for latest adaptation of Pet Sematary has some surprising twists

February 7th, 2019

Take it from the Creed family cat, Church: sometimes dead is better.

Stephen King published his bestselling novel, Pet Sematary, 35 years ago, and it has definitely stood the test of time. We think we know the story, but there will be some unexpected, horrifying twists in the new film adaptation, judging by the spooky latest trailer.

(Spoilers for original book and film below.)

Staunch King fans know the basic plot by now: a doctor named Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his family from the big city (Chicago in the book, Boston in the 2019 film) to a charming small town in Maine. The new house is right by a busy highway on one side and bumps up against a forest in back. So many local pets meet their demise on the highway that the children have set up a "Pet Sematary" in the forest to bury their beloved animals. Louis' daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) discovers the site while walking in the woods.

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