The Horror that Helped: The Content that Made 2020 a Bit Brighter
In this Issue:
- Brandon Christensen
- Peter Kuplowsky
- Prince Jackson
- Phil Nobile Jr.
- Aaron B. Koontz
- Trace Thurman
- Matt Donato
- Damien LeVeck
- Brea Grant
- BJ Colangelo
- Jed Shepherd
- Ryan Spindell
- Abraham Castillo Flores
- Sam Wineman
- Michael Greyeyes
- Jenny Nulf
- Kalyn Corrigan
- Tara Ansley
The Horror that Helped
To say that 2020 has been difficult is a huge understatement. We’ve all lost a great deal this year, some far more than others, and as a result things have felt insurmountable at times. But you’re here now, hopefully in good health, and that is truly worth celebrating.
So how do we wrap up a year as monumentally awful as this?
We celebrate the things that brought us joy, that gave us a blissful distraction, and that, in many ways, kept us alive. We asked a group of horror filmmakers, writers, actors, editors, and other creators to share with us that one horror thing or person — a TV show, movie, filmmaker, book, game, etc. — that helped 2020 suck just a little bit less. The end result is an eclectic selection of content that we hope encourages you to reflect on the things that helped you get through this year.
Written and Directed by Brandon Christensen
Superhost had been delayed until the fall, and I was needing a creative spark. So I dug up an old short script that I wrote for my kids and forced them to act in it. An idea I came up with 15 years ago finally came to life in short form. It was a ton of fun to get my children in front of the camera, and it helped make me feel like, even under strict pandemic guidelines, I could once again use my family to scare others.
I am a director by way of Canada, now living in the US of A and exploiting my family turmoil to scare people. Find him on Instagram.
During the pandemic, a collective of editors began remixing movies with a “vaporwave” a e s t h e t i c and broadcasting them on Twitch. Calling themselves RACER TRASH, they scramble the iconic through a nostalgic, yet critical lens and the result is a unique Midnight Movie experience, complete with audience rituals that manifest in the live-chat that accompany their streams. DracuLOL, their “waving” of Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of their very best pieces, its climactic segment crescendoing to a sublime use of Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited”. Follow the collective on Twitter.
Written and Directed by Anthony Scott Burns
This title is not out yet, but Come True absolutely blew me away. A tale that feels very familiar and yet completely original. Giving off the vibe of a reimagining of Nightmare on Elm Street was absolutely refreshing. This film came at the right time for me — my daughter was about to be born and this film captured my anticipation and excitement perfectly!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, everyone.
Prince Jackson is the host of Knight Light: A Horror Movie Podcast on the Bloody Disgusting Podcast Network. His love for the genre oozes within each conversation about films of horror. Horror, being at the basis of his construct, will always have a special place held in his heart.
PHIL NOBILE JR.
Written by Natalie Erika James and Christian White, Directed by Natalie Erika James
We’d be forgiven for wanting to spend 2020 wallowing in nostalgia, comfort food, staying in a place of safety for our entertainment. But Relic exists and it reminds us that horror continues to defy expectations and eradicate illusory boundaries of what the genre is and can do. In 2020 especially, when we might be wondering about the point of any given thing, Relic showed us that horror continues to matter.
Editor of FANGORIA Magazine.
AARON B. KOONTZ
Segments directed by Courtney Andujar & Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, and Baron Vaughn.
Is it cheating to pick our own film? Maybe. But in a year with so much hurt and frustration, to get to release our weird, absurdly silly horror-comedy to the world was impossibly special. And in particular that Friday night in June when we premiered on The Last Drive-In and my phone crashed because of all the texts and tweets of love that poured in. It provided a small moment of happiness that I know I sorely needed, and I’ve come to learn has meant the same to many others. That’s why we make movies, after all, and it’s something I will tell my (potential) children about one day.
The Haunting of Bly Manor
Created by Mike Flanagan
While Mike Flanagan’s follow-up to his outstanding The Haunting of Hill House may have been light on traditional scares, it nevertheless told a beautiful (and queer!) love story that left this viewer in tears by the time the credits rolled on the final episode. Flanagan has always been particularly adept at finding the heart in the horror, and The Haunting of Bly Manor is no exception. Schmaltzy, you say? Bitch, please. This was raw, honest emotion that allowed viewers to have some incredibly cathartic cry sessions, and after the hellish year that 2020 has been, don’t we all deserve that?
Written and Directed by Ninian Doff
I’ll keep it simple. In 2020, I needed to escape more than ever. Ninian Doff’s feature debut is rambunctious, raucous, and anarchistic in ways that make me think of Attack the Block. There’s no better “party movie” released in 2020 than Get Duked!, as four teens battle elitist elders to the death across Highland mountain ranges.
From the uptempo score to hashed-out characters, Get Duked! is supercharged entertainment. Look no further than DJ Beatroot’s midpoint rap-recap. Doff’s background as a music video director shines through in a kinetic and frenzied way. Think The Most Dangerous Game on acid. My most rewatched movie of the year.
Matt Donato spends his post-work hours analyzing cinema for /Film, What To Watch, Bloody Disgusting, and other internet reaches. Follow along on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged).
The Cleansing Hour
Written by Damien LeVeck and Aaron Horwitz, Directed by Damien LeVeck
Millennial entrepreneurs Drew and Max run a webcast that streams live exorcisms that are, in fact, elaborately staged hoaxes. But they get their comeuppance when today’s actress becomes mysteriously possessed by a real demon that holds the crew hostage. To make matters worse, the possessed victim is Drew’s fiancée, Lane. In front of a rapidly-growing global audience, the demon subjects Max to a series of violent and humiliating challenges meant to punish him for his online charade. Meanwhile, in an effort to save the love of his life, Drew discovers that the demon’s sinister motive is not only about revenge, but also to expose the dark secrets he, Max, and Lane have been hiding from one another. With only the show clock remaining, it’s a matter of time before either the truth is revealed or the demon forces them to meet their maker.
Damien is a writer/director/editor from Los Angeles whose company Skubalon Entertainment develops and produces low-budget horror content for film/TV/web. SkubalonEntertainment.com.
Written and Directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis
I saw this movie for the first time at Fantastic Fest (back when we could still go to festivals) and, to use an overused phrase, I felt seen. The combination of the beautiful screenplay, the gorgeous aesthetic, and the brilliant acting made this a standout film, but what it was trying to say and the combination of horror with the female experience left me speechless.
Brea Grant wrote/directed the 2020 film 12 Hour Shift and wrote/starred in the film Lucky (out next year). She’s also an actress in Heroes, Dexter, Halloween II, and, more recently, After Midnight.
Brian Duffield, writer and director
Screenwriter and now director Brian Duffield was a bright light in this dreadful year. Between Underwater, Love & Monsters, and my favorite film of the year, Spontaneous, Duffield consistently had his hands in some of 2020’s best offerings. His films featured inventive creatures, terrifying situations, but most importantly, a whole lot of heart. His characters are ones we genuinely care about, and in a year that felt devoid of empathy at times, it’s exactly what we needed. Through horror, Duffield’s films allowed us to navigate a lot of complicated emotions but also offered the reminder that we are strongest when we work together to combat whatever problems come our way.
BJ Colangelo is a recovering child beauty queen that fancies herself the lovechild of Chistopher Sarandon in Fright Night and Susan Sarandon in The Hunger. She writes about horror, wrestling, sex, kicking pancreatic cancer’s ass, and being a fat queer all over the Internet. She’s also the co-host of the teen girl movie podcast, This Ends at Prom, with her wife, Harmony Colangelo.
A novel by Paul Tremblay
Paul Tremblay wrote A Head Full of Ghosts which absolutely terrified me so I went into Survivor Song with some trepidation if it could ever match that high bar. I can confirm it does. A fresh take on a zombie pandemic in the midst of our very own, it’s clever, subversive, and most importantly, scary! If Host was the movie that perfectly captured the zeitgeist of 2020, then this was the book.
Tales From the Crypt (1989-1996)
Created by Steven Dodd
I flew to Maine to visit my parents over the summer and quarantined myself in a small cabin for the first two weeks I was there. The cabin had no cable or internet, but my mom supplied me with a small TV, a VCR, and our dusty collection of Tales From The Crypt episodes on VHS. I’ve always had a soft spot for the pulpy series, but there was something extra special about revisiting it from a creepy cabin in the woods, and I left quarantine with a renewed enthusiasm in pure escapist horror.
Ryan Spindell was born in a haunted house on the forgotten coast of Maine, so as you can imagine, his social skills are top notch. After receiving his masters degree from Florida State University, Ryan relocated to Los Angeles where he founded Trapdoor Pictures, a boutique production company specializing in “fun” horror for film and television. Ryan’s first feature, The Mortuary Collection, was released by Shudder in 2020, and he’s like super famous now. Find him on Twitter and Instagram.
ABRAHAM CASTILLO FLORES
Romancing the Gothic
Free online classes, book groups, and film watch-alongs from Dr. Sam Hirst
Back in April when it became clear nothing was going to make sense anymore for a while I was delighted to discover the Romancing the Gothic online classes led by the masterful Dr. Sam Hirst. Her insight, wit and deep knowledge shone as she shared her deep love for gothic and romance. The avenues of thought and reflection that these classes offered to me were an oasis to the despair and confusion that reigned in those early days of the pandemic. Thanks to this online community I also discovered wonderful authors, scholars and practitioners of the genre like Caroline Duvezin, Karen Graham, Sebastian Crane, and CM Rosens.
Shout out to my dear friend and colleague Valeria Villegas Lindvall for directing my attention to Romancing the Gothic.
A Mexican offspring of the 1970s obsessed with the power and paradoxical beauty of genre stories imprinted onto celluloid and pixels. Abraham Castillo Flores has been Head Programmer at Mexico’s Morbido Fest since 2010, where he curates and presents exotic and outrageous films to audiences hungry for intense emotions. Abraham currently lives in Mexico City where he dedicates his every breath to the promotion, restructuring, study and presentation of genre films.
An empty space between each car, popcorn in my cupholder, a group chat lighting up about newbies turning on their headlights at New Mutants — the drive-in was our cinema oasis. A socially-distanced concessions line wrapped around the building and no one cared because, for those 40 minutes, we had a safe place to see each other again. Jake and I became boyfriends at The Vast of Night. I cheered on my friends through the cracked window of my car at the Freaky premiere. The Wretched, The Rental, Spree — it almost didn’t matter what was playing; the drive-in gave us a place to love horror together again.
Sam Wineman is the writer/director of The Quiet Room as well as Shudder’s upcoming queer horror documentary. He is also the co-host of Aughtsterion, a limited-series podcast celebrating millennium-era horror movies. Find him on Twitter and Instagram.
Written by Jayro Bustamante & Lisandro Sanchez, Directed by Jayro Bustamante
I did not expect a horror film that I’d heard so much about would be a political cruise missile aimed at the Guatemalan genocide that also centered Indigenous language and characters, highlighting the racial tensions of Central America. But then again, I starred in Blood Quantum by Jeff Barnaby which did much of the same thing, but Jeff’s cruise missile was aimed at the heart of Canada’s colonial past. So in retrospect, 2020 was a year when Indigenous voices and stories captured new audiences deservedly and that is a good sign for things to come.
Michael Greyeyes is an actor, director, and scholar. He is Nêhiyaw from Treaty Six Territory in Canada. His father is from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, while his mom is from Sweetgrass First Nation in Saskatchewan.
What We Do in the Shadows, Season 2
Created by Jemaine Clement
What We Do in the Shadows the TV series is impeccably written and laugh-out-loud funny, with full, larger-than-life characters. Season 2 was strong, filled with incredible bits like the Nadja doll (I want one of my own) and Guillermo’s genetic connection to Van Helsing (oh, the irony!). It also included one of the best episodes of the show to date: Episode 6, “On the Run,” where Laszlo transforms into the man, the myth, the legend Jackie Daytona by simply sporting a pair of blue jeans and placing a toothpick between his teeth (Mark Hamill also has his best TV cameo of 2020 in this episode as Jim the Vampire. Many apologies to the Baby Yoda show). There is absolutely nothing in horror right now that is as brilliant or rewatchable.
Jenny is a film programmer, distributor, and critic. She currently is the programs director at the Austin Asian American Film Festival and writes for the Austin Chronicle.
Bleed With Me
Written and Directed by Amelia Moses
Waking life feels incorrect in a year characterized by its hazy obscurity. Mornings in North America have been lonely as of late, as the lockdown over the past nine months takes quiet tolls on everyone. Virtual film festivals abound and vacant movie theaters take up empty space as far as the eye can see. It was unclear just how many movies I’d actually be able to see from the lazy corner of my cat-scratched upholstery, let alone find something that really grabbed me.
In a sea of solid little indie horror standouts, Amelia Moses’ Bleed With Me shines like a beacon in a storm. How is it possible to feel so seen in a year where I’m not physically seeing anyone? Conveyed in a claustrophobic cabin, set against desolate wide blue skies and golden light, this snowbound fable about a young woman who believes her new bestie is stealing her blood at night acutely taps into the dreamy, off-centered weirdness that is 2020. Is her friend deranged? Is she imagining things? Is the isolation driving her mad? When you spend so much time staring at the same quiet wood-panelled walls, it’s hard to decipher what is real and what’s just a dream.
Created by Sofia Alexander
Onyx Equinox is a Mexican-American horror anime series created by Sofia Alexander for Crunchyroll. It is based on the mythologies of Mesoamerica, featuring deities of Aztec, Maya and Zapotec myth, and also makes references to the Olmecs. At FANGORIA we believe everyone screams in the same language. 2020 has been an incredible year for international horror. It’s something I’m passionate about consuming, championing, and producing. Really incredible what Sofia has created — congrats to their entire team!
Co-owner of FANGORIA Magazine.
Happy New Year from all of us at Shudder. Thank you for subscribing, and may your 2021 be bright and full of hope.