We’ve hit sort of a dry spell in the horror field these past few weeks. Not much in the way of theatrical releases, although you can still catch The Meg (Eric’s review) if the idea of Jason Statham beating up a prehistoric shark sounds amusing. (It is.) New on DVD, we got the quietly awesome Hereditary (Eric’s review), the surprisingly bad-ass Upgrade (Eric’s review), and the unexpected hit A Quiet Place (Eric’s review) — plus a brilliant new indie flick called Found Footage 3D that I co-produced — and in the VOD department, these are some of late August’s more interesting titles.
Blood Fest — Three goofy horror geeks attend what looks to be an awesome night of fake bloodshed at an elaborate local horror convention, but all hell breaks loose when the performers turn on the attendees and slash most of ’em to shreds. This scrappy little indie has good humor and a nice dose of energy, and should probably appeal to horror fans who enjoy the consistently self-aware and sardonic tone of Scream, The Cabin in the Woods, and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. Director Owen Egerton takes a decidedly sillier approach to scares than he did in his previous film (Follow), and the energetic young cast helps keep a bunch of plates spinning at once, which allows Egerton and his team to concoct a bunch of set pieces that only a true horror fan could love.
Summer of ’84 — We’ve been sort of inundated with 1980s nostalgia lately, what with It and Stranger Things (and the amazing ’80s All Over podcast) invading pop culture in recent years. But what if those two films tapped in to the creepy nostalgia craze, only they left out the supernatural elements? We think it’d be a movie that looks just like this. It’s about a group of young friends who become convinced that there’s a serial killer afoot in their small town but — as is always the case in movies like this — none of the grown-ups believe their crazy stories. Packed with solid performances from its young cast, the movie veers from light to dark to downright creepy. Summer of ’84 may feel familiar but it still manages to go to some unexpected places.
What Keeps You Alive — There are countless horror films in which someone is terrorized by a faceless, anonymous brute. And that’s sometimes pretty scary. But you know what’s really scary? Being terrorized by someone you love. This enjoyably straightforward and remarkably intense cat-and-mouse thriller follows two young women to an isolated cabin, where they deal with a suddenly horrific situation and spend the next hour knee-deep in elaborate chases, scrapes, escapes, and brutal murders. Director Colin Minihan (Grave Encounters) does a very nice job of using Mother Nature as an obstacle, and he manages to keep up a very nice pace despite having only a handful of characters to juggle. (Plus there’s some shocking violence you won’t see coming.) This well-made psycho-thriller would probably make for a great double feature alongside the new French import Revenge.
Mary Shelley — This is a standard, well-made, engaging biopic, and while it’s not a horror film, the main character is the person who more or less invented sci-fi (and horror fiction) when she penned Frankenstein in 1818. (And yes, she was only 18 at the time.) Elle Fanning is excellent as the young writer, as is the remainder of this very British ensemble. Once again: This is not a scary movie, but if you have an interest in the history of genre fiction you may find this rendition of Shelley’s story fairly compelling. And if you should crave more cinematic renditions of Mary Shelley’s fascinating life, check out Ken Russell’s Gothic (1986) and/or Ivan Passer’s Haunted Summer (1988).
Lake Placid: Legacy — Can you believe this is the fifth movie in the Lake Placid series? Yep. That amusing little alligator flick from 1999 with Bill Pullman and Bridget Fonda (and Betty White) has somehow turned into a long-running revenue stream that even boasts a chapter called (get this) Lake Placid vs. Anaconda. In this new installment, a bunch of urban explorers decide to explore the wrong damn island. As in there’s a giant alligator afoot. Also, Joe Pantoliano is on hand to deliver at least one interesting performance. Plus, I was kidding. This is in fact the sixth Lake Placid movie.
Boarding School — A “troubled” young boy who likes to dress up as his deceased grandmother is sent away to an isolated boarding school. There he discovers a collection of other kids who have also caused various problems, as well as an ominous headmaster who’s clearly up to no good. Director Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans) does some nice work in his first scary movie, from the strong cast of kids to some quietly impressive cinematography. This is a slightly predictable story if we’re being honest here, but it’s still well-told and fairly creepy, thanks in large part to the performances by newcomer Luke Prael and old veterans like Samantha Mathis and Will Patton.
Ahockalypse — Zombies vs hockey players in this broad, wacky comedy/horror flick. I haven’t actually seen it yet, but I like the title and the trailer made me chuckle a few times. I would have called it Ahockalypse Pow, but maybe they’re saving that for the sequel.
Channel Zero — Now here’s a well-made horror anthology series, streaming on Shudder, that should delight anyone who loves stuff like Creepshow, Tales from the Crypt, and Tales from the Darkside. Based on some (truly effective) horror tales inspired by the creepypasta website, Channel Zero has quickly become one of the genre’s most consistently impressive short story collections. In a change of pace for an anthology horror series, every episode is directed by the same guy (Craig William Macneill, of 2015’s The Boy), which lends an interesting consistency to a colorfully disparate collections of horror tales. I’m only three episodes in and I’m hooked.