Christmas is coming! But there’s still time to watch a few holiday movies or read a fun Christmas mystery. Here are my top favorite Christmas movies:
IMDB Description: A boy who has a bad Christmas accidentally summons a festive demon to his family home.
My thoughts: I love the folklore surrounding Krampus, and while this movie does not stay true to the details of that folklore, it absolutely captivates the spirit of the holiday. This is a fun but slightly dark holiday movie.
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)
IMDB Description: Astonished to find the Beast has a deep-seeded hatred for the Christmas season, Belle endeavors to change his mind on the matter.
My Thoughts: This sequel to Beauty and the Beast actually takes place in the middle of the first movie’s story. Still, it’s a really fun and festive movie that fills me with nostalgia.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
IMDB Description: A grumpy hermit hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville.
My Thoughts: This one is obviously a classic for a reason. I definitely think it is the best version of this story!
The Ref (1994)
IMDB Description: A cat burglar is forced to take a bickering, dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve.
My Thoughts: This movie is absolutely hilarious! Anyone who has ever dreaded holiday family drama will be sure to relate to and enjoy this one.
Home Alone (1990)
IMDB Description: An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation.
My Thoughts: Another classic that takes me back to childhood! This one is fun to watch at any time of year.
What have you been watching this holiday season? Have you been reaching for nostalgia, gravitating towards the Hallmark channel, or avoiding Christmas altogether? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!
I am beyond thrilled that Disney+ is finally here (and yes, I did pre-pay for 3 years of service already!) After a busy week and an even busier start to the weekend, I am spending the next 36 hours just chilling out and watching Disney+. This is the perfect time of year for it to launch too because I feel like this is the time when I’m most nostalgic for my childhood – so what better way to recapture my youth than to do nothing but watch Disney movies from my couch?
Halloween is less than 2 weeks away! In between prepping for a wedding (not mine) and a Halloween party (mine), I’ve been watching so many horror movies again this year. Of course, I think horror is a great genre year-round, but for those of you who only dabble in the black arts during Autumn, I thought I’d share my top 10 picks!
IMDB Description: “Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.”
I think this is one of the greatest modern horror movies. It’s based on a fascinating true story, and the cinematography is top-notch. It’s moody/atmospheric and the jump scares are kept to a minimum (which means that you’re always on guard and aren’t able to get used to them). There’s a reason that this film was successful enough to launch a huge franchise (The Conjuring 2, The Nun, Annabelle, etc.)
IMDB Description: “Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened.”
This is for sure one of my favorite independent horror movies. Again, instead of being replete with jump scares, there are lots of subtly creepy things that gradually build into a great ending. I highly recommend this one (but I do not recommend its two sequels). Bonus: creepy clowns.
IMDB Description: “A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators.”
This movie has multiple things going for it: female friendship, claustrophobia, and weird underground creatures. My favorite thing about it really is how well it manages to make the viewer to feel trapped as well. This is a fascinating, unique film (which did not need a sequel – don’t watch the sequel).
IMDB Description: “A journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone one week to the day after they view it.”
I watched this film in junior high so it has a special place in my dark heart as being one of my first real horror movie experiences. Fun fact: I had a friend who was terrified of this movie. One day, she left her locker open and I put a note that said, “Seven Days” inside the locker and closed it. To this day, I think that’s one of the meanest things I’ve ever done. Overall, this is just a well-done horror movie with a surprisingly heartfelt plot and some stylistic cinematography.
IMDB Description: “A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.”
I love that this is a self-aware horror movie. Fans of horror will love the references to various horror tropes that pervade this film. I love the entire Scream franchise (including the spin-off TV series). These movies are great slasher flicks which don’t take themselves too seriously.
IMDB Description: “American seminary student Michael Kovak travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.”
Inspired by a true story, this is a great movie about faith. The acting is also superb since it stars none other than Sir Anthony Hopkins! This is the kind of movie that has plenty of scares but also makes you think about your own beliefs.
IMDB Description: “A young African-American visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point.”
This is a groundbreaking movie that deserves a place in history for causing critics to start taking horror more seriously. This film, through its fantastic and nuanced discussion of race in America, proved that horror can have something to say. I highly recommend this one!
IMDB Description: “A woman, Rose, goes in search for her adopted daughter within the confines of a strange, desolate town called Silent Hill.”
This is definitely my most controversial pick as it was panned by critics and horror-lovers alike. But I don’t care – I love this movie! Yes, it’s cheesy and based on a video game, but I think the special effects are great and some of the monsters (the nurses, pyramid-head, etc.) are super cool!
IMDB Description: “Five interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband; and a mean old man meets his match with a demonic, supernatural trick-or-treater.”
I don’t often like anthology films, but this is a really good one (which is also perfect thematically for Halloween). What sets this film apart is that the five stories are actually connected in a loose but organic way which makes it feel really complete. This one is definitely worth a watch!
IMDB Description: “Suspecting that people around him are turning into evil creatures, a troubled man questions whether to protect his only friend from an impending war, or from himself.”
I love psychological horror and this one kept me guessing until the very end – is this guy crazy or are evil things lurking about? This one is dark and suspenseful but more disturbing than scary. Overall, it’s one of the best low-budget horror options out there.
Well, I hope I’ve inspired you to give horror a try this Halloween season! Are you already a horror fan? What are some of your favorites? Please, let me know in the comment section!
I love discovering weird, unique horror movies. Too often while I’m watching a movie, I feel overwhelmed by the familiarity – let’s be honest, most zombie and exorcism movies play out the same way every time. So, I get really excited when I stumble across something different. Last night, I took a chance and watched a lesser known Russian film The Mermaid – Lake of the Dead, and it far exceeded my expectations!
Here’s the IMDB Description: “An evil Mermaid falls in love with Marina’s fiancé Roman and aims to keep him away from Marina in her Kingdom of Death under water. The Mermaid is a young woman who drowned a few centuries ago. Marina only has one week to overcome her fear of the dark water, to remain human in the deathly fight with the monsters and not to become one herself.”
Honestly, I think that the description does this film a disservice. It’s extremely basic, while the film itself is rife with complexities. Rather than the mermaids I’ve been used to (thanks to Disney, of course), this type of mermaid is actually based on the Russian folklore about the rusalka. Also, the film focuses a lot on Roman’s family, which is very much linked to the Mermaid. His sister is a very dynamic, complicated character (actually, far more complex than his fiance Marina).
I was expecting something extra cheesy, but this was actually quite artsy in terms of cinematography. The repeating images of water (in all types of situation, with all different camera angles) were masterfully done. Originally shot in Russian, this was dubbed in English. I would almost always rather read subtitles, but I was actually pleasantly surprised at how organic the dub felt for this particular film. It wasn’t at all distracting.
In terms of the plot and writing, there were a few clarity issues, but they weren’t glaring. Mostly, if you’re familiar with the rusalka folklore or if you really pay attention to the black and white illustrated prologue which quickly explains the folklore, it should be easy to fill in some of the gaps. While mostly predictable, I still enjoyed the uniqueness of the story and the beauty of the cinematography.
In terms of the scare-factor, this was not the kind of horror movie that’s going to keep you up at night or make you afraid to swim in a lake (though, for the record, I’m already afraid of swimming in lakes – who knows what kind of bacteria is lurking!) However, there are some effective jump scares and creepy imagery for sure. I definitely recommend this film to horror-lovers with a soft spot for dark fairytales!
If you’ve seen this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts too! Feel free to share them in the comment section.
Last weekend, I decided to do something I’d never done before: I saw a movie all by myself. Now, I know that may seem like something really small (I mean, movies are basically just sitting in silence in a dark room – which seems like the perfect solo activity) but this was something I’d always been nervous to do. However, with the release of Jordan Peele’s Us, I really wanted to see it before someone had a chance to slip me some spoilers, so I went out to see it right away!
Here’s the IMDB description of Us: “A family’s serenity turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers begins to terrorize them.”
A lot of people are very excited about Us because of Peele’s directorial debut Get Out (2017). While Get Out was a nearly flawless movie filled with great metaphors about race in America, Us is perhaps too ambitious. While I definitely enjoyed Us, it was much messier from a craft perspective than Get Out. I was entertained as we followed this family, and I loved that this was more of a traditional horror story than Get Out (which some critics still refuse to acknowledge was also horror). Still, there were things that made me feel a bit disappointed in the film overall.
Here are my pros and cons for this movie!
Superb acting from many characters, especially Lupita Nyong’o (even when the dialogue wasn’t doing justice to the acting).
While the plot had many classic horror tropes, it managed to feel like a very fresh take on the genre.
The tension continually increased throughout the movie and there were many twists and turns that kept the plot from slowing down in the middle.
There were a few moments of dark humor that definitely added to the experience.
Some of the symbolism and metaphors were REALLY heavy-handed. Whereas the symbolism and metaphors in Get Out served the larger plot and added an element of social commentary that greatly enhanced the movie, the symbolism and metaphors in Us seemed to be the sole driving force with the plot acting in service to the theme of the movie.
Other metaphors and symbols of the movie weren’t clear enough, which seemed to take a lot of people out of the movie (based on my experience, the experience of several people I know, and the general eavesdropping I did after the movie).
The “twist” at the end added confusion and radically changed how the movie is viewed. While there were elements I liked about the twist (which I don’t want to give away in case you haven’t yet seen the movie), it seemed gimmicky to me. It didn’t make the overall film stronger (the metaphorical parallel drawn between the characters was already clear), but it did leave many scratching their heads and wondering how to literally interpret and explain the feasibility of what they just watched.
Overall, I’m really glad that I watched Us. I think my expectations might have been a bit too high based on how much I loved Get Out, but I’ll absolutely watch whatever Jordan Peele’s next horror movie ends up being…and I’m very excited for his reboot of The Twilight Zone which debuts Monday 4/1.
Have you seen this movie yet? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.
Welcome to 2019! As part of my resolutions for the year, I want to make sure I’m posting a book or movie review every Sunday. While I work on my own writing, I think it’s important for me to continue supporting other writers and creators. First up for the year is a movie review of “Summer of 84” – an excellent horror film that is much heavier towards mystery/suspense than gore.
Here’s the IMDB description: “After suspecting that their police officer neighbor is a serial killer, a group of teenage friends spend their summer spying on him and gathering evidence, but as they get closer to discovering the truth, things get dangerous.”
I found this film through my Shudder subscription, and I’m so glad I did. What we have here is more of a coming-of-age film than anything else. The band of friends who decide to investigate all of the disappearances are a motley crew of boys all trying to find their roles in the world. They’re dealing with the transition of being children and becoming young adults. It reminded me a lot of “Stand By Me” in terms of tone and the style of character development.
As for the plot, it felt more like an adventure with a dark end rather than consistent horror, and that was a refreshing change for the genre. There’s plenty of suspense and a clear mystery to be solved, but the jewel of this movie is the exploration of character rather than antics of the alleged serial killer.
Without revealing too much, I would like to still comment on the ending. I’m of two minds. On the one hand, it seems very fitting. On the other, there was something that felt too resolved and convenient. Of course, I don’t want to spoil anything since I hope anyone reading this review might choose to watch and form their own opinions.
Overall, this was a really great movie that I think will appeal to both horror lovers and non-horror lovers. It’s a great movie for those just starting out in the genre or those who are fans of dark coming-of-age stories.
Happy Halloween! I hope you’re planning something spooky for this evening. Thanks to everyone who has been following along with my 31 Days of Halloween. For this final day, I wanted to discuss Opera, a film by Dario Argento and my favorite movie in the giallo tradition.
IMDB’s Description: “A young opperata is stalked by a deranged fan bent on killing the people associated with her to claim her for himself.”
This year I discovered a new love of a very specific type of horror/thriller film: the giallo. These Italian-made horror flicks blend mystery elements with grisly horror, and I have just been devouring them. Opera has quickly become one of my favorites because of the interesting imagery and unique plot. There are some interesting allusions to The Phantom of the Opera, but don’t expect a grand love story here. Instead, we get to delve deep into the mind of a very twisted murderer trying to recapture something he never truly had.
Thanks again to everyone who followed this blog series! I hope this is a fun, memorable Halloween for you all!
Next up, I plan to return to book reviews for a while – and yes, there will definitely be an emphasis on Christmas books!
I love when horror movies make you question the reality of what you’re seeing. Unreliable main characters can be both frustrating and fascinating as you try to piece together what is going on internally and externally (and whether the two are one and the same). That’s why my penultimate pick for 31 Days of Halloween is They Look Like People.
IMDB’s Description: “Suspecting that people around him are turning into evil creatures, a troubled man questions whether to protect his only friend from an impending war, or from himself.”
This is a movie that I don’t want to say too much about, but I want to encourage everyone to watch it. It’s only about 80 minutes long, but it is fascinating. You’ll spend the whole movie trying to figure out if you should be as skeptical of the main character as the other characters seem to be or if he is the only one who truly understands what is going on. This is another horror movie with a fantastic ending and a surprising amount of emotion.
Day 29 of my 31 Days of Halloween goes to another independent horror film: Witch-Hunt. This is a really interesting movie structured around a game, and at times, the movie itself feels like a game. When something sinister seems to be happening, the characters have to decide if one of them is really a witch. As a viewer, you’ll be playing along from home.
IMDB’s Description: “When five young women gather to play a witch-themed board game, they begin to suspect one of them may actually be a witch.”
I love the interesting structure used in this film. With each round of the game, we learn more about one of the players/characters. This is one movie that, upon finishing, I immediately felt like I needed to watch it again. Sure enough, there were lots of clues and subtle references to what might be going on that I had missed the first time. This movie really isn’t scary, but it’s psychologically interesting. You’ll definitely be wondering if you’re just caught up in the hysteria of witches or if magic really is afoot.
For Day 28 of 31 Days of Halloween, I have selected Hell House LLC, one of the best independent horror movies I have ever seen! This mockumentary-style found-footage film really stands out from others in this genre. It’s tense and creepy but judicious with its use of jump scares. The people who made this film definitely understand that sometimes subtle things a bit out of place are just as unsettling as something jumping out at you.
IMDB’s Description: “Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened.”
I don’t know about you, but I love haunted house attractions. They give you a true adrenaline rush even though you know deep down that everything will be okay. But as I visit haunted houses/theme parks/rides/etc I always wonder how long it would take for someone to recognize a genuine emergency. This film takes that fear and cranks it up to the next level. This movie about a group of people who are creating a haunted house attraction only to find that the fear is a little too real is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a long time.