Welcome to our (pseudo) monthly look back at the horror and horror-adjacent films and series we enjoyed over the previous month. I have to fully admit that January was a bit of a rough month. There was only time to take in a handful of new material, and roughly half of what I watched was, quite literally, considered nothing to write about. However, there were a few gems worthy of your time:
Gaia (2021 – Hulu)
Both this film and In The Earth where staring at me from my Hulu list for months before I pretty much flipped a coin on which one to watch first. Both films fall squarely into the new wave of ecological-based horror, and despite their obvious differences they are probably going to be linked in my mind for all eternity. Gaia is a South African production that centers around two forestry rangers sent into the wilds to check on trail cameras and take drone footage. When their drone goes down and they attempt to retrieve it they are met by a rogue scientist and his adult son who are living completely cut off from society. What ensues is nothing short of a taut psychological thriller with a truly bizarre, supernatural twist. Like a lot of indie horror over the last decade this film takes its ulterior message – in this case humanity’s destruction of the environment – and beats you over the head with it. Some of the nuance this film attempts to maintain is often quickly obliterated, yet it still manages to have some powerful moments. (There’s a particular monologue the father delivers that’s one of the best I’ve seen in a horror film in some time.) The supernatural elements were also well done from a cinematography standpoint, especially what befalls our two unsuspecting rangers. I’ll ding this film for being somewhat predictable as it played out, but it gets bonus points for its special effects and some excellent acting performances.
Rating (Out of 10): 7.5
The Dark and The Wicked (2020 – Shudder)
The Dark and The Wicked tells the story of two adult siblings who are called home to their family farm in Texas when their father falls deathly ill. Worried that their elderly mother can’t manage both their father and the farm (which, of course, raises goats) the two siblings are shocked when their mother is not only cold with them, but begs them to leave. They find out pretty quickly why and spend the rest of the film coming to terms with the wholly evil, supernatural malevolence that has overcome their familial home. If there is a knock to be had on The Dark and The Wicked it’s that there is very little actual story to this film. The whole thing felt more like a series of scenes meant to scare the crap out of you, strung together with some inane dialogue loosely connecting them. The vast majority of horror films (hell, films in general) can’t and don’t survive this type of storytelling, or lack thereof. However, The Dark and The Wicked are one of the few exceptions. There were a handful of scenes that are extremely memorable and absolutely worth the price of admission alone. While the film drags through those times when it’s trying to get from one scare to the next, when you do arrive at the next scare the juice is usually worth the squeeze. When I look back on the 2020s would I ever put this film on a list of the best horror of the decade. No, however, if you’re looking for a film that will entertain and be fodder for searching up certain scenes to re-watch on YouTube then you could do a lot worse than this one.
Station Eleven (2021 – HBO Max)
I would in no way describe Station Eleven as ‘horror’ but this post-apocalyptic dystopian drama has enough horror and sci-fi elements that I’m including it here. (Plus it was such a mid month for my horror movie intake I really feel I owe you one more thing that I loved this past month dear reader.) Station Eleven is based off the novel of the same name and is set in a future world where humanity is almost wiped off the map by a deadly flu virus (uh oh). It tells the story of a troupe of traveling actors and musicians who encounter a dangerous cult and where that encounter leads them all. The miniseries takes some liberties with the source material, (especially in how the cult leader and his mother are portrayed) most likely in an effort to make the series more accessible, and that could be considered nothing short of problematic for fans of the novel. However, if you’re like me and never read the book (or you pull what I call “The Shining” and view the book and the series as completely different entities) you can blissfully move past that. Hopping between present day and flashbacks to various time periods for various characters the series is able to maintain a solid veil of mystery over its biggest reveals, all while giving the viewer a sort of Lost vibe in the way things are being pieced together. The writing and the acting in this series are phenomenal and the portrayals of a world collapsing under the weight of an uncontrollable virus are timely in the most ungodly sense. It all felt very raw and even a little too realistic at times. (Which great horror can sometimes do.) I was enamored with this show from episode one, and had no problem binging this over three nights. It was one of those thought-provoking series that left me contemplating the previous night’s episodes the entire day after. One word to the wise though, if you haven’t read the book do not go searching for a plot synopsis after you’ve watched the series. It may seriously take some of the shine off the series.