Fatman (2020) – Slenderman’s Crappy Cousin

Released: 18th November
Seen: 26th November

When it comes to iconography that must be handled with care, I can’t think of an image more precious than that of Santa Claus. A universal symbol of love and joy, it’s something you have to be careful with especially if you decide to use that imagery in a transgressive manner. If, for example, you plan on making an over the top slasher film like Silent Night, Deadly Night then you had better go all out and make good use of what you’re playing with.

You could also use the image of Santa for comedic value, the evil robot Santa of Futurama is a prime example of a hilarious evil Santa that plays with the iconography in fun interesting ways. One big thing with this is you probably shouldn’t go half assed when you use that kind of imagery because otherwise you just seem like an edgelord instead of being actually edgy in an interesting manner… and that, right there, is the problem with Fatman.

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Honest Thief (2020) – Honestly? Not Great

Released: 22nd October
Seen: 11th November

Honest Thief Info

Can we, as a society, just admit that Liam Neeson action films have become repetitive and stale? Is that a thing that we can collectively do? Hell, let’s be honest, they were getting stale roughly around the third time he played a character who had a member of his family taken. It’s now to the point where you could write a Liam Neeson action film using a madlib form, they all have the same basic plot and only change the minor superficial details. It’s always the same and every time it gets a little bit less interesting and Honest Thief is just another one for the pile.

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Freaky (2020) – Freakishly Fun

Released: 12th November
Seen: 12th November

Freaky Info

In 2017 Christopher Landon brought us the movie Happy Death Day, a movie that asked the very simple question “What if Groundhog Day was a horror film?”. The result was one of the most fun slasher films in recent memory, which was followed up by Happy Death Day 2U which was also a lot of fun. This filmmaker has stumbled upon a great little mini-genre that he is clearly going to milk for all it’s worth… take a classic comedy with a mystical element and turn it into a horror movie. Proof that this works? The joyfully fun film Freaky.

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The Empty Man (2020) – Yep, Empty

Released: 23rd October
Seen: 31st October

The Empty Man Info

The Bye Bye Man
The Snowman
The Slenderman

Movies that begin with The and end in Man in the horror genre have lately filled me with dread lately. With the exception of The Invisible Man, I can’t think of a good film with this combination of words in the title so imagine how I felt seeing the poster for The Empty Man. If you thought I was prepared for a long slow boring film that tried far too hard to be smarter than it was, then you know me far too well… and you also just described the film to a T.

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Evil Eye (2020) – You Made A Fool Of Me

Released: 13th October
Seen: 20th October

The “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series on Amazon Prime has been something of an underwhelming series of films but I want to make one thing clear about the entire concept before we begin this final entry… I genuinely love that Blumhouse looked to four minority groups, mostly women and POC and handed them a budget to make a horror film while casting from underrepresented groups. Even if the films themselves haven’t been great, they’ve all shown how easy it is to make a film with underrepresented groups and some serious potential from the filmmakers, two big things that excite me so much. 

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Nocturne (2020) – Creepy Concerto

Released: 13th October
Seen: 17th October

The term Faustian Bargain dates back to German legends that told the tale of a man named Faust who, while bored, called on the devil and made a deal to give Faust knowledge and magic powers. The Devil, being a swell chap, said “Sure but eventually I’m taking your soul for this” and they made a deal. Well, SURPRISE, turns out the Devil is a bit of a dick and Faust’s powers actually ended up corrupting him as a person and soon he was dead and in hell where he became the Devil’s plaything because that’s what happens when you make a Faustian Bargain. This legend is the basis of many horror stories, including Nocturne which is another entry in the Welcome to the Blumhouse Anthology which is an anthology I’m slowly realising is made up of films that Blumhouse probably didn’t think they could sell to a mainstream cinema market so they threw them on Amazon and hoped for the best.

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The Lie (2020) – Pants On Fire

Released: 6th October
Seen: 17th October

The Lie Info

One of the many repeated tropes of horror that has worked time and time again is “Someone does a murder, they or someone who loves them helps them lie to cover it up, the secret comes back to haunt them in the end”. This simple concept has led to literary classics like The Tell-Tale Heart, to cinematic classics like Rope and even been used in fun 90s slashers like I Know What You Did Last Summer. When done right, it’s a setup that creates tension right off the bat and the way the characters react to the knowledge of what they’ve done (or how what they’ve done turns them into the ultimate victims) creates the emotional core of the story… when done wrong you get The Lie.

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Black Box (2020) – Black Mirror Out

Released: 6th October
Seen: 17th October

In recent years, Blumhouse has become the place to go for a shot of good, fun horror. They’re responsible for intelligent gems like Get Out and Happy Death Day, monster hits like The Purge series and revivals like Halloween all came from this one little studio that is known for giving a lot of freedom to directors who are willing to work with a micro budget. Well, in 2020 they would’ve released a new Halloween and Purge movie by this point in the year but, you know, we live in an apocalypse so we can’t have nice things but what we can have is a quadrilogy of horror films that’s been grouped into a series titled “Welcome to the Blumhouse”. Now I’m aware that there’s apparently 8 films in this series but I only have 4 of them out now to review and I don’t know when the other 4 are meant to come out so I’m going with quadrilogy. Now let’s talk about Black Box.

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Antebellum (2020) – The Horror Of The Past

Released: 1st October
Seen: 7th October

Antebellum Info

In my review of Vampires vs The Bronx I opened with a lengthy paragraph about how great Horror is when it’s used as a metaphor for some kind of social issue. Race is one that pops up a lot in horror, the genre has always been a useful way to put that issue into ways that can be understood by all. If you would like to know more about the history of race in horror cinema I suggest you go watch Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror which is easy to find, Shudder put it up for free and I’m linking you to it so go and learn. Go and learn so then you can come back here and sit with me as I try to understand why Antebellum just didn’t work for me as much as it could’ve.

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Spiral (2020) – Spinning Right Round Baby

Released: 17th September
Seen: 20th September

Spiral Info

When it comes to queer characters as the leads in horror films, I have to admit I can’t come up with many. Nightmare on Elm Street 2 may have put all the gayness into the subtext but it was still there, genuinely groundbreaking for that time (and the subject of a fascinating documentary that I may have reviewed a while ago). Hellbent was a slasher film that made the bold choice to have all the victims and even the main villain be gay men in West Hollywood. Cursed had a gay supporting character, Scream 4 had one character who claimed they were gay (It might’ve been an attempt to not get stabbed, which didn’t work) and that’s where I run out of films (I know there’s more, damned if I can name them). They’re certainly never really pushed by any big companies or made mainstream, so for Shudder to make a horror movie about a gay couple and link the story explicitly to the gay experience is pretty awesome and the film is… good.

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