Retrospective Spotlight: Halloween Horror

Halloween is just around the corner, along with tricks and treats galore. Here are some horror films on Netflix to help you and your friends celebrate spooky season.

“The Babadook”
Author: Ashley Chen, Senior Staff Writer
Spooky Rating: 8/10

“The Babadook” is a slow-burn type of horror, focusing its narrative on a worn-down single mother, Amelia Valek (Essie Davis), who attempts to raise her temperamental child while still gripped with the trauma of her husband’s death seven years prior. She gradually devolves into hysteria, unable to move past her troubles and misfortunes of desolation and sorrow. Yet circumstances only turn darker when her son finds a mysterious children’s book and asks her to read it one night. Titled “Mister Babadook,” the storybook features a shadowy, pale-faced figure with spiky fingers, a gaped mouth, and a top hat. Now if this creature’s appearance isn’t disturbing enough, its actions definitely are. Known as the Babadook, it physically and psychologically torments its victims into madness after they become aware of his existence. The film not only depends on a titular monster for terrifying aspects, but also uses a theme of ambiguity to unnerve viewers. It leaves the audience pondering: Was the Babadook actually real or was he a hallucinatory symbol of Amelia’s psychological plight?

On a surface level, this movie depicts a battle with a supernatural force, but on a deeper level, it is really a battle within one’s psyche in order to overcome life’s overwhelming sadness. Stalking Amelia to the brink of mental deterioration, the Babadook manifests and mimics how depression can consume a person’s well-being. The film carries frightening implications on how misunderstood resentment and lingering grief can lead to unhealthy cognitive decay. Though this topic is heavy in comparison to other horror films’, “The Babadook” is worth a watch this Halloween season, as it showcases genuinely potent emotions of vulnerability and fear.

“Last Shift”
Author: Chris Robertson, Editor In Chief
Spooky Rating: 7.5/10

What starts as a tedious position for rookie cop, Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy), devolves into a debilitating night of psychological trauma and bloodshed in the 2014 horror flick, “Last Shift.” Charged with covering the graveyard shift at a soon-to-be-closed police precinct, Jessica awaits the chronically late HAZMAT team to dispose of some biohazard evidence samples. As her thoughts bob between the terrible ennui of her job and memories of her deceased father, she finds that her mind might not be the only thing wandering in this desolate station. Visions of bloody-faced ghosts and stories of strange occult activities convince the young police officer that her shift will not go as smoothly as she had hoped.

The transition from depictions of a mundane routine to supernatural frenzy is happens slowly. The police station is plenty spooky; the halls are isolated except for few prerequisite flickering light bulbs but nothing suggests that this late-night shift would derail into such a twisted ending. A mentally ill prisoner urinating in the halls and some frantic phone calls set the film on edge early on, unnerving and promising, but nothing traumatizing. When chairs arrange themselves and apparitions of dead prisoners taunt the officer, the movie starts to leave its mark.

This whole movie is a gradual accumulation of horror, a slight deviation from the growingly-popular slow burn of recent flicks. Rather than maintaining a constant level of tension, “Last Shift” stacks on layers of fear as the layers of the plot unfurl. The special effects become more grotesque, the score becomes more frantic, and the direction becomes more erratic. Each of these subtle components culminate in a psychologically staggering movie that promises to shift the way slow burn movies realize their horrific aims.

“It Follows” 
Author: Ashley Chen, Senior Staff Writer
Spooky Rating: 9/10

At first, “It Follows” seems like it’s set up to be a teen horror flick, but it couldn’t be far from that sophomoric genre. Instead, its eerie tone and beautiful cinematography deserve praise as a modern horror classic, making it ideal for this upcoming Halloween.

Set in a nameless suburb during a modern-day time period, the movie’s atmosphere is already unsettling and disorienting. When Jay Height (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her new boyfriend, he afflicts her with a supernatural curse passed only through intercourse. Unless she sleeps and gives the curse to someone else, a shape-shifting entity will eternally stalk her, eventually killing her. Then, like a domino effect, the curse goes down the line and haunts every preceding person who had passed it on. Initially, it feels like a cautionary tale against carelessly sleeping with strangers, but it is more than just an allegory about promiscuity. The film insinuates a grim fear of mortality, suggesting that an impending adulthood and loss of youth is more ominous than anything. Our characters must live forever with uncertain dread, knowing that — like the creature — death is slowly and unavoidably lurking.

The creature of the film is also terrifying. This movie thrives on paranoia, as “it” can take on anyone’s appearance, which makes every random face in the crowd threatening and suspicious. There are shocking moments as “it” takes on explicit and gory forms to persistently chase after Jay and her friends. Every room she enters makes viewers hold their breaths because she could be driven into an inescapable corner. The backgrounds of empty space within the film are purposeful, as they integrate a sense of vulnerability. Jay is constantly on the run because no place is safe, and this dangerous predicament and sense of fear exudes off the screen. “It Follows” has the best ingredients to concoct a creepy narrative, sending chills down viewers spines and leaving an uneasy foreboding long after finishing the film.

Image courtesy of IMDb