It’s October again, which means it’s time to talk some horror. While I love standard horror favorites like “Friday the 13th” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, I’ll use this chance to talk about some movies that work well with the genre while expanding it into new character-based stories. Perhaps because of that, some of these did not do as well as the box office or are not as revered as other horror films.
So let’s get to it!
The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
Available on Amazon Prime
Starring: Richard Gere and Laura Linney
Directed by: Mark Pellington
I was 12 years old when I first watched “The Mothman Prophecies,” a movie about a West Virginia folk tale framed as an account “based on true events.” At this point, there’s enough internet stuff to know that this “true events” claim, which is what freaked me out the most on first watch, is slim at best. There’s not really a lot of reality here besides some true accounts of people and a very real tragedy inspired a screenwriter to tell a story about a fictitious character doing some fictitious things. The Mothman is an actual myth in West Virginia, but it is definitely sillier than it is portrayed in the film. There is even an annual “Mothman Festival” there, so make of that what you will.
“The Mothman Prophecies” is the kind of film that slipped under the radar back when it first came out (I was surprised to see it was not successful at the box office upon its release) but that I wish would be watched more by modern audiences. If you’re looking for some nuance in your horror film and, above all, a lesson of how you can create a scary environment and mood without relying on jump scares, look no further than “The Mothman Prophecies”. You’ll be surprised on how great it is.
The Others (1993)
Available on Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu
Starring: Nicole Kidman and Fionnula Flanagan
Directed by: Alejandro Amenábar
Despite being a fantastic film and a box office success, “The Others” is a film that I rarely hear people talk about. It’s one of the (seemingly) few cases where the horror genre is used as an excuse to tackle issues like mental illness or isolation, and where a scary atmosphere is present despite a low or nonexistent body count.
“The Others” is a “haunted house” movie set in 1945 about a family going through severe isolation and post-war paranoia, but it packs in a lot more than that. It’s about a mother struggling with an absent husband and a fear for the safety of her children that leads to her probably imagining them having diseases to keep them at home and isolated from the rest of the world.
“The Others” is a fantastic film that’s bound to appeal horror fans and regular audiences due to its perfect balance of character work and scares. It works on both levels, and it can be seen both as a drama and as a horror film.
The Visit (2015)
Available on for purchase on YouTube or Amazon Prime
Starring: Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
It’s 2020, so I would hope that, by this point, people have gotten over the “Shyamalan is the worst director ever” phase and come to realize that he had a negative streak but has since recovered from it and gone on to make some great movies, one of which is 2015’s “The Visit”. This is a small film, both in scale and budget, that Shyalaman used to tackle, in his own sense and style, the “found footage” subgenre by the time we were all fed up by it (mostly due to how tired we felt of feeling nauseous for two hours only to end up on a situation where all the characters die off-screen).
The subgenre was tired, but Shyalaman wasn’t. Thus, he took found footage and made it his own by having oddball teenagers (the age group being more likely to film everything they do) be the protagonists. Perhaps most importantly, he used it as the means to bring out some very fun characters shown through a cinematography that is far from nausea-inducing, but actually pretty well done. The film is somewhat creepy at times, but it’s also quite funny (something Shyalaman is quite good at), so it takes its place among some of the best horror comedies of the decade.
Instead of being about the body count, the film is about teenagers dealing with abandonment and loss, which is a great thing because we’re not just afraid for them because they’re… well, people, but because they’re people we’ve come to care about and we can relate to in some way or the other.
This was Shyalaman’s comeback film. So let’s go back and rewatch it.