Although it is true that our fears often thrive in the dark, the bright of day is no more a refuge than the darkest pit of midnight. In fact, it is the lengthening of our days that makes the shadows that much more potent: the promise of punctuated violence in the horror of the black. From the torments of motherhood to the unchecked growth of nature to the sun dappled plains of Texas, the daytime holds horrors enough for our imaginations to run wild with.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The gentility of the Southern states has long held plain-sighted terror for those of us treading water just North of them. You see it all the time in this genre: Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), Wrong Turn (2003), Antebellum (2020). None of these have ever come close to dethroning the granddaddy of the slasher movie as the prototypical southern-fried horror movie. While it’s true that the grisly title does most of the heavy lifting in this horror movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, however tame it may seem today, leaves one Hell of an impression on those who are brave enough to seek it out. Smartly written, ably performed and with plenty going on in the margins to flesh out its lean narrative frame, this is ground zero for modern horror.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi is something of a favorite subject of mine these days, right up there with the likes of Nicholas Cage; with plenty of new and exciting projects in the works for both men after a fallow period in the limelight, it’s only n natural to go back to where they began. And while Cage’s insane mid-90s run as an action headliner is certainly the genesis of his star persona, Raimi goes back quite a bit further. His breakout genre hit, The Evil Dead, is a madcap horror-comedy whose frenetic back-and-forth between Three Stooges and Stewart Gordon has never been equaled by another filmmaker even forty years later.
Like a lot of Shudder devotees I would imagine, I’m not exactly the trailblazing, outdoorsy type. My summers have always been spent indoors and airconditioned, preferably with a couple of great movies to keep me company and a bucket of butter-blasted popcorn. While I’ve always preferred my J-horror more in line with Pulse (2001) or Ju-On (2002), I’d be lying if I said that Ring’s techno-terror didn’t strike directly at my heart. That particular blend of repulsive imagery and compelling horror is exactly what has always drawn me to the genre in the first place. And when it comes to J-horror, nothing hits that sweet-spot quite so perfectly as this late-nineties masterclass in terror.
Goodnight Mommy (2014)
For many, pregnancy is a blessing and motherhood a lifelong joy. For others, however, it is a source of perpetual fear, anxiety and outright body horror. A well-worn topic in the horror genre – covered in classics such as The Bad Seed (1956), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and It’s Alive (1984) – motherhood has always stood on the razor’s edge of euphoria and unease. Few movies have ever captured that dual quality of motherhood half so well as this Austrian entry from directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz. The story of two boys convinced that their mother is some kind of doppelganger, it provides a nuanced perspective to the more usual depictions of motherhood in our media.
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021) – A perfect entry-point to the shockingly dense world of folk horror, this documentary exhaustively documents everything that you need to know when getting into the subgenre: from the “big three” foundational texts to the innumerable avenues into which they have spilled over the years. And thankfully Shudder has plenty of the films mentioned therein to get you started as well, all perfectly suited to the bright of the long days to come. And when I say exhaustive, I mean it: over three hours stuffed to the brim analysis and recommendations, from the most commonplace to the most obscure. It’s a sort of syllabus that will keep you with a fully stocked movie queue for years to come.