Writing by Naila Karim
After falling down the black-hole that is Netflix, I’ve discovered a whole bunch of shows that I didn’t even know existed until a few weeks ago. Being the horror obsessed fan that I am, I freaked out when I found this series, and SOMEHOW managed to finish the show within two weeks. In my defence, there are only three seasons. The show is based on the 17th-century witch trials that took place in Salem, except that in this world witches really do exist.
Consisting of everything horror fans dream of, from murder and cannibalism, to sex and mysticism, the show revolves around protagonist Mary Sibley (played by Janet Montgomery) who is introduced to the audience as a peasant in Salem – a place where men rule and women serve. Sibley is fascinated by the world of witches and the power they hold and aspires to be the greatest of them all, even if it means serving the Devil himself. By being a woman in this place and century – she is able to hook the audience into the show. We adore her as a character due to her constant willingness to give the women in town a better name and place; despite her evil ways.
After watching the trailer for Julia Ducournau’s 2016 French horror film Grave (Raw in English) I’ll admit, I thought it looked a bit weird. I only watched the film because of a comment I read under the trailer that talked about how the trailer was poor because it distracted viewers from the great story line in the movie – and I can assure you that this comment was indeed correct. Ducournau successfully presents a typical bond between two sisters, Alexia and protagonist Justine, who attend the same University and face the same struggles. After some seriously crazy hazing rituals that Justine is put through, such as being forced to consume a rabbit’s kidney she begins to fall ill and develop a rash all over her body; symptoms of her developing an urge for human flesh. Now I can see why you might already be grossed out, but to be fair, there are only two scenes of cannibalism in the movie – and they are not bad enough to make you feel sick. The whole beauty of the story is that Justine is not a zombie, vampire or something fictitious – she’s a human being. A teenage girl who just wants to fit in with the rest of the people at her University by partying hard and turning up late to lectures – sound familiar? It’s really a coming of age story where Justine learns about who she really is – in her case, a cannibal.
3. The Silenced
Another international horror that needs some serious attention is The Silenced, a South-Korean film that was released in 2016. The film is set in 1938, Gyeongseong during the Japanese occupation – which is basically when the Japanese ruled Korea at the end of World War Two. Koreans had no real power, even to the point of being forced to use Japanese names. Ju-ran (real name Shizuko) is a sick girl who is literally disposed of by her father and step-mother to a sanatorium girl’s boarding school to help cure her of her Tuberculosis, while they flee to Tokyo. Being the new girl, it’s not surprising that Shizuko has a hard time fitting in with the other girls, and is often bullied. Although she finds herself getting better physically at school, she starts to notice some of the girls go missing and can’t help but feel that the school has something to do with it. The storyline resembles a lot of stories that actually took place during World War Two, (spoiler alert) which consisted of horrible experiments that were practiced on young boys and girls in order to create different types of medicine. The movie’s ending may actually bring you to tears–despite how gruesome it can be–as you finally realize that Shizuko has no way of changing the fate for her peers and herself. Reminding you of all the children who had suffered similarly in real life.
Stoker for me is probably the most relatable horror film on this list – I mean, the protagonist, India Stoker, not the freaky plot! Elegant loner, India Stoker’s world is torn apart when her father dies in a car crash and she is left with her unstable mother (played by Nicole Kidman). India is a girl who prefers to keep to herself and bottle up any emotion, that is until she meets an uncle that she never knew existed at her father’s funeral. India finds herself questioning if everything she thought she knew was a lie, or what other secrets her father may have hidden from her. Unsure of her uncle’s intentions or how to feel towards him, she distances herself, only to find that he is openly intrigued by her. Despite their differences, the bond between them seems to grow as she feeds into the affection that nobody else (except her father) had ever shown her. Despite the strange bond between India and her Uncle, the greatest thing about this story is the fact that India has no idea who she is and that is what it truly means to be a teenager. There are times when her uncle tries to manipulate her purely for the fact that she is a child, only to be outsmarted by her. This is what made it such a unique film. Although India may possibly be a psychopath in the making, the touch of realism is that she has to figure out who she is.
5. The Babadook
Last but not least, The Babadook. This one really gets to me because of the fact that most audiences completely missed the whole point of the film. The story follows a widowed single parent who lives with her young son. After finding a book called “The Babadook”, she finds her son obsessing over “saving” her from the Babadook monster. Long story short, the ending of the film didn’t sit well with a lot of audience members, as it doesn’t show the monster. It makes you wonder what kind of child-minded adults are watching this film? The ending shows the widow going down into the basement where the monster is hidden, the widow places a bowl of food down for it and goes back up stairs to tell her son that the monster is fine. Although many have their own interpretation of the movie, I understood straight away that this monster is a metaphor for the widow’s mental illness. It’s what keeps her up at night, constantly paranoid. It’s a horror outtake on a real-life “scary” subject, mental illness.