Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.
While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.
Surprisingly, Annabelle: Creation, the prequel/sequel to the prequel/sequel of the first Conjuring movie, turned out to be quite the scary movie, despite itself. For a film that had to accomplish the bare minimum to appease its fans, it was an unexpectedly cine-literate, atmospheric exercise in slow-burn horror movie-making.
Of course, despite being the best film in the Conjuring universe (full disclosure: I am not a fan), it is by no stretch of the imagination the best film of its kind. It isn’t even the horror film of the year - that honour goes to Get Out. But not to worry! There is always something better to watch. And as a bonus column this week, here are 5 modern horror films whose imprint can be seen in Annabelle: Creation.
You will notice that this list predominantly comprises Gothic horror movies, set in a haunted house, a house with creaking floorboards and monsters in its closets. That’s the sort of film Annabelle: Creation is, and these are the films most like it. The Orphanage is perhaps the best of the lot - quietly terrifying, with characters in peril that you actually care about, and an emotional story to connect all the jump scares. It propelled director JA Bayona’s career to terrific heights - he is currently wrapping up Jurassic World 2, for which he was hired because they wanted to ramp up the horror elements.
More than a horror film, Julia’s Eyes is a first-rate thriller. But that’s somehow better; there are fewer jump scares (Hallelujah!), more attention to the plot and characters, and an atmosphere thick with dread.
As far as twist endings go, the one in The Others remains, to this day, one of the finest. Now, this is perhaps a spoiler in itself, but discussing Alejandro Amenabar’s film without mentioning its landmark ending is like talking about Annabelle without mentioning the doll. Like most Spanish horror films, The Others relies heavily on atmosphere, and dread. It isn’t what you see that scares you, it’s what you don’t.
The Devil’s Backbone
It’s no surprise that Guillermo del Toro calls The Devil’s Backbone his most personal film. There is something almost artisanal about this story of a group of orphans living in a crumbling old house during the twilight of the Spanish Civil War. And what about that lonely missile that stands, unexploded, in the courtyard? What of the legends that surround it and what about the boy who went missing the day the bomb was dropped?
Don’t be Afraid of the Dark
There’s a reason we’ve chosen the 2010 remake over the obscure, 1973 made-for-TV film of the same name: Guillermo del Toro. While the maestro didn’t direct this movie, his stamp is all over it. He co-wrote and produced the movie for debutant director Troy Nixey. Don’t be Afraid of the Dark has everything fans of good Gothic horror want: A creepy old house, a child in peril, shadowy monsters, and the ghosts of the past.