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Case Studies Guest Posts

The Brood (dir. David Cronenberg, 1979)

“Contrary to popular (mis)conception, great horror doesn’t often come from trying to evoke fear from viewers. The audience is a vague, nebulous concept, and trying to pin down their fears is like trying to capture smoke. It’s an effort that leads down the same lowest common denominator path as blockbuster horror cinema, full to the brim with the few things that can elicit a physical response from pretty much anyone — jump scares and loud noises. Technically speaking, it’s not an entirely ineffective strategy, but it’s not one that is likely to stay in viewers’ minds for long after the credits roll. What David Cronenberg understands is that horror’s greatest successes can be found in the specific, not the universal. Great horror finds a person or a group, extrapolates their worst fears, and confronts that character with those fears, and with the entire dissolution of everything they consider to be safe and right. Fear doesn’t often come from seeing characters afraid, but from seeing them angry, desperate, driven to madness by grief, at the mercy of their own circumstances. Cronenberg pulls this off with style in The Fly and Dead Ringers, but it’s in The Brood that we see this approach to horror at its most intimate. Cronenberg chooses for his study Frank Carveth (Art Hindle), a man facing similar agonies to the director himself circa 1979 — separated from his wife, negotiating the details of what a permanent separation might mean, and staring down the barrel of a potentially agonizing custody arrangement — and tunnelling directly to the heart of his insecurities.”

For our full review of David Cronenberg’s The Brood, head over to In Review: Online’s Kicking the Canon series. Click here!

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Guest Posts

The Jewish Book of Horror

It’s here!

Proud to announce the release of THE JEWISH BOOK OF HORROR from Denver Horror Collective, a truly fantastic anthology featuring twenty-two new, original stories of Jewish horror.

This is a project that I’ve been involved with for a while now, and I’m so grateful to the wonderful folks at DHC (in particular, editor Josh Schlossberg, one of the sweetest guys in horror) for letting me write an introduction to these fabulous stories, giving readers a brief primer on the basics of Jewish horror and discussing where this under-appreciated sub-genre might lead us.

You can pick up The Jewish Book of Horror pretty much anywhere good books are sold, including at Amazon (global) and Waterstones (UK).

If the book alone simply isn’t enough for you, a bunch of us got together via Zoom on the first night of Hanukkah this year to do a bit of community education, in the form of JEWISH HORROR 101.

The lovely folks at DHC were kind enough to immortalise the evening on YouTube, so if you’d like to hear myself and several other contributors to the book talking about dybbuks, Lilith, golems, and all other kinds of weird and wonderful inventions, check out the video below!

(psst – if you want to skip to my bit on Lilith, it starts at the timestamp 28:08)

Categories
Case Studies Guest Posts

Andy Nyman & Jeremy Dyson’s Ghost Stories

‘February 1986. The playwright Tom Stoppard has organised a demonstration in support of the Jewish refuseniks trapped in Russia without human rights or means of leaving. The demonstration, taking place in front of London’s National Theatre, involves various actors, celebrities, and activists reading a roll call of the names of over 10,000 Jewish dissidents. One of these actors was Andy Nyman… as a student, his time slot to speak was dependent on the schedules of bigger names and subject to frequent change. So imagine his surprise when, during his turn at the podium, out of the 10,000 names, Nyman reads his own.

24 years later, in 2010, Nyman stars in Ghost Stories, a play co-written with Jeremy Dyson and the first successful horror play to grace the West End since The Woman in Black. The play, taking the form of a lecture by parapsychologist and sceptic Professor Philip Goodman (played by Nyman), contains three ghost stories collected by the professor – from a night watchman, a teenager, and a businessman on the verge of fatherhood.’

Jewish Horror Review are once again moonlighting at JewTh!nk, this time to write about Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s Ghost Stories. Check out the full article by pressing the button below!

Categories
Guest Posts The Canon

British-Jewish Horror

Since its birth as a genre, horror films have been preoccupied with religion and why not? The ritual, dramatic iconography, and terrifying promises of punishment in fiery pits for sinners to be found in Christianity are the perfect fuel for horror.

However, if you’ve ever wondered where the non-Christian entries into the British horror canon can be found, you’ve come to the right place. This week, we headed over to JewTh!nk to explore six films that fall into the niche-within-a-niche of British-Jewish Horror.

Categories
Case Studies Guest Posts

The Vigil (dir. Keith Thomas, 2020)

“Since the birth of the horror genre, especially its occult and supernatural sub-genres, Christianity has had the market fairly cornered. Rife with ubiquitous symbolism and substantial lore to draw upon, horror writers have had plenty to keep them occupied, with the devil and exorcisms being only the tip of the iceberg. Even when writers don’t engage with the religion behind the imagery, allusions are typically enough, with theology twisted to fit whatever the horror demands. Unfortunately, these religious horror films often run screaming down the same well-traveled road: a white, middle-class family is set upon by a demon, who is subsequently vanquished by the unshakable power of white Christian faith. It’s a blueprint that The Exorcist established so well that few have bothered to alter it in any meaningful way. Into this stale subgenre comes writer-director Keith Thomas and his film The Vigil, a 90-minute chamber horror following Yakov, a young man who has abandoned his Orthodox Jewish community and lost his social safety net. Exiled and struggling with his new life, Yakov agrees to serve as a shomer, a spiritual role that involves staying with a deceased person’s body and reciting prayers the evening before their burial. While the job seems at first to be a godsend, the night quickly takes a dark turn, forcing him to confront the trauma that made him leave his community in the first place.”

Read our full analysis of The Vigil at In Review: Online