October Pandemic Viewing Roundup: Finding Catharsis in Horror Films

October 6th, 2020

It’s October again, and Halloween is nigh, though one might argue in 2020, Every Day is Halloween. After all, we live in a world where we must daily don masks, and the bogeyman is undeniably real. So, perhaps it seems counter-intuitive to seek additional scares in our entertainment, though, historically, horror films always prosper during times of universal strife—perhaps in a societal quest for catharsis or simply the reassurance that as bad as reality may seem, horror film characters have it far worse.

So, in that morbid glass-half-full spirit, we here at BTB will share some horror pics we’ve found especially engaging of late:


Inevitably, many of us our hunkering down at home to be safe—but what happens when the danger lies within the walls you live? Such is the case for the protagonists in WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967) and THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976). In the former, Audrey Hepburn is a blind, kickass vigilante protecting herself against violent home invaders, when not submitting to her useless husband (mercifully, his screen time is limited). In the latter, a very young Jodie Foster proves equally resourceful in protecting herself against a chillingly creepy, pedophilic Martin Sheen. And for those of you who prefer darker fare with a lighter touch, I recommend the original 1965 series, THE ADDAMS FAMILY Granted, each episode replays the same one-note joke, but it’s downright therapeutic spending time with this endearingly optimistic clan who not only love and support each other but demonstrate great compassion for the slew of troubled outsiders who, upon entering their kooky abode, are quick to judge and even threaten them. Best of all (unlike real life, alas), justice always prevails. Now, how’s that for spooky? All three are streaming on Prime.


THE EXORCIST (available On Demand): A personal favorite that still scares the bejesus out of me. A young girl is possessed by the devil who compels her to do all sorts of nasty things with religious objects and vomit. The distraught mother, a single parent, abandons conventional medical treatments and turns to a Catholic priest for help. Now that’s a real act of desperation. The film is also an allegory on the loss of faith and the horrors of being an adolescent girl in the modern world.

KLUTE (available On Demand): Another great thriller from the early 1970s. The film stars Jane Fonda  in her first Oscar winning role. She portrays Bree Daniels, a fledgling NYC actress and model who moonlights as a call girl. She finds herself under surveillance by a private detective investigating the disappearance of a businessman. The film is still notable for featuring a complicated, intelligent, fiercely independent female protagonist, the likes of which hadn’t been seen by movie audiences in generations.

LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (available On Demand): This cult classic horror film features genuine scares and a story centered around a compelling female lead. Is emotionally vulnerable Jessica, recently released from a mental institution, right to suspect that the young woman squatting in her recently purchased home is, in fact, a vampire? Or is Jessica merely a neurotic woman succumbing to insanity? I can’t recommend this film enough for viewing during the Halloween season.


I started this month’s horror watch with AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000)—the ultimate depiction of “toxic masculinity run amok,” in Devi’s words. Mary Harron puts us into the twisted mind of Patrick Bateman, who in addition to being a heartless and misogynistic Wall Street suit is also a serial murderer.  We watch him kill lovers, homeless people, and innocent passerby without consequence—all simply because he enjoys the power he has over others. It’s only when he kills a fellow rich white man that anyone bats an eye. Even then, the detective lets him off. His lawyer covers for him despite receiving a full-blown murder confession. This movie is a chilling reminder that in society’s eyes, your humanity is based on your station, not your conduct.

In a similar vein, my second pick is Bong Joon-ho’s SNOWPIERCER (2014), which has haunted me for the past week since I watched it. The last remnants of the human race are trapped on a train circling the Earth after a failed climatic intervention has caused a new Ice Age. The residents of the tail section—the lower-class citizens—stage a coup and attempt to take over the front of the train, where the rich and powerful live. We see the cannibalistic power of the class system, which demands human sacrifice and suffering not just for its destruction, but for its maintenance. This movie is not for the faint of heart, but for those who can stomach it, it’s an amazing story of class struggle that will sink its teeth into you and won’t let go.



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