What We’re Watching: Spooky Edition


What We’ve been watching this spooky season—just add hot cider and phoebe bridgers. 

INTRO BY LIZZIE RACKLIN

FEATURING WRITINGS FROM: lizzie racklin, Alex bush, and natalie duerr


10.20.2021

Ah, fall. Should you celebrate Christian Girl Autumn with a mug of hot cider on your windowsill? Or should you lean into the cold embrace of everything sinister and, yes, spooky? Should you buy a leaf-embroidered flannel blanket from CVS that you’ll throw out in December? Or should you listen exclusively to Phoebe Bridgers and download a spellbook PDF that you’ll... delete in December? Some say you can do both. Here’s what we’ve been watching this autumn.
                                                                                                                           

By Lizzie Racklin

Lizzie watched...


Death Becomes Her




A cult-favorite dark comedy, this movie doesn’t shy away from its bone-cracking, skin-peeling dissection of aging, beauty, and gender. Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn play two women grasping to maintain their beauty and youth, games they know they’re not meant to win and must go beyond botox-based solutions to transcend. When an immortalizing potion renders them unkillable, they go on to “kill” each other several times, resulting in a kind of body horror that’s more kooky and spectacular than grotesque and disturbing. Wrists snap, gunshots blast through stomachs, and appendages rotate in directions they’re really not supposed to. The upkeep of these damaged yet immortal bodies binds the sworn enemies together. They’re also fighting over Bruce Willis and, yeah, he’s there too, but mainly we’re here for the mean glamorous dead women.

The Twilight ZonE




Chock full of Mid-Atlantic accents, The Twilight Zone, from its 1959 origins to its later iterations, is the uncanny incarnate. Ordinary people experience the extraordinary as it seeps into their lives, rendering the familiar eerie and unknown. The threatening aura of dreams and death haunt every episode, weaving a questioning of reality into the everyday. This questioning is part of the goal—Rod Serling and the other writers used science fiction to comment on their contemporary society and critiqued phenomena like McCarthyism and nuclear war. The first episode, “Where is Everybody?”, embodies this strange unreality of our world and opens with Serling’s telling narration: “The place is here, the time is now, and the journey into the shadows that we’re about to watch could be our journey.”

“The Ghost in Suite 613,” Suite Life of Zack and Cody




Nothing has been scarier since this and those YouTube videos where it was just a hallway for two minutes and then some terrifying zombie face would pop up.
The things I’ve seen.


Alex watched...


Suspiria 1977




Lurid to its cracking bone, Dario Argento’s technicolor feast has an almost childlike love of artifice, leaning into the bright and beautiful at each turn. The bloody fairy tale, partially inspired in both narrative and tone by Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, follows a young dancer who discovers something insidious about her teachers after the gruesome murders of her peers. Like any great children’s film, Suspiria entertains at any depth of engagement. Throw it on a projector at your Halloween party and have your vibes covered with its bursting palate and sickening Goblin score. Or lock the door, plug in your biggest headphones, and surrender to its witchcraft.

Suspiria 2018




As the fable goes, director Luca Guadanigno (Call Me By Your Name, We Are Who We Are) was twelve when he became traumatically transfixed by Argento’s Suspiria. His deeply burrowed obsession is exorcised in a film that trafficks the same themes with a more carnal gravitas. What starts as an exorcism becomes a conjuring as the physical and the psychic first wrestle, then fuse. This is best explored in the film’s most demented sequence, where Suzie’s (Dakota Johnson at her best) performance of the company’s most spiritual dance simultaneously functions as a voodoo practice. A competing dancer is strewn across a mirror-boxed room directly below with each twist and kick until finally becoming a grotesque, bleeding ragdoll. Gone is the safety of a distanced portraiture, but fall under the spell cast in the hypnotic gazes of Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson and you too might believe their argument: all this violence is necessary to grasp the totality of our divinity.

Natalie watched...


What We Do in the Shadows





If you Google this title, you might wonder, am I recommending the television show or the film? The answer is both! Horror is not my thing, but Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi concocted a smart and charming mockumentary that follows vampires living in the present. Instead of repeating high school over and over again for the rest of their undying lives (sorry Twilight, I would never), the vampires of What We Do in the Shadows are still trying to catch up to modern sensibilities. Perhaps my favorite joke of the entire concept is when one character gets an email cursing them to be killed by Bloody Mary. Thinking the curse is indeed real and not a chain email prank, they frantically try to gather ten different email addresses to save themselves (season 2, episode 4—you’re welcome). I don’t have any particular recommendation on which order to watch, but if you’re looking for some gutless, non-jump scare spooky media this Halloween, look no further.

The Exorcist 1973




This movie has haunted me since I watched it in February 2020—maybe because I had to watch it three times in one week for class, or maybe because it’s just terrifying. Whatever the truth is, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is disturbing and a significant entry into the horror genre. The film follows the possession of twelve-year-old Regan and her mother’s attempt to get her  back. The stunts and effects might look outdated, but the film is still such an assault on the senses that it doesn’t even matter. That one frame of Pazuzu—it’s just a woman painted white, why is it so scary?—still flashes behind my eyelids. While I haven’t watched this film since that fateful week in February, it feels like I watched it just yesterday.