October 2020: A Month in Horror

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Halloween season came upon us, and here is a smattering of what we saw…

Monster imagery turned up in an unusual place this month when Luciano Garbati’s sculpture Medusa With the Head of Perseus, which dates from 2008, was installed across the road from the courthouses of Lower Manhattan’s Center Street. The statue has provoked much debate as to how well it succeeds as a post-MeToo feminist statement, but it undeniably makes a pretty awesome Halloween decoration.

October brought with it the traditional surge in horrific film and television, despite the pandemic. One of the biggest releases for the horror genre was the Netflix series The Haunting of Bly Manor, a spiritual successor to the earlier Haunting of Hill House – although, where that series was adapted from a story by Shirley Jackson, this one takes its cue from Henry James.

Another prominent release this month was Saint Maud, the debut feature of writer-director Rose Glass, which previously had a limited run back in July but went on wide release in time for Halloween. With a glimmering 96% at Rotten Tomatoes the film clearly went down a treat with critics, but it remains to be seen just how much Saint Maud’s chance with audiences has been scuppered by the pandemic disruptions.

For those with a taste for family-friendly horror, Robert Zemeckis’ The Witches was released. It was adapted from the novel by Roald Dahl and has invited fairly heated social media discourse over its divergence from the 1990 film version – which was itself criticised in its time for changing the end to Dahl’s story.

Another witchy favourite from the nineties to be revisited this year was The Craft, which received a sequel in The Craft: Legacy courtesy of writer-director Zoey Lister-Jones. Reviews have been middling; and rather intriguingly, much of the discussion I’ve witnessed online has focused on how the film captured contemporary teenage vernacular.

The shortlist for the British Fantasy Awards was announced; contenders for the horror category (known as the August Derleth Award) are Stephen King’s The Institute, Helen Marshall’s The Migration, Alison Littlewood’s Mistletoe, James Brogden’s The Plague Stones, Adam Nevill’s The Reddening and T. Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones. In other award news, the inaugural Ignyte Awards recognised some horror-adjacent work, including Rebecca Roanhorse’s ghost story “A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy”.

There were other events across the horror scene, of course, too many to fit into a humble round-up post; but the above forms a pretty broad cross-section. Until next time, happy Halloween!

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