• Matt Miller

Spooktacular movies you might have missed


This Halloween, we live through a pandemic that we’ve only ever seen before on screen. While it may mean a deficit of tricks and/or treats, there is one silver lining – it’s a perfect excuse to cozy up on the couch and watch some of the finest scary movies. This week, don’t think for yourselves, and instead, watch some of these movies focusing on the most terrifying of cults.

Listen, I’m going to be honest. For as much as I love the classic Hollywood monster, from Dracula and Frankenstein to Freddy and Jason, they don’t personally elicit fear from me. I have never gone to bed worried about Michael Myers (either the slasher or the Shag-a-delic version) being in my closet. Maybe it’s because, logically, I know the odds of a deranged serial murderer chasing me down are slim to none. What is infinitely more terrifying, and not to mention likely, is a fate that befalls many people, especially during times of desperation and loneliness. The threat of losing your individuality and power of free-thought is not some cooked up Hollywood monster, but instead the reality of falling victim to a cult.

Midsommar (2019), available on Amazon Prime

I say this with the utmost respect – I hope director Ari Aster never makes another movie in his life. After making one of the most unsettling horror films of the past decade in Hereditary (also on Netflix), he turned from the demonic occult to make Midsommar, a gorgeously shot look into a secretive real-life cult in northern Sweden. What range! The setup is almost cliché; a group of anthropology students wander far out of cell service to study this isolated group for their master’s thesis, only to be picked off one by one. But don’t let the lack of creative plotting throw you off. Midsommar is really about loss and depression as it follows Dani’s (Florence Pugh) attempt to rebuild her life after losing her family. With this slow burn of a build, Aster accomplishes two impressive feats. First, he makes bright, open daylight foreboding as the whole town can seemingly see your every move. Secondly, he makes us sympathize and even understand why some can fall prey to cult groups in the first place.

The Invitation (2015), available on Netflix

Dinner parties are the worst. We linger in small talk, watch others overindulge in wine, listen to obnoxious opinions, all the while trying our best to find the first polite opportunity to leave. In The Invitation, these tendencies and distrusts are ratcheted up as our hero, Will, is forced into a dinner party with old friends… including his ex-wife and her new husband. To make matters worse, their divorce stemmed from a horrific accident that resulted in their son’s death at that very house. While initially a study in grief and trauma, The Invitation quickly adds a layer of paranoia. Will assumed his ex-wife would be a mess, just like him, but she instead seems happier than ever before. Will’s suspicions grow deeper as he starts to believe she and others have fallen victim to a cult. Is Will going crazy? Why do the others not see what he does? Maybe the guests feel the same as Will, but are more afraid of an even scarier fate: Committing a social faux pas. With a stunning third act, The Invitation truly is the dinner party from hell.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968), available on Amazon Prime.

Having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, Rosemary’s Baby is a classic that should be a horror staple for many more generations to come. Newly pregnant Rosemary Woodhouse is growing increasingly concerned about her neighbours. Originally finding them simply irritating and nosey, she begins to fear their growing interest in her unborn child. Soon she begins to think that they are part of a demonic cult, and that she may be carrying the Antichrist himself. Eschewing gore and violence, Rosemary’s Baby allows us to fully invest in our lead. Many horror films fail to grow female characters, and often dispose of them quickly and unceremoniously. With Rosemary, we instead feel her complete vulnerability as a woman trapped within her own apartment, isolated and pregnant. People begin to treat her differently and she stops becoming an individual, now defined only by what she is carrying inside her. As her child grows, so too does her paranoia. Whether she is correct in her suspicion hardly matters, as this film works incredibly well as a look into the horrors of giving birth and antepartum depression. One of the first ever cult-horror films, Rosemary’s Baby played an important role in giving birth (sorry!) to one of the creepiest subgenres in horror.

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