August. The end of summer approaches. The beginning of the school year a shadow darkening everything we do. The last short weeks before the real world begins again. No matter how many BBQs we attend or rivers we kayak, the ever-looming threat of reality continues to bear down upon us. The least we can do is rack up a solid body count before September hits!
August’s horror offerings are a delightful swath of unique subgenres, no one movie having the same feel as any other on this list. It’s a month where there’s something for everyone, from ghosts to sharks, over-protective daddies to murderous families, and more. Steel yourselves, horror lovers, because August is bringing the goods.
1. ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ – August 9
Subgenre: “Maybe We Should Read Something Else Tonight, Timmy” Horror
Official Synopsis: It’s 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind…but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities is the small town of Mill Valley where for generations the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large. It was in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories written in a book that has transcended time—stories that have a way of becoming all too real for a group of teenagers who discover Sarah’s terrifying tome.
Why You Should Check It Out: Based on the controversial books that were banned from school libraries across the United States (but were beloved staples to ’80s and early ’90s kids), this movie is produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by André Øvredal, who brought us the fantastic films Troll Hunter and The Autopsy of Jane Doe. The original books, and specifically the illustrations by Stephen Gammell, became the very stuff of nightmares for an entire generation. That these stories and their visuals have lived on for decades is a testament to the efficacy of horror aimed at children. And since it’s PG-13, there’s no reason that parents who grew up with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark can’t bring their kids and scar them for life!
Hey, I never said I was a good person.
2. ’47 Meters Down: Uncaged’– August 16
Subgenre: “Mommy Shark, Do Do Do Do!” Horror
Official Synopsis: The film follows the story of four teenage girls diving in a ruined underwater city who quickly find themselves in a watery hell. Their fun outing turns into heart-stopping fear when they learn they are not alone in the submerged caves. As they swim deeper into the claustrophobic underwater labyrinth they enter the territory of the deadliest shark species in the ocean.
Why You Should Check It Out: The first 47 Meters Down was a surprise hit that offered intense water-based terror for those missing the days of Deep Blue Sea and Open Water. The sequel comes from the same director and looks like it will offer the same kind of aquatic suspense but will combine it with claustrophobic environments similar to The Descent. If summer is the season to go swimming, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is the movie that’ll make you stick close to shore.
3. ‘Tigers Are Not Afraid’– August 23
Subgenre: “Oh, So We’re Gonna Cry Today?” Horror
Official Synopsis: Ten-year-old Estrella is one of the thousands of orphans of drug cartel violence, but she alone is given a unique chance to rewrite her destiny when she is granted three magic wishes. Will she wish death on the cartel killers who hunt her and her street cohorts? Or wish for justice for her murdered parents? Her choice, unfortunately, is made by her aching grief: Estrella wishes for the return of her dead mother…and gets exactly that.
Why You Should Check It Out: When you have people like Guillermo del Toro and Stephen King lauding a movie, you should really take notice. There’s a reason that Tigers are Not Afraid has been stunning the festival circuit since last year and that’s due to a tightly woven story that is as heartbreaking as it is unsettling. I stated in my own review that it will be, “…spoken of in the same breath as The Orphanage and Pan’s Labyrinth…” Issa López brilliantly directs this stunning feature and I have no qualms making it the “must-see” film on this list. It’s getting a limited theatrical release before hitting horror streaming service Shudder, so get on it. Immediately.
4. ‘Ready or Not’– August 23
Subgenre: “Don’t Reenact This At Home” Horror
Official Synopsis: Follows a young bride as she joins her new husband’s rich, eccentric family in a time-honored tradition that turns into a lethal game with everyone fighting for their survival.
Why You Should Check It Out: Call me a misanthrope but rich people killing rich people is kinda okay in my book, especially when they bring it on themselves. Rumors out of Fantasia, where the film had its world premiere, is that Ready or Not is tight, exhilarating, and a damn good time. Throw in the electrifying Samara Weaving (Ash vs Evil Dead, Mayhem) and have it directed by Radio Silent (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) and you’ve got the makings of a socio-economic horror that could be as witty as it is bloody.
5. ‘Freaks’– August 23
Subgenre: “Why Can’t Kids Just Listen?” Horror
Official Synopsis: Kept locked inside the house by her father, seven-year-old Chloe lives in fear and fascination of the outside world, where Abnormals create a constant threat – or so she believes. When a mysterious stranger offers her a glimpse of what’s really happening outside, Chloe soon finds that while the truth isn’t so simple, the danger is very real.
Why You Should Check It Out: Freaks has been playing the festival circuit for well over a year and every screening sees critical praise galore. With a stellar cast that features Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, and a phenomenal performance by child actress Lexy Kolker, this post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller is hailed as complex, emotionally terrifying, and extremely engrossing. If you enjoy dwelling upon a movie for hours, possibly days, after seeing it, Freaks is right up your alley.