In a regular year, August would be what’s known as a “dump month,” something I’ve written about before. However, with the world in a state of seemingly perpetual flux, and to paraphrase Passover tradition, why is this month different than all other months? At this point in our pandemic-driven lives, it kind of isn’t. More and more schools are opting for virtual classrooms instead of in-person courses and theaters haven’t reopened. So what are people supposed to do apart from find ways to safely pass the time?
So, while August may indeed be a “dump month” and there are far more options to comb through this month than previous This Month in Horror entries, I think it’s a mix of tradition and necessity. Plus, as we start entering the fall season, there need to be horror movies that get people talking so that “31 Days of Halloween” movies picks can be locked and loaded well ahead of time.
This month’s offerings are so diverse, it’s genuinely impressive. There’s something for everyone, from time travel horror to aquatic terrors, folklore chills to serial killer thrills, and so much more. Load up your VOD platform of choice and let’s dive in!
1. ‘La Llorona’ – August 6
Subgenre: “Some Bedtime Stories Are A Bit Too Scary”
Official Synopsis: Indignant retired general Enrique finally faces trial for the genocidal massacre of thousands of Mayans decades ago. As a horde of angry protestors threatens to invade their opulent home, the women of the house—his haughty wife, conflicted daughter, and precocious granddaughter—weigh their responsibility to shield the erratic, senile Enrique against the devastating truths being publicly revealed and the increasing sense that a wrathful supernatural force is targeting them for his crimes. Meanwhile, much of the family’s domestic staff flees, leaving only loyal housekeeper Valeriana until a mysterious young Indigenous maid arrives.
Why You Should Check It Out: The La Llorona story is one of the most well-known urban legends. There are variations throughout Latin America, with each country having its own unique spin on the tale (including my own company’s release Diablo Rojo PTY). The last major release was The Curse of La Llorona, which was shoehorned into The Conjuring universe. But now Shudder is here with a new take on the tale, one that is resonating with critics and filmmakers alike, with Tigers are Not Afraid’s Issa López hailing it as a “gorgeous slow-burner that draws from the real-life horrors of genocide and racism.”
Count me in.
2. ‘Shifter’ – August 6
Subgenre: “Can We All Agree That Sinister Pods Aren’t Something We Should Step Into?”
Official Synopsis: A young woman experiences painful and gruesome side effects after an experiment with time travel goes wrong.
Why You Should Check It Out: Another release from my company, The Horror Collective, Shifter drew me in with its honesty and creativity. The film stretches every penny of its low-budget into a dollar, crafting something that’s sharp, tight, scary, and memorable. The first time I saw this, I was hooked from the beginning and couldn’t take my eyes away until the credits finished rolling. I highly recommend giving this one a shot if you want something different, something unique.
3. ‘Black Water Abyss’ – August 7
Subgenre: “A Reminder That Swimming Season Is Really Feeding Season”
Official Synopsis: Deep in the forests of Australia, a group of friends explore a remote cave system when a tropical storm hits. As rising flood waters trap them deep below the surface, something even deadlier emerges from the darkness – killer crocodiles.
Why You Should Check It Out: If Crawl kicked off a new thirst for you, then Black Water Abyss is here to pour you a new glass of killer reptilian chaos. Reviews are already calling it an “accomplished thriller” and say that it provides “tension, scares, and gnashing crocodile teeth.” If your horror needs to have terrifying maws, look no further than this one. Just don’t stare too long into the abyss. Apparently that leads to disastrous results.
4. ‘Sputnik’ – August 14
Subgenre: “Can We Stop Bringing Shit From Outer Space Back Home?”
Official Synopsis: Due to her controversial methods, young doctor Tatiana Yurievna (Oksana Akinshina) is on the precipice of losing her medical license. Her career may not be over, though. After she’s recruited by the military, Tatiana is brought to a secure science research facility to assess a very special case, that of Konstantin Sergeyevich (Pyotr Fyodorov), a cosmonaut who survived a mysterious space accident and has returned to Earth with a unique condition: there’s something living inside of him that only shows itself late at night. The military has nefarious plans for it. Tatiana wants to stop it from killing Konstantin. And the creature itself thrives on destruction.
Why You Should Check It Out: This looks kind of like Russia’s answer to Splice and The Thing, which is 100% up my alley. Sci-fi and horror are common bedfellows. After all, what’s more terrifying than the unknown, whether it come from within or beyond the stars? In Sputnik, at least according to the trailer, we’re not exactly sure which it is…and that’s the deliciously creepy part.
5. ‘The Silencing’ – August 14
Subgenre: “If You Can’t Trust A Bush In The Woods, Who Can You Trust?’
Official Synopsis: A reformed hunter (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and a sheriff (Annabelle Wallis) are caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse when they set out to track a killer who may have kidnapped the hunter’s daughter five years ago.
Why You Should Check It Out: Serial killer horror-thrillers are another style of movie that is totally my jam. The Silencing looks like it takes elements from The Silence of the Lambs and mixes it with the atmosphere and aesthetic of Insomnia to create something oppressive and unsettling, which is exactly what I want from these kinds of films. Make me uncomfortable. Make me squirm. Make me feel like I need to take a shower once it’s over. Hopefully, this one delivers precisely that.
6. ‘The Barge People’ – August 18
Subgenre: “For When You Want A High Body Count”
Official Synopsis: A group of friends sets off for a relaxing weekend away on the canals of the glorious British countryside, unaware of the flesh-eating mutants lurking in the water…ready and waiting to feed.
Why You Should Check It Out: Remember that scene in Hot Shots Part Deux where Charlie Sheen is shooting up a whole village and a body count is skyrocketing in the corner? Sometimes, a horror movie simply has to offer something like that to make me happy. Rack up the bodies, I say! Commence with the gore, I plead! Gimme monsters, I implore! The Barge People looks like it’s ready to do all that and a whole helluva lot more. Sign me up!
7. ‘Open 24 Hours’ – August 18
Subgenre: “Men Are A Flaming Pile Of Garbage…Literally”
Official Synopsis: After killing her serial killer boyfriend, a young woman rebuilds her life with a new job at an all-night gas station. Haunted by visions of her boyfriend’s crimes and suffering delusions of his imminent return, what seems like a routine night ends up full of mayhem and murder. As the bodies pile up, will she survive the night?
Why You Should Check It Out: This one goes out to all the men and women who have been burned by past relationships. We’ve all had that terrible relationship that we wish would just go away but always somehow manages to rear its ugly head. If you’ve felt powerless to those moments, here’s a movie that says you can fight back, that you can regain control. And if a few bodies are left in the wake, so be it. Get yours, honey.
8. ‘Random Acts of Violence’ – August 20
Subgenre: “I’ve Had It With These Motherf##king Sharks In This Motherf##king Franchise!”
Official Synopsis: Comic book creator Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams), his wife Kathy (Jordana Brewster), assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson) and best friend, Hard Calibre Comics owner Ezra (Jay Baruchel), embark upon a road trip from Toronto to NYC comic con and bad things start to happen—people start getting killed. It soon becomes clear that a crazed fan is using Todd’s “SLASHERMAN” comic as inspiration for the killings and as the bodies pile up, and Todd’s friends and family become victims themselves, Todd will be forced to take artistic responsibility.
Why You Should Check It Out: Comedy gives way to terror in this latest take on “art imitates life.” For those who need some chuckles with their bloodshed, comedian/filmmaker Jay Baruchel is here to bring you his latest project, which has critics calling it “a full-blooded horror film” that’s “brimming with some genuinely solid practical effects.” A darling on the festival circuit, it’s time for audiences to experience their own Random Acts of Violence.
9. ‘The Pale Door’ – August 21
Subgenre: “There’s A Coven At The O.K. Corral, Pardner”
Official Synopsis: The Dalton gang find shelter in a seemingly uninhabited ghost town after a train robbery goes south. Seeking help for their wounded leader, they are surprised to stumble upon a welcoming brothel in the town’s square. But the beautiful women who greet them are actually a coven of witches with very sinister plans for the unsuspecting outlaws – and the battle between good and evil is just beginning.
Why You Should Check It Out: In recent years, the marriage of horror and westerns have become a more prevalent phenomenon. Many take it very seriously, such as Bone Tomahawk or The Wind. Some, however, want to have some fun with the conceit, leading to titles such as From Dusk Till Dawn and Undead or Alive. Enter The Pale Door, which comes from the same team that brought us Shudder’s recent anthology Scare Package. For those who want to do some hootin’ and hollerin’, this is one door you should definitely knock on.
10. ‘Get Duked!’ – August 28
Subgenre: “You’re Gonna Need Subtitles”
Official Synopsis: Three rebellious teens are given one last chance to turn their lives around. So they set off and attempt to complete The Duke of Edinburgh Award trek, across the highlands.
Why You Should Check It Out: Trust me when I say this is one movie you better not miss. That Amazon Prime is dumping it on their service with nary a fanfare is, frankly, a crime against cinema. Originally titled Boyz in the Wood, this is tight, funny, absurd, and memorable. If you’re looking for something that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before while being entertained throughout, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better title to dedicate a couple of hours to.