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The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger contains everything that should result in an intelligent gothic chiller: atmosphere, methodical pacing, and a character-driven drama that hints at something grander beneath its surface horrors. Through its luscious cinematography, dense script, and acting strengths—Will Poulter is particularly excellent as a burned and shell-shocked war veteran—the film does an extraordinary job examining gender and 1947’s English class structure. Yet, the film is nearly derailed by its perplexing central conceit—is it a ghost or something else? By removing the horror elements, the film may have been a more effective standalone period piece about class relations and mental illness.

Halloween (2018)

You don't have to be a fan of the original Halloween series in order to enjoy the new sequel; you really only have to like the first one, because everything after that is disregarded. Even a couple missteps and a strange bowl of party pudding (I mean what?!) don't detract from what is a pretty solid addition to the franchise, with plenty of gory nonsense to get you excited for the spookiest season of all. Jamie Lee Curtis is a treasure. We don't have to protect her, though; she's got it under control.

A Diet of Worms
Erik Rasmussen

Erik Rasmussen’s dark, provocative debut novel, A Diet of Worms, avoids the sentimental as it weaves its way toward an ultimately compelling conclusion. From early on, Larry Morvan, Rasmussen’s young protagonist, wants readers to understand that he isn’t like the other boys who surround him. He admits, “I’m a low life, or something.” He frequently talks about his lack of money, the broken conditions of his home, and the horrible father he can’t escape. A long trip could save him, but, really, as A Diet of Worms reminds us, no one ever escapes the ghosts of youth. Here’s proof. 

Courtney Summers

Part “true crime” podcast and part first person narrative, Sadie dares to push the boundaries of traditional YA suspense. While Sadie investigates the man she suspects to have murdered her sister, a journalist investigates Sadie’s disappearance—a year after she hit the road with a switchblade. During their investigations, both Sadie and the journalist uncover more darkness than either had anticipated. Like Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, Sadie dares you to open your heart to that darkness. And like all of Summers’ oeuvre, Sadie will have you holding your breath. 


There are no shortage of films addressing the way we gather information in the age of social media, but what makes Searching more than just a gimmick (the film is told entirely through computer and phone screens) is the fine editing work and the multi-layered performance of John Cho as the missing girl’s father. Cho never goes big, and because we believe him we go along with some fairly hoary plot devices (the moment where we switch devices to follow along a car on Google Maps is unintentionally hilarious) to deliver a shockingly resonant narrative and emotional payoff. 

Six Steps
Clovis Jaillet

Every few rotations of the bicycle’s pedals, the front gear clicks and the chain jumps a link. Slow drums fill your head as you roll down the asphalt hill. Soon you’re rapping along. I just wanna race the Lambo’. Let’s roll the dice and gamble. Concentrate on the scarred concrete in front of you, be sure to dodge the cracks and potholes; to fall into one, you’ve decided, is to tumble into and beneath the earth’s crust, through the mantle, and melt into the core.

The Neighbor
Stephen Mruzik

I was almost certain that the neighbor was a serial killer. The small doubt came from the fact that we both watched Game 6 of the 2011 World Series together – the same night the neighbor’s television broke – and got along famously. That doubt was erased, when, on that same night, I was bludgeoned to death with a remote right as David Freese hit that game-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th inning.