Welcome to the Blumhouse makes a strong pitch for new voices in horror

Blumhouse Productions, the horror-focused studio, launched Blumhouse Productions’ new movie-anthology series in time for Halloween. Four suspense movies were released on Amazon Prime, under the heading of “Horror-centric”. Blumhouse – WelcomeBanner Like the eclectic fare Blumhouse releases in theaters — and Unlike the company’s previous fright-focused anthology series, Into The Dark — that first set of “Welcome” movies mostly skirted the outer edges of the horror genre. Black Box Evil Eye The Lie NocturneAll four films had scary-sounding titles but they were more psychological thrillers. They hinted at supernatural elements, but they weren’t monster movies or slasher films.

This is the second group of Blumhouse – WelcomeWith movies, the future is here Bingo Hell Black As NightAmazon will debut the novel on October 1, 2013. Madres The ManorOctober 8th. The new four movies are all categorised unambiguously as horror. They feature demons, vampires, ghosts, and dead bodies piling up one by one… all the classic tropes. But what sets these films apart from the hundreds of other scary movies that come out each year — aside from the Blumhouse backing — are their protagonists, who for the most part are different from the usual scream queens and dopey teens.

Bingo Hell, for example, Adriana Barraza plays Lupita, a senior citizen living in a working-class neighborhood that’s gradually being swallowed up by hipster hangouts. The gentrification accelerates when a grinning creep named “Mr. Big” (Richard Brake) opens up a bingo parlor offering payouts that seem too good to be true. It turns out Mr. Big’s price for fulfilling wishes involves taking his client’s homes, lives, and souls. His only opponents are Lupita the cranky and her older friends.

The ManorJudith (Barbara Hershey), a nursing home resident, begins seeing demonic signs around her upscale assisted-living center. Because she recently had a stroke, and because she’s at an age when dementia sometimes sets in, Judith has a hard time convincing her family, her nurses, or her new neighbors that there’s something dangerous lurking about.

Asjha Cooper, Frabrizio Guido and Mason Beauchamp explore a dark room with flashlights in Black As Night

Black As Night
Photo: Amazon Studios

The heroine MadresThere are also disturbing visions. Ariana Guerra plays Diana, a pregnant Mexican-American woman who is married to Beto (Tenoch Uerta), in this movie set in California during the 1970s. As a newcomer to the community, Diana struggles to find anyone to trust when she starts having premonitory flashes of impending violence — or perhaps psychic impressions of something horrible that happened in the past.

Also for Black As Night, it stars Asjha Cooper as Shawna, a 15-year-old Black New Orleans native who discovers that a vampire cult has been preying on the homeless and on drug addicts — including her own mother. Shawna learns lessons from her own tragic history and the ways that the city’s entitled classes have exploited or neglected the poor as she rallies her fellow friends to pursue the bloodsuckers.

It’s not that unusual for four mostly unrelated horror movies all to have women in the lead roles. The genre has long centered on female protagonists — sometimes for progressive reasons, because it’s easier to root for someone who’s underestimated by her peers and enemies, and sometimes regressive ones. A frightened and vulnerable woman dressed in worn clothes is very easy to focus on.

But These are four women — two of them elderly, two Latina, one Black, one pregnant — don’t have a lot in common with the kinds of movie heroines who typically get stalked by masked serial killers at summer camps. It is crucial that their identities reveal what the stories really are about. Lupita, an elderly woman. Bingo HellShawna, an adolescent Shawna. Black As NightThey are literally standing up against the forces that drain the community’s lifeblood. Judith and Diana, both new to their latest homes, are just desperate to be heard, instead of being treated as if they’re addled by their respective physical conditions. It’s easy to see why Blumhouse/Amazon has grouped these four movies the way they have. The two films can each be enjoyed as a linked, thematically related double feature.

Similar to the first Blumhouse – Welcome set, it’d be a stretch to call these four films essential viewing for cinephiles or horror fans. All four would’ve worked just as well as hourlong episodes in an anthology series. And while it’s great to see fresh faces and personalities fighting evil, the plots of these movies are overly familiar and pretty predictable. It’s only The Manor — written and directed by Axelle Carolyn, a Belgian filmmaker who has worked as a film critic and actor, as well as doing some writing and directing on horror-themed television series — feels like it would’ve worked just fine as a theatrical release or as a film-festival Midnight Madness title, rather than as a TV movie.

Ariana Guerra and Tenoch Huerta look appalled at a cardboard box in Madres

Photo: Amazon Studios

Genre fans will not find the films in this collection to be a complete waste of their time. Each film is unique. Bingo HellGigi Sul Guerrero directed the film, and also co-wrote it with Shane McKenzie & Perry Blackshear. The movie has a unique light tone for such a grim picture. It sometimes feels like a film about ordinary people, rather than about a devilish and seductive character. Black As Night (directed by Maritte Lee Go from a Sherman Payne script) doesn’t skimp on its high-school-movie elements, making sure to let Shawna voice her teenaged desires and insecurities. Madres (directed by Ryan Zaragoza from a Marcella Ochoa and Mario Miscione script) makes great use of its ’70s setting, capturing a time that was spiritually unsettled and fraught with paranoia.

The 2021 batchBlumhouse – WelcomeThe movies are a powerful argument for openness to horror films. In these four films even when the material isn’t all that original — and even when the stories fizzle a bit — at least the characters and the worlds they inhabit don’t look and sound like every other spooky B-picture. These movies are a good reminder that even if big-screen horror seems to be stagnating, there are still lots of places to be scared — and lots of reasons.

Bingo Hell, Black As Night Madres The Manor All of them are now available on Amazon Prime Video.