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Sometimes, the scariest, most inescapable horror is the kind that occurs in one’s own head. This month, we look at madness in horror.

In the Mouth of Madness

After celebrating Black History Month in February, bringing you a weekly dose of outstanding Black Horror, Donna Tha Dead moved right into March Madness — showcasing characters who descend into madness. If you missed any of the episodes, now is a great time to catch up on all the must-see movie recommendations from your favorite Queen of Horror.

On a serious note, before we dive into the horror, over 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in a given year. That’s nearly 60 million people. Around 1 in 20 adults have a serious mental illness, which translates to just over 14 million people. There’s a significant gap between needing and receiving treatment. Only 47.2% of adults and 65.4% of adults with serious mental illness receive care. If you’re looking for help, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides information and support groups for people with mental illness and their families. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a national helpline (1-800-662-HELP) that can connect you with mental health treatment services. If you’re in crisis, there’s a Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.

Remember, you’re not alone. There’s help available, and reaching out is an important step towards recovery.

FADE TO BLACK (1980)

Donna kicks things off with an absolute cult classic, a psychological horror film written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman. Fade to Black is about Eric Binford, a shy and lonely guy passionate about film. His obsession with the movies goes too far as he doles out cinematic justice to the folks who have wronged him.

A labor of love for the director (who, interestingly, claimed it wasn’t a horror film at all), the film faced many problems during production, including a grueling shooting schedule and tension from the cast. Actress Gwynne Gilford was pregnant during production and gave birth after it ended to future movie star Chris Pine. Though unsuccessful upon its release, it has now amassed a strong following as an early entry in the slasher subgenre that pays loving homage to horror classics like Psycho. It creates a relatable character in its troubled protagonist/antagonist and offers a chilling portrayal of mental health.

This episode is short and spoiler-free, and Donn has saved a seat in the theater just for you.

PERFECT BLUE (1997)

In this episode, Donna discusses the influential and surreal psychological thriller/horror anime cult classic Perfect Blue. Scary, funny, and moving with striking visuals and a haunting soundtrack, the genre-blending film offers a terrifying look at fame, fandom, and paranoia — following a young J-Pop idol whose sense of reality gets shaken as her sanity unravels under the pressure of fame. It also examines the toxicity of Japanese idol culture and how making a commodity of real people can have disastrous psychological consequences. 

Just an FYI, there is a trigger warning as this film does depict stalkers and an act of sexual violence, and Donna talks about it during this episode.

This one is also short and spoiler-free, and it comes with another mini Horror TED talk from Donna.

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994)

In this episode, Donna delivers another spoiler-free horror TED talk about In The Mouth of Madness. As part of John Carpenter’s Apocalypse trilogy, we get to follow John Trent (Sam Neill), an insurance investigator looking for reclusive Horror writer Sutter Cane. Directed and scored by Carpenter and written by Michael De Luca, it pays tribute to the works of author H. P. Lovecraft in its exploration of insanity, and its title is derived from the Lovecraft novella At the Mountains of Madness.

Though it received mixed reviews at the time of its release, it is now widely considered an imaginative and unsettling masterpiece that explores themes of cultural obsession, the breakdown of reality, and the fears that burrow into your mind. Some say it’s one of Carpenter’s greatest — a multi-layered and thought-provoking love letter to classic pulp horror and one of the most Lovecraftian films ever made.

THE SHINING (1980)

What a perfect way to end March Madness. Jack Torrance arrives at The Overlook Hotel with wife and child in tow. He must look after the hotel while it’s closed down for the winter. Sounds easy enough and a great way for aspiring writer Jack to work on his novel in peace in quiet. However, the hotel has other plans in store.

Widely considered one of the all-time horror greats thanks to its unique style, psychological horror, top-tier performances, and significant cultural influence, the film uses both fictional and real horror to tell a powerful story that viewers can relate to. It’s a film that changed the horror genre in many ways. Perfectly paced with an outstanding setting, it shows Jack slowly descending into madness due to writer’s block, isolation, and ghosts.

This is one of Donna’s horror favorites, and, of course, she drivers one last March Madness Horror Ted talk.

ABOUT THE SHOW:

Donna Tha Dead

Donna Tha Dead is a podcast for lovers of horror, cult classics, and other genres of cinemas. Your host, Donna, is a confirmed ghost story and horror film addict.  To those that can hear Donna’s voice, she invites you to come hold her hand in the darkness and listen.

New episodes typically post every other week, and you can listen right here on morbidlybeautiful.com or wherever you get your favorite podcasts.

You can connect with Donna on Instagram and Twitter @donna_tha_dead.

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