May Staff Picks: Horror, Anime, Novels, and Movies!

Kaitlin Lounsberry

I know it’s not October, but I’ve been on a horror kick lately. Specifically, I’ve been devouring content on the horror streaming platform, Shudder. Though it’s advertised for horror, thrillers, supernatural, and suspense genres, I’ve found it largely hosts niche horror films and loads of original content. I hate to pick favorites, but if I had to it’d definitely be the docu-series, History of Horror by Eli Roth. Roth, a la Hostel and Cabin Fever, brings together the greats that have come to defy modern horror all while diving into the genre’s biggest themes. Despite horror being a significant storytelling genre, I’ve found it difficult to find documentaries, let along docu-series, on it. But History of Horror gives me everything I’ve been looking for, and then some. Jumping from slashers to zombies to killer creatures to chilling children, the episodes are conversational and allow the filmmakers and stars to speak candidly behind their inspiration and how they came to push boundaries. While it lacks scares, I have enjoyed learning more about the genre and feel like I could crush a horror trivia section—whenever that’s a thing again. 

Ally Geist

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich made me feel ALL the things, and challenged me in ways only a great story can. Definitely one of my favorite books I’ve read all year. I first picked it up for my office book club and basically didn’t put it down for three days. After all, nowadays, who doesn’t love a great book to escape into? Set in 1953, the book explores the strength, resilience, and bravery of the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. We see Thomas, the night watchman at the town’s factory (and prominent Chippewa Council member) empower his community to fight back against a new bill that Congress calls an “emancipation”—a bill that threatens the rights of Indigenous folks’ land and identity. We also see Pixie’s (“Patrice”) experience working at the factory, dealing with family trauma, and searching for her missing sister, Vera. The book made me think about myself and my society in a new way, and was a truly beautiful read.

Miki Schumacher

My favorite show that I’ve watched this spring is the 2020 anime Akudama Drive. My partner recommended this to me, and I didn’t know anything about it prior to watching. But the moment after I finished the first episode, I was hooked: I watched the entire twelve-episode series in just two days. I highly recommend Akudama Drive if you enjoy dystopian sci-fi and rebellion stories.

Akudama Drive is an action-packed cyberpunk adventure following the story of several infamous criminals as they fight against an oppressive government. The main character is an ordinary citizen who unintentionally gets herself involved, and the story is filled with unexpected twists. The animation for this show is wonderfully dynamic, and I even listen to the soundtrack while working. Each episode is also titled after famous movies like The Shining and Mission: Impossible, so it’s fun to try and pick out the references to various iconic scenes. If that doesn’t convince you to try this series out, there’s also an adorable black cat in the show.

Carissa Villagomez

I listened to the first episode of National Theatre’s “Life in Stages” series with Olivia Colman and Artistic Director Rufus Norris. I found it comforting and encouraging to hear such talented people talk candidly about the parts of themselves they have to battle back when pursuing their dream careers. Norris is notoriously shy, and Colman has stage fright and impostor syndrome, yet they both continue to win acclaim for their work and live the exact life they want to be leading. Alongside passages from bell hooks’s book All About Love: New Visions, these pieces of media reminded me to not get in my own way so much and never compromise on my goals.

Thomas Chisholm

I recently watched the 2020 movie The Kid Detective and was very impressed. I heard about it from one of my favorite YouTube channels, RedLetterMedia. The movie is a dark comedy starring Adam Brody as Abe Applebaum, a thirty-something man who was locally famous in his youth for solving petty crimes. He was something like a solo Hardy Boy. Some of his rewards include a lifetime supply of ice cream and an office in City Hall given to him by the mayor himself. But when his friend and daughter of the mayor, Gracie Gulliver, goes missing and Abe can’t find her, the whole town loses faith in him. As an adult, we see Abe having no faith in himself. He never recovered from Gracie’s disappearance. He’s a washed-up joke still taking gigs finding lost cats, still collecting free ice cream cones, and ranting to his parents about how he can’t give up on his “career.” The movie takes a lot of suspending of disbelief to appreciate the world it takes place in. It’s sort of like a less stylish Wes Anderson movie with much darker overtones. It’s very funny and incredibly well written—one of the best new movies I’ve seen since the pandemic set in.

Cover art is from the original Japanese edition of Akudama Drive.