In 2014, two twelve year old girls lured their friend to the woods in their small Wisconsin town and stabbed her 19 times, leaving her for dead. They told their friend they were going to get help but never returned. Their motive? Impress an internet boogeyman and join his legion. This set up invokes images of precocious pre-teen psychopaths, the kind of kids that unblinkingly murdered in Children of the Corn or would go onto the be the bored teenage terrors of Funny Games. It’s only in HBO’s new documentary Beware the Slender Man (2016) does the chilling crime and adolescent criminals get fully realized as the perfect storm of internet culture, impressionable young minds and mental illness.
With Dangerous Woman, Ariana Grande is making her claim as the definitive pop star of today. The current crop of pop girls isn’t too impressive, and Ariana has a decent shot at the throne: she’s got killer pipes and chart topping hits, something that not many of her peers can boast. Selena Gomez has the hits but not the voice, and Demi Lovato’s got the voice but not the hits. Ariana mixes both, and is poised to take the current pop girl crown for herself. Unfortunately, Dangerous Woman isn’t enough to cement her as an icon, but the groundwork is still all there.
If you’ve heard one cult story, you’ve pretty much heard them all. An enigmatic and charismatic leader, dozens of lost souls who become avid devotees, dodgy spiritual practices and a depressing, sometimes tragic, end. Holy Hell (2016) tells that story, but it still like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
Filmmaker Will Allen spent 22 years of his life in a cult, documenting almost every step with his camera. As a result, Holy Hell has more footage of the cult’s inner workings than any other documentary of this nature. There is footage of rituals, performances and inspirational messages from their leader, as well as casual everyday moments, group meetings and friends hanging out. Holy Hell is able to truly capture the cult from within, instead of from an arms length.