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Author: Josh Greally

Writer and filmmaker from Chesterfield. I recently completed my masters in directing film and television and have written film reviews for several smaller sites in the past. Films are my life, but I also enjoy writing, reading, listening to music and debating.
Reviews

Retro Review: King Kong (1933)

November 26, 2019
King Kong

86 years ago King Kong, the most famous movie monster of all time, made his debut. Since then his first movie has become permanently ingrained in popular culture. Even people who’ve never seen it know the film’s story and several famous quotes. But as we have seen, the influential don’t always stand the test of time.

So join us for our retro review of King Kong as we see just how well it holds up all these years later.

Synopsis

Film director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is looking to make the ultimate movie to silence his critics and please audiences worldwide. To do this he takes his film crew and leading lady, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to the uncharted Skull Island to find the mythical monster Kong.

Upon reaching their destination the island natives kidnap Ann and offer her to Kong, who carries her off into the jungle. Facing many prehistoric threats the crew eventually retrieve Ann, capture Kong and decide to take him back to civilization.

Once back in New York, Denham puts Kong on display as the eighth wonder of the world. But Kong breaks free, steals Ann and begins wreaking havoc upon the city. Before finally climbing the Empire State Building in one of the most iconic movie endings of all time.

What did I like?

The best part of King Kong is its sheer spectacle. Produced for $672,000 (only $13 million today), King Kong delivers a spectacle that still puts modern movies to shame. The production design and sets are fantastic, giving the film a grand scale. Skull Island’s design is incredibly detailed, feels very lived-in and full of rich history. And effectively contrasts the soulless concrete jungle of New York.

Then there are the iconic effects. The mixture of stop motion, miniatures, full-scale animatronics, and other processes invented for the film, created something film audiences had never seen before. A living breathing world, full of incredible creatures that appeared to actually interact with the cast. Some parts may look a bit ropey today, but the sheer effort it took to realize these sequences and the enthusiasm present make it impossible to not appreciate.

This movie also proved that special effects could be used to realize a story, not just stunning visuals. Kong is one of cinemas best characters. Without a word spoken, we know exactly what Kong is feeling because of his extensive expressive facial animations. Transforming a simple model into a three-dimensional character. And his arc from a mindless animal who sees Ann as a trophy to seeing her as something more is touching and tragic.

Denham also proves to be a compelling character. Though he sees everyone around him as a tool to achieve his ambitions his passion to make art that entertains everyone and his dry sense of humour makes him an enjoyable presence. Despite his actions.  

And Max Steiner’s sweeping orchestral score is incredible. Contributing to the grand scale of the production and adding an operatic edge which gives the dramatic moments great weight. But while Kong’s iconic status is unquestionable, a few blemishes have emerged over time.

What did I not like?

Now, of course, there are the blemishes inherent with films from this era that may impact some modern viewers’ enjoyment of the film. Namely the stereotypical depictions of women as solely damsels to be rescued or objects of affection for the men. And slightly racist depictions of other cultures.

But then there’s also the incredibly cheesy overwritten dialogue and performances, which make the film hard to take seriously. The macho posturing, overegged similes, and hammy New York accents make the film feel like a parody of itself. Resulting in the characters looking more like caricatures than human beings. This isn’t helped by most of the human characters being boring without much depth. Nowhere is this more evident than in the romance between Ann and John Driscoll (Bruce Cabot). It never feels natural. The actors have no chemistry, their dialogue is cringe-inducing and their romance only really serves to further the plot. Instead of being something that helps the characters grow and become compelling. Making the movie a slog until Kong shows up.

Finally, because King Kong’s themes, iconography, and other elements have been so thoroughly reused and deconstructed by other films over the years revisiting the original now can feel underwhelming. While the movie remains important historically, it has largely dwarfed by what it inspired. Ultimately rendering the movie itself as somewhat clichéd as a result. Though this is largely the fault of popular culture, not the film itself.

Verdict

King Kong is a movie that has inspired generations of film lovers and for good reason. With a rousing score, two engaging characters and incredible effects, that required so much time, effort and the invention of new techniques to accomplish, it is a wonderful example of what cinematic fantasy is capable of.

But some elements of the plot do feel forced for the sake of drama. The acting, dialogue, and depictions of certain genders and races are quite dated and may affect some modern audiences enjoyment of the film. And the film itself can be considered somewhat cliché at this point.

Ultimately as a piece of film history Kong is required viewing. It is a piece of entertaining genre filmmaking which though entrenched in the flaws of it’s time helped to pave the way for the blockbusters of today. And that is worth seeing. Warts and all.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

King Kong (Official Trailer)

King Kong is available on the BBC IPlayer service until 30th November 2019.

Also Read: For Your Consideration: Sci-Fi, Comedy & Oscar Snubs

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Editorials

A Game of Fan Films

November 13, 2019
A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones

There’s no denying that despite its flaws Game of Thrones captured the zeitgeist in a way that few shows have. It sparked the imagination of everyone who saw it. And many used their imaginations to create something creator George R. R. Martin wouldn’t approve of, fan films.

So while we wait to see what’s next for the Song of Ice and Fire, here are five GoT fan films that deserve some recognition.

The Wild Wolf

Set before the events of the series, this short centres on Eddard Stark’s brother Brandon and his duel with Peytr Baelish for Catelyn Tully’s affections.

The Wild Wolf is undoubtedly impressive. The costumes and presentation look almost exactly like the show and the central duel has stellar choreography. But the film’s greatest strength is its main characters, Brandon (Shane Gibson) and Peytr (Curtis Worrell).

Unlike Eddard, Brandon is cocky and self-assured, but his reluctance to jump straight to violence and Gibson’s charm makes him likable and believable as a Stark. And despite knowing Peytr will eventually become a power-hungry schemer, Worrell makes him relatable as an idealist fighting for his true love. His dreams just vastly outweigh his capabilities, remaining true to one of Martin’s primary themes. Most people aren’t wholly good or evil, but somewhere in between.

The Wild Wolf (Short Film)

A Northern Story Episode 3: Blood and Milk

Wendrik Cassel is journeying home to Wolf Hall after the infamous red wedding. When he stops at a tavern and sees Bolton men taking a barmaid hostage, Wendrik must ask if he’s willing to forget what’s left of his honour for a quiet life?

Despite awkward fight choreography and a cheesy ending, Blood and Milk redeems itself by building a tense atmosphere through dialogue and the actor’s performances. The character of Wendrik Cassel is incredibly engaging as one of Westeros’ last good men, and the dialogue oozes with tension and wit.

A Northern Story (Short Film)

Game of Hyrule

The sole parody on the list, Game of Hyrule uses the conceit of a “previously on” segment to recap iconic moments from the Legend of Zelda games. But with a Game of Thrones-esque makeover. Meaning Hyrule has more sex, scheming, backstabbing and murder than ever before.

The hilarity of taking the iconography from the mostly child-friendly Legend of Zelda series and making it over to look like Game of Thrones is pure comedic genius. And it’s all done with loving attention to detail. Any gaming fan will definitely get a laugh from this one.

Game of Hyrule (Short Fim)

The Red Letter

Taking place before the red wedding, Dawn (A Frey servant) attempts to ferry an important letter to Leland (a Tully soldier). However, Walda Frey and her soldiers aren’t about to let that happen.

One thing absent from many GoT fan films is the show’s trademark unpredictability. But The Red Letter captures that perfectly. From the start, we’re thrown into a dire situation as Leland is ambushed by Frey soldiers and an unarmed Dawn tries to escape Walda Frey. Instantly we’re hooked and we’re never sure what the outcome will be. The fight choreography is incredible (despite some wobbly props). And there’s a great amount of personality injected in the limited dialogue. A thrilling watch that packs a punch.

The Red Letter (Short Film)

A Tale of Benjen Stark

Did you ever wonder what happened to Benjen Stark, during his journey beyond the wall? This short answers that question.

While returning from ranging Benjen discovers two survivors from a bloody attack on a wildling camp. As he tries to discover what happened the dead start to rise, attacking him and the survivors.

A Tale of Benjen Stark is a great amalgamation of the previous entries’ best elements. Combining The Red Letter’s great writing and fight choreography, Blood and Milk’s tense atmosphere, the Wild Wolf’s incredible acting, casting, and production design, Game of Hyrule’s attention to detail and each films affection for the source material with inventive camerawork, great music, and effective special effects. Creating a tale which for me deserves to be considered canon to the show.

A Tale of Benjen Stark (Short Film)

So for everyone still craving more Game of Thrones give these films a watch and make sure to mention any great GoT fan films we missed. For the night is dark and full of fan films.

Also Read: Batman Fan Films

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Editorials

7 Reasons Characters Die in Horror Films

November 5, 2019
There are rules for surviving a horror movie

Horror films thrive on spooking their audience in a variety of ways. For example, the recent tech horror Countdown tapped into our anxiety about our mortality with an app that predicts the time you’ll die, down to the second. The central conceit being, how do you avoid death?

Well, today we’re counting down seven reasons characters die in horror films. Avoid these things to ensure your safety.

1. Taking drugs/having sex

Let’s get the obvious reason out first. Now many tend to overstate the significance of not taking drugs and having sex in horror movies. There are many iconic horror movie survivors who didn’t die after taking drugs (Laurie smokes marijuana and survived Halloween (1978)) and having sex (Ginny in Friday the 13 part 2, Sidney in Scream and Jay in It Follows).

But generally, it’s best to play it safe. For every iconic horror survivor who disproves this claim, there are slews of iconic horror victims that prove it. Just see Tina in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) who had sex moments before her tortuous slicing by Freddy Krueger.

Tina’s death is definitely an endorsement for abstinence in A Nightmare on Elm Street [Source: Youtube]

And Palmer in The Thing (1982) definitely shouldn’t have gotten high with a shapeshifting alien creature running around.

Palmer the resident pothead morphs into a killing machine upon being discovered as the thing [Source: Youtube]

2. Mocking conventions

Something less widely recognised is the fact that knowing genre clichés can also be a death sentence. How many times in horror movies have you heard someone mock their compatriots, by saying, “haven’t you seen a scary movie before?” only for them to die soon after. Unless you’re part of the Scream series self-aware characters rarely live to the end credits.

If you don't want to die in horror movies, don't talk about genres tropes.
Lizbeth demonstrating self-awareness in Friday the 13th Part 6 [Source: Tumblr]

For a great example of how self-awareness kills, look at the character of Lizbeth from Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives.

Lizbeth proves that self-awareness can’t stop Jason [Source: Youtube]

3. Heading into the unknown

A word of advice, if you’re heading somewhere and find that it’s abandoned, rundown, has measures in place to keep people out, contains weird items or you don’t know much about it, just leave. You don’t know what may be lurking around.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) typifies this. Two of our leads wander onto a property with a drained swimming pool, blacked-out windows, and teeth are found on the porch. When they don’t leave there are very unfortunate consequences.

Kirk enters into the disturbing Sawyer house in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) [Source: Youtube]

4. Going anywhere alone

Following on from the last entry, while it’s a bad idea heading into the unknown it’s even worse to go anywhere without bringing someone with you. It’s a good rule of thumb, when you go off alone you’re easier to stalk, terrorize and kill because no one’s there to keep you grounded and out of harm’s way.

No series exemplifies this trope better than the Friday the 13th series. The first movie, in particular, features several effective reasons for why you should never go anywhere alone.

Marcie shouldn’t have gone out on her own in the storm, Friday the 13th (1980) [Source: Youtube]

5. Being generally unpleasant

As in life, don’t be unpleasant to people. Don’t insult, belittle, harm or be rude, it just makes everyone hate you. And when everyone hates you in a horror film you can rest assured that you are going to die.

Look no further than this scene from Silent Night for proof of that.

Santa brings death to Christmas in Silent Night [Source: Youtube]

6. Ignoring warnings & premonitions

I get that sometimes it’s hard to accept warnings from strangers, close friends, relatives or even your subconscious (in the case of dreams). It may feel patronising or like you aren’t personally in control. But these warnings are for your safety. It’s so baffling that horror film characters continually ignore them, as it usually leads to someone biting the big one.

Again Friday the 13th shows that warnings should be heeded. If the kids listened to Crazy Ralph, they’d still be alive.

Always listen to doomsayers in Friday the 13th (1980) [Source: Giphy]

7. Cheating death

The final irony of horror movies is that you’re seldom truly safe. There was a time when good people survived and lead happy lives after the credits rolled. But besides the odd exception, that’s not the case nowadays.

If you’re in a self-contained movie maybe, one or two survivors will live to tell the tale. But if you’re a returning character from another film (and you aren’t Sidney Prescott, Ash Williams, Tommy Jarvis or Alice Johnson), you’ll more than likely die. So, if you survive, avoid sequels.

The master of dying in sequels is Laurie Strode. Originally dying in an off-screen car crash between Halloween 2 and 4, she was brought back in H20 (which continued from Halloween 2), only to die again in Halloween: Resurrection. She also died in the director’s cut of Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 (the second film in the reboot timeline) before being brought back in Halloween (2018). It seems the universe has a fascination with reviving and killing Laurie.

Laurie Strode’s 2nd death in the Halloween Series (Halloween: Resurrection) [Source: Youtube]

So there’s our list of seven reasons why characters die in horror movies. Just avoid doing these things and you’re sure to live to see another day.

Also Read: 5 Horror Films and The Real Events Behind Them

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Editorials

Return of the Screams: Celluloid Screams 2019

October 30, 2019
Celluloid Screams 2019 Poster

This past weekend to celebrate Halloween I decided to return to the Celluloid Screams horror festival for the second time. And, I wanted to take the opportunity to let you guys know what I thought of the festival this year.

As ever Celluloid Screams was a fantastic experience for genre fans. The staff, organizers and fellow festival-goers were all incredibly friendly and helped contribute to the best festival atmosphere I have been to yet. Everyone was willing to engage in conversation about films, help out with any problems and were incredibly well behaved when it came to watching the films, as well as enforcing good cinema-going etiquette. Something that is always appreciated by me.

Though we didn’t have any director Q&A’s like last year it was more than made up for by the extras we got. Firstly, we had stalls from the likes of Fab Press and Arrow Video. As well as exclusive previews for the second season of Wellington Paranormal and a local production called Seepers: A Love Story coming next year from Gory Hole Films. Both bode well for the upcoming projects. And the festival also did their bit to contribute to a good cause by encouraging people to sign up and give blood with the NHS.

An introduction to the Seepers trailer at Celluloid Screams [Source: Joshua Greally]

Lastly, of course, I got to see loads of films. Unlike last year, I saw all 17 feature films shown at this years festival. But like last year I thought I would give you guys my short takes on the movies I saw. All kept under 50 words, ranked from worst to best:

Corporate Animals: A movie that thinks merely referencing popular culture in a snippy, self-aware fashion (including the Weinstein case) is the same thing as humor. None of the jokes have any sense of timing or build-up. They’re just thrown out by a cast clearly killing time until their paycheques clear. 0.5 out of 5 stars (0.5 / 5)

Outback: Some beautiful cinematography and decently tense moments in the third act don’t make up for the unbearably whiny characters, cringy dialogue and one of the most obnoxious soundtracks I’ve heard all year. 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Outback at Celluloid Screams
An intro to Outback [Source: Joshua Greally]

Tone-deaf: Despite a standout performance from the ever-great Robert Patrick and a good round of ironic laughs to be had, the films unsubtle nature in regards to delivering jokes, postmodern sub-Scream dialogue and thin characterization make the movie hard to really engage with as anything aside from a funny diversion. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Making Monsters: Using a YouTube prank show as the story basis is quite cringe-inducing. And for the first half only serves as an elaborate crutch to hold up the story. However, once the reasoning behind its use is revealed Making Monsters becomes very entertaining. Even if certain things still don’t make sense. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

After Midnight: A movie that suffers from an identity issue. Part formulaic romance part unengaging monster movie, After Midnight’s first 2 thirds will leave many viewers cold. The finale however, while not entirely justifying the first portion, will leave viewers satisfied. In addition, it features the best jump scare of the festival. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Colour Out Of Space: Nic Cage does cosmic horror. The second Nicolas Cage neon-soaked horror film in as many years (the first being Mandy), does have a lot of dodgy CGI, very wonky performances and an uneven tone. But it more than makes up for it with its sheer entertainment value. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Girl On The Third Floor: While the film would’ve benefited from a different lead actor than CM Punk and it does feel like a first feature, if you want an enjoyable horror movie that focuses on tension over jump scares and thoughtfully addresses issues of sexism present throughout many genre movies then check this out. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Bliss: A mixture of Climax and The Addiction, Bliss is a visually stunning foray into psychedelic horror with a glorious 70s grindhouse aesthetic, some great performances and an infectious soundtrack. Hampered by a severely unlikeable main character, obnoxious dialogue and a very repetitive structure. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Bliss at Celluloid Screams
The last film on the 3rd day, the absolutely bonkers Bliss [Source: Joshua Greally]

Daniel Isn’t Real: Adam Egypt Mortimer’s second feature is a powerful watch. With a strong dower tone, visuals and mostly great performances from its cast. However, it crumbles under its own weight in the third act. Trading in subtlety in favour of overexaggerating everything to the point of unintentional parody. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The Golden Glove: Chillingly straightforward in its execution of an incredibly bleak story. Featuring an incredibly slimy turn from Jonas Dassler and haunting use of licensed music. The Golden Glove is not a movie you watch to enjoy. But as a well-made true-crime horror movie, you definitely won’t forget it. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Little Monsters: A charming cute zombie romp, that is formulaic, often cheesy and relies a little too much on man-child angst in the beginning. But through Lupita Nyong’o’s heartfelt central performance the film soon finds its footing as a funny love letter to teachers and childhood optimism. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Come to daddy: This black horror-comedy starring Elijah Wood about family reconnection isn’t for everyone. It’s slow, deliberately uncomfortable pace means you never know whether you’re supposed to be laughing or not. Though not all the jokes land and some threads feel like padding, it’s worth seeing purely for its odd presentation. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Why Don’t You Just Die!: No country does social metaphor pictures like Russia. Set mostly in an apartment and taking aim at many aspects of Russian society the film goes in so many different directions and juggles so many different tones so well that you won’t want it to end. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Synchronic: My introduction to Benson and Moorhead (The Endless) couldn’t have made a better first impression. With an incredible premise, fantastic acting (I’d love to see Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan together in another movie), beautiful visuals and a lean pace, this is something any cosmic horror fan needs to see. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Antrum: If you get the chance to see this movie in the cinema, do it. Because so much of this movie’s effectiveness comes from seeing it with a crowd. A brilliant example of transmedia storytelling, thick with atmosphere and imagination. A must watch for fans of 70’s euro cult horror. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Antrum at Celluloid Screams
A legal notice put outside the screening of Antrum [Source: Joshua Greally]

Extra Ordinary: The film that won the hearts of everyone at the festival, winning first place in the audience vote. A charming homegrown comedy filled with personality, pitch-perfect timing, quirky and engaging characters and the best editing gag I’ve seen this year. All horror-comedy lovers need to see this. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

The Nightingale: My favourite film of the festival. Jennifer Kent’s sophomore feature focuses on the horrors of colonialism and oppression with awe-inspiring results. The pacing is a little slow, but everything really comes together to create one of the most hauntingly beautiful, brutal and nuanced films to discuss oppression in years. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

An introduction to my favourite film of the festival [Source: Joshua Greally]

So ends my second experience at Celluloid Screams 2019. It was yet again a fantastic experience that makes me proud to be a horror fan. I hope you all found this little retrospective informative and that I’ve encouraged you to check out some of these movies or perhaps even attend the festival in the future. I know I will definitely be trying to return next year. Either way, happy viewing and Happy Halloween.

Also Read: 5 Classic British Horror Films

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Editorials

Was It Really That Bad? Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

October 25, 2019
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars, the franchise that conquered the world. The troubles making the first film are now legendary. But George Lucas and his team created something truly special with Star Wars and its direct sequels Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Popularly considered three of the greatest sci-fi films ever.

After Return of the Jedi satisfyingly closed the trilogy in 1983, the franchise lay dormant, until 1999 when Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was released. This was the first part of the prequel trilogy which told the story about the fall of the Jedi and the rise of the empire from the original trilogy (retroactively renamed episodes 4, 5 and 6). But it wasn’t the glorious homecoming fans hoped for.

Episode 1 currently sits at a 6.5 on IMDb and a 53% on rotten tomatoes. Quite a dip in quality compared to the first three movies (Star Wars- 8.6 IMDb, 93% RT, Empire Strikes Back- 8.7 IMDb, 95% RT and Return of the Jedi- 8.3 IMDb, 81% RT). But 20 years later, is the Phantom Menace really that bad?

The most hated character in the whole Star Wars Saga, Jar Jar Binks (Source: Mickeyblog.com)

“Be gone with him”

After years of anticipation, initial reviews for The Phantom Menace were resoundingly negative.

Nothing has the right to bore and disappoint us this much.”

-The Guardian

Everything about the movie has been criticized over the years. Whether it’s uninteresting characters, flat performances, the dialogue, the boring story, a lack of understanding of is audience or the use of CG effects. Everyone has a bone to pick with the Phantom Menace.

So, I find myself in a difficult position when I say, Phantom Menace doesn’t deserve the hate it gets.

The looks you get when trying to defend the Phantom Menace (Source: Den of Geek)

“I have a bad feeling about this”

That’s not to say Phantom Menace isn’t flawed. The film suffers from a lack of compelling characterisation. Many characters are mythic archetypes who aren’t relatable on a human level. Though they are still entertaining.

The script is full of ham-fisted dialogue that explains things rather than adding personality to the universe. Some of the performances are lacklustre (Jake Lloyd’s Anakin) or grating (Ahmed Best’s Jar Jar Binks).

And the film has a very confused tone, mixing adult political drama with kid friendly wish fulfilment and blazing action. Which just don’t gel together.

“Weren’t you supposed to be defending Phantom Menace?” (Source: Geektyrant)

“Defiance I sense in you”

But personally, I appreciate Phantom Menace trying to grow with its audience. After 16 years the kids who grew up on Star Wars were becoming adults, so Lucas tried to take an adult look at how the problems of the original trilogy came about.

Granted it wasn’t successful, and it needed the guiding hands of others to help iron things out, rather than George doing everything himself, seemingly unchallenged. But I will always take something different but flawed over safe and boring.

“Agree with you the council does”

And there are many positives to appreciate about Phantom Menace. There are some fine performances from Ewan McGregor as the charming, younger Obi-Wan Kenobi, Liam Neeson as calm, rebellious Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn and Ian McDiarmid is endearing and menacing as both sides of Chancellor Palpatine.

While the film drags in some parts, there are plenty of incredibly enjoyable action beats to make up for that. Like the Naboo escape scene, the pod race on Tatooine and even the overstuffed but enjoyable four-pronged finale.

The movie also has a great design and look. It’s colourful, inventive with a large variety of creature designs, sets, and costumes and it mixes early CG and practical effects in great ways to make its worlds feel bigger than the original trilogy.

And this film features some of composer John Williams’ best work. Will anyone argue that Duel of the fates isn’t one of the best songs of the entire saga?

The best part of the Phantom Menace, underscored by some of the best music of John Williams’ career (Source: Moddb.com)

Was It Really That Bad? …. No

The Phantom Menace is flawed, certainly. It would’ve benefited from having others around to iron out Lucas’ vision rather than giving him complete control.

But at its worst Episode 1 is an entertaining popcorn sci-fi film. Packed with a lot of creative ideas and it features some genuinely good work behind and in front of the camera that deserves appreciation rather than simple hate. Because as Yoda said, “hate leads to suffering.”

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad? Robin Hood (2018)

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Editorials

5 Classic British Horror Films

October 17, 2019
British Horror

The British are famed for their stiff upper lips, kitchen sink dramas, and movies that flaunt our Shakespearian heritage. But we’re also no strangers to scaring the world silly with horror films. 

So, today we’re celebrating our roots by recommending 5 classic British horror movies you should watch this October.

Anthology – Dead of Night (1945)

An Architect (Mervyn Johns) is heading to an old country house looking for work. But once he gets there, he has the uncomfortable feeling that he has been there before, in his dreams. He recognizes all the houseguests and fears his dream will come true if he stays. His talk of powers at work beyond his control causes the guests to begin recounting their own tales of experiences that are hard to explain logically.

Ealing Studios’ only horror film, Dead of Night is a fantastic showcase for the power of atmosphere. Each of the short stories and the wrap-around segments are fantastic at building an atmosphere in different ways. The use or lack of music, the set design, the bizarre lighting, the camerawork, and the acting all create a feeling that something is not quite right in the idyllic settings they present. Though some of the tales are more comedic than others the movie remains gripping all the way to the end.

Michael Redgrave as the disturbing ventriloquist in Dead of Night (Source: Deadentertainment)

Ghost Stories – The Innocents (1961)

The Innocents tells the story of a governess (Deborah Kerr) who moves into a country estate to look after 2 orphaned children. However, she soon begins to discover dark secrets about the seemingly angelic children and former employees of the estate. She also starts seeing apparitions wandering around the grounds and begins to believe that the children are possessed. But is this real or just in her head?

The Innocents is the classic British gothic chiller. Every element of the film is perfectly constructed to make you feel uneasy. From the use of haunting atmospheric sound to the pitch-perfect performances that make it hard to distinguish reality from fantasy. Then there’s the soundtrack that uses creepy instrumentals and singing children to create a very uncanny atmosphere. Lastly, there’s the cinematography, whose beautifully haunting images will remain with you for a long time, and the direction, that delivers effective scares that will leave your hair standing on end, without needing cheap music stings. Without a doubt, one of the finest ghost stories the UK has ever produced.

Peter Wyngarde “haunting” Deborah Kerr in The Innocents (Source: RedShark News)

Slasher – Peeping Tom (1961)

Peeping Tom concerns Mark (Carl Boehm), a shy, introverted man, obsessed with the power of films and fear. When his neighbour (Anna Massey) takes an interest in him, Mark must try to hide the darkest part of his obsession: his collection of films, recording people’s reactions to their own deaths.

A film that sparked much controversy upon release, effectively ending director Michael Powell’s career, Peeping Tom is now regarded as one of the best horror films ever made.

There are many reasons why Peeping Tom is so effective. Firstly, there’s the writing which constructs an interesting tale about the nature of voyeurism and the disturbing implications of the cinematic art form. Then there’s the inventive camerawork that’s used to implicate us in Mark’s crimes. And there are the fine performances from Anna Massey and Carl Boehm. Boehm is exceptional for turning what could have been a simple psychopathic villain, into a compelling tragic figure. Massey also brings a great tenderness to her performance that makes her instantly likeable, and their chemistry is so awkwardly charming that you route for the pair to overcome everything, despite the horrible things that happen.

Carl Boehm, alone, apart from his camera in Peeping Tom (Source: Mubi)

Hoodie Horror – Eden Lake (2008)

In the 2000s a bizarre British horror sub-genre emerged, hoodie horror. A genre that took the nation’s paranoia around teenage gang culture and turned their worst fears up to 11. Undoubtedly the best of these films was Eden Lake.

Middle-class couple Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) are heading to Eden Lake for a romantic weekend. Once there they run afoul of a teenage gang who proceed to torment the couple. When Steve goes a little too far, the kids begin a deadly game of cat and mouse as they hunt the couple through the woods.

Eden Lake isn’t exactly subtle regarding eliciting shocks, but it works because of its stripped-down rawness. Its ties to real-world subjects and the natural performances of the cast make everything feel authentic. The violence is especially hard to watch because it’s played seriously and doesn’t shy away from its grim effects on the characters. When Eden Lake’s credits roll you will feel shaken and its ending will stick with you long after you’ve turned off the TV.

Kelly Reilly hiding from monstrous teens in Eden Lake (Source: Motion Picture Blog)

Nuclear Horror – Threads (1984)

This 1984 BBC TV movie focuses on a young couple living in Sheffield at the height of Cold War tensions. Initially, the threat is just another news story, drowned out by the couple’s domestic issues. But things slowly escalate until all-out nuclear war is declared. And once the missiles stop, the survivors must continue on in a world devastated by radiation. 

Being raised near Sheffield I grew up on tales of my parents seeing Threads for the first time and how it left them terrified. It isn’t hard to see why.

Threads’ horror comes from the characters being normal people. They aren’t special, just regular, flawed humans you could meet anywhere. So, you easily sympathize and relate to the characters’ situation. And when the missiles start flying, we’re treated to some of the most harrowing sequences ever broadcast on British television. But the worst part is how matter of fact Threads is. While horrible things are happening, plain white text and narration informs us coldly about the consequences of nuclear war and the damages that will be wrought upon not just the survivors but those who come after. If that isn’t true horror, what is?

The army try to keep order in a world without it. Threads (Source: BBC)

So there are 5 great British horror films to watch this October. Of course, this article has barely scratched the surface of what British horror has to offer. So please share any of your recommendations in the comment section.

Also Read: Horrors On Horror Sets

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Editorials

A Halloween Buyer’s Guide for Film Lovers

October 5, 2019
key image for Halloween article

Halloween, the spookiest time of the year. When everyone likes to put on costumes, the cinema is jam-packed with new horror releases and everyone is stocking up on sweets for the trick or treaters. But if you’re a film lover why not treat yourself this year?

There’s plenty of things out there to satisfy the film lover this Halloween, so today we’re going to recommend five gift ideas to put a smile on your face.

Horror Festival Passes & Themed Screenings

What better way is there to celebrate this scary of year, than by watching as many horror movies as you can with a dedicated community of fans?

October and early November is a big time for horror festivals as well as themed film screenings. There are of course big names like Frightfest that have their own Halloween events but there are also smaller festivals like Celluloid Screams among many others that offer fantastic lineups and experiences for their audiences.

And you may also be able to find special themed events near you that allow you to experience a horror film in a genuinely spooky atmosphere. Such as in Churches, adding an extra layer to the horror experience.

These experiences drastically vary in price depending on how long you want your experience to be. But you’ll doubtlessly have a good time immersing yourself in the best of horror film culture.

Horror Movie Collectors Editions

As I have said before, every film fan loves collectors’ editions. And when it comes to horror films there’s no end of companies that pride themselves on releasing fantastic deluxe editions of great horror films.

You can choose from the likes of Arrow Video, 88 Films, Second Sight Films, Powerhouse Films, Studiocanal, Blue Underground, Eureka Entertainment and many more.

All of these companies pack their releases with special features, fantastic transfers and loving attention to detail that will give fans a great amount of insight and appreciation for their favourite films. And for the quality of these releases, they are well worth their asking price.

Horror Movie Costumes

Everyone likes to dress up for Halloween. So, it stands to reason that any film fan needs a great costume. Just find out what costume you want and then its time to get creative.

Remember the devil is in the details so be sure to think about the costume, the trimmings, the character props and any makeup that may be needed.

Costuming will, of course, vary in price depending on the quality you want and the level of detail you want to put into your outfit. But whether you’re buying from a costume store or buying induvial parts from the high street, you’re sure to bring out a lot of smiles on the big day.

Jason Voorhees fancy dress (Source: Montreal Comicon)

Horror Decorations

Another fun idea for movie lovers on All Hallows Eve is to decorate your house and get into the spirit of the season. And there are many creative ways to do this.

You can buy standees of famous horror movie characters to scare your guests. You can litter the place with props, replicas and fan-made decorations to give a spooky atmosphere. Or if you want to save some money you can make your own decorations?.

Why not make wanted posters to go in the window? Or carve a pumpkin in the likeness of a horror icon like Freddy, Jason or Pinhead?  The possibilities are endless.

Whatever you choose it will definitely help to bring your house to life this season.

Getting creative by carving horror icon Freddy Krueger in a pumpkin (Credit: VW Campin)

Horror Merchandise

And of course, every true film buff loves their movie memorabilia. And horror films have a number of great types of merchandise, in any price range, to gift to yourself, family and friends.

Whether it’s a replica of your favourite fictional killer’s weapon. A poster of your favourite spook film. Or something as simple as a themed mug.

Every film fan appreciates having something eye-catching to furnish their home and remind them of their favourite films.

Funko Pops are great gifts for every horror fan (credit: Josh Greally)

Conclusion

So there are a few ideas for how you can help add a little spice to a film lover’s Halloween. If you have any suggestions for cool things for film lovers to do this Halloween then tell us in the comments.

Also Read: A Christmas Buyer’s Guide for Film Lovers

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Reviews

Retro Review: Blade Runner 2049 (Spoilers)

September 18, 2019
Blade Runner 2049

The original Blade Runner has proved eerily predictive of many things for its 2019 setting. OK, there are no flying cars or high functioning androids. But the images of smog-choked streets, ruled by mega-corporations and a workforce that is treated as subhuman because of their origins feel very relevant today. And there was, of course, the unfortunate passing of actor Rutger Hauer. Who died in the same year that his character Roy Batty did.

With the first film making a monumental impact on popular culture, and it’s increasing relevance based on unfortunate happenstance I thought I would take the opportunity to look back at the long-awaited sequel to blade runner. Which picked up the story 30 years later and took 35 years to be released.

It’s always difficult making a sequel to critically acclaimed films, especially when they are released so long after the original. But during its release, Blade Runner 2049 was called one of the best sequels ever made. Perhaps even better than the original. But two years on does the sequel still stand as sturdily as its predecessor?

Synopsis

In 2049 old replicants (human-like androids used for manual labour) are being hunted down and killed by newer models. However, when K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant employed by the police to retire other replicants, discovers that a replicant was able to produce a child he begins to tug on the threads of the mystery. Eventually leading to him to the attention of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his nefarious forces. And into the path of former blade runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

What did I like?

Firstly, Blade Runner 2049 continues the originals trend for stunning visuals. Everything about this movie looks amazing. Whether it’s the set design that perfectly blends the futuristic, the modern and the mythical into a unique world that feels thematically appropriate for the characters and story or the beautiful Oscar-winning cinematography from Roger Deakins. Which makes every frame look like a piece of art. Or the special effects that never once look fake or out of place. Everything in this world feels authentic and organic, doing a lot to tell the story without dialogue.

The cast is also fantastic. Everyone does a great job inhabiting their roles. Making their characters feel like characters and not merely actors reciting lines to you. The standouts are Ryan Gosling, who does a great job inhabiting the stoic replicant K and Harrison Ford who reprises his iconic role as Rick Deckard; even with his comparatively limited screen time, Ford still manages to steal the show.

And like the first film, 2049 also concentrates on both weighty philosophical questions about identity, technology and corporate greed that feel truly relevant to today’s world. But it also incorporates spectacular action sequences. Which makes for a very entertaining and thought-provoking watch. There are some very interesting set pieces and concepts peppered throughout this film which will give you much to think about and remember long after the ending credits. Including, holographic AI and the question of their sentience. Underground replicant resistances and a tense fight scene taking place in a glitching hologram nightclub.

In fact, as its own standalone film, 2049 works quite well. Creating a fully functioning world with some good performance and great philosophical ambitions. While never forgetting to be an entertaining movie.

What did I not like?

However, as a sequel to Blade Runner (1982), 2049 really falls short. With the main problems being the story, pacing and characters.

2049’s story is unfortunately bogged down by lots of exposition. With several characters frequently explaining the plot to each other, something noticeably minimal in the original Blade Runner. And it never fails to draw the viewer out of the experience because of how obvious it is. The story is also rather lightweight because of the lack of significant consequences. For example, we are told that replicant reproduction will break the world. But aside from one scene with the replicant resistance, nothing in the film’s world indicates that our characters actions are having any impact. Lessening the tension of the film’s story.

There are also plot elements that feel extraneous e.g. K’s hologram girlfriend who can almost pass for being human. An interesting concept, but it serves no narrative purpose aside from illustrating that no one is special. Something which is already dealt with when K learns his true origins. This concept feels like padding. Which makes the narrative feel unfocused and causes the pacing to drag significantly.

Lastly, 2049 suffers from bland characterisation. K is a boring lead. He’s stoic and by-the-books, lacking the edge that made Deckard a compelling protagonist. The occasions when he emotionally conflicts with himself are too few and far between to make him engaging. And because he’s a virtually invulnerable replicant, the movie lacks any sort of tension on a character level. But the worst offender of flat characterisation are the villains. Niander Wallace is a typical capitalist with a god complex and Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) is your typical hard staring badass. Compared to Blade Runner’s replicants who had relatable goals, wanting more time to live their lives, these villains just come across as dull.

Verdict

Blade Runner 2049 is not a bad movie. The set design, cinematography and special effects are all fantastic. Nothing feels out of place in the world they’ve created, and it makes for very stimulating viewing. Everyone in the cast gives a good performance with Ryan Gosling really fitting the part of K and Harrison Ford doing particular justice to his iconic role from the original blade runner. And the blend of action and interesting concepts will definitely keep you entertained.

The problems come when you begin viewing the film as a sequel to blade runner. When faced with the memorable characters, cinematic storytelling and overall cohesiveness of the original, Blade Runner 2049 really feels like an unfocussed pale imitation.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Blade Runner 2049 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Harrison Ford: Nerf Herder or the Grave Robber?

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Editorials

Horror-ibly Funny Movie Titles

September 6, 2019
Humerous Scary Movie Scene

It’s difficult to find the right title for a movie. Movie titles have to give us some insight into a film, without giving too much away. Horror movies often use titles that conjure disturbing or frightening imagery. But because the genre focuses on thrills as well as chills sometimes filmmakers try something different. Employing enigmatic, weird, ironic and sometimes absurdly funny titles to intrigue audiences.

Today I’m going to look at 7 funny and absurdly titled horror movies, from a range of sub-genres and see if their plots are as weird as their titles. Well, let’s get to it.

When Nature Attacks: Snakes On A Plane (2006)

Synopsis: When a mob boss is due to be put on trial, he releases a mass of snakes on a plane to kill the chief witness and his FBI escort.

Trivia: With such an OTT title the film received a lot of attention online before its release. Production company, New Line Cinema, even allowed for reshoots to make the film more fan-pleasing. This resulted in the film going from a PG-13 to an R rating and the inclusion of Samuel L Jackson’s famous one-liner.

Samuel L Jackson has had enough of these monkey fighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane

Monster: The Bye Bye Man (2017)

Synopsis: Upon moving into a new house, three college friends find that they’re being haunted by a mysterious entity called the Bye Bye Man. And the only way to get rid of him is not to say or think his name.

Trivia: The unthreateningly named villain is played by Doug Jones, Guillermo Del Toro’s frequent collaborator. Jones has acted in six of his films.

Doug Jones giving it his all as The Bye Bye Man

Zombie: Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

Synopsis: A group of thespians head to a deserted island. While there they dig up a corpse and use it to perform a mock ritual, which raises the dead. Will the actors survive? Or will they die? That is the question.

Trivia: This funny take on the zombie film marks both director Bob Clark and screenwriter Alan Ormsby’s debut in the horror genre. Clark would go on to helm Black Christmas (1974) and Ormsby went on to write cult favourites like Deathdream and contributed material to Disney’s Mulan.

The theatre troupe have a laugh and a joke with Orville the corpse

Possession: Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

Synopsis: Once upon a time a demon fell in love with a woman and built a bed for her. But when she died the demon cried bloody tears onto the bed causing it to come to life and devour anyone unlucky enough to cross its path.

Trivia: With a title so on the nose you would think this movie would have done great business with b-movie enthusiasts back in the day. But despite the film having its print made in 1977 it didn’t have any official release until it’s 2003 home video debut, 26 years later.

Flesh-eating beds in Death Bed

Sci-Fi Horror: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Synopsis: When a meteor crash lands in a sleepy little town two teenagers investigate and discover that a group of monstrous alien clowns have come to earth. But no one believes them. Can they stop the killer klowns before everyone dies?

Trivia: The film was directed, produced and written by the Chiodo Brothers (Charles Stephen and Edward). Charles also contributed to the production and Klown design and the brothers have been teasing the release of a sequel since 2012.

The base of the Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Christmas: Santa’s Slay (2005)

Synopsis: 1000 years ago Santa Claus (son of Satan) lost a curling match with an angel and was cursed to be nice to children for 1000 years. But time is up. And Santa is about to start killing everyone, naughty or nice.

Trivia: Bill Goldberg, who plays Santa, met his wife, stunt performer Wanda Ferraton on the set of Santa’s Slay.

Santa delivers a millenias worth of anger to the naughty and nice

Cult: The Death Wheelers/Psychomania (1973)

Synopsis: “The living dead” motorbike gang have discovered a way to come back from the dead and become immortal, simply believing hard enough that they will come back. The gang later commit suicide and return from the dead, much more violent than before. Can anyone stop these emboldened, immortal delinquents?

Trivia: The film carries the unfortunate distinction of being legendary actor George Sanders final role before his death.

The Living Dead gang go for a joy ride

Have any of these silly titles piqued your interest? Or do you have your own favourite horror movies with funny titles? Let us know in the comments. Happy watching.

Also Read: 5 Horror Films and the Real Events Behind Them

Editorials

IT: A Recap and Exploration

August 24, 2019

With IT: Chapter 2 being released soon, today we are going to do a quick refresher on the events of the first movie and have a quick look at what the second film has in store for us. So join us as we recap and explore the IT saga.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

IT (2017) Summary

Primarily set in 1989, IT told the story of seven children in the town of Derry. Following them as they came of age, found friendship, love and confronted their fears. Which included various Derry citizens and a child-snatching, shapeshifting creature that took the form of both the kids worst fears and a demonic clown called Pennywise.

Each child had their own goals. Bill Denborough (Jaeden Martell), wanted to know the fate of his younger brother Georgie. Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) had to escape from her abusive father and come to terms with growing into womanhood. Eddie Kaspbrack (Jack Dylan Grazer) needed to break away from his overprotective mother and overcome his fear of germs. Ritchie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard) had to battle his self-centred nature and prove himself as a true friend. Ben Hanscome (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) had to deal with horrific abuse regarding race and weight and prove themselves as people. Ben by confessing his love for Beverly and Mike by standing up to injustice. And Stan Uris (Wyatt Oleff) had to learn that not everything has a logical explanation.

The Losers Club from IT (2017)

By the end, all the kids achieved closure. Bill accepted Georgie’s death, Beverly and Eddie stood up to their parents, Mike stood up to school bully Henry Bowers, Ben confessed his feelings for Beverly. Ritchie fought for his friends in the face of certain death and Stan accepted the surreality of the threat they were facing. Allowing the kids to defeat Pennywise, though he disappeared soon after. The children then made a pact that if It ever resurfaced, they would come back and destroy it together. The film ended with everyone going their separate ways and Bill and Beverly confessing their love for each other.

IT Chapter 2: The Cast

As the new movie takes place 27 years later all our principal characters have new actors to play their older counterparts. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain will be taking over the roles of Bill and Beverly. Bill Hader is taking on the role of Ritchie. Eddie will be played by James Ransone. Jay Ryan will take over for Ben. Mike will be played by Isaiah Mustafa and Stan by Andy Bean. But Bill Skarsgard will be returning to continue his portrayal of Pennywise.

The leads of It Chapter 2. From left to right Jay Ryan, Andy Bean, James Ransone, Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain & James McAvoy

McAvoy, Chastain, and Hader are the standouts in the new cast purely for both their marketability and how well their star images fit with their characters, the likeable relatable leader, the driven and charismatic leading lady, and the lovable buffoon. But the other actors have all done respectable work in film and television, which suggests these characters are in safe hands. And of course, everyone is looking forward to seeing Skarsgard return to his iconic turn as Pennywise.

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise

IT Chapter 2: Other

Behind the scenes, director Andy Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman are both returning. Although this time there is no writing input from Cary Fukunaga or Chase Palmer, who wrote the early script that the first film was based on. Hopefully, the new film will retain the same quality writing as the first without their involvement.

And with a reported 169-minute runtime, Chapter 2 looks set to explore a lot. Including potentially what happened to Henry Bowers, with actor Teach Grant playing the older Bowers. And the trailers have teased that we could get to see Pennywise’s backstory. Or at least the basis for him. Which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how mysterious you like your villains.

Conclusion

With a solid foundation, a good cast, the same director and one of the same writers as the first movie and some intriguing mysteries in the marketing, IT: Chapter 2 looks set to continue the first movies prestige as one of the best Stephen King adaptations in recent years. Will it stick the landing? We’ll just have to wait until September 6th to find out.

IT: Chapter 2 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: 5 Horror Films And The Real Events Behind Them

Editorials

5 Horror Films And The Real Events Behind Them

August 17, 2019
Horror movies based on real events

“Based on a true story”. While those words should always be taken with a pinch of salt these claims of truthfulness do contribute to the audience’s experience. The idea that what you are watching isn’t far removed from reality makes the narrative feel more real and immediate, which horror films need to be effective. And these real-world horrors should be known alongside the movies they inspired.

So, today we are looking at the real-life stories behind five famous horror films. Warning, there is upsetting content ahead.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) & Ed Gein

In 1973 Sally and Franklin Hardesty and their friends head to Texas to check that the Hardesty’s grandfathers’ grave hasn’t been the victim of a series of grave defacements and robberies. But while there, they run afoul of a group of vicious killers’ intent on killing them all.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre drew a lot of inspiration from the story of Ed Gein. Gein was a killer and graverobber who operated in Wisconsin in the late 40s and early 1950s.

Gein was apprehended in 1957 as a murder suspect. When the police searched his home they discovered many disturbing sights. These included lampshades and masks made of human skin and a heart in a plastic bag near the stove. This lead to rumours of cannibalism, though this was never definitively proven. These elements were subsequently filtered into TCM’s set design and the characters of Leatherface and his cannibalistic family.

Real life killer Ed Gein (left) was the inspiration for leatherface (right)
Real-life killer Ed Gein (left) was the inspiration for Leatherface (right) in the original TCM

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) & The Phantom Killer

An early proto-slasher and pseudo-documentary, The Town that Dreaded Sundown tells the joint narrative of the Phantom Killer, as he stalks and kills several residents of the town of Texarkana, and the police working to track him down.

The film was loosely based on the 1946 Texarkana moonlight murders. Where, over 10 weeks the Phantom Killer attacked 8 people and killed 5, sending the town into a panic. The state police did investigate, but the killer was not caught.

After it’s release several lawsuits were filed against the film. The brother of one of the victims sued the production over the derogatory portrayal of one of his family members. And Texarkana officials themselves filed a complaint against the movie’s marketing, which apparently unnerved the townspeople (including the victims’ families) by saying that the killer “still lurks” around the town.

Poster for The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

The Amityville Horror (1979/2005) & The Lutz’s Story

Both the 1979 and 2005 Amityville Horror’s tell the story of the Lutz family, who moved into a new home where the previous residents were murdered. They soon begin experiencing many spooky goings-on. And it becomes apparent that they are in very real danger in this house.

Both films are based on the book of the same name, which claimed to be a true story. Several story aspects, including the DeFeo killings, where Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered 6 members of his family in their home, and the Lutz’s moving into the former DeFeo house for a short time are true.

After the 1979 film’s release, the judge presiding over a case involving the fraudulence of the book declared that he believed the book to largely be fictitious. Later, the real George Lutz sued the makers of the 2005 remake (which claimed to be based on a true story), for defamation. But he passed away soon after.

Photo of 112 Ocean Avenue. The setting of the DeFeo murders and The Amityville Horror

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) & Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome

The 1984 horror masterpiece concerns a group of friends plagued by horrific nightmares. All involving the razor glove wielding, burn victim Freddy Krueger. But while their parents think they’re just nightmares the kids soon realise that if they die in their dreams, they die for real.

Wes Craven stated that the inspiration for the film came from a string of LA Times articles about south-east Asian refugees in the 1970s. Many of these people refused to go to sleep after suffering from disturbing nightmares and were later found to have died in their sleep. Craven then took this inspiration and imagined that a dream figure was responsible. Thus birthing one of the most iconic killers in all of cinema.

Headline from a newspaper used in Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy

Silent Night (2012) & The Covina Massacre

Silent Night, the remake of 1984’s Silent Night Deadly Night, focuses on a police officer who must hunt down a killer who has come to her town for the holiday season. But being dressed as Santa, the killer will be difficult to find.

While most of the film is typical slasher movie fair, during a flashback we learn of a man believed to be the killer who took a homemade flamethrower to a Christmas party and used it to kill his ex-wife.

This part of the story is based on the 2008 Covina Massacre where Bruce Pardo killed 9 people at his ex-wife’s Christmas Party while dressed as Santa using a homemade flamethrower and several handguns.

Silent Night’s Santa killer is not far removed from the perpetrator of the Covina Massacre

And, so ends my look at the real-life stories behind 5 famous horror movies. Proof that sometimes reality is more terrifying than any movie.

Also Read: Horror On Horror Sets

Reviews

Review: The Great Hack

August 10, 2019
The Great Hack Poster

The idea of everyone being connected by the internet once had positive connotations. The films that showed the supposed dangers of the digital world like The Matrix seemed so preposterous. But in a post-Edward Snowden and Wikileaks world, the dangers of the internet are now all too real.

There have been several documentaries in recent years about the acquisition of private information online and today we are going to be looking at Netflix’s newest offering to this particular subject, The Great Hack.

Synopsis

Cambridge Analytica was at the centre of several world-altering campaigns in the last few years. Leave.EU in the UK Brexit debate and the Donald Trump Presidential campaign in the USA. But while they had a huge impact on these campaigns, their methods were far more nefarious. Analytica harvested personal information from thousands of Facebook users, without their consent, and then used this to create targeted marketing.

The film follows several people involved in the unravelling of the CA scandal. Including David Carroll, who sued CA to get back the data CA had on him. Former CA employees such as Brittany Kaiser who have decided to blow the whistle on the company. And journalist Carol Cadwalladr.

What did I like?

There are two things that The Great Hack does very well. The first is the way it uses graphics and montages. Throughout the film, graphics are used to impart/illustrate information quickly in a way that doesn’t intrude on the action. And along with graphics the film also uses montages of websites and news stories to give a sense of mood. The montage of various targeted Facebook adverts showing how CA was able to manipulate how people see the world and the use of small square particles to indicate the passage of online info, effectively illustrates how much of our personal daily life is part of and reliant on the internet. Making the points made about CA more threatening.

The second positive is the presentation of the emotional arc of one of the principal participants, Brittany Kaiser. Kaiser, once a key player inside Cambridge Analytica, later came forward with information about how CA conducted their operations. The presentation of her arc from an idealist working on the Obama campaign to being part of the unethical practices of CA is fascinating. Because her motivations are so human. She switched sides in political marketing because she needed money to support herself, which the Obama campaign apparently would not give her. She enjoyed working with who she worked with, so she didn’t see all the negative implications that we can see as outsiders. But she admits her flaws and in the end, stands up for everyone’s right to privacy. Honestly, the film owes much of its success to Kaiser’s inclusion.

However, this leads me into The Great Hack’s problems.

What did I not like?

The Great Hacks first major problem is its pacing. The films key arguments: The dangers of companies using personal information to target you with marketing on social media; Our overreliance on the internet & What CA was up to and how it impacted the world. Are all covered within the first hour. The film then spends another hour repeating the same points. And it begins to get frustrating. This wouldn’t be so bad if the film employed new ways to engage us. But the camerawork is standard, the music is unengaging and the visual flourishes are too infrequent.

Secondly, because the documentary focuses on peoples journeys with CA, it’s critical to get the audience on side with the participants. But Kaiser is the only participant who manages to engage with the audience because she acts like a normal person. Carol Cadwalladr isn’t given enough screentime for us to care about her involvement. And David Carroll, who blatantly tells the audience, that companies having access to private information without consent is bad as if we didn’t already know, projects a very condescending attitude. Which is nothing but off-putting. Not helped when he consistently takes jabs at Kaiser.

There is also a problem with some points being over and underexplained. It expects you to already subscribe to the belief that Trump and Brexit were a bad idea, without giving any contextual information. But they spend an inordinate amount of time talking how information is gathered online and the dangers it poses to privacy. Something that is common knowledge by this point.

Finally, The Great Hack appears to argue that the Trump and Brexit campaigns were wholly won by targeted social media. Ignoring the larger issues of social division and the growing disillusionment with so-called experts and politicians. Electing to solely focus on technology as the purveyor of misfortune. Which seems a little reductive of a complicated issue.

Verdict

Overall while The Great Hack does have some minor visual flair and one incredibly well-told arc, it’s not enough to carry the film. Perhaps as an hour-long TV special it would have faired better. The stripped-down, just the facts version of the story would have been at least novel as a piece of unfolding news.

But as a film, The Great Hack is severely sloppy as it drags its points out and operates from a condescending and in some ways reductive viewpoint, that ultimately will leave most viewers either cold or frustrated.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Also Read: Five Documentaries To Watch On Netflix