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Tag: Horror

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

Editorials

Horrors On Horror Sets

July 13, 2019
Real Skeletons on set of horror movie "Poltergeist"

Sometimes horror films can become all too real for the people on set. Over the years several horror movies sets have been the sites of unfortunate, weird and in some cases fatal accidents and incidents that make you question the luck and safety standards of the production. Today we will look at seven famous incidents where a film set turned into a real-life horror film.

Warning, there is upsetting content ahead.

The Bunny Game

A shock-horror film about a prostitute being kidnapped and tortured by a truck driver, the BBFC rejected The Bunny Game, fearing that its portrayal of violent and dangerous acts may harm audiences. This wasn’t helped by the presence of extreme unsimulated acts within the film.

While filming a nude scene in a junkyard, actress Rodleen Getsic received several injuries from shards of metal sticking into her body. And during one scene, she was actually branded.

Through trying to create an authentic atmosphere, the filmmakers created one of the most disturbing movies of the past decade, from a health and safety perspective.

Eery shot of branding in The Bunny Game

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Like the Bunny Game, 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s production is a tale of a horrific working environment. Because of the films low budget, the effects were minimal, and often employed workarounds to accomplish them. But when coupled with hundred-degree weather, rank working conditions (dead animals were used as set dressing) and a stressed crew, something was bound to happen.

Notably, the scene where Sally’s finger is cut was supposed to show stage blood coming out of a tube. But when the mechanism didn’t work, Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) cut actress Marilyn Burns’ finger with a razor. Also, during the scene where Leatherface kills the character Kirk, Hansen brought a real running chainsaw down three inches from actor William Vail’s face, making the film’s title very nearly prophetic.

The insanity of the dinner scene may have been reflective of life on set of The Tecxas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Exorcist

Often considered the scariest film of all time, the Exorcist has several on-set horror stories to go with it.

As well as most of the MacNeil house set burning down (eerily, aside from the scenes where the exorcism would take place) actress’ Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair both suffered back injuries during filming. Burstyn was pulled back strongly by a rig for a stunt, injuring her coccyx, which she has said still bothers her to this day. And Blair was hurt when the lacing of her back brace came loose when she was being thrown around on a bed. Ironically the takes where both actresses received these injuries were used in the final film.

The shot of Ellen Burstyn injuring her back (The Exorcist)

The Omen

The Omen’s filming was also plagued with problems.

When the filmmakers charted a plane to get some aerial shots of London, they allowed another party to use the plane first. Shortly after the plane took off it crashed killing 6 people. The filming also had several serious incidents with animals. A rottweiler injured a stunt double when it bit through his protective padding. In the zoo scene, the baboons used by production attacked the car that actors Lee Remick and Harvey Stephens were in. Remick reportedly feared for her life. And a zoo handler who had been working with the production was killed by a tiger after zoo shooting wrapped. And those are just the incidents that happened during production.

One of the dogs used as hellhounds in The Omen (1976)

Maximum Overdrive

When people think of Stephen King, they think of some of the most terrifying novels of the last century, but cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi probably thinks of King very differently.

During the making of King’s sole directorial effort, Maximum Overdrive, for a low shot involving a lawnmower all safety equipment was removed from the mower, exposing the blades. When the lawnmower met the wooden stand the camera was on, it sent a large number of splinters into Nannuzzi’s face which resulted in him eventually losing an eye. He later sued King and the crew for unsafe working conditions.

Even everyday objects can be dangerous when not used with care (Maximum Overdrive)

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

During the making of the final movie in the long-running action-horror series stunt woman, Olivia Jackson was injured when her motorbike collided with a malfunctioning camera crane at high speed. She was put in a medically induced coma for two weeks and suffered several injuries. Including crushed facial bones, a degloved face and a paralyzed left arm that was eventually amputated.

Following this horrific accident crew member Ricardo Cornelius was unfortunately killed when a hummer fell off a rotating platform and crushed him.

Poster for Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Twilight Zone: The Movie

Finally, we come to the film that started modern Hollywood’s move for better safety regulations. Twilight Zone: The Movie was an anthology movie based on the classic tv series.

In John Landis’ segment, Time Out, we follow a racist man (Vic Morrow) forced to witness the consequences that such attitudes have had throughout history.

However, while filming the segment’s climax where the main character saves two Vietnamese children (Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Che) from a warzone the helicopter they were using flew too close to a pyrotechnic, causing it to crash on top of the three actors, killing them instantly.

The aftermath of the horrendous accident which claimed the lives of three (Twilight Zone: The Movie)

Thank you for reading and always remember, stay safe.

Also Read: Video Nasties: The History of Censored Films in the UK

Editorials

Video Nasties: The History of Censored Films In The UK

July 2, 2019

The UK film industry has encountered countless censorship controversies over the years. Some date as far back as 1925 and they continue well into the 21st Century. Considering that the definition of censorship is to suppress speech that is obscene, politically unacceptable or a threat to security, this raises considerable questions for freedom of speech.

Well, today we are looking at the history of UK film censorship. We will look at the video nasties scandal and the role they played in British film and law history. And we will look at examples of British film censorship throughout the years and the reasons behind their censorship. But first, we will look at the body responsible for the regulation of British film, the BBFC.   

Who are the BBFC?

The BBFC was founded in 1912. Their acronym stands for British Board of Film Classification, originally the British Board of Film Censors. Its purpose is to certificate films shown in UK cinemas. These certificates are legal guidelines for who should be able to see a film The film classifications are U, PG, 12A/12, 15, 18 and R18. This is done to prevent potential harm to the public, especially children. Under the Licencing Act 2003, all cinemas must restrict admittance of anyone under 18 in accordance with the BBFC’s age ratings.

The BBFC’s logo

The BBFC can also advise film distributors on how to reduce their classification by listing potential cuts. Censoring any material that may be harmful to the British public. Later they became responsible for classifying video releases. A responsibility brought about thanks to…

The Video Nasties

In the late 70s/early 80s, the video market in the UK was unregulated. The BBFC originally ran a voluntary regulatory service. Meaning that the video distribution companies had to submit their film and pay for classification. Usually these videos were heavily cut to meet the BBFC’s guidelines. So many companies chose to avoid it.

Many conservative outlets, including the Daily Mail, campaigned against the slew of violent horror films being released. And how children could easily acquire them because of the lack of regulation. The Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently made a list of 72 titles that he thought would be liable for prosecution under The Obscene Publications Act, The Video Nasties. Meaning that he saw them as capable of depraving and corrupting the British public. The DPP also listed another 82 titles, called the section 3 titles. These films contained offensive material, but they were less likely to get a conviction.

The Video Nasties List

Several films listed by the DPP were successfully prosecuted, but several cases were unsuccessful. Meaning that there was a lot of conjecture as to what was classified as “obscene”.

This eventually led to the creation of the Video Recordings Act 1984. This required all videos to be classified by an industry body, resulting in the BBFC classification of home video releases. Many of the banned titles were later released. Although they were heavily cut. Though years later many of the films have since had all cuts waived.

Examples of Censorship

But of course, battles over films potentially harming viewers is nothing new in the UK. One of the first films the BBFC banned was 1925’s Battleship Potemkin, for political reasons. Because of the films function as communist propaganda, it was seen as having the potential to provoke violent revolts. Potemkin wasn’t released in the UK until 1954.

But even in the past decade, the BBFC have encountered problems with several controversial films. Most notably Human Centipede 2. Which the board initially rejected due to its portrayal of sexual violence and encouraging a dehumanizing view of others. The BBFC only allowed a release after they cut 2 minutes of footage. Which displeased the film’s fans, though it greatly pleased the film’s director.

The Human Centipede: Second Sequence (Six Entertainment)

But the board have also received flack for occasionally being too permissive. For example see Crash, which depicts the lives of a group of car accident fetishists. Upon release, several newspapers called for it to be banned. Westminster actually has a ban on the film, but the board passed it uncut. A rare example of local councils overturning the BBFC’s decision.

The Results

The BBFC has changed a lot over the years. It is now the overseer of Britain’s home entertainment industry and the legal arbiter of the cinemas. They have gone from consistently demanding cuts from films, to being more concerned with film classification. To see their changing attitudes look no further than the video nasties themselves. Once seen as potentially obscene many are now available uncut.

But like the nasties, there are newer movies that aim to push what is acceptable. Making things very difficult for the BBFC. “If they’re too heavy-handed the liberals don’t like them. If you’re too light-handed, then the conservatives don’t like them” – Christopher Frayling. And the internet makes it easier and easier for the public to circumvent the board’s decisions.

Ultimately, times change. What is obscene one year is next years punchline.  The board’s mission is, of course, important, to protect the vulnerable from potential harm. But does that give it the right to tamper with someone’s work? Please let us know your feelings in the comments below.

Also Read: Great Scenes with No Dialogue

Reviews

Retro Review: It Follows

June 8, 2019
It Follows poster

Over the past several years horror fans and critics have tended to pick an independent horror film and lavish huge amounts of praise and attention on them. Often declaring them as instant classics of the genre. But these films often prove very divisive. With other audiences claiming the films are overrated, not true horror films or simply not good. Examples include Hereditary (2018), The Witch (2015), The Babadook (2014) and the subject of today’s review, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014). Does it deserve its divisive reputation? Let’s find out.

Synopsis

Jay (Maika Monroe) is a teenager enjoying all the foibles of growing into adulthood. One-night Jay decides to sleep with her new boyfriend for the first time. Afterwards, she is knocked out and taken to an abandoned building. There her boyfriend reveals he has passed a curse on to her. A shapeshifting creature which can take the form of anyone has begun following her and it wants her dead.

Her boyfriend then disappears leaving Jay to deal with the threat on her own. The one positive is that the creature only follows her at a walking pace, so Jay decides to use this to her advantage.

Along with her friends, she tracks down her boyfriend to get an explanation out of him and they learn that the only way the creature can be stopped is to transfer the curse to someone else. But can Jay bring herself to put another person in harm’s way or will she try something different?

What did I like?

The hyperbolic claims that It Follows is simply not a good film is baffling. Purely from a technical point of view, the film is great. As a horror film, It Follows has a firm grasp of how to create tension through its presentation. Using long takes, interesting camera movement and good actor direction to build anxiety about where the monster is and when it will strike. The score also builds a tense atmosphere through creating both a confrontational and quietly eerie soundscape.

The acting is also superb. With the story centred around teenagers, the film could easily become laughable if the cast weren’t believable. But all the main actors feel like real teenagers. Maika Monroe particularly stands out as an incredibly likeable, sympathetic and genuine lead. Her monologue about remembering her youth near the film’s beginning carries great weight because of her delivery. And the way all the friends talk about their childhoods and the antics they get up to gives a feeling of true friendship, allowing us to easily invest in their situation.

The film also pays tribute to older horror films in effective ways. With a synthesizer-heavy score, a stalking camera and an unknowable slow moving, shapeshifting monster, evoking the feeling of John Carpenters older horror films. But the film also has a very modern outlook.

Instead of simply killing characters for having sex or exploiting them for pointless nudity, It Follows is more a tale about teenagers coming to terms with the vulnerability of their bodies. Many scenes have Jay looking over her body and showing how she feels different now because of the danger brought on by the monster. But she never shies away from sex. Her challenge is choosing what to do with the burden she’s been given. As an extension, the women are not solely victims, like in many other horror movies. They take an active role in dealing with the threat, and they call the shots when it comes to sex. While most of the men are cowardly or self-centred. A far cry from the puritanical traditions of many older horror films.

This amalgam of traditions makes the film almost timeless. Ensuring most generations will be able to get something from watching it.

What did I not like?

But there are a few things that let the film down. There are a few weird editing choices throughout the film where the focus will instantly shift to another point of focus instead of giving a payoff to what came before. This is particularly noticeable in the finale which, although it gets a point across, does feel somewhat out of place.

Another problem is that despite the film using its narrative in an interesting way, the beats of the plot are still very familiar to anyone who has seen a passing-on-the-curse movie. And there are very few surprises to freshen up the formula. Which may put off some audiences.

Finally, while the film provides positive female representation with its characters, the film does occasionally feel very leery. With long shots of the female characters in their underwear, swimwear and revealing clothes. While both a staple of the genre and somewhat justified by the theme of body image, it is telling that we never get similar shots for the male characters. And this can leave a bad taste in the audience’s mouth, especially with everything the film does to paint its women positively.

Verdict

Despite a few hiccups in editing, a familiar story and tending to slightly leer at its female characters, It Follows remains a great example of how to do modern horror right.

It gives us time to get to know the leads, who are all relatable and down to earth. While focusing on building tension rather than using jump scares, which the film does through interesting uses of music, camera movement and actor direction; It Follows celebrates the horrors of the past while updating some tropes to tell a modern story.

It Follows follows in the tradition of Carpenter and gives us a modern retro gem, that I can see audiences enjoying for years to come. Check it out and judge for yourselves.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

It Follows is available for free on BBC Iplayer for the next 2 months

It Follows (Trailer)

Also Read: How The Blair Witch Project Changed Horror.

Reviews

Review: The Silence

May 27, 2019

New Netflix film The Silence tells the story of a family trying to survive in a country ravaged by monsters that hunt by sound and to have any hope of survival you must be silent.

The Elephant In The Cinema (or Netflix in this case)

The plot outline of The Silence sounds very similar to recent horror hit A Quiet Place and the word “mockbuster” has been thrown around describing The Silence. A mockbuster is a film that has a plot and title similar to a very successful film and is not a coincidence but a very cynical attempt to leech off the success of the blockbuster. It should be pointed out The Silence is based on a book that predates A Quiet Place. Personally, I would say the quality of the film and its origins means it isn’t a mockbuster but it’s still impossible not to directly compare it to the other film.

What’s Going On?

The film follows a single family and how they deal with a nationwide catastrophe; strange winged creatures are spreading across the country and killing countless people. After watching news reports it becomes clear that the creatures hunt by what they can hear – meaning if you can be quiet you’re safe. As the family has a deaf daughter they are used to communicating non-verbally. After a tense few hours of deliberation, the family decides to drive out into the quieter and presumably safer countryside. To their horror, they find that the monsters are not far behind and not only that but there are other things dangers to be wary of.

Behind The Scenes

The film is directed by John R. Leonetti a cinematographer and director with a history in horror, his biggest directing credit being for 2014’s Annabelle. The writers are Shane Van Dyke and Carey Van Dyke whose involvement in Transmorphers: Fall of Man and The Day The Earth Stopped (films that, surely coincidentally, are reminiscent of Transformers franchise and The Day The Earth Stood Still) has somewhat added to the perception problem as a mockbuster.

In Front Of The Camera

I’ll admit that it was the cast that made me interested in this film – namely Stanley Tucci, who plays Hugh, the Dad, and Kieran Shipka, who plays Ally, the daughter. Stanley Tucci is a great actor, that’s just a fact, his monologue in Margin Call about building a bridge is one of my favourite scenes of all time. Whereas Kieran Shipka is best known for her phenomenal performance as Sally Draper in Mad Men and more recently as the eponymous character in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Unsurprisingly Tucci gives a great performance as an ordinary Dad in extraordinary circumstances, a calm, gentle man, who while retaining his decency shows he is tougher than people might think. Shipka’s performance was good, as was most of the cast to be honest, but not quite what I was hoping for.

Does It Work?

The film is moderately enjoyable, especially if you are a fan of this post-apocalyptic, or in this case during-apocalyptic movie. This is, in fact, the main difference between The Silence and A Quiet Place, the latter is set some time after the problems started and the complete collapse of civilisation, whereas The Silence only gives us the first moments of what is happening. After all, throughout most of the film Ally talks via Skype with a schoolfriend discussing what is happening and surely if Skype is still working things haven’t got that bad yet.

The film is quite predictable and offers little in the way of surprises. The monsters are CGI created and are not always terrible fearsome, the film making the mistake of many monster movie in that they show the monster far too often. The most terrifying monsters are only glimpsed by the viewer. Overall I wasn’t convinced that the monsters posed an existential threat to humans, they did not seem that fearsome or dangerous, yes they could kill a person but they were described in the film as unstoppable nightmare creatures.

The film takes an odd turn away from the danger of the monsters to the danger of other people. Now, this is a fairly common trope of disaster/apocalyptic films that humans can be as bad as the monsters. What is absolutely bizarre in this film is that the normal, civilised people got completely batshit crazy in literally two days. While scavenging Hugh and Ally encounter a creepy man and it turns out he has a bunch of creepy friends who have already started mutilating themselves and talking about women in terms of “fertility”. This has to be the most rapid descent into apocalyptic madness I have ever seen and it is simply too much to accept that people would turn so bad so quickly. I’m not even sure the old adage that a civilised man is only three meals away from barbarity as I don’t think they had missed that many meals.

So, the big question, how does it do compare to A Quiet Place? Not well is the quick answer. A Quiet Place was hugely enjoyable and genuinely tense and The Silence just doesn’t match up in any way. But even without this comparison The Silence barely feels like a film and more like a long episode of a moderately successful tv show. At best it will only appeal to fans of this genre and will not be remembered as a particularly worthy addition but still too good to be a mockbuster.

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

The Silence (Official Trailer)

Also Read: How The Blair Witch Project Changed Horror

Reviews

Rachael RnR Reviews Jordan Peele’s “Us”

March 30, 2019
Us Review Rachael RnR

Written & directed by Jordan Peele, YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the blockbuster horror “Us”.

What’s it about?

Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that her past will catch up to her. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival.

“Us” is currently available to watch in cinemas.

Reviews

Review: Us [Spoiler Free]

March 25, 2019

An onslaught of violence, terror and doppelgangers in new horror film, Us.

What’s Going On?

A family holiday back to the beach she visisted as a child brings back unsettling memories for Adelaide and triggers a sense of something truly terrible coming. Unfortunately, her feelings are proven right when late at night a group of four people, a family, are spotted hanging around outside their holiday home. As Gabe, husband and father, confronts the group things quickly escalate and soon it’s a house invasion at which point Adelaide, Gabe and their children realise their attackers look exactly like them.

Behind The Scenes

This is the second film by Jordan Peele after 2017’s Oscar-winning Get Out and expectations are high. Peele was known primarily for many years as one half of comedy sketch group Key and Peele, who while not well known in the UK were a big deal in America. After two films Peele is already making a name for himself as a master of horror and he seems like the perfect person to present the rebooted Twilight Zone. As someone who is not a huge horror fan Peele’s films have had a big impact on me.

In Front Of The Camera

Most of the cast play two characters so Winston Duke has to be both reassuring father Gabe and violent brute, Abraham. While the focus is on the whole family Lupita Nyong’o is undoubtedly the star of the movie with two amazing performances as Adelaide and her doppelganger, Red. The children, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, are both great and are especially creepy when being the doppelgangers.

Does It Work?

As I said, expectations were high after Get Out and this film met those high expectations. As soon as the doppelgangers arrive the film is a non-stop terrifying ride. Each doppelganger is their own unique brand of horrifying: Adelaide’s speaking in a rasping voice about what horror she has been through and what awaits, Gabe’s is a brute dishing out violence at any opportunity, Zora (the daughter) has an unsettling manic look to her and Jason (the son) acts more like an animal, scuttling around the room with a very creepy mask. Each doppelganger takes on the original in an apt way (e.g. Zora is told to run and is chased by her double as Zora had recently discussed quitting Track and Field events) which suggests an in-depth knowledge of the family.

The film has many twists and turns and unexpected events so I won’t go too much into the plot so as to avoid spoilers. The normalcy of the family at the beginning sets up a wonderful family life. Gabe is such a “Dad” character making stupid jokes, telling off the children and insisting on planning activities none of the others wanted to do – I assure you, Gabe, nobody wanted to go fishing. There are problems that are hinted at such as Adelaide’s possibly traumatic past and how Jason seems to always wear a mask (I couldn’t work out whether it was meant to be Chewbacca or just a generic creature) but overall they seemed a very happy family. The film also manages to be funny, especially before the horror gets going, it’s a rather nice comedy of a happy family and is a gentle reminder that for a long time Jordan Peele was primarily a comedian.

Adelaide’s character goes on a harrowing journey that begins with her as a terrified mother, relying on her husband or the curiously missing police to save them to a truly formidable presence. It is hard to overstate just how brilliant Lupita Nyong’o is in the film, playing the fragile Adelaide or giving intense monologue’s as Red to Adelaide finding her strength.

The film primarily seems to be about identity and the feeling of how if things had been different you could be a completely different person. What connection does a genuine doppelganger have with you? Who has the greater claim to “your” identity? Does undergoing horror make you horrific? Are we only good because we live in a pleasant society where you can make a life without being bad? The viewer is left to make up their own mind about most of this.

Of course this isn’t just a philosophical film about identity but a brutal horror movie. The violence feels awfully real and a great deal of convincing blood is shed. The sheer oddity of battling a mirror image of yourself increases the disturbing nature and surely everyone watching would be imagining how they would have handled their own evil doppelganger.

The films looks great. The doppelgangers have a very distinct look, wearing identical red boilersuits and a single leather glove and all are armed with very sharp scissors (at the cinema I saw the film at the staff wore the same red boilersuits). The image of the doppelgangers standing outside in the darkness, barely illuminated, is very disturbing and memorable. Jason, the first to spot them, instantly identifies them as a family and I think that is exactly how they appear. The beach town is a beautiful backdrop to the horrors than unfold, a favourite touch of mine was the carnival attraction that young Adelaide gets lost in, in the 1980s its a cultural appropriating Native American “spirit journey” but in the present a more generic, and less offensive, Wizard Forest.

The film also uses music really well. I don’t know if I’ll ever listen to Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys without getting a chill down my spine. But there is a trade-off that because of this film I might laugh at Fuck The Police by N.W.A. The original soundtrack is positively chilling with the song “Anthem” bringing dread, fear and auditory flashbacks to many other great horror film soundtracks.

This film is a success on every level and I’m surprised to say that I might have actually enjoyed this film more than Get Out. If you’re a fan of horror or not go and see this film – albeit it might be too much for the very squeamish or easily creeped out.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Us (Official Trailer)
Reviews

Review: Await Further Instructions

March 22, 2019

A claustrophobic horror thriller centred around a bitterly divided family.

What’s Going On?

Nick brings his girlfriend, Annji, back to his family home for Christmas after an absence of several years. It is not long before the tensions in the family boil over, particularly the racism directed towards Annji. After making the decision to leave Nick and Annji find out they are trapped in the house by metal shutters placed there by some outside power. Their only outlet to the outside world is through the television broadcasting instructions on what they should do. The already fractured family are put through increasingly intense dramas that only brings out the worst in them.

Behind The Scenes

The film is directed by Johnny Kevorkian and written by Gavin Williams and this is probably their biggest project to date. The film certainly has it’s interesting moments but neither the direction or the writing particularly stand out.

In Front Of The Camera

The main actors are Sam Gittins (Nick), Neerja Naik (Annji) and Grant Masters (Tony, Nick’s father) and they are all asked to a lot but don’t manage to pull it off. Of the three Naik’s performance is the best as she tries to withstand a familiar line of abuse, ranging from unpleasant comments about immigrants to vicious slurs yet not lose her temper. Gittins plays the dependable boyfriend and (as well as Naik) the voice of reason to the encroaching madness. Masters isn’t quite believable as the ringleader of what happens and fails to convincingly portray a normal man who goes too far.

The most recognisable member of the cast will probably be David Bradley best known as either Filch from the Harry Potter films or Walder Frey from Games of Thrones. Bradley plays Granddad – the family member who never even tries to welcome Annji or moderate his behaviour at all.

Does It Work?

The film starts off with an interesting premise of a family, already on edge, being pushed further by the horrendous circumstances. Often films where people are trapped together in a small space they start as friends or strangers but before any of the horror starts there are clear dividing lines in the group. It’s hard to not think that this is a post-Brexit film; the issues of immigration and race are specifically brought up, with each side thinking the other is utterly ridiculous and completely to blame. The first half of the film definitely works better and Abigail Cruttenden plays the mother desperately trying to reconcile the different elements of her family and maintain the peace quite well.

When they wake up on Christmas day and realise they are trapped these fault lines only harden. Tony tries to take control of the situation but that is limited to blindly following the instructions via the television, trying to disguise his blind obedience as sensible and practical behaviour.

There are a few cliches that get wheeled out and when things start getting out of hand it’s not a surprise when the most obviously unpleasant character is the first to suffer. Then there is the presence of Nick’s sister, Kate, heavily pregnant, used as justification by her husband for his behaviour and, of course, making her incredibly vulnerable.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks is that the slip from imprisonment and mild paranoia to outright violence and worse is incredibly quick. It is only hours before all manner of terrible things are being done and even with their existing problems, it’s hard to reconcile such extreme behaviour with their circumstances. Even families that don’t get along will have their limits and most people place their family’s wellbeing as the centre of their world.

What the film reminded me of most was an episode of Black Mirror, or probably more accurately, a sub-Black Mirror inspired show. The film comments on hysteria, the power of media, the fear of the Other but without any subtlety or particular originality. The film also reminded me of one of the most infamous experiments in all of psychology – Stanley Milgram’s study on obedience. Participants were asked to give electric shocks to a person every time they got a question wrong, increasing the voltage with each wrong answer. Most participants carried on past the point their victim begged them to stop with one of the researchers telling the participant they must continue. Importantly no one was actually harmed in the experiment but people thought they were harming people. The film is partially a study on obedience to authority; obeying the government, obeying your father, obeying those with power over you. Each character responds differently to these different authorities and this is one of the film’s most successful aspects.

As the film nears the end and the madness is ramped up even further the bizarreness of the ending does not feel justified. I can go along with all manner of oddness if I feel it has been earned or handled in an interesting way but it just felt silly – the worst thing that can happen to a horror film.

Overall Await Further Instructions is not a good film, despite a good beginning and an intriguing idea of bringing the division of the country into one home. I would say in its defence that I was never bored and did want to see where it was going and how it would all end, but I could already sense that the ending would not be able to tie up the loose ends sufficiently let alone deal with some of the bigger plotholes.

Verdict 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Reviews

Review: The Cured [Spoiler Free]

February 22, 2019

A zombie movie set in Ireland. Straight away, what’s not to like?

As a native of this green island, I was immediately intrigued when I noticed The Cured pop up on Netflix recently. I’m a fan of zombie movies (much to my wife’s displeasure) and took the first available opportunity to gobble this one up. Pun intended.

Why now?

The Cured was released on January 25 on Netflix in the UK.

In a nutshell

A virus has devastated most of Europe, turning the infected into psychotic, bloodthirsty monsters, and Ireland has suffered heavily. However, a cure has been found which has been successful on 75% of the infected population, with the remaining 25% still quarantined for study. One young man called Senan, one of the cured, is released back into the care of his sister-in-law. However, the cured can remember what they did in their infected state, and it isn’t long before Senan and his fellow cured come into conflict with a society unwilling to accept them back.

Who’s it for?

The Cured is rated 15 for strong violence, gore, threat and language. It’s not quite as violent as most other zombie movies I’ve seen and much of the horror is implied. Fans of the genre will find the bloodiness satisfactory while newcomers shouldn’t be put off by it.

Ellen Page in The Cured

Who’s in it?

Sam Keeley plays protagonist Senan, while Ellen page takes the role of his sister-in-law Abbie. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Ebony Maw in Avengers: Infinity War, which was news to me) plays Conor, a fellow member of the Cured with an agenda. It’s a small but capable cast.

The good stuff

This is a smarter zombie movie than many others in the genre. Granted, most contemporary films about the brain-munchers usually try to put a fresh spin on things (unless it’s The Walking Dead) and some succeed, but I liked the fact that this one focused on an entirely new aspect of it all – what happens to those who are cured of the infection. I thought the whole concept of them actually remembering what they did in their zombie state was particularly chilling, and it’s a premise that becomes increasingly significant as the film goes on. This is a well-written, well-acted movie with shades of 28 Days Later and The Last of Us in there at times. Some scenes are genuinely scary, too. And if the writers didn’t intend for it to be an allegory of historical Irish political unrest, they certainly stumbled into it anyway.

The not so good stuff

There isn’t much to say about this movie that’s overly negative. It was clearly made on a smaller budget than other zombie movies (like the big-money World War Z, for instance) and so it doesn’t have very many big action sequences or huge amounts of zombie screen time. Some of the plot is quite predictable and the ending’s a bit of a let-down, but if you take it at face value and are happy with a slower-burning zombie flick, I doubt you’ll mind.

The bottom line

I enjoyed The Cured – it’s a good casual watch and perfect for Netflix viewing. It won’t win too many new fans to the zombie genre, but it’s a fresh enough twist on the long-running horror premise to merit a watch. Catch it while you can.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The Cured – Official Trailer (YouTube)
Editorials

Women In Horror: An Ode to Laurie Strode

February 20, 2019
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode (etonline.com)

Horror is a strange genre of film. For all of its freedom to create a frightening piece of work, it also seems to be the most restricted, the threat of it being ‘too scary’ looming over its head. It’s a fine line to walk between ‘creepy’ and ‘cliché’ – with every one person that finds The Nun horrifying, there are nine more who find it laughable.

Yet, for all of its rules, the genre also seems to understand that it needs to evolve in order to stay relevant. No longer is it just the masked man wielding a chainsaw out to get you, it’s also the chavs you stumbled across on your romantic getaway. No longer is it just malevolent forces whose home you have just moved in to wanting to rip you apart, it’s also someone who just wanted to kill you for the sheer thrill of it. The characters themselves have evolved over time – men are no longer void of emotions aside from sexual desires; they’re remorseful, protective, impassioned.

Women have evolved too and are no longer the pure virgin, the damsel in distress waiting to be saved, lungs sore from screaming the whole film – they’re mothers protecting their children, they’re stronger, finding ways to defend themselves so the fight against evil isn’t so one-sided. Laurie Strode defines that evolution.

Happy Halloween

Halloween (1978) Opening Sequence

Halloween was released in 1978 and became an instant horror classic. From the opening shot of Michael’s first murder to the music that travels around Michael to that William Shatner mask, John Carpenter created (perhaps unwittingly) a horror legacy. The film follows Michael Myers, an escaped convict, as he returns home on Halloween night, fifteen years after killing his sister in order to kill again. His new obsession? Laurie Strode.

Laurie in the 1970s was a fair-haired, intelligent teenager. Naive but sweet. She had the aura of a girl who would roll her eyes if you asked her for the homework answers but would still hand you the completed worksheet. In fact, one of her friends asks her to look after the girl she’s babysitting in order to go and see her boyfriend – after much back and forth, eventually Laurie agrees to. A typical character of the time, a lovely girl who no one expects bad things to happen to.

From the moment Myers first stabs Laurie’s shoulder, there is a hint of what Laurie could be, the strength she has inside. She smashes a window open in order to escape, she makes sure the children are safe by keeping them upstairs away from the chaos and she stabs Myers in the neck with a knitting needle, with the aim of killing him. However, with knowing that Myers’ doctor, Dr Loomis, is out there looking for him there is a sense of waiting. Waiting for the heroine to be rescued from the big bad wolf.

After the infamous closet scene, where Laurie stabs Myers in the eye and then promptly stabs his chest with his own dropped knife, she begins to slip back into her exhaustion. Myers rises behind her and strangles her, taking advantage of her state of near unconsciousness. Though she puts up a good fight, it’s not until Loomis appears and shoots Myers that he stops. After falling from the balcony and after being shot and stabbed multiple times, Myers still finds the energy to get up and slip away. Laurie sobs, knowing the fight isn’t over, knowing that he’s still alive – and that is the final shot of Laurie Strode in 1978.

Though Myers kills others in this film, there’s a disturbed intent on killing Laurie. Even after she believes she’s killed him (twice), instead of disappearing as he does after he’s been shot, Myers immediately attempts to kill her again. It’s as if he can’t rest until he’s finally killed her, which he attempts to do again, forty years later.

Laurie’s Return

Halloween (Official Trailer) – (Universal Pictures)

Laurie Strode in 2018 is a stranger to Laurie Strode in 1978. Her hair is still wild, but white, her smile is gone and she is hardened by the events that have happened to her in the past. She has weapons in her house and she’s been training forty years for Myers’ reappearance. Gone is the naivety, her underlining strength becoming the forefront of her very self. Though she has mental health issues, having a panic attack at her daughter’s house, it doesn’t deter Laurie for she has more than just herself to fight for – she’s fighting for her estranged daughter Karen and for her granddaughter Allyson.

Though Laurie is hell bent on destroying Myers once and for all, she also understands the importance of keeping her family safe, just as she understood the importance of keeping those children safe all those years ago.

In the final scene of the more recent Halloween film, Laurie (with the help of her family) traps Myers in a safe room as it fills with gas. She lights a flare and tosses it into the room, setting it and the rest of the house aflame. It’s redemptive – she doesn’t sob with fear, nor is there a hint that Michael is still alive. She works together with her family, her courage coming from them as well as from herself. The three women embrace as they’re taken to safety, relieved that a forty-year nightmare is finally over – and that is the final shot of the film and of Laurie Strode.

Though the 2018 film may have had more of an impact on Halloween’s progression had there not been many more films in the franchise, it is hard to deny to the impact the films have had on horror lore as a whole. Laurie Strode defines those films just as much as Michael Myers. Her evolution from sweetheart to conqueror is just as vital and iconic as the William Shatner mask.