Latinx Month – FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Mexican and Spanish Vampires!

Mexican and Spanish Vampires, Oh My!  By Kristin Battestella

The Bloody Vampire– The English version of this black and white 1962 Mexican import El Vampire Sangriento opens with eerie slow motion, silent carriages, tolling bells, howling wolves, and creepy forests to set the macabre mood. The candles, Old World Feeling, secret crypts, great architecture, and period costumes counter the almost comically out of place and unmatched dubbing, but there are some eerie good effects, thankfully. Fun Bats, zooms, and coffins mask the fact that once again, there isn’t much of the titular blood. However, the religious arias are a bit out of place and too reverent for the subject. Likewise, some of the sound effects are more fifties UFOs than scary. Fortunately, a few corsets and kinky bedroom threats accent the household violence, vampy bitch slaps, and whips. Although, I’ve never heard a vampire tell his victim/bride to put some clothes on before! It might have been neat to see a South American set tale rather than the standard Eastern European mold, but the English translations add to the gothic horror homage. Count Frankenhausen has a maid named Hildegard “The servants must call me Frau” and a daughter Bronehilda at his cave the “Haunted Hacienda.” Yes, and did I mention that “Vampirina” is the blood of a vampire? The English track is tough to hear, and it’s all back and forth wooden exposition on deadly flower roots, grave robbings, early autopsies, science versus death, vampire mythos, and secret vampire hunting family histories. It might be a dry translation or stilted from the innate Espanol, but at least this isn’t in the over the top telenovela styling we expect today. The pace does pick up for the last half hour, and once you’re past the niche logistics and morbid humor, then this is a good little hour and a half.

Crypt of the Living Dead – There’s isn’t a lot of information available on this black and white 1973 tale also known by the wonderfully bad title Hannah, Queen of the Vampires.  Andrew Prine (V) looks so young and the architecture and medieval religious designs are well done, yes. But sadly, the drab, colorless photography hampers the fun, gothic atmosphere. Was this later day black and white filming done by production plan or necessity? The editing is also either very poor or there has been some unfortunate film damage, and the plot is a little slow and silent to start, with too many setups and tough to hear dialogue when we do have it. The nighttime action is almost impossible to see as well, and the frantic camerawork and extreme close ups make what should be straightforward scares somewhat confusing. All this production doom and gloom and yet the script and cast actually aren’t that bad. The music and eerie effects are sinister enough, and there’s a historical spin on the then-contemporary skepticism and ethical debates. Die-hard vamp fans looking to have a fun nighttime viewing will enjoy this. However, the finale is a bit overlong and repetitive for horror lay folk, and those low budget values will hinder the natural fears and good scares for today’s more visually treated audiences. 

The Vampire – With such a confusingly plain title, I had to look up this 1957 Mexican horror El Vampiro starring Abel Salazar and German Rubles to make sure I hadn’t already seen it. Fortunately, there’s no mistaking the foggy villa courtyards, Gothic Victorian interiors, hypnotic eyes, and fangs afoot here. This original tale gets right to the screams and neck nibbles, and the black and white patina perfectly matches the don’t go out after sunset warnings. Even the fake bat doesn’t feel hokey amid the fifties train and ingenue in white visiting her sick spinster aunt. The boxes of soil from Hungary, suspicious cape-wearing count, and carriage at the crossroads may seem Stoker-esque to start, however there are some undead surprises – and an older aunt who remains young and reflection-less but thinks all this vampire talk is ridiculous. Torches and tolling bells invoke some medieval funerary alongside crypts, superstitions, and fearful folk crossing themselves. The recently late are buried with crucifix in hand while creepy crescendos accent the phantom ladies in black about the cemetery. Ghostly effects, well-framed shadows, and spooky lighting schemes heighten the ruinous haciendas as well as the suspenseful count and his then-shocking vampire bites – sudden falling books or slamming doors also help build the dangerous mood unlike today’s fake out jump scares. Rather than detract from the horror, just the right amount of humor and a whiff of romance accent the fine dialogue – although despite DVD commentaries and a variety of caption or audio options, the English subtitles don’t exactly match the español. Secret passages, dusty books, and otherworldly singing provide more flavor for a wild finale combining stakes, sunlight, and fire. To be sure, this toothy little number wins with heaps of atmosphere.

The Vampire’s Coffin – Salazar and company returned for this 1958 sequel aka El Ataud del Vampiro, and the two pictures can be found together on the generically named The Vampire Collection set for more howling cemeteries, grave robbers, and disturbed vampire tombs. Of course, it’s amazingly easy for two men to remove such heavy headstones and take a giant coffin to the local hospital for a scientific study, but hey, me want that sweet fifties Hearst! Skeletal reflections, giant wooden stakes – the Gothic creepy moves into unexplained science territory but the old-fashioned hospital retains a gray, mod feeling with scared kids and a cross above the bed. What can modern medicine do compared to a determined monster? Sharp shadows and dark angles add Expressionism accents while staircases and noir pursuits akin a Val Lewton aesthetic. Although a missing vampire about the ward could be laughable, spooky effects, a dark cape, and hypnotized victims add macabre. There is, however, a lacking finesse here thanks to a busy narrative crowded with swanky theater glamour and gruesome wax museum hideouts. Disbelieving medical directors, ritzy routines, and torture devices are all well and good on their own, but one moody, fully embraced locale would have been better. Convenience and poorly choreographed fights aside, the fun finale packs in plenty of rituals, chases, and guillotines, as you do. Ironically, it feels like pieces of this film are borrowed in more recent cliché horror, and despite a general bloodlessness and try hard approach, bared fangs and la Sangre talk keep up the theme.

The Vampire’s Night Orgy – Spanish director Leon Klimovsky (The Dracula Saga) uses an unusual widescreen format for this hour and twenty minutes from 1974. The color is very washed out, too, and unfortunately, the picture is often too dark or tough to see. Like most of the foreign or obscure horror of this era, there are edited versions and lost prints, and some scenes are regrettably dated and look the likes of seventies porn. Thankfully, those are about the only problems here.  Crazy funerals, wild music, and a nutty countess add to the demented ambiance of ticking clocks, creaking doors, and spooky sound effects. The dubbing is actually in sync and performed well, too, with a few words of un-translated Spanish adding to the Euro flavor. From the interesting premise – an en-route house staff’s bus breaks down in a seemingly abandoned town that really has an all too generous blood drinking population – to a bit of kink, nudity, and cannibalism, the screams and foreboding build up are solid. Sure, most of the men look the same with huge mustaches and I’ll be damn, there isn’t a lot of blood to be seen. However, the child actors aren’t annoying, and the vampire violence is well played. One by one, victims are taken down in fast, almost gang rape terror, and the chase finale and twist ending earn top marks. Though in serious need of a restoration and some may have trouble getting past the dated look, this is a nice little scary movie.

The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman – Never ever do an autopsy on a supposed werewolf on a moonlit night!  Just one of the many warnings from this 1971 Spanish treat, the fifth in the loose Waldemar Daninsky series from writer and star Paul Naschy.  Director Leon Klimovsky tackles then-contemporary disbelieving science versus superstition with good screams, fun growls and fangs, zoom attacks, and slow motion eerie.  There’s a good quality of blood, too, and a twisted medieval flashback establishes the satanic ritual roots. Of course, the nighttime photography is almost impossible to see, and the handheld forest camera action is poor. The werewolf makeup and effects may be a bit hokey but considering the low budget foreign production, they suffice. The flowing fashions and happy vamps running thru the glen can seem more like Frodo Lives hippie, I know. However, it is nonetheless very unnerving and effective. Actually, the pop references in the dialogue – such as man walking on the moon, James Bond, and the obligatory “Dracula! Ha ha.” – feels more dated amid the fine gothic history and Euro-style. A touch of lingerie, bloody shackles, and crazy girl on girl suggestion keep the run of the mill acting and yell at the TV moments bemusing.  Cap this eighty plus minutes with unusual monster relationships and cool mod clothes and you have a picture that’s a cut above the standard dollar bin foreign horror. Naturally, multiple video releases, unavailable uncut editions, international reissues, and title changes can make pursuing Naschy’s horror repertoire extremely frustrating.  For fans of retro Euro-horror, however, this is worth the hunt. 

For More Vampires, Visit:

Dracula 2020

Dark Shadows Video Review

Summer Vampires

Buffy Season 1

 

Historian of Horror: Hath Music Charms to Soothe the Savage Breast? Not Necessarily

 

I would encourage the populace, if possible, to at least take a look at the recent Netflix series, Ratched. It will help if you’re familiar with the 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the one that took home a slew of Oscars for that year, the one in which the television series’ title character was the villain, but that’s not essential. Ratched is a beautifully mounted, albeit severely flawed work, and worth seeing if only for the sumptuous set design. Indeed, every frame looks like a photograph from a 1947 issue of Architectural Digest or some similar slick magazine of its type. The costumes could be out of Vanity Fair, the automobiles from Road & Track. It is gorgeous in its every visual element and blessed with a slightly languid pace that allows the eye to gorge itself at leisure on all that gorgeosity.

While I have several issues with the writing (cardboard and occasionally inconsistent characters, cliched situations, predictable plot points), I cannot fault the technical prowess of those who designed the visuals, or, indeed, the audio. The incidental music is eerily reminiscent of Bernard Hermann’s score from the 1962 film, Cape Fear, as well as Elmer Bernstein’s score for the 1991 remake. One day, I will discuss both film versions of that story in this space, and the music from each, but today I want to talk about the title music from Ratched, for it touches upon one of my passions.

Yes, I am a Baby Boomer, a member of that much maligned, fairly or unfairly, generation that for all its flaws did indeed spawn the best popular music of the past century. And, yes, I grew up a fan of, among others, the Beatles, the band whose massive output of incredible music in the space of less than a decade was not only the ne plus ultra of its time but the sine qua non of all popular music since. But they and the rest of the 1960s artists were not my first musical love.

That would be classical music. Before the Fab Four showed up on the Ed Sullivan Show on that momentous night in February of 1964, I had already begun to sample my father’s record collection. The first piece of music I remember being enraptured by was Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges. I had no idea at the time what that title meant, for although I was able to operate a turntable at that early age, I had not yet learned to read beyond a very superficial level. In fact, I suspect that it was to decipher the tiny print on the back of all those record sleeves that I set about becoming literate so assiduously at such a tender age. 

I still love classical music. It occupies a significant portion of my listening time. I don’t know squat about music theory, but I know what I like. And in the years since I discovered the wonders on those ancient LPs, most of which are now in my possession, new discoveries of what I like have regularly occurred with delightful frequency. 

I think I must have been about thirteen or fourteen when I first encountered the work of Camille Saint-Saëns, or, rather, a portion of one of his works. A radio station in or near Nashville began to broadcast episodes of the Shadow radio show from the late 1930s, the ones starring Orson Welles. The theme music was eerie and compelling, drawing the listener into the outré adventures of He Who Had the Power to Cloud Men’s Minds. No one I knew could tell me what that strange tune was. Fortunately, this was in the early years of a new cultural phenomenon, nostalgia, and every trip to the bookstore revealed a new volume on some aspect of the cultural ephemera of past decades, including radio. I knew of radio solely as a delivery system for current music, but as my dad told me at the time, it was in his youth the primary source of free entertainment in the home – musical, comedic, dramatic. Frightening.

More on that later. I think it was in a paperback edition of Jim Harmon’s 1967 book, The Great Radio Heroes, that I learned the provenance of that snippet of strange music. It turned out to be the middle section of a symphonic poem by Saint-Saëns, Omphale’s Spinning Wheel. Once I knew that, I began to search for more music by this new composer I’d discovered.

Skip years, indeed, decades ahead, and I’d just settled myself into my favorite spot on the couch to watch the first episode of Ratched. At that moment, my wife of nearly forty years came in, and I surrendered that spot, because when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It’s okay. The seat I gave up is slightly off-center to the TV mounted on the wall opposite, and the spot I almost always wind up in has a more straight-on view. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

For some reason, the subtitle function was turned on, which was fine. I watch a lot of films in languages I don’t understand, and I heartily despise dubbing. Nothing ruins the rhythm of a film than the dialogue being out of sync with the actors’ expressions and mouth movements. Give me subtitles, every time. So, I’m used to them, and made no particular effort to turn them off.

No issues with the first episode, although my lovely bride thought it moved a tad slowly. There was no title sequence that time out, the credits rolling at the end. And for just over five minutes, there was no such thing in the second episode.

And then, there was. I immediately recognized the music playing, although the first bit of it had been lopped off. It was Saint-Saëns’ 1874 tone poem Danse Macabre, a piece I play heavily around Halloween, for it is spooky and creepy and laden with dire forebodings.

And then, I noticed the subtitle that popped up as soon as the discordant violin screeched out its first few notes.[haunting classical music playing]

Say, what? Haunting classical music? Haunting classical music?!?!?!? Does no one at Netflix have access to a decent music library? This piece has a name, a title that has been well-known for one hundred and forty-six years. That’s as bad as people calling the tango Al Pacino danced with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman ‘the tango from Scent of a Woman’, as if that’s its title. It’s not. It’s called Por Una Cabeza, and it’s by Carlos Gardel, a significant composer of Latin music in the first half of the 20th Century. It’s not quite as bad as pronouncing Porsche as a one-syllable name, but still, come on! Is it all that much trouble to identify a major piece of music by its actual name?

Ahem. Sorry ‘bout that.

Danse Macabre was based on a Late Medieval allegorical theme of death as the one truly universal reality, and its application in a variety of artistic expressions. Paintings, frescoes and woodcuts depicting souls of all financial stations and every societal stratum dancing their ways along to the grave accompanied by decomposing corpses and animated skeletons were all the rage in the waning decades of the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance. 

I know most folks think of the term ‘classical music’ as encompassing all that stuff you had to sit through during school field trips to the local symphony hall, but for the cognoscenti, classical refers to the music of roughly the 18th Century, composed by folks like Mozart and Haydn in an organically structured and sometimes excessively ornamental style that reflected the artistic sensibilities of the concurrent Rococo period in art and architecture. During the preceding century, more-or-less, both art and architecture on one hand and music on the other were done in what was known as Baroque style, which was also overly ornamented but with a somewhat more constrained, almost geometrical structure. Kind of. That’s very much a Reader’s Digest Condensed version of things, but not, I hope, totally off the mark. 

The 19th Century in music was dominated by the Romantic period, and Saint-Saëns was very much a Romantic composer. That word does not mean, as applied to the music of its time, what you think it does, just as an opera comique is not necessarily funny. Romantic in relation to the music of composers from Schubert and Beethoven in the early 19th Century to Dvorak and Verdi near the end of the century, and even beyond with Rachmaninoff and Ravel, was intended to produce within the listener a sort of naturalistic evocation of emotions, so that the music inspired more than merely an aesthetic response. It is no accident that the Romantic period in music coincided in its later decades with Impressionism in painting. The intended reaction from the consumer was the same in both areas, an empathic connection with the artist through the medium.

And Danse Macabre did produce an emotional reaction from early critics, indeed. It was not received well at first, as it was considered to be a source of anxiety for those who heard it. As I stated before, I know little about music theory, but I have been given to understand that there are certain key signatures that lend themselves particularly well to certain types of music, and even the emotions those pieces are meant to convey. According to what I have read on the subject, G Minor is one of those keys that tends to invoke dread and angst, and Danse Macabre is in that key. I’m going to go ahead and assume my informant was correct, for it does put the nerves on edge. 

Listen to it throughout that title sequence in Ratched, when and if you’re able to watch it, and see if it doesn’t augment the show’s overall feeling of fearful expectation, even more so perhaps than the story warrants. Then, listen to it in its entirety. 

Then, please don’t tell me you felt nothing from that – no frisson, as it were. I hope you do. I might just worry about you if not, just a little. 

Also, rest assured I won’t leave you hanging regarding all the possibly unfamiliar references above. I will, one of these days, wax poetic on horror as it was used in old time radio programs and operas, comique and otherwise, as well as by other composers, artists, and even architects. I might even explain just what is meant by a ‘slick magazine’, translate the Latin phrases I love tossing around like confetti, and reveal from what major genre work I lifted the neologism ‘gorgeosity’. Stay tuned.

And, as always, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Where are all the Mid-Century Mexican Horror Films? A Frightening Flix Editorial

Where Are All the Mid-Century Mexican Horror Films by Kristin Battestella

From The Witch’s Mirror to The Curse of the Crying Woman and more, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the mid-century Mexican horror productions I’ve seen from the forties, fifties, and sixties. I would wholeheartedly like to see more, but where did all these Mexican horror movies go? Read on for my rant about the frustrating difficulty in finding these quality classic scares.

Why so inaccessible?

Thanks to directors such as Rafael Baledón or the likes of Abel Salazar’s filmography, one can filter, search, and find dozens of Mexican horror films on IMDb, Wikipedia, and more. We know they exist, so where are they and why aren’t they readily available? Ten or fifteen years ago, a budget DVD set with twenty or fifty so-called horror classics was a get what you pay for way to find a few old horror gems amid the so bad it’s good obscure, public domain scares, and cheap VHS quality rips. This was how I first found some Spanish horror delectables. Today, however, those sets aren’t really viable compared to affordable streaming options. Unfortunately, be it the free horror channels, discount streaming tiers, or the big mainstream options, none of them have any of these films. Back when we had Xfinity and could browse all the thousand channels on the guide including the Spanish cable package, I used to see some great horror films listed on the Peliculas de clasicos channels. I’d write down great titles like Museo de Horror, El Beso de Ultratrumbo, La Cabeza Viviente, and more but can’t find any of them anywhere. How with today’s instant access to everything are these films still so inaccessible?

Cultural Drift is No Excuse!

It takes a lot of digging and research to find these titles, and although it’s easy to search with Spanish language filters, that creates its own set of problems. Sure I’ve been able to find a few Salazar sixties horrors or Mexican movies, but those searches also yield a lot of Paul Naschy pictures from Spain (and searching for his Waldermar werewolf films is another aggravating not all available pursuit). Soon, these lists skew to Spain, European productions, Jesus Franco, Dario Argento, and Mario Bava. Seventies Italian Giallo pictures are not what we’re looking for, and finding the right version of a film with different releases, run times, and different titles per country only adds more fuel to the frustrating fuego. Sometimes you think you are getting the right movie and it turns out to be something else, or worse a film you’ve already seen under a different name. I myself am guilty of putting all my Spanish horror viewing lists and recommendations together because it’s so tough to find just the Mexican scares. Of course, Spain and Mexico are different cultures with different español and different identities, and it’s problematic to presume they are interchangeable. Many years ago I had a vehement argument on an online film forum when a commenter said he wanted a role to be cast with Penélope Cruz or Salma Hayek or “one of those types.” O_o This person could not see why I objected to these actresses being lumped together as one and the same. On a non-horror note, I highly suggest the Maya Exploration Center’s Professor Edwin Barnhart’s Great Course lectures including Ancient Civilizations of North America, Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed, Lost Worlds of South America, and Exploring the Mayan World to educate oneself on the history of Southwest, Central, and South American communities.

The Classics are Better.

What irritates me most is the perception that because Hollywood or mainstream horror is more prevalent, that means it must be better. In my recent viewings, however, that’s been far from the truth. I’ve enjoyed the majority of independent Australian, New Zealand, Irish, UK horror, and European productions, sure. Canadian pictures, on the other hand, have been more mixed bag. When the festival finds are true to themselves, they’ve been good – but you can tell the difference when a north of the border production is compromising itself in hopes of an American sale and wide distribution, catering to the formulaic and cliché. I had such high hopes for The Curse of La Llorona. It starts well with colonial Mexican scares so viewers think we’re in for some period piece Hammer flair, but sadly the film – written and directed by white men, because of course – degrades into the typical kids in peril with whooshing entities and trite jump scares. Cultural fears are dismissed and protective warnings are treated like Mysticism 101, and the entire time I was waiting for it to end, I had one thought, which was that The Curse of the Crying Woman was better. There’s an entire Wikipedia page called “Golden Age of Mexican Cinema” but where are all the films? Netflix if you’re lucky has one DVD copy, and when that breaks, it’s just saves and unavailables.

It’s Frustrating and Offensive.

For viewer looking for quality horror of any kind, it’s disturbing how unique storytelling, different cultural scares, and the many horror stories to be told must be bent to serve white mainstream horror. The fact that these films are not widely available almost feels like an intentional burying – the way a great Asian horror film won’t see the light of day stateside because the rights were bought up and it is being deliberately suppressed until the rich white blonde jump scare cliché remake is released first. Why aren’t these classic, quality films being celebrated? Why are they not freely available to watch at any time? A black and white picture? So what! Spanish subtitles or a bad English dub? Big deal! Is it because they are not in English that white America suspects releasing these films properly won’t be profitable enough for them? Well that’s just too damn bad because I want to see these films. Do you have an inside source on where to find some classic mid-century Mexican horror movies? ¡Damelo!

 

For More Frightening Flix, visit:

Horror Cliches I’m Tired of Seeing

All Things Dracula Video Review

Ciao, Horror!

Bone Tomahawk

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Death Becomes Her

Deliciously Dark Death Becomes Her gets Better with Age

by Kristin Battestella

Mad?”

Hel!”

Writer Helen Sharp’s (Goldie Hawn) plastic surgeon fiance Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis) thinks Helen’s childhood friend Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) is an amazing starlet. Madeline has stolen Helen’s beaus previously and does so again, but fourteen years later, Helen achieves her revenge by looking stunning and wooing Ernest into her killer plans. Madeline will do whatever she can to compete – including visiting the mysterious Lisle von Rhoman (Isabella Rosselini) for a youthful elixir. Unfortunately, the costly potion leads to bodily disasters if you don’t take care of your beauty, and unlike these desperate ladies trying to stay forever young, the 1992 dark comedy Death Becomes Her only gets better with age.

Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and writers Martin Donovan (Apartment Zero) and David Koepp (War of the Worlds) open the surprisingly PG-13 Death Becomes Her with 1978 not so well received ritzy as Playbills are tossed aside and stage glory turns sour thanks to show within in a show awkward performances, bad choreography, caricatures on youth, and phony songs about you. Flirtatious winks, polite shade, through the teeth comebacks, and backhanded compliments are played straight as your frienemy steals your man, and Death Becomes Her wastes no time with backstabbing wedding bells and revenge decades in the planning leading to book party invitations and who’s looking swell versus who’s looking worse for the wear changes. The man looming above the frame is reflected in the mirror behind the woman – reverse revealing the personal disconnect as each says things they don’t mean alongside more symbolism and aggressive gestures. Hellish characters and murderous plans are both deliberate and measured yet flippant and off the cuff, as our plastic surgeon is dismissed as a ghoul for not healing but indulging vanity even in death. More quirky visuals layer the Hollywood commentary – what’s with that guy upside on the wheel at the spa? – and reflective camera shots create viewer double take. What if we did look twice and really paid attention beyond face value then what would we see? Death Becomes Her winks at the secret opportunities available to the elite behind closed doors amid insular they know that we know that they know that we know flattery. Confidence only comes with beauty, and the camera’s distorted angles and askew perceptions reiterate this frame of mind as wide shots have the face in the center but the subject at hand in the background. With such in camera staging, one need not resort to fast-paced editing later to compensate and piece together wit or tension because the bags full of makeup, screams overseeing oneself in the mirror without said makeup, and fake tears sprayed in the eyes while practicing crocodile speeches – in the mirror framed by defaced pictures of her obsession – speak for themselves. One woman equals sex while another demeans flaccid, and cuckold phrases reiterate the servile men and obedient dogs as demented one liners, frantic questions, and disturbing calm lead to top of the stairs teetering and the not so dead rising behind one’s back. Formaldehyde is bought in bulk on top of jokes on doing something “funny” with a dead wife and “It’s alive” homages. Eternal youth potions await in a scary, humbling castle where newcomers tiptoe so their heels don’t echo on the floor before sampling this hush-hush, ageless elixir to prove its price. Snake charmers admit the forever young will look suspicious if they don’t disappear, and Death Becomes Her is likewise self-aware of how lacking in self-awareness its desperate characters are when not heeding knives or warnings to preserve the facade. Women who for decades purposely inflict pain without actually harming each other let all the violence out and apologize – tag teaming the man they were fighting over because they need him to maintain their seemingly miraculous vitality forever. Twisted dream sequences, wide lenses, and zooms accentuate the preposterously clever scheme of tranquilizers on the wine glass and finishing dinner before planting the body in a car going off Mulholland Drive as quips about divorce in California, never seeing a neighbor in Los Angeles, and those with no talent for poverty orchestrating murder escalate the satire with handy hardware, bloody bodies in the lily pond, and a hole in the stomach big enough to right see through you.

Everything has to be taut and perfect for Madeline Ashton, and only Meryl Streep (She-Devil) can play a bad actress obsessed with wrinkles without winking and scene chewing for the camera. Madeline strikes the right pose, plumps the bosom, and remains pampered even if she hasn’t worked in some time and is no longer the breadwinner. In order to hide her impoverished past, she must show up Helen at all times and mere makeup won’t do. Despite her fame and wealth, Madeline’s ugliness shows in her mistreatment of the maid or any pretty supple ingenue. When rejected by her younger lover for not considering how he feels, she blames him for making her feel cheap. Even if the spa refuses to do a traumatic plasma treatment, Madeline demands the procedure money is no object because she fears younger women must be laughing at her. She’s shocked at Helen’s transformation and makes excuses about feeling terrible at having happiness at Helen’s expense, but Madeline doesn’t feel that terrible and she’s not really happy. Fortunately, her shady zingers return with her beauty, but Madeline says what she shouldn’t, leading to scary body bags and uncomfortable realizations – although she enjoys having no pulse because nobody can play dead better than she can. Goldie Hawn’s (Overboard) Helen is initially a shy and quiet writer compared to her old school rival Madeline, dowdy and twisting her handkerchief rather than expressing her anger. She warns Ernest that Madeline only wants him because she has him. Madeline has stolen men from Helen before and she wants Ernest to pass her Madeline Ashton test, but when he does not, Helen becomes a gluttonous cat lady obsessed with rewinding Madeline’s onscreen strangulation. Upon eviction, she ruins her therapy group by talking about Madeline before overcoming her outlook by vowing revenge and looking dynamite while doing it. Literary success follows, and Helen lies to Madeline’s face about never blaming her, kissing her cheek as she pits Madeline and Ernest against each other. Now a vivacious vixen, Helen claims sisterhood while plotting with her man – embodying the shade, deception, and fierce competition of the woman scorned even if she doesn’t really want Ernest anymore. She just wants to take him from Madeline and use him for her fatal revenge, and both ladies willingly become a Hollywood type of vampire, consuming the essence of a man for their own youthful survival. What does their undead beauty contest get them? Each other, stuck forever in an “I paint your ass, you paint mine” begrudging.

Ernest Menville was once a famous plastic surgeon, but now Bruce Willis’ (Color of Night) doctor is a postmortem fixer for the Hollywood dead between breakfast bloody marys. Life with Madeline hasn’t worked out, and she’s reviled by his bottom feeder, drinking himself to death existence. When complimented for his mortuary work, Ernest admits the secret weapon for coloring dead skin is spray paint, but he knows it isn’t real work and would sell his soul to really operate again. He argues with Madeline about who ruined whom and won’t take jokes about his clients being stiffer. Though unhappy, wishing to divorce, and easily swept up when Helen comes on to him with sexy words, Ernest is reluctant to go along with her plans, for he takes the change in Madeline’s temperature, pulse, and hair – because that’s what men notice – as a miracle. Ernest gains confidence despite his fear over what he has done, wanting to make Madeline his masterpiece, painting her and carefully mixing the turpentine. He won’t be rushed when her eyes must have artistic balance! Ernest will fix them and then go, but when the ladies need touch-ups, his sudden backbone becomes a problem. Death Becomes Her’s few daylight scenes are about Ernest realizing what took him so long to leave. He was willing to keep his marital promise in spite of the suffering and humiliation, but his obligations are fulfilled in her death do us part. The camera at the not all that it seems spa has to be switched off before Isabella Rosellini’s (Merlin) Lisle von Rhoman can be mentioned, but the million dollar price tag for her mysterious potion is relative to such elite clientele. Her stunning beauty and barely there clothes make it easy to soft sell her elixir – Lisle is sweet when charming a guest, telling them to follow spring and summer but avoid autumn and winters however she’s sassy when ordering her Tom, Dick, and Harry henchmen and intimating with her deceptions. She knows why her clients come to see her, for they are scared of themselves, their bodies, the lengths they go to in maintaining their secrets, and their inevitable failure. Life is cruel, taking away vitality only to replace it with decay, so we want to believe her sweet talking promise to defy natural and endorse the check despite her dominance. The camera heightens Lisle’s look fair and feei  foul with carefully orchestrated poses and frames. She’s centered perfectly in each shot with daggers, Dobermans, and amulets. Lisle crosses her legs in her throne chair and says “thank you” when someone exclaims about God, but her seductive wraps and high collared, witchy robes suggest an underlying evil. After imploring our plastic surgeon to now take the youth and beauty he gave to others for himself, Lisle’s full menace is revealed when he questions her on the nightmarish consequences of immortality. Of course, there’s a wink to Rosellini’s casting because she looks so much like her mother, and bemusing not so dead cameos include James Dean, Jim Morrison, Elvis, and Marilyn alongside appearances by Mrs. Zemeckis Mary Ellen Trainor (Tales from the Crypt) and poor doctor with a heart condition Sydney Pollock (Three Days of the Condor).

The naughty but sinister, frenetic strings of Alan Silvestri’s (Predator) theme set the mood for Death Becomes Her amid a dash of jazz, disco beats, and campy cues. Boas and colorful stage backdrops in the opening sequence establish an over the top, garish, tacky and lamé atmosphere before static on the old television, retro patterns, and poor clutter contrast the massive Beverly Hill mansion with gated entries, a grand staircase, hefty doors, and heaps of marble. The made to look ugly, old, and desperate makeup and bodily transformations are well done amid tears and soggy rain making a woman look worse before bemusing good skin versus bad skin comparisons and boob lifts. That pretty left hand with the giant rock ring is always prominently displayed! Subtle nudity is also reflected through windows and doors as supple butt shots provide curves to the sagging and wrinkles. The square nineties blazers and low buttons add masculine angles for the women, however low cut cleavage, deep blouses, and lace invoke feminine symbolism along with thigh-high slits, Egyptian life giving motifs, and our glowing pink potion. Death Becomes Her abounds with mirrors everywhere – frames within frames via television screens, snapshots, and gold portraits pepper every scene. Clever reflections, shadows, and silhouettes do double duty while red stands for passion, black for suspicion, and white for innocence as dramatic overhead drops, balcony dangles, thunder, and shotgun blasts apply terror in the killing scenes. Neck snaps, stairway rolls, holes in the gut, and backwards results are as disturbing as the decision to kill. Sure, some of the bumbling bodies and squashed heads may look poor now, but that also keeps them funny, and there are more intriguing or random visual gags to catch our eye – the doctor throwing away his stethoscope when he can’t get a heartbeat, the yuppie tennis couple with the bruised elbows, those weird ass gliding nuns. The pink pastels and green palm trees in the eighties upscale buildings are perfectly gaudy now, but the blue lighting, black marble, and arrows pointing to the morgue mirror how the characters are inevitably walking towards death. Michelangelo motifs and pools of water could be symbolic life renewals as one tries to escape the locked doors, gilded elevators, grand arches, maze like spires, and those ever present mirrors but Death Becomes Her’s beauty goes from svelte to garish with vampire pale, white out eyes, pasty skin, and gross peeling.

One may love or hate Death Becomes Her but there is no in between and it takes multiple viewings to study the dual nuances, comedic layers, and dark subtleties. Questions on immortality – or at least looking immortal – deepen the commentary on beauty and why women compete to look so enchanting even if it kills them. Today’s dark comedies often feel crass or too disturbing, but the great cast keeps Death Becomes Her mature with a tongue in cheek that doesn’t have to berate the obvious. While not in your face horror, the choice macabre moments and increasingly bleak palette illume our dread and fear of old age. We can laugh at the sardonic winks even as Death Becomes Her calls out Hollywood then and hello look at us on the ‘gram now, remaining delicious because its satire is unfortunately more applicable than ever.

Do you remember where you parked the car?”

For more Horror Comedies, revisit:

The Addams Family Season 1

The Munsters Season 1

Bell, Book, and Candle

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 10 Common Phobias (and movies that will trigger them)

Fear is part of our everyday experience. It keeps us alive. But sometimes fears border on the irrational, which is when they become phobias. Indulge in these phobia-tastic horror movies!

Acrophobia – fear of heights

  • Vertigo (1958) – This Hitchcock classic contains scenes of dizzying heights from the point of view of the character, drawing you into the fear.
  • Man on Wire (2008) – Okay, so technically it’s a documentary, not a horror movie, but doesn’t that make it all the more terrifying?

Nyctophobia – fear of the dark

  • Don’t Breathe (2016) – A trio of robbers get more than they bargain for when they break into the house of a blind man.
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – This Oscar winning film features a heart pounding chase through the pitch-dark basement of Buffalo Bill.

Cynophobia – fear of dogs

  • Cujo (1983) – The absolute classic dog horror movie, based on the novel by Stephen King.
  • Green Room (2015) – A band becomes trapped inside a bar by a gang of neo-Nazis. The vicious attack by pit bulls will make anyone squeamish.

Astraphobia – fear of storms

  • Twister (1996) – If you missed this classic 90’s film about tornado chasers, make sure to check it out.
  • Take Shelter (2011) – A man has apocalyptic visions of a storm and begins building a tornado shelter, causing the family to question his sanity.

Aerophobia – fear of flying

  • Flight 7500 (2014) – A supernatural force attacks passengers on a transpacific flight to Tokyo. Passengers are stuck thousands of feet in the air with nowhere to run.
  • Altitude (2010) – A group of friends on a personal plane is thrown into chaos when the plane becomes stuck in ascent.

Mysophobia – fear of germs/uncleanliness

  • Cabin Fever (2002) – A group of young adults succumbs to a flesh-eating virus in a remote cabin.
  • Contagion (2011) – Considered one of the most realistic movies about a pandemic, you may find Contagion a little hard to watch right now.

Agoraphobia – fear of going out

  • Intruders (2015) – Robbers find themselves in danger when they realize their shut-in victim isn’t as helpless as they thought.
  • Big Sky (2015) – A girl with agoraphobia must face the great open desert to save herself and her companions. This movie gets extra points for giving life to the real fear of the outside world instead of just showing someone stuck inside.

Claustrophobia – fear of enclosed spaces

  • Buried (2010) – Ryan Reynolds lives everyone’s worst fear of waking up to find you’re buried alive in a coffin.
  • The Descent (2005) – Cavers become trapped on an expedition and must fight for their lives against something sinister that lives in the caverns.

Arachnophobia – fear of spiders

  • Itsy Bitsy (2019) – A family moves into a new home only to be tormented by a giant spider.
  • Spiders (2013) – A piece of an abandoned space station crashes into New York City and monstrous spiders take over the subway.

Trypanophobia – fear of needles

  • Requiem for a Dream (2000) – The real horror of this movie is watching everyone slowly destroy their own lives, but the copious intravenous drug use is definitely frightening all on its own.
  • Awake (2007) – While not specifically about needles, Awake will tap your darkest fears about medicine. The main character is aware of everything that happens to him during open-heart surgery, but unable to communicate because of anesthesia.

What are you afraid of? What movies creep you out the most?

Odds and Dead Ends: Why we only remember the opening of ‘When A Stranger Calls’

The question posed by this article’s title, by default, raises many questions. The film, When A Stranger Calls has passed into horror legend, had a sequel and then been remade in the classic 21st century tradition, and seems to be put in with the canon of horror greats, like so many others. And yet what people remember it for occurs in the opening act, and the rest of the film bares such a lack of resemblance to the actual phone calls that one would be mistaken for thinking that there had been a mix-up in the editing room. So why is it, that when we think of When A Stranger Calls, all we think about is the babysitter being asked if she’s checked the children?

The first point I’d raise is the obvious one; the title of the film. It’s like hearing a Harry Potter title and not thinking of Harry Potter. This immediate drawing of our attention to the singular opening means that our entire connection to the film is dominated by this link of the title to the opening scene. We associate the whole film with the title, and the title with the opening act, so we’re essentially being taught to summarise the film by its relation to the first twenty minutes.

We also have the obvious call-back to Black Christmas (dir Bob Clarke, 1974), with the phone call coming from inside the house. The film wasn’t as well known then, but the influence is undeniable. Additionally, there is the fact that it’s obviously based off the fairly standard urban legend; the legend had already been worked into the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. When you also factor in that the opening is essentially a larger-budget version of a short film based off the legend that director/writer duo Fred Walton and Steve Feke made, called The Sitter, you realise that the basic premise is well known and already recognisable before the feature film. This means that the repetition of the basic storyline makes its way into our memories through an already-established pattern.

After the first twenty minutes go by, the film becomes a strange, police-procedural-cum-Giallo-cum-slasher, the kind of film you’d eventually see with films like Maniac (1980), and some of Fulci’s American films, such as The New York Ripper (1982). That the rest of the film is fairly slow and nowhere near as thrilling as its opener shows how a brilliant start doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole film can hold up. Having to find a route onwards, the filmmakers choosing to follow both the killer (as a fully reasoning and functional – to a certain extent – adult) and the police, is a bold move, but works only if the cat-and-mouse can be sustained. Even if it can (and it’s questionable as to how effective it is in the final cut), it’s so different from the opening act as to only be, from a certain point of view, tangentially linked.

This also doesn’t even mention that the first twenty minutes are, by comparison, a superbly directed piece of suspenseful filmmaking. The direction is taut, the feeling of isolation and claustrophobia wonderful, and the nihilistic ending caps it all off to create one of the most tense openers in film. That our prior knowledge (or most people’s prior knowledge) of the outcome, thanks to our knowledge of the urban legend, doesn’t change the fact that we’re looking for every shadow to move and growing more and more fearful with each frame that passes. With cinematography from an Oscar-nominated cinematographer to boot, it rightly deserves its place in the great halls of horror film canon. It’s just one of those oddities that we can turn off at the 20/21 minute mark and be perfectly happy with walking away from.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @kjudgemental

-Having mentioned Fulci in this article, if you want to read up some more on him, I wrote an article a few years ago as a brief introduction to his work: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/07/25/odds-and-dead-ends-lucio-fulci-italys-godfather-of-gore/

-And if you’re interested in learning more about Giallo, the Italian violent thrillers, that Fulci made, I’ve got you covered there as well: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2019/08/05/odds-and-dead-ends-an-introduction-to-the-giallo/

Horror Seeker: Remembering John Saxon

We here at the Horror Seeker would like to take some time to remember the life and career of legendary actor/martial artist, John Saxon who passed away July 25, 2020. It came as a shock, not only to the horror community but to the film industry in general, as Saxon was indeed one of the all-time greats in the business.

John Saxon: 1935-2020 | Tributes | Roger Ebert

On his twitter account, Robert Englund is quoted as saying, “John was my link to Hollywood’s Golden age.” True story. And, speaking of which, when I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Englund about five years ago, the one thing we gushed over was John Saxon! I had mentioned how I’d love to meet him, sadly never got the chance. However, Robert had nothing but nice things to say, and we discussed the amazing accolades of Saxon’s career. From his involvement on the first Nightmare film, as well as Dream Warriors, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, to his working with some of Hollywood’s biggest names. These include, but are not limited to, Jimmy Stewart, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, and Bruce Lee! Just saying that alone, puts Saxon on a whole other level.
Yes, Saxon was a decorated Martial Artist, having been trained in Judo, Shotokan, and studied Jeet Kune Do under Bruce Lee himself! I can imagine he was not the sort of man you’d want to cross. By all accounts, however, Saxon was reported to be the nicest man to be around. As I’ve mentioned discussing his career with Englund, so too did I share a few good memories with Heather Langenkamp during a similar time of meeting her. See below one of my prized pieces.

It was a gift from a friend some years ago, that Heather Langenkamp had signed, as well!

Watching his films (Enter the Dragon, A Nightmare on Elm Street, TV’s Falcon Crest, and Black Christmas) it is clear to see the warm, but rough edges of such a performer who has amassed a near 200 credits throughout his career. HIs career had begun by the time he was twenty (1954), switching in and out of small roles in both TV and film. Those familiar with his work may notice a pattern in his characters, as Saxon was often depicted as a hard-edged cop. Such was his character in Nightmare 1 & 3 as Lt. Thompson. Many modern fans will remember Saxon for his part in A Nightmare on Elm Street, or even Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, and rightly so. Like all the upcoming slasher films of the early eighties, they were all working on shoestring budgets, and with what cast they could pull together.

While the three titans of 80’s slasher (Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street) had numerous stars such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon, Lawrence  Fishburn, Johnny Depp, etc. they all seemed to have one thing in common. Each franchise started with a single heavy-hitting actor that each series respectfully was lucky to acquire. Halloween; Donald Pleasance – Friday the 13th; Betsy Palmer – and Nightmare got John Saxon. Each actor carried with them the class and strength of old-time Hollywood into an otherwise unproven genre.

Hey! Perhaps this is what slasher horror is missing today. I’ve always asked myself why the genre seems to have died out or at least lost the magic touch it once had. Hmm… food for thought. But, I digress.

While I have not seen all of Saxon’s work, for the films I have watched, Saxon definitely brings a boldness, and confidence to every performance that never comes off as artificial. I don’t see someone portraying a role, I see these characters as they would be. Saxon has been nominated, and won several independent awards, with his crowning achievement being a Golden Globe win in 1958 for This Happy Feeling as Most Promising Newcomer. And yes, he is noted as a “teen heartthrob”. I don’t know ladies, what do you think? Does his rugged persona hold up today?

In any event, John Saxon was an icon of his day, and his loss has been felt by everyone. As if this year wasn’t bad enough; we must say goodbye to a great actor, and a great man. From all of us with The Horror Seeker, we say thank you, John Saxon. Our hearts go out to the Saxon family, and all friends who have felt the impact of his loss. Rest in Peace, 1935 – 2020.

Odds and Dead Ends : Lost in Translation: Sadako vs Samara

This is a topic I’ve mused upon for many years, and when the remake of Pet Sematary came out last year, featuring a ghost girl of sorts, the thoughts returned to me. Why is it that I disliked Samara in The Ring, but loved Sadako in Ringu? It couldn’t just be that one was the original whilst one was a remake. It couldn’t be that they changed the name for a western audience. It couldn’t just be the different actress. So here I’ve decided to break down the two presentations of the character from the two most well known adaptations, 1998’s Ringu, directed by Hideo Nakata, and Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake, Ring, to try and place my discomfort.

We first have to acknowledge a difference in how we are first exposed to Sadako and Samara, which is deeply cultural in origin. Sadako’s story is given to us by having one of our protagonists experience visions of Shizuka’s psychic performances which led to her slander, suicide, and the unfolding of events around Sadako. With Samara, however, the equivalent information is revealed through a series of tapes, including some interviewing Samara about her powers. Here we see that there are some things that have been changed in the cultural translation; that the spiritual, psychic reveal has been altered for a technological one. We can reason that this is because the supernatural version would be more plausibly received in Japan than the US, where a scientific, technological explanation has been given (this is a slightly stereotypical explanation, but it seems to fit). This doesn’t change anything to do with the character, but does highlight that the changes are more than just the name.

Now we get to what we are shown in these reveals, our antagonist, and it is here that I begin to feel the difference. In Ringu, Sadako flashes, never utters a word. The journalist who calls out Shizuka for fraud keels over with a heart attack, and we have a ringing in our ears. Then, when Shizuka calls out Sadako, and we have the memory of the word ‘Sada’ on the tape, things fall into place. We still haven’t seen her. But when little Sadako runs into Asakawa, transplanted into the dream, and we see her ripped fingernails clench around her wrist, we know that something is seriously wrong, and violent.

At the well, we have another flash of a young woman (Sadako) with long hair peering into a well, before being bludgeoned and tossed inside. All without seeing her face; without hearing a word. A few minutes later we get the reveal of her skeleton, rotted away from decades in the dark, alone, having tried to claw her way out of the well. In all of this we have never heard her voice, seen her face; nothing that makes her an individual. She is a figure repressed, pent up, who has murdered four people already, and has a curse on several more. She is disembodied, silent, vengeful wrath, inhabiting a mere shell.

And this is what we see in the final, climactic scene of the film with Sadako crawling out of the television. It is slow and laborious, her kabuki-theatre-styled movements like someone unused to using their limbs, like a force possessing a body. She slowly stands, arms creaking, shuffling across the floor. You get the feeling that it doesn’t matter that she’s moving so slowly, because she’s just come out of a damn videotape. You’re dead anyway. And when her hair finally lifts, all we get is a swollen, veined, wrathful eye. No mouth, no nose, not even both eyes. Just the one, expressing all the rage and malice that has built like a brewing storm.

When we look at Samara’s presentation, what we get is a much more personal, humanised take on the character. Verbinski and writer Ehren Kruger give Samara a personality, and by giving her a voice and letting us see her face, try to create a distinct individual behind the long hair. They present us with a wronged child, instead of the repressed (and wronged by default) woman.

The trouble with this is that, in my opinion (and this is an opinion piece, let’s be fair), when you give a child a voice in a film, and especially an antagonistic child, you need to make sure that the child actually comes across as malevolent. For me, she comes across as a little annoying, and too much like a young child to feel particularly threatening.

We have the same issue seen with the original, silent Michael Myers in Halloween (Carpenter, 1978), as opposed to the remake by Rob Zombie (2007). By giving Myers a voice in his past, it strips some of the mystery away from the character, and his place, as a surrogate for evil has been replaced by a clichéd journey of a troubled child into psychopathy. For me, the same thing is present here in The Ring. These interview scenes don’t seem much different to Charlie’s incarceration in Stephen King’s Firestarter, and at least there we had Charlie as a main character for hundreds of pages beforehand, and were hoping for her escape. It’s a different take, a different look at the same character, but for me, much of the malice is taken out of Samara by attempting to present her as a person.

And in the final scene, a number of changes in how the TV-crawl is handled have been implemented. Instead of just using the television as a medium to record herself and emerge into the real world, Samara is part of the television itself, glitching and glowing as the image renders. She’s not fully part of this world anymore, but still connected to it, more of a ghost than a real, sinister presence. A downside to this is that you have to believe the CGI on Samara as well. She’s much quicker than Sadako here, out of the television in seconds, on her feet almost instantly, and teleporting across the room for a jump scare. She wants to be there and in your face, as opposed to Sadako’s wrathful judgement. It’s far more personal, as if there’s a specific grudge to bear against individuals inside Samara, whereas Sadako didn’t care because there was no humanity left; it had been hollowed out and filled back up with sheer hatred. Samara is specified revenge; Sadako is revenge personified.

The Ring also includes a Hollywood-style cross-cutting, with Rachel rushing across town to try and save Noah. I’m all for cross-cutting for tension building; it’s one of those techniques which works 80% of the time. But here it dilutes what made the original scene’s sense of inevitability. By not leaving that room whilst Sadako emerged, you were trapped in there along with Ryuji, and the slow, laborious way in which the scene played out kept you transfixed. You forgot the rest of the world existed, and focused only on the threat that had emerged before you.

Another aspect of the vocal/silent change is that we feel in the final scene that we might have a chance to reason with Samara, because we’ve seen her asking about her mother, and interacting verbally with the doctors. With Sadako, when she emerges from that TV set, you know that there’s no chance of getting out alive.

I’m of the opinion (in general), that Ringu is the superior film over The Ring, but then I’m of the opinion that Suzuki’s novel is even better than the film (seriously one of the best horror thrillers I’ve ever read). In both films we have fairly different interpretations of Sadako; a silent embodiment of sheer wrath and female repression in Japan, and a personal, paranormal grudge spilling out of control in America. With Sadako, her interpretation plays into the overall doom-laden, dark and dour atmosphere of inevitability which the film creates. In Samara, a more humanised manifestation leads to a stylised paranormal revenge story to suit a mainstream western audience.

I don’t disagree with trying what the remake attempted in Samara, because sometimes humanising a villain makes them scarier, that we know they’re human (or nearly) and can still do what they do. Here, however, was not the right time to do it. That doomy dread becomes a stylised shocker which never hits the same nerve, and Samara’s ‘can I see my mommy?’ removes all of the terror from my antagonist. The Ring isn’t an awful movie in itself, and there are certainly worse adaptations the US has done of paranormal films from Asia in the last few decades, but I’ll go back to Ringu and Sadako Yamamura over Samara Morgan all seven days of the week.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @kjudgemental

-I discussed the original Ring novel a few years ago in relation to M. R. James’ short story, Casting the Runes, and their handling of deadlines in horror literature. You can read it here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/odds-and-dead-ends-analysis-of-casting-the-runes-and-ring/

-And if, after that, you want to jump on the M. R. James wagon for more ghostly thrills, I did a recent analysis of the BBC adaptation of A warning to the curious, which you can read here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2020/06/14/odds-and-dead-ends-the-danger-of-the-future-in-a-warning-to-the-curious-by-m-r-james/

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 15 Beastly Movies for Your Animal Horror Fix

I love monsters (I know, I say that every time). While there are an endless number of man-made, supernatural, and space-dwelling varieties to choose from, nature has supplied plenty of her own. Whether you’re looking for something that crawls, swims, slithers, or climbs, I’ve got the movies for you.

Apes

When it comes to the original movie mega monster, you can’t argue with the King. 1933 brought us King Kong and the start of the longest dynasty in monster movie history. King Kong has the impressive distinction of having few imitators. Unlike other massive monsters (and we’ll get to those in a minute), King Kong was given a distinctive personality that made it difficult for generic remakes to get a foothold. There have been King Kong movies made every decade since the original.

Sharks

Considering we live in a world that has given us multiple Sharknado films, it’s hard to believe that sharks weren’t always popular horror fodder. Until 1975, sharks didn’t get much play time on the screen (outside of pirate films). Now, of course, there’s no shortage of the toothy monsters.

Spiders

By far the smallest creature on this list, spiders are still a top phobia the world over. Horror snakes come in two varieties: overgrown monstrosities or a pack of a million tiny crawlies. Pick your poison, but I’d rather stay away.

Snakes

Why did it take so long for snakes to make their way into the horror lexicon? For so long, they stayed a tool of cults and villains rather than the central antagonist. Regardless, once they slithered into the genre, snakes made themselves at home as B-Movie stars.

Crocodiles

When it comes to giant lizards, nature has more than enough to offer. Mix ancient biology with massive teeth and murky water and you have a horror dream.

Is there a great animal horror film that I’ve missed? Drop your favorites in the comments.

Odds and Dead Ends: The danger of the future in ‘A Warning to the Curious’ by M. R. James

“May I ask what you intend to do with it next?”

“I’m going to put it back.”

The 1972 Christmas adaptation of the classic M. R. James ghost story, A Warning to the Curious, perfectly captured the unique terror of the story, a terror that was at the heart of most of James’ classics. In the tale, an amateur archaeologist finds himself on the trail of an ancient Anglian crown said to protect the ancient kingdom from invasion, but is pursued by its ghostly protector intent on keeping it hidden. What drives the story is that the past should remain in the past, admired from a distance but never defiled for personal gain, lest destruction be wrought on more than just the individual.

For note, I’m going to discuss the story in detail, so, spoilers ahead. Just a little warning to the curious.

The idea of a ghostly companion isn’t something new; for one such example, Sheridan Le Fanu used a disturbing rendition of a demonic presence in Green Tea, about a man who had his third eye opened to a demon, which takes the shape of a monkey with glowing red eyes that haunts his every waking moment. As James was a great admirer of Le Fanu’s work, and helped compile several volumes of his stories, he would have obviously been aware of this story, and the ghostly companion idea.

For James, however, he uses this device for more than just scaring people. James in his personal life was most at home in the old libraries of Cambridge and Eton, as a medievalist and scholar. He was, for all intents and purposes, very much afraid of radical changes of life, especially through technology and social upheaval. The First World War is said to have affected him tremendously, to hear and know of his students, and friends, dying in the trenches abroad. All of this helps us understand where James comes from when his story puts so much emphasis on maintenance of a status quo, of letting the past lie.

It’s interesting to me that in both the original short story and the BBC adaptation, the main character, Paxton, is going through a period of personal lifestyle change. In the short story he is in the process of moving to Sweden, and spending a last few weeks in England before he follows his belongings abroad. In the BBC version, Paxton has been a clerk for twelve years before his company folded the week before, and he decided to follow up on the story of the Anglian crown as a result of nothing else to do, and nothing left to lose; a chance of making a name for himself. The curiosity in finding an ancient relic, and using it to begin a new life (economically and socially on the screen, as a metaphorical omen of good luck for a new beginning in the original), morphs into Paxton’s eventual undoing.

Even the title spells out the intended meaning of the text; don’t let your curiosity get the better of you. And that in both versions of the text, the re-burial of the crown doesn’t deter the spirit from pursuing Paxton, is further proof that the uncovering of the artifact is not simply a physical defiling of the past, but an endangerment on a larger scale. By removing the crown, there is danger of the shores being invaded, bringing about that social upheaval and radical change that James feared so much. To deter others from doing likewise, and having knock-on effects which negatively influences the wider world, the guardian of the crown must end Paxton’s life. This punishment for curiosity is famously central to H. P. Lovecraft’s stories. Lovecraft would have had the protagonist end up insane, or gods breaking through into our dimension in some way. Lovecraft himself wrote of M R James in many letters and articles, praising him as a master of weird fiction, so the connection between the two writers is certainly there.

In our own days of great social change, with the world going through unprecedented times, the antiquated verse of James’ ghost stories might seem a little stilted. Yet he seemed to express that fear in all of us with the best, that the change overcoming the world might contain some ghosts to be feared. How we choose to take his warning for the world, is up to us, but it seems chilling nonetheless that James was putting into fiction exactly what many people fear will happen if one kicks the hornet’s nest of the past. For an old-fashioned Victorian like James, he wanted the comfort of his history. For any change to happen, we must be prepared to face whatever consequences we unleash.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-If you want more M. R. James, here’s a link to an article I did a few years ago, comparing the device of very literal ‘deadlines’ in James’ Casting The Runes and Koji Suzuki’s novel, Ring: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/odds-and-dead-ends-analysis-of-casting-the-runes-and-ring/

Odds and Dead Ends : Gothic influences in Wes Craven’s Shocker

When people think of Wes Craven and supernatural slasher films, they think of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Perfectly justified, of course, as Freddy is one of the biggest icons of horror cinema. However, often overlooked however is his 1989 film Shocker, for some justifiable reasons including awful 80s CGI and an incredibly messy second half with little regard for laws of its own unreality. But at its core, and especially for the first third of the film, the gothic elements of the story are undeniable, and it’s a genuinely interesting case of a modern ghost story in the urban gothic vein.

There are gothic influences all over the film, but what tipped me off was the police invasion of Pinker’s TV shop. We head past the initial lobby of televisions playing visions of war and death and enter a dimly lit series of dusty hallways, hardware packed into the shelves on either side. We’ve dispensed with the creaky castle library and entered a modern equivalent of television sets. Noises in the dark. Turn around. Nobody there. We feel a presence nearby but can’t see them. This is classic haunted house stuff going on here.

And then we get the big tip-off as to the influence. We get a POV shot, very Hitchcockian (thinking especially of Norman Bates peering through the peephole into Marion’s room in Psycho), of Pinker’s eye up to a gap in the shelf, peering into the shop. The monster’s hiding in the walls. A policeman stands guard nearby. Nothing. And then hands shoot through the shelves, catches him. He’s pulled back against the shelves, and the whole thing pivots in on a hinge. The cop is dragged inside and the shelf snaps back in line, never to be considered again.

A few minutes later Jonathan (the MC) and his father appear, none the wiser save for a smoking cigarette on the floor. And then they discover the horrible truth when they see blood pooling out from underneath the shelf, like those ghostly legends of old mansions where the walls drip red. Breaking their way in they find cats flayed and dead-on hooks, red lighting from the cinematography department reinforcing the demonic aspect. And then there’s the body in the middle of the room, throat cut, blood on the floor.

This is classic gothic stuff. The secret passageway in the walls is complete Scooby-Doo, Agatha Christie, even some Sherlock Holmes (I’m thinking here of The Musgrave Ritual in particular). The Cat and the Canary did it as well. We’re in the middle of a slasher movie, and we’ve got secret panels and hiding places? We might even claim that these secret passages go even further back, to the origins of the gothic, in Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, the story we take the term ‘gothic’ from in its now traditional literary application.

And yet somehow it doesn’t feel out of place, doesn’t feel corny, because we can understand that Craven is deliberately drawing upon these influences to create a gothic atmosphere. This is important, as it subtly clues us into the paranormal parts of the film that come into play when he is electrocuted in the chair, turned into a horror version of the Phantom Virus from Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase (those movies were great, Cyber Chase an underappreciated meta gem of Scooby-Doo lore for the final third act).      If the ghost aspect had come out of nowhere, we might have complained that it was too much of a shift from straight serial killer to paranormal horror, but here these elements help to ease the transition over. Not much, because it’s still a jolt switching subgenres, but it helps nonetheless. I’m not sure how the blood pooled all the way from the chair to spread under the shelf because it’s a hell of a long way. Perhaps this is faintly paranormal in origin, the cop’s spirit doing what it needs to do to alert the living to its final resting place in a bid to stop his killer? Most likely it’s a goof and I’m reading way too much into it, but it’s certainly a possible reading if you wanted to go that far.

Let’s also remember that, even after the electrocution, the film is in essence a ghost story. Whereas in centuries before a spirit might have inhabited a suit of armor, or roamed the walls of the courtyard in which they were executed, here we have a modern updating, inhabiting the electricity that we have harnessed for our own ends. This criticism of our device-ridden society which wasn’t as prevalent when the film came out, but certainly on the rise, was inherent in genre storytelling of the time. Cyberpunk arose as a subgenre a few years before to question our reliance on technology.

And a few years after Shocker, we see the influx of films from Asia that combined a malevolent spirit and technology to demonstrate new fears of a society rapidly flying into the future. Films like Ringu, One Missed Call, Shutter, Noroi, even The Eye to a certain extent (the elevator scene is my example here, with the apparition not appearing on the security camera), would be films that take this concept and run with it, infusing into their tales a very gender-based morality tale of using a stereotypically male industry (technology) and using it as a vehicle for the classic avenging female spirit of folklore.

Could one orient Shocker as a modern gothic gateway to these tales? I suspect most would argue against it, but as has been critiqued in countless essays, articles, and books, there is not one film history, but multiple readings of film histories. As it stands, the genre itself is also fluid and a very pliable concept in itself. I’m not using any of these arguments to state that Shocker is a great film, because although fun, it’s most certainly hovering just in the ‘mediocre’ range of horror films. However, that these more traditional elements find their way into divisive and forgotten films might go some way to showing that it’s not just the revered masterpieces of regarded canon that have interesting literary facets to their makeup.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Uncommon Monsters that Deserve a Movie

I love monsters. Demons, vampires, werewolves, giant atom-bomb lizards, scientific monstrosities, supernatural entities… you name it, I love it (except zombies, but we won’t get into that here). I’ll gleefully watch every Hammer Horror movie and sit through a thousand Universal monster marathons.

But, given the deep wealth of urban legends and cultural mythologies from around the world, is this really the best we can do? Endless remakes of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy?

It’s time to branch out.

See below for five monsters that deserve their own block buster franchise:

1. Jorogumo

Jorogumo is a Japanese spider creature that can shapeshift into a beautiful woman. Japanese folklore is filled to the brim with fascinating monsters of all shapes and sizes and Japanese filmmakers have made films that scared the pants off us for decades (The Ring and The Grudge, anyone?). I’m imagining a tense thriller about young newlyweds, one with a dark secret… but it’s best to leave this to the professionals.

2. Cuca

The Cuca is a Brazilian mythological being taking the form of an old witch with an alligator face and hawk-like claws. She is known to steal children (especially naughty ones). Given the fantastic history of Brazilian cinema, I would love to see a tense, artsy film that brings home another Oscar for horror fans.

3. Bouda

Say it with me now: were-hyenas. That moniker really doesn’t do this African creature justice. The Bouda legend takes different forms depending on where exactly it comes from (it’s common in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Near East). Regardless, humans turning into animals is rich fodder for all kinds of horror and we could all do with a break from the clichés of yet another werewolf movie.

4. Dzoavits

Dzoavits is an ogre from Native American (specifically Shoshonean) folklore. He is known for stealing and eating children. While this legend doesn’t have a wealth of stories to draw from, the premise alone is spooky enough for me to greenlight it.

5. Drop Bear

The drop bear is a larger, carnivorous cousin to the koala. Luckily, it’s not real, but is actually an Australian hoax designed to scare tourists. Australia is a nightmare country. Scientists are always discovering new and exciting ways for the wildlife to kill you. So, who’s to say this tourist-scaring cryptid isn’t waiting in the branches above. Just waiting… to drop.

That’s my top five list for new monster movies! What would you like to see?

Merrill’s Musical Movie Review : Dark Roads 79

Dark Roads 79 – Selling Your Soul Gives Mixed Results

Dark Roads 79 takes rock ‘n’ roll mythology and applies it to a southern rock band at the end of a decade that saw the loss of many musical greats. Bobby Gray and his band Dark Roads are at the end of a good ride and are given one more chance to infuse their sound with life. A cabin in the woods could be the perfect setting to create a masterpiece, or it may well be their final resting place. Written and directed by Chase Smith, co-written by Richard Krevolin and produced by Jason Anderson, Dark Roads 79 is effective at suspense and the creation of mood and atmosphere, but somewhat weak with character development and motivation. As a total package, the film kept me engaged and entertained, but could have been so much more.

Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll are plentiful and the music hits the mark in this film, but the story in Dark Roads 79, which has so much potential, misses some chances to go deeper. I found myself wishing for more backstory on the relationships between the characters. One of the things we love about rock ‘n’ roll band mythos is the drama behind the music. Probably the best example was the hint at some history between Tyler and Eddie and Eddie’s girlfriend. A few dropped lines here and there to let us know more about each character’s motivation could have built a much tighter plot. As it was, we saw the bad sides of a bunch of hedonistic young folks and waited to learn their fate while being entertained by good tunes, some cool old-timey camera work, and split-screen psychedelic tricks that added to the eerie and menacing vibe of the film. You know it’s all going to end up badly for the competent and entertaining cast, and you are caught up in the ride to see just how bad it’s going to get. 

The most interesting character was Ian Cash, roadie and security for the band, who seems to have quite a past and a talent for singing, but we never learn any more than that. A seemingly flawed character, his interactions came the closest to revealing real character growth and I was cheering every time for just a little more. The driver cracked me up with his version of rock lore. And Grace gave me the creeps from the beginning. The film kept me guessing to the end, which makes it a success, and these bits of great characterization certainly helped. 

The backstory of the cabin was intriguing, and the caretaker provided an excellent foil to the band. I would have loved to know what the connection was with the history there and what was about to happen to the band. Instead, we got misogynistic rapey vibes, which were not necessary and detracted from my enjoyment of the film. Most of the sexual activity in the film, however, was used for the important purpose of moving the plot forward and establishing mistrust between the characters. 

Overall, Dark Roads 79 is an enjoyable film and I would recommend it to fans of Crossroads, American Satan, and Eddie and the Cruisers, which are all excellent flicks warning of the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, they can warn us all they want, we still want to rock, and that’s what makes a movie like Dark Roads 79 a delight for music and horror fans alike.  

Thank you to Spirit World Productions for providing the screener. I look forward to checking out more of their films. 

Stay Tuned for more of Merrill’s Musical Musings…

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Dead Ringer

Dead Ringer is a Juicy Twofer from the One Bette Davis

by Kristin Battestella

Bette Davis stars in the 1964 thriller Dead Ringer as twins one high and one low – leading to an intricate scheme of scandals, affairs, secrets, blackmail, and murder…

Based on an earlier Mexican picture, actor turned director Paul Henried (Casablanca) and writer Oscar Millard (Angel Face) open Dead Ringer with frenetic, mood-setting credits, cemeteries, Latin, funerals, and veils. The servants are surprised to see the reunited sisters are twins, and the catching up dialogue is laden with history – heather to remember wartime trysts in Scotland, one man between two women, and a shotgun marriage twenty years ago. Large rooms allow for a stage-like two-hander space while the camera can cut away to different angles mirroring each sister’s facade as the sordid shade and one on one conversations escalate. Looming portraits of the deceased man provide sadness over what could have been and our jilted twin can’t let go – leading to angry phone calls, threats, and purse revolvers. A change of clothes and the right haircut make our disparate twins look quite alike until choice zooms and tense up-close shots reveal the difference. In spite of some camp – Bette is getting rough with herself, after all, and we know it – viewers are already invested in Dead Ringer by the time the checkbooks are slapped from one’s hand and sisters are shoving each other into action. Both performances are so good, and ambient music from the bar below covers the back and forth shouting. Drumbeats countdown as the note is shown while the gun is drawn, using shrewd editing to not show shocking shots and familial violence even though we are appalled all the same by the sibling twists. The desperate, eponymous ruse takes up the first half-hour of the film with suicide notes and weapons wiped clean. Today’s audience, however, will notice slip-ups, smoking mistakes, and flaws in the not so thought-through plan. Can she pull this off or will the family dog and awkward moments with the servants give away the difference? What’s her usual drink or the combination to the safe? Violent revelations and hocking jewels lead to arsenic, heart attacks, and maulings. Who exactly did what and when, who will face justice or get away with it, and what was it all for anyway? Police questioning creates tense moments amid covering tracks, entertaining the elite, and estate papers needing signatures that may not match the handwriting documented on that all-important passport.

Who’s a better match for Bette Davis (All About Eve) than Bette Davis (Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte)? Wealthy Margaret DeLorca hates climbing her grand stairs and doesn’t like the way she looks in black, but her late husband was rich and she offers her frumpy, chain-smoking sister Edith Phillips her cast off couture – it will be out of style by time she’s officially out of mourning. Margaret is sleek, getting massages while on the phone and unbothered by Mr. DeLorca’s passing, which Edith resents since she loved him first, accusing her sister of never caring about him before refusing Margaret’s proposed money and trips. Margaret claims to love her sister and insists the man between them was no big deal while Edith still regrets her snobby need to take whatever was hers and how Margaret ruined both their lives. She kept up with The DeLorcas over the decades via the social columns, but Margaret didn’t know they lived in the same city until Edith arrived on a bus for the funeral. Their lavish life, however, wasn’t all it seemed, and eventually, Margaret tries to bribe Edith but she can’t forgive her sister for any amount despite being behind on the rent and facing eviction from the meager one-room apartment above her cocktail lounge. However, Edith likes the way she looks in her sister’s stole and smiles at her own reflection more when she coifs her hair just like her sister’s. Knowing how she was tricked out of the charmed life on top of losing what little she has now is apparently too much for Edith, and although she momentarily feels bad about switching tender mementos, she goes through with it anyway. Blunders at society receptions, apologizing, or forgetting the rosary can be dismissed as distraught – Edith didn’t get to be the wife but finds a certain solace in living with the bittersweet memory of what she wanted. The audience almost feels sorry for her pathetic state. We want Edith to get away with it and worry over every slip up even as she gains confidence in the role, speaking frankly about marriage and all the things that made her unhappy. She’s ready to forget who her sister was despite ironic codicils in her lost love’s will. Sadly, the deaths and bodies exhumed get out of hand, and ultimately, Edith plays her part too well.

Honest policeman Karl Malden (I Confess) brings Edith a humble watch for her birthday, and Jim Hobbson is ready to retire, buy a farm, and give her the best. It could be a nice little relationship, but she’s hung up on the past and he can tell something’s wrong. Jim’s angry at Edith’s death and blames himself, intruding on “Margaret” with investigations and memories she’s trying to forget. Unfortunately, Margaret’s jealous playboy lover and would be golf pro, Peter Lawford (Little Women) also throws a wrench into all Edith’s plans. Upon returning from an island holiday, Tony Collins puts two and two together now that “Margaret” doesn’t like his pillow talk – leading to some campy surprises, threats, and blackmail. Glamorous brooches, jewels, and pearls fill the void in his $700 a month love nest, and hey, $3,000 a month allowance in 1964 would be over $24,000 today! Vintage L.A. views and classic cars set the ritzy mood alongside furs, hats, gloves, and tea sets. The cocktail lounge is dark with low ceilings compared to the lavish estate with mirrors and giant bedrooms bigger than the poorer relation’s entire apartment. Classy accents, nibs, and silver add sophistication even as Dead Ringer scandalously shows the ladies in their slips – stripping down the deceased and removing the stockings after the unseen shot to the temple is confirmed with two drops of blood. Crescendos punctuate tense scenes or sadness as needed while the black and white gray-scale creates shadows and ambiguity. Double stand-ins and split screens are probably obvious to today’s special effects savvy audiences, however, the dual conversations are well done. Rearview mirrors and camera angles also placing others in the ensemble in visual trickery likewise play up the duality as cigarette form and lingering smoke punctuate up close shots. On the 4K television Dead Ringer looks quite crisp, and the DVD includes a retrospective with Hollywood author Boze Hadleigh in addition to commentaries and vintage behind the scenes tours.

There are similar stories to Dead Ringer – including an Ann Jillian remake and the recent series Ringer – that may make the twin twists common for modern audiences. This isn’t horror per se, either, yet there are certainly disturbing moments thanks to the sibling violence and dead doppelgangers. Despite a few plot holes, obvious crimes, and an unclear passage of time, the turnabout drama in Dead Ringer is juicy to the end. Every scene is packed with layers and discourse thanks to another tour de force Davis performance worth seeing at least twice, naturally.

For More Spooky Classics, Re-visit:

Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Dark Shadows Video Review

I Married a Witch

Odds and Dead Ends : White Zombie |The Grandfather of Zombies

Along with the pandemic film, which for obvious reasons seems to be especially prevalent in these trying times, its close cousin, the zombie movie, is also emerging from the graves. Several years ago, J Malcolm Stewart briefly discussed the zombie film in a guest article for HorrorAddicts.net (link below) and discussed White Zombie in passing. However, considering the fundamental importance of the film to horror history, a more in-depth look at the film seems to be needed.

Inspired by The Magic Island by William Seabrook, the film stars Bela Lugosi as the powerful Murder, practitioner of potions and religions. The film follows Madeleine and fiancé Neil, who upon meeting by chance in Haiti, are to be married at the plantation of their wealthy friend, Charles Beaumont. However, madly in love with the young lady, Charles, visits Lugosi’s mesmeric Murder, who convinces Charles to transform her into a zombie. Once returned to somnambulistic life, Charles can do away with her at his will. It’s a simple script, all in all, and very much a product of the time, where even supernatural films were often dominated by romantic love-stories.

Some context is definitely needed to explain quite a few decisions with the film. Especially prominent in the final twenty minutes or so, is the prevalent absence of dialogue, where much of it plays out in prolonged silent sequences. This is partially explained when we remember that the film was released in 1932, only five years after synchronised sound was first applied to a feature film with The Jazz Singer in 1927. Britain only got its first talkie with Hitchcock’s Blackmail in 1929, an intriguing film with both silent and talkie versions. Anyone in the mainstream film industry at this time, unless they’d just started working there, wouldn’t be too familiar with talkies, and the conventions that synchronised sound would bring. You can still see these longer, quieter sections of film even in Dracula the year before. The world is still partially in the silent mindset.

This may also explain some of the over-acting in the film. If you’re used to working in a medium where facial expression is the primary way of getting information about a character across, it lingers like an accent. You can also see this in early television when theatre actors made the crossover into television for small parts. Even the framing, without a fourth wall, would replicate the theatre. This isn’t an excuse for the overacting, but a reason nonetheless.

One of the main reasons for the film’s enduring grip on the public consciousness must undoubtedly be Bela Lugosi. An incredibly accomplished screen actor by this time, and with the name of Dracula forever attached to him even a year later, managing to grab Lugosi for a starring role would have been a big step for the film. It might possibly have secured them a great portion of the very small budget, if they attached him before going into full production (that part I don’t know, admittedly, and is pure speculation on my part). We should never forget that, as well as being a classic horror movie, this could easily be regarded as a ‘Bela Lugosi’ movie; the star power of the man helping to shape our understanding of this film for years to come, as it fits into more than just one categorisation of film history outside the standard, mainstream concept. Lugosi is the great redemption of the movie, in all its $50,000 budget, eleven-day shoot, all-shot-at-night production glory. Sets were used from other Universal productions, such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc, because of the restricted budget as an independent film. Because of this, it’s very easy to see the film as a Lugosi film first and foremost in terms of academic interest, but don’t be fooled.

The world is at the beginnings of mass globalisation at this time, with technology rapidly advancing throughout the globe. Interest in other cultures comes in fits and starts, such as the Egyptology craze that Stoker tapped into in The Jewel of Seven Stars (a link for the interested to my article on Queen Tera from this novel is found at the end). This, combined with a need to tap into new and fresh fears from writers and creators, probably all helped to kick off a new interest in Voodoo. The topic had been all the rage the few years prior, with playwright Kenneth Webb attempted to sue for stealing the name from his play, Zombie, though nothing came of it. Thankfully for us, because otherwise, we might not have the word ‘zombie’ bandied about in titles so readily nowadays, if the same man could sue over and over again for use of the word and be fairly sure of cashing in.

Haitian Voodoo (which is the branch of Voodoo associated within the film, to my brief knowledge) is a real set of beliefs, though not as much in the realms of mesmerism and evil as Hollywood blockbusters (and, probably most notably, Wes Craven’s film The Serpent and The Rainbow) would have you believe. This has never stopped filmmakers taking something seemingly ‘other’ and turning into something horrific, however. This has, of course, been the trend in global storytelling since the beginning of time, that what we do not understand is inherently frightening. Here, multiple strands associated with various parts of the world compose factions of the same belief in an all-powerful being who communicates with the world through spirits, and that by communicating with these spirits (loa), one can communicate with the presence of the all-powerful Bondeye. To this end, only a very small fraction of the religion concerns itself with the creation of zombies, though this is in principle part of the belief system.

This zombie creation is used metaphorically to highlight the racial inequality present in society at the time (though perhaps it is still pertinent even today). Note that the film takes place largely around a plantation and that the shambling zombies of the locals are used by Murder to work the mills. In one scene that tracks through the men, used as little more than cattle to work for the light-skinned Lugosi, the grinding wheels and machinery could be almost taken to sound like the groans of the trapped souls. The very idea of a white man using practices brought about by a largely black community (even more apt as Voodoo has its early origins in Africa, especially the French colonies, hundreds of years ago), for his own gain at the cost of those of a different skin complexion, could be read to have serious racial undertones. Even the name of the film, White Zombie, brings these two worlds together in an explicit binary. You can enjoy the film perfectly without recognising all of this, but the fact that it is there should be borne in mind.

White Zombie, can be seen as the beginning point for two branches of horror tradition; that of zombies, and of Voodoo. Most zombies would continue to exist in this mesmeric guise until George A. Romero came along in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead and re-crafted the concept into the shambling hoards of the undead after our flesh which we are familiar with. And it’s safe to say that the Voodoo strains in folk horror and beyond wouldn’t be nearly as strong without this film to prove that it can, just about, work. White Zombie is a fun, surreal 70 minutes that I’d encourage any fan of classic horror, or scholar of generic traditions in cinema, to seek out, if only to know what the hell Rob Zombie’s old band was named after.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

-Link to Stewart’s article on zombies and the 80’s Voodoo films: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/guest-blog-black-zombie-hollywood-and-the-80s-voodoo-revival-by-j-malcom-stewart/

-Link to my own article on Queen Tera in The Jewel of Seven Stars: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/odds-and-dead-ends-resurrecting-the-queen/

Bibliography

Blackmail. 1929. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. UK: British International Pictures.

Dracula. 1931. [Film] Directed by Tod Browning. USA: Universal Pictures.

Frankenstein. 1931. [Film] Directed by James Whale. United States of America: Universal.

Night of the Living Dead. 1968. [Film] Directed by George A. Romero. USA: Image Ten.

Rhodes, G. D., 2001. White Zombie: Anatomy of a Horror Film. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc.

Seabrook, W., 1929. The Magic Island. USA: s.n.

Stoker, B., 2009. The Jewel of Seven Stars. United States of America: Seven Treasures Publications.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame. 1923. [Film] Directed by Wallace Worsley. USA: Universal.

The Jazz Singer. 1927. [Film] Directed by Alan Crosland. USA: Warner Bros.

The Serpent and The Rainbow. 1988. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. USA/Dominican Republic/Haiti: Universal.

Webb, K., 1930. Zombie. USA: s.n.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness : 15 Horror Movies and Shows for Kids You Can Stream Right Now

Any Horror Addicts out there raising baby bats? It can be hard to find some middle ground between the horror you love and what’s going to keep the little monsters up at night, but I’m here to help! Below, you’ll find my curated selection of frightful fun for the whole family (all ready to stream).

  1. Hotel Transylvania: The Series (Netflix)

You’re probably already familiar with the Hotel Transylvania movies, but if you want MORE, check out the animated show. Dracula goes away for a year, leaving the hotel in the hands of his sister and his teenage daughter, Mavis.

  1. Little Monsters (Netflix)

This classic 1989 movie is all campy fun. Brian discovers the world of monsters living under his bed and embarks on a wild ride of mischief.

  1. Missing Link (Hulu)

Susan, also known as Bigfoot, searches for her distant Yeti relatives with the help of a famous monster hunter.

  1. Corpse Bride (Netflix)

If you haven’t watched this Tim Burton classic, do it now. This tale of romance and revenge is great for kids and adults.

  1. Monsters at Large (Hulu)

A group of teens forms a task force to fight imaginary monsters, but find themselves confronted with the real thing.

  1. Monster House (Netflix)

A group of kids discovers that the neighboring house is actually a real-live monster. This 2006 movie has become a Halloween classic, but real Horror Addicts know you can watch it year-round.

  1. Daphne & Velma (Hulu)

Before there was the Scooby Gang, there was Daphne and Velma. This movie shows the girls in high school, trying to solve the mystery of what is turning the students into zombies.

  1. The Little Vampire (Netflix)

In this 2017 animated film, a boy obsessed with the undead befriends a vampire his age and helps his family escape a monster hunter.

  1. Henry Hugglemonster (Hulu)

A monster series for the very young! This animated series teaches all those valuable social skills that little kids need, with a fun monster twist.

  1. Monster High (Netflix)

There are a whole collection of Monster High movies and shorts on Netflix. The series, based on the dolls by the same name, is wildly popular.

  1. Clue (Amazon Prime)

Clue: The Movie, based on Clue: The Board Game, is hilarious. As a child, as an adult, as anyone. Please go watch this movie.

  1. Monster Island (Netflix)

Lucas discovers that he’s actually a monster and goes to meet the rest of his family. In the process, he finds a plot against monsters and must save the day.

  1. Annoying Orange – Shocktober Horror (Amazon Prime)

This entry is really more for the pre-teen crowd. Annoying Orange isn’t for everyone, but for a certain type of humor, this really hits the spot.

  1. Super Monsters (Netflix)

Another entry for the littlest bats! A group of pre-school monsters tries to learn about their powers and prepare for kindergarten.

  1. Monster Family (Netflix)

On Halloween, a family is turned into the costumes they wear and must go on a journey to return to themselves. I liked this movie, but I’m not going to lie, I was rooting for Dracula.

From the Horror Seeker: Gozer the Gozarian

Gozer, for all its wonder, seems to be a Deity without any definitive form or essence of its own, coming to our plain in a predetermined form given to it by its followers, then surrendering its essence to a champion of its worshipers to choose the form by which it will destroy the earth. As we have come to know it, Gozer came to us in 1984 in the form of a Serbian actress Slavitza Jovan, where it was to be chosen by the Ghostbusters to destroy the earth in the form of the Stay Puff marshmallow man. Wait, what?

Yeah, it no doubt got our attention then, but when compared to the ancient tellings of Gozer, as it was by Egon in the film, Gozer has had many other, more intimidating figures it has brought upon humanity in the past.
Gozer came into pop culture as the main antagonist in 1984’s Ghostbusters. An ancient, but obscure God worshiped by the Mesopotamians, Sumerians and the Hittites somewhere around 6000 B.C.

Gozer was banished by the followers of an opposing force in Gozer’s sibling, Tiamat where it was exiled and left to roam the universe and its many dimensions, hence one of its many names as “The Traveller” Gozer spent many eons exploring and conquering world upon world until finally being summoned back to Earth more or less by a then strengthening group of followers headed by Dr. Ivo Shandor who went on to erect a building in NYC as an antenna to focus the spiritual energies of the plain and bring forth Gozer to take over the earth.

I thought it’d be an interesting look into an underappreciated antagonist, what with the 2020 Ghostbusters film on the way this summer. It has been rumored that Gozer will be making a comeback of sorts, and it will be very curious to see in what respect it will return; what form will it take now?

I have always thought Gozer to be something of an interesting character, not just for the sake of the film, but for inspiration. It is very clear that the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man is pure, uncontested fiction, obviously, however, a deity of Gozer’s like is nothing too obscure in history. As long as there has been man, there have been those man has worshiped. Regardless of a God/Deity’s intent, it almost seemed necessary for man’s survival, and I found myself wondering which God or Gods come closest to that of Gozer. Upon much digging, I have found it quite difficult to find anything close, until I uncovered an obscure Mesopotamian Deity known as Enlil. His roll in Mesopotamian mythology is power and authority, as such he has the ability to create and “destroy” – Gozer the Destructor.

An interesting passage I found here: Enlil was a provider, and as such he was declared the “Lord of abundance” in a hymn for Šu-Suen (2037-2029 BCE) (ETCSL 2.4.4.a: 20-21). However, Enlil could also take such plenty away and devastate the land, e.g., in The Lament for Urim, he is said to have “brought the storm of abundance away”, to have “annihilated the land, silenced the city” (ETCSL 2.2.2), and destroyed their houses and demolished their walls Enki and the World Order (ETCSL 1.1.3: 245).

There was nothing significant, however, about the timing of Enlil’s reign when compared to what we know, thanks to Egon. Nor was there anything relevant to a pairing of demi-gods in order to bring Gozer forward. However, further reading on Enlil will see he is also known as the “decreer of fates” and the holder of the “Tablet of destinies” to which the possessor would command the worlds. It becomes apparent why there would be such a devout following, and why Ivo Shandor would want to worship such a deity.

It has become a very interesting read though and I’d love to get some more of your thoughts on what you think of Gozer, as well as any further reading or discoveries you may find on anything closer resembling Gozer. Tell me what you hope to see in the upcoming film; if Gozer should return, and in what form?

From the Horror Seeker, we ask you to choose the form of the destructor—and perish!

Chilling Chat: Four Quick Questions with A.J. Rome

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Aaron Jay Rome left his hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado shortly after high school to pursue acting. His career is currently on the rise with supporting roles in big films such as AJ Rome 1The Campaign, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Get on Up, and TV Shows like The Vampire Diaries and Bonnie & Clyde.

He recently starred in the film, End Trip, which he also wrote and directed.

1.) Which is more challenging? Acting, directing, or writing?

I’d say the writing process is the most challenging. People say to me, “I wish I could write” all the time. Lately, I’ve been wondering do they mean “I wish I could force myself to sit down and write?” or do they just think they’d be bad writers? Both seem to be true for most people. Acting and directing give you an opportunity to bring something that already exists to life. The hunk of clay is already there, you just have to shape it. Writing is like trying to dig the clay out of the ground with your fingernails or create it from nothing.

2.) As a writer, do you have complete control over your characters? Or do you allow them to have free will?

I can definitely see where most writers and often times myself, would like to write a character so specific that every breath and blink is written into the script. Thankfully coming from an acting background, I know full-well that giving the actor room to play within the character is what will really bring it to life. When Dean J. West came to me with a British accent for his role in the film, I loved it. Never wrote it that way, but it definitely added a layer I didn’t even consider in the writing process.

3.) What inspired you to write End Trip

I actually drove for Uber and Lyft for about 2 years. When a friend of mine told me about a camera that could “shoot in pitched black” (the Sony a7s ii) I started putting the bones of the idea together: a rideshare movie that happens at night. Cause what’s scarier than strangers and darkness? Not much. There’s a lot more that inspired me, but I’d risk spoiling a lot of the film, so I won’t risk it here.

4.) What is your favorite horror film?

My favorite horror films lately are those that take social issues and explore them using horror elements or themes. Get Out and It Follows as well as anything Mike Flanagan are all super inspiring at this point in my career.

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX: Gothic Romance Video Review

Yours Truly Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz discusses Category Romance versus Gothic Literature, Slashers versus Hammer, Penny Dreadful, Mario Bava, Crimson Peak, Tom Hiddleson, and Only Lovers Left Alive as well as Victorian and Gothic Romance Themes and the upcoming HorrorAddicts.net anthology Dark Divinations.

 

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage!

Listen to Our Podcast: http://horroraddicts.net/

Get involved: https://www.facebook.com/groups/horroraddicts.net

HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference: http://horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net/board/14/writing-horror

Dark Divinations Submission Information: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/current-submission-calls/

To Read Detailed Reviews on Our Subjects Re-visit:

Penny Dreadful  1  2  3

Mario Bava Super Special

Crimson Peak

Only Lovers Left Alive

Revisiting Poe Video Review

Classic Horror Reading Video

Dark Shadows Video Review

Guest Blog: 25 of the Most Metal Films (That Aren’t About Metal)

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The world’s first heavy metal band, Black Sabbath, took their name from Mario Bava’s classic 1963 horror film. In the years since, horror and metal have continued to have an ongoing conversation, from horror-themed metal bands (such as Cradle of Filth, The Great Old Ones, or Carach Angren) to metal-themed horror films.

My short story Requiem in Frost continues this tradition, telling the story of a Norwegian girl who moves into a house haunted by the ghost of a black metal musician.

To coincide with its release, I’ve decided to make a list of movies that, to me, feel “metal.” However, I’m not going to limit this list to horror, and I’m going to avoid films that are specifically about metal. This is because every other list of “Most Metal films of all time” take it literally, all of them focusing exclusively on the same 10 or so movies to have explicit references to the genre. The internet can only withstand so many posts containing Deathgasm, The Gate, The Devil’s Candy, and Lords of Chaos. So instead, I’m going to focus on movies that feel like they capture the essence of metal.

Here’s my criteria: do the images in the movie feel like they could be metal album covers? Could you put metal on the soundtrack and have it feel right? Does the story feel like it could also be that of a metal concept album? Does it feel powerful and meticulously constructed in the way that good metal does?

Obviously, everyone will have their own view on what does and doesn’t belong on this list. These are my choices, and I’m sure that your own are perfectly valid. That’s why these are 25 of the most metal films that aren’t about metal—not the 25 most.

Black SabbathHere we go. Organized by year:

  1. BLACK SABBATH (1963): Let’s just get this shoo-in out of the way. It honestly doesn’t feel that metal to me, but the fact that it inspired what many consider to be the first metal band ever makes it retroactively metal.
  2. WIZARDS (1977): Ralph Bakshi’s animated feature establishes a world in which, following a nuclear apocalypse, humans have all died or become mutants, and fantasy races have taken over in the meantime. An evil wizard uses Nazi propaganda footage to inspire his troops; a robot finds redemption, and fairy tits jiggle. It’s a strange, over-ambitious film, but the subject matter and imagery would feel right at home in a strange, over-ambitious metal concept album. Bakshi’s Fire and Ice might also be a suitable pick, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t put it here.
  3. HEAVY METAL (1981): A token inclusion, this adult animated anthology feature contains aliens on drugs, women with big swords, and copious amounts of sex and violence. It’s rather dated, particularly in the treatment of its female characters, but there’s no denying it is as metal as its name.
  4. CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982): Look, the poster for Conan the Barbarian looks just like a Manowar album. It opens with the forging of a sword. It’s full of Vikings. It has to be on this list.
  5. LEGEND (1985): When you get down to it, a lot of metal is quite geeky, full of fantasy tropes and looming apocalypses—much like Legend. Plus, Tim Curry’s Darkness is such a perfectly iconic heavy metal demon that it would be sinful not to include it.
  6. HELLRAISER (1987): Clive Barker’s squirmfest is undeniably metal, if only for the aesthetic of the cenobites and for the film’s obsession with pain, pleasure, and Hell. Hellraiser was also a huge influence on the band Cradle of Filth, with Pinhead’s actor Doug Bradley making regular appearances on their albums.
  7. EVIL DEAD 2 (1987): The Necronomicon. Ash’s chainsaw hand. The bleeding walls. The soul-swallowing, flesh-possessing demons. Evil Dead 2 is as metal as it gets.
  8. THE CROW (1994): While it’s arguably more of a goth film than a metal film, The Crow is nonetheless filled with such metal-appropriate themes as coming back from the dead to avenge your frigid lover. It’s also one of the rare movies where both the protagonist and antagonist have longer-than-average hair. Kaw, kaw.
  9. DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (1994): Also known as Cemetery Man, this underrated dark comedy stars Rupert Everett as the keeper of a cemetery where the dead come back to life after burial. It features a romance with a severed head, a zombie on a motorbike, and Death himself, as well as amusingly cynical quotes like “I’d give my life to be dead” and “At a certain point in life, you realize you know more dead people than living.”
  10. VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST (2000): One of the most beautiful animated films of all time, and also one of the darkest. There’s vampires, giant flying manta rays, strange monsters, dark magic, zombies, and more. The first Vampire Hunter D film is good, but Bloodlust just gives the audience one incredibly metal scene after another, and it’s filled with shots that look like they could be metal album covers.
  11. LORD OF THE RINGS (2001 – 2003): Just look at this meme. I think that demonstrates pretty clearly just how metal these films are.
  12. HELLBOY (2004) & HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008): Guillermo del Toro’s fantastic Hellboy films follow a demon who fights Nazis, tentacled Eldritch abominations, faeries, and more. The fact that we have a demon as the hero of the story is pretty significant, but the films’ hellishly lush imagery also demand their inclusion. Particularly metal is the Angel of Death we meet in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
  13. 300 (2006): I’m including Zach Snyder’s divisive “300” here because the whole movie just feels like a mosh pit to me, with its fetishization of big men with big swords fighting in big groups. It has stunning, brutal, beautiful violence, and plenty of images that feel like metal album covers. Lest you think metal can only be from Scandinavia, check out the amazing Greek metal bands Rotting Christ or Septicflesh, and the Mesopotamian metal band Melecesh. All three bands would feel right at home on the 300 soundtrack.
  14. PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006): Another beautiful Guillermo del Toro picture, Pan’s Labyrinth is both a grisly fairy tale and a story of rebellion. The Faun and the Pale Man, both played by the incomparable Doug Jones, are stunningly dark creations, and this list would be incomplete without them.
  15. SILENT HILL (2006): Pyramid Head’s scenes. ‘Nuff said.
  16. MARTYRS (2008): Extreme metal is like extreme horror: enjoyment often requires a process of conditioning and desensitization. Just as you can recommend some extreme metal only to people with the ear for it, you can only really recommend Martyrs to people with the stomach for it. Somewhere out there, a goregrind band is writing lyrics about a woman’s skin being removed in honor of this grueling film.
  17. VALHALLA RISING (2009): Nicolas Refn’s surreal Viking picture stars Mads Mikkelsen as One Eye, a man who resembles Odin and goes on a transcendent journey. It’s bloody, somber, drenched in pagan spirituality and black metal as Hell.
  18. HELLDRIVER (2010): This bonkers Japanese splatterfest contains a car made out of body parts, an eight-armed zombie holding eight assault rifles, a plane made out of zombies, and…look, it’s just nuts, okay? I might have also included similar Japanese bonkers films like Tokyo Gore Police, The Machine Girl, or Robogeisha, but I feel like Helldriver belongs here the most.
  19. DRIVE ANGRY 3D (2011): Nicholas Cage escapes from Hell to take revenge on someMandy evil cultists by driving…angrily…in 3D. While being pursued by a demon accountant…who is also, yes, in 3D. There’s also a sex scene gunfight…which is, you guessed it, also in 3D.
  20. BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC (2012 – 2013): While it isn’t nearly as good as the manga it’s based on, this anime film trilogy is nonetheless quite metal. Set in a medieval fantasy world, Berserk has big swords, big battles, and big demons, culminating with the infamously hellish “Eclipse” sequence. But really, read the manga instead.
  21. KUNG FURY (2015): This 30-minute long Swedish crowd-funded film manages to pack more metal stuff in it than most films can manage in a feature-length. In Kung Fury, a Kung-Fu Cop must fight Hitler, but accidentally goes too far back in time and ends up in the Viking Age, where Viking women ride dinosaurs and fight laser raptors. In other words, it’s amazing. You can watch it for free on YouTube.
  22. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015): This movie contains a man playing a fire-spewing guitar on top of a stage that’s on a moving big rig, and if that’s not metal, then I don’t know what is.
  23. THE WITCH (2015): The Witch kicks off with the ritualistic sacrifice of an infant, and from there only continues to bombard us with Satanic imagery. Of particular note is Black Philip, the sinister goat who apparently terrorized the actors as much as he does the characters in the film.
  24. MANDY (2018): Nicolas Cage makes a bat’leth and fights a shitty cult in this surreal film that’s destined to be a cult favorite. Like some great metal albums, I can think of, Mandy starts off slow and atmospheric, lulling you with hypnotic beauty before exploding into an orgy of batshit violence. Also, like many great metal albums I can think of, it feels like it was conceived while on drugs.
  25. AQUAMAN (2018): Okay, hear me out. James Wan’s Aquaman makes Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman look as metal as possible, and he makes the rest of the film as metal as possible too. The scene where Aquaman bursts from the ground while riding a giant crab? Metal. The Lovecraft references? Metal. The Trench sequence with its creepy fishmen? Metal. Amber Heard’s jellyfish dress? Metal. The fact that Aquaman fights a giant tentacle monster that’s voiced by Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews? Oh, so metal. There’s even a cute scene with the cuddly metalheads at a bar. This movie is a treasure.

 

JonathanFortinAuthorPhoto_SepiaJonathan Fortin is the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus (coming December 2019 from Crystal Lake Publishing) and Nightmarescape (Mocha Memoirs Press). An unashamed lover of spooky Gothic stories, Jonathan was named the “Next Great Horror Writer” in 2017 by HorrorAddicts.net. He attended the Clarion Writing Program in 2012, one year after graduating summa cum laude from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program. When not writing, Jonathan enjoys voice acting, dressing like a Victorian gentleman, and indulging in all things odd and macabre in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow him online at www.jonathanfortin.com or on Twitter @Jonathan_Fortin.

 

Odds and Dead Ends: A maze inside the mind / Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, The Shining, is my favourite horror film of all time. For those that (somehow) aren’t familiar with the film, it is the story of the new caretaker (Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson) and his family at the remote Overlook Hotel over the winter, where ghostly apparitions send him spiraling into madness. Based on the novel by Stephen King, a major feature of the movie which wasn’t in the book is the hedge maze on the hotel grounds. In this article, I’m going to look at this maze, and how it acts as a kind of middle-ground representation of Jack’s ever-twisted mind, as it is changed by the hotel.

Please bear in mind that, as with everything I write for HorrorAddicts.net, in a short article such as this, there’s no way I’m able to cover the wealth of interpretations and analysis and ideas on this film. This is a starting point, where hopefully you can springboard yourself into your own thoughts.

It has been well documented that the layout of the Overlook Hotel is deliberately impossible. Doors lead to nowhere, rooms move, furniture shifts position; everything possible is done to very subtly disorient the viewer. For example, in the first scene of Danny on his tricycle, we pass an exit stairwell leading down, and doors that would appear to go through the thin wall and open up onto the stairwell itself. It is, in fact, a maze of dead ends and double-backs.

Even furniture subtly moves between shots. Rob Ager has documented all this extensively, and his articles and analysis on the subject can be found at his site, which I’ll put a link to at the end of this article. One example is the appearing and disappearing chair behind Jack when Wendy interrupts his writing. Needless to say, with someone like Kubrick, this kind of mismatching wasn’t just sloppy but done deliberately. It is a visual representation of the chaos and insanity that it will try to bring Jack into.

The hotel slowly ratchets up its presence and ghostly manifestations in order to slowly drive Jack mad. This is helped by subtly-suggested alcohol issues (a carry-over from the novel which isn’t nearly as prevalent but still present), and flares of temper. Aided by the claustrophobia of the hotel (‘“what the old-timers used to call ‘cabin fever’”’), and the irritations at being unable to write (‘“Lots of ideas, no good ones though,”’) it all provides the perfect platform for the Overlook Hotel to begin to exert its influence on Jack. The reasons for the Overlook’s attempt to drive Jack to madness are as heavily disputed and debated as almost anything else in the history of fan-theories, and they won’t be discussed here, purely for length reasons.

With the Overlook trying to get a hold on its caretaker, Kubrick wants to give us a middle-ground, to understand that the links between Jack and the hotel go beyond the surface level. Here he presents us with the iconic hedge maze. As I’ve already said, the hotel is a maze in itself, full of twists and turns, and what’s interesting is that almost no two shots of the maze are the same. The map outside the entrance doesn’t match the way Wendy and Danny walk, and the model Jack looks down on doesn’t correspond with either of these. Even the entrance Ullman takes them to in the film’s beginning is on a completely different side of the maze to when Danny runs into at the finale.

There seem to be strong indicators, then, that just like the hotel, the maze changes shape and form. Wendy even says in the kitchen with Halloran that ‘“This place is such an enormous maze I feel like I’ll have to leave a trail of breadcrumbs every time I come in,”’ so if you’re wanting verbal confirmation of this connection, then there it is. But how do we link the maze to Jack?

Firstly, the exterior shots of the Overlook at the beginning of the film don’t show a maze at all. It isn’t present until the whole family are exploring the grounds; when Jack has arrived. Additionally, when Wendy and Danny are exploring it on their own, Jack walks over to the model version in the foyer. We then switch to a top-down view showing a miniature Danny and Wendy walking around the central section. Because, as discussed before, the model and the actual maze don’t add up, we have to assume that this isn’t actually a top-down view of the real maze, but a subjective view of Jack imagining his wife and son in the maze.

By switching to a subjective viewpoint, Kubrick suggests a linking between Jack’s mind (his imagination), and the hedge maze. This doesn’t mean very much throughout the film as, for a large portion of the film, the maze fades into the background. However, right at the very end, it makes a reappearance as Jack chases Danny inside. Surely, as the maze is intrinsically linked with Jack’s mind, this makes sense for the finale to play out there. This is the point where everything combines, hallucination and reality, the Overlook and Jack. In a way, this is almost a proving ground, an arena that the Overlook has provided for their caretaker to show that he can follow out their wishes; that he ‘has the belly for it.’

Ironically, Jack eventually ends up following Danny’s footsteps, just like the trail of breadcrumbs Wendy mentioned at the beginning of the film. He follows Danny in the same way as he followed them through the model before. He has descended into a manifestation of his chaotic mind, distressed by all the factors that enabled the Overlook to push him into pliable madness.

In the end, however, Jack is eventually outsmarted by Danny and stumbles around blindly inside. Whether you believe the ghosts are real or all just a hallucination is irrelevant, because everyone can see that Jack has slipped into madness at this point. Jack is unable to find his way out of the maze, out of his mind. He never recovers, even for a moment as King’s original character does in the novel, and so he freezes to death unredeemed and forever trapped inside the Overlook’s testing ground.

In the end, there really is a simple formula to understand this discussion: Jack Torrance + Overlook Hotel = Hedge Maze. It’s a simple concept, but one probably overlooked by many people watching for the first time, especially by those who aren’t accustomed to looking out for these kinds of interpretations in popular cinema. The Shining is a deeply layered text, and the idea presented is very much a theory, which probably disagrees with 50% of fan theories and analysis of the film, but that’s the way it works with The Shining; everyone has their own idea. In any case, I hope it piques your interest in re-examining the film, and re-watching it, of course. You could do worse things than re-watching one of the greatest films the genre has ever produced; just don’t let it get into your head too much.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

-A link to Rob Ager’s site, which I highly encourage anyone interested in film analysis to check out: http://www.collativelearning.com/

-check out my other articles at HorrorAddicts.net if you like this kind of analysis; I’m sure there’ll be something for you to enjoy: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/author/kjudgeimaginarium/

 

28 Days Later Twitter Watch Party – Tonight

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Horror Addicts, in honor of her new book release, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, H.E. 28 Days LaterRoulo would like to invite you to her Twitter Watch Party! She’ll be watching the fantastic 2002 zombie film, 28 Days Later starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Christopher Eccleston. HorrorAddicts.net will be tweeting along with H.E. beginning at 8 pm PST, so get your popcorn, put the movie on, and join us tonight!

WHAT: 28 Days Later Twitter Watch Party

WHERE: Twitter

WHEN: Tonight at 8:00 pm

FOLLOW: #ZombieGrr

Stay Spooky!

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Jean Rollin Saucy!

 

A Saucy Jean Rollin Primer by Kristin Battestella

French director Jean Rollin’s horror films have any and all manner of vampires, witches, subtitles, boobs, and saucy. What’s not to love?

Fascination– Writer and director Jean Rollin uses eerie zooms and haunting camera speeds to provide wonderful turn of the century style and Old World feelings for this 1979 French saucy. Phonographs and period music, ominous sounds, flowing white frocks, frilly lace, feathered hats, graceful mannerisms, candles, decorated interiors, natural visuals, and a great castle locale contrast the morbid slaughterhouse, vivid red colors, blood, rogue, symbolic lips, scythes, black robes, and blonde/brunette or good girl/bad girl expectations. Talk about a sexy grim reaper! It does help to know your français, sure, but the fine performances and talk of death taking the form of seduction add extra panache and gothic allure even amid any translation discrepancies on the available English subtitles.

The laid back mood may be tough for modern American audiences, but the curious characters and simmering atmosphere is soon set with crimes, betrayal, and a siege situation – not to mention how the boobs are out early and often. We’re immediately intrigued in how one man is going to survive being locked in a house with blonde Brigitte Lahaie (I as in Icarus) and brunette Franca Mai (Zig Zag Story), let alone five more cultish women and a blindfold! Though there’s a lot of skin and tender kissing, the saucy scenes may also be a whole lot of nothing for those who are expecting more full-on porn. This pretty Victorian via seventies French lesbianism won’t be for everyone but the kinky sucks the viewer in for the disturbingly delightful fashions, sinister switch, and sophisticated chic.

Lips of Blood – French Director Jean Rollin gets right to the mausoleums, Winnebagoes, shrouded bodies, coffins, and rituals in this more upscale than his usual 1975 tale. A somber score, beautiful but spooky memories, and a mysterious woman in white are immediately eerie while a colorful, swanky party and retro fashions create drama and a sophisticated foundation. Blocked childhoods, an overprotective mother, and castle ruins may be real or imagined add to the secret cemetery passages, hidden tunnels, and questions regarding perfume, scent, and memory. Naturally, there’s nudity both male and female complete with a bonus photography session, seventies bush, and masturbation. However, the saucy isn’t as rampant here, and this has a more put together story compared to Rollin’s usually thin plotlines. Although there is a bit of walking around filler, blue street lights and a moonlight ambiance anchor the after hours aquarium pursuits with an abandoned about the city feeling – there’s a dead body in the water fountain and The Shiver of the Vampires is playing at the late night movies, too. Mysterious men follow on the subway while bells, alarms, abductions, and straight jackets intensify the bats, toothy vampire nurses, and undead who help one and hinder or kill another. Phone the mayor the hungry, naked, vampire chicks are loose so gather the staking posse! Though rushed in the end, the unique finale is well edited with an interesting mix of doubt, mystery, character drama, and a sexy creepy. Who’s the worse villain – entombed vamp ladies or the village torch mob? And who knew coffins would float so well? Did we know this?


The Nude Vampire – Hooded rituals in science labs make for some unique disrobings, blood vials, and colorful beakers to start this 1970 French saucy from writer and director Jean Rollin. Although I could do without some of the now tame but up close, lingering nipple shots and overlong gyrating and dancing – continental seventies staples though they are – the black and white noir mood is well lit with candles and torchlight alongside striking red, purple, orange, and pretty people treating the eye. The interracial nudity is also surprising for the time, and the seemingly suave, exclusive clubs veil more kinky, sinister, creepy animal masks, and dangerous gunplay. There isn’t a lot of gore or blood, however, a simmering string score, evening streetlights, and cobblestone streets invoke an Old World mood to anchor the rare blood disorders, cult rites, and disturbing deaths. Unfortunately, the production is somewhat small scale and not as lavish as viewers might expect with minimal locales and poor editing. This picture is quiet, slow at times, even boring when precious minutes are wasted on meaningless walking here and there or out there plot exposition that feels tossed in after the fact. Thankfully, there are some great stairs, columns, and marble to up the decadent atmosphere, and the overall sense of bizarre helps the undercooked statements regarding immortality, blood possibilities, man’s stupidity, and the superstition versus science comeuppance. The story could have been better, but this is a fun viewing and we’re not really meant to notice the thin plot over all the titular shapely now are we? 

 

Requiem for a Vampire – Clown costumes, shootouts, daring car chases, and dangerous roads lead this 1971 Jean Rollin juicy before two chicks on a motorcycle roam the countryside leaving dead bodies and torched cars in their wake. The spoken English track and Anglo subtitles don’t match, however, there is hardly any dialogue until the latter half of the picture when we finally find out what’s afoot. Some may dislike this silent style, but grave diggers and thunder create an intriguing, off-kilter spooky atmosphere. Scares, screaming ladies – we don’t know the details but we’re on their side as rituals and titular bloodlines escalate. Of course, colorful castles and seemingly hospitable cults providing purple furs on the bed for some lesbian touchy feelys add to the bushy babes and bemusing euro shtick. Granted, the first half-hour could be tighter, and the bare-bones plot should have gotten to the naughty sooner rather than all that running here and there. The sexual statements are iffy as well, even erroneous, for one wants to be a vampire/lesbian while the other doesn’t want to be and gets a man instead – having sex with a woman still means you are a virgin and can still claim to a man that you haven’t made real love yet! Some saucy scenes are also more graphic than others are, with uncomfortable to watch slaves in chains and more violence against women. I’m not sure about the oral sex bat (um, yeah) but the good old toothy bites mixing supernatural pain and pleasure are nicer than the rough stuff. Bright outdoor photography, pleasant landscapes, sad but eerie abandoned buildings, silhouettes, and well lit candlelight patina with gruesome green and creepy crimsons accent the dark graveyards and frightening dungeon traps, too. Once you get passed some pacing flaws and the uneven smexy, this is a fine looking and bizarrely entertaining vampire ode.

The Shiver of the Vampires – Pallbearers and a black and white graveside set the 1971 Jean Rollin mood before colorful castle ruins, overgrown greenery, and edgy music both embrace the heady and keep the medieval flair with torches, goblets, and candelabras. Howling winds, red lighting, and askew camera angles accent torture chambers and sacrifices, creating a surreal dreamscape with saucy vamps in ye olde but tie-dye dresses. The bride in white contrasts those mourning in black while gruesome skulls belie the cathedral architecture, canopy beds, and rustic yet cozy fireplaces. She’s too distraught for the marital bed – but our bride strips downs when a hippie woman humorously pops out of the grandfather clock and they lez be friends no questions asked. Sheer clothing doesn’t cover the perky naughty bits, so they need all those furs to keep those caressing ladies warm. That poor lonely groom gets left out in the cold! More camera panning, vampire opportunists stepping in and out of the frame, and overhead shots parallel the us versus them debates and whirlwind talk of undead religions and vampire persecutions. Although flashbacks add to the dreamy tone, they also confuse the wild library scene and talk of past crusades, former vampire slayers, and predestined deadly fates. But hey, killer nipple spikes! Yes, the premise is thin with strung together coming to and going fro or looking cool, meandering scenes. Rather than one vampire perspective or the young couple viewpoint, the focus constantly resets. Who’s dead? Who’s alive? Who’s undead? Rival vampire hierarchies at first seem tempting, but twists and true colors ultimately show. Granted, you can say that if you’ve seen one Rolling vampire movie, you’ve seen them all. However, had there been seriously proper writing, The Nude Vampire, Shiver of the Vampires, and Requiem for a Vampire could have been a fine trilogy. Fortunately, the nicer production values keep this bizarre romp brimming with an Avante Garde but no less creepy atmosphere.

28 Days Later Twitter Watch Party

PM2BANNERHorror Addicts, in honor of her new book release, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, H.E. Roulo would like to invite you to her Twitter Watch Party! She’ll be watching the 28 Days Laterfantastic 2002 zombie film, 28 Days Later starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Christopher Eccleston. HorrorAddicts.net will be tweeting along with H.E. beginning at 8 pm PST, so get your popcorn, put the movie on, and join us Thursday, September 5.

WHAT: 28 Days Later Twitter Watch Party

WHERE: Twitter

WHEN: Thursday, September 5, at 8:00 pm

Stay Spooky!

Odds and Dead Ends : Scaring Ourselves Silly | Monsters and the Uncanny Valley

We all love a good monster. Be it Godzilla or King Kong, werewolves or cenobites, we can’t get enough of them. Guillermo Del Toro has made a living out of them, and nobody in their right mind would begrudge him that. But when we think of being scared, perhaps what touches the nerves more than anything else are not the big, lumbering beasts towering above us. It’s those fiends that come close to being human, just one step away from actually being us.

This concept is known in the field of robotics as the ‘uncanny valley’. Coined initially by Masahiro Mori, the basic idea of it is that there is a distinct, graph-able curve in people’s emotional responses to the verisimilitude of a robot to people. Essentially, when you start to make a robot look like a person, people view it more favourably. Then, suddenly, as you keep going, there’s a point where it’s not completely robotic, but not completely human, and it’s in this stage when we have a strong feeling of revulsion or disgust. When it gets close to being indistinguishable from us, it becomes so lifelike that we view it favourably again. This dip into disgust is the uncanny valley.

The theory of the uncanny itself was used by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay The Uncanny as a way to explain why we’re so creeped out by dolls and waxwork figures and the likes. He goes back to the original German for uncanny, unheimlich, and its roots in the word heimlich which roughly means to conceal or hide. He proposes that we find something uncanny because it is a revealing of social taboos and ideas which we try to hide in everyday life. This eventually gets linked on to concepts of the id and the subconscious, which is really the subject for another article altogether.

But what does all of this mean for our monsters? How can we link these concepts together in a way that impacts our understanding of our favourite horror villains?

Well perhaps this doesn’t apply for the big Kaiju as such, but maybe it helps explain why we’re still chilled by vampires, ghosts, and ghouls. The brain sees their general shape and recognises them as human, or at least, very human-like. Yet there’s always something just a little bit off, be it the pallor of their skin, or the sharp claws or teeth, which sets them apart and makes them disturbing to us. Going back to Del Toro, think of The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. He’s got a recognisably human shape (based off Saturn in the painting Saturn Devouring His Sun by Francisco Goya), but with the skin stretched over the frame, the nostrils flared with no bridge, claw-like talons, and eyes in his hands. He’s started off human but been warped.

Even cursed or possessed dolls have something off about them; the animation of a human avatar is almost the very concept of the uncanny valley, with the robot being substituted for a doll, but the basic principle remaining. Toys are essentially us, preserved in miniature, and when they rise up against us, the human part of their design strikes a chord with us.

This is perhaps why we find masked killers a distressing concept. The shape is human, and the mask is human-like, but it doesn’t change, and as humans learn to see the face as the main projector of emotion when it doesn’t alter during extreme acts of violence, we slip down the slope of the valley. Masks such as those belonging to Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers, fairly blank and devoid of emotion, would, therefore, represent something uncanny. Also very often the mask represents a demon or spirit (thinking of films such as Onibaba or Scream) which conjures up concepts of possession by an unseen force. This might explain why we’re so focused on the killer’s mask in these films, because they are themselves imbued with that uncanny quality which makes them memorable beyond the killer behind them.

Think of the Scream franchise, where the mask comes to represent something much deeper, a force of evil in itself. When you see someone without the mask, they’re normal, but as soon as the face is obscured, they become terrifying, a body for the murderous will of the mask. And the mask and the murderous intent has the power to transfer its ownership from one person to another, like a spirit darting in and out of its possessed victims. Even think of the numerous killers that take on Jigsaw’s role in the Saw films. As soon as you come into possession of Billy, leading the charge of the traps, you become Jigsaw, the embodiment of John Kramer and his will to put people to the test of their drive to survive. We dip from being too human to being something slightly removed.

The idea of the uncanny valley even feeds into ghosts. Think of Kayako and Toshio from the Ju-on films. Though it sounds funny, how many of us were deeply disturbed when Toshio, a pale little boy, opened his mouth and meowed? When Kayako came crawling down the stairs, her throat croaking like a door very slowly opening? This concept of uncanniness transfers over to the sounds we make, affecting us when someone’s voice is not what it should be. This is something obviously well known to anyone who has watched The Exorcist in their time.

And so whilst the big monsters from The Ritual and Cloverfield might scare us, they don’t get anywhere close to instilling that distinct feeling of unease which those humanoid villains which nestle in the uncanny valley have the ability to do. When vampires flash their fangs, with blood in their eyes, we see something hiding inside the human form. When we see Schwarzenegger doing his own repairs in The Terminator, we find lines between humanity and inhumanity blurred. From now on, he looks just like us, but we know he isn’t.

And when we transfer over to imitation narratives such as The Thing or The Body Snatchers, suddenly we’re even more scared, because any one of us could be them. Now the uncanny transfers into paranoia, and we have to rely on looking out for the uncanny to alert us to danger. We have to fall back on something terrifying to keep us calm. In a way, we hope for something uncanny to confirm our fears. And that, more than anything, is scary.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Cloverfield. 2007. [Film] Directed by Matt Reeves. USA: Bad Robot.

Finney, J., 2010. The Body Snatchers. Great Britain: Orion Publishing.

Freud, S., McLintock, D. & Haughton, H., 2003. The Uncanny. New York: Penguin Books.

Friday the 13th. 1980. [Film] Directed by Sean S. Cunningham. Unites States of America: Georgetown Productions Inc.

Godzilla. 1954. [Film] Directed by Ishiro Honda. Japan: Toho.

Goya, F., 1819 – 1823. Saturn Devouring His Son. [Art] (Museo del Prado).

Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

Ju-On: The Grudge. 2002. [Film] Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Japan: Pioneer LDC.

King Kong. 1933. [Film] Directed by Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack. USA: RKO Pictures Inc..

Onibaba. 1964. [Film] Directed by Kaneto Shindo. Japan: Kindai Eiga Kyokai.

Pan’s Labyrinth. 2006. [Film] Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Spain: Telecinco Cinema.

Saw. 2004. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

The Exorcist. 1973. [Film] Directed by William Friedkin. USA: Hoya Productions.

The Ritual. 2017. [Film] Directed by David Bruckner. UK: The Imaginarium.

The Terminator. 1984. [Film] Directed by James Cameron. United States of America: Hemdale.

 

Odds and Dead Ends : An introduction to the Giallo

Most people have a fair understanding of the classic slasher flick. Made popular by Halloween in 1978, with predecessors including The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Black Christmas, Psycho etc, the idea of killing people off one by one has been immortalised by the formulae refined by films of this type. However, the slasher film is very closely linked to the Giallo (roughly pronounced jea-low), a type of Italian film which was very popular in the sixties and seventies, and bred a slew of filmmakers still admired and imitated today. This article won’t be a comprehensive discussion of the Giallo, as I’m a fan of the genre and not a scholar of it, but it will hopefully provide an introduction to those not aware of it, and give you a couple of movies to add to the ‘to-be-watched’ list.

Originally, gialli were cheap crime paperbacks, a bit like pulp novels, that were printed by Mondadori and trademarked with an instantly recognisable yellow cover. Hence this gave birth to the term Giallo, meaning ‘yellow’. These were mostly translations of Agatha Christie, Edgar Lee Wallace, Arthur Conan Doyle, and other similar authors. It’s important to make a distinction between the types of crime fiction, however. Gialli focused more on the graphic violence and the sleuths, rather than gun-toting noir police work. As Gary Needham says:

The publication of gialli increased throughout the 1930s and 40s, however, the importation and translation of the 1940s “hard-boiled” detective fictions from the US were prohibited from publication outright by Mussolini on the grounds that their corrupting influence and glamorisation of crime would negatively influence “weak-minded” Italians. (Needham, 2002)

Despite some of the restrictions, the Italians began writing their own gialli, and the literature boomed in the ’30s and ’40s. By the late ’50s, it had started to make its way across to film. The main mastermind behind its initial translation to the screen was Mario Bava, a film legend in his own right. After all, it was his film, Black Sabbath, which gave the band their name, who helped invent and pioneer the Heavy Metal genre of music.

Though he made a splash in ’63 with his film The girl who knew too much, it was his 1964 film, Blood and Black Lace, which really kicked things off. Dispensing with the police-procedural elements of previous films, Bava upped the sex and violence, turning the stalking sequences into major set pieces in their own right. Despite being a financial failure at the time, it has gone on to be critically appreciated and influenced dozens of filmmakers after. It set the template of what was to come after. It also introduced the killer in a black coat with black gloves, very much like Jack the Ripper, which would be the usual getup for Giallo killers as time went on.

A few years later, the most influential Giallo filmmaker would take up the mantle. Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage incorporated a twisted, convoluted plotline with stunning visuals that earned him the nickname ‘the Italian Hitchcock.’ The film was an international success, and still has one of my personal favourite twists of all time. He followed this up with Four Flies on Grey Velvet a few years later, and then release one of his masterpieces in 1975, Profondo Rosso (Deep Red).Deep Red Poster

Around the early seventies, Sergio Martino also released films such as Torso, All the colours of the dark, and the incredibly titled, Your vice is a locked room and only I have the key. Lucio Fulci also breaks onto the scene here, directing films such as A lizard in a woman’s skin and Don’t torture a duckling in the early seventies. I’ve already written an article on Fulci here on HorrorAddicts.net, and I’ll include a link to that at the article’s end.

Because of their frequency of production and release at this time, gialli ended up like the Saw films did, with each film trying to out-do the previous in terms of twists and turns. I recall hearing Luigi Cozzi talk about this in relation to when he and Argento were batting around ideas for a film in which someone foresaw their death, then had to try and explain how it happened without psychic powers. The film, Profondo Rosso, was eventually made without Cozzi’s involvement, but he does own a horror memorabilia shop in Italy named after the film.

The gory death sequences continued throughout the seventies, continuing into Argento’s most famous film, Suspiria, which had a remake released last year. The brutal opening death scene with a body crashing through a stain glass window is as in horror history as Johnny Depp’s demise in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and Goblin’s score for the film is something you find yourself humming walking down the street. Filled with vibrant colours and haunting imagery, it’s still shocking even today.

By the time the eighties came around, however, the Giallo was beginning to fade. Fulci’s return to the genre after doing his Gates of Hell trilogy were fairly laughable (Murder Rock is just funny, and there’s not a person in existence that can’t think of The New York Ripper without saying ‘quack’. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it and you’ll understand what I mean), and Argento has been making movies to this day, but nothing of any real note after the mid-eighties with Phenomena and Opera. The American slasher had taken the spotlight, and even that was, by the late eighties, beginning to run down its original formula.

These films are still influential, however. The film Abrakadabra, released last year by the Onetti Brothers, is a wonderful homage to the giallo, nailing everything from the groove-rock soundtrack to the quick zooms and grainy footage. Gialli are a wonderful time, those made around the late sixties/early seventies especially, as they have their own unique vibe, shooting style, and soundtracks. Unlike the slasher or the ghost story, it’s something that I highly doubt will ever make a proper return, but will stay immortalised as the brilliant pieces of cinema that they are. Sleazy, shocking, suspenseful; the Giallo is one of a kind.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

FURTHER READING ON HORRORADDICTS.NET

Bibliography

A Nightmare on Elm Street. 1984. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States of America: New Line Cinema.

Abrakadabra. 2018. [Film] Directed by Nicolas Onetti Luciano Onetti. Argentina/New Zealand: Black Mandala.

All the colours of the dark. 1972. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Lea Film.

Black Christmas. 1974. [Film] Directed by Bob Clarke. Canada: Ambassador Films.

Black Sabbath. 1963. [Film] Directed by Mario Bava. Italy/France: Emmepi Cinematografica Societe.

Blood and Black Lace. 1964. [Film] Directed by Mario Bava. Italy: Emmepi.

Don’t Torture a Duckling. 1972. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Medusa Produzione.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet. 1972. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seda Spettacoli.

Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.

Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. 1971. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: International Apollo Films.

Murder Rock. 1984. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Scena Film.

Needham, G., 2002. Playing with genre: an introduction to the Italian Giallo. [Online]
Available at: http://www.kinoeye.org/02/11/needham11.php
[Accessed 20 07 2019].

Phenomena. 1985. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: DAC Film.

Profondo Rosso. 1975. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seta Spettacoli.

Psycho. 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. United States of America: Shamley Productions.

Saw. 2004. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Suspiria. 1977. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seda Spettacoli.

Terror At The Opera. 1987. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: ADC Films.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. 1970. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: CCC Filmkunst GmbH.

The New York Ripper. 1982. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Fulvia Film.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown. 1976. [Film] Directed by Charles B. Pierce. USA: Charles B. Pierce Film Productions, Inc..

Torso. 1973. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Compagnia Cinematografica Champion.

Your room is a locked vice and only I have the key. 1972. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Luciano Martino.

Odds and Deadends : The Mummy (2017): A Universal Problem

I love a good monster movie. And when it was announced years ago that Universal Studios were reviving their classic monster movies, I, like the rest of the horror world, had a small heart attack. Then Tom Cruise got attached to The Mummy and we realised that they were going all in. It was going to be mind-blowing.

Until it wasn’t.

I’m going to outline my thoughts as to why the rebooting of the iconic collection failed, and I’m going to split it into the following three categories:

1) The film itself.

2) The heritage and genre.

3) The Marvel effect.

  • THE FILM ITSELF

The MummyThat the other two categories feed into this general discussion of the movie as a whole is not to be ignored, but this first category ignores that the film is part of a larger narrative and just focuses on the filmmaking and storytelling itself.

The first glaring issue is the over-reliance on CGI set pieces used to try and carry the film. From large green screen sandstorms to a plethora of unrealistic zombie mummies, the film might as well have been completed animated. The worst part of it all is that these set pieces come thick and fast, with no rhyme or reason, or sense of proper narrative timing. You look at a Marvel movie (such as the new Spider-Man: Far From Home), and you notice that they normally break it up into three main parts. A fight early on, one in the middle, then the big wind up for the third act. It’s your basic three act structure with a large action sequence in each, and it allows the movie to have the downtime to build on its characters. Even movies such as those in the James Bond or Mission Impossible franchises will do the same sort of thing, with a sprinkling of smaller sequences here and there, but it’s still just the three big moments. The Mummy has so many that the rhythm is off. It just doesn’t feel right.

And it also means that parts, such as the desert sandstorm near the beginning of the film, are irrelevant. We saw the crows take off after the sarcophagus when it is airlifted away, and it is these birds that will bring the plane down. Why is the sandstorm needed? To add a little hint of ‘danger’? To make sure the audience doesn’t forget we’re in the desert? It makes no sense. When the sandstorm blows through London in the final act, it was a wonderfully gothic image, capitalising on the fear of outsiders and things that shouldn’t happen. But having this be a singular, major event that cut out communication lines, throwing all the heroes into confusion, would have been wonderful, and saving the sandstorm for this moment would have made it seem much more threatening. As it is, we’ve already seen a sandstorm do nothing. Why should we be scared of this one? Short answer: we aren’t.

One of my other issues was the lack of subtlety in the film in any department. The scares were ham-fisted attempts at CGI skeletons that didn’t take the time to allow the tension to build. And the amount of exposition is ridiculous. Jekyll’s opening speech gives most of the plot away, and leaves no mystery as to what is to come. It’s bad filmmaking and bad storytelling at the best of times, leading to a picture that rushes from one big scene to another, and has to have things spelled out quickly in between each blockbuster moment to make sure we’re following along. It’s nowhere near efficient craftsmanship.

  • THE HERITAGE AND TONE

When Universal said they were reviving the monster movies, audiences wanted horror. They wanted to be scared, brought back to being a kid. Universal, wanting to compete with summer blockbusters, changed their classic horror into an all-out action thriller with a few horror elements scattered around. There’s even some funny moments scattered around, such as when Jenny yells ‘Get her, Nick!’ to Tom Cruise’s character as the newly revived Princess Amanet heads towards them in the forest. Really? ‘Ger her, Nick!’? It’s not the movie audiences wanted, or were promised.

Because the movie goes for a grander scale, the horror, when it is there, never really hits. Sure, give your plagues and your zombies an apocalypse to try and bring about, but even these focus on a small group of survivors. Think Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later. Horror is deeply personal, and you have to make sure it feels personal to a protagonist we connect with, in order to make us truly feel it.

This is something Bram Stoker did wonderfully in his novel The Jewel of Seven Stars, a personal favourite novel of mine, and one I’ve already discussed on HorrorAddicts.net ( I’ll put a link to my analysis of the character of Queen Hera from the novel at the end of the article). Stoker’s tale presents an ancient Egyptian threat rising from the dead, like The Mummy, but for two-thirds of the narrative, everything is confined to one house and plays out like a murder mystery. It’s closed and confined, and because of this we empathise with the characters because we know them intimately. When the terror comes, we feel the fear because we’ve put ourselves in their shoes. As a result, the possible apocalypse after the book is finished feels much more worrying.

  • THE MARVEL EFFECT

The Dark Universe is Universal’s attempt to replicate the success Marvel Studios have had with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The trouble is that Marvel seems to be the only ones that have really cracked the format. Disney tried it out into Star Wars, but the bad reception to Solo halted their plans for possible Obi Wan and Boba Fett films. The DC Universe has its fans, but has never really caught the approval like Marvel has, and only recently has Aquaman and Wonder Woman really hit the box office hard. One can only wait to see how the Godzilla monster-verse goes on, but if the reviews I’ve seen of Godzilla: King of the Monsters are anything to go by, it doesn’t look good.

The Mummy’s primary problem is that Universal threw all their chips in too early.

The film isn’t just about the eponymous mummy, but the introduction to the whole world. But rather than sneak in suggestions and nods, and build the whole thing up slowly, whilst still allowing each film to be its own unique piece, they’re already interconnecting everything at the very heart. The beating heart of this connection is the Dr Jekyll, head of the Prodigium organisation. However, instead of letting Jekyll just be an incidental part of the storyline, or his true identity being a big reveal at the end of the film, they made him integral to the movie.

This has multiple risks. It risks sidelining the main focus of the movie, the mummy herself, and it risks, if you’ll excuse the vulgar phrasing, Universal blowing their load too early. Universal didn’t keep their powder dry. Hold Jekyll and Hyde back and you’ve got a whole other movie in store to unleash. If The Mummy goes down, you’ve got another shot. Notice how Marvel, in the first Iron Man film, only announced Nick Fury in the post credit scene. They could easily have cut it had the test screenings been bad, and simply kept it as a one-off movie that made a decent splash, whilst also jettisoning the movie from a wider connected universe if they needed to. They can even bring Iron Man back into the storyline in 10 movies time if it takes them that long to get into their rhythm.

The Dark Universe, complete with logo at the beginning of the movie, announces very plainly that everything goes together. You’ve got obvious nods to Dracula and The Creature from the Black Lagoon in the jars Prodigum has in its stores, clearly showing Universal’s intention to use them at a later phase. In one, opening movie, we’ve got four of the classic monsters together. All we needed was someone to be invisible, and Jekyll to have a daughter marrying a doctor called Victor Frankenstein, and Universal would have taken down almost every monster they had in their arsenal in one go.

In a bid to outdo Marvel with their interconnected universe, the producers relied on the fan base of the monsters of the past to carry the movie with references and nods all by themselves. In the end, when these fans didn’t get what they wanted, Universal were left canning the other projects they had set up. Their interconnected world had crashed at the first hurdle, and because the rest of their plans were integral to the first film being a hit, it set up a chain of dominos that knocked the other films down.

One can only hope that Leigh Whannell (and Blumhouse, I believe) will have the sense to work slowly, building up a series of films that are tense, scary, and operate by themselves, which have the potential, but not the necessity, to interlink later on. Whannell has already established himself (along with James Wan, ironically directing movies in another connected universe, having released Aquaman last year), at being able to bring about an interlinked horror franchise with The Conjuring universe. Let’s hope that he can learn from the mistakes that Universal made with The Mummy, and slowly bring us the spectacle we all wanted, and still want, to see.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Follow him on Twitter: KJudgeMental

My article on Queen Hera from The Jewel of Seven Stars can be found here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/odds-and-dead-ends-resurrecting-the-queen/

Bibliography

28 Days Later. 2002. [Film] Directed by Danny Boyle. United Kingdom: 20th Century Fox.

Aquaman. 2018. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: DC.

Creature from the Black Lagoon. 1954. [Film] Directed by Jack Arnold. USA: Universal Pictures.

Dracula. 1931. [Film] Directed by Tod Browning. USA: Universal Pictures.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters. 2019. [Film] Directed by Michael Dougherty. USA: Legendary Pictures.

Iron Man. 2008. [Film] Directed by Jon Favreau. USA: Marvel Studios.

Night of the Living Dead. 1968. [Film] Directed by George A. Romero. USA: Image Ten.

Solo: A Star Wars Story. 2018. [Film] Directed by Ron Howard. USA: Lucasfilm.

Spider-Man: Far From Home. 2019. [Film] Directed by Jon Watts. USA: Marvel Studios.

Stoker, B., 2009. The Jewel of Seven Stars. United States of America: Seven Treasures Publications.

The Mummy. 2017. [Film] Directed by Alex Kurtzman. USA: Universal.

Wonder Woman. 2017. [Film] Directed by Patty Jenkins. USA: DC.

 

PR: Massive Movie Update!


Production Set to Begin on Next Installment of Hit Found-footage Franchise

Los Angeles, CA  — Pack your bags for another terrifying stay at the infernal Abaddon Hotel. HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE, the third installment in the hit found-footage horror franchise, has started production as of May 1 and will premiere exclusively on Shudder later this year.

Writer/director Stephen Cognetti and producer Joe Bandelli have returned for the new installment, along with many of the original Hell House LLC cast. The following castmates will reprise their roles: Ryan Jennifer Jones (Sara), Danny Bellini (Alex), Gore Abrams (Paul), Adam Schneider (Mac), Theodore Bouloukos (Robert) and Jared Hacker (Tony). They are joined by returning Hell House LLC II cast members Joy Shatz (Molly), Jillian Geurts (Jessica) and Brian David Tracy as the demonic former Abaddon Hotel owner Andrew Tully.

Shudder manager Craig Engler has talked about the franchise, recently. Engler said of the films: “the Hell House LLC franchise on Shudder has been hugely popular, and our worldwide premiere of Hell House LLC 2 last year was one of our most watched films ever.” Engler also said of the film’s debut: “we couldn’t be more thrilled to premiere the final chapter of this epically terrifying series exclusively on Shudder!”


West Hollywood, CA  – Shed of the Dead is a zombie thriller, from director Drew Cullingham (Umbrage). One part Shaun of the Dead and one part 28 Days Later, the film follows two slackers, who whittle their days away playing Dungeons & Dragons and painting figurines. As life pressures build up for Trevor (Spencer Brown) and Graham (Ewen MacIntosh), events take an unexpected turn, when the undead turn up in their little gardening spot. Now, it is a fight for survival, in a real zombie apocalypse – this May!

Shed of the Dead is bringing some of the most fearsome horror icons to the screen. Kane Hodder of Friday the 13th fame, along with Bill Moseley (3 From Hell) and Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, 1977) will be part of the action – some in undead form. As well, all three actors will be at: Shriekfest and Monsterpalooza to talk about this re-animated film.

This zombierific title will began a theatrical launch this May, through Indican Pictures. The first showing of the film will take place in North Hollywood, at the Laemmle Theatre, this May 17th. Another showing, across the pond, will begin this May 18th, in London (Sci-fi London). After a theatrical release, which will take place in at least four countries, Shed of the Dead will be available on DVD and Digital platforms this June 6th! There will be lots of opportunities for film fans to see this horror comedy shamble on both big and little screens, this Spring and Summer.

The official trailer for Shed of the Deadhttps://vimeo.com/327153102


West Hollywood, CA  – The Drag Queen horror film Killer Unicorn has just been acquired by distribution house Indican Pictures, at the Cannes Film Festival. Part comedy and all party, Killer Unicorn is the latest film from long time director Drew Bolton and writer Jose D. Alvarez. Set in the underground dance scene of Brooklyn, New York, this film brings a serial killer into the mix. As the local Drag Queens are targeted, survivors must use their special, very unique skills to save themselves and track down this stalker. Killer Unicorn will be in theatres this month, across the United States.

Writer Alvarez has talked about the film at several major magazines. At Billboard, Alvarez described the film as: “like John Waters topping John Carpenter, so equal parts scary, campy and queer.” This are two filmmaking icons that are hard to best. The writer also mentions that there are hidden references in the film: “so you will get some I Know What You Did Last SummerScream and Halloween.” All of these films will combine with a colourful Brooklyn nightlife, this June 14th.

On this date, Indican Pictures will show the film from coast-to-coast. The initial theatrical release will take place in: New York City, Houston and Los Angeles. This first showing will be followed by other cities, with Killer Unicorn to show on DVD and Digital platforms July 9th. For now, horror fans can view some of many over-the-top characters from the film, including Lady Havok, Isis Vermouth and Latrice Royale, before the film’s wide release, next week!

The official trailer for Killer Unicornhttps://vimeo.com/269006196


Los Angeles, CA TERROR FILMS has acquired worldwide rights to the chilling ride-share feature film END TRIP.

Aaron Jay Rome wears multiple hats in his critically acclaimed horror-thriller. Rome not only wrote, directed and produced the film, he also stars in the film as Brandon, a ride-share driver working for URYDE. On an otherwise quiet night, Brandon picks up Judd (Dean West). But unlike the usual pick-up and drop-off scenario, Judd explains that he recently went through a messy breakup and asks Brandon if he’d mind just driving around the city while they talk. Brandon agrees, offering an empathetic ear to Judd. As they continue to drive into the night Brandon and Judd appear to be forging a new found friendship. However beneath it all there is more to this ride-share than meets the eye and for one of them – this ride will be their last.

END TRIP has a large cast. The co-stars include: Ashley Lenz, Jaren Mitchell and Michelle West. Dean, who also produced the film with Rome, will next be seen co-starring in the Blumhouse & Universal horror film The Hunt.

TERROR FILMS has set the release date for Friday, June 21st, 2019. The film will roll out in North America on Prime Video and Vudu, initially. This release will be followed by another in the coming months, across multiple platforms such as Google Play, Vudu, TUBI TV, Roku and many more. International platforms iFlix and Horrify will also show the release, at a future date. A DVD release will take place later this year.  For now, film fans can check out the official poster and trailer, courtesy of TERROR FILMS and be sure to watch END TRIP when it hits platforms on June 21st. It may change your mind about using a ride share service.

The official trailer for END TRIPhttps://youtu.be/rEpIMvVeV7g


Magazine Review: Encyclopedia of Horror

Want a nice, high-quality magazine, full-gloss with no advertisements? Then the Encyclopedia of Horror is for you.

The art is beautiful and the style is just what any horror addict would want to see with shots of their favorite actors, bloody handprints, and blood seeping from the corners.

There is tons of stuff to love in this magazine, but a few of my favorites are:

“Long in the Tooth: A brief history of Dracula and a host of other vampires.” This article does talk about Dracula but then explores how the myth came about. It touches on Byron, Polidori, and Sheridan LeFanu, the author of Carmilla. They also mention The Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, and cover all the vampire film adaptations from Dracula and Dark Shadows to Twilight and True Blood. With ten full-color pages of my favorite monster, it was hard not to love it out of the gate.

There are also in-depth articles on Frankenstein’s monster, The Exorcist, and great authors who bring our monsters to life. Like any self-respecting horror expose they have a top-10 Scream Queen list as well as a top 13 list of terror movies. One of the most interesting articles with something I haven’t seen before in print was about new horror creators highlighting Blumhouse, Jordan Peele, and the new IT.

Covering everything from aliens and psycho killers to vampires, werewolves, and zombies, this is a magazine you have to own. In fact, the only area of horror I saw missing was music. Perhaps they can add that in next time. The “Timeline of Terror” was especially visually stimulating, putting all of our movies in perspective from the 1920s to today.

Now, where can you get this awesome magazine full of our favorite subject? Well, you can’t order it online, but it is supposed to be in stores until December 31st, so run out and get one while they still last. If you aren’t near a store that stocks it, I’ve seen a few on eBay, but you got to act fast.

This was an exciting experience to review the Encyclopedia of Horror and I look forward to seeing what this creative team does in the future.

Why Abertoir Festival 2018 promises to be killer

Abertoir
The International Horror Festival of Wales

13 – 18 November 2018

Coming into its thirteenth year, Abertoir goes from strength to strength. Located on the Aberystwyth University campus on the Welsh coast, the team have broken out the tents and the log cabins this year for the slasher/camping theme. Complete with the offsite screening of Friday the 13th: Part 3, in old-school 3D, the unlucky number 13 is the (un)lucky number in Wales as the year draws to a close.

Running from Nov. 13-18, and starting with a drinks reception and the classic 1984 film Sleepaway Camp, the bloody celebrations will be going off with a proper bang, or flash of the knife at the very least. No doubt the festival-goers will be partaking heavily of this year’s Abertoir ales, aptly named Black Christmas and Crystal Lake, as they plough on through a slew of slasher classics such as Slumber Party Massacre and Prom Night, along with new films such as Summer of ‘84, and Blumhouse’s new thriller, Cam, throughout the six-day run.

There are three UK premieres at this year’s festival, with Occult Bolshevism, The Black Forest, and Party Hard, Die Young, all getting their first outings on the isle in the Abertoir cinema. The short film competition (with previous years seeing modern classics like The Birch being shown) promises to be top-notch once again, showing off the new blood heading towards the horror stage.

It’s not just the films, however, that makes Abertoir unique, because there’s a whole slew of other events lined up for this year’s festival. From the traditional Bad Film Club, always a crowd favourite and chance to heckle your heart out, to the fascinating presentations and live performances, Abertoir always makes sure to make it an all-rounder of a week, not simply about the films. This is the festival that hosted the European premiere of Fabio Frizzi’s live composer’s cut for Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond a few years ago, and this year’s musical masterpiece looks to be the culminating event in The Elvis Dead, a one-man retelling of The Evil Dead, through Elvis Presley songs.

But what would a festival be without a special guest? Don’t think that just because it’s tucked away on the west coast of a little, mostly rural, country, that they don’t pull in some heavy hitters. Previous guests have included Doug Bradley, Victoria Price, Luigi Cozzi, Robin Hardy, Lamberto Bava, and a booked-but-unable-to-attend-on-the-day Sir James Herbert, so this year’s guest has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, they meet the criteria. Including a Q+A, a special screening of a new project, and a three-hour filmmaking masterclass… the one and only Sean S Cunningham will be venturing out to the windy coast. As if the festival needed another prestigious name on the list.

So if you’re in the UK and happen to have a few days free next week, Abertoir Festival 2018 promises to be a week stacked with cult classics, great premieres, lots of laughter and barrels of ale. And if you can’t make it this year, well, you know where to come next year.

 

Article by Kieran Judge

 

For more information, visit Abertoir’s website: http://www.abertoir.co.uk/, and/or like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abertoir/

Odds and DEAD Ends: Shutter – A curse defined by it’s country

I think we often assume such concepts as ‘curses’ or ‘evil’, and their representations in media, to be generic and similar wherever we go. I’d like to challenge that notion here.

Just under two years ago I was completing a module for my course entitled ‘Film Genre’, the focus example being horror. Due to a mix-up in my head and getting the date wrong, I went to submit my second assignment two days late. I had to resit the assignment (an essay eventually completed about Takashi Miike’s film As The Gods Will), but I’ve always wondered what my work on the original assignment would have garnered.

And so, in time for the finale of HorrorAddicts.net’s examination of curses in all their various guises, I’ve decided to bring out that original essay, redraft it, give it a little touch up, and present it to you for your enjoyment and, hopefully, education. It’s about one of my favourite horror films of all time, Shutter, and the direct influence of Thailand on its presentation, creation, construction, and identity. If you take nothing away from this article than an increased awareness of how a country can create a unique, different experience, perhaps a differing viewpoint and perspective than a western film might show, then that’ll suit me fine.

Enjoy.

“National specificity is often what is being ‘sold’ as a distinguishing quality in any film being offered for export in a world market.” (Knee, 2008, p. 125).

Thailand may seem an unlikely place for a healthy horror tradition, given western audiences’ tendencies to associate the genre with the USA and UK, from the Technicolor castles of Hammer Horror to the 1980’s American slasher era, but it thrives nonetheless. As Adam Knee notes, “Over the course of several months from late 2001 into early 2002, no fewer than four Thai horror films were released in Thai cinemas – a substantial enough phenomenon (given the dozen or so Thai films being produced annually in recent years)” (Knee, 2005, p. 141). The rich past of Thailand, with its prevalence of Theravada Buddhism, history of trading and cultural exchanges with neighbouring nations, and relatively accelerated technological advances and recent urbanisation, make it a perfect setting for horror. I shall discuss the influences of many of these aspects of Thai life and history on its horror films, focusing on the film Shutter from 2004, and the many influences that Thailand has had on its themes and formal construction.

The premise of Shutter is a simple one. A photographer, Tun, and his girlfriend, Jane, hit a young girl whilst driving home one night after meeting with the photographer’s friends, and drive off without checking to see if she’s alive. The girl’s spirit, Natre, haunts the pair, mostly Tun and his photographs, unlocking the secrets of Tun’s past, and the dark connection between himself, the ghostly spirit and the cameras he loves so much. Whilst this premise could seemingly be picked up and placed in any country, Shutter is nevertheless distinctly Thai.

I’ll begin with the fear of technology in the film as a symbol for the evils of Thailand’s rapidly developing urban areas. Thailand, and more specifically Bangkok, is one of the most quickly developed areas in the world. As noted in A History of Thailand, “In 1998, the economy shrank 11 percent – a dramatic end to the 40 year ‘development’ era during which the Thai economy had averaged 7 percent growth and never fallen below 4 percent,” and when discussing a man who had visited rural Thailand in the latter half of the 20th century in one decade and returned the next, he said that “Villagers who had described the local rituals to him only a decade ago now exclaimed that ‘the rice spirit is no match for chemical fertiliser.’” (Baker & Phongpaichit, 2010, pp. 259, 160). As Knee notes, “Bangkok, a city that, in an architectural sense, is haunted indeed – with the old and the new, the disused and the thriving often crammed into the same spaces,” (Knee, 2005, p. 147). This all illustrates that Thailand has changed dramatically over the past few decades leading to Shutter’s production and release, becoming almost unrecognisable from what it once was, complete with the invasion of technology into the home, including television; “By the mid-1990s, over 90 percent of households had one,” (Baker & Phongpaichit, 2010, p. 223).

This chaotic eruption of advancement gives the film the perfect backdrop to use technology, a symbol of advancement and modernity, as a vehicle for Natre’s spirit to conduct herself. Although not confined to the camera, it is photography, and the technology associated with it, that is her main medium of choice for her haunting. Not only does she use the camera to present herself (such as Tun seeing her through the viewfinder), or uses the photographs (she turns her head in a developed photograph in another scene), but she actively uses this medium to manifest as a physical presence. In the scene with Jane in the development room, Natre’s spirit manifests itself inside a sink covered with photographs, rising slowly out of it, as if emerging from the photographs themselves. Natre’s use of the camera therefore may not only be seen as a narrative link between her and Tun, but also as a warning of the dislocation from reality that technology can provide in a new and thriving Bangkok. “Bangkok, as an emblem or instantiation of modernity, is a key reference point… and often appears to engender an anxiety over foreign influence and the loss of traditional mores,” (Knee, 2005, p. 157)

This unease around technology is expressed as unreality, which the film discusses in Jane’s University lecture, “photography does not produce reality.” Tun’s obsession with this ability to capture an unreality means he is more easily pressured into photographing Natre’s rape; he is able to detach himself from the scene because in his mind photography doesn’t replicate reality, only an unreality. He is able to forget these events after Natre’s departure from Bangkok, to the ‘real’ world, until Tonn mentions it again; the Bangkok he lives in has become to him, through the influence of his photography, an unreality, the world of his photographs even more so, easily dealt with because they are not the true reality.

It is perhaps impossible to lead on from the evils of Thailand than to go to its religious good, and its prevalent religious beliefs in Theravada Buddhism. One of the key ways in which Shutter creates its terror can be seen in both the grounding, and eventual perversion, of this particular strand of Buddhism’s treatment of malevolent spirits.

In Buddhism, “Villagers view abnormal death with great fear, because the winjan may become a malevolent phi called a phii tai hoeng”, (winjan being a form of consciousness, phii  a spirit, and phii tai hoeng a vengeful and restless spirit of one who has come to an abnormal death) (Tambiah, 1975, p. 189). Suicide falls into this category of abnormal death, and so it may be correct to classify Natre’s vengeful ghost as a phii tai hoeng, according to Buddhist tradition, perhaps not too dissimilar to Japanese Onryō. Natre isn’t disconnected from Buddhist teachings either, as is displayed by the Buddhist funeral held for her. A Buddhist view and understanding of her spirit is a decent idea therefore, with Buddhist rules to follow in our understanding of the film.

When her mother initially denies the village’s wish to bury her, the villagers treat her afterward like an outcast; “All the villagers were scared. No one wanted to socialise with her.” Natre’s spirit is unable to rest, as she hasn’t been given a proper burial, and will return as a phii tai hoeng in due course. Her mother, however, may hold a clue as to why she did not return immediately. A short booklet called Thailand Society & Culture Complete Report, when discussing the belief of evil spirits arising from suicide, remarks that “the music and presence of loved ones generally keep the spirits at bay,” (Press, World Trade, 2010, p. 12). By this logic, the presence of her mother, living in the same house as her corpse, should have kept Natre’s spirit at bay, despite the lack of a funeral. However, several events may have led to Natre’s sudden appearance again at the beginning of the film.

At the house, as Tun and Jane proceed to Natre’s room to discover her body, they pass hundreds of bottles of liquid. On the DVD commentary, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, who plays Jane, says that “some people didn’t know what those bottles were,” to which director Parkpoom Wongpoom replies “the drunken mum.” (Shutter (DVD Commentary), 2004). This excessive drinking, an evil no doubt symbolically returning with Natre from Bangkok, would surely have an effect on the restraining of Natre’s spirit to her corpse, allowing her to escape at the right moment more easily.

Along with this, Tun, her former lover, is now with a new partner, and taking her on nights out with the group that raped her. It seems no coincidence then that she first materialises after Tun looks at Jane and remarks “beautiful you.” With no mother able to hold her back (she acts as if Natre is alive, and goes away when she says she will fetch Natre upstairs, proof she is in no fit mental state to able to contain Natre’s spirit), along with Tun’s display of affection for Jane, we see that the immoral, violent world of modern, Bangkok society overrides the Buddhist teachings and traditions that would hold Natre at bay. It is, of course, at a great hospital (probably in an urbanised area, maybe Bangkok), that Natre jumps from and commits suicide, and inside a Bangkok University where she is raped. Natre has become a product of the evils of the allure of the technological advancement of Bangkok, which might prevent the Buddhist teachings from keeping hold of her, and hold of morality as a whole.

In terms of the possible perversion of Buddhist traditions mentioned, it could be possible to understand Tun’s camera as a symbolic form of amulet. According to the World Trade Press, “The Thai people widely use amulets called khawng-khlong, which literally means ‘sacred potent objects’”, and “Amulet-wearers usually seek protection from diseases, witchcraft and accidents.” (Press, World Trade, 2010). The image of Tun using his camera as a means of profession, hanging by a strap around his neck, warding off the evils of poverty and illegal money-making, could be taken as symbolism for a Buddhist amulet. If we adopt this theory, we can see that Natre’s usage of this symbol of protection for her haunting is a direct attack on Buddhist traditions and beliefs. Even her eventual cremation and Buddhist funereal rites can’t stop her, with Natre manifesting at her own funeral by putting a hand on Tun’s shoulder, perhaps the biggest insult to Buddhism one could imagine.

As mentioned before, the Buddhist elements in the film are mainly associated with the rural areas outside Bangkok, which adds further reasoning to Bangkok being an immoral place removed from righteous, religious teachings. It is only in the rural areas that we see evidence of Buddhism, with the monks at the roadside as Tun and Jane are asking about Natre’s mother, and then again at the funeral and subsequent cremation. Whilst in Bangkok, nothing of these traditions are seen or mentioned. Instead we have the drunken ‘gang’ of Tonn’s raping a young woman in one of the city’s Universities, and the eventual madness and chaos brought about by her revenge. This can be no accident. Buddhism is firmly planted in the rural, whereas the urbanisation represents evil, both in life and after it.

Another key thing to note is the context of other Thai film in relation to Shutter, especially Nang Nak, released five years earlier in 1999. It tells a traditional Thai folk story of a woman who died during childbirth whilst her husband is away at war, whose spirit continues to dwell in their home and live with him after he returns, eventually being discovered by her husband, Mak, and exorcised and set to rest by the Buddhist monks. This film became a box office hit in Thailand, winning over a dozen awards. In considering Shutter, it is important to also consider the links to Nang Nak and the influence it had on the creation of the film.

Aside from the concept of a departed woman not being able to rest without her significant other, there are several places where the two films bear a striking resemblance to one another. The opening title sequence of Nang Nak has the titles appearing over paintings and murals depicting Thai history, as a way to enhance the film’s setting. This is not too dissimilar from Shutter’s opening sequence of what could almost be described as a photographic mural, a montage of images showing the main character’s past. Having the titles over images of the past, with the film so closely following Nang Nak, can’t be coincidence. Along with this, the sequence where Natre walks towards Tun outside his apartment along the ceiling is strikingly similar to a scene in Nang Nak where Nak stands on the roof of the Buddhist temple (this image being frightening and representative of an inversion and perversion of Buddhism, such as Natre’s spirit represents). Nak’s spirit is eventually contained inside a fragment of her skull made into a broach, just as Natre is contained initially inside the camera, and eventually in the hospital room with Tun at the very end. Added to all of these resemblances is the fact that Chatchai Pongrapaphan, who composed for Nang Nak, also composed the music for Shutter, providing yet another link between the two. Without a doubt, Shutter took inspiration from the 1999 film and, as the tale of Nak is a well-known legend in Thailand with dozens of adaptations, it is possible that Natre herself was even inspired by Nak.

The influences on Shutter however, are not merely restricted to Thailand. Many international considerations need to be made in order to understand it, perhaps the most important one being the emergence of the cycle of Japanese horror films kick-started by the release of Ringu, a 1998 adaptation of the 1991 novel of the same name. The film’s main antagonist, the vengeful spirit or onryō of Sadako Yamamura, became a cultural icon when the film hit theatres, becoming one of Japan’s top box-office hits of all time. The USA would commission a remake, The Ring, to be released four years later. In the wake of Ringu’s immense success, the image of a vengeful ghostly female character with long black hair became prevalent in films such as Ju-On: The Grudge (2002), One Missed Call (2003) and Dark Water (2002).

It wasn’t long before word got around that this was an almost sure-fire method to get people into cinemas, along with international interest. This is noted perhaps humorously in a blog post by Grady Hendrix on Kaiju Shakedown, “after The Ring, The Ring Two, The Ring Virus, Nightmare, Scissors, Ju-On 1 & 2, A Tale of Two Sisters, Dark Water, Kakashi, The Phone, Shutter, Unborn but forgotten, Into The Mirror, Wicked Ghost, Shikoku, One Missed Call, Horror Hotline… Big Head Monster, Pulse, R-Point, Three Extremes and on and on, this whole ‘long-haired-dead-wet-chick’ trope is dead.” (McRoy, 2008, p. 173) His association of numerous films on his list, including Shutter, with ‘J-Horror’, even when they aren’t from Japan, is perhaps telling of the cycle’s influence on Asian cinema. Everyone wanted to have their own ghost-girl film that was more terrifying than the others.

On a horror revival, with western eyes turning towards Asia for ghostly women to see on their screens, it’s not hard to see that Shutter took influences from Ringu and the like for its character of Natre, similarly a vengeful female ghost with long black hair. Thailand had been looking to Japan for influences for decades, especially when it comes to film; “the first permanent exhibition space for films in Thailand was built by a Japanese promoter in 1905,” (Ruh, 2008, p. 143). Added to this, Davis and Yeh state that “Japanese horror films have a long history, tapping ghost tales and Buddhist sermons in the Edo period,” similar to Shutter’s usage of Buddhist influences, as well as noting that, in their discussion of Ringu, “In this story, some of our most trusted devices inexplicably turn against us”, similar to Natre turning the camera on Tun (Davis & Yeh, 2008, p. 119). Also to note is in the DVD commentary, when Tun walks into the room before seeing Tonn jump to his death, remarking about the static on the television, Pisanthanakun remarks that “on the website they said we’d copied this scene from The Ring,” This remark clearly indicates that the filmmakers are aware of Ringu/The Ring and its influence on current Asian cinema, and whilst this is a denial that the scene is explicitly referencing the Japanese film, the general motifs and iconography of the film are so similar to the cycle that they cannot be ignored.

The cycle of horror at that time, especially the original J-horror as well, also loved to use technology as a means of manifesting the malevolent entity involved. In Ringu it is a videotape, Pulse (2001) uses computers, Suicide Club (2002) uses the radio and television broadcasting. Shutter, then, follows a long line of films in Japanese cinema by using technology as a focus point for its malevolence and evil, but added the influence of Bangkok for this technological evil.

A final point to note might be the inclusion of the number 4 in the staircase scene with Tun running away from Natre. On the DVD commentary, Wongpoom states that “Foreigners say that they know the number four means death for the Chinese… I was surprised they knew that,” and when asked if it was intentional, both he and Pisanthanakun replied “yes”. This use of numbers in Chinese culture and tradition specifically for foreshadowing events and themes of the action taking place shows a very nice cross-cultural connection between the Thai filmmakers and the neighbouring country that has had so much connection with Thailand in the past centuries through to the present day, with many millions of Chinese residents living in the country.

In conclusion, Thailand’s social and cultural history has led to its films becoming rich with remnants and depictions of its setting in both formal construction and through its themes and symbolism. In Shutter, Buddhism and its traditions are invoked and subverted in an attempt to portray the rural countryside as a place of tranquillity and peace, with the city of Bangkok a thriving haven of rape, alcohol abuse and evil. Bangkok’s malevolence includes its rapid industrialisation and technological advancement which can further enhance and continue to spread the evil, in a similar fashion (but different meaning) to Asia’s cycle of horror films inspired by the kaidan tales of Japan, with Thailand’s own film history in Nang Nak influencing its construction. China also shows its influence in its superstitions appearing in the film, knowledge of which is acquired via close national connections with the country. Shutter then, despite first appearing to be a standard ghostly horror movie, is in fact layered deeply with the social concerns and cultural influences of Thailand, with other Asian nations helping to create a rich, transnational horror film.

 

 

Bibliography

Baker, C. & Phongpaichit, P., 2010. A History of Thailand. Second Edition ed. China: Cambridge University Press.

Dark Water. 2002. [Film] Directed by Hideo Nakata. Japan: Oz.

Davis, D. W. & Yeh, E. Y.-Y., 2008. East Asian Screen Industries. London: British Film Institute.

Ju-On: The Grudge. 2002. [Film] Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Japan: Pioneer LDC.

Knee, A., 2005. Thailand Haunted: The Power of the Past in the Contemporary Thai Horror Film.. In: S. J. Schneider & T. Williams, eds. Horror International. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, pp. 141 – 159.

Knee, A., 2008. Suriyothai becomes Legend: National Identity and Global Currency. In: L. Hunt & W. Leung, eds. East Asian Cineams, Exploring Transnational Connections on Film. London: I.B Tauris, pp. 123 – 137.

Nang Nak. 1999. [Film] Directed by Nonzee Nimibutr. Thailand: Tai Entertainment.

One Missed Call. 2003. [Film] Directed by Takashi Miike. Japan: Kadokawa Pictures.

Press, World Trade, 2010. Thailand Society and Culture Complete Report: An All-Inclusive Profile Containing All Of Our Society & Culture Reports, s.l.: World Trade Press.

Pulse. 2001. [Film] Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Japan: Toho Company.

Ringu. 1998. [Film] Directed by Hideo Nakata. Japan: Ringu/Rasen Production Company.

Ruh, B., 2008. Last Life in the Universe: Nationality, Technologies and Authorship. In: L. Hunt & L. Wing-Fai, eds. East Asian Cinemas: Exploring Transnational Connections on Film. New York: I.B Tauris + Co Ltd., pp. 138 – 152.

Shutter (DVD Commentary). 2004. [Film] Directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom, Banjong Pisanthanakun. Thailand: Contender Films.

Shutter. 2004. [Film] Directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom, Banjong Pisanthanakun. Thailand: GMM Pictures.

Suicide Club. 2002. [Film] Directed by Sion Sono. Japan: Earthrise.

Suzuki, K., 1991. Ringu. Tokyo: Kodakawa Shoten.

Tambiah, S., 1975. Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North-east Thailand. Cabridge: Cabridge University Press.

The Ring. 2002. [Film] Directed by Gore Verbinski. USA: Dreamworks Pictures.

 

Odds and DEAD Ends: Watching from below: Voyeurism in ‘The Cabin in the Woods’

Voyeurism in The Cabin in the Woods

Released in 2012, The Cabin in the Woods struck a chord in a genre dominated by ‘torture-porn’ and remakes of paranormal horror from Asia. By taking the formula of The Evil Dead film and using the codes and conventions as part of its narrative construction, it seemed to revitalise a genre that many felt had gone astray. I’m going to discuss the film’s use of cameras and the theme of voyeurism, to heighten the film’s tension by subtly shifting our allegiances and questioning our morality.

By default, massive spoilers if you haven’t seen the film.

The film is uniquely structured in that it follows two sets of characters. We have the teenagers on the ‘top floor’, unknown sacrifices to the gods below, and the crew on the ‘bottom floor’ to ensure their demise. Whedon and Goddard state on the DVD commentary that they were going to keep the second floor a secret until a way into the film, but eventually decided against it. This way, they set us up from the beginning with the fear of being watched.

By giving us this knowledge, we place ourselves in a position of power, having information that the main quintet of the piece doesn’t. This aligns us with Alfred Hitchcock’s theory of suspense; that the audience must know something that the characters don’t, be this a wallet about to fall from someone’s jacket or a killer in the closet, to create tension. You can watch Sir Alfred himself explain it in the video below.

Being watched is always powerful in creating paranoia and fear because it is an invasion of our privacy, someone forcing their way into our innermost thoughts and deeds. When Marty says that the idea of the trip is to ‘get off the grid’, he highlights this need for privacy, which we know to be nothing but an illusion. If a metaphor is needed for this invasion of privacy, it is embodied by the two-way mirror in the cabin.

One of the ways this voyeurism is used is through its desensitisation those working below must undergo in order to protect the world. Consider the scene before Jules’ murder and the way in which she must be ‘the whore’ before she can be killed. Kirk says to her “‘we’re all alone’”, followed by a shot of everyone watching it happen. Though this is played for laughs, it’s a real fear that they will be discovered, something every teen couple fears. Later, when asked if Jules showing herself is necessary, we are told “‘we’re not the only ones watching’”, and that they “‘need to keep the customers satisfied’”. The teens are produce, goods to be shown, approved of, and then sold, and it requires such an extreme degree of desensitisation, of dehumanisation, that they must force themselves to do, that we begin to side with those below.

The teenagers are being spied upon from a functional point of view: people need to know what they’re doing in order to do their job right. The comedy Goddard extracts from the workforce means that we align our morals with them. This comes to a climax when the group is heading to the bridge and we get the call that it’s still intact. Who do we support here? Do we support the victims, trying to survive? Or do we support the men trying to kill them, trying to save the world? We are put in a moral quandary here which only adds to our tension.

As another note, not only is the floor below watching the top through their cameras and monitors, but they themselves are also being watched by their boss and the gods. Layers upon layers of voyeurism and the need to look over your shoulder are piled up here in a single film. We cannot get away from eyes everywhere, watching us, wanting us to kill or be killed.

Viewing them through the cameras perhaps helps those below deal with the situation. They don’t have to meet the victims; they can deal with the situation as if they were playing a video game. They are test subjects in a Saw-like game. And one shouldn’t think that this emphasis on viewing as a theme is coincidental. After all, co-writer and director, Drew Goddard, also wrote Cloverfield, one of the movies that re-vitalised the found footage genre along with REC and Paranormal Activity, a genre that emphasizes horror viewed from a first-person perspective.

The desensitisation that the workers go through in order to do their job is passed onto us. This presents us with questions of morality that arise with the film’s conclusion. We side with the heroes and yet also need them to fail. This places us in a tricky situation. Who do we support? The final act’s big dilemma would not resonate so much if we simply sided with the victims, and so we must watch them suffer, with as much black humour as we can get from it so that we also want those trying to keep the gods happy to succeed. It’s the only conclusion we can come to. But is this the right decision? What is the right decision?

In conclusion, the voyeurism displayed throughout the film aids the shift in our empathy just from the side of the victims into the centre of the two sides. We find ourselves in a world of moral greyness, where we aren’t sure who we should root for. We are between Scylla and Charybdis, with the pressure mounting, the clock ticking down, and no clue how to feel. Horror is comprised, at its core, of choices. Whether to run or fight, go up the stairs or out the front door, cut our leg off or not, we have to deal with choices. Goddard puts us in that point where we don’t want to have to choose, but we must. And that’s what makes The Cabin in the Woods, through its theme of voyeurism, just that little bit special.

Article by Kieran Judge (Paranormal Activity, 2007)

Bibliography

Cloverfield. 2007. [Film] Directed by Matt Reeves. USA: Bad Robot.

Institute, A. F., 2008. Alfred Hitchcock On Mastering Cinematic Tension. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPFsuc_M_3E
[Accessed 20 09 2018].

Paranormal Activity. 2007. [Film] Directed by Oren Peli. USA: Blumhouse Productions.

REC. 2007. [Film] Directed by Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza. Spain: Filmax International.

The Cabin in the Woods. 2012. [Film] Directed by Drew Goddard. USA: Mutant Enemy.

The Evil Dead. 1981. [Film] Directed by Sam Raimi. USA: Renaissance Pictures.

 

Odds and DEAD Ends: Fiction in John Carpenter’s ‘In The Mouth Of Madness’

John Carpenter’s In The Mouth Of Madness was released in 1994, and completes his ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’, along with The Thing and Prince of Darkness. Drawing heavily on H. P. Lovecraft, Mouth of Madness is a unique, self-reflexive film in a similar vein to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (also 1994). The film follows insurance investigator John Trent, as he tracks down missing horror novelist, Sutter Cane. This article will focus on film’s use of fiction and stories to blur previously thought-of binary oppositions, such as fantasy/reality, human/inhuman, and even day/night, to try and disturb and unsettle the viewer.

The idea behind fiction in Mouth of Madness is, if enough people believe in stories, the stories gain power, and through that power the Old Ones can return. Cane explains this to Trent like this:

“It takes its power from new readers and new believers. That’s the point. Belief! When people begin to lose their ability to know the difference between fantasy and reality the old ones can begin their journey back. The more people who believe the faster the journey. And with the way the other books have sold, this one is bound to be very popular.”

In Paul Cobley’s book Narrative, he states that “The most familiar, most primitive, most ancient and seemingly straightforward of stories reveal depths that we might have hitherto failed to anticipate.” (Cobley, 2001, p. 2). Cane, controlled by the Old Ones, uses horror fiction as a universal storytelling medium to connect with readers on a primal level, using common tropes and ideas to make it easier for readers to believe. Cobley’s discussion of signs in literature, or “what humans interpret as signs, therefore stand in for something else in the real world” (p. 9), illuminates why a horror writer is the best medium for the Old Ones to use to prepare humanity for their arrival. Coding themselves with signs they people understand makes them more believable, understandable, acceptable, even.

Fiction, therefore, is an illumination of truth, a coded way to our understanding of knowledge. With this in mind, the filmmakers use the audience’s understanding of this concept (though perhaps the audience isn’t consciously aware of it) to turn truth on its head and destabilise them. Slowly, picking up pace at the finale, the boundary between fantasy and reality erodes away.

This happens in many ways, from Cane’s whispering “Did I ever tell you my favourite colour was blue?” followed by Trent waking up with the world blue, to the constant cyclist returning over and over again. There are also more subtle details which hint the fictional nature of Trent’s story. The room Trent stays in at Pickman’s Hotel is 9, the same cell number that Trent is in at the asylum. Similarly, the number of the motel room Trent stays in after his world has been turned ‘upside down’, is 6. 6 is also the number of novels that Sutter Cane has written before In The Mouth Of Madness.

Note that the world Cane inhabits is malleable, and reflects, is, his fiction. “You are what I write. Like this town. It wasn’t here before I wrote it. And neither were you.” He later writes Trent’s actions perfectly, the passage that Linda reads from the novel. Cane alters what is real and not real because he lives inside his own fiction, an avatar, for his real self. This is made evident when Trent explains to Harglow that the reason he doesn’t remember Linda is “Well, that’s easy, she was written out.” He is a proxy god for the Old Ones.

The breakdown of reality and fantasy is not the only division that collapses. French structuralist Claude Levi-Strauss theorised that stories were, at their core, thematically comprised sets of binary oppositions, such as good and evil, rural and urban, men and women. Carpenter’s film systematically deconstructs this simple division and thereby prove the illusory nature of Trent’s reality and, to an extent, our own, assisting our discomfort.

Reality and fantasy is a clear example; the whole narrative is a deconstruction of its fictional self, but another is the opposition of human and inhuman. Several times we see characters (such as Mrs. Pickman) change to monsters throughout the film, and others such as Linda have the ability to move from human to inhuman. The anthropomorphic qualities attached to monstrous forms unsettles us, we should be allowed to remain clean and whole, but also the monstrous elements given to humans is just as disturbing. Even the painting at the hotel morphs throughout the film. Paintings themselves lie between truth and fiction, a definite image but a representation only, a topic Andre Bazin discusses in The Ontology of the Photographic Image (pdf link below). This distortion brings several oppositions into question in one broad stroke. Carpenter knew what he was doing.

Additionally, that even Cane has a monstrous form on the back of his head, is a startling revelation. When Cane was completely human (though one controlled by other beings), it was still essentially human, and so defeatable. If Carpenter were to show that Cane was an Old One, we would be more comfortable with even this; he would fall on one side of the human vs inhuman opposition. However it is in the middle, a blurred, distorted place we can’t understand, which is more frightening than his being either side.

A smaller example is day and night. Several times throughout the film, such as the arrival at Hobbs’ End, the film jumps straight from night to day. The editing that would usually show a passage of time is inverted, breaking even filmmaking conventions. Here, no time has passed at all. Time is breaking down, the regular cycle of solar bodies that extends beyond this world, is collapsing.

Literary theory states that our understanding of reality is dictated by language, that we experience the world through words and the connections between them. We know a door is a door, in any shape or size, because we associate it with the word ‘door’; the word is what tells us two doors are similar. As Bennett and Royle discuss, “We cannot in any meaningful way, escape the fact that we are subject to language.” (Bennett & Royle, 2009, p. 131). Carpenter’s film is a perfect exploration of the ways in which we are subject to words, to fiction and stories, and the confusion and discomfort if this were to be consciously manipulated by a malevolent force, dissolving oppositions and boundaries we expect and have built into our world, into language itself. The film is not about the destruction of the world, but a destruction of a human perception of the world.

Bibliography

Bazin, A., 2007. The Ontology of the Photographic Image. [Online]
Available at: http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Bazin-Ontology-Photographic-Image.pdf
[Accessed 08 08 2018].

Bennett, A. & Royle, N., 2009. An Introduction to Literature. Criticism and Theory. 4th ed. Harlow: Pearson.

Cobley, P., 2001. Narrative. UK: Routledge.

In the Mouth of Madness. 1994. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. USA: New Line Cinema.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

Prince of Darkness. 1987. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. USA: Alive Films.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. 1994. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. USA: New Line Cinema.

 

 

Article by Kieran Judge

Odds and DEAD Ends: Lucio Fulci, Italy’s Godfather of Gore

When people think of Italian horror, Dario Argento is the first name that invariably comes to mind. And why wouldn’t it? With some of the most influential films in the horror genre, (Suspiria (1977), Profondo Rosso (1975), and Opera (1987), to name but a few), he brought Italy to our attention with the care and style that few could match.

After Argento we might think of Mario Bava, who brought stylised violence to the screen with Blood and Black Lace (1964) and Black Sabbath (1963), and set Italy going in horror movies, and their closely related counterpart of the giallo, like never before. Slasher films in the 80’s consistently came back to the ’64 movie time and time again for inspiration.

Next on the list, however, is Lucio Fulci, this article’s focus. This is a man who created some of the most astounding visuals, in the pulpiest films you’ll ever see. He crafted a unique oeuvre of gore and gristle, but with a mastery that few have touched.

Born in Rome in the mid nineteen-twenties, Fulci was first set on medicine, and whilst working as an art critic, turned his mind to film. Whilst starting off with comedies in the fifties, as the sixties neared their end he began crafting violent thrillers which, understandably, saw him fall out of favour with the Catholic Church.

Beginning really with Lizard in a woman’s skin in 1971, and Don’t torture a Duckling the following year in 1972, Fulci began to blend the stylish giallo of his contemporary, Argento, with graphic violence, pushing extreme filmmaking to new levels.

He brought out a slew of films in the next few years, a particular favourite of mine being Seven Notes in Black (also known as Seven Black Notes or The Psychic) in 1977, but Fulci really left his mark on cinema starting two years afterward. Zombie Flesh Eaters (or Zombi, or Zombie 2) released in 1979, was Italy’s answer to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). Coincidentally, Dario Argento, worked on Romero’s film. Flesh Eaters really brought something a little exotic to the zombie genre, as well as conceiving two of the greatest scenes in horror history, the first being the zombie vs. shark fight. The second, which I’m indulging myself to discuss at length now, is the famous eye piercing scene.

Fulci takes his time to construct this scene, heightening the tension up like stretching an elastic band. He focuses on the shadow of the light from outside in the battle with the zombie to close the door, with no loud noises or music. There are no tricks, just showing an image of two sides struggling for purchase, pure cinema, as Hitchcock would have called it. The door closed, the heroine puts a chest in front of the door, and then, two minutes into the scene, the zombie bursts through and grabs her head. Splinter on the shattered door. And an eye to be pierced.

Fulci is obsessed with eyes and sight, one of his directorial trademarks being a quick zoom into the face for a reaction, almost a crash cut. This time, however, he takes his sweet time. Her head comes closer, and we cut to a POV of the splinter, tracking in. Reaction shot, and in we go a little tighter. Fulci does this as many times as he can get away with, building, building. And then, as with all scenes of suspense, you need a pay-off. If you’re a gore-hound, what a magnificent pay-off it is.

This scene is incredibly Hitchcockian in its construction, that you begin to understand that there’s a great talent behind the camera. Fulci isn’t just about gore; he’s about crafting a memorable scene. So memorable, in fact, that although I’ve no confirmation of it being conscious, I invite you to take a look at the spike eye-gouging scene in Saw 3D (2010). It’s almost exactly the same construction. Over 30 years later and a pulpy little Italian film is referenced in one of the biggest horror franchises of all time.

Fulci might have had his moment in the spotlight here with Zombie Flesh Eaters, were it not for his crowning glory. The triple-header of City of the Living Dead in 1980, and both The Beyond and The House by the Cemetary in 1981, formed his ‘Gates of Hell’ trilogy. These three films, and especially The Beyond, are his masterpieces. Fulci doesn’t so much create or direct these films as dream them, surreal images like a collage of nightmares, culminating in a dark, mist-soaked atmosphere of unutterable dread. Buckets of gore thrown in for good measure help to create some of the most beautifully constructed nightmare-fuel ever to emerge of Italy. Fulci knows how to create an image worthy of putting up on your wall, and these three films are his perfect showcase.

I was lucky enough to see Fabio Frizzi, who scored many of Fulci’s films, perform his new composer’s cut for The Beyond, as a live accompaniment, at Abertoir Horror Festival 2016. Sat on the row behind me was Luigi Cozzi, another Italian director of the same period and good friend of Argento and the Bava family. It was the European Premiere of the new music as a live score, and there was something magical in the room that night. I won’t get too romantic, but it was there. Every second of that film and performance dripped with something special, from every zombie killed to each misty alleyway, right to its surrealist final moments in that landscape of beyond, it was like watching a lovechild between Salvador Dali and David Cronenberg, with a perfect prog-rock accompaniment. If Fulci’s ghost was there, I think he would have been proud to see a packed house enjoying his film decades later.

Unfortunately, a few years later, Fulci released Conquest (1983). An epic fantasy trying to cash in on the trend being started by films like Conan the Barbarian (1982), it flopped. This was Fulci’s big break, and it killed him instantly. There wasn’t much more of note ever produced, and I’m inclined to think that Fulci was a little bitter by it all. The House of Clocks (1989) is a very nice supernatural home-invasion style thriller, and A Cat in the Brain in 1990 is good fun, but that’s about it. Succumbing to medical conditions in the mid nineties, he passed away in 1996, in the middle of production for a remake of Vincent Price’s House of Wax with Dario Argento, with whom Fulci had finally agreed to work with after many decades of petty spites.

Fulci’s work is vastly underappreciated, even, I think, within the casual horror scene itself. He was a craftsman that was severely overlooked, and it wasn’t perhaps until Quentin Tarantino used the theme for Seven Notes in Black as a part of his Kill Bill (Kill Bill (Vol. 1), 2003) score, and released a few of his movies in cinemas for limited release, that people really paid attention to him. His writing could be as tightly plotted as any Argento giallo; his love of voyeurism and tension could rival Hitchcock. He used as much gore as Cronenberg, and yet his vivid imagination never really caught the public. His is a volume of work that takes a little digging to get into, but once experienced fully, is never forgotten.

And that’s the point. Fulci’s movies are never forgettable, even some of the later films where his declining health undoubtedly played a part in their quality. A horror hack he might have seemed to the public, but underneath it all was an incredibly talented individual who is only now, decades after his passing, beginning to get the true recognition that he deserved.

Article by Kieran Judge (2018)

Bibliography

A Cat in the Brain. 1990. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Exclusive Cine TV.

Black Sabbath. 1963. [Film] Directed by Mario Bava. Italy: Emmepi.

Blood and Black Lace. 1964. [Film] Directed by Mario Bava. Italy: Emmepi.

City of the Living Dead. 1980. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Dania Film.

Conan The Barbarian. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Milius. USA: Dino De Laurentiis.

Conquest. 1983. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Clemi Cinematgorafica.

Dawn of the Dead. 1978. [Film] Directed by George A Romero. USA: Laurel Group Inc..

Don’t Torture a Duckling. 1972. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Medusa Produzione.

House of Wax. 1953. [Film] Directed by Andre DeToth. USA: Warner Bros..

Kill Bill (Vol. 1). 2003. [Film] Directed by Quentin Tarantino. USA: A Band Apart.

Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. 1971. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: International Apollo Films.

Profondo Rosso. 1975. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seda Spettacoli.

Saw 3D. 2010. [Film] Directed by Kevin Greutert. USA: Lionsgate.

Seven Notes In Black. 1977. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Rizzoli Film.

Suspiria. 1977. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seda Spettacolli.

Terror At The Opera. 1987. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: ADC Films.

The Beyond. 1981. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Fulvia Film.

The House by the Cemetary. 1981. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Fulvia Film.

The House of Clocks. 1989. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Dania Film.

Zombie Flesh Eaters. 1979. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy : Variety Film.

Movie Review: Within the Darkness

Movie Review: Within the Darkness

Within the Darkness is a horror movie written for those who love horror movies. It features a deeply rooted appreciation for the genre and uses the clichés to offer a fresh perspective interlaced with satisfying suspense. Horror Addicts will enjoy the scares, laughs, and twists. It is a special delight for those who are familiar with what has come before in the universe of haunted horror.

Something terrible happened at the Hewitt House. To this day, the ghostly inhabitants act out their tragic demises in an endless loop. For Austin (Dave Coyne), this provides the perfect opportunity.

Austin wants to make it big in Hollywood and he thinks he knows how to do it: a ghost hunting show. The Hewitt House provides the spooky backdrop, but Austin doesn’t believe anything will really happen, so he rigs the results, setting traps in the house to mimic a haunting. He’s helped by his girlfriend Lucy (Erin Nicole Cline) and a crew of skeptics.

But when a psychic medium, Meagan (Shanna Forrestall), arrives to help with the investigation, unexplainable things begin to happen. The crew descends into madness and the viewer asks: what’s really happening at the Hewitt House?

Within the Darkness is a self-aware horror film. The creators were familiar with the genre tropes and embraced them in order to use them in unexpected ways. From jump scares to psychological horror to paranormal events, they play the viewers expectations from start to finish. If you think you’ve seen it all in horror, Within the Darkness just might surprise you.

The Hewitt House has all the makings of a classic horror haunt, complete with long hallways, too many stairs, suspiciously creaky doors, and a lake dock just begging someone to come swim for all eternity. There’s no end to the shadows where danger lurks. Yet in the daylight, the house is a charming suburban fixture, seemingly too young to host anything evil. In a masterful understanding of the genre, Within the Darkness portrays the Hewitt House as quiet enough in the day to make the characters feel like they must have let their imaginations slip after dark.

The film’s central conflict is between ambitious and irreverent Austin and his girlfriend Lucy, who is more inclined to respect powers beyond her control. Their opposing opinions on the house and what exactly is going on inside tear a rift in the crew and amp up the tension as events escalate. Add in terrifying hallucinations and a host of spooky events and the crew stands all on edge.

While Within the Darkness employs a variety of disturbing imagery, one scene in particular stood out. Between excellent acting on the part of Jessie (Tonya Kay) and well-edited shots, Within the Darkness created a truly creepy illusion that stuck with me long after the movie ended.

At times, Within the Darkness takes comedic turns, barging into the territory of the absurd. This puts it in similar categories as Scary Movie, though without the cheap pop culture references. It shows a developed understanding of horror films and pokes fun at themes that are often overdone.

In general, I think of this as a parody movie that manages to sneak in some good suspense and horror between the satirical commentaries. Fans of horror who don’t take anything too seriously will enjoy this. It still has the spooky chops for those looking for a bit of fright in their night.

Movie Review: Apocalypsis

Movie Review: Apocalypsis

Welcome to a world where every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard seems entirely real.

Apocalypsis introduces a world like our own, but which has followed a much darker path. The American government has implemented an ambitious project of surveillance and control. Most of the population is “chipped”—implanted with RFID devices that allow the government to monitor their activities. Cameras and drones are everywhere and AI tracks the population through facial recognition. Anyone who fights back is a target.

Evelyn and Michael are two such people.

Evelyn (Maria Bruun) is a deeply religious woman who draws her strength from her orthodox faith. She strives to help everyone in need, especially the downtrodden. In her quest for increased enlightenment, she experiences distressing apocalyptic visions while studying the book of Revelation. She sees the End Times in the world around her and becomes determined to act before it’s too late.

Michael (Chris O’Leary), a man with no faith, fights the increasing government control using technology and activism. He seeks to enlighten the populace and save them from themselves if he can. However, Michael knows he’s a hunted man and he wavers between going off the grid to save himself and risking everything to free society.

The film explores the relationship between Evelyn and Michael and their differing approaches to changing the world. Their common goals bring them together, but fundamental differences and deep-seated paranoia threaten to rip the friends apart. All of this take place against a high stakes background that keeps the audience guessing what the heroes can really do and what the final stakes will be.

Apocalypsis takes place in New York, where there are a million places to hide, but no real assurance that any of them are safe. In the city, people are everywhere and it’s impossible to know which ones can be trusted. The setting suggests a near future, where America is a hairsbreadth from martial law and every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard is taken as absolute fact. You are being watched. You are in danger. The stakes have never been higher.

Michael takes the audience into the nooks and crannies of the city, where he hides like a rat and thinks like one too—survival always foremost on his mind. He showcases the modern side of the city, the underground tunnels and back alleys where he hides from sight, always in the dark, using his computer to fight for him.

Evelyn walks the streets of the most needy, reaching out everywhere she can. The moments of peace that she encounters are within the walls of her orthodox church. There she finds solace in something bigger than herself, a divine benevolent ruler at odds with the paranoid government that rules her on Earth.

Director Eric Leiser takes an artistic approach with the camera. Flashing imagery and overlaying shots create a surreal atmosphere. Evelyn’s visions of the apocalypse are animated, casting a sharp contrast from the rest of the film and heightening the feeling that they are unlike anything that she has seen before.

Apocalypsis delves into the question of religion versus action and what really creates a “good” person. What role does faith play in motivating someone to take action? Evelyn has her faith and good intentions, but is that enough? Does Michael’s single-minded purpose blind him to harm that he may be causing with his zeal?

Apocalypsis is a horror think piece, delving into dystopian and science fiction genres. There isn’t any overt gore or jump scares. Rather, the horror manifests as a lingering sense of dread as you wait to see what happens to the characters and their world. All the while, you question how far Apocalypsis really is from our world right now.

Chilling Chat Episode 152: Valjeanne Jeffers

valjeanne-jeffers-author-picValjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College and author of ten books including Immortal and Mona Livelong I and II. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies including, Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures, Sycorax’s Daughters, and The City and Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. She was honored as a “Seer” by the HWA Diverse Works Inclusion Committee in 2016 and is a screenwriter for the horror anthology film, 7 Magpies (in production.)

Valjeanne is a remarkable woman. During our interview, she shared some interesting facts about her early life, creating characters, and her upcoming projects.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Valjeanne. You have a varied background. Your parents are English teachers and you have an MA in Psychology. How does this inform and affect your work?

VJ: Because my parents were English teachers, I came in contact with writers at a very early age. They were in and out of our house wherever we lived. I remember my mother cooking for them…poets, writers, artists and I got a chance to sit in on their discussions.

NTK: Wow! What writers?

VJ: This was years ago, so I can’t remember very many names. Quincy Troupe was one I remember. Another regular visitor to our house was Eugene Redmond. I re-connected with him about nine years ago and he published me in his anthology Drumvoices Revue (poetry.) It’s been a huge honor because my poetry appeared in an anthology with some really famous folk.

We did have a library and I was reading Richard Wright and Chester Himes from age 9 or 10. The authors I read had a huge impact on me. Himes and Wright’s use of magical realism influenced my writing horror and science fiction.

NTK: Did this interest in Himes and Wright lead to your writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective?

VJ: Yes, and I had other influences. Mona Livelong is an urban novel. And, Robert Beck (believe it or not) and David Goines brought this out. You know Robert Beck as “Iceberg Slim.” He’s notorious for his anti-heroes but he’s also a brilliant writer.

Tananarive Due and Brandon Massey are also huge influences, especially when it comes to writing horror.

NTK: Which of their works are your favorite?

VJ: For T. Due, it’s My Soul to Keep (the series.) For B. Massey, it’s Within the Shadows and into the Dark.

NTK: You’ve spoken of Stephen King and Dean Koontz as favorite authors. Which one do you like best?

VJ: Stephen King. Definitely. He has been a huge influence.

NTK: Which of his books do you like the most?

VJ: The Talisman and The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three.

By the way, earlier, you asked about how my MA affects my work. It helped me construct personalities and also “character careers.”

NTK: What made you choose the career of “paranormal detective” for Mona?

VJ: I had been toying with the idea of a paranormal detective for a while and I decided to take the plunge and just do it.

NTK: What’s the process of creating a character like that? Do you decide what she’ll do and won’t do? Do you decide what powers she’ll possess?

VJ: Characters for me are based on people I have known and sometimes, those I see on TV that week. I take someone and add and subtract the things I feel they should have. And, some, (Tehotep from Immortal, for example) come straight out of my unconscious. Both Mona and Karla (Immortal) are based upon a young woman who babysat me in California. She was coping with the death of her mother and brother and raising her two remaining siblings.

NTK: Did Tehotep come from a dream? Or, did he just come to you?

VJ: Tehotep came to me in waking dreams, bit by bit. As far as their [character] abilities go, that’s a process of imagination. Since I decided early on that Mona would be a sorceress, I had to decide what she could and couldn’t do. Her powers had to be limited. If that makes sense.

NTK: Let’s talk a little about Sycorax’s Daughters. How did you become involved in that project?

VJ: Two of the editors, Linda Addison and Kinitra Brooks, contacted me. They said they were publishing Sycorax’s Daughters and asked if I’d be interested in submitting something. Of course, I said yes!

NTK: How did it feel to be included among such original voices? Sycorax’s Daughters is an anthology like no other. All the writers are women of color.

VJ: I was blown away! We made (are making) history and to be a part of this—it’s incredible!

NTK: It was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

VJ: Just to be nominated was incredible.

NTK: Could you talk a little about 7 Magpies?

VJ: Yes. What would you like to know? It’s still in the works.

NTK: Is it an anthology film? What is the significance of the Magpies?

VJ: It’s a film anthology. Each person involved contributed a story or poem. We got the Magpies from the creator, Lucy Cruell. It’s based on a nursery rhyme. “One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told.

I contributed an excerpt from Immortal III: Stealer of Souls to the film. All the screenwriting will be done by screenwriters Lucy chooses. Here’s a description of the film from the website:

“The first horror film anthology written and directed by Black (or African-American) women. Authors include: Tananarive Due, Sumiko Saulson, Eden Royce, Crystal Connor, Valjeanne Jeffers, Linda D. Addison, and Paula Ashe. The directors are: Lucy Cruell, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nicole Renee, Robin Shanea, Lary Love Dolley, Meosha Bean, and Rae Dawn Chong.

NTK: What did you think of the adaptation process? Was it difficult bringing your excerpt to the screen?

VJ: Actually, I looked at what Lucy wanted and chose stories I felt were appropriate. She picked the Immortal III excerpt. That one was my favorite too.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What work do we have to look forward to?

VJ: Quinton Veal (my cover artist and guy) and I are planning on releasing Scierogenous II: An Anthology of Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy. Scierogenous I was well received.

I’m also writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the Vanishing Child.

NTK: Will you include horror stories in Scierogenous II?

VJ: Maybe. We’ve got a great crew so let’s see what they come up with.

NTK: As you know, season thirteen of HorrorAddicts.net is CURSED. Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

VJ: Sorry, I don’t have one.

NTK: If you were to have Mona face a curse, what would it be?

VJ: (Laughs) Girl, I don’t know.

NTK: (Laughs) Ok, thank you for chatting with me, Valjeanne. It’s been a pleasure.

VJ: Thank you so much.

NTK: You can find Valjeanne’s work at the following link:

http://tehotep.wixsite.com/immortaliiiaudiobook

And, you can follow her on Twitter here at: @Valjeanne

Movie Review: RED EYE

“Red Eye” is a legend Gage Barker use to be told as a kid. When he found out there was some truth behind this legend he gathered a group of friends to hike in the backwoods of Black Creek, WV to help him use this as the basis for his first film project. To what extent will they go to make this project a reality? Will their passion bleed through? Or cross the line?

 

Details

Country: USA

Language: English

Release Date: 2017 (USA)

Filming Locations: Kentucky, USA

Box Office

Budget:$10,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co: Cyfuno Ventures

Technical Specs

Runtime: 73 min

 

Going into the movie, I knew right away this was a low budget film. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised at the Special FX. I love when they get creative and it looks good on film. Thumbs up to them and their FX persona for a job well done.

I was a little put off at first at the chemistry between actors in the very beginning. Everything seemed a little disjointed until the actors got comfortable with each other. I’ve seen worse, but it made the first few minutes of the film a little slow in my opinion.

Once the movie began to pick up, it wasn’t half bad at all. I take low-budget horror movies with a grain of salt because it’s not how much money you have, but what you can do with it. The story of RED EYE was an urban legend Gage Barker had been told growing up. He and one of his friends, loving horror and wanting to document it on film, decide to take along two female friends to give the documentary a little more drama. The opening of the movie discloses a secret love triangle and we know this is going to be all bad as the film plays out.

While I appreciate well-thought out and fleshed out back stories, I did feel it went a little overboard. You know that person you just meet, who gives you their whole life story? Yeah, that’s kind of the feeling you get sometimes with this film. I would’ve preferred they went back to the legend … speaking of the legend … my only gripe about this film was the conclusion.

SPOILER ALERT BELOW!! DO NOT CONTINUE IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE OR DO NOT ENJOY SPOILERS

In the conclusion of the film we discover Gage brought his friends out to the remote spot and was “improvising” so he had an “authentic” film. Plot twists are cool, but I feel there was a complete disconnect here. Maybe less attention to the Urban Legend, especially in the title? I am not sure how I’d personally handle it, because I’m not a film maker, I’m only the audience. To me it felt like a build up with a fizzle. I kind of felt something was up because of the type of killing and violence against the teens. It didn’t match up with the legend.

Anyway, that all being said, I didn’t hate the movie, but I feel with a little more experience, Director and Writer, Tristan Clay will go further in his career. I hope to see more from him and his team.

Movie Review: Caller ID Entity

The messages are real.

Caller ID Entity is a modern horror think piece, capitalizing on a form of reality driven fear that has become increasingly popular lately. The movie derives from actual messages and testimonials of people claiming to have been the victims of mind-control experiments. While the messages themselves are harrowing, creator Eric Zimmerman transforms them into more than the crazed ravings of deranged individuals. The film asks: whom can you trust when you can’t trust yourself?

Caller ID Entity follows four young men—Dale (Denny Kirkwood), Miles (James Duval), Noah (Nathan Bexton), and Tristan (Triton B. King)—after they enroll in an unusual graduate study program run by Dr. Adam Whitney (Douchan Gersi). At the beginning, they all believe the goal of their research is to understand the causes of psychopathy, but, as the practicalities of their studies grow increasingly disturbing, the men realize that they’re into something far more sinister than they could have imagined. They are the latest victims in a mind-control experiment that challenges the very basis of humanity. The film follows them as they spiral deeper into madness and discover a network of survivors trying to expose the people who used them. They must separate truth from paranoia and find justice before time runs out.

Set in urban Los Angeles, Caller ID Entity capitalizes on the masses of humanity to reinforce the movie’s themes. People are portrayed as pawns—easily disposed and forgotten. Cellphones and cameras are everywhere in the city. When that technology can be used to hijack the mind, the threat is everywhere.

The cinematography reinforces this further. Caller ID Entity pulls from a variety of genres, using filming styles from documentaries, reality television, and experimental film. The result is a story that feels as if it takes place just on the fringe of reality. It walks the edge between life and fiction, between the belief that it could be true and the conviction that it is too crazy to be so.

Flashbacks, flash-forwards, and interviews break up the narrative, creating a looming sense of doom. We suspect throughout that there is no happy conclusion for the characters, yet we cannot turn away from their downfall. We are kept in suspense, hoping for any outcome other than the one we’ve glimpsed and wondering how anyone could fall so far.

The story has more than one basis in reality. A psychology experiment in the 1960’s found that people are willing to commit atrocities if pressured by an authority figure (interested? Look into the Milgram Experiments). This premise finds new life in Caller ID Entity, where the four young men find themselves involved in increasingly sinister experiments, spurred on by Dr. Whitney with encouragement that it is all for the betterment of mankind. While we may sit back and say we would never do anything so twisted, science says otherwise.

Caller ID Entity does not employ jump scares or extreme gore, but if you’re looking for a form of speculative science fiction or experimental horror that piggybacks off the everyday, this film is for you.

Award Winning Horror

It’s awards season and, as Horror Addicts, that isn’t much to get excited about.

Film critics usually rank horror somewhere below stale theater popcorn, if they mention it at all. The only horror film to ever win the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture was The Silence of the Lambs (over 25 years ago) and only four horror films made the cut for the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Films (Jaws, Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Sixth Sense). But the genre pulled in upwards of $983 million last year and was responsible 10% of the market share. Clearly, horror resonates with the public psyche and the lack of credit isn’t from lack of interest.

Perhaps horror gets a bad name from pulp monster flicks created to sell children’s toys or from movies that capitalize on sex at the expense of actual fear. Of course, exploitative movies aren’t exclusive to horror, but it seems that whenever a frightening film is acclaimed, critics are quick to characterize it as a different genre—thriller or science fiction, most often.

Are times changing?

Eliciting true terror is just as difficult as drawing tears and there is great insight achieved through examining cultural roots of fear. Get Out was a box office smash this year, indicating that audiences are ready to use horror to look at the world from a new angle. With the public seeking more than slashers that trade shock for substance, film studios—particularly indie producers—seem poised to push the boundaries of the genre further than ever before. Directors are creating defiant films that plumb the depths of human nature. If you haven’t already, go watch Raw, The Bad Batch, or The Shape of Water for a glimpse at the new frontiers producers are exploring.

Guillermo del Toro just won a Golden Globe for his directing in The Shape of Water. Get Out was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture (as a Comedy, but still… Horror wasn’t a category). Maybe it’s a sign of things to come. We could be looking forward to some nomination nods when the Oscars come around.

Blood and gore movies filled with jump scares will never really go away, (then again, neither will the Transformers franchise). That isn’t bad—those things have their place. But a new generation of movies is emerging, ones that may earn a place among industry greats as the best films of all time.

HorrorAddicts.net 150, Cure for the Holidaze Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 150
Cure for the Holidaze Special!

Hosted by Emerian Rich

Guests: Dan Shaurette, Ariel DaWintre, Camellia Rains

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

———————

Cure for the Holidaze

http://traffic.libsyn.com/horroraddicts/HorrorAddicts150s.mp3

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

Music this episode by Midnight Syndicate from Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Ghostly-Gathering-Midnight-Syndicate/dp/B014JP8EOU

“Dance of the Sugar Plums”
“Night of the Krampus”
“Coventry Carol”
“Winter Storm”
“Up on the Rooftop”

 

Russell asked, he received.

 

holiday shopping ugliness, relative madness, horrible family experiences, helping the needy – what about me? best horror gifts, snowglobes, nightmare before christmas, vampire gifts, buffy the vampire slayer board game, walking dead glasses, they live, walking dead yahtzee, firefly yahtzee, horror gift guide, movie tickets, ulta, paxton gate, skeletons, taxidermy, bones, pirate store, diy, craft store, etsy.com, evil dead, regretsy, homemade gifts, amazon gift certificate, midnight syndicate, frankenstein salt and pepper shakers, forever knight season 3, monster fluxx, booooopoly, take friend out, chat about horror, loren rhoads, 199 cemeteries to see before you die, ipso facto, goth show, morbid curiosity, highgate cemetery in london, cremation, honoring the dead, morbid meals, zombie cookbooks, the walking dead cookbook and survival guide, flesh burgers, brains, theme song band, game, guess the thing, courtney mroch, haunt jaunts, haunted shops, restaurants, castles,  crazy skeleton lady, wax works, jekyll island in georgia, spooky holiday events, escape games, serial killer in your mailbox, hellraiser, evil dead, nightmare on elm street, underworld, scream, phil rickman, dickens, king, woman in black, lucy blue the last winter night, dead mail, jeff, IT, exorcist, pennywise, stranger things, amanda, midnight texas, karysa, krampus, a christmas horror story, silent night, deadly night, jack frost, russell, post halloween depression, vincent price cookbook, danny elfman, night of the comet, ginger snaps back, the thing, snowglobe, herbig brown eyes, dead like me, reaper, new movies coming, another wolfcop, shape in the water, guillermo del toro, insidious the last key, cloverfield, winchester the house that ghosts built, strangers prey at night, ready player one, a quiet place, slenderman, the purge, hotel transylvania 3, the nun, predator, meg, cadaver, the little stranger, goosebumps horrorland, the house with the clock in the wall, edward gorey, john bellaires, Halloween H40 and more… have a great spooky holiday!

 

“Broken Pieces” by Valentine Wolfe

http://valentinewolfe.bandcamp.com/track/broken-pieces

HorrorAddicts.net blog Kindle syndicated

http://www.amazon.com/HorrorAddicts-net/dp/B004IEA48W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431022701&sr=8-1&keywords=horroraddicts.net

HorrorAddicts.net Facebook group.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/208379245861499

 

———————–

Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

————————

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

s t a f f

David Watson, Stacy Rich, Dan Shaurette, KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Mimielle, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jesse Orr, Crystal Connor, Lisa Vasquez, Adelise M. Cullens, Kenzie Kordic.

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

b l o g  / c o n t a c t / s h o w . n o t e s

http://www.horroraddicts.net

Evil Food from Non-horror Media

So, we all know the horror food in movie classics like The Stuff and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but here are some evil foods you might have missed because they are hidden in non-horror media.

 

  1. Boyfriend School aka Don’t Tell Her it’s Me

This silly 1990 romantic comedy starring Steve Gutenberg and Jami Gertz (Star from Lost Boys) is fun and quirky. Centered around Steve trying to get Jami to go out with him, his over-the-top sister played by Shelly Long, tries to help. At the first blind date dinner, Shelly’s husband makes Jellyfish Salad. Through Jami’s eyes, Steve looks like a bloated whale and the Jellyfish Salad looks to be alive. There’s not a clip of the Jellyfish Salad online, but the movie is worth the watch if you like quirky, oddball comedies with weird, insane characters. I especially like Shelly’s husband who is so socially awkward, it’s agonizing watching him. Also, Steve trying to pretend he’s a rugged New Zealander is pretty funny too.

 

2. Better Off Dead, a 1980s teen comedy starring John Cusak. After his girlfriend leaves him for Mr. Popular, he becomes obsessed with killing himself. This is not a horror movie, but the dark comedy might appeal to you. In the movie, they spoof Frankenstein by making a burger come alive who lip-syncs to Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some.”

Dead Burger – Clip

You can also watch the full movie which includes an odd scene where his mom makes some sort of green goop that crawls off the plate at about 18:08

 

3. Fraggle Rock

So this next one, you may not find scary at all, but when I was a pre-teen, The Trash Heap on Fraggle Rock is one of those strange things that creeped me out. The fact that trash could come alive and talk with me might have inspired my OCD to bloom into trash phobia.

 

4. Spaceballs

Pizza da Hut might be the grossest character ever. I can’t even watch the cheese dripping like snot all over him without my stomach turning.

 

5. Red Dwarf

There are many different monsters who want to kill the cast of Red Dwarf, including a vindaloo beast that Lister ultimately kills with a can of lager. The funniest evil food clip belongs to the polymorph that turns into a shami kabab and tries to kill Lister with shrinking underpants.

Do you have an “evil food” that has shown up in a non-horror show or movie? We’d love to hear about it.

Kbatz: Silent Film Scares!

Frightening Flix

 

Silent Film Scares!

By Kristin Battestella

 

Here are but a few early film frights to catch your tongue!

 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Sleepwalking, hypnosis, and a demented carnival atmosphere are just the beginning for this influential 1920 paragon. From the German intertitles complete with a madcap, unreliable narrator font to the eerie, off key merry go round score, the distorted perceptions and exaggerated visuals force the viewer to pay attention. Green patinas, teal evening scenes, golden up close shots, and opening and closing irises layer on the dream like retelling alongside askew, Expressionist angles and a stage like design – a play within a play to which we the audience are willingly privy. Contrasting triangles, shadows, lighting, and more surreal architecture parallel the lacking reality, for there is no external frame of reference and forced perspectives belie a fun house whimsy. The actors, makeup, and abstract period styles are fittingly macabre, and the stilted contortionist movements evoke a poetic but unsettling ballet where a misused seemingly innocent, forgotten pawn needlessly dies once his job no longer computes. Though very indicative of its early interwar time, this remains immediately progressive – man is misled, controlled, even compliant in his misdeeds but not willing to be responsible for his actions when it is easier to be led astray and defer your killing hand to the orchestrating puppeteer. Do we not let popcorn entertainment and social media dictate our needs because someone somewhere told us so? Are we living in a fantasy if we think otherwise? Maybe so. The mass sheep consequences are indeed frightening, and some may find it tough to view this picture objectively knowing the catastrophic calamities to come. The appropriately named Cesare, deadly predictions, a perceived loved triangle, escalating murders, and crazy case connections twist and turn while satirical police sit on high up stools like toy soldiers waiting to be told what to do – like us in our 9 to 5 cubicles. Ignorance is bliss, and that is mighty scary. This is must see genre at its finest thanks to heaps of real world fears and social commentary for horror fans and classroom studies.

 

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeThis 1920 John Barrymore silent classic still looks good, with fine style and design and eerie organ music to match. There’s a lovely level of atmosphere for a spooky event- project this baby on some creepy cloth and you’re set! Granted, it’s a little slow to start and long for a silent film at 80 minutes. The presentation itself is almost Victorian in establishing the parlor goodness before its hint of pre-code sauce- the dance and proposition of Nita Naldi (The Ten Commandments). The posturing and makeup for Hyde may seem hokey, there isn’t that much of a visual difference compared to today’s high tech effects transformations. Nonetheless, Barrymore (Don Juan) sells the depravity without over exaggerating as the era often dictates, and the result is quite timeless.  There aren’t many title cards, either.  As the film progresses, the good and evil torment steadily increases thanks to the freaky pictures and creepy performance. A must see. 

 

Fall of the House of UsherThis very early 1928 silent adaptation of Poe’s macabre tale is only 13 minutes. There are no inter cards to read, nor what we would call dialogue. The fashions are decidedly Roaring instead of Victorian, too.  The visuals are so out there-even nonsensical-that it’s almost tough to see Edgar in any of it.  Nonetheless, this moody piece is perfectly disturbed with great, haunting organ music and eerie, distorted photography.  It’s trippy, unexpected, and a little scary. This is another one of those old films that makes for a great demented projection during a spooky party or ghoulish gallery presentation. Though not for everyone, anyone who is a fan of early film experimentation or audiences who just like weird shows should definitely check this out.

 

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Faust – This 1926 F. W. Murnau biggie waxes on all the good and evil one can muster thanks to its Old World appeal, supernatural surreal, and timeless story. Familiar strings and sweeping orchestration ground the Expressionist horror framework with frenetic ills or melodic tender as needed while stunning images of angels both light and dark are fittingly disproportionate with oversized wings. So maybe the mounted skeletons may seem hokey, but the smoke and mirrors, creepy eyes, and evil horns make for superb overlays and superimposed shadows. Why do we toy with spectacular effects when each frame here is like a seamless painting – unlike contemporary, noticeably shoddy CGI. Ghoulish makeup, severe looks done with very little, dark hoods, rays of light, and religious iconography loom large, telling the tale with symbolic light and dark objects dueling for our attention – just like the delicate titular ballet. The battle for one man’s soul is set amid our earthly plague fears, and despite the torment and somewhat odd, dragging domestic humor, the acting is not over the top but subdued for the weighty subject. This macabre is closer to the past than the present, setting off the repentance questions and plague as divine retribution debate. His Old Testament gives no answer, and evil enters in on Faust’s doubts, trading decadence with quills to sign in blood, hourglass measures, alchemy, superimposed flames, and mystical books to match the thee and thou spells. Our deceiving little old man becomes more traditionally devilish looking with each lavish temptation, duplicitous with his immediate tricks of pleasure and unfulfilling youthful elixirs that cannot be sustained. Could you do good with such power? Flight and winds show not how high one goes but how far we will fall, and despite a somewhat overlong hour and forty minute full length edition, the grim sense of dread here snowballs as the looming evil drapes the bedchamber within his robes. Will innocence and love triumph and restore the divine? This stunning attention to detail not only makes me want to tackle Goethe again, but shows what can be done when time is taken to ensure a picture lasts 90 years rather than be a consumed and quickly forgotten 90 minutes. The multiple versions and assorted video reissues will bother completists, but we’re lucky to have these copies at all and horror fans and film students must see this still influential morality play.

 

The Hands of Orlac – Art and music meet the grotesque for this 1924 tale of pleas, surgeries, and will power. Precious few newspaper clippings and streamlined, made to look old intertitles accent the ominous locomotives, vintage vehicles, smoke stacks, and well done but no less hectic disaster filmmaking before the macabre executions and madcap medicine. Doctors in white coats with terrible news, a saintly woman in white, bleak black trees against the clouded white sky – rather than our beloved silver screen, the picture here is truly a black and white negative with bright, symbolic domestic scenes and nighttime outdoor filming. Overwhelming buildings loom tall, and the sharp, gothic arches of a sinister father’s house reflect his uncaring. Eerie superimposed faces, phantom feelings, and impatience to remove the bandages build toward the eponymous hysterics, but the simple agony of handwriting changes and crooked hands so skilled with a killer blade but unable to master the piano wonderfully increase the torment and self doubt. Is it the mind doing these fatal repeats or the appendages themselves taking over? The full near two hour restored version feels somewhat overlong, with melodramatic scenes and unnecessary transitions interfering with the anguish. At times, contrived fingerprint exposition and solving the crime clichés pull the rug out from under the horrific hands possibilities, but fortunately, the blackmail, murder investigation, and bittersweet love anchors the monstrous appendage swapping. Where today we would have all kinds of bent, hairy, or special effects to hit the viewer over the head with how evil these hands should be, it’s amazing how these wicked hands psyching out our pianist don’t look evil per se but actually fairly normal. With our contemporary pick and choose genetics and scientific advancements, the concept of these influential limbs out for themselves is perhaps more disturbing. Could you loose your art and livelihood when calamity takes your hands or would you use extreme science to restore your limbs, accepting the inadvertent trade of music for something more barbarous? This is an excellent must see both for the ghastly what ifs and the inner turmoil at work.

 

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The UnknownLon Chaney (The Phantom of the Opera) and Joan Crawford (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) star in this short but memorable 1927 silent from writer and director Tod Browning.  Similar to Browning’s Freaks in many ways, the grotesque yet tender and sympathetic love triangle here is fast paced and well edited with intense twists and a great, revitalized score.  Sure, it may be a Leap of Faith in taking Chaney as armless and the carnival set-ups are hokey- but trust me.  There’s no over the top acting, only perfect expressions and emotions all around. Crawford looks dynamite, too, with great eyes and readable lips that don’t need inter titles. It’s not all Chaney’s footwork and bravo to his double Paul Desmuke; their combination is strangely delightful to watch. It’s probably a tough concept for some contemporary, effects-obsessed audiences to comprehend, but hearing or reading words aren’t required for the viewer to receive the trauma here.  Yes, some of the essential plot points are fairly obvious today. However, the performances keep it splendid nonetheless. This hour is by necessity of the silent style yet also very modern in its own way. It’s definitely a must see for classic fans, lovers of the cast, and film makers or would be actors- who should definitely take a lesson on the big reveal here!

 

Wolf Blood – This 1925 silent hour plus is the earliest remaining onscreen lycanthrope picture, complete with Canadian flavor, old fashioned logging, spooky forestry, railroads, and jealous love triangles to match the desperate titular transfusion and its would be consequences. A befitting green hue graces the outdoor scenes while standard black and white reflects the bleak interiors and golden tints accentuate the high society parties. The focus is blurry at times, the print understandably jumps, and the music is surprisingly loud. However, the rounded iris close ups add a dreamlike quality, and the vintage jazz tunes and period fashions are a real treat. If you’re looking for a time capsule logging documentary, this is it! Flirtations, camp injuries, company rivalries, drunken dangers, and medical debates give the first half of the picture a purely dramatic pace, but the wolfy fears, mob mentality, and deadly possibilities build in the latter half. Fantastic medicine, superstitious leaps, dreams of becoming the wolf – this isn’t a werewolf film as we know it but the key pieces are here. How fast people turn on you once you have wolf’s blood! The wolf footage is also quite nice, with what looks like real mixed wolf or husky dogs. No, there is no werewolf transformation and it’s all a bit of a fake out in that regard, but the community fears and early man versus beast melodrama is still fun to see.

Kbatz: Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe

Frightening Flix

Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe Surprisingly Good

Several months ago, I saw an interview with Cassandra Peterson-aka Elvira-discussing Tomb of Ligeia, one of her favorites in the American Pictures International’s Poe series by director Roger Corman. Unfortunately, for the life of me I couldn’t recall having seen this final adaptation starring Vincent Price. When the 1969 film came on out on a double billed DVD with An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe, I gave the set my full attention. Perhaps it’s not a total shocker since I like the rest of Corman’s Poe series, but Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe are surprisingly good.

Verden Fell (Price) vows that his late wife Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd) will defy death. He becomes reclusive and keeps away from sunlight with his dark colored glasses-until the beautiful Rowena (also Shepherd) erroneously comes to his ruined abbey. The couple falls in love, despite Rowena’s previous attachment to Verden’s friend Christopher (John Westbrook). They marry, but Rowena is ill at ease in Ligeia’s former home. Ligeia’s Egyptian antiques are everywhere; her spirit seems to linger over Verden during the night, and there’s a nasty black cat about that makes her displeasure known.

Director Roger Corman (House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum) takes a few departures from his earlier Poe films by brightening up Tomb of Ligeia with natural locations and a little more romance than usual. Adapted by Robert Towne (Shampoo, Chinatown, Tequila Sunrise) from Poe’s short story, the analysis of mind and will power over death itself weaves the film together with ancient Egyptian allusions and plenty of ambiguity towards black cats. Each plot resolves satisfactory, but Poe’s twists and Corman’s interpretations leave the viewing thinking longer than prior pure shock conclusions.

Even though this is the last of the Poe pictures, Vincent Price looks younger here. His Verden is a little more sympathetic than his earlier, often evil roles. Not only is Price not as over the top as we love, but he’s actually sad sometimes, even pathetic with his dependence on his little glasses. But of course, Tomb of Ligeia does have the bizarrity we’d expect, including some ambiguity about necrophilia. Ew! Thankfully, Price looks good with Elizabeth Shepherd (Bleak House, Side Effects, Damien: Omen II). Any age difference doesn’t seem to factor in; they match well, and have nice, genuine chemistry. The more romantic tone between Verden and Rowena isn’t so tough to believe amid the scares. Nice as it is to have the sweet emotion amid the creeps; Shepherd is freaky in the duel bits as Ligeia. It’s obvious it is she, of course, but the showdown with Ligeia and the dream sequence with the ladies are well done. John Westbrook’s (The First Churchills) Christopher is in the odd middleman position in this love triangle, but his outside, sane perspective helps the audience balance out some of the horrors.

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While not as stylized as its Poe predecessor The Masque of the Red Death, Tomb of Ligeia has some beautiful natural locals and production. There’s a hefty amount of daylight scenes here-and they all work in the spooky, gothic, Early Victorian setting. There are some great ruined abbeys, the English countryside, and even a romantic stroll through Stonehenge. You might think these pieces don’t go together, but the morbid set interiors match the abbey in gothic look and spooky tone. The Victorian costumes are also early in style, alluding to a bit of the Bronte Sisters, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. And of course, there’s a very disturbing classic Corman dream sequence that scares better than some of the stranger, more bizarre visual dream trickery previously done.

Side B of our set offers more Vincent Price in a one-man show called An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe. Price showcases four tales from Poe in various stage settings, beginning with “The Tell Tale Heart.” I imagine you’re familiar with the tale, and Price is delightfully over the top here. His crazed style suits the story. The production here looks a little low and bare, but theatre fans can certainly enjoy this spirited Poe dramatization. “The Sphinx” is actually a Poe story that’s new to me. Price changes his looks and time period for each tale, strengthening his suave approach to the audience. He is clearly enjoying the punch line here, and this tale is better dressed than “The Tell Tale Heart.” Some might think a one-man production is stale and boring, but swift camera movement keeps things fresh. Not the crazy angles and dizzying modern zooms, but there’s just enough cuts and close ups to create the illusions needed.

So, that’s how “The Cask of Amontillado” is pronounced! I was never quite sure. The older Price is made up even older here for this unusual interpretation. You’d expect to see this one played out, not in effect told as perhaps “The Tell-Tale Heart” can only be. Price, however, does the voices of both men involved, playing on the amusement of the story and the unreliable status of the narrator. The camera again moves with him, cutting from several sides and using duel tricks almost like Gollum and Smeagol in The Two Towers. It’s a simple maneuver, but it works with the very handsomely dressed dining room stage.

It’s strange that director Kenneth Johnson (V, Alien Nation) would do “The Pit and the Pendulum” here in 1972 when Roger Corman did the feature length film ten years earlier. Nevertheless, Price looks the old and crazy part. Each tale has progressed his age, the time period, and the story’s deceit. This short here is more abstract and dream like than Corman’s back story filled movie. The fire and brimstone effects in this Pit go for more frights rather than a Twilight Zone twist ending. You would think Vincent Price effectively reading books line for line onscreen would be boring, but no. The stories dramatized in these readings are all told in the past tense with Poe’s great unreliable narrator telling his askew interpretation to the audience. Even though it may look old or too theatre to modern audiences, An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is perfect for Vincent Price fans, film students, or literature teachers looking for a short and sweet visual accompaniment for the classroom.

The DVD set of Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is relatively simplistic, with only a commentary of Roger Corman and Elizabeth Shepherd. It’s a little slow in pacing, but fun and informative for the die-hard fan. The subtitles for Ligeia are great, too. Fans of the previous Poe pictures or sixties horror films can enjoy Tomb of Ligeia, but period piece and gothic fans should tune in, too. However, hardcore viewers looking for a blood fest and straight horror should skip these stylized tales. Likewise, I also don’t know about cat lovers enjoying Tomb of Ligeia. Feline folks will delight in the pesky cat scenarios, but cat enthusiasts won’t like some of the black cat bashing, either. Ah, it’s the beauty of Poe, something for everyone!

Nocturna Review

Nocturna Trailer

Starring Mike Doyle, Estella Warren, Danny Agha, Billy Blair and Jonathan Schaech

Written & Directed by Buz Alexander

Nocturna (2015)“Two New Orleans detectives become embroiled in a centuries-long feud between two secretive factions of vampires while investigating a runaway child’s case. Torn between the everyday lives and the dangerous lure of immortality, the detectives must race to destroy the evil Moldero clan” via IMDb.

This movie didn’t come out of the big film companies pockets, so don’t expect crazy special FX. I have to come out and be honest, I didn’t even care. The storyline of Nocturna is solid and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I also have to say I’m a huge fan of Billy Blair’s, and he did not disappoint in his portrayal of M

auricio Maldero. He was born to play a vampire. Hands down.  I wasn’t crazy about the Vampire Queen (Estella Warren) as the character seemed a bit too much like Harley Quinn. (Sorry guys, there’s only one Harley)

This is definitely one for you guys to add to your list, and I highly recommend it!

5 Skulls out of 5

Kbatz: Price and Poe Double Feature!

The Masque of The Red Death and The Premature Burial Make for a Spooky, Smart Double Feature

By Kristin Battestella

In my never-ending search for quality horror, I often turn to the classics. I was pleased to find that two of my favorites The Masque of Red Death and The Premature Burial were available on one DVD. Corman, Poe, Price- Horror Heaven!

Ruthless and satanic Prince Prospero (Price) takes crops from the local villages and burns those carrying the dreaded Red Death plague. He abducts the lovely, devout peasant girl Francesca (Jane Asher) and takes her back to his castle. Other nobles are also gathering at the castle under Prospero’s offer to wait out the Red Death with evenings of pleasure, masquerades, and debauchery. Part of his entertainment includes the diminutive Hop Toad (Skip Martin, Circus of Fear) and his little ballerina Esmeralda (Verina Greenlaw, The Six Wives of Henry VIII), but Prospero’s satanic mistress Juliana (Hazel Court) has no time for dances or Francesca-as she is preparing to become a bride of Satan. These demonic delights are all going to Prospero’s plans-until the Red Death incarnate crashes his decadent party.

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As you can tell, I’ve seen my share of spooky flicks and Price pictures. Perhaps not as well known today, The Masque of The Red Death is my favorite of the Poe series from director Roger Corman. This 1964 treat has all the big budget looks one could ask for. It’s gothic, dark, demonic-yet the candle light, colors, and castle sets are a real treat. The costumes look perfectly medieval-the men as well as the ladies. I could say The Masque of The Red Death is a costumed, epic spectacle if not for the macabre subject matter.

Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone) and R. Wright Campbell (Man of a Thousand Faces) skillfully weave Poe’s tale of disease, death, and comeuppance with a touch from his lesser know ‘Hop-Frog’ tale and create a charming and yet dreadfully spooky movie. Poe is well known for his obsessions with death and burial, but the core of The Masque of The Red Death is unique. These prideful and gluttonous subjects fear death, sure-but that doesn’t stop their cruel and deceitful, devilish ways. Religion is only touched upon briefly, but the iconic notion of Death itself entering among the naughty and taking its tally strikes the audience on multiple levels. Do we really see Death when we are so close to it? Do we all walk such a finite yet intimate line with disease and punishment? Visually desensitizing, slash and sex and gore, modern horror can’t compare with Corman’s visual interpretations of Poe.

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I know Vincent Price has a reputation for being over the top-as in The Pit and the Pendulum for example; but he’s relatively suave and subdued here. We’ve seen him in many periods and styles, but the outlandish hats, plumes, and color still look good on Price. He doesn’t seem out of place amid demonic castles and masked parties. We believe his Prospero is kinky, vicious, and deadly-but we’re awed when Death comes along and steals the show. Perhaps Price has more famous roles; but for my money, he is his best here. Likewise, Vincent’s vixens look devilishly good. Horror queen Hazel Court (The Curse of Frankenstein) shows her bosom and her satanic ways with a bizarre mix of charm and grace. We shouldn’t like the dark lady doing nasty rituals and marrying the devil, but Court’s beauty and ethereal style are delightful. Not to be outdone, angelic ex-Paul McCartney flame Jane Asher (Alfie, Crossroads) rivals Court with her white gowns and youthful devotion. We want her to keep her innocent naiveté, but we also don’t expect her righteousness to win out.

The Masque of The Red Death is a rarity in horror pictures because it achieves serious social commentary about the corrupt aristocracy, death, and how the evil get their due- all this along with plenty of scares and onscreen mayhem. Some might be offend by the devilish imagery, but horror fans and classic enthusiasts need to love this macabre, yet idealistic picture. Of course, 1962’s The Premature Burial is by no means merely the back end of a double bill. Technicalities at American International Pictures unfortunately leave us without our regular Poe man Vincent Price, and I think The Premature Burial is a little unloved because of this. However, Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell (The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) again craft an intellectual analysis from Poe’s tale of death and fear.

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Guy Carrell (Ray Milland) fears his family history of catalepsy and builds a complex and technological tomb to prevent himself from being buried alive. His wife Emily (Hazel Court) and sister Kate (Heather Angel, Suspicion) disagree in how to support Guy’s fears, yet stop his building obsessions. Guy turns away from his involved tomb so Emily won’t leave him, but death and family history soon catch up to him.

More than a fine, if surprising, substitute, Oscar winner Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend, Markham, It Happens Every Spring) is delightful as the intelligent Victorian gentleman who becomes obsessed with being buried alive. His extreme, exhaustive precautions are understandable, logical, and well thought out; but somehow, we still know this is all askew, maniacal, and preposterous. Milland is quieter than Price, never quite boiling over as we expect him to. In away, his buttoned performance is bound, trapped inside the coffin Guy so desperately fears.

 

Once again, Hazel Court is lovely and charming as Guy’s ambiguous wife Emily. We believe she cares for Guy’s state of mind-and yet she’s too lovely and youthful to put up with his deadly ideas, isn’t she? The Premature Burial gives us more exceptional dresses-but this time we are bespectacled with hefty hoop skirts and Victorian delicacies. Though black and white, Corman gives us a fine production of mood and atmosphere. We don’t often see such proper costumes in a low-end horror picture, but all the creepy graveyards, fog, smoke, and mirrors make their presence known, too.

The Premature Burial is again a picture that might not be fore everyone. It’s slow, deliberate examination of death might be frustrating and too close to home for some. Even though we’re beyond the days of rampant plagues erroneously burying people alive and Victorian occultists trying to cheat death, this is still an understandable, real fear not so far removed from society’s psyche. Both The Masque of the Red Death and The Premature Burial serve up a fine cast, intelligent scripting, period piece atmospheres, and plenty of spooks. These flicks have plenty of old time scares, but nothing majorly offensive- unlike today’s sex and slash flicks.

 

The dual DVD of The Masque of the Red Death and The Premature Burial is affordable enough, but again a little old and a pain to flip. Thankfully, we’re treated to a few nice conversations with Roger Corman chatting about this pair of Poe pictures. Horror enthusiasts and classic film fans should adore these two complex, scary tales each and every year.

Kbatz: Maleficent

malMaleficent Flawed but Still Entertaining.

By Kristin Battestella

Wonder gal Angelina Jolie returned to cinema screens for the 2014 Disney hit Maleficent. Though marred in its mix of youth marketing and bleak fantasy, the tale here remains a charming good time.

Once a happy fairy protector of The Moors, the angry Maleficent (Jolie) threatens the nearby kingdom of former friend King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) and curses his newborn daughter to eternal sleep by pricking her finger on a spinning wheel on her sixteenth birthday. Raised in seclusion by the bumbling fairies Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Thistlewit (Juno Temple), and Flittle (Lesley Manville), the Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) grows curious about The Moors and soon strikes up an unusual friendship with Maleficent – who Aurora views as her fairy godmother. Does Maleficent want to revoke her curse upon the princess? Can she or will the battle with King Stefan destroy his kingdom and The Moors?

 

Though most of the previews spent their time showing Maleficent’s live action recreation of Disney’s 1959 cartoon classic, the first half hour here is new back story with a pleasing mythos of fairies living in The Moors beside the real world, iron’s fairy burning properties, and star crossed romance between humans and magical folk. As expected, Maleficent starts out juvenile with the introduction of the titular young fairy but grows up quickly thanks to some scary tree monsters. Several elements here are really not for kids – especially a very upsetting and symbolic wing cutting that will be tough for some young ones to comprehend. The absent narrator does create a pleasant story telling aspect, but seemingly critical drama concerning the ambitious King Stefan is merely told in this shoehorned 90 minutes. Debut director Robert Stromberg (designer for Avatar and Oz the Great and Powerful) is obviously a visualist and not quite a storyteller, for the expected curse comes too soon in a film that’s supposed to be about Maleficent and not Aurora – she knows were the baby is all along, but goes back and forth in her vengeance in haphazard, rewritten, and excised plot from longtime Disney writer Linda Woolverton (The Lion King).

Purely whimsical fairy fan service moments trump the potential for serious character development, and Maleficent never decides if it’s the grim story behind Sleeping Beauty or an excuse for a live action spectacle. Maleficent laughs and plays tricks one moment before waging fiery, thorny war the next, unevenly mashing the two themes while speedy soap opera rapid aging syndrome scenes gloss over how a lot of elements don’t make much sense. Who and where traversings are unclear as the narration comes and goes and fresh motifs or any and all of Maleficent’s cool powers are forgotten or contrived as needed. Maybe kids can enjoy the pointless mystical special effects stringing Maleficent together, but this seemingly abridged retelling should have chosen to be all youth merriment or total sentimental sophistication. There are some fine visuals and charming characters here, but Disney settled for mass delight instead of a truly complete fairy tale. With this kind of pedigree, performance, and talent, it’s not unreasonable for mature audiences to expect a story well told.
Fortunately, Maleficent is an alluring Vader that we love to hate, hate to love, and love to see come round good again, and Oscar winner Angelina Jolie’s (Girl, Interrupted) fun performance anchors the picture and forgives any faulty foundations. Although we never get an explanation of how her name could still be Maleficent even when she was a good and happy fairy child, a jilting and betrayal makes this revised fairy protector immediately sympathetic rather than villainous. The off screen clipping of her wings is certainly traumatizing and symbolic in many ways with well done strength and weakness from Jolie. The simple but touching creation of her staff and her isolated, destroyed abode provide menace whilst hiding her pain. Though bemusing, the superb transformation of Sam Riley (Brighton Rock) as her crow Diaval also provides companionship and an emotional sounding board. Maleficent has always been my favorite Disney villain, for she neither sings nor plays at humor and stupidity. Maybe she overreacts to not getting an invitation in the cartoon edition, but in Maleficent, we know the horrible reason why. It’s simply gleeful to see Jolie recite the same lines from the original with live action perfection and chew on the conflicting possibilities– her entrances, dark costuming, and chiseled design are simply delish. Yes, the uneven writing and direction hampers what should have been a steady hour and a half of character journey. Some developments were clearly not so well though out beyond the Disney textbook happy. The back and forth change of heart from scene to scene cuts the enraged layers off at the knees and at times makes Maleficent feel like a cliché woman scorned. Why does this skilled trickster needlessly bide her time and wage war while being charmed by a child? Maleficent isn’t all bad or totally pure yet most of the frightful, grey complexity feels left on the cutting room floor. Thankfully, Jolie captures both her previously macabre style and good-hearted maternal ways as Maleficent. If she truly is exiting her acting career, Maleficent sends her out on a show stopping high note.

Though largely pleasant in her innocence as Aurora, Elle Fanning (We Bought a Zoo) is also slightly annoying in her bright and bushy excitement over her so-called fairy godmother Maleficent. Due to the piecemeal dialogue, magical narration, and time jumps snippets, we don’t get a chance to fully know Aurora, and no real motivations seems to dictate her hanging with Maleficent and the whole fairy gang. The audience can’t appreciate her parental revelation or cursly betrayals because the haste to the spinning wheel never gives us time to digest her side of the tale. Granted, Maleficent is about Maleficent, but the pricking of the finger was more suspenseful and dramatic in the 1959 animation and Aurora has very little weight as a catalyst supporting part. The writers feel stuck with the character and she isn’t treated as anything that special – even to Maleficent half of the time. Is she the daughter that Maleficent should have had with King Stefan? Groundbreaking potential here is either vaguely tacked on or missed completely – again thanks to the over reliance on slow motion pans, zooms, and battles over conversation.

Wonderfully absentminded fairies turned clueless old ladies Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter), Juno Temple (Atonement), and Lesley Manville (Another Year) should have been the only amusing, whimsical, comedy relief in Maleficent. Unfortunately, it feels like Knotgrass, Thistlewit, and Flittle are barely there, shoehorned in to be upset about Aurora eventually leaving or unhappy at their sacrificing in a forested hovel as needed. Outside of a few brief scenes, we never really see either displeasure – Maleficent seems to cut away almost as if fanciful song and dance numbers have been excised after the fact. A film named after the misunderstood anti-hero should not feel like it is about to burst into song. Likewise, further dimension from Sharlto Copley (District 9) as King Stefan seems diminished in the editing room – another opportunity for a superior character reversal wasted in Maleficent. Stefan grows deservedly crazy over his cruel ambitions, and without Disney at the helm, this corrupt king could have been shaped into a superb villain equal to Maleficent in full on, historical creepy fashion ala Snow White: A Tale of Terror. Adding to the male inferiority is Brenton Thwaites (Gods of Egypt) as a rather dorky and I dare say unnecessary Prince Philip. Sam Riley’s Diaval ingenius should have been fully realized instead, but most of the support seems to be written as if serviceable would suffice. Maleficent is without a doubt Jolie’s vehicle to carry, but with the right polish, the ready and waiting ensemble could have done much more to define the film.

Maleficent is of course overly steeped in computer imagery. It’s supposed to look awe inspiring – and some of the world is unique to the Sleeping Beauty designs – but the majority of the visual effects look like every other standard CGI treatment we now all but continuously see in most blockbusters. Magic trees defending against anonymous knight armies make for tough to see blurry action and a lot of in your face messy. Thankfully, picturesque flying scenery, mystical smoke, magic thorns, and flame effects accent the naturally designed Moors and medieval castle works. It’s a little frustrating that even would be plain scenes of nothing more than people talking have an obvious fantasy patina and airbrushed saturation to them, but princessy costumes and hennins make for more tangible, recognizable storybook aspects alongside golden cottages and winterscapes. The green glow of Maleficent’s powers also illume Jolie’s face in several scenes and create a beautiful and intimidating harkening to the cartoon vintage. If nothing else, Maleficent is a colorful picture that still has a cool dragon and a superb update of “Once Upon a Dream” from Lana Del Rey. However, I do wish the movie had used the new rendition’s sense of stalker brood as a Tchaikovsky anchor or humming familiarity to unify the picture instead of just sticking the single over the end credits.

Naturally, the rental blu-ray of Maleficent is ridiculously laden with Disney in your face complete with internationally designed menus for mass distribution and abundant previews of every Disney property imaginable. What the heck will Disney call their releases once Diamond and Platinum are insufficient? Fortunately, the features seem to be intact with almost a half hour of behind the scenes and a handful of deleted scenes that should have remained within Maleficent to clarify character circumstances. Today, however, this small sampling of add ons doesn’t feel like enough, and ironically, Maleficent appears to have clipped its own wings in telling a fully realized tale from the villainous side in favor of the tried and true Disney quest for maximum money making mainstream safety. Did it succeed in rolling in global dough? Of course. Maleficent didn’t have to be super dark and scary, but it should have been more defined in what it wanted to do – haters may be scratching their heads over some of the direct to video caliber prequel haphazards here. I may be biased as it is my favorite and Maleficent is fun and fanciful with laughing moments for the kids and adult tolerability – but ultimately, the 1959 classic feels like a more satisfying tale. Will there be a two hour Director’s Cut of Maleficent any time soon?

There are some scares and violence in Maleficent that might upset little ones, but I don’t think it is worthy of the “dark fantasy” label it has received. Intriguing character strides and mythos changes remain too sunshiny, but fans of the cast, fantasy audiences, and fanciful ladies of all ages can overlook the uneven writing and directing flaws thanks to good to be bad twists and delightful performances.

 

Movie Review: The Guest

image used from IMBDMovie Review – The Guest (2014) HanWay Films, Snoot Entertainment
Starring: Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe

The Peterson family is heartbroken and dealing with the loss of their son/brother who served in the military. When an unexpected man shows up and claims to be one of his close friends, there is some tension when the mother invites him to stay in the family’s home. There’s something off about this visitor..but what is it?

First, let me go into the soundtrack. The music used in this movie alone deserves 5 skulls. Hands down. I purchased it as soon as the movie ended.

The movie itself I’m giving 4 skulls. It was somewhat predictable and that’s the only reason I deducted from the five but otherwise, this movie had everything. And if you’re a fan of 90’s type, thriller movies? This will satisfy that itch that only us other 90’s thriller fan types will understand.

Dan Stevens, who plays “David” had this role down and the chemistry between him and the angsty teen sister was honed in and on target. I don’t want to give too much away about the movie, just add it to your “to be watched” list and do it! This is a definite must-see.

For not having one of the “powerhouse” names in either cast or production, this movie stuck it to them and ended up being in my “purchased” and not just “rented” collection.

What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

HorrorAddicts.net 120, Chantal Noordeloos

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Horror Addicts Episode# 120

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

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chantal noordeloos | madalice | found footage

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Kbatz: The Witches

  horrorpedia.com

The Witches a Creepy and Darling Family Caper

By Kristin Battestella

 

Honestly, I think it was three months before The Witches was finally off wait in my Netflix queue.  When the DVD finally did arrive, I was once again able to enjoy this fine 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s spooky, fun, and family friendly take on our titular dames.

After his parents’ sudden death, young Luke Evishim (Jasen Fisher) and his grandmother Helga (Mai Zetterling) move to England.  To help with Helga’s health, the pair takes a seaside vacation in Cornwall.  Helga warns Luke to be weary of witches-who are in fact not the stuff of pointy hats and broomsticks.  These cruel witches are led by the Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston), are thoroughly organized throughout the world-and they seek to rid the world of smelly little children.  Unfortunately for the Evishims, the witches in disguise are holding a conference at their hotel, and the Grand High Witch plots to turn all children into rats thanks to her new potion ‘Formula 86’.  After overhearing the witches’ plans, Luke and another boy at the hotel, Bruno (Charlie Potter), are indeed turned into mice.  With Helga’s help, however, they devise a plan to stop the Grand High Witch and save all the children in England from her wrath.

 

Director Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth) and his oft screenwriter Allan Scott (The Spiral Staircase) keep all the charm, comedy, and scares of Dahl’s story.  Despite being beloved by children and adults alike, Dahl’s books are, you must admit, a little weird.  However, the built-in creepiness and lessons learned in The Witches adds to the onscreen entertainment.  Part of the film is indeed frightening; especially in our witches’ ruthless pursuits of kids, for the real life disturbances of such child predators need no creepy gloss-over. Audiences may actually speculate whether The Witches is actually a kids’ film, as there’s some darker imagery that adults will certainly find disturbingly entertaining.   Nevertheless, the grotesque comedy moments, suspenseful action, and dangerous chase scenes do a wonderful job of keeping fantasy fun in The Witches.  

Despite the ugly evilness of these bald, square footed witches; Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family, Prizzi’s Honor, The Grifters) is excellent and even devilishly likeable as the Grand High Witch Miss Eva Ernst.  She’s sexy, exotic, foreign, and strangely threatening and appealing all at the same time.  Despite being under heavy makeup and prosthetics when in her true witch’s form, Huston’s physical touches and subtle movements heighten her cold-hearted, witchy ruthlessness.  We fear for The Grand High Witch’s intentions but no less respect her horrible thought and skill at the same time.  Huston is just that slick. Jane Horrocks (Absolutely Fabulous) is wonderfully uppity as Eva’s secretary witch Miss Irvine, too. Then again, controversial aristocrat and Warhol compatriot Ann Lambton (Soul Man, Love is the Devil) is utterly disturbing when trying to lure young Luke from his tree house. We are slightly aware of the witches’ identities thanks to the hints in style- though fashionable, something is always slightly off, askew, or disturbing in their wigs, accents, and gloves. Even so, we are joyfully shocked and dismayed at seeing the true colors of The Witches all the sameIt’s all in good fun whilst so full of cinematic chills.  I Love it! The fact that the witchy extras are actually grossly made up men makes the creepy even better!

 

Mr. Bean fans will also enjoy a funny and grumbling performance by Rowan Atkinson as the flaky hotel manager Mr. Stringer.  Sukie Smith (Peak Practice) is also a lot of fun as Marlene, a pretty hotel maid and Stringer’s lady foil.  The wit of the unbeknowing hotel support against the horrid witches and likeable families works well.  Jasen Fisher (Parenthood, Hook) is totally cute as little Luke Eveshim, and his voice work for the mouse puppets is so dang adorable that you can’t help but almost see his little face in the mouse!  Likewise, Charlie Potter (who seems so familiar from repeat viewings here but hasn’t appeared in anything else!) is great fun as his pudgy pal Bruno Jenkins.  I just love the way he says ‘chocolates’ with his little kid British accent! Brenda Blethyn (A River Runs Through It) and Bill Paterson (Law and Order: UK) are also fun as Bruno’s clueless parents.  Mai Zetterling (My Wife and I) is delightfully hippie-esque, loving, and wise as Grandma Helga.  She’s on the boys’ side always and knows how to keep away from witches.  However, I’m always left with a funny feeling about her, too- like the old ‘say no the Grandpa Joe’ from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory’s film height.  Luke wouldn’t be in all this trouble if Helga hadn’t gone poking around witches and telling scary stories of kids trapped in paintings. It’s so sad that The Witches was Zetterling’s second to last film, but what a charmer by which to remember her!

Yes, The Witches is old to youngin’ CGI-obsessed standards, but the effects still look a-okay.  The make-up styles and fashions perhaps are too eighties, yes; but the witch prosthetics and animatronics overseen by the Jim Henson Production Company all look great.  The decoration and graphics make the fantasy believable, but performance and subtly promote the story more.  The simple and eerie purple eyes of the witches are just downright freaky. Thankfully, the mice work is adorable as well. There’s plenty of the real thing for those squeamish folks, but it’s cute all the same. Cramped camera angles from the mouse’s perspective, scary zooms on the witches, and askew, angled points of view from the creepy gals also get the simple tricks of the trade right. Likewise, the music from Stanley Myers (The Deer Hunter) is innocent when need be and dangerous at times, too.  I also have to say, the tunnels and toys, mice mazes, and tiny playthings are also a lot of fun, and the seaside locations at the Headland Hotel are wonderful.

 

Of course, the DVD of The Witches is at best very tough to find and at worst downright elusive.  It’s merely a bare bones full screen set with no subtitles anyway.  Various editions and Region sets have been about, but a proper restoration of The Witches is long overdue.  Truly, a proper video release should come before any of this new sacrilegious remake drivel.  Today, a film like The Witches can’t –or simply wouldn’t be made with the basics of effects and focus of charm and performance.  We simply must have blue screen witches and teenage hotties in peril. I protest!  It’s amazing to think of something made in 1990 as old, but compared to the likes of Harry Potter, The Witches is perhaps out of fashion for some viewers. Having said that, family audiences can enjoy The Witches again and again.  Some of the witchy imagery and youthful scares may indeed be too frightening for super young viewers, but the happy ending and magical joy here overcomes any scares.  Instead of fantastical graphics and modern fantasy fodder, remember The Witches and have some fun, spooky, family food for thought enjoyment as soon as you can get your greedy little hands on this one!

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