Tag Archives: scream

Failed Critics Podcast: The Crimson Halloween Beasts

beasts-no-nation-release-date-idris-elba

All of you that have never listened before and have seen your family die [from laughing], huh, you now have something that stands for you! That would be the Failed Critics Podcast: Halloween special.

OK, so it is a couple of weeks early, but think of all that extra time we’ve given you to source the incredible horror movies from a whole host of different decades that we discuss during our spooktacular (urrgghhhh sorry) triple bill. With picks by hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes, and guests Carole Petts and Phil Sharman, there’s plenty for you sink your fangs into (aahhhhhh sorry sorry sorry).

Before all that, we begin as we always do – with a quiz! Steve is in control of the questions and still 2-1 up after last week’s disaster (get it?) leaving Owen teetering on the edge of being handed a potentially diabolical booby prize should he be unable to prevent a joint Carole and Phil triumph. Perhaps regardless of whatever film might await either Owen or Steve, nothing could truly be more distressing than the news that a Die Hard prequel has gone into production. Still, at least there’s the London Film Festival round-up and Godzilla vs King Kong news to discuss, eh?

We even found time to sneak in a couple of new releases alongside our main triple bill feature. With reviews of Guilermo Del Toro’s latest visual gothic tale in Crimson Peak, and the very first Netflix original movie, Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, there was plenty to talk about in this week’s episode.

Join us again next week for DE NE- NEEERRRR, DE NE- NERRRR, DE, DE NER NER NERRRR… 007 is back for his longest outing yet with the release of SPECTRE.

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The Legacy of Wes Craven

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

I like scary movies. As such, along with the majority of other like-minded individuals, I too would consider myself a fan of the legendary film director, writer, producer and actor, Wes Craven, who earlier today it was announced had sadly passed away. Back in June this year, when the news about Sir Christopher Lee‘s passing broke, we put together an article celebrating the great man’s work. Similarly, it would feel very remiss of me to not do the same for Wes, one of the most influential genre directors of our time.

With almost 30 directing credits to his name and a number of titles that his contemporaries often state that they wish they had made, a man who is adored by his legions of fans, today is truly a sad day for horror film watchers everywhere. His twisted sense of humour and ability to reinvigorate a whole sub-genre proved he was a visionary well ahead of his time. His skill and passion is what makes his films still scary to this day.

But before you go to sleep tonight and see him in your dreams, or try to work out which of your friends is responsible for his death and has hidden his body in the boot of their car, I’m going to run through five of his films in no particular that everybody should see, staring with…


A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

nightmare on elm streetYou’re all quite rightly expecting it to be on the list, so let’s get this one down and then move on. I love A Nightmare on Elm Street. The whole ninety minutes are exactly what a film like this should be; imaginative (especially with its creative death scenes and tonally dark concept), perfect characters for its story, with a few surprisingly decent performances too. Freddy Krueger is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable horror characters invented. Even when he hasn’t got to do much but extend his arms and scrape his glove along a wall, thanks to the way Craven depicts and shoots him, the atmosphere is so tense you could cut it with a bladed-finger. The nightmarish dream-like aura that Craven captured is amazing to behold and helps establish Kreuger as this brilliantly menacing villain. Even though the sequels became increasingly goofy and lame as they went on, Craven’s original can still be taken in isolation as a solid, bold and visually exciting horror. It’s quite possibly the greatest supernatural slasher film ever made and my personal favourite of his.

 


The Last House on the Left (1972)

last house on the leftOppositely to A Nightmare on Elm Street, the first feature film that Craven directed back in 1972 is the one film of his I truly despise. Its characters are appalling, unpleasant and horrific individuals who rape a couple of girls and torture a family. I found it more than a little misogynistic, with some truly terrible performances from the cast. However, it did cost peanuts to make, was primarily set to appeal to the exploitation crowd and that’s exactly what it achieved, grossing nearly $3m from a very modest $87k budget. Whilst audiences mature and tastes change – what was once considered frightening is perhaps diluted these days by the torture porn and high levels of graphic detail found in similarly low budget horrors – the fact that The Last House on the Left can still make you sick to the pit of your stomach is perhaps an indicator of just how talented he was at his craft. Craven knew how to make something that would have a lasting effect; it’s an exploitative, disgusting revenge thriller that has no moral compass. So, whilst I hate this movie (slightly less than its remake) it is a good example of how his keenly aware intelligence as a film maker set him in good stead for the rest of his career. And after all, it’s only a movie…


The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

hills have eyseBelieve me, I was tempted to include The Hills Have Eyes Part II in this list purely for the scene where a dog has a flashback (yep, that’s a real thing and another example of Craven’s sense of humour) but truth be told, it’s an utter shambles of a film that Wes tried to disown. I’m also ashamed to admit that when I initially sat down to watch – and subsequently enjoyed – the 2006 version of The Hills Have Eyes, I had no idea it was a remake, let alone of a stone cold classic. OK, maybe that’s exaggerating its reputation slightly! Cult classic, perhaps. But Craven’s hill-billy-horror, about a bunch of ugly, deformed, incestuous cannibals preying on some unwitting souls whose caravan happens to have broken down in their patch of the desert, is still an entertainingly gruesome exploitation horror with a touch more nuance than in Craven’s previous outings. Released five years after The Last House on the Left, it’s got all the markings of a more confident and experienced director having much more fun this time around. It’s an over-the-top, slightly camp, grim and gory movie that shows off Craven’s flair for the dramatic.


Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

new nightmareTwo years before Scream, Craven had a stab (excuse the pun) at the meta-slasher when he returned to the New Line Cinema franchise and the monster that he created ten years prior, way back in 1984. Although New Nightmare is technically not considered canon (i.e. a part of the existing timeline), it revels in its freedom to mock and modernise a rapidly failing series that lost touch with Craven’s original vision. With a vicious metal-claw-gloved slap across the face of those who went before him, Craven re-invented the character of Freddy Krueger, the child-molesting nightmare-invading demonic-killer back from beyond the grave. No longer was Krueger a creation portrayed by Robert Englund, but he became real entity, terrorising the actors from A Nightmare on Elm Street including ol’ Wes, who starred in New Nightmare as himself! Most crucially of all, he brought the horror back into the series, something that the garbage that was Freddy’s Dead forgot to do entirely. It may have had a similar level of awareness to Scream, but it took Craven another couple of years to really perfect the technique so expertly.


Scream (1996)

screamI would wager that almost everybody has at some point in their life been affected by one of Wes Craven’s movies. I can remember being at school when Scream came out. I was 10 years old in 1996. Such was its notoriety that even though I didn’t see it personally until a couple of years later, I was still aware of Ghostface. The mask was iconic and (from what I remember) was what every kid around our way wore for Halloween the following year. I eventually watched it on VHS a couple of years later at a mate’s house and can still remember us both being a bit giddy with excitement. We used to watch all kinds of dodgy horror movies back then after school (or on …extended… lunch breaks); Witchboard, I Know What You Did Last Summer, It, The Exorcist, Dawn of the Dead and of course A Nightmare on Elm Street. Although the call-backs and nods-to other slasher films flew right over my head back then, re-watching it for the first time as an adult back in 2012, it was like watching a whole new film. There are plenty of references dotted throughout to keep supplying that thrilling feeling whenever you spot a new one. The opening scene with Drew Barrymore alone in the house, being threatened by a stranger in a mask, is simply an outstanding opening to a movie and sets the tone early on. It’s just a fun, incredibly clever and always entertaining horror movie made by a horror movie fan for horror movie fans. We will miss Wes Craven like we’d miss any of our own.

A Decade In Horror: Halloween Special – The Nineties

It’s October! The leaves on the trees are turning brown, it’s getting darker earlier in the evening and folks are rummaging through their DVD collections, looking for their favourite horror films to watch in time for Halloween. As such, every week this month will see us expand on our Decade In Film series with a spin off article focussing on five horror films from the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties and the noughties! The format will be much the same as our regular series, but with a slight twist.

Hey, dudes! It’s time for our 90’s article. It’s sooo going to suck…….. NOT! Radical dudes Andrew, Liam, MikeOwen and Paul are back to, like, give us a run-down of their totally awesome favourite horror movies of the bitchin’ 1990’s, man! Super sweet. If you have a problem with that, well I guess you better talk to the hand ’cause the face ain’t listenin’!

The nineties is the decade that took a leaf out of the previous 10 years’ book and decided to adopt the motto: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again with endless, repetitive, increasingly lame, decreasingly budgeted slashers. But it wasn’t all bad; there are at least five great films released and nothing Michael Haneke has to say about them will make us change our minds!

Towards the beginning of the decade, there was a commercial boom in the genre. The success of Joe Dante’s horror-comedy Gremlins meant a sequel went into production. Disney rode the wave with Arachnophobia released in the same year. Meanwhile, Tim Curry in Stephen King’s IT would become responsible for more cases of coulrophobia than John Wayne Gacy. Of course, The Silence of the Lambs was also a huge success; one of only three films to ever win five Oscars (sorry, it’s impossible to mention Jonathan Demme’s film without including that little bit of trivia at the end).

Despite the moderate success of a few cult movies like Cube, Cemetary Man and Event Horizon in the middle of the decade (and the success of one particular game-changer that we’ll come onto later), it wasn’t until later on in the 90s that horror films collectively upped their calibre. Part of this is down to the international market – and I don’t mean Peter Jackson! Despite the likes of Argento and Fulci in the 70’s and 80’s, world cinema had never truly penetrated the relatively mainstream horror conscious. However, J-horror (as it affectionately became known towards the end of the decade) did with such titles as Ringu (actually released primarily on VHS back then, would you believe), Ju-on (aka The Grudge) and Takeshi Mike’s Audition – not to mention one or two others, ahem. They forced the US market to change tact leading into the new millennium. Well, that and to remake as many of them as possible into the English language. Audiences woke up to what could be achieved and demanded more. But we’ll come onto that next week. Let’s start our reviews in chronological order, as always, and go back at the beginning of the decade with…


Candyman (1992)

candymanThey will say that I have shed innocent blood. What’s blood for, if not for shedding?

The 90’s was a strange decade for horror; trying to get away from the slash and dice of the 80’s, horror film makers looked for a more intelligent premise to their films, rather than some mad man running round cutting everyone to pieces. That said, one of my favourite films from this period is Candyman, a film with a resounding 80’s slasher feel to it, though with a much more adult tone, there are no teenagers getting sliced and diced in this film.

An urban legend shrouding the Cabrini-Green housing development in fear. Candyman is a supernatural killer summoned if you say his name five times into the mirror. He takes the lives of his victims by slicing them open with a hook, which has replaced his hand taken when he was murdered. Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is researching the legend and bringing the killer back to life, when she says his name… five times. Candyman (Tony Todd) returns to continue his reign of terror and predicts Helen will continue his legend once he is dead.
Bernard Rose directs his own screenplay from the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker, with Barker attached as a Producer on the film. There is a constant feel of despair and dread as Rose delivers a screenplay which is dark and sinister. With some wonderful cinematography by Anthony B. Richmond adding a visual bleakness to the story, as he gives the housing estate a real nightmare feel. Candyman really does has some impressive production values. Phillip Glass provides a great score, while the gore effects and the scene with the “real” bees are all excellent.

Add to that an impressive cast as well; Virginia Madsen is superb, with solid support from Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons and Vanessa Williams. Yet it is Tony Todd with his truly frightening and brilliant portrayal of the Candyman which must put him up there with the likes of Freddy, Jason or Pinhead as one of our greatest horror icons. With Todd’s performance and the films great production values it makes this one of the finest horror films of the 90’s; definitely one of my favourites.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)


Body Snatchers (1993)

body snatchersWe’ll give ’em hell, Malone! We’ll show ’em what the human race is really made of!

Ah the 90’s. I thought this would be really tricky and so it was. A smorgasbord of mediocrity, spewed out across the decade. My DVD shelf confirming my fear as the few horror tiles I did buy, skulking and cowering in the shadows, fearing a trip to a boot fair. I was going to choose The Faculty, but that’s basically just Body Snatchers — wait… Body Snatchers…!

1956 version, that was great, loved it as a kid, 1978 was good too (but it’s really slow and Sutherland doing the scary scream only arrives at the end), 1993 and Abel Ferrara serves up a glossier, faster, louder and smarter version. You’ll remember it for Gabrielle Anwar falling asleep in the bath but that’s not why we’re here. Meg Tilly, she’s creepy. I mean really creepy. In all the versions of this story, her performance is the most unsettling. “Where you gonna go? Where you gonna run? Where you gonna hide? Nowhere…….cause there’s no one like you left!”

by Paul Field (@pafster)


Scream (1996)

screamNow you’ve gotta die. Those are the rules!

“The 90’s sucked!” – Randy “The Ram” Robinson
And they really did. A flurry of b-movie guff and untold cash-in sequels diluted the waters so well populated back in the 80’s. Great horror movies were so few and far between that finding my favourite was less of a choice and more of a “there is only one answer” kind of decision.

Luckily, I don’t have to waste words on Scream‘s story and plot. It’s a satirised, high school slasher flick. Simple as that. A killer with a fondness for horror trivia decides that his time is better spent killing teenagers than, I don’t know, being the movie guy on a pub quiz team or taking his knowledge and hoping for a good subject on Pointless.

What makes Scream stand out, instead of its story, is its brains. Wrapped up in this generic looking slasher is a tremendously clever film. With Wes Craven at the helm, we got a movie that doesn’t shy away from satirising the genre that made its director famous. Written by rookie scribe Kevin Williamson, who expertly assembled a script with Naked Gun levels of self-awareness minus the silliness. Together they made a film who’s every scene is not only packed full of the genre’s tropes, but actively points them out to the audience.

Scream is a masterclass in horror from one of the best in the business. In the space of 111 minutes, Craven manages to introduce another icon to the horror movie Rogues Gallery in the form of Ghostface; he deconstructs, explains and then proceeds to break every horror movie rule that he helped create; and he revitalised the slasher film. All while wearing a Freddy Kruger jumper and without insulting the audience’s intelligence.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)


Cure (1997)

cureThis Japanese psychological thriller is one of the most engrossing and deeply chilling films of the entire genre.
A string of murders all share the same strange traits, a distinctive mark left on the body and the murderer is still nearby but unable explain their actions.

The story follows Detective Takabe as he tries to understand why these crimes are happening and just how a young drifter named Mamiya is connected to them. Police know that he has something to do with it but nobody is able to remember speaking to him. Neither medical nor psychological specialists are able to get through to him. He never raises his voice, he never displays any violent tendencies, he simply repeats a stock reply to each question posed.

A masterpiece of mystery and suspense, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa and adapted from his novel, it builds a deeply unsettling tension layer by layer, revealing a little more detail with each crime. For every detail revealed another two puzzles are created and the mystery deepens. This is most certainly not for those who like things tied up in a neat little package but, for those who enjoy being left to do some thinking of their own, this confusing gem comes with the highest possible recommendation.

by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)


The Blair Witch Project (1999)

blair witchI am so sorry. What is that? I’m scared to close my eyes, I’m scared to open them! We’re gonna die out here!

Come now. You didn’t think we’d do an entire article dedicated to 1990’s horror films and not mention the scariest movie of the decade, did you?

The most obvious place to start with here is how minuscule a budget this film was made for compared to how much marketing it received. I first came across The Blair Witch Project quite by accident. Staying up a bit late one school night, I was watching Sky One on Telewest with my mum when this documentary about the three missing members of some other documentary came on. For one brief night, until I spoke to the other kids at school the next day and found it was all just marketing for a movie, this naive 13 year old was honestly willing to accept that perhaps there was the possibility that such a thing as ghosts could potentially exist… maybe.

Even when my playground chatter was dashed by my mates, I still fell hook line and sinker for the marketing ploy. Despite knowing it was all fake, despite then watching it on a pirated VHS, despite all of that, I don’t think a film has scared me more than this found-footage horror. You could argue it was the birth of the modern sub-genre. Going back to 1960 with Peeping Tom, or Cannibal Holocaust in the 80’s, or even Man Bites Dog in the same decade, The Blair Witch Project is the film most often associated with these indie shaky-camcorder, low-quality, bunch of idiots wandering around in the dark bumping into stuff and scaring the crap out of each other type films.

I used to think that perhaps it was a case of nostalgia behind why I still love this movie so much. However, I revisited it a couple of years ago (two years ago exactly tomorrow, as it happens) when introducing it to my youngest brother. It scared the living daylights out of him; the ending even still creeps me out! Even with every third film being found-footage these days, perhaps diluting the terror it can induce (if not the influence), it still holds as much weight today as it did 15 years ago. And I’ll never, ever, ever open a handkerchief left outside my tent when I go camping again. Ever.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)


Thanks for reading! We’ll be back on Friday (Halloween!) with our final entry in this spin-off series as we dissect the noughties.