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Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 10 – The Revenge of the Horrorble Month

Another month, another article as Owen’s ‘year in review’ series continues. On to October and Owen reviews a selection of the horror films that he’s been watching. As with each of the previous articles in the series, the month will be broken down by week, with a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

lovecraft-from-beyond-1986-dThis time last year is where the idea of recording a whole month’s worth of movies began. I set myself the task of proving to myself that I could watch a horror film every single day during October 2014 in the build up to Halloween – and somehow managed to succeed. I dubbed it my Horrorble Month (geddit?!)

Once again, I thought that given how the inspiration for this year-long series started, I owed it to myself to give this experiment another crack.

It was made doubly difficult considering the change in personal circumstances. You know. Entering full time study for the first time since I was 15 years old, back in 2002. I spent a lot of time and energy on trying to work out how much spare time I had, never mind thinking about how to watch at least 31 different horror films. Between all the normal duties I had, like keeping a house from falling to pieces, spending time with my wife and running this website and podcast, I had to prioritise fitting in time to find a part time job (tick), get to grips with my course content (tick) and complete assignments at home (tick).

Needless to say, this month more than any, it has been a heck of a trial.

Nevertheless, I seem to have pulled it off. The trick, apparently, is to simply watch the shortest films you can get your hands on! Especially on those days where you have to spend time watching other movies for the podcast, like new releases and bloody Columbo TV episodes.

Anyway, here’s how the Revenge of the Horrorble Month turned out…


Week 1: Thursday 1 – Sunday 4 October 2015

Thursday – The Package (2015), Dagon (2001); Friday – Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972), Shine (1996); Saturday – CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954); Sunday – The Oblong Box (1969)

creature-from-black-lagoon-swim-aThere were a couple of things that I managed to do during the last Horrorble Month. One of those things was finish off a boxset of 1950’s sci-fi movies that I had. Most of them were actually pretty good, but amongst the best was Universal’s Creature from the Black Lagoon, directed by the iconic Jack Arnold. As a sort of tribute to these discoveries, I decided to revisit it to make sure it was still as entertaining as I remembered. Short answer: Of course it was. From the cast of men all sucking in their bellies when they’re standing around on set in their swimming shorts, to the impressive costume design on Gill-Man, it’s a short but sweet creature feature that’s got a lot more subtlety to it than you might expect.


Week 2: Monday 5 – Sunday 11 October 2015

Monday – The Raven (1963), Macbeth (2015); Tuesday – Tales of Terror (1962); Wednesday – Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), 28 Days Later (2001); Thursday – Day of the Dead (1985); Friday – Fright Night (2011); Saturday – The Pyramid (2014); Sunday – The Walk (2015), BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Black-Christmas-2006-1Much like how fans and pundits talk about statistics for the top flight of English football by ignoring everything that happened prior to the inception of the Premier League in the early 1990’s, so too do slasher-films often get short-shrift if they were made prior to John Carpenter’s redefining foray into the sub-genre with 1978’s Halloween. Of course, most slasher fans are aware of the likes of Peeping Tom and Psycho in the 60’s, and the wave of giallo movies out of Europe by Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and so on. But in most people’s minds back then, slasher was synonymous with exploitation. It took until that stretched William Shatner mask first graced our screens for the genre to be taken seriously by the majority. However, there were one or two others that were often held aloft by critics and movie-goers – usually in hindsight after a poor initial box office run. One of those was Bob Clark’s festive-horror, Black Christmas, about a group of sorority girls who receive threatening phone calls and are eventually the subject of a series of murders. In never seeing, only ever hearing the stalker, it’s the complete opposite effect of Halloween – and yet it still manages to have as much tension and suspense. Whilst I would be exaggerating to say it matches up to Carpenter’s classic on a similar level, it’s still worth watching and definitely deserves its place in history as one of the best pre-Halloween slashers.


Week 3: Monday 12 – Sunday 18 October 2015

Monday – Night of the Living Dead (1968), Suffragette (2015); Tuesday – Grabbers (2012); Wednesday – The Haunted Palace (1963); Thursday – VIDEODROME (1983), Re-Animator (1985); Friday – Late Phases (2014), Beasts of No Nation (2015); Saturday – Masque of the Red Death (1964), Inside Out (2015); Sunday – Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

videodromeI definitely talked about David Cronenberg’s Videodrome on the podcast recently, but for the benefit of those who are hearing impaired, I guess… It follows the President of a controversial Canadian television network (James Woods) who unwittingly becomes the target of a conspiracy after discovering a series of snuff films with subliminal hallucinogenic side effects. Cronenberg, particularly through the 70’s and 80’s, picked up a certain reputation, but Videodrome is not just another body-horror. The Wikipedia page actually describes it as a Canadian neo-noir postmodernist science fiction body horror/psychological horror – if you can get your head around that. But don’t worry. There’s still some sexually explicit violence, insanely complex mysteries to unravel and some ambitious attempts to contort and distort reality through the use of various practical (and impractical!) effects. I really need to get a hold of the DVD again to give it another watch. I liked it a lot, but it gives the impression things improve even further a second time around.


Week 4: Monday 19 – Sunday 25 October 2015

Monday – Night of the Comet (1984), The Beast Within (1982), Dead Cert (2010); Tuesday – Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971); Wednesday – FROM BEYOND (1986); Thursday – Ghosts of Mars (2001); Friday – Thinner (1996); Saturday – Bad Grandpa (2013), Horns (2013), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997); Sunday – From Dusk Til Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999)

frombeyondI actually watched From Beyond for the first time in September this year, but enjoyed it so much that I had to re-watch it again during my Horrorble Month. It is genuinely brilliant. From the concept of a scientist using frequency resonators to see all the creatures that live in another dimension, but that we share space with all of the time, to its beautifully disgusting visuals, I loved every element of it. The first hour or so of the plot is compelling and frantically paced, which doesn’t really change or develop in the latter part, but is still just as entertaining in a different kind of way. Jeffrey Combs, Ken Foree, Barbara Crampton and Ted Sorel are extremely good value. It’s blackly comic but with a really terrifying concept behind it. From Beyond is one of my favourite discoveries of the year so far. Much like how Roger Corman and Vincent Price’s adaptations of Poe were in 2014, I think 2015 might properly be the year I delve deeper into the world of HP Lovecraft movies.


Week 5: Monday 26 – Saturday 31 October 2015

Monday – Trick ‘r Treat (2007), SPECTRE (2015); Tuesday – Tales from the Darkside (1990); Wednesday – Fargo (1996), The Prophecy (1995); Thursday – PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION (2015); Friday – Child’s Play 2 (1990); Saturday – The Crazies (2010), Dawn of the Dead (2004), What We Do In The Shadows (2014), Fright Night (2011), Oldboy (2003)

la-et-mn-paranormal-activity-the-ghost-dimension-trailer-teases-the-end-20150624Halloween this year was a lot of fun. I spent the whole day exposing my youngest brother (18) to a host of horror films he hadn’t seen before. He came over a few years back now and I scared him to death with The Blair Witch Project and the original Paranormal Activity. It seemed only reasonable that I picked slightly more fun movies this time around. All the same, I am still a big fan of the Paranormal Activity films in general. I think found-footage still needs people to stand up for it with far too many prepared to write off a film without giving it a chance if it’s been made in that particular style. The latest – and quite possibly last – film in the series, The Ghost Dimension, once again sends us back into the world of Katie, Kristi and their invisible friend Tobi. Only this time, more than any other, we’re able to see more of the demon haunting another household thanks to a special kind of ghoul-capturing camera. It’s actually not a bad film, but is troubled by one crucial issue. It’s not scary. That’s a pretty big problem right there. But then again, which of the PA films have actually been scary? The first two? Maybe the third? The atmosphere and sheer creepiness of the original is what makes it unnerving, whereas the rest have relied on inflicting diversionary jump scares on the audience. Ghost Dimension is no different. However, it does compensate by rapidly increasing background on the families involved in this series of hauntings and wraps things up to a standard that I’m fairly satisfied with. Let’s not forget, there are six movies in this franchise. SIX. That’s a lot to try and keep a consistent standard throughout. I know they have their detractors, but I’m not one of them. I will be back at some point in the future, no doubt, to attempt a marathon viewing of all of the Paranormal Activity films and I’ll enjoy seeing the story play out in full.


And that’s it! I’m done. That’s a wrap and my second ever Horrorble Month is over. You can expect me back around about the same time next month to look back on the movies I’ve been watching throughout November. I can tell you already: It’s a much lower number. If you’ve any comments on this article or if you simply disagree with some of my choices – or if you want to chat to me about any of the other movies I’ve listed above – leave a comment in the box below and I promise to get back to you!

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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.

The Week In Film – 17 September 2014: The Age of Remakes

Welcome to the Week In Film! Steve returns from a short break to provide you with a round-up of everything worth knowing in the world of film that has occurred in the past week.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

age of ultronAge of Ultron

The slow drip feed of info about the next instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continued this week as a brief synopsis of Avengers: Age of Ultron was released.

It revealed that Ultron was not created by Tony Stark, as previously thought due to Hank Pym not being introduced as of yet, but Tony Stark ‘releases’ Ultron by messing about with some old tech stuff.

With this in mind could we be seeing a Pym/Ant-Man cameo in Age of Ultron? And with a Doctor Strange movie announced and strong rumours of a Black Panther movie could we see either a cameo or mention of these popular Marvel characters?

I Know What You Did In a Summer Ages and Ages Ago

Sony are looking to remake I Know What You Did Last Summer. While it was an enjoyable teen slasher film, is there really any need to reboot it? I imagine they will attempt to spawn a franchise.

Hollywood needs some new ideas. The amount of remakes, reimaginings, prequels and sequels is getting pathetic.

Another Remake

Ben Hur is set for a rehash by Hollywood. Charlton Heston starred in the successful original, famous for its chariot race and Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman are set to star in a new version written by 12 Years A Slave’s John Ridley due for a 2016 release.

Despite a good cast and noted writer on board, whenever a film of this ilk is due for modernising it makes me think of a mediocre singer trying to belt out Whitney Huston on the X-Factor.ben hur

Bourne Again

More sequel news as Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass have agreed to return to the Bourne franchise. Previously it was thought that the character had gone as far as it could and Damon stated he would not return without Greengrass, which is what led to the reasonable but not as good as the originals Jeremy Renner outing.

How this will tie in with the Renner ‘Legacy’ film (if at all) and any further plot details are some way off, but if it is as good as the first three…? There’s certainly potential for expansion in this franchise.

An Original Origin Story

It appears that almost every character on the silver screen must, at some point, have an origin story movie. Judge Dredd looks set to have one, based on the comics, but King Kong, whose early life on Skull Island has only been briefly touched on in other cinematic outings, and looks set to get his own movie looking at the back story of the big monkey.

Max Borenstein is set to write. He is the same man who wrote the recent Godzilla movie so he has experience when it comes to monster movies and perhaps we could see some lizard vs. ape action in the future.

Tom Hiddleston is set to star, in what role we do not know. Perhaps as a motion capture monkey.

Join us again next week, where we will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news.

All Cheerleaders Die

All Cheerleaders Die is 90 minutes of cheerleaders, football players, pool parties, peer pressure, popularity contests, long blond curly hair, short skirts and low tops, muscular teenage pectorals, goofy jokes, shining white teeth and… neck-breaking, blood sucking, zombie witches..? And it’s actually rather subversive of the genre too? Count me in!

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

all cheeleaders dieShowing this week at Film4’s FrightFest 2014 (as previewed here and here by Mike Shawcross), All Cheerleaders Die could quite easily be misinterpreted as a typical supernatural teen slasher film. It has hot cheerleaders, cool football players and a strong revenge theme driving the characters to murder and cause general mayhem. A bit of blood splatter here, some lesbian kissing there, add a smidgen of social anxiety from the lonely goth-girl and you’ve basically dreamt up the premise for the majority of the supernatural slasher genre since Carrie first crawled out of the broom closet nearly 40 years ago. It would be understandable for someone to brush off All Cheerleaders Die without seeing it, assuming that it’s just another typical teen movie in a long line of generic girls-gone-wild horrors.

The thing is, it isn’t a typical teen horror. In fact, what joint writer and director combo Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson are actually doing with this remake of their first ever collaboration, straight out of college back in 2001, is purposely taking these well worn tropes (the fit young football captain, the popular head cheerleader, the girl trying to fit in to enact a secret revenge plan etc) and bursting them open, exposing a pliable core.

It would be wrong of me to accuse McKee and Sivertson of resorting to mocking or parodying genre films such as Urban Legend, Sorority Row or any of their ilk. The impression given is that these movies can actually be enjoyable as what they are, but their plan is to strip back all of the layers of garbage piled on the genre through the years piece by piece and build up something new in its place. There’s a well maintained level of respect for the genre carried through its run time. Of course, it’s a genre not without its flaws. Flaws such as rampant sexism and chauvinism, unattainably high statuses within peer groups encouraging bullying, that sort of thing. The subversion of these clichés is what appears to be the target of this film whilst keeping some familiar order; something it both achieves and very occasionally reluctantly falls back to.

But that’s what the film is trying to do, not what it’s actually about, so let’s take a look at what is going on with the story. The plot revolves around Maddy (played by Australian actress Caitlin Stasey), a slightly cantankerous high-schooler, as she infiltrates a group of highly strung, snooty, stuck-up cheerleaders. In her mind, she perceives them as lacking any responsibility over the death of her friend during a freak cheerleading accident. She becomes especially irate when discovering a few of the group have started sleeping with Terry (Tom Williamson), the school football team captain and ex-boyfriend of her recently deceased chum. Gradually Maddy begins to form real friendships with these girls, observing them as people rather than just the stereotypical airheads she assumed they’d be. It’s almost like it’s subverting your expectations of what the film would be like, huh?

During a party, things get saucy just before they get out of hand and a dark side to Terry is revealed. Things go from bad to worse when the cheerleaders are killed in a car crash brought on by the fight, before Maddy’s ex-girlfriend-come-stalker Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) in her grief decides to resurrect the team using her witch powers. Not quite the same as they were before, the once-dead cheerleaders require blood to keep them alive and begin exacting revenge on the men responsible for their demise.

You can see what I mean. Immediate impressions are not particularly positive. However, there’s humour in abundance amongst some rather dark subcontext that floated throughout the film. Ideas of gender conformities are flirted with and boundaries are broken, but in its rush to address all manner of issues, it does leave itself drifting in the shallow end of the pool on more than one occasion. A sexual awakening for Tracey (Brooke Butler) initially serves as little more than titillation, but serves a broader purpose of emasculating the male characters. The unwritten rule of most cheap and lazy horror films, that men hold power over women, and the objectification of them is handled with all the grace of a Paul Scholes slide-tackle, but there’s something to be respected in its approach.

Essentially though, the biggest audience it will attract are of course horror fans and the public gets what the public wants. Similarly to 2012’s Detention, there’s a deeper context to it if you look for it, but if not, it’s also an entertaining horror in its own right. There’s gory death scenes, violent revenge is enacted by zombie women who suck the blood from some dickhead jocks. It’s the best of both worlds!

All Cheerleaders Die will be released in the UK on DVD on 13 October 2014, or if you were lucky enough to get tickets to FrightFest 2014 you can catch it on the big screen there tomorrow (22 August)!