Tag Archives: horror films

Would You Rather?

20 May

would-you-rather-posterTake yourself back to that college party; that birthday party; that night sat round the campfire, sitting with all of your friends, laughing and talking, while occasionally sipping on your open can of beer in the hope that it will give you just enough courage to chat to that guy or girl you’ve had a crush on for the past two years. And then some crazy character, the joker of the group, pipes up and asks, “Hey, has anyone here ever played ‘Would you rather’?”

Well this film is nothing like that. Except for the part where I mentioned the game ‘Would you rather’. Obviously.

So let me explain the basic rules. One person, often the joker who brings up the game so that they don’t have to take part, is the games master. He or she then gives the other players a number of ultimatums in which they are presented with two options, one of which they must choose. For example, would you rather drink a shot of urine or kiss a sweaty armpit? And you would have to choose. Normally these questions are purely for entertainment purposes and no-one is about to hand you a shot of their own bodily fluid, but that would be boring if a film just showed us an hour and a half of people posing funny scenarios. No danger of that here.

would you ratherWould You Rather (2012, Dir. David Guy Levy) centres around a dinner party where eight individuals have been hand-picked to take part in a game of…..ok, I don’t really need to tell you do I?….in which the winner will win a substantial amount of money and life full of opportunities. For Iris, (Brittany Snow – Pitch Perfect) this means that her brother who has leukemia will get the treatment that he so desperately needs. They are offered this opportunity through the charismatic and formidable games-master Shepard Lambrick.

Lambrick is surrounded by a mob of sharply dressed, shady individuals who help him to conduct his horrific game and eliminate any players who fail to comply. The contenders are sympathetic, desperate, cruel and delusional; trying to save others as well as themselves. The deadly rounds include shootings, stabbings, lashings, electrocution and drowning, not necessarily in that order, with eye-ball slicing and blowing up of hands thrown in for good measure. It really is a party that they wished they had missed.

Would-You-Rather 3For me, ‘Would You Rather’ poses an often familiar choice. Would I rather watch an A or B list horror? Recently it has been the latter, as I often find that quirky, imperfect and minimally advertised  films are somewhat more fascinating. I like a film packed full of special effects and fancy A-list actors as much as the next person, but the lack of pretense for a B-movie means you are able to simply enjoy the story and the characters, no matter how funny or twisted, and come out the other side feeling fresh and excited.

Levy has created a film that is well paced, intelligent and ripe with intensity. There aren’t too many decisions to be made, with rounds being clear, concise and designed to eliminate members of the group quickly, leaving the audience squirming out of disturbed joy rather than boredom. It has its clichéd moments, as do most horror films, and some unfortunate lapses in acting ability, but at the end of the disgusting affair you are left with an oddly charming feeling.

So I say to you, there might be dishes piling up and vacuuming to be done, the kids might need to do their homework and the cat might need to go to the vet, but wouldn’t you rather sit down, relax and watch a movie? Well? What would you rather…

would you rather 2

For extra reading see my Top 30 Horror films where there are B-List movies a plenty!

I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying. Part Two.

24 Mar

As you may or may not have seen I have been constructing my Top 30 Horror films. In part one I spoke about how the horror genre comes with a lot of subjectivity, how one persons idea of ‘horror’ is completely different to that of another person. I ask you to bare that in mind as you continue reading, and hopefully my opinions wont be too frightening. So here goes with part two, films 20 to 11. Enjoy.

20. The Mist (2007)

the-mist1To me, Frank Darabont is one of the best out there. Writer, director, producer, he dabbles in it all and comes out on top. In The Mist, his third Stephen King adaption (the first two being The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption), Darabont cements his stunning story telling abilities. As a thick mist descends over a small town, a large group of local residents find themselves trapped in a supermarket as it quickly becomes apparent that the mist contains deadly and otherworldly creatures.

Boasting an incredible cast that includes Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn and Chris Owen (better known as The Sherminator – probably much to his disappointment) the main protagonists are a real treasure to watch, slowly being driven insane by the deadly predicament they find themselves in. Partnered with some great visual effects and one of the best endings I have ever seen on film, The Mist has it all. Humour, intrigue, attitude, atmosphere, action, drama and of course horror.

It is also the home of one of my favourite pieces of dialogue; “As a species we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?” Trust me, in context it will be beautiful. So watch it.

19. Zodiac (2007)

ZodiacDuring the late 1960’s and early 1970’s a serial killer known as ‘Zodiac’ terrorized the civilians, the press and the law enforcement of Northern California. The killer taunted investigators with hand-written letters containing cryptograms and claimed to have killed almost 40 people, although in years to come investigators only ever agreed on 7 confirmed victims, 2 of whom survived. Although there have been a number of suspects over the years, most notably a man named Arthur Leigh Allen, to this day the identity of the Zodiac killer is unknown. Even from the 4 cryptograms sent to the Bay Area press, only 1 has ever been solved.

David Fincher’s film tackles the complex subject matter to absolute perfection. The main performances are of the highest calibre, as you would expect from Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo, as they capture what it is to be wrapped up in an investigation filled with mystery and intrigue that has spanned decades due its unsolved status. Zodiac is a long film at 157 minutes, but Fincher uses that time carefully and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. To hold the attention of audiences who will for the most part already know the ending, is an impressive skill, but the eerie, unsettling and shocking world he creates is one you are more that happy to stay in.

Until the credits role and you are reminded that the killer may still be out there…

18. Funny Games (2007)

funny gamesIMDB’s synopsis of Funny Games is, ‘Two psychopathic young men take a family hostage in their cabin.’ The explanation is concise, blunt and cold. Appropriately, it is much like the film.

Writer and director Michael Haneke made Funny Games in 1997. It was in Austrian and the intention was not for it to be a horror film but to be a message about the over-exaggerated links between violence and the media, a subject the director is very passionate about. For the 2007 version, Haneke replaced the Austrian actors with American ones and replicated the first edition shot for shot. The change in language is a great move as it allows Michael Pitt to enter the fray. As one of the ‘psychopaths’, Pitt is the heart of this bloody affair. Softly spoken, disgustingly cruel and chillingly intentional, he is utterly superb.

It is a hard watch. Not simply for the fact that ‘shot for shot’ means that it has the incredibly sluggish pace of the original, but because it is unbelievably dark and troubling. The films setting is clinical and claustrophobic but with it being the families stereotypical holiday home it adds a reality and a familiarity that truly makes you want to stay at home. Additionally, some of the violence is presented through the power of suggestion so when you find yourself filling in the blanks, it becomes an astoundingly disturbing place to be in.

Not originally created to be a horror film in the conventional sense, Haneke’s story telling is so brilliantly cold that Funny Games becomes one of the most horrifying films you will ever see.

17. Cube (1997)

The-CubeCube is about 7 strangers who wake up in a room, wondering how they got there and why they are there. They soon realise that they are trapped in a never-ending maze that contains deadly traps, and the key to their survival lies within themselves. You may be thinking, ‘This sounds vaguely familiar…’ but trust me this is no Saw 2. For Saw 2 is atrocious, Cube is not.

I wanted to write something about this film that would help you to understand just how incredible it is. I couldn’t. I wanted to put a trailer on here to that you could see just how incredible this film is. None of them did it any justice. I thought to myself, what can I do? What can I say?

Honestly, there isn’t anything I can do or say. Except for, it is INCREDIBLE. I implore you to watch it with as little information going into it as possible. It is a surprising, scary, intelligent and unique journey.

16. The Killing Room (2009)

the killing roomIt was quite hard to find a picture for this section of my Top 30 that didn’t give away some of the plot. So I chose Chloe Sevigney. She is in the film, I promise.

The Killing Room is what the term psychological-horror was invented for. Four individuals sign up to take part in a psychological research study that takes place in a stark white room only to find out that they are part of a much bigger and much darker government experiment. The room itself becomes a puzzle that they must solve in order to survive.

The four individuals are played by Timothy Dutton, Clea DuVall, Nick Cannon and Shea Whigham and brilliantly so. It is an interesting cast as they are far enough under the Hollywood radar to make them somewhat strangers to us an audience and far enough above it to hope for their survival. Much like Cube, The Killing Room has so many twists and turns that it would be foolish of me to reveal too much more of the plot. It is about going on the horrific journey with the characters and by the end you will not be disappointed.

15. The Shining (1980)

jack-nicholson-the-shiningJack Nicholson’s frozen dead face at the end of The Shining will haunt me forever.

Many of you may be screaming ‘Woah, spoiler alert!’ at your various technological devices right now but it is hard to believe that anyone reading this article won’t have seen the film. It is simply one of the best horror films, and possibly films of all time.

Based on the book of the same and directed by Stanley Kubrick, the film is about Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) who moves himself and his family into the isolated Overlook Hotel where he has taken a job as a caretaker. His son Danny has the ability to see the past and future, and therefore the ghosts in the hotel, and when the family become trapped at Overlook after a freak snowstorm, Jack finds himself being influenced by a supernatural presence. The influence being that he attempts to kill his wife Wendy and his son.

The Shining is an astounding and completely terrifying film. Kubrick uses iconic long-shots to create such a terrifying feeling of isolation and the soundtrack is both humourously and chillingly eerie. Nicholson’s performance is a how-to on acting as every line, every grimace, every eccentricity in his decline into madness is timed and convicted perfectly. Overall, the film plays on your senses, leaving you in a state of total unease and exhaustion. But it’s so worth it.

“Here’s Johnny!”

14. Eden Lake (2008)

eden-lakeEden Lake is one of the few films that I never watched more than once. Obviously, as I am including it in my Top 30 Horror films it is not because I didn’t like it. The reason I have only watched it once is because it left me disgusted, horrified, shocked and ultimately exhausted. But in a good way.

When a young couple take a weekend away at the isolated Eden Lake, their peace and quiet is jeopardized by a gang of youths. In hope that they can salvage their time together, the couple played by Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender, decide to confront the youths which leads to deadly consequences.

For those of you who have seen it, you will be able to understand my unwillingness to watch it repeatedly, but it is not to say it shouldn’t be watched. The realism is what gets you. Not the realism of the plot as clearly it has been exaggerated for film but the realism of the shots, of the acting, of the terror. A scene in which the head youth Brett (Jack O’Connell – 300: Rise of an Empire and This Is England) beats up another member of his gang, is shown as an upper-shot from the kid being beaten, and by this point in the film you feel like you are well and truly being punched in the face.

Eden Lake is a complete attack on the senses. You will leave the experience shaking with disbelief, anger and sadness. The aforementioned scene physically brought me to tears when I watched it, it was that horrifying. But then isn’t that what you want from a horror film?

13. Misery (1990)

miseryJust a side note really but I am starting to notice a Stephen King obsession manifesting itself on my blog…should probably read his books at some point.

Rolling in at number 13 is another King adaption, Misery. Starring Kathy Bates and James Caan, Misery is about writer Paul Sheldon (Caan) who crashes his car whilst returning home from his Colorado hideaway and is rescued by Annie Wilkes (Bates). Annie is Paul’s ‘number one fan’ and on discovering that his final book kills off her beloved character Misery, Annie’s caring nature turns possessive and deadly, keeping her beloved writer hostage at her home.

The film, directed by the legendary Rob Reiner, has been praised world over by critic and audiences alike since its release. Bates is both mesmerizing and petrifying as Annie, the psychotic fan. The role catapulted her into the Hollywood A-List and she won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her performance, the first Oscar for Best Actress within the horror genre. Reiner places the audience completely and brilliantly in the perspective of Paul Sheldon, where you are never certain of what is around the corner, freedom or the ever-lasting fade. A claustrophobic, powerful film that leaves you breathless. Especially after the ‘hobbling’ scene.

12. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

exorcismofemilyroseIt is a rare thing when you watch a horror film that a performance stands out. Often horror’s can bread contrived, clichéd and stereotypical characters that are essentially cannon fodder for the big crazy guy with the machete. Then in walks Jennifer Carpenter.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose combines courtroom drama and horror to bring us the story of Emily Rose, a young Catholic girl who dies after experiencing signs of possession. It is up to the court to decide whether Emily’s death was the result of the supposed possession or if it was the result of her refusing medical treatment for what was believed to be a strong case of epilepsy and psychosis. Hesitantly I feel I should say that the film is loosely based on a true story but fortunately it doesn’t affect the impact it makes on your mind and your senses.

Anyway, back to Carpenter because she is mind-blowing. Shown through flash-backs of Emily’s struggle with possession, Carpenter contort’s her body in ways unimaginable, screams with raw and unbridled pain, and gains stunning sympathy from an audience in fear of her. She is the stunningly scary centre-piece in this twisted and controversial world. Her portrayal of Emily Rose, mixed with the courtroom drama makes for an extremely smart and original horror film.

11. The Woodsman (2004)

the woodsmanOK, so you may be thinking, ‘This is not a horror film’. But as I have mentioned before horror is such a subjective concept. For me, horror isn’t simply about blood and guts or exorcism’s and things that go bump in the night, it is about a mood, an atmosphere that puts you on the edge of your seat and threatens to kick you off of it at any given moment. Sometimes that scare, that fright, that kick, can come from suspenseful music or a display of the aforementioned blood and guts, but for me it often comes from a feeling of uneasiness developed from psychological suspense. Perfect example; The Woodsman.

The controversial subject matter immediately puts you on edge. Walter, a convicted child molester, returns home after 12 years in prison and finds it hard to adjust to life on the outside. See, the words child molester put you straight on edge. Kevin Bacon plays Walter beautifully, attempting to gain sympathy in every scene as he is targeted by a suspicious and abusive police officer (Lucas – Mos Def) and as he tries to redefine his existence. Ultimately though it is to no avail as pedophilia, even in cinematic terms, is a hard pill to swallow. The horror is thus created by our own rage and inner torment towards a character whose life we are seeing a brief glimpse of. An interesting horror paradigm.

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So there we have it, My Top 30 Horror films from 20 to 11. Hopefully there hasn’t been too many surprises along the way and you’ve enjoyed the ride so far. Coming very soon, my Top 10 which includes a jigsaw, a nice bottle of Chianti and some delightful business cards.

I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying. Part One.

17 Mar

silence of the lambsUnfortunately this title doesnt denote the beginning to an article about the musical Grease. Quite the opposite actually, as below I have constructed my Top 30 horror films, in order no less. I want to clarify quite quickly that I use the word horror loosely as the definition can vary from person to person. One persons definition of horror might be a group of defenseless teenagers having their limbs hacked off with a chainsaw by a mad man, another’s might be a ghost haunting the home of a young family and another’s could be minimalistic film about a stalker. Therefore my list is based on what I have found to be horror-ible (I am so clever) over the years, from instant classics to slow burners, from A-List to B-List and from ghosts to ghouls. The films that have kept me awake at night, made me turn the light on to check what the suspicious noise was in the bedroom and ensured that I never wipe the condensation off of the bathroom mirror for fear of a figure standing behind me. Some may seem like a traditional horror film and some may make you wince with confusion, but please remember as far as film genre’s go, this is the most subjective.

30. Adrift (2006)

open-water-2The sequel to Open Water has met a large amount of criticism over the years, being called ‘obvious’ and ‘tedious’ by many. For some reason the first film had a huge reaction, possibly as it was based on a true story which audiences seem to crawl hands and knees on the floor to the cinema for these days, but the sequel is by far superior.

A couple Amy and James and their baby head out into the open water with some friends to celebrate the 30th birthday of Zach. When the friends decide to take a dip Amy, who has a fear of being in the water, stays on the boat with friend Dan. After Dan recklessly jumps in the water with Amy in his arms, the friends soon realise that they are unable to get back on the boat and panic quickly sets in.

Adrift has some great performances from the six main protagonists, in particular Richard Speight Jr of hit television series Supernatural and Cameron Richardson (as seen above) whose sanity is truly tested. There are a couple of plot holes where you will find yourself shouting at the screen but I see this as an investment in the characters and their impossible situation, and if you want suspense, drama and an evening of hyperventilating in your living room, then this is definitely your bag baby.

29. The Devils Rejects (2005)

devil-s-rejectsThis film is disgusting. You have been warned.

The incestuous, twisted and murderous Firefly family take to the road to escape the local police force led by Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe). From start to finish the director Rob Zombie is set on making the audience squirm and boy does he succeed. From the literal gore, to the sadistic and awkward torture of two families, right up to the climatic ending, the film is one hell of a ride. Zombie also ensures his fans are kept happy by reviving the appearance of the crazed and iconic character Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) from ‘House of 1000 Corpses’, who assists the family on their road of destruction.

The Devils Rejects is not one for the faint hearted, not just in its content but in its scrappy and raw filming style, but for those of you who have a strong stomach it truly is worth swallowing.

28. Salem’s Lot (1979)

salems.lot_.barlowAs vampires invade a small New England town, it becomes the responsibility of a young horror fan and a novelist to save it. Adapted for television from the incredible Stephen King novel, Salem’s Lot is one of the first films that truly terrified me. I mean, look at that face. Look at it! From director Tobe Hooper who had already brought us ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) and was soon to undergo the paranormal epic that is Poltergeist (1982), Salem’s Lot is from an experienced hand. Completely eerie, at times petrifying, beautifully atmospheric and with a score that seeps into the soul, it really is a piece of art. One of the all time classics.

27. Splinter (2008)

SplinterNetflix can often randomly select quite atrocious films for me to watch. With some selections I am simply put off by the artwork of the dvd cover and with others I will read reviews before deciding that it’s not for me. But on occasion it can drum up an absolute corker.

Splinter is a classic B-movie. A young couple and an escaped convict must find a way to work together after they find themselves trapped in an isolated gas station by a voracious Splinter parasite that transforms its still living victims into deadly hosts. With a fairly unknown cast (unless, like me, you recognise Paulo Costanzo from comedy Road Trip), handmade special effects and lets face it a slightly ridiculous plot catalyst, help to hugely cement it in the B category. But in this case the B ends up standing for Brilliant.

It is an absolute gem of a film that keeps you gripped throughout and the performances are anything but low quality, in particular Shea Whigham’s escaped convict Dennis Farell. And for those of us who prefer prosthetics and blood-bags to CGI it does not disappoint.

26. The Amityville Horror (2005)

amityville horrorA plot synopsis seems unnecessary here as the story of the house in Amityville is so famous, but its one of the few times that the sickening words ‘based on a true story’ really gets me going. Now some of you may want to stop reading as I have opted for the new version of the film rather than the original but I beg of you to stay with me on this terrifying journey as I feel strongly about it.

Written by Scott Kosar (The Machinist and The Crazies) this adaption is slightly more glossy and Hollywood than the 1979 version but it manages to give the audience all the atmosphere and scares you could ask for. The reason for me sticking to my guns however is mainly due to Ryan Reynolds performance. He plays George Lutz to perfection, a man filled with inner torment and pure darkness, whose demise into insanity is complex and compelling. Much like McConaughey in A Time To Kill, he proves his worth as an actor so early on and then opted for an array of rom-coms, but the performance struck such a chord with me that I had to include this version over the original.

25. The Hamilton’s (2006)

the hamiltonsThey look like such a wonderful family don’t they, with their boy-and-girl-next-door smiles and their pastel coloured shirts? That’s exactly what they want you to think! The Hamilton’s are four young siblings dealing with the untimely and mysterious death of their parents but not all is at it seems as they harbour some dark and murderous secrets.

This independent low-budget film is disturbing, surprising and intelligent. It keeps you guessing right until the end about who this family really are and its grainy film quality adds an element of realism to the whole affair. Really worth the watch.

24. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

nightmare on elm streetSo you know how you like to go to bed to relax after a tiring day, wrap yourself up in your big thick warm duvet, and then fall into a deep sleep? Well if only it was that easy on Elm Street. For the local children are literally having their worst nightmares come true as they are being stalked in their dreams by Freddy Kruger, a child murderer who was killed by the children’s parents.

Freddy Kruger has become such an iconic character over the years, with his razor-sharp hands, burnt face and Dennis the Menace jumper, and almost ten adoptions of the story have been made since the original, but it is in the first installment that Kruger (played by Robert Englund) really takes a hold of you and your senses. He is a true predator, one with reason for revenge and Englund plays him to perfection. Not only that but Wes Craven’s world is filled with iconic scenes. Who can forget the spine-tingling bathtub scene, as shown above, Tina’s screaming-floating-ceiling death and who doesn’t find delight in Johnny Depp’s bloody demise?!

The Elm Street franchise really has run its course but what started it all was an incredible piece of cinema that can scare even the bravest of audiences. Sleep tight.

23. Hard Candy (2005)

hard-candy-movie_102285-1920x1080Hard Candy was not what I expected at all. I’m not sure what I expected but there was a lot of hype and controversy surrounding the film on release that I tried to steer clear of it, hoping that time and space would bring clarity to my judgment. I watched it a number of years later after hearing so many more good comments than bad and luckily no-one had spoilt the plot for me during that time because the twists and turns are really what make it so magical. That and Ellen Page.

Teenager Hayley Stark invades the private home of a man (played by Patrick Wilson) she believes to be a paedophile in hope of exposing him. What ensues is a dark, perverted and controversial plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Or running for the sick bucket if you are a man…trust me. Ellen Page is tremendous as Stark, her performance so seamless and twisted that you can not take your eyes off of her, and director David Slade uses the power of suggestion to absolutely blow your god damn mind.

22. Scream (1996)

scream-416829What can be said about this film that hasn’t already been said? The film launched the careers of many of its young actors including Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Matthew Lillard and held its own amongst the years fellow releases such as Jerry Maguire and Independence Day. It was the film that revitalised the horror genre in the 1990’s, receiving world-wide critical acclaim and staying in cinemas for nearly eight months after its release. It made terror and horror out of such simplicity, creating a world that didn’t rely on morbidity but on a chilling and often humourous realism.

What I love about Scream is its awareness of itself. It mocks its own clichés and asks audiences to pull apart the conventions of the horror genre, to take humour from a place filled with contrived and dated concepts. Through an intelligent script, beautifully crafted scenes and many twists, the film brought to life a dying genre and kept audiences on their toes and in their seats. Well, until the killer jumps out with a knife that is.

21. Ginger Snaps (2000)

ginger-snaps-1My friend used to talk about this film all the time. Every time I went round there to stay she would suggest watching it, and of course I said no seeing as I was scared of everything when I was younger! So after about ten years I bought a copy and sat down to watch it. Now I know what she was talking about.

Ginger Snaps is about two sisters, Ginger and Brigitte. Outcasts in their own neighbourhood and obsessed with death, the sisters are forced into a realm of impossibility when one of them is bitten by a werewolf.

This film is simply brilliant. Low budget, smart and gory, the film portrays a very realistic image (minus the werewolf part…) of what it is to be a teenager who feels different amongst an over-abundance of ‘normal’ people. The two leading ladies are superbly awkward and the raw emotion of what they go through as people and as sisters penetrates deeply. Its scares come from stereotypical jump-from-your-seat moments, but overall it is an enthralling piece of film.

COMING SOON: Part Two – films 20 to 11 – which includes The Shining, Cube and Misery.