Tag Archives: horror

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.

The Scary Haunted Paranormal House – The Latest Sequel to the Sequel of the Sequel.

24 Apr

The question I am going to ask you all is: when is enough, enough?

Now you may be thinking ‘I have no idea’ but don’t worry as apparently Hollywood and its affiliates have no idea what the answer is either as the latest stream of sequels and spoof comedies are about to hit our cinemas and drain our pockets. Because lets face it, thousands of us are going to walk aimlessly to a cinema to indulge ourselves in the various franchises’.

Scary-Movie-5-Box-Office-Results

The latest one to hit our screens is the fifth Scary Movie, aptly named Scary Movie 5 for anyone that may be confused. Sadly and like Scary Movie 3 and 4 this installment is not from the original creators of the series Marlon and Shawn Wayans who brought such comedic originality despite their films being a parody. Famous new characters including Shorty (Marlon Wayans), Cindy (Anna Faris), Doofy, Miss Man and Hanson (Chris Elliot) thrust their way into our lives with such lines of wisdom as, ‘Take my strong hand child’ and ‘I said don’t disturb me when I’m cleaning my room’, and then before we knew it, it was all over. The good bits anyway.

Judging from the trailer Scary Movie 5 could not be more clichéd if it tried, (even Anna Faris and Regina Hall (Brenda) didn’t come along for the ride this time!) and I can’t be certain that anyone involved was really trying. It is one thing to carefully place references, to balance parodies and original comedy so that a film can remain interesting but to just throw in every single little thing that has happened recently so people know what you are banging on about is just cheap and careless filmmaking. This can only serve to alienate and undermine the intelligence of audiences worldwide. When something begins on such a high you should leave it up there flying.

2-a-haunted-house-poster-exclusive

On my internet travels however I have come across the latest film from Marlon Wayans himself and director Michael Tiddes ‘A Haunted House’ – a spoof of the Paranormal Activity franchise. Now I know what you are thinking, ‘When is enough, enough?’ but actually this doesn’t look half bad with the trailer actually managing to make me LOL.

I guess my point is that if you have good writers, directors and producers and an actual plan of where to take your films then be my guest and make a shed-load of them because when it works, it really works (The Dark Knight series, LOTR’s….oh and Twilight….just kidding!). Otherwise just stop. Because seriously, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

The Cabin In The Woods.

14 Apr

Image

From the many, many, many reviews I read about The Cabin In The Woods, I went into it with an understanding that it would be very much like Marmite. I was either going to be a horror fan and completely understand and love this film, or I was going to think that it is a giant cheese and cliché fest and hate it. If only things were that simple.

Without giving too much away, as you really need to know as little as possible to enjoy it, the film centres on a group of five young friends (including Chris Hemsworth and Richard Jenkins) who after deciding they need to get away from it all for the weekend head to a cabin in the woods to ‘get the party started’. Sound familiar? So it should as this film is a parody from start to finish. Much like parodies before it (e.g. Scary Movie, Hot Shots), but this time sticking specifically to the horror genre, the ingredients are all there; the obvious warning of ensuing danger from the gas-station attendant which the main protagonists all choose to ignore, the clichéd characters – the jock, the joker, the slut, the nerd and the virgin – who are bound to meet their demise in accordance with their actions and the ‘Oh man don’t go in there!’ moments where you can’t help but scream at your television screen. However all of these ingredients, these clichés, are strategically placed so as to pay homage to all those that inspired its creation.

Image

However in the style of those who wrote it (Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard – masters of all things supernatural and sci-fi), it is obvious that this film isn’t going to be a straight-laced parody. Again, without revealing too much, it becomes apparent that our fab five are under surveillance and their decisions are being manipulated. A friend said to me upon recommendation that The Cabin In The Woods was a cross between Evil Dead (the original 1981 version) and The Truman Show. For obvious reasons this statement is correct but it doesn’t have either the staying power of the former or the integrity of the latter. As David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter remarked, “It’s just too bad the movie is never much more than a hollow exercise in self-reflexive cleverness that’s not nearly as ingenious as it seems to think”.

You have to enjoy this film for what it is, a well-acted giant puzzle with hidden and obvious horror movie references, a hugely humorous script (most notably joker-boy Marty saying ‘OK, I’m drawing a line in the fucking sand. Do NOT read the Latin!’….no good can ever come from reading Latin!) and an interesting plot that even though is a parody of other films still manages to remain extremely unique. A memorable viewing experience that unfortunately for its slightly low calibre I probably wont be repeating.

Image

Selling Point – Every scene with Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who give a master-class in delivery of comedic lines.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane.

14 Apr

The 70’s was an interesting time for horror movies. Film lovers of the decade were bombarded with an array of sadistic story-lines, twisted under and overtones and gruesome special effects. Films made it into national distribution that would rival even today’s ‘Human Centipede’ horror standards, including the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Salem’s Lot, The Exorcist and A Clockwork Orange which was famously taken out of distribution for its explicit content.

the little girlWhile the different certification boards were up to their elbows in guts, gore and serial killers it seems that a few films slipped through the cracks when it came to being rated appropriately in relation to their subject matter. ‘The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane‘ (1976, Dir. Nicolas Gessner) is one of these films, which despite its psycho-sexual underpinnings and incredibly eerie feel received a PG rating on release. By today’s standards that would put it in the same ratings bracket as the not-to-be-mistaken-for-a-pantomime ‘OZ The Great and Powerful’. Gessner’s film is in one hell of a different bracket.

The film follows 13 year-old Rynn (played by Jodie Foster) who’s way of life comes into question when her landlady Mrs Hallett begins to question the whereabouts of her poet father. While trying to uphold her growing number of secrets, Rynn’s safety is repeatedly challenged when she comes up against predatory advances from Mrs Halletts son Frank (Martin Sheen).

the-little-girl-who-lives-down-the-laneNow it is difficult to write about this film without giving the plots development away, so I will have to speak in broad terms. From start to finish this film grabs your attention with Rynn’s situation intensifying scene-by-scene as her fathers whereabouts become increasingly suspect and the audience is left on a knife-edge at almost every juncture. Most notably what makes this film so great is Foster. Taking on roles at the youngest of ages that actors today wouldn’t touch with a ten foot barge pole, Foster cemented herself as one of the brightest stars of Hollywood throughout the 70’s and 80’s, and this films performance is no exception. Whats interesting is that the character and Jodie herself appear to have so much in common; charm, intelligence and a maturity beyond their years, which presumably would have been what attracted her to this role and so many others. She shines as Rynn and even though the storyline, taken from both the screenplay and novel written by Laird Koenig, is enough to keep you captivated she is the driving force of the film.

The-Little-Girl-Who-Lives-Down-The-Lane-1976-the-little-girl-who-lives-down-the-lane-29530979-714-350Sheen is also a huge presence as Frank Hallett. His performance as ‘the village paedophile’ is exceptional, well and truly getting under your skin with every twitchy movement and sexually authoritative advance made upon Rynn, all the while managing to gain a certain amount of sympathy from the audience for playing him as someone who is deeply damaged.

Aside from the films set and costume design being distinctly 1970’s (platform shoes and boldly patterned wallpapers) ‘The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane’ is timeless. Having been reluctantly under the radar for many years, presumably down to both its unattractive PG rating upon release and the influx of gore-driven horror movies bringing in the audiences, this well polished treat is finally being well received. With performances to die for and a tempo that doesn’t let up it is a prime example of my adapted philosophy to ‘not judge a film by its cover’.

Selling Point – Foster.