Sunday, 31 October 2010

This is Halloween

Sorry for lack of blogging lately - I've been at the London Film Festival (report to come), celebrating the man's birthday in Northumberland, feeling ill in a bullfrog way, and also prepping for my stint at the Leeds film festival (preview to come - phew!). I've also been preparing for Halloween - one of my favourite days of the year. Unfortunately I'm not costume inspired this year (last year I knew I wanted to be a Disco Bandit for weeks and weeks before and had great fun making my outfit. But this year no lightbulb has hit me, and I feel there's little point making a half arsed effort with something you don't care for) so we're doing things a bit differently - pumpkin carving, chilling chilli, spooky biscuits and HORROR FILMS.

I've loved horror films practically all my life. When I was younger I used to choose which ones I wanted to see from the rental section of our local off-licence, and then take them to mum who would pay at the counter - this is how I got to see a lot of 18 films far too early than I should have, and some perhaps it would have been better never to have seen at all (rumples face).

The first ever horror film I watched was called The Legacy. Just the title creeped me out for years. I also have overly imaginative thoughts about Dolly Dearest as well, which I've never watched but remember my cousin having the video and just the front cover and reading the blurb made me want to stay in the light forever - especially as it was around that time when I first heard the story of the china doll "coming to get you". But obviously something made me keep coming back to the heart stopping terror of it all - things like this:

Fun-time Chase and Carve's

I really enjoy a good slasher film, although it's hard to find the good ones anymore as the sub-genre has been hacked to death (ahem). There was a mini golden period when I was growing up, as that's where I remember a lot of my favourites: Scream and Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend... but there were some bloody awful ones as well - the actual horror of Cherry Falls for one! Lately this genre seems full of rehash of old stuff rather than thinking up new ideas, or re-starting up old franchises. The first two Scream films were such a lot of fun - my fondest memory being the car scene from the sequel, where Sidney has to climb over Skull-face to get out of the crashed car. I remember winding myself up into a ball at that moment, and not being able to breathe until it was over.

Still a great bit of scary cinema!

My favourite horror film from this period though, and still one of my favourite films of all time, is Urban Legend. Not the crappy sequels - dear lord don't go anywhere near them - but the very first one. I thought it was ingenious. Probably watching it back now (and I haven't seen it for ages) I would think it a bit silly - but I'll always commend it for the way it terrified me when SHE DIDN'T TURN ON THE LIGHT and when Tara Reid gets chopped to pieces with an axe. But most of all - for me not actually guessing who the killer was until the hood was pulled back. They did a great job of double bluffing with the creepy caretaker and Jared Leto's over zealous young journalist. A film will always impress me when I don't know the ending - so kudos to Urban Legend for doing that. And always making me smile whenever I hear Total Eclipse of the Heart.


(Jeez, how shit were trailers in the 90s?!) If you want a good fun scare, go and watch this - chances are you haven't seen it because it was largely under the radar even back in the day. It's jumpy, clever, has some great deaths, and the cast is bound to bring back a lot of memories - yes, it's Pacey from Dawson's Creek with added peroxide!

The Classics

After I went through my teen stalk'n'slash phase I wanted to get onto the scarier stuff. I'd smoked the weed, now I wanted the crack!, etc, etc. And this is divided into two sections - the latter more psychologically destructive section which I'll go onto later, and the former - the discovery of some of the finest horror films ever made. I'm talking Halloween, The Shining, The Fog, Misery, Candyman, I.T, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday 13th, Carrie, and Psycho. The ones that always make it to the top of the Greatest Horror Movies Ever Made lists. And countless sequels as well - yes, even the one where the Halloween mask ate your face (I hated Halloween III more for the guy who sticks his fingers in the hospital patient's eyes though - ugh, still makes me squirm!).  I bloody loved Halloween though. It's the classic of all the classics. I get why people love The Shining and I also think it's excellent - but Halloween is Thee one that will give you nightmares.

YOU CAN'T JUST KILL HIM WITH A COAT HANGER! That scene was like the car from Scream 2 ramped up about 10 notches - it was unbearable to watch.

The classics are a bit odd in the fact that some of them I could quite easily watch

The Ones I Cannot and Will Not EVER Watch Again

There's only two of them - and there's absolutelynofuckingway you're getting any videos of them. I just daren't. The first one is - surprisingly - Poltergeist. Not because it's super, super scary - it does have its moments, but that's not why I can't watch it. It's because of a scene halfway through the movie, where the little girl has been taken prisoner by the poltergeist in the house, and the parents have called in a priest to help. Because they are so shook up by the evil presence in their house and upset about their daughter, they speak in very hushed tones with no music in the background which only leads to a sense of dread. And then they speak about death. A lot. And it upset me so much I had to turn the TV off and I've never to this day been able to watch  Poltergeist again. I was too young to be watching it - especially late at night - and it made my brain go to dark places I shudder to think about. Death is the ultimate unknown, and it became such a force in this film that I couldn't cope with it. It had to stop. Who knows if I'll ever be brave enough to try it again.

The other is The Exorcist. I hate this film so, SO much that if someone were to play it I would not even want to be in the same house. I would find anything to do just to get out. Just the thought of accidentally watching a clip of it online or on TV makes me feel on edge. If I find out it's on TV I'm a complete wreck hoping to God that no-one is going to turn it on and start watching it. (Obviously this isn't such a big worry now that I have my own house, but I still hate the fact it could be so accessible.) The reason I hate it so much? It ruined my adolescent nights. I must have watched it aged 13, on a morning when it's "less scary" so I thought it would filter out of my head during the rest of the day. Wrong. It took about 5 or 6 years to filter out of my head. The concept and the story behind the film just frightened me to tears, I was terrified of the idea of becoming possessed and having absolutely no way of being able to stop it. Likewise you can also understand how I chanced upon the phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion when I was nine and was petrified for years that it would happen to me. For about two of three years after watching The Exorcist I slept with my light, my TV and my radio on because I couldn't bare lying there in the dark silence. Slowly I let go of things, but I was still sleeping with the light and the radio on in my first year of Uni. I'd become so used to it that the thought of not doing it didn't even occur to me. I've only been 'cured' so to speak in the last couple of years because I now sleep with someone else, so I'm not alone! It was the lasting prolonged damage this film did to me which means I can't ever face it again. It would be like the switch tripping again, and another five years of hell. I know, I know some people think it's the most hilarious film in history, but I'm the polar opposite - The Exorcist is my kryptonite.

Today's Scares



are two of the strongest, night disturbing films I have seen in recent years. The Orphanage because it's a ghost story with a tragic heart-breaking ending (and contains one of the biggest jumps your bones will ever take) and Paranormal Activity because I had trouble sleeping for days after, waiting to be dragged out of bed and down the corridor by an evil entity. It is genuinely affecting as a film - I didn't see it in the cinema but I can only imagine the atmosphere if I had.

There are many others - The Blair Witch Project (I'm a fan), Wolf Creek, [REC], The Mist, The Ring, Wrong Turn, The Descent, Them, Eden Lake, Dark Water, and probably the one film that didn't mentally scar me that remains for me the most frightening intense experience I have ever had with a film - this is the ultimate modern horror nightmare:

DO NOT WATCH THIS FILM WITH THE LIGHTS OFF, I implore you! God knows why we decided that would be a good idea. And don't watch the bloody remake either (I'm not even going to tell you what it's called :-P). Confusing - you'll be on IMDB for ages afterward - but chomp your fingers off terrifying. You'll never look under a sink again. If you haven't seen this and want to be flat out screaming tonight by a film, I thoroughly recommend A Tale of Two Sisters, because it's a killer.

Finally to end, one of my favouuuuurite, favourite films of the past year. It came out last year but I only got around to seeing it a few months ago because the trailer put me off, I thought it looked awful. Goes to show what I miss out on from passing first judgement. But I'm so glad I watched it in the end because this is one of those films I was talking about earlier that impressed me so much it catapulted up into being one of my all time greats. It's not particularly scary, and the acting is a little ropey at times, and if you delve too much it's probably riddled with plot holes, but I think you'd have to be a mega geek to go that far. It is a remarkable film - smart, involving and stays with you for weeks. It's also (as I discovered last night when I introduced it to some friends) a film that you can turn over and over again with more things to say with each watch. I'm talking about Triangle. 

I'm not posting the trailer, because like I said I don't think it gives the right impression of the film. It makes it come across as some bullshitty sci-fi slashy horror, and it's not anything like that at all. It's more rooted in myth, behaviour, metaphysics, paradox... it's not Timecrimes, but it's certainly not your run of the mill 'oh they're all on a ghost ship and fighting alien versions of themselves' - no no no no, NO! It's one of those films where you need the pay off to be rewarding, because it is either going to be total balls or make you sit back and go, "oh. I'm impressed. IMDB it!" This one is definitely the latter - as I mentioned before you'll be discussing it for ages afterward (and actually if you do go on IMDB there's tonnes of theorists on there with their own takes on what happened). Don't watch it alone whatever you do, it's a wasted experience. I'll be writing up a proper review of Triangle later in the year.

These are my Halloween treats. I've missed out a few but only because I've yet to hide behind them (Rosemary's Baby, The Omen) but I think the ones I've highlighted are absolute must-sees and will hopefully keep you going for many Halloweens to come. You can of course watch them any time you like as well...
  1. Halloween (1978)
  2. The Shining (1980)
  3. Urban Legend (1998)
  4. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
  5. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  6. The Orphanage (2007)
  7. Scream (1996)
  8. Paranormal Activity (2009)
  9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
  10. Triangle (2009)

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