Shocktastic Shudder Shorts

Posted in Short Scares, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Since it’s launch in October 2016, the horror equivalent to Netflix and streaming service, Shudder UK has provided fans with accessible access to genre movies with a click of a button. Featuring a comprehensive selection of movies, separated into creepy collections, the eclectic mix ensures that the service offers up something for everyone whether it be Giallo’s, American Slashers, Monster Movies or Ghostly Going’s-On.

ShudderUK

While, Shudder is excellent for supplying old favorite movies and popular Arrow Video titles, to name a few, since using the service from last Autumn, Shudder’s standout aspect is it’s assortment of  featured ‘exclusives’. Shudder imparts a platform for lesser known, underground short films and brings the work of underrated indie filmmakers to the forefront. The service gives the opportunity for viewers to experience films that would otherwise fade into obscurity as far as the mass public are concerned.

In this review, I am going to discuss some of the most well-crafted, interesting pieces of short films currently included on the channel.

The Puppet Man (2016)

  • Directed by Jaqueline Castel

puppet man

The Puppet Man is a intensely lit, stylish throwback to the 1980’s heyday of horror. John Carpenter’s influence is monumental especially as he features in an ironic cameo and the synth-charged, irresistible score is acquired from his debut studio album, ‘John Carpenter’s Lost Themes’. The plot itself is a little thin on the ground but, The Puppet Man works as a stylish spectacle playing on internal fears and hysteria. The aesthetic construction of the titular character is reminiscent of the iconic Freddy Kruger as he stalks and scares a young woman and her friends in a sleazy, neon-drenched deserted bar. When horror is reflected on as a genre to this day, the noteworthy figures that come to mind are of course the stalking slasher’s of ‘the golden era’ e.g. Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees who have never gone out of style. The Puppet Man includes seductive visuals and a booming soundtrack. Celebratory of it’s past influences, The Puppet Man expresses this within it’s whole core.

I Want You Inside Me (2016)

  • Directed by Alice Shindelar 

IWYIM

When viewing this short it’s difficult not to draw comparisons with 2014’s surprise hit, It Follows. The two share an identical subject matter acting as a metaphor for the dark side of becoming sexually awakened. I Want You Inside Me is a slow burner that joins up elements of body horror with a coming of age story, which of course was done extra successfully with 2016’s RAW. CJ (Abigail Wahl) decides to lose her virginity but when her first sexual encounter enigmatically disappears, even though unnerved she cuts her losses and moves onto the next one. In one sense this short breaks the “stigma” of expressive female sexuality being portrayed negatively, i.e. just because a woman is comfortable and provocative with her sexuality does not mean she should be labelled with derogatory connotations. However at the same time this short could be deemed as ‘overly feminist’ when it’s revealed that her male conquests don’t exactly fare well. I Want You Inside Me is an uncomfortable watch and quietly grotesque. It’s conspicuous title is literal and leaves the viewer feeling abruptly cold by the end. This film certainly had a great deal to convey but isn’t strongly executed. There’s no denying that it’s well made and beautifully shot but it comes across as mystifying in terms of what it sets out to achieve. As an audience are we intended to root for CJ and view her behavior as “powerful” and “liberating”? I Want You Inside Me is a perplexing watch, the characters aren’t particularly likable and it tries too hard at combining it’s oddness with a taboo subject matter.

He Took His Skin Off For Me (2014)

  • Directed by Ben Aston

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Out of the narrative-driven, fictional shorts, He Took His Skin Off For Me is the one that struck a chord. It would be easy to presume that this film is affecting primarily based on the physicality of the skin removal alone. However, it’s the underlying emotionally-charged subtext that makes this film haunting and long lasting in the mind. Told via voice-over, He Took His Skin Off For Me centers on a couple in a domestic setting. Events take a twisted and bizarre turn when the male takes his skin off at the request of his girlfriend, but it soon transpires that the act of flesh removal wasn’t the best idea! Cue, a lot of iciness involved and strands of normality such as cleaning won’t be the same again. The tone vergers on peculiar, sometimes even funny but its ultimately melancholic. It has been a while since I’ve experienced something so absorbing and unusual. Director Ben Aston, accomplishes the contrast between every day domesticity and pure body horror to an exceptional degree. That alone, makes this film so mesmerizing. He Took His Skin Off For Me is visceral horror at it’s best, while stating that you should never change yourself for anyone underneath the foregrounded horror. Even if a layer is removed the problems and issues will still exist and are worsened which this film takes to the absolute extreme. The make up effects are astonishing with a realistic edge. Aston’s vision and use of metaphor is unforgettable with this piece and is Shudder content that I can’t recommend enough.

Primal Screen (2017)

  • Directed by Rodney Ascher

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Primal Screen has been making an impression on social media as of late. Teased to become a series, and like with all good suspense, Shudder are keeping us in anticipation. Primal Screen is a horror shaped gift and due to the incredible quality of it, viewers are dying for more! Rodney Ascher (Room 237, The Nightmare) directs this fascinating visual documentary which taps into primal childhood fears and questions how uncanny imagery can make us truly afraid and furthermore how surprising components can lead us to overcome these fears later in life. As someone who grew up feeling unnerved by creepy dolls which partly led me to become besotted by horror films and seek out more and more dark material, this documentary is highly relate-able. Primal Screen is not your average, paint by numbers, talking heads documentary. Ascher is an innovative visual storyteller who contextualizes the imagery used in order to get his vision across. There’s a beginning, middle and end that sees where the fear materialized, how it effectively spiraled before reaching a content resolution, told over five intertwining segments. Primal Screen is powerful filmmaking, the horror genre rinses and repeats itself so many times so it’s therefore refreshing to see a more inventive take on familiar material. Ascher delves into deep psychological concepts such as the rational vs the irrational, and the uncanny valley. The final result is well a structured and thought provoking documentary offering. Primal Screen is one to look out for as Shudder continues to develop it’s brand and introduces more original content to satisfy horror hungry audiences.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Evil Selfie (2016): Short Film Review

Posted in Horror Festivals, Short Scares with tags , , , , , , , on June 15, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Eros Bosi directs and stars in his debut short film, Evil Selfie. This Italian supernatural short takes society’s fixation with the worldwide ‘phenomena’ of the ‘selfie’ to extraordinary heights.

A ghostly presence stalks a ‘selfie mad’ couple who venture off to a picturesque woodland area in their car, as you do in horror movies! Evil Selfie is a black comedy that blends exaggerated scenarios with elements of spookiness. It’s evident that the project is a labor of love for it’s director, paying homage to familiar genre tropes while making a statement on an influential component of recent pop culture.

Featuring striking visuals and crisp cinematography, Evil Selfie is a slick, fast paced effort. The FX  courtesy of Pasquale Miele and make up effects by Amanda Rosi are well done and of a professional standard, providing the ghostly presence with a disturbing appearance. A commendable aspect about the film is that instead of going down the route of appearing dark and dank to achieve atmosphere, the bulk of the film is set outdoors in broad daylight which aids a more unsuspecting vibe for when something sinister is likely to strike.

 

As a new filmmaker, Bosi has collaborated with more experienced industry figures within the Italian horror circuit. Luca Alessandro who co-wrote and co-directed 2013’s The Pyramid and Alex Visani who produced the aforementioned episodic movie were both on board to lend a hand to Bosi throughout the process of creating his debut short film; with a creditable end result.

Evil Selfie is very much an audience film and would play well at frightening film festivals with the potential to initiate both laughs and scares from it’s prospective viewers. It cleverly conveys it’s concept without taking itself too seriously and has fun with what it does.

Evil Selfie was shot in Bosi’s hometown of Terni, utilizing it’s stunning locations greatly. The film premiered at Narnia Terror Night in November 2016, a festival devoted to supporting independent, Italian cinema.

Check out Bosi’s John Carpenter influenced trailer below. It comes as  no surprise that the subject of the ‘selfie’ will grow more prevalent in contemporary horror with Evil Selfie imaginatively echoing back to Carpenter’s cult classic, They Live (1988) in it’s themes. The link between society’s indulgent obsession of social media and horror is an interesting subject to explore, reinforcing the notion that we are in danger of losing sight of what’s around us while we are glued to our devices.

Bosi has cemented himself as a talented director and has a promising career ahead of him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFh2PzWg2go

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

 

Creepy Disney Conspiracy Theories

Posted in Horror Attractions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

For the majority of us, Disney is one of the earliest forms of media we are exposed to. From the dynamic and colourful films to a range of spectacular theme parks all around the world, Disney is universal and has tapped into our subconscious from an early age. A subject that completely fascinates me is the notion that Disney has a dark side. There’s a creepy aspect to a medium that on the surface is associated with happiness and positivity but possesses a sinister underbelly and speculated subliminal messages. Unclear of where these myths and urban legends began, they have certainly grown in interest due to the power of the internet and the frequency of the creation of YouTube videos, Buzzfeed Articles etc. that explore these chilling tales from the Land of the Mouse and bring them to the forefront.

Mickey Mouse

In this article, I am going to discuss what I consider some of the weirdest, creepiest Disney conspiracy theories that have resonated with me. These include both Disney movies and spooky occurrences from the parks themselves. Please bear in mind that these theories may or may not be true or are somewhat based in truth.

Creepy Disney Princesses

**Disclaimer Warning** There will be discussion of unsettling subjects such as death and suicide so please do not continue reading if this is triggering in any way. This article is created to shed light on these fascinating conspiracies and to share opinions on them.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts. In the comments below tell me which Disney conspiracy theories have gotten under your skin to an unsettling effect.

So… Let’s get down to it, wish upon a star and discover why Disney really is the place where nightmares come true!

The Small World Supposed ‘Suicide’

‘It’s a Small World’ is Disney’s most infectious ride. Built originally in its Californian theme park back in the 1960’s, the ride consists of a gazillion audio-animatronic dolls representing nationalities from all over the world while the rider is directed through the scenery in a small boat. The ride is situated in Fantasyland and exhibits a positive and uniting message of the whole world standing together as one.

small world

The supposed urban legend allegedly occurred back in 1999. A guest at the park was riding the ‘Small World’, when suddenly the ride had to be evacuated under unknown circumstances. As the guest was vacating the ride she decided to use up the last of the film on her camera and unintentionally captured a very disturbing image.

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Allegedly, a small child can be seen hanging from the ceiling as passengers make their way to the exit. The image itself is fairly blurred however there does appear to be a human-like figure dangling from the ceiling. Disney of course never confirmed the incident; hopefully it is just a misunderstanding and a trick of the camera. This mysterious myth is deeply chilling as well as shudder-inducing and is not a pleasant thought to associate with the wonderful world of Disney! On a less serious note but creepy in a whole other light, cast members have claimed that late at night, the pesky dolls come alive on their own accord and switch places with each other, this myth is totally horror movie plot worthy!

The Tragic Death of Debbie Stone

This next Disneyland ‘myth’ is deeply disturbing and tragically true. That said the second part of this legend, which involves a ‘ghost story’, is disrespectful to the family and the memory of the deceased as it is based purely in the fantastical. The unfortunate fact is that this incident quickly became fodder for elaborate urban legends and remains one of Disney’s most infamous tragedies.

America-Sings

In 1974, a high school graduate, named Debbie Stone bagged her dream job at Disneyland for the summer in order to save up for college that same year. She was assigned to work on a brand new, musical extravaganza attraction called ‘America Sings’. The attraction involved rotating stages that showcased a selection of sequences depicting the evolution of American musical history. ‘America Sings’ featured expertly, uncanny animated audio-animatronic animals throughout the show.

Debbie’s role was the ‘hostess’, she was to stand at the side of the stage while the attraction was in progress and greet guests at the beginning and wave them goodbye once the show had finished. It was like any normal shift for Debbie when the most tragic and unfortunate accident occurred.

According to an article on Buzzle.com, “The only glitch was that in the previous ride ‘Carousel of Progress’, the theaters moved around the nucleus in a clockwise direction. This meant that the walls on the left-hand side of the stage moved away from each other. But in ‘America Sings’, the rotation was reversed, which meant that the walls moved towards each other on the left-hand side of the stage and closed in place to separate each theater from the other.”

Disturbing fake footage has been created ‘depicting’ Debbie’s shocking death and is available on YouTube. The audience members were said to have heard a blood-curdling scream which has been chillingly re-created in this video that I wouldn’t recommend watching. What happened to Debbie is exceptionally frightening.

debbie stone

The poor young woman had been crushed between the revolving walls and the worst aspect is no one fully knows how it could even have happened. It would be in poor taste to speculate when the matter of fact is that a young woman with her whole life ahead of her was tragically killed in a freak accident that no one could foresee happening. Unnervingly, ‘America Sings’ closed for a mere two days and then re-opened to the public with new staff safety measures in place until it’s closure in 1988. Returning to the ‘ghost story’ rumor, cast members have alleged that the voice of Debbie Stone can be heard near the site, heeding the warning of ‘be careful’ to those who approach the area.

The story of Debbie Stone is one of the most haunting and grim incidents to come out of ‘the happiest place on earth’ and what is most terrifying is the unexplained nature of her death.

Subliminal Messages in Disney Films

Subliminal Messages in Disney films has been a hot topic of discussion for eons. Are Disney really adding in sexual symbolism into their movies as part of a sinister plot by the Illuminati? or are animators just joking around? Could we as an audience be reading too much into it and believing what we want to believe?

Aladdin Subliminal

In an article conducted by the Huffington Post, former Disney animator Tom Sito debunked the myths, from the priest in The Little Mermaid’s supposed ‘erection’ to the word ‘SEX’ on full display in the sky during ‘The Lion King’. What is noticeable is when comparing the remastered Disney DVD’s to the original VHS versions, the subliminal messages have been removed.

After being made aware of the ‘inappropriate proposition” Aladdin makes in the 1992 film when he is seen sneaking up to Princess Jasmine’s balcony on the magic carpet, I dug out my original VHS tape out of curiosity to see if there was any truth to the rumor. As Aladdin is confronted by Raja the tiger he is heard uttering the dialogue “good children, take off your clothes”. The suggestive language could be heard plain as day on the UK 90’s VHS tape I owned. Both myself and my best friend heard the same thing yet when I eventually bought the film on DVD in the 2000’s, the weird whispers were no longer included during the scene.

Disney clearly encompasses an awareness of the conspiracies that have been drawn from their films so instead of simply debunking them and leaving the ‘faux-messages’ in they have edited them out as if they’re naughty school children who have been caught out being up to no good! It’s no secret that Disney is conscious about it’s family friendly image and will go to any lengths to ensure that remains intact. The thought of the company deliberately trying to sexualize children through subliminal messaging is creepy as hell but it’s more curious as to why they would make it look as if it never happened by erasing the bizarre messages from the remastered versions of their classic films.

Suicide Mouse

Mickey Mouse Hell

‘suicidemouse.avi’ is a creepypasta, the internet phenomenon that is the modern day equivalent of  traditional ‘campfire tales’. Evidently, this urban legend is just exactly that, an eerie story created for the internet generation in order to freak out it’s conspiracy hungry readers. This one centers on a ‘lost cartoon’ from the 1930’s featuring Mickey Mouse. Created in black and white, the cartoon begins as standard fare, it shows Mickey walking through the city streets on a loop. He appears distressed which is where this story takes a dark turn. Allegedly the cartoon was very short and nothing much was thought of it. Then a Disney employee named Leonard Maltin accidentally stumbled across the cartoon and discovered a longer version. Mickey Mouse was depicted in hell and sinister events followed, including Mickey’s eyeballs falling out of his face, unsettling piano music, distorted sounds and colour schemes that wouldn’t have been made available to the technology of it’s time. The terrifying tale ends with Maltin uttering the words “real suffering is not known” before taking his own life. This creepypasta is an example of an effective urban legend, subverting something familiar into something grotesque and nightmarish. The full CreepyPasta can be read here: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Suicide_mouse

Haunted Disneyland

Disney Haunting

There is a rumor circulating the internet that Disneyland guests have sneakily scattered their loved ones ashes throughout the park namely on Disney’s flagship rides, The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.  These acts of grief have caused rumors of ghostly sightings and eerie incidents at Disneyland. At the end of The Haunted Mansion ride, cries of a little boy can be heard, the same little boy is said to also haunt Pirates after his mother scattered his ashes on the site without Disney’s permission. There’s a mystery passenger known as ‘Mr One Way‘ who rides Space Mountain then vanishes into thin air. Mr One Way always joins the ride next to a passenger who is in a vehicle, alone. An unexplained entity was caught on CCTV late at night at the park, drifting through main street and a former worker named George is said to haunt Pirates of the Carribbean and if employees don’t wish him a good morning or good night then the ride will malfunction throughout the day. It’s fair to say that imaginations can run wild and while these stories are goosebumps-inducing and heart stoppingly scary, there’s no real evidence to back them up. Disney however sure could capitalize on it. Taking the portrayal of some of their villains into account and bold, audacious 80’s movies such as Return to Oz and The Watcher in the Woods, Disney can do scary and do it well. A film focusing on a haunted theme park with a family friendly twist could be a promising idea.

Thank you for reading and check out my Social Media links for more of that Horror good stuff-
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HayleysHorro
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WelshDemoness
Instagram: mshayleyr1989

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/mshayleyr1989

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Silently Within Your Shadow (2015) Short Review

Posted in Short Scares with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

When it comes to horror movies, the ‘creepy doll’ is a staple and frequently revisited trope. There’s the menacing madness to the likes of Chucky and his subsidiary counterparts in Dolls (1987), PuppetMaster (1989), Dolly Dearest (1991) and Demonic Toys (1992). The concept made a spooky return in horror movies during the 2000’s as well as this decade in the form of Billy the Puppet from SAW (2004-2010), Annabelle from The Conjuring (2013) and of course Billy the ventriloquist dummy from James Wan’s Dead Silence (2007). In the latter mentioned films the position of the demonic doll is used as more of a scapegoat for a greater plot rather than being a central figure.

Concept-Poster

The Ventriloquist Dummy has always played a vital part in unnerving psychological horror from childhood fiction in Goosebumps, Night of the Living Dummy (#1.10) (1996) to Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s season one episode, The Puppet Show (#1.9) (1997).

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Indie short film director Scott Lyus of Crossroad Pictures brings the concept back to the forefront in Silently Within Your Shadow, a fifteen minute piece that centers on a young couple driven apart by an ambiguous entity.

What’s always excellent about the idea of ‘the doll’ is it’s rationally nonthreatening presence is creepy enough to trigger irrational fears and heightened emotions. This is exactly what Lyus captures in this short.

Lucette (Sophie Tergeist)  is extremely obsessed with her ventriloquist dummy, Hugo (voiced by horror icon Bill Moseley) that it begins to put strain on her relationship with her irritated but moderately patient boyfriend Jace (Byron Fernandes). But Lyus leaves his audience curious to discover whether the doll is truly alive or an illogical fixation of Lucette’s mindset.

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From a social perspective, the doll is a symbol of Lucette’s conflict between domesticity with her boyfriend and the pull of her career on stage. It’s all consuming with deadly consequences but is presented as a genuinely creepy short, supplying plenty of chills and darkness.

The production quality is a polished effort and highly professional. The cinematography and editing is of a high standard with the film achieving exactly what it needs to in it’s brief time frame. We are in the age of the rise of low budget genre filmmaking and with crowdfunding platforms and accessible technology it proves that a great deal can be reached with limited and less expensive resources.

Lyus has great potential as a horror storyteller, therefore it would be interesting to see what he could bring to a feature film.

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Silently Within Your Shadow is the kind of film that keeps you looking over your shoulder and has an atmospheric tone from the get go. It features a cult icon and believable performances from it’s two leads while engulfing a familiar but fun genre concept. What’s not to love…?

Silently Within You Shadow is available to view on Amazon Prime as of the 26th May 2017 for some late night spooktacular scares.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews. 

Arrow Video Review: Brain Damage (1988)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Brain Damage is a 1988 dark Horror/Comedy from the King of Grindhouse and Exploitation, Frank Hennelotter. Underrated in comparison to the mighty Basket Case (1982) and Frankenhooker (1990), his most popular cult offerings, Brain Damage holds it’s own and is easily one of the most demented horror films out there.

Set in the seedy depths of New York, Brain Damage is a comically magnified metaphor for drug addiction. Brian (Rick Hearst) is a young man going about his business as usual until one day he discovers a strange, leech like parasite named Aylmer (or Elmer). The creature attaches itself to Brian’s neck, injecting a blue liquid substance into his brain, enhancing his perceptions with hallucinatory visions. Soon, Brian’s dependence on Aylmer leads him down a dark path that sees his relationships and sanity destroyed. The bargain goes, Aylmer will provide Brian with his latest hit as long as Brian feeds his strange addiction with human brains!

Despite the fact Brain Damage is a low budget, creature feature, it’s absolutely creative in it’s visuals and is an insane thrill ride from start to finish. Hennenlotter incorporates a distinct visual style, featuring a trippy blue colour scheme and psychedelic, bright colourful filters in order to capture Brian’s drug-like state.

This movie requires pure suspension of disbelief. While the subject matter drips into realism, the way the issue of addiction is portrayed is done in an over the top satirical format and it doesn’t take itself seriously at any point. Certain scenes exquisitely push the boundaries relishing in non political correctness. Many horror fans will agree that these types of films are unbelievably entertaining as they don’t hold back from the gross out gore and will throw everything at it’s audience.

The practical effects themselves still look fantastic and have aged well. They are further enhanced with Arrow’s high definition restoration. The scene in which Brian envisions his plate of spaghetti and meatballs pulsating with tiny blue tinted brains creates a nauseating sensation. What’s even better about Arrow’s re-released cut of the film is it includes all the gruesomeness, the ‘controversial’ and unrelenting fellatio scene is totally in bad taste but is played for laughs. The scene itself is grimly amusing from the tongue-in-cheek, innuendo laced dialogue to the sheer perverseness. While it’s likely to cause probable offence to a non horror audience, gore hounds and lovers of the B-Movie will see the funny side.

There’s a welcome cameo and a self-referential nod to Hennenlotter’s flagship film as Brian comes across Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck). the baggage plagued protagonist from Basket Case on the subway train mid confrontation with his flaky girlfriend Barbara (Jennifer Lowry). It’s a subtle reference that is in place to please the fans while also making light of the fact both films parallel each other thematically. Both of them feature young, attractive male leads who become embroiled with an all consuming creature. Both men can’t function without them and are pawns in the creatures murderous rampages.

The late Horror Host, Zacherley provided the voice acting for Elmer. There’s a sense of irony in his performance, Elmer’s tone of voice is non-threatening and even comes across as convincingly reasonable making his sinister schemes that more insidious.

This is a movie created purely for appreciative horror fans and is one euphoric head trip. Arrow Video have once again done an incredible job with the re-release, giving gore hounds the full intact movie and the usual surge of special features. Speaking of ‘Underrated 80’s Gems’ as I recently did in my Anniversary article, Brain Damage certainly belongs under that banner and is wholly worth seeing if you haven’t already. I’d go as far as saying, this is Hennenlotter’s best work and highlights how he had developed as a filmmaker at this stage in his career. There’s so much effort and detail placed into the special effects which is what makes Brain Damage so impressive to this day on that level.

Brain Damage can be owned on  deranged DVD & beautiful blu-ray from the Arrow Store: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/shop/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=938

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Sixth Anniversary Article: Hayley’s Top Six Underrated 80’s Gems

Posted in Anniversary Pieces, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

The 18th May 2017 marks six years since I began sharing my love for the horror genre on this blog. The love I have for horror of course extends further back than that and has practically been a lifelong passion. Back in January I made a New Year’s Resolution to myself that I would watch as many kinds of horror movies as possible from the classic to the recent, the low-budget and the lesser-known. Along the way I have discovered a slew of gems that aren’t often acknowledged in a prime overview of horror. In a general sense, horror is defined by its icons. We are all majorly familiar with Hellraiser, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and the like; these are of course incredible and impactful films and franchises but what about those forgotten gems that incorporate their own sense of uniqueness? These are the films that drifted under the radar but have since developed a cult following thanks to accessible platforms such as Arrow Video, 88 Films and Shudder (AKA. Horror Netflix).

Hayley on Horror Couch

The decade of horror I am most drawn to is the 1980’s. The genre became hugely marketable during this period and insanely mass-produced. Home video had taken off then reached controversial heights over in the UK no thanks to the Video Nasties panic. Despite the outrageousness of it all, it is still a fascinating point in macabre movie history. Eighties Horror has an entrancing quality to it. Filmmakers made the most of beautifully grotesque practical effects, creating some of the most inventive imagery ever seen on screen. Some of the films discussed in this list incorporate strange tones, nonsensical plot lines which requires the audience to suspend their disbelief all in the name of good, gory entertainment.

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In celebration of six years of Hayley’s Horror Reviews, join me in a trip down cult horror memory lane in appreciation of those underrated genre gems.

**Please Note that this list will not include the films I have reviewed over on my YouTube Channel such as the House franchise or Pieces, if you’d like to check those out, head to https://www.youtube.com/user/mshayleyr1989**

Leave me some comments in the box below and let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices. Which 80’s horror movies do you feel deserve more recognition?

I’d like to dedicate this review to all my horror hounds that follow and support my work. I am eternally grateful that I can share the horror love with you all.

**Gory Hugs**

  1. The Microwave Massacre (1983)
  • Directed by Wayne Berwick

Microwave Massacre

As soon as Arrow Video released ‘The Microwave Massacre’, I was instantly sold on the title alone and couldn’t wait to see what delights this bizzaro-fest had in store. The Microwave Massacre is one of a kind, for sure. It’s one of those “trash” films that is low on quality and high on the absurdity. In an exaggerated view of suburbia, construction worker Donald (Jackie Vernon) lives a pretty mundane existence. Life seems so much more exciting for his colleagues who unapologetically revel in beer and ogle boobs! Trapped in a loveless marriage with his shrewish wife May (Claire Ginsberg) who insists on only cooking him healthy food, depriving him of the remaining life pleasures he has, Donald eventually snaps and massacres his not so dear wife! He embarks on a new lease of life which sees him bask in awkward sex with women evidently out of his league and the consumption of human flesh! May’s remains are stored in his refrigerator and are on hand when he needs a bite! Everything about The Microwave Massacre is outright bad, from the awful acting to the cringeworthy effects, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! It’s pure schlock which makes it intentionally hilarious. Vernon’s impassive performance as Donald is cinematic gold, as he continuously addresses the audience in a monotone manner. The Microwave Massacre is trashy, exploitation fun and displays no sense of shame in what it does. This comical cannibal must be seen to be believed.

  1. Waxwork (1988)
  • Directed By: Anthony Hickox

waxwork

Waxwork is a late-eighties US Fantasy Horror movie directed by Brit filmmaker Anthony Hickox. Starring Gremlins favourite Zach Galligan, Waxwork is an affectionate homage to the Universal Monster movies that came before it and then some. Waxwork is an extraordinary feast for the eyes filled with imaginative set pieces and monsters and mayhem galore. When a Wax Museum mysteriously appears in a peaceful small town, the local teens are lured in by a creepy yet enigmatic old man played by David Warner. Once he traps them inside, chaos ensues as the exhibits take on a life like quality. Playing on the essence of ‘paranoid horror’, the lines between reality and the fantasy world blur showcasing a genuine Chamber of Horrors. Waxwork has it all from a gothic aesthetic to a selection of familiar fierce creatures from vampires to werewolves ready to claim and delude their victims. Grotesque and macabre in its outlook, Waxwork is an incredibly fun adventure horror film as much as it is scary. It’s one of those adorable, cheesy 80’s flicks that raises the stakes and allows its audience to root for the characters as well as become entranced by its villains. Waxwork is available to view on Shudder UK so grab some popcorn and immerse yourselves in this lavish, fantastical movie experience.

  1. American Gothic (1988)
  • Directed by John Hough

American Gothic

Due to its generic and frequently used title, American Gothic is one bizarrely brilliant 80’s movie that went under the radar and has mainly found itself in bargain bucket bins at the local Poundland! That was exactly how I came across it thanks to one of my best friends! The setup is pretty much standard horror fare which sees a group of young adults stranded on an unfamiliar island when their mode of transport fails. However, the film deserves credit for being completely unexpected and downright weird. The events that unfold on screen are more insane than the audience could have imagined. There’s a kooky and odd tone to American Gothic as the group of friends’ stumble on a house located in the backwoods. The inhabitants consist of an elderly couple, Ma (Yvonne De Carlo) and Pa (Rod Steiger) and there three overly-grown up, middle aged children, Fanny (Janet Wright), Woody (Michael J. Pollard) and Teddy (William Hootkins). The “children” still believe their aged ten and below, adding to the creep factor. It’s amusing watching the group of unsuspecting victims playing along with the unconventionality until events take a menacing turn then head straight into deranged territory. American Gothic isn’t a film that takes itself seriously by a long shot and is overall very hammy when it comes to the acting. The death scenes are an absolute highlight; they are very twisted and rather unusual. The film’s climax descends into extreme bizarreness ensuring the audience isn’t going to want to stop watching! Bordering on the comedic while displaying a blatant uneasiness, American Gothic is unforgettable once viewed, fearless in terms of pushing the boundaries and relishes in its oddness.

  1. Bloody Birthday (1981)
  • Directed by Ed Hunt

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There’s no denying that I love a good slasher film. Most of the time it’s my go-to sub-genre when it comes to horror movies. In addition to the nostalgia factor, there is something rather comforting about a good old slasher; most of them are pretty much formulaic and audiences are almost certainly guaranteed some good gore to feast their eyeballs on! Following the success of Black Christmas (1974) and Halloween (1978), centering a slasher movie around a holiday or tradition of some kind seemed mandatory once the 80’s hit. This early 80’s creepfest is the ideal example of when the movie inside the VHS box matches the creativity and quality of the cover itself. While browsing on Shudder UK, the image of a birthday cake with severed fingers in the place of candles instantly appealed! However, Bloody Birthday is a lot more than it seems. This film wasn’t afraid to take risks and pushed the sub-genre to sinister heights at the time. Bloody Birthday features some of the creepiest kids ever put to screen. Without a doubt, The Omen and The Exorcist were universally considered some of the scariest horror films ever made, proving that terror concealed with the face of innocence was undoubtedly going to get under the skin. In a nutshell, the plot centers on three children who are born during a solar eclipse and grow up to be some real cruel kids, murdering their victims in cold blood with a disturbing lack of remorse. Bloody Birthday is just as much chilling as it is mean spirited and all out suspenseful. When unsuspecting adults don’t heed the warnings that it’s the kids committing the crimes it’s ‘shout and the screen’ worthy stuff!  At the time of its release, the film proved unpopular and resulted in a random rumour that the film was shot and not released into the public domain until five years later. It has since been confirmed that the movie was completed in 1980 and came out the following year. Maybe there is some spooky ‘Mandela Effect’ at play!

  1. Night of the Creeps (1986)
  • Directed by Fred Dekker

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Upon its initial release, Night of the Creeps did not perform successfully at the Box Office but has since developed a loyal cult following making it a must-see for fans of this style of cinema. Directed by Fred Dekker who provided the story for House (1985) and went on to direct The Monster Squad (1987) and RoboCop 3 (1993), Night of the Creeps Oozes B-Movie goodness, blending zombies, science fiction and an element of the slasher, making it a cult-tastic combination. Strange, alien parasites descend from space onto a small town in 1959 leading to madness and mayhem 27 years later when two friends aiming to make an impression on a prospective fraternity accidentally stumble on a frozen corpse unleashing unforeseen havoc leading up to the formal dance. Evoking the era of the 1950’s in it’s opening sequence, Night of the Creeps is an affectionate homage to genre as a whole from its aesthetic to the surnames of its lead characters, Chris Romero, James Carpenter Hooper (J.C) and Cynthia Cronenberg. Other characters include Detective Landis, Detective Cameron, Mr Miner, the Janitor and so on. The campus is even named ‘Corman University’. All these little nods add to the overall charm the film encompasses. Night of the Creeps is very quotable, namely the excellent tagline which is delivered even better in the film itself by the always brilliant Tom Atkins, “the good news is your dates are here…the bad news is, they’re dead!”. There’s plenty of gooey gore galore and slithery sinister creatures ready to invade the bodies of crazed college kids! The greatest aspect of Night of the Creeps is it doesn’t stick to one specific style of horror, veering off into being exactly what it wants to be, an alien invasion, teen movie, zombie slasher flick with heart.

  1. Xtro (1982)
  • Directed by Harry Bromley Davenport

Xtro

My number one underrated 80’s gem goes to Xtro, the anti-ET! Xtro is a British Science Fiction/Horror Movie that is often mistakenly associated with the video nasties but in fact wasn’t amongst the 72 titles designated to the banned list. It’s a grainy, obscure film but wholly worth seeing for its underrated oddness and the visceral, strange feeling it brings with it, exactly as a movie of this kind should. Implicitly, alien abduction is the core plot of Xtro as a father named Sam Phillips (Philip Sayer) mysteriously vanishes off the face of the earth under unusual circumstances while playing outside with his son on a regular day. His ex-wife Rachel (Bernice Stegers) and son Tony (Simon Nash) subsequently move on with their lives only to receive a disturbing shock when an estranged Sam returns into their world out of the blue; however, something is not quite right about him. As predicted tension is spawned into the family dynamics with Sam’s sudden return especially with Rachel’s new partner Joe (Danny Brainin) who is less than pleased about the arrival of the ex-husband which shakes things up! Drama is thrown into the mix of bizarre horror bringing in that traditional British ‘kitchen sink’ tone with the family’s situation in a similar fashion to how Hellraiser (1987) incorporated the mundane existence of a married couple and an extramarital affair with something otherworldly lurking underneath the surface. It’s that amalgamation of a sense of realism incorporated with fantastical elements that blends well together. The visual effects and imagery are to die for in this film. Sam’s ‘rebirth’ scene is shocking, gross and spectacularly done, which is a real unnerving body horror moment that wholeheartedly deserves more credit for the detail that went into it. Director Harry Bromley Davenport threw in some nonlinear imagery including a creepy clown and an enigmatic panther without any explanation which makes the film even more fascinating and downright weird. Xtro is a magnificent film with its utter bizarreness making it compelling to watch and immensely powerful and effective.

Hayley Alice Roberts

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“Run, Rabbit, Run” Get Out (2017) Review

Posted in Horror Blog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Meeting the parents is a nerve-wracking experience for most but it certainly is the case for Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an African-American man who accompanies his Caucasian girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) on a weekend trip away to her family home in the suburbs.

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Due to his race, Chris immediately experiences understandable fears about his acceptance within the family and his position as Rose’s boyfriend, however she reassures him that her parents have zero issues.

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What follows is an emotionally intense, psychological chain of events which questions whether Chris will ‘get out’ of the unorthodox situation he’s found himself embroiled in.

From the chilling opening to the nail biting finale, Get Out is one of the must-see movies of 2017 and absolutely deserves the immense amount of praise it has been receiving. Horror has waited a long time for a film of this kind which tackles an important subject matter head on. This film marks a genre shift for it’s director and writer Jordan Peele who is renowned for his work prominently within comedy. As his horror debut he has created an accomplished film which out-rightly satires and highlights issues of racism within society and extreme white views which is both interesting and horrendous to watch.

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Get Out has been described as a “dark comedy” however it doesn’t explicitly fit into that category. For the most part it is extremely tense but it occasionally veers off with some light relief in order to break things up, namely the character of Chris’s best friend and confidant Rod (Lil Rel Howery). Speaking of his character, he is proof of how the film challenges typical horror tropes and even allows the “comedy relief” character to have more significance and importance to the story than is first expected.

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Daniel Kaluuya is captivating throughout the film and has the audience in the palm of his hand as he goes through plenty of twisted torment. His performance is gripping from the outset as he portrays Chris as a young man who isn’t afraid to display vulnerability. In horror it’s rare to see African American characters portrayed in a positive light. Take a look at the majority of slasher films where they are inexcusably bumped off for the sake of showcasing that the killer means business. Scream 2 (1997) cleverly critiqued this convention whereas Candyman (1992) also brought the horror of racial tension to the forefront. It is therefore refreshing to see an African American male shown to be strong and resourceful when he needs to be and isn’t afraid to stand up for his morals when it comes to the crunch. Chris is completely and utterly a well rounded, unforgettable character. Women in horror have also been underrepresented in the past but it is now a consistently growing movement. The genre has seen plenty of interesting and well written females in recent modern films so it does make a welcome change to see a male in the protagonist role.

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Without revealing too much, Allison Williams plays an incredible part as the sympathetic girlfriend as she struggles with her family’s conflict. Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Betty GabrielLakeith Stanfield and Caleb Landry Jones all encompass striking screen presences. It’s never quite clear what their initial motivations are which adds to the overall suspense. They are all characters to watch out for making Get Out essentially an ensemble piece.

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The opening of the film packs a punch with the eerie tune of “Run, Rabbit, Run” playing diegetically from a car creating an instantly visceral immersion into it. From then on the film gradually builds itself up crafting a clever script layered with racial overtones that creates a sense of unease from the get go. Nothing feels wasted at all as it all gears towards where it needs to be. The reveals are fantastically disturbing and well worth the wait.

The score composed by Michael Abels echoes a haunting atmosphere with it’s distinctive black musical influence as instructed by Peele when he was deciding on the direction he wanted the score to go in. Violin strings and vocal chants enhances the film’s anxious tone to a heart-rendering effect.

Get Out incorporates dream like visuals that are beautifully shot and equally trippy. 

There are so many layers to the film and so much political and social symbolism to look out for. 

Jaw-dropping, highly engaging and intelligently woven, Get Out is both impactful and an important horror film that has been much-needed.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.