“We All Float Down Here” A Review of IT (2017)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS EXTREMELY MILD SPOILERS + CLOWNS**

IT (2017) is currently the most universally talked about horror movie. There is no escaping it’s presence on television and social media; horror fan or not it is unavoidable. Opening on the 8th of September here in the UK, it has already proven itself to be one of the fastest grossing films of 2017. This latest adaptation of the 1986 mammoth Stephen King novel has been highly anticipated and boy, did it deliver the shocks and scares.

IT

IT centers on a group of misfit teenagers, referred to as “The Losers Club” who are terrorized by an ambiguous evil entity that takes the shape of a sinister clown named Pennywise.

Directed by Andy Muschietti (Mama) (2013); the well-received fright flick altered the original setting of the 1950’s in favour of the recent past; the late 1980’s. The updated timeline provides the film with a more modern outlook and shares a parallel tone with the popular Netflix series Stranger Things (2016-) which is also based in the affectionately remembered decade. The 80’s setting integrates elements of familiarity that holds appeal for the target audience. There are clear Spielberg influences in place in the sense of it being an extraordinary coming-of-age story however this is of course also derived directly from King’s source material too.

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Unlike the iconic 1990 mini-series which starred Tim Curry as the titular character, the 2017 version focuses solely on the main players during their youth and their initial acquaintance with the feared force of evil. The aforementioned 90’s film applied flashback scenes and flitted between the past and present depicting them as traumatized adults as well as assertive children. The film states that this is the first chapter with a confirmed continuation in the works. Containing the story to one timeline allows stronger audience investment and detail within the plot.

Muschietti has achieved the right tonal balance, capturing unsettling horror, an unrelenting sense of dread but also enough humor to bring in slight relief and comfort. Surprisingly, the film is a lot more brutal than expected especially in the depicted gore and violence against young children and the violence committed by the children. It’s a brave yet daring move, utilizing its R rating (15 in the UK) to maximum effect. In fact, it opens with a bang and doesn’t let up once during its lengthy run time.

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IT operates as a strong ensemble piece. There are no weak links among the young but immensely talented cast. The characterization is thoroughly developed, each character embodying their own individual personalities and layered dimensions. Jaeden Lieberher plays protagonist Bill Denbrough with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Stranger Things favorite Finn Wolfhard provides Ritchie Tozier with equal amounts of forthright boldness and likeable charm. Jack Dylan Grazer captures his hypochondriac character Eddie Kaspbrak with vulnerability and fearfulness. Sophia Lillis gives a stunning performance as Beverley Marsh, the headstrong tomboy harbouring a tumultuous home life and Jackson Robert Scott is heartbreaking as poor, innocent Georgie. The child actors are at the forefront with the parental influence and protection exceptionally thin on the ground leaving them exposed to Pennywise’s terror and their own growing pains. The audience experiences the tale through the eyes of the troubled teens giving leeway for an abundance of imaginative horrific moments.

Bill Skarsgård is a revelation as Pennywise. Any reservations the fans have had about his rendition of the character will soon be dispelled. He is quite frankly terrifying. His first appearance in the sewers sets the tone for the kind of character he is going to be. Skarsgård portrays the chilling clown as outright frightening and grotesque as he salivates over his prey but at the same time sustains a whimsical air about him. There’s an initial softness in his manner as he lures the children to their impending doom before opening his razor-sharp jaws. It goes without saying he is a contender for one of the scariest villains of all time.

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IT is highly compelling, emotion driven and a genuine slice of pure horror. The film features effective CGI, unsettling set pieces and a nostalgic soundtrack. New Kids on the Block anyone? The film has even been Stephen King approved. The prolific horror author even had his own expectations defied. Undeniably, Muschietti and his crew have well and truly pulled off a potential horror classic that manages to outshine the original adaptation. Hopefully, the second installment will live up to the strength and quality of this one but only time will tell.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

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Stark Raving Quackers: A Review of ‘The Quacky Slasher (2017)’.

Posted in Short Scares with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS**

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Ever since its marketing debut at Birmingham Horror Con back in February, The Quacky Slasher has been a hotly anticipated short film on the indie genre circuit. Directed by Peter Mckeirnon (Dead Town, Swings and Roundabouts), The Quacky Slasher is an affectionate, all out parody of the golden era of slasher movies in the schlocky sense.

Following a traumatic childhood experience in which he saw his father mauled to death by ducks, Michael Quackers (Andrew Butterworth) is on the rampage, stabbing and slashing several unwitting yet disreputable victims who are unlucky enough to cross his path.

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Made on a shoe-string budget, The Quacky Slasher utilizes the resources it’s equipped with which adds to the overall charm. It’s tongue-in-cheek from the outset with the humour coming across as naturally funny rather than forced. Do not go in expecting a high quality, polished film but rather take it for what it is. The editing is choppy in places with the transitions between scenes abruptly starting and ending rather than transitioning smoothly or in a slick fashion but again that may have been intentional.

The cast and crew have clearly put in a lot of dedication and have created a film which lovingly satires the likes of Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), and Pieces (1982). Much like the cult classics that preceded it, The Quacky Slasher plays with the familiar trope of childhood trauma affecting the killer’s future actions and inevitably quenching their bloodthirst! There’s some fan-worthy nods in there especially to legendary screen killers Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. In an early scene, Michael lurks down the aisles of a novelty shop and of course selects the duck mask rather than the masks of his famous counterparts, making the statement that this demented duck is coming into his own.

The QS

The film is also a self-confessed homage to iconic, British cult series, The League of Gentlemen (1999-2002). Mckeirnon has employed the idea of the ordinary, small British town where a dark underbelly lurks underneath the surface and the quirky characters who inhabit it. Three intertwining sub-plots run through the 35-minute-long short, there’s the dodgy dealings of the corrupt criminals, the ‘slow on the uptake’ police officers and of course Michael’s quackers killing spree. Mckerinon places a refreshing spin on the conventional inept police detectives by casting two females in the roles, conveying that gender in horror can be flip-sided to suit all kids of stock characters.

The sinister synth score which plays at pivotal moments aids the 80’s tone that the film possesses. In fact, there isn’t really a ‘modern’ feel to it at all, Michael’s backstory reveal is told the old-fashioned way and technology barely plays a role, staying authentic to the era of genre it’s paying homage to. It depicts its more bloody moments wisely and does contain some great set pieces of gore. The mask itself is pretty striking, allowing Michael Quackers to make his unforgettable mark.

The Quacky Slasher has a niche appeal about it. It’s a film created for fans of low budget exploitation, horror/comedy as well as traditional slashers. It’s wholly exaggerated, campy and completely played for laughs.

This is one slashtastic spoof that is absolutely quackers! Whatever you do ‘Don’t F**k with the Duck’!!

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

 

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.

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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

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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 

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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.

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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.

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**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.

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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.

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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?

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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-
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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.

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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.