Archive for October, 2013

Celluloid Screams 2013: The Festival’s Top Feature Films.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Celluloid Screams once again delivered an outstanding festival bringing us the latest and best within the genre. 2013 marked my third visit to Sheffield’s Horror festival and the quality in all aspects from the organization to the films themselves have been fantastic and that’s the reason I will continue attending for plenty more thrills and chills, blood and gore every October. This year my partner in crime Caitlyn Downs attended with me for the first time in order to provide daily coverage on the film’s shown and general festival going’s on. Unfortunately due to the busy nature of the festival and the charge of WiFi in the hotel we were unable to edit on the go therefore the videos recorded will be uploaded to my Youtube Channel over this next week.

There was so much great high amongst the features this year, so it has been a difficult task narrowing down my absolute favourite pick. From the Backwoods to the Revenge Flick, Body Horror to the Psychological Thriller, Zombies to Vampires this year’s programme provided a wide range of features that meant there was something on offer for everyone. Each film had its own characteristics that made them an incredible and welcome entry into modern horror. Also, some older films were shown adding to the variety. Some would argue that it would be unfair to include them within the top list of movies from Celluloid Screams, however as I had not seen any of them prior to the festival, I think they deserve a worthy mention and will be included. Overall I have complied a list of the nine best films I discovered this year.

So, my gore-freaks, let’s indulge in a list of ghoulishly good films that made Celluloid Screams 2013 a memorable weekend!

Please note that these are the opinions of Hayley’s Horror Reviews and do not reflect the overall audience vote in relation to the winning films of the festival.

9. The Battery

  • Directed by Jeremy Gardner
  • USA

For what it is, The Battery achieves what it sets out to do. Its a character driven piece that uses the zombie metaphor as a social commentary. Interestingly, the zombies remain firmly in the background as the audience explore these two characters who provide the main focus. We were informed during the introduction, that the title derives from the Baseball term that describes the relationship between the catcher and the pitcher. In another sense The Battery is a road movie as we step into the world of two ex-baseball players Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) as they aimlessly drive around a desolate New England avoiding shuffling corpses that now walk the earth. Ben and Mickey contrast each other greatly as characters. Ben is the type who will take action and fight for survival when presented with danger. Mickey on the other hand struggles to accept the change in their environment which creates a compelling dynamic between the two leaving the audience wondering if these two guys can really make it out alive together in the long run.

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The framing of the characters with wide spaces between them helped convey their differences well and create the feeling of isolation. The relationship between Ben and Mickey is the film’s strongest element however the reason it’s so low on my list is because there were a couple of filmic decisions that didn’t quite zombie-fy me, so to speak! The main problem with The Battery is the pacing, its understandable that Gardner had a clear idea of what he wanted; to create this slow-burning sense of reality however it just dragged the film out longer than was necessary. At times it lacked atmosphere then something would happen that would pull it back up again but then it would return to a slow pace. The slow-pacing was also accompanied by several montage sequences which came across like an advertisement for promoting bands and turned the film into what seemed like an extended music video.

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However, what made The Battery stand out was its ability to take expected zombie-movie tropes and completely subvert them, adding to that sense of realism, as in  how the situation would play out in real life. A portion of the film sees Mickey discover there could be others out there, bringing in hope following an accidental radio transmission. Naturally it would be expected to have the two characters join a community made up of existing survivors, however The Battery plays this out in an interesting way. Another interesting aspect was how the characters wouldn’t go searching for a fight, they’d deal with it if approached by the zombies. We were also informed The Battery had been a low-budget film, the quality of the sound was sharp and the cinematography was flawless, demonstrating that because something may be low budget does not mean it can’t look and sound professional. The Battery incorporated strong performances and offered something a bit different in a sub-genre that has been over done, although would have been more favourable if it had been edited down slightly in terms of its run-time. ★★★

8. Motivational Growth

  • Directed by Don Thacker
  • USA

An interesting choice for the opening film, Motivational Growth is a hallucinogenic, horror, comedy movie that features the voicing talents of recurring genre stalwart Jeffrey Combs voicing a talking mold. With a quirky premise, Motivational Growth has a lot of promise. The film follows Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni), an introvert who hasn’t left his untidy apartment for a few months. Letting himself go, he only has an old-fashioned television, who he names Kent for company. Soon, he meets a grotty piece of mold on his bathroom wall. But this mold has some obscure intentions. The Mold begins acting as a motivational life coach for Ian, encouraging him to turn his life around but soon Ian begins to suspect that there’s more to The Mold’s intentions than he first thought.

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Motivational Growth is a strange, surrealist piece. It has the makings of an out of the box indie style film, it also includes some video game sequences that prove pretty inventive. The set design is brilliant and it does well in terms of breaking down the fourth wall. It makes a commentary on the repetitive nature of television as well as the power that television has to manipulate its viewers, this is demonstrated in a series of moments where Ian starts to think the television is talking directly to him. It also conveyed society’s obsession with exercise during some humorous television scenes, relating back to 80’s films when exercise videos began emerging. My only criticism would be that the narrative proved difficult to follow at times, making for a confusing watch, therefore it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Echoing films such as Basket Case and even Little Shop of Horrors, Motivational Growth will appeal to those who enjoy talking monster movies. It’s well-acted with believable chemistry between Adrian Giovanni and Jeffrey Combs talking mold as well as Adrian’s scenes with love interest Leah (Danielle Doetsch). It has entertaining moments with very out there humour and sequences. ★★★

7. Basket Case

  • Directed by Frank Henenlotter
  • USA

Celluloid Screams special guest this year was Frank Henenlotter who was in attendance to introduce his films Basket Case,  Basket Case 2 and Frankenhooker as well as celebrate his contribution to Horror Cinema. As Basket Case was a film I hadn’t previously seen, I felt it deserved a mention in my top festival films for its sheer brilliance. Basket Case is an exploitation film meets body horror, the slasher and the monster movie all rolled into one. It follows the story of Duane Bradley, a young man who checks into a sleazy hotel in New York carrying a basket of all things. To the horror of those around him, little do they know that the contents of the mystery basket is his grotesquely deformed twin brother Belial who was separated from him as a child by some calculating doctors leaving him for dead. Now Belail and Duane are out for revenge on them. A complication arises when Duane begins dating a doctor’s receptionist causing Belail to become very jealous and destroy anything that comes in his path.

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Belail becomes out of control, which threatens their quest for vengeance. Basket Case is an entertaining and often gory look at the complications between being so close to someone as well as being somewhat of a burden. Belail appears hideous on the surface but there is a great deal of empathy for him as he did not choose to be that way. Basket Case contains a lot of black humour and a seedy setting, making it the perfect late night movie. Belail has remained a memorable horror monster and the film has put its influential stamp on the genre with inspiring later films such as the previously discussed Motivational Growth. ★★★★

6. Der Fan (Aka. Trance)

  • Directed by Eckhart Schmidt
  • West Germany

Kier-La Janisse, author of The House of Psychotic Women introduced Der Fan (UK title Trance) a self-confessed favourite film of her’s. Providing the audience with some background information, Der Fan comes with a controversial history in cinema as a whole. Actress Desiree Nosbuch who plays the lead role of Simone was already a household name in Germany through appearing on Radio Luxenburg at the young age of twelve. She was around sixteen when shooting Der Fan and did full frontal nudity as well as performed scenes of chilling violence which would not be welcome in cinema today for someone of that age. Seedy exploitation or art film? Whatever you may view it as Der Fan remains to have a relevant commentary on the obsession with media figures, in this case the pop star.

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Simone’s world surrounds a new wave pop star known as ‘R’, she carries a deep obsession for him and writes endless fan letters declaring her love. Each day she gets into an altercation with the post man when she receives nothing back from her idol. Determined to take matters into her own hands, she seeks out ‘R’ for herself outside a television studio. He instantly takes a liking to her, inviting her into his dressing room and to the rehearsal of his show. R comes across as very bland and uncharismatic, he is a puppet of the music industry and a projected image which is far from the reality of who he really is. Much to his entourage’s dismay he leaves without revealing his next move and takes Simone back to a friend’s apartment in which he has the keys for. After what seems like a long, drawn out sex scene, R rejects Simone, crushing all her fantasies of a life with him. Following what feels like a sleazy, low budget 80’s drama/thriller, the next sequence of the film came unexpectedly and could be considered one of the most chilling and extreme death scenes within cinema. Simone bludgeons R to death with a statue, then carves up his body and places his dismembered parts in the freezer. It doesn’t end there, we next see Simone cooking R, then eating him piece by piece. She grinds his bones into ash and scatters him outside the same television studio. When a bulletin emerges on the news as a shaven-headed Simone returns to her parents home, reporting the mysterious disappearance of R, Simone eerily writes him his last fan letter stating he’ll always be a part of her (literally!) and that she missed her period!

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Desiree Nosbuch gives one of the most disturbing performances in horror movie history, the nature of the crime she commits is beyond shocking especially for the age of the character. Its a film that will be long-lasting in the mind for taking such a U-turn in direction. The version screened was an English dub which sounded stereotypically British, providing unintentional laughs, also the violence up until the dismembering sequence came across as pretty tame comparatively to today’s standards. What’s even more startling about the film is it has the potential to be remade today especially surrounding the hysteria and fan obsession of boy band One Direction, where some teenage females actually believe they will one day become the girlfriend the band members. Even with the use of Twitter nowadays it has the potential to up the ante. Definitely glad I had the opportunity to see this as it was a complex character study in obsessive behaviour and very underrated. ★★★★

5. Discopath

  • Directed by Renaud Gauthier
  • Canada

Celluloid Screams could not have chosen a better closing film. With its tongue firmly in cheek, Discopath pays homage to 1970’s exploitation as well as incorporating fragments of the slasher film in order to create an upbeat, funky, splatter-fest! Duane Lewis is a quiet young man who keeps himself to himself, until the summer of 1976 in New York when he is exposed to a new infectious music genre…Disco! A style of music that brings back memories of a traumatic past! Unable to keep control of his psychotic impulses he begins to kill! Its certainly murder on the dancefloor! Duane subsequently escapes to Montreal where he continues to carry out his murderous rampage on a Catholic girls school.

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Think Saturday Night Fever meets grindhouse cinema. Director Renaud Gauthier captures the essence of the 70’s well, bringing in a catchy soundtrack full of disco fun including KISS’s ‘I was made for loving you’ and retro costumes spinning us with pure 70’s flare. Discopath is a definite crowd-pleaser and the feel-good horror movie. Its campy and retro and there’s plenty to enjoy, from the unintentional comedy that grindhouse films often displayed, to the thrill of wondering if Duane’s murder spree will be put to an end. Its sleazy, fun and infectious. I can guarantee this film will put a smile on your face!  ★★★★

4. Chimeres (UK Premiere)

  • Directed by Oliver Beguin
  • Switzerland

Chimeres ended up being one of those absolute gems where you go into the cinema blind just knowing its a vampire movie you’re about to see and being completely stunned by how great it turned out. Chimeres cleverly introduces the audience to its protagonists before bringing in the horror angle. Its a love story but works well as it allows the viewer to get a sense of what Alex (Yannick Rosset) and Livia (Jasna Kohoutova) relationship has been like over the years. There’s a believable chemistry between the actors creating  characters that can be imagined in real life. The film kicks off when Alex, a talented photographer is involved in a devastating car accident following a romantic evening with Livia. He is immediately rushed to hospital in Romania (Livia’s place of birth) for an emergency blood transfusion. When the couple return home, Alex soon experiences some physiological changes and slowly transforms into a Vampire. The vampire metaphor is in place to depict the change in their relationship and how Livia must adapt to her lover’s new way of being, suggesting the notion, how far would you go for someone you love?

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Introducing the Vampire aspect after establishing the love story is an inventive and clever choice, separating Chimeres from all the Twilight films and others of that style. Chimeres works as a dark, intense and intimate piece. It incorporates some stunning visual effects especially when Alex sees the changes in him through the bathroom mirror. These scenes demonstrate Alex’s polar opposites, we see him as his normal self then as a blood-soaked fiend. Oliver Beguin admitted he made the decision to expand on vampire lore and bring in some of his own ideas which sets it apart in its own right. Having Alex get the vampire curse from a transfusion rather than bitten by another vampire brought in a different dynamic, yet there were also conventions in place such as fear of sunlight. There’s a rawness to the film which draws the audience in to these characters lives. There’s plenty of blood and sex which is essential when it comes down to the vampire sub-genre. The sex scene itself came across as powerful and animalistic but was shot tastefully and added to the intensity. Livia is an empowering female character, there is a lot of focus on her being a kick boxer, demonstrating she can handle herself. Its finally refreshing to see a heroine that can be vulnerable and strong at the same time. There’s a scene where the couple are attacked by a group of thugs and in a turn of events Livia is the one to pull the first punch. So more Buffy less Bella which is what fans of these movies want to see. Catriona McColl plays a small role as Alex’s mother, she’s a fantastic actress and brings in a strong screen presence.

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Chimeres is the best vampire film I’ve seen in a long time. It has everything this type of film should have, its emotional, romantic, passionate, gory and well-acted. It came so close to becoming one of the top films I’d seen at Celluloid Screams and I can’t wait to re-visit it again at the Abertoir festival next week. ★★★★

3. Big Bad Wolves

  • Directed By Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado
  • Israel

Big Bad Wolves isn’t something that should be taken lightly. The film tells the story of a series of horrific child murders within a community in Israel. A sick, twisted paedophile has abused and murdered innocent young girls and left their bodies behind for the police to uncover with their heads missing. One father and a police officer take matters into their own hands when their worlds collide on the hunt for the supposed paedophile. The father locks him up in his basement with the sole intention of torturing him into admitting where he has buried his daughter’s head. I had my reservations before viewing this, the subject matter is usually far too upsetting for me to handle however I’d heard very positive things about Big Bad Wolves and made the decision to give it a chance but if it became too much I’d leave the cinema. Surprisingly I stayed until the brutal end and was blown away by how phenomenal the film really is.

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The most interesting aspect of it was how it blended in genres within the backdrop of the harrowing subject matter. Big Bad Wolves is a psychological thriller and features some well-crafted torture scenes but the most surprising element was the use of black comedy that actually worked very well. In a sense it made the film more bearable when things became intense. There was much empathy for the father character as even though he transitioned between bumbling and tough guy, it showed how human he was. He was just a regular guy who had the most precious thing in his life taken away from him so cruelly. Tension was built up incredibly well as random real life interruptions including taking a phone call ensured that it would be a long period of endurance as to if and when the father and the audience will discover the truth. Plenty of twist and turns concluded the film in an exceptionally chilling manner that will be difficult to forget. Another interesting angle in Big Bad Wolves was the hints of racial tensions in Israel with the Arab community, which ends up being more vital to the main plot than first expected.

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The score was beautiful and heightened the emotion throughout. Big Bad Wolves is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever witnessed with a harrowing on-screen portrayal of an issue prominent in society, yet is difficult to talk about at the same time. I suppose this is why these kind of films are made to give an insight into the complexities of dealing with the horror of paedophilia and the protection of children but also demonstrates that taking justice into your own hands will end in messy consequences. The film wasn’t gratuitous by any means, it carefully dealt with the nasty stuff with a quick shot of the murdered little girl from an angle and only used a description of the evil methods of the supposed paedophile which was graphic enough. The torture scenes themselves were shot in a way that put the audience on edge, almost wanting to look away without being too exploitative. Big Bad Wolves deserves a lot of credit as a whole from dealing sensitively enough with the prospect of child murder and creating a unique piece that combines genres that wouldn’t usually work well together, the entire cast gave exceptional performances, which made for a compelling watch. It will be long-lasting in the mind but I do highly recommend it. There’s no surprise that it won best feature film of the festival. ★★★★★

2. Painless (Aka. Insensibles)

  • Directed by Juan Carlos Medina
  • Spain

Painless is a deep and harrowing portrayal of how a country has been impacted by a long dictatorship and the mistakes of the generations before them. Painless operates as a psychological and historical horror with the genre firmly in place as a metaphor. The title Painless is ironic in its own way as what the characters go through is incredibly painful to watch. Set between the past and present, Painless focuses on David, a neurosurgeon/workaholic who survives a horrific car accident that kills his pregnant wife. He soon discovers that he has an aggressive form of cancer which can be operated on with a bone marrow transplant. When visiting his parents it is revealed that David was in fact adopted and must seek the truth about his biological parents before its too late.

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During the 1930’s a group of children born with a rare condition enabling them not to feel pain are locked away allegedly for their own safety during the height of the Spanish Civil War, David must uncover the tragic truth of their fates while coming to terms with his own impending death. With two narratives running alongside each other, the film takes its time to tell both of them, making it run fluidly. With a haunting tone, it really sits with the viewer on how the past can still affect an entire country, there is a consistent theme of fire throughout which heightens the tensions of the fascist regime and its effect on Spanish society. With a beautifully poignant ending, Painless is a phenomenal debut from Director Juan Carlos Medina, who has presented a well-crafted, chillingly thought-provoking piece that combines stunning cinematography and flawless editing. ★★★★★

1. Jug Face

  • Directed By Chad Crawford Kinkle
  • USA

Jug Face is unlike any other backwoods film. Sure, comparisons can be drawn with other films with similar themes such as Rosemary’s Baby or any cult related movies but Jug Face does stand out on its own. The film opens with several pastel drawings conveying the community’s mythology and the significance of the Jug Face as well as their worship of a muddy hole in the ground known as ‘The Pit’ which feels like a character of its own during the film as well as the main threat. This sequence emphasizes the power of film as a visual means of story-telling as the it does not rely on exposition at any point following the opening moments. The pastel drawings also convey a childlike tone which hints at the simplistic way of living for these kind of backwoods community. We then meet a young girl Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) who appears to be living life by her own rules. She has sex behind her parents back which ultimately results in an unplanned pregnancy. Her family have arranged for her to be ‘joined’ with another local boy much to her dismay. Her closest confidant is a man called Dawai (Sean Bridges) who has a special ability to see and create the jug face, that is made to resemble a member of the community who will be sacrificed to the pit. Ada stumbles upon the latest jug and to her horror discovers she will be next, before her family and neighbours can discover the truth, Ada hides the jug face which leads to a series of tragic events that spiral out of her control. Chad Crawford Kinkle explained in the Q&A that he became inspired after discovering the jug face was part of a Southern tradition and developed the idea from there, with this film, he certainly offers something a bit different to the usual fare from this horror sub-genre.

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The film tackles complicated family dynamics. The community is particularly male-centric, indicating that traditionally the woman’s role is to be a wife and mother. The idea that they are willing to sacrifice their own children is savage. It also deals with taboo subjects such as incest, which is rarely portrayed as boldly as it is in this. Jug Face evokes very interesting ideas about belief systems and the disturbing nature of how people believe they are doing something good by murdering. The performances are of a high quality, Lauren Ashley Carter carries the film beautifully, she portrays Ada as innocent and naive yet devious at times as she let’s the brutal fates of others happen to save her own skin. Even so, at the same time she is caring especially toward her friend Dawai and her elderly Grandpa and seems to be the only one who looks after him. Sean Bridges proves how versatile an actor he is as the kind-hearted Dawai who would willingly give up his own life in order to save Ada, its a stark contrast from the twisted, chilling suburban Father he played in The Woman. He and Lauren Ashley Carter display believable on-screen chemistry. Both Sean Young and Larry Fessenden also give outstanding performances as the parents struck by grief and loyalty to their beliefs. Sean Young as the mother delivers powerful yet disturbing moments in her scenes with Ada when their ideals begin to break down due to Ada’s actions. Jug Face is incredibly suspenseful as it puts the audience on the edge of the seat in a guessing game of what twists and turns will come next. It also has a supernatural element which compliments the backwoods drama well. The gore effects are interesting and prove effective without having to be extreme, the rapid editing used when depicting how the pit consumes its victims is presented in an innovative and clever way, which almost comes across as hallucinogenic.

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Jug Face is unique and a refreshing take on cult mentality and all the devastation it can bring on a small group of people. Lucky McGee had a small role as executive producer and his style and essence is most definitely present within the film. With clear direction, a well paced narrative, impressive performances and plenty of suspenseful moments its the reason Jug Face had to take the number one spot on this list. It’s one that certainly works on a deep, psychological level and isn’t afraid to be daring. ★★★★★

COMING SOON:

Celluloid Screams 2013: The Festival’s Top Short Films

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Hayley & Caitlyn Present: Celluloid Screams The Videos.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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Halloween Month: Curse of Chucky (2013)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS**

Prior to its Fright Fest Premiere back in August, I discussed both my interest and excitement for the new installment from the Child’s Play franchise, Curse of Chucky (2013). With any horror sequel, especially one derived from a long-running series, there’s going to be plenty of skepticism. Does the film need to be made? Will it offer anything distinctive? Will it hold up well with fans? On some level, yes the film was a welcoming addition to the series and ends Chucky on a better note than the atrocious Seed of Chucky (2005) did. I wouldn’t say it offered anything particularly new but it does work well as a suspenseful and scary horror film that does exactly what it sets out to do and meets expectations. As stated, this film was owed to the fans due to the disappointment of the previous film and there is a lot there to enjoy.

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As Curse of Chucky is a new release I won’t give too much of the good stuff away but merely allude to why this is worth watching for Child’s Play and general horror fans alike.

So, Chucky’s back and meaner than ever! The tone of the film differed greatly from the cheesy,  horror comedy of the Bride/Seed of Chucky sequels in favor of a more sinister approach. Director Don Mancini  stated that his intention was to incorporate a different style in comparison to the previous film, and on the whole I can say he achieved this well. The prime setting is a dated, gothic mansion, complete with an old-fashioned elevator that looks eerily similar to the one that Frank-N-Furter makes his entrance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), creating a set up for plenty of scares!

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Nica (Fiona Dourif- Brad Dourif’s real life daughter) is confined to a wheel chair and has let life restrict her due to caring for her mentally ill mother Sarah (Chantal Qusenelle). We see glimpses of their strained relationship however its soon cut short by the mysterious arrival of Good Guy Doll Chucky (the vessel of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, who was gunned down in a toy store and transferred his soul into a doll- for those that didn’t know!). Nica discovers her dead mother and assumes it was suicide. We then meet the rest of the characters, her snobby sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti), she’s pretty much unlikable but there is an interesting twist to her character that challenges the stereotypical dominant career-woman/wife and mother who has a blatant identity crisis. There’s her adorable daughter Alice (Summer H. Howell) who does very well in the film for her age, especially acting innocently to Chucky’s crude manner. A favorite line had to be when she uttered “Chucky, I’m scared” during a storm sequence, his reply, “you f***ing should be!”, her reaction is priceless. There’s Barb’s put-upon husband Ian (Brennan Elliott) who may be more self-aware of his families issues than meets the eye, he also seems attracted to their Nanny Jill (Maitland McConnell) who is bizarrely being paid $400 an hour to take care of their daughter. Father Frank (A. Martinez), a reverend is also there to console the family but its doubtful that religion will go down too well with the murderous Chucky (Voiced by Brad Dourif).

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So what can push a dysfunctional family over the edge even further? Well throw in a killer doll of course, hell bent on revenge. Chucky has a score to settle, one that began twenty-five years ago with Nica’s family. This film is the missing piece of the puzzle, we get an insight into the backstory of Charles Lee Ray, before he terrorized innocent Andy Barclay all those years ago. The discovery gives him a bit more depth, even though it isn’t a particularly shocking twist. I’m assuming Mancini intended to provide a sense of empathy for him however it doesn’t translate too well as he is irredeemable by this point. That said, uncovering the mystery of what Chucky wants with the family throughout the film is pretty enjoyable viewing.

Tension is built up well however is slightly drawn out at times. The viewer is brought to the edge of their seats and are pushed that bit further, especially during the family dinner scene. During the tense moments, a lot of close ups are used, conveying a sense of uncomfortableness not knowing when Chucky will jump out around the corner or when a false alarm will occur. There are some genuine jump scare moments, which shows that Mancini has upped his game in terms of improving the series by using old skool techniques to create a sense of suspense and fear, a favorite would be the creepy elevator scene. The original film is echoed back to a great deal in this sense, visually, with Chucky menacingly running around, through using close ups of his feet and POV shots.

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Why is Curse of Chucky one to watch this Halloween, You ask? Its always fun to check out a new horror movie however this one obviously has the nostalgia factor. “The 80’s were awesome!” exclaims Ian as he recalls the popularity of the Good Guy Dolls, however I do wonder why it wasn’t discontinued after being associated with numerous murders! Fiona Dourif’s Nica is very likeable and is much stronger and resourceful than the rest of the characters, especially when it comes to taking matters into her own hands, she certainly holds her own when encountered with the evil doll. There’s some hilarious yet dark one-liners, Chucky is back on top form and his killings have got a bit more gruesome and with the perfect 18 certificate the gore goes all out! The ending is surprising with a twist that will be very appealing to its fans. Its also a very good introduction to Chucky for those unfamiliar with the previous installments as it shows him at his dark best and provides a clear backstory. With relief the series has also avoided the inevitable horror remake making a sequel of this kind more welcoming. I could go as far as saying this is my favorite film from the series but I have a lot of affection for Bride of Chucky as well as the original trilogy! For a fun, scary and suspenseful recent horror film, be sure to indulge in Curse of Chucky this season.

Hayley Alice Robers.

ABC’s of Death 2: The Search for the 26th Director.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Following the success of the 2012 film, anthology movie The ABC’s Of Death is getting a sequel promising 26 new directors and 26 new ways to die. I for one had mixed feelings about the first offering, but there were glimpses of some well-made horror pieces amongst those that didn’t quite cut it. Hopefully second time round will bring in some more talented directors with an eye for innovative horror, capturing moments of fear within a short run-time. A huge appeal for the second instalment will be seeing what the awesome Jen and Sylvia Soska will have to offer as well as Marcus Dunstan who directed The Collection, a film that I surprisingly enjoyed this year.

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But what’s currently dominating interest in this film is discovering who will win the competition to become ABC’s 26th Director. The winner of the competition will be down to horror fans themselves as they decide between a high standard of entries through an online voting system, closing on Halloween night. More information about that can be found here. In order to help you decide your winner, I’m going to discuss a couple of entries that you should consider from some of my favourite independent genre directors.

M is for Macho. Directed by Jose Pedro Lopes.

If you like a bit of zombies in your horror then look no further. M is for Macho is set on a basketball court where the only thing stopping the lead male and female character reaching the net are a group of braindead zombies! Fearlessly, the female character reaches the net, dodging them in the process but when the male attempts to he is not so successful! M is for Macho is a critique of gender roles using the zombie sub-genre as a backdrop, subverting the idea that “being macho” is associated only with males. To a degree its a feminist piece that challenges ideas of masculinity while not taking itself too seriously. Macho provides sharp cinematography with a lot of attention to detail in every frame, along with a heavy rock soundtrack that suggests competitiveness and aggression. The sunny, outdoor setting really contrasts the horror, however demonstrates that horror doesn’t need to be done in complete darkness in order to create tension. The zombie make up is awesome and the performances are just right, these are some of the best zombies I’ve seen in recent films from the sub-genre. With dark humour and light gore, M is for Macho is an entertaining piece and a strong contender for the competition. This is definitely one that I’d like to see within an anthology film.

M is for Mother. Directed by Corey Norman.

This was an entry I was initially apprehensive about watching due to its dark subject matter as involving children in peril is always going to be difficult viewing. M is for Mother focuses on an every day situation where a mother reads her little girl a bedtime story. The film has a minimalistic setting, the little girl’s pink bedroom which is used effectively while giving a sense of claustrophobia. The entirety of the film feels tense as its not your typical horror fare, it is uncertain of what kind of direction it could go in which leaves the viewer on edge. The mother recites a fairy-tale style story to her adorable daughter about a King and Queen and their Little Princess. As the mother delves deeper into the story about a witch who tore their family apart and stole the King romantically from the Queen, it soon transpires that the story is a mask for the breakdown of the traditional family, something more common within today’s society. With no blood or gore, M is for Mother is frightening on a whole different level. Not one for those who don’t have a strong stomach, I understand Corey Norman’s intentions of representing something that could be considered real life horror and with that in mind there is nothing more unnerving. Effective, tense and long-lasting in the mind I would recommend taking M is for Mother into consideration for its way of creating fear with performance, setting and direction alone.

M is for Marriage. Directed by Todd E. Freeman.

Potentially, this could be my favourite entry. M is for Marriage is a very powerful piece that focuses on the depths of strong emotions including love and hate.  M is for Marriage has been made as a teaser for Freeman’s upcoming feature film Love Sick. If this is the kind of high, dramatic horror that’s in store then Love Sick will be one of the most anticipated modern horror films. Staying true to his style of body horror as seen in Cell Count, Freeman doesn’t disappoint as he uses the concept as a metaphor for the emotions of a relationship. The plot focuses on an experienced therapist Doctor Christian who specialises in the controversial method of Bio-Medical psychotherapy. He is working with a husband and wife who seek help to move forward and overcome past mistakes. The main portion of the film focuses on the wife character who is encouraged to display her anger and hate towards her husband’s infidelity. Her performance is powerful and moving as the film depicts the emotions of hate, love and anger as well as how they look physically which makes a compelling and interesting viewing. I’m completely blown away by this fascinating piece as it depicts something we can all relate to and goes into depth about what it really is to be human. The Doctor provides the insight that we are all connected, there’s an amazing shot that demonstrates this where the head’s of the two characters fade into each other, centrally in the frame. There’s an unexpected twist ending that comes across as satisfying and acts as the crescendo for the intense build-up that came before it. I highly recommend viewing this one for being able to get right under the skin with its subject matter and its attention to creating as much intensity as possible before a satisfying climax.

Definitely check out these unique horror entries that provide a sense of versatility to the genre, its definitely going to be a tough choice as there’s so many interesting and diverse films entered into the competition. If you get a chance to watch these or any other ABC’s of Death 2 entries then feel free to comment below. Would love to hear your thoughts on which film YOU think is deserving of the 26th Director crown!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Halloween Month: Hatchet (2006)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

In last week’s entry examining Friday the 13th I briefly discussed its influence on the slasher movies that came after it. Hatchet is one of the most recent examples of taking the slasher formula and updating it into a modern setting with characters that play the scenario straight resulting in comic effect. Despite wreaking of everything that screams ’80’s horror’, when Hatchet was released in 2006 it was the refreshing film that gore-hounds craved. That year, remakes were becoming more prominent with re-imaginings of The Hills Have Eyes, When a Stranger Calls and Black Christmas. A couple of less-good sequels to popular modern franchises also emerged such as Final Destination 3 and the terribly unnecessary I’ll Always Know what you did Last Summer and due to the success of films such as Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005), torture porn had gained immense popularity. Hatchet was all about bringing back the old-school slasher film and offering us a whole new murderous monster to hack n’ slash a group of hapless unsuspecting victims, who haven’t quite comprehended the tropes of the horror movie. But the real treat for genre enthusiasts was seeing the legends that are Rober Englund (Freddy Kruger), Tony Todd (Candyman) and Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees) starring in the same movie together, making it a cut above the rest of the offerings that emerged that year.

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Hatchet incorporates a sinister swamp setting with wildlife around every corner as well as the spooky Mardi-Gras theme that was also the main setting in Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh (1995). The plot is your typical horror fare, a group of misfits take a ‘haunted’ boat tour of an abandoned swamp. Despite being forewarned by Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) the local voodoo shop owner, college students Ben (Joel David Moore) and Marcus (Deon Richmond) decide to go ahead with the plan so that Ben can take his mind off his recent break-up. They soon meet Marybeth (Tamara Feldman) a young woman who knows more than she’s letting on about why she seeks out the swamp. Its soon revealed that her father and brother have gone missing during a fishing trip and she’s hell bent on discovering their whereabouts. Viewers already know they’ve been brutally murdered during the films opening sequence. Also along for the ride are tour guide Shawn (Parry Shen), a comic relief character, an older married couple Jim (Richard Riehle) and Shannon (Partika Darbo), Doug Sharpio (Joel Murray), a pervert who promises young girls an acting career while exploiting them through getting them to display nudity for his own gratification and the air-headed eye candy duo Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Jenna (Joleigh Fivoravanti). These characters are in place as exaggerated caricatures of expected horror victims,  ready to be sliced and diced by the Hatchet face himself. The amount of comedy in the film does verge on parody as it doesn’t take itself completely seriously. Let’s just say it sits firmly in between the Scream films and the Scary Movie spoofs. Director Adam Green stated in the behind-the-scenes featurette that his intention was to separate the horror and comedy. There’s plenty of blood and boobs galore, but Green admitted he wanted to present female nudity in the film as comical rather than gratuitous, gently poking fun at the amount of scantily clad women who were hacked up in the films of the past. It actually works well, the death scenes are in-your-face, and the comedy provides laugh out loud moments, nicely complementing each other.

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Victor’s back-story is firmly established yet developed further in the 2010 sequel Hatchet II. The illegitimate child of Thomas Crowley and his mistress, Victor was born deformed due to a curse placed on his mother by Thomas’s wife seconds before her death. The shock of his appearance kills his mother following childbirth leaving Thomas to bring him up alone. On one fateful night, three young boys play a prank on poor Victor, setting fire to his home. Thomas returns in time and attempts to save his only son by breaking him out of the inferno with a hatchet. In a cruel twist of fate, Thomas accidentally catches Victor in the face with the weapon, killing him instantly! Thomas then died of a broken heart. Years later, Victor now haunts the swamp and anyone who dares venture on his land will end up dead by his hands!

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Adam Green, the mastermind behind the macabre, is a self-confessed horror fan and intended to make the movie for die-hard genre enthusiasts like himself who were craving something more than what was being offered. The legend of Victor Crowley was something that Green had on his mind since childhood. He became fascinated by the genre after being shown classic horror movies by his brother including Friday the 13th which is a clear influence on Hatchet. Green was banned from summer camp at the age of eight after learning of an “urban legend” known as the “Hatchet Face”. He developed the story further and recited it to his peers who became totally terrified. It could be fair to argue that Green was a master of horror in the making and as a filmmaker has a lot of potential. Green comes across as confident, knowing exactly how he envisioned the project which in turn gained him a lot of support to finally get the film made. He was precise about how he wanted shots framed and made the decision to shoot the film on steadi-cam to provide an edgy, authentic feel to the piece. It became an honour to have the three big horror stars or ghouls involved in the production and every fans dream to cross paths with Englund, Todd and Hodder. Green intended to provide empathy for each of his characters including Victor, while the ensemble cast do come across as stereotypical, they are likeable enough compared to most horror movie victims but its not too devastating when they’re bumped off. Adam Green is inspirational and proves that gaining creative control of the film you want to make is possible as well as obtaining a recognisable and talented cast.

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The tagline gets straight to the point and describes the film at its best, “Its not a Remake. It’s not a Sequel. And it’s not based on a Japanese One.” Demonstrating the film delivers exactly what it sets out to do while providing a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the state of the horror genre. Ironically, Green used this particular tagline as it came to him in the shape of a rejection letter from a major studio, who liked his script but didn’t feel it fit into the criteria of what was popular in horror during that time. Victor Crowley is a hideous monster echoing back to the inbred’s from films such as The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn. He certainly doesn’t hold back and is one of the most brutal screen killers. By the time Victor’s done killing in elaborate and gruesome ways, it gets pretty messy in terms of gore. The special effects team impressively went back to basics when creating nasty kills for the film, disregarding CGI in order to bring back some authenticity. But Victor’s screen presence is down to more that just his hideous make up effects, Kane Hodder has already mastered the role as the hack happy serial killer after playing legendary Jason Voorhees on a number of occasions. Hodder brings both brutality and empathy to the role spawning yet another potential iconic role for the actor. He plays two roles during the film, the second being Thomas Crowley, Victor’s heartbroken father and he does so make-up free which provides an interesting contrast.

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Marybeth acts as the embodiment of the modern final girl. She’s resourceful, sharp and attractive. She knows what she wants and will stop at no lengths until she’s defeated the beast. She’s likeable and easy to relate to and the driving force of the film. Tamara Feldman delivers a decent performance, however my preference does lie with Danielle Harris’s portrayal in the sequel. She’s the perfect Scream Queen and brings in an even feistier performance, if you’ve seen the ending of Hatchet II you’ll know what I mean in terms of how badass she is. The reason behind Feldman’s absence in the future Hatchet films was allegedly due to Green deciding she wasn’t in a good place in terms of the career choices she was making, therefore let her go. Sadly, she lost out on the opportunity of creating an iconic modern final girl. Green admitted he was unsure about casting Joel David Moore for Ben, the male lead. Eventually he came to the decision that despite unconventional, he was ideal for the role and it goes to show as he plays the insecure adorable geek to Deon Richmond’s confident, self-assured best friend archetype.

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Hatchet comes ten years after Scream re-vamped the horror genre. In an interesting comparison, Scream was revolutionary for killing off one of Hollywood’s biggest actresses, Drew Barrymore in the opening moments. Hatchet takes this trope and challenges it further in its opening sequence by killing off Freddy Kruger himself, Robert Englund. It demonstrates the development of post-modernity by making one of cinema’s legendary horror icons one of the first victims. In an attempt to shock the audience and similarly to what Scream set out to do, shows them that anything will be possible during the reminder of the film. Hatchet doesn’t attempt to outright critique the genre, but it does incorporate a few self-referential moments, an example would be Misty’s ringtone playing “I don’t want to wait” by Paula Cole, the theme song for the successful teen show Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003). Dawson’s Creek was of course written by Scream writer Kevin Williamson and provided a sense of actor allusion for Mercedes McNab who guessed starred in the show during its fifth season in the episode Downtown Crossing (#5.15) in 2002.

The use of Marilyn Manson’s This is the New Shit during the credit sequence at the beginning just adds to the film’s awesomeness. Instead of a set score, it shows how a modern soundtrack can operate and evoke a powerful response within the audience, setting the tone for what they’re about to see. The song is harsh, heavy rock and suits the piece perfectly as it blasts in after the first kills, enhancing the viewing experience.

But was the film enough to turn horror on its head? Unfortunately no, despite being a labour of love and appealing to genre fans, critics gave mixed reviews. The majority deemed it as too ironic to carry a horror film despite it echoing back to he old school. Rather than offering something new, Hatchet provided fans with what they wanted to see. Its a reminder of how brutal and funny real horror can be and what made us love the older films such as Friday 13th, My Bloody Valentine and Sleepaway Camp in the first place. That’s the reason you should head to the swamp, avoid the alligators and don’t piss off a vengeful ghost this Halloween! I also recommend checking out Hatchet II, it ups its game and is slightly superior to the original. There’s more Tony Todd, the deaths are even more extreme, the backstory unravels further and Danielle Harris’s Marybeth is on top form, the comedy also cuts back in favour of emotional depth.

So if you like extreme 18 rated gore, your favourite horror stars and the essence of black comedy, Hatchet is the film for you!

Sources:

Adam Green, Shock Till You Drop Interview.

The Making of Hatchet from Hatchet DVD (2007).

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Damnationland 2013: Natal

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Last time Corey Norman’s work was discussed on Hayley’s Horror Reviews was in relation to his up and coming feature film The Hanover House. Since wrapping up on the film, Corey and his team Bonfire Films had the opportunity to create a 27 minute short titled Natal. Natal is making its premiere on October 18th at the Damnationland horror festival located in Portland, ME. Damnationland supports independent filmmaking by showcasing a number of short films created  in Maine, tailored especially for the Halloween season. But that’s not the only connection Maine has to the horror genre. As most die hard fans will be aware its the birth place of iconic horror author Stephen King; and if his spine-chilling novels have taught us anything, its guaranteed something out of the ordinary is bound to take place there.

Corey has requested that Hayley’s Horror Reviews would be one of the first sites to review Natal, prior to its exciting world premiere. Therefore I would like to thank Corey very much for this opportunity which will hopefully generate some interest in the film over in the UK.

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Natal is without a doubt the perfect festival piece. As a festival-goer myself, this is definitely the type of film I’d expect to be watching amongst fellow hard core, gore-fiends. It most definitely has a nice indie tone to it, which is mainly down to the ensemble of relatively unknown actors who all gave strong performances, making the material very believable. That said, Natal comes across on a professional level, the film has some impressive cinematography which captures the beauty of the location used and gives a sharper cinematic edge to it. In one of the night time scenes, a lingering shallow focus shot really helped to ramp up the tension. Short filmmaking is a craft that requires a well-structured piece of storytelling conveyed in a short space of time, along with a good balance of pacing. Natal without a doubt achieves this, providing the audience with some intriguing well-rounded characters and an eerie little story thrown into the mix.

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Natal focuses on Carissa (Jessica Fratus), following a recent suicide attempt, her boyfriend Tristan (Erik Moody) and friends Jess (Chara Victoria Gannett) and Derek (Andrew Sawyer) bring her to her family’s former cabin for a weekend of rest. But Carissa’s world spirals out of control once again as an unnerving scratching sound consumes her sense of reality, which questions is there more going on with Carissa than she or her friends actually know? So far, the plot comes off as predictable and witnessed many times by horror enthusiasts, even sharing similarities with the recent ‘Evil Dead’ remake, however Natal proves this isn’t the case. The film soon takes a step back from familiar territory and focuses more on characterization rather than bumping everybody off in elaborate ways. What acts as a generic throwback to 80’s style cabin in the woods type films does a complete U-turn through incorporating a blend of styles, there’s elements of the slasher, possession films, body horror and teen drama. Natal does a great deal so the audience can get under Carissa’s skin and empathize with her. Even, Jess, a character who may come across as the stereotypical blonde air-head actually has more layers than it  first comes across. The conflict amongst the core group is parallel with the horror metaphor and is accompanied by a contemporary soundtrack that depicts the emotions felt. There is one moment where the soundtrack cleverly makes the entire scene which results in a moment of dark humour. There’s a strong build up  of tension  throughout resulting in a blood soaked finale that satisfies those who aren’t too squeamish. The use of sound is very effective, therefore it can only be imagined how that uncomfortable scratching will be heard once played on the big screen.

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As a short film, Natal is definitely one to watch, Corey Norman has created a tense piece of paranoid horror that stays true to existing tropes found in the genre while also bringing in his own spin on how these types of films can be done through playing it as straight horror rather than being too self-aware of the genre.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Halloween Month: Friday the 13th (1980)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Thirty-three years following its release Friday 13th has proved to be one of the more influential slasher films of all time. The film kick-started a franchise with a total of ten direct sequels, one spin-off with the Elm Street franchise and one remake. Not only that, it paved the way for the popularity of many others of a similar vein such as the Sleepaway Camp Movies and The Burning right up until the present day with the Hatchet trilogy. While stalk n’ slash movies bled onto 1980’s cinema screens left, right and centre, Friday 13th had something the majority of them didn’t- success! Part of this is down to having Paramount Studios behind them, one of the most well-established, highest-grossing distribution studios of all time, however back in 1980 critics displayed disgust that a big studio would release what was considered a low and violent form of entertainment. Friday 13th was the first of its type to achieve backing from a major studio, resulting in it becoming one of the most profitable films of all time and over the years developing a cult following. Paramount went all out and spent a fortune on marketing the film which lifted the box office figures greatly, providing the slasher film with a more commercial appeal. Therefore if anyone is to blame for endless, over-the-top as they go on sequels, its Paramount Studios. But we’re all horror fans here so we love them!

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Creator/Director Sean S. Cunningham developed Friday 13th, after gaining inspiration from John Carpenter’s Halloween. Cunningham was no stranger to the genre following working with Wes Craven on The Last House on the Left (1972). His intention was to create something truly terrifying which had comical elements at the same time. The film’s original title was A Long Night at Camp Blood during the early writing stages. Cunningham had already set his sights on his gory, upcoming movie as Friday 13th. He did everything in his power to ensure he could secure the title in order to avoid any copyright lawsuits. Eventually he was successful in obtaining it despite being threatened by someone behind a lesser known title Friday 13th: The Orphan, rumour has it that the person was paid off and Friday 13th was shot in the September of 1979. Cunningham now had the opportunity to make his “real scary movie”.

When anyone thinks of Friday 13th, a flood of images come to mind. The main associations come in the form of brutal killer Jason Voorhees, his hockey mask, machete, the sinister whispers of “kill, kill, die, die” and what appears like super-human abilities. Other than Jason, the setting is key to this film series, Camp Crystal Lake, where the body count is high and the blood shed vast, a number of the films are primarily set there, unless you care to remember Jason Takes Manhattan or Jason X. Camp Crystal Lake is what Haddonfield is to the Halloween franchise. However, while the original film is considered the best of the series and most well-remembered, interestingly it barely features Jason and he isn’t even the killer. The nice, humble Mrs Voorhees takes to the blade first time round, out for blood-thirsty revenge on sexually-active teenagers who were too busy fornicating to notice her precious son was drowning to death in 1958. Her reign of terror doesn’t end there as the re-opening of Camp Blood in 1980 causes our favourite female psycho to unleash a new rampage of revenge on a group of unsuspecting teens, including a relatively unknown Kevin Bacon!

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Arguably, Jason could technically still be the killer in the original in spirit, telepathically communicating through his deranged mother.  That, or she’s just completely crazy using a split personality in order to project the grief she has for losing Jason, muttering classic lines such as “Kill her Mommy” over and over, played wonderfully by Betsy Palmer. But that depends how you want to interpret it. Palmer admittedly only took the role in order to purchase a new car and despite not thinking highly of the movie, famously saying “What a piece of shit! Nobody is ever going to see this thing.” she eventually came round to thinking fondly of it and even agreeing to perform a cameo appearance in the sequel the following year. Palmer, without a doubt contributed to creating one of the most iconic female roles in the genre with her unforgettable performance.

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Jason’s iconic image of how we love and know him today didn’t make an appearance until the third film, Friday 13th Part III: 3D (1982). In part one he’s the mutated boy in the lake, in Part 2 he hides his identity by wearing a brown sack over his head. Allegedly Part 3 was intended to be the final film in the series. The filmmakers did not foresee back then that the hockey mask would ultimately become Jason’s trademark nor was it intended to be. The decision was made in production during a lighting check where the hockey mask was placed on Jason actor Richard Brooker as the special effects crew had decided they did not want to apply make up just for the purpose of checking the lighting, therefore the entire thing came as a complete accident. Part 3 did receive generally negative feedback from the critics, despite grossing highly at the box office on its opening weekend. Its pretty fascinating that a well-recognized image, famous in pop culture happened by accident in a film that wasn’t highly regarded or even as well-remembered as its original. However its not unusual to hear people discuss the original Friday 13th with reference to the iconic monster that is Jason Voorhees. In theory, it separates itself slightly from its two big rivals, the Halloween and  Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, where the main killers are established from the first instalments.

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A kind of moral backlash did flare up following the film’s release. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were the most vocal  reviewers about the disgust they harboured for the film, deeming it exploitative against women and a new low in American cinema. Ebert stated that the films portray women in films of this nature as “helpless victims” while Siskel voiced that because more of these sort of films were being frequently generated, that was the principal image of women, tortured, attacked or raped that was being depicted to the country at the time. They were incensed that audiences were identifying with the killer rather than the victims, providing a very disturbing cinematic experience for them and saw it as an attack on the women’s movement. Placing the audience in the same position of the killer had  already been done in earlier films such as Peeping Tom (1960), the difference is, when that film was released there was uproar and it compromised director Michael Powell’s career, however by 1980 this was becoming a more prominent feature of American horror films and a “trend” as Siskel and Ebert described.

Even though Siskel and Ebert raised interesting points against 1980’s horror, their views are problematic when they primarily focus on women’s role in slasher films but don’t take into consideration there are also male victims and female serial killers, especially in our beloved Friday 13th. Mrs Voorhees motive echoes back to Psycho’s legacy with the maternal instinct subtext. A mother would do anything for their child and for me, this is what the film’s ultimately getting at. But for some its hard to see passed the violent imagery in order to dig deeper regarding the film’s message. Friday 13th acted as a fable for the youth, using the horror metaphor to emphasize that actions will have consequences, the main one being sex. Siskel and Ebert felt films were simply exploiting this angle in a sleazy manner. But in Friday 13th’s case it didn’t just capitalize solely on women’s behaviour, it demonstrated how both male and female characters were so self-indulgent that they didn’t notice the death of a child. However nothing had changed from the 1950’s to the 1980’s as the youth were still engaging in the same behaviour. The young people who were oblivious to Jason’s drowning were the camp counsellors and failed to act responsibly in the situation. With the fear of AIDS and teenage pregnancy rife in society at the time, its no surprise that films were fictionalizing people’s fears for future generations and it sort of encourages the practice of safe sex and for teenagers not to be identified solely by it. Therefore I would conclude that Friday 13th is about accepting consequences and to act responsibly rather than exploiting women and their bodies in sadistic ways which is how Siskel and Ebert interpreted the film. Their reaction came across as fearful especially warning prospective audiences from seeing the film which in my view was extreme. By advising against the film and announcing its twist ending in the hope it would affect box office figures was more likely going to drive audiences towards it rather against it. Cunningham’s intention with the film was purely to scare and clearly evoking these reactions demonstrated that he did a good job.

Friday 13th was a film I adored as a gore-curious thirteen year old, however after many viewings over the years, I would argue that overall its not the most well-made film ever. Its possible that from growing up into a generation where CGI was becoming more prominent that myself and those around my age are spoilt when it comes to film. That said, I do appreciate the classics and as a horror fan I did turn to all the older films to get my fill of blood, guts, gore and ghouls even before the surge of remakes unleashed hell upon our beloved genre, the majority I usually avoid. For me old skool FX are far more appealing than CGI as they provide a raw feel and DIY approach. By that point the most recent horror movie I had seen was Final Destination (2000). After re-watching Friday 13th in 2013, I’d say it still has its merits, the glass smashing, bursting the title onto the screen accompanied by the score still gives me goosebumps and remains a powerful title sequence in horror. The kills are brutal and Pamela’s performance just makes the film for me. Its not overly scary however and comes across as comical and campy throughout featuring caricatures rather than actual characters. I don’t feel the same for the characters in this as I do for Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson or Sidney Prescott. Arguably, Alice Hardy isn’t considered the best final girl in the franchise, Ginny Field from the second instalment occupies that title. Its barely a masterpiece or even unique but enjoyable all the same.

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What does make Friday 13th more popular than other films that came out in the same era in a similar vein?  Well, it stands out for its importance to the slasher sub-genre and the horror genre as a whole. Mark Kermode hit the nail on the head when he emphasized that the reason the film has maintained such a legacy is because it was the type of film that had never been associated with mainstream cinema before or distributed by a successful studio. It transcended seedy, violent horror from grindhouse cinemas to more commercial audiences. Kermode pin points that at the time this was a “novelty” but since then has been done over and over again. But back in 1980 this movie did something special for the genre. Horror wouldn’t be horror without the series as its influence still carries on to this day.

So, why should you take a trip to Camp Crystal Lake this Halloween? Well, for one its a classic and a must-see for any horror fan, its interesting as a film for its significance on mainstream horror cinema, its suspenseful with some cool, memorable death scenes, an arrow through through the throat and the axe to the head are personal favourites and who could forget Mrs Voorhees beheading! It features a female serial killer which was revolutionary for its time and it began a legend.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

SOURCES:

Teenage Wasteland: The Slasher Movie Uncut by J. A. Kerswell (2010).

http://www.fridaythe13th.wikia.com

Halloween Month: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , on October 1, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Undeniably, John Carpenter’s Halloween is one of my favourite horror movies and undoubtedly a classic within the genre. The success of the film spurned a sequel in 1981 continuing the story  of murderous maniac Michael Myers and was intended to be the final Halloween film. The creators of the original, John Carpenter and Debra Hill were less than enthused about continuing the series however agreed to a third instalment as long as it differed from the previous two and didn’t include any of the characters associated with its predecessors, meaning no Michael Myers, Laurie Strode or Dr. Loomis. The film could be considered experimental in terms of trying out a new concept in an already established film series. Season of the Witch was most definitely a risk but what makes it so interesting is despite the fact it didn’t succeed in a well-known franchise and failed to spawn a Halloween anthology, the film is still well appreciated as a stand alone addition and has gained somewhat of a cult following over the years.

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Halloween III is certainly a film that really captures the essence of the Halloween season and puts its audience in the mood for the annual spooky festivities. Due to this, there really is something special about it. Its clearly an obvious choice to review considering the season but from the captivating setting and general iconography present in the film, it really encompasses the spirit of things. The film has one main connection with the original film, in a clever intertextual reference, the 1978 Carpenter film can be seen playing on the TV during a couple of scenes, which when you take Scream into consideration, it further supports the fictional world of Haddonfield and Myers and uses it in a film context within a film. To an extent, it could be argued that Halloween III was one of the earlier self-referential horror films, aware of its own tropes.

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The main plot focuses on Silver Shamrock, a Halloween, mask-making corporation who have some sinister plans to kill a number of American children and their parents through the consumptions of the masks themselves, in an elaborate plan conceived by businessman Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy). Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins), an on-call doctor stumbles upon a sinister murder/suicide of an unknown man clutching a Halloween mask who warns him with the impending message “they will kill us all”. He begins to investigate alongside the man’s grieving daughter Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), the duo soon find themselves caught in the middle of the corporation’s malevolent ways and it really becomes a battle of man vs. consumption as Challis attempts to stop the television stations  broadcasting Silver Shamrock’s infectious commercial before its too late.

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Season of the Witch incorporates a spooky story that acts on a deeper level with its view on early 80’s American society. It is a critique of anti-capitalism, the rise of television and places children in peril demonstrating a kind of fear of future generations, all of course within a horror metaphor. The evil head of the corporation Conal Cochran secretly implants  computer chips containing small bouldar fragments from Stonehenge into the masks in order to unleash an ancient, Celtic ritual on Halloween night. The struggle of old society against new is heavily present here, however Cochran must use the means of modern technology to suck in unsuspecting victims into his evil plans. Later research has shown that academics have taken an interest in the film, deciphering the critiques of American culture at the time. For example Martin Harris suggested that the film has “an ongoing, cynical commentary on American consumer culture.” While Nicholas Rogers described its portrayal of the successful, corporate businessman as “oddly irrational”, it therefore highlights an exaggerated, if not fantastical perspective on the fears present in late twentieth century America. Consumerism has always been a major factor within the US and the film clearly puts forward the idea of how its encouraged among the general public. With its memorable/irritating commercial jingle “Eight more days till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween” etc. it demonstrates how the repetitive and catchy nature of the images and audio provided feeds into their brains to ensure the products will appear attractive to them. It has to be argued that despite what is generally thought of the film, it has managed to intrigue the likes of academics and critics with its strong commentary and themes which have proven to be pretty interesting to observe and discuss. Another mystery that surrounds the film apart from the history of why it did not succeed as the beginning of an anthology is the ambiguous ending. Forever audiences will wonder if Challis managed to defeat Cochran’s evil plan or did he perish along with the rest of society? Audiences are free to choose which ending they prefer however leaving it so open ended leaves an empty feeling for the viewer, its never resolved therefore, it remains scarier not knowing for certain.

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By all means, the film isn’t a masterpiece but for a genre fan like myself, it holds appeal as a charming horror sequel. It certainly isn’t the worst ever created or the worst entry from the Halloween franchise, that can be handed to Resurrection, which in my personal opinion ruined all that was set up about the franchise.  As previously stated, it displays a lot of interesting themes and did make a statement on the period in time that it was made. In theory, it hasn’t differed from what most horror films attempt to do. It will always remain a curiosity as to whether Halloween could have ultimately worked as an anthology, however critics differed otherwise. The late Roger Ebert gave the film a thumbs down feeling it took too much from other movies he considered “better” and deemed it as a “low-rent thriller”, while others did not adjust to the absence of the Myers character. Arguments like those against the film are fair but its mainly down to personal taste. Season of the Witch tried to break itself away from its predecessors while including  similar stylistic elements, for example the jack-o-lantern primarily associated with the credits of the previous two. Interestingly, it was the only film of the franchise that delved into notions of the sacrificial aspects of Halloween.

So, you ask, why is this early 1980’s, cult sequel one to watch this season? Well, Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without watching one of these movies. If you look at it on a deeper level its themes are truly thought-provoking. Plus, its a definite old school, seasonal piece and a crucial example of horror and cult cinema. Its also guaranteed that the Silver Shamrock theme will linger in the mind well after the film is over! mwhaha!

Sources: Halloween Movie Wikia.

Hayley Alice Roberts.