Archive for October, 2014

Celluloid Screams 2014: The ABC’s of Death 2 Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Following a mixed bag of toilet humour, taboo subjects and in some cases unimaginative segments in the first anthology, The ABC’s of Death 2 held low expectations for me. The light at the end of the tunnel was the exception of seeing shorts by some talented directors including Jen and Sylvia Soska, Aharon Keshales and Dennison Ramalho to name a few. Its a collaborative piece that allows variations of different filmic styles and horror ideas that made the first film so successful therefore opening up the void for a sequel to see what else could be done with the concept. In a surprising turn of events, ABC’s 2 is actually pretty solid with a consistent number of creative and appealing segments that are guaranteed to engross diverse horror fans who want a bit of everything from gore to psychological terror. This time round there’s 26 new directors who offer up a number of grizzly and gruesome ways to die!

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The opening credit sequence is simply stunning. It features stop-motion animation of skeletal schoolchildren being murdered by their teachers within a storybook, the sequence is accompanied by haunting theme music of the classic childlike ‘la, la, la’s’ resulting in a chilling effect. The creepy tone is therefore set as a selection of various horror shorts from all over the world unfold on screen.

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E.L. Katz kicks things off with A is for Amateur, a gut-punching, action-packed and well shot sequence that depicted a hitman who’s assigned job goes horribly wrong.

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Julian Barratt, a British comedian best-known for The Mighty Boosh delivers plenty of laughs in the satirical B is for Badger, documenting an agitated wildlife television presenter who get’s more than he bargained for when he and his crew encounter a not so cuddly badger!

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Julien Gilbey is up next with a harrowing and realist look at lynch mob behaviour in C is for Capital Punishment. A young girl goes missing and a local man is accused by an emotive bunch within his village who are out for blood. Without revealing too much, the letter C cuts close to the bone, providing a disturbing take on what humans are prepared to do based on assumption!

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D is for Deloused by Robert Morgan had to be one of the most visually creative contenders within the anthology. With gore-tastic stop-motion animation, there’s plenty to feast your eyes on. The short tells the tale of a giant bug that assists a executed man to exact revenge on those who killed him. D displays a sense of uniqueness about it.

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Next up was a twisted but comedic segment from Alejandro Brugues titled E is for Equilibrium. Two castaways who appear to be stranded on a tropical island following a stag party have their world turned upside down after a beautiful woman enters their life. Will friendship win out in the end or will the two men be blinded by infatuation for the same woman?

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The next entry directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado was eagerly anticipated following the gut-wrenching, phenomenal thriller Big Bad Wolves from last year. Keshales explores similar thematics to his successful 2013 feature, the tension between the Israeli’s and the Palestinian’s. A young military woman is stranded up a tree where her parachute has landed and is discovered by a Palestinian boy who displays hostility toward her. F is for Falling demonstrates an intense power struggle that ends spectacularly.

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Where to start with this one? G is for Grandad is one of the more obscure entries this time round. A generational clash between a long-haired Grandfather and Grandson takes a turn for the strange! This is one that has to be seen to be believed, there’s lashes of dark and twisted humour galore. From British director Jim Hosking, the letter G is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the dependent of the youth on the old while striving for their own independence.

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H is for Head Games is a surrealist offering depicting a power struggle between a hand drawn man and woman. It’s difficult to quite ‘get’ what this one is trying to do however its inventive in its own right as the only segment in the anthology to take this filmic approach.

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Letter I, which stands for Invincible was one of the highlights from the ABC’s sequel. Directed by Filipino filmmaker Erik Matti, I is for Invinvible’s concept takes a satirical look at a group of siblings determined to get their hands on the inheritance from their Grandmother who just won’t die! Echoing The Evil Dead in style, I is a very comical segment, representing themes and ideas of greed and entitlement.

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Dennison Ramalho presents a poignant short; J is for Jesus. Taking on a brave subject matter, J is for Jesus comes across as heartbreaking and purely devastating as a man is martyred for being a homosexual. With striking visuals, J is for Jesus tells an uncomfortable story that reminds us there is unfortunately still prejudices in this world when it comes down to religious views.

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K is for Knell is an interesting entry directed by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper in which a woman comes across some insidious black liquid that has the ability to transform people into killers.

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L is for Legacy is an African-themed segment that depicts a ritual sacrifice that has dire consequences for the inhabitants of the village.

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Now for the winner of ‘The Search for the 26th Director Competition’; that in my personal opinion was a rather underwhelming choice. M is for Masticate is played for laughs as a zombie-like man runs down the street in slow-motion. Robert Boocheck’s winning entry suggests that there could be something supernatural going on with this character however the end twist shows otherwise! While most definitely selected for its humour, there were so many more shorts that had much more interesting premises that were more deserving.

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Larry Fessenden’s N is for Nexus is the perfect segment to put you into the seasonal spirit ready for Halloween. With a specific aesthetic filled with pumpkins, costumes (including  a reference to You’re Next) and trick or treaters, Nexus focuses on a couple donning a Frankenstein’s Monster and Bride of Frankenstein costumes. The male sets out to meet his monstrous bride and rushes as fast as he can but something happens along the way which puts a downer on the whole holiday. Beautifully shot and captivating, N is for Nexus is one of the strongest contenders incorporated in ABC’s 2.

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The next segment came in the shape of Japanese director Hajime Ohata’s O is for Ochlorcracy (translated to Mob Rule). A woman is tried in court and sentenced to death by none other than a group of zombies. O is for Ocholoracy is a gripping short that comments on the possible apathetic state of the judicial system. O is sure an interesting one.

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P-P-P-P Scary is another obscure little entry as well as incredibly stylish with homage paid toward black and white comedy films of the past. Filled with strangeness and oddball effects, the Letter P is incredibly enjoyable to watch. Todd Rohal creates a segment that stands out from the rest as it captures that 1930’s, Three-Stooges style comedy mixed in with what would have been considered controversial horror at the time especially for its in-your-face imagery. P-P-P-P Scary is unexpected in what direction it will take next!

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Q is one of the more cleverly-crafted entries that brings  a sense of paranoid horror and the compelling thriller into the mix. Q is for Questionnaire uncomfortably gets under the skin as it depicts a man answering flawlessly on an intelligence test. The scenes intercut with those of lab experiments foreshadowing the purpose of said test, its jaw-dropping! Directed by Rodney Ascher.

 

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Marven Kren’s R is for Roulette is reminiscent of Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (2009). It’s a suspenseful entry that sees two men and a woman playing a game of roulette to the death, but which one of them will actually pull the trigger? R has a consistent flow of intensity throughout that will leave the audience on the edge of their seat.

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Spanish genre filmmaker Juan Martinez Moreno’s continues the intense tone in the next segment S is for Split. With the quite literal use of a split screen, S shows a husband working away on “business” on the phone to his wife who is isolated in their enormous house. There’s an intruder at the door that rockets this segment into a cat and mouse game as the husband traumatically listens to his tormented wife, fearing that she is about to be brutally murdered by her attacker. This is a must-see as it takes the home invasion concept up a level. It’s frightening and shocking at the same time.

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The Soska Sisters team up once again with American Mary breakout actress Tristan Risk in T is for Torture Porn where they take on the M of all evils, misogyny! Playing an actress at an audition, Miss Risk’s character is appallingly treated by the director played Astron-6 favourite Conor Sweeny who has other ideas for his upcoming star. When he forces the seemingly vulnerable young woman to strip, he and his film crew get more than they bargained for as Jen and Sylvia provide us with a highly entertaining spectacle of a segment conveying the crazy side of horror alongside a smart commentary on the treatment of women within the industry.

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U is for Utopia comes from Cube and Splice director Vincenzo Natali. This segment displays a profound message surrounding the world’s obsession with vanity. With emphasis on appearance, a man who’s considered ‘unattractive’ is singled out in the middle of a mall by those who are deemed attractive, he is subsequently executed making U is for Utopia a truly haunting segment.

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Another highlight, V is for Vacation takes advantage of our endless methods of communication through technology and the dangers it potentially possesses. While on holiday a young man is face-timing his girlfriend (essentially the point of view of the audience). When his unsavoury friend emerges and decides to taunt her about her boyfriend not being entirely faithful she is horrified to discover that he has slept with a prostitute but the worst is yet to come. Jerome Stable’s V works well as it supplies the shock factor to disturbing effect as both the girlfriend and us the audience are placed in a position of powerlessness.

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Steven Kostanski of Astron-6 delivers W is for Wish with the collective’s signature 80’s aesthetic. Remember those old toy commercials that made the toys actually look better than what they were? Well W is for Wish is the embodiment of a child’s imagination and the fantasy of where that imagination takes them. Events however take a turn for the worst when the children are captured by the evil villain from the fantasy world they have entered. There’s also a short but awesome cameo from the Soska’s who look right at home in the zany world Kostanski has created.

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The tone shifts considerably with the next segment from Inside directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, X is for Xylophone. This French short has disturbing undertones as it features a traditional woman in charge of babysitting a young child who is happily playing her xylophone. There is shock and horror on the horizon for when the parents return home!

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Heading towards the end of the anthology, Y is for Youth is significantly memorable as it uses frightening and quirky visuals to convey a young girl’s frustrations toward her parent’s neglect of her.

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The ABC’s of Death 2 closes with Z is for Zygote, an imaginative body horror from the perspective of an expecting mother who literally won’t give birth until her husband returns home. Its unusual and unique in its own way and an extreme closure to what’s been a rollercoaster ride of inventive, gore-tastic visuals and dark humour.

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As a full film, The ABC’s of Death 2 is a great improvement on the original with each segment standing out in their own right. Its a must-see this Halloween as there is something to satisfy every aspect of our horror-fuelled cravings!

Check out my review of the original here, written back in April 2013.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Celluloid Screams 2014: Spring Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

A young American man named Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) ventures to Italy from California following the tragic death of his mother to cancer. Along the way he meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), a beautiful, enigmatic woman who captures his heart. The two embark on an intense romance set in the Italian backdrop; however how much do we really know about a person in the early stages of a relationship? Spring certainly explores this with a mythological metaphor that brings in its own unique take on the ‘creature feature’.

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When you began reading this I bet you thought, ‘is she actually talking about a horror movie?’ Spring is the perfect example of the diverseness of the horror genre. There’s a romantic drama at the film’s core with the horror elements in place as representations for the anxieties of a new relationship, with Louise harbouring a dark secret which will threaten what she and Evan have begun to develop. The trope of the tourist in a foreign country is also at play however is portrayed with its own originality that makes it stand apart from other genre-related films that contains this plotline. Spring could be considered a slow-burner as it takes its time to craft its storytelling and develop the characters; it’s in no rush to get to any big revelations straight away which gives the film an excellent quality.

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Spring is Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s second feature following the superb Resolution from 2012. Once again the directorial duo have created a film with an incredible level of depth in exploring human relationships. Much like Resolution centred on the state of friendship in a life-threatening situation, Spring replicates this with the focus on romantic relations. Moorhead’s flawless cinematography captures the idyllic Italian location, bringing out a sense of romanticism and showcasing what a beautiful place Puglia is. There’s plenty of humour injected into the film that adds to its realistic edge (when you take out the monster angle!), there’s a typical yet tongue-in-cheek Welsh joke that was particularly a surprising addition.

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As well as the sharp direction and breath-taking cinematography the greatest strength in Spring is the performances from lead actors Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker as the lovers. Both are convincing combined with undeniable chemistry that bring Evan and Louise to life, enabling the audience to invest in them as characters and care about what will happen to them. Pucci plays Evan as determined as he enters a new transitional phase in his life, Benson writes him as the type of guy who lives for the moment. Nadia Hilker is a very striking actress; she portrays Louise as a vulnerable individual, struggling to deal with what’s happening to her but as the kind of woman who will put on a front with others to mask her anxieties.

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With gripping writing, captivating visuals, its own creative mythology and phenomenal performances, Spring is the most outstanding film of Celluloid Screams 2014. Now having two fantastic pieces of work in the bag, it’ll be intriguing to see what Moorhead and Benson will come up with next as they’re becoming two innovative filmmakers to watch. Without explicitly putting a particular genre label on their films, Moorhead and Benson prove to be daring in their vision offering something different for film-going audiences.

 

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Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Poll: Which Halloween Month Article Did You like the most? + Ghostface Girls.

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Halloween Month, Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Just a fun little feedback poll for my readers.

With #HalloweenMonth on the site at an end, which article did you guys enjoy reading the most and what are you most likely to watch on the special day, this October 31st?!

 

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On another note please check out my side project Ghostface Girls latest podcast, Episode 6: Celluloid Screaming. We talk Friday’s upcoming Sheffield Horror Festival, Abertoir’s Halloween events in Cardiff and a couple of things we’re looking forward to at the Aberystwyth Festival in November. We discuss our plans for an upcoming ‘nasty’ little video to be filmed at Abertoir and we want YOU guys to get involved. Fast forward to the end of the podcast to find out how!

You can listen to the latest episode here.

For Caitlyn’s site visit: http://scaredsheepless.com/ for a spooky article on The Woman in Black. 

Also check out our Facebook page, we’re aiming for 100 likes by Friday! Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far.

You can also tweet us at @GhostfaceGirls

I will see you guys at Celluloid Screams and will return with plenty of video coverage!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

 

Halloween Month: The Burning (1981)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

This week its time to present a campfire chiller all vengeful and bloody ready for Halloween. With the Abertoir Horror Festival on its way next month, complete with a notorious video nasties theme, it seemed appropriate to offer one of the first films that made it onto the UK’s banned list back in the 1980’s. Now while I’m all for recommending a certain iconic hockey-masked wearing, machete-wielding psycho that goes around slaying sexually-charged happy campers, The Burning is an interesting film in its own right. This is mainly because while the film pays homage to the sub-genre and shares its style and themes with the studio-slasher from the previous year, Friday the 13th (1980), it doesn’t wholly stick with expected conventions. However for its time of production The Burning still played it safe in terms of not diverting too far from conventionality. The early 80’s saw a out pour in popularity with the stalk’n slash teen movie and this was one of the earliest. Before Freddy Kruger there was Cropsy.

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A summer camp prank goes horribly wrong when a group of young teen males band together to exact revenge on their mean caretaker Cropsy (Lou David). What begins as a harmless scare turns into terror as the boys accidentally cause a drunk Cropsy to burn alive after knocking over a lit, decomposed skull. After five years of hospital rehabilitation, Cropsy is unleashed back into society, hell bent on murdering groups of youths near the summer camp he endured his fateful accident. The hormone-driven adolescents have no idea what’s in store once Cropsy and his sharp shears returns to bump them all off.

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The Burning materialized following well-known movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s desire to break into the film industry. Spotting the opportunity to capitalize on the success of low-budget horror films such as Halloween (1978) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Weinstein discovered a niche and then began to swap scary stories with his producing partner Michael Cohl. Recalling the legend of The Cropsy Maniac (the intended title) that he heard at a upstate New York summer camp as a child, Weinstein and Cohl had an idea on their hands. Upon the film’s release certain reviews (one found in J.A. Kerswell’s Teenage Wasteland (p.192) suggested that The Burning had attempted to replicate the success of Sean. S Cunnigham’s Friday the 13th which coincidentally was released a year prior. Weinstein has adamantly stated that he wrote his treatment for The Burning in 1979 and registered it in April 1980 a month before Friday the 13th was released. Tom Savini who was noted for his effective make up work on Friday the 13th opted to work on The Burning over the second part in the Friday franchise also released in 1981. His effects that transform Cropsy into a frightful monster are exceptional, providing a sense that he’s not quite human like the storytelling campers talk about within the film.

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The Burning is a classic tale of a murderous maniac exacting revenge on those who wronged him, one that has been heard from a friend of a friend and so on. Cleverly The Burning doesn’t let on as to whether the events of the film are real or not. Are we the audience just part of a campfire tale? Delving into the anxieties modern society faced such as the rebellion of youth and the lack of adult authority, The Burning is one of many 80’s horror films that achieves the notion of paranoia. Much of the killings take place during daylight which frighteningly allows the threat (the killer) to step into our supposed safe every day lives.

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There’s plenty of horror in store but also an interesting mix of teen movie/comedy tropes involving pre-marital sex ( a big no in slashers!) and elements of the coming-of-age film which lulls the viewer into a false sense of security as the The Burning really does slow-burn before getting to its bloodiest moments, allowing us to get acquainted with the young campers and their care-free attitudes that makes us forget horrible things are about to happen. There’s a sense of friendship at play as The Burning does something rare in comparison to the lot of slashers, it shortly does touch on the subject of remorse experienced by the remaining survivors following the discovery of the bodies of their dead friends on the abandoned raft; highlighting the severity of the ghastly events and their impact on the young.

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Just like several films of its era, The Burning is a fable to suggest that if teenagers engage in sexual activity there will be dire consequences. However this is made complex throughout the narrative, the young female characters aren’t completely susceptible to the charms and occasionally forcefulness of their male peers, providing uncomfortable viewing. Interestingly, Cropsy’s first three on-screen victims are female (excluding the infamous raft scene). The first is a prostitute that Cropsy visits on his release from hospital, a sequence echoing the famous scene from Peeping Tom (1960), where we see the victim’s fear from Cropsy’s point-of-view. The second is Karen (Carolyn Houlihan) after she behaves like a cock-tease towards Eddy (Ned Eisenberg). She goes as far as skinny dipping with him but refuses to let him go the whole way, apprehensive due to his ladies-man persona, Karen worries that she’ll just be another “statistic” which hints as a metaphor to the fear of contracting a sexually-transmitted disease. Despite her decision to not have sex she still ends up dead, ironically a statistic in a teenage bloodbath. The frustrations of Eddy and Karen mirror those of the killer’s, all based in rejection, rejection from human contact.

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Cropsy’s third victim is Sally (Carrick Glenn). Sally plays hard to get against Glazer (Larry Joshua), who’s persistent and makes promises of a wonderful experience. On the outside Glazer is a brute and disrespectful to his peers but demonstrates signs of naivety and vulnerability. Sally eventually gives into him but the sex is far from the greatness she expected and is then the next to meet her demise. Even though the female characters are written a little more than one-dimensional with elements of headstrong personalities, they all fall into the the sex equals death category which wasn’t turned on its head until mid-90’s horror and beyond.

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Now where the film differs from its Halloween’s and Friday the 13th’s is by subverting the traditional dynamic of the inclusion of the final girl. The active character this time round who faces the killer head on is in fact male and one of the pranksters from the beginning of the movie, camp counsellor Todd (Brian Matthews). From a storytelling point of view this made sense with Todd confronting his mistakes in early adult-hood as he was partly responsible for Cropsy’s disfigurement. Interestingly he rescues another male character, Alfred (Brian Backer), the observant one that first sees a glimpse of Cropsy from the window early on while the others dismiss him. Together these characters embody the tropes associated with the final girl. The Burning remains one of the only films of the genre to feature a final boy instead with Todd representing the muscle and Alfred the mind. Together they combine the essential ingredients for a horror movie survivor while eliminating the boy saves girl or vice versa convention.

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The identification with the killer in slasher cinema was fast becoming a sub-genre staple. Point-of-view shots from Cropsy are depicted early on within the film, the effect was created with the use of vaseline rubbed onto the camera lens to indicate distortion. In this case the teenagers describe him as a monster and use him as scary-story material but from an audience perspective there is a slight sense of empathy for our shear-swinging psycho. The Burning doesn’t establish enough as to what sort of brutal acts Cropsy conducted during his time as a caretaker and whether he warranted such an unpleasant fate at the hands of the kids who claimed his cruelty. Therefore there’s a complexity at play as to who’s side the audience should be on, or possibly we’re meant to see it from both angles. Unlike Michael and Jason, Cropsy does not disguise himself with a mask, however he embodies the tropes of the silent killer. His burned face was possibly an early inspiration for Freddy Krueger.

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Strangely, the BBFC over here in the UK had let Friday the 13th off the hook and was released uncut in 1980. James Ferman, the censorship director at the time had deemed it too “far-fetched” to even be considered realistic. However by 1981 things had changed. 26 cuts to the gore effects were made to The Burning when it came out on September 23rd 1981 with a big, fat X certificate. The 26 seconds did reduce the impact of the film’s goriest scenes which depict close-ups of impalements courtesy of  a sharp object. When home video was on the rise, Thorn-EMI allegedly put the the uncut version of the film by accident onto VHS. This was where the controversy began. When the film was seized under the Obscene Publications Act, Thorn-EMI tried their hardest to ensure the government that they had not purposely intended to release the film in its original state. They attempted a compromise where they would bring out a BBFC-approved version, however video-store owners and gore-hungry horror fans alike tried to keep their copies of the version that was meant to be seen making it one of the most infamous video nasties of the decade. Looking back now in 2014, it does go to show that when banning certain films, while letting others into the public domain unscathed that were thematically similar to each other that there was little knowledge about horror films when it came to censors, making them appear contradictory and ignorant but this is something that has been covered exceedingly well in both of Jake West’s Video Nasties documentaries, Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape (2010) and Draconian Days (2014).

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The Burning is one to watch this Halloween. While it didn’t hit the same chord as the Friday the 13th franchise or generate mindless sequels (thank God!), its a gem in its own right. While not the greatest horror film ever made, its by far not the worst, it includes some of Tom Savini’s best FX work and an insight into a different slasher perspective. Who could forget the iconic imagery of Cropsy holding up his shears ready to kill?! Its based on a real-life urban legend too! The Burning launched the careers of Holly Hunter, Jason Alexander and Fisher Stevens, all the best actors start out in horror (yes I’m referring to you Johnny Depp!). But best of all you can watch it completely and totally uncut!

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Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Halloween Month: Halloween: 20 Years Later, H20 (1998)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

It wouldn’t be Halloween month without a revisiting a film from this well-loved franchise. This time round we’re swapping Haddonfield for sunny California; where Laurie Strode returns under a new identity for a showdown with her murderous long-lost brother, 20 years after the night HE came home. Halloween: 20 Years Later or most commonly referred to as H20 (easily confused with the chemical name for water!) unsurprisingly returned to the slasher screen following the resurgence in popularity for the sub-genre thanks to Scream. Miramax’s genre based film company Dimension garnered success with Scream and also owned the rights to the Halloween franchise so it made perfect sense to attempt to generate another horror hit. Considering fans were disappointed with the outcome of the sixth film in the franchise, The Curse of Michael Myers following negative feedback at test screenings that resulted in cuts, another film in the series was therefore a must.

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Twenty years following the Haddonfield Halloween Massacre, Michael Myers breaks into the home of Dr. Sam Loomis and steals confidential papers that contain information about his long-lost sister’s whereabouts while slashing his way through some brand new victims including Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an early role. Now, we’re in the post-Scream era, there needed to be a big important opening death scene to convey that anything can happen. Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) Loomis’s nurse in the first film was therefore one of the first to be butchered by Michael. Under the new identity of Keri Tate, Laurie is now a headmistress at Hillcrest Academy, still living in fear of the traumatic events she suffered at the hands of Myers while raising a teenage son and turning to alcoholism to cope. Soon enough Laurie is confronted by her past as Michael continues to kill until he gets to her.

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In the late 90’s every slasher poster was constructed by featuring images of the cast posing with their ‘afraid faces’ at the forefront, spawned after the success of Fisherman stalk n’ slash flick I Know What You Did Last Summer. Typically a famous rapper of the time (in this case LL Cool J) would also star and be a main attraction on the cover to y’know be hip! In all fairness LL Cool J gives an entertaining performance in the movie, much better than Busta Rhymes in Halloween: Resurrection but we’ll talk about that insulting film later!

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While it wasn’t the worst idea in the world to resurrect this franchise and provide the grizzly showdown fans had been waiting for, H20 goes by in a blur with a short run time of 86 minutes, making it the shortest of all the Halloween movies to unsatisfying effect. There’s heaps of potential there to explore while placing the story in a 90’s context. Laurie Strode’s arc is strong, Jamie Lee Curtis packs a punch in her performance and updates Laurie from frightened teenager to a headstrong but damaged woman. Ultimately, H20 is Laurie’s story however the inclusion of younger teen characters didn’t bring as much depth as it could have which has its short run time to blame; causing the film to feel rushed and underdeveloped. Fresh off the new teen show at the time, Dawson’s Creek, Michelle Williams starred as Molly Cartwell. Williams is the one actress in the film that didn’t receive enough screen-time which was a shame considering how talented she is, there was potential for a new scream-Queen in the making rather than just the ‘girlfriend’ archetype. To its credit, while slightly bloodier than the 1978 original, H20 didn’t go down the gratuity route with the camera lingering on gruesome death scenes like studios had insisted on with previous sequels in order to keep up with horror trends. It managed to keep the spirit of Halloween while generating its own edge to determine that a Halloween movie could translate into post-modern 90’s horror.

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In general the Halloween franchise is a problematic mess in terms of its story arc. H20 decisively ignored the presence of IV, V and The Curse of Michael Myers. Part IV indicated that Laurie Strode had died in a tragic accident leaving a daughter she had around 1980 in the care of foster parents. Her apparent husband only referred to as Mr. Lloyd was also killed. Clearly the idea was to awaken the terror all over again, ten years after the Haddonfield massacre with Laurie 2.0. Same story, different characters with links back to the original. Young Jamie Lloyd (the first horror role for Danielle Harris) was subsequently targeted by her psychotic uncle throughout the span of three films. Jamie (later played by J.C. Brandy) eventually met her demise in the sixth part, The Curse of Michael Myers, prior to that she had a child.

Jamie Lloyd, Laurie’s forgotten daughter.

 

In H20, its revealed that Laurie faked her own death to escape her evil brother all those years ago. There’s no mention of the daughter she would have practically abandoned or the notion of a grandchild, however as mentioned Laurie does have a teenage son John Tate (Josh Hartnett). John is seventeen in the film to make it all the more fitting that he’s the same age his mother was when she was originally targeted by Myers. The time span between Laurie faking her own death and then having another child doesn’t really add up, considering John would have been born in 1981.  It has been said in  Kevin Williamson’s (Writer of Scream & Scream 2) original idea, there was to be a scene where the Jamie Lloyd arc was acknowledged. A bitchy student at Hillcrest Academy reads out a class report on Michael Myers reign of terror discussing what happened to Jamie. The revelations become too much for Laurie, who is seen to flee the classroom to throw up. Many fans tend to place the 1978 movie, 1981 sequel and H20 as in canon with parts 4-6 set in a separate universe while avoiding the horrible Halloween: Resurrection completely.

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Laurie’s seventeen year old son, John Tate.

 

The idea for Halloween: 20 Years Later initially came about when Jamie Lee Curtis expressed interest in developing a movie to mark the anniversary of one of slasher film’s greatest. Excitingly John Carpenter was named as a possible director and Curtis eagerly wanted to collaborate with him again. Carpenter did agree to direct but with a starting fee of $10 million which he deemed as fair after some financial problems with the revenue following the original Halloween. His salary for H20 would have been his compensation however when he was refused the money he made the decision to step away from directing a further sequel. The directorial reigns ended up in the hands of Steve Miner, director of Friday the 13th Part II and III. Its possible that if Carpenter had been director then fans may have experienced an even better film than the final product despite Miner’s horror background.

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As previously mentioned the initial treatment for H20 was written by Kevin Williamson. Known for his edgy and witty dialogue and ability to challenge horror conventions incredibly well. If Williamson had written the finished screenplay and teamed up with Carpenter as director, much like his pairing with Wes Craven two years previous then H20 could have been even bigger than Scream. There were attempts in H20 at being meta. When the characters of Sarah (Jodi Lynn O’Keefe) and Molly (Michelle Williams) are preparing for their Halloween party, the scene where Cici Cooper (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is terrorized by Ghostface in Scream 2 plays on the television. The purpose of this was to break the fourth wall. In Scream, Jamie Kennedy’s character Randy Meeks dissected and analysed the first Halloween film as part of constructing the rules of the horror genre. Incorporating the Cici death scene in H20 came as a homage. Originally, it was said that Sarah and Molly were to be watching So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993) with an in-joke that they were watching a film starring Mike Myers which in terms of irony works a lot better. The Scream 2 clip was added in post-production as a nod to Williamson’s involvement.

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Another reference to Scream is where Laurie tells her son and his girlfriend to “go down the street to the Becker’s house” which is of course referring to Drew Barrymoore’s short-lived character Casey Becker who spectacularly opens the first Scream movie. However in Halloween, there is a similar line which is “go down the street to the McKenzie’s house”, it was also uttered in the Barrymoore death scene. The most meta aspect of all was the casting of Jamie Lee Curtis’s real life mother Janet Leigh as her secretary Norma. Leigh was of course famous for her portrayal of Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho (1960) and is even accompanied with the original car from the legendary film. Having these two appear together in the film is a real joy for fans especially with the tongue-in-cheek dialogue between them. Curtis and Leigh had starred alongside each other in John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) however their characters did interact as much, sharing only one scene to my recollection. P.J. Soles was asked to play the role of Norma Watson initially but was sceptical toward the idea of playing a different character to Lynda, her character from the 1978 film who was killed off.

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John Ottoman composed the score for this instalment but was however displeased after part of the Scream score by Marco Beltrami was placed in during post-production as producers opted for a darker, 90s slasher edge. The inclusion of Mr Sandman performed by The Chordettes to open the film on the Dimension logo added in a nice touch and brought in a reference to the old school Halloween. Another controversial aspect of production that was discussed in documentary Halloween: 25 Years of Terror (2006) was a dispute regarding the masks used for Michael Myers. Several re-shoots were done with a CGI mask inserted over footage of Chris Durand (The Myers Actor) and in total 4 masks were created.

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H20 opened  in the August of 1998 to a mix of reviews. Many were disappointed with its ignorance of previous instalments while other criticized its slow pace. It is a difficult film to watch considering the knowledge of what came after it especially with how final this film feels. Laurie’s battle with Myers is one of epic proportions, providing the satisfying closure the series deserved as she unapologetically slays him with an axe. It is considered one of the more favourable sequels and is second highest grossing instalment within the franchise, next to Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake.  As a stand alone it has its moments. The cinematography is stunning, romanticizing the Halloween season, capturing the holiday incredibly well. Even though underdeveloped the young cast do well with the given material. Josh Hartnett is believable as Cutis’s teenage son and Curtis herself delivers a phenomenal and unforgettable performance.

Laurie face to face with her evil brother is one of the film’s most iconic moments.

H20 is one to watch this Halloween because despite its flaws it wouldn’t be Halloween without it and it has Laurie Strode kick some psychopath ass!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Damnationland 2014: Tickle (Bonfire Films).

Posted in Horror Attractions, Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

On October 17th, the Damnationland Horror Festival located in Maine returns for its fifth fright-tastic year showcasing a selection of innovative and unusual short films. Screening at the State Theatre in Portland, Damnationland’s fifth year will present festival-goers with six shocking shorts on offer. One of those short film’s titled Tickle,comes from awesome, independent genre company Bonfire Films, led by filmmaker Corey Norman. Corey and his team launched a Kickstarter campaign back in August in order to raise funds to make this project possible which was successfully achieved. After viewing several films directed by Corey Norman including ambitious, supernatural feature The Hanover House, I truly believe in this company and admire their ability to create horror movies for true genre fans reminding us what we adore about horror.

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Written by Haley Norman, Tickle is a pure, classic throwback to one of the most exciting times in the genre, the 1980’s; when horror got gorier and anxieties in society were much more prominent. Horror movies used our every day fears as a metaphorical entity to blur the lines between reality and fantasy, Tickle brings this notion back. Part monster movie, part urban legend, Tickle is sure to supply the Damnationland audience with equal amounts of laughs and scares. Haley’s script captures a piece of nostalgia as the tale of the babysitter, a young boy and a scary bedtime story unfolds on screen. Casey Turner (Shannon in The Hanover House) takes on a fun role as Trudy, the semi-responsible babysitter who doesn’t let Charlie (Andrew Lyndaker) stay up and watch scary movies but allows his imagination to run wild with a chilling story about TicTac the Tickle Monster! Turner relishes in a charismatic performance while young Lyndaker is excellent for a young performer and proves he has heaps of potential as an actor. The energetic pop-style score provides the film with a feel for the time period its set in.

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Tickle begins with a light-hearted tone, its tongue is placed firmly in its cheek which creates a well-paced build up for the dark shift in approach the short later takes. Without giving away too much, the make-up and visual effects are done exceptionally well. Its skilfully shot with flawless cinematography that captures the essence of its Halloween night setting.

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Tickle has fun with the codes and conventions of a traditional 80’s slasher and knows exactly what its going for. Its self-referential, look out for the nod to last year’s Damnationland entry, Natal (2013). Damnationland’s slogan indicates that this is the way life should bleed but this year its all about the way life should Tickle!

For more information on Damnationland’s schedule and general info visit: http://www.damnationland.com/films/

Check out the official festival trailer here:

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

 

Interview with Halloweenerrific.

Posted in Halloween Month, Love Horror with tags , , , , on October 10, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Usually I’m the one asking the questions therefore I’m honoured to have recently done an interview with Halloween themed site http://halloweenerrific.co.uk about my interest in horror, what makes a good horror film for me and what I’m getting up to this Halloween season.

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You can check out the interview here.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.