Archive for Lucky McGee

Women In Horror Month: Final Girls and Psychotic Women. (12-10)

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

To continue the celebration of the fifth annual Women in Horror Recognition month, here’s some more feisty, fearless and fiendish females to sink your teeth into.

I would like to thank everyone for all your kind comments on Twitter regarding my work on this site and collaborations with Caitlyn Downs, it is very much appreciated and I’m glad you all enjoy the HORROR as much as I do!

Again there will be spoilers included therefore if you have not seen the films that feature these gory girls I’m about to discuss you have been warned!!

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12. Nancy Downs, The Craft (1996)

  • Played By Fairuza Balk
  • Directed By Andrew Fleming
  • Written By Peter Filardi and Andrew Fleming

Nancy-the-craft2  Welcome to the witching hour! This is the first supernatural woman of horror to feature in this countdown. 90’s fantasy/horror The Craft tells the story of four teenage witches who dabble in the occult for their own gain. It has become a  quiet, cult hit over the years and for me was one of the most significant films that dealt with both concepts of witchcraft and female empowerment. I first saw the film during my younger teen years, it proved impressionable and did influence me to dabble a little bit in Wicca without the negative effects of course! As mentioned The Craft featured four, young teenage girls all with their own issues and abilities however the standout character has to be troubled goth Nancy Downs. Fairuza Balk plays this antagonistic character with malice and a side of kookiness in an expressive performance. Nancy is the witch that takes her spell-casting too far, raising her levels of insanity as she loses control of all the destructive events in her life. When we first meet the gothic witch she is reluctant to accept new girl Sarah (Robin Tunney) into her coven which also consists of Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True) but caves in when Bonnie insists they require a fourth member and Sarah is definitely “the one”. Nancy’s jealousy of Sarah grows throughout the film especially when her user ex boyfriend Chris (Skeet Ulrich) develops an interest in Sarah. In this case she demonstrates notions of sisterhood warning Sarah of Chris’s notorious reputation, also informing her she contracted an STD from him. When it comes to the crunch she provides him with his just desserts by using her powers of telekinesis and glamouring  to push him out a window. Her home life isn’t much better, her mother’s seedy boyfriend often makes inappropriate remarks toward her and is abusive toward her mother, when enough is enough she uses her powers to cause him to have a heart attack.

Essentially Nancy is a murderer and grows more and more psychotic as the film goes on. Nancy’s hostility is down to rejection from her school mates, broken home life and negative sexual experiences. She is treated like an outsider and does embrace that to a degree by manipulating the elements around her. Nancy grows into a very powerful witch which is presented as a metaphor for a deep addiction. Her complex relationship with Sarah is interesting to watch, in the beginning she uses Sarah as a gateway to explore her own powers, they do bond however Sarah becomes frightened of what Nancy is capable of. Sarah’s only choice is to strip Nancy of her powers leaving her completely insane by the film’s end. The last we see of her is locked away in a mental institution unable to harm again. This is where Fairuza Balk really showcases her acting talents in an unforgettably disturbing scene. Nancy is one of the most feared women on this list and left a trail of destruction behind her. Twisted, stylish and completely derailed Nancy deserves a worthy place as a woman of horror  as an example of a woman who’s perhaps too influential with more than she can handle.

11. Feral Woman, The Woman (2011).

  • Played By Pollyanna McIntosh
  • Directed By Lucky McKee
  • Written By Jack Ketchum

thewoman  The Woman is undeniably one of the most thought-provoking and disturbing pieces of horror to emerge so far this decade. The character of the feral woman is an interesting and different addition to the countdown as unlike the other characters included she hasn’t been conditioned into being an empowered female through specific gender ideals within society or her relationships with men. She is independent through her own means and has had to be tough through surviving in the wild. She is a fascinating study of a person who lacks social experience, displaying animalistic tendencies and how that contrasts women born into a society dominated by men. Through being known as simply “The Woman” it evokes a sense of ambiguity as to who she is and who she potentially could be. The film’s prime focus is on one middle-class male’s twisted experiment to “civilize” her into being submissive to him just like he’s enforced on his own wife and daughters. Unfortunately for sicko Chris Cleek (Sean Bridges) he may have asked for more than he bargained for! Through tormenting The Woman with torturous devices he only maintains a certain level of control. Cleek can only restrain The Woman but without those means the level of control is reversed and without knowing right from wrong she is not held responsible for what she is capable of. The Woman herself signifies the core of what it is to be a female being by taking away all the teachings and expectations women have been put upon and forced to accept throughout history. For Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), Cleek’s conflicted daughter, The Woman represents an outlet for her to explore her full potential, signifying strength and independence. The Woman is a character that’s so close to the bone as she defines an overwhelmingly strong female, challenging the concepts set out by traditional gender roles and society’s expectations. The Woman certainly entices and welcomes feminist readings as her character construction of what she symbolizes is intriguing in several ways in relation to how she’s compared to the more obedient women within the film.

10. Marybeth Dunston, Hatchet II (2010)

  • Played By Danielle Harris
  • Written and Directed By Adam Green

HATCHET III / Director BJ McDonnell  With Adam Green’s 80’s throwback, splatter-fest Hatchet series, as well as a recognizable new killer, the films have presented the ideal, modernized final girl in the shape of Marybeth Dunston (Danielle Harris). Despite being played by another actress, Tamara Feldman in the first Hatchet installment, it’s legendary “Scream Queen” Danielle Harris’s performance that has shone through in the follow-up sequel as the young woman, tormented and hell-bent on revenge against murderous monster Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). The strength that lies in Marybeth’s character is that she is self-aware, determined and fearless, willing to go to any lengths in order to defeat her opponent. She originally encounters the grotesque Hatchet-Face when its discovered that her father and brother were brutally murdered following a fishing trip to the murky swamp. With only one culprit in mind, Marybeth enlists the help of the cryptic Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) and a number of hunters and gunmen to assist her in yet another swamp visit to obliterate Crowley once and for all. When it comes down to the crunch, Marybeth is the one left standing as the bodies pile up. She certainly doesn’t hold back in the badass stakes as she takes Crowley on head first releasing all that pent-up anger by repeatedly bashing his head in with his own weapon. She then fittingly finishes off the job with a shotgun with no qualms about getting covered in blood! Marybeth is always one step ahead and outsmarts Reverend Zombie with his own dark plans to rid the world of Hatchet-Face. This also means that Marybeth has to deal with more than one villain in order to gain what she desires but still emerges the hero. Adam Green has written a final girl who is feisty, sophisticated, resourceful and capable. Marybeth’s character is the embodiment of what audiences need to be seeing from a final girl in recent times. It’s as if she represents a particular stock character who has evolved as the decades have gone on and is horror’s strongest  current example. Instead of hiding from the killer, she takes matters into her own hands, she doesn’t play the victim and has a clear idea about what she wants. Head-strong and smart, Marybeth is the prime reason to watch the Hatchet films, strong women don’t get any better than this. I’d like to note that I’ve yet to see the third Hatchet film. Despite hearing some unpopular opinions it will still be an interesting watch to see what Marybeth does next when she is faced yet again with the gruesomely gore-tastic Victor Crowley.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

My Top 10 Horror Movies of 2011

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

With 2011 on its way out, here’s a look back on why it was the year for the horror film! 2011 saw a wide range of horror from all over the world which provided plenty of thrills, chills, suspense and all out gore. This countdown looks at the films that for me achieved all those aspects consisting of mainstream, foreign and independent titles.

10. “The Skin I Live In” (Original Title: “La piel que habito”)

  • Directed By Pedro Almodovar 
  • UK Release Date: 26th August 2011

 A unique piece of filmmaking, “The Skin I Live In” delves into the bizarre in a “Frankenstein”-type story with a dark and disturbing twist. It definitely places the audience into the uneasy as well as fills us with intriuge to quite literally get under the skin of surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) and the mysterious woman he keeps in isolation.  The cinematography and composition are well-crafted, adding to the surreal, dream-like state that the film’s tone presents us with. The plot serves as a Hitchcock-inspired psychological thriller. Advisable to go into the film completely blind and unknowing as complete shock and disbelief is guaranteed.

 

 

 

 

9. “Scream 4”

  • Directed by Wes Craven
  • UK Release Date: 15th April 2011

 The slasher revival that all genre fans had been waiting for and it certainly did not disappoint! Genius writer/director team Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven returned on top form to deliver a clever critique on the state of modern Hollywood horror as well as providing suspense, gore  and plenty of surprises along the way. Legendary teen-killer Ghostface (voiced by Roger Jackson)  was more vicious than ever threatening protagonist Sidney (Neve Campbell) with ” I’m gonna slit your eyelids in half so you don’t blink when I stab you in the face” resulting in a spine-chilling effect. Old faces made a welcome return with feisty reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox)  and the bumbling underdog Dewey Riley (David Arquette) now the police sheriff. Accompanying them was a trendy new cast of  talented young actors consisting of fan favourite Hayden Panettiere (playing Kirby) and Emma Roberts (playing Jill) as Woodsboro’s next generation. An eagerly anticipated addition to the popular 90’s franchise.

 

8. “Fright Night”

  • Directed by Craig Gillespie
  • UK Release Date: 2nd September 2011

 A fangtastic remake that provides the audience with new blood rather than being a dated replica of the original.  “Fright Night” is the anti-“Twilight” reminding us of the days of real vampires e.g. Dracula as it focuses on bloodthirst rather than bloodlust. The original 1985 film is brought into a modern context with vampire slayer Peter Vincent (David Tennant) portrayed as a flawed, Russell Brand-esque anti-hero.  Jerry the Vampire (Colin Farrell) is both seductive and scary and proves difficult not to relish in his screen presence. More funny than frightening this update gives remakes a refresh as well as an entertaining comment on recent, tired vampire lore.

 

 

 

 

7. “Panic Button”

  • Directed by Chris Crow
  • FrightFest World Premiere: 27th August 2011

 The scariest psychological thriller of the year, “Panic Button” highlights our unhealthy obsession with social networking and the dangers we remain ignorant to. Welsh director Chris Crow creates a heat-stopping thrill ride from beginning to end as four unsuspecting internet competition winners board a plane to New York. The setting is claustrophobic with the notion of no escape and only the survival of the fittest can prevail. There are no monsters or ghouls to be thwarted, it cautions us to take a long, hard look at ourselves of everything we do and watch online leaving a thought-provoking sensation. The most intense and terrifying film of the subject-matter.

 

 

 

 

6. “The Woman” 

  • Directed by Lucky McGee
  • UK Release Date: 30th September 2011

Welcome to the dark side of Suburbia! While not an original concept “The Woman” is a stylish and unique piece of the horror genre that makes for a very uncomfortable watch. The plot focuses on an “upstanding” citizen,husband and father who secretly captures a feral woman and plans to “civilise” her through is own twisted methods and ideals, if he’s not careful he may lose a finger! With respect the film avoids relying on the classic jump-scares in order to convey the shock factor. A twisted blend of dark humour and all out gruseomness makes it a must-see for any horror fan. The twist is unforgettable and definitely worth the wait. Its controversial, its brutal, its bloody disgusting but all in a good way! Not for the faint-hearted.

 

 

 

 

5. “Insidious”

  • Directed by James Wan
  • UK Release Date 29th April 2011

The creepiest mainstream horror/supernatural film of the year! “Insidious” ramps up the scare factor with spooky imagery that remains difficult to shrug out of the mind. The build-up is intense and creative once the unexpected explanation for the haunting is revealed. A sense of empathy is in place throughout as the characters are written well and could easily depict anyone in real life. Rose Byrne particularly gives an impressive performance as the gaunt, distressed mother Renai. The tone is gritty creating a realistic feel to the setting which is also emphasised with the use of grey-scale. Chilling, atmospheric, with plenty of menacing ghouls “Insidious” is an exception to mainstream horror taking traditional ghost story elements as well as providing something new to the genre.

 

 

 

4. “Some Guy Who Kills People”

  • Directed By Jack Perez
  • Celluloid Screams UK Premiere: 22nd October 2011

“Some Guy Who Kills People” even though it displays an explicit title it ignites intrigue in the viewer. Surprisingly, despite fitting into the horror genre it is actually one of the most heart-warming films of the year which demonstrates the adaptability and versatility of horror as a whole. Protagonist Ken Boyd (played by Kevin Corrigan) is an identifiable character as the audience enters a rollercoaster ride of emotions with him, from coming to terms with harrowing past events to connecting with the daughter he never knew. A surreal, quirky, semi-gory, stylistic film very much in the vein of John Landis along with Ryan Levin’s cleverly-crafted dialogue.

 

 

3. “We Need to Talk about Kevin”

  • Directed by Lynne Ramsay
  • UK Release Date: 21st October 2011

 The film adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel “We Need To Talk About Kevin” while not an obvious horror contender is a startling  tale of how love can go dead wrong and the consequences that follow. Watching “Kevin” feels voyeuristic however you can’t take your eyes off the screen. The audience is placed in a position of conflict with the character of Eva (Tilda Swinton) as she fails to form a strong bond with her only son Kevin (Ezra Miller). The film has been praised highly by many critics and with good reason, Tilda Swinton delivers an unforgettable and powerful performance making the viewer both love and hate her at the same time for creating this monster capable of destroying several lives. “Kevin” is edited out of sequence which adds to the dreaded tone as we are aware of what’s to come but its the dark journey embarked on leading to the tragic event that results in an unsettling effect. The mise-en-scene uses clever symbolism to convey the narrative including tomato soup representing blood. Compelling, unnerving, chilling and exceptional; “Kevin” really questions where does blame really lie?

 

 

2. “Harold’s Going Stiff”

  • Directed by Keith Wright
  • Celluloid Screams UK Premiere 23rd October 2011

A very Sheffield-based film that conveys the great humour of the area. “Harold’s Going Stiff” has a fitting blend of black comedy and a horror as a backdrop for the narrative’s metaphor. Its one of the most unique films of the year as it depicts a sense of realism demonstrated through its strong social message of the elderly in Britain and their care-workers while also acting as an unconventional “zombie” film. The characters are written as if they were people we could relate to in real life, Stan Rowe (Harold) and Sarah Spencer (Penny) have believable on screen chemistry that really carries the film. Its a surreal portrayal of society, told in a documentary-style fashion as well as being a tale of finding friendship in the most unexpected places.  Keith Wright needs to be congratulated on creating such a well-crafted, touching horror film that has something for everyone.

 

 

 

1. “Inbred”

  • Directed by Alex Chandon
  • UK Release Date: TBA

“They came in peace and left in pieces” quite literally! “Inbred” is most definitely the most inventive horror film of the year. Four young offenders and two of their care-workers embark on a character building weekend in a remote location, the fictional Yorkshire-based village of Mortlake. Soon they come across the bizarre and twisted traditions of the locals and get caught up in a bloodbath of terror and a heart-stopping fight for survival. Think “An American Werewolf in London” meets “The Hills Have Eyes” meets “The Wicker Man” which only partly sums it up! “Inbred” incorporates many elements which is what makes it so bloody brilliant! Its a comment on modern British society, it has the essence of the Grand-Guignol, the characters are larger than life and downright entertaining, it also isn’t afraid to push the boundaries in terms of blood, guts, goats and gore, satisfying fans of the genre everywhere! Its the performances that stick out the most, the victims create a sense of empathy with the audience which is a rarity in horror, while the “Inbreds” are hilarious to watch but brutal! Prepared to be shocked and entertained at the same time. “Inbred”  has got everything a horror film should have!

 

Hayley Alice Roberts.