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Shocktastic Shudder Shorts

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

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

ShudderUK

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

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

The Puppet Man (2016)

  • Directed by Jaqueline Castel

puppet man

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

I Want You Inside Me (2016)

  • Directed by Alice Shindelar 

IWYIM

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

He Took His Skin Off For Me (2014)

  • Directed by Ben Aston

hthsofm

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

Primal Screen (2017)

  • Directed by Rodney Ascher

primal screen

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

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

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

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

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

Hayley on Horror Couch

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

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

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

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

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

**Gory Hugs**

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

Microwave Massacre

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

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

waxwork

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

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

American Gothic

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

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

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

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

night of the creeps

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

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

Xtro

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

Hayley Alice Roberts

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