Ti West has been making ripples in the horror world for almost twenty years, with a number of low budget indie entries being well received in the horror community – with The House Of The Devil the praise went farther afield. With The Innkeepers, Ti West tells an updated version of the classic haunted house story, moving the action to a hotel in the midst of closing down, and featuring much of his trademark humour, character focus, and building of tension.
Sara Paxton and Pat Healy are the two leads and take up most of the running time together. They have a certain chemistry which will be familiar to anyone forced to work in a confined space day in day out with the same person or group of people. As characters, they hit if off and clash like an affable old married couple, and as actors we believe that they have been through some boring shit together. They are twenty-somethings working purely to pay the bills and for something to do, with marginally grander schemes and hopes, biding their time in an old Hotel in its final weekend before closure. Aside from their shared flitting aimlessness, both are amateur ghost enthusiasts and have been hoping to record some paranormal activity in their last night on the job – the hotel having a history of spooky encounters and a sordid past. Stumbling upon their relative seclusion and ghost-hunting is a faded Hollywood starlet played by Kelly McGillis (in another interesting horror role for the actress). She just wants a room for the night and doesn’t want to be disturbed, especially by Paxton’s Claire who is a bit of a fangirl. Luke (Healy) and Claire use their ghost-hunting equipment and soon begin to pick up creepy voices and music before the apparitions reveal themselves.
While not West’s breakthrough movie, this is the one which garnered him the most critical attention and became his biggest hit. The film has an old-fashioned horror feel, a subtle, creeping approach to scares, and using atmosphere over jumps and gore. The script and direction are light and playful both honouring the history of haunted house movies while giving them a modern gloss and respect. Once the second half reveals come and the mythology of the house is made known, the scares come faster after the largely comedic, slacker style first half. The three main performances are solid and likable, Paxton and Healy are easy to relate to, and even though there’s nothing new here it feels fresh, especially in an era of loud bang scares and CG blood spatter. It isn’t going to change anyone’s life, but it’s a fun movie for those who don’t mind a bit of backstory and set up before the pay-off.
Let us know in the comments what you think of The Innkeepers!
We Are Still Here was one of the most well-received small horror movies of 2015, with critics praising its scares and invention. Naturally, this immediately popped onto my radar. Fresh ideas are often found in smaller or indie movies, but can struggle due to budget concerns, and inexperienced performers, directors, writers etc. While there are no big names here, there are notable performers and names that horror fans will be familiar with and as with most films in the genre, it’s best going in with a open and unspoiled mind.
The film follows grieving middle aged parents Anne and Paul (played by Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig) as they move to a new house in the hope that a fresh change will rouse them from their depression. Before long, a creepy neighbour arrives and tells them to leave because the house has a wicked history. Anne believes the spirit of her dead son is in the house and as the film progresses, various secrets surrounding the house and the town are uncovered leaving Anne, Paul, and their friends Jacob and May in mortal danger.
It’s always great seeing horror movies outside of the scope of the teen perspective. I love slashers and teen oriented horror as much as anyone, but it’s great to see other characters of a more varied age too. Our four main characters are older and while there are a few minor younger characters, they are not the focus. That is helped when you have industry icons like Crampton and Larry Fessenden along for the ride. Geoghegan shows a sure hand and while the piece is moody he knows when to let rip with a jump scare or a slice of gore – there’s a particularly nice headshot here if you’re into that sort of thing. Good make-up and effects for a low budget film too, and the film uses that budget to its credit keeping largely to a single location. Some viewers may rate it as a slow burner, but in truth it doesn’t take long before bad stuff starts happening, and the looming tension and weirdness then explodes at the end.
We Are Still Here, in spite of good reviews, hasn’t found the audience in the same way as similar style films such as The Witch or The House Of The Devil have, but it’s a horror movie for horror fans with enough quality that even less regular genre viewers will get something out of.
A WOMAN drives into a DRIVEWAY in a CAR and steps out.
What? We have just bought this inexplicably gargantuan house that there’s no way we can possibly afford given that we are apparently unemployed, and now you have also purchased a Hollywood grade camera. And now you are pointing it at me.
Why you do that?
Well you know, it’s what all the kids are doing these days – filming pranks, shooting themselves eating tide pods, unwrapping toys, and uploading the clips to Instagram
Emm, oh right. What year is this again? 2007?
It’s 2006, you dick.
Really? Right. What about Youtube – is that a thing?
Yes. Micah, you are behaving quite oddly today, and only marginally less annoying than you will be later.
HA HA HA! Yes, it’s wonderful being young, white, and Middle Class in these United States! Nothing will ever go wrong!
INT. BATHROOM – NIGHT
KATIE is brushing her teeth. MICAH is grunting.
HEURRRRGH! RARRRRR! PLOP!
Seriously? Do you really need to drop one off while I’m in here? It’s disgusting.
And why on Earth are you filming this!?
Gotta get dem likes and subcribes, boiii!
Well, don’t get any ideas about bringing that thing into the bedroom tonight. I need my beauty sleep because my sister KRISTI and her husband DANIEL are coming, but not his daughter – our niece – ALI, or their son, HUNTER.
INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
Ahhh, I can’t wait to get into bed tonight, for a long and restful night without any funny or spooky busin- hey, what is that thing doing in here?
Ugh. Why are you always com-plain-ing about EV-REE-THING? Look, it’s important that we document every pointless second of our worthless lives for future generations. You never know who might need it! Now stop your yapping and take off your bra.
I will not!
MICAH begins stamping his foot in front of the CAMERA and mewling like a SPANKED INFANT.
Stop that right now, you’re making the floor creak!
MICAH stamps his FEET around the room until A DRESSING GOWN falls off the BEDROOM DOOR.
What the!? Did you see that? The dressing gown just flew onto the ground as if possessed by an evil spirit! I think this house might be haunted! YIPPEE!
INT. BEDROOM – LATER THAT NIGHT
KATIE and MICAH are in BED. They are sleeping. THE DRESSING GOWN lies on the floor where it fell earlier.
MICAH (mumbling in sleep)
Mmmy life is brrilllya. Mmylifeis mmmm. You’re beautifu-ul, it’s true!
Suddenly, the DRESSING GOWN stands up all on its own as if possessed by an evil spirit. It starts to MOONWALK in front of the CAMERA before sliding out of the door and out of sight.
INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY
Wowzers – look at this footage!
What is it? Did you record any further ghostly sightings?
No, somehow I missed those, but check out how cool the toilet looks when it flushes in HD!
The DOORBELL RINGS.
That’s probably my sister, KRISTI and her husband DANIEL.
Cool! I can’t wait to show DANIEL my sweet setup.
Where is your husband, DANIEL?
He couldn’t make it, he is busy setting up cameras around our house.
KATIE and MICAH together
Cameras? Really? Why?
Yeah, also he hasn’t been cast yet, and come to think of it, neither have I, but we can retcon those details in later.
Let me give you some privacy so you can talk about WOMAN STUFF. I’ll just leave my camera here.
MICAH leaves and KATIE and KRISTIE sit down
So why do you have a camera now? I hope you haven’t encountered any spooky goings-on? Going-ons? Whatever.
Well, now that you mention it, I did think I heard some chilling noises last night, and ever since we’ve moved here I think I keep seeing a shadow standing at the bottom of my bed. And one time I thought I saw a Mexican running through my kitchen, but that seems unlikely.
Oh ho ho, I’m sure it’s probably nothing. La la la, lets talk about something else.
Wait a second, I’m remembering more things – things I had forgotten about. Things from our childhood.
Yeah, our childhood was great. Nothing weird ever happened. Apart from that time our parents were gruesomely and mysteriously murdered and our Grandmother had to take care of us.
WHAT!? I had forgotten that – I thought they died in a totally accidental housefire! But who cares, what’s important is that I remember I had a friend called Toby. You all thought he was imaginary, but he was really real! Wouldn’t it be cool if he came back?
INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
MICAH and KATIE are sleeping again, the lazy BASTARDS. Suddenly, the DOOR creaks open. It’s really quiet, but out of nowhere A LOUD NOISE MAKES A LOUD NOISE!
Jesus, do that in the bathroom will you?
I’m like literally terrified. I think this house really is cursed! I want to move out!
MICAH slaps her face. Twice.
Silence woman, you are being hysterical. The only thing cursed in this house is your infernal mouth.
I’m so sorry, sweetie, I’ll be good.
INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY
KATIE is literally on the TELEPHONE. Not literally.
Come on, come on, pick up. Oh! Yes, hello! Is this the Priest’s hotline? Oh, thank goodness. Tell you what it is, I recently moved into a new house and I think it might be haunted – possibly by my imaginary childhood friend, TOBY. Uh huh. Uh huh. Mmm. That’s right. Uh huh. Mmm. A crucifix, yes. Uh huh. Got it. Mmm. Uh huh. Oh – you’ll send someone over right away? That’s fantastic! I’ll be here!
EXT. DRIVEWAY – DAY
A PRIEST arrives on a BICYCLE. You know he is a PRIEST because he is carrying a BIBLE, a set of BEADS, a LARGE FLASK with ‘HOLY WATER’ written on the side, and one of those things around his NECK.
Hello, you must be KATIE, and I must be a PRIEST.
You are correct on both counts. Do come in.
Ah, before we enter, I would like to say a quick prayer in LATIN, if you don’t mind.
Go ahead, that’s what I’m paying you for.
Semper ubi, sub ubi. AMEN.
I don’t think that means what you think it means, but whatever.
INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY
The PRIEST is looking up at the ceiling, as if he can see something only he can see. He SHIVERS.
This place is…. evil. This room…. this house…. that lamp…. evil.
Oh woe! Is there nothing you can do!? Why will no one help us poor, defenceless millenials!?
This rug…. that wall… evil.
Suddenly, ANOTHER REALLY LOUD BANG GOES BANG, and the EVIL LAMP wooshes across the room and smashes behind the PRIEST.
What the fuck! That lamp almost got me! I’m getting out of here!
But what should I do?
Contact your Rabbi!
INT. BATHROOM – NIGHT
KATIE is in the shower. The CAMERA is watching every CREVICE. Uh oh! The DRESSING GOWN is moving again!
Now’s my chance. BOW-CHIKA-WOW-WOW!
The DRESSING GOWN steps into the SHOWER with KATIE.
What the – OH NO! HELP!
For a moment it looks like they are struggling, but eventually the DRESSING GOWN wraps around KATIE and begins to squeeze her.
OWW! OWWW! OOOOH! Ooooh, I like that. Mmmm, come here baby.
They kiss and the CAMERA SOMEHOW FADES TO BLACK.
INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
KATIE is already in BED.
Honey, I’m home! Where are you?
We hear FOOTSTEPS approaching and assume it is MICAH ascending the stairs. We are correct.
Oh, there you are. Sorry I’m late, it’s just, you know what the guys are like when they’ve had a few. I missed you so much.
MICAH stops talking into the CAMERA and turns to see KATIE sitting up in bed and STARING at NOTHING.
Oh, hi, I ah, didn’t see you there. Are you keeping well?
KATIE says nothing. In fact, she doesn’t say anything at all.
INT. BEDROOM – LATER THAT NIGHT
KATIE and MICAH are sleeping. SOMETHING bumps the CAMERA and KATIE stirs.
Ugh, what a weird dream. I dreamed that I was… never mind. Back to sleep we go.
KATIE lies down again, but is suddenly grabbed by an unseen force and dragged out of the BEDROOM feet first.
MICAH! Help meeeeeee!
In a minute.
No, please don’t kill me, I’ll do anything! TOBY? MICAH!
MICAH finally wakes up, STARTLED.
MICAH runs out of the room. OS we hear various screams and grunts and demonic CACKLES. There is one final yelp, and then a loud SNAP. Then silence. Eventually FOOTSTEPS come up the stairs and we assume it is KATIE or MICAH or DANIEL. We are only half right! KATIE crawls disconcertingly into the room and her face is all weird and messed up in a spooky way. She suddenly lunges at the CAMERA.
CUT TO: BLACK
A TITLE CARD READS:
Five days later, after being alerted by a neighbor concerned by a foul smell, a local Constable found the body of Micah with his head twisted all the way around. This footage was taken as evidence. Katie’s whereabouts are unknown.
POST CREDITS SCENE – INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
The Dressing Gown is doing THE THRILLER DANCE in front of the CAMERA.
Keep it down up there, some of us are trying to rest in peace!
It is unclear if this section took place before or after MICAH’S death, but is ironic either way.
Aah, Halloween- the most wonderful time of the year. When even those who wouldn’t usually subject themselves to all manner of terrors decide to watch the odd scary movie or 2. Unfortunately for me, this part of the Spac Hole which I currently inhabit does not indulge in the season as seriously and joyfully as other places, so I have always felt a little deprived. Sure, we had some parties, sure we threw fireworks at Gerry’s house, and yes we would watch whatever limited choice of movies were on over the few days but compared to other places (particularly you festive folks in the US) it just didn’t seem as much damn fun. In my mind, the whole month of October should be a vessel for Halloween activities, from dressing up to trick or treating, to watching scary movies and hiding under the beds of people you don’t know with a chainsaw.
To that end I have helpfully made a few lists of classic horror movies which sould chill you to the bone, and add to the singular atmosphere of this most evil time of the year. This list of 31 movies was created so that you can split the fun over the entire month (alternatively you could wait until closer to the day and have a few marathon sessions) and let yourself tremble ever so slightly in the supposed safety of your own home. Just be sure to lock your doors and windows, close the curtains, and tuck up the kids tightly in bed (checking underneath and in closets for me) before turning off the lights. Maybe check those locks once more, you can never be too sure or too safe. Oh, what’s that? That noise from outside? I wouldn’t worry, probably just the wind. By all means go out and check, but that would mean going into the basement to find batteries for your torch. Really, just relax and watch the film, your paranoia can’t hurt you. The thing outside, yeah- it could hurt you. But you locked the doors, right?
These don’t have to be watched in any particular order, but some would suit the big day (or night) better than others. This is not meant to be a list of the best or even my favourite horror movies (though I love them all) but rather I feel these offer something of the atmosphere of Halloween. Enjoy.
An American Werewolf in London: This one has it all- gore, jump scares, atmosphere, action, humour, and a great plot with likeable characters. WereWolves, like Vampires have taken a rather glossy beating recently. This proves that you can wrap up a love story with horror without being teeny, without being sparkly, without being demeaning to viewers with brains. Classic Halloween scene: The Nazi section.
A Nightmare on Elm Street: Wes Craven, Johnny Depp, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and Robert Englund- lovely ingredients for a tasty Halloween Pie. This is the original and best, before the horrific character of Freddy (Here just Fred) became a snuggleable, bantering chum. What could be better for Halloween than scaring yourself so badly that you can’t sleep- knowing that something terrible may be waiting for you in your dreams. A story with more depth than it gets credit for, dealing with the Craven standard of ill-advised parenting and how the children have to cope with the mistakes of the elders, this is full of genius set pieces and bloody action. Classic Halloween Scene: Nancy gets a bloody post coital surprise- but not what you’d expect. And did they say she was 14??
Alien: Often described as Halloween in space, or a Haunted House in Space, Alien deals with our fears of isolation, of being trapped, of being in s situation way beyond our control and way above our heads. Remove the alien, remove the setting, and this could be any slasher movie from the time. However, that would be taking away the fun, the fear, the atmosphere, and the ingenuity. This is dark, claustrophobic stuff, and the perfect film for Halloween to make you look out the windows into pitch darkness and wonder if something is staring back. Classic Halloween Scene: Dallas goes hunting, but realizes too late that he is the prey.
The Blair Witch Project: Similar to Alien this deals with our fears of isolation and the un-experienced unknown, but spices things up with issues of abandonment, paranoia, and things that go bump in the woods. A classic survival tale for city folk poking their ill-prepared noses where they don’t belong, Blair Witch succeeded because of it’s innovative filming and marketing techniques. It still succeeds today amongst a rubbish tip of similar films because the plot is solid, the acting is real, the rising tension and fear played out between the characters feels exactly like how we would react, the growing dread is almost unrivalled, and the climax is absolutely chilling. Classic Halloween Scene: The search for Josh in the freakshow house at the end will get you tingling and gripping the seat every time.
Creepshow: Halloween isn’t just about traumatizing each other, it’s also about good old fashioned camp-fire tales to warm the heart and soul. This is cheesy at times, but never boring or irritating, it feels nostalgic both for children of the 80s and of the 50-60s. The tales are brief, well written and acted, the effects are still top-notch with an earthy feel, and the scares are tense and fun. Classic Halloween Scene: Trying to convince your abusive wife to enter a box where a monster lives has never looked so enjoyable.
Candyman: Both Cliver Barker and Tony Todd are vital ingredients in any scare-fest- put them together and you’d better have a few spare pairs of pants lying around. An intellegent, sexy, city based horror which merges old world supernatural fears with the modern world of big business, CSI policework, snooping journalists, and end of the century hairdos. Barker at his height was a fountain of invention, bringing a freshness to the genre which made everyone else’s ideas look like old creaky mummy movies. Candyman merges urban myths with ancient folklore, mysticism with science, gore and shocks with beauty and lyricism. Todd’s presence is as powerful as any of the classic monsters, while Madsen gives a refreshing twist on the final girl character. Classic Halloween Scene: Hook through the chest.
Carrie: One for the teens this, though it may have aged some due to being so authentically 70s, the scares and the themes of abuse, loneliness, bullying, and separation are no less relevant or universal today. The story is simple but pumped up by ideas of religion, extremism, and psychotic mummies (not those ones). The acting by the main players is superb, there is something bleak about the whole sordid business, and we manage both to sympathize with and be scared by Carrie. And wish we had her gift. De Palma twists the tension knobs until they break off, though some of the intrusive camera guff is laughable now. Classic Halloween Scene: Everything between the bucket dropping and the school burning.
Child’s Play: The evil doll is a well worn sub genre of horror, but one which has very few, if any, classics. Child’s Play is amongst the best, and the series is certainly the most notorious. Like many 80s horrors, the series was unfairly derided for it’s supposed impact on our youth with some people going so far as blaming it for some grisly murders. As with most of these series, the quality decreased as the sequels increased, but the original remains surprisingly effective given the silly subject matter. If you don’t know the story- multi murdering maniac transfers his soul into a popular doll moments before his death, doll is picked up by young boy, doll begins murderous rampage again until it realises that it needs to sacrifice the boy to become human again. There are sure to be some laughs, some screams of just kick him in the balls and throw hm out the window!’, but maybe a few jumps too. Classic Halloween Scene: Chucky terrorizes the baby-sitter and we all jump when the phone rings.
Dawn Of The Dead: There is something quite special which you may not know about Dawn. If you watch it at Dawn- depending on where you live etc, try to time it where the film will just be ending as the sunrises. Then go for a walk immediately. It’s likely there won’t be many people around. The ones you will see will probably be shambling. The bleak nature of the film rarely hits harder than in these moments and you will surely look around yourself and feel a stark aura fill your being. There are few things more terrifying than waking up to an otherwise beautiful day and not wanting to be any part of it. Classic Halloween Scene: So many to choose from, from funny, to scary, to bleak, but I’ll go for the truck parking section as we realize that paradise can quickly become hell, and a haven can suddenly become a tomb.
Day Of The Dead: Surely the most grim of all the DEAD films, this is perfect Halloween viewing, not only because of the exquisite gore and effects. Claustrophobia and paranoia again play a large part, and you can’t help wondering why all these psychopaths keep getting in the way of your enjoyable apocalypse. Most people would be happily looting and whiling away their days watching DVDs, playing games, reading books, getting drunk, but there always has to be a crazy doctor or maniacal military group to spoil your good times. Halloween is all about good times, stick this on to reap the benefits. Classic Scene: When the Zombies step on the lift and it begins moving downwards- you just know all hell is about to break loose.
Dracula (30s): A classic to chill the bones of all comers, this still has the ability to… worry those who haven’t seen it before. A film that’s almost a hundred years old- how could that possibly be scary? Well, there’s a reason why this is still considered the best version. Classic Halloween Scene: When Harker first meets The Count.
The Exorcist: Now we get into the truly demanding territory. A rarity in the genre, The Exorcist was a massive financial and critical hit upon release, pampered with awards and then…uh, banned. It may not be as hard-hitting these days, but it’s still rough, creepy stuff. Plus it is played extremely coldly, and without a hint of humour. This is as bleak as horror gets, and even the supposed happy ending leaves us with a bitter, fearful taste. Excellent performances, bewildering jump scares, and freaky moments all conspire to chill the soul and ensure you cuddle up to your beloved in bed. Classic Halloween Scene: Spider walk.
The Evil Dead: This was mostly played for scares over the played for laughs sequel, and while there is humour here, the main focus is on sudden frights and wonderful, innovative camera techniques. You’ll have fun watching this one as each character gets picked off, comes back, and gets picked off again. Classic Halloween Scene: Cheryl at the window, not in the cupboard.
Friday The 13th: One of the original slashers and one of the most successful, this one has plenty of ideas and violence, and staples of the sub genre which have now become clichés. It has dated, it is silly and quite tame, but it was made with love and ambition and freshness. The ending is shocking, the performances are ok, and there isn’t a hockey mask in sight. Classic Halloween Scene: Arrow through the neck- don’t have sex kids.
Final Destination: Another rarity- an inspired modern horror film with great ideas which blends humour and genuine frights. We have a series of characters who rather than getting picked off one by one in an uncaring fashion, are shown to be real kids with real lives, fears, and concerns- and then they are picked off one by one in increasingly exciting, tense, and innovative ways. A film which deals with our fear of death, of inevitability succeeds on every level. Classic Halloween Scene: During a heated discussion in his car, one reckless character refuses to accept that his life is pre-destined or that death is stalking his every move. To prove the point he parks his car on train tracks with his friends as the train hurtles towards them. He soon realizes he was wrong.
The Fog: One of the great campfire spook stories, The Fog is still sadly underrated. Carpenter creates a wonderful atmosphere here which suits the season perfectly- even better if you’re near the sea or if there is fog around. Classic Halloween Scene: The introduction with the wizened old sailor sets the tone for the rest of the show, and should set the tone for your night.
Hellraiser: Another British one now, offering something different from our American cousins. We have sex, violence, lots of gore, and some S&M themed fun. This is gritty in an Eastenders sort of way- you don’t really want to look or have anything to do with these characters. Classic Halloween Scene: When Kirsty first meets the Cenobites- what is the finger in the mouth about?
Halloween: What more can I say? This is the movie which should be watched every Halloween- not only is it a genuine classic of the genre and a kick-ass movie no matter which way you look at it, it drips with and evokes that special Seasonal feeling that few things do. Make this the highlight of your night. After you’ve cut some throats. Classic Halloween Scene: Young Laurie runs screaming down her street being chased by a murderous maniac. She clambers to the front door of a neighbour, knocks and begs for help. A light is turned on. Then switched off. Did they think it was just kids messing around? Were they too afraid to help? Welcome To America folks.
Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (70s): Some us like to dress up at Halloween as ghosts, vampires, or our favourite horror movie characters. Some people go further and pretend to be the person that the costume depicts. This definitive version of Bodysnatchers takes the idea of hiding behind a costume to dramatic and terrifying extremes- what if person next to you on the bus, your neighbour, your friend, your wife, or child was no longer the person they once were? In fact, what if some alien creature had taken their body as host and was walking around as an imperfect mockery of that person’s life? What if this alien race had designs on all your friends and everyone you’ve ever known, and what if you were next? This chilling view of a world snatched away from under our noses is all about loss of identity and mistrust, and makes for unsettling Halloween viewing. Classic Halloween Scene: The final moments. I’ll say no more.
Night Of The Living Dead: A staple of midnight viewing, the surrounding darkness makes the black and white all the more stark and cold; There are no easy answers or happy endings here. If you are watching this with a group of people, ask yourself which ones you would trust in a life/death situation. If your cosy home was surrounded suddenly by thousands of undead, who amongst you would come out as leader? Would you sit back, would you make decisions, would you think only of yourself or would you think of the safety of the group? Either way, you’re bound to get a chewing. Classic Halloween Scene: They’re coming to get you, Barbara.
The Omen: So far we don’t trust our neighbours and friends, but what if you thought your son was the Antichrist? The Omen is an apocalyptic film in more than one way and is filled with strong performances, gripping and bloody deaths, and a memorable, frightening score. Music is often pivotal in horror movies, and as you clamber the stairs to bed after this, with infernal monks chanting obscenities in your head, that corner of darkness you can’t quite see clearly may fill with unspeakable evil more readily. Classic Halloween Scene: Damian decides to ride his bike.
Prince Of Darkness: I find this to be Carpenter’s most underrated film mostly because it is awesome and should be mentioned in the same breath as Halloween and The Thing. Sure the plot is messed up with it’s evil green satanic liquid taking over zombies and bums mixed with time-travelling dream messages and psych jargon, but seriously it is awesome. It has more effective jump scares than any of his other shows and there is a creeping sense of dread and atmosphere throughout. In many ways it is classic Carpenter- a group of different thrown together in a building who have to team together or fall apart and stand against an overpowering threatening external force. It is a siege movie, it is clever for the genre though at times it doesn’t know what genre it wants to be. I think that was part of the fun though- like Big Trouble In Little China it is more than just it’s labels instead transcending notions of what it should or shouldn’t be, and is well ahead of it’s time. Classic Halloween Scene: The final survivors holding up behind some furniture while one of the crazies admires himself in a mirror with a large blade.
Ring: Please please please watch the Japanese version, not the abomination that is the remake. Sure the remake has plenty of jump moments, but it also has a deer on a boat, Brian Cox in a bath, and a director who decides it would be clever to cut away from the movie’s most important scene for the sake of a car chase. The original has Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada and if that isn’t enough of a recommendation then please remove thine eyes from mine page post haste. Watch this deep into the night, possibly as the last film, then play the lovely game of phone your friend once they have left to terrify them. Unfortunately the ideas first seen here have been so over-used that these games have become diluted, but the film still has an unflinching power. Not a drop of blood is shed, there are no knives, guns, or people bursting in from behind doors with a loud noise- this is the best horror film of the nineties and goes against everything that decade threw at us. And it’s a damn good story with excellent performances. Classic Halloween Scene: Sadako. TV. Sleep tight.
Scream: The second best horror movie of the nineties is the stuff of parties. By know everyone should have seen it, but many of you will have forgotten it and how good it still is. Plenty of shocks, laughs, scares, and action as well as a script the quality of which horror movies rarely get. And my beloved Neve Campbell is in it. Few horror films provide this much entertainment whilst still being scary, funny, and clever. The nods to horror movies will keep the nerds amongst your bunch happy and you can shout out when you spot a reference. Classic Halloween Scene: The final house chase scene as Neve doesn’t know where to run or who to trust.
The Shining: It’s rare for most people to get snow at Halloween, even more rare to be completely snowed in and surrounded. Try replacing the notion of snow with rain or darkness- would you want to go wandering outside if it was completely dark or hammering down? Anyway, this is another film which plays on isolation, claustrophobia, and paranoia. It’s probably best not to watch this one as a cosy night in flick with your little family- you’ll start wondering what the hell is going through each other’s minds. This is a giant of the genre with heaps of atmosphere and plenty of unsettling moments which deserves to be menti0ned at any Horror Movie Marathon. Classic Halloween Scene: Danny was warned not to go in that room. Prepare to be scared when Daddy goes looking too.
Silence Of The Lambs: The critic’s choice. Don’t invite any critics to your party as they will moan, groan, bore your girlfriends, and likely drink all your wine. There should be wine. This is nasty stuff from start to end as poor Jodie Foster tries to solve a murder whilst hiding her own fears from the unlikely Terminator Anthony Hopkins. This is better suited to smaller group viewing as it isn’t exactly cheery, blood n guts fun but it does the job when you’re on your own. Classic Halloween Scene: Anything with Bill really.
The Thing: In many ways the ultimate John Carpenter film, the ultimate macho man fest, and the number 1 examination of the paranoia which creeps into people during periods of isolation. The effects here still blow me away and they are only part of a long list of quality to describe this film- look at the cast, the performances, the music, the scares, the cinematography, and the way Carpenter drags the tension out of every shot until we don’t know who has been infected and who hasn’t. Great action adds to the great scares, but the special effects and story are kings here. Classic Halloween Scene: When the survivors are tied to chairs and Mac goes through each one by one to test if any are not human. Genius.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: This one still hurts today- it’s just so damn grim, dirty, and repulsive as to make the horror timeless. Sure they scares may be cliché now and the gore is almost non-existent, but the low down atmosphere, the miniscule budget, and the amateur (but good) performances all conspire to make this uncomfortable watching. I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who still think that there could be a family like this in their town, just as much as I’m sure that there probably are still families or people like this in the world- maybe not in your town, but possibly the next one over. And chainsaws are awfully easy to come by these days. Classic Halloween Scene: The entire dinner scene. Truly horrific, the use of sound and various camera techniques make this one of the most intense few minutes in any horror movie.
28 Days Later: A modern classic, and one of the few great British horror movies of the last few decades. Taking riffs from Romero and King this is a post apocalyptic survivalist’s wet nightmare. Empty streets, shops to loot, cars to steal- all great if it wasn’t for the hundreds of thousands of psychopaths charging towards you in search of your blood. This is the 21st century folks, and zombies ain’t got time to amble and stumble about- these are confident, successful, modern big business, stepping up to the plate, corporate bull-shitting zombies, and they won’t take closing a door in their face for an answer. If you can’t run fast, you’re screwed. And just to make things Mega Man 9 difficult- these fiends don’t even have to bite you to kill/convert you- one drop of their blood/saliva entering your body, through a gash, a scratch, a kiss, or a tear is enough it recruit you. And sheesh! They don’t even give you time to grieve for your fallen comrade- within seconds of getting exposed, your best friend will be diving for your jugular too. My advice- kill everyone you see and hide under a pile of coats till it all goes away. Classic Halloween Scene: An abandoned car sitting in the middle of an abandoned London- nothing to fear but technology.
The Wicker Man: Nothing to fear but religion. Look closely enough and all religions begin to look like cults; they all have a figurehead, the followers worship the figurehead unquestionably and offer prayers, thanks, songs, and sacrifices, there are certain rituals usually borne of centuries long since dusted, those involved are usually inviting to outsiders in person, but have a secret hatred, anger, or issue against them once backs are turned. So we have The Wicker Man, possibly the best British Horror Film of the whole sorry lot. Aah, the confusion of two worlds colliding as we watch a upstanding lawman and guardian of his own archaic faith fall victim ever so slowly to a cult even more decrepit than his own. He knows something terrible is amiss, but it isn’t until his toes turn to cinders that he realizes his fate was sealed the second his feet touched the land. Classic Halloween Scene: When we first see Mr Straw and realize our hero’s fate.
Paranormal Activity: Proof not only that horror movies still have the power to scare, entertain, and bring in the mega bucks, proof not only that a good story well executed can be more than a match for buckets of blood, but also proves that in this day and age of $200 million dollar movies that a small group with talent, an idea, and a few months worth of average salary can make a great movie. Romero did it in the 60s, Carpenter did it in the seventies, Raimi in the 80s, Myrick and Sanchez in the 90s, and now Oren Peli has continued the tradition. Using every trick in the book he has made a classic pastiche of the genre and a thrill ride akin to running naked through a field of land mines. The setting of the movie is perfect for Halloween viewing- primarily it is set in the home and most of the scares happen at night- the film invades you with a sense that you aren’t safe in your own house and makes you take a second or third glance at that cup that you swore you set on the table which now sits on the ground. Likely to lose its impact with subsequent viewings this is best served to people who haven’t seen it. The scares (while you sense them coming) are unexpected and rewarding and while the characters are painfully annoying, you’ll still soil your drawers. Classic Halloween Scene: NEVER leave your foot hanging out of bed.
Trick R Treat: Anthology movies have had their heyday- we had a succession of British hits in the 70s, then a slew of bloodier efforts in the 80s. Then for 20 years anthology fans didn’t have a lot to be excited about aside from a few cheap efforts (although Asia did produce some great ones at the turn of the century). Trick R Treat is good enough to kick start a revolution in the genre, or at least it would have been had it been released in any cinemas. Straight to DVD (yet with a decent budget and big name cast) Trick R Treat features four shorts linked by an over-arcing plot and is to Halloween what presents are to Christmas. This one is destined to be shown and loved every Halloween for years to come, possibly as a double header with Carpenter’s classic. Classic Halloween Scene: The creepy opener sets the tone for the movie and features everything we love about the season, dripping with atmosphere, and settling us in for a bumpy ride.
Please leave your comments and suggestions for films you think are best viewed at Halloween, and let us know which films terrified you when you were growing up at this time of year.
Following the recent and continuing trend of Japanese horror movies getting the Hollywood treatment, Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge is easily the best of the lot. Once again the director remakes his own film, but the difference here is that the story now involves an American couple who live in Japan. With many more shocks, and the constant threatening aura, The Grudge is vastly superior to The Ring and The Ring 2(American), and is equally as good as the original Ju-On movie.
Sarah Michell Gellar once again appears on the big screen in a role different from the characters she has played in the past. She stars as a foreign social working student along with her boyfriend played by Jason Behr. When she covers for a friend who has not turned up for work, she visits a house in Tokyo. There she meets an old woman who is nearly comatose, and on further investigation she sees that the house is haunted and cursed, and she is attacked. We are then shown small episodes involving the past occupants of the house and see that anyone who lives there inevitably is killed by the terrifying plague inside the house. As the story goes on the reason for the curse is explained, and Karen (Gellar) tries to save herself.
Ju-On already ranks as one of the scariest movies ever made, and The Grudge is a worthy attempt which has some pluses and minuses over the original. The story is certainly easier to follow and more is explained, although it refuses to be told in a linear fashion. This adds to the uneasiness we feel while watching it, but is less confusing than the previous version. The scene here involving the ghost chasing one victim around an office building is better than the original, though the subsequent ‘bed’ moment is not as good. The section involving the school girls was one of the best scenes in the original, but it has been removed, (the time skipping in that part is confusing the first time round) but Ted Raimi’s final scene makes up for this. The soundtrack is as good as the original, that gargling noise is especially effective in the cinema. Every shock, even while some are predictable, is good and it is relentless in its search for another scare.
Although most of the actors have small parts and there is not really a lead part for most of the film, everyone performs well. Gellar proves she can perform on the big screen, and can be the weak, scared girl rather than Buffy. Pullman is also good, and although his part in the first few minutes got laughter from the audience, he redeems himself. The actors from the original movie do well, and Raimi is very good too, providing some comedy moments, putting us into a false sense of security. Forget about this being a remake- this is how all horror movies should be done; we are always aware that something is going to happen, waiting for the next fright, the atmosphere is relentless, and the scares are real scares, not cheap imitations.
The DVD has a decent commentary and featurette, but not much else. At around 5 pounds at time of writing, you can’t go wrong. A must for horror fans with open minds. Probably not for the weak hearted, or those who like their stories to be told in a linear fashion.
As always, feel free to leave any comments on the movie- did this cause any nightmares or did you just think it was the latest in a long line of average long haired nonsense?
I feel that I should warn anyone who was attracted to watching this movie by the name alone- This is not just a horror film- It’s the most terrifying, mind crushingly disturbing piece of art in history. After watching it I spiralled into a foul pit of depression for 17 weeks in which I spoke to no-one, said nothing, went nowhere, and felt only the knowledge of my own impending doom rushing inevitably towards me from all angles. I was enclosed in a tomb of hatred, an OLAP cube filled with emptiness, nine inch nails driven into my very soul, by eyeless creatures with no eyes whose only joy is ill-gained by their concentrated torture of the insane. There was not exactly darkness, but there was an all encompassing absence of light, of life, or breath; it was like existing inside the dying lung of a smoker, like swallowing cement, like choking yourself with the cold feet of a dead neighbour. Imagine a dream where you lose your shoes and have to tie Jennifer Lopez and Andie McDowell to your feet just so that you can push Bernie Mac up a vertical cliff face in a barrel.
After a few weeks I began to have visions of a new world filled with creatures called Burlapians in which I was an Alien slave recently released. Everyone spat on me as I walked by, and I wasn’t even allowed to enter a Burlapian café for a caramel square. Soon my despair began to manifest itself as boils on the inside of my eyeballs. These boils burst, sending my eyes out of my now devastated carcass of a face and onto the floor. Born from the boils of my despair was another race of miniature creatures which I named Rubtuckuryans, as I was delirious from the pain. I couldn’t see them as my eyes were lost, and even now I doubt their existence, but I felt that they were there and that they were mine, and so I commanded them. If you have never felt the sensation of 14 million little men running over your skin then let me tell you it is among the most exhilarating and revitalising experiences of life.
For the first time in my life I was at one with a larger society. I was their leader, but more than that, I was them and they were me. I was worshipped from all quarters as God, Mother, and Saviour, but by the Burlapian classes as a creature to be derided and shoved. One afternoon when the town was asleep, I sent my 14 million little soldiers on their first and final mission; one of which none could be certain of coming home. They entered the houses of each Burlapian and wreaked the most horrific forms of vengeance ever imagined. I felt sick at the carnage created by my hand. Sick with joy. Sick with sickness. There were many casualties, but the few survivors who stumbled back to me no longer felt a part of me. They had committed such acts that I could no longer fathom their existence and so I screamed to the heavens and launched myself off the nearest mountain top. I hit the bottom at around 150 miles per hour and splashed beautifully across the gray wilderness. At last I was happy and free. I could now come back to life. I woke with a start to find I had grown a bushy yet stylish beard and some odd bacteria between my toes. The TV license people had also assumed I was dead and so no longer send me a bill. So everything worked out in the end.
If you wish to avoid such a trauma then go watch The Exorcist or another less harrowing horror movie. This is too much; The way the hands merge with the clay; the way the spirits come screaming from the shadows to claim the newly dead souls as their own, ripping from our world onto the next; Whoopee Goldberg. Not for the faint hearted; not for anyone. A movie made by Frank after opening the box.
Best Scene: When Swayze is trying to jump through a wall but he doesn’t realise that ghosts are perfectly sold molecular creatures like the rest of us and he breaks his neck smashing into it.
As a fan of the more extreme side of cinema, I ask you to join me, as I explore the history of Cinema's most extreme movies with all the sex, violence and symbolism intact. I'm here to reflect on the extreme movies that have come and gone to see what they mean, see what makes them so extreme, and of course, see if they're any good.