Ring

*Originally written in 2003

Just when horror movies were slipping back towards mediocrity and worse, after the high of Scream and the many lows which followed, Hideo Nakata decided to bring Koji Suzuki’s hit novel to the big screen. The result is the most terrifying movie of the decade, and one of the most chilling movies of all time. Made on a tiny budget the film is relentlessly evil, the tension never gives in, and you will not forget it for the rest of your life. Stylish, borrowing from other films and surpassing them, Ringu is a demon reincarnated as a movie, its effect on us everlasting, ensuring we spread the word…

The film opens with a Scream-like scene and the tension is already high, our wrists put in a deathly grip from the outset. Two teenage girls are discussing a video one of them claims to have seen, saying it is the scariest thing she has ever see. Once you watch it the phone rings, and a voice tells you you will die in seven days. The girl though says she is joking. Then the TV switches itself on and she hears scratching noises. It has been seven days. We cut to a reporter, Reiko Asakawa who is doing a story about the video curse. She investigates some local deaths, including her niece and soon realises that all her niece’s friends are dead too, having watched a mysterious video. Leaving her son behind she goes in search of the video. Eventually she finds it, watches it and answers the ringing phone. Convinced she is going to die she contacts her ex-husband and tries to find a way to save herself. He is not convinced, and watches it as well. However, later that night their son Yoichi also watches, so they all try to solve the curse, uncovering the story of the Yamamuras, in particular – Sadako.

Aside from having one of the most frightening climaxes in movie history, one which the recent remake completely failed to resurrect, there is an eerie atmosphere throughout the film. There are many other moments which add to the atmosphere and build towards the infamous final scare. The last 15 minutes are extremely scary as Reiko and Ryuji search for Sadako and feature some of extremely nail-biting scenes. Everything in the film is designed to unsettle – the unearthly soundtrack reminiscent of Argento and Goblin’s works, the fixed and cornered camera angles so we can never see what is near, the grim surroundings, the complete lack of humour, the use of colour etc. The performances are all very good as well, Nanako Matsushima as Reiko swiftly moves from confident to frantic wreck, and exudes every possible emotion. Hiroyuki Sanada is extremely strong, slowly coming to realise the truth, conveying guilt over his son and remaining both mysterious and strong when his ex-wife gives up. His final scene is perfectly acted, heightening the overall effect. Rikiya Otaka as Yoichi manages to be creepy, but his role becomes more central in the second film. The rest of the cast are all immensely good. The inclusion of the timer is also highly effective, ensuring the tension rises as we know time is running out.

Of course the film has its flaws. Some people will be put off by the slow nature. Some people will feel the need to have every question answered, and Ringu leaves many unanswered – that is the point. If we were in this situation we would be looking for answers – anything to help us, to relieve the fear, something real to hold on to, but nothing is given. As we are left wondering, the film will stay with us, continuing to haunt us over time, ensuring we do not escape the ring. As it was adapted from a novel, certain inherent difficulties arise. In the novel it is a man who is the reporter, his wife is barely around, and his near-sadist friend takes up the Ryuji role, hoping to put some excitement into his life. In the book, beware all reflective surfaces. The curse is more of a disease than a ghost. Nakata takes the best elements, and makes the story his own. There will be some confusing moments, but the constant threat of something happening will mean you will continually be focused on the film.

The sense of isolation is strong, and there is a coldness surrounding the film. Many rooms are blank, places lack expression, and people speak in monotone, and avoid eye contact. Nakata explores Japanese culture and mythology, showing the intrusion of the West via moments which remind us of past films. There is more than one reference to The Terminator – the final shot, the dates, the relentless evil of Sadako, technology backfiring, and it recalls other films such as Videodrome, Eraserhead, Straw Dogs, and there is veiled thanks to Stephen King. (Translate the name of a certain familiar Stephen King town into Japanese). Nakata shows himself to be the new master of tension, and along with Miike, Kitano and others is proving that Japanese cinema is a force not to be taken lightly. I first saw this around 5 years ago, and it is still rewarding and scary today. The themes of abandonment, fear and guilt stay with the viewer, coming out more with each viewing, once the initial fear has gone. This is one horror movie everyone should see, vastly superior to the remake which opted for cheap scares, flashy camera-work and loud noises. This is subtle, both nightmarish and real, and uses one of the most effective themes of horror movies to the fullest – the inevitability of death. We are doomed and there is no escape, but that should not stop us fighting for each other and ourselves, no matter how invincible our enemy.

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Paranormal Activity – Unpublished Screenplay

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

OPEN ON:

EXT. SANTA ROSA. CALIFORNIA – DAY

A WOMAN drives into a DRIVEWAY in a CAR and steps out.

KATIE

Seriously?

MICAH

What?

KATIE

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.

MICAH

Yup.

KATIE

Why you do that?

MICAH

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

KATIE

Insta-wha?

MICAH

Emm, oh right. What year is this again? 2007?

KATIE

It’s 2006, you dick.

MICAH

Really? Right. What about Youtube – is that a thing?

KATIE

Yes. Micah, you are behaving quite oddly today, and only marginally less annoying than you will be later.

MICAH

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.

MICAH:

HEURRRRGH! RARRRRR! PLOP!

KATIE

Seriously? Do you really need to drop one off while I’m in here? It’s disgusting.

MICAH

HRRRRNNNGGAAA!

KATIE

And why on Earth are you filming this!?

MICAH

Gotta get dem likes and subcribes, boiii!

KATIE

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.

MICAH

HRRRYUUUNNNTERRRR! PLOP!

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

KATIE

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?

MICAH

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.

KATIE

I will not!

MICAH begins stamping his foot in front of the CAMERA and mewling like a SPANKED INFANT.

MICAH

WHAAAAAAAA! WHAAAAAAAA!

KATIE

Stop that right now, you’re making the floor creak!

MICAH

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

MICAH stamps his FEET around the room until A DRESSING GOWN falls off the BEDROOM DOOR.

MICAH

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!

KATIE

Seriously?

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.

DRESSING GOWN

WEEEEEEEE!

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

MICAH

Wowzers – look at this footage!

KATIE

What is it? Did you record any further ghostly sightings?

MICAH

No, somehow I missed those, but check out how cool the toilet looks when it flushes in HD!

KATIE

Ew, gross.

The DOORBELL RINGS.

KATIE

That’s probably my sister, KRISTI and her husband DANIEL.

MICAH

Cool! I can’t wait to show DANIEL my sweet setup.

KATIE

Hello KRISTI!

KRISTI

Hello KATIE!

KATIE

Where is your husband, DANIEL?

KRISTI

He couldn’t make it, he is busy setting up cameras around our house.

KATIE and MICAH together

Cameras? Really? Why?

KRISTI

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.

MICAH

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

KRISTI

So why do you have a camera now? I hope you haven’t encountered any spooky goings-on? Going-ons? Whatever.

KATIE

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.

KRISTI

Oh ho ho, I’m sure it’s probably nothing. La la la, lets talk about something else.

KATIE

Wait a second, I’m remembering more things – things I had forgotten about. Things from our childhood.

KRISTI

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.

KATIE

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?

KRISTI

No?

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!

MICAH

Jesus, do that in the bathroom will you?

KATIE

I’m like literally terrified. I think this house really is cursed! I want to move out!

MICAH slaps her face. Twice.

MICAH

Silence woman, you are being hysterical. The only thing cursed in this house is your infernal mouth.

KATIE

I’m so sorry, sweetie, I’ll be good.

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

KATIE is literally on the TELEPHONE. Not literally.

KATIE

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.

PRIEST

Hello, you must be KATIE, and I must be a PRIEST.

KATIE

You are correct on both counts. Do come in.

PRIEST

Ah, before we enter, I would like to say a quick prayer in LATIN, if you don’t mind.

KATIE

Go ahead, that’s what I’m paying you for.

PRIEST

Semper ubi, sub ubi. AMEN.

KATIE

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.

PRIEST

This place is…. evil. This room…. this house…. that lamp…. evil.

KATIE

Oh woe! Is there nothing you can do!? Why will no one help us poor, defenceless millenials!?

PRIEST

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.

PRIEST

What the fuck! That lamp almost got me! I’m getting out of here!

KATIE

But what should I do?

PRIEST

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!

DRESSING GOWN

Now’s my chance. BOW-CHIKA-WOW-WOW!

The DRESSING GOWN steps into the SHOWER with KATIE.

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.

KATIE

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.

MICAH (OS):

Honey, I’m home! Where are you?

We hear FOOTSTEPS approaching and assume it is MICAH ascending the stairs. We are correct.

MICAH

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.

MICAH

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.

MICAH

Ohhh-kayyy.

INT. BEDROOM – LATER THAT NIGHT

KATIE and MICAH are sleeping. SOMETHING bumps the CAMERA and KATIE stirs.

KATIE

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.

KATIE

MICAH! Help meeeeeee!

MICAH

In a minute.

KATIE (OS)

No, please don’t kill me, I’ll do anything! TOBY? MICAH!

MICAH finally wakes up, STARTLED.

MICAH

Katie? KATIE!

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.

MICAH (OS):

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.

THE END

Horror Anthologies You May Have Missed

Greetings, Glancers! Here in The Spac Hole, a place of ambiguous terror and self-disgust, Halloween is our favourite time of the year. What could be better than lighting fireworks inside your neighbour’s house, waiting for them to run outside, and launching a live Alligator at them? It’s all in the festive spirit I’m sure you’ll agree. I admit it’s getting tiresome trying to think of interesting things to post about at this time of the year, beyond the usual lists I’ve already published and more and more horror movie reviews. I was listening to an old episode of the Shock Waves Podcast recently (it’s a podcast by four mega horror fans within the movie industry and features regular special guests) in which they discussed building the perfect horror anthology from existing movies. Each presenter picked five segments and a wraparound, and hijinks were had. At the end of the episode, they talked about possibly doing the same, but with Horror TV instead of movies.

That got me thinking about may of the shows I used to watch and continue to watch. The anthology series, even ones concerning scares, have been around since the 1950s and continue to this day. We all have our favourites, and there are many obvious ones – The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Masters Of Horror, Are You Afraid Of The Dark, Goosebumps etc. Many of these are excellent introductions to the wider genre for kids or newbs, while others are surely catered towards the hardcore fan. Today, we have the likes of The TerrorBlack Mirror, Channel Zero, and (if you’re stretching the terminology) American Horror Story, but what about the shows which may have escaped your clutches? Us horror fans are always looking for the next thrill, the next scare, and it shouldn’t matter if this involves looking across the oceans, or back in time.

As a non-American, I have been exposed to some shows which many of my readers may not be aware of, but all that is about to change. Check out the list below, or even better, find and watch the shows. Then tell your friends. Spread the disease. There’s something here for everyone – for kids and newbs, for hardcore fans, for those who love the supernatural, those who prefer their horror with a touch of realism, and those looking for something more… out there. Give them a shot.

Out There (2001-2002)

See what I did there? Almost certainly no-one outside of Britain will be aware of this, and almost certainly only about twelve people watched it – myself included (religiously). I’m cheating considerably with this entry, but it’s nevertheless a show I’d love more people to see. It is essentially a 30 minute clip show, showcasing snippets of gore, sex, and weirdness from movies and TV shows from around the world, all hosted in a non-narrative by the gorgeous animal lover Anneka Svenska and later, all round horror bad-ass Emily Booth. It was a British Elvira, but much much weirder. It was one of those shows that had me grabbing the pen and paper, taking notes of all the weird shit I had seen, then trying to hunt done the source material online the next day. There’s sadly very little of the show to be found online now, but those of us who saw it can consider ourselves both very very lucky, and quite badly scarred.

Beyond The Walls (2015)

Over to France now, for a nifty little show I believe you can catch now on Shudder. I’m being loose with the definition of Anthology again, but there you have it. It’s really a Haunted House mini-series – three episodes, meaning you can get through the whole thing in no time. And it would be a good use of your time, because aside from the interesting story (which follows Lisa – a lonely woman who inherits a house from a man who she has never met, and who has been dead for thirty years), it looks stunning and packs in a lot of ideas in its short running time.

Chiller (1995)

One of the first British anthology shows I remember watching, Chiller ran for a single series and featured a mere five episodes. Luckily, each of them is strong and feature the likes of ghost babies, curses, not so imaginary friends, and serial killers. My memories of the first two episodes – Prophecy and Toby are the strongest – not bad for shows I haven’t seen in over twenty years. In Prophecy, a group of friends perform a seance and each receive a prophecy, which then start coming true in deadly fashion, while in Toby a woman loses her unborn son in a car accident but continues to display signs of a phantom pregnancy, all the way up to birth. The show features British stalwarts like Martin Clunes (Men Behaving Badly), Nigel Havers (Chariots Of Fire), Sophie Ward (Return To Oz), John Simm (Life On Mars), and Peter Egan (Downton Abbey). You can buy the series on DVD and catch some of them on Youtube. Incidentally, the BBC had a similar show around the same time called Ghosts, but I don’t recall it and will have to track it down.

Dr Terrible’s House Of Horrible (2001)

Once you get past the horrible, terrible name, this is a decent show. Obviously, the name is a spoof and once you realise that this is a Steve Coogan vehicle, you’ll understand we’re firmly in the comedy realm. It’s another show which only ran for one series, starring Steve Coogan as Dr Terrible (and others) who presents each tale in the vein of the Cryptkeeper. Each episode is a loving, spoofing riff on British anthology classics from the likes of Hammer and Amicus and each features actors from those classic productions, as well as modern fans like Mark Gatiss and Simon Pegg. It’s a who’s who of the last 100 years of British Cult Cinema. While it rarely gets scary or disturbing, it’s a must for horror fans – especially of those films being spoofed – the love is authentic, and the laughs are hearty.

Eerie, Indiana (1991-1992)

So, I’m guessing most of you know this. It’s ostensibly a show for kids – I watched it upon release and have loved it ever since – but there are enough knowing nods to classics for adults and experienced horror fans to enjoy. For my money, it was one of the first kids shows to also appeal to adults. Look at Cinema and TV now – almost everything is catered to such a wide audience. It’s a shame the original series didn’t run for more series – you know the writers were setting things up for future shows – recurring guest stars, expanding mythology, but sadly it was all abandoned for an ill-advised follow up series a few years later. Joe Dante’s creative touch is all over it, there are a myriad of in-jokes and guest stars you’ll recognise, but most importantly – the stories are unique, varied, entertaining, and spooky enough for kids without treating kids like idiots. We have kids being sucked into TVs, dogs trying to take over the world, sentient cash machines, other dimensions, commercialist zombies, tornado chasers, lonely artistic kids, and ghost organ transplants. Great performances all around too – a rarity for a show like this.

Fear Itself (2008)

Masters Of Horror is one of the modern titans of the Anthology with a terrific idea – take some of the world’s most renowned directors within the genre and give them free reign to create their own mini-movie. It lasted for two seasons and the DVD boxsets are some of the finest examples of the craft. It was unfortunate when the show ended (it’s surely time for a revamp now that horror on TV is more prevalent and we have a new crop of young Masters to get involved), but series creator and horror icon Mick Garris wasn’t ready to let it die yet. Fear Itself is basically the third Season of Masters Of Horror, with returning and new masters contributing again. While the quality isn’t as strong, it’s still a damn good show, pushing the envelope with what can be done with the medium and showcasing a tonne of gore and scares. For whatever reason, it wasn’t as successful as its older brother and only lasted for thirteen episodes – five of which ended up not being shown in the US. Luckily you can buy the boxset on DVD and dive back in. It’s a lot of fun, some episodes are more comedy based, some are psychological, while others go right for the jugular.

Hammer House Of Horror (1980)

Hammer is one of the most renowned producers of Horror in film history and at the end of the peak of their powers they branched into Television. It’s another show which only lasted 1 Season – thirteen episodes (what is it about that number?) – but those episodes are exactly what you would expect from the Company – sex and violence and creepy old mansions. A lot of British stars of the time show up in stories concerning time-travelling witches, Nazi experiments, upper class cannibals, human sacrifice, Pierce Brosnan, and of course, staples (Satan – one for older readers, that wee joke). There have been various DVD and Blu Ray releases, the Horror Channel in the UK shows them every so often, and a few episodes can be found lurking on Youtube, so there’s no excuse not to indulge in some classic creaky horror.

Inside No. 9 (2014 -)

I’ve spoken about this one before (in this best Christmas episodes post) but it’s a show that is still not widely seen. It’s always something which has irked me when inferior British shows get widespread publicity across the seas and stuff like this is overlooked. It’s a thirty minute anthology show – different stories each episode but with some overlapping cast members, with a focus on intelligent writing, horror, humour, and an interesting setting. The set up is that each story should be set in or based around the Number 9 – as in House #9, or train carriage #9 etc. So far there have been four seasons, and there is an upcoming Halloween Special this year – given the writers’ and performers’ love of horror and skill within the genre, it’s one to look forward to. Guest stars include – Gemma Arterton, Sheridan Smith, Jack Whitehall, Tamsin Greig, David Warner, Rory Kinnear, Kevin Eldon, Jane Horrocks, Danny Baker, Peter Kay, and many many more. While most of the stories are heavily influenced by the macabre – a dying child’s last wish, a silent episode featuring bungling burglars and murder, child abuse exposed during a game of sardines, crumbling relationships – it’s the overt horror stories which horror fans will be most interested. Here you will find stories based around snuff movies, witch trials, devil worship, suicide support lines, seance, torture rooms, and Final Destination esque games of fate. If you like your humour dark and your horror original, then you have no excuse to not watch these now.

Mr Biffo’s Found Footage (2017)

You may not be prepared for this. In fact, I know for a fact that you are not. I’m going to give a link to the first one – they’re all on YouTube – and you can decide for yourself if it’s for you. It’s definitely for me, but unfortunately that means only about twelve other people will find it ‘suitable’. No spoilers – just watch.

Night Gallery (1969 – 1973)

I’ll again assume that most people reading this actually know this one, but it’s still not as well or widely known as The Twilight Zone, even though it’s essentially a sequel to that grandest of shows. While it wasn’t as successful or as culturally significant, it still lasted for three seasons and featured Rod Serling presenting more stories to keep you awake at night. While still morality and twist based, Night Gallery tended towards a horror slant while The Twilight Zone’s scary episodes were sporadic. As you would expect, the prolific Serling wrote many of the stories but it also featured adaptations of Lovecraft, Bloch, and Matheson. There’s a great selection of tales here, expertly acted out by many familiar faces like Edward G Robinson, Carl Reiner, John Carradine, Leslie Nielsen, David McCallum, Adam West, and other big names of the time. While time has proven that the stories may not be as immediately terrifying as they once were, they’re perfect for cuddling up on the sofa for family viewing to introduce a younger audience to the genre’s classics.

Shockers (1999-2000)

Full disclosure – this entry is the main reason for writing this post. As I was listening to the Shock Waves podcast earlier (along with others, and blogs, and discussions) I remembered this show – and one episode in particular. I think when it comes to anthologies, we all have that one entry which sucks us in and makes us lifelong fans of the format, whether that be Burgess Meredith breaking his glasses in The Twilight Zone, Karen Black being terrorized by a dummy in Trilogy Of Terror, or even the monkey’s paw from The Simpsons. I was a fan of the format long before I saw Shockers, but it was the episode named Parent’s Night which has stayed with me perhaps more than any other segment I’ve ever seen. If there’s any purpose to this post, it’s a hope that someone will go online and watch this episode – consider it my seal of approval, but also beware that it may fuck you up.

Shockers is a show you never hear of or read about in any anthology discussions. While none of the episodes are on par with Parent’s Night, a few of them are very good and all are watchable. There isn’t any linking or central theme or premise behind the stories, aside from them all being set in a modern, realistic Britain and them being presented as written by future stars. As for the cast – you’ll recognise a few of them – Daniel Craig, Lennie James, Kerry Fox, Ashley Walters, and a host of other British familar faces. As far as I can tell, there were only six episodes – if you live in the UK you can catch them all on Demand 4, if you’re outside of the UK some of them are on YouTube, including (most importantly) Parent’s Night. As there’s only six, I can give a a rundown of each:

In Cyclops, a prisoner has a camera implanted in his eye upon release to watch his every move. In The Visitor, a charismatic stranger turns up at the house of a couple and their friend, while in The Dance a widower falls for a younger woman at a dance class who may not be what she seems. Deja Vu is about a husband and wife who lost their son in a car crash, but then another car crash changes things, while Ibiza sees a typical lads holiday to the island turn to a deadly game of mystery and murder. Yet it is Parent’s Night that I want everyone who reads this to watch. It’s…. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was released when I was still in school and when certain recent school shootings were still in the public eye. It’s a vital piece of art which is sadly all the more powerful now, especially in the US. Although the climates and cultures of our two nations are very different, bullying and anger are universal. In my country, we have several groups who have no issue, at least historically, in blowing each other to hell yet thankfully guns in schools are not really a problem. We may live in a warzone, but at least we don’t go that far. Still, when I watched Parent’s Night, I was blown away and it remains the only time I’ve ever stood up and applauded something I’ve seen on TV. I hadn’t seen it in 17 or 18 years – since it was released, but in preparation for this post I watched it again, and it is still as haunting, stomach-churning, horrible, and sadly realistic as ever. It’s a near perfect view of what School could sometimes be like. I should stop prattling on about it – if you’ve ever valued my opinion on TV or Movies, then when I say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen, you should know to check it out. Click right here to watch on YouTube.

The Nightmare Room/The Haunting Hour (2001 – 2014)

We need something to calm us down after that. When I was a kid in the 90s we had Goosebumps and Are You Afraid Of The Dark? It turns out R.L Stine kept ’em coming, and in The Nightmare Room he made a follow-up series. It only lasted one season, but its thirteen (of course) episodes feature many a big name – Shia Labeouf, Frankie Muniz, Robert Englund, Angus Scrimm, Ken Foree, Josh Zuckerman, Amanda Bynes, and um… Allison Mack. Not content, Stine returned with The Haunting Hour which was more successful and ran for four seasons. The cool thing about The Haunting Hour is that it is much darker and graphic than the other two – it’s still for kids, older kids, but it definitely has an edge. Once again, a bunch of pretty teens who have gone on, or are currently on the hunt for greater fame, make an appearance, but I’m not as au fais with this bunch.

Thriller (US and UK 1960s and 1970s)

Two unrelated shows here, and neither have anything to do with Michael Jackson prancing his way up into yo’ bidness. The US show was a response to The Twilight Zone and saw Boris Karloff in the Serling role. While it’s not as strong as TTZ, it thankfully does feature stories written on directed by Ida Lupino, Robert Bloch, Arthur Hiller, Richard Matheson, and has many of the biggest stars of the time and the future (past) such as Shatner and other TTZ stalwarts. The British show came around a decade later and ran for six seasons. As with almost all these shows, it has a semi-iconic intro theme and title sequence. This show focused less on the supernatural and more on murder and mystery with people such as Robert Powell, Dennis Waterman, Helen Mirren, Haley Mills, Jenny Agutter, Francesca Annis, Stephen Rea, Denholm Elliot, Bob Hoskins, and many many others popping up.

Urban Gothic (2000)

My final choice popped up around the same time as Shockers – this being Channel 5’s attempt at late night anthology horror. The problem with the show was always that the running time didn’t allow the ideas to be fully fleshed – some ideas seemed ripe for either better writing or a 60 minute show instead of the 30 given. The cool thing about some of the stories though was that they had sequels or featured overlapping characters – it would have been nice to see this expanded beyond the two seasons which we ended up with. Once again you can catch these on DVD or some on YouTube to find out for yourself. Some highlights include Ingrid Pitt playing herself, Dirty Den essentially playing himself, necromancy, vampires, gangsters, zombies, serial killers in reality shows, all set in a by and large realistic view of British City life. My person favourite was always Be Movie, in which a group of school kids in detention find themselves stalked by a killer, yet if they try to leave the school… their heads explode. Just like my school then.

Which of these are you going to check out? Are there any forgotten anthology shows you want to raise awareness on? Which shows and episodes are your favourites? Let us know in the comments!

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 6

EXT. PRISON. DAY

CARL: Look at the flowers, just look at the flowers!

SOPHIA: Why do you keep saying that?

CARL: Cos they’re so pretty. I mean, look at them!

SOPHIA: Carl, there aren’t very many others boys around anymore, and I was wondering. Would you like to be my boyfriend?

CARL: A pansy, a lovely tulip, and ooh look! A sweet pea! I think I’m going to sew this one into my one of a kind, Italian silk, moody, sunkist cravat. Sorry, what were you saying?

SOPHIA: Never mind.

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 5

INT. A SLAUGHTERHOUSE. DAY

A group of cannibals have tied up our heroes and are about to cut their throats.

GARETH: Any last words before, heh heh, dinner?

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Our father, who art in heaven…

GARETH: Oh please, ‘your God’ can’t help you now. Anyone else?

RED SHIRT: Please, I don’t want to die!

GARETH: How uninspiring – slice this guy’s throat already.

In a twelve minute scene, the Red Shirt is skinned alive, has his throat cut, is chopped into pieces, then Gareth dances the Macarena wearing Red Shirt’s skin.

RICK GRIMES: I promise I’m going to kill you.

GARETH: Oh really? If this guy’s God can’t kill me, how do you expect to?

A sudden THUNDERBOLT shoots from the SKY and torches GARETH and the other baddies. They are now dead.

OLD MAN HERSHEL: For ever and ever. Amen.

RICK GRIMES: Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me!

Leatherface

We’ve been slicing up this story for a while now haven’t we? Even through all the sequels, remakes, and copies, few films touch the raw, visceral power of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original – a film which still gets under the skin after multiple decades and viewings. What can we possibly add to the story, and do we need to? My feelings have always been that (and the same goes for most horror films and icons) we don’t need an origin story – all we need to know is that this creature or person exists, and that it’s trying to kill the protagonists. Most origin stories try to reason with the murderer and inevitably make us sympathize to a certain degree, yet end up not making the character any more interesting. If your original story contains the origin – fine, but can a prequel coming much later be anything other than a cash grab?

Cash grabs can be entertaining, no matter how cynical they may be. Thankfully, as many flaws as this one his – almost entirely due to the plot and premise – it still does the job of entertaining me. For horror fans, there is plenty of gore and violence (though not as explicit as most others in the series) and for everyone else it is peppered with good performers giving good performances. Viewed as a standalone film separate from the mythology of the franchise it works a little better. It tells a story of revenge echoing through the years – a policeman’s daughter is senselessly murdered by a brutal isolationist family and as retribution the cop abducts a baby from the family. The baby grows up in an institute but eventually escapes with a group of Bonnie and Clyde wannabees and they embark on a collision course of mayhem which leads baby, family, and cop back to where it all began.

Sam Strike takes up the unenviable task of playing the young Leatherface – UK viewers will know him from Eastenders – and I have no issues with his performance. He has the script, he’s been told how to play it, and he follows through. Similarly, the always reliable Dorff and Tyler are engaging and Vanessa Grasse is good as the sympathetic final girl. French directing duo Maury and Bustillo became instant horror legends after their incredible debut Inside, but they don’t get to expand upon their penchant for threat and terror here, hindered by an idea and a screenplay which is entirely by the numbers and unnecessary. There’s a point in the movie – I’m not sure if it was ever intentional – that it seems like the filmmakers are going to pull an early Shyamalan and actually have a different character turn out to be Leatherface. Based on what we do get, that twist could have improved matters.

Going back to my point about not needing origin stories – a related point is that I never found Leatherface to be such an interesting character anyway. Here was this hulking man-child who appeared to be severely mentally challenged, and just happened to enjoy killing things and dead things – like the rest of his family. He was essentially a slave and both didn’t and couldn’t know better. That’s all you need to know. The original offers no suggestion of him being a complex character – that’s us projecting onto him. Rather, the film portrays him to be an almost mindless child in the body of a WWE Superstar, likely the result of generations of inbreeding and seclusion. Leatherface does a ridiculous double sell-out, a triple sell out in fact; first, by showing the young Leatherface being abducted and raised by a different family before being placed in a Young Offenders/mental institution where he is presented as a sympathetic, caring, yet conflicted human, secondly by making him become violent for no good reason, and finally by making him lose his mind and regress to…. something? There’s no reasoning behind any of it. We start out the movie not buying into the character being this emotionally involved teenager, and we end the movie not buying in to him becoming the mindless Leatherface. They even make a mess of explaining the origin of the mask – him wearing it out of necessity due to taking a bullet to the face, rather than because he simply likes the feel of human skin on his own. It makes the character much less interesting, and crucially, much less frightening. What is scary about the original is that history has shown us that there are people out there who commit these crimes for no reason other than they enjoy it. Here, in trying to explain evil they instead act like the parent showing that the coat in the closet isn’t the boogeyman.

Still, with all that said it’s better than a lot of movies of its ilk and it’s likely an improvement on many of the franchise entries. I can’t say for sure how I feel as the three other entries between 2003 and 2013 are of similar middling quality. In the end, they all feel like watchable throwaway horror which don’t come close to the madcap disgusting nature of Part 2, and are a world away from the relentless perfection of the original.

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 4

INT. AN ABANDONED WAREHOUSE. NIGHT

GLEN: So that’s the plan – I’ll sneak around the back and make a bit of a ruckus to distract the biters, then you come around from the other side and grab the big box of food, got it?

RICK GRIMES: Sure thing, skip. Lets – AGH! ARRGGH! Something’s biting me!

GLEN: It’s fine, your shirt just got caught on the sharp edge of a wooden crate

RICK GRIMES: No, I’ve been infected! Quick, hack off my arm before I become a zombie!

GLEN: No, you’re going to be – oh, alright then.

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 3

EXT. A FIELD INSIDE A PRISON. DAY

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Now listen up, everyone. The Lord has felt it necessary to wreak this plague upon us to shame us for our iniquities, but while we still live we need to prepare for the fut- Rick, what on Earth are you doing?

RICK GRIMES: Handstands.

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Han- why are you doing handstands? We’re having a serious discussion about farming, and irrigation, and such.

RICK GRIMES: Yeah I know but, handstands are much more fun. Look – weeeeee!

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Rick, that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever – it does look kinda neat though. Let me try. Weeeeeee!

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 2

EXT. A CREEPY WOOD. DAY

RICK GRIMES: Sigh. Another awful day in the zombie apocalypse. I wonder if anything interesting will happen today

MICHONNE: Stop right there, white boy, befo I chop off yo head!

RICK GRIMES: Oh, hello. Pleasant day we’re having, isn’t it.

MICHONNE: Da fuq you talkin’ bout? Can’t you see I got this big ass sword and these two jawless biters tied to me?

RICK GRIMES: Yes ma’am, you said it! Another glorious day in the zombie apocalypse. (Singing) ‘Sunshine, lollipops, and – zombies – everything that’s do-bee-do-bee-la-dee-da-dee-bee together!

MICHONNE: Dis bitch be cray…

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 1

INT. A HOSPITAL WARD. DAY

RICK GRIMES (Waking up and yawning): Ahh, nothing like a nap to sooth those aching wounds. Wait a second, aching wounds? Where am I?

Shuffling sounds and moans come from outside the room

RICK GRIMES: Heh- hello? Is there anyone out there?

A zombie dressed in a police uniform shambles into the room

ZOMBIE SHANE: Rrrriiiiik!

RICK GRIMES: Oh no! It’s the Zombie Apocalypse!

ZOMBIE SHANE: Rrriiiiiik… iiwsssffffkkkknng Loorrrreeeeeee!

RICK GRIMES: What’s that? Little Coral is trapped down a well? Lets move!