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The Bride Of 31 Days Of Horror (Final Chapter)

Ouch. What a Halloween. Hope yours was just as fear inducing as mine. Yeah, the other fear. So while your head is still pounding as hard as your black heart, lets delve into the final days of the countdown.

OCTOBER 25TH - NINA FOREVER

The fact that the poster refuses to sugarcoat might give some impression of how full on this strange, specific little oddity is. A young woman falls for a grieving guy whose girlfriend died in an accident, seemingly being the grief itself she initially finds attractive. This obviously perfectly balanced couple hit a bump in the night road as whenever they have sex, the bloodied, twisted body of the literally ex-girlfriend emerges from the bed in a pool of gore to join them. Eh, passion killer! As these things must or else there'd be no film, the two lunatics go at it regularly, continually visited by the ex who may be passed over but is far from over it. The concept for this one is so far out it's almost circled the world and standing behind you but it undeniably puts the gross in engrossing. Ireland's own Fiona O'Shaughnessy manages to be witty and strangely sexy as ex-y despite being covered in blood, flopping around on the bed with a broken body. But maybe that's a 'me' thing. Although at times it seems aimless and is let down by a poorly thought out, opaque, ending, it's consistently interesting and well performed. Definitely worth a look even if only for sheer curio value.

OCTOBER 26TH - THE HALLOW

Oh how refreshing to be able to say we finally have a genuinely good Irish horror film. By me shillelagh we have had some Paddy's day parade of stinkers over the years, more like the muck of the Irish. The Hallow thankfully (hardy) bucks the trend. Now it's not amazing and it's pretty one note but at least it's fecking competent. A British conservationist surveying land for a construction project ignores warnings from fairy fearing locals and moves with his wife and child into an isolated farmhouse in the heart of the forest. Dope. The non-mythological mythological creatures pay the family back for their trespassing. Truly creepy, icky occurrences abound as zombie fungus, changelings and long limbed beasties creep out of the shadows for our delectation. It's a slight but fun creature feature wrapped in a beautiful, glossy package. So while it may not be in the upper tiers of horror as a whole, Holy Lantern Jayzis it's the King of the Hill of Tara as far as Eire's concerned. Shop local this winter. 

 

OCTOBER 27TH - THE GREEN INFERNO

Eli Roth is the most juvenile, least talented and overpraised writer director working in modern horror. Insanely once lauded as the future of fear, his 'films', or idiot rants, have never broken above the level of abysmal, never mind average. Well the ignorant, racist, xenophobic series of dreck continues with this toilet of a film populated by his usual array of hateful arseholes. That should be the collective term actually - A Roth of arseholes. So, a Roth of arsehole activists barge into the Amazon supposedly to do good and then get captured and eaten by the cannibal tribe they were fighting to protect. More of a penis fromage than an homage to Cannibal Holocaust, this starts at rock bottom and begins to dig. Unable to create a full film about the horror of being eaten alive, Eli tries to cover up by including explosive diarrhea, cannibals getting the munchies after being tricked into inhaling weed, prisoners masturbating to stay focused and a tarantula crawling near an exposed urinating male member. Eli Roth is 43. And it's not even that gory. Most damning of all is that it's the best thing he's ever done. So in his honour and as a reflection of his mentality, at your Halloween party this year get all your guests to say 'Bottom's up!' to Eli. And fart at him.   

OCTOBER 28TH - THE WITCH

As much as I love disgusting, splatter filled ho...rror comedies and rollercoaster style gorefests, in general I like my horrors like I like my coffee - bleak, disturbing and serious as the grave. For those unpleasant reasons I bleeding adored every tortured, grueling second of The Witch. Already divisive due to its considered, measured pace, you'll either fall under its wicked spell or put a hex on it. A family of Puritan New England settlers are cast out from their community and attempt to go it alone at the edge of a deep dark forest. Their devout faith and familial bonds are torn asunder as they believe themselves to have come afoul of a witch who dwells amongst the trees.  It's brain exploding that this is Robert Eggars' first film when you see the gank that your man mentioned above is excreting out. It's visually amaaaazing, with a solidly  realised sense of time, character and setting complemented by outstanding performances across the board, especially by the child actors. While it may be created with all the focus and attention of a highbrow dramatic historical piece it never for a moment pretends to be anything less than a full on horror. Disturbing and violent events heartlessly run their course, leaving the viewer either drained or exhilarated. We rarely get films this special, so fans of true horror cinema should be proud that this masterpiece has in turn proudly joined the genre. Fantastic.

OCTOBER 29TH - JERUZALEM

Found footage may have gone hi tech in Jeruzalem with the introduction of Google Glass instead of a wonky camera, but when you stick those goofy goggles on the head of an idiot who constantly looks the wrong way, you might as well have asked Helen Keller to take your photo. Two Jewish American girls with impeccable timing visit Israel just in time for the gates of hell to open and spew out its demons. Or at least I think it does as the dozy cow that's wearing the glasses to record the trip just cries, hides, skypes her father and uses face recognition to look up boys' Facebook profiles. Once we've seen her having a nice relaxing fun holiday, getting lucky, meeting some cool people, all perfectly visible and well shot, the actual siege of the city begins and suddenly her head is on a spring. She looks away as the winged demons attack, glimpses minutely at some gigantic Cloverfield sized beast about 50 streets away, and drops the glasses as monsters swarm, hiding from the viewer, you know, all the things you actually want to see in a horror film rather than the view of the hostel from her hammock. She looks at walls and floors and bicycle tires so much as she flees it's a wonder she didn't run smack into a pole. Which is what you'll feel happened to you due to motion sickness. These bizarre decisions by the film makers coupled with an idiot of a heroine make this another frustrating addition to a frustrating sub genre. Turn off your cameras and enjoy the world, people!, he said as he typed on his laptop.

OCTOBER 30TH - TALES OF HALLOWEEN

Considering it's black Christmas for scare fans, it's surprising how few good films there are which try to cash in by being set during Halloween. There's the John Carpenter classic and the decreasing in value series which followed of course, and there's the insanely undercelebrated fantastic Trick R Treat amongst them but considering how many are set around Christmas, it's puzzling. Oh this one is crap by the way. Ten supposed masters of horror each direct a short film all set in a small town on Halloween night. There are two good enough ones, The Ransom Of Rusty Rex and The Night Billy Raised Hell, both containing literal monster children, one which had potential but throws away the ending, The Grim Grinning Ghost, about a girl followed home from a party by an urban legend, but the others are, hand on hollow where heart used to be, tripe. The only thing that's actually shocking is the brass neck some of these film makers had to hand in these stinkers! Neil Marshall, creator of undeniable all time classics Dog Soldiers and The Descent disappoints the most with Bad Seed, about  a man eating pumpkin. Lads. While it's a shame genre legends such as Adrienne Barbeau, John Landis and Lin Shaye got roped in, at least they're in the good segments. There's also a frankly bizarre cameo from the first winner of America's Next Top Model, Adrienne Curry which should give you an idea of quality control. Overall a disaster, another wasted opportunity to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year by people who just must have been wasted. Heed the warning, stranger.

OCTOBER 31ST - THE HOUSES THAT OCTOBER BUILT

'Haunts' are those walk through haunted houses/farms/barns that spring up every October where people pay good money to be chased and screamed at, mostly by actors with fake chainsaws.  I love them so much it's ridiculous. At a recent one, myself, my sisters and brothers basically paid for the privilege of being abused - at one point, as I lay on a bed with a pillowcase over my head, an actress apologised for her 'heavy flow' and then pulled up the pillowcase and stuck a supposed dirty tampon in my mouth! At least I hope it was fake. After we all went through one by one and reunited with our friends and partners who'd had absolutely no intention of going in with us, after we'd all washed whatever gunk we could off our faces at a garden faucet and stunk up two respective cars on the way home and continually complained about how disgusting it was and how we couldn't believe we'd done what had been ordered of us inside the filthy building, we were asked if we were sorry we'd gone in. 'Eh, no', we scoffed, now truly disgusted, like the family of sickos we are. Which is to describe how I would have more patience for this movie than most. A group of friends travel across America making a documentary about  haunts while at the same time searching for a notorious urban legend most extreme haunt of all. It's yet another bloody found footage film where all the filming and scenes can't be explained by the cameras supposedly being used. Even despite breaking rules left right and centre, the film's climax still actually involves a minute long shot of a glowstick while people scream in the background. Huh? It actually doesn't hold up logically or structurally as a film at all. BUT I still got a kick out of it as it contains a mixture of staged and actual interviews with haunt staff, a little history of them as well as live filming of several actual haunts. So, haunt hungry as I am, I enjoyed it. But you more than likely really, really, won't. Unless you love haunts too, in which case come round to mine and pay me 26 quid to turn off the lights and stick a soggy hankie in your mouth. Bargain,

So as we wrap up this final week of October, there was really only one film for me and what a film it was - The Witch, a hugely original, dark shot of poison. The Hallow is also worth a shot while The Green Inferno is worth shooting. With that, we wrap up the countdown for another year. Hopefully it's inspired you to check out some great films, or even some crap films. Once they're horror. So happy Halloween hangovers to all, may your dreams become nightmares and may your nightmares come true. Boo indeed.

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The Bride Of 31 Days Of Horror (Part 3)

Week three of Morb's continued plummet into the abyss takes into account those 3 accursed extra days in the month to make this a ten film rather than seven film post. Can your brain take it?!?! I'd, em,  say it could. Maybe it's the law of averages or the power of Halloweeeen (law of averages) but there were quite a few gems this time round. So read on to discover, dear reader, read on...

OCTOBER 15TH - COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES

Like a double amputee, I really don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to complaining about this one. With a title like that, I mean, it's not promising Oscars. But, just like an idiot warned not to read aloud from a book of spells, I'll do it anyway. Continuing in that tradition of presenting criminal sociopaths as loveable rogues, this fetid crapbag tells of a scrappy (criminal) band of cheeky (criminal) chappies who rob a bank in order to prevent the old folks home that contains their cheeky (absolute bastard of a) grandfather from closing down. This is the kind of film that thinks the Krays were an asset to the community. The gang team up with the OAPs for survival when a zombie plague interferes with their plans. One wishes that they concentrated more on the zombies and less about the bloody East End as it spends so much time trumpeting about hometown superiority, it's the equivalent of sitting beside a drunken football fan on a bus. Pride in the location you live does not a film make, as Yoda might say. Still though, what did I expect, it's like complaining about there being sound and music in The Sound Of Music.  

OCTOBER 16TH - CRIMSON PEAK

Probably more likely than this film to raise your hackles is this statement - I don't think Guillermo Del Toro has ever made a really good movie. Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy were fine, but nowhere near worthy of the praise heaped upon them. And as for Mimic, Pacific Rim and The Devil's Backbone, amongst others, - more like Guillermo Del Bore-o! Am I right?!

.....hello?

Anyway, it's more of the same super stylized, saturated, highly melodramatic affairs that promises a lot then outstays their welcome by a good half hour. The script manages to be both turgid and plodding, lifting rather than borrowing from greater films - the opening is a direct copy of The Innocents (one of the best ghost stories of all time). So much time and money was spent on production design, it seems like no one had five minutes to look over the script which seems to think people will come to the cinema to look at a house. It barely deals with a young woman romanced by a dastardly villain who moves into his huge, rotting, more than likely freezing, family home which comes complete with an oddball sister and the odd ghost. Despite some pretty, and pretty repetitive visuals,  it all plays out like a long, depressing, bus trip -  seeing as you know where it's going early on, there's nothing to do but sit and wait for it all to end. 

OCTOBER 17TH - THE HARVEST

A housebound, invalid teenager shielded from the world by his worried and worryingly intense parents is forced to confront dark truths about himself when a new girl enters his life. Anyway, enough about me and my Barbie collection, let's get back to the countdown. With Samantha Morton and Michael Shannon as the parents and directed by John McNaughton, of Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer fame, is strange how much of a 'made for TV' vibe the movie has. Emotional impact is stunted by McNaughton's pedestrian direction which is a shame as once things begin to kick off, there are some very dark places visited. While I couldn't help but wonder why everyone signed up for it,(Oh yeah, cos Peter Fonda's in it as well!) it's not bad by any means, just think less Henry and more like a particularly dark episode of Diagnosis: Murder.

OCTOBER 18TH - OPERA

I tried to put myself in the position of one of the theatre goers in Dario Argento's Opera. If, during a performance, live ravens were released in the auditorium and lighting rigs crashed to the ground almost killing me, would I reclaim my seat after the ceiling had been brushed off it? The answer was - Yes, tickets are expensive! Apart from that, there'd be only slight reasons to suffer through this mess. Continuing Argento's insanely steep descent from his early Giallo triumphs into a series of muddled disappointments, this phantom-like horror has a psychopath fixing it for a novice singer to get her big break on stage. It goes of into wild tangents from then on including forcing the heroine to witness murders by taping needles under her eyelids so she can't blink (which is kind of genius) and finishing with a Sound Of Music tribute as she is chased down those very same hills, this time alive with the sound of screaming. It has its moments such as some hilarious dubbed lines but the insane genius that once powered Argento seems to have become the ramblings of a lunatic.

OCTOBER 19TH - HAUNTER

Like a bad curry, Abigail Breslin's day keeps repeating on her. A young woman and her family are trapped in a house and forced to relive certain events again and again by a dark presence, giving the concept of 'hell is repetition' a literal presentation in this middling little Haunter. Vincenzo Natali of Splice, Cube and Cypher fame goes the way of John McNaughton with an equally 'made for TV' ultra cheapo vibe, but, like, made for TV in the 90's. If you're going to force an audience to watch a day repeated, at least make it an interesting day, as one of the major plot points actually involves the lead getting in trouble over socks missing from the laundry. Slow down, Vincenzo, my heart can't take it. It kicks off towards the end but is so convoluted, like Abigail, you just want her day to end. 

OCTOBER 20TH - THE INVITATION

It's almost giving the game away to describe this one as a horror film as it confirms something horrific will eventually happen, but, if there's one service I like to provide, it's a disservice. A man reunites with distant friends at a dinner party thrown by his ex wife and slowly begins to question if she has ulterior motives beyond catching up. Like a damp body thrown on a bonfire, this is a very slow burner. As the hugely uncomfortable evening progresses, small, unsettling hints of wifey's intentions are inserted sporadically, keeping us on edge whilst giving ample time to character and background building. The awkward and disturbing events play out like every god damn disaster of a party I've ever tried to god damn throw leading to an inevitable and satisfyingly dramatic conclusion, unlike every god damn party I've ever had. Unlike my god damn parties, this is an invitation to be accepted. 

OCTOBER 21ST - HOWL

Full moon. A late night train breaks down in the middle of the forest and the trapped commuters are stalked and attacked by a werewolf pack. Don't know about you, but this kind of stuff certainly makes me howl. Werewolves might get short shrift quality film wise, but when it's done right, (Dog Soldiers, American Werewolf, The Howling) there's no denying what a terrorific monster it can be. While this relatively low budget British horror doesn't scale those highs, it's a headstone solid monster movie with superior dialogue and performances. Thoroughly entertaining throughout, with a long red tongue planted in its hairy cheek, this is a confident  creature feature done well. Have about four pints before hand and lock the toilet door and I guarantee you'll either piss yourself laughing or with fright. Because you'll piss yourself anyway. Now, clean yourself up, you mucky pup and enjoy!

OCTOBER 22ND - TORMENT

As a child (teenager/adult) my mother would frequently say to me 'You're a torment', as I charmingly, continually, pestered her.  It was obviously said as a term of endearment. Right? Unfortunately I couldn't bring myself to feel that same affection for this Torment. A newly married couple experiencing teething problems with the husband's son from his previous relationship head up to a remote farmhouse in order to, oh, whatever. They're soon set upon by masked intruders, chasing them up, down and around the gaff in order to, oh, whatever. It's a  heap of nothing new atop a hill of seen it all before. Listen, how about I come over to your house instead and chase you up and down the stairs? It'll be just as pointless and exhausting but certainly won't last an hour and a half. Afterwards you can look at me with loving, panicked, eyes and pant - 'You're a torment'. You're welcome.

OCTOBER 23RD - DEATHGASM

Play certain heavy metal records backwards and you supposedly hear demonic chants and satanic summons. The same can be said for playing Irish country and western records forwards. Deathgasm straddles the link between metal and horror as a group of teenage outcast rockers bring forth a demonic apocalypse by performing a cursed track during band practice. Displaying an energy and wildness absent from American horror since the heydays of Sam Raimi, this New Zealand schlocker blows the speakers with its mixture of gore and comedy. Sadly it becomes obvious just who the target audience is as females are there to either be rendered topless or come between bro's. (The main character gets a dream sequence where he plays guitar on a mountain with a topless girl clinging to his leg. The female lead gets a dream sequence where she plays guitar on a mountain with two topless girls clinging to her legs. And kissing) Hmm, maybe the deluge of penis jokes should have given the game away earlier. Still, even though it runs out of steam towards the end and gets a little too juvenile, for the majority it's a welcome blast of blood that the right audience would have no problem lapping up.

OCTOBER 24TH - GOODNIGHT MOMMY

Horror is a fear of the unknown. Which is why I close my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears when the trailers are on. If I'm really looking forward to a new movie, I'll make someone else watch the trailer and watch them watching it. With my fingers in my ears. Which is a long winded way of saying I deliberately knew very little about Goodnight Mommy beforehand. And boy was it the better for it. The bare bones of the story concern twin brothers in a remote house who feel something's amiss when their mother returns from an undisclosed treatment with a bandaged face. If you can keep your blinkers on before going in, the genuine creepiness and mounting dread can't but disturb you. While the ending may be a little familiar to genre buffs, it's such a bizarre, scary, triumph that the hands over my ears nearly made their way around to cover my eyes.

So at the torso section of the human centipede of October, Goodnight Mommy may be by far the creepiest and best of the bunch but The Invitation, Deathgasm and Howl are all definitely worth a peep through the fingers and a finger, indeed, is what some of the others deserve. 

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The Bride Of 31 Days Of Horror (Part 2)

Week two of Morb's scare movie countdown to Halloween. Considering the amount of howlers in last weeks batch, this field of screams was far more successful. No film was a total washout, all providing a few hackle raising moments, while some pushed beyond into actual 'good film' territory. I may seem harsher than most on my horror movies but that's merely because I love the genre so much that I want it to do well. And I'll never be angry with it. Just disappointed. Either way, as the bishop said as he kissed the cow - Each to their own. 

OCTOBER 8TH - PROXY (2013)

I'm going to kill you! Oh yes. I'm going to cross the road to your house and...one second, I'll hold on to make sure there's no cars coming, look left... aaand right, yep, fine, I'm at your house! Oh, the door's locked. That won't help you! I'll force the catch with a nail file which I'll take out of my bag. Just take out this lunchbox and a few magazine as the bag's pretty full. Must clean it out sometime...but not today because there's the nail file! I'll just put all this other stuff back in, sorry, just zipping the bag up, one second. I'll scratch my nose because it's itchy. Now I'll pick the lock! You're for it now! Oh, while I was doing all that  you've found time to run upstairs, imagine. Well I'll come get you! I'll lift my foot and take the first step. Mwahahahaha! Then I'll take the second step. There goes that itchy nose again, I'll give it another scratch... And this, dear reader, is what the editing in Proxy is like. The bloody thing goes on for over two hours because they edit out NOTHING! Like, there's a section watching a woman getting into her car and adjusting the seat! Terrifying! (?) Any build up of tension is, ironically, cut short due to its snail pace, with veritable chunks of zero happenings. 
It's a shame though as there are some really disturbing ideas buried in there. A lonely pregnant woman is attacked on the street after a routine check up, her assailant horrifyingly focusing on her unborn child. In the aftermath, at a support group for bereaved parents, she meets a similarly traumatised woman. This friendship pulls her back into the world she'd pushed away, helping her cope. Until the day she spots her new friend in a shopping centre screaming for help to find a child who was, according to her, already dead. To tell anymore would be a sin as it's the ensuing insane twists that make the experience worthwhile. Suffice to say it would be impossible to predict how dark and weird this becomes. Over the space of two plus hours. The maddeningly padded events could have been condensed into a sick and nifty one hour twenty cracker of a film instead of a Ben Hur-ian sized bloatathon. But as it stands, watch if you have a day and patience to spare.

OCTOBER 9TH - THE SEVENTH VICTIM (1943)

As you may have seen in the trailer reel at the top of the page, a young woman is terrorized by devil worshippers. I certainly didn't while watching the film. Where was the devil?! Now they're a weird bunch alright, but the sum total of their evil is the forcing of rejected group members to kill themselves through the power of collective peer pressure, which was, I believe, the original idea for the Mean Girls sequel. During these 'high drama' moments, the victims sit there and listen to these idiots basically saying 'Kill yourself! Ah come on, please?' There's a total of two creepy moments in this almost horror free yarn about a young girl who searches for an older sister who's fallen in with that bad crowd. Hugely disappointing considering producer Val Lewton's part in Curse Of The Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie, both of which I loved in last years countdown. What? You didn't read it?! Well do it now! I command you! Ah go on, please?

OCTOBER 10TH - GOD TOLD ME TO (1976)

Out of the blue, previously normal, peaceful, NYC citizens snap, slaughtering anyone around them. Their lack of remorse is explained when, quizzed on what made them commit such horrible crimes, their uniform response is 'God told me to'. Creator Larry Cohen's habit of 'start at Crazytown and then get on a jet full of mad people and fly to Loonyopolis' is very much present and correct in this one. While events might be extreme, the reasons  are so out there they're basically that dot on the horizon. It hangs together far better than most of his others, such as Q-The Winged Serpent (which I subjected myself to last year) and The Stuff and the performances are so surprisingly good it made me wonder if the mixture of Oscar winners and Hollywood royalty in the cast actually read the insane bit at the end of the script where the hero is urged to blah the villain's blah even though they're blah! Actually, I think I just rumbled how Larry sneaked it past them.

OCTOBER 11TH - THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN (2014)

Imagine if your house was on fire with your partner in it or your mother fell down the stairs and you ran over with a camera and said 'Oh my God are you ok?!' and then wildly waved the camera over your head. It's only happened twice, right? So that's why I'm so sick of found footage at this stage - You would. Not. Still. Hold a camera! And if I was running away from a monster, I'd take off my clothes if it made me go faster! Never mind lug a camera! I say all this to hammer home that, for me, found footage flicks already have two strikes against them even before they begin. Which is why it was such a surprise when this little horror turned out to be solid as a headstone rock. A young student records the degeneration of Alzheimer's sufferer Deborah and its effect on her daughter, Sarah, as part of a thesis documentary. As days tick by it becomes clear that Deborah isn't disappearing as much as being taken over, turning her body into a host for more than a disease. All, and I mean all, of the annoying found footage tricks pop up early, threatening to derail the movie, but as time passes, events become stranger, richer, cleverer, leading to a barnstormer of a shot a the end when it hammers home just how monstrous things have become. The truly excellent performances of Jill Larson and Anne Ramsay as the exceptionally realised characters of the mother and daughter go a long way towards the films success, making up for the anodyne film crew. Dig this one up.

OCTOBER 12TH - JUG FACE (2013)

Simplicity is both the strength and downfall of this backwoods, cloistered, curiosity. An intensely private community provide very personal offerings to a water filled pit in their forest in exchange for health and good fortune. The title comes from the clay faces made by the local potter during a trance-like state which represent the person who must provide the offering. It's a strange little beast, always intriguing and well presented but no furtherexplanation for events is provided other than what is necessary to keep the plot going. While this compactness is commendable, more story on the pit itself and the origins of the tributes would have been brilliant. Odd and oddly unsatisfying but worth a gander. On a side note, there were also a few moments when I thought maybe the characters could have shirked responsibility by saying - 'that jug's supposed to look like me? No chance, your man the potter is crap'.

OCTOBER 13TH - STAGE FRIGHT (1987)

A grimy city street, a scantily clad hooker waits for a john. Out of the darkness, hands pull her into a doorway, slaughtering her mere inches away from the throng of the metropolis. Witnesses gather, bizarrely caressing her body, shocked by the violence. Suddenly her killer leaps out, clad in a gigantic owl-head costume. And then. Then. They all have a god damned dance off as a woman plays a saxophone on a rooftop while her skirt blows up! Best opening ever. Unfortunately, it transpires we're watching a rehearsal for a gritty musical. Fortunately it follows that a deranged killer gets locked in with the crew after one of the actresses goes to a mental hospital (!) for her twisted ankle and unwittingly gives him a lift back to the theatre. This is superior Italian trash, made even better by the wonky dubbing throwing up humdingers like the director saying to the producer - 'look at those actors up there, they're literally stinking'. Literally!  It's surprisingly funny and gory while at the same time being totally ridiculous. Most of the actresses run around in knickers and suspenders for the whole thing. You'd think if there was a killer on the loose you'd even just button up your blouse but I suppose it gets very hot in Italy. Great craic.

 

OCTOBER 14TH - AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR (2014) 

The Pact is one of the best horror films of the last 10 years. Hands down. There's a section towards the end where I think my brain shut down for a moment, unable to deal with the fright. Many would argue that it never kicked back in. So expectations were high for writer/director Nicholas McCarthy's next. And for the first five minutes I thought I was onto a winner. Pressured by an untrustworthy new boyfriend, a teenage girl plays a game of chance with a mysterious man in exchange for 500 dollars, unwittingly selling her soul to a demon in the doing.  Right up my abandoned street. The following scene of her admiring the expensive trainers she bought in exchange for her soul, simultaneously touching and terrifying in its innocence.  Then, just like that, after a promising opening, the film makes like an office Christmas night out and goes to the dogs. We flash forward to a pair of sisters with a troubled relationship, one of them moving into the house owned by the doomed teenager's parents. It's at that point the film opens its own devil's door and the bloody editor of Proxy turns up and waffles on for the rest of the party. The film goes on and and on and on, treading water as one sister after another has a run in with the demon, with continuous flash backs to the teenager. Then just as we're coming up to the last fifteen minutes, the story kicks in. I'm serious. And after all that the ending is crap anyway! It's like a filmed version of the first draft script before the writer had a revelation and said 'I should get rid of those sisters!'
But The Pact is deadly.


So for this week, watch The Pact! And after your brain kicks back in, I'd highly recommend The Taking Of Deborah Logan for your main, washed down with a fruity Italian - Stage Fright, the first five minutes of At The Devil's Door as your starter and, impossibly, a condensed version of Proxy as the dessert you send back. Seeing as life is short, avoid the rest of Devil's Door and the actual uncondensed Proxy. I'll tell you their storylines when I see you. It'll be quicker. Just stop me in the street.

I'm doing nothing else.

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The Bride Of 31 Days Of Horror

It's that time of year again! For all the 31 glorious nights of October Morb will watch a horror film and report back on the highs and lows. Yes, I'll descend those murky depths before you like a canary in a coalmine, saving you the discomfort, subjecting myself to the great and terrible to pick out the black diamonds in the murk. However, while I'm partial to the odd crucifixion, this won't quite be a case of martyring myself as it's something I do anyway. The only difference being when the sounds of screaming and chainsaws escape from my shuttered windows at two in the day in October, my excuses are more...believable.

Now I know we're playing catch up here as we're a little into the month already, but as Blanche from The Golden Girls says - better late than pregnant. So without further ado - Jump right in, the water's deep!

And I think I saw a fin.

OCTOBER 1ST - THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973)

There's an unholy trinity of classic horror actors - Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. For decades, the plummy toned trio were the angular, piercing faces of horror. If terror was the makings of a sandwich,  Lee was the hard, crusty, possibly gone bad, bread you know you shouldn't eat,  Cushing was the well churned, dependable butter that made Lee's antics more palatable, and Price, well, he was the massive slices of pure glistening ham lording it up in the middle. It's that prize pig talent Price brings to his role of a bad actor exacting revenge on the theatre critics who spurned him. Now, this is the way to kick (the head) off a month of horror movies - 1970's British horror at its best. The high camp elements of offing each critic in the manner of Shakespeare's most gruesome deaths are balanced with the fetid surroundings of London's backstreets, the noxious theatre Price finds refuge in and the disturbing crazed, homeless gang he surrounds himself with. There's game support from Diana Rigg and a bunch of critics just rotten enough for you to enjoy their demise. Definitely right up the top of this year's horror pile.

OCTOBER 2ND - THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014)

A well shot horror film made by a director who should have been, well, shot. The director of various episodes of Glee tries his hand at a remake of the original 1976 slasher in which a masked man terrorizes the inhabitants of a small American town. Very much in the Scream vein of meta-horror, the film acknowledges its predecessor by using it as a plot point. Taking the original true story of the 1946 Phantom Killer shootings as its base, it depicts a world where the 70's film version exists, further inspiring a fresh batch of killings. It also seems to be inspired by the tragic, true events that happened at Dawson's Creek as this plays more like a 'teen finding their voice' film than a horror. Just like a scarecrow that blew over a hedge, the director is in the wrong field, so busy trying to show off his camera skills that this comes across like a blind person's scrapbook - the pictures may be pretty but they're in all the wrong places. A misfire.

OCTOBER 3RD - MERCY (2014)

Stephen King is one of only two writers that have ever made me physically jump while reading, the other is M.R. James, so why is it that films based on his work are usually woeful? Well, I was certainly full of woe after Mercy. The film itself is full of something too. Something brown. It's based on the excellent (and scary) short story Gramma about a young boy left to care for his gravely ill grandmother, who has just enough power left for one, final, dark plan. The film tacks on multitudes of unnecessary happenings to the original story, introducing spirit wolves and undead imaginary friends all to no effect. It's so all over the shop that at one point I was genuinely convinced I'd fallen asleep and missed the explanation. Mystery unnoticed sleeps - much scarier than Mercy.

OCTOBER 4TH - BLOOD GLACIER (2013)

The Thing is one of the best horror films of the 1980's. Mr. Frosty is one of the most disappointing toys of the 1980's. If they had a child it would be Blood Glacier. Scientists in a remote research station discover organisms in thawed glacier water which upon infection mutate the host into a combination of its own species and what it last had for dinner. You can see the analogy, right? There's genuinely no better description. It has great bits but is also kinda stupid and disappointing. A better toy/80's cross over was when the Yul Brynner character in Westworld mixed with Guess Who to make The Terminator - does she wear glasses? Is she Sarah Connor?

OCTOBER 5TH - WITCHING AND BITCHING (2013)

A silver Jesus, a green soldier and a schoolboy steal a ton of cut price gold rings, high jack a taxi and get involved with a family of witches intent on bringing on an apocalypse. This Spanish comedy schlocker may have some bizarre images, such as a gigantic deformed goddess who needs to swallow and, ahem, pass red painted children in feathered headdress, or an arm reaching up from a toilet right when a person needs their privacy most, but the biggest surprise was the opening credits when over images of witches and witchcraft through the ages, Angela Merkel and Margaret Thatcher pop up. Someone's got some views. There are flashes of inspired madness but it all gets gratingly childish towards the end. Try the film version of Roald Dahl's The Witches instead, aimed at actual children but far scarier.

OCTOBER 6TH - WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) 

Sometimes it can be difficult for modern audiences looking back with such jaded eyes to similarly experience the films that frightened original audiences so. Even more when you think that any little scare trick has probably been duplicated by the decades of fear-makers who have come after. For me, White Zombie falls into this category as quickly as Madge Bellamy falls under Big Bad Bela's voodoo spell.  The unrequited love of an unwanted suitor turns to deadly jealousy when he strikes a deal with Lugosi to turn the object of his lusts into a zombie bride on her wedding day rather than let her love another. Dun dun dunnn. Overall it's just ok, the story isn't really up to much. There's some nice atmosphere but the Haitian setting isn't utilized enough, apart from when the actual fiance says he'd rather his almost bride be dead than be under the control of the Haitian natives (yikes). He's not as pushed when it turns out it's actually a voodoo high priest called Murder Legendre. Some people.

OCTOBER 7TH - FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY (2013)

I know a lot of actors.  You want them to do well and land a film role, any film role, it doesn't matter, the money's great! And the exposure! But I would be mortified if anyone I knew was in this. Mortified. A squad of Russian soldiers in World War 2 run afoul of the original Dr. Frankenstein's descendant making human/machine hybrids in some British warehouse attempting to stand in for an East German castle. Someone must have found an old tuppeny bit down the back of grandad's couch and used it as the whole budget for this low rent crapfest. Using the found footage angle of the cameraman searching through the estate, this basically means there isn't really a story, just a series of rooms. Accents slip so far they fall off and rubber suited modern dancers short of a few bob moonlight as monstrous human experiments in a 90 minute cringe of a film. You'd have more fun burning your hand with an iron.

So at the end of week one, I'd overwhelmingly recommend Theatre Of Blood, high camp horror at its best, and if you hate yourself and want to ruin a perfectly good evening, Frankenstein's Army is the way to go.

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31 Days Of Horror (Final Chapter)

And we're done! One more fantastic voyage through the year's greatest month topped off with a morbidly extreme Halloween. My eyes have been bleached clean of gore and returned to the jar on the desk for the time being. Hopefully you celebrated with a few disturbing and distressing visual delicacies yourselves. And watched some films while you were at it.

Here's the final chapter of 31 Days Of Horror's horror film a day challenge. What vile morsels did I dry swallow this time? Watch out below!

OCTOBER 22ND - MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973)

A woman who is a total weirdo falls in with a group of weirdos while hunting for her missing artist father (who paints weirdly cool pictures) in a strange coastal town inhabited by weirdos. It's all a bit weird if you ask me. This isn't bad, but it's wei... well, you know. I'd been searching for this a long time, having heard glowing reports. As it began, with its strange folksy music, I had to check if I was watching the right film. It's certainly striking and there's a cool scene where a woman is stalked in a supermarket by the undead. Yet while there's some beautiful imagery, it suffers from early George Romero levels of acting and a plot that meanders yet still rushes a major explanation, which dilutes the drama. Still, it's not bad though, it's just...yeah.

OCTOBER 23RD - HERE COMES THE DEVIL (2012)

Or HYSTERICAL PARENTS IN BOOBTOWN, concerns the disappearance of two young siblings during a family day out, however, the return of the kids leads to greater worries as the parents begin to suspect something in them has changed. The basic story has loads of potential - how can you protect your kids if you fear them, when does common sense over rule the bond between parent and child? If someone described this film to me rather than me having watched it I would have enjoyed it more. Unfortunately the juvenile film making with the weird zooms and over acting gets annoying quite quickly. And it's kinda filthy, which, as aspiring actresses say about nudity, isn't a problem when it adds to the story, but when you push the sexual content for no other reason than to say - look, there's boobs, here's boobs, have BOOBS!! - there's a lack of confidence in your material. To top it, the kids don't really do anything that creepy to inspire the initial panic, after all, if moping around in silence and looking at your parents oddly while going on the mitch the odd time represents the epitome of horrific behaviour, I've been possessed for yea....Oh, that makes sense.

 

 

OCTOBER 24TH - STARRY EYES (2014)

Swirled in with all the other madness that appeals to me there are two things I really love; films about the dark side of Hollywood and secret societies. So this tale about a strange production company, an aspiring actress,  and the lengths she'll go to for stardom was right up my derelict alley (eww). There's a great naturalism and reality to proceedings, the writer/director team spend a lot of time making these characters believable and relatable, helped no end by a raft of great performances, especially by lead, Alex Essoe. We feel like we know the main character so well that by the time things go completely off the rails, with lashings of gore and slop spread across the screen, we've invested enough to care. It contains one of the most shocking death scenes I've seen in quite a while, I was almost tempted, almost, to look away. It also does something quite rare in modern horror, leaves the viewer wanting to know more about the society and its actions rather than beating you over the head. Hmm, funny turn of phrase considering...

 

OCTOBER 25TH - THE BABADOOK (2014)

Arriving just in the nick of time for Halloween, The Babadook washes in perched on top of a tsunami of acclaim. Described by many as one of if not the very best horror in recent years, could it live up to the hype? Well, I have no difficulty in saying, it does in its ass. It deals with the fractured relationship between a grieving mother and her problem child son and what happens when a haunted book introduces them to a demonic presence. Here's the thing, it's actually a really good film, it's well written and the central relationship is well depicted and genuinely interesting. The kid is astonishingly good, like creepily good, I think he may have a little in common with that character from ORPHAN...and the mother's not bad either, just a little too on the nose. So what's wrong then? Well, it's absolutely, entirely scare free. It's not frightening at all. Fecking ANNABELLE was scarier. I sat there willing myself to be scared. Nothing. When the film ended there was a tangible collective shrug and sigh of disappointment from the cinema. Dotted throughout the full house leaving the screen you could hear 'Ah no, but it was good' - the sounds of an audience making excuses for a film that promised so much but delivered just a little.  

OCTOBER 26TH - END OF THE LINE (2007)

Passengers on a late night subway train are overwhelmed by the murderous members of a religious cult. The interesting twist in this case being that the killers actually think they are saving the souls of their victims which heightens their determination as they believe they are doing good. It's certainly a fresh take on the stalk and slash survival horror but that's where the newness ends. There's nothing here you haven't seen before and plotholes abound, although at times it's surprisingly grisly and it does contain the biggest jump scare I had all month, I almost levitated with the fright. It has an obviously low budget which only works against it when a hugely clever resolution is marred when they haven't got the effects to back it up. It's not bad but the Canadian sensibilities and acting styles really reminded me of a particularly warped episode of DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH.

OCTOBER 27TH - AFFLICTED (2013)

The majority of found footage films I genuinely believe would be just as good, if not better, shot regularly, as a 'proper' film. If I wanted to squint and feel sea sick I'd keyhole peep through a cabin on a ferry.There are genuinely few films that benefit from the gimmick. This is one of them. Shot as a social media travelogue by two best friends touring the world, the film plays as a slick film school project until one of the guys has a run in with a mysterious attacker and slowly begins to mutate into something at first exciting then increasingly horrific. The immediacy and speed of the camera attached to the characters hugely adds to the experience, rushing down crowded streets and peering into the darkness, there are a few wow moments where you wonder just how they achieved certain shots. At times it's a little too slick, a tad obvious and the ending contains too much over the top stunt work but it's great fun and never less than thoroughly engrossing. For this movie, I'll get back on the ferry.

OCTOBER 28TH - THE SACRAMENT (2013)

I have a weird fascination with the Jonestown Massacre. Just how could one man convince, cajole and threaten over 900 people to take their own lives? It's a disturbing and still relevant event that deserves to be addressed on film. But not exploited, and that's what happens here. Ti West, who made the wonderfully scary HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and the massively underrated THE INNKEEPERS, takes a tacky step back with this film about a documentary crew who travel to a secret jungle location where the followers of a cult leader have built their own paradise. Culty stuff ensues. The really shocking thing about this film is how much the creators lift from the actual event; people's reasons for joining, the enigmatic leader and, especially, the manner in which they decide to end it all. Even if they did the obligatory 'based on true events' it mightn't have rankled me as much but merely swapping 'Jonestown' for 'Eden Parish' won't do. At least it backfires a little, for if your film is just a carbon copy of a famous tragedy, there's no tension, the audience merely sit there watching a wikipedia page tick off the tragic events.

OCTOBER 29TH - HORNS (2013)

Daniel Radcliffe sprouts horns in the aftermath of being blamed for his true love's murder, the sight of which causes bizarre reactions in anyone who views them. Based on the book by Joe Hill, Stephen King's son, and directed by Alexandre Aja, this had a lot of pedigree behind it. Unfortunately, so far it's failed to capitalize on it,  struggling to achieve a release in the States and garnering reviews which haven't exactly been raves. While I didn't hold out too much hope for it and really think the last twenty minutes are an ironic mixture of mess and chore, I thought the first hour or so was brilliant. The eccentric story rattles along, Daniel's horns cause characters to reveal their true feelings and force them to do whatever he suggests which makes for highly entertaining rather than chilling entertainment, but so what. It's absolutely gorgeous to look at, the colours, swooping camera and location work are almost enchanting. There are some great flashbacks to the characters' childhoods played by well selected young actors that add a great dimension. Speaking of acting, everyone is fine in general and Radcliffe, king of 'watch the cogs turning', manages not to distract, which is the best I think I'll ever be able to say about him.  

 

OCTOBER 30TH - GRACE (2009}

Look at that poster. Genuinely disturbing and vaguely upsetting, treads a fine line between tasteless and creepy, but mainly, for me anyway, deeply sad. Up until a disastrously tacky final five minutes, this film overcomes a watery lead performance and an unnecessary 'forbidden lust' subplot with some very affecting ideas. A heavily pregnant woman loses both her husband and unborn child in a tragic accident but through some dark dark miracle, the child comes back to life. There's genuine heartbreak here, instead of scaring, the film inspires a whole nursery of 'Ah God' moments as we watch a deep love undergo trauma after trauma as the baby's unnatural needs grow. An uncomfortable but never exploitative experience, it's to be admired and experienced as it's impossible to enjoy. If it wasn't for that pinned on ending, I would have rated this as one of the best of the month but, sadly, it exists and it does spoil the experience a bit. Parents should seek advice before viewing.

 

OCTOBER 31ST - THE BLACK CAT (1934)

A honeymooning couple end up trapped in the highly stylized home of Boris Karloff, a devil worshipper who keeps the bodies of beautiful preserved dead women in glass cases. Bela Lugosi lands a rare heroic role as one of Karloff's past victims, returned for revenge. Never less than visually striking, this classic suffers heavily from lack of focus, you're never quite sure just where it's heading until the rushed climax. This can probably be blamed on the mere 65 minute running time yet it still finds room to be tangent heavy with awkward humour shoehorned whenever it can fit. While it stars two of the all time heavyweights, it didn't pack a hulk fist sized punch for me. It does finish well and some of the imagery stands out but honestly, I was underwhelmed.

 

So for those suffering from the post Halloween blues, HORNS provides great fun, or if you want a gorily entertaining creeper, STARRY EYES is the way to go. But still, still, I have a soft spot for the imperfect, sad, GRACE.

There we go, 31 Days Of Horror. Done and dusted for fingerprints. Some dross, some laughs and a lot of chills. What really stood out was the broad spectrum of horror, the huge range of human fear and emotion, the levels of extremity, depravity and enchantment sometimes all wrapped up in the same film. Is there a greater genre? Not for me.

So for all those ignorant naysayers who dismiss a whole genre of film, lazily summing it up to slashers and remakes, you're missing out on a wonderful world of originality and risk taking. Horror, out of all the genres, reacts to and reflects its time and place. If you want a clear picture of the fears, concerns and wonders of any historical time or any culture, look at its horror, it's all contained within.

Phew, what a month! Now how to wind down? Maybe turn out the lights and watch a horror film. 

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31 Days Of Horror (Part 3)

Three weeks down. October goes way too fast. For this week, along with some fresh viewings, I decided to do something a little different, I took another look at certain films I saw so long ago or at such a young age that I couldn't really remember them.  I wanted to see if childhood viewing memories still held up to adult sensibilities. For instance, when I was a kid, I watched LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY every day before school. LAVERNE.. was a spin off from HAPPY DAYS (I know, I know, I'm not going to have a leg to stand on) and it always ended 5 minutes after school started. So I was late every single day. Because of, I repeat, LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY. I think it's pretty clear which cool kid ruled that school. Anyway, some time ago I was in America with some Irish friends, getting ready for a night on the town. The TV was on in the background and a voice said 'Coming next, the LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY marathon'. 'Everyone stop!', I shouted, 'We're not going anywhere. Prepare to laugh your SOCKS off!'  Strenuously convincing them all to stay in, we plonked down on the hotel beds, drinks in hands. 'They are going to love me', I beamed to myself as we all settled down to suffer through an hour an a half of the most jokeless experience of my life. What in the name of good God had I found so hysterical? I remember even dragging myself from my sick bed, delerious, to catch it. Well, those tipsy friends, they did not love me. They were raging. Friday night in the USA spent watching, sigh, well, here's an episode summary of one gem - 'Shirley drives everyone crazy with her nurturing of her pet canary'. Hold on to your sides.

Enough. Back to the good stuff.

OCTOBER 15TH - THE WICKER MAN

THE WICKER MAN has two massive problems, the title and the poster. They are two of the biggest spoilers in horror history. Like, it's the ending. Edward Woodward travels to a Scottish island to investigate a missing child and is disturbed by the ancient pagan ways of the islanders. A highly effective, slow burner (ho ho), I found this massively interesting rather than disturbing. Shamefully for a horror fan, I'd only seen bits and pieces over the years but always seemed to catch the ending, so I considered myself as having seen it but just in segments. So even though the destination was foregone, the journey is kinkily scenic. Fun fact - I have a piece of the actual Wicker Man at home, not due to the fact of being a rabid fan but in fact due to an actual rabid fan dropping and breaking his much larger piece of the actual Wicker Man and giving me the bit that fell off.

OCTOBER 16TH - BEHIND THE MASK - THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON - (2006)

Coming a full 10 years after SCREAM, BEHIND THE MASK mines the same vein of self referential meta-horror to lesser effect. A camera crew interviews and documents the journey of a regular guy who hopes to become the next great slasher. It has a few neat tricks up its sleeve but the woeful acting from some of its cast, especially its leading lady, coupled with the troublesome central concept - if we see a guy put on a mask and tell us exactly what he's going to do, it's not going to be scary when he does it. The film tries to have it both ways, explaining in fine detail how and why slashers and their victims do what they do, but when certain supernatural elements intrude, it becomes clear the film makers have painted themselves into a corner.

 

OCTOBER 17TH - NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)

This is one I saw when I was far too young to be watching it, according to the censors anyway, I obviously thought I was mature enough! In this offering, the school weirdo throws a Halloween party in an abandoned funeral parlor. Possessions and horrible happenings ensue. There's no denying, it's 80s horror at its cheesiest - ropey acting, extremely gory special effects, silly storyline and tons of boobage. It even has two big 80's staples - a pain in the ass younger brother and, best of all, a DANCE SEQUENCE. And you know what, it's absolutely deadly. Talk about holding up. It's way sillier than I remembered, sure I probably thought it was Oscar worthy back then, but it's sheer entertainment. I think I like it even better now. And did I mention there's a dance sequence?

OCTOBER 18TH - PEEPING TOM (1960)

Another half seen movie from days of yore. A damaged young man uses his film camera as a weapon so he can record the terror on the faces of the young women he kills. How I wish he'd get a job on Keeping Up With The Kardashians. This highly controversial shocker caused such uproar on release, it practically ended the career of legendary director Michael Powell. One of the main reasons for the fuss was that the young man works part time as a pornographic photographer. There's a real sleaziness to proceedings, with an easy, off the hand (wink wink) way of treating dirty events, a mixture of smut with psychology. There are certainly disturbing elements but modern audiences should be well able to handle it. Nifty ideas and some lovely camerawork still hold up today. Finally, there's a great line delivered by a sleazy newsagent when he sells an elderly gent a book of pornographic photos and the days paper - 'Well, he won't be doing the crossword tonight.'

OCTOBER 19TH - THE SENDER (1982)

A disturbed young man admitted to a mental hospital has the power to transmit his fears to those around him, causing terrifying hallucinations. And in that description also lies the problem, he causes hallucinations. There goes any sense of danger, everything can be righted and returned to the way they were before if the kid just calms bloody down. Another kid who had no problem remaining calm was me as a child when I caught this on tv years ago. I distinctly remembered certain images and so wondered if like CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE in Week 1, I'd find something new to appreciate years later. Not really. It's far from a total loss but when it becomes more drama than horror, attention wanders to such things as 'I wonder what horrific hallucinations I'd make people have', and realising the answer was - 'Probably Will Smith's kids'.

OCTOBER 20TH - POSSESSION (1981)

Thankfully this isn't one I saw as a kid. Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani overact wildly as a whacked out married couple going through the most interminable, nightmarish break up in history. The only thing more disturbing than this pair is the monstrous tentacled creature Isabelle leaves her husband for. A genuinely disgusting, upsetting experience, this is one to be endured rather than enjoyed. I didn't enjoy it at all but certainly won't forget it in a hurry. Although I did have a little giggle over a part of the ending with the son in the bath. You'll see what I mean, if you get that far.

OCTOBER 21ST - I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)

From the same creator as CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, this stately spooker concerns a Canadian nurse who travels to the West Indies to tend to the seemingly catatonic wife of a plantation owner. Needless to say, things are darker than they seem. Coming across as a voodoo riff on Jane Eyre, there's a lot to admire about this beautifully shot classic. Perhaps more of a dark drama than a horror, this will inspire admiration rather than chills. It's clever and distinctive with lushly romantic visuals and has some strange views on sin and blame appropriation, definitely worth a look.

 

So with the end of Week 3, if you want pure horror fun check out NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, make sure it's the 1988 version though and if you want to keep your horror classic, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE is worthy of a Sunday evening in front of the fire.

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31 Days Of Horror (Part 2)

Week two of Morb's trawl through the dark waters of horror, fishing for the undiscovered mutant Moby Dick of terror amongst the minnows. Was the voyage a success? Well, while last week had a few winners, this week was admired rather than loved. There were certainly moments in some of the films that caused a shiver and while there are no overwhelming recommendations, there's still a few definitely worth a look.

OCTOBER 8TH - SECONDS (1966)

Like an above average episode of the Twilight Zone padded out to feature length, Seconds is tale of an over the hill, depressed, bank manager who is given a second chance at life and youth by a mysterious corporation. The film should take off when the change occurs but instead it slouches into a drawn out second half, ironically getting worse when Rock Hudson makes his appearance. It's elevated at the beginning by some insanely impressive camerawork but the initial pleasing air of mystery fades once the in and outs of how the corporation go about changing the customers lives are revealed. 'Sure I could do that meself and save the money', I said to no one.

OCTOBER 9TH - RAZORBACK (1984)

There's a charming trait in horror - to create a monster, just take an animal and make it bigger. Try monkeys, sharks, rabbits, frogs, spiders, spiders, SPIDERS! This is about a big pig. An American reporter braves the Australian outback to expose rampant animal cruelty but is first terrorized by the locals and then eaten by one of the things she intended to save. Awkward. Her husband turns up next and has a good snoop. I saw this when I was young but forgot so much of it that it was like a first viewing. It holds up relatively well, there's some fine pantomime villain Ozzies and it moves at a fair clip but not being a fan of vegetarian dishes in general, I would have preferred a lot more pig. 

OCTOBER 10TH - THE BATTERY (2012)

This less than zero budget zombie movie stands as a testament to the determination of its writer/director/producer/lead actor Jeremy Gardner to just go out and get it done. The film tracks two men who have been lumped together by circumstance rather than choice in the dying days of a zombie apocalypse. While we get very little hot zombie action, we still get some interesting twists on human nature, co-dependence and loneliness. There are a couple of good ideas if no chills and a ten minute long take that is to be admired rather than enjoyed. The downside to the movie is the massive case of hero worship the creator seems to have for himself. There's not an obstacle he can't overcome or a moment he can't dominate, with a nicotine cliche for cool clamped to his lips. Look at the poster - you're not James Dean in GIANT, Jeremy. Now, to sit back and dig into these sour grapes.

OCTOBER 11TH - THE BORDERLANDS (2013)

Yet another found footage horror about a reportedly haunted British church and the Vatican investigators called in to check it out. At this point I'm more likely to deliberately avoid the ff gimmick rather than hunt it out, it's hard to get stuck in when every so often the thought 'Ah now, they wouldn't keep filming that, they'd leg it', pops up. I know it can be used as an excuse for having a no-budget rather than a low budget and sometimes it admittedly makes the horror more immediate, but it's becoming as tiresome as 3D (which doesn't really work enough to justify the extra ticket money, IMHO [Sidebar and double bracket, I can never see 'imho' without saying 'Imhotep' in my head in a really slow, deep voice] ) Rant aside, the acting is strong, the characters are annoying yet convincing as actual people. The build may be slow and full of false starts but offers some good jump scares. And then there's the ending.... Now. The ending I loved. I re-watched it three times. Have I ever seen that in a horror film? No. And I happily predict you haven't either.

 

OCTOBER 12TH - THE MEDUSA TOUCH (1978)

Richard Burton can influence the world with his mind, I tell you, his very mind! Or so he tries to convince his psychiatrist, the lovely Lee Remick. A nicely seventies, made for TV vibe permeates the whole thing as Burton's Welsh baritone serenades us with talks of dead parents, dying astronauts and burning schools like an ultra niche relaxation CD. While it's not a slam dunk and a trifle overlong, it casts a strangely warm spell. Who knew the threat of doom could be so comforting when delivered by pros like these. 

OCTOBER 13TH - ANNABELLE (2014)

Film studios make me angry. The Conjuring was huge, in fact it became one of the most financially successful horror films of the last twenty years and garnered a ton of good will along the way. A spin off released near Halloween, based on the history of the haunted doll that played such a part in the original's success, is practically guaranteed a huge audience. So why oh why show so little respect for those loyal supporters by crapping out this watery shite? Bastards! 

It's built on a piss poor screenplay written by the guy with BLOOD MONKEY on his resume and handed to the director of MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION. And it's not very good?! What. A. Shock. Why wasn't it offered to an Oscar nominated screenwriter and a heavyweight director? Reward the audience that propelled the original to those heights with the quality product they deserve. Anyway, as it stands, it's a Rosemary's Baby rip off with one or two good builds but no real scares. It does have one moment at the climax so startling that if it had ended right then I would have been seriously impressed with its bravery. But it chickens out. What a shock.

 

OCTOBER 14TH - THESE ARE THE DAMNED (1963)

You see that creepy white eyed child hunched behind her doll in the poster above? The one described as a 'lurking unseen evil'? Well she really is unseen, cos she's not in this. You can't blame the publicity department for trying though because this film falls so weirdly between two stools it's hard to know how to sell it. The sister of a gang-leader sails off with a guy on a boat and comes across an island populated by a mysterious group of children and the scientists studying them. Oliver Reed plays the teddy boy brother in hot pursuit, chasing his sibling from a swinging sixties styled youth rebellion movie all the way to a bleak, clinical, science fiction curiosity. While the change of tone jars and not enough time is spent on the actual story, it has some striking ideas and a surprisingly hopeless ending that stays with you.

For Week Two, I'd recommend The Borderlands as the most likely to cause a shiver or two and The Medusa Touch for good old fashioned Sunday afternoon viewing.

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Little Creeps

When I was a child I had a recurring dream. I was whooshing down this metal, twisting slide, miles up in an evening sky. As I reached out my hands to feel the wind gushing past, the veins in my wrist caught on a protruding piece of metal, as they do, and along with all the arteries, were tugged up and out, ripping from my body as I kept sliding down at speed, leaving them behind, dangling from the metal like red, wet, wool. All except for one final knot, which held in my skin, attaching me to the slide. So I hung there. Dangling from my veins. Mortified.

I actually knew where this came from. In NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 3: DREAM WARRIORS, Freddy uses a teen's veins as marionette strings. Great film. Even greater when you're about 7 years old. My nana and granda had just leased, not bought, a video player and along with my mother and older brother, two aunts, two cousins and little me, all somehow magically squashed into one sofa and two armchairs and watched the first two videos we ever rented – THE COLOUR OF MONEY and the first NIGHTMARE. Minds utterly blown and happily terrified by the latter experience, it was dramatically revealed my aunt Chrissie across the road had rented PART 3. Well, it was nearly midnight on a school night so OF COURSE we ran and got a lend of it and all sat up. Shellshock heaven. I happily wobbled to bed on traumatised legs, delighted with this nasty new world opening up before me. It was all dandy until I decided to describe the films as part of my 'daily news' in school the next day. Interrupting the 'tongue phone' and 'vein puppet' babblings, the shocked teacher asked 'What kind of sicko would let you watch that stuff?' 'Em, my mam', I replied.

I know I might have been a rare exception amongst kids, the extremity of the stuff I watched as if they were cartoons. My cousin from Canada brought over a pirate copy of The Evil Dead, which was banned at the time, that was watched practically on a loop without batting an eye. I looked down with pity on those poor fool classmates watching silly immature programmes while I lorded it up like a lottery winner with my high brow video nasties. 'What babies!', thought the kid who still couldn't figure out this 'left and right' thing.

I wondered recently how much of my childhood fears and nightmares were created by films I saw rather than originating from actual experiences? That lead me to thinking, what did unwarped children have nightmares about? What were they afraid of? Were we more innocent back then without the influence of the internet and its terrifying accessibility to unspeakable doings? Jesus, I would have gone to TOWN if I'd had the web back then. I realised I'd never know the answer by speculating or reading articles, the only true way would be to actually sit down and interview lots of children about their nightmares. Hear it from the foal's mouth.

So I did.

I interviewed different kids and asked them some questions about what frightened them and tried very hard not to come across as a creepy freak that might actually go on to become one of those very things. Did I succeed in that bit? I guess we'll find out in another few years.

We'll kick off this series of interviews with Callie, aged 6. I've transcribed relevant parts of the interview, as there was a tendency to wander. Mainly on my part. I've also posted some of the recorded parts of the interview which come across as a kind of demonic version of 'Give Up Your Oul Sins.'

Anyway. Callie, aged 6 -

So are you excited about the interview?

Mmhmm

Are you ready for your first question?

Mmhmm

Did you ever have a nightmare?

Well, I had one about a spider once. I was just having a pet spider, I was minding it for a while but it got out of the tank and it became big and it nearly bited off my head. It took down a few people that annoyed me, it took down Cal, George, Lee and mostly Jessie.

Are they the ones that annoy you the most?

Mmm. It left Jessie's head and a leg but not the rest of her.

What did it do to the other three?

Well there wasn't any more, then I just woke up

And were you scared in the dream?

Well sometimes I am but then I just realise in my dream to try and pinch somebody.

True.

Only one more one I had, it started out a bit funny and then got a bit fun and then got a bit bad. I was in the school, it was about to be hometime and I was out getting me coat, nobody was there but me down at this big table with a statue of Jesus and a zombie started walking up to me.

What did the zombie look like?

Well the zombie had blue skin it had red hair it had about only one finger it had about only one arm and it had only one leg.

Oh God. How was it moving?

It was kinda just creeping up on the floor.

That is creepy. What else happened?

Then I got a fright and ran to try and tell me class but then when everyone turned around they were zombies.

Aaahhh!!

They were after me and then I just woke up. Ever since then I was afraid of the school when I was little.

Goodness. Your next question, whats the scariest thing that ever happened to you in real life? Not in a dream.

In real life I was little I was only about 3 or 4 years old, I climbed up the biggest slide at Pirate Cove and I slided down it and nearly got a, I had a heart attack.

Cos it was so tall?

Yeah, I nearly tumbled down it.

Did you ever read a scary book?

Well probably no actually so I think we can skip that question.

I see. Do you know any ghost stories that really happened?

Well no but I do know one story that was scary.

What is it?

And did anyone escape?

Only the oldest brother but then they caught him.

And what did they do with him?

What do you think is the most frightening thing in the whole world?

And is there any way to escape?

Now, I'm going to show you a poster for a film and you have to guess what it's about.

Ok.

I think it's gonna be about a baby and everything is going to be murdering and zombies and death and blood. There's a little baby in a cradle on a hill, it might fall down and the baby might die.

Oh God.

And I think that's the boy when they're older.

Any more little facts about it before we go on?

Em, no.

I think this is about some kids go to a house and ghosts and sounds and everything keep popping up until they get to the last room and meet this guy. I'm thinking he's an evil ghost vampire half bat and these are all devil cats or dogs around him and it's called Freechock Ninjit.

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Finally we talked about Halloween costumes. Callie will be dressing up as Anna from  FROZEN, but when I asked her if there was anything that girls could dress up as but boys couldn't, she came out with this absolute humdinger.

Boys are ugh,like teenage ones, ugh, just like so annoying sometimes.

Sooo annoying.

But I'm not complaining about you as a a teenager.

Oh thanks, thanks very much.

Welcome.

Thanks for an incredible interview.

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31 Days Of Horror

Ah, October, truly the most wonderful month of they year. To celebrate, Morb will watch a horror film a day until the big day, the rule being I can't have seen them before. Now, as I'm practically marinating in horror films for the rest of the year anyway, the hard part was finding new titles that are actually worthwhile.

I've witnessed some poundingly bad ones and some achingly average ones and there have been a few that I really should have seen already, but there have been one or two sneaky little surprises so far. These aren't necessarily THE films you should watch for the lead up to Halloween but hopefully they'll inspire you to look further afield than the obvious picks for your horror fix. So we begin - Week One


OCTOBER 1ST - CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944)                                                                          

I began the month with a film my mother tried to force me to watch when I was little, insisting it was good. I kicked off within minutes -'There's no monnnnsters! Where's the cats?!' Turns out we were both right. This is a melancholy fairytale about a lonely child who makes friends with a ghost. What's that got to do with the title? Nothing. At all. It's a sequel to Cat People, a film about a woman who believes she will turn into a panther if she gets intimate with her husband. Good excuse. Said woman makes an appearance as the ghost but that's as far as the connection goes. This is a beautifully shot mood piece directed by Robert Wise, who would go on to make that other terrifying classic about monstrous children - The Sound Of Music. Give this one a look for a gentle, atmospheric look at a creepy world through a child's eyes rather than for outright frights.

OCTOBER 2ND - Q-THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)                                                                            

As a horror fan, you build up a tolerance to films other people would regard as silly, you take for granted there might be a touch of the ludicrous and continue watching, feeling a strange pity for those people who can't hang up their hang-ups at the door. And then you watch a film like Q and realise, sometimes, they are completely right. It's basically a cringe filmed for 90 minutes. I'm fine with a reincarnated flying Aztec god nesting in the spire of the Chrysler building, eating roof-top sunbathers and spraying their guts down on the heads of New Yoikers on the go, in fact, I welcome it, but the plasticine monster that stop motions its way across the screen looks so much like something your moderately talented 6 year old nephew squishes together in arts and crafts, you can't help but join the angry villagers.

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OCTOBER 3RD - WIND CHILL (2007)                                                                                                  

A couple of college kids sharing a ride home for the Christmas season crash straight into a snowbank and strand themselves in a haunted forest, battling to survive the cold as much the ghosts. There's a bang of straight-to-dvd off this one and it features an interesting deliberately unpleasant performance by Emily Blunt as a complete tool of a heroine who you'd happily smother in a snowdrift. The film meanders towards rather than aims for a creepy conclusion and it never chills us as much as does its trapped protagonists but there's still something goofily charming about it. This fits exactly into the point I made in the last review, when you reaaaally love creepy things you can forgive some stupidity and be charmed by a relatively slight piece of work. Just make sure that view doesn't carry over into your love life.                                                  

OCTOBER 4TH - TO LET (2006)                                                                                                          

Continuing in the age old horror traditions of 'standing there and doing nothing rather than helping while the killer bashes your friend', 'being too emotionally drained to call loudly for help' and 'waiting downstairs while your partner runs back up to get the keys', films like these make me wonder, maybe these people are actually incredibly lazy rather than terrified? It would explain a lot. This Spanish mini-film from Jaume Balaguero, the director of the excellent zombie movie Rec, concerns a couple who go to check out a new apartment and then get terrorized by their potential landlord all throughout the huge empty building. It certainly has its moments but when the heroine can't tell emergency services the location of where she's trapped, although she must have known the address as she was HOUSE HUNTING, or figure out where her boyfriend is although she's just closed the door on him while looking at his unconscious body, it makes it seem like she's actually not bothered, or too lazy, so I couldn't be bothered either.                                                 

OCTOBER 5TH - IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994)                                                                    

John Carpenter is a curious one. From the debut wallop of Halloween onto the massively underrated The Fog and stone cold classic The Thing, his trajectory was stratospheric. So just how did he devolve into putting unconvincing wigs on children for the abysmal Village Of The Damned remake, unconvincing wigs on vampires in Vampires and keeping a straight face whilst directing an alien warrior race who communicate in a language that sounds as if Chunk from The Goonies was yodelling? It was certainly a case of diminishing returns and diminishing budgets as his career progressed. In The Mouth Of Madness stars Sam Neill as an insurance investigator searching for a missing author whose apocalyptic novels seem to turn their readers insane. This initially fun flick seems to sit so squarely in the middle of these two periods that the HP Lovecraft inspired first half eventually dissolves into HP Sauce for the second.

OCTOBER 6TH - BANSHEE CHAPTER (2013)                                                                                    

This film exists for one noble reason alone, to creep the hell out of you. Once a small thing like plot is got out of the way, in this case, an experimental drug which not only expands the mind but turns it into a receiver for evil entities, the film settles down to the serious business of scaring the viewer, and it does so admirably. Full of reporters just determined, DETERMINED, to investigate teeny tiny noises, scientists deciding to turn OFF the lights for their experiments, the heroine taking a nocturnal drive out to the desert just to have a little look, everything here is designed to hammer home the chills. There's not that much more to it, it's not particularly clever and it's really just a collection of scenes rather than a storyline, but if you sit down, preferably alone, with the lights out and the volume up, you'll find it won't be long until hands slowly creep up to cover your eyes. Hopefully they'll be your own.                                            

OCTOBER 7TH - LIFE AFTER BETH (2014)                                                                                            

When you look at the cast involved and the wide release this film has achieved considering Jeff Baena is a first time director, you can't but wonder 'Who the hell has HE been sleeping with?' Managing to make coming back from the dead seem boring, this is as charmless, stale and padded as a resurrected Joan Collins Dynasty gown. Dane De Haan plays a guy you would die to get away from, not the reverse, who gets a second shot with his undead girlfriend - patient zero to a zombie apocalypse. 'Cleverly' describing itself as a zom-com-rom-dram, sigh, that trumpeted, exhausting unoriginality signposts that even if by some miracle you did manage to enjoy this smug, watery, stew , you couldn't admire it as much as it admires itself. 

So to sum up week one, I'll be adding Curse Of The Cat People to my collection while if it's a scare you're after, look out Banshee Chapter

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