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Curiosity Corner News Reviews

Horror Legends – Neil Marshall

Neil Marshall, born and bred in Newcastle has long held a reputation for being both implausibly daring in his work and a true genre filmmaker. Over the past 20 years of his career, Marshall has managed to produce nothing but original work that tours every spector of horror and fantasy, exploring grizzly ghouls and monsters to folklore and sci-fi escapades. It can certainly be said that Marshall is the film version of a globetrotter. And within his first-rate range, he never misses a beat, creating cult classics and award-winning flicks. 

Marshall’s broadening work demands attention, it’s clear to see that blood, sweat, and tears have gone into his films, warranting a dedicated and acclaimed reception from audiences and critics alike. He even earns himself a ‘splat pack’ badge, joining the likes of Rob Zombie and Eli Roth in the stand for creating superbly nasty movies.

Now, Marshall is directing the upcoming rip-roaring action-horror The Lair which surrounds a group of half-human, half-alien creatures being let out on the loose and the fight to demolish them before they demolish the world.

After graduating from film school Marshall went on to work as a freelance film editor, working with Keith Bell (fellow film school graduate). In 1998 the pair worked on a low budget action-thriller Killing Time, which utilised everyone on set, with even Marshall venturing out of editing and contributing to the action coordination and choreography. The passion and vocation that everyone had in just trying their best to create something, inspired Marshall and Bell to say ‘you know what’ and get their own film rolling. This film which started out as a could-be pipeline dream ended up being one of Britain’s most hallmark horror’s, kicking the genre into a new era and generating a fantastic auteurship for Marshall. This film is Dog Soldiers! 

Dog Soldiers (2002) 

A routine training exercise in the Scottish Highlands for a small squad of British soldiers turns deadly when they are violently attacked by a group of vicious werewolves. Left without any form of transport or communication the team is forced to hide out in a remote farmhouse to wait for the full moon to disappear, little do they know the werewolves will stop at nothing until every one of them is dead. 

A whole twenty years have passed since Dog Soldiers was released, but the time has only made it richer, marinating a full-bodied horror that gushes enough blood to satisfy gorehounds, whilst also layering an intense narrative that unveils the inner terror of self-destruction and how internalised fears flourish to become a united enemy with the larger threat at hand, which in this case is werewolves. 

Incidentally, although Marshall delves into the context and demands of human nature, the actual layout of the lycanthropes themselves is simple but ultra efficient. An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Howling (1981) both excel in highlighting the whole point of metamorphosis and what it means to transcend the boundaries between man and animal, however, rather than thrive in the actual transformation itself, Marshall uniquely opts for displaying a rooted story of the werewolf being the enemy, and that’s it. There’s no flamboyance of creating a ‘curse’ around the creatures. At the heart the film is a war horror infused with these beasts that are capable of being terrifying enough without having a tinseltown backstory. 

Infusing this basis of soldier vs. monster set within the emotional confounds of a military cladding is the whole idea of anonymity. The aforementioned lack of humanity regarding the werewolves immediately forms a hierarchical structure that makes the creatures ultra ruthless. There is no sense of empathy lingering behind the claws and fur, nor is there an opportunity for the viewer to sympathise with the beast. Alternatively, they are barbaric and cruel, willing to rip into every muscle because of their natural hunger for flesh. It’s quite scary to think that this feral ferocity is bared with no holding back.

 Brilliantly juxtaposing this nameless violence is the natural curiosity one feels towards the soldiers. As with any film exploring a small group of people, there is that certain dynamic where some individuals are favoured more than others. If this was any ordinary group we could easily be angered at any displays of chauvinistic masculinity and toxicity, instead, their experience of being in the military begs us to take a deeper look at how their anger is formed and why some characters are cruel and almost as barbaric as the villain at hand. The macho bravado archetype slowly dissolves, showing that ego fuelled swashbuckling, which usually saves the day in action horror, isn’t enough to fight off these evil monsters. 

Taking a step back from the emotive reasonings, it’s vital to look at why this film stands out and has kept its place as one of the most important werewolf films of the 21st century. The amalgamation of utilising the stereotypes of soldier characteristics to make the werewolves seem even more brutish is ingenious. It forces the viewer to dial into their own fearlessness, amping up the adrenaline and making this a film they’ll remember and feel incredibly immersed in. 

The Descent (2005) 

After a tragedy strikes a group of friends they decide to gain back their bond by going on a caving trip into the Appalachian Mountains. Everything is going smoothly until they realise that the cave they ventured into is not only undiscovered but is also plagued by hungry creatures. 

The Descent is Marshall’s second film and another horror. But rather than dilly-dally around in the same territory, Marshall spared no expense and created something that no one expected, shocking the world of dark cinema and shaping one of the best horror films to come from the 2000s, if not of all time. 

Originally The Descent’s most iconic factor, the all-female cast, was not initially planned, with a mixed lineup being considered in the first instance. Marshall rethought this element after he noticed that within horror women were highly underrepresented. This created a rare level of dimension that many films at the time wouldn’t dare venture into. Each character, no matter how minor, is fully fleshed out in the way that you could picture their lives outside of the film, they aren’t just paid professionals reading lines, they are ‘real’. Massive respect has to be dealt to Marshall for working in a collaborative way with the performers to develop multi-dimensional personas. Whilst filming the crew and cast would explore alternative ways in which their lines could be acted out, allowing for a sense of gritty realness to be exposed in the character’s manners, furthering their evolution from victims to fighters. In fact, in the DVD extras for The Descent Marshall calls this method of filmmaking the “flaky pastry” principle. 

Whilst the internalised dramatics and pathos for the narrative rely heavily upon the group of misguided cavers, what is essentially one of the most indispensable factors has to be the film’s own boogeymen- the Crawlers

The humanoid animals lurking amidst the caves have become known as Crawlers. Their grotesque slimy skin instantly repulses, creating a cringy curdingly feeling that makes you feel so grateful that you’re not one of those explorers who met their end down in the tunnels. The creature’s gnarly stature is monstrous as it is, but the bulk of the Crawlers innate creepiness derives from their unique ‘human-like’ qualities. The Crawlers were basically cavemen who never left the cave. They never evolved into people as we know it, they stayed lurking underground. Most distinctively, their superhuman traits aid them in adapting to life below the surface, including acute hearing and scent tracking, they can climb any rock and function flawlessly in the dark. To some extent, The Descent uses a very old but very effective moral tale, the women have come down into the Crawlers territory and their reaction is simply defensive. 

The inherent reaction stimulated by the caves is one deeply connected to an intrinsic fear, claustrophobia. By nature, the threat of being trapped and restricted is totally triggering, alerting this unlearned panic that will get under the skin of every single viewer. To make matters worse the cave itself is littered with human scraps and bones, which gives the environment its own unique gothic architecture. Indeed, the setting is bone-chilling as a result of the clever set design. The more solid walls of the caves were made from mouldings of real cliff faces, creating the backdrop for many scenes. Whilst the drippy ceiling hangers made from foam and spray paint gives off the impression of stalactites, the mineral formation that manifests underground. The polystyrene based shapings remain impressive to this day, but with budget constraints, the production could not afford to build miles of alcoves, in reality there were only six structures built, but due to retexturising, colouring, and deceptive lighting, the impression of endless caverns was executed.

The Descent is a true horror. Every single scene is daringly dark and terrifying, with the nightmare-fueled creatures and unforgiving ethos becoming almost as panic provoking as the extremely claustrophobic caves. 

Doomsday (2008) 

In 2008, the Reaper virus was unleashed in Scotland, taking over its host and making them homicidal. The government is unable to contain or create a cure for the virus, forcing British officials to create a 30-foot wall isolating the country. Fast forward to 2035 the supposed obsolete virus is found in London, leading a team to travel over the border in hopes of finding a cure. Along their journey, it is revealed that the Scottish survivors have been divided into two teams: a group of medieval knights, and a tribe of deadly bandits.  

After the success of Dog Soldiers and The Descent Marshall began attracting the attention of major studios offering big and bold budgets to create something fantastical, rare, and boisterous, and let’s just say that Marshall certainly delivers. 

Marshall is very open about his admiration for 1980s cinema having grown up during that period. During the late 1970s / early 1980s classic films such as Mad Max (1979), The Warriors (1979), and Escape From New York (1981) thrived in painting picturesque landscapes dominated by ferocious rebellions and dusty grounds, accompanied by starkly gruesome politics that were formed thanks to apocalyptic style tragedies and disasters. Just like these classics, Marshall encapsulated that old-school dystopian vibe that aimed to be completely obscure to the audience whilst also being stylistically captivating. 

The separation between Scotland and England and the virus work together in providing a thought-provoking plot device, as well as generating a devilishly delicious setup for utter mayhem to ensue. The road to destruction is grim from the very start. After crossing the border the team is met with aggression and terror, especially when it’s unveiled that the ‘living’ have turned into ravenous cannibals, revelling in the anarchy they started. Marshall has stated that Doomsday is not a horror, but it is filled with horrific things and an abundance of meaty gore.

The sci-fi elements work in harmony within the post-apocalyptic confinements that purposefully leave the audience bewildered. Upon its release, questions arose regarding ‘plot holes’. In actuality, there is literally no need for Marshall to go into the science of the virus or explain the character’s actions. The capabilities of sci-fi allow for rules and laws to slide, with Marshall forming the theologies and world order to his taste, creating a land that is blatantly irrational and rightly beyond anything explainable. 

Doomsday is deliberately frenzied, pushing a sense of hysteria onto the viewer. The Reaper virus is akin to the likes of the Rage virus in 28 Days Later (2002) in the way that they cause its victim to become mindless animals. 

Through this a contagious force of energy is thrust onto the viewer, getting their adrenaline pumping at all the chaos and violence. And this said ‘chaos’ comes in by the boatload. The manic society formed behind the border have these epic battles and circus-esque performances that really do perplex and amaze, especially when the tribe’s jukebox is filled with 1980s bands like Fine Young Cannibals, Adam Ant, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood

The land explored within Doomsday is murky and filled with death, but the atmosphere on-screen and generated off-screen is electric and memorable. The creative freedom seen within Marshall’s filming is off the charts, allowing for every weird and wonderful thought to be expelled, making Doomsday a standout film. 

The Reckoning (2020) 

After her husband dies during the Great Plague, Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk) is unjustly sent to be placed in the hands of England’s most feared witch-hunter Judge Moorcraft (Sean Pertwee). Despite her pleads of innocence, she experiences unbearable levels of emotional abuse and psychical torture at the hands of Moorcraft and his fellows. During her imprisonment, the endless trauma is not the only thing Grace has to fight as she battles against her internalised demons as the devil himself worms his way into her mind.

Whilst all of Marshall’s work remains individualistic from one another, The Reckoning exudes such sheer amounts of distinct personality that forces the film to seriously stand out from many films released in 2020. 

Marshall acted as executive producer on Edward Evers-Swindell’s Dark Signal (2016), a highly underrated British indie horror. Evers-Swindell announced to Marshall that he had been working on an idea for a new film surrounding witches, particularly focusing on the element of ‘are they, aren’t they?’ when it comes to the witch prognosis. Along with Kirk, Marshall began exploring the history of witch hunts and soon became very interested in giving this idea a full backbone. Amid the excitement of Marshall getting back into his horror roots he started to come to terms with the reality of witch hunts and the fact that they never really ended, they just take place in new shapes and forms. 

Folklore and fables have been at the heart of horror for many years, whether it’s the damning crusade that accompanies the old tale legends or the possibility that something dark exists, people crave bygone lore. As everyone knows, the existence of the witch trials were very much a real thing with women being socially ostracised and sentenced to death at even the most trivial of matters. The truth behind these hunts surrounds the deeply embedded misogyny and prosecution of the other that bared itself within the seeds of society. The Reckoning combines both the real tragedy of witch history and the essence of old traditions to fabricate a film drenched in thoughtful performances and immersive backdrops. 

The characters of both Grace and Moorcroft encapsulate the push and pull relationships with period pieces. It’s easy to dissect who’s the protagonist and who’s the villain in many horror films, but in The Reckoning a rare standpoint of neutrality is slightly integrated to keep the viewers on their toes, abandoning formulaic storytelling in favour of sewing together a vibrant film brimming with dynamic personalities. 

From an aesthetic standpoint, the vibes of a grimy, blemished society are strongly portrayed. To create a believable period film every stop needs to be pulled out and no stone left unturned. And Marshall does just that. The set pieces have a texturized nature that aids in the catalysation of key plot points. Grace’s experiences of otherworldly exploits are stunningly melodramatic within its stylization, creating surreal imagery that is both untouched and theatrical


The Reckoning serves as an exciting point in Marshall’s career. At this point he has explored all sorts of monsters and the darkest depths of society, leaving a signature within cinema that ventures into every territory.

Neil Marshall’s new action horror ‘The Lair’ is currently in post production and due for release in 2022/23.

Looking for more top horror lists and reviews? Check out our blog here..

Categories
Curiosity Corner Events MisAdventures

Dead Northern does the Harrogate Ghost Walk!

Paul Forster has invited Josh and Gareth from Dead Northern to experience Harrogate’s first Ghost walk! And given that Harrogate is the spiritual home (pun intended) to the Dead Northern Horror Film Festival we thought it would be rude not to take him up on that offer.

First things first, it’s Winter, in North Yorkshire! At the best of times, that would mean some pretty brutal weather but on this particular night, Mother Nature decided to put on a real show for us! With weather warnings across the United Kingdom, and especially harsh for the North of England, right where we are.

Whilst most folk would look out the window and opt to stay in the warm and stick on a movie, we put on our big boy pants (and took some spares), coats & scarves, and set out into the dark, cold, windy Harrogate evening. Telling ourselves that nature’s special effects of howling winds, freezing rain, and creaking trees are just going to add to the atmosphere.

Paul Forster Harrogate Ghost Walk
Paul Forster Harrogate Ghost Walk

The Ghost tour starts at 20:15 outside the Royal Pump Room Museum, and it doesn’t take long before Paul has us engaged in stories both paranormal, historical, and comical. Now, we don’t want to include any spoilers as we 100% recommend that you experience the Ghost Walk for yourselves. So we won’t include any more of the specific locations but the Ghost tour stays in Harrogate town Centre.

Like it says on the tin, this is a WALK and the tour is a decent track around town. Harrogate does have a few hills so we recommend a decent pair of shoes and wrap up warm if you’re joining in the winter months.

If you’re a visitor the walk doubles up as a fantastic tour of Harrogate as well as a spooky adventure. If you’re a local, the Ghost Walk contains a great deal of history about the town! Do you know where the jail was?

This isn’t just a walk around town with a guide yelling anecdotal yarns about otherworldly experiences though. The tour contains as much lesser know history of Harrogate as it does the supernatural. It’s obvious that Paul has done his research and this is a tour with purpose and direction, so if your find yourself wondering why you have stopped outside a building, you can be certain that it is because it’s haunted.

Paul Forster - Harrogate Ghost Walk
Paul Forster – Harrogate Ghost Walk

The Ghost stories themselves are interesting, engaging, and unique to Harrogate. This is a refreshing change, given that we’re so close to York, a city that is known globally for Ghosts and the paranormal and tends to steal the limelight.

It’s also worth noting that if you’ve got any ghost stories of your own do let Paul know, he loves to listen to the audience as much as talk, and if your story is from Harrogate who knows your story may become part of the tour!

Whilst we didn’t see any Ghost this time. We’ll definitely be back, this is one of Harrogate’s best and most unique events and we thoroughly recommend it.

Paul Forster - Harrogate Ghost Walk
Paul Forster – Harrogate Ghost Walk

For more information:

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Curiosity Corner News

FANGORIA Vol2 #14

It goes without saying that we’re huge fans of Fangoria here at Dead Northern. So here’s the low down on the January 2022 issue!

  • FANGORIA’s January cover features the new SCREAM! 
  • Our cover story is a conversation between Radio Silence (Tyler Gillett, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, and Chad Villella, the filmmaking team behind the new film), and franchise creator Kevin Williamson.
  • This issue will also look back at the entire history of the franchise (and just to earn that cheeky cover, we’ll include an article about the not-quite-real Stab film series).
  • This cover is going to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. Our newsstand cover will be different! 
  • Folks must subscribe by December 19th to get the exclusive Scream cover. They can use the code STAB5 to get 25% off a new subscription.

Get your subscription to Fangoria here https://bit.ly/StabFango

More info about Fangoria Vol 2 #14

Other articles in this issue include a conversation between Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill and Joe Hill on THE BLACK PHONE, a set visit from THE LAST THING MARY SAW, an interview with Lucky McKee on the 20th anniversary of MAY, a retrospective piece on the 100TH ANNIVERSARY of NOSFERATU, and a candid chat with the lovely and talented Devon Sawa (CHUCKY), covering his journey through the genre. Issue 14 also contains a round-up of the best deaths of the year, and the list of nominees for next year’s Chainsaw Awards. The issue also features new original art by Vanessa McKee and Spicy Donut (Devin Lawson). 

Again: this SCREAM/STAB 5 cover is a subscriber exclusive, which means you can only get the issue by subscribing to the mag for a year. Our newsstand cover will feature an entirely different image, as is our custom since issue 11. Considering our last subscriber cover (from only one month ago) is now selling on eBay for over $200, and considering SCREAM is the most eagerly anticipated franchise jump-start on the horror landscape, you might want to subscribe before December 19th to make sure you get this exclusive cover.

In case you missed it, you can get your subscription to Fangoria here https://bit.ly/StabFango

Categories
Curiosity Corner Events Interviews

Harrogate Ghost Walk – An interview with Paul Forster

We love Ghost here at Dead Northern and when we found out that our hometown of Harrogate now had its very own Ghost tour we had to find out more. So we tracked down the guide of the Harrogate Ghost walk Paul Forster, and took him out for a pint, because, who doesn’t like a local beer and a good old chinwag about the paranormal.

Q. You’re an entertainer by trade and the Harrogate Ghost walk isn’t your only performance can you give our readers some more details on who you are and what you do?

P. I trained as an actor and worked professionally as one on stage and for the radio for years. I also dabbled in close-up magic but I always found it to feel like a bunch of ‘tricks’. Then I found out about mind-reading which I believe is more personal and engaging as a performance. I started working as a mind reader out of my pure love of entertaining others. I have been making people smile and laugh at weddings, parties, and corporate events all across the UK. It’s always a thrill for me to leave people knowing I gave them a unique and entertaining experience at an event.

On a darker note, I also perform Victorian seances at some of the most haunted places around the UK. This recreation of a traditional parlour show aims to educate, entertain and scare the hell out of you in equal measure. My shows are all heavily researched, well-written, and rehearsed. I always attempt to take a real moment from history, something tragic, sinister, or simply interesting and use the story and characters to create a truly unique dark piece of theatre. 

So creating a ghost walk felt like a natural progression. Combining my training as an actor, my research and writing skills along with my love for the paranormal.

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Q. Harrogate is more known for afternoon Tea and Spa water rather than Ghosts and the otherworldly, what inspired you to produce a Ghost walk?

P. I grew up in a haunted house, strange things often happened and I couldn’t explain them away. I would always seek out a rational explanation but when I often couldn’t I assumed something else was going on. When I visit another town, city, or country, I always seek out a ghost walk. I find it is a fascinating way of getting to know the area as well as the history, plus they’re mostly always a bit of fun and very engaging.

When I moved to Harrogate I found there to be no ghost walk. I thought that perhaps Harrogate wasn’t that haunted, but I was very wrong. It has taken me 6 years to get myself into a position whereby I could launch my ghost walk. I wasn’t working on it the whole time, other projects got in the way and the COVID hit me just as I was about to launch it.  

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Q. The ghost walk takes you on a fantastic tour of Harrogate, and provides as much historical insight into the town as it does the paranormal, where did you find all of your information?

P. I have worked in the museum sector for a number of years and as such, I have a love for history and am a skilled researcher. I bought and read a lot of local history books, this allowed me to seek out some of the oldest buildings, or discover the former usage of some of them. I found a lot of the hotels were requisitioned by the army during World War II to be used as field hospitals, so naturally one can assume that these places could potentially be haunted. I spoke to staff and the locals and found that I was right. I started digging and interviewing people to find a wealth of spooky tales.

I put an advert out on Facebook and the local paper ran an article asking for people to come forward with their own ghost stories and I was inundated with a lot of haunted happenings. I have the local people of Harrogate to thank for a lot of my stories.

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Q. What sort of reactions do you get when conducting research about a location?

P. I mainly get two reactions, the first is that businesses do not want to be associated with ghosts. This could be for a number of reasons like personal views on the subject matter, or that they don’t want to scare customers away. Secondly and mostly I get a lot of people sharing some wonderful tales of creepy stories and hauntings.

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Q. The tour is entirely outdoors, have you spoken to any owners of the locations about doing an indoor event?

P. The original intention was to finish the walk inside a haunted location but due to the pandemic, I decided against this. I don’t think you need to be inside a building to fully immerse yourself in the story. The aim of my ghost walk is to provide a great story and some history in an entertaining fashion whilst encouraging people to visit the places in question in their own time. I get. A lot of local people exclaim that they’ve not been in half of the pubs, bars, or hotels we discuss on the walk. So I would hope that these people not only learn something new about their town but also visit some of the new locations we discover on the walk.

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Q. Have you or any of your audience experienced anything paranormal whilst on the Ghost Walk?

P. This is an interesting question, as I believe that only the individual can answer that. What is paranormal to you may have a rational explanation to someone else. However… there was a photograph taken by a guest on one walk whereby it looks as though the light cast from a street lamp creates a face in some sort of mist which is hanging in the air. I assume the mist is caused by someone’s breath as it was a cold night but I cannot explain the face.

There was a young lady and her mum who were staying in the incredibly beautiful and incredibly haunted Crown Hotel who posted a review of the walk the next day. Along with some kind words about the walk, she went on to say that during the night, their suitcases were knocked over in the dead of night, with no explanation of how it could have happened.

Finally, at the end of every walk, we conducted a spirit bell session. This is an old Victorian method of communing with the dead. You ask a spirit a question and hope to receive one ring for a ‘YES’ answer and two rings for a ‘NO’. We carry out this experiment outside of the famously haunted Harrogate Theatre and we have had mixed reactions. On some occasions, the bell has rung and provided answers for every question, on some nights nothing at all happens and although this is disappointing it does demonstrate that the spirits are in control. 

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Q. When Dead Northern joined you on the Ghost walk, we also experienced storm Arwen, and the joys of ice-cold torrential rain, wind, and sleet. We think that just added to the atmosphere, but it’s obviously not everyone’s cup of tea. When is your favourite time to do the tour?

P. Having only run the Harrogate ghost walk since October 2020, I haven’t had much experience of performing it at other times of the year. However, I would say that a cold, dark evening (with no rain) would be the best time for any ghost walk. I am looking forward to hosting the walk during the summer months as the weather will be much improved but I do wonder if the lighter nights may affect the spooky atmosphere, we shall have to wait and see.

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Q. Harrogate’s a big town are there any places that you would have liked to get on the walk but had to leave out?

P. There are loads of stories from further afield. I include three of my favourite on the tour which includes the former Granby hotel, The Cedar Court Hotel, and Ripley Castle, the latter of the three having the most ghost stories. But there are some great tales which have taken place on the moors, such as a couple of farmers who were working late one night on the tops at Blubber houses. It was a dark night and a low mist descended without warning. Their field of view went down to a mere few feet. They decided to stay put where they were rather than risk injury walking in the dense fog. A few minutes passed when they heard what sounded like footsteps marching. Then from out of the mist came an army, a literal army of men dressed in old-fashioned clothing and armor marching over the moors. The two men stood on and watched as the soldiers marched along paying them no heed, their legs below the knee were beneath the ground. The army along with horse-mounted soldiers disappeared into the dark night air. I don’t include this story in the walk but I intend on changing the stories on the walk so that people who have already experienced the walk can come back again for some new tales.

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Q. You’ve mentioned some of your other performances, what have you got coming up in the future?

P. I have a few Victorian séance evenings planned throughout next year which utilise real hauntiques, or haunted antiques. An object which has a spirit attached to them and a spooky tale to tell. I am really looking forward to an event with you guys, ‘My Bloody Valentine, The Seance.’ I have something really special lined up for this, a tale of true love lasting beyond the grave! I have tracked down a couple of incredibly haunted pieces and can’t wait to see what happens on the night. With the event taking place at The Crown Hotel, I am sure that we will experience some unexplainable events. The hotel is very haunted and the room we are hosting the event is known to have some ghostly activity from time to time. 

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Dead Northern has been on the Harrogate ghost walk, and we can confirm it is awesome.

For our full take on the ghost, walk click here

We recommend experiencing the Harrogate Ghost Walk for yourselves.

For more information about the Harrogate Ghost Walk go to https://www.harrogateghostwalk.com/

Get Tickets for Haunted Harrogate’s Ghost Walk at https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/harrogate-ghost-walk

Categories
Curiosity Corner Food and Drink

Halloween Pumpkin Twist

It’s Halloween and that means Pumpkins!

Is there a more iconic fruit than the pumpkin when it comes to Horror? The giant orange squash has starred in more Halloween movies than Jamie Lee Curtis!

But let’s be honest for a moment? Who actually likes eating Pumpkin?

Sure, there’s a host of artificial pumpkin “flavoured” sweets, treats, and drinks that hit the shelves every Halloween, but they taste about as much like pumpkin as grape soda tastes like grapes.

Yet every Halloween millions of us purchase a pumpkin and set about scooping the goopy, sticky, seedy mess into bowls and start carving a spoopy Pumpkinhead. Only to stick it out front of our homes until it rots. Then it either gets lobbed in the bin, vandalised, or at best a compost heap.

In an age when we’re expected to be conscious of our waste, there’s no excuse to buy food with the sole intention of chucking the edible part and leaving the shell to decay.

There is another way! One that’s quite literally greener! The melon! There are so many to choose from, but our favourite is the watermelon. Just as much fun to carve but you’re left with sweet, juicy fruit and we’d wager that there are more fans of melon than there are of pumpkin.

And it gets better. There are a coffin load of watermelon cocktails, such as Sangira or Piña Coladas. So if you’re planning a halloween party they’re the perfect alternative to the pumpkin.

What ever fruit you choose. Have a fantastic Halloween!

Categories
Curiosity Corner Events

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

 Tilted Wig, Malvern Theatres and Churchill Theatre Bromley 

 Thursday 30th September – Saturday 4th December 2021 

 Full casting has been announced for the thrilling new touring production of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Taking on the role of Ichabod Crane is Sam Jackson (Skins, E4; Beautiful Thing, National Tour) alongside Rose Quentin (York Witches Society, MSR Media), Lewis Cope (Vera, ITV; Witness for the Prosecution, London County Hall) and Tommy Sim’aan (As You Like It, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse; Doctors, BBC). They will join the previously announced Wendi Peters and Bill Ward

Adapted by acclaimed playwright Philip Meeks (Murder, Margaret and Me; Harpy), and under the direction of by Jake Smith (The Hound of the Baskervilles; A Christmas Carol; I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard), the premiere production seeks to unleash terror on the stage. The ghoulish and edge-of-the-seat experience will tour theatres across the UK from September. 

An exciting creative team will resurrect the Headless Horseman and bring the Hollow to life, with jaw-dropping illusions by Filipe J. Carvalho (Back To The Future The Musical; Secret Cinema presents Stranger Things), design by Amy Watts, choreography by Chris Cuming, lighting by Jason Addison and sound design by Sam Glossop. Transforming the American Dream into the American Gothic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a heart-pounding visual masterpiece revitalising the classic text for new audiences. 

With Hallowmas fast approaching, Sleepy Hollow simmers with anticipation. Arriving as the new teacher, Ichabod Crane finds himself embroiled in the secrets and unsettling traditions of the locals. However, all is not as it seems. When disturbing events overwhelm the small town, he finds himself swept up in a dangerous mystery which leaves him doubting his own sanity. 

Producer Katherine Senior of Tilted Wig Productions comments, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is set to be an epic piece of theatre, combining a stellar cast with a fantastic script and theatrical illusions that will blow your mind! It’s incredibly exciting to be creating new work once again for the regions, as we’ve been planning this production for some time. We are thrilled to be heading back on the road and cannot wait to visit local theatres with this show. 

Notes to Editors Show The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 

Running time 2 hours, approx. 

Age guidance 12+ 

Original concept Washington Irving 

Adapted by Philip Meeks 

Director Jake Smith 

Cast Wendi Peters, Bill Ward, Sam Jackson, Rose Quentin, Lewis Cope and Tommy Sim’aan 

Designer Amy Watts 

Lighting Designer Jason Addison 

Sound Designer Sam Glossop 

Movement Chris Cuming 

Illusions Director Filipe J. Carvalho 

Producers Tilted Wig, Malvern Theatres and Churchill Theatre Bromley 

Performance Dates 

30th September – 2nd October Churchill Theatre Bromley 

High Street, Bromley, BR1 1HA 

https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/Online/

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5th – 9th October York Theatre Royal 

St Leonard’s Pl, York YO1 7HD 

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12th – 16th October MAST, Southampton 

142, 144 Above Bar St, Southampton SO14 7DU 

https://www.mayflowerstudios.org.uk/

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18th – 23rd October Yvonne Arnaud Theatre 

Millbrook, Guildford GU1 3UX 

https://www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk/

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26th – 30th October Oldham Coliseum 

Fairbottom St, Oldham OL1 3SW 

https://www.coliseum.org.uk/

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2nd – 6th November Malvern Theatres 

Grange Road, Malvern, WR14 3HB 

https://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/

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8th – 13th November Edinburgh Kings Theatre 

2 Leven St, Edinburgh EH3 9LQ 

https://www.capitaltheatres.com/your-visit/kings-theatre

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16th – 20th November Darlington Hippodrome 

Parkgate, Darlington DL1 1RR 

https://www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk/

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23rd – 27th November Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne 

8-10 Compton St, Eastbourne BN21 4BW 

https://www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk/venue/devonshire-park-theatre

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29th November – 4th December Southend Palace Theatre 

430 London Rd, Westcliff-on-Sea, Southend-on-Sea, SS0 9LA 

https://southendtheatres.org.uk/Online/default.asp

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Twitter @tiltedwiguk Instagram @TiltedWig Facebook /TiltedWigProductions 

All enquiries, high res images and further information: 

Daniel O’Carroll, Chloé Nelkin Consulting 

E: daniel@chloenelkinconsulting.com, T: 0203 6272 960 

W: www.chloenelkinconsulting.com 

Categories
Curiosity Corner

Dead Serious Chat – From Our Friends At DeadHappy

Ever wondered what you’d really like to happen when you die? There’s a deathwish for that…

If there’s one lesson to be learned from watching thousands of horror films is that those characters could really do with some life insurance. Flesh eating zombies, vengeful birds, xenomorphs bursting out of chests… they don’t have it easy.

And although we are very unlikely to die in one of those elaborate ways, there are even worse horrors to be had… like being buried in a scratchy sweater or Barbie Girl blasting out of the speakers as your final goodbye.

Life: 100% mortality rate

… Unless you’re known as ‘She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed’ (no, your wife is most likely NOT immortal but good question!) or have ways of brewing an elixir of immortality, chances are you’re not going to live forever. Yet, despite this over 80% of people have nothing written down about their deathwishes. It’s sad to think four in every five ghosts will leave their own
funerals in disgust. We’re not prepared to sit around and let this happen.

Happy ghosts all around

The DeadHappy deathwish option allows you to express exactly what you want to happen when you die and weave those wishes into your life insurance policy – whether it’s sending your mates on a paranormal expedition, throwing a Halloween themed wake, or leaving
some money to pay off that mortgage. That way you family knows exactly what to do with your payout and you move into the afterlife as a happy ghost.


And just imagine how many vengeful ghost hauntings could be avoided if we all left things exactly as we want to!

Get me covered

*Zombies, vampires and other members of the not alive, ever living club need not apply.

Categories
Curiosity Corner Reviews

The Video Nasties: A brief history of the UK’s moral panic in the 1980’s

Censorship has consistently exerted a high level of control over what is and is not acceptable to be viewed. In particular, The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has made sure that horror has endured a string of scrutiny for decades, leaving a trail of irony, criticism, and controversy across horror history. The BBFC is the ruling authority that has been in power since 1912 due to the Cinematograph act 1909 which regulated what films were granted permission to be screened at the cinema.

As time has progressed a series of changes has been made internally within the BBFC, with the primary alteration surrounding the changing role of the chief censor. At first, the BBFC was rather friendly with somewhat obscene material, as Chief John Trevelyan had a more open view of acceptability, take for example Ken Russel’s The Devils (1971). Trevelyan passed this film which was not shy about exposing sacrilegious imagery with an X rating. This soon transpired a series of outrage from the British Public. However, this brief enlightening of liberalization was harshly interrupted by the arrival of home video

In 1979 video players were first released in all high street shops, available to anyone. Regardless of one’s age you could view any material no matter the content as film’s did not have to go through the rigmarole of censoring. In retrospect the introduction of this marvellous invention is ground breaking, yet many mainstream distributors were more than reluctant to release any films, as they saw it as a threat to cinema and piracy infringements. This reluctance aided an influx of low budget horror films to dominate the market. TV was no longer solely there to appease family values, instead it was a chance to watch lurid and explicit content without numerous cuts and interferences. The accessibility was viewed as a major threat to the “youth of Britain’s mental health”, as supposedly these graphic horrors could literally possess children and force them to repeat the acts that they saw on screen. 

Quite understandably, this new territory could have been minutely intimidating, but the painstakingly long journey that horror went through to gain integration into the mainstream was beyond dramatically treacherous. The nation, bargained by the media, believed that these films were serious enough to be considered a moral panic, meaning that a general feeling of fear was felt across society mainly due to scaremongering and falsely constructed information. The barrage of terror was helmed by the one and only Mary Whitehouse, who for those who may not know is horror’s worst enemy. 

Whitehouse alongside the National Viewers and Listeners Association (now Mediawatch-UK) launched the Clean-up TV campaign which garnered over 500,000 signatures. The crusade gained both government and media attention very quickly, resulting in mass vexation. Soon titles such as  How High Street Horror is Invading the Home’(The Sunday Times, 1982) dominated newspapers, with The Daily Mail jumpstarting their own campaign literally called “Ban the Sadist Video”. The most ludicrous statement of them all can be seen in an interview with MP Graham Bright who states that the video nasties will even affect your family pets! Whilst every outlet was busy fabricating how these films were corrupting the youth of Britain, the actual films themselves were basking in the attention, their sales had gone through the roof. Supposedly the saying of ‘all publicity is good publicity’ is true after all. 

With the hatred was this arrival of attention which made people crave the gore even more. The fantastical cover artwork was purposefully daring, alluring audiences in with the promise of salacious material. Half of the time the covers and titles were far more smutty than the films could ever be. For example, The Toolbox Murders (Dennis Donnelly, 1978) vividly presents a nude woman crouched in front of a masked man wielding a phallically held drill. But the moral campaigners decided to forgo actually watching the content to decipher the actual material, apparently the cover was enough alone to ban this film

This judgemental notion was truly enforced once Whitehouse, alongside PM Margaret Thatcher, and MP Gareth Wardell had briefly introduced a harsher version of the already implicated Obscene Publication Act 1959 (OPA act), which saw the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) create a list of films that breached the OPA act, the list was modified monthly and at one point featured 72 titles including the now classics Cannibal Holocuast (Ruggero Deodato, 1980), I Spit on Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1978), and The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972). The list proved faulty, but instead of rationalising the seriousness of the ‘issue’ the panic continued to surge, resulting in The Videos Recording Act 1984  (VRA Act) being introduced. From this point on copious films were illegal to sell, with video shops selling such material even facing jail time alongside a hefty fine and license stripping. 

With this, the video nasties were officially born. The arrival of the VRA act was damning for future productions, but what truly cast their baptism as dreadful films tainting the scoundrels who dared to watch them was the comedic irony of the whole situation. The papers who blasted the nasties were so strict and constant in their abuse that naturally, the public conformed to what they were being told. In the 1980s there was no social media to get a second opinion, the views were majorly swayed. The moral panic was gradually slowed due to the VRA, with the nasties becoming old news. It wasn’t until years later when these films began to emerge from the pits of darkness (where they supposedly belong), and although horror is home to some pretty grim material some films have still never been released uncut

The nasties are gone but not forgotten. Villainizing a film is effective to a degree if you are sat on the opposite side, but eventually, the opposition will fall. Brainwashing the public to see the nasties as detrimental undoubtedly worked, yet it is widely known that the peddle pushing did not revolve entirely around the content; the threat of the unknown stayed close within the BBFC’s peripheral, these people were comfortable with their right lifestyle, and the nasties that had injected themselves into Britain’s mainstream were mainly Italian and American produced, showing a whole new set of cultural values. The conformity of the ‘known’ was breaking down, thus forcing traditional British values to be malleable and no longer set in stone. The fear did not solely surround the content of the nasties, but instead the alarm was rung due to the uncharted territory that the films invited in

Within the current climate, one can view whatever material they wish at the click of a keypad. The iceberg system of disturbing horror would have genuinely caused an entire breakdown across the country if films such as A Serbian Film (Srdjan Spasojevic, 2010) had been released in Britain back then. Even in this day and age, Spasojevic’s exploration into exploitation cinema had major issues with censorship from the BBFC, with multiple cuts being necessary for a release. Audiences are still being tested to this day, many films including A Serbian Film are not overly controversial in comparison to some of horror’s most daring ventures, take for example The Bunny Game (Adam Rehmeier, 2010). Rehmeier is the creator of one of the most harrowing tales legal cinema has ever seen.

The Bunny Game has been rejected for release in multiple countries including the UK and America, with its strong emphasis on violence against women and unstimulated scenes being too much for censors to handle. Matching this level of violence is Grotesque (Koji Shiraishi, 2009), which gives Takasi Miike’s reputation as Japan’s most controversial director a run for its money. Over time the craving for particularly gruesome horror has soared with many directors battling it out to try and test the boundaries as much as possible. 

What can be taken away from the video nasty era is the sense of miscontrol that the genre really has. Although profits have soared and popularity has grown there will always be a stigma against the content. The nasties are a reminder that liberalization within cinema is still a touchy subject.

The days of the nasties seem so long ago, but instead of that section of history being dead and buried it seems that censorship lives on, not necessarily through the BBFC but through public attitudes to the weird and wonderful world of horror.

Categories
Curiosity Corner

Jason Voorhees – cold blooded villain or tragic victim?

Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 hit Friday the 13th is undeniably a staple within the slasher sub-genre, with its chartered success spawning an entire franchise consisting of twelve films. The film has rightly cemented its place within horror history as a genre defining tale that combines the ideal amount of gory entertainment, teenage antics and grisly kills to satisfy audience members. Still, it’s the machete wielding immortal force that makes Friday the 13th so iconic – the one and only Jason Voorhees.

To run a brief background, Jason Voorhees is the primary antagonist in the film series, with a machete being his weapon of choice. To accompany his machete is his hockey mask which he’s rarely seen without. His taste for bloodshed all began with his troubling experience at Camp Crystal Lake in the summer of 1957 where he supposedly drowned due to the negligent camp counsellors. His rage however is not as straightforward as it seems. His own personal vengeance only directly advances in Friday the 13th Part 2 (Steve Miner, 1981).

Throughout the series Jason is very much pliable in the sense that his actions, locations and abilities change. However there is one element that remains consistent across the films, this being Jason’s tragic cycle that he has to endure. This was most poignantly made visible from the horror legend Stephen King who made a statement regarding a scenario he had created surrounding a previous novel idea he never made. He compared Jason’s existence to a ‘hellish existential fate’ and that Jason’s perspective is never explained or understood.

With this being said, it’s important to examine Jason’s catharsis throughout the series to grasp why he is a victimised villain.

Jason Voorhees is a tortured soul that possesses an inherent thirst for normality, but due to the lack thereof he has become incandescent with rage. His trouble began whilst he was only a boy, with his severe mental disabilities and physical deformities making him an easy target for cruelty growing up. His brief stay at Camp Crystal Lake only worsened his everlasting marginalisation from societal normality. He was bullied and teased at the camp, with his death being brushed aside as not an overt loss.

Jason’s only companion was his mother who worked at the camp; he would spend most of his time with her, leading to his peers mistreating him. This neglectful nature followed Jason to his death. As aforementioned the counsellors cared more for each other than his well-being. Even after his death, his corpse was never found. Which prominently led to Pamela vowing to kill anyone who steps foot on Camp Crystal Lake as she believes everyone is out to attack her son.

Jason suffered from a short-lived tumultuous childhood, but the true treacherous fragment of his being comes from his afterlife. The theology of his immortal status is rather discombobulated across the films, the first film hints that the lack of his corpse is more of an urban legend, toying with the notion ‘is he dead or alive?’; in Friday the 13th Part 2 it’s established that Jason has been alive since his supposed drowning and has been living as a vagrant in the woods.

This perfectly brings about Jason’s real introduction to the series, which would soon introduce him as a household name. In Part 2 he vows to avenge his mother’s death, leading him to follow her footsteps. In fact, he treasures his mother so much that he stores her decapitated head in a fridge. Whilst the second film establishes Jason’s urge to kill, his trademarks do not necessarily appear until Friday the 13th Part 3 (Steve Miner, 1982). Here we are introduced to his trademark hockey mask, which cements his place as an iconic villain. Additionally, the audience is shown a whisper of insight into his burrowing nature to kill. After he kills his mother’s murderer, Alice (Adrienne King [the series original final girl]) he has technically performed his prior intentions.

From then on his remorseless kills originate seemingly from a place of nothing. Jason’s fury was soothed after he murdered Alice, but he knows no better than to carry on his rampage. It could be said that Jason isn’t even aware of the consequences of his actions.

Although Jason is a structurally massive killing machine with brute strength, he hasn’t matured mentally. Slasher films heavily associate sex with violence, yet whilst Jason victims are simply exploring adulthood he views it as immoral, since his own supposed death was caused due to camp counsellors occupying each other rather than watching after him. This sense of Jason unknowingly causing harm continues throughout the entirety of the franchise, with his lack of motivation or reason to kill. However what really makes the audience team with Jason is his unsanctioned resuscitation.

In Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (Joseph Zito, 1984) Jason is supposed to be dead, with him even being taken to a morgue, but as usual this is not entirely true. We are then taken back to Crystal Lake as Jason makes his way back home in an attempt to beckon back to his resting place. Instead of peace, he is met with rowdy teenagers and noisy families in his area interrupting his will to slumber into a dreary space of emptiness. Henceforth, his killing spree continues as a means to end the disruption.

However in what is a startling scene, we are met with the horror aficionado Tommy (Corey Feldman) who paints his face white and shaves his head to imitate a young Jason in order to force a sense of sympathy from him. His impression comes across as a form of mockery, further angering Jason. Arguably Jason simply sees Tommy as another one of his childhood bullies who would tease him for his appearance. Jason is supposedly killed at the end of The Final Chapter, but we would later learn that this is not his final appearance.

The combination of mocking and disallowance for him to die is what Stephen King brought to light. His existence is hellish and rather existential, through others actions he can never fully rest in peace as he is constantly unearthed. Even when he is not the antagonist the series finds a way to drag him into the mess; in what is the most dissociated film in the franchise, with a new setting and killer is Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (Danny Steinmann, 1985). In the film Tommy is sent to Pinehurst Halfway House to recover from his childhood trauma, whilst he is there a series of mysterious killings occur. Instead of the hockey mask machete-wielding killer being Jason it is in fact a disgruntled father who is out for revenge for his son’s untimely death.

After ‘A New Beginning’ came Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (Tom McLoughlin, 1986) which sees Jason being accidentally resurrected from his grave. When Tommy returns to Jason’s grave years later he is overcome with anger and stabs Jason with a metal fence post. However as the post hits Jason a bolt of lightning strikes and revives a now immortal Jason. Similarly, another accidental reviving occurs in both Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (John Carl Buechler, 1988) and Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (Rob Hedden, 1989). In both films repeat occurrences happen where Jason is involuntarily awoken and then goes on a rampage with a sense of angered dread, due to the repetitive nature of his life cycle. It seems that the universe disallows Jason to remain dead. The characters wince that Jason is after them, but it is their actions that unwittingly cause the vicious pattern.

Quite ironically in the ninth film Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (Adam Marcus, 1993) Jason lives on due to a coroner biting his heart, causing him to possess said coroner; living on in the coroner’s body. However in what is quite the twist of fate, the repetitive ending of Jason ‘being dead’ is given a new lease of life, with the ending hinting at what would be an iconic meeting between two horror legends. The final frame shows a dog digging at Jason’s buried mask before A Nightmare on Elm Street’s own Freddy Kreuger pulls the mask down into hell.

Before we are introduced to the crossover film we have Jason X (Jim Issac, 2001). This is probably the most convoluted film of the series, with its adventurous sci-fi tone somehow combining slasher with space. Jason X definitely has divided opinions, with many devoted fans feeling confused as to why there needed to be such a drastic alteration from the usual time and place and others seeing it as a cult classic that bends audience expectations. In terms of Jason himself, nothing immediately differs from his archetypal persona in space. Instead where we see a shift in motion is in the series current penultimate film Freddy vs. Jason (Ronny Yu, 2003).

Freddy vs. Jason is highly entertaining, with the two characters showcasing a brutal spectacular series of violently glorious kills across a group of unsuspecting teens. The film shows a ruthless Jason who rises from the earth when Freddy impersonates his mother, in order to manipulate him into coming back to life. Freddy has Pamela tell Jason that he never died, he was just sleeping and that he should go to Elm Street as “the children have been very bad on Elm Street”. Here it’s confirmed that Jason is acting on a means to obey and order via his mother’s wishes; he only seeks to punish as it’s what his only beloved trustee believes. It’s clear that Jason’s hellish fate derived from his attachment issues with his mother. He has remained a child mentally, with his mother having a psychologically overbearing influence for his whole existence.

It seems that Friday the 13th will never come to a conclusive end, with the final film so far – Friday the 13th (Marcus Nispel, 2009) latently repeating the pattern all over again. This film is a remake of the first and disregards all the previous entries. The ending remains eerily similar to the original, with Jason lurching out one more time in a lake at the final girl. Devastatingly enough the repeating of final frames indicate that the process has started all over again.

Jason is corruptly entangled with his obsolete moral compass focused on him and his mother’s neurotic relationship together. His unfortunate trauma has never faded and no matter what ill-conceived acts he commits it’s difficult to feel hatred towards him. Somehow we are routing for Jason the majority of time, with his victims seeming rather disposable and unworthy of true survivor status. Pamela will always have a hold on Jason and will always encourage his murderous tendencies, leading to a vicious cycle where he must live forever to kill.

This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.