Dead Northern reviews the greatly anticipated fifth instalment in the slasher film series below.
There are SPOILERS AHEAD, you have been warned!
One fateful night Tara Carpenter (Jenny Ortega) is all alone at home texting her friend Amber (Mikey Madison), convincing her to come over. But all of a sudden the landline starts ringing, at first the slightly off-kilter banterfull conversation is innocent, that is until we hear that iconic low, scratchy octave ask Tara “would you like to play a game?”. And just like that Scream is BACK!
In 2019 when filmmaking duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett announced that they would be taking the bull by the horns and brazenly tackling the fifth instalment in the Scream franchise, many fans were beyond thrilled that Ghostface would be continuing their rampage. The man, the myth, the legend Wes Craven who created the franchise sadly passed away in 2015, leaving behind an unbeatable legacy. Could Scream even continue without the helm of Craven? Well, let’s find out…
After twenty-five years since a string of savage murders erupted in the small town of Woodsboro, a new villain takes on the identity of Ghostface, leaving a bloody trail amongst the unlucky residents. Scream’s next generation serves a purpose. They are all connected to previous characters, including Woodsboro’s own movie expert Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), Sheriff Judie Hicks (Marley Shelton), and everyone’s favourite partners in crime, Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) and Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich).
The original Scream jostled with the postmodern boom that 1990s films thrived in. It’s this combination of self-referential treatment mingling with meta-cinema that facilitated the quick ironic humour that the franchise is known for. Across the previous films, every joke about sequels, franchises, fandoms, actors, and the Hollywood cycle has been done. Nothing else could possibly be added. Here’s where writers Guy Busick and James Vanderbilt regenerated the already embellished one-liners. Many of the filler characters have extensive movie knowledge, allowing for hysterical tirades about how devoted horror fans don’t want increasingly popular “requels” (reboot-sequel) to be a stand alone story with no continuing context- à la Black Christmas (2019); alternatively, franchise-enthusiasts want a connection to an original legacy. Just as Amber states “you can’t have a bonafide Halloween without Jamie Lee”.
The film exchanges with the audience directly, transfusing the fourth wall with reality. These rants about movie rules are precisely aimed at the viewer, making quips about how obsessive diehard fans are to please. Almost digging at those who’d immediately shun this new entry before even giving it a chance. Of course, many chuckles were had at the numerous easter eggs and mention of the fictional in-house ‘Stab’ movies, but the film’s strength doesn’t derive from the humour which will eventually fade after a couple of watches, instead the cardinal prizewinner is the unyielding brutality of the kills. Throughout all five films, this one takes the lead as the most shockingly savage and graphic film to date. Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) has one of the franchise’s gnarliest deaths. Whether or not she can continue to hold the top spot is now another issue. Ghostface slices and dices their way through bodies with ease, not holding a single ounce of remorse, nor does the camera shy away from the direct insertion of their gleaming hunting knife.
As delightful as it was to see Sidney (Neve Campbell), Dewey (David Arquette), and Gale (Courteney Cox) step back into their stomping grounds, the film’s main protagonist Sam who was fantastically portrayed by the very talented Melissa Barrera was indeed a breath of fresh air. Her natural ability to be both vulnerable and fiercely strong allows her to stand beside the genre’s greatest final girls with ease. Joining Barrera is her on-screen boyfriend Richie Kirsch, played by Jack Quaid, who is the receiver of the film’s best jokes by far. Lurking alongside the stellar performances is the factor of unexpectedness. Not a single soul is safe. Scream isn’t the first and last franchise that sheds characters as and when needed, however Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet truly don’t have a whiff of compassion at all for who gets to survive and who gets to die. The ever looming threat of death loiters over every character’s head, legacy or not…
Much praise has seen the light of day in regards to the film. Yet, there does seem to be a general critique floating around about the lack of scares. Horror is subjective, there’s no denying that. What works for one person will almost never work for the next, but within the last couple of decades, horror has evolved and changed. As controversial as it is, horror cinema does not have to make your blood run cold or have you quaking in your boots to be considered ‘good’ anymore. Scream raises the threat level and creates admirable tension, despite the fact that it didn’t have me terrified to turn the lights off. Although the 1996 original did give me the ‘heebie jeebies’, it wasn’t intended to be blood-curdling terrifying.
This instalment playfully mocks pestering film bro’s who mention the term that makes my eyes roll- “elevated horror’. When asked what her favourite scary movie is, Casey replies with John Carpenter’s infamous Halloween (1978), whereas Tara answers with The Babadook (2014), a fantastic film in its own right. But what comes next is Tara’s betrayal of the genre. She disavows typical horror as pure schlock and guts. Almost directly commenting on how elevated horrors wouldn’t stoop to the level that slashers do, opting instead for emotionally developed, politically enamoured narratives.
It is with this boldness and knowingly critical lens that Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett shine. They know how to rinse inside genre jokes and make fun of their own attempt of recycling an already perfect classic. The Scream franchise has always managed to tiptoe between not taking itself too seriously, whilst still not becoming a total parody. Scream (22) captures this essence with ease, making it a solid and welcomed entry into horror’s most unique franchise.
In no particular order here is our favourite films of 2021, from film festival premieres to big screen releases its been a great year for independent releases!
1- Psycho Goreman (Directed by Steven Kostanski)
Siblings Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre) discover a glowing crystal whilst digging in their garden, in doing so they unknowingly resurrect PG, an ancient Alien creature who threatens to destroy the entire world.
Psycho Goreman is simultaneously wacky, wild and witty, as Steven Kostanski delivers a vivacious love letter to classic 1980s B-movies. The film is brimming with impressive effects. PG’s design is practically flawless, as his extraterrestrial demonic exterior oozes a textured glow that stands alongside fellow horror movie monsters such as Hellraiser’s Cenobites and The Toxic Avenger himself.
The gory aesthetics washed across the film is a blast to watch, but the whopping effects are not the only punch packed. Plenty of savage dark humour is sprinkled throughout, creating many laugh out loud moments. The majority of the absurd comedy comes from Mimi, who is both extremely well written and entirely hilarious without coming across as immature and clumsy. Mimi’s quick comedic timing nails the scene, with one of the most memorable moments coming from Mimi, Luke, and PG’s garage band session where the film is interrupted by a two-minute song and dance break. And this is precisely why Psycho Goreman is entirely ludicrous, yet so very entertaining – it simply doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Beth (Rebecca Hall) is grieving the death of her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) after he suddenly commits suicide. Whilst searching for answers as to why he killed himself she unearths a sinister secret.
The Night House brews a slow, moody horror that ignites a melancholic spark to provoke intense sensations of dread and foreboding angst. David Bruckner demands the audience’s devout attention. The Night House delivers its terror through employing staggering reveals and bountiful metaphors, the film simply grasps us from the outset without becoming overbearing. The overarching significance of Beth’s journey becomes more and more suffocating as the sinister understanding of Owen’s death is revealed. Hall’s acting has to be one of the most exemplary performances throughout any film of the year, her devotion to transcending into an unhinged, morose woman stricken with heartache is unbelievably moving.
The Night House is an outstanding entry into the world of horror, but beyond everything, the focal point of the praise emerges from Bruckner’s handling of death. The film wields a mirror technique that forces the viewer to look at their own understanding of grief, and how it would feel to actually experience a tragedy so deep that you forget the reality that resided beforehand.
3- Wyvern Hill (Directed by Jonathan Zaurin)
Beth (Pat Garrett) has begun to show early signs of alzheimer’s, leading to her daughter and son-in-law taking her in. However after their move to an old house on Wyvern Hill her symptoms begin to worsen as she loses her grip on reality.
Wyvern Hill is a haunting portrayal of personal grief through an entwined tale of uncertainty, lingering memories, and the decay of reality. Director Jonathan Zaurin, joined with writer Keith Temple, constructs a deeply haunting narrative that lingers with the viewer long after watching, in response to the strangely cathartic world built throughout the film. Whilst the reliance of emotions and diminishing identity is important to the heart of Wyvern Hill, the film has a brutally callous edge that is not afraid to pull out all the gory stops to ensure that we will not forget it for a long time. The viewer is continuously pushed and pulled in every direction, mainly thanks to Zaurin and Temple’s deceptive motives; Beth’s perspective is not entirely meant to be trusted, with the disturbing visions she’s experiencing both confusing and alluring us into her eerie state of mind. This avoidance of settling into a formulaic plot shoves the film onto another level that many other horror’s wouldn’t even dare to go, making Wyvern Hill a film not to be missed.
Premiered at the 2021 festival and winner of ‘Best feature’, you can check out our full review here.
4- Censor (Directed by Prano Bailey Bond)
Enid (Niamh Algar), a particularly cautious film censor, views a heinous video nasty, inspiring her to embark on a journey to unravel what happened to her missing sister all those years ago.
Censor births a retelling of the systemic delusions that were formed under the video nasty movement in 1980s Britain. This rise in hatred saw horror films being ripped to shreds by the media in a contradicting moral panic where literal laws were put in place to prevent the ‘innocent’ from getting ahold of so-called filth. Despite this movement being notoriously documented, not many filmmakers set out to taunt horror’s biggest scandal… Well, that was the case until Prano Bailey-Bond created Censor. The film devotes itself entirely to rarefied horror, with Bailey-Bond’s esoteric treatment of enticing panic alongside contemporary commentary forcing a stirring rendition of cinematic history. Provocative digs at film classification are rife throughout the film, with the various nods to the ridiculous rules even provoking the odd chuckle out of the viewer. But, the most dominating factor is the harrowing subplot that is explored. The feeling of loss experienced by Enid worms its way through the film’s emotional undertone, allowing the viewer to become lost in grief alongside Enid, creating a frightening account of moral turmoil.
5- Zomblogalypse (DIrected by Hannah Bungard, Tony Hipwell & Miles Watts)
Zomblogalypse follows three rather amateurish survivors of a zombie apocalypse that destroyed life as we know it. To counteract the inevitable boredom that surrounds complete isolation they maintain a video blog to tell their story.
Zomblogalypse unleashes a world of chaos, fun and utter madness throughout, with the neverending laughs and gory effects creating a zombie film to remember. Zomblogalypse is an adaptation of the beloved web series of the same name created by Hannah Bungard, Miles Watts and Tony Hipwell. Pushing the film’s brave bravado into the spotlight is the immense comedic timing emphasized by the grand element of found footage. The entire premise of the film relies upon the banter between the trio as they navigate life post-apocalypse.
Through utilising the intimate vibe that found footage provides, the viewer becomes heavily involved within the story, almost joining the gang on their ridiculously hilarious journeys. There are many quick jokes that don’t even need a ‘song and dance’ to be funny, in fact, one of my favourite moments has to be the casual ‘days without bites’ notice board. But, rather than allowing the film to slip into a trivial parody, elements such as superb gory effects and a deeply original plot allow the film to rise above and become the most refreshing zombie film of the year.
Winner of the Dead Northern Award at this years festival, you can check out our full review here.
6- There’s Someone Inside Your House (Directed by Patrick Brice)
After Makani (Sydney Park) moves from Hawaii to Nebraska it seems that all her troubles have been left behind, that is until a series of brutal murders erupt amongst the graduating class of the small town.
There’s Someone Inside Your House may not have received stellar reviews across the board, which despite my praise of this film is not overly surprising thanks to mass audiences not being fond of the slasher genre revival. Over the course of recent years there have been many stabs at reinvading slasher territory, with the likes of Cold Prey (2006) and Terrifier (2016) all taking aim at reviving nostalgic horror.
However, although acclaim is found amongst these film’s target audiences, there still is a universal lack of general appreciation. Patrick Brice’s adaptation of Stephanie Perkins’ 2017 novel of the same name may have garnered a slightly rocky reputation, but for many (including myself) it hit a sweet spot. From the very first opening scene, it wouldn’t be impossible to guess the standard plot points. That said, the entire film revived this certain feeling that I haven’t felt in years whilst watching a horror. Do you remember when you first got into the genre? When you were watching some grizzly frightfest when you should have been getting ready for school the next day, but instead you’d be hiding behind a cushion and screaming for the unknowing victim to turn around to see Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees standing right behind them? Well, that exact excitement and boldness were recaptured within There’s Someone Inside your house.
If you want to forgo reality for a while and not pay attention to whether the narrative is socially significant, or whether the timings are truthful then this gem is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Not every film has to be a meaningful journey, sometimes all it takes is a creepy mask and some killer antics.
7- Titane (Directed by Julia Ducournau)
Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) has grown up with a titanium plate fitted into her head after surviving a tragic car accident when she was younger. Years later, she now works as a performer at a motor show, keeping her strange devotion to vehicles close.
As with Julia Ducournau’s previous feature Raw (2016), Titane blasted through film festivals with ease, earning the Palme d’Or at Cannes 2021. Titane oozes a certain slickness that makes way for the intense titillation, dominating the screen and dictating the audience’s observations. Through this full-throttled antagonism that is paraded, an exploitative form of body horror is closely held, muting any concerns as to whether Ducournau is brave enough to ‘go there’, particularly through the symbolic bond between hardware and the body.
Documenting such controversial topics is not entirely foreign to horror cinema, with David Cronenberg’s Crash (1994) previously exploring those with Symphorophilia (arousal via car crashes). Crash focuses on this similar autoerotic asphyxiation towards vehicles; but do I dare to say that Titane goes above and beyond every ‘mainstream’ film that has explored similar topics. In a valiant way, the film leans into this void of understanding, we could easily pin fetishism to Alexia’s fascination, except her inner delirium runs far deeper than an obsession with something. Ducournau exaggeratedly taps into humanity’s primitive state of needs, forgoing traditional methods in favour of sculpting a mechanical outlook on intimacy and desire.
8- The Columnist (DIrected by Ivo van Aart)
Femke Boot (Katja Herbers) is a writer who is juggling pressure from her publisher to complete her book alongside handling a barrage of anonymous death threats online. Tired of the houndings she decides to take matters into her own hands.
The Columnist exudes a magnetising charm that toys with your expectations and scrambles any form of routine when it comes to tropes. We’re all guilty of it, searching through some pointless comment section to read foolish replies that you fully know will tick you off. We just can’t help it. This animosity that comes with such child’s play was just screaming to be adapted for the big screen; luckily enough this is where The Columnist comes into frame. The film is very much reliant upon Femke’s character to show off the script’s devilishly dark humour and manically graphic kill scenes. And through this intriguing amalgamation of morally tainted actions comes a warming sense of gratitude, we totally end up routing for Femke. Hell’, I even cheered her on at multiple points, but the film doesn’t solely target her incessant revenge plot, instead, we are treated to a couple of interesting subplots to keep the pacing exciting, particularly Femke’s blossoming romance with a fellow writer, and her daughters journey into self-confidence.
The Columnist may from the outskirts seem like another kill-revenge sequence, but it is truly a powerhouse of delightfully savage barbarism.
9- Violation (Directed by Madeleine Sims-Fewer & Dusty Mancinelli)
Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer) along with her estranged husband Caleb (Obi Abili), visit her younger sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and her partner Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) for a fun weekend trip. But, when the evening quiets down Dylan assaults Miriam, inspiring her to take revenge.
Violation refuses to beg for our attention, nor does it take any pity when it comes to exhibiting the harsh truths that emerge from rape. Miriam confides in her sister, expecting to be met with anger and sorrow towards Dylan’s actions, not Miriam’s. Alternatively, she gets scolded by her own sibling and is quite quickly dismissed as being an attention seeker, igniting a stern fury amongst every viewer. Dylan as to no surprise brushes the incident off and acts stunned that his own sister-in-law would make such an accusation. Violation doesn’t just immediately revolt to an over salacious assault scene, followed by a barrage of cathartic kills. Instead, we are treated with a tortuously slow release where nothing (literally nothing) is shielded from our eyes. Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli understand that this subject matter is not to be miscalculated or fraudulently paraded, it is to be respected with a strong portrayal of accuracy; and it is through this emotionally encompassing evocation that Violation shines.
Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is a wannabe fashion designer who moves to London to achieve her dreams. During her time in the city she finds solace in a place infused with such iconic history, but after she discovers her ability to travel back in time to the 1960s she discovers that everything is not as it seems.
Last Night in Soho thrives through its own chaotic exploration into 1960s media and social culture. Throughout, the film is laden with stylish iconography of the swinging sixties, making you nostalgic for a time that may be totally irrelevant to the viewer’s personal history, but that’s where Edgar Wright yields his charm. We become entirely lost with Eloise in this twisted time scale, not knowing where we are headed next. Naturally, as a result, all of the eerie moments are harshened, exemplifying the fear factor. Accompanying the bold twists and turns is the dazzling aesthetics that are reminiscent of lush giallo films from the 1960s and 1970s. Neon lights douse the film’s daring climaxes with a warming glow, ensuring that the graphic violence has a spotlight the entire time.
Amongst all the romanticised Christmas films drenched in sparkling lights and cheer is a plethora of gritty horrors ready to pack in some festive dread.
Christmas films have a deep rooted history within ominous themes; one of the most universally celebrated holiday stories is Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol, with ghosts and hauntingly dark scenarios creeping up in every scene. Therefore, it’s only right that horror and Christmas have continued their entwining to create one of the most entertaining and uniquely thrilling sub genres ever created.
With Christmas horror being such a niche corner in a brimming market it can be a task to comb through dozens upon dozens of films to find the best of the bunch. However, with it being the season of giving, we’ve compiled a complete watchlist filled with evil Santa’s, bloody snow, and children who will definitely be on the naughty list.
1. Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974)
On the night of their Christmas party a group of sorority sisters are tormented by a series of horridly vicious phone calls by an unknown assailant. There are many factors that make Black Christmas a fantastic film including brutal kills, a wide mix of characters and a cunningly sneaky ending. But the most harrowing moment will always be those chilling phone calls that will linger with you long after watching.
This is arguably one of the most well regarded horrors on this list, with the film spanning two remakes, as well receiving both cult and critical acclaim. This classic has been thought to have been the primary catalyst in kickstarting the slasher film, with rumours circulating that John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) was inspired by Clark’s relentlessly horrifying efforts.
2. P2 (Franck Khalfoun, 2007)
Angela (Rachel Nichols) is a dedicated career driven woman, but due to her habit of working late she is left stranded in a desolate parking lot on Christmas Eve, with a slightly unstable security guard. The age old ‘cat and mouse’ chase is one that will not grow old, of course there are examples that have fallen into the same old trap, but P2 defies stereotypes by amplifying the tension to the extreme. Angela plays a ferocious young woman who does not trample around aimlessly. Instead we see her in a bloody battle where she relentlessly fights with every effort. P2 is definitely a thrilling ride throughout that will not leave you growing tired, not even once.
3. Krampus (Michael Dougherty, 2015)
Krampus follows Max (Emjay Anthony), a hopeful young boy who’s only Christmas wish is to have a happy holiday without his dysfunctional family arguing. However, when the tension meets its boiling point Max rips up his letter to Santa and unknowingly summons the demonic Krampus. The blizzard setting combined with the threat of an evil anthropomorphic creature creates a tenaciously claustrophobic environment that firmly cements a sense of fear amongst the viewer. However, underneath all the eerie chaos is a comically absurd undertone that makes light hearted fun of itself, making Krampus an all around entertaining Christmas watch.
4. Christmas Evil (Lewis Jackson, 1980)
When Harry (Brandon Maggart) was younger he traumatically learnt that Santa was not real, he then takes it upon himself to take on the big role. However, he is met with ridicule and judgement, causing him to go on a rampant killing spree. Christmas Evil does not abandon the plot to focus on the bloodshed. Jackson takes time during the first act to keenly show how Harry’s innocence was destroyed, and then how his turbulent adult life is utterly disturbed and slightly immorally creepy, as he spies on children to decide if they are on his ‘naughty or nice’ list. Since it’s release, the film has become a cult classic, with the tragic tale of Harry’s descent coming across as both sympathetic and unhinged at the same time.
5- Await Further Instructions (Johnny Kevorkian, 2018)
The Milgram’s family Christmas takes a sinister turn when they find themselves trapped in their house by a mysterious force. Sci-fi horror is a difficult topic to get right even at the best of times, but when Christmas is thrown into the mix it would be easy for the film to be a convoluted mess. Yet, Kevorkian delivers a tense ride that twists the audience’s perception on who, or even what to believe. Await Further Instructions is similar to a wild episode of The Twilight Zone where we are compelled right through to the cryptic ending.
6. Body (Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, 2015)
Cali (Alexandra Turshen), Holly (Helen Rogers) and Mel (Lauren Molina) break into a seemingly unoccupied house on Christmas Eve in search of a thrilling festive night of partying. Body is somewhat predictable, with each twist being rather clear. Yet, the execution and build up throughout is ultimately tense and at times confrontational. The situation that the women find themselves in is positively nightmarish and morbidly riveting. Body is a cautionary tale that tiptoes into problematic relevant issues.
7. Silent Night, Deadly Night (Charles E. Sellier Jr., 1984)
After a young boy witnesses his parents murder by an anonymous man wearing a Santa suit, he is sent to an orphanage where his caregivers abuse him. But, later on in life he finds himself in a Santa suit. And it’s this trigger that lets years of pent up aggression rage outwards as he goes on a Yuletide killing spree. Although it may sound like a play-by-play slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night caused uproar, with many campaigns blasting its reputation as being traumatising for children, due to the poster displaying an axe wielding Santa. However, the film’s controversial reputation eventually wore off, with it eventually spanning an entire franchise featuring six films.
8. Red Christmas (Craig Anderson, 2016)
Red Christmas follows a mother’s battle to protect her family after a mysterious stranger takes them down one-by-one. The film stars Dee Wallace in the role of Dianne, the matriarch of the family. Horror fans will recognise Wallace due to her roles in The Hills Have Eyes (1977), The Howling (1981), Cujo (1983) and Critters (1986). Red Christmas captures its sleek look via the vivaciously vibrant lighting that features heavily in the second half, lighting up the scene like a Christmas tree. This independent Australian horror takes the home invasion label and twists it to create a bloody holly jolly story, filled with some of the most barbaric kills.
9. The Children (Tom Shankland, 2008)
A mysterious virus causes a group of young children to violently turn on their parents. This British horror has grown in popularity over the years, however it is nowhere near as acclaimed as it should be. The Children features possibly one of the most juxtaposed villains of all time, Children. The film narrowly questions the judgement of the protagonists, through forcing them to commit taboo violent acts against ‘the innocent’; of course it’s in the name of self defence, but there is still something heinous about small children being the aggressor that disturbs the viewer. Amongst the chaos is an unsettling vibe that is established from the outset, due to the bleak atmosphere airing a sense of tension throughout.
10. Better Watch Out (Chris Peckover, 2016)
Better Watch Out follows Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) who must survive the night whilst protecting a twelve-year-old boy she’s babysitting from intruders. Throughout the film there are stellar performances by both DeJonge and her co-star Levi Miller. DeJonge realistically portrays a teenage girl who is involved in the usual love triangles and family dramas, and Miller eerily gives a stellar performance as a young adolescent with a hidden motive. This film is too easy to spoil, so the less that’s said the better.
11. Anna and the Apocalypse (John McPhail, 2017)
Christmas, zombies, musicals what’s more to like? Anna and the Apocalypse is a genre bending horror that is based on writer Ryan McHenry’s BAFTA nominated short ‘Zombie Musical’ (2010). The film follows Anna (Ella Hunt) and her friends as they battle for survival after zombies flood the small town of Little Haven. The undeniable charm of this catchy musical latches onto viewers, all the whilst packing in some gruesome looking zombies and plenty of jokes throughout. The best way to describe this amalgamation of a movie is if Shaun of the Dead (2004) merged with High School Musical (2006).
12. Dead End (Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa, 2003)
Dead End follows the Harrington family as they take a short cut on a long tedious drive to celebrate Christmas. The film is a purposefully discombobulated trip of a story, there is no opportunity to relax and enjoy, as the existential dread and alarming situations startle the viewer at every given chance. Both Lin Shaye and Ray Wise take on the role as a couple in dispute impeccably well, with their brewing woes only making matters more tense. However, the true appeal of the film is found within the potent twists and turns that ruin any hope that the audience may have for the characters.
13. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Jalmari Helander, 2010)
Rare Exports is a Finnish fantasy horror dedicated to all things dark and humorous. After an archaeological expedition a deformed Santa is unearthed, but he is not the ‘man with the bag’ that everyone knows. Instead he is a beastly creature hellbent on torturing anyone who steps in his path. What truly makes Rare Exports protrude from the crowd is it’s blunt treatment of dark humour; it’s not afraid to make fun of itself and in turn creates an entertaining watch perfect for those dark winter nights.
14. The Wolf of Snow Hollow (Jim Cummings, 2020)
The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a werewolf story, with a heavy focus on characterisation. We primarily follow John Marshall (played by Cummings), a troubled officer focused on getting to the bottom of the town’s mysterious occurrences. The trials and tribulations of the local police forces effort’s deliver an array of twists and turns that stop the audience from ever becoming certain of a clear path. To top off Cummings impressive affairs, is the immense cinematography that beautifully captures the snow covered landscape.
This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.
1- The Girl Who Knew Too Much (Directed by Mario Bava, 1963)
Nora Davis (Letícia Román), an American tourist visiting Rome is viciously mugged and knocked unconscious, upon awakening she witnesses a brutal murder. Nora reports this to the local authorities, but no one believes her. After a cryptic phone call she fears she’ll be the killer’s next victim and sets out on a frenzied mission to find the murderer.
Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much is largely considered to be the first giallo film, this full-bodied tale extracts archetypal horror elements such as threat, an illusory killer, and brazen imagery. Bava furthered these already established cinematic elements through exercising an accelerating level of suspense that will be seen across future giallo cinema. The film also creates an ever rising tension through employing a stark cinematography that basks in chiaroscuro shadows and transports the viewer into a dream-like world where the visuals completely take over. It can be said that The Girl Who Knew Too Much was inspired by the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Films such as Psycho thrive on this mentioned mystery and the whole thrill of the ‘whodunnit’ story. Throughout the film we are taken on this journey of discovery with Nora, the viewer plays a part in her involvement with the case. Future giallo films continued to use this
aspect of witnesses aiding investigations in retaliation to their fears of being the next ‘victim’. Thus establishing the authorities to be a secondary character whose importance is noted, but never fully deserving of any credibility as the protagonist typically solves the case on their own.
As it was early days not every key essence of the sub-genre was featured in The Girl Who Knew Too Much, but what was established is the essence of what makes giallo cinema so recognisable, the element of judicial interference and stark visuals.
2- Blood and Black Lace (Directed by Mario Bava, 1964)
Model’s at a fashion house in Rome are killed off one by one by a mysterious faceless killer with metal clawed gloves.
It seems that The Girl Who Knew Too Much left a mark on Bava’s cinematic inspirations as Blood and Black Lace was made soon after his 1963 breakthrough. The film hones in on everything that defines giallo. There is not an element that isn’t ticked off from the genres checklist, with a vivacious colour palette, a covertly dressed killer (trench coat and gloves), and sensualised murder scenes. The film pushes the boundaries that were creatively established during 1960s filmmaking, such as clear plots and a linear narrative. Each scene is treated delicately, there isn’t a single moment that hasn’t been carefully curated. For example, each death is warmed with a rich, elegant lighting that dares you to carry on watching and embrace the beauty amongst harrowing images. The film is set in a fashion house, meaning that couture and chic stylisation are at the core of the mise-en-scene. Plenty of lavish silks and velvets feature in several kill scenes, prominently forcing this contrast between harm and sensuality.
At the time the implementation of eroticised gore was definitely a sight for sore eyes, little did Bava know that this would be a key factor in giallo’s progression.
3- The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Directed by Dario Argento, 1972)
American writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) witnesses a murder attempt by a black gloved assailant in an art gallery. The killer is suspected to be a serial murder who is killing young women across the entire city. As a key witness Sam must help the police in their ongoing investigation before he becomes the next victim.
Argento and giallo is a match made in heaven. There’s a reason as to why Argento is heavily tied to Italian horror, it’s his melodic combination of textured conventions and stylised symbolism that melts the barrier between horror and art. His early work of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage gets majorly overlooked within his filmography, but it is one of the richest films lurking within the entire genre. Bava may have given giallo its first lease of life, but Argento’s early work thickened one of the most important essences that would be seen in future giallo classics. This film revels in its own ludicrousness, the incoherent why’s, when’s and where’s of the murders are almost comically hazy, it wouldn’t be surprising if audiences even became irate at the films ‘big reveal’. Despite the ill-defined conclusion, it somehow works as a consequence of Argento’s fever dream bravado that takes the wheel throughout the film. The story (as does most giallo’s) works on coincidences and deceptions, moulding bizarre worlds that are supposed to take place in reality, but always seem disorienting.
4- Dont Torture a Duckling (Directed by Lucio Fulci, 1972)
Chaos erupts within a small Italian town when it becomes clear that a child killer is on the loose. A reporter and the police must band together to find the culprit before it’s too late.
Fulci within his own right is very much a key player within giallo cinema, Don’t Torture a Duckling is actually known to be an introductory film for many wanting to get into the genre.
This film aided the bleakness and alienation of society that the genre thrives upon. The picturesque village may be pleasing to the eye, but beneath the surface is a corrupt town overflowing with perversion, paranoia, threatening attitudes, and simple-minded ignorance.
Fucli dares the viewer not to applaud the braveness of the film’s themes. Sins, guilt, and repression are at the heart of the killer’s motives, which is primarily implanted through the heart of religion. This expression of sexuality within the village’s church is openly scrutinised by Fulci, in fact the town’s church is almost a central character, an antagonist. The notion of utilising religion as an ironic storytelling piece continues throughout 1970s giallo films, particularly in What Have You Done to Solange?
5- What Have You Done to Solange? (Directed by Massimo Dallamano, 1972)
Students at St. Mary’s Catholic School become the target of a sadistic serial killer. A teacher at the school becomes a suspect after his suspicious behaviour with the students arises, but the dots are not connecting, leaving the killer out on the loose.
1960s and early 1970s cinema was rife with cult sub-genres melting with each other to form hybrid films such as What Have You Done to Solange?, gaining extra profit and merging various stylisations. The film masterfully creates surreal landscapes swarming with nightmarish thrills, jolting the viewer. Dallamano’s 1972 horror combines German Krimi cinema (City settings, cop thrillers, and revenge plots) with giallo to create one of the most underrated horrors to come from the 1970s. The catholic girls school setting delights itself in crude stereotypes, particularly that of exploitation amongst women. Whilst it’s not perfect, it is rivetingly entertaining by recruiting a shamelessly sexualised narrative, consisting of vicious kill scenes that Freud would have a field day analysing. Amongst all the hurrah of utilising taboo’s as a provoking tool, Dallamano does not forget the importance of the film’s visual flare. Each scene is painted with a quaint background of mundane terrains, but the dose of gruesome terror leaves a burning mark on the viewer, forcing an unforgettable reputation.
6- Deep Red (Directed by Dario Argento, 1975)
Musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) discovers the body of a murdered psychic medium. Leading Marcus and reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) to take it upon themselves to solve the case.
Deep Red is known as one of Argento’s finest films, with the dizzying aesthetics, kaleidoscopic colour palettes, hazy perspectives, and impressive score securing a flourishing acclaim. Every scene creates an unfamiliar world where the tension grips onto the viewer and won’t let go, encouraging the audience to dismantle their expectations. Giallo continuously aims to startle, and Deep Red is one of the best examples for showing how and why horror is more than just quick scares and gore. Argento employs intricate camerawork that gives the result of a finely choreographed production. Rather than keep the camera still throughout the film, like a fly on the wall, Argento dances the lens around, emulating hectic and frenzied auras that make the panic of the kill scenes even more erratic and disturbing. Furthering this avoidance of stillness is the abrupt and shocking ending. Giallo may be known for its big reveals and double twists, but most of the time these revelations are so illogical and blasé that the viewer is left with more questions than answers, but Deep Red uses the infamous ‘red herring’ trope as a significant plot point in the investigation. Deep down the audience have known who the killer is all along and are told very much early on within the film. Sometimes the true horror doesn’t come from the unexpected, but what we already know.
7-Tenebrae (Directed by Dario Argento, 1982)
Successful author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) receives a letter from a suspected serial killer claiming that Neal’s books have inspired them to go on a killing spree. Soon after Neal becomes involved in the investigation to catch the killer before it’s too late.
As the 1980s began giallo cinema progressed and became fairly popular amongst mainstream audiences. The unholy trinity -Argento, Bava, and Fulci- had solidified a decent name for themselves as giallo masters, and with this popularity came a shift within the genre. There was a growing demand for slashers resulting in films such as Tenebrae becoming more operatic and less confined within small Italian landscapes as an attempt at branching out. Tenebrae is a key film in both eighties horror and giallo cinema thanks to the packed narrative that manifests into a convoluted extravaganza, encouraging the viewer to become lost within the mad world created. In fact the narrative is mostly of secondary importance, the story beats serves only a progression-based purpose for the kill scenes to shine, forgoing typical cause and effect.
8- Amer (Directed by Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, 2009)
Amer follows Ana throughout her childhood, adolescence and womanhood.
Amer is a haunting and mystifying neo-giallo told in three parts as we witness three key moments throughout various stages of Ana’s life. Amer acts as both a retelling and a homage to great giallo cinema. The visual format in which the film is told reads exactly like Suspiria and Tenebrae, with the film’s nods towards neon lighting and duality (both metaphorically and technically via the continuous use of split screen). But rather than copy directly, Cattet and Forzani use giallo films as a creative vessel for their own highly original work to pour through. The displaced narrative never meets a clear conclusion, in fact the film plays out in almost an entirely surrealistic tone, drowning any chance at linearity.
9- Piercing (Directed by Nicolas Pesce, 2018)
Reed (Christopher Abbot), comes across as a normal family man with a loving wife and newborn baby waiting at home, but this is all a facade. Underneath the disguise he hides a dark desire to kill.
Piercing is one of those films where the simple plot premise spirals out of control action by action. The enigmatic whirlwind of events do not allow the viewer to breathe at all, instead you are stuck on this disastrous rollercoaster alongside Reed as his night shifts from one mishap to the next. It is difficult to line this film up alongside notable giallo films as Piercing is entirely individualistic, but the spine of the film comes from the complex relationship between psychology, sex, and violence. Pesce aligns these three devices to interweave a tale ridden with interesting politics reminiscent of Argento and Bava’s work.
10- Knife + Heart (Directed by Yann Gonzalez, 2018)
Anne (Vanessa Paradis), is a filmmaker who specialises in gay pornography. Her life begins to crumble when her editor and partner Loïs breaks up with her. To win her back Anne hatches a plan to make one of the most riskiest film’s yet, but when a string of horrid murders occurs both the production and Anne’s life is threatened.
Knife+Heart erupted onto the horror scene with a unique magnetism that dedicates itself to honouring giallo cinema. The overall tone is electrifying without being distractingly flamboyant, most of the film’s allure is actually drawn from the characters lack of satire. The viewer sympathises with Anne and her film crew, and although the giallo elements ensure that boredom does not become an issue, the film grounds itself through the cultural connotations.
Throughout giallo films the police are seen as rather incompetent, with the outsider being the one to solve the crime (à la The Girl Who Knew Too Much), Knife+Heart continues with this tradition but in a new light. The police appear to dismiss the murders and refuse to raise alarm in response to the victims being gay men, forcing Anne and her friend Archibald (Nicholas Maury) to hunt down the killer themselves. Pesce regenerates the giallo movement in a modern perspective through exploring an exploitative based storyline but through a rare melancholic disposition.
The 1980s saw a rapid surplus of horror films seeping out from the woodwork. Not only was there a rise in interest for the more morbid side of cinema, but there was also a growing audience for slasher films. One of these great classics that has shaped the genre ever since it’s release is Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). The success of A Nightmare on Elm Street soared for many years as the franchise birthed a further eight films, a popular comic book series, multiple documentaries, and merchandise. As with any franchise there is always the odd entry that did not garner much praise, in this case the culprit is the 2010 remake directed by Samuel Bayer. This shot at giving the franchise a new lease is colloquially dismissed. However, is it possible that the remake actually holds a hidden charm? Or is it entirely doomed? Let’s find out in the most scathing ‘Original vs. Remakes’ yet…
In the seemingly sleepy suburb of Springwood, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a disfigured clawed killer murders a group of unsuspecting teens whose parents were at the hands of his untimely death.
The film is utterly aware of its strengths and uses them to its advantage, correlating a polished, witty and nightmare fueled horror.
Craven earned a budding name for himself with the exploitation films The Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977) lining his early career, the cult success of these films brewed for years, but it was A Nightmare on Elm Street that truly shot his director credits into the spotlight for decades to come. Thankfully Craven kept his talents primarily within the horror sector, earning a reputation for being rather masterful, supplementing dark humour to keep films entertaining, with A Nightmare on Elm Street beginning this ode to comic horror. Throughout the film there are numerous witty punchlines accompanied by an ever menacing grin from Freddy, cementing his place as an iconic horror villain that stands out from the crowd. He is personable, lively, and gruesome. Freddy’s personality certainly helps fasten the film’s reputation, ensuring his place as a horror sensation.
As easy as it is to discuss Freddy all day this is definitely not the film’s sole edge, with the outstanding practical effects, unparalleled score, and tense symbolism all contributing to its notorious reputation.
Speaking of those unmatched visuals, head of practical effects Jim Doyle, created incredibly innovative scenes on a shoestring budget (compared to nowadays), namely the infamous ‘bed of death’ scene. Glen’s (Johnny Depp) death displayed a tidal wave of blood spurting upwards from his bed, dragging him down into a deep hellish pit. To create the gushing blood effect an entire rotating room was created. The room was turned completely upside down via various crew having to manually turn the room like a dial crank, with Craven loosely strapped into a camera chair to the side. In true budgeted form the furniture was not correctly strapped or secured with safety wires, instead everything was simply nailed down. Adding to the risk was the fact that the red dyed water replicating the blood hit a tonne of wiring, causing the fluid to become electrified. Despite everything, the final product went above and beyond in creating one of horror’s most memorable scenes.
This whole craftsmanship is what makes A Nightmare on Elm Street stand out. There wasn’t a chance for plenty of retakes and editing to glam-up the grungy effects, instead it was just a crew full of people risking their time and safety to create a future classic. The labour of love throughout A Nightmare on Elm Street is abundantly clear. There is a reason why the film has sat on a pedestal for all these years, it has an air of originality, a certain magnetism which allowed all of the sequels to follow. Craven’s 1984 visionary horror seems to only continue in its triumphant path, however the same cannot be said for the 2010 remake which only seems to amass negative attention.
2010’s remake came into play thanks to Michael Bay, a filmmaker and producer who is known for his over-the-top effects (mainly explosions), quick pacing, and ability to make even the calmest of scenes seem erratic and completely overblown. During the early 2000’s it became clear that horror remakes were a quick one-way ticket to financial success, with the likes of The Amityville Horror (2005), The Hitcher (2007), and Friday the 13th (2008) making film financers such as Bay a quick buck. That’s not to say that A Nightmare on Elm Street was solely a money grab, but the roots of its purpose certainly seem that way.
After plenty of rumours surrounding the remake, production began in 2008, with music video director Samuel Bayer being hired, alongside a hopeful cast including of Connie Britton, Rooney Mara, Jackie Earle Haley, and Kyle Gallner.
The central premise of Kreuger’s motive in both of these films is that his death was at the hands of these teenagers’ parents, as an act of revenge. The motivation for the entire film is an allegory about the sins of the ‘elders’ coming back to haunt the innocent, in a form of evil injustice. Both parties are wrong, yet the battle will always continue thanks to the mass ignorance of society. Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street may seem like just another slasher from the exterior, but it is a tale of repressed guilt that exposes the results of denial and shame. There are many gripes that the remake clutches onto, but the abandonment of Craven’s superb surrealism in favour of creating a watered down dreamscape is the worst of them all.
Through Bayer forgoing all of this buildup, we are left with another emotionally trimmed, lukewarm horror that shackles itself to all of the other mundane formulaic movies.
One of the most common protests that audiences had with the film is that Freddy’s characterisation is entirely altered, so much so that there is not a single ounce of intrigue and allure to his persona. There is no scary voice, or trademark charm, unfortunately slapping on a red and green jumper and a claw hand is not enough. Worst of all there is zero sympathy towards his character. Freddy is not a model citizen, yet there was always this air of forgiveness over his actions. However, in 2010 he was made out to be a child predator. This was all part of the film’s attempt to make the remake a *very* dark and serious film that brews slowly thanks to an incredibly horrifying backbone. Instead of becoming this unsettling nightmare, similar to the Evil Dead (2013) remake, it simply tries too hard to be something that it’s not. Horrid themes do not always equate to fear.
We could be shown one of the most violent scenes known to cinema, but that doesn’t mean that it gives the audience the creeps. If Bayer would have focused more on fleshing out Freddy’s backstory and then infuse it within the characters emotional development then possibly the narrative would have worked. But it’s as if the writers have handed us a child abuse story on a plate and then just forgot to stir it into the rest of the film.
Despite everything it’s not all doom and gloom. Arguments could be passed back and forth about this missed opportunity, but it does have to be said that the box office figures show that the intense marketing and buzz surrounding the film generated enough attention for it to be one of the most financially successful remakes of its time. It still remains the second highest grossing film out of the entire franchise. It may not be everyone’s favourite remake, but it gave horror a quick boost in mainstream cinema.
Another redeeming factor is seen through the decent performances, particularly by Mara who played the titular Nancy. Her portrayal of a distressed teen is fairly grounded in reality and not overtly flamboyant and ridiculously written. Working alongside this is the attempt at recreating something fresh. The remake is not a play-by-play of Craven’s original, nor is it an entirely original story that uses the basic framework of a classic to take the tale in a new direction. Although the remake bears a reputation that generally airs on the negative side, it might have possibly worked as a standalone film if amendments were made, perfect for tween viewers who want an easy popcorn movie.
Painting a grungy scene and blasting CGI over every possible image does not equal a “good movie”. Sometimes it’s not the budget you need or an over-thought subplot to make a film work, alternatively all a groundbreaking horror needs is a vivid imagination and an expressive story that is rooted from a passion for the genre. It can sound contradictory to comment that the film tries too hard, but at the same time doesn’t try hard enough, yet this is exactly the issue, the aching tangent becomes so tired thanks to all of the repetitiveness. Remakes can be excellent, even better than the original, but in this case A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is the standout champion.
Love to read more about the iconic horror villain? Check out our article on Freddy here.
1- Spookies (Directed by Brendan Faulkner, Thomas Doran & Eugenie Joseph, 1986)
An evil warlock traps an unknowing group of teenagers in an abandoned manor in order to fulfil a sacrifice that will keep his wife alive.
1980s horror can be so frenzied at times, creating an illogical story path that does not entirely glue together properly, but come hell or high water audiences absolutely adore this exact rambunctiousness that the decade does so well. Spookies is no exception, as this egregious flick has everything a viewer could want, from zombies and witches to ouija boards and snake demons. Across time the obscurity has been praised, with many admiring the sheer will of the film and how it manages to ram so many genre highlights into an 85-minute runtime. The offbeat energy is owed to the alternation of directors. Spookies started out as ‘Twisted Souls’, a haunted house film, but after creative disagreements, the financial backers brought in Eugiene Joseph who added in several subplots and a barrage of creatures. Despite all the mixups, it’s this amalgamation of visions and twisted monster designs that gave Spookies its cult following, earning itself a reputation for being uncanny.
2- Parents (Directed by Bob Balaban, 1989)
The Laemie’s move to a quiet Californian suburb to live out the perfect American Dream in the 1950s, but ten-year-old Michael (Bryan Madorsky) suspects that his parents are secretly cannibals.
Parents walks the fine line of being satirical without being a slapstick comedy, all thanks to the film’s dark and macabre undertones. Throughout, there is an air of uncertainty that waivers in and out, is Michael just dreaming about his parents’ hidden skeletons? Or is he genuinely living this real-life nightmare? Most of the time Balaban toys with the audience’s natural vulnerability. We can only believe what we’ve been shown, but at the same time, Michael’s father Nick (Randy Quaid) and mother Lily (Mary Beth Hurt) play their roles so subtly that we can never be sure; leaving the viewer in this surreal limbo for nearly the entire film. What makes Parents such a buried treasure is this ambiguity that can both divide opinions and naturally unsettles the film’s sense of reality.
3- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (Directed by John McNaughton,1986)
Henry (Michael Rooker), is recently released from prison after murdering his own mother. Following his release, he is joined by fellow inmate Otis (Tom Towles), who becomes an accessory in Henry’s continued killings.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has a long complicated relationship with censorship. Not only was the film outright banned in the UK up until 1991, but the full uncut edit was not released until 2003. Similarly, the film struggled with the critical reception, with many claiming that McNaughton’s efforts added up to nothing more than torture galore. Yet, as with many great films, the controversy was only a reaction to the extremely powerful, visceral tones that the film brutally captures. At points the violence is extreme, but not to glorify, instead the callous scenes highlight the atrociousness of the true story that inspired the film. The character of Henry is based on Henry Lee Lucas, a real-life serial killer known for making false claims about cold cases. It’s quite notable that the crimes depicted on screen are mainly based on many of Lee Lucas’s fantasies. It’s for this reason that the film deserves a spotlight. McNaughton points a finger at how twisted Rooker’s character is, to truly underline his banality and to ensure that the film will always remain shocking.
4- Razorback (Directed by Russell Mulcahy, 1984)
Beth Winters (Judy Morris), an American animal rights reporter, takes a trip to Australia only to fall victim to a wild boar attack. Although her disappearance is ruled as an accident, her husband Carl (Gregory Harrison), suspects that something sinister is at play.
Razorback belongs to a special area of Australian cinema, eco-horror, which can be defined as a subgenre that deals with the environment and its beings, as they strike back in an act of revenge. Whilst water-creature horror had seen a rise in the 1980s (thanks to Jaws), what hadn’t been tackled as much was the natural threats that come from an environment such as the Australian outback. Razorback captures a dusty, dangerous landscape where wild pigs roam, seeking their prey. This combination of earthiness and killer beasts encapsulates the madness and visual flair that 1980s horror is known for. Prior to filmmaking, Mulcahy has been known for directing music videos, with Razorback being his first feature, but rather than the film being overly flashy, emulating a typical music video, the film remains fairly serious, tackling both themes of man vs animal, and urban panic.
5- The Vanishing (Directed by George Sluizer, 1988)
Rex (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia (Johanna Ter Steege) make a quick stop at a petrol station in France whilst on a biking holiday, but unbeknownst to anyone Saskia suddenly vanishes. Rex frantically searches for hours, only to find that no one witnessed her disappearance. Three years later Rex has a new partner but still continues his search. No leads are made, that is until he begins to receive letters from the kidnapper himself.
The Vanishing breaks unspeakable rules within cinema by abandoning any sense of mystery and revealing the tormentor early on. Although we are left in the dark about what exactly happened to Saskia at first, we do find out who took her almost immediately after the opening act. However, Sluizer chooses to use this plot diversion to present Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), Saskia’s abductor as a normal family man, who openly admits that he has no conscience, thus committing treacherous crimes to see how far he can go. Throughout the film, there is a purposeful lack of attachment. The settings are drab, the dialogue is plain and simple, and the mundanity of everyday life is not glamorized. With this, the film could very easily come across as almost bland, but it is through the mundane that the horror blooms. Cinema tends to paint a Hollywood picture of real-life terror, but in reality these things really do happen. The Vanishing mercilessly depresses in favour of depicting this true loss.
6- The Lair of the White Worm (Directed by Ken Russell, 1988)
On Eve (Catherine Oxenberg) and Mary Trent’s (Sammi Davis) farm, archeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) uncovers a large skull, which he supposes belongs to the D’Ampton Worm, a mythical reptile-like creature slain by the current Lord of the Manor’s (Hugh Grant) ancestors. When Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) takes an interest in Eve and Flint, it becomes evident that the D’Ampton Worm still lives on.
The Lair of the White Worm originates from Bram Stoker’s novel of the same name, based upon northeast English folklore surrounding The Lambton Worm. The film draws inspiration from what British horror continuously succeeds in, folk horror. Cinema such as The Blood on Satan’s Claw, Witchfinder General, and The Wicker Man all take from the country’s cultural heritage to embody the fear of ‘the other’ and the vulnerability of isolation. However, Russell refuses to directly copy what has already been done in favour of remixing what folk horror is familiar with. The Lair of the White Worm has an incomparable visual flair, with crazed imagery and plenty of colour seeping throughout the entire film.
7- The Funhouse (Directed by Tobe Hooper, 1981)
Four friends visit a traveling carnival to let loose for the night and have fun. All is going well, but when they get stuck inside ‘The Funhouse’-the park’s ghost train- they soon discover that a masked killer is killing them off one-by-one.
Over the years Tobe Hooper has become a horror household name with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre being just one of his many hits, but The Funhouse still remains fairly under the radar. As with many teen slashers from the early 1980s, The Funhouse was made to profit off the back of Friday the 13th’s success. Despite this, the film has an entirely unique quality that is a milieu of carnival creatures and chilling reveals that act as ghastly shock to the audience, particularly that of the killer’s facial reveal. It’s clear that the film works on multiple levels, whether its timely scares or gnarly kills- The Funhouse has it all.
8- Visiting Hours (Directed by Jean-Claude Lord, 1982)
Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant), a women’s rights activist triggers the wrath of Colt Hawker (Michael Ironside), a misogynistic serial killer after her appearance on a talk show. He partially succeeds on his killing mission, but after finding out that she survived he visits the hospital to finish the job once and for all.
Visiting Hours is not without its issues, the release wasn’t necessarily met with applause, partially due to its positioning on the Video Nasty list, as well as major critics writing it off thanks to its ‘slasher’ nature. However, slashers have never fared well in the mainstream critical domain. Despite everything at play, Visiting Hours has a good knock at creating a rooted background story rather than just presenting a masked killer with a knife. Lord’s attempts at broadening the slasher vibe are extremely successful as Visiting Hours is a slow burn through and through. Alongside presenting a deeper motivation is the film’s performances, particularly from Michael Ironside, who plays the maniacal Colt. His portrayal of such a menacingly gruesome man is second to none, leaving the viewer on the edge of their seat the entire film.
9- Pin (Directed by Sandor Stern,1988)
Brother and sister Leon (David Hewlett), and Ursula (Cyndy Preston), form a twisted bond with their doctor father’s anatomically correct medical dummy, Pin.
Pin is not entirely obscure. It’s not that many people do not know about its existence, it’s that the film itself deserves a lot more appraisal for its gratuitous display of disturbing horror. The entire notion of Pin is alluring, particularly for the decade. Cinema emerging from the 1980s typically fell into the slasher category, that’s not to say that slashers aren’t entirely deserving of praise, but Pin is certainly refreshing. What pushes the film out from amongst the rest is Stern’s way of subtly evoking a strong sense of eeriness through the character of the Pin. From the outset, his strange skinned-back appearance is utterly unnerving, with its blank stare accelerating any unease that we may have already had.
10- Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou (Directed by Bruce Pittman, 1987)
Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage) is known for her unapologetic flirtatious attitude and her popular status, but her freedom is cut short when she dies during a prom night prank gone wrong. Decades later Mary Lou possesses high school student Vicki Carpenter (Wendy Lyon) in order to seek revenge.
Prom Night II surprisingly remains one of the most underrated sequels, its reputation has never managed to soar. Pittman’s take on teen horror is not only adventurous but also original in the fact that we get to see the best of both worlds- slasher mixed with supernatural elements. Coupling up with the originality is the film’s laugh-a-minute humour, and wickedly grim kills, including crucifix stabbings, burning, electrocution, and most sickeningly a kill that involves someone being crushed in between a set of lockers. Rounding the film up is the epic third act that makes Carrie’s prom seem like an absolute dream.
This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.
Wallace Bryton (Justin Long), a conceited podcast host travels to Canada to interview a viral celebrity, but when plans change he ends up interviewing a peculiar man with an odd obsession for walruses.
Although body horror relishes in the display of the absurd, at times what is actually more effective is a slow build up that takes its sweet time in revealing ludicrous shocking imagery that the genre is known for. Tusk is one of the most misleading films in the sense that director Kevin Smith constantly pulls in humour instead of resorting straight to horror, delaying the films ‘grand reveal’ and ensuring that our jaws are dropped when Wallace meets his fate. Tusk is no stranger to its fair share of criticism, with many early screenings delivering lackluster feedback. However, like all good things, Tusk has aged well. Now, it has a major fan following and is the first part of the True North trilogy, which also boasts Yoga Hosers and the upcoming Moose Jaws.
2- Slither (Directed by James Gunn, 2006)
Slither follows the humdrum locals of Wheelsy, South Carolina, as they battle an alien parasite that threatens to destroy every living being on Earth.
James Gunn may now be renowned for his work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but back in 2006 he made Slither, a grossly preposterous tale reminiscent of B-movies and pure schlock. It is not uncommon for many horror films to either have a well crafted narrative with a weak exposition (and vice versa), but Slither has a unique trait of having equal amounts of visual galore and excellent storytelling. With Night of the Creeps and The Brood being major inspirations for Gunn you can be rest assured that Slither is not for the weak stomached. Slither dares to test its audience. Blood, guts, and gore is not anything out of the ordinary for an average horror viewer, but Gunn turns it up a notch by creating these ‘larger than life’ human-based beings that embody the gnarly beasts of great Troma classic’s, including The Toxic Avenger.
3- Society (Directed by Brian Yuzna, 1989)
Bill (Billy Warlock), an everyday teen uncovers his family’s involvement in a ghastly orgy cult exclusive to the socially elite.
It is genuinely impossible to create a body horror list without acknowledging Brian Yuzna’s fascinatingly gruesome Society. Yuzna was a producer for the infamous Re-Animator, and with this in mind he bargained for a two-picture deal, with the first being Society. With such a brazen display of monstrous chaos it’s no surprise that the film still holds the trophy for being utterly surreal. As with all great films prior to the influx of CGI, Society delivers a spectacular venture made using practical effects. The final scene which has been dubbed “The Shunting” showcases a slimy limb-tastic orgy where nothing is left to the imagination. These effects came from the visionary Screaming Mad George, a renowned special effect artist known for his long-time collaboration with Yuzna. The giant puppet replicating dozens of slimy writhing bodies melting together stole the show, with the film even being shelved for a couple of years thanks to distributors being unsure whether audiences would really want to view something so disturbing.
4- Uzumaki (Directed by Higuchinsky, 2000)
The locals of Kurouzu-cho, a small Japanese town, begin to act strange as they become obsessed by spiral patterns.
Uzumaki may not be as openly obscure as other films featured on this list, but do not be fooled as this Japanese sleeper hit has a distinguishably freakish third act that loiters in the depths of your subconscious for days after watching. Based on the manga of the same name, Uzumaki is unlike any other film, in the same sense of how Eraserhead and Hausu are inimitable. And within those same lines the film is entirely disconcerting and devoid of any reality, with the most grounded scenes such as a character walking along a street, or even a family dinner becoming completely illogical. Each scene is caked in a grungy, seasick light, accompanied by uncomfortably close shots and ill-natured characters.
5- Altered States (Directed by Ken Russell, 1980)
Dr. Eddie Jessup (William Hurt), a research scientist, investigates the altered states of human consciousness through the use of hallucinogenic drugs to determine whether the various states of consciousness are as embedded in reality as our waking state.
Ken Russell may appear all across media reference books thanks to his work on Women in Love and The Devils, but for an unbeknownst reason Altered States remains fairly untackled by mainstream cinema. The film aims to be both as alien and as personable as possible, as we go back in time to the creation of man followed by the progression of earth and the body. Altered States is not without its plummy oscentasciousness, but rather than become a journey into the ego, the film savours its own psychological influences. Through disavowing a sense of normality, Russell captures our attention and uses it to both daze and dazzle.
6- The Thing (Directed by John Carpenter, 1982)
In Antarctica, an American research team discovers an extraterrestrial life form that can take the shape of whoever or whatever it chooses.
John Carpenter’s The Thing has held a renowned reputation for decades now, as this riveting exploration into paranoia and mistrust through the body still remains just as disturbing and delirious as it was back in 1982. When body horror is mentioned many will automatically visualise the assimilating dogs, or the gangling human-spider creature from The Thing, with Rob Bottin’s effects being nominated for Best Special Effects by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Carpenter is no stranger to the world of horror, but The Thing has a special zing that makes it entirely stand out. Within the weird and wild landscape of the film we are isolated and confined to a secluded zone where terror hides amongst the crowd, forcing not only a massive sense of vulnerability, but also an exploration into the ‘great unknown’.
7- Cabin Fever (Directed by Eli Roth, 2002)
Five friends take a trip to a cabin in the woods to unwind and have a good time. Unbeknownst to them their shindig is about to meet a fatal end as a flesh eating disease begins to spread amongst the group.
Cabin Fever still remains a rocky entry amongst many audiences, as this rather coarse journey showcasing incredibly gnarly effects is often labelled as being gory just for the sake of it. Yet, Cabin Fever has this undeniable quirk that manages to get under your skin. Eli Roth has always been open about his inspirations, and for anyone who takes a closer look at the film the copious nods to genre classics such as Evil Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Blair Witch Project is beyond obvious. But instead of creating a carbon copy of the overused cliché of a bunch of ‘twenty-somethings in a forest cabin’, Roth creates a rambunctious world where irreverence is dialed up to the max, and crude sensibilities radiate.
8- The Fly (Directed by David Cronenberg,1986)
Seth (Jeff Goldblum), a renowned scientist, has successfully created a working teleporting invention, but after a terrible accident he slowly begins to mutate into a grotesque fly-like creature.
David Cronenberg and body horror is a literal match made in heaven, it could even be said that his work within cinema has helped shape the sub-genre, especially with films such as The Brood, Scanners, and Videodrome lying in the midst of his extensive filmography. The Fly harbours a rich history that is now ingrained in cinema culture, with the film’s tagline “Be afraid. Be very afraid” having become repeatedly used in television and advertising. What allows The Fly to excel is the delicate balance of humanising a naturally abject matter. Seth’s declining wellness throughout the film is slow, but stark. Instead of him going to bed as normal and then suddenly waking up as a monster, special effects artist Chris Walas introduces the creature gradually, as we witness at least eight stages of mutation. Accompanying this slow transition is the film’s subplot of Seth’s aggressive mutations excising his own psychological wellbeing, unmasking the dark grittiness of humanity.
9- Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989)
A businessman (Tomorowo Taguchi) and his partner (Kei Fujiwara) accidentally kill ‘The Metal Fetishist’ (Shin’ya Tsukamoto), who as a strange act of vengeance transforms the couple into malformed metal-flesh hybrids.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man dares to be brave. Even in its most simplistic form, the film remains berserk. As with many other body horror ventures, there is no point in trying to search for reasoning over the film’s events. Alternatively, you have to just sit back and revel in the allegorical chaos that is Tetsuo. With all this being said, the transhumanistic qualities and the metal-urbanised aesthetics are entirely captivating and beyond cathartic. Shinya Tsukamoto exhumes a twisted cyberpunk-esque structure that forces the film’s hypersexualised aura right into the limelight, making sure that the visceral execution is inescapable. Although the film’s acclaimed reputation is primarily owed to its cult fandom, Tetsuo was also one of the first Japanese films that gained attention from large film festivals, resulting in Japanese cinema experiencing a boom within the independent film market.
10- Spring (Directed by Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson, 2014)
Spring takes us on the fantastical journey of Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), as he travels to Italy in hopes of clearing his mind. However, on his journey he meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), a mysterious woman who harbours a treacherous secret.
Spring is an enigmatically charged horror which equalises the body and the monstrous, all wrapped up in a romance film. Spring is entirely unique in its own right. Although the core motifs of the story are not unfamiliar, the flourishing execution is as visually stunning as it is emotionally warming. In spite of the fundamentals of body horror, Spring metamorphosis’s the sub-genre through creating something that isn’t repulsive to look at, or caked in slime. Opposingly, we are enthralled by the visually abject. One of those most transfixing elements of the film is the contrast between the picturesque Southern Italian landscape and the beastly creature that lurks within society. Spring is one of those films that is not plastered on every top ten list, nor did it receive plenty of media attention, truly matching the definition of a hidden gem.
This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.
The whimsical Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), heads to the bright city of London to attend a prestigious fashion college, but her doe-eyed innocence is soon interrupted when she discovers an ability to slip back in time to the swinging sixties where she witnesses the life of wannabe starlet Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), who dangerously falls under club manager, Jack’s (Matt Smith) spell.
Dancing in neon bravado and swaying throughout time to paint a daunting picture varnished with chilling fates and show-stopping performances is Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho. It seems that the promise of the film’s release has been held over our heads for years, with its premiere being repeatedly delayed. Luckily enough the wait was certainly worth it as the film upholds every promise that was made in the dazzling trailer.
Wright is no stranger to cult fandom, especially with Hot Fuzzand Shaun of the Dead floating in his seemingly endless filmography. Joining his talents is co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who deservedly garnered copious praise for her screenplay of Academy Award winner 1917. Together their collaboration of this riveting descent into imaginative violence is a force to be reckoned with and certainly a film to remember.
With all the praise comes a truthful reality, Last Night in Soho is difficult. There’s no denying that the amalgamation of genres, which range from musicals to neo-noir comes with an inescapable level of chaos. The melancholic swells of drama echo throughout just as much as the shadowy thriller aesthetics. The whirlwind of vibes is what allows the film to be utterly mesmerizing and rather impressionable as a modern triumph in the horror genre. The clear inspiration from horror icons such as Alfred Hitchcock and Mario Bava is clear, but rather than simply manufacturing a carbon copy of what is already out there, we get to witness a new and exciting approach.
In an episode of the podcast ‘Post Mortem with Mick Garris‘, Wright confessed to being engrossed by the culture of 1960s London after finding his parents’ record collection, mainly consisting of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Simon and Garfunkel. His perception of the time was formed through listening to these songs and admiring the vinyl covers, creating an almost romanticised dream-like interpretation of such a culturally significant time. In essence, Last Night in Soho is not too dissimilar from walking through a museum, immersing yourself in a time that is long gone. With each scene comes a barrage of songs that will ring familiar to nearly everyone, including Cilla Black’s ‘You’re My World’ and a haunting cover of ‘Downtown’ performed by Taylor-Joy.
The film has this air of nostalgia from a time that viewers may not have ever experienced. Wright regenerates what we know as modern horror, forgoing the now archetypal film path in favour of enveloping late 1960s/early 1970s culture into the frame.
Last Night in Soho melts together Giallo influences alongside an eerie supernatural tale that creates a backbone so dense, that it makes the film almost hypnotic and impossible to forget. Giallo cinema has long been upheld on a pedestal within genre cinema, thanks to its innate ability to force the viewer to the edge of their seat, with aspects such as stark lighting, hyper-stylization, and graphic violence that plunges itself to the forefront of the narrative. In a commemorative ode to this, we get to see a type of format-based relationship that is common to Giallo cinema; an equal push-and-pull with both the story and the auditory/visual cues. Last Night in Soho liberally uses films such as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage as inspiration to conjure a blend of cathartic mystery, alongside a fully fleshed out story.
The film’s rapid success is also owed to the immense performances by Mckenzie, Taylor-Joy, and Smith. McKenzie is a powerhouse who manages to build a character so vulnerable and feeble that gradually becomes ferocious in her motivations, whilst Taylor- Joy perfectly achieves a lost tormented soul whose troubles have made her both fragile and strong at the same time. One of the most surprising character developments takes place in Jack. Jack takes his form as the ‘teddyboy’ manager who could have easily been written as a typical sleaze whose creepiness is just a regurgitated version of every other predatory character that’s already out there. Alternatively, Wright and Wilson-Cairns elaborate and create a brutally narcissistic character who truly reeks of pure evil.
Last Night in Soho is rich and disturbing, with a designated aim for making the viewer a pawn in a horrific tale of mistrust, vulnerability, and corruption.
This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.
An insight in to this years selection of Supernatural short films, showing at this years festival 25th September 2021.
Bee-El (Directed by CJ Vecchio)
The film follows Sabrina (Cate Rio), an ‘innocent young girl’ who befriends a malicious entity that inhabits her closet, bringing out a whole new evil side to Sabrina. Bee-El confronts our expectations through twisting the story to create an exciting tale brimming with sheer terror and exceptional scares.
Mimicry (Directed by Natalie Parker)
Mimicry is an intensely affective film that mirrors societal pressures of psychical appearances, and how one’s personal worth is continuously scrutinized by misleading perceptions. We follow Alice (Isabella Percival), an ex-pageant star who is attempting to navigate the world without tiaras. Joining Alice on this horrific journey is Izzi (Sonora Hills), who has her own personal demons eating away at her. Their joining fears over judgement soon escalate and together they must survive a terrifying night of self discovery.
Foresight (Directed by David Yorke)
Foresight is one of the most impressive one minute films you will ever see. Tessa (Rachel Lin), is cleaning out her dead grandmother’s house, ridding the years of collected clutter, however her mundane day rapidly takes a turn for the absolute worst as she discovers a cryptic wooden box holding a mysterious item that will change the course of her life forever. Foresight is a quick and witty take on sudden realisations and the horror that comes with the unknown.
2:15 (Directed by Matteo Valentini)
2:15 is a complete whirlwind, the viewer does not even catch a break for a second in this quick paced, exhilarating film following a woman who is running away from a horrific monster only to find that the real beast lies much closer to home than she thought. Matteo Valentini delivers a perplexing feat of realism through the eyes of a dreamlike world. The nightmarish 2:15 is as disturbingly horrid as it is entertaining due to the revelation of real life horrors and how unearthed trauma will eventually catch up to you.
Attached (Directed by Emre Yapici)
Attached centres on Mert (Ercan Orta), who has a history of disregarding his relationships without ever taking the blame. Passing on the consequences has worked for a while, but unbeknownst to Mert, his previous fling lies heavier than he thought. Attached is not only a visual triumph, with the gleaming camerawork showcasing Emre Yapici’s visions, but the films ‘big reveal’ is narratively blood-curdling.
Burn the Bitch (Directed by Kieran O’ Toole)
Burn the Bitch is a fantastical powerhouse that doesn’t come to play gently. We follow Rob (Joshua Diffley), who is dragged completely out of his comfort zone as he is brought to a concert. However, his unfamiliarity is soon eased as he meets his dream girl, Daria (Carlotta Morelli), a mysterious, new Italian woman. Despite their differences they strike up a caring romance, yet nothing is ever as it seems. Burn The Bitch is a visually mesmerising romantic comedy that is a clear ode to masters of the genre including those associated with Giallo cinema, such as Mario Bava and Dario Argento.
Awake in the Dream (Directed by Miles Carter)
Awake in the Dream aims to alert our senses through a deeply igniting tale of grief and haunting visions. We follow a man learning to live without his girlfriend who had an untimely death. But his journey through grief is plagued by unusual sounds and terrifying illusions of what he’s so desperate to repress. The film is alluring through its stunning cinematography and solid acting, all the whilst still following a dark and daunting tale of loss and consequences.
Sedalia (Directed by Brandon L. Pennick)
Sedalia follows Helen (Lisa Crosthwait), a newly retired costume designer who moves into a quaint farmhouse in the sleepy countryside. Country life proves to be idyllic at first, that is until a series of paranormal occurrences prompts her to investigate the home’s history and discovers a gruelling secret. Sedalia has a natural charm as the beautiful yet haunting landscape rings true to classic folk horror, but rather than rely on tropes, Brandon Pennick creates a totally unique film rife with disturbing twists and turns.
An insight in to this years selection of dystopian short films, showing at this years festival 25th September 2021.
Let’s All Go to the Lobby! (Directed by Nolan Barth)
Nolan Barth’s Let’s All Go to the Lobby is a freaky, bizarre, and imaginative short horror that follows Alex (Kelley Pereira), a theater employee, and her childhood best friend who must battle against the cinema snack counter that has come to life after a cursed film is unearthed. The reanimated popcorn, candy, and sodas are a clear ode to the crazy creatures you’d see in classic B-movies, with their toothy bloody grins, and contorted limbs coming straight out of Braindead (1992), Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978), and Evil Dead 2 (1987). Teaming up with the stellar practical effects is the brazen balance that Barth has managed to juggle, at one point you’ll be laughing out loud and the next shrieking from the gnarly terror that takes no prisoners.
The House That Bleeds (Directed by Ben Ellis-Nicholson)
The House That Bleeds is an unexpected frightful affair that goes above and beyond the definition of creative through its innovative character and set design. When an expecting couple is left a house in a will they take this ideal opportunity to start the next chapter of their lives together. The house is a bit rundown, but nothing that a bit of paint won’t fix, little do they know that beyond the walls lies a dark, sinister secret ready to wreck bloody havoc. The story alone is enough to have audiences queuing to see it, however the true beauty of this gem is that creator Ben Ellis-Nicholson used puppets in favour of actors, creating a visual overload that still scares despite the Muppet-esque quality.
The Apparition (Directed by Trevor Hagen)
Carly (Samantha Bowes), must overcome her personal demons as she fights through her grief to conquer an evil tall entity that has been stalking her every move. Throughout the film the daunting atmosphere infiltrates every shot, with a menacing sense of dread being the focus of the horror. Trevor Hagen flaunts his obvious flair for creating a haunting tone through immersing the viewer so far into the film that the terror is inescapable. Although a clear backstory is given, much of Carly’s past is told in non-descript flashbacks, allowing the emotions to speak for themselves. The Apparition prides itself in creating an unsettling environment that disconcerts and rattles its viewer.
Psychophonic (Directed by Aline Romero)
One night during a full moon, a dainty cat walks atop a roof when it hears music coming from below. The curiosity bites and it enters the spooky home, only to be trapped. Whilst attempting to escape, the cat discovers a strange secret that the mysterious gramophone holds. Across Psychophonic a peculiar world is built, encapsulated by crooked interiors, and a dark colour palette. Furthering the whole unfamiliarity is the stop motion animation method that director Aline Romero utilises, exaggerating the quirky-horror vibe that is reminiscent of works such as Coraline (2009) and The Wolf House (2018).
The Hangman (Directed by Edoardo Magliarella)
The Hangman fixates on exactly what makes a short horror effective; potent timing, quick pacing, and a memorable ending that leaves you wanting more. Edoardo Magliarella delivers an aptly short that explores the terrors that await when you are home all alone. We focus on a student who is working late one night. After a short break a mysterious piece of paper headed with “Let’s play” appears on the table. Magliarella works by not showing every malevolent deed, instead the horror is evoked by making the evil force unseeable, ensuring that we are unaware of what the threat is going to do next…
Old Friend (Directed by Joseph Schlapsi)
Old Friend follows Ellie (Reilly Nelson) and Thomas (Joseph Schlapsi), whose relationship is tested when an old friend of Thomas’s calls asking for company. Ellie insists that she trusts him, however it’s not long until she begins wondering where he is, leading her to suspect that not everything is quite as it seems. Old Friend is purposefully misleading and convoluted, leading us to think that one thing is happening when in fact much more sinister events are bubbling under the surface. This prolonged buildup of tension is even further escalated by the lingering score and close up cinematography.
The Monster (Under the Bed) (Directed by Sammie Jo-Cunnane)
Sometimes the best horror films that really get under your skin come from the simplest ideas, take for example The Monster (Under the Bed). The film follows Luna (Alison Nicholls), a young girl who’s bedtime story reveals a harrowing secret and the horrid nightmare that derives from abuse. Although The Monster tackles an archetypal story from the forefront, underneath lies a deeply sensitive story that is not dulled down and retreated from the main narrative. Alternatively, the troubles that Luna suffers with become the face of the film, prompting the question as to who is the real monster.