Top ten must-see slasher movies from the 1980s

1- Halloween II (Directed by Rick Rosenthal, 1981)

Halloween II: 8 Unpopular Opinions About The 1981 Film, According To Reddit

On All Hallows Eve babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has to fend off Michael Myers, a masked crazed killer. Since the events, Laurie has been taken to hospital to recover from the dreaded attack, but Myers refuses to go down without his revenge.  

Time and time again it has been stated that John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) was the kick-starter for the beloved slasher subgenre. Carpenter’s spooky fright fest turned heads across the world of horror, cementing a change from the normalised ghost or sci-fi story and creating the premise of the ‘slasher icon’. Michael may have made his first appearance in the late 1970s, however Halloween II is just as unforgettable, legendary, and necessarily terrifying as the one that started it all. With Rick Rosenthal in the director’s chair and Carpenter as writer, Halloween II is a rip-roaring jubilee of thrills, both featuring some truly epic kills, including the striking death by scalding scene, and the introduction of what would end up being the Halloween franchises defining story arc- Michael Myers was Laurie Strode’s brother this whole time!

 2- Friday the 13th (Directed by Sean S. Cunningham, 1980) 

NECA Reveals Young Jason Voorhees Figure For 35th Anniversary

Camp Crystal Lake has long been plagued by the wrongful death of a young boy, Jason Voorhees. Years have passed since the incident and the camp is set to reopen for the summer, however, when the counsellors show up to prep the site, they begin dropping off one by one.

Friday the 13th is entirely synonymous with the early days of the slasher era. The template founded within this film pushed horror into a bloody, camp, and above all an entertaining spectrum rife with scandalous teens being punished for their misdeeds in the most gnarliest of fashions. The entire premise of Friday the 13th thrives in a careful balance of exploitation and humour, both pleasing avid gore hounds and average movie-goers thirsty for something out of their comfort zone. Over the years, what started out as a profit seeker from Wes Craven’s OG collaborator Sean S. Cunningham has now become a multi-dimensional cinematic universe, with countless sequels, merchandise galore, and even a very successful video game. Whilst some of the franchise’s later ventures (particularly Part III [1982] and Final Chapter [1984]) go above and beyond in fleshing out Jason’s legacy, this iconic series would be nothing without this timeless original.

 3- Sleepaway Camp (Directed by Robert Hiltzik, 1983) 

How many Sleepaway Camp movies are there? | It's A Stampede!

Camp Arawak is a safe haven for parents to send their kids off to for the summer season, however, not much joy is to be found as a mysterious killer begins to slay their way through the camp.

Thanks to Friday the 13th, summer campgrounds became a chief factor for eighties slashers, in fact it’s difficult to narrow down all of the great campsite horrors from the decade, with The Burning (1981) and Madman (1982) being strong classics within the genre, but Sleepaway Camp continuously rises to the top. The performances are certainly off-kilter thanks to the dramatic yet purposefully hilarious character of Sleepaway Camp’s archetypal mean-girl Judy (Karen Fields), whose bratty brashness has been the blueprint for many on-screen rascals to come. Joining the string of amusements is the film’s burning secret that is the reasoning behind Sleepaway Camp’s successful reputation that remains upheld to this day, nearly forty years later. The ending comes as a total shock, straight out of the blue, in fact the director’s twist reveal has been continuously compared to the classic Hitchcockian shocker that features in the one and only Psycho (1960).

4- The Slumber Party Massacre (Directed by Amy Holden Jones, 1982)

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) | 31 Days of Horror: Oct 22 | RetroZap

An unsuspecting slumber party turns deadly when a recently escaped serial killer goes on the run with his power drill.

Verging on the cusp of satire, but still rooted within genuine horror is Amy Holden Jones The Slumber Party Massacre. Writer, Rita Mae Brown originally conceived the film as a spoof, mimicking the influx of low budget splatter’s that quintessentially took over the 1980s home video market. During production the tongue-n-cheek writing evolved into something more concerned with profitability, essentially becoming another run of the mill thriller equipped with plenty of nudity and brutal gore. However, allowing the film to stand out amongst the rest is Mae Brown’s and Holden Jones obvious authenticity devout to creating elaborate characters that are more than just meat for the phallocentric drill-wielding maniac stalking the teens. 

 5- April Fool’s Day (Directed by Fred Walton, 1986) 

April Fool's Day – Fred Walton's Proto-Scream – We Minored in Film

A group of college students take a trip to a friend’s isolated island manor. Little do they know someone is on a deadly mission to wreak havoc on the gang.

 Over the years a barrage of holiday themed horrors has taken the stage, with the best of the bunch being Black Christmas (1974), My Bloody Valentine (1981), and finally April Fool’s Day. Stylishly executed and brimming with that 80s Charm, Fred Walton delivers one of his most innovative and unexpected pieces of works that stands right up there with his other hits including When A Stranger Calls (1979). Rather intentionally April Fool’s Day, like a prank experienced on the 1st, constantly toys with the audience’s assumptions, making sure to pack a hefty punch when the film’s marvellously unforgettable ending is revealed. 

 6- A Nightmare on Elm Street (Directed by Wes Craven, 1984)

All 9 A Nightmare on Elm Street Movies, Ranked from Worst to Best - Paste

Years after a vengeful death, Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund) begins to haunt the residents of Springwood in their dreams. 

 Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kruger have become somewhat of the unholy trinity of slasher villains. Each pack member harbours a frightful exterior, murderous habits, and most importantly a vicious taste for blood. However, no one else has a nasty personality like the one and only Fred Krueger. A Nightmare on Elm Street is literally your worst nightmare; the premise of a serial killer hellbent on killing you in your most vulnerable state is terrifying, especially when this blurring between dreams and reality is combined with the brutal deaths that Freddy enacts on each one of his victims. Aiding the film to remain in the spotlight is the incredibly effective practical effects, such as the iconic bed of death scene where a baby-faced Johnny Depp is sucked into a mattress that gushes out gallons of blood.

7- Prom Night (Directed by Paul Lynch 1980)

Prom Night (1980) - Projected Figures

During a high school prom an unidentifiable killer hunts down a group of teens who were responsible for an accidental death years prior. 

Like a typical sleeper hit, Prom Night did not receive glowing reviews upon its release from nearly every major critic and media outlet, but it was Canada’s highest grossing film of the year. Overtime Prom Night’s reputation has soared, with Paul Lynch’s slasher epic now being considered a bonafide cult classic. Amongst the early stages of the film a more generic approach to the setting and timing was in plan, but the script was imminently changed to focus around a universal event to attract more audiences, thus resulting in the now iconic school dance setting. With the unique setting, immersive soundtrack, and detailed narrative comes a factor that can be rare in slashers, fully fleshed out characters. Jamie Lee Curtis will always hold the crown of being one of horror’s most glorified Scream Queens, and whilst Halloween is primarily responsible, Curtis’s performances of a distressed but fearless final girl/prom queen accelerates the film into a whole other level of legendary.

8- Pieces (Directed by Juan Piquer Simón, 1982)

PIECES (1982) • Frame Rated

The students from a college campus are being killed off by a mysterious killer whose aim is to create a human jigsaw using the body parts as puzzle pieces. 

Upon its initial release Pieces was met with rather a lot of contention. Of course, the notion of an unhinged serial murderer stalking and violently killing people in order to compose a sick puzzle is certainly disturbing when composed as such, however, as any slasher fan knows, it always sounds worse than it is. Pieces may not have been on the most serious section leading to prosecution on the video nasties list, but the film was still seized and subsequently confiscated in the UK. With its historical reputation, Pieces may seem like another dose of schlock, yet Juan Piquer Simón  masterfully crafts a giallo-slasher hybrid rich with dramatic stylisation, a cathartic ending, and such a high level of absurdity that slightly infuses the film with an air of deadpan humour. 

9- The House on Sorority Row (Directed by Mark Rosman, 1982) 

The House on Sorority Row (1983) Review |BasementRejects

A seemingly harmless prank thrown by a group of sorority sisters leads to deadly consequences. 

Sororities and frats have garnered quite the reputation in horror movies over the years, with films such as Sorority Row (2009), Sorority House Massacre (1986), Pledge (2018), and The Initiation (1984) all tackling the inner dynamics that naturally occur within sorority environments. In line with this notion, The House on Sorority Row relies upon a whodunit basis to build up dread and tension, forcing the viewer to be unsure of everyone’s actions, making the film a fright to remember. At the time, when slashers were released to the public it was not uncommon for the masses to view them as degrading or unimportant to cinema as a whole, however Mark Rosman’s juggling of heavy gore and suspenseful kills made the film hit the top spot with audiences and critics alike.

10- The Mutilator (Directed by Buddy Cooper & John S. Douglass, 1984) 

The Mutilator (1984) Review |BasementRejects

A grief stricken man goes on a campaign of vengeance at a beachfront condo. 

On the outskirts, The Mutilator may seem like an ordinary slasher, filled with middle-of-the-road theatrics, unrealistic gore, and frivolous chase scenes. Whilst, The Mutilator does revel in the typical formula of stalk and kill antics, Buddy Cooper and John S. Douglass have created a memorable and more than efficient slasher that manages to be lighthearted and ghastly at the same time. The college coeds featured in the film are considerably developed, with their presence acting as a major contributing factor to the story, rather than just acting as slasher bait. Alongside this is The Mutilator’s brutally violent effect’s that still put up a tough fight against today’s SFX.

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Cyber Horror – 6 must see films

1- Spree (Directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko, 2020)

@kurtsworld96 (Joe Kerry), a fame-hungry blogger is over the exhausted trends on social media, from unboxing hauls, reviews, day in the life tags, and tutorials- Kurt has tried them all, but to no avail, his shot at internet fame falls flat. However, he concocts a fatal plan using a Livestream to finally go viral. 

Cinema, particularly horror thrives in commentary upon the current cultural climate. Since the rise of social media, content creators and influencers have become the ultimate career goal for many. Kurt’s raveling attempts at pushing the limits are both sad and oddly comedic, to put it simply his actions are nothing short of psychopathic. And this innocence regarding Kurt’s lack of right and wrong unwillingly places the viewer in a sympathetic position. Kurt’s twisted motions begin with what he calls ‘The Lesson’; using his new job as a rideshare driver for the fictional Uber-Esque company ‘Spree’, he lures unknowing riders into his car just to kill them off in front of his live audience.

Over the course of The Lesson, things do not go to plan, in fact, what was already a maniacal descent into madness becomes a complete unravelment of Kurt’s psyche with deadly consequences for everyone. The intrinsic quality that adheres to the life of an influencer is rich with commentary surrounding people losing touch with reality, becoming a greedy shadow of a person. Whilst Spree takes no time in forcing the ruthlessness of social media down the viewer’s throat, what actually makes Spree more than a cheap trick is the bizarre and wacky world presented through the eye of live streams, vlogs, reel-style videos, and candid footage. The online take is a familiar view for audiences, hitting close to our sense of reality, or more aptly- the loss of of it. 

2- Cam (Directed by Daniel Goldhaber, 2018)

Cam girl Alice (Madeline Brewer) has been rising up on the charts of FreeGirlsLive, soon to become the number 1 actress on the site. However, her imminent success is jeopardized when a look-alike steals her account, locking her out of it forever. In a race against time, Alice must track down her doppelganger before it’s too late. 

Director Daniel Goldhaber is joined by screenwriter Isa Mazzei to create a wild film tackling stereotypes and taboos not typically openly explored within mainstream cinema. Whilst Mazzei was previously working as a cam girl her videos became pirated and reposted across various sites with no credit given to her. When she approached the police with the plagiarism she was brushed off and laughed at. Cam focuses on the judgment experienced by sex workers through Alice’s family finding out about her career, as well as the site itself and legal representatives not taking her issues seriously. Amidst the societal critique is Cam’s bold colour palette consisting of lavish pinks and blues, creating a lush environment suited to Alice’s work. However, although Alice has thousands of devoted  fans, she is really just alone. Whilst her fabulous studio is filled with life, her reality paints an isolated picture, placing her in a desolate dream-like landscape that reflects her inner turmoil. Cam illustrates how a bustling online life is a guise hiding a mirage of flaws. 

3- Unsane (Directed by Steven Soderbergh, 2018) 

Still reeling from a stalking indicent, Sawyer (Claire Foy) attends a therapy session to vent her frustrations. However, she unknowingly signs a form committing her to a 24-hour stay at a behavioural centre. Now lost and abandoned, she must fight her way out of the psychiatric hospital before she meets a terrible fate. 

Found footage, desktop horror, and cyber cinema has a weighty relationship with the low-budget indie market, hence when Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh announced that he would be directing a feature film solely filmed on an iPhone many were surprised. Soderbergh has previously used visual dynamics to portray a story, in the case of Unsane the unusual phone ratio of 1.56:1 not only distorts the viewers perception of media’s normal screen, the frame additionally traps Sawyer in small box, akin to her emotive state by being held captive under her will. The gaze from the phone acts like a fly on the wall in the hospital, cementing our place in the unit alongside Sawyer, going through the same traumatic experiences. Besides the filming semantics, Unsane flourishes in the riveting performances from Joshua Leonard portraying a sinister orderly, Jay Pharoah playing one of Sawyer’s only companions, and lastly Claire Foy herself. Foy perfectly melds together a level of sincerity with subtle hints of hysteria to make her history with the stalker seem questionable. And it’s not until the very end when the shocking truth about the entire situation comes to light. 

4- Kairo (Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2011) 

A sudden suicide leaves a group of young adults in Tokyo witnessing strange apparations that become easily transferred online. 

Kairo forms a convoluted story rife with terrifying images, intense highs, and fleshed out characters to dissect the early 2000s fear about the rise of the internet. Told across two fairly unconnected stories, Kiyoshi Kurosawa slowly fills the setting with utter dread where every scene (no matter how mundane) has an eerie tone, eventually leading to a traumatic conclusion. The film places the computer in a villainous position, haunting whoever uses it through creating a dull pit inside of them that allows nothing but loneliness and depression to set in. At the time of the film’s release a mild moral panic was spiralling thanks to the internet booming, especially amongst the younger generations. This new and scary machine was fabricated to be a portal to morbid material, whereas the most scandalous aspect of the whole situation was society’s reaction not the world wide web itself. Kurosawa forgoes gore and disregards bloody horror iconography in favour of developing a unique story commenting upon the rise and fear of the ‘unknown’. 

5- Searching (Directed by Aneesh Chaganty, 2018) 

Widowed father David Kim (John Cho) turns to deperate measures to find his missing teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La). 

Set entirely across a desktop is Searching, one of 2018’s most profitable films. The structure alone is to be admired, with Aneesh Chagnanty’s directorial eye taking on the shape of a laptop lense, showing David’s investigate efforts through Skype calls, iMessaging, and countless scenes of sifting through his daughters personal photos and chats to get to the bottom of her disappearance. Although his actions are innocent and solely done to the benefit of the case, a slight emotional shift is placed upon the viewer. Along with David, we are snooping through Margot’s inner life, acting as a voyeur. And whilst Searching uses the guise of safety to soften the suspicious gaze, the film gruellingly comments upon social media’s natural privacy infringement. With the boom in sharing every aspect of your life online, barely anything is sacred or left to the imagination. 

6- Like Me (Directed by Robert Mockler, 2017) 

Kiya (Addison Timlin), an aimless loner turns to streaming violent escapades that make her go viral. 

Like Me follows the blueprint for chaotic, frenzied, surreal nightmares similar to the likes of the South African gem Fried Barry (2020). The film immediately sets the bar high, ramming a kaledsocpic of colours into every scene accompanied by dominating characters and electric settings and not once does this madness stop throughout the rest of the film. Whilst Like Me does not define itself as entirely desktop or found footage based, the premise of Kiya feeling almost an intrinsic itch to upload her endeavours online is key for both the narratives progression and the film’s overall aesthetic.

Kiya’s initial attempt at making a viral hit comes from filming herself robbing a food mart, to then progressing her antics as she ties up a hotel manager (played by indie legend Larry Fessenden) to stream the brutal sadomasochism acts between the two. Before Kiya and the audience know it, gaining these online views and a wealth of followers twists Kiya’s mind into a sick breeding ground of obsession and utter mania. In what could easily be a colourful mess, Like Me transforms the barriers between self and screen; Kiya’s lack of human interaction is compensated by the deranged online world she finds herself in. 

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Retrospective – Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

felt like doing this, here's the posters of each Friday The 13th movie, in  release order obviously. : r/fridaythe13th

Chris (Dana Kimmell) brings along her boyfriend Rick (Paul Kratka) and a group of their friends to Chris’ lake house at Crystal Lake for a boozy weekend. Little do they know Jason Voorhees lingers, waiting to attack.

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“Ki ki ki, ma ma ma”… Whenever this death siren plays, a machete wielding iron man appears into frame, donning blood stained clothing and that oh so iconic hockey mask… Jason is here. 

It’s these intrinsic qualities that have meshed itself into horror history, ensuring legendary status for decades to come. But, not all of these Friday the 13th staples were introduced in the 1980 slasher that started it all, instead it was in the series most underrated film, Friday the 13th Part III where Jason’s iconic status kicked off. 

Friday the 13th Part III – [FILMGRAB]

Friday the 13th Part III (1982) directed by Steve Miner is the entry that changed the entire game for both the franchise and the genre in general. The setup for Part III takes place directly after the sequel, where Ginny Field (Amy Steel) managed to fight off Jason with his own weapon. However, the slasher laws obviously dictate that the killer is never dead, nicely setting up the events for the next film to follow. Miner introduces the new generation of victims through enacting a rather predictable, nevertheless effective plot following a group of teens heading on a trip to Crystal Lake. The night is rife with the standard debaucheries followed by stabbings, slashings, and gouging’s that naturally come with 1980s splatter fests, but it’s within this air of familiarity and expectedness where the film thrives. Unique takes at cat-and-mouse chase kills highlight what Part III does best, and whilst it is still a great and easy popcorn movie, Miner divulges into heavier themes such as arising trauma. 

Friday the 13th Part III (1982) - IMDb

At one point Part III’s final girl Chris, discusses the reason why she previously left Crystal Lake–A deformed man attacked her, hinting at a possible assault. After all this time she’s plucked up the courage to return to the dreaded grounds that left her shaken in hopes of facing her fears. The necessity of the plot point is irrelevant, what truly matters is that Chris is one of the first final girls akin to other survivors such as Jess Bradford (Black Christmas, 1974) who are fully fleshed out, willing to survive through critical thinking, and most importantly Chris challenges the archetype of the ‘survivor’, shaping the final girl character that we all know and love today.

Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

The fruitful execution of Chris embodying the opposite of a montonous recycled scream queen is brazen, leaving her counterparts to come across as even more braindead and fun to see fall. The rest of the group are just meat for Jason to devour, and whilst their annoying tone could have been a fatal mistake it only works to the films benefit. Jason is ruthless, vile, and downright savage, definitely not a happy camper. Some of the franchise’s best kills reside in Part III, especially with the oh so icky pitchfork through the jugular kill, or the old’ spear through the eye. It doesn’t get better than that! 

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Jason has remained one of horror’s most prolific serial killers, as well as being extremely culturally referenced and recognised all thanks to the iconic mask. Masks are inherently rooted within depictions of cinematic psychopathy, shielding emotions, and denoting the killer to be anonymous, creating a god-like power to be feared. Originally, there were plans for Jason to wear a mask, but there wasn’t any particular cover chosen yet, nor was it particularly important to the story. Jason’s mask came about as an accident as the film’s makeup artist Doug White and his crew didn’t want to apply the laborious makeup to Jason just for a light check. Luckily enough a crew member brought in their hockey gear, and they were able to borrow the face shield. From that day forward movie history was made. 

Friday the 13th III

Watching such an immensely entertaining film emits a vibe, one that is perfect in a cinema, meant to be watched in a crowd to here the boos, experience the howling’s when Jason finally brings the machete down to his victim, and to feel the jolt when he jumps out from a dark corner. Part III’s box office smashing figures was due to the epic extravaganza that Miner captures, and the use of 3D technology that soared the gore to the next level. Every possible image that would benefit from being 3D was used, with every whack and weapon thrown being a complete immersive stab at the audience.

Friday the 13th Part III' Turns 35! - HorrorGeekLife

Another element of surprise for Part III lies within the first drafts of the script. Ginny was supposed to reprise her role as Jason’s arch nemesis, continuing the franchise with her being the Laurie Strode within Jason’s path. However, Ginny’s riddance moulded this replaceable element towards the characters in Part III. Each film in the franchise is individualistic, with the only consistent factor across the continuing nine films being Jason, and this is all linked back to Part III’s encouragement of going off in a new direction. Many slasher films ended up following in these footsteps, keeping the excitement alive, and commemorating the villain over the protagonist every single time.

The Horror Digest: Friday the 13th Part III: You Stink

Throughout the film there is a constant riveting energy that only adds a punchy injection to the overall camp demeanour and excess of exaggerated kills. It may be 40 years since its release, but Part III is still an exhilarating trip into the slashing world of Jason Voorhees.

We’ll be screening Part 3 in 3D this May, more details here.

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Twenty years on: 28 Days Later

*Zombies by movie law have to be risen from the grave, thus becoming undead. Although the creatures in 28 Days Later are infected beings, the film relies heavily on the condition of a zombie*

Jim (Cillian Murphy), a bicycle courier, awakens from a coma tied up with a plethora of breathing tubes and ‘fandangled’ wires. The normal hustle and bustle of the hospital is lacking, leading Jim and the audience to fear the worst, especially when the daunting corridors are plagued with an eerie silence. Jim steps outside for the first time in a while, however all he can find are streets littered with the remnants of mass panic. Soon, Jim puts two and two together as a flock of flesh-hungry savages attack him, confirming his fears… 

Zombies have enriched horror for decades now. Their presentation has shape-shifted over the years, from the voodoo claimed zombies in White Zombie (1932), to the slow brain-hungry undead in Night of the Living Dead (1968). Danny Boyle’s rapid and vengeful take on the beast not only reminded us about the world’s looming threats, the film was also responsible for creating cinema’s most terrifying creature yet. 

No one is immune to the world’s current climate, even if you resort to avoidance tactics you will hear about the latest threat to society, whether it’s war, famine, poverty, or general hardships. The saving grace with the news is that once you close the front door and are in your place of comfort you can shut off and reside in a fabled solace where the deprivation is far away from home. When it comes to disease and infection there is no backlog of reassurance to fade into, the emerging menace will get you.

During the late 1990s in the UK, there was an influx of panic regarding Mad Cows Disease, followed by the Foot-and-Mouth outbreak in the early 2000s, which is when 28 Days Later took form. When you couple these outbreaks with the terrible events during this time frame, the result is millions of people with the fear of unstoppable tragedy lingering over their heads like a guillotine. Whilst socio-political timings waddle in the doom and gloom, their timing is intrinsic as to why 28 Days Later is utter nightmare fuel. Amongst film theory it is expressed that people are naturally curious and are driven to see their fears come to life, perhaps 28 Days Later is an exact manifestation of everyone’s darkest anxieties, allowing the film to become legendarily scary in more than one way. 

The film dwells on the end of civilization to conjure its narrative. Without the facade of humanity, the infected would not be as present. The above findings are symptomatic of why 28 Days Later brought in millions worth of profit within its first week, but the reason why the film still holds up to this day is its multidimensional depth. Zombies by nature are effectively abject. Their skin rots, their eyes glow red, their teeth are stained with blood, and their hunger is driven by pure ruthlessness. To put it simply, they scare the living daylights out of people. To top of this recipe for terror, Boyle insisted that the zombies must be super fast sprinters. 

Adding to the brutal speediness are the film’s outbursts of erratic editing and quick-cut pacing that accelerates the action and has the viewer’s eyes darting across the screen, attempting to make sense of the zippy frames. The frenzied angles marry the ferocity of the zombies’ stamina, making for a heart-thumping ride that doesn’t let the audience catch a break. 

Although 28 Days Later has an intertextual relationship with feverish energy, Boyle, along with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, presents an intimate dynamic throughout the film. Considering that most frames are void of ‘living’ life and that the central characters are only a small group, the film is full of human connection. Joining Jim on his journey is the no-holding back heroine Selena (Naomie Harris), cab driver Frank (Brendan Gleeson), and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns). Together the group forms an unlikely team that is essential to each other’s arcs. In between the moments when they have to fight off the infected, there is a stillness amongst them, almost as if they are silently and unknowingly relishing in one another’s warmth as humans before they all eventually succumb to the harsh reality surrounding them. One particular scene that thrives in this notion occurs after the motley crew has stopped on the side of the motorway in a lush green field barren of infection. Instead of hearing screams and seeing skeletal remains, the frame is brimming with nature and cool breezes. In creating this harmony, a sense of innate humanity is restored as if they’ve traveled back to simpler times before havoc was evoked. 

Of course, with 28 Days Later being a blood fueled nightmare, the peace isn’t kept for long. However, it is these brief moments of placidly amongst the madness that force us to form a connection with the characters, therefore making any demise heartbreaking and any shock truly traumatising. Aligning the film’s emotive roots is the setting. Anyone who has heard of 28 Days Later has seen that infamous image of Jim standing on Westminster Bridge with the towering Big Ben in the background. The empty London scenes were filmed 45 minutes at a time before sunrise on a Sunday for optimal bareness. The abandoned city acts as a subliminal message, a warning that the idle landscape is a hint that being completely alone in a normally thriving land means that Jim, and that You are hopeless and will definitely not make it out alive. 

The setting early on in the film is lit in a faint auburn-red light, reminiscent of dried blood, implicating the remains of the infection in the zombie populated city. As time moves on and Jim meets Selena the palette gradually becomes awash with clinical tones including a seasick green tinge and scrub blues, almost visually meshing this idea that illness is everywhere, slowly creeping up on them even in ‘safe zones’. It is this level of involvement and immersion that elevates 28 Days Later into a grade where a clear dedication has gone into the production, cementing the viewer’s attention and willingness to interact with the film. 

28 Days Later (2003) Directed by Danny Boyle Shown: Cillian Murphy

In a similar vein, the film’s built-in visceral quality aims to consistently amp up the tension throughout, whether it’s the raged beasts or societies’ leftover few, Boyle embodies a ruthless philosophy that encapsulates a dramatic mood. Over the years 28 Days Later has blossomed to be one of horror’s most habitually known films, as well as a box office and critical success. In 2007 a sequel was spawned, wittingly titled 28 Weeks Later directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, and starring Imogen Poots, Idris Elba, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, and Robert Carlyle. Whilst the film was a financial success and received fairly positive reviews, it didn’t have that certain ‘classic’ essence that thrived in its predecessor. 

Twenty years on, many zombie-based horrors have come and gone, some bad and some extremely efficient. Yet, Boyle’s unique portrayal of alerting deep anxiety amongst the viewer still remains overtly iconic and far from forgotten. From a retrospective view, the subcontext has only become more present and yearning for attention, ensuring that 28 Days Later will leave its mark for decades to come. 

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Review- X (2022) – Ti West

Wayne (Martin Henderson) is a hopeful producer who casts his younger girlfriend Maxine (Mia Goth), and fellow actress Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) to star alongside former marine Jackson (Scott Mescudi) in Wayne’s upcoming “dirty movie”, The Farmer’s Daughter. Joining them is director RJ (Owen Campbell) and his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega). The group head to a rural farm in Texas owned by the elderly couple Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (Mia Goth), who are kept in the dark about what the crew is shooting. Although Howard and Pearl’s unwelcoming reception proves to be tense, events soon turn much more sinister…

Ti West’s long awaited return to the genre is a stinging melody of psychosexual dread, fleshy fearfulness and enough tension to make those with nerves of steel clench their jaws. The A24 produced film fuses together multi-dimensional acting and a flawless sound arrangement to harness a bold take on modern-retro cinema and the intertwined wiring between horror and venereal subtexts. 


X thrives on a meta-commentative spectrum where West clearly pours out his devotion to the art of filmmaking itself. There’s the external level of self-referentiality via the characters being part of a production crew, going out to make a film in hopes of taking advantage of the upcoming home video market. Accompanying the obvious and very direct nods to the audience is the group’s discussion of elevating a niche genre movie to be a product of quality and the potential that independent cinema holds. Rather than just rely on overt dialogue to marry the borders between screen and reality and how the 1970s setting advanced a creative surge for exploitation across all media is the reintroduction of split screen, wide zooms, and swiping transitional cuts. These factors are reminiscent of seventies classics such as Black Christmas (1974) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1994) and still maintain a level of rarity amongst modern cinema, making these small touches noticeable, yet vital in bringing the viewer back in time. 

The pastiche ode to a bygone culture makes the film the love letter to cinema that it is. West has long infused a certain level of passion into his films, with The House of the Devil (2009) and The Innkeepers (2011) lingering success being down to their unique portrayal of the nefarious horror that lurks amongst isolating souls and settings. Whilst the crystal clear loyalty to filmmaking is a crucial plot device, one of the more direct double-entendre strands is birthed from the film’s most ferocious element. 

Hardcore porn is treated with an air of respect in X. West adds in the quintessential argument of morals thanks to a tense conversation between the holier-than-thou Lorraine and the rest of the crew, but overall the art of erotica serves as more than a cheap trick to lure in movie-goers and appease to the cliche that horror is just gory smut. It’s not a secret that horror has a long history of being taboo. Whilst heavy genre cinema still gets its premieres and mainstream releases, expressing a passion for horror still raises a few eyebrows to this day. X amalgamates the stereotypical lowbrow elements of horror and sex to conjure an artful expression of lust for life, bloodshed, and downright grizzly violence. 

The weighty symbolism is both subliminal and full throttle mainly down to the absolutely riveting performances from every single cast member. Brittany Snow rips off that Pitch Perfect (2012) reputation to deliver a totally surprising parade, Scott Mescudi unveils his best performance yet, Jenna Ortega cemented her role as a future scream queen, Martin Henderson excels at the whole ‘everything is bigger in Texas’ vibe, Owen Campbell perfects the ‘awkward’ fish out of water role, and last but not least is Mia Goth in this career defining performance. X provides a stage to exhibit Goth’s immense talent and versatility as an actor. The entire aesthetic of Maxine is reminiscent of Linda Lovelace, another sex symbol from the decade. More significantly Maxine possesses this usually unattainable confidence that spares no prisoners and dares to be tested, fashioning a level of allure that makes the viewer both unsure and undoubtedly mesmerized by her assertiveness. 

Whilst mimicking sleazy skin flicks holds a majority share in X’s growth, the cinematography is far from amateur. The brooding shots sweeping over the rural setting, as well as the slow motion scenes flourish stunningly within the slowburn narrative that allocates time specifically for director of photography, Eliot Rockett, to flesh out an eerie atmosphere that purposefully subverts our gaze and amplifies our curiosity. One particular scene masterfully raises the tension level through a bold overhead shot of Maxine taking a dip into a seemingly vacant lake. However, amongst the stillness in the swampy frame is a scaly alligator lurking right next to the unknowing Maxine. Whilst this reveal isn’t a spoiler, it does shed light on how West continuously diverts our attention and misdirects where the presumed violence is going to come from. The segment is a straight cut lesson on how to build a potent scare with no dialogue and soap opera dramatics. 

Indeed, X has ample amounts of foreboding cinematography, bountiful performances, and unmissable set design, but one area that really rips into the visceral nature of the story is the hard hitting soundtrack. Audiences will definitely find themselves bopping along to well known tunes and the not so subtle “bow chicka wow wow” music that accompanies The Farmer’s Daughter scenes. Welding the score to the more grounded texture of X is the cover of ‘Oui Oui Marie’ by Chelsea Wolfe, whose rendition of the dainty cabaret-esque 1918 song saturates the film with a gritty, dusty tonal expression. It’s just another one of the countless ways West dovetails the film’s neo-grindhouse influences throughout every single vessel. 

X has already achieved a warm welcome from frequent horror watchers and hard to please critics. And it seems that the film’s legacy has only just reached the surface as West is already in the editing phases of ‘Pearl’, X’s prequel, which will follow Howard’s disheveled wife and how the cabin was occupied as a boarding house during the first war. As if this wasn’t already a surprise to fans, West has also revealed that he has begun writing the third film which will chronologically follow the events unfolding after X’s ending. Whilst this is pretty big news considering X was released less than weeks ago, the slasher sub-genre does adore adding a string of sequels. 

X truly is the full package! Whether it’s the narrative arcs descending into touchy allegories surrounding death, or if it’s the sheer gory pandemonium X has it all, making it not only one of West’s most impressive films to date but also an unmissable soon to be classic. 

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Top British Horror Films of All Time – Part Two

For Part One click here…..

11. Host (Directed by Rob Savage, 2020) 

During an online seance, six friends unintentionally invite the presence of a sinister demonic force into their call, leading to fatal consequences. 

Host will definitely be appearing in cinema textbooks in years to come, thanks to Rob Savage’s groundbreaking, record-shattering, and award winning horror that took the entire world of cinema and beyond by utter surprise. Co-written by Savage, Gemma Hurley, and Jed Shepherd is a modern tale of what can go wrong when you mess with the dead. Right from the bat Host’s method of execution is such a vital contributing factor to its success.

The film was entirely filmed during the pandemic using Savage’s real life friends as the cast, creating a breeding ground for genuine chemistry to appear and radiating a realistic quality that blurs the barrier between reality and fiction, giving the impression that the viewer is properly stuck in with the action. Joining the meeting of blurred lines is the Zoom-like staging, which for pretty much everyone was a massive part of 2020. With workplaces closed and gatherings cancelled during the pandemic, society had to interact on virtual platforms, like one big facetime. And although it is crucial to state that Host is not a pandemic-based film, the online telling of events is a key component in how the story unfolds, with the psychically distanced characters exaggerating the harrowing sense of isolation. 

12. Don’t Look Now (Directed by Nicolas Roeg, 1973) 

After suddenly losing their daughter Christine (Sharon Williams), Laura (Julie Christie) and John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) travel to Venice, Italy, where John is overseeing his commission to rebuild an old church. Whilst dining Laura meets two mysterious sisters (Clelia Matania & Hilary Mason) who tell Laura that they can see the deceased Christine. Despite being skeptical, John begins to see Christine wandering around the streets of Venice. 

The entirety of Don’t Look Now can be encapsulated within the opening sequence. This scene is composed of over 100 shots and lasts seven minutes. It may not seem crucial to the whole film, but the imagery of damp weather, water, the colour red, reflections, doorways, close-up of eyes, and nature echoes the true connotations of Nicolas Roeg’s observations of agony through loss. Such substantial depth is given to the characters of  Laura and John through their striking portrayals of parents suffering from the worst of tragedies.

Yet, they do not overplay their roles, avoiding any caricature claims and creating this bonded connection between the two, mingling Don’t Look Now’s ability to get under the skin of the viewer. Don’t Look Now forces us to come to terms with our own impending doom, no one is safe from the all being and all knowing presence of death. And whilst the threat in Don’t Look Now plays more on the character’s mental strength, a sense of psychical danger constantly looms, but we never know where from…

13. The Omen (Directed by Richard Donner, 1976) 

The newly-adopted Damien (Harvey Stephens) raises his parent’s (Gregory Peck & Lee Remick) suspicions when strange occurrences begin to happen at the hands of Damien’s evil ways, leading them to the disturbing truth that their adopted son might be the Antichrist. 

Supernatural horror played a large role within 1970s horror, with Richard Donner’s The Omen lining up with the likes of The Exorcist (1973). Allowing the film to remain recognisable after all these years later is the impeccable naturalness that Donner works with, even when the subject matter is woven with mysticism. Through this cosmic underlay comes a film rife with disturbing imagery that toys with societal fears of evil defeating the ‘good’. And thanks to the moralistic tone the horror is enveloped through an abundance of psychological terror and suspense.

This is mainly explored via a supposedly innocent subject, an actual child; making the viewer fearful of the most innocent of topics. Accompanying The Omen’s slow, creepy exposition is the pioneering achievements that were made in pushing horror out of its shell and into a commemorated piece of art (which was rare for the time). The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Score, which is no surprise as Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting composition combines atmospheric choir tones with Latin chants which remain chilling no matter how many times you hear the chime. 

14. Censor (Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond, 2021) 

Enid (Niamh Algar), an uptight film censor at the height of the video nasty panic, watches a film that parallels the events surrounding her missing sister’s disappearance, leading Enid on a quest to uncover the truth. 

Nothing screams British traditionalist attitudes towards horror than the video nasty scandal. The 1980s saw a rise in home video recorders, introducing an influx of mainly Italian and American exploitation films and supposedly “corrupting” the minds of the country, due to the sick filth that these films displayed. Whilst this era of film censorship has not been lost on the history of cinema, not a single film has covered and used the scandal as a tool like Prano Bailey-Bond’s incredible hit Censor. Enid’s career as a film censor is a mechanical device that aids the story very nicely, with the metaphorical message of the video nasties being ‘an invasion of the mind’, mimicking Enid’s descent into a chaotic spiral where she is unable to differentiate fact from fiction. Censor is clearly food for the mind and soul, but for good measure Bailey-Bond also visually hypnotises the viewer through the vivid colour palette that has a 1980s aesthetic without being overly flashy and electric. 

15. Dracula (Directed by Terence Fisher, 1958) 

Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) takes up a post as a librarian at Count Dracula’s (Christopher Lee) castle. After a lack of contact from Harker, vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) goes to the Count’s lair only to discover Harker has been turned into a vampire, leaving Van Helsing racing against Dracula to get to Harker’s fiancée Lucy before it’s too late. 

Hammer Horror has reigned as a booming success within cinema for decades, making a name for themselves by bringing classic monsters from literature to a technicolour screen, including Frankenstein, The Mummy, and the one and only Dracula. Legendary auteur Terence Fisher took on history’s most significant vampire, and his execution was certainly monumental in creating the creature that audiences all know and love today. Christopher Lee is open about his inspiration for this role, having not seen any previous Dracula-based films prior to filming, but he did read the original Bram Stoker novel (1897).

Lee recognised the unusual romanticised portrayal of an undead man, leading him to play his role with an air of subtle eroticness and a shade of elusiveness. What Dracula essentially did for the genre was create an extravagant boost in making the image of the vampire one of high class, a wealthy being who oozes aristocracy and freedom to do what one likes. Lee makes Dracula unstoppable in his wrath, forcing us to be both highly intrigued and fearful of this mysterious bloodsucker. 

16. The Girl with All the Gifts (Directed by Colm McCarthy, 2016)

A deadly disease has abolished free will and essentially turned those infected into zombies. Melanie (Sennia Nanua), is one of the few immune to the breakout and is confined to a research facility. After a lab breach, Melanie escapes along with her teacher (Gemma Arterton) and two soldiers on a quest to evade the infected, and potentially guide the rest of humankind’s survival. 

The Girl with All the Gifts champions a bravely talented cast composed by the likes of Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, and the girl with all the gifts herself, Sennia Nanua. The film is a literal breath of fresh air, especially considering the heavily flooded sub-genre, but Colm McCarthy’s treatment of the original source material, M. R. Carey’s book (2014) of the same name, is an enlightening prospectus that tackles human ideologies and how the mistakes society makes shouldn’t always be pardoned. Coupling up with the entangled web of consciousness is the starkly dramatic set designs and use of setting to convey a musty land that has perished due to the lack of societal efforts, almost furthering this message that people are the cause of the devastation, not necessarily the infected ‘zombies’. 

17. Saint Maud (Directed by Rose Glass, 2019)

Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a young nurse who leads a simple life based on reclusivity, routine, and devout catholicism. After an undisclosed incident at her previous job, she takes on the role of hospice carer for Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), an eccentric retired dancer riddled with terminal cancer. Maud’s religious nature transcends into obsession, leaving her to believe that she can save Amanda’s soul from damnation no matter what the cost. 

Saint Maud became one of the most talked about films in recent years, with the buzz promising an unorthodox descent into female chaos and the shattering effects of falsified devotion. The film is an intimate depiction of a carer’s unravelment into an alluring yet dangerous territory as she weaves her way in and out of consciousness to show the true extent that the psyche is willing to go through to achieve inner peace. Escorting Saint Maud’s spiritual temperament is the inherently British setting that grounds the reality of the film, allowing it to not become too whimsical and in return establishing a realistic uneasy environment that rings too close to home. The North Yorkshire coast acts as Maud’s playground where the dazzling vibrancy of the seaside arcades and packed pubs contrast against her empty and dark sense of mind. Through both the emotive tones and atmospheric setting, a world of uncertainty is grounded where we never know what to expect. 

18. Peeping Tom (Directed by Michael Powell, 1960) 

Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) is a psychopathic serial killer who takes it upon himself to film his victim’s murders. 

Peeping Tom may have a bountiful reputation as being an absolute classic, and that is very much true, however, upon the film’s release, a consensus arose that regarded Michael Powell’s work as too perverted, leading it to be pulled from some cinemas and damaging Powell’s reputation as a filmmaker. Powell’s brave notion of fixating a message between voyeurism on screen and real-life has been an inspiration for leading directors for years including the ‘Master of Suspense’, Alfred Hitchcock. Most notably Peeping Tom was an influential point in Psycho (1960) and retrospectively has a subtle impact on the origins of meta-cinema. Besides the innovative take on prying eyes, the film clearly is a visual celebration that revels in starkly lit rooms with stunning shadows that emulated the previous decade’s passion for noir cinema and mysterious figures. 

19. Ghostwatch (Directed by Lesley Manning, 1992)

A documentary camera crew is invited into Britain’s most haunted house, leading to a night of chaos and terror. 

If there’s one thing that British people love, it’s paranormal ‘reality’ television. Shows such as Most Haunted and Celebrity Ghost Stories have kept the curious entertained for years, but there’s one programme that went above and beyond and gave audiences the fright of their lives. Ghostwatch was a pseudo-reality made-for-TV special that aired on Halloween, 1992. BBC1 advertised the special as a live broadcast with the presented events being ‘real’ and the reactions being genuine. Little did the public know that the scripted show was recorded weeks before.

None of it was real, but as no one watching knew, the BBC switchboard received over 1,000,000 phone calls from concerned audiences detailing their fears over actual ghosts being presented. Considering that the respected Michael Parkinson was involved, many were furious over this hoax. Over the years Ghostwatch has acted as an inspiration point for countless television mediums including Derren Brown. More significantly, the creators behind Host (2020) have gone on to state that Ghostwatch was a point of reference for them, even going as far as to include subtle hints within the film. For example, in Host a Zoom caller ID reads 31101992, the same date as Ghostwatch’s broadcast. 

20. The Woman in Black (Directed by James Watkins, 2012)

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer working in 20th-century England. Following his wife’s death he travels to a remote village for work, however, he soon discovers that his late client’s house is terrorised by a vengeful ghost. 
Based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel of the same name is one of Britain’s most terrifying ghost stories as the emotionally bound film is a white-knuckled terror fest from start to finish. This gothic horror is a modern Hammer Horror film, with their familiar grand story elements being immediately recognisable. But rather than feel like a classic film that we’ve all seen before, James Watkins uses Daniel Radcliffe’s incredible talent to showcase a vengeance-fuelled film in a romanticised light where both style and substance equally collaborate to create a highly effective horror.

The film works on two levels, one being the familiarity of the narrative, and the other being the eerie gothic setting that is reminiscent of films such as The Haunting (1963). The almost castle-like environment surrounded by dark water and foggy skies immediately set up an environment that feels unsafe and beyond uneasy. The Woman in Black also understands its need to create something refreshing. Even though Hill’s work has been developed previously, the film throws in effective jumpscares when necessary to surprise the viewer, whilst also working on creating tension through simple atmospheric measures.

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Top British Horror Films of All Time – Part One

1. Shaun of the Dead (Directed by Edgar Wright (2004)

The lives of aimless salesman Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his do-nothing roommate Ed (Nick Frost) are turned upside down when a zombie apocalypse hits the streets of London. 

Burrowing itself as one of Britain’s most iconic films is Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, a gory zombie mashup with a classic sentiment and enough one-liners to get even stone-faced viewers a right belly laugh. The world Wright establishes from the get go is dull and monotonous, giving Shaun and Ed’s habits a paint-by-numbers feel. Even after the first zombie appearance nothing much changes, they ‘keep mum’ about the severity of the literal apocalypse. Although the humour thrives in the humdrum moments, what keeps the script fresh is the continuous trajectories that Wright throws in the mix.

The original strategy for Shaun’s zombie action plan is to go to his mum’s (Penelope Wilton), kill his snobby step-father (Bill Nighy), grab his disgruntled girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), then “go to The Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over”- if that doesn’t ring true to the good ole’ British spirit then I don’t know what does! Overtime Shaun of the Dead has done nothing but continue to defy everyone’s expectations for both British cinema and horror, with the film even featuring in the likes of Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino’s top film’s lists, and that’s not to mention the fact that the Zombie Godfather himself George A. Romero was so impressed that he gave Wright and Pegg a cameo role in Land of the Dead (2005). 

2.The Wicker Man (Directed by Robin Hardy, 1973) 

Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) lands on the grounds of Summerisle, a small Scottish island, to investigate the disappearance of a child. Howie’s puritan ways are tested after being shocked at the Islander’s worship of pagan Celtic gods and behaving in an open frivolous manner, leading Howie to suspect that something suspicious lurks around the corner. 

British folk horror has seeded its way through the roots of classic cinema with the assistance from The Unholy Trinity- Witchfinder General (1968), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), and The Wicker Man (1973) with the latter being a distinctly respected piece of British cinema. In the early 1970s, writer Anthony Shaffer read the novel Ritual (David Pinner), detailing the events of a Christian police officer investigating a supposed ritualistic murder in a small village. Shaffer and Robin Hardy decided to use the novel as a source to create a horror focused upon old religion to contrast against the flow of Hammer horrors being released; lead Christopher Lee was also keen on breaking away from his archetypal Hammer roles.

Over the production course, it was decided that the film would stay away from graphic violence and gore as a focus on visceral material was not the method they wanted to adopt as their fear provoker. Hardy wanted a slow burning sense of doom to gradually unveil itself within the viewer, bubbling up an atmosphere of complete dread where we know that something terrible is going to happen, but are unaware of the when and where’s. And that’s precisely what was achieved. The Wicker Man has an earthy quality, one whose quiet tension is sown from the first scene, brewing a disconcerting air of trepidation and awe over the alarming exposition and dark landscapes. 

3. Eden Lake (Directed by James Watkins, 2008)

School teacher Jenny (Kelly Reilly), and her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender), take a trip to a remote lake in the English countryside to spend a romantic weekend together. However, a group of delinquent teens takes their chaos a step too far, resulting in a bloody fight for survival. 

Eden Lake is a rough and gritty story that uses contemporary moral panics against a muddy backdrop to expel a level of savageness that rings back to classics such as Straw Dogs (1971) and Deliverance (1972). James Watkins works at a fast pace to immediately portray Jenny and Steve to be wholesome and soppy, far from the violent criminals they’ll be running from. Whilst the plot is being thickened we are lulled into siding with the couple. During this Watkin subtly plants in elements that foreshadow their fates. For example, instead of enjoying a chill evening in a beer garden, they are surrounded by screaming kids who are way up past their bedtime, followed by angered parents slapping the littluns. It may not be much, but from the getgo, a divide is created.

During the mid to late 2000s, every news channel and paper would have a feature on rising violence amongst adolescents, raising the alarm over the knife crime epidemic, but rather than give admittance over how these problems are created due to social and generational issues, the blame would be placed on ‘hoodies’ and grime music. Filmmakers such as Watkins employ the worries of Broken Britain to create a film that makes you feel morally conflicted and worrisome. Collaborating with the commentary is the film’s genuinely frightful nature. The woods have birthed an incredible setup for horror to thrive, with the dark trees casting haunting shadows and exuding a sense of isolation. Eden Lake tactically positions us alongside Jenny and Steve in the hardened wilderness, knowing that like them we are all alone amongst the terror. 

4. 28 Days Later (Directed by Danny Boyle, 2002) 

Cillian Murphy in “28 Days Later” (Photo by Sundance/WireImage)

A team of animal rights activists clumsily free a chimpanzee infected with the Rage virus which causes its host to go into a zombified uncontrollable rage. Four weeks later, Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes from a coma, not knowing that civilization has come to an end. Whilst hastily discovering what’s happened he runs into a group of survivors and travels with them to a supposed safe haven. 

The scene is the early 2000s, slow brooding zombies have held the spotlight for long enough, it’s time for rapid, furious, rabid zombies to rule the platform. By nature zombies are abject, their entire basis repulses, what with their drooling mouths and mangled decaying skin. When combined with the fact that the infected can climb and race, a terrifying recipe for fear is created. Danny Boyle knows how to alert our darkest anxieties, and 28 Days Later rivets and rolls to sharply hone in on that white-knuckle terror from the very first scene.

The setting avails use of the desolate grounds of the skeletal London town and dispiriting countryside as a terror provoking instrument that contrasts against the quick-paced camerawork and of course the zooming undead themselves. Adding to the intense pandemonium created in 28 Days Later is the panic-inducing score composed by John Murphy. The soundtrack continuously blasts synthesised electric drones that faintly mimic the air raid signals which would have gone off within those 28 days of the apocalypse. All of these elements, from the widescaped cinematography and booming score, to the heated performances and crazed zombies all meld together to create an unmissable showstopper. 

5. The Devils (Directed by Ken Russell, 1971) 

In 17th-century France, Father Grandier (Oliver Reed) attempts to protect the city of Loudun from the corruption-fueled establishment run by Cardinal Richelieu (Christopher Logue). 

Ken Russell was a known agitator of the BBFC, igniting feuds amongst movie-goers over the graphic content of many of his films, and The Devils really take the honours for being not only one of his most controversial films but also a conqueror in 1970s banned British cinema. A large part of the contention resides with the themes of promiscuity painted upon a religious foreground, highlighting hierarchical abuse structures within worship and Rusell’s conscious wielding of distasteful, excess debaucheries. The Devils lewd principles take centre stage and become entirely inescapable, luckily enough the horror aspects are not covered up by the excess vulgarity. Plague-infested bodies being dumped into a limb pit, self-mutilation, and maggots sliming out of skull sockets are just some of the ghastly imagery that audiences are subjected to, thrusting the film into a dark territory that drives out a panicked and tense reaction. 

6. Dog Soldiers (Directed by Neil Marshall, 2002) 

A small squad of soldiers attend a mission in the Scottish highlands against a Special Air Service unit. Morning comes and they come across the unit’s sprawled apart remains, pushing the conclusion that someone or more like something is after them. 

Neil Marshall forgoes a cosmopolitan setting and characters in favour of occupying the screen with rural land and pragmatic characters that waft an essence of realist brutalism throughout a fantastical storyline. Furthering the tough as nails exhibition is the apt lack of dramatics surrounding the werewolf’s existence. Marshall has stated that the werewolves purposefully do not have a lore background or curse-infused reasoning for their being.

The werewolves’ tall, gangly stature is enough to be absolutely nerve-wracking, especially when they bare their protruding fangs ready to sink into their prey’s unlucky flesh. The maximization of terror actually comes from an unexpected place, the humorous dialogue. Witty quips such as “We are now up against live, hostile targets. So, if Little Red Riding Hood should show up with a bazooka and a bad attitude, I expect you to chin the bitch” have the audience cracking up, but rather than linger in the comedy Marshall exploits the fact that our guard is down and uses the settled mood to throw in unexpected lashes of gore and frights, shaking the expectations of the audience. Dog Soldiers both mopped the floor with many creature features and created the blueprints for many werewolf films to come. 

7. Kill List (Directed by Ben Wheatley, 2011) 

Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley) served together in the forces, creating a strong bond. Eight months have passed since they left an unspecified disastrous assignment, leaving Jay mentally scarred, making him unable to work. After an argument between Jay and his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) over money worries he joins Gal in a contracted job to kill a list of people. 

Ben Wheatley over the years has created some true standout British horror’s including Sightseers (2012) and A Field in England (2013), and most recently In the Earth (2021). Kill List unveils Wheatley’s naturalistic filmmaking methods in a remarkably raw manner that inflames a deep level of disturbance amongst the viewer, guaranteeing a hold over them for long after watching. Joining his fervent displays of provocation are the award worthy performances from Michael Smiley, MyAnna Buring, and Neil Maskell who all bring such ferocity and realness to their characters that it’s nearly impossible to tell that they’re actors and not the actual people they are portraying.

Kill List somehow goes both full throttle and gentle within its storytelling, with the subtle elements of something darker lurking amidst the surface, whilst also pushing frenzied chaos into the frame. This perplexing balance is even more advanced by the unpredictability of Jay and Gal’s actions, pronouncing the ambiguous nature of events and the slight art-house style that Wheatley adopts. 

8. Prevenge (Directed by Alice Lowe, 2016) 

Pregnant widow Ruth (Alice Lowe) loses her partner in an unfortunate climbing accident, leaving her alone. Shortly after, she begins to hear her baby talking, convincing Ruth to exact revenge on anyone involved in his death. 

Alice Lowe’s directorial debut is an absolute shocker of a film. Prevenge is literal proof that budget constraints and the brackets of independent cinema are not blockades in creating a potent piece as Lowe hatches an audaciously somber and fruitfully macabre vision of a woman unhinged. There is not a single moment where we don’t align with Ruth. We have to listen to her and follow her every step, encouraging us to see the world through her damned perspective.

This creates an off-kilter atmosphere that fashions a normal-looking world, but with a surreal and untrustworthy ambiance, similar to British TV shows such as Green Wing and The IT Crowd. Prevenge is entirely impressive as it is, but what pushes the film’s intrinsic likeability even further into the atmosphere is the personable energy that the film emits. Lowe wrote, directed, and stars in this one-woman show, all whilst she was actually pregnant in real life. The level of dedication and the film’s success has to be owed entirely to her. 

9. The Ritual (Directed by David Bruckner, 2017) 

A tragedy strikes in a group of friends, leaving the bond disabonded. To rekindle their friendship the four of them set out on a hike through the rural Scandinavian wilderness, however, when a wrong turn ends them into ominous land, they must fight for survival. 

The Ritual remains efficient, rich, and menacing– heeding onto the complexities of trauma and the threat of expelling one’s grief inwards, rather than seeking the comfort of shared loss. Boasting The Ritual’s emotional rhythm is David Bruckner’s ability to take elements of the source material (Adam Nevill’s 2011 novel of the same name) and manifest a story that alludes to Nevill’s rural atmospheric strengths, but with a surreal edge that transcends the barriers between the mind and the psychical body.

Due to this constant escalation of illusory texturization, the viewer can never decipher what the fates of the four will be. Immediately, when an isolated forest setting is disclosed an air of the ‘other’ forebodes the script, with many recalling the likes of The Blair Witch Project (1999) or The VVitch (2015) as an archetypal framework for The Ritual to base itself around. However, Bruckner dismisses the urge to be predictable or imitate previous works, opting for unfamiliar occurrences that have you questioning whether the sinister happenings are held within the fragile group’s mind or if something very real and very evil is actually at play. 

10. Hellraiser ( Directed by Clive Barker, 1987) 

Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) opens a portal to hell after solving a puzzle box, unleashing sadomasochistic beings called Cenobites, led by their leader Pinhead (Doug Bradley) who tears Frank’s body to shreds. Frank’s brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) have a strained relationship, which led to Julia having a secret affair with Frank before his death. To rekindle their estranged relationship the pair move into Frank’s old house, where a skinless Frank is accidentally resurrected, who convinces Julia to lure men back to the house for him to drain. 

Director Clive Barker originally was a writer, having written the screenplays for Underworld (1985) and Rawhead Rex (1986), however, he was rather unhappy with the final execution of his developed work, leading him to direct the film adaptation of his novella The Hellbound Heart (1986). Immediately, Barker knew that he wanted to create a piece dosed in creative eccentricity and a horror betrothed to the atmosphere and cutting edge originality. Considering the fact that the film developed into an entire franchise, it’s assured that Barker’s goal of a successful adaptation was achieved.

Hellraiser’s moral compass is enriched with a dreamlike quality, resulting in dark sequences of death and destruction, and whilst the overall effect is beyond alluring, the primary source of the film’s seduction is due to the cruel unearthly creatures donning sharp exteriors and bondage-like clothing. The genealogy of the Cenobites has been diagnosed as ‘religious based’, with them deriving from a religious sect in the underworld known as the ‘Order of the Gash’ where their evolution has made them unable to differentiate pleasure and pain. Pinhead and his followers’ existence transport the film into a higher level of transgressiveness, allowing for the viewer to become blinded and lost within the utter absurd nature of Barker’s vision.

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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.

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Review- Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues are the talented squad behind the triumphant Evil Dead (2013) and Don’t Breathe (2016), thus when the news broke that they would be writing the latest installment in the labyrinth that is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise movie-goers were buzzed for this upcoming bloodbath. The director, David Blue Garcia was the cinematographer in the innovative meta-horror Bloodfest (2018). The trio have proven themselves to be eminently superior in their spector, so why was Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) so anticlimactic?

It has been nearly fifty years since Leatherface’s killing spree, and he is still nowhere to be found, leaving the area on edge. Entrepreneurs Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore) decide to travel to the Texas ghost town of Harlow to auction off the properties in hopes of modernising the old town. Joining them is Dante’s girlfriend Ruth (Nell Hudson), and Melody’s sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) who is reluctant to move after a traumatic incident occurred in her past. Everything is going to plan, until they find an old woman, Mrs. Mc (Alice Krige) who claims to still own one of the properties. An argument ensues and Mrs. Mc has a heart attack. Little do the group know that her now grief-stricken son is Leatherface (Mark Burnham) who vows to get revenge. 

First things first, fortunately the film is only 81 minutes long, any longer would be treacherous. Within this short frame of time, every opportunity to thrust the film into a noble territory is brushed under the carpet in favour of attempting to mold Leatherface as an anguished villain. He is shown more than once idling over his loss, longing for that sense of ‘home’ to come back. Through a melodic tone, contrasting his hideous demeanour against lamenting tones of heartache could be a harrowing analogy for how the monstrous harbours delicate emotions underneath, but no, instead they’ve opted for lazy filmmaking that genuinely had me audibly laughing out loud at any scene that aimed to be touching. 

Speaking of ruining potentials, the biggest gripe seen across the board for this film is the exploitative commentary-or lack thereof-regarding very real, and very serious subjects. We have essences of racism, school shootings, gentrification, and survivor’s guilt all being chucked in your faces within the first twenty minutes. Lila is seen with a gunshot scar in her chest and is scrolling through anti-gun posts on social media, clearly indicating a previous trauma, and even a flashback of her lying amongst her dead fellow students in the school is shown. Considering the current climate, this sort of topic shouldn’t be used as a quick quip at ‘realism’, in fact, it’s ignorant in how Lila’s rickety manner towards weapons is shaken off as soon as Leatherface appears. The time wasted on her arc could have been used a lot wiser, possibly the minutes could have been spent on making the return of the iconic Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouéré) less negligible. Accompanying the film’s main events is the subplot surrounding Sally’s reign as the local Leatherface survivor and how she’s been searching for him ever since, waiting to put an end to the evil. 

Halloween (2018) brought back Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in style to tackle The Boogeyman. After all those decades spent planning she brought her A-game and delivered one hell of a whooping. I don’t blame the producers for wanting to recreate what Halloween did, the film was a roaring success at the end of the day. It was a dream to see Strode back at it, whereas Sally Hardesty’s return is a shambles. When we first see her she’s in a disused shack gutting a pig, looking badass, let’s just say that I was thankful to see some action finally happen. However, her arrival to Harlow is so brief and lackluster that her presence within this film was not necessary at all. Sally’s inclusion was pointless, which means that surely the focus would be on the rest of the new gang, nevertheless, they weren’t important either. 

Horror films tend to write the characters just for the sake of disposing of them soon after meeting. When we go to watch a film we know that three-quarters (if not all) of the characters will eventually meet their demise. In the case of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I wasn’t rooting for anyone to survive, clinging onto the edge of my seat in case the lead died, instead I couldn’t wait for them to pass on. They were unlikeable and the performances were shallow, not necessarily due to the actor’s abilities, but because of how cringy the dialogue was and how many brainless choices were made. 

Everyone believes that they’d be the Lara Croft of horror, but in reality, death is more likely than survival for all of us, especially those who believe they’d stand a chance. In this film’s case, I could not fathom some of the fatal decisions made. The mistakes truly floored me!

Despite all the hurrah over the negatives, there are glimmers of hope throughout. One of the most commendable factors is the pacing. The action starts fairly quickly and lingers for long, the lack of lollygagging around ‘who’s who’ was a great decision. And thanks to the fast pace the violence has time to shine. Unlike Sally, Leatherface is back, hardcore style. Once he starts his bloody vengeance there’s no going back and the town of Harlow turns into complete hell. The anarchy really kicks up when Leatherface takes over a bus full of annoying gen-z’s, slicing and dicing his way through with his good ole’ chainsaw. 

I’m aware of my remarks regarding the characters, but there was one redeemable persona- the chainsaw. The chainsaw was transformed from a weapon into a whole antagonist. Leatherface begins his rampage using his bare hands, before rushing to get the chainsaw, leading him to return to his metaphorical stomping grounds. Multiple shots hone in on the chainsaw with a bright light surrounding it, framing the weapon as a being rather than an object.

 With Garcia having an extensive background as a cinematographer, the film was technically stunning. A plethora of visuals were captivating, allowing the film to have some beautiful moments of relief before the horror resumed. In essence, the visuals alone save the film from being dreadful, I’d even go as far to say that the aforementioned bus scene will go down in horror history for being bloody iconic. 

This film is a sequel, so I can’t compare it to the original. What made Hooper’s vision groundbreaking was the dirty, sweaty atmosphere that made the viewer uncomfortable and on edge, especially when you combine this aesthetic with the fleshed-out symbolism surrounding the seedy underbelly of America and the glorification of violence. Everything in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) is glossy, even the dusty ghost town of Harlow seems like it came straight off of a Hollywood studio set. There was no grit or immersion, I just watched the events unfold. 

The entire franchise can be messy and confusing, just like every horror franchise’s timeline, but they sincerely missed an opportunity to create something suspenseful that gets under your skin. Whilst a sense of doom and gloom surrounds my judgement over this film, I could see myself rewatching it for easy entertainment, similar to how Friday the 13th (2009) is a quick watch when you fancy a bit of slashy gore. And that’s all this film is.

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Original vs. Remake: My Bloody Valentine

“Roses are red, violets are blue, one is dead, and so are you…” 

Heart-shaped chocolates, fuzzy teddy bears, and crimson roses all encapsulate that over-bearing gushy feeling that sets hearts racing across the world all in ode to Valentine’s Day. Whilst I can’t say that I’m not a fan of hopelessly romantic films such as The Notebook (2004), there really is something special about Valentines-set horror’s that ooze bloody appeal. Without a doubt, one of the most reputable Valentine’s thrillers has to be My Bloody Valentine (1981), and as with any rocking slasher, this movie has been remade, leaving just one question- which one is better? 

Let’s find out in the latest edition of Dead Northern’s Original vs. Remake…

The scene is 1981, within the last few years rising classics have dominated the horror market, including Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). The genre is very much alive, gaining interest amongst younger viewers rapidly. During this time we’ve had decent Christmas horror’s (Black Christmas [1974]) and of course a plethora of summer flicks, including Tourist Trap (1979). It became clear that seasonal horror was indefinitely a growing trend, leading to studios to pick up newbie-director George Mihalka to create the future classic that is My Bloody Valentine. 

Amongst the cheery atmosphere of Valentine Bluffs, a Canadian mining town, a dark history is fostered. Twenty years previous two supervisors in the mines abandoned the rest of the miners to attend the annual Valentine’s Day dance. In their haste they forgot to check the methane gas levels, resulting in a tragic explosion where the only survivor, Harry Warden, was left to rot, falling back on cannibalism to survive. The year after the incident Warden went on to hunt down the two supervisors, gutting out their hearts and placing them in Valentine’s gift boxes warning the town to never hold another Valentine’s dance ever again or else. Considering decades have passed many of the townspeople have buried his threat and decide to hold another dance, but whilst the residents are hanging up paper mache hearts and red balloons, the mayor and the police chief receive that same old heart shaped box containing a bloody human heart. 

Launching My Bloody Valentine’s celebrated reputation is the full bodied plot basis that refuses to succumb to customary genre archetypes. Screenplay writer John Beaird and writer Stephen Miller established a story rooted in the mythos of tall-tales and the recklessness of jovial youths. The film is far from being a formulaic story, there is no summer camp monster, nor are the characters ridden with stupidity, making all the wrong turns at a risky time. The killer’s ethos may still be entrenched with a revenge based quality, yet the apt pacing and added love triangle element fuse together to concoct a balanced parable. 

Further forgoing simplicity in favour of rich storytelling is the established production values that unfortunately are rather rare in 1980s slashers. The town of Valentine’s Bluff couldn’t get any more theatrical and audacious if it tried. Theming the town to be like the inside of a soppy Valentine’s card works wonders for the subject matter, it’s even somewhat gutsy. As overused as ‘juxtaposition’ is within horror analysis, in the case of My Bloody Valentine it’s entirely fitting. Seasonal horror universally benefits due to its own eccentric use of timely gimmicks. Without jack-o-lanterns and trick or treaters, many horrors set on All Hallows Eve wouldn’t have that same sentimental texture that drawers viewers in; just as My Bloody Valentine wields cupid tokens and sugar-coated characters to sweep the audience of their feet. The overt heart decorations and cozy atmosphere force an endearing streak of emotiveness, meaning that when someone meets their demise a grievous blow is delivered straight to the viewer. 

It’s not just Warden that slashes the town to shreds, the vicious censorship that the film suffered also rips away at Mihalka’s work. When the film hit censors, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) was less than bemused over the gratuitous brutality. A total of nine minutes were cut and it wasn’t until 2009 when Lionsgate released the film that only an extra three out of those nine were restored. My Bloody Valentine is pretty gruesome with the kills being unmatched amongst many films at the time, but the graphicness that was removed from the film could have made Warden more of a threatening force to be feared, lining him up with genre greats. 

Well, this is where the remake drastically differs. A feast of gratuitous nudity, explicit kills, and powerful stylisation all are put under the spotlight in Patrick Lussier’s 2009 retelling of a small town killer.

Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles), son of the Hanniger Mine’s owner accidentally causes an explosion, caving in multiple miners, except for Harry Warden who whilst waiting to be discovered killed his fellow workers to conserve oxygen. One year later Warden awakens from his coma, murdering anyone he can at the hospital. Whilst Warden is preoccupied, Tom and his girlfriend Sarah (Jaime King), and their friends Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith) and Irene (Betsy Rue) attend a party in the mines as if a tragedy never occurred, but it’s not long until Warden makes his way to the mine vowing revenge. Sarah, Axel, and Irene escape but Tom is left to battle it out. Luckily for Tom, Sheriff Burke (Tom Atkins) shoots Warden before he can kill again. 

Ten years have passed since the incident, and all seems forgotten; that is until Tom returns to the town of Harmony where he intends to sell the mines. Unfortunately, losing the tunnels is not the town’s only demise as it seems that a pickaxe wielding killer is on the loose yet again. 

Having a 3D film basically does the marketing itself. Audiences crave immersion, the feeling of being one with the screen, the ability to be fully engrossed within the beauty of cinema. 3D cinema is exciting, especially when you add gory hits and blood spurts into the mix, then you’re in for a real treat, and the results really do show. Within the opening weekend alone over $24 million was grossed. Across the years the film has both raked in over $100 million at the box office and has received a cult status amongst horror fans. 

The film is certainly not perfect, but the acclaim is truly deserved. 

Kicking off the positives is the ruthless homage to crazy 1980s horror that doesn’t hold back on anything, almost like a rendition to B-movie aesthetics without the cynicism. There’s more than enough gore, crude language, and bare flesh to go round for everyone, with the film’s most redeeming quality rooted within the immodest finish that Lussier brazenly brings to the screen. With this being said, the violence was not overtly slapstick and gross, it was instead genuinely horrifying, it made Harry Warden a more iconic figure to be feared. The kills within the original were terrific, but his nature of being this damaged soul forced into revenge is slightly shallow within the execution. Although this is not necessarily Mihalka’s fault, alternatively the blame falls on those pesky censors. Rather than play tennis over which film is more graphic (bear in mind that the time the remake was made the threshold for violence was much higher) it’s vital to focus on how the remake’s gritty aesthetic is thoroughly entertaining and beyond rewatchable, which is aided by the film’s R-rating typicalities. 

The remorseless brutality meant that not a single soul felt safe. Similarly, the way the slate was wiped clean after the exposition based opening meant that throughout the rest of the film every person was a suspect. Whilst Valentine Bluffs is cheery and wholesome, brimming with bubbly charisma, the remake’s town named ‘Harmony’ sweeps away the original’s dreamy atmosphere in favour of bestowing aloof locals who seem stuck in the dead-end town, and that’s just the background folk. The main characters are far from innocent, having affairs and backstabbing one another. To make matters even more complex, the whole whodunnit aspect is dialed up to 100 as the cryptic killer seems to not have a directly clear motive. 

Speaking of the town’s unruly natives, the intertwining character dynamics coupled with the stellar performances propel the film into unfamiliar territory for mainstream slashers. I am a major raver for slashers, the good, the bad, and the ugly all reign supremely in my books, but that’s not to say that over the years the poor acting within a few select films tarnishes the overall effect. Within My Bloody Valentine the performances from Ackles, King, and Atkins definitely make the film a standout feature that begs to not be swept under the remake rug. 

The entire premise of an unknown assailant cutting their way through a small town is the primary likening between both the original and remake. The plots are not separate. Lussier adapts the remake to be more of a companion piece, allowing for a sense of freedom. One of the most noticeable differences actually lies within the set design. Whilst Valentine Bluffs drenched itself in lovey-dovey iconography, in the town of Harmony the killings just so happen to take place around Valentine’s day, rather than the events being a direct correlation to the festivities. In fact, if you took away the odd notion towards the holiday the film could take place at any other point in the year. Although this aspect allows for a lot of flexibility regarding the viewer, for me it took away a certain level of charm that Mihalka honed in on. 

To align both films together is a losing battle as they are entirely individualistic- a quality that is so precious to a successful remake. And whilst the kills in the remake are righteously barbaric, it is vital to remember those epic scenes found in the 1981 version, including the one and only laundromat kill, who doesn’t want to see a charred body lifelessly spinning in a bloody tumble dryer? 

In other words, comparing two slashers that were made decades apart is trivial. Audiences have matured, many fans have seen it all, becoming desensitized to good old-fashioned carnage. The callousness that Lussier exhibits is only natural for a modern-day slasher, but then at the same time the original still holds up with every single watch, never becoming diluted or worn. 

When it comes to this battle of ‘Originals vs. Remakes’ it’s certainly a tie. 

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