Four Anthology Horror Films for Halloween

With Halloween on the cards it’s easy to get lost in a sea of awful horror films that will feel like you have wasted your time but one tried and tested format is sure to save you this year. The anthology formula. Synopsis’ courtesy of IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Watch them.. I dare you.. 

4. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

  
Five interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband; and a mean old man meets his match with a demonic, supernatural trick-or-treater.

3. Three Extremes (2004)

  
Three Asian directors, from Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan, join forces to create an omnibus horror film, Three…Extremes. In Fruit Chan’s “Dumplings,” shot by Christopher Doyle, Mrs. Li (Miriam Yeung), a thirtysomething former actress with a philandering husband (Tony Leung) goes to visit Aunt Mei (Bai Ling), who sells the most expensive dumplings in Hong Kong. Mrs. Li knows about their rejuvenating powers, and she also knows about their unpleasant main ingredient, but after some initial nausea, she digs right in. In Oldboy writer/director Park Chan-wook’s “Cut,” a successful filmmaker (Lee Byung-hun of Joint Security Area) arrives home to find that a disgruntled extra (Lim Won-hee) has taken over his home, and fastened his pianist wife (Kang Hye-jun of Oldboy) to the grand piano. The madman threatens to cut off the wife’s fingers, one by one, unless the director strangles the helpless child he’s tied to the couch. Takashi Miike directs the last segment, “Box,” about a young author and former circus performer, Kyoko (Kyoko Hasegawa), seemingly haunted by the ghost of her twin sister, who died a mysterious and horrible death while practicing their act. Adding to Kyoko’s trauma, her editor (Atsuro Watabe) is a dead ringer for her old stepfather/ringmaster, who may have perished in the same “accident” that took her sister’s life.

2. Dead of Night (1945)

  
An architect senses impending doom as his half-remembered recurring dream turns into reality. The guests at the country house encourage him to stay as they take turns telling supernatural tales.

1. Kwaiden (1964)

  
Kwaidan is an impressively mounted anthology horror film based on four stories by Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek-born writer who began his career in the United States at the age of 19 and moved permanently to Japan in 1890 at the age of 40, where he eventually became a subject of the empire and took on the name Koizumi Yakuno. Hearn became a conduit of Japanese culture to western audiences, publishing journalism and then fiction incorporating traditional Japanese themes and characters. “Black Hair,” the first tale, concerns a samurai who cannot support his wife; he leaves her for a life of wealth and ease with a princess. Returning years later, he spends the night with his wife in their now-dilapidated house, only to awake to a horrifying discovery which drives him insane. In “The Woman of the Snow” (deleted from U.S. theatrical prints after the film’s Los Angeles opening; it is on the DVD version), two woodcutters seek refuge during a snowstorm in what appears to be an abandoned hut. A snow witch appears and kills one of them but lets his partner free. Years later, the survivor meets and married a lovely young woman, only to learn her true identity. The most visually impressive tale is “Hoichi the Earless,” in which a blind musician is asked by the ghost of a samurai to play for his late infant lord at a tomb. The monks who house the musician cover him with tattoos to prevent any harm coming to him, but they forget his ears. He returns from the engagement with his ears cut off; however, his misadventure propels him to fame. “In a Cup of Tea” concerns a samurai who is haunted by the vision of a man he sees reflected in his tea. Even after he drinks from the cup, he still sees the man while on guard duty. 

I would just like to add that under no circumstance should you prepare dinner whilst watching Three Extremes. You have been warned. 

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A (Very) Brief Realist Approach

  
A brief conversation on the comment board of someone else’s blog has triggered an answer to a question that I had been asking myself for the past week. The answer to, can realist cinema be effective to me? 

Realist cinema, a much debated style in the area of film, has an ever-growing following worldwide but is mainly produced in Europe. I understand the ideas behind it but still I asked myself, what is the point? 

In my opinion, films are created as a source of entertainment. We watch them to relax and unwind and not for any other reason. At least I believed this until I started to analyse the films that I have watched. I soon developed a new opinion on the subject due to a realisation that the majority of films I watch are ones that make you think. With that being said, I still was not fully invested in realist cinema. Clearly I am not opposed to watching a film that requires me to put my brain in to a different gear so what was the problem?

Taking some time to think was a great idea because it allowed me to step back and view the whole picture. I enjoy films that make me work but could it be, that deep down, I still believe film should use tools of manipulation to draw its viewers in? It was exactly that. 

The realist film in particular, The Kid With a Bike, didn’t use fancy camera angles, did not use a soundtrack and did not try to make me understand why people were doing what they were doing. Why was this hairdresser so intent on fostering a young boy who you would sooner slap than support? In any other film this lack of structure would send viewers in to disarray. They would proclaim that the script was weak or that there was no point to the story but somehow the Dardenne brothers made it work. 

Despite recognition at Cannes Film Festival, I still did not fully understand the point of realist cinema but maybe this was because I had the Hollywood way thrust upon me from an early age. No. I just don’t like it. What’s a film without a solid story? I want to be manipulated. It is an art in itself to craft an emotion from the audience using trickery; if I wanted real life I wouldn’t be watching a film.

So I have established my minor dislikes for realist cinema but.. What if.. 

What if the conversation today made me realise how valuable the realist approach could be to something like horror. Holy s*it. It could be the thing that brings horror to a whole new level. No cheesy 80’s soundtrack and no fancy tracking shots. Just a scary event and me being dropped in to the film as a voyeur. 

If realism can make me feel emotion in a film when I don’t even fully understand why the maker is trying to put things across in this manner, then think of the emotion it could stir in a terrifying situation. That, I do understand.

As all horror fans know, the biggest scares of all come from the fear of the Unknown; maybe less information in regards to a plot would reward us greatly because the narrative is where most films in the horror genre fail. The found footage film has helped to push horror in this direction but surely we can push the boundaries further and unlock the key to finding what scares us the most.

A new project I feel. 

Until Dawn: Game Review

until dawn title

As an Xbox One owner, I was truly disappointed when i found out that a game that I was waiting so long for was in actual fact, a Playstation 4 exclusive. Until Dawn looked too good to be true; a true horror experience that plays like a lot like Heavy Rain. I cannot convey the happiness that came over me when my good friend lent me his pride and joy to experience the game that I had been desperate to get my hands on. I had the console, now all I needed was the game.

A late night trip to a 24-hour Tesco Extra was the destination as we bundled in to the car. I couldn’t wait until Sunday when I was so close to embedding myself in the story that Supermassive Games had crafted for me. I jumped out of the car and hastily forced my way to the technology department. I knew where I was heading and nothing could stop me. Except Tesco.

A ridiculous rule that means that I cannot purchase anything technology related at my 24-hour store after 8pm had foiled me previously; surely I would not be caught out again? But I was. I would have to wait until the next day for the game as the disappointment sunk in.

The following day was a good feeling when i popped open the box and gave the obligatory sniff of the fresh instruction manual – I know, weird. The game installed fast to my amazement, something that I was not used to, being an Xbox owner. The time had come..

The game begun and I was instantly thrust in to a full on horror experience; it was perfect. It played like a film and I do not regret a second that I spent playing it. It was like somebody had cut open my head, taken my thoughts and displayed them on screen. I was allowed to make the decisions that I wanted and it felt amazing. If you have ever asked yourself why the victim would stay and hide or proclaimed that you would ‘be outta there so fast’, you would also feel the gratification that I did. I spent hours playing it in my first sitting and honestly did not feel the time passing by.

The butterfly effect was a nice addition to the game because it gave me the freedom to do what I wanted as well as providing a massive amount of re-playability. I had saved a fair amount of the terrified characters but what would happen if they all died? What would happen if they all survived? How would the outcome change? All of these questions left me wanting more from the game; this is something that I believe gave me my money’s worth.

As a script writer, I instantly pick up on flaws and glaring issues that make me question the belief in what I am watching. A poor script is the foundation for a poor end product and I have to commend the creators for their hard work regarding this process. It seems as though they were not daunted by the sheer magnitude of writing multiple scripts that overlay and criss-cross throughout the course of the game. It was stable and made a lot of sense which left me more than satisfied with the story that was unfolding. The characters on the other hand were not as strong as the script and the gameplay.

until dawn emily

The characters in Until Dawn were a little bit two-dimensional and this started to show as the game progressed past the mid-way point. Some remained strong and this was apparent by my constant feeling of hatred toward Emily’s negative attitude; if i could have reached in to the screen and ended her myself, I would have.

Some character were not so good at stirring my emotions and quite frankly I found them a little bit boring and generic but I will not go in to too much detail on the matter. Nonetheless, I have hope that a game with ‘over one hundred endings’ may show more about certain characters depending on the choices that I make. Was my favouritism of particular characters making the others less important in the play through?

One of the biggest arguments for why this game is not as great as it should be is the gameplay that I love so much. Although I respect it and the product that Supermassive Games have released, it is clear to see that it may not be favoured among all. For those that prefer a more action based game it will probably not satisfy your gaming needs – That is you, Call of Duty fans. Somebody that appreciates a nicely put together narrative over run-and-gun however, will no doubt love what the developers have done.

Like i said, I truly appreciate Until Dawn and love what Supermassive Games have done. Heavy Rain was one of my favourite games and this felt like an extension of that but more geared towards my preferred genre. I would recommend that everybody should at least try it and truly believe that it is a PS4 exclusive not to be missed.

Just another day.. But Wait!

I didn’t go back to bed after my girlfriend’s alarm went off this morning and I am not sorry. Usually I would be complaining about how I needed that extra hour of sleep – I simply cannot survive without it.

But not today..

Let me give you a bit of background; I used to be up for work very early, 4am to be exact, and my alarm would always wake her up too; this is now a form of payback, i am so sure of it. She secretly enjoys the site of me being awoken before I need to be. Actually, it is no secret.

Today was different from all the other times – it is my before-day and tomorrow my birthday. My inner child was begging me to jump out of bed to investigate the presents that have already been wrapped for tomorrow. What the hell are they? Xbox fun? Cat related items? Maybe something to do with the ninja turtles? Or maybe something adult like socks. Cat socks. Honestly, I don’t have a clue despite grilling my mum for answers – she is the weak one.

catsocks

As the confusion over presents faded from my brain it suddenly dawned on me that my brain was wide awake. I was in the zone and ready for the creative switch to be flicked. The laptop was charged and ready to go and all of a sudden I was in a firm position to take on the feature length script that has been in the planning process for so long. I think that the aspect that we should take away from this should be that  I am far more productive when plied with presents – I know you are reading Emma.

So here I am in Starbucks; coffee fuelled and tapping away – nothing can stop me.

Wait..

Children. Everywhere..

Damn school holidays.

Needle and an Honest Portrait: Film Review

machinedeath

A lot of independent horror films have graced our screens in recent years but the 2010 film, Needle, showed me how the formula isn’t always perfect. I had a lot of hope for this film before hand as I had read a few good reviews but I can safely say that this film was not the one that I have been searching for all this time. I mean, ‘The Babadook’ was a great piece of cinematic horror; naturally I thought that an indie film from the same part of the world might satisfy my craving for the otherworldly – oh, how wrong.

The acting was drab, the characters seemed incomplete and the story just kind of bombed about midway through. I had no interest in the characters and I really tried, honest. I think the point in which I realised that I was in for a long night was an initial scene where I was introduced to a couple of the protagonists friends. I say the protagonist, because I genuinely do not remember any of the character’s names – they were pretty forgettable. The two friends happened to be lesbians; ordinarily this would not be a problem, but it was an issue because the whole narrative seemed to freeze before I was assaulted by scene after scene of them making out. Why would they not just act like everyone else? Why did they have to be putting on a show? It made no sense. As you can imagine I was disappointed and annoyed at the lack of script work and the lack of consideration for the two characters sexual preference. Was this written by a horny version of myself years previously? If so, I apologise..

The film moved on and the narrative  progressed and although I was not impressed, I found myself paying attention to what was happening. I was amazed because here I was complaining to my girlfriend about the film in one instance, before instantly telling her to be quiet while I was fed secrets that I never saw coming. Still, by the end I felt like I had wasted a part of my life, not because the film was poor, but because it appeared to have so much potential before it failed miserably.

Take the device for instance,  Le Vaudou Mort; The image of the device is above and it’s a pretty original concept and if used correctly this film could of been a lot of fun. In fact, in my opinion, the device is the thing that saved this film but also it’s major downfall. Needle used this prop as a means to create a murder mystery and I believe that this is what kept me engaged – I just wanted to find out who was committing all these horrifying acts. The negative factor was that  Le Vaudou Mort was not needed in the film. I’m sure people have been committing voodoo related atrocities for years without the need of this machine.

Regardless of what I surmise, Needle picked up an award at an underground Australian film festival and screened at Screamfest so somebody saw the potential in it. Maybe you will like it, maybe not. One thing is for sure – this is not the holy grail of horror.

On to the next!

The Hunt

  
As humans, we have an burning desire buried inside of us; this desire is the attraction to the things that we fear. We tend to approach these thing head-on without a care in the world of the consequences that may befall us and this truly amazes me. We build themed parks that are engineered with the sole intention of scaring us out of our skin; we race cars at phenomenal speeds; we jump from planes with little more than a fragment of material that we entrust our lives to; and we seemingly revel in the on screen suffering of others. Have we become a civilisation of psycopathic maniacs? Maybe, but probably not. More likely, we are just addicted to the buzz of adrenaline that flows through our bodies when fear grips hold. This fear is the basis for my love of horror films.

I enjoyed being scared to the point that it is now an obsession. If you have ever embarked on the journey that I have then you may understand what the hell I am going on about, if not, you are probably hovering over the back button on your web browser; either way I will explain. 

I’m talking about that search for the perfect horror film; the one that makes you scream in terror and cower in fear every night for the next 6 months before you go to sleep; the holy grail of horror. Can it exist? I’m not all that sure but I sure as hell will work my way through the most dire films of the genre to make certain. Maybe one day I will find it or maybe I will meet my end disappointed that I never came across it. What would it entail? I have no idea; I don’t even know what I’m searching for. Perhaps my innocent brain is not capable of imagining what would scare me the most. Even if it did exist, would my greatest fear be the same as yours? 

My Love of the Darker Things in Life

  
It’s a questionable hobby and one that I never really thought about until a short time ago. People ask me what I do when I’m not writing film scripts or googling various images and videos of cats on the web; I have the same hobbies as most other people. Oh but i forgot, I also like to see people terrorised until the point of death..

Thankfully, I’m not alone. A recent article about opening box office weekends gave me an insightful read, one that conjured up a wry smile as the realisation that i am not a sadistic f**k set in. The weekend that ‘Gone Girl’ come out was the same weekend that ‘Annabelle’ was released, although the latter was not terrible, it most certainly was not as well received as it’s creator, ‘The Conjuring’. Surprisingly, ‘Annabelle’ managed to take $37.2 million at the box office in comparison to ‘Gone Girl’s’ $38 million. Let’s just take a step back and put that in to perspective for a second..

The amount that ‘Annabelle’ took in that opening weekend is more than double the $15 million that the US remake of ‘The Ring’ took in it’s opening weekend; amazing if you consider that Gore Verbinski’s film is often paraded as one of the greatest horror remakes ever made! People have clearly taken a liking to the darker area of cinema.

This sudden boom in the attendees of horror screenings has prompted me to share my passion with everyone else and this is my reason for creating this blog. I want to reach out in to the depths of your innermost fears and cast my pointless opinions on the films that give cinema meaning to you. I want to observe the world of horror and everything it encompasses, drawing conclusions on the unknown and what makes it tick.

Wrong or right, horror gives you a feeling that no other genre ever will. It taps in to our hidden fears and begins to mess with our fragile minds all in the name of entertainment. I say that we rebel against conformity and let horror take it’s place amongst us; accept that it is always there, lingering in the shadows and join me in a celebration of one of the greatest things about this world.

To horror!

Without it the imagination would be boring..