jack_ryder

Beware the Creeper!

Iain's life as a psychotic crimefighter


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jack_ryder

Horror Day

It's Friday the 13th (I've already had my bad luck for the day, no need for anymore, thank you) and it's Horror Day, when those of us in the horror community (I guess I'm an interested observer) try to celebrate horror in all its forms.
So I've celebrated by finally joining the AHWA.

They have a list of other events celebrating horror in all its manifestations so please check that out. (esp: martinlivings and azhure's flashmob anthology
So I guess my contribution could be -

Thirteen Obscure Horror Films from the Last Ten Years that You Should See -



My Little Eye

Okay, there is a little gore here, but the ideas (and the presentation) are more unsettling than the violence. Five strangers accept an offer to live together in a house full of webcams for six months to win one million dollars. Things go badly wrong. Starring no-one you've ever heard of except for that guy from Alias and the girl from Cleopatra 2525. Reviled by critics for being deeply unpleasant and having no sympathetic characters, I think this film is very under-rated and a better take on the "reality tv" genre than Series 7: The Contenders. It is one of the most unsettling films I've seen. One thing to remember - every shot in the film is from the point of view of a webcam. Every shot. (available for hire and purchase in Australia)

Session 9

A remediation crew set out to clean up an abandoned mental hospital in a week. Unfortunately, the hospital's past has other ideas. This creepy little film has one of the best locations of any horror film in recent memory - a real abandoned mental hospital (unfortunately, now torn down) It's more a mood piece, than an out and out shocker, with an ending that may disappoint those who prefer more closure. More like the first version of The Haunting than the second, so a throw back to those who prefer subtlety to their haunted house movies. Great end credit music. (available for hire and purchase in Australia)


Cure/Charisma/Kairo(Pulse)

Three art horror masterpieces by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation). For those of you jaded by j-horror, who have had your fill of long haired ghost girls, K Kurosawa shows there's much more to the genre. For those with patience, that is. Cure is about a detective trying to solve a series of motiveless crimes, all committed by different people, but all with the same MO (a large X carved in the chest of the victim.) Oh yeah, the only other connection is a guy with amnesia who may, just may, have something to do with it. Cure has been accused of being wilfully obscure (Charisma is probably worse) but it's worth staying with to the extremely disturbing ending.

Charisma
(starring the same main actor as Cure) is not necessarily a horror film, for the most part it flits between and around genres, until the ending. Several factions vie for the control of a tree, that appears to be killing the other trees around it, Kurosawa has distilled environmental controversies down to a series of arguments about a tree. A cop, suspended after a hostage crisis gone wrong, tries to stay out of the power struggles until he realises he's the only one who can resolve them. Charisma is the most enigmatic of these films, and that's saying something.

Kairo(Pulse) - ghosts are using the Internet to exchange places with the living. Has some out and out jump out of your seat moments, and some haunting visuals that still stain my memory to this day. The most reminiscent of traditional j-horror (esp. The Ring) Kairo still evades the cliches to become something more haunting and frightening.

More so than any other director, it's the ideas and concepts behind Kiyoshi Kurosawa's films that transcend traditional horror tropes. His films are about identity and relationships between the self and the environment being it social (Cure), natural (Charisma) or technological (Kairo). Unfortunately, so far, his films are only available on DVD in the US and the UK.

And avoid the remake of Pulse, I've only seen the trailer, and it appears that everything implicit in the original is made explicit in the US remake.

The Descent

And now for something completely different. No subtlety, no (or maybe a little) metaphysics, just straight out balls (or in this case ovaries) to the wall horror. An all female caving group find themselves trapped, with no other recourse other than to keep going down until they find - I'm not going to tell you. This is one of those films where the director (Neil Marshall) demonstrates that he's not screwing around in the first ten minutes of the film. He is out there to scare and shock you. And that's before they get into the caves. That's when things get worse. Much worse. Not a film to watch if you are claustrophobic. But if you've missed being terrified out of your wits and having that crawly sensation along the base of your spine that no, things can't possibly get any worse, but then they can....

this is the film for you. For some reason this film is still unavailable in Australia (though I have seen a trailer) , but freely available on DVD from the UK and the US.

Next Door

And now a film from the next home of horror, Norway. Maybe not. A man who has just broken up with his girlfriend finds two seductive, yet some how disturbing, young women have moved in next door. No, it's not  a vampire film, it's actually one of those films you don't want to say too much about. Obviously, things are not what they seem, but what I really, really liked about this film is there is a sense of strangeness almost from the very beginning, a sense of wrongness that only becomes explicable as the film goes on. A warning, there is some heavy sexual violence in this film that is very confronting, yet is in no way gratuitous. The best way to describe this is imagine if Neil LaBute and David Lynch teamed up to remake Neighbors. I saw this on World Movies, and it's available on DVD in the US.

Black Serenade

A Spanish slasher film set in a University. All the bad students are being killed by the Black Ministrel, a character from the folklore of the University. Can the Ministrel be stopped? Should the Ministrel be stopped? I'm not a fan of slasher films, per se, but this one is a lot of fun. A clever who-dunnit, crossed with some nicely staged murders and updated to include mobile phones and instant messaging as part of the labyrinthine plot. The best sequence concerns a tripping student watching his blood run out and transform into snakes and dragons around him as he dies. Witty and fun, two adjectives not normally associated with a slasher film. This has shown up a couple of times on SBS. Available on DVD from the UK.

The Nameless

Another Spanish film, this time an adaptation of the Ramsey Campbell novel. A magazine writer thinks her young daughter has been killed, until she starts to get phone calls from her. What is her daughter's connection with the strange cult known as The Nameless?  As a big fan of Ramsey Campbell, I couldn't wait to see this. And I wasn't disappointed. The directorial style created a good approximation of Campbell's style - music cues and subliminal shots creating an atmosphere of dissonance and dread. Jaume Balaguero supposedly hasn't made as good a film since, but this is very, very good. Creepy and scary with an ending that will stay with you. Campbell has gone on record that he prefers the (controversial) ending of the film, to the ending of his book. Available on video in Australia (somewhere).

London Voodoo

The new London house of a yuppie and his American wife holds a dark secret. A fairly straightforward ghost/possession film peppered by elements of voodoo and African magic, and carried by good performances (especially Sarah Stewart as the unravelling wife.) Not especially scary, but not worth languishing unwatched in video libraries either. Available for rental from most video stores.

Wendigo

This is a traditional out of towners piss of the locals film with a supernatural twist. An urban family move to the Catskills only to get on the wrong side of a group of hunters. For a change, our point of view character is the family's young son, played by Erik Per Sullivan (Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle), so the film has an almost fable like quality. It isn't entirely successful, the film slowly ratchets up the tension between the family and the hunters before the introduction of the title creature disappates it into the ether. It's a scary little film for the most part and worth seeking out. The director, Larry Fessenden, specialises in different takes on traditional horror themes, so I'd be interested in catching his other films. This is almost, but not quite, a werewolf film. Available for rental from most video stores.

Ginger Snaps

This is, very definitely, a werewolf film. And one of the best werewolf films ever made. Two goth sisters find their macabre play acting become all too real, when one of them is bitten by a wolf-like-creature and the other sister has to contend with what her sibling is changing into. A woman, that's all. It's just about "The Change", really. Like "A Company of Wolves". The metaphoric connection between weredom and menstruation is handled with aplomb, the two sisters are great actresses and the film itself only stumbles with shoddy special FX at the end. Popular on video enough two spawn one sequel and two prequels, Ginger Snaps is an absolute delight. And one of the few female friendly horror films. Available for rental from most video stores.

Tale of Two Sisters

Korean horror/mystery/WTF? film about two sisters and the horrors that befall them after leaving the mental institution they've been incarcerated in. Is their house haunted? Does their evil stepmother have to be that evil? Or is there something else going on? Not as violent as the cover of the DVD would indicate (it gives entirely the wrong impression) Tale of Two Sisters is, ultimately, a very twisted film indeed. Like Next Door, it's best appreciated cold, without knowing too much of the plot, and like Next Door, it will stay with you some time afterwards. Available for rental from most video stores.

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Hmm, good tips. I've seen Ginger Snaps and Tale of Two Sisters in the local video shops at some point, but wasn't convinced enough to try them. I'll keep an eye out for them. I've heard good things about The Descent too.

I totally agree regarding "Ginger Snaps" - most definately one of the best ever werewolf films. It deserves more attention (add "Mute Witness" into that same category). And the female subtext in "Ginger Snaps" IS brilliant. And "Session 9" is so spooky... the phrase "Do it Gordon" will haunt you long after you've finished watching the movie...

FYI, I believe "The Descent" is being released in Australian cinemas soon.

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