Tag Archives: creepy

John Carpenter’s The Fog

John Carpenter’s The Fog is such a great campfire ghost story that it literally starts off with a campfire of its own, told by wistful sea captain John Houseman in a role that feels like it was meant for Donald Pleasance. He spookily regales a bunch of youngsters one cold coastal night: Long ago, a mysterious schooner crashed against the rocky landscape of Antonio Bay in a dense fog, for reasons slowly made clear. A century or so later, the fog returns, and those onboard come with it seeking revenge. Speaking of the coast, that vast, gorgeous California shoreline is a perfect backdrop and character all it’s own in Carpenter’s tale, the title credit appears over a picturesque beach, setting the ambience of the seaside region perfectly. Carpenter always values atmosphere and suspense above all else, his films have some of the most delicious slow burn setups out there, and the ethereal first act before the fog even shows up is one of the best extended sequences he’s ever done. As far as plot and character goes, the film has a cool Robert Altman vibe to its ensemble, from Hal Holbrook’s nervous priest, Jamie Lee Curtis’s plucky hitchhiking artist, Adrienne Barbeau’s sultry radio DJ and more, they all work in round-table fashion to get their stories across. They and others find themselves suddenly stranded in the approaching haze and hunted by silent, sword wielding zombie pirates who are more than a little pissed off that their boat crashed. The real treasure here is Carpenter’s original score, one in a long line of brilliant compositions. The main theme is a restless, jangly electronic cadence that feels both melodic and laced with doom, while quieter synth chords are infused with church bell cues elsewhere to bring the soundscape alive as only Carpenter can. This is a brilliant horror film, my third favourite Carpenter after Halloween and The Thing, and never fails to be as effective, chilling or beautiful to behold with each revisit as it was the first time I saw it.

-Nate Hill

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The Hughes Brothers’ From Hell

The Hughes Brothers’ From Hell is one one of the most opulently stylish horror films out there, and despite being a bit melodramatic in areas, it boasts a grim, severely menacing atmosphere which is mandatory considering it focuses on the Jack The Ripper murders in Victorian era London. Based on a drab graphic novel by the great Alan Moore, The Hughes have amped up both suspense and passion and could be accused of Hollywood-izing Moore’s work too much, but the guy just doesn’t write very adaptable material and some liberties have to be taken to make watchable films. This one works better on its own terms, a dark, blood soaked detective story starring Johnny Depp as Frederick Abberline, a brilliant opium addicted Scotland Yard inspector out to nab the Ripper, with the help of his trusty boss Sgt. Godley, played by a scene stealing Robbie ‘Hagrid’ Coltrane. As we all know, the Ripper murders were never really solved, so naturally here a fictitious conspiracy is whipped up, full of intrigue and corruption, but as many cluttered subplots there are flying about, the film’s strength lies in the eerie murders carried out in nocturnal London, and Depp’s very strong performance as the drugged out cop who won’t quit. Supporting work comes from lovely Heather Graham as prostitute and love interest Mary Kelly, Ian Holm as London’s top medical consultant as well as Jason Flemyng, Ian Richardson, Katrin Cartlidge, Ian McNeice, Sophia Myles, Dominic Cooper and scene stealer David Schofield as an evil East End pimp. Some of the fat could have been trimmed here to make this a shorter, more streamlined experience, but the visual element is so damn good that at the same time one can’t get enough of the lavish production design. This one succeeds in creating a lived in London with dimension and scope, as well as staging a very effective sense of dread and danger lurking around every corner of every cobblestone alleyway, the atmosphere is just unreal, as well as the supremely graphic gore that lets us plainly know that the Ripper wasn’t just messing about, he was an actual monster. Great stuff.

-Nate Hill

Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs

You think you know what fucked up and disturbing is until you’ve seen Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs, and then you damn well for sure do, on top of wishing that you didn’t go looking because the experience is not one so easily shaken. This is a punishing, relentlessly cruel and violent film that will leave the viewer emotionally barren, but it’s also a very intelligent piece, with a wholly unpredictable, very thought provoking story that arrives on an avenue somewhere truly different than the one it set out on. It’s a sort of extreme existential shocker, which is an intriguing description but doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the dark psychological netherworld it bravely troops into. Lucie (Myléne Jampanoï) remembers being brutally tortured and held captive years ago when she was very young, and with the help of her friend Anna (Morjana Alaoui) who was also abused as a child, she sets a bloody quest in motion to hunt down and slaughter those responsible. Haunted by a grim, shrieking spectre (Isabelle Chasse) that may or not be real and met with curveballs in her plan at every turn, she discovers that her traumatizing experiences as a child are but the tip of a very large, very sinister iceberg and pretty soon she finds out way more than she ever set out to. I’m being purposely vague here because the diabolical fun lies in figuring this hell-house of a story out for yourself, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re in for treat. Your jaw will hit the floor, your pulse will race, it will sicken, amaze, provoke heated debates and generally just cause extreme reactions all across the board. What’s important to understand is that Laugier never strays into realms of exploitation or torture porn for its own sake; yes, the scenes and situations here are incredibly, almost unbearably violent and gruesome, but they do service a narrative that has questions to ask and points to prove. Just buckle up getting there and pay close attention, because trust me this is not a trip you’re going to want to take twice. Oh, and one more thing, careful that you don’t accidentally watch the recent remake which is unnecessary garbage, Laugier’s original is the only version of this story. Good luck!

-Nate Hill

Stuart Gordon’s ReAnimator

Stuart Gordon’s ReAnimator is a healthy dose of schlocktastic fun, taking a page out of the silly splatter book of Sam Raimi, and although not quite as fun as some of the stuff it draws inspiration from, it does the trick. I know this film has a massive cult fanbase and while I can’t say that I loved it quite as much as some no doubt do, I always have some love for gory practical effects, and the ones on display here are pretty impressive. Jeffrey Combs is funny (if not exactly the definition of subtle throughout his whole career) as Dr. Herbert West, a loony fuckin quack who has stumbled upon an ectoplasmic looking serum that brings dead corpses back to life, albeit with a side of extreme retardation. Things go riotously awry when a jealous rival (David Gale) literally loses his head and steals it, prompting a gruesome comedy of errors in which heads, limbs, blood and entrails are hurled about the screen in a feverish celebration of all things gory and grisly. You can’t exactly call them zombies, I mean I suppose they are but they’re given a modicum more sentience than your average shambling Romero flesh-eater, but the actors get to have fun with their zany side, as the formula sort of plays havoc with their cognitive functions, a hilarious touch. There’s a sexually icky part that was even a bit in bad taste for my lax sensibilities (poor Barbara Crampton is a trooper and better have gotten paid hefty fucking overtime), but I suppose that trash is sort of the name of the game here. The 80’s was a very formative decade for the horror genre, and its fascinating to see how not only was this inspired by earlier stuff like Raimi, but would itself go on to rouse other filmmakers and give them ideas, as Hollywood progresses in symbiosis. A fun, freaky time.

-Nate Hill

Jaume Balagueró’s Darkness

I’ve always loved Jaume Balegueró’s Darkness, an eerie Spanish horror film that went through some unholy distribution problems before finally being dumped out by Dimension films as a heavily edited PG-13 version circa 2004. There is, however, an unrated cut floating around out there on DVD as well, and that’s the one to buy as it is longer, darker and way more grim. Marketed as an Amityville style chiller, it’s a little more ambiguous and esoteric than simply a haunted house yarn, concerning an American family who journeys back to Spain to the childhood home of disturbed husband and father Iain ‘Ser Jorah’ Glen. Staying at his ancient childhood home in the countryside, old ghosts from the past are dug up, unfriendly locals hover about the edges of town, Glenn’s psychological symptoms get worse in that environment and his seemingly friendly father (the great Giancarlo Giannini spooks it up royally) clearly knows more than his affable manner is letting on. Anna Paquin is great as Glenn’s daughter, clearly used a lot for marketing following her X Men fame, and Lena Olin does fine work as her mom. This one doesn’t spell everything out but rather takes its time setting mood and atmosphere, and not until the third act do we have any real idea what is going on. The scares are subtle and crawl (sometimes literally) out of the woodwork when you least expect it, and the folk-horror element gets pushed nicely into the forefront later with themes of sacrifice, possession and the raw, evil potent that can seep out of a full solar eclipse. You won’t find a lot of praise or great reviews for this, hell there aren’t many reviews floating around as it is, those cunty Weinsteins messed around with yet another awesome film and somewhat buried it, but if you can find that unrated DVD, it’s a really satisfying mood piece dripping with constant unease, mounting rural dread and heaps of the titular Darkness, both visually and thematically.

-Nate Hill

Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist

Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist actually feels like a total joint venture between him and producer Steven Spielberg, because there’s as much whimsical Amblin style as there is gooey horror and supernatural chills. I saw the film for the first time ever last night and enjoyed it spectacularly, it’s a visually impressive, supremely spooky haunted house ride that showcases some brilliant practical effects, but what I liked most was the family dynamic between Heather O’ Rourke, Craig T. Nelson, Dominique Dunne, Olivier Robbins and JoBeth Williams. You really get the sense that this family loves, cares and protects each other, and the devastation felt by all when malevolent forces kidnap poor Heather through the television into the astral plane feels earned and palpable. Ironically that onscreen bond makes it all the more tragic that both O’Rourke and Dunne lost their real lives some years later after completing two more Poltergeist films, which some attribute to a curse directly related to the films but is most likely just life being a bitch as usual. Anyways, this film is a keeper and at least the two of them will always live on in cinema. The effects here are really varied and diverse, from corpses bubbling up from a muddy swimming pool to tree coming alive, but my favourites has to be the weird spindly spider ghost thing that materializes at the top of the staircase and hovers like an emaciated spectre. You can tell The Duffer Brothers took more than a few inspirational cues from this one for Stranger Things, their tunnel to the upside down looks almost identical to the gooey wall orifice used here. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is appropriately jumpy and jittery, especially great in the extended prologue that sets up impending disaster while quaintly showing lazy Sunday life in suburbia with a nostalgic flavour. Sometimes there’s a little too much commotion and chaos, like later on when a weird midget clairvoyant (Zelda Rubinstein seems like the Oompa Loompa who left the factory and made it big in Hollywood) shows up and there’s a lot of yelling, whooshing and noise where there could have been more quiet hallways and suspense, but it’s all good. This one is a treat and I see why it has become timeless.. I’ll weigh in on the sequels when I get around to them.

-Nate Hill

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

Although not particularly scary or super memorable, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is an atmospheric gothic fright flick with distinct production design and some really neat visuals. Based on a 1973 film of the same name, Guillermo Del Toro was apparently a big fan and adapted it with a new screenplay, and while I can’t help thinking what could have been if he took up director’s duties as well, the result is still pretty good. Guy Pearce plays an architect who moves into a giant, baroque old mansion in the sticks with his introverted daughter (Bailee Madison) and interior designer girlfriend (Katie Holmes). The plan is to fix the place up, but Madison does a bit too much wandering around and discovers they aren’t alone, and the manor is also home to a horde of tiny, creepy demon thingies with glowing eyes, skeletal limbs and they’ve activated stealth mode. They live in dark corners, shadowy closets and make weird chittering noises (Del Toro himself lent his voice to one of them) that freak the girl right out, but naturally her dad thinks she just has an overactive imagination. Pearce and Holmes are great in their roles and add class, as does Madison who is a competent young protagonist. This doesn’t exactly reinvent the horror wheel or make any kind of huge impression, but the art department really did well with the design of the old house, the visual elements are all really great and pop on the Blu Ray. It’s more of a mildly eerie children’s fairy tale than an outright horror film but it works on its terms.

-Nate Hill