Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The New Horror Fan's Guide

It occurred to me when doing some reading over my old blog posts that I have almost always wrote for the seasoned fan. Those of you who can handle excessive gore, taboo story lines and extreme violence. Personally, that's where my heart lies so I thought what about those of you who are just edging into the genre?

There are a good number of sub genres within horror to suit everyone. Whether you like your villains supernatural or human, monster or man it's hard to know what you want to watch and exactly how much you want to see.

SLASHERS!

My favourite sub genre of horror and my personal gateway drug. I like my killers human. Monsters don't live under the bed in these movies, they live next door.

During the 80's there were strings of slashers with similar plots, Birthdays, Valentines Day even high school proms were not safe from a man wielding an axe or a very sharp knife and a whole generation of teens were terrified to go camping near lakes or in the woods. In my personal opinion, the 80's is a great place to start with slashers. Most of the greats came out at this time and as most of these are considered classics 30 years on they're easily available either on Bluray, DVD or on your video on demand services. The biggies include Friday 13th, Sleepaway Camp and my personal favourite Nightmare On Elm Street which proved even in your dreams you're not safe. Avoid films like Scream until you've seen plenty of the classics. Scream is an excellent film but a lot of it's comedy and moments of brilliance come from homages and outright mickey takes of classic slasher tropes and if these are new to you, not only won't you get the jokes, but you just won't enjoy the movie for what it is.

GHOSTS & POSSESSIONS!

Haunting movies come in many forms and there's a vast amount to choose from. A good place to start is again going back in time. A classic and favourite of many a horror fan is The Exorcist. Hailed for terrifying even the most hardened horror fans it still stands up today. Personally, I don't find it *that* scary but for it's time it's pretty terrific! Other more modern hauntings you could check out are The Others, The Sixth Sense or Haunting In Connecticut. A good series to give a go is Paranormal Activity. It gets a lot of stick and quite often unfairly. Another great movie that is found footage is The Blair Witch Project.

If like me, you enjoy foreign cinema and don't mind subtitles, Asia has some of the best ghost stories. A few I highly recommend are The Ring, Ju-On and Shutter. All 3 have been remade, however unless you just cannot bare to watch a movie with subtitles or don't like dubbed I wouldn't recommend them over their superior Asian originals.

VAMPIRES!

Another sub-genre I love is Vamps! There are literally thousands to choose from and you're not going to go too far wrong with many of the most popular. My personal favourite is The Lost Boys. It features excellent acting, a great storyline and the soundtrack is one of the best movie soundtracks to have ever existed! Other greats you should try are Fright Night (Both the original and the remake are pretty good but the remake is definitely inferior) and 30 Days Of Night! There are far too many to name all of the best but these are a good place to start and are different enough from each other so you don't feel like you're just watching the same movie. There are also some great vampire themed shows you might love. True Blood and Vampire diaries are both highly rated and enjoyable. Vampire diaries being more aimed at young adult viewers and True Blood being more "adult". My favourite vampire themed TV show is, and always will be Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

The touchy subject of Twilight... Yes it's a vampire movie. No I don't like it at all, but it isn't aimed at me however, if you enjoy teen drama as well as some vampire action it's worth a try, particularly for younger, female viewers.

ZOMBIES & RAGE VIRUS!

Firstly, some housekeeping! If you ever find yourself on a horror community on a social networking site or dedicated website forum you will inevitably come across the argument of the differences between zombie and rage virus movies. It is a general understanding that zombies are the dead rising as undead beings while a rage virus is a disease or -as the name suggests- a virus spread between living humans altering the host and causing them to kill, bite or eat other none affected humans. It really doesn't matter all that much but it does cause some animosity sometimes.


Right, onto what you really care about. Firstly, if you want to start somewhere go for -again- classics! Night Of The Living Dead is the grand-daddy of all zombie movies. Romero's Living Dead series continued with other greats such as Dawn of The Dead and Day Of The Dead. Many many "Of the Dead" movies have followed by other creators but, in my opinion, Romero's are the best of the bunch! 28 Days Later and it's sequel 28 Months Later are amazing rage virus movies and both are part of my regular viewed Blurays. Others you may want to try are The Crazies (both original and remake are excellent). If you've been taking any notice of TV this past few years you'd have heard of The Walking Dead. This is THE zombie TV show. Horror fans and none horror fans both enjoy it equally and while it's more a survival show where the zombies are not the main part, especially in later seasons, it is definitely one to watch! AMC's greatest show (unless you want to bring Breaking Bad into the equation but we won't start that one right now)

A mention for the younger viewers out there, Warm Bodies is an excellent Zombie movie, similar to Twilight in theme and great fun. I really enjoyed it and would happily watch it again and again.

WEREWOLVES!

Not a genre I know in and out, it's not a genre I have enjoyed all that much, however there are some stand out movies that I recommend to everyone and anyone.

American Werewolf in London is a great one to start with. A timeless classic with some of the best effects for it's time. It also has a great subtext. Another I have always had fun watching was Dog Soldiers. Ginger Snaps was probably the first memorable horror I seen when I was a teen and I cannot recommend it enough. This is a great movie especially for young adult viewers. It has a wonderful sub-text aimed at the younger, female horror viewer.

COMEDY!

So we all like to kick back and relax sometimes and sometimes relaxing requires a good laugh. Horror comedy is iffy but there are a few comedic horror movies that are simply hilarious!

Firstly, if you haven't seen Shaun of The Dead, DO IT! NOW! Seriously, this is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen and I enjoy it more and more each time. Mostly it is tame and generally not all that gory or scary however some scenes are so out of the blue gory! Definitely one to see. A recent favourite and sadly over looked comedy horror is Tucker and Dale Vs Evil. Again, hilarious! I don't want to spoil this one for
you, I believe it should be watched without any hint of it's story or content. It makes it all the more enjoyable. Tucker and Dale is another I enjoy more and more no matter how many times I've sat through it. Other comedies you could check out are the earlier movies in the Scary Movie franchise but some jokes and scenes are lifted directly from earlier classic or recent (to the time) movies so if you haven't seen them it can be a bit confusing. Another I've recently enjoyed, was A Haunted House. A spoof of the box office hit franchise, Paranormal Activity. If you enjoy some smut and a good fart joke, this is one for you.

So I think I've given you enough to be getting on with. These movies are mostly movies that I personally enjoy and it should be noted that taste is subjective and what I love, many others will hate. Saying that, I'm sure something in here will be for you. Also, feel free to leave your suggestions below! The thing I love about the horror community is we love to help each other discover gems and there will be a lot of movies I've not included here that I either didn't love, hadn't seen or just forgot about!

Peace out! 

UV...x




Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Paranormal Activity Series ~ Paranormal Activity (2007)

Directed by: Oren Peli
Starring: Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloat (As themselves)


Paranormal activity is possibly one of the most popular and talked about series’ for a while or at least when it comes to ‘mainstream’ series’. Generally, mainstream movies get a bum deal as far as ratings go especially in the horrorverse and in my personal opinion, Paranormal Activity fared no better.

Paranormal activity is a ‘Found footage’ film, meaning it uses hand held camera work to make it appear the tapes were discovered and used to make a true story movie of real footage. This isn’t a new thing. We’ve been using this technique to tell raw and realistic stories for a good few decades and the sub-genre features some of the most iconic movies of modern time such as Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project to name the most popular. PA tells of a couple, Katie and Micah haunted by some sort of entity, Micah sets up cameras around the home to capture the events. Slowly we discover that this isn’t new to Katie and she has been subject to these hauntings since childhood.

Not dissimilar to most haunting stories, PA uses classic haunting tricks. Plates smashing, doors slamming, duvets being removed while the couple sleep, you know the deal. Sadly, it comes across as old hat for those of us who have seen a lot of horror movies. However, the feel is menacing and we know this isn’t Casper we’re dealing with but a malevolent and angry being targeting the couple for an unknown reason. It is understandable how many viewers would have been convinced that the footage was genuine and the simple effects are realistic and not over played. If anything, it can get a bit dull. Lots of sleeping! The story plods along at an easy pace most of the time and when there are revelations they’re not over the top or completely unbelievable but like I mentioned, you can get bored watching two normal people doing normal things such as sleeping and housework and it’s tempting to fast forward sometimes to get to some good bits. There’s the usual face in mirrors trick or doors creeping slowly open when no one is home or awake but frankly, I need more to get my heart racing.


Overall Paranormal Activity isn’t a bad film, just not a great one either. There are far better and more terrifying found footage and haunting films about and if someone asked me to choose one for them, this wouldn’t be my first suggestion, but if it was someone new to horror I’d probably be more inclined to say “try this”. It’s not too scary, but scary enough and will leave some new horror explorers wanting more and hopefully look for more like it and find themselves stumbling on some great horror that will get them hooked for life!


Rating? Meh, maybe a 5 or 6/10. 

Friday, 14 March 2014

Review - Stoker

Director - Park Chan-Wook
Starring -Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode

After the death of her father Richard Stoker, India Stoker meets her estranged uncle Charlie but while her mother is falling apart India becomes infatuated with Charlie and slowly uncovers what his motives for moving in with them really are. 


I was worried about this one. Park is my favourite foreign director and Oldboy is my single favourite foreign movie to ever be released. Stoker is Park's very first English Language movie and was written by Wentworth Miller and amongst the crew of producers Ridley and Tony Scott appear. Why was I worried when there's such an impressive array of names? How can anything ever live up to the success of Oldboy? I should be ashamed of myself for judging so quickly because Stoker is certainly the most impressive thriller I've seen in a long time.

Casting is perfect. Goode plays the mysterious, charming and handsome Charlie. He reminds me of Hannibal. Charming, handsome and talented but dark, mysterious and sinister. Wasikowska was slightly less impressive. Mostly because she's played this character as a strange loner before. However, her performance was fitting. India is an odd character. It's difficult to put your finger on her. Kidman is as always, dramatic and she is simply a pro.

Stoker is typically Park. The recurring patterns and colour themes of reds, greens and yellows. Looking back at Oldboy and the theme of purple and Lady Vengeance had black, white and red. The theme of insest and long lost family members and **following spoiler is in white, highlight the text to see** a child or infant death in tragic circumstances. These little things made me smile at the familiarity of the themes. The cinematography as a whole is beautiful. The scenery is captured in vivid colour, little flashes forward and back gives a certain style to the movie.

I am struggling to find faults with this. Perhaps it wasn't as violent as some would want from the ultra violent Park but I think any extreme violence could have spoiled it. That's for a viewer to decide. For me, perhaps it could have been a little more explicit. There is a sexual electricity between characters throughout some may find a little in your face at times.

I suggest anyone who is a fan of Park get out and watch it. I will be buying it as soon as I can. I did take a little look at Bluray features but they are limited on the rental copy. I do suggest Bluray for this one. The colours and sound deserve it.

My Rating - 9/10 Will Park ever disappoint me?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Review - Insidious Chapter 2.

I know, I know. I've been slacking, between kids birthday, new schools, a new addition to the family on the way and an old one moving in I've not had time to breath never mind watch and write. So I do apologise I will try to be a bit more punctual and go back to posting at least weekly. Housekeeping aside, I have gotten back onto the horror wagon with Insidious Chapter 2!


Director - James Wan
Starring - Patrick Wilson, Rose Byr
ne, Barbara Hershey.


After the ordeal of the previous chapter, the Lambert family take some time to recover at Josh's mothers house. When things start happening Renai is convinced its not over. The family call on Carl, Specs and Tucker, Friends and former colleagues of the ill fated Elise Rainer and discover the horrific truth about Josh's history and what has been haunting him and his family all this time.  


I really enjoyed chapter one. I'm not a huge fan of ghosts or hauntings. Slamming doors and wrattling crockery just doesn't do it for me. However, Wan created something much more. It was everything I looked for in a ghost themed horror movie so when I heard there would be a chapter 2 I was excited to have all those loose ends and questions dealt with and hopefully get some good scares in too. 

The acting was wonderful. It's so nice to actually believe that the characters are scared. Patrick Wilson was creepy while being sympathetic in his own tragic way. Byrne was believable and her fear seems genuine, sucking me right into the terror. Specs and Tucker returning was the highlight. They're like the frog brothers of this generation bringing some light comedy to ease tension and give that false sense of security. The actual haunting going on was terrifying! While we do have the usual babies toys playing to themselves, radios switching on, doors opening on their own etc there is plenty of visual scares too. Plenty is left to the imagination but there are payoffs. The ghost haunting them is a tragic little character and his reasons for his crimes in life and death seem justified. You'll see what I mean if and when you see it. I don't want to give too much away but a certain maternal character is terrifying even alive. 

I definitely think everyone should give this a chance. Infact give Wans ghost stories a chance. All three (Insidious chapter 1 and 2 and The Conjuring) are terrific and put the horror factor back into the genre. Wan has proven that even though, Saw was and still is one of my favourite movies despite it losing its soul later on he can do better than the "Torture porn" a lot of horror fans dislike. I would even say none horror fans get on this. Everyone loves to be scared and this is perfect date movie to get the girl (or boy) cuddled up to you or even to watch alone in the dark. 

My Rating - 9/10!



Monday, 30 December 2013

The Human Centipede



Director - Tom Six
Starring - Dieter Leiser



Many a time I've gone to watch and each time I've remembered the storyline and thought.. "Really?"... But as Lovefilm has kindly added both films from the incomplete trilogy I got into bed with some chocolate (yeeeah I'm hardcore that way) and switched on.

The storyline is likely to be well known but for the sake of those who live under rocks.. A mad doctor, renowned for being a pioneer in separation of Siamese twins kidnaps two young women, a trucker and later a Japanese tourist to create a new project. The project is to sew three people together, anus to mouth. Why? Because he's mad obviously!

First off the acting of the two girls is terrible. Thankfully they are the middle and end piece of the creation so we don't have to hear them talk for long. The doctor who is frankly brilliant makes the movie bearable. When he describes to his patients what he'll be doing you actually shudder. He's just terrific! Kudos should also go to the Japanese guy. His final moments include a monologue which was delivered with near perfect conviction. Six's biggest mistake was including serious moments of perfection in a film that even he didn't seem to take seriously.

Now I'm under no illusion that the film is serious. There is an obvious dark humour running through it. There is a gross out factor, but like many others, I thought it wasn't explicit enough. It doesn't help the movie is incredibly over hyped by its fans, the people who disliked it because of its gross out factor and the director himself. If I had gone in blind, it'd probably had more of an effect. Maybe those people who did hype it up were the lucky few who hadn't heard so much about it.

Gore is minimal. For a film about people crapping into each other there isn't even any of that. Not that I'm complaining. However, for an "extreme" horror, there is little extreme about it. I wasn't all that grossed out like I wanted to be. Cinematography, it's fairly basic. Nothing really special here. Acting as mentioned before is pretty shocking but I'll give credit to Dieter Leiser (The doctor) for creeping me out during his explanation. There is very little to like here really. I did enjoy some of the dark comedy but it isn't a redeemable feature for the rest of the movie.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

It's been a while since I wrote horror, read horror or even really watched horror therefore coming here has been pretty left out. Personal life and crap in the way. Anyway, I decided its time for a come back. But as horror is living on the back burner at the moment I've decided to review a none horror for now. However, the love of violence is still here.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Directed by - David Fincher
Starring - Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Stellan Skarsgard.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is probably one of this decades most read thrillers. While every other woman was captivated by the Shades of Grey novels I was unable to put the first Steig Larsson's fantastic Millennium Trilogy down. The books have sold billions of copies all over the world and Sadly Larsson passed away before he could see the storm his perfectly written trilogy had created or the franchise it had become. David Fincher's version is not a remake of the Swedish adaptation but a stand alone adaptation of the book.

The story centres around Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist and editor of Millennium magazine. After his career and credibility is all but destroyed by a libel scandal he is hired by the ageing Henrick Vanger to investigate the disappearance and possibly murder of his great niece during the 60's and the prime suspects are member of her own family. Reluctantly Blomkvist agrees and during his investigation he comes across the talented but socially awkward hacker and private investigator, Lisbeth Salander. Together they discover that there is a far more sinister reason for the girls disappearance than anyone ever imagined.

Clearly Fincher knows the book well and adapted is near on perfectly. While the Swedish version from 2 years earlier is a fantastic film, Fincher as usual, has put his all into keeping his adaptation as close to the original material as is possible. I am a fan of Finchers work and rarely can I pick faults. The casting is perfect. At first I thought Daniel Craig would be far too high profile as Bond to ever be able to play Blomkvist convincingly without me waiting for him to shoot someone with a pen but Craig really pulls it off. Rooney Mara is excellent as the cold, emotionless Salander. However, I do still prefer Noomi Rapace in the role. In my opinion, Rapace is Salander so Mara had big shoes to fill and while she filled them well, Rapace was more captivating.

Cinematography wise, its basic for Fincher but set against a beautiful Swedish backdrop its easy to appreciate its simplicity. The opening is a work of art though and something akin to a Nine Inch Nails video and quite usual for Fincher. His openings are always stunning on their own.

Overall I do still prefer the Swedish adaptation but Fincher as always has impressed me. I really enjoyed it and felt it stayed true to the almost perfect material it was working from. I do hope he continues the trilogy at some point. It would be a shame not to.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Book Review - Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z Bright

So I don't usually read horror novels or stories. I'm a visual person but every now and then a book is so well written and the horror so well described I can visualise is as easily as if I was watching it on screen. Only time this has really happened with a horror is Stephen King so when a friend brought round some books for me to try, mostly crime and I found a book by "Poppy Z Bright" amongst them I thought why not.

Exquisite Corpse is the story of two serial killers. One a London based gay necrophiliac who escapes from the confines of his prison cell and travels across the pond and the other a gay cannibal with a liking for young tourists and runaways in New Orleans.

The first killer, Andrew Compton tells his story from the first person in past tense. Getting us deep into the mind of a psychopath. The depth Bright goes into to describe who he is and what he does is intense. Stomach churning accounts of how he murders, rapes and tears apart (in that order) his victims made me nauseous I could smell the blood and other bodily fluids. Compton is complex. The almost genuine love he feels for his victims is poetic and twisted.

Jay, our second killer is told from the third person and while his character is less complex and in depth as Compton he's still an interesting person. Jay is a wealthy man who uses his money to entice young homeless boys to his home where he drugs them, has sex with them and eventually kills them. Eating some, storing others for later use. Eventually the killers meet causing the perfect storm, you can see where it's going to go.

The theme seems to be HIV and Aids amongst gay men in the 80's. All the characters are male, gay and most of them HIV positive. One character, a complicated man named Luke life has been destroyed by testing positive for the virus and as during that time little was known about its cause or effects Luke is angry and in pain mentally and yearns for his ex lover, Tran, a Vietnamese homosexual who is a disgrace to his traditional family.

As far as horror goes, it's not supernatural but pure human destruction. The scariest kind. The story is captivating, devastating and brutal. The descriptions of the characters actions are vivid and in depth. During the climax if I hadn't been in the bath while reading I would have needed a scrub down afterwards!

I highly recommend this book for those intrigued by the criminal mind. It is written like an erotic novel but there is nothing titillating only provocative. I will be seeking out Brights other books but after reading Exquisite Corpse I will have fairly high expectations.