Trick R Treat (2007)

My 31 Days of Horror comes to a close with a modern seasonal classic. What better way to end than with a movie about the day itself!?

Trick R Treat is a Halloween institution in my house. We watch it every year, Sam, the impish little mascot of the film is even tattooed on my right shin. I fell in love with this movie, its whole vibe is just right up my street.

It’s absolutely crazy to think that this film was denied a proper cinematic release. Trick r Treat played festivals and had random screenings and was eventually dumped, unceremoniously, on DVD two years later

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty, who co-wrote X Men 2 (and pinching its stars Anna Paquin and Brian Cox for this film), Trick R Treat is a Halloween anthology. A mischievous, violent and creepy collection of tales set on Halloween, connected by the presence of Sam, watching and waiting for his turn to get in on the action.

The movie is basically a horror version of Pulp Fiction, non-linear and full of misdirection and call backs. Doughtery clearly had a blast making this movie, framed like an old horror comic and full of joy.

Each story thread sort picks on old Halloween tropes and traditions. Taking down the decorations early, not checking your candy, girls being followed by masked weirdos, ghostly urban legends. There’s sort of a Christmas Carol feel to the whole thing too. I love just how each segment is linked to the others, characters crossing over and plot points paying off in other parts. It takes great delight in its reveals, the reason why the film works so well. It messes with the predictability of this type of film too, not letting anything be too obvious.

Trick R Treat has gradually picked up an audience over the last decade but it’s still somewhat of a cult film, not really as big as it deserves to be. Dougherty has since gone on to make Christmas horror Krampus and is currently working on Godzilla:King of the Monsters. Trick R Treat 2 was announced a while back but I’m not confident we will ever see it materialise.

If you’ve never seen it, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s basically a Halloween version of one of those joyful Christmas movies. Gets you in the mood for the season, launched Halloween icon and most of all, it’s fun! Unapologetically made by and for people who love Halloween.

For Fans Of :

VHS

Krampus

Creepshow

Pulp Fiction

Click here to pick up Trick R Treat from Amazon and help support the site!

Advertisements

Mandy (2018)

I feel like I’m going to sound woefully inadequate trying to describe Panos Cosmatos’s Mandy. This movie is a singular vision, a crazy drug trip of visuals that envelope and surround you. You enter its world and for the two hour runtime, you’re immersed.

Red (Nicolas Cage) is a logger, living near the Shadow Mountains with his girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) in 1983. Their life seems idyllic and peaceful, though Red doesn’t like where they live. A cult led by the enigmatic Jeremiah (Linus Roache) abduct Mandy, with the help of some supernatural forced and demonic bikers. Red sets out for revenge.

I’m not going into plot specifics, mainly because it would give toon much away. Mandy is a film to be experienced, whether for better or worse. I’ve seen it described as an action horror revenge movie and while this is basically right, the movie is so much more. Mandy feels like a the missing link between David Lynch and John Carpenter. Maybe with a bit of Argento. The film is so colourful, lush and visual, my heavy handed mash up comparisons can’t really do it justice. It’s like a Heavy Metal comic come to life.

Linus Roache’s Jeremiah is a truly interesting antagonist, coming across like a Charles Manson meets David Koresh. Horrible and enigmatic, Jeremiah gives the movie a fully rounded villain.

Jóhan Jóhansson’s score really sets the film on a level apart from anything else too. The sound of the movie is huge, walls of sound, massive soundscapes just surround you. Jagged and sludgy guitars, slow drums and massive synths just invade your head space. It’s a film to see as loud as possible. It was Jóhansson’s last score before his death too, the film being dedicated to him. He was an incredible composer, Mandy being an amazing piece of work to leave us on.

Mandy, to me, was also reminiscent of 80’s and 90’s video games, the plot of a girl being taken by an evil group of bastards and you having to kill your way to get to them. Stuff like Splatterhouse, Final Fight and to a less violent extent, Super Mario.

I dug Mandy, a lot. It’s a movie that you feel, one that I can see myself returning to time and time again. A film full of rich imagery, stunning set pieces and iconic characters and I didn’t even mention the Cheddar Goblin.

An absolute must see, Mandy is available on DVD and Blu Ray now.

For Fans of:

The Endless

Lost Highway

Evil Dead (2013)

Prince of Darkness

The Shining (1980)

Most Stephen King films that Stephen King himself likes are, mostly, terrible.

King hates this version of The Shining.

Everyone else thinks it’s one of the greatest horror films ever made.

Stanley Kubrick’s meticulously shot ghost story permeated popular culture so much that I suppose it’s hard to imagine the world without it. Jack Torrance, a former teacher with a history of alcohol abuse and domestic violence takes the winter caretaker job at the Overlook Hotel. His psychic son Danny and beleaguered wife Wendy go with him, with Jack planning to use the solitude to write. Unfortunately for Jack, the evil spirits that reside in the Overlook have different plans for him.

Let’s not beat around the bush here, The Shining is a masterpiece. Sure, Jack Nicholson plays Jack a little bit crazy before they ever reach the hotel, but, I’m splitting hairs. The atmosphere, the music, the cinematography all just stand head and shoulders above any other horrors of the time. A genius auteur like Kubrick turning his hand to horror just doesn’t seem to happen these days. You never see the likes of Chris Nolan or Tarantino doing big horror films really. I’m not counting David Fincher as most of his work has at least a dash of horror.

The movie follows the plot of King’s original novel but does take it’s own direction towards the end. I actually preferred the movie to the book, but I love both. King’s 2013 sequel novel Doctor Sleep followed on from the book of course, but I’d imagine the forthcoming adaption by Mike Flanagan would at least acknowledge the Kubrick film.

Over the years there’s been many interpretations of the film with people even seeing it as Kubrick’s admission he helped fake the moon landings. Seriously. There definitely are many layers to The Shining, the documentary Room 237 is worth checking out if you’re interested in diving deeper into these wild theories.

For Fans Of :

The Ring

Event Horizon

The Witch

Click here to pick up The Shining from Amazon and help support the site!.

It Follows (2014)

The idea of a movie based around a sexually transmitted curse is so good, you can’t believe its never been done before.

It Follows from writer/director David Robert Mitchell is a tour de force of horror. A singular vision, a mythology that seems so complete, that it’s genuinely one of the scariest movies in years. It feels like it’s one of those timeless horror classics from the 80’s, the style, the score and the aesthetic are all just from another time.

Maika Monroe stars as Jay, who after sleeping with her new boyfriend, is told that he’s passed a curse onto her. That an entity will me follow her, slowly and relentlessly until it kills her and goes back up the chain, unless she passes it on to someone else.

“This thing… Its gonna follow you. Somebody gave it to me and I passed it you…”

After they have sex, Jay is chloroformed and tied up. He explains in detail how the curse works. The imagery is stark and decaying. Jay is tied to a wheelchair in a broken up concrete building. I later found out the look of the film is inspired by the amazing photography of Gregory Crewdson, an American artist who’s tableaux photographs are more like paintings.

Once Jay realises “it” is real, she spends the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to escape it and where it comes from. The entity itself can appear as anyone, so there’s a level of dread and fear about where it’s going to come from next.

The way the film deals with Jay’s trauma and fear is pretty realistic given that she’s being pursued by some supernatural STD. It would have been easy to turn this into a dark comedy, but It Follows plays it serious and it works. It has a Michael Mann feel, specifically Manhunter. The movie dwells on establishing shots, with the score by Disasterpeace just bubbling in the background. It makes even innocuous shots of a backyard pool look terrifying. The director has cited John Carpenter and George Romero as influences, which you can definitely see. The shambling, relentless zombie style of Dawn of The Dead and the unknown shape changing of The Thing are both echoed in the looks of the villain. Then again, It Follows still manages to remain true to its own identity and not lean too hard into homage.

I guess that’s why this film is scary. Fear of the unknown. The fear of catching a sexually transmitted disease. The fear that someone innocent looking could just attack you.

The creature itself changes its look constantly, but one thing that remains consistent is the element of the grotesque. It’s constantly got something uncomfortable going on. Missing teeth, nudity, one of them even urinating on itself as it lumbers towards Jay.

One of the best things about the film is the score. The composer Disasterpeace uses a electronica /8-bit type of sound, that whilst being similar to an 80’s horror is also uniquely its own thing. The main theme is absolutely incredible and the incidental music is so creepy and fear inducing.

There’s been talk of a sequel, of travelling back up the chain to find the origin, but I think that would ruin things. I think the reason this film works so well is the sense of mystery.

It Follows is a true modern classic and not seen by nearly enough people. Don’t miss it.

For Fans Of:

Halloween

Sinister

Insidious

Click here to pick up It Follows from Amazon and help support the site!

Insidious (2011)

By the time Insidious was released in 2011, James Wan had already launched one huge horror franchise in saw. His 2007 puppet horror Dead Silence didn’t set the world on fire but was still pretty good and very well executed. But Insidious, oh boy, Insidious is where Wan showed just how good he was. The sequel landed two years later, the same summer as The Conjuring. Its not a stretch to say James Wan redefined modern mainstream horror, giving us iconic monsters and heroes. If Insidious didn’t do well, there’s no Conjuring universe. Arguably, Warner bros wouldn’t have green lit their epic two part IT adaption either.

Written by Wan and and his frequent collabortor Leigh Whannel (who also plays Specs), Insidious is the tale of a family who’s son Dalton (Iron Man 3’s Ty Simpsons) falls into a coma and won’t wake up. The house is plagued by spirits, so the parents (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) decide to move. They soon realise its not the house that’s haunted. It’s the boy.

I love Insidious. Sure, it’s almost a remake of Poltergeist, but for me it just connects. It’s scary. Really scary. The jumps are fucking wild and the tension is built from the opening. The characters are relatable and the acting is top notch. Lin Shaye’s psychic investigator Elise is particularly brilliant. Shaye has been one of those “that’s her from…” actors for a long time, but she owns this franchise, showing just how great she actually is. She’s the heart of these movies.

I’m getting ahead of myself again. Insidious was made on a budget of $1 million and grossed over $100 million. For a low budget horror it hides the seams well, it creates a believable sense of dread and fear, but most importantly it knows what it is. It doesn’t try to be too much. It gives us “the further” the dimension ghosts exist in, but it doesn’t make it too extravagant. Minimalist set design and fog hide the world around us, making it scary and keeping the budget down. Honestly, its incredibly well done and shot perfectly.

I can’t rate this film highly enough. As a stand alone, it’s incredible. For a franchise starter, it’s even better. The mythology is rich, expanded in each sequel. 2018’s Insidious The Last Key even managing to stay fresher than most franchises are 7 years in, making another huge box office splash.

For Fans Of:

Poltergeist

The Conjuring

The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)

Pick up Insidious from Amazon by clicking here and help support the site!

The Cabin in The Woods (2012)

*spoilers within*

The Cabin in The Woods is one of those movies that people just didn’t seem to get. It’s either a comedy for Horror fans or a Horror for comedy fans, depending who you talk to. It’s subversive, plays with genre conventions and gives NO FUCKS AT ALL.

Marketed as a sort of slasher film with a difference, Drew Goddard’s movie is something else entirely. Left on the shelf for two years along with the Red Dawn remake (which also starred Chris Hemsworth) after MGM’s financial issues, The Cabin in the Woods is a crazy ride that needs to be experienced.

A group of clichéd archetype college students head to a Cabin for a weekend of partying. When they get there I suppose you’d expect a serial killer or a monster or maybe even a demon. What waits for them is something so different to any other horror film, it’s kind of hard to explain.

A group of secretive people have been conspiring to sacrifice teens for years, using horror movie tropes to do it. Written by Goddard and his former Buffy boss Joss Whedon, Cabin is both a satire and a kick up the arse for the horror genre. It’s both loving tribute and a playful nudge. It was very much ahead of it’s time, but also sort of borrowed the Scream meta vibe too.

I liked this film a lot. Its funny, gory, shocking and meaningful in all the right ways and as a life-long horror fan, I really enjoyed the whole point of the film.

In fact, let’s talk about that. The company sacrificing these people are trying to satiate the Old Gods. The beings that had the world before us. Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins have to make sure they die, so that the world doesn’t end. The Ancient Ones need to be appeased. They have to follow a set system, transgress and be punished. The whore must die first and the Virgin last. Typical slasher movie order.

But as serious as this all is, the company staff take bets on what methods the kids will end up summoning to kill themselves. Zombie families, ghosts, Werewolves, demons. The Mer-man. The humour in Cabin is consistently hilarious too.

In my opinion, we, the audience, are the Ancient Ones. Demanding more and more from our movies. The company are the creative staff setting it in motion. Cabin ends with the Ancient Ones rising up and potentially destroying the world. Either a comment on audiences demanding too much or that Goddard and Whedon are saying its time for a new generation to take over. Which they have. Since The Cabin in the Woods came out, a new wave of Horror has swept the world. Blumhouse have risen as a major force, Netflix has made horror more accessible. Evil Dead a got a TV show. IT made £700 million at the box office.

I could be totally wrong in my interpretation, but that’s what’s great about this film. It’s open to your interpretation. If you haven’t seen it for a while, it’s well worth another look.

For Fans Of:

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Scream

Ash vs Evil Dead

The Final Girls

Click here to pick up The Cabin in the Woods at Amazon and help support the site!

The Woman In Black (2012)

The second Daniel Radcliffe film of my 31days of Horror was his first movie to be released after the Harry Potter series ended. What better way to stand up and be counted as a more grown up actor, than starring in a period horror movie for the newly revived Hammer studios.

The Woman In Black is an adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel and was already a successful stage play and 1989 TV movie, both known for being particularly scary. This new version was scripted by Jane Goldman and directed by horror veteran James Watkins.

Backed by a stellar British cast including Roger Allam, Liz White and Ciaran Hinds, Radcliffe delivers a solid performance, if looking a little young for the character.

Theres a Dracula feel to the film, the lonely lead character staying away from home, the Gothic style and period setting. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who’s wife has died in childbirth, lending him a haunting sadness throughout the whole film. Kipps travels to Eel Marsh House, looking for a new buyer. The villagers aren’t too happy to see him and Mr Kipps starts to realise that Eel Marsh has more to it than meets the eye.

The Woman In Black is good, scary ghost story. An ideal companion piece to Crimson Peak which looks a lot better, but isn’t really very scary. The film was a big hit spawning a sequel which wasn’t as successful, had none of the original creative team and in fact the last film released by Hammer.

For Fans Of :

A Cure for Wellness (click here for my review)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Crimson Peak (click here for my review)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Pick up The Woman In Black from Amazon and help support the site!