The Evil Dead

Er… what the fuck did I just watch? No, seriously. It’s like someone went “Ok, we need to make the ultimate horror film. Here’s our checklist: gore, some kind of rape, creepy isolated cabin, ancient artefact of doom, possession, creepy eyes/make up/voices and general insanity. Oh, and dismemberment. We can’t leave that one out.” then they went off and made it.

Actually, that probably is how it got made.

Don’tget me wrong, I can really see why it’s a classic. There’s something wonderful about it, even if I was sitting there going “wtf?” during the tree rape scene and when that girl was shrieking in the cellar.

Anyway, I think this is probably the film that perfected the cabin in the woods formula. A group of friends accidentally raise the dead and then have to kill each other off in increasingly violent ways when they get possessed. Plus there’s a chainsaw.

There’s a heck of a lot of gore and yet it’s somehow not torture porn. It’s like the effects people went “wahooo! Bring on the fake blood!!” (actually, that probably is what happened…) It just joyously sprays blood and whatever else all over the place.

Do I like it? No, not really. A few bits did genuinely creep me out,  like when Linda was singing “We’re gonna get you…” and I can definitely see why some people do like it. As films with dismemberment, rape and gore go it is a fun one to watch and it doesn’t assault you with how horrible the characters are. It’s worth a watch but if you don’t like gore then don’t bother.

 

Edit.

This film has since grown on me and it is now a favourite. I did see the remake/new sequel in the cinema and had a blast. No it’s not as good as the original but I thought it was pretty decent as an entry into the series. Pkus the imaginative use of duct tape was great.

Alice, Sweet Alice

I think this is a film that deserves to be a bit more well known. It’s a murder mystery with a couple of very well done jump scares that also explores how one girl has been moulded by her family and, to an extent, ostracized from certain things because of it.

The film starts by showing us two sisters: Karen, the younger, and Alice, the elder. Karen is clearly favoured by her parents and those around her, while Alice is jealous and (understandably, considering the extent of the favouritism) withdrawn. Karen is about to receive her first communion when she is murdered and the rest of the film follows the  investigation of the murder which Alice- obviously- becomes a suspect.

While watching Alice, Sweet Alice I was very struck by the various  reasons (and there are many) for why Alice was so often ignored. If you’re of a psychological bent you may like watching simply to understand more about Alice herself. I was watching this with a friend who’s currently doing psychology and she thought that side of the film was pretty well done (though it invokes adults are useless all the time…)
How scary is it? Not massively. There are 2 scenes that, I will admit, did make me jump and they were very good. The first is the one bravo suggests as the scary movie moment, but personally I thought the second was scarier (it’s where Alice’s father is climbing up those stairs and the murderer attacks him). The film didn’t rely on jump scares- after all, it isn’t really horror. Instead it’s main focus is the relationships between the characters and the titular Alice. Though that mask and yellow raincoat combo is creepy. I reccommend Alice, Sweet Alice- if you enjoy a slasher film, you’ll probably like this one even though it doesn’t follow the normal slasher formula.

Peeping Tom

In the 60s this film was really dumped on by the critics in the UK. I can sort of see why- some of it is almost uncomfortable to watch now, so what it must have been like then I’ve no idea.

Peeping Tom is the story of a young man called Mark, scarred by years of psychological abuse by his father, committing a series of murders which he captures on film. It’s heartbreaking in places. Mark is a character you start out being creeped out by (the opening sequence of the film is his murder of a prostute) but gradually you start to feel for him.

I think that’s what disturbed the critics; we want to think of murderers as inhuman monsters but Peeping Tom doesn’t let us think that. It shows us Mark’s life, his shyness, his cautiousness as he develops a relationship with a girl called Helen and it does it so intimately that you are forced to see him as something devastatingly human. It also puts us behind the camera for the murders. You see what the cameraman (and therefore the murderer) sees, again making an intimate experience for the viewer. Then of course you have the subject matter of the film: ultimately, it’s about watching films. Now, if that doesn’t make you feel a bit uncomfortable then I’ll have to direct you to Audition’s vomit scene.

Modern critics are much more favourable. Roger Ebert lists it in his great movies column, it has been suggested as the 18th greatest British film of all time and it is generally considered a masterpiece. I feel for Powell- having a film destroy your career then become a kind of cult phenonemon 30 years later must be one of the most irritating things ever.

So what did I think of Peeping Tom? I thought it was very good- it’s definitely a complex film, and I think if I watch it again I’ll find something else to comment on. about it. Karlheinz Böhm’s performance as Mark is truly excellent and well worth watching the film for. Powell’s direction is great too- it’s such a shame that this film basically destroyed his career, but it’s definitely one worth being remembered for.

In conclusion: highly reccomended.

Alien and Aliens

Ok, I will admit that I’m kinda biased with these two. Alien is one of my favourite films. It got me tensed up, got me scared for the characters and let’s face it- how can you not love the xenomorph?

Do I really need to give a quick summary? John Hurt gets a thing on his face, explodes and the alien hunts down the crew, leaving only one of them alive at the end (and the cat).

Alien has everything I love in a film: good, well acted characters; a story with extra layers to it that avoids being pretentious (Alien gives us an exploration of rape, particularly of men) and an aesthetic that only adds to the film as a whole. In my opinion the scariest part of Alien wasn’t necessarily the chestbursting sequence. I found Dallas climbing through the vents with the alien much scarier, but the chestburster is probably the more memorable bit for most.

Aliens is a damn good sequel, too. In it Ripley (the only survivor of the first film) returns to the planet where the alien came from and we meet the alien Queen. Where Alien was very mch a gothic horror-sci fi crossover, Aliens is a action film. Both films have great effects and it’s just a shame that the series had to get so ridiculous after these two (though Alien Resurrection will always make me laugh). I actually agree with bravo on the scariest moment this time- Newt and Ripley getting trapped in the infirmary really had me on edge.

So, yeah. Loved both of these films, would happily reccommend them to anyone (plus they both have some pretty scary bits).

Signs

M. Night Shyamalan. He’s kind of the doghouse at the moment, isn’t he? Made such a mess of The Last Airbender and pissed off the show’s fans.

In Signs we have a widower who used to be a reverend, but after his wife was killed in a car crash he had a crisis of faith and quit. He, his two children and his younger brother live on a farm where crop circles are starting to turn up- we then find out that these circles are cropping up (sorry, couldn’t resist) all over the world. Guess what? They’re the navigation signs of aliens who are invading.

M. Night Shyamalan has a thing for putting twists in at the end of his films. The twist of this one was that the aliens are affected by water in the way we are affected by highly concentrated acid. Really? How stupid were these things? You know how this planet is 70% water? You know our atmosphere contains a lot of the stuff? “I know, water melts my skin but I think I’ll invade this planet coated in the shit naked! This plan cannot fail!!” If it wasn’t for that and the aliens being stopped by something as simple as a wooden door (yes. These are the terrible monsters we have to fear), I think I’d find this film scarier and I’d understand more why it was critically acclaimed (by some people). Also, the heavy ‘God always has a reason for everything!!’ symbolism got on my nerves. I think it was because I felt that killing the guy’s wife was kind of unnecessary to get the message across that we have at the end.

I liked that there wasn’t a heavy soundtrack for this film. The setting of a quiet small-town farm worked so much better without much background noise, and it also made it seem like you were in those fields when they were searching through the crops at night. All you heard were nightime sounds, and the noise of Mel Gibson and the unseen creature going through those fields.

So my overall opinion of Signs? ….Meh. It’s got some good moments. I liked the tension that was built out in those fields, I liked the way you first saw the alien (though I thought out in the fields was scarier) but it wasn’t anything particularly special. I’m not sure it deserved to be on a 100 scariest movie moments list, but I guess that’s my opinion. The sysmbolism was too heavy in a clichéd and clumsy way (God works in mysterious ways… c’mon, how many times have we heard that one?), the aliens were stupid to the point that my suspension of disbelief couldn’t quite make it at that ending. It’s worth a watch if you feel like sticking something on and filling up an as yet empty evening. You might like it, you might laugh at it or you might find it boring. I doubt I’ll be watching it again any time soon.

On Audition

Oh, Japan. You have given the world many, many things: tentacle hentai, Ringu, Pokemon, sushi and countless bizarre videos on youtube.

kiri kiri kiri kiri…

But you have also given us the director Takashi Miike.

For those not in the know, Miike is a director of often disturbing films. Apparently Audition is one of the nicer ones, which makes me really worry about what the fuck is going on in his other ones.

In Audition we see a lonely widower hold a fake audition to try and find the perfect woman. He does, except she isn’t as perfect as he had first thought.

For the first 35 minutes we get a nice little rom com and isn’t it nice? A lonely guy has found a nice girl who seems to need comforting. He’ll do that and bring her out her shell, she’ll help him get past the death of his wife and they’ll live happily every after.

Yea, that doesn’t happen. Asami (the girl) gets a character establishing moment of staring at the phone, waiting for our hero to call, while a sack rolls around groaning in the background.

It gets worse from there.

The last 20 minutes are quite easily some of the most uncomfortable minutes I have ever sat through in a film. Not only do we have a scene where the guy from the sack is fed vomit (I had to look away for that) but we also have a scene that’ll make you check you still have 2 feet for quite a while after.

I do not normally like torture in films. I think it’s because in a lot of horror today it’s a cheap gimmick- rather than trying to scare, they try to sicken. They use shocking images that we aren’t affected by because we don’t give a shit about the characters (No, liking to party is not a good enough personality trait!). Audition is not like that in its torture scene. The torture is done so well and so carefully that I, well like it isn’t the right word (because I don’t really), but I preferred it infinitely to the likes of Hostel. Asami’s weapons of choice are so delicate. The acupncture needles, the piano wire, and she goes about it in such a way that you never feel a break in her character. She never stops being sweet and beautiful even while she says “kiri kiri kiri” in a sort of creepy singsong voice.

Audition is also a really interesting social commentary. It’s a kind of deconstruction of what the ideal woman is in Japanese culture. The direction is excellent- the use of colour to indicate Aoyama’s descent into Asami’s creepy world was very well done.

So what can I say? Miike, you might be trying to put us all in therapy, but kudos to you for trying to make sure we’re in therapy for something decent. This film is not nice. You will not enjoy it (if you do then I’m kinda worried) but it is a good film. Definitely reccomended.

John Carpenter’s The Thing

I really enjoyed this one. I loved the special effects, thought Mac was badass and I think this totally deserves its reputation as a great horror film- this coming from someone who is not normally a body horror fan (I’m more of a psych-ghost story girl, myself).

The story goes like this: we see the American winter camp in Antarctica where something strange is going on. Someone fromthe nearby Norwegian camp tried to shoot a dog and when the americans go to investigate they find that everyone in the camp has mysteriously died. At the American camp they have taken in the (still alive dog) which turns out to be an alien… Chaos ensues.

The animatronics were fantastic- while CGI is a great tool for films, I think these were better than a lot of the CGI used in today’s films. The acting was also really good. Even though the film was developng doomed characters you at least were hoping they’d survive somehow (while knowing they wouldn’t) unlike a lot of modern horror where you hate the characters- if you can even call them that (yes Eli Roth, I am looking you).

I will admit though, for me there were a couple of flaws:

1. I’m going to have to assume that Mac’s beard is some kind of Super Beard as he kept going outside in the Antarctic winter wearing surprising little (a leather jacket and a hat). Later on he does start to dress more believably though.

2. Why did they let the dog wander around the camp for a whole day? Did they think that the Norwegians were just trying to kill it for the lulz?

So, overall, I really reccomend this one.