Archive for the ‘Horror Films’ Category

HOORAH FOR HALLOWEEN!

October 8, 2011

Screw summer, I say. Let’s face it, the only good thing about summer is the possibility of a warm afternoon or two, and unless you’re a school-going kiddie or lazy college student you’re probably going to be spending it cooped up in a stuffy office anyway. The winter months have many more redeeming qualities: chub-concealing cosy jumpers, the red cups’ annual arrival in Starbucks and of course the bestest holiday of all… HALLOWEEN!

Freddy's excited… are YOU?

Here at Awesome Art we have a whole horde of Halloween-themed posts in the pipeline to celebrate this special month. To kick things off, here are a few of my favourite things about the Halloween holiday season.

HALLOWEEN-THEMED SHIT

I’m not talking about the endless arrays of standard plastic decorations like squishy spiders and shiny skulls (although they are awesome too), but the everyday items that get a Halloween-themed makeover and start cropping up all over American malls around August (those Americans really know how to make some awesome HALLOWEEN-THEMED SHIT). My favourite item of HALLOWEEN-THEMED SHIT? My ghost fairy lights. I love these bad boys so much that they stay up in my house ALL YEAR LONG.

Aren't they cute? And scary too, of course.


AWESOME HALLOWEEN MOVIES

I love a good Christmas nostalgia movie, and we all know it ain’t Christmas yet until you’ve watched The Muppet Christmas Carol. But Halloween nostalgia movies are even better.

While Halloween is the time of year when horror-movie-haters finally subject themselves to watching the classics, for me, it’s when standard horror films go on the back-burner and I indulge in Halloween-themed movies that are somewhat cheesy, aimed primarily at children and full of HALLOWEEN-THEMED SHIT (sigh…don’t you just love it!?). Here are some of my favourites, to be watched while eating copious amounts of sugar and nuzzled up in front of a cosy fire.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Not only is this film beautiful to watch, full of adorable characters and set to a delightful soundtrack, it’ll also quench post-Halloween blues by getting you all excited for Christmas! But watch out for the Boogeyman, and his appearance in the most traumatic scene to appear in a movie pre-The Human Centipede (only a tiny exaggeration there…).

Hocus Pocus

Hocus Pocus is one of those awesome ‘family-fun films’ (as I like to call ‘em) of the ‘90s. Such films always had a gang led by a sarky kid (or a sarky kid without a gang, *sob*), just enough sexual innuendo to still be family friendly and an inevitable wholesome and happy ending. Other examples of this well-known genre that you might remember include films like Matilda, Harriet The Spy and Home Alone. But Hocus Pocus is the best for PG Halloween fun: it’s got a bratty Thora Birch, a hilariously pre-digital age robot cat and Sarah Jessica Parker in the role that God intended for her.

Addams Family Values

This sequel kicks the ass of The Addams Family movie, which let’s face it, isn’t all that awesome. Though Addams Family Values may not be as outlandishly ‘Halloween-themed’ as the other movies on this list, who gives a crap!? It’s the ADDAMS. They ARE Halloween. Best bits? The summer camp scenes, especially the Addams-style politically incorrect Thanksgiving skit.

Check back with Awesome Art for more AWESOME Halloween-themed posts soon!

Try to contain your excitement or you mind end up like this guy!

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Hand-held Horror: Beyond the Blair Witch

August 16, 2011

Fancy yourself as the next big horror movie director? Of course you do. Well, you’re in luck! Forget forking out for a fancy camera and a couple of years at filmmaking school. Hell, don’t even bother hiring any actors, ‘cause all you need to scare kids these days is a hand-held camera and a few willing participants to run around a dark forest/college campus/backyard squealing. Add a couple close-ups of scary looking shadows and the tagline ‘…and five years later, the footage was found…’ and BAM you’ve got yourself a horror movie.

Remember this?

It’s been nearly 13 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the horror movie circuit by adding a new level of realism using low quality cameras. We’ve all seen it, and although you probably remember crapping your pants, you might not remember that we never actually SEE anything truly terrifying: the image of the Blair Witch remains a mystery and the terror is created wholly through suspense. Poor Blair Witch never got her 15 minutes of fame, but The Blair Witch Project itself got a whole lot more than that, paving the way for hand-held horror. Awesome Art takes a look at some of these ‘found footage’ films.

Evil Things (DVD release in 2011)

The latest installment to the club, Evil Things, is an independent horror movie about a bunch of college students who go away to some desolate snowy location for a 21st birthday party, and as you know a gang of college buddies isn’t a gang of college buddies without an aspiring filmmaker, so they bring along a video camera to document the super fun times. WHEN WILL KIDS LEARN THAT THIS WILL NOT END WELL!? Or should I say, when will writers start racking their brains a little more for new ideas, hmmmm?

Cameras are everywhere, ya know!

Predictable set up aside, it is described as a ‘nightmarish descent into psychological terror’ with a ‘bone-chilling’ conclusion. Those dopey kids certainly spend a lot of time running away from something… but just what the hell are they running from!?

HERRO!? GHOSTIES??

Is it ghosties? Mutated woodland creatures? Axe-wielding psychopathic ex-lovers? You’ll just have to watch and find out for yourself. Relatively positive reviews have upped the film’s credentials while its website is also pretty good at keeping in character, and you can watch video testimonials from ‘friends’ and ‘families’ of the missing kids. But can it rival the Blair Witch? Check it out for yourselves.

Cloverfield (2008)

Cloverfield is hand-held horror with a difference. First of all, there are no screaming college students (well, maybe there’s a few in there somewhere), no woods and certainly no ghosties. Second of all, Cloverfield takes matters out of the usual horror setting of ‘nameless hick-town’ and into the big bad city.

Essentially, Cloverfield is a cinematic apocalyptic vision, added to a long list that includes The Road and 28 Days Later, only with a giant monster instead of an unidentified virus and a hand-held camera that is needed in order to make any aspect of this over-the-top movie seem ‘real’. Without the clever camerawork Cloverfield would have been a monster flop FO’ SHO.

Bright lights, big... creature?

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Otherwise known as The Exorcist for the digital generation. The reason Paranormal Activity generated so much hype is simply because it taps into a fear that everyone has: what happens when you sleep? Paranormal Activity knows. But do you? It’s quiz time, kids!

So, just what DOES happen when you snooze?

a) Do helpful little elves burrow into your bedroom and mend the holes in your work boots?

b) Do your toys come to life and have a rockin’ luau at Barbie and Ken’s new pad?

c) DO YOU GET POSSESSED BY A HIDEOUS DEMON AND DO SHIT YOU DON’T REMEMBER!?

Answers on a postcard, please.

Please tell me that's just an elf...

Paranormal Activity intensifies this fear that we all possess by tricking viewers into thinking that they’re watching a true story, and then takes the next step in spooking by making us jump. A lot. There are long, drawn out moments where nothing happens… nothing happens… you start to get bored… and then BAM SOMETHING MOVES! And that’s it. For now. It continues to build until the final scene, which will make you shit yourself, no matter which alternative ending you choose to subject yourself to. And that’s essentially what you want from a good horror film, innit!?

Oh yeah, and then there’s this.

I watched this once. All the way through. I think I might have kind of liked it. Yeesh.

What are  your favourite ‘found-footage’ films?

The Scariest Faces in Horror

July 17, 2011

It’s happened to all of us.

Picture the scene: the lights are off, you’re all wrapped up in your nice little bed, clutching your teddy/spouse/empty bottle of vodka, but just as you start to drift off… you see it. THAT FACE!

Fancy a bedtime story? 

While creepy characters and gruesome scenes from horror movies may have us grimacing and seeking shelter behind our sofas, the things that stay with us long after the DVD player is turned off are THE FACES. There are some that shock unexpectedly, briefly visible in a flash of light, and others that just keep popping back for more fun. Whatever the case, it’s these faces that remain embedded in our tired minds as soon as the lights turn off.

Awesome horror blog The Horror Digest has created The Scary Face Club, where such faces are placed in one handy little spot where masochistic readers can experience one horrific viewing right after another. I have chosen my top three scariest faces in horror, plus a few extras just for funsies. Sweet dreams, readers…

1. Pazazu – The Exorcist

BET YOU'RE GLAD I BROUGHT THIS INTO YOUR LIFE!!

Yeah, so Regan is pretty rank to look at once she morphs into the pea-soup stained devil child. And her demonic voice paired with frequent crotch stabbing and weird spider-walking only adds to her status as a truly horrific character. But even I must admit that she’s no match for Pazazu (yep, this thing even has a name). Pazazu’s leap into the limelight may only be for a few seconds, but it’s a moment that we’ve all paused onscreen resulting in serious regret and sleepless nights. The Godfather of all shit-your-pants scary faces. Yeesh.

2. Double Offender – The Shining

Jack Nicholson

Demented Daddy

I stuck this one in here to pay homage to one of the greatest horror movie performances that depicts an entirely realistic possibility: Daddy goes cuckoo and attempts to bludgeon his brood. That face of his is pretty spine-chilling too. But The Shining’s ultimate nightmare FACE moment comes in the form of: OLD CHICK IN BATHTUB.

Who wouldn't want a hug from Grandma!?

First we see a hot naked chick just chillin’ in the bath, it’s all good. Jack Nicholson cops a feel. Bit creepy, but yeah, it’s still all good. Kinda. Then suddenly, without any warning, hot naked chick morphs into geriatric naked chick but not just any geriatric naked chick… a decaying, somewhat green, particularly saggy geriatric chick with a hideously eerie cackle.

3. Zelda – Pet Semetary

Don't you think I'm purdy?!

This dude decked out in drag and encased in plastic (Yup, it’s a dude. Does this make he/she/it scarier or just laughable? I know my answer) had a particular effect on my nerves when I first saw the tongue-in-cheek gem that is Stephen King’s Pet Semetary. Many of the scenes were filmed in my friend’s house, including this one. A house we used to play in when we were kids. Let that sink in for a minute.

I HAVE BEEN IN THAT FUCKING ROOM.

Some more beauts for you to gaze upon…

Nosferatu – Count Orlok

Surprisingly, not the best thing to watch when you're stoned.

The Others – Creepy child/old guy in veil

Is it a kid? Is it a midget? Is it an old shriveled little leprechaun? OH GOD WHO KNOWS!!!

The Ring – Closet chick

Late night, love?

The Strangers – The, uh, strangers? Particularly this guy

la la la, on the phone, la la la... HOLD ON WHAT THA!?

Psycho – Norman Bates

Srsly, though, if your mother called you Norman you'd do the same, right?

Who do you think has the scariest face in horror?

Rob Zombie Movie Marathon: Hold the Fried Chicken

May 29, 2011

Rob Zombie is the new-age Alice Cooper, blending shock-rock and campy over-the-top B movie style theatrics with plenty of tits and ass (usually that of his wife).

Yes, yes we get it. She's fit.

Zombie’s long-awaited musical return to the UK this Spring/Summer has resulted in a flurry of sold-out shows and has upped his credentials after his latest films resulted in more of a slump than a surge. But the dreadlocked devil hasn’t hung up the camera just yet; he also has a new film project in the bag, The Lords of Salem, which he describes as being his darkest work yet.

A teaser from Zombie's latest project

The Lords of Salem is inspired by the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, but is set predominantly in the present day, and is to be released in 2012.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I bloody love Rob Zombie. He is without a doubt the best live act that I have ever seen (and I am eagerly awaiting the experience of seeing him again at Download festival) and his tongue-in-cheek macabre melodies never fail to dazzle.

But upon hearing the news of his new film project, I realised that while I blare Mars Needs Women at every given opportunity I have never transferred my attention over to his – often poorly received – onscreen works. Awesome Art takes a look back over the best (and worst) of Zombie’s horror exploits.

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

A colourful dose of camp southern gothic, Zombie’s first full-length feature tells the story of the demented Firefly family who live in the arse-end of nowhere in 1970s Texas. The film resembles a Rob Zombie music video, loaded with snippets of serial killers, pin-up strippers and black and white silent movies.

Two idiotic teenage couples attempting to write a book about desolate road-stop attractions in the southern states come across creepy clown Captain Spaulding’s combination gas station and dodgy fried-chicken hut complete with horror attraction: ‘The Museum of Monsters and Madness’. There they learn the legend of Doctor Satan and, after picking up a hot hitch-hiker, become entangled with the demented serial-killing skin-wearing Firefly family.

Would you really eat this guy's fried chicken?

The mediocre plot and often irritating script – did Zombie purposely set out to squash a swear word into every line? – are luckily overtaken by the visual impact of the film. Fetuses in jars, Sheri Moon writhing around with a skeleton, and the Firefly family herding their victims (victims dressed in over-sized bunny costumes) through the mist are just a few of the memorable moments that make this film the ultimate cartoonish nightmare. Just try not to judge too much on the poor ending, or on Doctor Satan, a hilariously awful excuse for a villain.

THAT'S Doctor Satan???

The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

I was first introduced to The Devil’s Rejects as a teenager by a horror-loving ex-boyfriend who emphasised to me just how “fucking cool” this film was. I was horrified and thought it was the most disturbing thing I had seen since The Exorcist.

She's no Sheri Moon…

A few years on and I have been sufficiently desensitized by my consistent horror-viewing to assume that I would no longer have this opinion. But upon being re-introduced to the sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, I can safely say that this is not only Zombie’s best horror movie, but definitely his most disturbing.

It’s six months after the killings of those dumb teenagers, and police are madly trying to get their mitts on the Firefly family. We learn that Captain Spaulding is actually Baby’s father, and he, Baby and Otis manage to escape the house after it is discovered by the cops.

Boasting a hell of a lot more plot than its prequel, The Devil’s Rejects gets to grips with these members of the Firefly family, turning them into actual characters (and an actual family complete with brother/sister spats) as opposed to the cartoonish hicks that they were introduced as.

A fun-filled family day out!

Zombie ups the gore and suspense; the motel scene is particularly uncomfortable to watch – although Baby is still the most unconvincing villain – and the scene where that chick hysterically runs through the street wearing a mask of her husband’s butchered face: pure horror genius.

rank

The perfect blend of horror and comedy, it’s no wonder that this film has earned itself such a cult following. It also has what its predecessor lacks: an awesome final scene, suitably set to Lynyrd Skynyrd no less. Altogether now kids: “If I leave here tomorrow…”

One last road trip?

Watch the final scene of The Devil’s Rejects here.

Halloween (2007)

Halloween 2 (2009)

Zombie’s first attempt at fiddling with a classic was neither a remake nor a prequel, but rather a mishmash of the two, with his second attempt carrying on from where the first left off. While Michael Myers was never known for his long list of motives for butchering everything that crossed his path, Zombie attempts to give a back story to Myers and with it, reasons for why he became the infamous boogeyman. Both films focus on the family factors behind Michael Myers’ killing rampages.

So baby Myers had a tough childhood: a slaggy mother (guess who plays her?) a slaggy sister and an asshole stepdad who wants to bang said slaggy sister. So, obvs little Mikey has no other choice but to butcher them all. Will this half-assed explanation really satisfy an audience of Halloween experts who want to know what makes Myers tick?

THIS kid is supposed to be Michael Myers!?

This is the Halloween franchise injected with classic Zombie: an abundance of swearwords from the start, trashy women, misogynst men and not forgetting Sheri Moon’s ass. Both films create a dark, desolate world filled with dirty, dishevelled and wholly unlikeable characters. But overall, the films are a whole lot more mainstream than those of the Firefly family sagas, and a hell of a lot less entertaining.

Stick with what you do best, Rob: showing off your wife’s ass. Oops, I mean… original storylines. Yep, that’s what I meant.

One for the lads.

One Final Scream: The Scream franchise

May 23, 2011

Before torture porn stole the horror movie crown from slashers, there was the ultimate horror franchise complete with guide-book: Wes Craven’s suspense soaked Scream. Forget supernatural serial killers and creepy Japanese chicks, however camp it may be Scream made audiences jump with strategically timed creepy music and the theory that seemingly normal high school kids are actually horror movie-obsessed deranged serial killers.

Hey there!

After reaching cult-like status can the ultimate slasher collection successfully return with one last memorable punch? Take a deep breath and remember: don’t have sex, don’t answer the bloody phone, for God’s sake don’t ever say “I’ll be back,” and remember, Ghostface’s knife can stab through any door.

Scream

Based loosely on the killings of the Gainesville Ripper, the original half piss-take half blood-fest paved the way for a flurry of spoofs and earned itself a permanent cult-status. Sydney Prescott may be the most annoying character known to man (seriously, dude, how many lives can one chick have?), but hey, you can’t get a much better principal than the Fonz. My favourite bit? Rose McGowan’s garage-door death. Although Drew Barrymore’s 90s bob and sweater combo is also pretty sweet.

Regretting that last donut?

Scream 2

Sydney’s all grown up, attempting to be a college student while making the most of caller ID. Character development in a horror film sets Scream apart from the masses, and the whole playing-on-the-idea-of-horror-movies-now-playing-on-the-idea-of-the-sequel (still with me?) is just a further example of Scream’s deliciously original concept. Not as good as the original, but still a damn good effort.
Best bit: Will Smith’s wifey getting the stab while watching Stab. Oh, the irony!

GIMME BACK MY POPCORN BITCH!

Scream 3

Now this is where it flags a bit. The film-within-a-film and the ‘revelation’ at the end can’t save this from being a mediocre ‘final’ chapter.
But who cares about the plot, I just get too distracted by Courtney Cox’s hair.

Shit, she's spotted a mirror...

Scream 4

Now how the feck is this one gonna work.

How can a generation who will happily watch human centipedes eating each other’s shit flinch at the sight of Ghostface flopping around clumsily in his comical robes!?

LOLZ.

The reality is that they probably won’t. But Scream 4 ups the camp and creates a ridiculously over-the-top ending that makes it a full-blown parody of itself. Pretentious film students will be all over this shiz.

Scream 4 introduces a new set of Woodsboro faces, a ton of iPhones complete with Ghostface apps together with an annoying kid with a webcam permanently attached to his head to make a seemingly new breed of Scream that in reality relies on pretty much the same techniques as the first three films.

Old-school Screamers

New kids on tha block... complete with irritating live blogger

Scream fans will pick up on the mirrored moments from the previous films and in typical Scream fashion (and quite possibly the only reason that most people will want to watch this movie) you’re left guessing right until the end. Will Gale Weathers ever shut her trap? Will Dewey stop being the most useless bumbling cop since Chief Wiggum? Will Sydney bite the dust? One thing’s for sure, you’ll be yelling at the idiots onscreen for the duration of the movie, as always. Enjoy.

Women in Horror Recognition Month: Awesome Female Horror Characters

February 26, 2011

Women in Horror Recognition Month is nearly at an end, and shamefully I have left it until the last-minute to get involved. Whoopsh!

February is Women in Horror Recognition Month. The concept was created by awesome horror writer Hannah Neurotica, who is also responsible for Ax Wound, a feminist horror zine.

Horror films are chock full of chicks, from final girls to slasher scream queens. But often they are represented as dumb bimbos with blood-drenched boobs.

Some quality filmmaking right there.

And what about the ladies behind the cameras?

Women in Horror Recognition Month celebrates the female writers and directors of horror, as well as the ladies onscreen, who have defied the myth that horror, like heavy metal, is a boys-only club.

Plenty of bloggers have jumped on the bandwagon in spreading the word of the event, including The Girl who loves Horror’s post on Stephen King’s leading ladies and a bunch of awesome posts on Fatally Yours.

From kick-ass super-women like Ellen Ripley to every dimwit blonde who’s killed off in the first half hour, female characters rule the horror screen. I have compiled a list of some of my favorite female characters in horror in celebration of Women in Horror Recognition Month.

1. Sheri Moon Zombie – Baby Firefly (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects)

The woman I would like to trade lives with, please.

Yeah, we get it Rob Zombie, your wife is super hot. Do we really need to see her arse again?

I’m just kidding. I could look at Sheri Moon’s ass all day. Baby Firefly may be a controversial choice for this list, with her high-pitched squeaky voice and white trash barely there wardrobe, but I bloody love/am ridiculously jealous of Sheri Moon and Baby is the ultimate creation of Rob Zombie’s tongue-in-cheek horror style that many people just don’t get.
“TUTTI-FUCKING-FRUITY!”

2. Linda Blair – Reagan MacNeil (The Exorcist)

OH GOOD LORD MAKE IT STOP!

Yeah yeah so this is pretty obvious. But I think I deserve some recognition for actually putting this picture on my blog. Every time I look at it I crap my pants. Yeesh.

3. Fairuza Balk – Nancy Downs (The Craft)

Now that's what I call PMS.

I was obsessed with The Craft (1996) as an angst-ridden pre-teen. It was definitely one of the influences behind my goth/wiccan/Marilyn Manson-loving phase. Nancy Downs, the ringleader and mega bitch of the gang of teen witches, is performed to perfection by the awesome Fairuza Balk. This is the ultimate teen horror flick for budding goths and wannabe witches.

4. Shelley Duvall – Wendy Torrance (The Shining)

yeesh

The Shining (1980) is one of my all-time favorite horror movies. And one of the (many) reasons for this is Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance. Gangly and awkward, she portrays the part of the fragile victim with memorable originality. And what can I say, boy is she ridiculously creepy.

5. Katharine Isabelle – Ginger (Ginger Snaps)

Got any tampons?

Forget Twilight, before the teen vampire craze began there was Ginger Snaps (2000), a film about teenage werewolves. Two teenage outcast sisters, a creepy loner (Brigitte) and an outspoken redhead (Ginger), are obsessed with death and are going through some pretty weird changes during puberty. The film’s tagline states: “They don’t call it the curse for nothing.” What a larf! This low-budget Canadian horror film was an unexpected cult success, and despite the hilariously garbled creature costumes, it is funny, original and suitably blood-drenched.

6. Ingrid Pitt – various characters

BOOBS

The original scream queen unfortunately passed away last year. But her legacy as the heavy-bosomed sexy siren in Hammer horror classics like Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers will continue to live on.

Who are your favorite horror movie screen queens?

These two perhaps?

Check out a cool interview with Hannah Neurotica talking about Women in Horror Recognition Month here.

Final Girl Film Club Review: Frozen (2010)

February 13, 2011

Scary things can happen on chair lifts.

The horror, oh the horror!

As part of horror blogger Final Girl’s monthly film club, I took a look at the chilly thriller (‘Chiller’, if you will. Aren’t I clever.) Frozen (2010). Writer/director Adam Green takes a simple concept and turns it into a nightmare scenario: What happens when you’re the last to use the chair lift at a dodgy ski resort and by some screw up you get forgotten about?

The film introduces us to the three main characters briefly and doesn’t bother with much development. All we know is that the girl and one of the guys are dating, and the other guy is a needy stoner who has never had a girlfriend. And, well, that’s about it. The fact that they are never really developed as characters only emphasizes their normality: they could be anyone.

The film relies on tension and a (somewhat) plausible concept to create terror. Think Open Water (2003). Nobody enjoys the moment when your chair lift freezes and you’re left to dangle mid-air, if only for a minute, and Green has tapped into a fear that many would shiver at the thought of. Frozen in mid-air, the threesome watch in horror as the lights of the ski resort are turned off, and they realise that it is Sunday night and the resort won’t open again until Friday. Of course.

....Uh oh.

Right from the start I could imagine the inevitable things that would happen as the three characters swung in the snow. One would definitely need to pee at some point. Someone would probably jump, resulting in disaster. There would most certainly be some skin-freezing-to-chair-lift fiasco a la Dumb and Dumber. One of them would bite the dust pretty speedily. Surprise surprise, all of the above happen.

The film is all about terror through tension, but the use of this tension could have been emphasized a lot more to make it truly unbearable to watch. There is some gore and gross moments but ultimately the horror comes from the thought of the scenario itself. It is a story of survival and making crucial choices, and throughout the film audiences will be wondering, what the heck would I do if it was me stuck up there!? Would I risk the jump? Would I drop my equipment or hold onto it? Would I climb across the cables? Would I wet myself!?

Forget breaking your legs, if you jump you also risk becoming someone's snack. Oh, the stress!

The characters are for the most part, likeable and believable, although listening to the sad singleton stoner mourn his failed love affair made me roll my eyes and wish for his mouth to just freeze up already. At times I was pretty freakin’ bored, but that comes from watching too many gore-fests and being the desensitized viewer that I am.

The main reason that I continued to watch Frozen was purely because I was curious to see what the characters would do. But that is entirely the point of the film, it makes you think about how you would handle such a strive for survival. In any case, you’ll probably never feel comfortable perching your rump on a chair lift again. Better stick to the T-bar lift.

Stay on the ground now, kids, ya hear!?
Showcase T-Bar
Photo courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr.

Trauma in Tutus: Black Swan Review

January 30, 2011

Get ready for 108 minutes of pure, raw anxiety.

Uh-oh..

Darren Aronofsky creates a whirlwind of paranoia, intensity and hysteria with the psychological modern gothic thriller that is Black Swan.

Right from the start we are hurled into the life of dedicated yet delicate New York ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman). She lives with her overbearing, equally anxious mother (Barbara Hershey) and appears to have no life outside of the ballet studio. From start to finish, we remain in her intense world and watch as she descends into madness.

Hey there!

Nina lands the role of her dreams, as the Swan Queen in a new version of Swan Lake that is being directed by the somewhat sleazy Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel). In this challenging role, she must embody both the white swan and its evil twin, the black swan. Although she is ideal as the virtuous white swan, she struggles to find within her the ability to play the part of its doppelgänger. Leroy slyly suggests that if she goes home and touches herself this may help her to relax. Did I mention he was somewhat sleazy?

Typically, another dancer in the company, Lily (Mila Kunis), is perfect to play the black swan. Sexy, passionate and tattooed, she is everything that Nina is not and Nina becomes obsessed with her, believing that she is out to steal the lead role.

The first half of the film moves quite slowly, emphasizing the mundane boredom and loneliness of Nina’s life. As Nina slowly loses her mind in trying to find her dark side, Aronofsky plays with the audience, challenging us to question where reality ends and fantasy begins. As we are seeing the story unfold through Nina’s eyes, it becomes impossible to know what is happening for real and what are Nina’s paranoid delusions.

Just how many Nina's are there?

Black Swan is a claustrophobic thriller about obsession and fear. Fear of sex and passion, fear of losing control and fear of imperfection. If the film’s constant feeling of biting anxiety isn’t enough, there are plenty of moments that will make for an extremely uncomfortable audience. There is frequent body mutilation, skin picking and bloody toes. Two such scenes involve Nina slowly peeling skin off of her fingers and Winona Ryder (as jaded ballet dancer Beth) jabbing a nail file into her cheeks. There is also a particularly intense masturbation scene that you definitely wouldn’t want to watch with your mother. You will be gripping your seat while also cringing into your popcorn throughout this movie.

Portman transformed

So is it worth the hype? Portman is certainly brilliant, and the film’s success is ultimately down to her performance. The film itself isn’t particularly scary, instead it is seriously heavy viewing and not recommended for the fragile or squeamish. The melodrama, blood and eroticism of this overwhelming film are certainly intoxicating, but won’t be for everyone.

I can’t say that I’ll be rushing back for a second viewing, and it isn’t quite as captivating as Requiem for a Dream, but Black Swan has got ‘Oscar winner’ written all over it.

The Dark Side of Disney

January 21, 2011

I’m just going to go ahead and admit it: I freakin’ love Disney movies. As embarrassing as it may be for a horror blogger to admit, I have no shame in proudly declaring my love for The Emperor’s New Groove (the funniest movie, like, EVER), or admitting that Beauty and the Beast was on my Christmas list alongside Hammer Horror classics.

Disney has always been controversial. First of all, parents drop like flies and ‘good’ characters are sent to their graves. Then there’s a whole issue of allegations of creepy hidden meanings, racist content and scenes that are deemed too disturbing for kiddies. Disney has always had a dark side.

One of the earliest Disneys, 1929’s The Skeleton Dance, is a creepy short film featuring eerie ghosts and cawing crows, while Gothic imagery is rife in Disney classics like Beauty and the Beast and Snow White. I decided to take a look at some of the scariest Disney scenes and delve into the horror that lurks behind the magic.

Click on the title links to see the horror for yourselves!

Trippy Terror
Two of the scariest scenes in Disney look as though they were dreamt up by some dope-fueled ’60s hippy.

Dude… can you see those pink elephants too!?

Pink Elephants on Parade
Dumbo (1941) is a pretty scary movie straight from the start, channelling the whole ‘creepy carnival’ vibe. But the freakiest moment comes when Dumbo and his mouse pal Timothy drink too much booze unknowingly (who would have thought it, drink spiking in Disney), and end up hallucinating about petrifying pink elephants.
Heffalumps and Woozles
For those of you unfamiliar with Heffalumps and Woozles, they are the Winnie the Pooh version of elephants and weasels. The song of the same name appeared in the Disney musical film featurette, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968). Poor Pooh bear has a nightmare vision of creepy elephants and weasels who morph into different shapes and colours and are hell-bent on stealing Pooh’s precious honey. At least there’s sort of an explanation behind this one, it was the ‘60s after all.

Totally Traumatizing
Everyone remembers the Disney films that traumatized their kiddie souls for life. Surprise surprise, they always involve the death of a parent.

I. WILL. NOT. CRY.

The Massacre of Mufasa
Even those with hearts of stone would find it hard not to blub uncontrollably when the ultimate ‘good’ Disney character meets his end in The Lion King (1994). He’s bold, brave, full of good advice and not to mention fuzzy and freakin’ adorable. I can still remember watching it at a friend’s birthday party back in the early ‘90s, and Mufasa’s death resulted in a roomful of traumatized toddlers.
Mummy Bambi Bites the Dust
The word ‘meadow’ will forever have terrifying connotations for anyone who witnessed the trauma that was Bambi (1942). I can’t decide which is worse, Bambi’s mum getting slaughtered by hunters or the blazing forest fire scene. Either way, it’s quite possibly the most disturbing of all Disneys.

Truly Terrifying
Then there are the scenes that are, well, just plain scary.

Can’t we just watch Aladdin!?

Fantasia: Night on Bald Mountain
Let’s face it, Fantasia (1940) is just freaky all over. But wizards, sorcery and broomsticks gone mad can’t compare to the terror of Night on Bald Mountain. The demon Chernabog summons restless souls from their graves in a horrific Gothic vision that would terrify any tot.
Pinocchio: Stay off the Booze kids
You can’t deny that Pinocchio (1940) has underlying morals: Don’t fall in with the wrong crowd or you’ll turn into a jackass. Literally. Pinocchio hits the booze, starts gambling and puffing on cigars with his naughty pal Lampwick on Pleasure Island. He and his delinquent friends are then transformed into donkeys to be sold into donkey slavery . If this terrifying scene doesn’t stop kids from smokin’ and drinkin’, then I don’t know what the hell will.

What Disney films do you think are the most horrific?

‘They don’t make them like this anymore’: Iconic Illustrations in The Art of Hammer

December 31, 2010

They sure don't.. — Creatures the World Forgot, 1971

Hello there. Do you love classic horror movies that are more tongue-in-cheek than torture porn? Heaving breasts and damsels in distress? Books that don’t let pesky words get in the way of pictures!? If you’re nodding along in enthusiasm (and hell, who wouldn’t be), then The Art of Hammer will be right up your dark alley.

The Art of Hammer cover

The Art of Hammer was published in October 2010, and is bursting with colourful pictures of Hammer horror film posters spanning from the ’50s to the ’70s, including classics such as Dracula and One Million Years B.C. to more obscure features like The Snorkel and The Shadow of the Cat.

The book begins with an introduction to the history of Hammer horror, from the initial critical response that scorned them to their now cult status as classics. Almost 300 poster images from Hammer’s archive are featured in this substantial book, and many are extremely rare. It’s got beautiful illustrations, brilliant taglines (‘Sledge-Hammer suspense to shock you from your seat!’ and ‘What strange power made her half woman — half snake?!’ being two such gems) and lets not forget plenty of boobs. This is the ultimate coffee table book for horror and hammer fans alike.

Here are some of my favourite posters from the book:

Awesome. Just Awesome. — The Curse of Frankenstein, 1957.

Death by deep-sea diving!! — The Snorkel, 1958.

The classic — Dracula, 1958.

Scream of Fear! 1961

Feck the film, I want my free Rasputin beard!! — Rasputin the Mad Monk, The Reptile 1966.

Freaky feline — The Shadow of the Cat, 1961.

'It's all in good fun, of corpse!' — The Old Dark House, 1966.

Hammer hot chicks — One Million Years B.C., SHE, 1966.

He sure has.. — Dracula has Risen from the Grave, 1968.

Those were the days.. — When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, 1970.

The horror world lost a legend this year, RIP Ingrid Pitt — Countess Dracula, 1971.