Horror
noun
1. an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.
“The children screamed in
horror

Before reading further, please check out Update #1 if you haven’t done so already.

My participating in shocktober started as a half hearted endeavor. I needed an excuse to force myself to write more frequently and if that required me to set aside time to watch horror movies than so be it. But, what started as a writing exercise has rekindled a long lost love of mine, that being the horror genre. One of my favorite pastimes as a kid was wandering down the isles of blockbuster (R.I.P) and marveling at the covers of horror movies. Each cover has hints as to the gruesome content that one would be exposed to if they were to be fortunate enough to be allowed to watch it. Granted, I wasn’t allowed to watch a majority of them, and with the internet still in its infancy, renting or buying a movie was the only way to see it. But, I distinctly remember looking at these covers and not being afraid by the images themselves, but by the storylines that my imagination would create with those images long after I had left the store.

This is part of what makes the horror genre so magical. It’s impossible to watch most horror films and to not imagine putting yourself in a characters shoes. No one has ever watched Dawn of the Dead and not put themselves into the shoes of one of the survivors taking shelter in the mall. No one has ever watched Friday the 13th and not devised their own way to kill Jason. Maybe it has to do with the perils circumstances the protagonists normally find themselves in. The reality that if this guy doesn’t do something drastic, he will die and the movies will end is constantly apparent. Maybe it has to do with my dumb overactive brain thinking of terrible ways in which I may die by. Either way, shocktober reminded me that it’s enjoyable to be scared, even if it robs me of precious hours of sleep.

As always, Enjoy. 

Goodnight Mommy

“Twins are a serious deal breaker. ✮✮✮✮”

Goodnight Mommy

Note: I chose not to link the trailer because I found it revealed too much of the plot. I went into this movie “blind” and think my experience would have been hampered by clips shown in the trailer. To each his own.

There’s something about foreign horror films that always catches me off guard. I find that American horror has a tendency to focus on loud, boisterous scares with shock value measured in the amount of gore protruding from its victims.  However, foreign horror tends to include more subtle, psychological undertones. This doesn’t imply that American horror is inferior to foreign, but I’ve found that time and time again, foreign horror has another level of complexity in its exploration of protagonist/antagonist and their respective motivations.

Inseparable twin brothers try to cope with the return of their mother who has recently returned from the hospital after receiving cosmetic surgery. The boys are convinced that the person who came back from the hospital is not their mother, as she’s behaving… differently. So far, Goodnight Mommy is my sleeper hit of the year. Some parts horror, all parts psychological thriller, the film grabs you by the collar, it’s grip slowly tightening until the climax. Films that rely heavily on child actors can be hit or miss, due no doubt to inexperience. Thankfully, Elias & Lukas are brothers in real life, and this undoubtedly aids their ability to succinctly mimic each other’s mannerisms. Goodnight Mommy left me an anxious mess from start to finish, and once the film reached its climax I felt like it was the first time I’d taken in breath since the title screen. 

Ash Vs. Evil Dead

“The King is back”

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Ash is back and despite years of lying low he’s managed to stir the deadites, as a result of carelessly reciting the famed passages from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. Now the deadites are after Ash and his fellow Value Shop compatriots and it’s up to the reluctant hero to stop them. From the opening scene, it’s blatantly apparent that Ash vs. Evil Dead is a labor of love. This is very much a faithful continuation of the Evil Dead series that’s gained a cult status amongst horror fans. Despite 23 years since the last Evil Dead film – no, the 2013 remake doesn’t count- Bruce Cambell reprises his role as Ash J. Williams flawlessly, as the one-armed, smooth talker that hasn’t realized his prime has long since passed. The series premiere episode, “El Jefe”, is filled with classic staples of the Evil Dead series, groovy one liners, buckets of blood, and, oh yeah, chainsaw and boom stick. I’m still waiting to pass judgment on whether the new characters introduced are welcome additions, but so far they seem to provide breaks between Cambell’s one liners , which hopefully, won’t lose their punch week after week. Based on the pilot, I wholeheartedly recommend Ash vs. Evil Dead to anyone who is already a fan of the Evil Dead series. For those unfamiliar with the series, but enjoy horror comedies, I would encourage you to check out the pilot episode. 

The Babadook

“No good has ever come from reading strange books aloud.✮✮✮☆”

The Babadook

It’s always a pleasant surprise to stumble upon a relatively unknown film and have it surpass your expectations. Babadook revolves around a widower and her eccentric son, both of whom are attempting, and failing, to return a sense of normalcy to their lives after the loss of their husband and father. First and foremost, our protagonists played by Essie David and Noah Wiseman are both fantastic in their portrayals of a distraught mother and a child attempting to understand the world around him. This is what largely separates the film from others on this list. Babadook’s scares come less from shock and instead on creating suspense as the mother and son’s relationship becomes more strained – and strange.

The Conjuring

“By far the scariest ‘Based on a true story, my ass’ film. ✮✮✮☆”

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We all know that when it comes to horror films, the tagline “Based on a true story” is mostly bullshit. If you broke down which parts are actually based on a true story, it’d probably amount to 90% fiction and 10% factual. And that 10% usually means they got the names correct and that’s about it. Without the true story tagline, movies such as Paranormal Activity most likely wouldn’t have drawn in enough viewers to warrant six sequels – the most recent, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, currently rocking a hot 13% on rotten tomatoes. 

So, I’m clearly not a fan of the “based on a true story” shtick, so I went into The Conjuring with certain reservations. For one, I wasn’t crazy about director James Wan, whom I hold in high regard for the original Saw movie, and not the atrocious slew of sequels- attaching himself to a film that on the surface seems like a quick cash grab. Fortunately, I was wrong. The Conjuring heavily relies on jump scares, though it is Wan’s cinematography that makes these scares not only more memorable, but terrifying (The clapping game is one of the most memorable horror scenes that I’ve seen in some time). While its claims to be “based on a true story” maybe be debatable, James Wan has succeeded in making The Conjuring the scariest of that sub-genre.

Alien Isolation

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An hour into the game and I’ve finally found a gun. As my character lifts the revolver off the desk, I feel empowered. Sure, there are threats out there, but now I’m armed. As is the experience with most games, my transformation into a killing machine, is complete. That is, until the Alien shows up. I’m just near the exit. I check my map and I’m literally paces away from the monorail car that’ll take me to the next section of the space station, providing me with a brief reprieve from the cat and mouse game I’ve been playing with the Alien. But I can still hear it, crawling above me, the ventilation shafts are it’s vehicle to maneuver the station. The space station is its home. No, it’s hunting ground. I decide to go for it. I stop crouching and break into a full sprint to the rail car. Four steps away. Three steps away. Two steps away. One ste- and then I hear it. A sudden hiss, and the scampering of something running towards me. Something big. Something hungry. But I’m inside the rail car, clutching my revolver. Even if it makes it into the rail car I can just shoo-. But as the doors close behind me, in seeming blur, the Alien runs into the rail car coming straight for me. I’m stunned by its speed and movements. I raise the revolver, hoping to stun it long enough for the rail car to pull away and for the game to load the next level. I fire three times in quick succession, each hitting the Alien, and each closer than the last. Unflinching, it grabs me by the shoulders, my character’s perspective tilts back, both in horror and to see the entire scope of the Alien, towering over me. Its mouth opens, revealing another small mouth bearing razor sharp teeth, the Alien emits another brief hiss before plunging it’s teeth into my character. The screen goes blank and is quickly replaced with a reload screen.

I take off my headphones and wipe the cold sweat from my brow. For the first time in my life, a video game has me shaken. Never before have I played a game that recreated the cat and mouse intensity of a horror film. Previous games set in the Alien universe have given the player a plethora of means to kill the Aliens, such as the largely panned Aliens: Colonial Marines. Though what games such as Colonial Marines were missing was the sense of fear. The sense that there is a great possibility the player won’t make it out of this encounter alive, and this is what elevates Isolation above traditional horror games. Whereas in Colonial Marines, you could essentially spray and pray your way through most encounters, Alien Isolation requires the player to focus more on creating distractions and smartly traversing their environment. I have only played the game for a handful of hours, but on this short experience alone, I’d recommend people at least give Alien Isolation a chance.

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