Tag Archives: horror

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #31 – Honourable Mentions

If 31 days of horror films haven’t quite desensitised you to blood, gore, guts, violence, sex, nudity, profanity, vulgarity and downright depravity, then here’s a few more for you…

These are my honourable mentions, films worthy of a viewing that either didn’t quite make it into the list or they are films that I’ve discovered just after the list was finalised and the work had begun. Too eager to share than savour them for next year (not another 31 blogs I hear you cry!), here they are. No reviews – just a poster, synopsis, my incisive insight and the trailer courtesy of Youtube.


1. Switchblade Romance (Haute Tension) (2003)

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Tagline: Hearts Will Bleed

Plot According to Google: A beautiful young Frenchwoman, Alex, travels out to the country to visit her family and brings along her friend Marie. Soon after they get settled in the secluded home, Alex’s parents are brutally attached by a psychotic truck driver who proceeds to stalk the two women as well. When the killer kidnaps Alex in his truck, Marie hides in the back to try and rescue her, but the bloodshed is far from over.

Inertia’s Incisive Insight: A worthy New French Extremity addition from Aja, the superb psychological twist at the end is just as jarring as the violent roller-coaster the film has taken you on.


2. Ratter (2015)

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Tagline: At This Moment Someone Could Be Listening… Watching… Recording…

Plot According to Google: Emma, a graduate student living alone in New York City, is watched by a stalker on all of her technological devices. Eventually, the video feeds are not enough and he goes from a virtual to a physical stalker.

Inertia’s Incisive Insight: An interesting found footage addition that adds a creepy, goosebump-inducing angle on where most of the footage is coming from, with a terrifyingly real ending.


3. The Omen (1976)

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TaglineThose Who Foretold It Are Dead. Those Who Can Stop It Are In Grave Danger.

Plot According to Google: American diplomat Robert adopts Damien when his wife, Katherine, delivers a stillborn child. After Damien’s first nanny hangs herself, Father Brennan warns Robert that Damien will kill Katherine’s unborn child. Shortly thereafter, Brennan dies and Katherine miscarries when Damien pushes her off a balcony. As more people around Damien die, Robert investigates Damien’s background and realises his adopted  son may be the Antichrist.

Inertia’s Incisive Insight: The film that made children terrifying – a superbly crafted horror.


4. Horns (2013)

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Tagline: Love Hurts Like Hell

Plot According to Google: Blamed for the murder of his girlfriend, a man awakes one morning to find he has grown a pair of horns. Armed, now, with supernatural powers, he sets out to find the killer.

Inertia’s Incisive Insight: An impeccable performance from Radcliffe that finally sheds the Harry Potter image, Horns is a funny, tragic and visually exquisite film.


5. The Ring (2002)

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Tagline: Before You Die, You See… The Ring

Plot According to Google: It sounds like just another urban legend – a videotape filled with nightmarish images leads to a phone call foretelling the viewer’s death in exactly seven days. Newspaper reporter Rachel Keller is skeptical of the story until four teenagers all die mysteriously exactly one week after watching just such a tape. Allowing her investigative curiosity to get the better of her, Rachel tracks down the video and watches it. Now she has just seven days to unravel the mystery.

Inertia’s Incisive Insight: A worthy remake of the original J-Horror Ringu, sparking and reinvigorating interest in urban legends.


6. The Thing (1982)

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Tagline: Man is the Warmest Place to Hide

Plot According to Google: In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at a sled dog. When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks both human beings and canines in the camp and they discover that the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A resourceful helicopter pilot and the camp doctor lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one.

Inertia’s Incisive Insight: John Carpenter at his absolute best, The Thing is a dreary, miserable, visually effective timeless horror.


7. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

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Tagline: Everything You’ve Heard is True

Plot According to Google: Found footage tells the tale of three film students who have traveled to a small town to collect documentary footage about the Blair Witch, a legendary local murderer. Over the course of several days, the students interview townspeople and gather clues to support the tale’s veracity. But the project takes a frightening turn when the students lose their way in the woods and begin hearing horrific noises.

Inertia’s Incisive Insight: The Founding Father of the found footage sub-genre, a truly terrifying masterpiece in horror filmmaking.


8. The Mind’s Eye (2015)

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Tagline: Mind Over Matter

Plot According to Google: A man and his girlfriend become the prisoners of a deranged doctor who wants to harvest their telekenetic powers.

Inertia’s Incisive Insight: A steroid-induced R-rated X-Men. Just phenomenal.


9. Bite (2015)

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Tagline: This May Sting A Litte

Plot According to Google: A seemingly harmless bite transforms a young woman into an insect-like creature that needs human flesh for her eggs.

Inertia’s Incisive Insight: Cronenberg re-born, Bite is a tour-de-force in FX and make-up – it’s The Fly of the noughties.


10. Nurse (2013)

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Tagline: Your Pain is Her Pleasure

Plot According to Google: A young nurse begins to suspect that a sexy colleague is responsible for murdering a string of unfaithful men.

Inertia’s Incisive Insight: An insanely sexy, bloody, gory and downright entertaining schlock-style B-pic.

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31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #31 – Halloween (1978)

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Tagline: The Night He Came Home

Director: John Carpenter

Writer(s): John Carpenter & Debra Hill

Studio: Compass International Pictures

Budget: $325,000

Box Office: $70m

Release Date: 25th October, 1978

IMDb Rating: 7.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Donald Pleasance – Dr Sam Loomis

Jamie Lee Curtis – Laurie Strode

Nancy Loomis – Annie Brackett

PJ Soles – Lynda van der Klok

Charles Cyphus – Sheriff Brackett

Kyle Richards – Lindsey Wallace

Brian Andrews – Tommy Doyle

Nick Castle – The Shape

Trailer

Plot According to Google: On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17 year old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30th, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a 21 year old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims.

Inertia’s Insight: The slasher sub-genre and its films are often derided as being tactless, kill-by-numbers cash cows that only serve to fuel the appetites of blood-thirsty teenagers who cheer for the masked killer as its one-dimensional victims are slaughtered in new and inventive ways. Halloween is debatably the Godfather of the slasher genre: most subsequent slashers tended to follow its trend of a holiday theme, a masked killer, a group of drug-taking alcohol-drinking pre-marital sex indulging teens and the iconic virginal Final Girl. For all its derision, the slasher genre still has some gems, and Halloween is a stone-cold classic.

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Touted as an idea called “The Babysitter Murders”, relative newcomer John Carpenter was tasked with creating a horror film on a small budget. With producer and then-girlfriend Debra Hill, they crafted a genuinely terrifying horror film that features barely any blood and has its first murder 53 minutes into its 90 minute run-time.

High school student Laurie babysits the neighbour’s kids on Halloween night, preparing for an evening with no more excitement than pumpkin carving and a pre-watershed horror film. Her friends Lynda and Annie are preparing to get their rocks off with their boyfriends in what is just another evening in little old Haddonfield. But Michael Myers, the guy that murdered his sister when he was just six years old, has escaped Smith’s Grove and is on his way to Haddonfield to wreak havoc in this sleepy town.

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The opening shot is infamous and will be taught in film school for years to come. Aesthetically Hitchcockian, the opening continuous shot (thought technically not) sees us in the perspective of an unknown assailant, peeping in from outside before entering the property, taking a knife from the kitchen, putting on a mask, ascending the stairs and murdering the beautiful girl. It isn’t until the end of this scene that its revealed that this merciless killer is in fact a six year old boy. It’s a powerful opening, effective by immersing us into the horror but also for establishing the killer as an emotionless, remorseless, soulless individual.

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From here the film, in horror terms, moves slowly as it establishes Laurie, her friends and their environment whilst tracing Michael’s story via the determined Dr. Loomis, the man intent on keeping Michael Myers locked away for the rest of his life because he recognises him as being “purely and simply… evil.” Whilst her friends are out to play, the shy and reserved Laurie, though showing signs of ‘slasher transgressions’ by smoking pot and talking about going to the Homecoming dance with a boy, is prepared for an evening of babysitting and homework. Instead, whilst the sex and drinking goes punished, Laurie fights for her survival against a ruthless and seemingly unstoppable killer.

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Carpenter had said that it wasn’t intentional for him to make Laurie’s virginity a heroic part of her Final Girl prowess; rather, the fact that she is not distracted by boys is the reason she is able to survive. It works to her favour, naturally, but you can’t help but feel that in the age of the rebellious teenager, it’s societies way of reflecting on and punishing their transgressions, isolating the virginal girl as the heroine and survivor.

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Once the killing starts its relentless and doesn’t let up until Loomis’ intervention at the end. The killings are bloodless, Carpenter relying on the effect and impact of Michael’s imposing force and faceless mask to amplify the scares. The scene in which he pins Bob to the wall with the kitchen knife then stands back, his head moving slowly off-tilt to study his victim with curiosity is just plain terrifying.

Michael Myers is actually an extremely calculated killer. He stalks Laurie for the best part of two thirds of the film, and for me its him first ensuring that she is his sister (though we don’t discover this fact in this film) and then planning how best to isolate her; Michael is clever in his pursuit of his victims, hiding before attacking; he wears the bed sheet in an attempt to win trust from Lynda; his positioning of Annie on the bed with the Myers headstone above her is beautifully macabre. This sets Halloween apart from the slew of slashers that ensued.

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The shot of him rising, seemingly from the dead, as Laurie sits panting, thinking that it’s all over is perfect popcorn launching Halloween night fare. There are so many shots in the film that are more frightening than most horror films could offer – the shot of Michael stood outside Laurie’s school, or inbetween the sheets of washing; the shot of Michael walking calmly towards Laurie as she frantically tries to get back into the house; the shot of Michael’s pale mask emerging from the dark after Laurie discovers her friends bodies – all this and more renders Halloween a timeless, classic horror film that, at 38 years old, shows no signs of losing its terrifying impact.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *

Trivia

  • The infamous mask now has an equally infamous story – its a William Shatner Star Trek mask with the eyes widened then spray painted white.
  • John Carpenter considered the hiring of Jamie Lee Curtis as the ultimate tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, who had given her Mother, Janet Leigh, legendary status in Psycho.
  • The original script, “The Babysitter Murders”, had the events take place over several days. It was a budgetary decision to change the script to have everything happen on the same day.
  • The opening POV sequence took two days to film.
  • Tommy and Lindsey are watching the 1951 version of The Thing, a film that Carpenter would go on to remake in 1982.

Quotes

DR. SAM LOOMIS: I met him, fifteen years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six year old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the Devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realised that what was living behind that boys eyes was purely and simply… evil.

SHERIFF BRACKETT: It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.

LAURIE: It was the boogeyman…
DR. SAM LOOMIS: As a matter of fact, it was.

LYNDA: See anything you like?

SHERIFF BRACKETT: Every kid in Haddonfield thinks this place is haunted.
DR. SAM LOOMIS: They may be right.

All images courtesy of Blushots: https://blushots.weebly.com


Until Next Year… Happy Halloween!

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31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #30 – Unfriended (2014)

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Tagline: What Happened to Laura Barns?

Director: Leo Gabriadze

Writer(s): Nelson Greaves

Studio: Universal Pictures

Budget: $1m

Box Office: $64.1m

Release Date: 17th April, 2015

IMDb Rating: 5.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Heather Sossaman – Laura

Matthew Bohrer – Matt

Courtney Halverson – Val

Shelley Hennig – Blaire

Moses Storm – Mitch

Will Peltz – Adam

Renee Olstead – Jess

Jacob Wysocki – Ken

Trailer

Plot According to Google: One night, while teenagers Blaire, Mitch, Jess, Adam, Ken and Val take part in an online group chat session, they are suddenly joined by a user known only as “Billie227”. Thinking its just a technical glitch, the friends carry on their conversation… until Blaire begins receiving messages from someone claiming to be Laura Barns, a classmate who killed herself exactly one year prior. As Blaire tries to expose Billie’s identity, her friends are forced to confront their darkest secrets and lies.

Inertia’s Insight: We now live in an age saturated with technology. A wealth of information (and cat videos) is accessible at the touch of a button, at home or on the go. We are connected across several social media platforms, befriending people we went to school with that we barely shared more than a class with and now we share our lives, baby pictures and Instagram-filtered food shots. This connectivity, particularly with the youth, is apt to cause issues with bullying and provocation that we’ve seen explored in dramas on TV and in film for some time. With Unfriended, the filmmakers have explored the concept of a haunted technical world in which the devastation wrought by the supernatural has more of a personal effect than a physical one. Well, kind of…

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Unfriended is seen entirely from the perspective of Blaire’s laptop – it’s found footage for the digital age, as the cinema screen becomes a Mac interface. iTunes is open, as are several Safari windows with social media and, of course (plug plug), the MTV website. The film starts with Blaire watching a video of Laura Barns’ suicide and the video that caused her demise. It captures our intrigue whilst highlighting the availability of such distressing footage at our fingertips. Interrupted by a video call from her boyfriend Mitch, she stops the video that will come to serve as the driving force behind the film. Blaire and Mitch’s attempt at a bit of cyber fun is interrupted by the beginning’s of an ordinary midweek group chat with all of their friends that becomes a deadly game of life or death.

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The uninvited appearance of the user known only as ‘Billie227′ sparks debate over the identity of this unknown and unseen person. As they interact with it they find that all is not as it should be. At first thinking it to be nothing more than a prank, Laura Barns’ online account starts communicating with Blaire and posting intimate and private pictures of each of the friends from their account, dividing, testing and conquering their friendship.

The use of the computer as the interaction serves the narrative well – our online presence is what we attempt to make of our lives, the bits and pieces we are willing to show that we hope stitch together to form an ideal picture. Seeing Blaire’s computer and private messages shared with Mitch opens her up to us and allows for more of an internal perspective than a by-the-numbers horror film would allow. The only issue with this is that we are left with only a perception of the other characters from their reactions to the ensuing events. This doesn’t turn out to be too much of a problem as they are killed off relatively quickly and in inventive ways.

The video of Laura Barns that led to her suicide is dreadful, a complete invasion of someone’s privacy to the point of it surpassing bullying and almost becoming a criminal offence. But it’s this kind of attitude towards other people’s privacy in this online world that this film effectively highlights. Though they are all sad about the Laura’s passing, the tragedy for them is the way she died and not why she died. The video, to some of them, still appears to be funny, and their attitude towards their friend Val shows that the bullying is practically starting again.

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A game of Never Have I Ever appears to be the undoing of them all, as the unknown “Billie227” pits them against each other, exposing their lies and dividing them until there remains only one. The revelation of who posted the video of Laura that led to her suicide is a surprising one, really sending home the message of cyberbullying and its long, negative impact on the lives of those affected. When Blaire searches for help on Chat Roulette, we see the extent to which our lives are so readily available to people online, and the lack of help given by those she pleads to demonstrates the fact that prank videos on YouTube and social media have numbed us all to real-life tragedies.

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It’s an interesting concept to use Skype and a computer interface as the entirety of the film, an effective payoff that allows for some new and unique scares. The only pitfall is that it becomes tiresome towards the end – the limitation serves well until the point where we are left with just Blaire and Mitch. At this point you’d expect them to slam the laptop shut and run out to each other, or at the very least for an adult to come in and switch the light on, and so without the realistic expectations at this point, the concept grows tiresome, and isn’t saved by the very cheap and ineffective ending.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * *

Trivia

  • The film takes place on April 12th, 2014.
  • The film was originally titled Offline, then it was Cybernatural before finally becoming Unfriended.
  • Shot in one long take, in real time, with the characters on actual computers.
  • All filmed in one house with all the cast members in different rooms.

Quotes

ADAM: Fuck you, Blaire.
BLAIRE: I hate you so much, Adam.

BLAIRE: Mitch, do you hate me? Could you ever forgive me, I am so sorry…
MITCH: Blaire – I don’t hate you, I love you… I love you so much.

KEN: Uh-oh! Someone’s in their chonies! Someone’s in their chonies!

All images courtesy of Google


Tomorrow: Night #31 – Halloween (1978)

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31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #29 – Let the Right One In (2008)

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Tagline: Eli is 12 Years Old. She’s Been 12 Years Old for Over 200 Years, and She Just Moved In Next Door.

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Writer(s): John Ajvide Lindqvist

Studio: Magnet Releasing

Budget: $4.5m

Box Office: $11,227,336

Release Date: 10th April, 2009

IMDb Rating: 8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 98&

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Kåre Hederbrant – Oskar

Lina Leandersson – Eli

Per Ragnar – Håkan

Henrik Dahl – Erik

Karin Bergquist – Yvonne

Peter Carlberg – Lacke

Trailer

Plot According to Google: When Oskar, a sensitive, bullied 12 year old boy living with his Mother in suburban Sweden, meets his new neighbour, the mysterious and moody Eli, they strike up a friendship. Initially reserved with each other, Oskar and Eli slowly form a close bond, but it soon becomes apparent that she is no ordinary young girl. Eventually, Eli shares her dark, macabre secret with Oskar, revealing her connection to a string of local bloody murders. 

Inertia’s Insight: Adaptations are often a difficult translation, as often the most important elements that necessitate the progress of the story in the novel are apt to become an impossible hurdle when committing it to celluloid. But with the writer of the original novel wielding the pen and a dramatic king at the helm, Let the Right One In is the deserved interpretation of Ajvide Lindqvist’s superb novel.

12-year-old Oskar is a bullied, troubled young kid. Picked on at school and nicknamed ‘Pig’, we first see him confidently rehearsing a confrontation with his bullies, armed with a small flip knife. At school, however, his confidence has all but disappeared. Seemingly obsessed with local murders and collecting news articles about murders in a scrapbook, its fair to say that Oskar is bordering We Need to Talk About Kevin territory. Caught stabbing the tree in rehearsed revenge by the new neighbour Eli, he is initially reticent to establish any form of relationship with her; but the mystery and intrigue of the neighbour that only comes out at night is just too much for Oskar to resist.

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Alfredson’s direction is exquisite. He paints the Sweden of Oskar’s youth as cold and large, with wide shots showing his distance from most people or items in is life. The introduction to Eli gives us a sense of her mystery, that there is something else to her that we’re yet to explore.

The interesting maneuver is to make Håkan the evil in this film. As Eli’s situation is explored and revealed to Oskar, we understand her need; the need to feed. But it’s Håkan’s way of obtaining the blood for Eli that paints him as more than the helper; he’s a sadistic killer who needs to commit this act just as much as Eli needs the end result. Håkan and Eli’s relationship is further explored in the book, but here it’s all we need to see, and it so effective and powerful, right up to the moment that we realise how dispensable he is to Eli in a shocking and scary scene that Alfredson nails with the most beautiful lighting.

Eli is everything that Oskar has been waiting for – an ally against the bullies and the adults that don’t understand him. She’s a mystery but she’s willing to open herself to him, and she empowers him in his battle against the school bullies. To see Oskar’s transformation at the hands of Eli can’t help but make you smile yet its macabre, in the way that she justifies violence in Oskar, a kid already wielding a flip knife at a tree. His confidence is boosted, and the scene in which he asks her to ‘go steady’ is so beautifully juvenile; despite Eli’s age and all that she has seen, she still retains a youthful innocence and though she confesses her androgyny, their relationship transcends this.

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The story of Lacke at first seems to serve the fact that Eli is a vampire, but even his story becomes a personal struggle that ends in a bloody confrontation between him, Eli and Oskar. We almost feel at this point that Oskar is ready to elevate himself to Håkan’s role but his hesitation hints at his reservations, and with Eli coming to his rescue then thanking him seals their unique bond. Lacke’s story also serves the vampire narrative – though it’s a word we only hear once, the shading in Eli’s apartment and her need to feed on blood as well as the invitation to come in (beautifully and horrifically explored in a scene between Oskar and Eli) is obviously exploring that myth, so the scenes with Lacke and his partner in the hospital further cement this. It’s just his Van Helsing-esque attempt to slay the beast that goes awry.

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The ending is an incredible piece of filmmaking. As the bullies confront Oskar in the swimming pool in a game that is almost certain to end in Oskar’s death, Eli comes to his rescue in a brutal, bloody scene that practically goes unseen. The suggestion of the mayhem going on above the water, with the odd severed limb or head is ghastly but effective. We are Oskar, eyes closed to the brutality that Eli can cause, only seeing the remnants of her actions when she has returned to her innocence. It’s impeccable action and horror.

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Though there are elements missing from the book – notably Håkan’s paedophilia and Eli’s gender and backstory examined and revealed in more detail, the film doesn’t feel like it’s missing a piece. Instead, Ajvide Lindqvist was able to concentrate on the heart of the story – the love and bond between Eli and Oskar, and its this that drives the horror film with a heart.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *

Trivia

  • The film takes place in 1981.
  • Almost every scene in the film contains the colour red, in reference to Eli’s food source.
  • The word vampire is only said once in the film.
  • The word said in morse code at the end is PUSS, which means “small kiss” in Swedish.

Quotes

OSKAR: Are you a vampire?
ELI: I live off blood… yes.
OSKAR: Are you… dead?
ELI: No. Can’t you tell?
OSKAR: But… are you old?
ELI: I’m twelve. But I’ve been twelve for a long time.

All images courtesy of Google


Tomorrow: Night #30 – Unfriended (2014)

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31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #28 – 28 Days Later (2002)

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Tagline: Day 1 – Exposure. Day 3 – Infection. Day 8 – Epidemic. Day 15 – Evacuation. Day 20 – Devastation.

Director: Danny Boyle

Writer(s): Alex Garland

Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Budget: $8m

Box Office: $82.7m

Release Date: 1st November, 2002

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Cillian Murphy – Jim

Naomie Harris – Selena

Brendan Gleeson – Frank

Christopher Eccleston – Major Henry West

Megan Burns – Hannah

Trailer

Plot According to Google: A group of misguided animal rights activists free a caged chimp infected with the “Rage” virus from a medical research lab. When London bike courier Jim wakes up from a coma a month after, he finds his city all but deserted. On the run from the zombie-like victims of the Rage, Jim stumbles upon a group of survivors including Selena and cab driver Frank, and joins them on a perilous journey to what he hopes will be safety.

Inertia’s Insight: Often praised as re-birthing the zombie genre for modern times, 28 Days Later re-established the conventions of the post-apocalyptic zombie narrative and in doing so it brought a swathe of new titles and interpretations with it, including another stab by the Godfather himself with Land of the Dead (2005).

A group of animal rights activists break into a research laboratory in order to free the captive animals. Despite the scientists’ warnings that the chimps are infected with an incredibly strong rage virus, they release them anyway and in doing so, they set in motion a cataclysmic chain of events in which 99% of the population become infected with a deadly rage virus.

The opening is brutal, establishing the basics of the infection and showing just how quickly the virus can take hold and transform someone. There’s no death and resurrection involved; it’s an infection, one that surges through the body in a matter of seconds, making you void of all emotion but pure, simple rage.

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Awaking in a hospital bed, attached to machines that have long run out of juice, Jim wakes to find an empty hospital. He investigates the hospital and eventually the outside world, only to find it bereft of life. Walking across a deserted Westminster Bridge in rush hour and not seeing a soul is now an iconic image and it has an effect – every image we’ve ever seen of this famous London landmark has been steeped in traffic and people, so to see it completely deserted immediately gives us a sense of the impact of this outbreak.

As Jim investigates and finds a wall dedicated to information about the missing, we can appreciate the devastation that has wrought the country for the past 28 days. The first real brown pants scene for me is in the church. Jim has no clue what has happened, no understanding of the infected or the need to avoid them. Entering the church and seeing hundreds of bodies lying on top of each other, its the first real moment that he has to understand the reality of the situation he now faces. That shot when Jim shouts and two of the infected first look up is gloriously effective filmmaking, keeping the infected in a long shot but showing enough of them to know that they pose a danger. Jim’s confrontation with the priest and the subsequent pursuit of these fast, vicious people, saved at the last minute by Selena and Mark brings him up to speed on the new world he has awakened in.

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The first true sense of his newfound life comes when he visits his parents. Its a startling awakening for the audience too, as we grasp the lengths in which people have gone in 28 days with that age old adage: fight or flight. The brutal attack that comes in the wake of that visit shows us the extent to which Selena, and ultimately Jim, will go to in order to survive. They meet Frank and his daughter Hannah, and from a scratchy, intermittent radio broadcast from the military, they decide to head for safety.

The beauty of this film is Boyle’s decision to shoot digitally. By doing so, he removes all of the glossy glean and instead we are left with a raw, grainy, shaky and real imagery that immerses you in to the film. It’s a terrifying experience at times, particularly with the tight shaky movements when depicting the speed of the infected, but it also plays to Boyle’s advantage when showing the lighter side of the apocalypse. The scene in which Jim, Selena, Hannah and Frank sit at a ruin and eat a picnic makes the countryside look glorious, with the horses running free in the distance.

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Boyle, a relative newcomer to the world of horror, absolutely nails this film. Some of the imagery – Jim on Westminster Bridge, the infected in the church, the dream sequence, the shadows on the wall of the tunnel, the stark close-ups of the infected – is exquisite, and does more to terrify than any gruesome death scene.

As with any post-apocalyptic future in which there are no rules or governance, the survivors are apt to struggle for power and in doing so become the monsters that they are fighting against. The arrival of two women at an all-male military compound sets into motion a chain of events that transforms Jim from confused patient in an empty hospital to a feral defender that resembles the infected to the point that Selena nearly kills him.

28 Days Later is now 14 years old (!) but will be a timeless horror in the vein of Night of the Living Dead – a resurgent zombie film in which the infected bring to light the true terror of the human nature. A first-class film from Boyle and Garland that ushered in the ‘fast’ zombie and sparked the new trend that, 14 years on, shows no signs of dying.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *

Trivia

  • Athletes were cast as the Infected because of how important physicality is to them.
  • The film was shot almost entirely in sequence.
  • The symbol for the film is the international symbol for blood-borne biohazards.
  • Rendering the zombie movie more contemporary, Boyle and Garland made the virus affect people psychologically as opposed to physically. The virus makes people rage, drawing on societal norms like road rage, air rage, hospital rage, etc.

Quotes

SELENA: Have you got any plans, Jim? Do you want us to find a cure and save the world or just fall in love and fuck? Plans are pointless. Staying alive is as good as it gets.

JIM: What about the government?
SELENA: There’s no government.
JIM: Of course there’s a government! There’s always a government. They’re in a bunker or a plane.
MARK: No, there’s no government. No police. No army. No TV. No radio. No electricity. You’re the first uninfected person we’ve seen in six days.

All images courtesy of Google


Tomorrow: Night #29 – Let the Right One In (2008)

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31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #27 – The Purge (2013)

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Tagline: One Night A Year, All Crime Is Legal

Director: James DeMonaco

Writer(s): James DeMonaco

Studio: Universal Pictures

Budget: $3m

Box Office: $89.3m

Release Date: 31st May, 2013

IMDb Rating: 5.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 37%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Ethan Hawke – James Sandin

Lena Headey – Mary Sandin

Max Burkholder – Charlie Sandin

Adelaide Kane – Zoey Sandin

Edwin Hodge – Bloody Leader

Rhys Wakefield – Polite Leader

Trailer

Plot According to Google: In an America ravaged by crime and overcrowded prisons, the government sanctions an annual 12-hour period during which all criminal activity – including murder – is legal. James Sandin and his family face the ultimate test when an intruder drags the vicious outside world into their own. James, Mary and their two children struggle to survive the night while trying not to turn into monsters like the ones they are striving to avoid.

Inertia’s Insight: This modern world is full of pain – crime, war, murder, death, destruction and the decay of society. It’s not difficult to see this from what has been committed in 2016 so far, and with one of the most powerful countries in the world now touting a flagrant, narcissistic, poisonous racist as a contender for leader of the free world, it almost feels like director James DeMonaco prematurely tapped in to the dystopian future that possibly awaits us come November 8th: a future in which all crime, including murder, becomes legal for 12 hours; the perfect opportunity for society to balance itself out, for the rich to be able to feed off the poor…

It’s a brilliant concept, prime horror that is rife to be explored. Naturally as it’s the first film it explores the theme in a secluded and tight setting, in the family home of the Sandin’s. James Sandin works for a company that provides security provisions for Purge night for those that can afford it. If you have the money to install window bars and door shutters with a full CCTV security system, then James is your man. If you can’t, well – you’re fucked.

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There’s animosity right from the beginning as his neighbour’s make reference to his wealth at the hands of the Purge, their contempt hiding behind a thinly veiled smile and a tray of fresh-baked cookies. As James and his family batten down the hatches and settle in for a night of safety as the world goes mad outside, there’s a discussion on the morality of what the night represents. It’s here that you can see the potential for this idea, to bore a franchise out of a genuinely relative moral tale of our times: the country has benefited from the Purge as crime is down, unemployment is down and the country is financially stable. But what is the true cost of this night? It’s something that you feel should be explored more in this film that is left for potential (and then real) sequels.

Naturally, as it is apt to do, their plan goes awry. Not only do they have to contend with an unexpected guest that a group of vicious, sadistic upper class psycho’s are pursuing, there’s also the added problem of daughter Zoey’s boyfriend wanting to confront her Father about their relationship with a couple of led pellets. Just when the Sandin’s think the night couldn’t get any worse, it appears their neighbours’ also had a few ideas of their own for the evening…

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Containing the action to one environment serves DeMonaco well, not only for budget but also for the tension; when there’s not many places to hide, the claustrophobia sets in, and as people are coming at them from all sides with no outside help, the hysteria ratchets up a notch. It’s impressive direction from DeMonaco, who utilises the CCTV angles to his advantage, enabling him to frame the killers in a twisted fishbowl eyepiece frame. He doesn’t hold back on the blood either, with Ethan Hawke turning in a superb performance as a Father who will defend his family in any way that he can. Similarly, Rhys Wakefield puts in a terrifying and sinister performance as Donald Trump’s son – sorry, as the Polite Leader that poses a threat to James and his family. His perfect smile that hints at the menace he shows himself capable of is worthy of a place on the mantlepiece of modern horror villains.

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The masks are an added touch of genius – you’d think at first that any kind of masking of identity wouldn’t be required as all their darkest desires are legal in this 12-hour window, but as explained in the Trivia below, the masks are more about the enjoyment of the act. People that Purge treat this like Halloween; it’s an event to get dressed up for, to bring out your alternative personality and to present that with a literal face.

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The ending is superb and darkly cold, unexpected for its subversion of our expectations. We see the full potential of the Purge night outside when it finishes, and whilst their own personal horror has formed the basis of this entertaining and at times thrilling film, you can’t help but feel that you wanted to be outside seeing what carnage was bathing the city streets in blood.

The mere fact that Donald Trump is running for the Presidency of the United States suggests the possibility that something like the Purge could really happen. After all, he and his son do kind of look like Founding Fathers that would stay at home at their well-secured mansion whilst peasants and Clinton supporters are brought to them for a ritual sacrifice. This pertinence, coupled with the fact that this concept can be delved and mined for years to come, marks this film as the benchmark for great films to come; it just falls slightly short itself in being a perfect film.

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Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * *

Trivia

  • The film takes place in 2022.
  • The Annual Purge falls on March 22nd. The day before is March 21st, or in American dating, ‘321’.
  • The are six sirens when the purge opens, and seven when it closes.
  • The purpose of the masks was for them to resemble Halloween masks, a metaphor for the fact that some people see the Purge as a holiday of celebration.

Quotes

NEWSCASTER: Incoming reports show this year’s Purge has been the most successful to date, with the most murders committed.

JAMES SANDIN: Tonight allows people a release for all the hatred and violence that they keep inside them.
CHARLIE SANDIN: Why don’t you guys kill someone tonight?
JAMES SANDIN: Because we don’t feel the need to, Charlie.

All images courtesy of Google


Tomorrow: Night #28 – 28 Days Later (2002)

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31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #26 – Starry Eyes (2014)

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Tagline: She Would Kill To Be Famous

Director: Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer

Writer(s): Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer

Studio: Snowfort Pictures/Dark Sky Films

Budget: Unknown

Box Office: Unknown

Release Date: 3rd February, 2015

IMDb Rating: 6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%

UK Blu Ray release? No, just DVD

Cast

Alex Essoe – Sarah

Amanda Fuller – Tracy

Noah Segan – Danny

Fabianne Therese – Erin

Shane Coffey – Poe

Natalie Castillo – Ashley

Pat Healy – Carl

Nick Simmons – Ginko

Trailer

Plot According to Google: A woman’s pursuit of Hollywood stardom puts her on a collision course with a satanic cult.

Inertia’s Insight: The pursuit of fame and fortune in the City of Angels has long been explored in the world of horror, with all manner of human behaviour being capable of committing terrible atrocities to achieve the unattainable. The City of Angels being the Devil’s playground is not exactly a new concept either, and so the two elements combined may seem like basic straight-to-DVD horror fare. On the surface – especially given the terrible looking Region 2 DVD cover – it might seem just that; but Starry Eyes is an incredible piece of filmmaking and, more importantly, an impeccable performance from relative newcomer Alex Essoe.

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Sarah is the archetypal young, beautiful aspiring actress living and surviving in L.A. Working for a restaurant called Big Taters that requires tight clothing and a permanent smile, Sarah is struggling to balance the act of a ‘real’ job versus the pursuit of her dream, and it lands her in hot water with the boss of Big Taters. Her group of friends, all similarly wannabe L.A. kids with dreams higher than their motivation, are no help either. They are absorbed in their own drama, with Erin in particular aiming to undermine Sarah at every opportunity. Sarah has one more problem to contend with, too – trichotillomania, the impulsive need to pull hair. It’s a damaging problem for her, masked permanently with a beautiful but broken smile.

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Sarah is given the opportunity to audition for The Silver Scream, a new horror film by renowned production company Astraeus Pictures. Her audition is over with no comforting sense of achievement, and so with her self-punishing attitude she defiles herself in the bathroom. This brings her to the attention of the casting agent who asks her to come in to re-create this breakdown, and from here this opens the door to unchartered, dangerous territory.

Sarah’s grasp on reality begins to slip as Astraeus continue to push her to the limits. A strange and delusional audition in which she is made to strip and then experience a euphoric encounter with something we can’t quite see is incredibly effective filmmaking from directors Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer, with a career-making performance from the beautiful Alex Essoe. Sarah’s progression is slow and subtle; at first we are not really sure what Astraeus are offering Sarah, as the stereotypical expectation of sex from the producer rears its ugly, chauvinistic head and there doesn’t appear to be any role in sight.

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It’s the personal effect that this process has on Sarah with her friends that truly turns this film up a notch. Whilst undergoing a physical transformation that she can’t explain, her behaviour becomes violent and erratic. Her friendship with her group is already balancing precariously on the precipice, but her change pushes them away. Sarah feels isolated in this adapting world, one that she has no control over. As her transformation becomes physical with incredible make-up and effects, Sarah’s final journey to becoming the star that Aestreus want is marred with blood and loss.

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Funded through Kickstarter with the support of author Chuck Palahniuk, Starry Eyes has achieved success but less than it deserves. It is a personal portrayal on the pursuit of fame and the sacrifices that come with it. The ending is bloody, brutal, and visually remarkable, a tour-de-force of Sarah’s metamorphosis from shy and reserved aspiring actress to a disfigured, destitute animal shedding its skin right through to the exceptional ending in which Sarah emerges – hairless, beautiful and reborn.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *

Trivia

  • Actress Alex Essoe really put the bugs in her mouth that were vomited by her character in the bathub.
  • The film started as a Kickstarter project and was aidded by the support of author Chuck Palahniuk’s fans.
  • Sarah’s second audition in which she strips naked in front of the spotlight was inspired by a story someone told Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch about doing an audition for David Lynch.

Quotes

THE PRODUCER: Ambition – the blackest of human desires. Everyone has it, but how many act on it?

SARAH: I will do whatever it takes for this role.

THE PRODUCER: Your face would be on the poster, the poster on a wall, a wall in a lobby, a lobby of a movie theater, a theater with a marquee: The Silver Scream.

All images courtesy of Google


Tomorrow: Night #27 – The Purge (2013)

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31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #25 – Nina Forever (2015)

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Tagline: A Fucked Up Fairytale

Director: Ben Blaine & Chris Blaine

Writer(s): Ben Blaine & Chris Blaine

Studio: Charlie Productions/Jeva Films

Budget: Unknown

Box Office: £10,815

Release Date: 15th February, 2016

IMDb Rating: 5.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Cian Barry – Bob

Abigail Hardingham – Holly

Fiona O’Shaughnessy – Nina

Mandeep Dhillon – Samira

Katharine Bennett-Fox – Kelly

Javan Hirst – David

Trailer

Plot According to Google: After his girlfriend Nina dies, Rob falls in love with Holly. The new relationship faces a huge challenge when Nina comes back to life to sarcastically taunt the couple whenever they try to have sex.

Inertia’s Insight: The dead coming back to life is not a new prospect for horror film, but the dead specifically being your ex-girlfriend who died in a car accident that now comes back to life every time you have sex with your new girlfriend to taunt you and saturate your bed sheets with blood – that is kind of new.

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They say horror film echoes society’s deepest fears, but I’m not sure what is to be said for the recent spate of films regarding dead ex-girlfriends not being able to stay dead (see Trivia below) – maybe it’s a reflection on the connected society we live in, in which we have degrees of separation less than Kevin Bacon and can view an ex’s many different social media profiles in an instant? Or maybe it’s just an interesting concept to explore the possibility of a dead ex hanging around, preventing you from moving on.

What Nina Forever does is shine a bloody light on the bedroom, a place less explored in PG-13 territory. Can a new couple have sex in the same bed that the dead ex used to sleep in? Nina Forever explores this in stark, revealing detail, and it makes for a dark, funny, tragic and haunting film.

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The film starts with an attempted suicide by the bereft Bob, at a loss after losing Nina. He recovers, and at work he strikes up a friendship with the shy and guarded Holly. Their initial cute-meet is so British; both are reserved and bordering on morose. There’s a pain in Bob’s eyes that Holly wants to heal, seemingly drawn to his tragic tale. Initially reticent, Bob eventually opens up and lets Holly in (with the help of alcohol, of course).

Just as it seems that Bob is finding light at the end of a very dark tunnel, Nina arrives. One thing the Baines brothers do not hold back on is the reality of sex. There’s no soft music, tight slow shots or weird attempts at modesty – there’s nudity, noise and non-static shots that immerse you into it. A film about sex, about an ex haunting a new experience has to have a sense of reality to it, and thankfully this does. When Nina first appears, it is just as shocking for the viewer as it is for Bob and Holly. Most would flee at the earliest opportunity, but Holly’s genuine care and commitment for Bob sees her accepting, embracing and attempting to overcome the bizarre reality of their situation.

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Holly, whilst contending with a dead ex rearing her head every time she gets her rocks off, also has to contend with Nina’s parents. The tragic loss of Nina sees Bob still visiting Nina’s parents for Sunday lunch. It’s these hang ups that would normally need to be overcome when entering a new relationship, and perhaps one of the most awkward scenes involves Holly going for lunch with them. Despite it all, she’s sticking with Bob, and will do whatever it takes to help him through.

What ensues is an extremely dark and at times comic tale of a new couple attempting to overcome the ex at their most intimate moment. They make every attempt to enable Nina to rest, with Holly’s dedication to Bob seeing her getting the ‘Nina’ tattoo, trying to include Nina in a fucked-up threesome and even having sex on Nina’s grave…

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Like I said, it’s dark but it’s necessary. It’s probably the most accurate reflection of a relationship that a rom-com could only wish to achieve, and the ending is a haunting and sad reflection on relationships whilst cleverly twisting the expectations of the viewer. A first-class film.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *

Trivia

  • The film was part funded by a Kickstarter campaign.
  • The fake blood used got so sticky the sheets would stick to the actors while filming. They solved the problem by adding lube to the blood.
  • Nina Forever is one of a series of similarly themed films about dead girlfriends coming back to life, including Life After Beth (2014) and Burying the Ex (2014).

Quotes

HOLLY: Bob, who is this?
BOB: My dead –
NINA: – Girlfriend.

SAMIRA: How’s things going with your sexy suicidal guy?

All images courtesy of Google


Tomorrow: Night #26 – Starry Eyes (2015)

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31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #24 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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Tagline: If It Doesn’t Scare You… You’re Already Dead!

Director: George A. Romero

Writer(s): George A. Romero & John A. Russo

Studio: The Walter Reade Organisation

Budget: $114,000

Box Office: $30m

Release Date: 1st October, 1968

IMDb Rating: 8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Duane Jones – BennJudith O’Dea – Barbra

Karl Hardman – Harry

Marilyn Eastman – Helen

Keith Wayne – Tom

Judith Ridley – Judy

Trailer

Plot According to Google: A disparate group of individuals takes refuge in an abandoned house when corpses begin to leave the graveyard in search of fresh human bodies to devour. The pragmatic Ben does his best to control the situation, but when the reanimated bodies surround the house, the other survivors begin to panic. As any semblance of order within the group begins to dissipate, the zombies start to find ways inside – and one by one, the living humans become the prey of the deceased ones.

Inertia’s Insight: A low budget horror rife with subtext that catapulted both its director and its villains into the history of cinema and beyond, Night of the Living Dead is an exemplary piece of horror filmmaking. The zombie film is now as synonymous with our pop culture as Gangnam Style and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and Night is where this fascination with the undead started.

Embracing its limited budget by isolating the story in a remote farmhouse, Night of the Living Dead beautifully eschews unnecessary build-ups or set pieces and instead immerses you into the confusion and horror of the situation. Brother and sister Johnny and Barbra are visiting their Father’s grave on their annual trip, when a joke between the two about Barbra’s fear of the graveyard becomes startlingly true. Romero captures the horror of the situation perfectly, flicking the switch from normal to abnormal within seconds. All of a sudden, Barbra’s life is turned upside down as she is pursued by a man that at first she considers a maniac but soon discovers, via an incredibly specific radio broadcast, that the dead have come back to life and are devouring the flesh of the living.

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The 1960’s saw an America in tatters. The American Dream of the 50’s was shattered as the country embarked on a proxy war in Vietnam that saw the loss of thousands of lives; the Bay of Pigs invasion brought the country close to the edge of mutually assured destruction with communist Russia, and at home riots prevailed on the streets of major cities as civil rights movements saw Black communities demanding change. A horror film about zombies broadcast in drive-ins and as part of Saturday matinees might have come across as B-movie schlock, but it held a mirror to the country and perfectly commented on society’s feelings. The role of Ben was not written with a black man in mind; Romero has stated in many documentaries, most recently Birth of the Living Dead (2013), that Duane Jones, a classically trained actor, was the best fit for the role and the script was not in any way amended to reflect his race. The interpretation of each of Ben’s scene, solely given his colour, is hugely important when considering the social instability at the time. The scene in which Ben first arrives and Barbra reacts to seeing him; the scene in which Ben is talking and Barbra is just staring at him, scared; the scene in which he hits Barbra to wake her out of her hysteria – all of these scenes have an added weight and intensity to them given Ben’s race. And of course, lets not forget the final scene in which the search group, all white, find Ben at the house. As Romero has said the script wasn’t altered at all, but you can’t help up but define the relevance of him in context with all that was happening at that time. It’s no surprise that this film has been studied and critiqued in colleges and universities across the world.

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It is an exemplary film for many reasons, one of which is its rife political and social subtext but also its change in direction for the movie monster. The 1960’s were peppered with horror films that had villains with a sense of an elevated status – creatures like Dracula or Frankenstein may appear in human form but they are never regarded as such. Here, the villains were people – and not just in zombie form, either. The notion that some place that exists after death, better and more prosperous than life on earth is shattered by the notion that the dead no longer die, they no longer rest in peace; we are doomed to walk the Earth for the rest of our days, aimlessly wandering about, feeding, feeding, feeding…

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Now, the argument might be that Romero’s zombies are the original format to follow: their bite is infectious, they are slow moving and are motivated only by the need to feed, but… if you watching Night of the Living Dead, his ghouls are actually none of these. They are quick (not Dawn of the Dead-remake quick, but still quick nonetheless) and they appear to be intelligent (the ghoul at the start tries to open the door and uses a brick to smash the window to get at Barbra, and Judy uses a trowel to stab her Mother to death). The beauty of this film is the sub-genre that it launched, catapulting into pop culture and saturating all manner of consumerism – films like Shaun of the Dead and the Dawn of the Dead-remake; TV shows like The X-Files and, of course, The Walking Dead; comic books, novels, games, web series… the list goes on, and so will the genre for years to come.

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Primal fears that are inherent in society no matter its changes will always ensure that the zombie sub-genre continues to be explored, and Night of the Living Dead a timeless classic that can be appreciated as if its the first time you’re seeing it during the social uncertainties of 1968.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *

Trivia

  • Readers Digest tried to warn people away from watching the film in 1968 by claiming if its ever watched, it will inspire cannibalism.
  • One of the working titles for the film was, “Night of Anubis”.
  • The word “zombie” is never used. The most common euphemism used to describe the living dead is “those things” or “ghouls”.

Quotes

JOHNNY: They’re coming to get you, Barbra.

NEWSCASTER: It has been established that persons who have recently died have been returning to life and committing acts of murder. A widespread investigation of funeral homes, morgues and hospitals has concluded that the unburied dead have been returning to life and seeking human victims. It’s hard for us here to be reporting things to you, but it does seem to be a fact.

All images courtesy of Blushots: https://blushots.weebly.com


Tomorrow: Night #25 – Nina Forever (2015)

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31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #23 – V/H/S (2012)

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Tagline: This Collection is Killer

Director: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence

Writer(s): Various

Studio: The Collective/Magnet Releasing

Budget: Unknown

Box Office: $1.9m

Release Date:

IMDb Rating: 5.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes:

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Various – Too many to mention!

Trailer

Plot According to Google: Hired to steal a rare VHS tape from a remote house, a ragtag band of crooks finds a dead body, old TVs and a lot of cryptic footage.

Inertia’s Insight: Anthology horror is no new feat, as we have already covered with The ABC’s of Death and as can be seen on any Gold TV rerun of Tales of the UnexpectedThe Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt or more recently the superb Masters of Horror. With V/H/S, rising horror directors had the opportunity to craft short stories of death and the unknown as if viewed on the scratchy, worn and damaged format of VHS. Enveloping these individual stories is a separate tale surrounding the tapes themselves, their mysterious owner and a disappearing dead body…

So with five shorts of differing sub-genres of horror eclipsed by the central narrative that at times leaves you with the WTF feeling, it’s difficult to review the film as a whole. So like The ABC’s of Death, we’ll break down each of the segments.

Tape 56 (dir. Adam Wingard): This is the pivotal narrative that the rest of the short films revolve around. A group of thugs are seen terrorising a couple in a parking garage then destroying an old office block, before recording themselves entering the house of an old man who apparently possesses an extremely rare video tape that they have been commissioned to retrieve. Upon entering the house they discover the body of the homeowner as well as hundreds of VHS tapes with unusual labels. As the group explore the house, one of them sits and watches some of the tapes. These are the films that we see going forward.

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Each time one of the films ends it cuts back to the group, but each time something changes in the house, the most notable being the disappearance of the old man’s body from the chair. As the films get darker and the search for the tape goes on, something slowly starts to pick them off until the end, when a showdown with what was the old man sees no-one get out alive.

It’s main purpose is to give reason for the rest of the stories’ existence, but Tape 56 manages its own scares and an interesting take on the idea of a zombie. It establishes the house as if it exists in a an alternate universe, the tapes not the only items that establish this world as something other than the one we reside in, and is further explored in V/H/S 2.

Amateur Night (dir. David Bruckner): The first tape to be played, Amateur Night sees three college teens – Shane, Patrick and Clint – who have purchased and are testing out their lens cam, a pair of glasses with a small recording camera in them. Deciding to hit the bars and then hopefully invite women back to their seedy motel to record an amateur sex tape, they encounter more than they could possibly have bargained for.

The short embraces its found footage mechanisms, cleverly using the glasses as a means of maintaining perspective and a reason to keep filming. The way in which Bruckner positions Lily in the foreground at first, her big curious eyes boring in to Clint is a stoke of genius. Her creepy and curious behaviour only leads the inebriated three to bring her back to their room along with another girl. From there shit gets crazy, but not how they intended.

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The beauty of short horror is that an explanation isn’t always relevant, it’s the WTF of it all that matters, and Amateur Night delivers this. Lily is an incredible creature, a terrifying vision of a siren. The ending is superb and leaves you wanting more which now thankfully we can have, as the short has been adapted in to a full feature film, SiREN.

Second Honeymoon (dir. Ti West): The most human of all the shorts, Second Honeymoon follows Sam and Stephanie, a young married couple traversing the back roads of America on their second honeymoon. At first things seem alright, but as we continue to follow them there are obvious cracks in their relationship. Stephanie doesn’t appear to be comfortable getting physical with Sam, even sleeping in separate beds, and Sam is unwilling to trust Stephanie when it comes to money.

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Interspersed with this very human story are two terrifying visitations from some unknown traveler. Breaking into their room one night, the unwanted guest goes through their belongings, steals money, caresses Stephanie’s buttocks with a switchblade knife and ducks a toothbrush in the toilet. The brief glimpse of the intruders face leads you to question whether it’s human or not, but this is soon revealed in a startling and quick finale that shows that the true monster embodies the human form.

Tuesday the 17th (dir. Glenn McQuaid): Probably the weakest of the shorts (but that is said with still a high regard for this piece), Tuesday the 17th sees a misfit group of four friends head in to the woods for a camping trip. As Wendy leads her new friends through the woods with mysterious yet throwaway comments like, “You’re all going to die up here”, we soon begin to understand the mystery that surrounds both Wendy and the woods.

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This short brings V/H/S back to the edge of reality and in to the fantastic, as the most unusual killer I’ve ever seen begins attacking Wendy’s new friends. It appears that her new friends are a ruse for her to try and trap the killer, a mysterious ‘glitch’ that can apparently appear in two places at once and is impossible to fully comprehend. As with all horror films it doesn’t end well, with The Glitch managing to continue on. This another short that is rife to be explored in a full feature film.

The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger (dir. Joe Swanberg): With a fantastic title that doesn’t give much away whilst pulling you in, The Sick Thing features a clever twist on the found footage conventions. Recorded entirely as a series of web chat conversations between Emily and her boyfriend James who have a long distance relationship, we slowly see Emily’s mental state deteriorate as she complains of sleepless nights, pains in her arms and a haunting in her apartment.

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It’s well executed by Joe Swanberg, previously of the mumblecore movement, who uses the format to his advantage. The stutter of the image due to the internet connection plus the grainy webcam footage enables him to work the scares to maximum effect. There are some genuinely hands-over-eyes moments as Emily shows James the haunting occurring in her apartment. The scene in which Emily closes her eyes as she carries her laptop and uses James as her eyes is particularly effective, and the reveal at the end is a real mouth agape moment.

10/31/98 (dir. Radio Silence): Easily the best of all the short entries, this terrifying finale piece from creative quartet Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez and Chad Villella) sees four friends dressed up for Halloween, headed to a haunted house party. Strapping a Nanny Cam into his teddy bear outfit, Tyler records the whole ordeal they are about to endure.

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Arriving at what appears to be the haunted house, there are suggestions that something is not quite right. The grainy footage of the cam is a beautiful addition to this short as it really adds to the atmosphere of this impeccable short. Believe it or not, even a chair is scary in this film. As they make their way through the house, the genuine horrors are passed off as part of the fun, and it’s not until they make it to the attic that they realise that this isn’t the haunted house party but instead a house full of real horror.

What ensues for the last three minutes are pieces of every nightmare or horror story you’ve ever seen. It’s like navigating an old game like Silent Hill or Resident Evil. It’s superb filmmaking that, after all of it, literally leaves you thinking, ‘What the fuck?!’

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *

Trivia

  • The brick house broken into where the VHS tapes are found is the same house as Marble Hornets, a found footage web series that popularised Slender Man
  • The film is set in 1998
  • The film marks the 5th collaboration between mumblecore icon Joe Swanberg and rising horror director Adam Wingard

Quotes

LILY: I like you.

WENDY: You’re all gonna die up here.

CHAD, MATT, TYLER & PAUL: Cast him down!

All images courtesy of Google


Tomorrow: Night #24 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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