Sunday, September 29, 2019

31 days of horror: October 2019

It's that time again! 🎃🎃🎃

October 1st - Haunters: The Art Of The Scare
October 2nd - Ma
October 3rd - Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
October 4th (Fri) - In The Tall Grass
October 5th (Sat) - The Bay / Valentine
October 6th (Sun) - The Others
October 7th  - Darlin'
October 8th - What Lies Beneath
October 9th - Silent House (2011)
October 10th - Body Bags /
October 11th (Fri) - Thir13en Ghosts
October 12th (Sat my birthday!) - The Witch / From Beyond
October 13th (Sun) - Curse of the Blair Witch / HauntersThe Blair Witch Project
October 14th - Mom and Dad
October 15th - Chopping Mall
October 16th - Deep Red [big screen with live orchestra]
October 17th - Tenebre
October 18th (Fri) - First Born
October 19th (Sat) - Penny Dreadful
October 20th (Sun) - The Exorcist III
October 21st - The House by the Cemetery
October 22nd - [halloween movie trivia night]
October 23rd - Emelie
October 24th - [had to go to ER!]
October 25th (Fri) - Halloween (1978)
October 26th (Sat) - Halloween 4
October 27th (Sun) - Wounds
October 28th - Don't Go In The House (started, didn't finish...)
October 29th - Haunt
October 30th - American Horror Story: Apocalypse (series)
October 31st! - Trick 'r Treat / Ghost Stories

Saturday, September 07, 2019

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

I get why some people didn't like this. It's so very studied and ponderous. And maybe a little pretentious. It reminded me of the old Christmas horror films we'd get in England, years ago. Too female-centered to be too much like M. R. James, but possessing a similar climbing, quiet horror of thumps in the night and mold on the walls.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Before I Wake (2016)

Yet another title that's been on my list for some time - I can't remember how I even came to add it? Perhaps because it's Mike Flanagan (OculusHushGerald's GameThe Haunting of Hill House series and the forthcoming Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep).  I like Flanagan's "voice" and style - Oculus being the weakest I've seen, and I feel like I'm in the minority there - and was eager to see where this one fell in my personal spectrum of hits and misses of his work.

Some spoilers incoming!

We join Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) as they near the end of an adoption process, after the tragic accidental death of their son. The little boy they bring into their home is named Cody (Jacob Tremblay) and he has a special gift: when he sleeps, his dreams and nightmares manifest as tangible apparitions in the vicinity. 

At first this is something spellbinding, but soon the bogeyman (known as the "Cancker Man") who stalks Cody's nightmares appears, and we learn that it has the power to hurt and kill.

This reads as quite a basic plot, and it is, but there are some little touches to it that kept me invested. Jessie goes through a spell of manipulating Cody's gift in order to see her dead son again; filling his mind with anecdotes and visuals then drinking coffee all night to stay awake in case an apparition appears.

Her decision to give Cody sleeping pills and make excuses to husband Mark how this was helping them was so cold! And Jessie is the one who ultimately survives! Poor Mark (and poor Thomas Jane for having to wear that bad wig, honestly) didn't have much to do but manages to be both common sense and conscience to Jessie, before being startlingly "absorbed" by the "Cancker Man".

Two moments stick out in my mind after watching this. That of a vision of the deceased son Sean, eyes wide, repeating the same words over and over again; and the scene of Cody's previous foster father hugging a vision of his dead wife - only, as the camera shows her face, his voice over explains how Cody was too young to remember (and therefore dream) her correctly. The woman we see is a terrifying facsimile of a human.

Flanagan has a lot to impart about grief, doesn't he? Oculus and ...Hill House were both heavy with sadness along with chills. Before I Wake fits into his oeuvre pretty well, with muted tones of set design and characters listless in beautiful houses that feel too cold and somehow too big for their occupants. 

I did call the reveal about 5mins before it was explained, but the flashback was heartbreaking enough for me not to mind. Maybe because I lost my dad to a terminal illness, I don't know... Adults can barely deal with that reality, so I can't imagine a small child trying to comprehend it. Your mileage may vary on this aspect of the film especially, but I found where it could have lost me with a potentially silly and/or overly sentimental explanation, this was awful in just the right way.

For a movie that comes across a little Conjuring-universe in its marketing, I enjoyed this more than I expected to. There are some moments that lean into the "simple summer blockbuster" horror vibe (as ever, no judgement, it has its place) like jump scares and eyeless ghosts... but there's also an interesting story woven through this. It's a great concept, and even if this didn't reach its full potential, it was still absorbing enough to keep me watching.

Streaming on Netflix at time of writing!