What is it about Horror?

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I’m going to take a leap of faith; I think horror is back on the rise. And that’s not just because of the recent outburst of Horror’s into mainstream cinema; the likes of The Evil Dead, Paranormal Activity etc.

It’s that adrenaline rush, the thrill and the excitement that other films just can’t capture…and of course the mystery of the unknown, or the unexplained, that keeps us guessing throughout.

Well, all good horror films anyway!

So I’ve got a few to throw into the mix- let me know what you think! I had a bit of a movie marathon last weekend, so here are 4 to start us off with.

 

1.    Grave Encounters (& Grave Encounters 2)

Off to a great start with this one. In my humble opinion, this puts films like Paranormal Activity to shame. Based in an abandoned insane asylum, it puts the viewer on edge from the beginning. I will admit that I didn’t support where they were going with it from the “Reality TV” perspective- that was cliché- but as you watch, you see that it’s done like that deliberately, and they really really make it work.

This film is very Blair Witch-esque, in part due to the video cameras (which is our viewing perspective for the entirety of the film) but just like the Blair Witch Project, the crew here are also venturing out in search of supernatural entities.
The acting at the beginning of this film is downright poor….or at least it comes across that way. Bearing in mind it is a reality show they are filming; when they go “off-air” suddenly these actors really come into their element.

Their responses are realistic, and I have no criticisms at all in that department. The only thing I find slightly frustrating is that a group of ghost hunters (whether pretending or not)  going into a reportedly haunted building cannot freak out and run away if they find what they went there to find. I find that bizarre and just stupid…but then, that fault lies in the plotline, not with the actors.

There was a nice development with the caretaker, where he never returns to let the crew out, even though they’ve been in there for days. I can’t actually establish what happened there, as why did the caretaker never come back? Even if time had been passing slower inside the asylum (or felt like it was) at some point, the caretaker would have had to have come back in real time to let them out.
Another great moment was when the asylum turns into a sort of labyrinth; that was a stroke of genius. Despite having seen films where people get lost in winding mazes of buildings, it was pretty disturbing to learn they are actually trapped; the staircases literally lead to solid walls, and even the fire exit is just a wall with a sign on it. Especially as the viewer is “behind the camera” it’s very disconcerting to watch, as you sort of feel a part of it.
Added to that all the jumps, and great graphics, this is a horror I would recommend.
PS. Grave Encounters 2 is surprisingly good, especially for a sequel. Essentially a group of horror fanatics visit the asylum, to try and prove the first film was real. And even though you would think a lot of the material must be similar, the film is not samey, and is really enjoyable. Definitely worth a watch.

Originality: 3/5
Plotline: 3/5
Suspense:4/5
Gore: 3/5

Total: 13/20

 

2.    Mirrors

This one did disappoint me somewhat, though I was quite impressed with the originality. I haven’t seen a film involving mirrors done like this, and again, I was impressed with how it was filmed.

However, the storyline was not good…

A retired policeman starts work as a security guard, watching over a department store which is basically full of mirrors (really clean mirrors…) So he starts seeing things in the mirrors that aren’t there. Fair enough, but would you not just leave? I understand he is was a policeman, and perhaps is curious, but no one needs to see dead fire victims in mirrors. It’s not healthy. As the film goes on, there is a mysterious name that keeps cropping up “ESSEKER.”

His wife, and mother of his children is an actual bitch. I have no other words. I appreciate that his story is a little farfetched, but trying to attract any sympathy from her is like squeezing blood from a stone.  I found her attitude towards him annoying to watch after a while, as why would someone who has been mentally stable for years suddenly flip out and obsess to that extent, and be terrified for the safety of his family, over nothing?

So taking this into consideration, it doesn’t make sense for her reaction to him to be along the lines of “I’m not willing to hear you out or listen to anything you have to say, crazy man. Now get out.” And then five minutes later the mirror demons start harassing her, she’s in danger, and then its all “Oh Gawd- come and save me!” Also can I just add; there was NO apology at all! And after all this, he’s still madly in love with her. I don’t get it. If someone did that to me, the mirror demons could have them 😛

In addition to this, they brought a possessed nun into the equation. This is ESSEKER. I’m not sure this added anything to the film, and it felt that they were trying too hard to make the story mysterious… There was no religious element here, and the film didn’t need one. I agree there did need to be an element of mystery to tie this film together, but I don’t think this did it. It was too cliché, and it just put another dampener on the already…moist… viewing experience.

There were a few attempts at shock/ horror in the film, e.g the possessed nun, the blaze victims in the mirror, the seemingly possessed children running around with a knife, and the main character thinking he was on fire (he sees himself alight in the mirror and can feel the flames as if he were actually on fire) but nothing really worked. It all seemed very forced to me, and very predictable.

There was a nice little twist at the end, but after everything the main character had been though, I was just left feeling frustrated.

Originality: 3/5
Plotline: 2/5
Suspense:1/5
Gore: 2/5

Total: 7/20

 

3.    Dead Silence

 

This was a great film, I really enjoyed this one. And for anyone with a puppet phobia… a must watch!

Again, puppets have been done before, but this was just fantastic.  There are so many twists to this story, and all of them are really clever, and very creative.

I’m reluctant to give too much away here, so go away and watch this film before reading on!

The film revolves around a ventriloquist who is accused of the kidnap of a boy, after he goes missing in the town. In revenge, the townspeople cut out her tongue. So after she dies, she comes back and tears out the tongue of anyone who screams when they see her (killing them in the process). Bearing in mind she is a demon like figure, who resembled Sweeney Todd’s dead grandma even when alive, it’s not easy to keep schtum. She even has an eerie poem, which was told to the local children when they were young.

She has some pretty clever ways of …tongue snatching shall we say, but they are damn horrible nonetheless. With the main character accused of the murder of his partner (it the mysterious doll that landed on the doorstep officer!) he is, predictably, harassed by a detective who is determined to get him to confess.

The acting was a little disappointing. Top marks to the actress who played Mary Shaw, but the others, especially the girlfriend at the beginning were just ridiculous. The detective too, gave a poor performance in my eyes. It did detract from the film a little, but I was jumping so open that I think i needed the falseness of the acting to remind myself it wasn’t real. (Yes I do feel like a wimp right now )

There is a lot going on in this film, but the twist at the end blew my mind enough to watch the whole thing again the next night. This one is a must see in my books.

 

Originality: 4/5
Plotline: 4/5
Suspense:5/5
Gore: 3/5

Total: 16/20

 

4.    The Descent

This one was strange. The Descent is basically about a group of female thrill seekers, who go caving and end up trapped deep underground with a pit full of blind, bloodthirsty monsters.

Right, before you read on, I suggest you go and watch the film. Just because I have a little theory in the next paragraph that I want to test… but you have to watch the film to be able to test my theory! I know, I know, the temptation to read on is now too strong! But for the sake of experiments, try!

Character development wise, this kicked off way too fast for my liking. I was still kind of settling down to watch it… you know, cracking open the ice cream and what not. And what, 30 seconds in and I’d already missed a really subtle, but really poignant plot development, which the whole film pretty much pivots on. So for some reason, Sarah (the main character) her husband, her daughter, and Sarah’s friend Juno are all out white water rafting. I guess the point here is to show they’re all thrill seekers. But a really small moment between the husband, and Juno, is very easy to miss. Plus you’re then distracted by the horrible death of Sarah’s [the main character] husband and daughter in a “Final Destination” style demise, so you don’t really clock the moment at all. *Did you watch before you read? If so, let me know so I find out whether you agree! (PS it’s important later on if you do not want to be left in a foam of confusion like I was)*

Following a cave in, it turns out the cave they’re in is not the one they were supposed to be exploring, and it very quickly becomes evident that there may not actually be a way out of this cave prison. So top marks here for suspense.  Then they come across some ancient cave paintings which conveniently explain that there are 2 entrances to the cave, so despite one having been blocked off, there is another entrance still available. Now… I’m all for the ray of hope to pull us through this film… but please don’t hand it to us on a plate.

Anyway, that aside, they’re running about trying to get out, when one of the group (Hollie, the ultimate thrill seeker), decides she doesn’t want to follow the safety measures  of “Let’s not run at top speed in a dark, wet, unexplored cave when anything could be round the corner”.

Now I’ve never explored a cave in my life and would take this one as Golden Rule Number One… But ohhh no, apparently experienced cavers forget this gem. So again, somewhat predictably, (and I really did have no sympathy for the character at this point) she slips down a massive black hole into the dark realms of nothingness.

Ok not quite. She lands at the bottom and breaks her leg; bone sticking out all over the show. So we know it’s going to all go downhill from here, especially when the already traumatised main character starts seeing weird pale skinned creatures scuttering about, which then obviously attack.

Karma comes into play a bit here, and Hollie (Miss lets run about the place as we’re not already in enough trouble as it is without me adding my buffoonery into the equation)  gets dragged off first.

Juno then manages to beat off a couple of them, then gets another in the neck, only to realise it’s one of her “friends” Beth. Now I say “friends” here, as she just looks at her…is a tad shocked…then runs off.  You have just stabbed your friend in the neck. ?!?!!? I’m hoping for the love of humanity that isn’t a realistic response. Maybe it’s supposed to symbolise her descent into darkness… but as she’s already been sleeping with her best friends husband… [oh, did you miss that hint at the start? I bloody well did] I’d say she was already there.

Later, the main character comes across Beth, who miraculously isn’t dead yet, and Beth essentially  informs her that Juno has been having an affair with her dead husband…. while he was alive I should clarify. Ahhh mahhh gawddd it looks like all her friends knew all along! What kind of messed up friendship group is this?!

For me, this was entertaining solely because it was silly; in fact laughable in places. How many holes can one person fall down in the space of 2 hours? But after the initial semi original setting, it all became very predictable. Adding the monsters in the darkness, far from spicing things up, just made it boring. The only place in the film where there was some suspense was during the cave in. The claustrophobic element to that was well done. But it was brief, and the rest of the film ruined it for me. A good thriller perhaps, but adding cave monsters doesn’t make a film a horror.

 

Originality: 2/5
Plotline: 2/5
Suspense:2/5
Gore: 3/5

Total: 9/20

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