Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Meme questionnaire!

This started life on the Billy Loves Stu blog and has been doing the rounds, so I thought I'd leap right onto the bandwagon and give it a go...

1: In Ten Words or Less, Describe Your Blog:

Stuff thought up when I should be doing something productive

2: During What Cinematic Era Where you Born?
A: The Classic Horror Era (late 30's to 40's)
B: The Atomic Monster/Nuclear Angst Era (the late 40's through 50's)
C: The Psycho Era ( Early 60's)
D: The Rosemary's Baby Era (Mid to Late 60's)
E: The Exorcism Era (Early to mid 70's)
F: The Halloween Era (Late 70's to Early 80's)
G: The Slasher Era (Mid to late 80's)
H: The Self Referential/Post Modern Era (1990 to 1999)

F: The Halloween Era

3: The Carrie Compatibility Question:
(gay men and straight women - make your choice from section A)
A: Billy Nolan or Tommy Ross, who would you take to the prom?
(straight guys and lesbians - make your choice from section B)
B: Sue Snell or Chris Hargensen, who would you take to the prom?

It's been a while since I've seen Carrie, so I'm afraid I had to look up said characters on IMDb... totally forgot that John Travolta was in it! That rules out Billy Nolan then, so it would have to be Tommy Ross.

4: You have been given an ungodly amount of money, and total control of a major motion picture studio - what would your dream Horror project be?

A grand, sweeping mega-epic trilogy of films based on Lovecraft's stories "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" With soundtrack by Death in Vegas. 

5: What horror film "franchise" that others have embraced, left you cold?

I like at least one film from all the major horror franchises, especially the first Saw (Saw II was tripe, and I stopped bothering with them after that.) Do the Hostel films count as a franchise? Hated them.

6: Is Michael Bay the Antichrist?

When the Antichrist pops up in fiction, he tends to show that he has an imagination, something Michael Bay does not possess. Michael Bay is just a massive git.

7: Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Frankenstein Monster - which one of these classic villains scares you, and why?

Dracula; he's definitely the most manipulative and sinister of the three.

8: Tell me about a scene from a NON HORROR Film that scares the crap out of you:

The whole of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial... a mind-curdlingly terrifying film. If I'd been in Elliott's place I would've preferred the queen from Aliens to drop by for a visit than that...thing (shudder)

9: Baby Jane Hudson invites you over to her house for lunch. What do you bring?

A copy of The Dark Knight on DVD because I reckon she'd like the Joker's make-up.

10: So, between you and me, do you have any ulterior motives for blogging? Come, on you can tell me, it will be our little secret, I won't tell a soul.

Don't think so... no world domination plans or anything like that... I do sometimes watch EastEnders whilst posting, that count as a blogging secret?

11: What would you have brought to Rosemary Woodhouse's baby shower?

A good divorce lawyer.

12: Godzilla vs The Cloverfield Monster, who wins?

Neither - the thing from Watchmen would kick both of their arses.

13: If you found out that Rob Zombie was reading your blog, what would you post in hopes that he read it?

Probably just some good music videos?

14: What is your favorite NON HORROR FILM, and why?

Goodfellas. Everything about it is great - acting, pace, story, soundtrack, technique. I could bang on about it for ages, it's just ace.

15: If blogging technology did not exist, what would you be doing? Blathering on about horror to people down the pub, I expect.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Random Recommends

A bit of a short post this week, as I'm about to head off for a nice long weekend of work, so being something of a slacker while I still can!

So, in the spirit of slack (but also general bonhomie), I'm posting up the odds and ends of horror through which I've been happily rummaging over the past month or so.

Here they be...


Deathdream (1974) (aka Dead of Night)

Reasons why it's splendid:

1) It's a rare thing in a horror flick for the characters to behave in any kind of logical fashion; it's almost a genre hallmark to have the urge to shout "don't... do... THAT!" at the screen. I found Deathdream refreshing in that the actions of the characters, though sometimes extreme, always make sense according to personality, backstory and their role within the events of the film.

2) Hits above its (clearly somewhat limited) budget, always admirable.

3) Has one of the most heart-wrenching final scenes ever - if you don't feel like welling up even a bit, you're dead as a vampire in the midday sun.

Lake Mungo

Thanks and praises due to those at All Things Horror for this one - I took their advice and watched it before reading their review, and well worth the watch it was. Lake Mungo is a ghost story told in the style of a documentary, about the accidental drowning of a teenage girl and the effect of her death on her family. It's definitely not a scare a minute sort of horror, but it unsettles in all the right ways. Catch it before the inevitable remake (already in development according to IMDb. Sigh.)


Short stories by Richard Matheson

I never realised how much of Matheson's stories I already knew until I bought a book of them recently. I Am Legend, Stir Of Echoes, Duel, What Dreams May Come, Hell House and numerous episodes of "The Twilight Zone" have all emerged from his writing. His short stories are unusual, imaginative and written in a wonderfully evocative prose style. He also seems to like robots. Yay!

Men, Women and Chain Saws by Carol J. Clover

Writtten in the early 1990s, this book explores gender issues in slasher and supernatural films of the 70s and 80s. Clover challenges some of the preconceptions about horror audiences, the nature of their identification with the characters in horror and the false distiction between high and low forms of horror. This is the work that is generally credited with establishing the concept of the "final girl", and it is an illuminating and thought-provoking read.

Hope that you enjoy the above if you give them a look.

And so, off to work!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Great Moments in Horror: Hans Beckert On Trial

First things first: if you haven't watched Fritz Lang's M, beware! This post will be stuffed to the gills with M spoilers.

M is a difficult film to classify, genre-wise. It contains elements, among others, of police procedural, gangster movie, courtroom drama, kitchen-sink drama, crime thriller and horror. However, as this is a horror blog, it's on the horror that I shall focus.

A brief outline of the plot (for those unacquainted with the film and unperturbed by spoilers) goes thus: there is a murderer of children at large, and a sense of underlying panic in the general public. The police are desperate to get leads, and instigate a crackdown on known criminal hangouts, resulting in losses of custom for the proprietors. The underworld bosses decide they have to catch the killer before the police ruin their businesses, and begin an investigation of their own running parallel to that of the law. Both yield clues, but it is the criminals who locate the murderer first. They take the culprit, Hans Beckert, to a disused distillery and try him in an ad hoc courtroom. Beckert is confronted with his crimes, but he and the man appointed to act as his defence lawyer argue that he is not responsible for his actions as he is irresistibly compelled to murder. The vast majority of those present call for Beckert to be executed, feeling that he will be forever a threat to children if he was handed to the police and incarcerated, but subsequently released. At this point the police arrive at the distillery, having been tipped off by a criminal they earlier apprehended. Beckert is arrested and goes to trial.

The influence that M has had on horror films can be widely seen. For example, Beckert plays a cat-and-mouse game with the police by sending a taunting postcard to them via a newspaper - similar behaviour (though to a lesser extent) to that of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs and John Doe in Seven. The themes in M of vigilante justice and a general distrust of official law enforcement are also recurrent in the genre. Police tend to be well-meaning but sceptical (e.g. The Blob); absent or unreachable (The Blair Witch Project, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), or inept (Psycho, Scream) - it is a rare horror-movie cop who is able to save the day, or even live to tell the tale. The safety net of police protection is whipped away from the protagonists one way or another, and they are obliged to face the threat on lawless terms.

Just as the final girls of slasher flicks are able to confront and defeat the psychopaths that terrorise them only after officialdom had been denied them or rejected, so the criminals in M can succeed in confronting Beckert with his crimes while the police cannot. In the clip below, an underworld boss shows the accused photographs of his victims:

The killer breaks down only when faced directly with the images of his those he has killed. He sees not only his victims, but himself as he truly is. This moment of self-realisation is presaged by an earlier scene in which Beckert is seen staring intently at himself in the mirror, pulling at the corner of his mouth and seeming as if he does not fully recognise the person staring back.

The wide-eyed, manic expression on Beckert's face when reality finally dawns on him resembles that of a movie victim only just realising the full horror of their fate. For him, the terror is compounded by having to face extreme malignancy within himself. Beckert's dark side had been stalking him quietly - now it leaps out from the shadows. Like the terrified victims in countless horror films to come, he flees - screaming.