Work commitments have recently left me little time to dedicate myself to updating here, or even watch many films at all for that matter, and so to make up for the lack of content I thought I'd do a bumper trailer post featuring the trailers that I have intended to look at individually over the past few weeks.
Only Lovers Left Alive UK Release Date: February 21st 2014 The newest film from director Jim Jarmusch, Only Lovers Left Alive, stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as Adam and Eve, a centuries-old vampire couple who have each adapted differently to the modern world. Although I am yet to see any films by Jarmusch, he has directed a handful that have caught my attention and Only Lovers Left Alive did exactly that when the first image and plot information from the film was released online months ago. Unfortunately I've found the marketing for this film a little lacklustre and the trailer is no different.
There's no denying that the cast is impressive. Any film that boasts Hiddleston, Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin and John Hurt demands attention and surely carries a promise of quality, yet no ones performance is coming across as particularly interesting in this. Usually I wouldn't expect a fair representation of the quality of acting from a trailer but this one is fairly dialogue heavy and seems reliant on the films concept and the talent involved. The script is also at fault here, with a handful of dull and cheesy lines, but the delivery is none too inspiring either.
The thing I find most frustrating about this trailer is that it just feels a little amateur. The gaudy font and the bizarre fades to a vibrant red screen make it feel less like a polished trailer and more like a fan made effort. On top of this the whole thing is a little flat, with no sense of the crescendo or hype that is expected of a trailer. Tom Hiddlestone's final line in the trailer is frankly confusing as well, I'm not even sure I understand what he means without some context, but it seems to have been used in a similar vein to the epic one-liners that are now commonplace in trailers.
I'll remain hopeful for this project as I can't imagine this cast disappointing me, but for now I am a little disheartened. I also hope the final film isn't as littered with high-angle shots of everybody tilting there heads back, because I've seen enough of those in this trailer to last me.
UK Release Date: May 30th 2014
Following Snow White and the Huntsman Disney's next live action update of an animated classic is Maleficent. I've been a bit wary of this project for some time now. On the one hand Maleficent is my favourite Disney villain and one that deserves as much cinematic exposure as possible and Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast in the role and has looked brilliant in everything released so far. On the other hand, first time director Robert Stromberg is helming the film, and his previous experience as the production designer on Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Oz The Great and Powerful has made me worry about the potential reliance on gaudy visual effects.
The trailer certainly succeeded in appeasing some of my worries by displaying a very dark, sombre atmosphere befitting the villainess. The effects are certainly in a similar vein to those of Stromberg's previous projects, with the crappy looking wall of thorns sequence looking the least polished, but they are at least darker and more in keeping with the gothic influences that ran through the animated version. The colourful little fairy creatures were the most sigh-inducing aspect of the trailer and I really hope that they are not an indication of what Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton and Leslie Manville will look like in this.
The rest looks good enough to keep me excited. I like the use of what seems to be a single conversation as the only dialogue being sampled. I love Jolie's appearance and voice. I'm less thrilled about Elle Fanning and her OTT British accent, but as I'm sure she'll spend much of the film taking a nap I'm not as concerned about her affecting my enjoyment.
While I'm certain that future trailers will show off much more, I'm not sure I want much more exposed before I see the film in the cinema. My biggest concern is for the appearance of Maleficent in her dragon form and I'm sure that when that is eventually shown in a trailer I will become too fixated on how that sequence looks to go into the film with an open mind. I just really hope they do Maleficent justice.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
UK Release Date: April 18th 2014
In a year that saw cinema's biggest superhero team-up and the final instalment of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, Marc Webb's reboot of the Spiderman franchise drew the comic movie short straw. Personally, I loved it and found it to hold up a lot better than The Dark Knight Rises on further viewings. I was already excited for a follow-up and when the likes Dane Dehaan, Jamie Foxx and Felicity Jones were added to the cast that excitement increased considerably.
When the trailer for the sequel went live last week I was completely won over. Given the history between Spiderman films and multiple villains I was a little wary upon seeing that Electro, Rhino and Green Goblin will be featuring in this film, but I would be lying if I said my inner 8-year old didn't squeal with excitement over the numerous nods to the Sinister Six. My faith in this film has continuously stood strong after hearing both Dehaan and Shailene Woodley lay great deals of praise on the script. While it's clear that this film is going to have a lot of balls in the air I remain confident that it can all come together brilliantly if done right.
The first shot of Spiderman falling through the air is beautiful, and I'm glad to see that this film looks as strikingly shot as it's predecessor. An international trailer has also made it's way online and showcases some more footage of the Times Square face off between Spidey and Electro, which looks stunning.
I've seen a lot of backlash to this trailer online which annoys me. People seem to have become blockbuster snobs in the aftermath of Nolan's Dark Knight films, and now anything that doesn't aim for a similarly gritty and pretentious style is deemed unworthy. I'm all for quality cinema, especially when it comes to the blockbuster film, but people need to stop confusing seriousness with quality. These Amazing Spider-Man films may be exploring a darker facet of Peter's past but they're still aiming to be fun, and this looks like a lot of fun.
For the last two-or-so months I've been flirting with the idea of putting together a top 100 list. I'd attempted this in the past and failed each time but after spending some time recently talking on here about some of my favourite films I felt that the blog would benefit from having a permanent list, and so this week I have spent most of my time out of work putting one together.
I have to stress that this is in no way definitive, each day that I spent working on this list a number of the entries lost and regained their places and it is partly due to this that I also decided not to try and order them. All of the films chosen are personal favourites or films that made me fall in love with cinema, but with every new film I watch there is obviously a chance that a new film could earn a spot. If I do alter the list at any point I will address the changes in my weekly pins post.
I would never attempt to create a list of the best films made, simply because I have not seen every film ever made. This list is just a collection of some of my favourites with an obvious bit of quality control applied as well. There are countless films that I still wish were in there (no films by the Coen's made the cut for example, simply because I haven't seen them recently enough to weigh them up against the others, and I struggled to choose many of Wes Anderson's films over one another) but for now, this is my 100.
As I love all of these films I'm always up for talking about them so be sure to comment here or on the list's page to let me know whether you agree with my choices, disagree with them, or even hate them.
Greta Gerwig not only secures, but revels in in her position as possibly the most important indie-darling working today with Frances Ha; a film that celebrates the actresses quirky nature and builds a film around it.
I have to apologize for the lack of content I've been putting up on here recently, life and work have caught up with me and left me with less time than I expected to get quality posts on here. I'm working to finish off my 30 Days of Horror series and get some reviews up here too. I promise that I'll try and get back to posting regularly as soon as I can.
Today's weekly pins post is a little different as I've recently ventured off to the dark side and started using my Tumblr account. This is a collection of images I've blogged throughout my first week on there.
I'll be adding a button for my Tumblr account in the sidebar very soon, but until then you can find my Tumblr here and my Pinterest here.
In a bid to try and retain some level of originality in my film choices for this series I have decided not to talk about Halloween today, despite the fact that it has probably the most iconic, brilliant and memorable soundtrack of any horror film. This decision meant that I spent a good deal of time racking my brain for another film that has an impressive soundtrack, and then I remembered Sinister.
I recently watched Sinister for the first time since I saw it in the cinema last year, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the films score. It was probably due to getting caught up in the story and scares during my initial viewing, but I had no recollection of the soundtrack for Sinister at all and so I was pleasantly impressed by how effective it was. I think that I liked Sinister quite a bit more than the majority of others, I felt that the story was wonderfully dark, featured a great villain/boogeyman and used found-footage techniques really well considering the recent over-exposure the style suffered.
The film's score, from Hellraiser, The Grudge and Drag Me To Hells' composer Christopher Young, befits it's namesake as a blend of unnerving soundbites and chilling music. Each track plays out as a mish-mash of different styles and sounds and so don't always work as whole pieces of music but used in moderation throughout the film they perfectly influence the dark tone of the film. At times the music sounds almost tribal and this is where the soundtrack really excels, working well to capture the chaotic nature of Baghul, the demonic villain.
While it's certainly not the greatest soundtrack to a horror film, Sinister's use of music is something that I really enjoyed and impressively original in comparison to the majority of recent horror films.
I'm going to be awkward now and write this post without actually giving anything away about the jump scare in question. That is simply down to the fact that it is, without a doubt, the best example of the jump scare that I have ever seen in a film, and as a jump scare is only as effective as its unknowing viewer I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
Wait Until Dark was advertised as more of horror film than it actually is, the film is a crime thriller in which a newly blinded Audrey Hepburn unknowingly homes a doll that contains a large amount of heroin. Dealer and general bad guy Harry Roat (Alan Arkin) plans to regain the doll and its contents by invading Hepburn's home with the help of two small-time con artists. The film is based upon a stage play of the same name and builds suspense through the consistent terrorisation of Hepburn's helpless protagonist. Both Hepburn and Arkin are fantastic in their respective roles, and the film works so well because of the strong characters they have helped build throughout the narrative.
When the film was first released cinema owners were given strict instructions that for the last eight minutes of the film lighting in the cinema would be reduced as low as it was legally allowed so as to heighten the experience. This is certainly a film that requires you be sat alone in a dark room with a big screen and the volume up in order to get the maximum effect. When I first saw this film I knew that it featured a fairly notorious jump scare but I was completely in the dark (sorry) as to when it would occur, and it got me good.
I'm a sucker for jump scares and no matter how badly executed they are they will quite often get the desired response from me, but this really is one of those truly brilliant scares that deserves it's reputation. If you watch this film for nothing else, watch it for this scene.
The difficulty in choosing a focal film for this post was that it's too often the case that horror films are the go-to genre for truly awful special effects. I had plenty of choice but wanted to choose a film where the graphics had a majorly detrimental effect on my viewing experience.
I wrote a small review of Mama not long after seeing it, which can be found here, and touched on the low quality of the effects used in it, and this is the film most fresh in my memory whereby the graphics were too bad to enjoy. The concept of Mama as a mysterious presence that is only mentioned for the majority of the story requires a great deal of suspense and pay off in order to be effective. Instead, Mama is revealed quite clearly, in all of her hideously rendered glory, within the films prologue. While showing the antagonist so early in the film is a pretty self-destructive mistake it would have been less of a problem if it weren't for how bad the character actually looks.
Mama is a bundle of emaciated, dirty limbs topped with a gaunt, wild-haired face. She floats above the ground and holds the painful looking posture of a broken spine. Aside from the floating, which was a new development from the short film this is based on, there is nothing about her that could not have been achieved through practical effects and we all know how effectively scary body distortion can be when you can see that it's real. Hell, the movement tests from the films special features is miles scarier than anything from the finished film.
The decision to render Mama as a completely digital presence seems to only allow for some of the films more 'impossible' body distortion scenes which actually come off as more ridiculous than scary, so that was clearly a good decision. Even when we see Mama in her 'human' form she is CGI, which seems completely absurd but is probably due to no actual human possessing a face the size of the one they pasted onto the ghostly being. Mama is built up as a shadow dwelling, malevolent force and had she been created in a way that matched her reputation the film would have been much stronger, but as it stands her digital mug is given far too much screen time for something so shoddy. I won't even begin with the digital 'skinnied' children, I'll just let the picture below speak for me on that one.
Mama's script was never going to allow it to be a great film, but better graphics could have at the very least made it a scary one.
Creepy children have been a staple of horror films for decades, whether they be ghosts, the undead or the subject of demonic possession. This is a sure development of cultural fears of children and the heightened awareness of the supernatural that they are perceived as having, a fear that the invisible friend that they claim to have could indeed be real. In spite of the influx of terrifying, monstrous children that provide countless choices for this post I have chosen a child that is very much alive, Danny from The Shining.
Until my first year at university The Shining had somehow managed to elude me, with the exception of the handful of iconic scenes that were always featured on countdowns of the best horror films of all time. When I finally got around to watching the film it was as a compulsory viewing for a class, and it lived up to it's reputation and then some. With The Shining Stanley Kubrick put to film some of the most disturbing, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful images seen in horror. The Shining is a haunted house film on a much larger scale and the hotel setting allows for a great variety in the scares and images that can be produced.
Danny Lloyd's portrayal of the young boy of the same name is central to the tense, fearsome atmosphere of the film as he is revealed early on to have an increased exposure to the supernatural events. While it is impossible not to feel scared for Danny throughout the ordeal at the Overlook Hotel, I find him at times to be just as effectively creepy as any of the ghosts that are housed there. The croaky voice he produces as he gives voice to the invisible friend that seems to occupy his index finger is a prime example of when he becomes a lot more scary than sweet, especially once it is revealed by Scatman Crother's character that he possesses a supernatural gift.
Similarly the sequences in which Danny rides his tricycle through the winding halls of the build up an incredibly tense atmosphere, and through association have always connected Danny with that feeling of dread, for me. There is something quietly frightening about this young boy, and while he is clearly an innocent throughout the narrative he has creeped me out just as much with each subsequent viewing.
Special mention goes to the twins, who definitely a whole lot more sinister and have probably tarnished the reputation of young twin girls for quite some time.
As I discussed in my post for day 2 of this challenge, remakes are almost always a troublesome beast. They are very rarely warranted and often disappoint. There are only a handful of horror remakes that have been any good, and even less that have surpassed their original in any way. I recently watched George A. Romero's 1973 film The Crazies and after seeing the original I can now say that I believe the 2010 remake has gained a spot in that elite group of superior remakes.
The original film has a great concept, wherein a crashed plane that was carrying a chemical weapon infects a small town and drives many of the inhabitants into a violent frenzy, but suffers from poor direction and lacklustre execution. The film flits between a group of seemingly uninfected citizens trying to escape the quarantined town, the military and doctors who are trying to control and solve the situation, and the gas-masked soldiers that are evacuating and containing the town. This approach completely removes any chance of identification as the narrative switches location too soon and too often for the viewer to have chance to properly engage with anyone s plight.
Breck Eisner's remake amends the originals faults by focusing in on the group of citizens, led by Timothy Olyphant's sheriff, and showing the infections outbreak from their unknowing perspective. The film is a lot darker in its representation of the infected and the horrifying acts that they commit, something that was disappointingly missing from the original, bar the opening scene. The performances are also considerably better in this version which only furthers an identification and sympathy from the veiwer with the ordeal these characters are enduring.
Watching the remake first may have spoilt any enjoyment I could have gained from the original film, but I am certain that under any conditions the recent update is the better piece of filmmaking.
A Horror Movie That Gives You Nightmares The Silence of the Lambs
My job caught up with me this last weekend and so today will become a blogging marathon, with four posts to back date.
I struggled with choosing a film for this post as I really can't recall many films that have left me with nightmares after watching them. As I've said previously in this series I grew up watching a great deal of films that youngsters probably shouldn't be exposed too, but the earliest film that I remember really disturbing me was The Silence of the Lambs.
As I've gotten older and have seen the film more I have come to appreciate it as a brilliant crime thriller, but when I first watched this film I was at an age where my attention span was not too great. The disturbing relationship that develops between Clarice Starling and Dr Hannibal Lecter has turned Anthony Hopkins character into one of the most iconic characters of 90s cinema, but when I was younger it was Ted Levine's more obvious performance as Buffalo Bill that had the strongest effect on me.
American murderer Ed Gein has been the inspiration for three of cinema's most memorable and terrifying killers in Buffalo Bill, Leatherface and Norman Bates, and while Leatherface still scares me the most I can clearly recall how frightening I found the scenes in which Levine's character mocks and tortures his captor. The scene that I most vividly remember creeping me out was the final night-vision confrontation between Clarice and Bill in which he stalks her through the darkness, although 'It rubs the lotion on It's skin' still makes me squirm every time I hear it.
A Movie With Unsettling Scenery La Belle et la Bête
Day 18, and once again I have chosen a film that is not actually a horror film, but one which uses an aspect of the cinematic medium in a way that is evocative of the genre.
Jean Cocteau's adaptation of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale is a magical fantasy-romance that is host to some truly beautiful costumes, sets and makeup effects. Outside of the Beasts castle the scenery is all very mundane, the home of Belle and her family is relatively bare and ordinary and emphasises the young girls provincial life, (sorry, I couldn't resist). To contrast this the cursed castle that homes the Beast is extravagant and alive. The set design utilises some truly incredible effects through which arms and faces that come to life control the scenery. The inspired use of actors making up parts of the set allows Cocteau to realise the stories curse, which brings everything within the castle to life, in a practical and imaginative way that is a pleasure to watch.
The additional result of these effects is the creation of an eery atmosphere that persists throughout Belle's time in the castle. The stark black and white cinematography alone constructs the castle as a dark and mysterious location, but the addition of disembodied limbs controlling each room amplifies this interpretation of the castle. The trees that surround the castle open up to let visitors in and close behind them, creating an impression of seclusion, while a shot of Belle wandering down a long corridor with white drapes blowing in the wind becomes an extremely ghostly image. The live statues that adorn the castle are undoubtedly the most unsettling aspect of the scenery however, as they silently turn their faces to follow Belles movements through each room.
La Belle et la Bête is a stunning film that perfectly captures the magic of the story in a unique way. While the films story is not one of horror, the manipulation of scenery that is displayed here and the effect that is has is something that a good many supernatural horror films could learn from.
A Bad Ass Post/Pre-Kill One-Liner A Nightmare On Elm Street
I'm not the biggest fan of one-liners in horror films as I think they are a sure-fire way to kill any atmosphere that has been built thus far. I grew up on the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise but, as much as Freddy Krueger has been a favourite of mine since then, I do find the decent into comedy that the character and franchise took too severe. From the get-go Freddy had a dark sense of humour and Robert Englund certainly played that up, but the latter films simply became a cocktail of farce and gore, which I no longer enjoy.
That being said he is still the only horror villain that I think can pull off a decent one-liner, besides maybe Chucky. My choice for today however is not a comical one, this particular one-liner comes from the villains second appearance in his first film, during Tina's dream. During her dream Tina finds herself in the alleyway outside her house. Freddy appears and his arms begin to elongate until his clawed glove reaches the metal fence to his side, which he scratches with his knives. Tina whimpers 'Please God', to which Freddy raises his gloved hand to his face and responds 'This is God', before chasing her into the house and ripping her to shreds.
The reason I love this line so much is because among all of his jokes and wise-cracks this is a rare line that is incredibly sinister. The scene itself, dodgy effects aside, is dark and atmospheric with the lighting in particular constructing Freddy as a fearsome silhouetted monster. The line 'This is God' quickly establishes the level of power he possesses and the helplessness of Tina's situation. He is in complete control of what happens in the dream world, actually making him a kind of God in his own right. The horrific following scene in which he kills the young girl only adds to this initial impression of the antagonist and it's a shame that a villain so effectively crafted later became somewhat of a joke.
A Frightening Dream Sequence or Hallucination Dumbo
Dumbo is probably one the the last films I think anyone would expect to see making an appearance on a Horror-themed list, but here it is. For anyone unfamiliar with Dumbo this scene takes place after the titular elephant and his friend Timothy Q. Mouse stumble upon some alcohol. They both get pretty stinking drunk and Dumbo begins blowing bubbles out of his trunk, one of witch transforms itself into the shape of an elephant. A hallucinatory sequence proceeds in which countless elephants perform and dance to the song 'Pink Elephants On Parade".
Walt Disney Productions have brought us countless well loved stories and characters, and Dumbo is no different as one of the companies most heart-warming and emotional films. But when Disney does scary, boy do they do scary. This sequence ranks, for me, among some of the most horrific dream sequences ever seen on film. I don't have a pre-existing aversion to elephants, but I do have a fear of the circus and so theres actually quite a lot in Dumbo that I find a bit unnerving. Pink Elephants On Parade takes the biscuit though. The circus-like trumpet music that dominates the opening of the number, along with the sinister vocals and animation of the elephants combine to make a sequence that has creeped me out for as long as I can remember.
This is Disney at it's most surreal, as the elephants multiply and morph into different shapes, sizes and colours. It is something that would not be out of place in this films predecessor, Fantasia, which has a few frightening scenes of it's own, and is a stunning interpretation of a drunken nightmare. Dumbo doesn't always get that much attention when Disney is discussed, probably due to it's lack of a Princess, but it is a wonderful film that can still make me cry, and also scare the crap out of me.
I only watched Alien for the first time yesterday, and it is probably because it is so fresh in my mind that it seemed the perfect choice for today's post.
What Ridley Scott has done so well in Alien is craft an extremely claustrophobic atmosphere throughout the entire film, something that I was not at all expecting. Despite being set on a huge ship in the vastness of Space, the long corridors of the Nostromo become unnervingly enclosed once the titular space-beast gets loose and stalks the crew one by one. Even when the action takes place in larger areas, both inside and outside of the Nostromo, the darkness that dominates much of the film often tightly constrains the characters within a single part of the frame. I was anticipating grand, detailed sets and intricately crafted make up effects, and while those elements are certainly present, I was pleasantly surprised that they are often shrouded in darkness. This intensified the long sequences in which the crew try to locate the Alien, with the minimalist score also helping to create an unnerving atmosphere that builds up to nerve shattering scares almost every time.
Though I had never seen the film, I had a basic grasp of some of the major plot points and set-pieces and this proved to heighten the suspense even more as I endured the long build-ups with a fair idea of what was to come but no way of knowing just when it would occur. In a standard horror film the protagonist can run as far from the villain as possible but here there really isn't anywhere to run. The ship becomes a labyrinthine series of badly lit corridors that provide ample hiding places for the oversized monster, and watching these characters try and get away from an extra-terrestrial hide and seek champion is an incredibly suspenseful experience.
Egregious Misuse of the 'Based on True Events' Claim Paranormal Activity
The list of films that claim to be based upon events that really happened is a long one. If I hadn't already featured it in this challenge The Strangers would be my top choice for today's topic, but instead I've decided to do something a little different. More so than films that claim to be based on real events, I get annoyed by films that actually claim to be real events, and so for today's topic I have chosen the Paranormal Activity films.
I give the Paranormal Activity franchise a little more credit than most seem to, because I think they are extremely successful in what they do. Even if the plot is becoming more and more convoluted which each release the films have delivered some of the best and most memorable scares of the past few years. Of course that is all just my opinion, and like I said I do go easier on them that a lot of other people, probably because I really loved the first two instalments. What does frustrate me about these films, and many other films of the found-footage phenomenon, is the claim that what we are watching is real.
The days of gullible film-goers that can be easily kept in the dark are well in the past. Nobody was going to fall for this being actual footage like audiences did with Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project, nor did the marketing team go to the trouble that the filmmakers of the latter did to create a buzz about these 'real' events. All we get is a couple of title cards before or after each film that thank the families for allowing the footage to be shown (as though any of Katie's family are actually still around to give permission) and declaring the police case as still unsolved. It all begs the question; why bother?
Sure these claims can be a neat gimmick to get a small flick that few people would see that little bit of extra attention, but by the time the first Paranormal Activity was hitting cinemas it was clearly franchise material. If the filmmakers thought for a second that anyone would buy into this claim then they should have kept the cast hidden away in a cave somewhere and destroyed all copied of the alternate endings.
I know that I'm being a bit of a sourpuss here and I know that these aspects of the films are just 'world building' or whatever, but it is a pet peeve of mine that will not budge. I do really enjoy a lot of what this series offers, I just think that the few seconds of screen-time dedicated to passing these off as real events is a redundant exercise. Spend those few seconds scaring the crap out me with decent fiction, I don't need it to be real to be frightened.
Like so many of the other posts in this series today's topic could have been based around any number of films, because many of the sub-genres within horror require a well-crafted antagonist in order to be successful. The chain of 80s slashers in particular were the breeding ground for murderous villains that have each become iconic in their own right, spawning long lasting franchises. Today I want to talk about one of the lesser recognised of these heavy-hitters, the Cenobites of the Hellraiser series.
The Cenobites are essentially the Devils handymen, a group of bondage inspired, leather-clade demons who are all the subjects of extreme body modification. They are summoned if somebody solves the Lament Configuration puzzle box, which is surprisingly easy, and proceed to torture said puzzle solver in order to give them pleasure. Obviously their perception of what level of pain is pleasurable greatly differs from the majority of users and so conflicts regularly arise.
Hellraiser is one of the few big horror franchises of its time that has remained untouched by the remake wagon (however one is supposedly in the works) and this is probably due to it also being one of the longest lasting franchises, with the latest addition being Hellriaser: Revelations from 2011. The issue is that with each subsequent film the quality and production values naturally lessen and so the Cenobites become less original and visually exciting, which is problematic as their appearances were integral in making them a staple of the series, taking centre stage in the later films as opposed to their original role as minor supporting characters.
Sequels aside, the Cenobites presence in the original film is what makes them so intimidating. Though they have to be summoned their presence is always the cause of great anticipation and fear. They look horrific and the actions that they carry out on other characters in the story are horrific. The design, costuming and make-up is all fantastic and they are without a doubt some of the most original antagonists of any horror film. The use of practical effects during the torture sequences, though dated, is still extremely affecting and makes me wince every time. It's obvious why they became so popular with audiences and dominated the plots of the later films, but the prolonged exposure they recieve in these films lessens their impact. These demons, or angels, are so much more formidable when they only briefly show up to cause all kinds of trouble.
Todays post is not about a horror film, at least not in the typical sense; The Night of the Hunter is a 1955 thriller but one which features themes and stylistic techniques that are evocative of those found in horror.
The film is a contemporary fairytale in which a sinister preacher, played by Robert Mitchum, terrorises a pair of young children who know the secret location of money that their father obtained in the robbery that led to his execution. Mitchum, as Reverend Powell, charms and marries the children's mother, becoming an oppressive father figure to the pair, who eventually run away and seek refuge with an old woman who cares for stray children. The film is now widely considered one of the best of the time, but upon its release was a critical and commercial failure which caused it's director, Charles Laughton to never make another film.
Though the story the film tells is not particularly scary the themes of oppression, murder and good vs evil are familiar to the horror genre and Robert Mitchum's violent antagonist is certainly on par with some of the screens greatest villains. Taking clear inspiration from the German expressionist movement that stark contrast of the cinematography is what inspires a familiarity between this film and the horror genre. Inventive camera work and chiaroscuro lighting effects make both the internal and external spaces seem imposing or hostile. The lighting plays an integral role in exposing the horror of the events and in many cases makes the term 'black and white film' very literal.
The film features two great performances from Mitchum and Lillian Gish and is beautifully shot with a series of unforgettable images. Many horror films are criticised for their reliance on darkness, and The Night of the Hunter shows how a contrast between light and dark is a much more effective way of creating sinister imagery.
A Bad First Movie With A Great Sequel The Devil's Rejects
Sequels are a tricky business because they are immediately met with high expectations and as a result have a history of being disappointing. I'm not convinced that I have ever come across a bad original/great sequel pairing within the horror genre, so I have settled on a terrible original/good sequel pairing instead.
House of 1,000 Corpses is a mess. It is unfocused, unpleasant and a film that I don't believe I will ever feel the need to revisit. It holds some great ideas and fleeting hints of a stronger film, but was just too much of too many things to be successful as a whole. The sequel to House, The Devil's Rejects, is superior in practically every way, focusing the story, style and tone to make for a more coherent and engaging film. It follows on from it's predecessor with Captain Spaulding and his children Otis and Baby on the run from the police after a shoot-out, depicting them as anti-hero protagonists.
The characterisation is the films most successful component. It is common within horror for the antagonists to be much more interesting than the protagonists, and that is true of the villainous family of these two films. By reigning in both the plot and the style of the film for the sequel, director Rob Zombie allows the actors to really shine, delivering much more watchable and enjoyable performances with the only weak link being Leslie Easterbrook as Mother Firefly.
I'm still not completely sold on this film, which is purely down to my tastes being different that those of the intended audience, but this is a huge achievement when compared to House of 1,000 Corpses.