Friday, 31 July 2015

'The Blair Witch Project' - Peter Turner

Few films of any genre have had the influence and impact of The Blair Witch Project (1999). Its arrival was a horror cinema palette-cleanser after a decade of serial killers and postmodern tongue-in-cheek intertextuality, a bare bones ‘found footage’ trend-setter.

In this Devil’s Advocate monograph, Peter Turner tells the story of the film from its conception to its pioneering internet marketing campaign and critical reception. He provides a unique analysis of the mockumentary/non-fiction film-making techniques deployed by the film, its appeal to audiences and the themes that helped make it such an international hit (it made more than $140 million in the US alone). Turner also explores the film's lasting impact on the horror genre with a look at other found footage phenomena, such as the Paranormal Activity series, that followed in the wake of The Blair Witch Project.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my review.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

'Black Sunday' – Martyn Conterio

Devil's Advocates is a book series devoted to exploring the classics of horror cinema. Contributors to Devil's Advocates come from the worlds of academia, journalism and fiction, but all have one thing in common: a passion for the horror film and for sharing that passion.

Each instalment delves into a specific horror film, exploring everything from its conception to its impact on genre cinema and wider popular culture. Titles thus far include Let the Right One In by Anne Billson, Witchfinder General by Ian Cooper, SAW by Benjamin Poole, The Descent by James Marriott and Carrie by Neil Mitchell.

Despite its reputation as one of the greatest and most influential of all horror films, there is surprisingly little literature dedicated to Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960), and Martyn Conterio's contribution to the Devil’s Advocates series is the first single book devoted to it.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my review

Monday, 20 July 2015

Housebound

2014
Dir. Gerard Johnstone

When delinquent Kylie is placed under house arrest after a botched robbery, she is forced to return to her childhood home and the guardianship of her overbearing mother and timid stepfather. A series of strange occurrences lead her to suspect the house is haunted and as she delves into the building’s history, she not only uncovers a darkly tragic past, but shady family secrets.

Beginning as an oddball haunted house yarn, the plot of this New Zealand comedy-horror soon veers off into some very unexpected places; with each twist and turn the well measured pace and careful editing gradually build tension and intrigue, ensuring the viewer is riveted throughout.

A rare gem in genre cinema, Housebound is a comedy-horror that provides well timed laughs alongside genuine shocks, chills and suspense, sometimes in the same scene.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review

Thursday, 9 July 2015

An Evening of Irish Horror

Established in 2010, Belfast’s Wireless Mystery Theatre is an audio theatre company devoted to invoking the spirit of vintage radio suspense plays. Comprised of a small troupe of actors, writers and musicians, their productions incorporate live music and imaginative sound effects with players frequently multi-tasking and acting out different roles.

Their most recent production, An Evening of Irish Horror, was a suitably spooky double-bill featuring adaptations of Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic ghost story ‘Green Tea’ - which tells of a timid clergyman who is hounded by a demonic spectral monkey - and Bram Stoker’s short story, ‘Dracula’s Guest’ - an excised segment from Dracula which documents a creepy encounter between Jonathan Harker and Count Dracula by the grave of the undead Countess Dolingen of Gratz...

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

In Conversation with Composer, Jonathan Snipes

Starry Eyes is the Faustian tale of an ambitious young actress whose encounter with a sinister production company propels her on a harrowing spiral into despair, madness and diabolism, as she attempts to make her dreams of fame a reality. At any cost…

Enhancing the ominous atmosphere is a throbbing electronic score courtesy of LA based composer Jonathan Snipes. An electro love letter to the likes of John Carpenter, Fabio Frizzi, and Goblin, Snipes’ music is the perfect accompaniment to the protagonist’s hellish transformation. According to one critic, “its importance to the film’s ability to disturb cannot be understated.”

With the recent release of the score on vinyl, courtesy of Waxwork Records, I thought it was high time we caught up with Jonathan, who very kindly agreed to an interview about his work on Starry Eyes. 

Head over to Paracinema to read the interview and sample some of the score. 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Unhallowed Ground

2015
Dir. Russell England

During the 17th century, students of a prestigious school are spared a gruesome death by plague after they ritualistically murder four of their own in a Satanic pact.

In present times, the building is still used as a boarding school, and when it shuts down for midterm holidays, six students from the cadet corps must remain behind to patrol the grounds as part of an initiative in basic military training.

As the night progresses, personal conflicts become apparent within the group, and as they delve deeper into the history of the school, they are beset by increasingly odd occurrences...

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Can't Come Out to Play

2015
Dir. John McNaughton

A couple who attempt to keep their sick son in a completely secluded environment for the sake of his ailing health, find their rigidly controlled and isolated lives intruded upon by a recently orphaned young girl who moves into the house down the lane. What follows is a tale of domestic abuse, desperation and the exhumation of dark family secrets.

An intense domestic psychodrama featuring disarmingly powerful performances from Samantha Morton and Michael Shannon, Can’t Come Out to Play is director John McNaughton’s first feature film in over a decade. While certainly a much more subtle affair than previous offerings such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and the sublimely trashy thriller Wild Things, it’s no less provocative or compelling.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Remembering Sir Christopher Lee

Rest in Peace, Sir Christopher Lee. The Silver Screen will flicker a little dimmer without your commanding presence, gravitas and dignity.


The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Dracula (1958)

The Mummy (1959)

Horror Hotel (1960)

Horror Hotel (1960)

The Whip & The Body (1963)

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

On set with director Terrence Fisher

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

The Wicker Man (1973)

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

House of Long Shadows (1983) also starred Vincent Price, Peter Cushing & John Carradine

Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

The Hobbit (2012-2014)

His most iconic role... Count Dracula

With dear friend and frequent co-star, Peter Cushing



Monday, 1 June 2015

RIP Betsy Palmer

Betsy Palmer, 1926-2015
Actress Betsy Palmer, best known for portraying Pamela Voorhees in Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part II, has passed away at the age of 88. Palmer died of natural causes at a hospice care centre in Connecticut on Friday 29th May. She is survived by her daughter, Melissa Merendino.

While Palmer will always be remembered for her role as Jason Voorhees’ tragic mother, she had a long and versatile career on stage - appearing in Broadway plays such as On Golden Pond, Cactus Flower and Same Time, Next Year - and television - starring in the likes of Knots Landing, As the World Turns and Murder, She Wrote. 

Palmer famously stated that she only took on the role of Mrs Voorhees because she needed a new car. Despite initially disowning the film, and its sequel, in which she had a cameo appearance, Palmer eventually embraced it, frequently appearing at horror conventions to meet with hordes of adoring fans.

In Peter M. Bracke’s 'Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th', she candidly revealed that she approached all her roles, including Mama Voorhees, with sincerity; she even created a back-story for the character. She also commented on the film’s legacy, its enduring appeal, and her place within horror cinema history. “I once told my daughter. “Tell me the truth, are you ashamed that your mother did Friday the 13th?” And she said, “Not at all - now I don’t have to tell my friends who you are anymore.” The funny thing is, I did poo-poo it for a long time. I wasn’t sure if I wanted anyone to know. But I’ve since accepted it. It’s actually become fun now. It’s like a badge of honour. I’m the Queen of the Slashers!” 

Betsy’s friend and Friday the 13th co-star Adrienne King said on Facebook: “Rest in Peace sweet Betsy. You will be so missed by so many. I am truly blessed to have known you. You were my dear friend, my bloody brilliant teacher, the consummate awe-inspiring actress & professional not to mention the kind of mother every child wishes they had ~ I am so happy you embraced your role as Mrs. Voorhees in the end & enjoyed the love & praise of your generations of fans from around the world. We will miss you Betsy Palmer!”

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Sleeping Room

2014
Dir. John Shackleton

A rather curious hybrid, John Shackleton’s Brighton-based The Sleeping Room is part psychological horror, part ghost story. It tells of Blue (Leila Mimmack), a young call-girl with a troubled past who strikes up an unlikely, and forbidden friendship with one of her clients, a young man restoring an old house by the seafront.

When she inadvertently discovers she has ties to the old house, which used to be a brothel, and a possible shared history with its devious and debauched tenants, she desperately attempts to reconcile herself with a dark family secret.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Discopath

2013
Dir. Renaud Gauthier

Disco isn't dead, but you just might be!

With its admittedly ludicrous plot concerning the bloody exploits of a serial killer whose rampage is triggered when he hears disco music, Discopath unspools as a soiled love letter to grindhouse exploitation shockers such as Maniac, The New York Ripper, Pieces and Don’t Go in the House.

With its retro-sleaze appeal, trashy aesthetic, low budget charm, practical FX and vintage-sounding synth score, it perfectly emulates the creepy, gritty atmospheres of those psycho-on-the-loose flicks of yore, while also echoing exuberantly violent Eurohorrors such as the Italian giallo.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

Monday, 20 April 2015

The Herd

2014
Dir. Melanie Light

The Herd is an unshirkingly brutal, vegan-minded short which serves as a chilling metaphor for the inhumane treatment of cattle at the hands of the dairy industry.

Hundreds of millions of these sentient creatures suffer and die every year as their bodies are treated like machines. Forcefully impregnated so they produce milk, they are pumped full of growth hormones to produce unnaturally large quantities of milk, and antibiotics to combat constant mastitis infections. When they are no longer able to lactate, they are destroyed.

The Herd substitutes women for cattle and subjects them to the same horrendous processes as the average dairy cow as it delves into the everyday horrors of the dairy industry…

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

See No Evil 2

2014
Dirs. Jen & Sylvia Soska

Slasher films are infamous for instigating a seemingly unending chain of sequels. Cynically speaking, slasher sequels are generally inferior titles that simply rehash the plot of the original in a desperate bid to capitalise on its success. Speaking as the owner of various slasher franchise boxsets, a few sequels can surpass expectations and actually enhance the impact of the original, fleshing out characters, exploring back stories and expanding mythos.

Of all the slasher films you’d expect to spawn a sequel - and a rather belated one at that - See No Evil (2006) probably wouldn’t be high on your list. A conventional, if rather unremarkable affair, it featured WWE star Kane (Glen Jacobs) as a reclusive psychopath brutally murdering a group of delinquents who, as part of their community service, are sent to clean up the old abandoned hotel he resides in. While commercially successful, it was essentially a re-run of old slasher conventions, grimed up with an urban setting, juvenile delinquents and Kane making a bid to become a new slasher icon. While it didn’t particularly warrant a sequel, it got one. And a pretty decent one at that, with a surprisingly good cast (Katherine Isabelle! Kaj Erik-Erikson! Danielle Harris!) and effective direction courtesy of the Soska sisters.

See No Evil 2 might stick closely to the slasher formula, as its pretty teens are violently dispatched by a hulking psychopath in a sprawling underground morgue staffed by a graveyard shift skeleton crew (Erik-Erikson and Harris), but with the Soska sisters at the helm, at least it has fun while doing so. Sadly, the Soskas weren’t responsible for writing the script - which lacks their unique panache - but they were able to revise it and convince the producers to let them tweak a few aspects. As such, they play around with conventional gender roles, throw in a few twists - adding some oddball charm and dark humour - and lead us to a surprisingly bleak denouement with unexpected pathos. While things are fairly lighthearted to begin with - cheeky references to American Mary and grim foreshadowing abound as the camera lingers on various medical instruments throughout the opening credits - as soon as the stalking and slashing commences, the Soskas prove utterly astute in ratcheting up tension, particularly during a number of taut chase sequences, and maintaining a suitably stark and creepy atmosphere.



Unlike many of its kind, See No Evil 2 is a slasher sequel with a group of rather likeable characters the audience is inclined to root for, particularly Kaj Erik-Erikson as Seth, the aforementioned Katherine Isabelle, who delivers a particularly gonzo, highly strung performance and is one of best things about the film, and the ever reliable Danielle Harris, who can by now do this sort of thing without even thinking. As Jacob Goodnight, Kane proves to be a formidable antagonist with all the makings of a classic slasher villain, right down to his stiflingly religious upbringing (explored through various flashbacks) - which taps into that old moral conservatism slashers are famed for - and his startlingly violent crusade to cleanse society of the ‘morally corrupt’ who, in this case, are a group of friends gathered at a morgue for a surprise birthday party.

With echoes of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter, See No Evil 2 picks up immediately after the events of the previous film, the same night in fact, and its murderous villain is similarly revived in a morgue, setting the scene for a brutal killing spree. Unlike the aforementioned slasher sequels however, the remainder of See No Evil 2 actually plays out in this creepy setting and it doesn’t just serve as a prelude to the villain making his way back to a favoured stomping ground, a la Haddonfield or Crystal Lake. It’s a seriously creepy backdrop and, with its shadowy, labyrinthine hallways, is milked for all it's worth to enhance the atmosphere.

As a Soska sisters' film it’s not quite in the same league as their previous titles, particularly American Mary, but its an interesting slasher sequel that’s a cut above its predecessor and further evidence (if any was needed) that the Soskas are emerging as two of genre cinema's most interesting filmmakers. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

What We Do in the Shadows

2014
Dirs. Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement

A documentary crew follows the bemusing exploits of a group of house-sharing vampires in this charming, oddly heart-warming comedy-horror from New Zealanders Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement.

From arguing over the cleaning rota and attempting to gain entry to the most hip and happening nightspots, to deciding what should be done about the dead vampire hunter in the basement, the utter banality of the situations the misfits find themselves in, renders their attempts to integrate with the outside world infectiously humorous.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

And remember, "We're werewolves, not swearwolves!" 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

In Conversation with Disasterpeace

It Follows is the insidiously creepy tale of a young woman who becomes the target of a relentless supernatural stalker after she has sex with her boyfriend. The intensely atmospheric electronic score - courtesy of San Francisco-based Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace - is one of the most distinctive horror scores in recent memory, and was described by one critic as sounding “as if [John] Carpenter had Trent Reznor around to score Halloween back in 1978.”

Rich very kindly took the time to have a chat with me about, amongst other things, composing the score for It Follows, video games, horror films, musical influences, Adventure Time and more.

Head over to Paracinema to read the interview and listen to some of the creepy score.