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Showing posts from January, 2013

Winter Horror

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Horror films regularly feature unfortunate characters in extreme circumstances and situations. Whether they be battling poltergeists or demonic possessions in the comfort and privacy of their own homes, or evading hulking brutes with big kitchen knives in a remote backwoods cabin; settings usually play an important part of what makes horror stories compelling and relatable.

What if you add harsh winter weather to the mix though? Wintry, snowbound horror films can often be chilling in more ways than one. A typical narrative of man versus, well, whatever monster he's facing, soon takes on the added aspect of man versus the elements; which can often be just as threatening - and much more relatable. Or perhaps the elements themselves are the threat? Films such as Frozen, The Shining, The Thing and 30 Days of Night – to name but a few – feature characters in already horrific situations which become somewhat exacerbated by freezing temperatures and blinding snow-storms. Isolation, hypo…

An Interview with the Makers of Neo-Giallo, Yellow

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A few months back I interviewed director Ryan Haysom about his short neo-giallo Yellow, the influence of by-gone Italian horror and the morbid allure of black leather gloved killers, glinting switchblades and bloody ultra-violence. With the film now screening at various festivals around the world, and going down a storm with critics and audiences alike, I thought it was as good a time as any to catch up with Mr Haysom and the makers of Yellow. Joining us in donning black leather gloves and talking about the film are cinematographer/writer Jon Britt and producer Catherine Morawitz.

How did you come up with the story for Yellow?

HAYSOM: I am a big Italian horror fan and I’ve always wanted to make a giallo-styled film, so it’s always been in the back of my mind. Jon and I share a very similar experimental aesthetic when it comes to our ideas on cinema. When we decided to actually try and create a film, we were going in the same direction from the very start and it felt very organic and ex…

Short Film Showcase: Yellow

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2012
Dir. Ryan Haysom

Italian giallo films, made popular by the likes of Dario Argento, Mario Bava and Sergio Martino, are renowned for their brutal violence, dazzling style and convoluted ‘whodunit’ narratives. Immensely popular in Italy throughout the late Sixties and early Seventies, they eventually fizzled out of fashion when Italian cinema as whole began to wane. Throughout the past couple of years however they have appeared to make something of a comeback; specifically in terms of their influence over a new generation of filmmakers. Recent films such as Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Amer, Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio, Guillem Morales’ Julia’s Eyes and Federico Zampaglione’s Tulpa, highlight the impact the giallo has had on contemporary horror cinema, with its combination of exploitative violence, art house aesthetics and gloriously dubious fetishisation of death.

Another notable title to proudly wear its giallo influences on its blood-spattered sleeve is t…

House of 1,000 Dolls

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1967
Dir. Jeremy Summers

While vacationing in Tangiers, trendy couple Stephen and Marie learn that their friend Fernando’s girlfriend has been reported missing. Before long, Marie is abducted when she attends a magic show hosted by the mysterious Felix Mandeville. It soon transpires that she is being held captive in a plush brothel along with a slew of other lovelies who have been ‘collected’ from around the globe by the dastardly Mandeville in a covert sex-slave operation!

This little oddity of a film is, aside from being a lesser-seen Vincent Price vehicle, a thoroughly entertaining (in that guilty sort of way), though really quite tame romp. Produced by Harry Alan Towers (Fu Manchu, Jess Franco’s Justine, Warrior Queen and Howling IV: The Original Nightmare amongst other trashy delights), it is, according to Mark McGee, author of Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, “quite possibly the sleaziest movie AIP ever made.” I sincerely …

Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe

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Born on January 19th in 1809, Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most recognised and revered names in gothic literature. Part of the American Romantic movement, Poe is best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. Not only an author and a poet, he was also a literary critic and editor, and one of the earliest practitioners of the short story. Now widely regarded as inventing the detective fiction genre, Poe was also a forerunner of science fiction. As a popular crime and horror author, his influence spreads far and wide, and amongst the writers who owe a tremendous dept to his work are Herman Melville, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman and Jules Verne, to name but a few.

A true visionary, Poe was the first well-known American writer to attempt to irk out a living through writing alone, leading him down a path of financially instability and uncertainty. His gruesome stories reflected his inner turmoil. Haunted by the death of his mother, Poe wres…

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

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1971
Dir. Emilio P. Miraglia

When Lord Alan Cunningham is released from a stint in a psychiatric hospital for murdering red-haired prostitutes reminiscent of his unfaithful late wife, he quickly remarries in an attempt to redeem himself. Once he and his new wife settle into the family home – a crumbling gothic mansion – a series of gruesome murders suggest his former wife has returned from the dead to wreck some terrible revenge…

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is one of several gialli from the early Seventies which exhibits unusual gothic influences. Alongside Sergio Martino’s Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, Antonio Margheriti's Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye and Miraglia’s own The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, it boasts a moody gothic atmosphere, crumbling mansion setting, psychological deterioration, dysfunctional family drama and one of those ‘have-the-dead-come-back-to-haunt-the-living-or-is-someone-trying-to-drive-the-protagonist-insane’ type plots. …

Ancient Graves Exposed in 'Dracula Graveyard'

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Perched upon the north-east coast of England, the ancient seaside town of Whitby is nowadays synonymous with macabre tales of the undead thanks to its role in Bram Stoker’s feverish, blood-fuelled novel, Dracula. The town had an immense influence on Stoker when he came to pen his classic vampire novel, and it has recently made the headlines with morbid events that could have been lifted directly from the pages of Stoker’s creepy classic. Human bones have been exposed in St Mary’s church graveyard after a landslide took away part of the cliff upon which it rests. The landslip, caused by a broken drainage pipe and excessive rainfall, has exposed ancient graves, and a stream of water can now be seen flowing out of the rock face where the bones were recovered. According to officials, the bones have been collected and will be reinterred.

The church, founded around AD1110, was built more than 900 years ago, with the cemetery closing in 1865. Several passages of Dracula take place in, or we…

Short Film Showcase: Out There

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2012
Dir. Randal Plunkett

When Robert (Conor Marren) awakens deep in the woods with a head wound and no memory of how he got there, he attempts to find help while memories of the recent past come flooding back to haunt him…

Director Randal Plunkett’s brief but powerful tale hits the ground running and immediately draws us in with its sinister atmosphere and quietly smouldering tension. The early on sense of isolation and danger, together with the juxtaposition of the beautiful, sun-dappled woodlands and the macabre discoveries made within them, is a potent mix. The main focus of the narrative is Robert’s cautious, increasingly desperate exploration of his immediate surroundings, and his gradual realisation that something is wrong. Very wrong. Stumbling along old country lanes – like those ones in old Irish tales on which the devil is said to have been glimpsed - as the quiet around him relentlessly encroaches, he eventually happens on an old deserted farm; the only sound coming from …

Audiodrome #13

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In this month's edition of Audiodrome: Music in Film, I take a look at Icelandic singer/songwriter Björk’s astoundingly beautiful soundtrack to Dancer in the Dark; Lars Von Trier’s unsentimental deconstruction of the Hollywood musical – and devastating attack on the American Dream. It tells of a young Czech immigrant in 60’s America who makes the ultimate sacrifice for her young son. Various musical numbers, composed and performed by Björk, burst from the narrative as her character’s flights of fancy and day-dreams. Drawing inspiration from classical music, and of course classic musicals, Björk’s score for Dancer in the Dark is one of her finest pieces of work.

Head over to Paracinema.net to read the full review.

While you’re there, why not pick up issue 18 of Paracinema Magazine. Articles include When Single Shines the Triple Sun: Duality and Self Discovery in The Dark Crystal by Christine Makepeace, Marriage Bites: Lesbian Vampires and the Failure of Heterosexuality in Daughter…

Berberbian Sound Studio

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2011
Dir. Peter Strickland

Peter Strickland’s sophomore film is a striking combination of dazzling Argento style and haunting Lynchian atmosphere; it’s as though the director glimpsed into the collective mind-space of these filmmakers and recreated what he saw and heard there in this claustrophobic nightmare of sound and vision. Set in the Seventies, Berberbian Sound Studio tells of mild-mannered British sound technician Gilderoy (Toby Jones), who is brought to Italy to work on the sound effects for a gruesome horror film. His increasingly nightmarish task slowly begins to take its toll, and before long, life begins to imitate art. Or does it? From the opening moments as Gilderoy is led into the studio – rather like a patient being led into a psychiatric hospital - an ominous dread seeps throughout proceedings and an ever dank ambiguity manifests itself.

Alone in a foreign land, Gilderoy is completely ostracised by the rest of the crew as he spends his days recording hours of screami…

Diabolique Magazine 14

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Issue 14 of the deliciously macabre Diabolique is now available for pre-order.

A bi-monthly print/online horror magazine, the aim of Diabolique is to explore the various aspects of the horror genre - including film, literature, theatre and art - with a specific focus on gothic sensibility.

All manner of ghostly shenanigans and haunted happenings abound in this issue, including a look at the making of the Guillermo del Toro production, Mama, and an array of articles on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw and its various adaptations - including Jack Clayton's chilling classic, The Innocents.

There's also an examination of the history of haunted house films, a look at the dark side of love in classic horror cinema, an exploration of the history of Arnold Böcklin's Isle of the Dead, and a little something by yours truly on Hammer's new stage adaptation of The Turn of the Screw and the lineage of the Theatre of Horror.

Pre-order your issue here.