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I Am Nancy (2011)

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Actress and producer Heather Langenkamp is best known for her role as Nancy Thompson in Wes Craven’s classic chiller A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Directed by Arlene Marechal, I Am Nancy  is an exploration of Langenkamp's experience portraying the heroine and of the impact of the film and its antagonist, Freddy Krueger, on pop-culture. It follows Langenkamp as she attends horror conventions around the world and talks with fans about what attracts them to horror, specifically the A Nightmare on Elm Street films , and what the characters of Nancy and Freddy mean to them.  The film follows on from  Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy , a 2010 documentary chronicling the entire  A Nightmare on Elm Street  franchise, which was executive produced and narrated by Langenkamp, who felt a number of issues were not explored in enough depth. By questioning why heroine Nancy was eclipsed by villain Freddy Kreuger, Langenkamp’s own investigation touches upon wider issues about hero wo

Pet Sematary Two (1992)

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After the death of his mother, teenager Jeff (Edward Furlong) and his veterinarian father move to her hometown to start a new life for themselves. When Jeff befriends Drew, the stepson of the local sheriff, he learns of an ancient Native American burial ground deep in the forest outside of town that, according to local legend, has the power to raise the dead. When the sheriff shoots Drew’s beloved dog, the boys decide to see if there’s any truth to the lore, with mainly schlocky consequences…  Director Mary Lambert had wanted Pet Sematary Two to pick up the story again with Ellie Creed, the young daughter from the first film, and follow her as she returned to Maine to find out what happened to her parents. Alas, the studio (Paramount) didn’t feel confident that a teenaged girl could carry the film as its protagonist, so they cast… a teenaged boy, instead. Whereas the first film addressed the tragedy of death and the overwhelming power of grief, the sequel, like many other horror title

Pet Sematary (1989)

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When the Creed family move into their new home, they discover a pet cemetery in the woods behind their house. After a tragic accident, the grieving father learns through local folklore that another burial ground, much more ancient and deeper into the woods, has the power to raise the dead…  Based on the novel by Stephen King (and adapted for screen by the author) Pet Sematary is a rumination on death, grief and the darkness of the human heart when it wants something so much it doesn’t consider the consequences. King once admitted that of all his work, nothing scared him or troubled him as much as Pet Sematary . In the book’s introduction, he recounts the events that inspired it: ‘I simply took existing elements and threw in that one terrible what if . Put another way, I found myself not just thinking the unthinkable, but writing it down.’ Influenced by WW Jacobs’ short story The Monkey’s Paw , which is also about death, grief and the unspeakable horror that follows when a loved one is

Honeymoon (2014)

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Newly married Bea and Paul (Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway) decide to take their honeymoon at her family’s secluded lakeside cabin deep in the forest. Their bliss is shattered after Paul finds Bea wandering disorientated in the forest at night and soon after she begins to seem less and less like herself. To begin with, it’s little things, like forgetfulness, but before long, her personality changes and even her grasp of language diminishes, while she insists everything is fine. As Paul’s attempts to get them to leave and go back home become increasingly desperate, he realises that they are not as alone as they thought, and something lurks in the surrounding forest, its insidious grip on Rose becoming ever more powerful…  Directed by Leigh Janiak (who co-wrote the screenplay with Phil Graziadei), Honeymoon unfurls as a deeply haunting and suspenseful two-hander. The unsettling notion that the person you have married and chosen to spend the rest of your life with, suddenly changes and

Darlin’ (2019)

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Written and directed by Pollyanna McIntosh (a familiar face in horror having starred in titles such as White Settlers [2014], Tales of Halloween [2015] and The Walking Dead [2017-2018]), Darlin’ is a powerful, socially minded sequel to Lucky McKee’s 2011 film The Woman (which stared McIntosh as the formidable titular character). It picks up the story several years later, but also works well as a standalone film, as it follows the journey of a feral girl who is rehomed in a strict Catholic boarding school where a predatory bishop attempts to civilise her to gain publicity for his failing church. Meanwhile, the woman (McIntosh again, who resumes the role here with similar conviction) leaves a bloody trail of violence as she gradually tracks down her daughter, creating a further strand of tension. While McKee’s film depicted its protagonist being beaten and physically abused into submission and ‘civility’, with Darlin’ , McIntosh adopts a much more psychological approach in her explo

Sea Fever (2019)

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Written and directed by Neasa Hardiman, Sea Fever unfurls as a slow-burning, dread-fuelled nautical tale of terror. As a mandatory requirement for her studies, introverted marine-biology student Siobhán (Hermione Corfield) joins the close-knit crew of a fishing trawler as they head out from the west coast of Ireland. They become marooned out on the Atlantic when they encounter an unfathomable life-form that ensnares the boat. As members of the crew (which include Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen) gradually succumb to a deadly infection caused by contact with the parasitic creature, Siobhán must win the trust of the increasingly paranoid crew and find a solution before it’s too late.  With its central themes of isolation, infection and paranoia, Sea Fever echoes sci-fi horror classics such as The Thing (1982), Alien  (1979) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), but Hardiman’s approach - grounded in realism and science - well developed characters, and favouring of insidious unease

Lurking on the Book Shelves: Women in Horror

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Film critic, academic and author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas's 1000 Women in Horror 1895-2018 is an exhaustive love-letter to the vast numbers of women who have worked in horror cinema, both behind and in front of the camera, for over a century and whose contributions are so often unfairly overlooked in favour of their male counterparts. The work of these women has left a significant mark on the genre and helped make horror cinema what it is today. From the Classical Hollywood era to alt-Nollywood, the mumblegore movement to J-horror, 1000 Women in Horror contains a filmography of over 700 feature films directed or co-directed by women and features interviews with filmmakers including Tara Anaïse, Anna Biller, Axelle Carolyn, Aislinn Clarke, Julia Ducournau and Karen Lam.  In a recent interview with EW , Heller-Nicholas said "When we think of women in horror, we default to Janet Leigh or Texas Chain Saw Massacre, those really iconic images from horror films. We think of terror

RIP Daria Nicolodi

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Actress and screenwriter Daria Nicolodi has died at the age of 70. Her death, on 26th November, was announced by her daughter, Asia Argento.  Nicolodi was born in Florence, 1950, and made her film debut in the 1970 war film Uomini contro ( Many Wars Ago ) playing a Red Cross nurse. She came to fame in 1975 when she was cast as savvy investigative reporter Gianna Brezzi, in Dario Argento's classic giallo, Profondo rosso ( Deep Red ). This role would be hugely impactful, not only upon her career, but also her personal life, as she and Argento soon began a relationship and had a child together (Asia).  Nicolodi was integral in the conception of Argento's next film Suspiria (1977), which she co-wrote. A dark and violent fairy tale horror, Suspiria tells of a young ballet student who discovers the academy where she has enrolled is home to a coven of evil witches. Nicolodi had been inspired by tales of witches and black magic told to her by her grandmother, who claimed to have had

The Projection Booth Episode 489: The Company of Wolves (1984)

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The Company of Wolves  (1984) is a unique beast; part fairy tale, part werewolf film, part horror film, part rite of passage narrative. It was Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan’s second film, and his first foray into the realms of Gothic horror. Jordan co-wrote the screenplay with British novelist Angela Carter, and it is based upon several short stories from Carter’s  The Bloody Chamber , a collection of reinterpreted folk tales and classic literary fairy tales told from a piercing feminist perspective. The latest episode of Mike White's critically acclaimed podcast The Projection Booth features culture writer Heather Drain and author and editor of Diabolique  Magazine Kat Ellinger discussing The Company of Wolves . I was invited on to chat about my book on the film (part of the Devil's Advocates book series ) and the research and writing process. We also talk about the importance of libraries and how, like folk tales, they facilitate access to our past and help us understand and

Libraries as Safe Places in Horror Cinema – Case Study Two: Ginger Snaps: Unleashed (2004)

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As mentioned in the previous post, characters in horror cinema and literature often assume the role of information gatherer/knowledge seeker. They may find they need to conduct research in order to uncover truth. Sometimes equipping oneself with reliable information in order to obtain truth can mean the difference between life and death. Characters may visit libraries to fulfil their information needs - sometimes with the guidance and support of library staff. More than just storehouses for books, the main purpose of a library is to provide users free access to information and resources for learning (and for recreation, but that’s another blogpost). By facilitating this access, public libraries - once described as ‘street corner universities’ (Chowdhury, 2008, p147) - actively advocate life-long learning and a commitment to enabling people of all ages and walks of life to acquire new skills and knowledge they may, for various reasons, be otherwise unable to obtain. Not everyone has, fo

Libraries as Safe Places in Horror Cinema – Case Study One: Carrie (1976)

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Characters in horror cinema and literature often assume the role of information gatherer/knowledge seeker. There is usually a mystery at the heart of the story that needs to be solved, a truth uncovered. There frequently comes a moment when research is required in order to find out what the hell is going on, and sometimes equipping oneself with reliable and impartial information in order to obtain truth can mean the difference between life and death. Characters may visit libraries (or indeed archives or public halls of records) to fulfil their information needs and obtain truth - sometimes with the guidance and support of library staff. Of course, libraries are more than just storehouses for books; they provide a crucial (and free) service by connecting people with information, and also, connecting people with people. They enable individuals to access and acquire knowledge they may, for various reasons, be otherwise unable to obtain.  The role of library as a safe place for individual

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018)

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Adapted from Shirley Jackson's 1962 Gothic novel of the same name, director Stacie Passon's sophomore feature film tells of the intense relationship between two sisters who, along with their ailing uncle (Crispin Glover), live in a large, lonely house on a vast estate outside a small New England town. Several years prior, the older sister, Constance (Alexandra Daddario), was acquitted of the murder of her parents, by poisoning, and the sisters are shunned by the townspeople. When their estranged cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) arrives unannounced for a short stay, his prying presence shatters the sisters' claustrophobic little world and threatens to unearth long buried family secrets. Admirers of Jackson's novel, and her literary work in general, will find much to appreciate here. The screenplay by Mark Kruger is a very faithful adaptation, and, true to the source material, its main themes also centre on isolation, familial dysfunction/disintegration and the perse

The Devil’s Doorway (2018)

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Northern Irish film director Aislinn Clarke’s feature debut tells of two priests sent to investigate an alleged miracle at a remote Magdalene laundry in the Irish countryside. As well as witnessing the shocking mistreatment of the young women incarcerated there, the two men uncover sinister happenings that suggest occult practices and diabolical rituals are afoot. Before long, they realise they are dealing with a genuine case of demonic possession. Magdalene Laundries were state endorsed workhouses, sanctioned and ran by the Catholic Church. They were cruel and secretive places where Ireland’s ‘fallen women’ were locked away and subjected to forced labour. Many also suffered sexual, psychological and physical abuse at the hands of their custodians. Prostitutes, unmarried pregnant women and mothers, orphans, women with mental health issues or physical disabilities, and women who had suffered abuse were all locked away, deemed to be society’s shameful, ‘dirty secrets’. With the dev

Libraries & Information Seeking in Horror

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Scene from Ghostbusters (1984) “As gateways to knowledge and culture, libraries play a fundamental role in society. The resources and services they offer create opportunities for learning, support literacy and education, and help shape the new ideas and perspectives that are central to a creative and innovative society. They also help ensure an authentic record of knowledge created and accumulated by past generations. In a world without libraries, it would be difficult to advance research and human knowledge or preserve the world’s cumulative knowledge and heritage for future generations.”  Ben White, Head of Intellectual Property, British Library “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”  Ray Bradbury As a Library Assistant and an avid fan of horror films, I am always delighted when a character in a book I am reading or film I am watching visits a library in search of information, sanctuary and, ultimately, truth. Characters in horror cinema and l

Book Review: The Unnatural History Museum

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Described by John Waters as “a sick orchid who seems like the perfect man”, Viktor Wynd is an artist, author, lecturer and the proprietor of The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History in London’s East End. His latest book, The Unnatural History Museum , not only provides a catalogue of his museum’s contents, but acts as a portal through which the reader may pass into another world, the world inside Viktor Wynd’s head: a magpie’s nest of the bizarre and the absurd. Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review .

Diary of the Dead (2007)

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As the director of Night of the Living Dead (1968), George Romero will be remembered as one of the major pioneers of the modern horror film. A truly groundbreaking work, it was released just eight years after Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), and like that film,  Night of the Living Dead similarly suggested that monsters can live right next door to us. Indeed, Romero took this notion one step further by suggesting that it is us who are the monsters. Several sequels followed, all of which provided socio-political commentary against the backdrop of a world where the dead return to life and consume the living, an examination of the human condition, and how ordinary people faced with extraordinary, unprecedented events struggle to survive. The horror in these films stems from the things people do to themselves and each other when the world as we know it comes shuddering to an end and humanity fragments and literally eats itself. Following on from Romero's previous Dead film, the am