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Showing posts from 2021

Dark Touch (2013)

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A dark revenge fantasy with echoes of Stephen King’s Carrie and Firestarter , Dark Touch tells of a young girl with terrifying powers that are conjured through pain and rage. When her parents die violently and in mysterious circumstances, Niamh (Missy Keating, who provides a truly compelling performance) is taken in by her neighbours whose own young daughter has recently died. Niamh insists her parents were killed when the house came alive, but authorities dismiss her claims and attribute the deaths to a violent home invasion. Before long though, her neighbours begin to sense that something unusual is now happening in their home, too.  The work of writer and director Marina de Van frequently explores themes such as the vulnerability of the flesh, body dysmorphia and psychological turmoil, and with Dark Touch , she explores the devastating effect of child abuse through the tropes of the evil/demon child sub-genre. Such films (including titles like The Bad Seed, Orphan, Village of the

The Power (2021)

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Set in 1973, writer-director Corinna Faith’s feature debut tells of student nurse Val (Rose Williams) who is forced to work the night shift in an old Victorian hospital in London’s east end. Her first night coincides with scheduled power cuts across Britain as the result of miners’ strikes. With most of the patients and staff transferred to another hospital for the night, only a skeleton crew remains to look after two wards powered by a generator. It soon becomes apparent to Val, who harbours a deep fear of the dark stemming from abuse she suffered as a child, that they are not alone. Someone, or some thing , makes its terrifying presence felt as it stalks the young nurse through the darkened hallways of the hospital...  With its brilliantly simple yet chilling premise, The Power is an atmospheric slow-burn of a ghost story. Like all good ghost stories, this too is steeped in tragedy. Faith establishes a brooding, creepy atmosphere, initially keeping everything rather suggestive. The

Shirley (2020)

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When Rose Nemser's (Odessa Young) husband attains a teaching assistant position at Bennington College, Vermont, the couple are invited to stay with Professor Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his wife, the infamous mystery and horror author Shirley Jackson (Elizabeth Moss), whose most recent short story 'The Lottery' is causing quite a stir. Before long, tensions mount within the house and Shirley begins work on a new novel about a missing girl...  Adapted by screenwriter Sarah Gubbins from Susan Scarf Merrell’s 2014 novel of the same name, Shirley is an unusual biopic that sidesteps the conventions of the form as it is more inspired by Jackson’s work than her actual life. Merrell’s novel, equal parts dark literary thriller and enthralling love letter to Shirley Jackson and her haunting body of work, is a fictionalised account of a period in Jackson’s life. Like the novel, this adaptation takes as much artistic licence as it perfectly evokes the atmosphere of Jackson’

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