My Love of the Scary Movie and my Top 10!

It’s coming on Halloween, and if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll already know I’ve been sharing some of my old OLD posts on a few of my favourite scary movies. And if you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll have seen some of my random mentions of scary films as and when I watch them.

To get in the mood, a few weeks back we watched a movie called Trick ‘r Treat. I had never heard of it, but it was featuring as a scare zone at Orlando’s Universal Halloween Horror Nights, and the character Sam looked kinda cute for a scary sack headed ghoul, so we found it and watched it. For a movie that was released straight to DVD 2 years after it was finished, I was actually really impressed. It was scary enough, enjoyable and had a nice comic-book feel to it. I’d recommend it if you haven’t heard of it.

But I thought I’d share some of my favourites, whether they’ve been mentioned previously or not. And by favourites, I mean the ones that stuck with me, and I would watch more than once. Here’s my top 10 in order!

10: The Shining

the shining movie poster

I’ve seen this film so many times, that I wouldn’t even call it a horror film now. It’s just a work of art. Scary, violent, messed up it is, but it’s visually incredible and Jack Nicholson is epic. I tried to read the book, but just like Joey, I put it in the metaphorical freezer years ago and never took it back out. Maybe I’ll go back to it one day. If you haven’t seen this, and you like scary films, this Halloween make it a must-see.

9: The Gallows

The Gallows movie poster

This movie surprised me. As a big fan of found footage films, I was really surprised by how good this was. The scares were effective and there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested.

8: The Fog

The Fog Movie Poster

As a child growing up with a massive Hammer Horror fan (my Dad) I was exposed to some very bad, and then some very good scary films. John Carpenter’s The Fog (not the remake please) was one of them and I’m not ashamed to admit that the end brought me out in a cold sweat on more than one occasion. What I love about John Carpenter’s films was not just the ability to make a fricking fantastic horror film, but also how he composed and used the music almost as a character in itself. I just have to think about his films to hear the score in my mind. Having stood on the very shore that inspired this story, on a dark misty night not too long ago, I can honestly say this film is one that stays with you.

7: Halloween

halloween movie poster

Another John Carpenter film, you can have Halloween films without Halloween itself, and it’s sequel (we don’t need to talk about the other sequels really) Adequately frightening and creepy, this is the paradigm of films about Halloween and is a great place to start if you’re wanting a classic scary movie fest this October 31st.

6: It Follows

This movie has such a retro feel, so much so that you’re never really sure when it’s set, but can only assume it’s present day based on some of the technology used. The music, costumes and sets are so ‘of an era’ – and this isn’t even mentioning the storyline. You can read my full review here, if you’d like to know more.

5: Ghost Watch

cover of video Ghostwatch

Not strictly a film, but it’s made the list anyway. This BBC drama caused such a kerfuffle it was actually banned. Due to its style of filming and use of well-known presenters at the time, people actually thought this was a real event. Based on the Enfield Haunting (which was the inspiration for The Conjuring 2) Ghost Watch has inspired so many films after it (The Blair Witch Project to name one), is used as a case study in film schools and still has a cult following. I can honestly say it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen, and the effects and technology used in it are so impressive for its time. Watch it, then research it to find out why it caused so much drama.

4: Grave Encounters

Grave Encounters movie poster

I really bloody loved these films. There’s only two but I secrectly hope there’s a third. Again this is found footage, but it really pulls inspiration from other places (but not in a copycat type way) and offers scares and weirdness in a way I just liked. Read my full review here.

3: The Blair Witch Project

The blair witch project poster

You may have seen my recent review of this film and it’s sequel (I’m going to just forget that The Blair Witch Project: Book of Shadows ever happened) so you can head there for a full review. But this movie marked a change in scary films. Using found footage, which was never mainstream before, and also the brand new power of the internet, they created a cult following even before release. And the film didn’t disappoint. To this day I still get chills watching the last shot of The Blair Witch Project.

2: Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity Poster

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a fan of these films. I don’t understand why people trash them. Yes, the last one was VERY bad, but when you’ve invested in the others you kind of have to include it. The first one was epic and covered found-footage ground in a way that had never been done before. Some of the effects in the first 3 were pretty epic – gobsmacking in fact. Even the spin-off movie ‘The Marked Ones’ was REALLY good and towards the end literally made me gasp in the cinema when I realised what was happening. I guess I know the films really well, and I was pretty much the only one who realised what was going on, BUT still. I honestly think they’re worth the investment in time. And they made it to my number 2!

1: Scream

scream movie poster

This film was made for my generation, it was the first 18 film I ever watched and will always hold a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, parody films have pretty much ruined if for any generation afterwards, so there’s that. But I’m a staunch fan and will always be! I wrote a review of the first 3 films ahead of the 4th being released, back in 2011 which you can find here if you’d like to read it.

And that’s my top 10! Of course I have many many more I’d love to include, and I hope I find more in the years to come, which knock others off the list. But until then, if you’re looking for some scary film recommendations I’d go with this list!

Let me know if you have others in your top 10 or if you watch any of these on my recommendation, let me know what you think! Just don’t have nightmares!

 

 

The Blair Witch Project

The blair witch project poster

It’s been way too long since I wrote a good horror review and in the spirit of the Halloween season, I thought I’d write about one of my favourites, The Blair Witch Project. (This post does contain spoilers so if you don’t want to know about the films, then don’t read – then go watch them and come back!)

In 2017 it’s way too easy to take this film for granted, so I thought I’d school those of you who were too young to appreciate the rise of this film, at the time.

Ahead of its release in October 1999, a website appeared. This in the day when very few families even had a computer, let alone the internet, made for an exciting discovery. The website (which you can still visit today, albeit in a much pared down form) promoted a documentary about 3 film makers whose footage was found after their disappearance in the 1990s. The site took you to another other site that looked like a Burkittsville town site but was in fact part of the original one, which had small videos of interviews with towns people (some of which featured in the film), newspaper articles (fake of course) and allsorts of tidbits to immerse you into the story. I knew the site back to front, and everything was placed in there to lead you to the conclusion that this was a REAL documentary, and the film makers really were missing.

Of course the film came out in America way ahead of the UK, and reports of people having to leave the theatre part way through because of the found-footage style recording making them seasick, spread across the country.

I was sold! Finally seeing this at the cinema was a darn creepy experience but I was so impressed by the film style, of which hadn’t been seen in mainstream cinema before, and was so different from anything else I’d experienced.

The movie contains no score or sound effects. The actors had a basic storyline to follow, but their reactions to the scares they faced were, for the most part, genuine. Myrick and Sanchez, who made the film (and also The Blair Witch Project: Book of Shadows which we won’t mention again, and was more like a Marilyn Manson music video than an actual film) set up speakers in the woods and didn’t tell the actors. When they heard snapping branches, running or children playing around them, their reactions were real. Piles of rocks and twig things in the trees – they had no idea to expect them. They could only assume the sounds were part of the film making process, but in that environment, in the woods in the dark and in a tent – you can imagine how real it all felt. Even when one of the film makers went missing, the others had no clue that was going to happen.

The actual film’s a corker, so if you haven’t seen it and you’re a fan of an indie film, and a found footage one at that, I’d say give it a crack. Then don’t watch the sequel.

Now that’s done, you can move onto the 2016 Blair Witch.

blair-witch-poster-s

I was skeptical about this ‘sequel’. As such a fan of the original, I really didn’t want a repeat of Book of Shadows, but I was pleasantly surprised.

This film’s story starts with a guy who turns out to be the brother of Heather, the original film maker from the first film, who went missing. He receives tapes of the house she went missing in and is convinced he sees her reflection in a mirror. So sets up a team to go into the woods, find the house and see if she’s there. Sounds legit.

I won’t go into any more of the storyline, but I will discuss how this movie uplifts the first one. Firstly, obviously there have been changes in technology since the first movie, and changes in found footage style. There is use of a drone camera, head-worn cameras, GPS equipment. There’s an element of sound effects used, where there was none in the first, and you do actually see menacing ‘things’ in this film, where in the first it was mostly left to your imagination.

But at the bare bones of this, the 2016 Blair Witch is still raw, still about the relationship between the people and the woods, and still feeds on the fear of the viewer as well as the actors in it.

There are a few hard to watch parts in this, flashes of the original film and a supernatural element that wasn’t in the first. There’s also a suggestion of time shifting. But all of these just bring the story up to date. You can’t continue a story 20 years later and not expect some changes to be made.

All in all, these two films are great companions. They’re scary, play with your mind a bit and leave you adequately unnerved. And I wouldn’t want anything less.

Unfriended

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a fan of scary movies, and most recently found footage movies. I saw the trailer for Unfriended not so long ago. I think it was called something else at the time – it seems to have gone through a few title changes before its release. Either way it looked intriguing. I’m not sure whether I realised the format it would take at that time, but after seeing the final cut I was not disappointed.

If you’re yet to watch this movie, I’d suggest not reading this blog yet. Maybe come back afterwards.

Have they all gone?…. Right I’ll begin.

The whole movie is viewed from the desktop of a Mac – the whole thing. Windows, screens, tabs, apps – that’s all you see. The story focusses on a circle of friends who lost one of their group a year earlier when she took her own life. This event was spurred on by a video of her, drunk and not in control of her own body, at a party. The video brought on a lot of hateful messages from her peers and she couldn’t take it. So back at present day, this group of friends are having a Skype chat and there’s an intruder on the call – just a blue silhouette avatar. And then the girl whose computer your viewing, Blaire, starts getting messages from the dead girl’s Facebook account. Creepiness ensues.

There are some great intense and very creepy moments in this movie. There are also some gratuitously gory moments, but these are fleeting, effective and then they’re gone. At just 83 minutes, you can see how they may need to create a super intense atmosphere, but in this format it works. There are some funny bits, some sexy bits and some downright scary bits. There’s a lot of product placement but then I guess there had to be. And if you’re not familiar with the workings if a Mac then you might see this as an educational experience too! Apparently the whole film was shot in one cut – if this is true (and it’s certainly possible) then that’s very impressive. I guess all of the desktop graphics will have been tweaked in post production.

I can’t wait to watch this movie again. It fits right in with Paranormal Activity and Grave Encounters on my shelf of scary movies that work. It was bang up to date, not over the top and didn’t come over as stupid. It was as clever as it needed to be, and was enough to make the girls sat in front of me in the theatre get up and leave just as the intensity ramped up.

I went in with no preconceptions and I hope you can do that to, should you choose to watch this. It doesn’t leave you thinking about it or wondering how ‘this’ happened or why ‘that’ happened. It is what it is. And I really liked that about it.

Let’s Talk Paranormal Activity

If you’ve been living under a rock, you won’t know about Paranormal Activity. So let’s pretend for a second you are said rock dweller, and I’ll tell you a little bit about a series of found-footage movies that could change your life.

In October 2007 Paranormal Activity graced our screens and brought those nasty shadows and night-time bumps to life and into our homes. With the use of footage from hand cams and closed circuit systems, we saw a dark entity unfold. Odd clues and occurences (and amazing effects) brought to life the single most scary movie I’d seen at that point.

Now I’m pretty good with scary films. I like to be frightened and this genre of movie is right up my street – but the final 30 seconds were too much for me. I hid. I didn’t see that final 30 seconds until much later on.

IMG_2826I was curious enough, however, to google a text description of what happened in that last-minute.

5 movies followed, including Paranormal Activity: Marked Ones, a spin-off movie (but a must see if you’re following the series… I’ll explain more in a bit).

Paranormal Activity 2 was released in 2010 and continued the story, or began the story since it actually back tracked and told you where things began in the first movie, then continued the first story a little, all at the same time.

Sounds confusing, but isn’t I promise. Again, the effects in this movie were epic. One particular scene had the whole cinema gasp and then giggle with nerves.

Paranormal Activity 3 went back even further, to the 80s, using an old style home movie tape camera. With the use of the base of an oscilating fan the directors created a nerve-wracking panning effect that you just knew would give you the chills at some point, since you were at the mercy of its slow left-right turns.

Speaking of the directors, incidentally, this movie was directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman who were the creators of the original Catfish movie/documentary (if you like Catfish the TV show you must check out the original documentary, it’s awesome.)

Never disappointing their viewers, there are two separate moments in this movie that will take your breath away.

Paranormal Activity 4 snaps back to the present day, and starts to explain a little more of the back story and link it to present-past events.

Using current technology such as webcams and infrared dots on an XBox Kinect, this story plods along and in my opinion was the weakest of the series so far. It progressed the story like it needed to, however, so definitely worth a watch.

To bridge the interim between this movie and the impending Paranormal Activity 5 (or The Ghost Dimension), Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones appears removed from the standard format and focusses on a group of youths pretty much just larking about but when weird things start happening in their apartment complex they get a bit too curious and even weirder things start happening to them. The story starts to link in with what you’ve already seen in the previous films and by the end I was bolt upright in my seat having twigged what was about to happen – let me tell you, I got chills. This movie definitely furthered the whole series’ story.

Paranormal Activity: the Ghost Dimension, which I believe to be the final part of this series, is due for release this October. If it is the last one, I for one am hoping they release a set containing all the movies, because I’ll have them on repeat in my dvd player. This is an awesome collection of movies, and if it’s your kind of film but you haven’t watched them yet, or you haven’t watched them all yet, you have enough time to rectify the situation before the 6th installment comes out.

Maybe just don’t watch them alone…..

Grave Encounters

By now you should all know I love my scary movies. A while back Gary and I watched a movie called Grave Encounters.

grave-encounters-Smaller

The idea behind it was that this team were making a ghost hunting series (like Most Haunted) and visited an old asylum. They were locked in by the janitor who said he would return at 6am. The ‘real’ footage you see is unedited (other than for time) and includes evidence that the team were faking their usual shows and didn’t believe any of it was real. Of course they’d be proven otherwise. The film started off cheesy and slow, but gradually became more intelligent, jumpy and pretty impressive. It also gave big nods towards one of my favourite reads from last year, House of Leaves.

We were so impressed with this movie that we thought it was worth watching the sequel!

A film student who reviewed the original movie on his blog was sent a cryptic message from someone indicating that the footage was real and not a fake, as had been promoted by the production company. Being persuaded by lots of evidence introduced to him by his mystery source, he grabs some friends and locates the asylum himself so he can make up his own mind. Craziness ensues. The second movie was almost as good as the first. Some of the effects were a little crummy, but I guess you can expect that. I liked how this wasn’t just a sequel but a great continuation of the first movie and it rounded things off well. Again, nods to House of Leaves to the extent that I might try re-reading the 709 page tome.

Both films are worth a watch, but make sure you watch them in order (and have a cushion handy just in case you like to have something to hide behind!)
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My Week and the Little Golden Man

Hello! And sorry for the lack of posts this week. I have been suffering with some kind of virus which had me take half days at work on both Wednesday and Thursday. Thankfully I’m feeling like myself again, but it was pretty nasty for a time back there! The horrible thing was that it effected my stomach and appetite and all I wanted to eat was potato. It got to the extent that I couldn’t surf Pinterest (one of my favourite time killing activities) because all the food photos were turning my stomach! Boo! But it’s all better now 🙂

So as well as resting and trying to work this week, we watched a couple of things worthy of note. On Thursday we watched Flight, Denzel Washington’s latest movie and a Robert Zemekis film. Such a great movie, the opening 15 or so minutes were breathtaking. Definitely worth watching.

On Friday night we watched a drama called Ghostwatch. It was made in 1992 and aired on the BBC at 9.25 on October 31st as part of a Screen One drama season. Starring in it are Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene and Craig Charles. I had never seen it before but had heard about it through friends as being the most scary thing they had ever seen. G Man had watched it as a 9 yr old when it aired originally and said he hadn’t slept for 3 nights. The idea was that a BBC crew were visiting a ‘haunted house’ for an all night vigil with Michael Parkinson back in a studio with a specialist and people on the phones taking calls from the ‘public’ (on 081 811 8181 which also happened to be the Live and Kicking number and I still remembe the jingle for it! Pathetic right?). They wanted to capture evidence of poltergeist activity. Craig Charles was outside the house with locals acting the cheeky chappy and Sarah Greene was with a small crew and the family who lived in the house. The events that occur from then are amazing, and you’d have to watch it to get the creepiness of it all. People watching in 1992 didn’t understand that it was a drama and the BBC had so many complaints that they banned the programme from being aired again for the next 10 yrs. It’s been 20 years now and they still haven’t shown it again. What occurred was a type of War of the Worlds effect which made the show stuff of legends, and film makers have admittedly used Ghostwatch as inspiration (The Blair Witch Project and no doubt Paranormal Activity and Most Haunted). Because the programme was made in 1992, I expected the quality to have diminished and wasn’t expecting much from any effects or ideas that might be presented, but I was amazed by how good it was. It was seriously scary and creepy and yes I had trouble getting it out of my mind for the first few hours after watching it. I was very very impressed.

So last night were The Oscars. At the beginning of last week I realised that since the Oscars were Sunday night and I was off Monday and Tuesday I could attempt to stay up until 5am and watch the ceremony live! It’s something I had fancied doing for years but it was never practical with work. But I really wanted to try and got a lot of support from friends and Gary that I should give it a go. On Sunday evening I got a message from a friend saying that her plans to watch it had fallen through and could she come over to mine to watch it too. I “met” Helen online via a Buffy message board around 13 years ago, and had only physically met her 2 maybe 3 times before, but we had kept in touch via social networks. I said it was fine for her to come over and pulled out the snacks! Helen works for the NFTS and her department had a nomination in the Short Animated Film category with a film called Head Over Heels, so it made it just a little more exciting to watch, even though they were pipped at the post. I had a great time watching the Red Carpet and the ceremony with Helen, spotting celebs and talking films. I really enjoyed the whole show. I’m still gobsmacked at how well Daniel Radcliffe sang and danced. Jennifer Lawrence looked amazing even if the UK press think she looked like she was wearing a wedding dress, I think she was best dressed. All in all a great night. Falling asleep at 5:30am was a little odd, but I’m so glad I did it, and so glad I had someone to watch it with!

So, tonight I’m off out with a couple of friends for a late birthday celebration (theirs not mine) and a good old natter. I think I might be a little tired tomorrow though….

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Do you like scary movies, Sydney?

So it’s that time of year again, when little kids dress up and go begging for sugar. Also known as Halloween! In the UK Halloween isn’t, or wasn’t, a big deal. When I was a kid it was just going around your street for sweets before the sun went down. But the influence of America has altered the season somewhat, and now people dress up properly and put out lanterns, and host parties.

My experience of Halloween, coming from a strong Christian family, was having to put up a sign by our front door explaining that we didn’t welcome Trick or Treaters because we were Christian. I attended a few church gatherings called White Knight parties on Halloween evening, which consisted of party games and a disco until about 8pm. I would then have to explain to all my friends at school as to why we had the sign up on our door, the next day. Huge fun for me.

So now I’m an adult I don’t really revel in the spirit of the season (spirit…. geddit!) However I am partial to a scary movie or two and we do buy in sweets for the kids if they come knocking (none did last year, however). So last year we Halloween’d it up by watching Let The Right One In and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and tonight we went to see Paranormal Activity 2.

Now I’m going to talk about both the first movie and the second, so if you don’t want to be very mildly spoiled, then don’t read any more.

I really enjoyed the 2nd film, pretty much as much as the first. I saw the first one at home on dvd and it scared me shitless. It was an amazing movie, and I know when they start to show it on  SKY I’ll watch it again. It had the right amount of scariness and psychological elements to it, that stayed with you for weeks (if not longer!) The second was a prologue to the first. Let me start with saying that as with the trailer for the first movie, the majority of the scares in the trailer NEVER emerge in the actual film. In the trailer you see a baby in the street – never happened – a tall shadow standing behind the sofa – never happened – a figure in the bathroom staring into the babies’ room – not there – and the baby being stood up against the crib – didn’t happen the same way. I know it’s not important to the movie, but false advertising pisses me off!

So as I said the movie is a prologue, and by that I mean it starts 2 months before the first movie, and overlaps by about 2 weeks at the end. You need to have seen the first one to understand the second. The premise is the same, but because they’ve linked the two movies, the fact that similar things happen mean you don’t feel like it’s a copycat or a cop-out. There were a few moments where I actually had my hand over my face and there were a few jumps.

The family install cameras in the house after a suspected break in where the house is trashed, and the only thing taken in a necklace given to Kristi by her sister (Katie who was the main female character in the first movie). This is never explained or mentioned again. But you kinda make up your own reasons for this by using the background information you’ve learned from the first movie. Your concerns and anxieties are mostly created by the addition to the story of a baby and a dog. That’s really the only way they could have added a new element to what is basically the same story as the first. The interest then added by the fact that the stories are linked by the two sisters.

The movie is left on what could be a cliff-hanger tiny little chance for a third movie – though the writers are saying that if they do make another, it will be planned very carefully, which is good to hear. It shows they care about the integrity of the story.

All in all I really enjoyed the film, and if they do make a third I’ll definitely watch it. The next movies I want to see are Let Me In (a remake of Let The Right One In, which promises to be as good as the original) and Catfish (which I really don’t have any clue what it’s about and I really don’t want to until I see it!), oh and there’s a little film about a young wizard which is meant to be rather good (hehe). In the mean time, I’ll be kicking it old school watching some oldie horrors…. I’m partial to a John Carpenter film when I can 🙂

Happy Halloween!