Film

Published on October 31st, 2014 | by SgtKaiju

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Need To Consume – Halloween Films!

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Here at NtC we love a bit of horror. Well, I love a LOT of horror and skew the numbers a bit in my favour. Nevertheless, we have come together for this most hallowed of holidays to bring you the definitive list (for this year at least) of our top scary films and monster movies. If you are looking for a Halloween night playlist, look no further…

Chris Chapman – The Orphanage (2007)

This 2007 Spanish flick is as close as I get to watching anything that edges towards the scary/horror genre but this film is pure atmosphere from start to finish. From the way it was filmed, such as the top down shots where you are following characters, and the ‘knock knock’ scene, where the camera is part of the scene in one long take as the lead character gets more and more frightened but persists at attempting to unravel the mystery that haunts this building she has bought. The film is a must see as far as i’m concerned, it won’t have you cowering behind a cushion in fear but will have you on the edge of your seat with your heart in your mouth and curiosity flowing through your veins.

Darryll Robson – The Haunting (1963)

In the autumn of 1963, a British made psychological horror film called The Haunting was released to mixed reviews. Some audiences found it terrifying while critics found it lacking in excitement however Robert Wise’s film has stood the test of time and is now seen as one of the best horror films ever made.

The story itself has a simple premise and is the basis for so many films, television shows and novels that have been produced in the last 100 years. A paranormal investigator, played by Richard Johnson, invites a small group of people to assist in an investigation into a reportedly haunted property named Hill House. The history of the house is filled with sudden, unexplained deaths as well as a gruesome suicide. As the motley crew settle into the creepy mansion they begin to experience strange sensations and unexplained ‘happenings’ but for one member of the group, the mourning Eleanor who is superbly portrayed by Julie Harris, the house appears to transfix itself onto her and she spirals out of control, seemingly driven insane by the ghosts within.

The design of the house is perfectly unnerving with very few right angles that create a perspective distorting maze of rooms and corridors. This eerie and uncomfortable setting is enhanced by the use of Black and White film and a collection of unusually low and slow moving camera shots. Robert Wise experimented not only with directional decisions but also with the equipment he used, selecting new and sometimes untested wide-angled lenses, to create shots that were unusual and unfamiliar to the audience.

The characters that inhabit this experimental world are eccentric, detached and even a little unstable. As the story unfolds the nightmares of the house begin to take their toll, especially on Eleanor and there is an ambiguity within the film that suggests some of the ‘happenings’ are in Eleanor’s head and don’t actually happen. However this does not diminish the tension in the film or lessen the ever increasing horror of each scene. There is a moment when Eleanor and Theo are terrorised by loud banging on the outside of their bedroom. The scene is terrifying and builds beautifully as the banging increases in volume and the camera cuts speed up, switching from the two women to the doors and ceiling and then back again until it becomes too much to bare for Eleanor and the audience.

This is one of my favourite scenes ever filmed and is as uncomfortable to watch as the legendary shower scene in Psycho. The remake in 1999 failed to capture the helplessness feeling of the characters because the film makers didn’t seem to understand what made the scene so brilliant in the first place: simplicity. The scene does not rely on vast special effects but simply uses a sound that increases in volume and cleverly edited camera shots which, when combined, produces the most perfect, edge of the seat, horror movie scene.

This film scared me senseless when I first watched it as a teenager on a small black and white TV late at night in my bedroom and even to this day I have to sleep with the lights on after watching it. The Haunting is a movie that lives up to its name because once seen, this film will stay with you.

Greg Payne – Brazil (1985)

The call goes out to the NTC writers to talk about their favorite horror films, and I have to wonder if anyone else is faced with the same conundrum as I am: it’s a piece of cake to come up with a top ten, twenty, hundred, eleventeenwhatever flicks in the genre that succeed as either a) great/classic films or b) trashy fun, but in all honesty…do any of them genuinely scare me? I’ll praise the original Halloween to the skies and probably re-watch it biannually forever, but it’s always worked more as a solidly mechanical exercise in suspense than a scary experience. I love the loopy fun of Argento’s glory years (for the sake of argument, let’s call that from Profondo Rosso through Opera) but I’d be hard-pressed to cite a genuine fright in them. There are fantastic flicks new and old: An American Werewolf in London, Near Dark, 28 Days Later, Se7en, Ju-On…if I were twenty years older and a San Franciscan, maybe Zodiac would do it for me, but I’m just not that guy. I love early Romero to death, but does anyone really watch the original Dawn at this point for any reason other than to admire the skill behind the Savini splatter, no matter how many graduate theses it inspires that kick around the words “consumerism” and “zeitgeist?” One frightfest more than any other in the past decade made my skin crawl, to the point where I haven’t been able to re-watch it: Neil Marshall’s The Descent is pure excruciating creep from beginning to end, and if you want to put your breathing on hold for a couple of hours, you can hardly do better. That’s not the film I’m going to cite as number one, though.

The one film that gives me utter chills each time I see it does so because it presses countless mental buttons for me. Join me, if you will, on a trip to Brazil. Bureaucracies that combine nonsensical policy with psychopathy; disintegrating bodies; torture as a pleasurable occupation; and a filmic style that, in a dream-logic inversion, makes real sets look like models and models look like impossibly cavernous metropoles. Yes, Mr. Gilliam, you of the cutout renaissance paintings scored with John Philip Sousa (which also used to creep the snot out of me when I was wee), take a bow: Brazil continues to terrify nearly thirty years on. A bland, suit-wearing man-next-door with a jovial smile is a happy player in a psychotic junta. We poke fun at the old ladies and their nips and tucks…and the occasional “acid treatment” that goes bloodily wrong. A Mutt-and-Jeff pair of HVAC technicians are comic relief until they rip your flat into pieces out of spite, and are then playfully drowned in sewage. Black comedies can be scarier than an intentional genre piece: we laugh that we not scream and pull at our faces in terror. I’ve never had a nightmare about a floating Japanese girl with long scraggly hair, but being dragged uncomprehendingly into a Kafka-esque labyrinth where arcane and shifting rules are the only way to survive? Oh yeah. So it’s a bit of a left field pick but…listen, kid. We’re all in it together.

Rob Maythorne – [Rec] (2007)

Now, I watch a lot of horror film. For my Cult Of Consume article, I’m usually watching 2 new horror films a week, in addition to the usual round of old classic watched for fun. The upshot of this is that it takes a special kind of film to scare me. I mean REALLY  scare me, to my core. And [REC] delivered that.

At the opening, the film is about a bored reporter and her cameraman following a team of firemen for a documentary. But soon, they are caught up in some sort of viral outbreak, leaving them trapped in an apartment building with increasingly panicked residents and violent zombies.

The ‘shakey-cam’ genre has been done to death and I can probably count the number of good films in it on one hand, but to me, [REC] stands head and shoulders above the rest. It does a wonderful job of ratcheting up the tension as the firemen go about their job, mixing in moment of creeping dread as they encounter several infected  and the abject horror as those infected turn violent. It ticks all the boxes with infected grannies, zombie kids, several sudden and violent deaths and an ending to leave you thinking well after you leave the cinema.

The stories may have been watered down by some lackluster sequels and frankly terrible US remakes, but I will never forget the experience of seeing this for the first time, alone in the cinema, clutching my popcorn for dear life.

Micheal Guest – The Haunting (1963)

Made in 1963, The Haunting still stands up today as an excellent example of horror built up through suspense and atmosphere, rather than an excess of gore or cheap jump scares. Adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House (and not to be confused with the poor 1999 remake, nor either version of House on Haunted Hill, the second of which also came out in 1999), The Haunting stars Julie Harris as the frazzled young Eleanor who takes an ill-fated trip to Hill House as part of an experiment into the supernatural conceived by Dr Markway (Richard Johnson). Also present are the cool and stylish Theo (Claire Bloom), whose wardrobe is provided by Mary Quant and the healthy sceptic Russell Tamblyn, who would later star in cult classic Twin Peaks. The character of Theo is particularly interesting, as it is a rare example of a largely positive portrayal of a lesbian from this era.

The film’s success comes from marrying elements of melodrama, such as the house’s storied history and our hysterical lead woman, with supernatural horror and elements of humour. Dr Markway provides the opening narration which tells of the woes of the house (most female occupants die in tragic circumstances) and also that the house was built ’90 odd, very odd, years ago’. More unintentional humour comes from the US’s idea of what constitutes ‘old’, the repeated line ‘This house has stood for 90 years and could stand for 90 more’ often raises a chuckle from European audiences.

Several scenes deal with Markway expounding his theories of the supernatural and preternatural which show a snapshot of the time the film was made and his observation that ‘Ghosts make the papers along with celebrities every day of the week’ seems as relevant as ever. When it comes to the horror itself though, director Robert Wise and writer Nelson Gidding favour the less is more approach – the ghostly presences are little more than sounds effects although the wonderful ‘bending door’ sequence is straight out of CGI heavy 80s films like Ghostbusters. The house itself is very off-putting, there ‘isn’t a square corner in the house’. The odd angles and confusing corridors are very reminiscent of the ‘impossible geography of another haunted house classic, The Shining. As with that film, it is the house itself that is the danger – it was, in the words of Dr Markway, ‘born bad’. Many have died there, and the dead of The Haunting do not stay quiet.

So what are your favourite films to watch at Halloween, Consumers? Let us know in the comments below!

SgtKaiju

SgtKaiju

Despite having made been in the film industry for the last decade, I'm still not sure what a Best Boy does....

I now make stuff for Kaiju Industries. You're welcome.
SgtKaiju

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