365 Days of Horror, Days 46 – 69 (AKA I let posting slide)

Well, let it be said that, aside from one more missed day, I’ve still been horror-ing it up these past few weeks, even though Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and a last-minute trip abroad (for said birthday) were flying thick and fast.

So here’s the list of stuff I actually watched (at least I kept a list this time):

Day 46: Selfie From Hell (2015)

2 minutes of some actually quite tense build-up. Similar to A. Friend and Lights Out, where a woman is alone and things just defy the laws of normality. Taking a selfie and then having a random creep inexplicably appear in them would set anyone’s nerves on edge. Surprisingly scary stuff, and makes me want to invent an app that does this every time you take a photo and surreptitiously install it on the phones of people who have irked me.

Day 47: Zombinladen: The Axis of Evil Dead (2012)

I wanted to like this one, but the humour was a little bit forced. Granted it’s made as a fake trailer and produced on a nothing of a budget. 4 minutes of zany fun. Plot’s pretty obvious; hopefully they’ll get funding for a feature-length version.

Day 48: Perspective (2014)

Decent sound and some creepy, claustrophobic shots. 2 minutes of if one of an Escher staircase had a tantrum and rewound the video tape of it taunting you. Music and VFX are a bit overdone, though, and it’s a bit odd that the title card appears halfway through the video.

Day 49: Treated (2015)

This 2-minute bit genuinely looked cheesy at first, with its overused-everywhere-Nutcracker theme and dry ice and colourful, cheerfully-lit frames. And it mostly is, save for the utterly nightmare-inducing shot at the end. Show it to your kids.

Day 50: I’m Not Jessica (2013)

Cute, one-joke sketch that I’d imagine has crossed every horror fan’s mind. Not the best acting or sound production, but some very good pizza-cutting in the first shot.

Day 51: The Furfangs: Little Creatures from Space (2010)

If Critters and Gremlins had a low-budget baby. Not entirely clear if they came from space, but if the title says it, so be it. Music is fun – think Looney Tunes. Creature design is cute and devilish but comes off a bit CBeebies. Of particular note is the lead’s complete lack of facial expression. He looks like he’s waiting for a bowl of off-brand baked beans to finish cooking in the microwave.

Day 52: 3AM  (2015)

Part of a BBC Three competition (The Fear), 3AM takes the ‘things defying the laws of thing so what can you even do about it’ concept and turns it into something lip-chewingly tense. Fast edits, tight shots, great lighting and music, and an expressive actor tie it all together.

Day 53: Deathly Presents (2015)

Bloody Cuts have been pretty reliable with their offerings – usually gathering a spate of decent actors and filmmakers. Deathly Presents, their Yuletide-themed horror, doesn’t disappoint, with its holiday horror lore making me wish for a feature-length version to follow 2015’s Krampus. It almost feels like a trailer for something bigger.

Day 54: The Stairs (2014)

Bit of a long build-up for some too low-lit scares, which are pretty easily telegraphed, then the climax happens off-screen with some overdone sound effects.

Day 55: Tufty (2010)

I never thought I’d get this emotionally invested in a fake video showing where teddy bears come from. It’s gory,  it’s funny, it’s tearjerking and quite inspired. It’s also disturbing and surreal to the point of uncomfortable. All this in less than 10 minutes! Show this to anyone who went to Build-a-Bear over Christmas.

Day 56: Ash vs. Evil Dead, Episodes 2-8

Now one of my new favourites. It’s hit the right mark between originality and fanservice/homage (in post-show behind-the-scenes, the showrunner looks like he hadn’t even been born when Evil Dead came out). We’ve got Ash Hand. Chainsaw. The Cabin. And…EVIL ASH. There’s humour and gore and deliberately turgid one-liners (the latter especially so -just like the movies, which makes me happy), and still plenty of real scares because the characters are all so likeable. Personally, I found Brujo (1×04) the weakest of the bunch, but only because I find a vision-heavy episode about as much meaningless non-fun as a musical episode of something. But EVIL HAND CABIN ASH.

Day 57: Yummy Meat (2015)

With a promise hidden in plain sight that often fails to deliver, Scary Endings really needs to up their game. This 6-minute short about a trick-or-treater with its throwaway line referencing Lon Chaney and some outdated TMNT slang (‘that shit ain’t cool’ ‘bounce, kid’) tries, but scary its ending ‘aint’. The SFX makeup is impressive, though.

Day 58: The Room (2014)

So I was in Japan at that point (for my birthday – woohoo! Flew out on Boxing Day – had never been before – my GOD it was amazing; I could write several essays on why I would consider moving there)…so this Japanese-made short made sense as an ‘I’ll watch this tonight’ afterthought. It’s actually pretty tense, touching on circular narratives in a way that I thought Perspective might have done. It’s competently-acted, with decent editing and a score that doesn’t over-or-underbear the proceedings. Very simple but unsettling plot you could relate to. Really reminded me of the sorts of tall terror tales you’d tell around an upward-angled torch at childhood Hallowe’en parties.

Day 59: I Heard That Too (2014)

This works better if you haven’t read the 2-sentence horror short – a number of which were posted on a writing challenge on Reddit. It’s effective on its own, but should have ended a whole minute earlier than it did, with the ‘I Heard That Too’ mother pulling the daughter into her room. Instead (spoilers), we slowly pan downstairs, soundtracked by ‘we’re-trying-too-hard ’80s synth horror throwback’ music to see a demented-looking, frizzy-haired version of the real mother squatting and holding a huge carving knife. The original terror of the short story was that we didn’t know which ‘mother’ was the real one and which was the ghoul. This short sort of shits on that. Maybe just stop the video at 1:00 entirely.

Day 60: Diabolik Lovers: More Blood

Aaah, this anime – I’m a little sad I had to bundle all these viewings into one post, because I honestly feel that this anime (‘More Blood’ is the second season) deserved its own post.

i started watching it in America on Crunchyroll, thinking it was some awesome vampire show. Instead it was a reverse-harem-type situation, in which a bunch of vamps literally feed off a spineless wench that one of them nicknames as ‘Bitch-chan’ (‘chan’ usually being a suffix for a subordinate or younger person’s name). She’s pretty much their prisoner (she was kidnapped from school and nobody is really looking for her).

Season 1 was painful to watch, as it wasn’t clear what direction the show was going in. I was waiting for this pathetic, meek main character to stand up for herself and stop faintly protesting whenever one of them just randomly feeds on her. But that moment never happened.

And then season 2 came along – but still nothing. She’s practically developed Stockholm Syndrome, so at least we have some development. We get a whole new family of vampires, plus some werewolves. It’s not clear where Bitch-chan (I honestly can’t be bothered to remember her character’s name)’s motives and loyalties lie, because she’s such a weakling, but it all still makes for fun viewing. My personal favourite character is Kanato, who carries around an eye-patched bear called Teddy.

The show is a ridiculous guilty pleasure (it’s so bad it’s bad that it’s so bad that it’s good), and I hate watching it, but I hate that i enjoy watching it somehow. This show makes Twilight look like Sleepless in Seattle.

Day 61: FAIL

I completely forgot to watch anything that day. But if it helped, I was in Tokyo(!!!), making crazy new friends and being near-crushed (in a polite way) by ever-growing moshpit-like crowds in Shibuya. And then I decided to stay mostly awake for my flight home 11 hours after midnight. That’s sort of horror, isn’t it?

Day 62: Playing with the Devil (2015)

So at this point I was back home (well, visiting the folks), and after 15 hours plus a stopover in Amsterdam (I’m not counting that as my first Dutch visit), I was already missing Japan terribly. The courteous, considerate, bend-over-backwards-helpfulness, the kindred shyness, the beauty yet efficiency, the quirky madcap design aesthetics, and the nerd/gaming/anime/merch heaven that is the neon jungle of Akihabara – they were all soon to be a distant memory as I was about to be plunged back into the shoulder-shoving arseholery that is London and the rest of my native UK. So I was hoping that a bunch of inconsiderate asshole Americans at least would get the chop in this short inspired by a Japanese ritual.

It’s quite a beautifully-shot piece; the believable acting by the terrorised little girls and even the title design give the impression of a project with a much higher budget. I’m happy there wasn’t a cheap jump scare (though there is a half-hearted one post-credits – fuck, just delete it, guys), and the fact that any violence happens off-screen amps up the scare factor in an inexpensive but not cheap way. I’d pay good money to see a feature-length version of this one, albeit under a different title.

Day 63: Thresher (2014)

(SPOILERS follow)

I’d seen the thumbnail for this video pop up in ‘Recommended for You’ on YouTube (perhaps a sign that I should be sticking to Vimeo). The alien-like, skeletal gurning grin and hollow pin-eyeholes and jet-black body certainly stand out in a list of gaming and behind-the-scenes-of-comic-book-movies videos.

This short by Mike Diva features some truly excellent camerawork, rich lighting and beautiful set design. Throw in some impressive CGI and an expressive actor and you’ve got a potentially winning formula. Even the premise is intriguing – a captive man is slowly losing his mind, dancing with mannequins and playing opera on vinyl, in between trying every single combination to unlock a tangled padlock on the one door that leads out. Yet every time he touches it, he gets (jump-scare) visions of terrifying creatures. It’s the stuff of nightmares, scrambling to finish a task before the monsters get you.

My only gripe is that I felt it should have ended a minute earlier than it did, once (SPOILER) he opened the door. That aside, again, as with Playing with the Devil, I’d pay to see a feature-length version of this, but in some ways it works better as a short.

Day 64: Waffle (2012)

Another nicely-shot short with some decent actors (once they get going with their dialogue; it’s a little clunky with exposition in the beginning).

Some of the sound editing is a little off (2 minutes in, some random screaming is a lot louder than the rest of the dialogue (note to those watching it at 2am), and the ending is a little rushed, but it’s not short on shocks, and the makeup and SFX are nicely done. Loved the real reason it was called Waffle.

Day 65: Vermin (2015)

(SPOILER)

This might seem petty but I enjoy horror shorts in which there isn’t the need to insert a barely-clothed, uncomfortably-positioned sex death toy as the lead. I’m far more likely to be scared because I can relate to the seemingly ordinary scenario of a woman moving into a new home and unpacking her things, rather than being fully made-up and walking around barefoot in my very uncomfortable sexy underwear and push-up bra that I totally lounge around in while talking on the phone.

Vermin is the former, and it’s all the creepier for it. It’s a wordless 2 minutes, made on the cheap, but still very unsettling. (SPOILER) The disparity in the title choice vs. the actual threat was a nice misdirectional touch.

Day 66: Polaroid (2015)

I was a tiny bit irked by the video description imploring me to use ‘headphones or studio speakers to enjoy the full range of the film’s score’ (all in CAPS). It was fine as it was, and it was impressive in its own right.

But this was expertly-shot, especially in low light, and the single actor was pretty decent in his line delivery. It still delivers a cheap (and I mean cheap – melty Linda Blair all growed up) jump scare at the end, but it’s 2 minutes, so I guess I didn’t know what else to expect.

Day 67: Not so Fast (2014)

(SPOILERS follow)

It’s David F. Sandberg! And his wifely actress collaborator Lotta Losten! I utterly fucking adore these two. Ever since the brilliant Lights Out (which I always show to people who want a horror film that’ll scare them), I’ve been keeping an eye out for anything these two have cooked up.

And this one didn’t disappoint! Drawing on the stuff of nightmares, we see Lotta about to enter her apartment, only to find her front door has somehow shoved itself a half-mile down a black hallway of nothingness. It sits, and it waits, and every time she takes a step or two closer, it reels further back. More of that ‘things defying the laws of things’ terror-rhetoric (how are you supposed to combat something like this?).

(SPOILER)

The ending is a little sweet, surprising and funny, and might explain Lotta’s previous fatal escapades. Finally she doesn’t get swallowed up by whatever evil’s been plaguing her! And we get to see Sandberg himself. It’s adorable. They’re adorable.

And! According to the comments section, Sandberg confirmed that we’ll be getting a FEATURE-LENGTH VERSION OF LIGHTS OUT IN CINEMAS IN, well, he said ‘next year’ but IMDb lists it as 2016, and it’s in post-production, set for a July release. YES!!!!

I’m super happy that they’re getting this break (James Wan and Atomic Monster/New Line are attached, so hopefully it’ll ride a decent hype train), and Lotta apparently has a role, even though it’s not the lead. Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies) looks to be playing the lead. Yay!

Day 68: He’s Right Behind You (2015)

(SPOILERS FOLLOW)

Scary Endings strikes out again (I really need to stop watching these).

We’ll start with the good – the pacing and the low-light filming, and some of the shots. And once the short gets going, there’s actually enough tension to keep it creepy.

But it’s sandwiched by a lame beginning and a lame ending. Perfectly centre-framed, we start off with Kylie Minogue-lite sexily chatting to some dude about something blah blah blah. She hears a noise, then leans towards the camera like she’s an awkward webcam model and it’s her first day. Everybody leans forward like that! Especially when they’re scared!

Then (SPOILER), the creepy entity turns out to be a tallish dude in a dark grandfather shirt and with a receding hairline, and any and all tension is deflated. I was honestly expecting him to be the girl’s friend/boyfriend from the phone earlier (“be careful the rest of the way home; I’ll see you in a few minutes”), and that maybe she’d accidentally kill him with her meat tenderiser (no, she actually picked one up from her kitchen), and oops oh hell it was really just a silly prank and she overreacted to being terrified. But no, lame either way. Scary Endings these really aren’t.

Day 69: Slappy (2013)

Well, I’ve gone through my entire life not being creeped out by dolls or mannequins (and I’ve been to a weird toy museum in a castle in Prague that had rooms of Christmas trees decorated with doll heads), and this one wins!

It’s barely 3 minutes long, shot entirely on a beaten-up couch (with one awkwardly-focused shot in a fridge), but the puppet is just so creepy-looking it really got under my skin. The only actor on-screen is decent enough, and the plot moves pretty quickly. I don’t know if there’s enough to make it into a feature-length, but I could see it being a surreal horror comedy in the vein of ‘imaginary friend’ projects like Wilfred.

It all ends very suddenly though, which is a shame, but perhaps at just 73,000 views, the filmmaker probably didn’t think there’d be much more pressure for a follow-up, but he is making a part 2. I hope he changes his director name though, because it’s a little cringeworthy.

Hopefully we’ll see said part 2, because this team might have a decent little web series at least on their hands.

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