365 Days of Horror, Day 21: Click (2011)

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Well thanks a fucking bunch, Click. Not since Lights Out has a short film renewed my childhood fear of the dark.

There is neither gore nor jump scares here. William Prince’s 15-minute short plays out a simple story in real time: a group of mouthy little kids arse about on the grounds of an abandoned building, and decide to piss about with the light switch (a bloody unnerving character all on its own – how can you make mould and smudges look so sinister??).

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Things take the usual disquieting turn, but it’s the effective direction, atmospheric shots and competent acting that elevate this short far beyond the mild-but-decent creepiness it could have settled for. I genuinely want to get up to turn the light back on now. So thanks. Thanks a lot, Prince. Go sit in a corner with David F. Samberg. A dark corner. With all the lights out.

365 Days of Horror, Day 20: Coffer (2014)

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Ah, David F. Sandberg and Lota Losten, you two have done it again. In Coffer, this adorable power couple of short horror have a less impactful piece than the excellent Lights Out, but the two have proved they’re more than adept at jump scares.

The premise is very simple; Losten’s character is doing something that you’re probably doing right now: sitting alone at home and reading a book. Then, the coffer (trunk) in the corner starts wobbling and making some weird sounds.

The beauty of this and the other Sandberg/Losten shorts is that it begins with a completely normal, relatable scenario, mutates into something with hints of uncertainty, and finally pulls you into its WTF final moments. Dialogue is nil (maybe because the floorboards are distractingly loud); instead we rely on Losten’s varied facial expressions.

It’s less than two minutes, and the final shot could have been omitted, but it’s a cute, taught little piece that will make you want to invest in open-shelf units rather than chests.

365 Days of Horror, Day 15: Unedited Footage of a Bear (short) (2014)

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unedited footage of a bear

That’s a pretty bear.

This short is fucked up.

I don’t want to spoil it but…this isn’t really unedited footage of a bear. In fact, it’s pretty heavily edited. And its YouTube ad fooled me. Twice.

  1. Click ‘Skip Ad’
  2. Be taken to a landing page for an antidepressant drug called Claridryl
  3. Click on the house in the background
  4. Click nine more times
  5. Click through the various rooms in the house
  6. Right-click anywhere
  7. Click ‘View Page Source’
  8. o__O

Then go back and watch the video, and its happy footage of a single, beautiful bear, none of which is disturbing or confusing. It’s Adult Swim, the network that brought us such whimsical series like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken and Rick and Morty. Also the happy lilting music is happy, because it’s footage of a bear, because bears are warm and cuddly and fuzzy and don’t have a gun, or starkly terrifyingly-composed shots that tell a cautionary tale or are the epitome of modern social commentary or of losing one’s mind under the very influence that claims to help them, because bears.

Enjoy.

365 Days of Horror, Day 14: Brutal Relax (short) (2010)

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I can now say I’ve seen a spot of cinema in which a sand-encrusted Spanish man beats up several mermen zombies with a little girls’s corpse. Brutal Relax, a 15-minute short by David Muñoz, Adrián Cardona and Rafa Dengrá, features some quite literally eye-popping special effects and a quirky soundtrack fit for summer on the beach.

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The latter of which Mr Olivares (José María Angorrilla) is desperately craving. The minute this wordless, would-be beach bum is discharged from a facility by a suitably nervous doctor, it starts to look as if it’s not a matter of if we’ll see something peer out from his perma-smiling veneer, but when.

brutal relax

And it could have been predictable; I knew nothing going in, but I expected the idyllic beach scenes to be broken up by Olivares going on a bloody rampage, murdering everybody in sight. Not quite. Not anywhere near quite. The remaining 14 minutes present a giddy exercise in smashing mermen zombie heads as if they were (probably made out of) papier maché, and said mermen zombies literally ripping people to shreds in a gleefully OTT splatterfest.

brutal relax

Which is an understatement. I can’t stress how much blood and viscera and exposed bone there is on screen; it’s camp enough to be comical (the aforementioned child’s head lands squarely inside the head of one of the mer-zombies), and the music and breakneck pace means it doesn’t have to stray beyond a non-stop massacre on both sides.

Watch out for the end credits’ photo montage for a bit of a chuckle.

365 Days of Horror, Day 13: Dining Room or There is Nothing (short) (2008)

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dining room or there is nothing

I think I might finally be desensitised, because I didn’t have quite the pants-shitting reaction to this short that others might have done. David Earle‘s one-minute short, Dining Room or There is Nothing, is irrefutably creepy, but it didn’t linger for me, and I watched it late last night. I’d been a bit drunk though (shouldn’t have been after Thursday’s events), and have since watched it twice more today, so let’s see if I end up with lucid nightmares.

A young woman with terrifyingly wide, gaping eyes stares straight at us over a dinner table, speaks in robotic tongues, then immediately face-plants into her bowl like a stop-motion-animated doll, still holding her oversized dessert spoon. The camera pans back out, then in again, and as she lifts her head once more, she robot-tongues “There. Is. Nothing.” All the while, flames consume the window behind her.

The lilting, piano lullaby-type music plus its eerie distortions add an undercurrent of “WTF” to this short affair (in fact, the tune’s pretty catchy), but the strange dubsteppy voice coming out of her mouth makes it seem a bit too much like something from a Rowntrees advert, and takes away much of the creepiness it could have had. Dare you to watch it before bed, though.

365 Days of Horror, Day 12: [Undiagnosed Inpatient]

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vertigo source: thevanguardclinic.com

As I type this, my hands are swollen, badly bruised from internal bruising, because my veins “have a tendency to blow up”. A light tap on most parts of my skin produces clear veins at which phlebotomists swoon, but I guess there’s that downside.

I flew back from Boston Tuesday afternoon, with a brief layover in New York; landed Wednesday morning. I took a taxi home from the airport, showered and went straight to work. Went out for a couple of drinks later; felt fine. Barely tipsy.

Woke up Thursday morning with my head spinning wildly, as if my head was a goldfish bowl and my brain was a LEGO rectangle made of jello and the two refused to coordinate whenever I would move my head even slightly.

Standing up was out of the question. I figured maybe it was just dehydration or exhaustion. I had no food in the house, so I ordered a delivery, but my appetite had been swiftly replaced by nausea.

I called 111 and they sent a non-emergency ambulance, even though I tried to decline (and later cancel). The paramedics were nice and refused my groggy attempts to pay them because I felt bad for “wasting NHS resources”, especially as I still assumed it was self-inflicted dehydration.

What followed was 8 hours of hurdles through A&E. Multiple blood tests (ouch), blood pressure tests and an ECG, plus some vision/coordination tests, and long wait for results. I was asked to give up my wheelchair because I guess it looked like I didn’t need it; when I got up I immediately fell and tried to pass it off as a wall-slump. Somebody else later gave me another chair.

People-watching is undeniably more interesting: a guy getting up to go to the bathroom and coming back to realise some dude had just helped himself to his wheelchair; overhearing “I can’t find my guy; he’s gone”; aggressive defibrillator sounds. Because I couldn’t move my head, being wheeled past multiple “cubicles” (small rooms) and seeing a montage of patients in various states of injury was almost cinematic.

At 1:30am, the final hurdle doctor saw me and insisted on keeping me overnight. He said he could call a cab but he knew I wouldn’t make it to the door without falling and getting a head injury. I didn’t know what he was talking about – as long as I kept my head straight, didn’t make any sudden movements and didn’t turn, I could totally walk! I only almost fell down onto people a few times. ALMOST.

Nobody had been home earlier, so when I was on the phone with 111, I found myself crying out of fear that something new and unpleasant was happening to me and I couldn’t explain it. When I was shown to my bed in a stark room with the news that they still weren’t 100% sure what was wrong with me and wanted to keep me overnight, I again got quietly upset and almost AMAed. I was alone and a little afraid.

They gave me a pill and then a liquid form of said pill through an IV tube in my right hand. They left it there, hoping to hook it up to some fluids for overnight, but my vein was on the verge of exploding and had moved the needle INSIDE MY HAND, so she had to take it out. The test-fluid, plus the removal, hurt like a nail-covered motherfucker and it still hurts. I couldn’t help but cry out in pain in that dark room at 2am. I can’t imagine how disturbing that might have been to the other patients on the ward. The nurse tried again on my other hand, but my stupid veins were still not cooperating. Each time she took out the needle, the blackest blood oozed out.

Finally, she tried my left inner elbow. That one, plus the fluids insertion, hurt the most. I screamed again, but again I couldn’t help it, and I kept apologising for all of it.

By that point it was maybe 2:30am; the nurses managed to cobble together some food for me. That plus the meds make it easier to fall asleep. My phone had run out of battery and I hadn’t brought a book or a game. I’d thought the room’s bleak, eerie lighting was going to haunt me into staying awake. Thank fuck for those meds.

In the morning, they confirmed their initial diagnosis: labyrinthitis. No, it’s not an obsession with Jareth’s package. It’s a viral infection that screws up your inner ear and thus, causes poor balance and vertigo. I had no cold-like symptoms, and they still don’t know how I got it, but I imagine that being in airports for 24 hours at this time of year probably didn’t help. But it was so stupidly terrifying that whole night that I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and that I was completely alone.

So I missed day 12, and I’ll watch three things today to make up (yesterday I had just enough time and energy to watch a brief short). I’m currently swathed in my Chewbacca fleecy dressing gown, chugging orange juice and graze-snacking, now that I have my appetite back. I guess I’m not sure if this counts in my 365-day horror-a-thon, but I was more scared by that day and night than I have been during any (even genuinely frightening) movie I’ve seen.

365 Days of Horror, Day 11: Gakko no Kaidan G / Katasumi (in a Corner) (short) (1998)

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I’ve yet to see the Ju-on movies, so this prequel short is less impactful for me (or perhaps as impactful as it was to viewers upon its pre-Ju-on release. But in less than three minutes, there’s a hell of a lot going on in Takashi Shimizu‘s film. Schoolgirls taking care of rabbits! A wandering ghost of a woman who was murdered by her abusive husband! OK, I guess that’s it. But it’s still a lot. There are some lovely touches of detail here and there (the ghost’s croaky voice is due to the fact that she was choked to death), and although the acting is a little off in the face, this is worth watching for the simple but effective jump scare at the end.