31 Days of Hallowe’en 2017, Day 12: In the Night [short] [2015]

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I’ve been cheating with shorts lately, and heck if I’m not behind on the actual posts. But I decided to venture into bite-sized horror nuggets because my anxiety has been starting to get out of hand, and I’d been looking at some 4am snoozes (if I slept at all).

Much like I feel my life is as of late, In the Night is a slice of existence that passes the time, but doesn’t quite go anywhere. It could have been a two-man radio short, a student play, or something else that makes up a sentence with a third item for better reading flow.

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31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 31: The Stomach (2014)

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It’s it! I did it! The final film of this year’s marathon!

[I’ve a feeling you’ll likely see more horror posts from me before next year]

I cheated again this year – another short! And what a short. Writer-director Ben Steiner‘s The Stomach is equal parts bleak family fable, gritty neo-noir and grisly body horror. Packing two hours’ worth of backstories and interpersonal relationships into just 15 minutes, it’s no surprise that a feature-length is in the works – yet it never feels rushed or overcrowded.

the stomach 2014 horror short

Unlike Frank (Simon Meacock)’s stomach. The poor man, a medium who literally goes with his gut to talk to those in the afterlife, is ready to give up his gift. The work has taken its toll – physically and mentally – but his brother Tom (Ben Bishop) begs him to finish the day’s sessions before they agree to get Frank an operation that will replace his stomach. But back comes Mr. Pope (Peter Marinker), a recent client who’s not pleased with his service…

the stomach 2014 short horror

For such a short film, I genuinely cared about what happened to these characters. It’s a bittersweet fraternal story: the brothers have such chemistry and Frank looks so close to death, it’s hard not to feel for them both. It’s also a tension twofer, between the rough and grimy threat of Mr. Pope and the unpredictable forces of the ghostly beyond. Which, given that the tension starts straightaway, it’s probably a relief that it only lasts a quarter of an hour.

4.4/5

And that’s it for this year’s horror-a-thon. See you next year!

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 30: The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

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Things I learnt from watching The Undertaker and His Pals:

  1. An opening trippy, wavy-visualled montage does not mean you’re getting a surreal film.
  2. Women look incredibly sexy when being knifed. But to avoid tastelessness, just expose their bra (make sure it’s a push-up; they’ll be lying down)
  3. Any victim will scream and shriek with uninterrupted rhythm and pitch when being pinned down and literally having their intestines poked by a number of gloved hands.
  4. Despite spending their day with unengaging corpses, undertakers can be stylish, too.
  5. There’s always a market for gourmet meat but, as always, the younger the better.
  6. Grinding a meat grinder is as easy as flipping a needle on a record.
  7. Beatnik music never gets old.
  8. Motorcyclists make the most durable serial killers because they always wear a helmet.
  9. Male can shriek just as good – if not better – than their female counterparts, if only to cause others to drolly utter the line ‘He made quite a noise.’
  10. T.L.P. Swicegood is a wonderful film director’s name.
  11. Some statues just had it coming.
  12. The humble rooftop plus a serial killer’s apparent dyspraxia can save a Final Girl’s life.
  13. If a movie is bad in most other respects, if the players themselves are having believable, chemistry-ridden fun, then on balance there’s enough enjoyment to have it on in the background of a Hallowe’en party.

3.6/5

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 29: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in The House (2016)

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i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

What a pretty little bit of visual poetry. Like a visual novel. It’s honestly not what I would have expected, given that, from writer-director Oz Perkins, I’ve only seen a botched version of his script for mediocre slasher The Girl in the Photographs. But this – Netflix’s I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House…is something different entirely.

i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

Lily (Ruth Wilson) is a live-in nurse caring for an elderly, retired horror novelist Iris (Paula Prentiss). Soon after she moves into the house, she begins to suspect that one of Iris’s most famous stories is based on a real murder that occurred in the house.

i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

It’s not a slasher. Neither is it a creature feature, psychological thriller or a possession melodrama. It’s a simple, impeccably shot and gracefully acted one-woman show from an always-compelling Wilson. Narrated by her (with a shaky American accent) as the titular pretty thing, the story is a bare-bones peek behind a series of increasingly creepy doors, book-covers and stairwells.

i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

It’s all very highbrow atmosphere, with a flurry of beautiful frames and crisp, clear audio melancholy, but there isn’t much else. I can see why some have been disappointed; this is Netflix’s first original horror production, and it’s a deliberately muted, skeletal sketch of a ghost story. Given its length and repetitively gothic minimalism, the pace drags; it would have been far more chilling as (even a longer) short film, but it’s a quietly elegant viewing experience if you know what style to expect.

3.6/5

 

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 27: Cub (2014)

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In my opinion, there can’t be enough movies about sad, bullied children going into the woods when they know they shouldn’t, because there’s a nightmarish legend called Kai stalking the lands.

cub welp 2014

Cub (or Welp) wears its many flaws on its fur. It isn’t an expensive film, nor one made with experienced players (what is it about this year’s horror-a-thon and directorial debuts?), but it’s far better than it looks on paper. Echoing the childhood abuse issues and dark fairytale motifs of Pan’s Labyrinth, this Belgian tale from Jonas Govaerts doesn’t waste any time with the unpleasantries. On a woodland retreat, twelve-year old cub scout Sam (Maurice Luijten) is bullied daily by his fellow scouts, and even his scoutmaster Peter (Stef Aerts). Once the asshole kids cause the group to get lost in the mountains, Sam buggers off and runs into a creepy-looking feral boy he identifies as the urban legend werewolf Kai.

cub welp 2014

Up until that moment, it’s some slow, bleak Lord of the Flies shit, but after this first-act twist, it’s some bleak, disturbing, melancholic shit – including the taboo of killing children without a shred of humour or facetiousness. It’s an engaging story the further it plays out, and I appreciate seeing this kind of fable from a child’s point of view. But the film suffers from dreadful pacing in its first half, awkward tension build-ups, and one or two wooden performances. Despite this, on balance, it’s an enjoyably creepy and atmospheric slasher.

3.6/5

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 26: Kaboom (2010)

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This is embarrassing, because I genuinely, for some idiotic reason, thought that Gregg Araki was the guy from Heroes. Fucking Greg Gundberg. I’ve seen Nowhere! And I loved it! I so adored how horrifying it was that I patently refuse ever to see it again.

source: imdb.com

source: imdb.com

Kaboom is an attempt at more of the colourfully trashy same, featuring a crowd of young, attractive, laconic hipster college students sexually experimenting with each other with little regard for feelings or consequences. Smith (Thomas Dekker) and Stella (Haley Bennett) start having a series of odd dreams after one-off dates with people with red hair or who are called Thor. The story is mostly vignettes of how pretentiously tedious their romantic encounters can get, before there’s some climax with a trio of masked weirdos who may or may not be witches.

I stuck with this one on Shudder because the two mains are genuinely compelling with some fantastic chemistry, but it’s more of a prettily-shot dark comedy with sci-fi elements than any kind of horror.Honestly, the supernatural element feels like an afterthought, and it’s a bit insulting. Shame on you, Shudder.

1.7/5

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 25: Fear, Inc. (2016)

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fear, inc. 2016When a trailer slams giant text across the screen from a review saying that their movie was ‘tailor-made for genre junkies’, it’s a red flag for me that it’s already unreasonably high praise. Welcome to setting your audience’s expectations too high.

Meh, whatever. Fear, Inc., another FrightFest 2016 entry I missed, is a home invasion thriller comedy that openly admits its influences. Horror geek Ben (Lucas Neff) is living a good life in Los Angeles on his bride-to-be’s (his real-life wife Caitlin Stasey)’s family dime. Noticing he’s having some bored fun, a schlocky haunted house employee slips him a business card for a company called Fear, Inc., an entertainment service purveying high-end, custom scares (yes, as one of the characters points out, is just like the movie The Game).

Ben phones the company to find out more, but is abruptly told they’re ‘sold out’ before being hung up on. Thinking nothing of it, he preps a small dinner gathering with his BFF (Chris Marquette) and his wife (Stephanie Drake). But then shit goes down, the power’s cut, and the group are in danger. Or are they? Or are they not? Or really, are they?

fear, inc. 2016

That’s the gist of this film, but it’s a fun, simple ride. It’s somewhat plausible: these kinds of companies could very well exist, and have the good intentions of being innovative and fun – but in a world in which we have the likes of Black Mirror, how horribly wrong does this have the potential to go? And if these experiences are so professionally done that that they’re mind-bendingly immersive, what are the pitfalls of putting yourself in a situation designed to make you question whether or not something is real?

fear, inc. 2016

Those are some deep questions for a horror comedy, and it’s almost a shame that it went the yuk-yuks route, particularly as most of the film’s early humour comes from Ben’s constant Scullying of the film’s tense moments. But once the uncertainty kicks in, so too does the tension of the possibility of a series of devastating outcomes. The mildly shit performances and constantly flip-flopping ending both let the film down a little, but the inventive gore, cast chemistry and even just the concept alone are all enough to make up for it.

3.7/5