365 Days of Horror, Day 14: Black, Episodes 1 & 2

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black kdrama korean drama

source: yodrama.com

Netflix has been quietly serving up some great offerings on the Kdrama (Korean drama) front. This is one of their ‘originals’ (though that term seems to cover just exclusives to Netflix that weren’t commissioned by Netflix, such as Riverdale). Black is one of those exclusives to the UK, and I was hooked from the first couple of scenes.

Before you scroll past, take heed that this genuinely is a good show to watch if you either don’t think you’re into Kdrama, or you’re not interested in soppy romantic girls yelling ‘oppa!’ at her love interest. This one is different – I promise.

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31 Days of Hallowe’en 2017, Day 15: Gerald’s Game [2017]

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Gerald's Game Netflix Stephen King

In the wake of the Weinstein allegations, the people behind Gerald’s Game couldn’t have timed this Netflix original any better.

From the trailers, this adaptation of Stephen King’s novel tells you most of what you need to know: Jessie (Carla Gugino, carrying the entire movie in her most significant role for me outside of Spin City, even though that’s not saying much) and her semi-controlling husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) plan a cabin getaway  to rejig their marriage. First thing on the agenda: sex with his handcuff kink – something they’ve never tried, and something that gets weirder as it transpires that Gerald’s needs run all the way to straight-up rape fantasy. After Jessie’s repeated protests during foreplay that she’s not comfortable, he finally climbs off of her, but before he can take her out of the handcuffs, the viagra causes a fatal heart attack.

What follows is part-survival thriller, part psychological drama, with multiple threats for each: a stray dog that starts eating part of Gerald from the get-go, and Jessie’s own fears, magnified by both the hallucinations of a Death-like figure and multiple flashbacks from her abusive childhood. Aside from an unevenly toned, Lifetime-movie ending, it’s well-shot, carefully plotted and decently paced once we open up the flashbacks.

After the hashtag movement #MeToo, there’s not a woman alive who doesn’t have a story of a sexual assault and/or unwelcome advances. And this is on top of encounters that made them feel guilty, ashamed or manipulated because of controlling. Perhaps the filmmakers knew this. Some of it is unsettling to watch. And that’s even including the gore, which will make you wince for days.

Score: 🎃🎃🎃

31 Days of Hallowe’en 2017, Day 11: The Similars (Los Parecidos) [2015]

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the similars los parecidos mexican horror

source: imdb

“Bunch of strangers in a confined space: yeah, we’ve seen this before. Right, OK, some of them appear to be ill or have talked about being in a rush to get somewhere. Yep, I know where this is headed…”

Lol no. It’s highly unlikely you have ever, or will ever, having a viewing experience quite as compellingly, preposterously bewildering as The Similars.

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random review: Santa Clarita Diet [season 1]

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For me, Drew Barrymore‘s presence can always be relied upon to make a dull project bearable. It brings me great glee, then, to see her in something that is not only smile-inducing but is also a Netflix Original – properties that have continued to surprise in their diversity and willingness to take risks.

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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 22: Black Mirror; Season 3, Episode 2: Playtest

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With all the horror I’ve consumed lately, a concern has been festering in the back of my mind: what if nothing scares me anymore? A message board post I recently read admitted that the author felt sad that he can’t enjoy horror movies the way he used to, because of this very reason. Maybe, like my recent favourites Don’t Breathe and Train to Busan, I can appreciate the tension those two use that is usually reserved for action movies and thrillers, rather than the lingering dread that the monster might crawl out of the screen and follow you home. Or, with my 2016 favourite The Windmill Massacre, perhaps I can just appreciate the creature’s design, the well-paced story and the creative gore.

I just won’t be scared.

black mirror 2016 season 3 playtest

But now, on the trotting heels of its prophetic Prime-Minister pig-fucking nostalgia, along comes Netflix’s Season 3 of Black Mirror. Hoorah! The show that I’d been forcing everyone under the sun to see finally has a third season on the bingewatching mecca of the interwebz.

Given the length and utter mindfuckedness of past episodes, I’d actually recommend against binging. Each episode follows you around for at least a day or two, and your brain needs time to push it back out. This one, based on Reddit comments, is one that requires just such a moratorium. (For me, it was Episode 3).

“Playtest”, Episode 2, plays with the very idea of what fear is, and how far it can be pushed to commodify it. Wyatt Russell (a curiously watchable genetic mesh of Kurt and Goldie) plays Cooper, a young American backpacker. Low on funds, he  answers an ‘odd job’ ad to beta-test a well-known company’s augmented reality game – which concerns itself with pushing the limits of fear.

In my trademarked quest to avoid spoilers, I can only say that of course it gets more twisted from there. Prepare to be suitably unsettled.

black mirror 2016 season 3 playtest

It actually throws some good bits of tension at you before the inevitable ‘nothing could possi-blye go wrong’ trope’. But from there, it genuinely gets terrifying to the point of downright uncomfortable. I can’t remember the last time I gasped out loud at a screen. This is some fantastic storytelling. The fright in any episode of Black Mirror is the unease around seeing your contemporary surroundings on screen, with just one small element futurised, amplfied, and cloaked in gloom. It’s very possible that these things could happen. And, unlike a surprisingly creative serial killer or unbeatable ghoul, the ‘villains’ in Black Mirror aren’t a single entity – it’s a plausible concept spun out of control in its influence and potential to devastate. And isn’t that just some eye-watering, spine-tingling, stomach-sinking beautiful mindfuckery?