Friday, 31 October 2014

Hallowe'en Movies 3. What scares you?

I've listed some spiffing spooky movies thus far, but there is the question of fright. Some years ago I recommended a film to someone and they (as in, a couple) decided to watch it late at night. I had specifically warned them not to watch it before bedtime (and I was unanimous in this). Sure enough, I got a sad little email reading something like: 'We were too scared to go to bed straight away, and so had to watch a couple of episodes of Scooby Doo.' You don't see that kind of endorsement on bus adverts. Anyway, the film in question is in this list of films that scared me. See if you can guess which one it is, and let me know which (if any) films genuinely scare you.

1. The Last Broadcast (1998)

This obscure independent movie is widely considered to have 'inspired' The Blair Witch Project and so, indirectly, a whole slew of found footage horror. Please, don't let that put you off - it uses found footage, certainly, but does so with intelligence. The plot is simple - a documentary maker tries to find out who or what killed a team making an episode of a cult internet radio series in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The show in question was about the 'Jersey Devil'. When I first watched this I had no clue what was going on, and very careful pacing kept me on edge till the final revelation. Brilliance on a budget.

2. The Grudge (Ju-On) (2002)

Japanese supernatural horror arguably reached its peak with Takashi Shimizu's cinematic remake of his own direct-to-video shocker. The film spawned a franchise, but the original is the one that packs the punch. It's a series of six episodes concerning a haunting. The title refers to a curse born of violent rage and murder. This ain't Ghostbusters. Many of the film's most effective scenes have - inevitably - been 'adapted' by other writers and directors. But in their original context they work all too well. I for one am never going into anyone's attic without backup.


3. The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Not strictly speaking a horror film, more of a Fortean thriller, this is an adaptation of a 1975 John Keel book about sightings of a mysterious flying humanoid in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. This means that weirdness prevails with regard to plot, while the presence of Richard Gere, Laura Linney and other non-horror thesps adds to the sense of things being out of kilter. I still get a chill up my spine when I think of the phone calls, the encounters, the children's drawings... It's like a top-notch episode of the X-Files, but without any pretence of loose ends being tied up.

Mothman prophecies poster.jpg

4. Don't Look Now (1973)

One of those films you assume everyone has seen, but of course they haven't. Try telling young slasher fans it's a work of art - that'll put 'em off. But Daphne du Maurier's original story is about as disturbing as it gets, and Nicolas Roeg's handling of the adaptation by Allan Scott and Chris Bryant is a masterpiece of understated strangeness. It works as a drama about grief and loss, and the addition of the occult seems utterly right in the context of Venice, a ghostly city with a long history of mad, cruel deeds. Note how I'm skirting a certain meme here...

Dont look movieposter.jpg

5. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

South Korea has produced some first-rate genre movies in recent years, and this one has rightly been praised by all and sundry for its intelligence and intensity. The plot is, at first, very simple - domestic disharmony results when the sisters of the title return home from a psychiatric hospital and have to live with their distant father and new stepmother. As with the other films on this list, Kim Jee-woon's chiller offers escalating strangeness in the context of a credible story. It is all rather beautiful to look at, even - or especially - when it's giving you the jitters. Korean Gothic, in fact.

A Tale of Two Sisters film.jpg


Oscar Solis said...

Mothman Prophecies is an odd film. It's neither fish nor fowl and I suppose that's what makes it effective. It was that rare film that made you think. A definite must watch again.

I enjoyed The Last Broadcast. It's a shame that it doesn't get the press that The Blair Witch project gets.

Don't Look Now seems to be remembered today for the love scene between Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland. Once past that it's a disturbing film. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like in the hands of Stanley Kubrick.

Oscar Solis said...

What was the movie you recommended to the couple?

Oscar Solis said...

I didn't see the bit were you wrote that the movie was among those listed. Anyhow, I'm going to go with The Grudge.

valdemar said...

Correct! Only Scooby Doo could save them from a night of terror.

I agree about Don't Look Now - people seem to think it's a 'Sexy Seventies' film that took advantage of the rolling back of censorship. I was surprised by the scene but it does fit the scenario of a couple who are still in love but are also divided by tragedy.

Kubrick? Hmmm.