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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Double Trouble

by Jorge Ignacio Castillo, Rick Pollard, Craig Silliphant and Aiden Morgan
Published Wednesday October 15, 06:53 pm
Halloween means horror, and this year it’s times two!

If you’re bullish on the brilliance that is Halloween, but dovish on the douchiness that so often happens in a crushing crowd of people, the home movie night is the way to go. Get a bunch of like-minded friends to come over (Costumes are obviously optional. Ha! No, they’re absolutely mandatory), fire up the DVD player and prepare to have the crap scared out of you!

But what movies to play? No worries: our resident ghouls are on it! /Chris Kirkland

 

CULTS

 

 

THE WICKER MAN (1973)

While the Nicolas Cage remake gave the story a bad name, the original remains one of the most unsettling movies of all time. A contemporary of The Exorcist, The Wicker Manfeatures the kind of terror that gets under your skin.

While looking for a missing girl, straight-laced detective Howie (Edward Woodward) lands on the island of Summerisle. But soon, it becomes clear something is off: the locals practice pagan rituals and continuously deny the existence of the girl; a chain of twists and turns takes the audience to some unexpected places, all permeated by a sense of doom.

A more thoughtful kind of horror movie than most, The Wicker Manfeeds into our perception of cultures that seem foreign. Sexually repressed and all, we’re squarely on Sergeant Howie’s side and his fate is bound to affect us.

 

INTERMISSION: THE “SAFE HAVEN” SEGEMENT IN V/H/S 2

Gareth Evans, director of The Raidsaga, uses his kinetic style of filmmaking for evil — and the outcome is brilliant. “Safe Haven” is by far the best segment produced in the self-indulgent V/H/Ssaga. A news crew — including a very pregnant woman — infiltrates a compound where an Indonesian cult resides, just in time for a devastating ritual the newshounds are definitely not prepared for.

“Safe Haven” barely has time to establish the premise before the mass suicide begins. Fifteen minutes of extreme insanity ensue, with a supernatural element adding to the chaos. Brilliant.

 

THE SACRAMENT

From the new generation of splat-packers comes a film with a strong central premise handicapped by the absence of a script. (They work over “treatments.”) Three Vice Magazinejournalists travel to a religious colony in an undisclosed location, because the cult has “adopted” the sister of one of the writers. As with any cult worth its name, the members believe their charismatic leader is God incarnated.

The reporters find out that some of the faithful are kept in the settlement against their will, and grill the fearless leader on the subject. Predictably, the interview goes badly and the colony becomes a full-on Jonestown in a flash.

The setup is perfunctory, but the extended denouement is a brilliant nightmare. The journalists struggle to prevent the brainwashed sheeple from following their deranged ruler’s commands, particularly since their own lives are at risk.

Overextended at 95 minutes long, The Sacramentshows everything The Wicker Maninsinuates, and doesn’t linger as much. Framed by the overused “found footage” narrative device, The Sacramentis remarkably inconsistent in the origin of the images. But if you can bypass a number of narrative dissonances, you may be up for a few haunting nightmares. /Jorge Ignacio Castillo

 

PARANOIA

 

Every decade gets the whacked-out paranoid movie it deserves. The ‘60s gave us films like The Manchurian Candidateand Rosemary’s Baby; the ‘70s offered a heaping buffet of such over-the-shoulder entertainments as The Parallax Viewand The Conversation. But the ‘80s slopped a supply-side glaze of Reagan-era cheer over its movies, giving us paranoid works in which sinister beings wore power ties and operated in broad daylight.

 

THEY LIVE

John Carpenter’s crass, hilarious and brilliant movie is probably the only piece of successful social satire to hand a leading role to beefy wrestler Roddy Piper. As a drifter named Nada, Piper leads an ordinary, down-and-out existence until he discovers a cache of sunglasses that reveal a hidden world of horror just beneath the sunny surface of Los Angeles. With the glasses on, he discovers that the world is run by skeletal aliens in expensive suits. Mayhem ensues.

 

INTERMISSION

After taking in They Live, you’ll want to slip on a pair of Ray-bans and chew some bubblegum.

 

THE HIDDEN

Not as well-known as They Livebut perfectly entertaining, The Hiddenstars Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri as Los Angeles cops chasing down an alien parasite that hops from body to body. The familiar buddy-cop formula gets tilted on its side when we realize that MacLachlan’s clean-cut federal agent character (which should be familiar to Twin Peaksfans) is also an alien. The most enjoyable character is the parasite, who turns out to be a perfect distillation of ‘80s excess and greed. The parasite is a villain with no motivation beyond satisfying its desire for bags of money, shiny cars and political power. /Aidan Morgan

 

GHOSTIES IN HOUSES! PART I

There is a ton of variations on the traditional ghost story, but one of the best ideas since human beings started living together in buildings has got to be the haunted house genre.

 

THE CHANGELING

If there’s anything scarier than strange pounding sounds in the night and an old-tymey wheelchair, I don’t know what it would be. George C. Scott stars in this 1980 Canadian-made horror film, about a composer who moves to an old Victorian mansion after the death of his wife and child. Not only does it turn into a great mystery, but it’s one of the most effective, chilling horror movies ever made.

 

INTERMISSION

If your theme is haunted house movies, what better way to take a break in your double feature by creating a haunted house for your guests in your basement? You can do it kiddie-style, with blindfolds and grapes for eyeballs and spaghetti for brains, or you can scare the bejeesus out of them by making it more adult. First, come up with a creepy story that’ll get inside their head. Then, dim the lights, hand them flashlights, and use a rented fog machine, some Halloween store gravestones and décor, and scary sound effects (try rolling a penny around in a can). Get a helper you’ve sourced out in advance that will jump out from the dark when least expected. Once everyone has changed into clean pants, you’re ready to start your second movie.

 

 

HAUSU (AKA HOUSE)

This 1977 Japanese film was directed by surrealist Nobuhiko Obayashi, who crafted an avant-garde trip about a girl who travels with her classmates to her aunt’s home in the country. Once there, the girls are assaulted by ghosts, a super-weird cat, a murderous piano, and a bunch of other strange apparitions, all brought to life with purposefully unrealistic animation, matte paintings and other effects. Beyond that, it’s indescribable midnight movie madness that you really have to see to believe. If you watch this movie on acid, you definitely leave with a horrible case of PTSD. If you watch it without acid, you’ll feel like someone slipped hallucinogens into your drink anyway. It’s available from the Criterion Collection, if you dare. /Craig Silliphant

 

GHOSTIES IN HOUSES! PART II

When I was a kid, my favourite stories were ghost stories and my favourite horror movies weren’t about vampires or werewolves, much as I loved those. They were stories about haunted houses, and the ghosts and spirits that lurked within.

The haunted houses were grand old manor houses, estates or castles, usually isolated and remote. The characters who saw the spirits were usually the most vulnerable or impressionable — and they took place in a time before inconvenient modern technological advancements like electricity, mobile phones and laptops.

So: any modern examples? Yup!

 

THE OTHERS

The Others was released in 2001 and stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart, a grieving widow who lives with her two children in an old mansion. Things begin to get creepy when the servants go missing and Grace hires three new servants to take their place.

The story effectively builds up suspense and keeps you guessing until the very end. There are the usual horror movie tropes (like when Grace gets lost in the fog, or when the spirits in the house appear to have tricked her into attacking her own daughter). But the movie is at its best when it uses devices like the Victorian Book of the Dead, a macabre practice of the later 19thcentury in which the recently departed were photographed in their favourite chair or lying in repose on their bed. Another disturbing scene shows Grace frightening her children with a description of the Children’s Limbo, which is located in the molten core at the centre of the earth, as a warning never to deny Christ.

The Othersconcludes with a satisfying twist that, unlike many movies of its kind (including The Woman in Black), doesn’t feel like a cheat.

 

INTERMISSION

Have some fun and eat some food while watching any — any— episode of Casper The Friendly Ghost!

 

 

THE WOMAN IN BLACK

The Woman in Blackwas released in 2012 and features Daniel Radcliffe in his first major movie role since the Harry Pottermovies. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a grieving widower and father (notice a pattern here?) who travels to an isolated house on the moors to help settle an estate for his law firm. There are voices and apparitions, including the titular Woman in Black, lots of fog and a haunted house which plays tricks with his mind.

So far, the Woman in Blackprobably sounds similar to TheOthers. But it is far less subtle and the intensity level gets cranked up very fast. There are the requisite superstitious villagers who know more than they’re letting on, yet have never had the good sense to flee this terrible place. There is the desperate rush to solve the mystery of the Woman in Black and appease her malevolent spirit. And there’s Daniel Radcliffe, turning in a subdued and sombre performance as a man who is sleepwalking through life since the death of his wife. Radcliffe’s Arthur Kipps won’t make you forget Harry Potter. But he may help you to accept that Harry has grown up and moved onto other things. /Rick Pollard

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