Ginger Snaps; or Andy Gets in Touch with His Feminine Side

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Furry Friday (our last!), where we check what moon phase we are on while checking out a new film! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, who will rip your lungs out, Jim–actually, enough. Hallowfest does not condone ripping out Jim’s lungs, but we do think you should check out Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London.

Today’s Film Offering: Ginger Snaps

Andy: Um, I haven’t actually watched Ginger Snaps yet.

Lilly: WHAT! Go and do that right now!

Andy: But the second season of Stranger Things has just been added to…

Lilly: Right. Now.

81OpkT54z9L._SL1500_.jpgAndy (Some time later): So, you can already tell I was going to have a chip on my shoulder with this movie. Firstly, it’s between me and the new season of the best TV of last year. Secondly, I love me some Dog Soldiers. Add in an awkward teenage girl coming of age story in which lycanthropy acts as both a metaphor for menstruation and some kind of super-syphilis, aaand I’m going to make a break for it.

Lilly: Some people apparently can’t relate to being a hormonal teenage girl who gets her period while also turning into a werewolf. Lucky them!

Andy: Still, this movie is very, very solid. The two leads – Ginger, an older sister who’s about two steps away from the WASP-y bitch she hates at school, and her extremely introverted younger sister, Brigette, are an engaging pair to spend 110 minutes with. They start the movie by having a very teenage outlook on life and death: they angst, they idolize gore, and they make a suicide pact in a way that suggests neither are suicidal, but things change when a werewolf decides to take some chunks out of Ginger’s shoulder.

Lilly: Having been an angsty teenage girl at one point, I would like to get in here early on that oh my gosh, are these two realistically written. Nothing is worse when you have a supernatural element in a film that feels more grounded and well researched than the humans that are in it, let me tell you, but Ginger Snaps avoids that. It’s almost as if the writer was a woman…Oh wait, she is, and she is from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is also a writer for Orphan Black, so clearly she knows what she is doing and you should check out her work. Karen Walton.

Andy: Anyway, this movie is essentially about the sisters’ relationship as Ginger first becomes more confident and outgoing, and then starts tearing up the neighbourhood. And the neighbours. Brigitte meanwhile is forced to abandon the crutch of her sister, and deal with the problem increasingly alone. Her relationship with Sam, a local drug dealer, is fascinating. You genuinely think that this is the first friendship she’s developed independently of her sister.

Lilly: Fun side note: Sam is portrayed by Kris Lemche, who is in another Hallowfest favourite, The Frankenstein Theory. It was nice to see him being sarcastic and charming and peddling drugs to teens. Well. At least the first two bits were nice.

Plus, not only do you get the werewolf goring action, you also get the exploration of what it is like to lose a friend to puberty–and lycanthropy. It is terrifying, watching someone you care about start to lash out, act differently, and grow hair out of suspicious wounds, and this film captures it perfectly. Definitely a better use of a girl’s period than Carrie.

Also, I love love love the mother in this. Well, and all the female relationships, really. Even the character that is framed as a bully at one point makes a point of telling Brigette her views/insecurities about Sam, and how he uses virgins. She warns this girl she has been bullying all film not to let him get away with it because everyone else has, and you have a moment of ‘oh shit, film, you got me’ because Ginger isn’t the only one changing because of the beast of the Bailey Downs, everyone is. Like poor Chris. Less said about him the better–but actually wait, how great it is that his showing of the infection has him breaking out in zits? Come on, film. You had me at hello.

Andy: Ginger Snaps veers a very fun, fine line between campy and serious, never fully committing to either. I love the fact that a werewolf here can be killed by, well, anything, as one is creamed by a truck and there’s no hint of recovery. Difficult to reassemble a 30 yard bloody smear, I guess. It has its funny moments, a standout being the girls’ utterly useless and cringingly embarrassing parents, including Mom’s, uh, creative solution to the problems they find themselves in. But the story is played mostly straight, and that’s fine and dandy with me. Plus, while I imagine a 15 year old goth kid would find this deeply moving, the over-the-top emo nonsense (violin music!) was absolutely hilarious. Maybe I just don’t get it because I’m an adult and a sell out and GET OUT OF MY ROOM, GOD.

So then, a recommend from me. I liked it, maybe you will too.

Lilly: And obviously I recommend it, especially if you are an over the top goth kid like I was when I saw it. So go, watch, enjoy!


Eat Local; or No Fangs, Please, We’re British

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another #ThrowforwardThursday, where we sit down to watch something not only new to us, but new to the cinemas! Your join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they sit down with some very old friends to discuss new business.

Today’s Film Offering: Eat Local

Lilly: It’s a vampire film, it’s a vampire film!

Andy: We’ve review vampire films before–last year’s Thursday theme was vampire films!

Lilly: Whatever, it feels like a century since we’ve talked vampires!

Andy: You wrote about Nosferatu earlier this month…

Lilly: Yeah, well, Hallowfest doesn’t really cover vamp…

Andy: And we did a whole day of vampire movies last year.

Lilly: ANYWAY.

images (3).jpgEat Local is the story of the vampire council of the UK getting together (as they do every fifty years) to go over old and new business alike, such as if anyone is going over their quota of kills each year, or if they desire to bring a new member into the fold. But they aren’t the only ones out in the middle of the countryside. A group of soldiers (plus one priest) have gathered in an attempt to rid the church of those turbulent bloodsuckers.

Andy: Of course, all this isn’t immediately spelled out for you. The genius and quite a lot of the comedy comes from how muted everything is. A lesser film, for example, would awkwardly exposit who was in charge. Here, it’s all in how the characters interact.

As you can guess, the dialogue is razor tight. There is, for example, a disagreement about ‘territories’. Do we find out where all these territories are? Not explicitly, because it’s not necessary that we know. Anyone interested in writing, specifically how much you can strip out of a screenplay, should check this out.

Lilly: You get a lot of information via implication in this film, definitely. Even with the use of a human character to explain vampire issues and limitations that can easily be overused, a lot of what we learn about the vampires comes from either their conversations with each other or just seeing what happens when, for instance, one is staked. Not everything gets explained–like the territories, as Andy mentioned, nor why the council was ‘always’ eight–but who cares!

I loved a lot about the film. The acting was fantastic (but look at the cast!), the premise was intriguing (but look at the monsters featured!), and it had something for us both to enjoy (sexy vampire politics AND soldier stuff for Andy). I don’t want to spoil things, since I want people to go and watch it and discuss, so to use a comparison it is like Dog Soldiers if you got to see the werewolves’ side of things.

Andy: That’s an excellent comparison! Also, props to this movie for having a positive ‘gypsy’ (Romani) character–one of the most hated demographics in the UK!

Lilly: Seriously, that was one of the most supernatural things about this vampire film, the more than two-dimensional depiction of a Romani. Good job, writers!

Andy: All in all, I really enjoyed this one. It’s rarely laugh out loud funny, and there are definitely horror comedies I like more, but this is a fun little addition to the genre.

Lilly: It brings a vampire house siege council meeting to the table of the horror comedies, and hey, that’s not something I’ve seen in action before, so why not! You know, frankly, more countries should get in on the new horror comedy vampire film wave! We have New Zealand’s What We Do in the Shadows, we now have the UK throwing in with Eat Local…Come on!

It’s a recommendation from us! Go and check it out and let us know what you think!

The Exorcist; or We’re Going to need an Old Joke and a Young Joke

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another How Have We Not Reviewed This Wednesday, where we wonder just what has kept us from reviewing a film that is so important to the horror genre for so long. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they settle in for a nice evening in to only hear a strange scratching in the attic, leaving them to allow their pea soup to cool as they go to see what is going on.

Today’s Film Offering: The Exorcist

Andy: I have a confession to make.

Horror Film-A-Holics Anon Meeting Goers: You’re safe here. Go on.

Andy: I hadn’t seen this film until two years ago.

Lilly: But. I had been making the ‘I’m going to need an old priest and a young priest’ joke for ages before than!

Andy: I know!

Lilly: I referred to certain shades of green as ‘Linda Blair green’!

Andy: I know! I know!

Lilly: It must have been so confusing!

Andy: It was!

Horror Film-A-Holics Anon Meeting Goers: Stone the non-believer! Stone the heretic!

Lilly: Well. That’s a bit much, but…

Better get on with this review before we delve too much more into the trauma of a life without The Exorcist.

51A9BEVEQVL._SY445_.jpgThe Exorcist is the story of a mother (Chris) who is worried about her daughter (Reagan) and the illness she is developing. This is no case of the chicken pox, doctors soon rule out, since most cases of that do not involve levitating and speaking in tongues. At least not any I’ve seen. Soon enough, she is at her wit’s end. Enter one of my favourite characters in horror, Father Damien Karras. A priest troubled by the recent passing of his mother, he takes on the case of Reagan’s possession with the help of a more experienced priest, Merrin, played by the brilliant Max von Sydow. But will it be that easy? Will it take just some faith?

Andy: I think we’re all guilty at some point of feeling a certain amount of resentment to movies that people tell us are classics over and over and over again and then they never, ever live up to the hype.

This is the exception that proves the rule. It genuinely is that good.

Of course, you already knew that, as I was the last person on the planet to watch it.

Lilly: Yeah, previously undiscovered settlements make the old priest and a young priest joke.

The Exorcist is a horror film that even did the rarest of rare–it reached commercial success in mainstream outlets. And for good reason. It explored topics such as religious belief, the limitations of medicine and a mother’s love to cure what ails a child’s soul, and self sacrifice.

You can go deeper than all that, too. You can explore what the film says about female sexuality (think of all those things Reagan says, and how Chris is perceived as a single mother), the Catholic church (as it is heavily implied that Merrin was the one who released the demon into the world, something that would go on to hurt a young child, partnered with the constant struggle between good and evil), about Karras’ ascension towards his ultimate martyrdom by the fact that he is constantly shot going up stairs or standing up, rising every time he appears, to even the subversion of two men in black robes being the good guys versus an innocent child.

So much. So good. I could go on for a while about all this. I really could.

Andy: As people who are far too young to remember the sixties, it is really interesting to see a film that not only acknowledges the generation gap that existed at the time, but jackknives an eighteen wheeler into the middle of it, too. To add to that long list.

Lilly: Honestly, this is a film I want to gush about. It’s got faults, sure, but…I don’t care. It’s powerful, it’s well scripted, and it clearly has a staying power in the modern world of horror to still influence makers today. From The Conjuring 2 through to a specific challenge on Rupaul’s Drag Race featuring a disembodied head that draws its lines from the possessed Reagan’s demonly wiles, you can’t escape The Exorcist, and you really shouldn’t want to.

This is a big thumbs up from us, and while this is a short review, it is because to say more would risk talking about it for ages–it truly is a Hallowfest favourite, so go, watch, and enjoy!

And if you want to talk about any of those themes at length, come on at find us on twitter, or comment here!

The Brood and The Fly; or Damn, Creation Is a Messy Business

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Twofer Tuesday, where it takes two to tango or write a review, apparently! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they settle in for an evening where the only thing that could possibly kill their buzz is rage babies and men merged with insects–oh damn.

Today’s Film Offerings: The Fly & The Brood

Lilly: Being Canadian, I figured maybe we ought to do a David Cronenberg double bill, because when his films mention ‘Halifax’, it’s the Halifax I know, and I get a cheap thrill from that.

So, let’s get started with our favourite Cronenberg film, The Fl

Andy: The Broo–wait, what?

Lilly: No, your favourite, not the one we just watched.

Andy: That IS my favourite.

Lilly: I can’t even look at you. So I’ll start!

Fly_poster.jpgThe Fly is the story of Dr.Seth Brundle, played by the inexplicably hot Jeff Goldblum, who has developed a teleportation device. He is so excited about it, he does what every drug dealer knows not to do–he uses the merchandise, aka his own experiment, to only have it go horrifically wrong. Remember that episode of The Simpson’s Treehouse of Terror where Bart melds with a fly? It’s that, but with Geena Davis and gross bits of fly anatomy you’ve never thought about horrifically appearing on Jeff Goldblum’s person, something you’ve thought way too much about. Or is that last part just me?

This is a film I’ve seen a few times and still get all the jeebiest of heebies. I admit, body horror isn’t really my thing (I squirm and say ‘nope’ a lot) yet I can’t look away as the highly engaging character of Dr.Brundle becomes less man and more monster. At one point, Seth muses that perhaps he was an insect dreaming he was a man all this time, and hot damn, what a strangely powerful idea. Mortality is explored through the (many) lensed eye of a man who has accidentally empowered himself beyond caring about aesthetics and humanity and I will sit through Brundle taking his teeth out for that weirdness.

Speaking of teeth, the effects of this film are disgusting. As they should be. Brundlefly is so fleshy and abhorrent, the makeup job starts becoming almost less noticeable with its extensiveness. Also, his horrific looks challenge not only Geena but the audience, as he claims to have never felt better when good gosh, he looks the worst. If you look like you’ve been left too long in the microwave, does it matter if you can climb on the ceiling? I keep watching The Fly to figure out if I have an answer for that.

Beyond the horror of Brundle’s transformation is the fact that Veronica (Geena Davis’ character) is watching him turn into this thing that he will not admit is a monster. It’s like watching a loved one turn to drugs or other destructive vices that momentarily promise something more but ultimately destroy you in front of those who care. You can question whether or not the choice the other is making is right, but when they are losing facial bones and turning into a fly in front of your eyes, I feel like that is definitely intervention time.

brood_poster_01.jpgAndy: The Brood, on the other hand may lack some of The Fly’s emotional depth, but it makes it up through sheer, glorious unpredictability. It follows a man trying to hold body and soul together after the worst possible events have transpired in his small family: his wife has ended up at an asylum.

This is no ordinary asylum though (of course it isn’t, it’s horror) and had Doctor Oliver Reed–

Lilly: The inexplicably hot Oliver Reed.

Andy: Wait, where did that chin come from?

Lilly: Inexplicably HOT chin!

Andy: Anyway. He seeks to treat patients in an unusual way: by forcing mental problems to manifest as physical ones.

Aaand right about there, several of you have felt a shiver up your spine. Imagine seeing your depression, or anxiety, or in my case inattentive-type ADHD manifest itself on your body. Ewww.

Lilly: Seriously, that one part alone had me all squirmy. Can people do that! Is that a thing!

Andy: Of course, that’s only part of the problem. The other part is that tiny versions of his daughter seem to be murdering those around him. Oh no!

Lilly: Hate it when that happens!

Andy: It’s an awesome movie, told well, and it utterly transfixed me from start to finish. The Fly is amazing, but for me, The Brood stole my heart.

Lilly: Which I can get. I was so creeped out by the cult therapist that I found it difficult to get to the horror bit without already being icked out. I thought his mishandling and overly personal treatment of patients was the horror, having no idea what the film was about going into it. I barely noticed the first hints of the physical manifestations in the beginning because a) I thought it was a play and b) I was busy thinking about how inexplicably hot Oliver Reed was. Is he wearing nursing scrubs! Why is that hot! What is happening! Now, my inability to follow plot isn’t any fault of the movie’s, but rather my own fault for getting swept up into the weird style of therapy that I clearly just wasn’t supposed to hone in on so closely.

So we’ve got two options this Tuesday, as always, and they are somewhat different but also share some elements. We’ve got a film about science causing a man to look at his life, look at his choices, and we’ve got a film about what if emotional anger was physically manifested? You will get body horror in both, and you will question your taste in men in both, so what more could you ask for! Oh, I know, Canadian accents now and again! Win!

So, it’s a recommendation to watch both from both of us! What other David Cronenberg films do you like, readers? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter @Hallowoctobilm!

The Beyond; or Cover Your Eyes Not Out of Fear But For Safety

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Sorry Mary! Monday, where we get down with the video nasty list to see what’s so nasty about the films listed! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they stand at the top of the basement stairs, discussing who has to go down and check where the water that is flooding in in coming from, and also maybe figure out who is screaming down there.

Today’s Film Offering: The Beyond

Andy: If there’s one genre that can possibly stand letting narrative conventions go from time to time, it’s horror. I mean, nightmares don’t make a lot of sense, right?

So then, Lucio Fulci.

the-beyond-movie-poster-1982-1010685606.jpgFittingly for a movie with this title, we’ve reached the limit of what most people, even horror fans, would consider comfortable, and found ourselves on the other side. Something like Halloween, Alien or even The Exorcist can excite a giddy thrill after a few viewings rather than terror. I’m not sure whether I’m the sort of horror fan that would ever feel that about this movie.

Lilly: While Andy isn’t sure, I’m definitely sure–I’m never going to sit and watch this whole film and be like ‘on loop, let’s do it again, fun!’ I need a break. A long one. It’s not me, it’s you, The Beyond.

Andy: The plot, although bearing in mind what I said about narrative, concerns an old hotel in Louisiana. Here, an angry mob attacked two people residing there in 1927, brutally nailing one up to the basement wall.

Lilly: Not to mention scaring the doorman, or really, it seemed like he was only mildly perturbed, but hey, we don’t know, maybe this happens all the time at this hotel.

Andy: Unfortunately for angry mob, it appears that the house is built on one of the seven gates of Hell, and their creative act of murder has opened it.

Lilly: Which must have really hurt the artist, who had been painting up a fury to try and really capture the horror of the place. All that work, and apparently all he had to do was nail someone to a wall? Damn it.

Andy: Flash forward to 1981, and the hotel is being renovated by the new owner. Unfortunately, people keep having exceptionally nasty, uh, accidents. Especially after one poor bastard goes to try and fix a leak in the basement…

Lilly: And not just at the hotel do these accidents happen–oh ho no. Anyone trying to find out anything about the hotel learns pretty quickly that the first rule of Hell Hotel Club is don’t try and find out anything about Hell Hotel Club.

Andy: This movie 110% isn’t for everyone. It’s extremely, extremely gruesome and visceral, with all sorts of unpleasant stuff happening to all sorts of people. Neither is it particularly coherent, and in the eternal style of Italian horror, the acting is pretty dreadful.

Lilly: Plus, not to spoil the gore, but it seems like someone on the design team visited some FX going-out-of-business sale and bought all their eye gore gags and decided to use them all in the same film. I was grossed out, and not in a fun way, but more a ‘enoooough already’ way. Which, hey, might be some people’s thing, but it’s a nope from me.

Andy: Still though, there’s something here. The ending is fantastically sinister, almost Lovecraftian in what it implies. Plus I dig any movie that plays with the idea of Hell being something other than a big fiery lake. Other than that though, holy mackerel is this not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Lilly: This is a film I’d suggest only after knowing 100% that a person would like it, definitely. It has a good mystery going, and the visuals will definitely stick with me, but I’m not sure if that is a good thing? Is it flattering to know your film is something I never want to watch again if you were aiming to terrify a person at a deeper level? If so, you’re welcome, Mr.Fulci.

So, if you are into gory, grim mysteries with the undead and a threat of Hell breaking out, then this could be your film! If not…maybe check out one of the other Sorry Mary! Monday offerings, or anything else we’ve reviewed. We wouldn’t blame you.


Friday the 13th Part III; or Friday Harder, This Time It’s Personal

Hello and Hallo-welcome to Sequel Sunday, where we revisit some franchises that maybe we should never have returned to. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, in life-like 3D, having developed a new dimension in horror reviewing.

Today’s Film Offering: Friday the 13th Part III

220px-Friday_the_13th_Part_III_(1982)_theatrical_poster.jpgLilly: Turns out, in this sequel to Friday the 13th, it doesn’t matter if you go to Camp Crystal Lake at all, because Jason will take his show on the road and come to you! In Friday the 13th Part III, a group of young people are just trying to have fun at their friend’s old family home, located on Crystal Lake–well, okay, so Jason doesn’t go that far, but he was pretty badly beaten up, so give the guy a break.

The film kicks off with a couple of shop owners getting Jason’d pretty quickly, so we know what’s coming (oh right, it’s a Friday the 13th film!), and their murders are done with moments of ‘whoooaaa’ 3D, with knives thrusting and laundry blowing (whoooooa–wait, why is she hanging things out at night, surely sunlight is the key to this–whooooaaa watch out, it’s JASON).

Andy: You love this crap, don’t you?


Anyway, our return to Crystal Lake is shared by the new batch of Jason-bait, headed by Chris Higgins, whose family owns the ridiculously sized home on Crystal Lake (but then, the real estate there is likely cheap what with all the murdering and tragic accidents). She brings along her pregnant friend and the pregnant friend’s boyfriend, their incredibly hateable friend, Shelley (he’s a prankster!) who is set up on a date with Vera, who is clearly not into her date, blind or not, plus two stoners who…I don’t know, I just knew I’d miss them when they were gone.

Andy: Oh yeah, those guys!

Lilly: Who? Oh right, the stoners. Right.

So, they get to Crystal Lake (after running into an old man who literally is the smartest in the film, yelling about how they should turn back) and meet up with Chris’ boyfriend because Friday the 13th is all about making single people feel bad–even that awful shop keeper guy had a girlfriend/wife! Gosh.

The film then becomes a will they/won’t they story, ‘they’ being Jason, and the will or won’t being whether he will kill every teen he comes across, or just a few. Spoiler–this is Friday the 13th, what do you think!

We also learn that Chris has a secret reason to have come out to the incredibly nice house with her friends–she had been attacked there years earlier so thought ‘why not go back there?’ and then continued that train of thought to ‘with my pregnant friend and a few others I sort of know’ because why not! Why not bring those people to a place where you were attacked.

Andy: They’re about at the intellectual level of a mold spore. So, normal Friday the 13th victims, then.

Lilly: You can probably guess how this film goes–magnificently, you’re right! There are amazing kills (tie between Andy, the pregnant girl’s boyfriend, and Rick, the boyfriend of Chris’, deaths for my favourites) and some horribly cheesy 3D shots where things are thrust towards the camera for 3D fun. Plus, you must know by now I love cheesy horror, and well. This is that and then some.

Andy: Yeah, this is the point in the series where we’ve officially left the heady uplands of “good” and dived into the occasionally boggy vale of “so-bad-it’s-good”. The entertainment factor for this one is purely in the realm of watching inventive ways of impaling teenagers, and if you’re not on board by now, this one won’t change your mind. It’s also the first movie Jason actually gains his iconic hockey mask, so it has that going for it as well.

Other than that, it’s a Friday the 13th movie. Were you expecting anything else?

Lilly: A 3D Friday the 13th movie, excuse you. It’s fun, is what it is. Is it art? No. Is it deep? Nope. Would I watch it again? Yes, yep, always and forever, yes. Give me those cardboard 3D glasses right now, let’s do this.

And we didn’t even get into the weird biker gang subplot! There is so much to enjoy! Go, watch, and let us know what you think!

The Call of Cthulhu; or Revenge of the Calamari

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Silent Saturday, where we take in a film that is part watching, part reading, and all quiet! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they delve into multiple manuscripts of interviews and confusing, scrawled drawings of ancient beings, labelled with illegible words of a language unknown.

Today’s Film Offering: The Call of Cthulhu

Andy: It’s rare that you come across a movie that’s as obvious a labour of love as this one. Produced by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, this not only aimed to bring his most infamous story and creation to the big screen, but to do it in the style of the time the story was written – all the way back in 1926!

Lilly: So what we have here is actually a cheat day for our silent films–more a homage than a history lesson, if you will!

Andy: For those unfamiliar with HPL’s stories, or the mythos that was created by other writers after his death, here’s a quick primer. Between about 1917 and 1938 (when he died), Lovecraft wrote a number of extremely influential horror stories, creating a genre known as “cosmic horror”. The horror, in most of these stories, comes from revelations that not only are we not alone in the universe, we are utterly insignificant, and there are huge, terrifying things out there that could wipe us out if they so much as looked in our direction. His most famous creation, Cthulhu, embodies this as a huge, ancient sea monster, able to invade our thoughts and drive us mad, and who will inherit the earth whenever it decides to wake up. Gulp.

To those with a passing familiarity, but who haven’t delved into Lovecraft’s sometimes impenetrable and often kinda racist prose (lots of ‘degeneracy through miscegenation’ bullshit), Cthulhu will be familiar. However, it may surprise you to learn that this is the only story in which he appears in, uh, person.

Lilly: It surprised me. And by surprised, I mean angered, because I’ve been hearing about this guy for literal decades of my life and then he only shows up in one story? A SHORT story, at that! Come on. It would be like instead of Sherlock Holmes being prolific, it was Henry Baker from The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle you saw everywhere. Or Moriarity, maybe. If I’m being a bit more forgiving.

CoCDVDfront_grandeAndy: The movie, like the short story, follows a three act structure, with the arc story being a young man reading through his Great Uncle’s notes. A first-hand account with a sensitive and disturbed artist kicks off the story, as he gradually loses and regains his mind over the course of March 1925, and dreams of a nightmare city with a deadly inhabitant – producing awful, fascinating artwork of almost inhuman origin. The second is an account from a detective from New Orleans, who comes across a similar sculpture while breaking up a dangerous cult in 1908.

The third is the account of a Norwegian sailor, who’s crew comes across an island after a deadly storm in March 1925, and begin to explore the city at the summit. A city that a certain artist would find very familiar, and with an ancient and terrible tomb that slowly opens…

Lilly: Tension! Mystery! Shock! Horror! Eye blood!

While Andy clearly comes to this film from the angle of a Lovecraft fan, I come from the angle of a movie fan, and I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed. It was excellently paced, artfully shot, and one of the most important things with silent films, I’m finding, was it was able to tell the story in short bursts of text, not wasting all the time to title everything said, depending on the actors and the atmosphere to give us context. They clearly get that silent films aren’t just subtitled talkies. Not everything needs to be told to us as an audience, and that actually really suits Lovecraft’s style of writing. He was all about the massive build up with little given away.

This was one of those films you can tell was a labour of love, and I approve of that, especially when it comes out as good as The Call of Cthulhu. We both enjoyed it, and you know that is a sign of a good adaptation, when a devoted fan of the text and a relative novice to the Lovecraftian world can sit down together and find some enjoyment. It’s a thumbs up and recommendation from us! Go, watch, enjoy!

An American Werewolf in London; or We Cannot Warn You Enough About Not Walking on the Moors During a Full Moon

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Furry Friday, where the wolves are weres! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, who have been seen drinking pina coladas at Trader Vic’s, and their hair was perfect.

Today’s Film Offering: An American Werewolf in London

71-G6SEAAuL._SY445_Lilly: Not to be confused with An American Werewolf in Paris (reviewed last year!), An American Werewolf in London is–

Andy: Actually good?

Lilly: Yeah, basically. But we get ahead of ourselves!

David and Jack, two Americans (spoiler! Not, it is in the title) are backpacking through the sexy, popular destination for all young folks–Britain! And, as it tends to happen on backpacking trips, the pair are attacked by a large wolf, leaving David brutalized, sent off to hospital in London, and Jack dead. And a ghost. But he isn’t the only one who is now a supernatural creature…gasp! (Spoiler! Not, it is in the title.)

Andy: Let’s just say he’s now allergic to silver and Kevin KcKidd.

Lilly: More than just a coming-of-mange (get it?!) story, the film explores David’s struggle with survivor’s guilt (the fire of which is fanned by the pesky poltergeist his buddy has become) and his growing fear of what he’s become.

The first thing that comes to mind with this wereclassic is the effects and makeup. Not only do you get the bone-crunchingly awful transformation scene, but also Jack’s steady decay.

Andy: It’s a surprisingly brisk film, with an awful lot of plot packed into 90 minutes or so, but never feels rushed. Also, the transformation scene is at once the most painful-looking yet most awesomely executed well, ever. It’s amazing and sidles this one riiight up to Dog Soldiers in my “Favourite Werewolf Movie List”. It’s very, very good.

Huh, I just realised they’re both set in the UK. I guess when it comes to werewolves, I’m surprisingly provincial.

Lilly: That, and as they are both semi-comedies, you get the UK style humour which is more your bag.

Andy: The only criticism I have, and it really is a mild one, is that the movie sometimes has a confusion of tone. David’s story is horrific and tragic, but it is occasionally treated with an unwarranted lightness. Playing “Blue Moon” while he transforms is a stroke of genius, but having every other song on the soundtrack have “moon” in the title feels like a joke stretched too thin.

Lilly: Meanwhile, I love that, because sometimes, you just want a film to constantly nudge you with a bit of ‘eh, eh?’ humour.

My main criticism is why on Earth would Alex, the lovely nurse, take this man into her home, having him be a murder suspect of Jack’s? It seemed to be really, really suspicious to me, to the point where I was thinking maybe she’s a werewolf, too, so that makes sense! Spoiler, no, it doesn’t.

One last note on this film, which we clearly recommend: the mythology of the werewolves of An American Werewolf in London is so much more clear than other films we’ve watched (see: Dog Soldiers) and I dig that. The idea that Jack was doomed to walk the Earth until the werewolf that killed him and those of his bloodline were dead was a nice little bit of werewolf mythos. I like seeing different takes on this classic horror creature, much like you get with vampires, but some films don’t really flesh it all out. This film was certainly not guilty of that.

So, that’s a thumbs up from us! Go, watch, and enjoy! Meanwhile, if you have any werewolf films you want to suggest, or any films of any type to have us check out, let us know! We’re on twitter @hallowoctobfilm and on facebook!

Gerald’s Game; or Best Day Ever, Signed Dog

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another #ThrowForwardThursday, where we check out what’s new and scary. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they consider what is scarier–facing the fact of a fading marriage that was never that passionate to begin with or a murderous figure looming over you in the middle of the night, eyes shining in the moonlight.

Today’s Film Offering: Gerald’s Game

Geralds-Game-movie-posterAndy: Whatever else, this has one of the best setups for a horror/thriller I have seen in awhile. You’re handcuffed to a bed in the middle of nowhere – what do you do to escape?

Lilly: Scream! Twist around a lot! Cry!

Andy: Hypothetical.

Lilly: Say ‘Beetlejuice’ three tim–oh. Hypothetical.

Andy: Anyway. That’s the situation facing Jessie after, on a romantic weekend away, her husband Gerald’s ill-advised sex game goes wrong after he suffers a fatal heart attack.

Lilly: Hate it when that happens.

Andy: Painfully limited in her movement, Jessie has to think her way through a situation where even the bathroom sink might as well be in Central Asia, and it’s one of those fun “what would I do” movies, apart from anything else.

Lilly: Which I’m here to tell you, Andy loves. He’s the guy who holds his breath during underwater scenes in films to see if he could hold his breath as a long as the character on screen.

Andy: Yeah, The World Is Not Enough was a challenge.

Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood play Jessie and Gerald, in a spot of ideal casting, as well as the idealised versions of themselves that appear as hallucinations – remarkably, Jessie is pretty much the only ‘real’ character in the movie: the only other players are a dog that comes in and starts snacking on Gerald (you can almost hear the “Sweet! Free food!”). Oh, and a large, deformed man who lurks in the corner at night and who Head!Gerald describes as “death”. So that’s nice.

Apart from the surface issues, Jessie’s predicament represents deeper forces at bay – her marriage to Gerald had chained her down a long time before the handcuffs came along – and you can read all sorts of interesting stuff into it about the nature of the traps we build into our own lives. And if you don’t want to do that, it’s a really good thriller.

Lilly: It’s a really gripping watch, no matter what angle you look at it. From the point of view of purely ‘How is she getting out of this?’, you had me at ‘Hello, I’m handcuffed in the middle of no where and oh, we left the door open so stray dogs can come in (among other things)’. As the film goes along, and more and more mental traps are sprung as Jessie’s mind starts to fizzle from the predicament she is in, it is almost as if you are being told by the film over and over ‘but it could always be worse’. And to watch as Jessie tries to prove to herself (literally, since she imagines herself speaking to her) she can persevere is nail-bitingly good.

Also, as an exploration of character, it was well done. It explored an angle of abuse and survival that isn’t as overt as some films, which I was…well, it is hard to put a word to it, but it is good to see that ‘the worst’ we can imagine in human nature isn’t the only form of abuse shown to be damaging, and how just denying someone the truth of their reality can mentally scar them.

Andy: This was adapted from a Stephen King novel, and mostly confirms in my head that his stories are most effective onscreen if they are these smaller, personal stories. There’s echoes of Misery in here, and while we’ve given positive reviews to both IT and The Shining this year, the first works by cutting half of the story out, and the other is far more Kubrick’s beast than King’s. This one is very faithful, and definitely worth your time. Recommend from me!

Lilly: It’s a definite recommend from me–see how we didn’t spoil it?

Andy: Who is this ‘we’?

Lilly: That is how much we want you to go and watch it.

Andy: Also, as a fan of The Dark Tower series of books, hearing Gerald say “All things serve the Beam” made my little nerd heart sing. Yes, it was fanservice-y, but meh, a little bit of that every now and again never hurt anyone.


The Shining; or All Work and No Play is a Typical Work Week, Jack

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another How Have We Not Reviewed this Wednesday, where we take a look at ourselves and a look at our review choices. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, just as they are about to check in to a certain (in)famous hotel, even if they have their doubts that they were imagining the blood they just saw get off the elevator.

Today’s film offering: The Shining

download (1)Andy: The Shining. What can we possibly say about it that nobody has ever said before?

Not a lot really. This movie has been poured over, picked apart, and ground to a fine powder enough that they even made another movie just to explore all of the theories – Room 237. It regularly appears on lists as one of the greatest horror movies ever, it features one of the most iconic and over-referenced scenes in horror (Heeere’s Johnny!) and is maddeningly ambiguous enough for people to genuinely think it was about Kubrick confessing to faking the moon landing. Seriously.

Lilly: Basically, all we can add is ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s at this point, frankly.

Andy: So, what makes it so bizarrely compelling to such a large number of people? Well, last year I criticised the 1999 remake The Haunting, a movie that removed the ambiguity of whether there are in fact any ghosts in the house, prevalent in the original novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Here, Kubrick essentially does the opposite. In the (pretty decent) Stephen King original, the hotel is definitely haunted, and we learn an awful lot of the backstory of what made the hotel so messed up. Kubrick threw almost all of that out.

Lilly: Plot maybe?

Andy: Kind of.

We spend almost all of our time with our three protagonists, and all the supernatural goings-on are witnessed through them. We’ve seen unreliable narrators before, obviously (a personal favorite being Patrick Bateman in American Psycho), but never quite like this. The movie is filled with moments which on a first viewing you can miss, but that you’ll kick yourself for another time through. For example, Jack never looks directly at a ghost when speaking to them. Instead, he looks into a nearby mirror. You can’t unsee it, and it’s seriously off kilter.

Lilly: And on the umpteenth viewing, you are questioning why anyone would ever go anywhere with Jack because he’s a huge creep and there is no two ways about it–it’s not like he is ever a comfortable presence. I can’t tell when he goes insane because he always sounds insane to me. There is always that underlying aggression. But then, I suppose that is why the hotel has the effect it does.

There is something in The Shining that makes us go back, though. Something that drives a documentary, something that has me rewatching, something that still holds on to those who return to it again and again.

So for those of you who haven’t seen it (HOW!), The Shining is a story of a man and his family who take on the role of caretakers at The Overlook hotel for their closed winter season. Seems like they don’t have a regular guy to do that anymore for reasons (mumblemumble murder mumble madness mumble), so Jack and his wife (and little Doc, too!) head up to what could only be a long winter of tending to pipes and making sure nothing breaks too horribly. Plus, Jack will have time to write his book! Finally! A story about a writer from Stephen King, imagine that!

Andy: GASP well color me shocked.

Lilly: Anyway, we then get introduced to the notion of ‘the shining’, a power Doc and a friendly hotel worker share and really only gets used like once in the film but sure, relevant enough for the title. The shining is the ability to see things that aren’t there, or to see the future, or to talk to each other in your mind, or to have a little guy in your finger named Tony or…whatever it is, it is helpful, okay?

So, the hotel isn’t all it seems (or is exactly what it seems since it looks terrifying) and something (or someone) starts poking and prodding at the sanity of the family members as they go about their days. It is only a matter of time, a viewer can quickly glean, before someone breaks.

Perhaps that is what brings me specifically back for viewings. Maybe the desire to watch for more and more little details as to who is going to break brings me back. Even though I know what is going to happen (and even knew before I saw it thanks to a slumber party and a friend recounting the story as if it was a true story that happened to a friend of a friend of a friend, not to mention The Simpson’s spoof, The Shinning), I still find pleasure in the little touches that Kubrick and crew put into the film to bring you in on the secret of The Overlook.

Andy: An example, and a personal favorite, is that if you pay attention, the external building and the internal layout make absolutely no sense whatsoever and bear no relation to each other. It’s one of those things, like the mirror thing, where unconsciously you’ll know something’s off, but it takes real effort to actually spot it.

So I take it we’re recommending this one.

Lilly: Well, what do you think?

Andy: Bonus fun: if you get stuck watching this with a pair of insufferable bores who love this movie (like us!), watch for and loudly point out the visible helicopter shadow seen in the opening. It’s a great movie, an intriguing movie, almost an addictive movie, but it’s not quite perfect.