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.

Poltergeist(s, 1982 & 2015); or They’re Both Heeeeeeeere

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Twofer Tuesday, where it’s double the pleasure, double the fun! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they argue about whether their house is built on an ancient burial ground or a local graveyard that was supposedly moved than wasn’t, and which would be a worse scenario.

Today’s Film Offerings: Poltergeist (1982 & 2015)

Lilly: A Poltergeist isn’t your average friendly ghost (see: Casper or Bruce Willis), but an entity that literally cannot even with the living and wants them gone, girl. That’s the message from the two films we are looking at today, anyway, so let’s get started with the 1982 Poltergeist, shall we?

Andy: Okay, well–what is that light in the other room? One second. You sum it up.

Poltergeist-1982-movie-poster-1Lilly: Picture it: Suburbia, 1982. In the first of a set of newly built middle-class dwellings, we find the Freelings. A typical nuclear family of wife, husband, and two and a half kids, the Freelings are set up as being loving, lovely, and just trying to settle in to the neighbourhood, which the father (played by Craig T.Nelson, or everyone’s favourite Coach) helped build and design. They have an anxious teenage daughter, a son afraid of thunderstorms, and the stupidly adorable Carol Ann. They are happy, even if their tv is somehow controlled by their neighbour’s remote and the mother has anxieties about their children drowning in the pool they are digging in the backyard.

Then, Carol Ann starts talking to the people in the TV.

Andy: lilly where are you I cant see

Lilly: So, 1982 was a strange time, I gather from this film. First off, not everyone knew who Mr.Rogers was. Second, when Carol Ann is staring at television static, her mother says ‘That isn’t good for you!’, flipping the channel to put on a war film in mid jungle battle scene. Ah, better! Of course, she could also watch the football game with her father and his angry friends (one guy literally didn’t stop yelling the entire scene and I’m not sure he was using words), which actually seems to be just a series of tackles on the screen. Or, turn off the tv and listen to the soothing sounds of her father yelling at the guy next door…You getting a theme here? There’s a theme.

And guess what! Violence in the modern day isn’t the only thing this film brings to mind! Oh no! It also brings the desecration of graves into the mix, because guess what! The neighbourhood is built on an old graveyard and apparently ghosts hate that. If you take anything away from the Poltergeist films, it is that fact.

Poltergeist explores the normalization of violence in the modern world, where modernity is more important than respect of others, as we see in the fights over a television remote and the whole graveyard being built over thing. Even the act of ghostly hands moving Carol Ann across the floor is normalized by the Freelings–give her a helmet and that’ll be fine! Fine, having ghosts in the kitchen!

Andy: help lilly

Lilly: A film that was originally slated to be directed by Spielberg, who only ended up writing it and producing it, it was taken on by the late Tobe Hooper (known for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre among other things) yet written by the same guy who wrote E.T, and boy, can you feel that. It’s like a slightly more scary Disney horror film–it could fall into line with Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown, or that one that the Olson twins did (I want to say Double Double Toil and Trouble because obvious title is obvious). It has a bit heavier imagery and a few more adult situations, but 1982’s Poltergeist is the horror film people who don’t watch horror films could watch when they were a kid. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good, or that I didn’t enjoy it–it just means it is a gentler take on the story of a haunted family.

2015, however? All bets are off. This shit is getting spooky.

Poltergeist_2015_poster.pngFirst things first, this is the Bowen family, and in case you have any doubts about them being just a Freeling knock-off, well, rest assured, dear readers, the beloved family they are not. The father, Eric, is a sarcastic asshole who is bitter about being laid off and won’t let you forget it, but also won’t let his wife go back to work because man reasons and ugh and life. Amy is a mother on the edge, clearly worn down by her manchild husband, angsty teen, boy with a million neurosis (though zombies aren’t one of them?) and totally not stupid adorable daughter (but Carol Ann had really set that bar high). They were more realistic, sure, but holy cow, did the new twist on the family dynamic seem to really kick off the darkness of this reimagining.

Something I did not mention was my love for the original medium extraordinaire, Tangina, but if I loved her, I died and came back with undead adoration for this film’s ghost hunting, charismatic Carrigan Burke (maybe a bit of film fun, using ‘Burke’, as in the grave robbers Burke and Hare). He strolled in with all his charm and confidence and stupid hat, and I was sold the moment he showed his war wound. What a strange thing to change, but then, I guess with making the father so hateable, they needed to throw in a male role model who didn’t whine about having to parent, I suppose. You had to believe someone wanted to get Maddi out of the wall, and it was hard to think Eric didn’t want to get her just because no ghosts were going to get one over him, damn it! First John Deere, now the undead!

This version focused more on the son and his finding of his bravery than anything else–and I didn’t really know why. I suppose it was trying to convince me that his strength was to being admired, along with his vulnerability but I think the anger and disdain for him was waaaay to amped up to make it read that way. I rooted for him because his family seemed to hate him past a surface level–like sure, put the kid with a nerve problem up in the attic, and just try and play catch with him even though he clearly isn’t into it and…yeah. It was like I was as scared of his father pushing him to breaking with his masculine bullshit as much as the unearthly forces haunting the family. Maybe that was the point? If so, well played, movie. If not, well.

You might be able to tell I didn’t like it as much as the original. However, that isn’t entirely true. I found it actually really hard to compare them, when I got down to it. One is the story of a family fighting to get one of their own back while the other is the story of one boy trying to save his family, and that is two really different narratives. It all depends on what you are feeling. 1982 gives you family romps with horror elements while 2015 gives you horror with moments of familial discord that is cured by the power they find within themselves to fight the supernatural. Whichever you are into, you’ll find your fit of suburban ghost story in one of the two!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to be going–Andy got sucked into our closet as we started writing the review and I’ve got a few parapsychologists from the local university coming plus a charming rogue of the ghost hunting world I’ve got to freshen up for. This house will be clear, yet!

Go, watch, and enjoy!

Dead and Buried; or The Tale of the Lying Movie Title

Hello and Hallo-welcome to this week’s Sorry Mary! Monday, where we figure out if all video nasties are as bad as the list makes them out to be! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they head for that quaint little town no one’s heard of that may or may not have some horrible secret–you never can tell with these things!

Today’s Film Offering: Dead & Buried

dead_and_buried.preview.jpgAndy: This is exactly the kind of ridiculous awesome nonsense we hoped we would find in plunging into the video nasties list. Dead & Buried manages to be, by turns, an intriguing mystery, a nasty little horror picture and social comedy, and even ends it with a fantastic twist, all in under 80 minutes. Cool!

Our story begins with “Freddie”, a doomed photographer who goes from working to flirting to burned at the stake within the space of five minutes.

Lilly: Three of those minutes being spent taking poorly framed pictures of sea weed and driftwood and I’m not joking.

Andy: Of course, then he turns up later, looking perfectly fine, as does a fisherman who we see harpooned. What on earth is going on?

Local cop Dan wants to know as well, and what begins is an attempt to discover the dark secrets lurking behind the town of Potter’s Bluff. But who is responsible? Could it be Dobbs, the coroner (played by Jack Albertson, better known as Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), or even Dan’s wife, Janet?

Lilly: Gasp!

Andy: Meanwhile, people are still being brutally killed…

Lilly: Double gasp!

Andy: To say too much more would destroy the fun of an underseen and seriously bizarre little movie. It’s really worth going into this one knowing as little as possible. A word to the wise, it is gory in some fairly unpleasant ways (syringe, meet eyeball), but we also finished it with big goofy grins on our faces.

Lilly: It really is a strange romp into murder mystery/otherwordly goings-on, and I might even go so far as to say I’ve not really seen something like it before. Plus, I agree with Andy’s point about saying much more, and I LOVE spoiling things in these reviews. I really wanted to know what the heck was going on, and I hope you readers will, too! It has some fun characters, some fun gore, and some fun ‘runrunRUN’ moments of menace, and is super compact! No wasted time in this film, really–which is the opposite of yesterday’s review, come to think.

Plus! Bonus Robert Englund! I never knew I wanted a team up of Grandpa Joe and Freddy Krueger, but now that I’ve had it, well, I want more!

Andy: So, there you have it! It’s a recommendation from us, in this short review for a short movie!

The Conjuring 2; or Ed and Lorraine Warren Are Our OTP

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Sequel Sunday, where we look at the next chapters of horror stories. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, who found one person who believed in them, so they married them.

Today’s Film Offering: The Conjuring 2

MV5BZjU5OWVlN2EtODNlYy00MjhhLWI0MDUtMTA3MmQ5MGMwYTZmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjE5MTM4MzY@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_Lilly: In The Conjuring 2, we join Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal adventurers, as they are brought into the story of the Enfield Haunting, a ‘real’ case of a series of events in Enfield, London, that terrorized a family, specifically a young girl named Janet. Maybe they can solve this one, even if in reality, Ed and Lorraine were barely present during the Enfield happenings, but whatever, Ed, grab your guitar and charm the ghosts away!

Andy: The real case is actually kinda interesting, as the two guys on the scene still maintain there was something going on, but everyone else thinks it was hogwash. Also fun diversion: We tried ghost hunting here at Hallowfest precisely once. We downloaded an app to pick up voices.

…After the first two it picked up were “BLOOD HERE” and “NO PRIEST” it stopped being fun and we turned it off.

Lilly: Yeeep. Anyway. in what was a media circus of the time, this film touches on the very real possibility that young Janet is what is behind all the events happening in the Hodgson home, but merrily tosses aside the possibility pretty early on by bringing all the kids into the ghostly mix, with some pretty blatant otherwordly goings-on decidedly placing the Enfield Haunting heavily into the realm of the supernatural. Grey area? Unless you’re talking about the greying flesh of the undead, there is no grey here!

Andy: Having said that, though, the movie does go to some lengths to ground the movie in the real world. Belief in the supernatural and fictionalisation of the story aside, this feels like it could have happened. It doesn’t feel fantastical.

Lilly: The Warrens, who, after only one film, seem to be ‘too old for this shit’ and looking to retire from the cases due to Lorraine’s visions of Ed’s death (a good reason to pack it in), are called in by the church to check in overseas and see if they ought to get involved. The church reasons that they cannot help people if their street cred is bad, which is legit, so the Warrens go to Enfield to try and help not only their church friends, but the family, because damn it, that’s what Warrens do!

The Conjuring 2 is a good follow up to its predecessor, rolling out new monsters (a demon nun AND a crooked man!) with the same charm of the first film, mainly resting on the shoulders of the two leads, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. The Warren’s are pure #relationshipgoals, from my favourite scene featuring Ed painting to them separately telling Janet how damn happy they are to have found each other. It’s odd, but in a world of horror films featuring sexy teens having sex and hot female survivors hooking up with hot male survivors, it’s nice to see a couple who clearly sits and crochets together as much as saves the day, all while having major love and admiration for each other. I believed it when Ed said he trusted Lorraine, and not just because the film said they were husband and wife so they ought to. Someone put the effort into making sure that, even with them being over the top at time (Elvis serenades, I’m dying), Ed and Lorraine were real.

Andy: Fun activity – notice every time Ed demonstrates proficiency at a skill. Between this movie and its predecessor, he’s a painter, plumber, guitarist and singer, and mechanic, in addition to an accomplished demonologist, medium and agent for the Vatican. He’s like a superhero.

Lilly: As far as the story went, it all depends on what you were looking for. When I heard it was going to be about the Enfield Haunting, I was pretty damned intrigued, but if I went in expecting it to be the story of, well, anything real I’d have been a bit confused–and if you are feeling like you wanted that, why not check out the 2015 miniseries, The Enfield Haunting, a really well done adaptation of the story that was a bit more grounded in reality–but as a general rule, horror claiming to be ‘based on a true story’ is going to be two streets over, one street down, and well around the corner from anything nearing the truth of the situation it is based on, and we all know that.

Andy: If anything, this’ll make you want to look at the real case, so I count it as a win. I like this movie. It’s a good entryway into these sorts of movies, what with Super-Ed making us all feel safe and it’s all nicely shot. The only criticism I have of it is that it’s a little long. We have the wrap-up of the previous movie’s cliffhanger, Life At Home with the Warrens, the haunting before they get there, the haunting AFTER they get there, and several more twists and turns after that. It’s … ponderous, and about 45 minutes longer than most movies we review.

Lilly: Which, if that was 45 minutes of Ed doing random hobbies of his, from, I don’t know, shoeing horses to flying a two seater plane and hand sewing hot air balloons, I’d be down for it, but it does seem like the story of Ed and Lorraine winding down in their paranormal shenanigans was mushed into the story of Enfield pretty awkwardly. I’d rather a third film of them retiring and doing one last gig, but this started with that to then turn into ‘or IS IT’ and I’m not really sure I liked the weird turn in tone. Cutting the film down for time might have helped avoid that.

That said, The Conjuring 2 gets a big thumbs up from me. If I’m honest, I’d watch those Warren kids get up to anything, so my bias definitely shows, but even if you forgot them (how!), this is a solid ghostly mystery of a family being menaced, and we’re on board. There are some neat transition shots, some awesome makeup effects, and whoever styled Patrick Wilson and all his dad sweaters, well, I salute you. Plus, you know it is an enjoyable film to have Andy still like it even though it uses The Clash’s London Calling when showing London–it’s a pet peeve of his which often leads to long rages, and this time, it was allowed!

Of course, we’d love to hear from you, readers! What did you think? Did you enjoy the second Warren Family Fun Adventure, or was the first enough for you? What is your favourite thing Ed Warren gets up to? Have you checked out the Annabelle spin-offs, or will you check out the spin-off the nun of this film is reportedly getting? Let us know, on Twitter, in the comments, or on Facebook!

Nosferatu; or Count Who?

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Silent Saturday, where we look at films that were pre-talkie but that doesn’t make them pre-spooky! You join your reviewer, Lilly, as she turns to face the sun in a dramatic manner before bursting into flames–mind the smoke!

Today’s Film Offering: Nosferatu

Well hi there, readers! I’m back and better than–no, actually, I’m still sick, but I’ve taken on the challenge today of a solo review of a film I’ve seen far more times than I ever, ever meant to. It’s Nosferatu!

51V5A2lta3L._SY450_.jpgFollowing a story that is suspiciously like Dracula but totally isn’t Dracula thanks to a lack of rights to the novel and its characters, Nosferatu tells the story of a young man, Harding, who goes to a strange count’s home to sell him some land, finding out once there that his host is hardly human. He’s a vamp–wait, no, he’s a nosferatu, or ‘bird of death’! And Harding just up and sold the house beside his own to the fiend! Gasp! Cue a romp with such delightful scenes as the Count comically tip toeing along an alley with a coffin in his arms to a brilliant disappearing act on the part of the Count when the rooster crows.

Jokes aside, this 1922 romp is a film which is hinted at in just about any vampire film you’ll see that followed it. From a shadow that lurks on its own to posing dramatically while you burn to death, Nosferatu is a best hits of vampire (it’s so vampires, sorry) horrors, and rightfully so. Orlok is so other-wordly, that even if you somehow don’t count him as a head vampire in the history of blood suckers, he at least gets a place at the table with the others movie monsters of history.

Let’s talk about Orlok, actually. The Count is nothing like the charming Dracula we have come to accept, with Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman making him a gentleman fiend. No, the Count is horrific because of his otherness that isn’t masked at all. He looks terrifying at all times–there is no mistaking him for a human, yet he still manages to be in a city center. There is almost a blind comfort in the fact that you can’t see Bela and Gary coming, another face in the crowd that surprises you at the last moment before your doom, while Count Orlok can be seen a mile off yet he still can get you. You see him coming, but there’s nothing you can do about it. He is like the Black Death that the villagers assume is what is killing them off, one by one. It was a real threat that you could see everywhere in those dying around you, yet had no idea when it was going to take you–or if it even would at all.

The film’s atmosphere is something else to laude. With one camera, the shots were precise and carefully timed–it is said a metronome was used to make sure the actors kept time with the pace the director wanted. While Nosferatu doesn’t necessarily scare you, it certainly builds an atmosphere of dread with brilliant use of the Northern German countryside for its sets on top of the otherworldly looking lead, Shreck. You aren’t shocked by the film, no shots designed to make you scream, but the imagery sticks, haunting you past the viewing and popping up like a nightmare with glimpses of it in pop culture that you can’t escape.

Got an hour and a half of time? I suggest you check out this 1922 classic, and see just how many of your modern favourites take from Orlok!

Dog Soldiers; or the Kobayashi Marooooo

Hello and Hallo-Welcome to another Furry Friday, where we review a film that features at least a little lycanthrophy! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, who, if you hear them howling at your kitchen door, you better not let ‘em in!

Today’s film offering: Dog Soldiers

Andy: I really feel like more people should know Neil Marshall. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ve seen his work; he directed both the spectacular Blackwater in Season 2 and The Watchers on the Wall in Season 4. But we’re going a bit farther back than that, to the heady days of 2002 and his feature film debut Dog Soldiers.

51WAC7SFK9L.jpgA squad of soldiers on maneuvers in Scotland (say THAT five times fast) come across the remains of their ‘adversary’, special forces who had been on the other side of the exercise. What could take them out in such a hurry? And against such monsters, what chance do they stand? And what’s that howling in the woods?

Werewolves? There! Wolves!

Lilly: There film reviewers!

Andy: And Young Frankenstein joke achieved! Anyway. Lilly is sick today, so this is a slightly shorter one aaand that was her only contribution.

What we have here is both an excellent example and slyly funny subversion of the classic “house under siege” setup made famous by Night of the Living Dead, Assault on Precinct 13 and Patrick Troughton era Doctor Who, and does make you wonder what would have happened if instead of Ben and Barbara, we had a professional team of soldiers armed to the teeth. Will they make a better account of themselves? Not really, seeing as the werewolves here are pretty much invincible, but damn it, they’ll give it a go.

It helps that we have such a likeable bunch of potential dog food in the characters. Four really stand out; Liam Cunningham has great fun playing the only survivor of the first attack and all around complete bastard, Ryan; Kevin McKidd broods with a quiet control he may not really feel as leader Cooper; Sean Pertwee’s sheer charisma carries the early movie before it kicks off; and Darren Morfitt, the most obscure, plays Spoon – one of my favourite characters in a movie, well, ever. He has by far the most quotable lines in the movie.

The effects are somewhat limited – we never see a full transformation – but the wolves themselves are gorgeous, all arms and legs and fur and teeth, seven feet of awful.

Ultimately though, it’s very difficult to do this movie justice in a written review. The dialogue cracks like a Guy Ritchie movie, and every set piece comes together really nicely. I love it. It’s definitely a recommend from me: this may be my favorite werewolf movie.

And remember folks, if Little Red Riding Hood turns up with a bazooka and a bad attitude, you know what to do.

Get Out; or You Think Your In-Laws Are Bad?

Hello and Hallo-Welcome to our second #ThrowForwardThursday, where new horror gets the old Hallowfest treatment. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they watch with growing horror as casual racism builds to a crescendo of race-based violence and mistreatment in the world, leading to pain, sadness, and untimely deaths–and after they finish with the evening news, they put on a film.

Today’s Film Offering: Get Out

Lilly: Sometimes you watch a horror film from a decade or two ago and you get this feeling that you’re missing something, you know? Like you had to have been there, had to have felt the environment in which the work was created, to really get the horror of it and to get what the filmmaker was trying to say.

Andy: What Lilly is trying to say is that Get Out has 2017 written all over it.

We watch a lot of horror here at Hallowfest (you don’t say) and there are a couple of movies that we have to let sit for a couple of days before we decide if we’re going to recommend them. That’s not to say they’re bad, but sometimes movies hide their lights (or we’re tired and slow that day) and it takes us a while to catch on.

Get Out is not one of those movies. It is one of those rare exceptions that is so obviously good, from the first few frames to the credits, that I’m going to say straight up here that we wholeheartedly recommend this one. If you want to stop reading the review right here and take it as a given, we’d be OK with that.

Still here? OK.

get-out-2017-2-862x1366Lilly: Get Out is the story of young love. Well, it’s the story of young love being taken home to meet the parents. Well, it’s the story of young love being taken home to meet the parents when the daughter is white (Rose) and the boyfriend is black (Chris). Enter the Armitage family, by all accounts an open minded, liberal couple. Sure, they have a groundskeeper and a housekeeper who both happen to be black but that’s just because they used to work for their parents, and when they passed, they were practically part of the family and mumble mumble reasoning reasoning.

And if that isn’t awkward enough for you, the Armitage’s have a bit of a secret. They are batshit and just a bit evil. Surprise!

But they said they loved Obama! How could they?

To say anymore would be to spoil it, and this is one we really don’t want to do this with. It’s important you are surprised and pulled along with Chris as he gets to know the Armitage family–part of Get Out’s appeal is how it forces you past where empathy would naturally take you and into the position of doubting your imagination’s capabilities because you just keep getting gut punched.

Andy: It’s fantastic.

A side note, if I may be indulged. Some people may watch this and think that the politics is a little on the nose, especially in a Black Lives Matter era of America. Firstly, I would like to point you attention to our Night of the Living Dead review that we did earlier in the month, another film with explicit racial tensions from the middle of the civil rights era. Then I would like to direct your attention to literally any other horror movie. A movie can no more be apolitical than I can swim in a pool and not get wet, and horror movies are particularly susceptible to this due to reflecting many of the tensions and fears of the time in which they are made. Torture Porn, much derided, appeared in the aftermath of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Ronald Reagan’s Focus on the Family appeared at the same time that promiscuity in horror equalled death. Godzilla and Hiroshima are intimately linked. The list is endless and exhaustive.

So if you watch a movie like Get Out and feel challenged or uncomfortable, or feel it is overstepping its mark, it’s important to ask yourself why, instead of dismissing it as propaganda. Which is a shame anyway, because this, even stripped of any political context, is a cracking good movie. It’s witty, funny, tense and a joy to watch, but it is still a horror movie, through and through.

Lilly: A short review because we want you to experience it–but if you have any thoughts on it afterward, why not check out our facebook page, or find us on twitter (@hallowoctobfilm) and let us know what you think!