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!

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Halloween III: Season of the Witch; or Happy Happy Halloween, Halloween, Halloween

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to our last edition of Sequel Sunday this Hallowfest, where we see if films can make it through the tricky world of sequels. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they pop on their Silver Shamrock masks and settle down in front of the television, reading for a special surprise to be revealed on Halloween.

Today’s film offering: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Andy: Time to settle in for another Horror History lesson!

The original Halloween, coming out in 1978 was always intended to be the first in a series of movies – but they were going to all be standalone stories with different plots and characters – all set around Halloween. And so, in 1982, Season of the Witch came out, completely unrelated to Michael Myers or Laurie or Haddonfield.

There was a tiny problem though, and that problem was called Halloween II.

Trouble is, the first movie had been so mind blowingly successful, and creative executives so pathologically averse to risk, that it was inevitable that the white-faced boiler-suited asylum escapee would be back – and as a result, the Halloween franchise is now indelibly linked to Mr. Myers et al. Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers banged the final nail into that coffin, and as a result Season of the Witch is one of the weirdest curios around – a member of a franchise which, well, isn’t.

So what is it about? Well, the story (penned by Nigel Kneale who also penned Quatermass be still my beating heart) concerns a slightly shady company in the business of selling children Halloween masks, and a grand conspiracy to do with ancient witchcraft…

Lilly: Where’s Michael Myer’s, again?

No, but seriously, why did this film have to find itself in the Halloween franchise? A tale with genuinely spooky elements and creepy conspiracies and scary stuff, Season of the Witch could have been a contender, yet it got the short end of the stick as to which franchise it was randomly plopped into. I mean, if it had been thrown into the Sleepaway Camp franchise, who knows how popular it could have been! Who knows!

As a person who is generally creeped out by children in masks, this film takes that fear and just rubs your (non masked) face in it, and does so with a jingle that will stay in your mind forever. I mean, just forever. When I think of the word ‘Halloween’, I think of two songs: ’This is Halloween’ from The Nightmare Before Christmas and the stupid Silver Shamrock commercial jingle. I mean. Effective advertising, but still. Wait. Was this film actually about how advertising can infect your very soul? Wait. Ooooh. Oh, you got me, Halloween III. I see you.

Andy: Ooo deep themes about advertising’s effects on the population. Me like.

Lilly: All joking aside, I enjoyed this film. Not as much as Halloween (a sigh of relief can be heard throughout the land, I know) of course, but it’s not a slasher film, so do you compare them beyond my personal preference? It’s a film about black magic, so maybe you’d be better off comparing it to other films of that ilk, if you must, but if you just look at it as a horror film, straight up, it’s not that bad. It’s got some decent acting, it’s got some spooky plot points, and hey, it scared me.

Andy: Yeah, it’s sort of like a really, really well made TV movie – like those Stephen King adaptations that get churned out every few years, but better. It’s never going to make any top ten lists, for instance, and it’s not the first movie from 1982 I’d recommend (The Thing, obviously), but it has a charm all of its own. Definitely one to file under the ‘cult classic’ category.

Lilly: So, why not give this black sheep of the Halloween family a try? Go, watch, and enjoy!

The Haunting (1963) & The Haunting (1999) Double Bill; or Hill House Ain’t Having It

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Twofer Tuesday, where we offer up two films for the price of one, like it or not! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they take a leisurely drive in the countryside, only to stumble upon a house that doesn’t quite have the right angles, does it…

Today’s Film Offerings: The Haunting (1963) & The Haunting (1999)

Andy: It’s a strange situation that, despite the fact that everyone can draw a ghost from the age of five up, the best ghost stories hardly have any ghosts in them at all. The works of M. R. James, The Turn of the Screw, The Woman in Black, and of course, The Haunting of Hill House by the brilliant agoraphobe Shirley Jackson. The weird, bewitching tale of young Eleanor drawn into a house that at first seems welcoming, and yet malevolent has been adapted to film twice – once in 1963, and then again 1999.

Of the two, the 1963 one is more subtle and faithful to the source material. Directed by Robert Wise, bizarrely in between The Sound of Music and West Side Story, the tale concerns Eleanor Vance, a woman who has recently been, er, ‘liberated’ from the demands of caring for her invalid and deeply unpleasant mother. Striking out for the first time, she answers an advert for an experiment at an old house, specifically for those who have displayed some latent psychokinetic ability, which she did as a child.

Joining her is fellow subject Theodora, an exuberant and coded lesbian character, Luke, the prospective heir to Hill House, and Dr Markway, the kindly man running the experiment as a cover into investigating the paranormal.

The trouble is, of course, that when the paranormal does hit Hill House, it’s not obvious whether it is being orchestrated consciously or unconsciously by Eleanor herself. Because, as becomes apparent, years of mistreatment have rendered her a deeply emotionally damaged woman.

This is a great film, one that is best watched alone with the lights off to let it affect you. It has one of the best uses of sound in a movie (which makes sense, given Wise’s penchant for musicals) and offers no easy answers to the mysteries of the house. Awesome.

And there is the terrible beating heart of the movie. Is Eleanor doing this with her mind? Or has the House found the weakest member cracking and started worming its way into widen it? Thoughtful, shuddery stuff.

Lilly: Then there is 1999’s The Haunting.

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Screw your subtleties, stuff your ambiguity, Hill House is definitely haunted in this remake. In fact, forget the book’s claustrophobic build up, the doubt of your narrator, all of that, because 1999 was not a time for thinking, it was a time of doing and casting Owen Wilson while you were at it. The Haunting is an horror thriller, and the thriller part takes front seat as you are made to be terrified, damn it, so stop thinking about the implications of a house that picks at your own mental cracks and instead be afraid of a ruddy big statue coming to life, watch out!

This film is not a thinking man’s horror. It strips the basics of the story by Shirley Jackson and slips them into a heavy handed haunted house film. There are ghosts, you are in danger, and just help us, Eleanor, help us, this is not the story Jackson wrote at all.

That said, it’s fun!

So, do you hold a film tight to the material it is remaking or do you accept some oddities if you are over all entertained? Question for the ages right there. Because if we are talking about a film adaptation of Jackson’s novel, then this is awful. It misses the point of the tale while it  takes out the spookiness of not knowing whether it is the people or the house or both that are making the supernatural events occur. Ooooo is it Liam Nee–No, it’s not Liam Neeson, there is clearly a ghost. That bed just attacked them. It’s a ghost.

But. Again. It’s fun.

As someone who hates when people compare books to films (so naturally just did that, hypocrite), I guess I just have to go with comparing the two films. And hoo boy, are they different. But I’ll watch and enjoy them both.

You know why you should watch this film? Because a bed attacks someone. A statue attacks someone. There is a scene involving the fireplace that is magnificent. Hill House means business, and as haunted houses go, this is a heck of a ride. The backstory created about Hugh Crain is pulpy and deliciously evil, the effects are creepy, and Liam Neeson is in it. It’s one of those films you watch with friends and a big bowl of popcorn, and there is nothing wrong with that. So go, watch, don’t take too seriously, and enjoy!

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare;or Dream a little dream of OH GOD

nn2.jpgHello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Slasher Saturday, where queens scream and killers go bump in the night! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, who are chugging coffee and pinching each other–no, they aren’t trying to stay awake, that’s just date night for them!

Today’s film offering: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Andy: Out of all of the big three slasher villains –  Michael, Jason and Freddy – Mr Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame is somewhat unique. He’s the only one that is explicitly supernatural, he’s the only one that talks, he’s the only one associated with one actor (Robert Englund) and he’s probably the one with the most widespread fanbase. Everyone knows who he is, and there are toys that prove he’s even popular with thlittle tykes who should absolutely not watch his films.

Which is a shame, because he’s also possibly the most diluted of the three. Michael and Jason are still scary, no matter how many crappy sequels they turn up in, but somewhere between the wisecracks and the merchandise, something about Freddy was lost.

In 1993, Wes Craven decided to do something about that.

Lilly: Cue New Nightmare!

Andy: The story concerns young Heather Langenkamp, mother of a young son, wife of a loving husband, and occasional talk-show guest asked about that time she played Nancy on Nightmare on Elm Street. Wait, what? 

Lilly: No, seriously. What?

Andy: That’s right – many people return from the original movie, not as characters but as themselves, or at least fictionalised versions of themselves, including Robert Englund and Wes Craven himself. If this sounds a touch disorienting, it is, but in many ways, it’s an extension of the reality-bending of the first movie, just moved a layer up. After all, what are movies but the dreams of our combined subconscious? And of course, everything gets even more confused when it appears Freddy Krueger – the actual, vicious killer – begins stalking Heather, her son and those around her, manifesting himself in the ‘real’ world.

Lilly: This film kicks off quick–Freddy is menacing in the first scene, which is definitely disorienting for those of us who like a slow build in a horror film. Not this time! Want explanation? Shut up and go watch another film, you aren’t getting it here until mid-way through, when Wes Craven decides to stop being a dick and explain what the Hell is going on to poor Nancy. Wait, Heather. Wait.

Andy: The trope of nobody believing people in horror movies when they are being hunted by whatever is so old hat that pointing it out is itself a cliche. The trouble is here, Heather is in a double bind. When her son starts insisting that “Freddy” is coming for him, the response is always “You didn’t let him watch your movies, did you?” with a raised eyebrow. When Heather herself starts experiencing the same, it’s assumed she’s mentally ill – another cliche – but here with the obvious explanation that all those scary movies she was in got to her in some way.

Which is an interesting question in itself – do Scream Queens get a kind of PTSD?

Lilly: I’d love to ask Jamie Lee Curtis that. Someone set that up. Get on that.

Something unexpected and almost distracting in this film was actually representation of men and women–wait, what! I know! When Nancy heads to the hospital with her son, the hospital is literally crawling with women. The main doctor is a black woman (because contrary to the belief of airline stewardesses today, apparently, that can happen!), there was an Asian nurse, another black woman nurse, two blonde nurse ladies–the hospital was run by women and two security guys, and one grey haired man on the phone. Maybe he was lost. I don’t know, but it was spectacular. In fact, the people getting shit done in the film were all women, from Heather/Nancy to Julie the babysitter to the no-nonsense doctor who was really concerned about whether or not Heather let her son watch her films. I don’t know if that makes it a step forward or just a fun fluke, either way. Fancy that!

Andy: So yeah, women-ran hospital included, this movie is ambitious. But the key question is, does it work? Well, kinda. It’s nowhere near as successful at slasher meta-narrative than Scream, Craven’s other side glance at the genre he helped create, and it seems more of an interesting curio and companion piece to the original than a full-fledged movie in its own right.

However, it is a million times better than any of the other Elm Street sequels (way to set the bar high there, Andy), and if you enjoy the original it’s worth checking out.

Lilly: I found it to be a bit too much, too fast for a film that lasted over an hour and a half, myself. You were in the action by five minutes in, and while yes, that throws you off your feet like a dream could (I get it), it also had me thinking ‘What if the dreams are actually the boring bits where she is doing tv interviews and chats with producers?’ because how could I know what is going on so early in the film? I supposed they had a lot to get through, with all the meta-things, but it still felt a bit like it was ‘getting to the good part’ right away then sputtering in the middle for a bit then kicking off in the last twenty minutes again. It wasn’t consistent for me, which is a bummer when the idea is there. Then again, if the film is Heather’s life, and Heather’s life is the film, maybe just maybe that is the message. Sometimes life is fast and hard and then it slows for a bit before knocking you out. Huh. Deep.

Meanwhile, favourite part? Heather punching Freddy in the face and yelling ‘Fuck you!’ Fuck your pithy one liners, Heather ain’t got time for that.

So it’s a recommendation from me in a sort of ‘Hey, watch it, why not’ fashion. Best I can do!

Andy: Although if you really want a movie that covers this same ground far more successfully, I prescribe a dose of John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness before bed, and call me in the morning.

The Addams Family; or Try and Not Snap Snap Along

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Family Friendly Friday, where we talk about a film that’s good for the little boils and ghouls to watch with the groan-ups. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they get the family together for a mamushka under the moonlight.

Today’s film offering: The Addams Family

Lilly: The Addamses are the patron saints of the weird but welcoming. Originally mere illustrations on the page created by Charles Addams, the family burst onto screen in the mid sixties and they proceeded to be off and on it, whether it was live action or cartoon, until the present day, where talks of the musical heading to the UK are happening. You can’t keep a bad family down, so to speak, and the Addams have merrily proven that.

Andy: For many people though, this version may be the definitive one, in the same way that Jack Nicholson is the definitive Joker, no matter how far Heath Ledger or Jared Leto go or the fact that the character first appeared when Mr.Nicholson was three years old.

Lilly: 1991’s The Addams Family decided to take the story of the Addamses and shake it up a little. The film tells the story of a lost Addams brother, Fester, and that lack of Fester being taken advantage of by a conniving woman and her son who bears a passing resemblance to the lost relative. They attempt to infiltrate the family from the inside to get ahold of the fortune they know is kept in the Addams family vault. Not actually as easy as it sounds (not that it sounds easy at all to fool a man like Gomez who is clearly passionate about his familial connections), and it proves to be far more difficult than they could handle. Toss in the fact that maybe it isn’t so bad for the son, being an Addams, and you got yourself a fun family romp!

It is incredibly difficult to talk about this film with any sort of distance for me because the Addams Family are basically my heroes. They are weird, gothy, creepy folk who are happy to welcome you into your home! Who doesn’t aspire to that! I wish I could host like Morticia, be as enthusiastic as Gomez, or as hip as Cousin Itt. But. For the sake of Hallowfest, I’ll attempt to critique it.

Andy: There is something very appealing about them as a family unit. They are, in many ways, the ultimate outsiders – they clearly have money, but fashion means almost nothing to them in their embrace of gothic chic. Their family motto – “We Gladly Feast on Those Who Would Subdue Us.” – as well as being hilarious suggests the kind of screw-you mentality that many of us who grew up as outsiders strive for. And at the heart of it is a family that, although very weird, is also loving, kind, passionate and caring. They can foster a greater understanding of our values simply by rejecting some of them and fully embracing others; and they, ultimately, are just as human as we are; teaching us that perhaps our differences as humans are merely cosmetic and that our similarities are far deeper. Not bad for a family film!

Lilly: Exactly! Exactly. This. The Addamses send the very strong message that you can be a role model without having to be like everyone else. You can like dark decor and still have a bright outlook.

So onto the cast. This is a film that was made with a good chunk of history behind it–people had played the roles before, there were comparisons ready to be made. There had already been three Gomez Addamses prior to Raúl Juliá, and four Morticias prior to Angelica Huston! Yet, when I think of Gomez Addams, it’s Juliá I think of. He was Gomez! And Huston! Come on. Their chemistry was nuts (and g rated, even with the sexy S&M references because if your kid gets it, that’s up to you), and they were everything I wanted to be when I grew up. And they took the roles seriously, which can’t always be said for films that are adaptations of shows and cartoons.

Andy: And how nice is it to see a married couple where one character doesn’t look down on the other. There is never, ever any sense of one looking down or putting up with the other.

Lilly: Throw in Christopher Lloyd’s confused Fester, and Christina Ricci’s on point blank-faced Wednesday, and again, you forget these roles were played multiple times before. That’s pretty impressive.

If you are talking plot, The Addams Family pretty much gives what it says on the box. This is where it is evident that this film has had decades of audience tests and joke re-writes because it was a perfect feature length film introduction and embrace of the Addamses without coming off as shoving too much in or being too brief with the details. The film goes along at a clip because it knows it has a past and isn’t going to be bogged down by details. The Addamses aren’t about the details, anyway.

Andy: So, over all, is it a recommendation from us?

Lilly: Always. Like the song says, those Addamses really are a scream. Not to mention great role models, loving parents, and a warmly loving, functioning family unit. It’s just not as easy to write those parts into a theme song, I guess. So go, watch, enjoy!

The Witch; Or This is What We Assume Virginia is Like

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Hello and Hallo-welcome back to another Witchy Wednesday, where we review films featuring witchly behaviour! You join your hosts, Lilly and Andy, who are taking a look at a newish movie set in oldish New England!

Today’s film offering: The Witch

Andy: Is there any religion more terrifying than full-on 17th Century Puritanism? I’m not disparaging anyone’s faith here, but these were people who lived in absolute terror of a wrathful deity and for whom every misfortune was a mark of Divine Disfavour. No bad luck for these people – the universe takes a poop in your stocking, you’ve done Something Wrong. These were the same zealots who cancelled Christmas, and hanged a lot of innocent people in Salem, Massachusetts.

I feel they would not have approved of Hallowfest.

Our plot follows a family with a patriarch who is extreme even by these exacting standards. Fearing that his community is not God-fearing enough, he marches them off into the wilderness to build a homestead away from the corrupting influence of his neighbours – the precise nature of their theological disagreement is not elaborated on (probably for the best) – but his new neighbour may be a far more pernicious influence, especially on his teenage daughter and eldest son.

Here things take a very interesting turn. We are used to seeing the forces of science do battle with the supernatural, and when faith comes to the fore, it is usually an overwhelmingly positive and unquestioned force; the most obvious example is the use of crucifixes against vampires, but the noble priests doing battle for Reagan’s soul in The Exorcist spring to mind. In this though, the faith of the family seems to be, at its very best, a neutral force.

Lilly: And at worst an ineffective effort to ward off something that was already sneaking in there easily, what with the father’s zealotry being so strong the family was booted out of the colony. 

Andy: The trouble is the faith of the family is an incorporeal one – the dangers that affect their immortal souls are of a spiritual nature. The idea that there is a mad witch in the woods aiming to mash their children into a fine paste for … reasons is outside the bounds of their view of the world as ephemeral and transient.

Lilly: Meaning shit gets real, and they don’t know it. Or do they? Or is it? Let’s pray. And when the baseline of the faith set up in this film is too hardcore for the colonists and only shaped in the beliefs of the father, you know it’s not the sort of faith that actually saves you. It’s the kind that gets Dracula laughing at you as he tosses the crucifix to the side, because it only hurts him if you believe.

Andy: There are some very good performances in this, particularly from the two oldest child characters upon whom most of the story depends. In this world of exacting and pure standards, they are wonderfully flawed, and wonderfully human.

Lilly: I have high standards for children in horror films (foolish, I know), however these two met and surpassed my expectations. Harvey Scrimshaw and Anya Taylor-Joy (who is actually twenty, but that’s still a child to me, whatever), kudos to you. They felt more human than any of the other characters, and sorry, that includes the young twins who I just hated from the get go. And hate is a strong word, I know that. I’m not sure if it was meant or not–like was I supposed to dislike them? Did they want that? Mind you, who likes bratty kids? Who, I tell you!

Andy: Anyway, if there is anything this movie absolutely nails, it is atmosphere. There is a sense of omnidirectional dread in its washed out colour palette and doomy score, not to mention the fact it goes to great lengths to disguise in which direction the woods actually are from the house, so they seem like they are everywhere.

Lilly: Absolutely. Even when I wasn’t sure what I was afraid of, I had a sense of ‘oh no’ throughout the film, with certain shots lingering for just the right amount of time to tease something was going to happen, to only then ease off. You are brought to the brink of agonizing tension a few times.

Andy: However, and this is a big caveat, does it actually amount to very much? Well, kinda. It’s strange to think about everything this movie does right, and struggle to see what it does wrong, but still come away with a reaction slightly above ‘meh’. It’s worth watching, and I can definitely see someone else enjoying this more than I did, but for some reason, it doesn’t leap out as one of the best examples from horror from recent years. It lacks … something. Maybe a sense of fun.

Lilly: I can talk myself in circles about this film. I like it because it parallels a teenage girl’s budding sexuality with a real physical threat, making it so her religious family has difficulties pulling apart the two threads. I dislike it because all that tension building seems to fizzle out in the last fifteen minutes, and what should be a dramatic climax just seems dozy. That said, I like that it becomes almost dreamlike. Then there is the family relations that I love, with the animosity between the mother and daughter as the girl grows into a woman and the mother’s jealousy about her husband’s attentions to their daughter shows, as well as her bitterness as she blames Thomasin for the loss of her baby (it was in the trailer, shut up, it’s not spoiling). I loved the confusing feelings Caleb has about his sister, because on one hand, she is his sister, family, on the other, she is a girl, and those are becoming more interesting in his eyes. I like how the monster of the piece prays on these little bits and pieces, those cracks each family member has, and pulls them apart, one by one. I dislike how we see the witch at all (surprise, whatever), because the family tearing itself apart without any proof of a witch outside their superstitions (and no proof for the audience, either) would be terrifying in itself. I like how little bits and pieces of witch folklore are so neatly put in the film without excuse or explanation because you are at a film called The Witch, you should know some shit about witches. And yet I don’t really want to watch it again. But maybe?

So it’s a mixed review from us. Absolutely watch it, absolutely form your own opinion, and absolutely let us know what you think!

A Christmas Horror Story; or YAAAAS CHRISTMAS ANTHOLOGY HORROR YAAAS

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another holiday edition of Hallowfest Octobfilm! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, who are trying their best to keep the Christmas spirit in their heart, because if it is let loose, it might be the death of you.

This week’s film offering: A Christmas Horror Story

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Happy Holidays is ‘too PC’ for some, so does this work? 

Lilly: Hi, my name is Lilly,

Support  Group: Hi Lilly.

Lilly: And I’m a horror anthology-aholic. Seriously, I love horror anthologies–it’s like a horror buffet where you get to try everything and sometimes you get delicious shrimp puffs that are soooo good or you end up with dry pigs in blankets that should have stayed in bed, but you get variety. Love it. So, when I heard there was going to be a new horror anthology film coming out for Christmas (that was Canadian to boot!), well. It was like Christmas had come early.

A Christmas Horror Story is the story of one awful Christmas eve in a small town that has had big tragedies. Held together by the random updates from radio DJ WILLIAM SHATNER, it features Krampus, a family that gets more than a tree from a trip to the forest, zombie elves, and menaced teens.

Andy: If the presence of Captain Kirk didn’t tip you off, this one hails from Canada. There’s a very loose overarching plot connected by the radio snippets, but mostly, the movie’s stories are very independent from each other – there’s little to no character crossover. One in particular, an outbreak of zombie virus among Santa’s elves at the North Pole, seems to have almost no connection to the rest of the film. Or does it?

Lilly: Actually,having grown up in a small town, the connections in this film are subtle but legit–the teenagers know the teenage daughter from the family being menaced by Krampus (one is her boyfriend), one of the family with a problem with their Christmas tree retrieval is a cop who is featured in the sexy teens being menaced line at the beginning, and DJ Kirk is actually the grandparent of the Krampus family–Loveit. Just. Love it.

Andy: Apart from Shatner, who is excellent as the bored DJ on the long shift, there’s only one standout, and that’s George Buza as Santa having a very bad day. Everyone else is mightily forgettable, but then they’re basically meat on the hoof for whatever horrible stuff is going to happen to them.

The weakest story is probably the one involving the teenagers getting menaced. They break into their school, which used to be a convent filled with Evil Nuns, to investigate murders that happened there last year. It’s the kind of thing that’s been done a million times before and a lot better, and it’s also the one with the most tenuous link to Christmas.

Lilly: Like, it isn’t even a virgin conception, which they were sort of trying to imply? I guess? I don’t know? I didn’t really understand any of the evil spirit’s motivation in this one, admittedly.

Andy: The other two are OK, with the stronger being about a family attempting to get a ‘discount’ on a Christmas tree before discovering they’ve paid a much higher price when their son goes missing in the woods, and the weaker being about a family menaced by Krampus, whose prosthetic face and design is probably the single best element in the film.

Lilly: Yeah, he looked amazingly creepy. I also liked the take on Krampus in this film, the mythology a bit different than you’d expect–I don’t want to spoil (I DO BUT WON’T) but it was definitely a bit darker even yet than the Krampus of Krampus. Not nearly as well realized, of course, but it was only one part of a multi-storied film. I really enjoyed the Krampus scenes in this, though, where you discover just how bad the family has been–and it’s pretty bad, spoiler alert (not a spoiler, you know they had to be bad to be menaced by Krampus).

Andy: Overall, like most horror anthologies, this one is a tad uneven, but loads of fun. Even if you don’t agree with us and like the other stories better or worse than us, the whole thing moves along at a lovely clip and you never linger in one place for long. Even the occasional lapses are forgivable, because this film does not take itself seriously in the slightest. Hopefully parts of it will make you smile a big stupid grin, and as far as I’m concerned, when that happens, it’s done its job.

Lilly: It’s a jolly good time, this film, and definitely worth picking up some popcorn and enjoying this holiday horror season! If you are hankering for festive frights, you’re in luck–A Christmas Horror Story delivers just that.

Krampus; or Letters to Santa are Serious Business

Hello and Hallo-welcome back to Hallowfest Octobfilm, where our intrepid bloggers Andy and Lilly are feeling festive, but aren’t daring to pout or cry. Christmas is a surprisingly rich vein of holiday-themed horror delights, and we’ll be looking at some over the next few weeks.

This week’s film offering: Krampusnewposter-krampus

Andy: Last year during Hallowfest, we saw an amazing portmanteau called Trick ‘r Treat, a fun, scary romp through the intersecting lives of some people having a very, very bad Halloween.

Lilly: Missed it? Click this inviting hyperlink to go and read it! We’ll wait.

Andy: This year, director Michael Dougherty gives us another holiday-themed horror flick to sink our teeth into, and off we went to the cinema to oblige.

Lilly: As if I need an excuse to get large popcorn to sit and eat in a dark room, the best place to consume large amounts of popcorn. But yes, continue on with the review.

Andy: But first, I hear you asking, what exactly is a Krampus?

Lilly: I didn’t, I know that Krampus is–

Andy: Well, as all good little boys and girls know, if you are very good, Santa Claus, or St Nicholas, will creep into your house on Christmas Eve and fill it with gifts and toys. But what if you’re not so good?

Well, I was always told that I would get a sack of coal, but because Austria and Bavaria are places where scaring the bejezus out of kids is practically a past-time, instead they threaten them with the Krampus, a servant of St Nick’s who instead of leaving toys, stuffs you in a sack and carries you off to God Knows Where. Fun times.

Lilly: Krampusnacht and Krampuslauf sound terrifying and awesome. Look them up!

Andy: The movie stars Adam Scott (of Parks and Recreation fame) along with Toni Colette and a host of semi-familiar faces.

Lilly: The film takes staple awful parts about Christmas (last minute shopping fist fights in the mall for deals you don’t need, family you hate most of the year showing up on your doorstep, so much food that you aren’t sure you like but eat every year because you’ve always had turnip at Christmas, etc.) and hits you with them as if they are a given. When the awful finally breaks the Christmas spirit of the main family’s son,he rips up his letter to Santa and throws it into the sky, wishing ill will on all those who ruined his holiday. As you do.

Cue Krampus!

Andy: So what we have is essentially a Christmas horror-comedy in the same vein as something like Gremlins, in which the transgressions of a family are punished in a ridiculously over-the-top fashion. There is great joy in seeing the generally pretty awful extended family menaced, and at the same time, there is a genuine sense of threat. The, er, ‘man’ himself is appropriately kept at arm’s length for most of the story, and when he does make his entrance, there is a real gravity to it.

Lilly: Yes, this film paid off for what it promised–Christmas comedy horror with some great creatures (thanks Weta Workshop!) and some ridiculous set ups. The trailer teased monstrous toys, and it one-ups that with murderous Gingerbread men. Loved it. Obviously we can’t give away too much, with this being a very new film (and one I hope to put into my holiday film rooster), but it is a) loads of fun and b) acted well for a film that has half a child actor cast. It had some interesting storylines, so old plot chestnuts that were decently used, and it wasn’t trying to hard to be anything but what it was.

Something I did want to touch on was the pacing of this film (we talk about it a lot, deal with it). It was actually quicker than your usual horror comedy, and what was really interesting was that the horror and comedy elements were sometimes on top of each other, so there were moments were truly horrific things were happening, but it would cut to the ridiculous and back and again, almost giving you mini-breathers between horror and laughter. Sometimes, it was clear what was supposed to scare you and what was supposed to make you laugh, and then, it would all melt together and you’d end up with scenes that were creepy and laughable and fun.

Also, as a side note: what was with everyone speaking English to the grandmother who clearly preferred German? I mean…what? They understood it, obviously, so…what? Anyway.

Andy: It’s good fun, overall, and probably worth your time if you’re into this sort of thing. My only criticism is that it falls into a weird middle ground – it’s too mean and scary for people look for a few thrills, but for others it may not go far enough. There’s a lot of bark, but maybe not enough bite.

Lilly: Yeah, this is one of those Holiday horrors that isn’t quite a punishment for all those bad girls and boys out there, but is still a lump of coal to throw into the midst of the other holiday television coming your way. It’s a enjoyable way to pass some time with your loved ones this season, so why not give it a go?

Blood on Satan’s Claw; or Homestyle Horror

Hello and Hallo-welcome to #TBT Terror, where we pay attention to those films that you might have missed, making sure to pay our respects to the films that paved the way for modern chills. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they take a stroll through the idyllic countryside, hoping that they need only fear a rainy day and not the coming of Satan.

Today’s film offering: Blood on Satan’s Claw

He could just wash his hands, but nope.
He could just wash his hands, but nope.

Lilly: Today’s film is one that we (spoiler alert) seriously love, so don’t be alarmed by the gushing.  

Blood on Satan’s Claw is a lesser known folk horror film (in the same category as The Wicker Man) that keeps you feeling creeped out until the very last scene. A gem we found after watching A History of Horror  (hosted by Mark Gatiss–go and find it and watch it!), the film tells the story of a community that is menaced by the threat of the devil himself coming to town. 

Andy: Or at least, it might be the Devil. It’s never made explicit what it is, exactly. The local children all seem to be getting a bit weird too, and hanging around an old abandoned church…

Lilly: Nothing is really explicit in this film, which makes it a lot of fun. You go from scene to scene of the town’s people dealing with this situation, and each new development is mysterious and weird and icky and great. 

Andy: Plus, thematically, it makes so much sense. These are 17th Century farmers, most of whom probably can’t even read. Why should they grasp the horror that’s unfolding around them? For that matter, why should we? Some of the best horror movies have very, very little exposition – it’s a very modern obsession that everything should be explained away. (If anyone claims they can explain everything that happens in The Shining, that person is a liar or hasn’t paid attention).

Lilly: Jumping right into it, I want to point out that this film really gets the importance of a soundtrack that is on message. The main theme of Blood on Satan’s Claw is one that is charmingly haunting, and that is so very fitting to this film. It has sweet little flutes and sharp violins, and it is really just the sound of a gentle countryside tale being intercut with terror.

Another thing I love in older horror films is the earnest seriousness of the tale, none of this tongue-in-cheek stuff you get nowadays. Not that I don’t like that as well, but it makes the story that much creepier when it is approached in a way that makes you as an audience just sit and watch the confusion and fear build in the town without comedic relief or ‘eh? eh?’ moments.

And ANOTHER thing I really like is the absolutely weird way the devil makes himself known in the town. It’s gross and would be so terrifying if you had no way of knowing what it was using modern tests or what have you (modern devil tests?) and yes.

Anyway, this film is one that plays on the usual trope of ‘she’s a witch!’ but takes it further, and you watch as the village is torn apart bit by bit by each supernatural event. Trust starts to dissolve and no one is safe from one another’s doubt.

Andy: It’s essentially a Puritan Witch-hunter’s worst nightmare come true. This isn’t some Salem-esque hysteria – there’s something seriously wrong, and the local clergy are virtually powerless. It’s a dreamy, dark descent into a communal collapse, all to the backdrop of a bucolic maybe-never-existed rural paradise, and the lilting, descending notes of a terrifying soundtrack.

It’s pretty much one of my favourite horror films, is what I’m saying. It genuinely baffles me how obscure it is.

Now, there is one scene that is potentially troubling, involving the rape and murder of a very sympathetic character. As always with horror, your mileage may vary, but for me it underlies the terrible wrongness at the heart of this film, and is treated as a very serious event by other characters. Other than that though, I will not only recommend this film, but aggressively push it on anyone who expresses even a vague interest. You NEED to watch this.

Lilly: Agreed. It has a slow pace, and the scene mentioned above is a bit of a shock to the system compared to the rest of the film’s tone, but that’s sort of what makes it so, so scary and great and good. So go, watch, and let us know what you think!

Village of the Damned; or Kids Can be Creepy as Hell

Hello and Hallo-welcome back to Twofer Tuesday, where we delve into the depths and bring back two gems, or sometimes some hunks of brown glass. You join your intrepid bloggers Andy and Lilly, who recommend that you immediately phone your MP if everyone in your village passes out at the same time.

Unfortunately due to the election, we were only able to watch one of our two films for today – this will be remedied! The other half, Children of the Damned, will be coming soon. Watch this space!

Today’s Film Offering: Village of the Damned

Why don't film posters look like this any more?
Why don’t film posters look like this any more?

Andy: Village of the Damned is one of those strange films that almost nobody has seen but is instantly recognisable to anyone around our age. This is for one simple reason – The Simpsons did a fantastic parody of it called The Bloodening. If you’ve ever seen that bit and wondered what it was based off, this is it.

The other point of pop culture reference is the fact that George Sanders plays the main adult lead; immediately recognisable as Shere Khan from Disney’s The Jungle Book.

Based on a novel by John Wyndham (of Day of the Triffids fame) called The Midwich Cuckoos, the plot kicks off with everyone in the village passing out at the same time. There’s some military intervention and some fascinating experiments with the limits of this effect, but eventually everyone wakes up again and everything seems normal.

Except that every woman of childbearing age is now pregnant.

Lilly: Streuth!

Best line in the film, that.

Andy: Anyway, here’s where we hit a bit of a cultural barrier. Nowadays, this would be odd, and mildly scandalous. In 1960, this is shocking beyond belief – accusations of pre- and extramarital sex fly thick and fast, and it’s a fascinating insight into the cultural values at the time. Eventually, they do work out that as everyone is pregnant at the same time, and that there’s something a bit weirder going on.

And then the kids are born, and are freaky as hell. They age too quickly, are far too stern and serious, and are apparently telepathic.

Lilly: Which, you know, isn’t overly surprising, given they are all basically some sort of alien baby, but still. Immaculate conception for all!

This film is so full of ‘streuth’s and ‘blimey’s, it’s practically a fishmarket in the East End of London. It makes me nostalgic for living in England, and I never even heard those words in the wild, really. It has that delicious taste of 1960s British horror wherein everyone goes around going ‘what ho’ and ‘alright?’ when terror is happening. It’s a wonder that George Sanders’ stiff upper lip didn’t solve it all, really. “Extraordinary thing, really” is his response to waking up after mysteriously passing out. Legend. He’s a legend. He is so smooth, he literally talks the whole town down after the initial oddness. How? How. His smooth voice, that’s how.

Meanwhile, I love the lady who complains about her dress being burnt after the weird event of the town passing out. She has priorities.

Andy: There is a gentle comedy to the scene, which is an interesting juxtaposition with the horror that’s coming.

Lilly: Right, let’s talk about how people treat this event: George plays piano and smiles at his flowering plants, his wife buys all the pickles (wait, don’t PREGNANT LADIES like pickles? EH?) and the lady at the shop takes advantage of the pickle boom and gets rich. So, no problem. Besides the telepathic psychos that come, but hey, for ninth months, the town is pretty happy. Worse things could happen. I don’t know why they think they are so damned, people have way worse times after blacking out during ironing and filling their sink to do dishes. Surely!

Now, the married couples are happy enough, but what’s really tragic is the poor woman who has never had sex and is pregnant, or the woman who has had her husband away for a year and is pregnant–you really see the 1960s shining through when those come up. Imagine the terror of being pregnant without having a clue how–stigma or not, your body is being invaded, and that is really, really creepy. Doesn’t matter if you are male or female on this one, the idea of waking up to find out all of a sudden you are playing host to another life…well. Eep.

Andy: Sinister.

Lilly: Something I really like about this film is that is really pays attention to the fear that comes along with pregnancy, and not just of the supernatural nature. George’s wife is terrified of what sort of person she is growing inside her, and that’s a legit fear.

Especially when what comes out is legitly terrifying.

As the film unfolds, we find out the ‘incident’ didn’t only happen in Midwich, but around the world. Mysterious town blackouts, pregnancies, weirdo kids–the whole thing. However, it is down to George Sanders and his town to sort this out because…reasons?

Andy: One of the things that make this film so good is the nebulousness of the terror. There’s no central point of attack, or central plot to unravel. The kids are there, but they’re not, yknow, building anything. A lesser film would have them ‘preparing the way’ or something. But here, their motives, if they have such a thing, are completely ambiguous.

Lilly: Yes, you are surprised when all of a sudden, David, the lead child, announces their plans to leave–and yet, any normal child, you’d expect to leave home. It’s like you get lulled into the same mortified stupor Anthea (George’s wife) gets herself into, where you have no idea how things are ever going to get better for the village under the tyrannical behaviour of the blond kids. They can read minds. How can they even have hope?

Andy: What emerges is a fantastic battle of wits. This isn’t a film where there’s a lot of violence, or a lot of action, but a careful, considered approach to a very peculiar problem. It’s a pretty great, slow-burning thriller, shot through with subtle horror and sci-fi elements.

Some aspects have aged better than others, but if you like this sort of thing, it’s a very solid recommend from us.

Lilly: Go forth and watch this, and try, just try not to imitate David’s voice. It’s impossible

You’re thinking of a brick wall.

Andy: Nope

Lilly: Enjoy!