Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill.

What's that behind him? Don't worry, the music tells you.
**


If you pass by the Darkside blog from time to time, you are well aware that I devote many a review to the paranormal horror subgenre. You get some decent found footage/document entries that have their moments. Often or not, though, I wind up more than a bit disappointed or underwhelmed. I guess you could even call it the surreality horror genre…where reality in front of a recording camera reveals things quite alien to the norms of what we believe, or take in with our senses. The Paranormal Activity films piggybacked off of the Blair Witch Project and Cannibal Holocausts in documenting the horrors of both what we can’t see and what we do. A little bit of both under the right presentation and direction can be quite successful. I always pimp the critically panned Lake Mungo which has been considered the worst of its years “8 Films to Die For” because I felt it did just that. It focused on the inability to shake the death of a family’s daughter/sister, and through a document recording of their somber intake of this loss, the spooky images of her presence (both doctored and authentic) on photographs and cam-recorder, and secrets involving her that weren’t altogether angelic. I have seen paranormal films (like the Grave Encounters films) that are not all that earth-shattering but not the worst while a few gems come out of the woodwork from time to time (The Borderlands; The Last Exorcism).

I so wished “The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill” was in the gem category. I do. It has a really nifty location. It just doesn’t do a lot with it. I loved the whole back story of the place, how it has this dark history attached to it, including witches’ ceremonies, devil worship, and the digging up of bones from a grave near Clophill, used in a fire ritual. But when the lead documentary team spends three days/nights at the place to do paranormal research, the film really never takes the location and does anything spectacular with it. You have faint figures and music accompaniment to spook the audience, some loud footsteps through branches in the woods, and emphasis on a particular headstone on the grave of a girl named Sophia.

When the film focuses on Clophill, making it sinister and exploiting its ruin, this was right up my alley, but it just kind of carries the same type of Ghost Hunters vibe that kills its momentum. A few filmmaking tricks aside, this could be just another paranormal show on SyFy. I guess we have kind of reached that point, though. This was in 2013, and the bulge of paranormal flicks and shows has perhaps tapped out the well, so to speak.

The gist of this has a small number of British paranormal researchers (a husband-and-wife team of amateurs joins up with researchers that is) decide to study, interview locals of, and focus photographically a few night at Clophill in England. It was once a church: this has since been gutted and represents little more than a reminder of a church that once operated and now is just ruins, calling to mind a skeletal structure of brick and stone. I also enjoyed the interviews of locals who live in the town that exists a distance away. There’s a road that leads to the ruins, and so it takes a spell to get there. But there’s a history of human traffic that keeps research of the place a hazard due to noises that could be caused by natural instead of unnatural reasons.

At the end, the married couple are under a distress because it is quite possible “an attachment” followed them from Clophill and now threatens their daughter who is *susceptible to spirit sight*.


This plays like a collection of paranormal show clichés. You get the black mass folks in robes carrying lighted torches (not flashlights, but literal torches), as a “sacrifice”, naked, is tied to a tree, a séance, toying with a Ouija board, and the tools (EMF meter, spirit box, etc) of the paranormal used one night hoping to catch something at Clophill. It doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen. I’m repeating myself a lot when talking shop about this subgenre which has a lot of offerings for those looking for a cheap thrill or two. Few, though really give us any more than that, which is rather unfortunate.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

In with the Old and Out with the New: Afternoon at the Movies








It Follows: ****
Unfriended: **½



It was an interesting trip to the movies this afternoon for a little horror excursion which had one film that took us back to the 80s where you saw telephones on the wall with an actual receiver and old box televisions with an antennae sticking out, while another firmly planted us in the modern era of “imessage”, Skype, Youtube, Facebook, and Google. It was quite a contrast, I tell you.

It Follows was such a welcome sight for this horror fan. I loved, loved, loved the aesthetic on display here where the camera often rotates from right to left and vice versa so glacially and methodically I did believe I was watching something a lot different than the norm of today’s filmmaking. The score was a wow for this ole boy. I was sure jiving to its panic beats and building of dread. Good stuff.

Unfriended fits in perfectly with the age we live in and cognitively presents how today’s youth communicate with the advances in the way people contact each other and peruse the internet for information quickly. Whether or not you can handle this in a form that tells a story regarding a possession of a group of suburban high schoolers responsible for the cyber-bullying that led to a teenager’s suicide during a single night after getting on to chat will be up to each viewer. I have the kind of computer-related job that requires extensive multi-tasking so it wasn’t as difficult for me to follow as it might be for some just not interested in doing so for 80 minutes. The kids on screen are also not exactly the most preferable hang-out buddies, although Blair *seems* to be until the “vengeful internet spirit” of a girl named Laura Burns starts using the internet and technology to draw out secrets each member of this select group harbors from one another.

It Follows has been described as a “throwback” and “old fashioned”, so if that makes you cringe, you might want to look at the new Poltergeist remake for your cheap Hollywood thrills that utilize today’s modern tools to give you a quick jolt or two through the loud bang. It Follows, to some, comments on the AIDs epidemic as the “It” which follows after the film’s heroine, after her sexual encounter with a guy she likes (this isn’t one of those “I saved myself for my high school boyfriend/girlfriend” kind of encounters) produces a supernatural presence that (if it catches up with you) kills you. The film spends a lot of its time allowing us to experience how the fear of the unknown (death as it comes after you) mortifies and consumes the heroine while her loyal friends are right there for her through thick and thin.

It amused me to watch It Follows and then follow this up with Unfriended because the friends in both films couldn’t be more different. While the heroine is often on the run and truly terrified, with reliable friends who help to protect and support her during a time of crisis she seems unable to circumvent no matter where she goes, the youths in Unfriended turn on each other when confronted by death in the form of someone they once knew “fondly”. There’s ultimately no loyalty among them, and as the secrets are revealed we see an open wound gushing profusely.

 Blair seems to be “innocent” (I use this loosely since she sex chats video-style with her current flame before she attempts to “sign off”) in comparison to her peers yet by the end she’s more guilty than all of them combined because it is her who proves to be the undoing of them all, a catalyst in all that happens once Laura “joins in” on the fun with the “skype bunch” during the evening of terror that befalls them. Unfriended opens with the gunshot to a face which is recorded and planted on a site which warns those wanting to watch (which included, funnily enough, Blair, her best friend, watching it at the start) of what awaits. This leads to the flirting of Blair and Mitch, her squeeze, and then comes Jesse, a reputed bad girl, a prick named Adam quite full of himself, Ken a portly “smoker” (he takes hits off a bong and e-cig during his time on Skype) who services as the film’s token obnoxious, overweight buffoon, and Val, a girl similar to Laura in looks, but with a loud, assertive tone to her that polarizes (no one in the group really likes her, and their view of her before talking with her is rather unsavory) hoping to spoil their flirty sex back-and-forth. They’re not exactly the most sympathetic bunch, and I found myself laughing as “suicides” took hold of them when Laura felt the need to have them kill themselves (the use of a blender, curling iron, gun, and knife are tools for Laura to have her victims destroy themselves)…not sure that was supposed to be the response, but bullying has been a hot topic as of late, and the use of the internet has been a weapon used against people during their most unflattering moments.

It Follows, however, has a rather surprising knack for allowing its cast to be far more admirable, fleshed out, individual, and worth investing in…a direct opposite of Unfriended. I cared about poor Jay, as she endures this long nightmare of flee and rest, flee and rest. It was genuinely tiring to see her stay just ahead but always confronted by “It” when she relaxes a bit. I felt the “It” which takes various forms of those the victim knows and/or happened to be victims themselves. Some take the form of a father and friend, but other times an elderly woman or man, a teenager we see found dead in horrible fashion on a beach not long after calling her dad to tell him she loves him. I love two particular scenes where Jay is in a classroom when  she first catches the elderly woman who follows her into the halls of the school before getting away, and another where this tall spectre enters her room right behind a gangly, innocuous friend named Paul checks to see she is okay.

The camera, location work, and music significantly lend an artistic credibility to It Follows as does the wardrobe which doesn’t quite “date” the film nor does it necessarily imply a direct link to a certain decade. But to see items from my days as a kid, homes lived in by the principles that aren’t typical examples of affluence but instead quite working-class. The wardrobe for those we follow are piecemeal and organized in a fashion that would never be wore by those kids in Unfriended. If anything friends of Jay (and Jay herself) would most certainly be objects of cruelty for the tech savvy party group. My wife herself says Jay’s undergarments were “granny panties”. My wife was quite critical of the back yard swimming pool Jay floats around in while keeping to herself and her thoughts. It is typical of those pools which stand up on yards and gather tree bits and insects. It wouldn’t be the kind of pool the kids in Unfriended would swim in…most certainly; I think the pool would be cleaned regularly by hired help and be built underground.

It Follows is both free from confinement and yet claustrophobic in its trap for Jay while Unfriended places a specific kind of ball and chain to its gang. Jay and her peeps try methods to keep the killer at bay while Blair and her so-called friends find that if they leave their computers, death awaits. Laura has them play a game which has them holding up all five fingers, forcing them to admit to their various transgressions against each other. It Follows has its “curse” spread through sex, with Jay experiencing a harrowing event after having it with a guy who purposely provokes what happens to her just so she knows what “it” is and should do to remain alive. Both films explore impending doom and defying it as long as possible, often unable to escape its inevitability.

Being confined to what Blair does on the internet—c ongregating between talks with Mitch over what he might be up to and their current predicament, and the faces of her crowd appearing together, balking at each other, and then exploding when Laura causes their ruination—might be a bit daunting while It Follows has plenty of places to go (visits to a beach house and the slums of Detroit, the neighborhood which I found eerily reminiscent to those with trees and sidewalks galore in Carpenter’s Halloween and a playground) and does so always reminding us that anywhere in the dark or walking ever so spookily within the everyday norm of society could be “It”. No wonder why I found It Follows such a worthwhile experience while Unfriended amused me with the irony of its title if the proponents of said irony seem much deserved of what takes them out. Not such a bad afternoon at the movies.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Marsupials: The Howling III


 ***

I think one of the hardest horror films to make is a satire. Every horror filmmaker, particularly those on the indie circuit, seems to have tried their hand at a horror comedy, but the satire is a bit more difficult. A satire on something quite popular within horror—whether it be vampires, werewolves, or the undead—oftentimes has to be balanced between a poking fun at its subject in an ingenious or clever way and giving what the horror fans crave (that being horror). 

When Philip Mora’s Howling III opens, I was afraid he would once again tread the same pratfalls that damaged his previous installment in the Howling franchise. A wide-smiling tribe seems well pleased with the werewolf they have captured. It appears as if this is a ruse as those in front of the camera seem to be guided by the person behind the camera; yet, this is considered plausible evidence of a werewolf by what the film considers a certifiable scientist. When he talks with others about this, they consider his scientific excitement rather misguided. Then there’s this Siberian sequence where someone in Russia who so happens to fall prey to a werewolf. This looks like a scene made by Ed Wood, but it is considered, again, as credible evidence of a werewolf attack. Both these early scenes carry an amateurishness that concerned me. The film, though, to me gathers itself and kind of improves. There are some hokey effects on occasion. A Russian ballerina turns into a werewolf as she is rehearsing with other dancers and at the end of the transition it’s obvious a costume wolf head. There are some “bubble effects” (early transformation has little air bubbles enlarging on faces before the hair and claws come out, some of the nose protruding is a bit lo-fi, and the little marsupial human baby hybrid as it first emerges from the heroine’s vagina is hokey) and a pregnancy that produces a baby werewolf human that just kind of weirded me out.

I do like the early “film within a film” subplot where a young man working as an assistant to a Hitchcock-inspired director shooting a horror film that meets the wildling who fled her tribe of werewolves from the little nothing town of “Flow” after she arrives in Sydney (the film takes place almost entirely in Australia). It has a jolly old time mimicking Hitchcock, the horror industry itself, sex between two types of species (who fall in love despite the unusual birth that results from their union and the threat of humans who have led to the werewolves near extinction), how the movies “doesn’t get it right” regarding how werewolves transform and what causes the process (and how the transition takes place), and how humans and werewolves don’t mix so well (three werewolves from the tribe show up as nuns and leave a trail of dead bodies in the hospital when they remove the wildling that got away from a room where intrigued doctors and nurses were seeing after her).


Imogen Annesley is absolutely stunning as wildling Jerboa Jerboa, leaving the tribe headed by her “stepfather” Thylo (Max Fairchild) for “greener pastures”. She is wanting freedom but a life outside those like her kind could be dangerous if something (like strobe lights) was the catalyst in a werewolf transformation. I throw around “werewolf” but I guess they are instead supposed to be a variation on the marsupial. Jerboa has a pouch for her offspring even! I throw around werewolf because once transformed they look more like the lycanthrope than a marsupial. Donny Martin (Leigh Biolos) is the young man who spots Jerboa, pleading with her to join his director’s horror film, Shape Shifters Part 8. She hesitantly agrees, soon becoming the star of Jack Citron’s movie. Frank Thring is a hoot as the Hitchcock-like director, perfectly imitating his talk and stance. He even looks like him; it’s uncanny and quite amusing. Barry Otto is the anthropologist out to find and study werewolves. Otto’s colleague is a professor in Sydney played by Ralph Cotterill. When they realize that a ballerina named Olga (Dasha Blahova) is a werewolf, this is their chance to learn about her species. But she seems fated to be Thylo’s mate which does kind of cause complications. Violence on both sides (werewolves killing humans and vice versa) causes plenty of friction and intense relations even though Donny and Jerboa fell in love.


What I found particularly interesting was the different approach to the werewolves and humans. Humans (for the most part; exceptions being Otto’s anthropologist and Donny) are seemingly the villains, always afraid of the werewolves (the military once again have the “let’s get them animals” attitude while the view of them as “freaks”) and/or want to harm them in some way. The werewolf assault in the hospital is the one true scene that seems to show malicious homicide (but because of human hunting them to near extinction gives them an out in this regard, though; that and the “capture of Jerboa” could be viewed by them as an act deserved of a full scale attack) on the part of the marsupial tribe. There’s room to critique both sides for their violence towards the other so the film doesn’t necessarily let either off the hook. I admired that willingness on Mora’s part to complicate matters somewhat instead of just saying “humans are the real monsters”.

The end has Thylo resisting the military scourge, but in trying to return himself and Olga to their rightful domain has unfortunate consequences. The film goes for broke when there's a "call for help" through a type of magic (!), and Otto eventually becomes involved with Olga. Then there's more fun poking at Hollywood as a prestigious reward is awarded to a certain actress with lycanthrope tendencies. Mora holds nothing back in this film. He is able, much to his credit, to not just present a slapshod of developments that makes his direction feel haphazard and chaotic. I always felt Howling II was a fine mess with a sense of fun but had something go wrong in the editing room. I always felt like the scissors were taken to it and what is left behind was a raucous, mishmash of poor acting, odd plotting, sex (werewolf orgy anyone?), and anarchic scene-to-scene transition. This film at least seems to be more professional and absent that amateurishness that totally plagued Howling II. I'll say this for Howling III, it isn't boring (neither was Howling II but it was entertaining to me despite itself; that and Lee seemed to be so out of place yet at home in the film it that can make any sense whatsover. If anything, it throws a lot at you) like the next sequel, The Original Nightmare.
 


























linnea

linnea

Nlc

Nlc
Old Skool Nostalgia

Amer

Amer
Taste of metal
"There is no terror in the bang, only the anticipation of it."
--Alfred Hitchcock

Sus

Sus

The h gang

The h gang

Hp

Hp

Bs

Bs

Smoke

Smoke
Got a smoke?

h1

h1
Look behind you!

Strek

Strek
Live long and prosper

Sbut

Sbut
Snip. Snip

Ahs

Ahs

Edc

Edc
Blog's Dead all Over

Hill

Hill
"Do not enter the city...It belongs to the dead now."

Edfen

Edfen

SRW

"This seems to be the place where the plot begins to thicken..."
--Spooks Run Wild (1941)

Castle

Castle

Frere and dummy

Frere and dummy

WZ

WZ

Mlove

Mlove

The Scarecrow Blogspot

Horror
Cult
Erotica &
Pro Wrestling Entertainment

Yep, the Prolific Madness of a Headcase Blog
"... perhaps we invent artificial terrors to cope with the real ones."

--host, Donald Pleasence, Terror in the Aisles (1984)

Alone/dark

"There are no crazy people, doctor. We're all just on vacation."

--Alone in the Dark (1982)

Translate

Lips

Lips

Care to Read Further?

When you see posts with this question, you can click on it to further read the review or blog post. I include this so that I can include more posts on one page and take up less space.

wb

Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

Fhz

Fhz

Search This Blog

Ph

Ph

The Boogens - Intro

While I must admit that as a monster movie, The Boogens (1981) doesn’t quite measure up (its monsters aren’t particularly menacing ...