Tag Archives: horror movies

(column special)Blair Witch throwback, marketing and the rise of found footage horror!

Everyone who knows my obssession with horror movies and horror culture knows that two of my personal beloved horror subgenres are slasher and found footage horror. Today, we will talk about found footage horror and phenomena that started it all, Blair Witch trilogy and the impact it had on me as a fan and the horror scene in general.

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In Spring 2000.I saw the documentary called Curse of Blair Witch and it was released on tv prior to the first movie being distributed in cinema and becoming grand blockbuster from 30 000 dollar indie little horror to 140 millions hit and launching the directors and screenwriters Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez to horror scene stardom. This documentary was just awesome, especially the part when they talk about Coffin Rock and massacre of the search party who went to the Black Hills woods to search for the missing child. The documentary was so convincing that most of my buddies and me decided that we just had to go to the cinema and see the movie. It was a blast! I was so awed by the movie that I couldn´t sleep from being scared although I was a 22 aears old kid back then, not some little snotty mewling child.

I learned of course that it was all a marketing hoax, but what a grand plan, what a grand screenplay and it proves that with a great idea, you can manage almost anything. There never was real Township of Blair, but Burkittsville became pretty popular and hordes of fans and paranormal enthusiasts went there to find out where all three missing students Heather, Josh and Mike were and where the witch was. The name of the woman who is supposed to be the historical witch is derived from known alchemist Edward Kelly like an anagram and also the supposed hermit turned serial killer in the 1940-s Rustin Parr is in fact an anagram derived from Rasputin, as the authors stated later in one talk with the journalists. Some of the Burkittsville residents profited from that hysteria, some were just plain angry because they thought all those people destroyed their privacy.

The first part of the movie is quite boring when three of our main characters get to Burkittsville in order to make a documentary about the local legend concerning a witch in the Black Hills Woods. They are asking local residents about the legend(all of them fakes, none being the real resident of Burkittsville) and that part of the movie is not so interesting. The action starts when they get to the woods and little by little they get lost, strange things begin to happen, up to the very quick, murky and sudden end. What I love is the gradation of anxiety and horror that authors managed to create with the movie, from merry bunch of kids who enter the forest, accross starting to be disoriented, but still happy, to becoming hysterical, hungry, miserable, frightened and hunted. The actors were just awesome in their roles and I certainly managed to sympathize and connect with all three characters, especially Heather with the moving part when she talks to her Mom with only a little handlight being sorry about everything and you just know something terrible will happen. So, it was a tense experience to see the characters becoming more and more doomed.

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The second part why I love this movie are scary parts. No monsters, no zombies, no gore scenes, but only sound effects during the night in the woods. All those rock heaps, figures made from wood, part of bloody shirt in the bundle was enough to make my skin crawl with goosebumps. The part of the movie I remember and was most impressed is when our students heard children laughing, running and shouting in the forest dead of the night. Then, their tent starts to shake and we hear distant children´s laugh that was enough to remember this movie forever. The ending was tense, but a bit disappointing with lots of running, we are not really able to see what is happening and all of that just gives the viewer some food for thoughts and all of us can imagine and create our own ending in our heads, the authors gave us directions how it ended and every one of us created in our heads the perfect scary ending. That were some found footage horror subgenre defining postulates. First, setting the task in the movie introduction, whether the protagonists go to film a documentary, explore the abandoned hospital, investigate alien abductions etc. Then follows the traveling to that place where the story is situated and talking with survivors/witnesses/random people etc etc. Then nothing happens really until the last twenty or thirty minutes when usually the movie ends in a mix of running, shouting, screaming, sound effects, and occasionally some final glimpse of horror caught in the eye of the fallen camera or something similar. Those are the postulates for found footage, and I saw at least hundred of them and some were plain bad, clones, but some where awesome and I still love this subgenre the most in horror, but this one started it all and I will always love this one. I saw it yesterday, twenty years after it is made and it withstood the test of time.

The most important for found footage horror in my opinion is having a good story/fake or real urban legend that you can work your tension and story on. If that is not the case, you  are failed and the movie is doomed from the very beginning. Myrick/Sanchez did a mighty fine job and this movie is for sure one of all time horror movie hall of famers.

The second movie, entitled Book Of Shadows was a big let down. Riding on the money wave made by the first movie, Artisan decided to make a sequel. Myrick/Sanchez didn´t want to do it, because they wanted to wait for some time for all the hype to settle down. So, the Company recruited new director, Joe Berlinger, otherwise the director of real documentaries, who also wrote the script for the sequel along with Dick Beebe(House On Haunted Hill remake, some Tales From The Crypt episodes…).

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The premise of the second movie was interesting, because they wanted to go more with the human factor behind all the mythical and paranormal. The sequel is also not a found footage hand held camera horror, it is conventional horror movie done like so many other cinema horror movies and it is everything what the first one was fighting against. The budget was also a lot bigger, some 15 million dollars, it made some success with income circa 46 or 47 million dollars, so it was not a total bust.

The other thing is, the fans buried it with a vengeance, critics also, but they don´t really matter. Blair fans felt betrayed, I also had the same feeling watching the new movie. Starts promising, with interviews made with the citizens of Burkittsville who are either confused, happy or angry with all the fans of the movie invading their town and privacy. It was supposedly filmed with real Burkittsville citizens and Berlinger was supposedly booed and chased away there when he explained to them what he wanted to film in their town. So, our protagonists led by Jeff who organizes Blair Witch tours come to Burkittsville and Black Hills forest and judging by some flashbacks Jeff being in the psychiatric hospital, we can assume that not everything is right with this picture. I loved the idea of movie within a movie, but it was just not explored the way it should be. The protagonists crew is very varied, Jeff,  gothic girl Kim, Wicca witch Erica portrayed and written totally wrong from the real Wiccan religion and Tristen and Stephen, a couple expecting a baby. In the first part of the movie, they arrive to the ruins and foundation of the Rustin Parr house(hermit turned serial killer in the 1940s in the Blair mythology) where the tapes from the first movie were found. They camp there, drink and party, meet the other tourist party led by two guys for a few minutes and then wake up confused about what happened and where they lost couple of hours, equipment is destroyed and only tapes are left. Tristen loses a baby, they all rush to the hospital where the doctors clean her up and let her from the hospital in too quick time, that is another failure from the Berlinger/Beebe screenwriting team. They all go to some abandoned factory/warehouse turned Jeff´s house in the woods, where they start to lose their minds and tragedy strikes soon…

The characters are too shallow or too obnoxious, so I just couldn´t relate with any of them and sympathize. The children´s ghosts in the woods are cool, I am a sucker for that and it scares me, but bad make up, bad use of the ghosts in parts of the movies where they just don´t belong ruined that idea. Kim banged the van lightly, but later on we see the van practically ruined and afterwards the screenwriters just forgot about it. Who smashed the van? The deaths, dramatic parts and the great finale in the police station when the survivors and supposed mass murderers are questioned by the police are just done so amateurish and so unconvincing that the last third of the movie just sinks into total oblivion. I saw it again these days, for the third time and it still leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. This sequel is one of those that should not have been done and sometimes greed for money can be lethal for the horror movie franchise. That was the case here and the franchise was left dormant for many years after this failure.

Come 2016.and the mysterious new horror called The Woods. That was another marketing trick for making third Blair Witch movie under fake name to avoid all the internet hassle and theories about it. This time Adam Wingard, young horror rising star was chosen as a director, known for his work on The Guest, A Horrible Way To Die, V/H/S and You´re Next. Also, Simon Barret(Dead Birds, A Horrible Way To Die, Temple, The Guest) wrote the script for the third installment of this franchise. This one was made to be the direct sequel to the first movie, avoiding and not mentioning the debacle with the Book Of Shadows.

The story revolves around James, brother of Heather from the first movie, who gathers a new crew and they all go to the Black Hills forest to find Heather after seeing video which convinced James that Heather is still alive and lost there. Upon arriving there, strange things start to happen and something picks them off one by one.

What I love about this movie is the return to found footage style and being much more action filled and more tense than the second one. But, also, the sound effects that were so scary in the first movie are here over the top and just too much of them like all of the woods walking at once. Also, the characters are much more hysterical and more screaming and running through the woods. Some modern times novelties are here, like the crew is not only armed with cameras, but also with drone and old mysteries like time lapses, loss of hours, Rustin Parr´s house are here.

That last twenty or twenty five minutes of the movie is just perfect. When James and Lisa arrive to the old Rustin Parr´s house and the rain relentlessly falling which adds to the drama and the inside running like first character horror game with something chasing them and tension is just great until the end which gives some answers but provides more questions for a possible continuation of the series. The attic scenes are great, but what is with that lights, like alien movies? I didn´t get that! Also, in some scenes, at least one we get a possible witch for a few seconds and see at last how she or it looks like. The acting is okay with James Allen McCune(Jimmy from The Walking Dead) as James and awesome Callie Hernandez(Alien Covenant, La La Land) being above all of others from the cast, giving me actual feelings for them in their panic, fear and desperation. The third one is way better than unfortunate Book Of Shadows but is in fact only reboot of the first movie with some interesting moments.

In the end, Blair made me worship found footage horror. My list would be: first and legendary, third one and then the weaker second movie.

Who knows? Maybe one day the fourth movie arrives and we get more answers.

(horror movie) Clinton Road, the horror but not the way it was intended to be!

I love urban legends and stories about abandoned roads, haunted forests and I believe that there are many places on this planet that have some paranormal unexplained events which no one can imagine to exist.

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I was very happy when I read about the movie which connects real urban legend stories about Clinton Road in New Jersey which they call one of the most haunted places in the world. When I read that former teenage star Richard Grieco(21 Jump Street tv series, Teen Agent) will direct this movie along with former cop and bodyguard turned movie director Steve Stanulis, I became a bit suspectful. Also, Eric Roberts and Ice-T are only the names for the dvd cover because Ice-T appears in the movie as the owner of the nightclub and I really don´t know what was his purpose for the story or the movie, maybe returning favor to the movie makers. Eric Roberts is even worse appearing as a cameo playing himself. Was that supposed to be funny, or charming? Well, it was not!

The real cast of this movie led by Erin O´Brien and James DeBello are total trash, under every average of decent acting. The story revolves around firefighter widow who needs closure and takes his friends investigating haunted Clinton Road where his wife disappeared. Then real confusion happens, ghost girl. some Rob Halford looking maniac killer living in the house with blue lights, psychic horror, all thrown in without any order or anything like screenwriter Derek Ross Mackay went insane halfway doing his work for this movie.

The characters run and wander around without any real goal, some dying, some staying alive, no real story is clear who, why or what is happening. The ending of the movie is equally sudden and bad and it is a mercy that it is not a long one. This movie is horror, but horror how someone can make such awful flick, not horror the makers intended it to be. Avoid this one!

(horror movie) Lucio Fulci´s Voices From Beyond, a hit or failure?

I love Lucio Fulci, I consider him a horror movie visionary and one of the most important Italian and European horror movie directors and authors of all time.

But, I can´t say that I love all of his work, because there are some of his movies that I just can´t digest. This is one of those movies. The story surrounds a murder of one wealthy man and his spirit tries to connect with his daughter to help her find and bring his murderers to justice. This is not bad story, but the realization is a disaster. This one was absolute slow and boring movie, I caught myself watching the clock asking myself when it is finally going to end. The acting is bordering between total wooden characters and just plain bad. The music is decent like in most Italian horror movies.

What I love about Fulci is that he was never afraid to show some shocking and brutal gore scenes in his movies. Unfortunately here are almost no kill and gore scenes apart from one autopsy scene and couple of visions of zombies eating a guy and that is it. The characters are too poor written and some of them, including the main antagonist are too sleazy becoming almost too charicature of themselves. The ending and motives for murder are not so clear and it all ends like it started, rather plain and bad and you feel cheated after watching this one. Why cheated? Because you expected something more and greater from Fulci. But, all is not that black, because there are still more legendary and great Lucio Fulci flicks than the bad ones.

Try with House By The Cemetary, The Beyond or City Of The Living Dead and discover the whole beauty of his classic works. Don´t Torture A Duckling and Zombi 2 are not to be missed so take your time, dear fiendettes and fiends and dive into Italian master of gore giallo and horror movies.

Char Man(2019.)-Found footage horror that only found failure!

Char Man is one of the horror movies that came out this year and I was glad when I read that it is one of found footage horror movies that I love so much.

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My fascination with found footage started in 1999.when I went to the cinema of my home town to check out The Blairwitch Project, probably one of the most famous of that horror subgenre and the movie that started the whole movement within the horror subgenre. I was awed and scared as shit and that one still scares me after all these years and I am not easily scared when watching horror after seeing hundreds of movies. Anyway, there were a lot of found footage flicks until now, some better, often worse and I chose to see Char Man to check out one after long time no seeing that horror subgenre.

The story revolves around three friends who wanted to make a documentary about fire ravaged Ojai, California and the legend of the vampire there. First half an hour of the movie is extremely boring and nothing really happens then they hear about another local legend about Char Man and they decide as it goes in such movies to dare the legend for making a documentary and things happen that are beyond understanding.

Well, like all such movies this one started with a text in which we the viewers are informed that this footage was found by the authorities and edited later for easier understanding and viewing. The movie was directed and written by Kurt Ela(Coffin 2) and Kipp Tribble(Coffin 1 and 2) who also play the main characters in the movie. I must say that camera work is pretty poor even for such movies where it is usual that everything happens pretty shaky to get more real perspective of the events in the movie. The acting is also very unconvincing and I had a hard time if any to get into the characters and evolve something for them as a viewer and I just couldn`t get into the movie with interest at least for the first half of the movie. Then, when some action happens as you are used with all the running and shaking with movies like this one, there are some spooky scenes with bad masks and grainy nightvision that have their moments, but in all, including the ending, this one is just one of those found footage that are bad and are they try to jump on the bandwagon of other people´s success.

 

(column)Michael Myers-The phenomena of The Shape

Being avid horror fans, when we were kids we used to argue who is stronger and harder killer, Jason Vorhees, Leatherface, Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers. I always somehow went for Myers, him being silent, personification of evil and darkness, character created by the legendary John Carpenter in the first Halloween movie back in 1978.

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That movie and music scared the shit out of me as a little kid and still creeps me till this day. Why? Because of the relentless, merciless nature of Michael˙s pursue for his cause, killing his victims. We all know his history, I don˙t want to go into those later movies in which that cult made him as a killing machine, but in my opinion the true Halloween bloodline made of the first two movies, H:20 and the newest one, maybe including those two Rob Zombie˙s flicks which I love, despite many who don˙t. Michael is pure evil, but sometimes he brings out pity in me, disgust and pity mixing in me in some movie scenes. I never approve and never will his murder work, but I can somewhat understand him, his mask, his lonely darkened path. Being depressive and dark natured geek I am, I love Michael Myers, I love all Halloween movies, event that one, the third without Michael. I have a theory that Michael Myers somehow represents the darkness and evil in all of us, there is a little of Michael Myers˙darkness lurking in each and every one of us, denizens of this pitiful  planet.

 

(movie)SLENDER MAN(2018.)

Being fan of urban legends and myths, also legend of Slender Man, I waited to see what this movie would be like. I didn`t imagine it to be like that, but first things first!

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The movie starts as your typical teenage college highschool horror flick with the group of girls organizing a party at one of their houses. When they heard that the guys at other party plan to summon Slender Man, the girls did it too. They went online and found instant how to summon Slender Man video hahaha, and then they started to have nightmares, felt being followed and started disappearing one by one. Slender Man has come to collect them and take them with him.

Now, the problems started also for me as a viewer I always hated the movies when they summon a ghost/demon/whatever from instant online video. Besides the spooky Ring vhs video which still gives me nightmares, all else was plain stupid. The characters in this movie are like plain white rice, edible but without spice. Acting is below average and the jump and scare tactics made for little kids. The ending of the movie was just as bad and disappointing, like everything else in the movie. Avoid this little fucker!

1/10

 

 

(movie)ASTRAL(2018.)

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The only movie about astral out of body projection in the horror genre that I have seen so far is Insidious, so I was eager to see how Astral will turn out. Starring Frank Dillane(Fear The Walking Dead) and Vanessa Grasse(Leatherface), this movie is about the metaphysics student Alex who tries to cope with the death of his mother. When he tries to reach out to her through the astral projection, he gets way more than he wanted….

The one thing that bothered me a lot concerning this movie when watching is actual slowness. Nothing important happens in the first half an hour,. Then after Alex and his friends decide to record his alleged astral projections, weird shit starts to happen. There are some spooky scenes with shadow people starting to appear and making Alex and his friends desperate for help.

Suddenly, the shadow people follow Alex everywhere and the movie finally gets creepy and turns into a psychological horror or mindfuck horror.

The ending of the movie was okay, but a bit too sped up after dragging first half of the movie. Decent, but waay to slow!

6/10