I’m working on a blog for February relating to the expectations for males and females within the horror industry. The Storify link is the Twitter conversation that really sparked this interest for me. I’m also looking for experiences from those involved in the industry in hopes of putting together a fairly in-depth look at the subject.
Happy New Year everyone and I know I’m a little late with this as most had their ‘best of’ lists out by the end of December, but I’m ridiculously indecisive and I know as soon as I post this I’ll immediately think of others that should have been on here or it should be in a different order but such is life. So with no further ado, my top 10 horror films of 2012…
10 – Manborg
At just over an hour long this frantic, 1980s video-game look and sound alike makes for the perfect midnight movie. Some brilliant, endlessly quotable one liners make it a great one to watch with friends and the fairly short run time means the film ends before the joke wears too thin. It is hugely enjoyable and its impressive to see a film without a big budget utilise it to create a ‘look’ that escalates the film into something more interesting.
9 – Resolution
With horror fans crying out for original additions to the genre I’m expecting Resolution to be one of the most talked about horror films of 2013 despite it not really fitting into any sub-genre. Much of the film’s appeal for me rests on the incredible chemistry between drug-addled Chris (Vinny Curan) and well-meaning Michael (Peter Cilella) as it is their unlikely yet believable friendship that carries the film for the most part. I must see it again.
8 – Citadel
The first film on this year’s list to make me cry, which is, regrettably, becoming more and more common. Taking an altogether more sentimental take on ‘hoodie-horror’ ‘Citadel’ rests on the shoulders of Aneurin Barnard as a father traumatised by the death of his wife and it is his performance at the centre, despite a great turn from James Cosmo as a rather sweary priest. I do have my complaints about the film in terms of it relying a lot on loud noises as opposed to genuinely scary moments (which it does have) but this film was a great surprise with its ability to maintain a claustrophobic atmosphere throughout.
7 – Chained
Chained was probably the most uncomfortable film I saw this year and I definitely left the cinema feeling a little grubby for it. Although disturbing it also allowed for some incredibly uplifting moments as Rabbit is repeatedly conditioned to become a killer by his serial-killing captor Bob. Eamon Farren has a strangely beautiful screen presence used to full effect and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Bob intimidates through the screen. Jennifer Lynch has created a haunting film about the ways in which damaged people cope. Wonderful, but so glad I did not have to get a taxi home after watching it.
6 – Errors of the Human Body
Body horror was something I was really unsure of before attending Abertoir this year due to being unaware of my own limitations in terms of watching gore. Turns out, I’m quite a fan as this and a higher entry on the list will show. Errors of the Human Body is a heartbreaking tale of genetic modification, mad scientists and failed relationships backed up by slick production, dark laughs and a steady, if slow for some pace.
5 – Before Dawn
One of a few feature debuts on this list – this one is from husband and wife team Dominic Brunt and Joanne Mitchell. This was a film I was interested to see, but honestly did not expect that much from it and I was so glad to be proven wrong. Zombie lore meets romantic drama as a troubled couple (played by Brunt and Mitchell) head off to a remote cottage in an attempt to save their marriage, blighted by husband Alex’s drinking problems brought on by losing his job. There are some wonderful touches in this in relation to zombie mythology but at its heart remains a study of love and ultimately, despair (Aww..sweet). The second film on this list to make me cry too.
4 – The Cabin in the Woods
I think the marketing for this film was one of the things to let it down. The posters proclaimed it to be a ‘game-changer’ for the horror genre and this likely appealed to many fed up of the constant found-footage films, remakes/reboots and sequels being churned out. However, ‘Cabin’ is not a game-changer at all. What it is though, is great fun and this is probably the way it should have been sold to cinema goers. The conventions and cliches being played with have already been tackled and some of the ‘you get the horror films you deserve’ points are a little heavy-handed, but it had me glued to my seat the first time I saw it and every time since too. The only word I can ever use to describe it as is fun, and isn’t that enough sometimes?
3 – Sightseers
Ben Wheatley’s ‘Kill List’ took the number one spot in my top ten last year and the teaser clip for this had me very hopeful, with its tone very similar to British comedy series like Nighty Night – dark, biting and delightfully absurd. Of course, last year the film I was looking forward to seeing most was The Wicker Tree and we all know how that one turned out, so I was prepared for disappointment. Luckily, Sightseers did not disappoint and while probably not strictly a ‘horror’ film, work of this quality should be welcomed into the genre. Amy Jump is fast becoming one of my favourite screen writers and her collaboration with stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram for this film is hilarious. I am strongly looking forward to Wheatley and Jump’s next project ‘A Field in England’, starring Julian Barratt, Reece Shearsmith and Michael Smiley, among others.
2 – Antiviral
Brandon Cronenberg’s first film is bleak, clinical and every bit as invasive as the needlework undertaken on-screen as it explores celebrity culture, cosmetic surgery and the obsessions surrounding both. Caleb Landry Jones has a brilliant on-screen presence and often it seems like the environment has been built around him as the centre point. It is beautiful, captivating and I still can’t believe it is Brandon Cronenberg’s feature debut. It feels far more sophisticated than that.
1 – American Mary
American Mary could have won this simply with its soundtrack, which is honestly one of the best I’ve heard in a while and needs an official release. While I’m mentioning the sound (without giving anything away like some of the latest trailers…grrr) there is a moment of sound in this film so well designed that it sounded like it was coming from inside the cinema. Some fantastic prosthetic work, lashings of dark humour and not ignoring the seriousness of their story make it a very strong follow up to ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’. I’m already interested to see what the Soska Sisters will tackle next as their first two films couldn’t be more different. Katherine Isabelle is a compelling leading lady, but for me the star was Tristan Risk as Beatress, who ably switched from confident and comedic to tragic and fragile. With any film as highly anticipated and praised as this one its bound to have its detractors, but for me its blend of ‘Nip/Tuck’-esque stylised surgery and snarky revenge film worked very well.
So there you have it! I realise that no top 10 list will have everyone nodding in agreement so welcome others to submit their ideas about the films that maybe should have been included, or anything I’ve missed out that I should have seen. I’m on Twitter @caitlynmdowns for any discussion. Thanks for reading and I’m hoping to be able to announce a pretty cool project fairly soon…maybe even during this week.
This theme tends to do strange things to punctuation in headers so I’ll just clarify here that the title is meant to be Carnage: After the End. Anyway, once again I am really pleased to be involved in the announcement of a new horror anthology from Sirens Call Publications. More accurately, two new books, as After the End is split into two volumes, each with ten stories – a credit to how much writing talent there is right now. So with no further ado, I will let the book explain itself to you, starting with volume one!
Carnage: After the End – Volume 1
The Apocalypse has come, leaving in its wake small pockets of survivors battling to stay alive; each carving out a new beginning for mankind.
The ten stories in Carnage: After the End – Volume 1 are the terrifyingly harsh and brutal realities those survivors must face. Each one takes us to a place where humanity’s stragglers are forced to battle with enemies outside of their control; mutant beasts, groups of depraved and desperate people, and the terrifying threat of a dwindling food supply. Their fight for survival gets even more difficult as they search among the tatters of civilization for the will to carry on.
In a world where society has collapsed and terror lurks around every corner, no one can be trusted and nothing can be taken for granted.
Hell has invaded and happy endings are a thing of the past…
Contributing Authors in Volume 1 include:
Kimberly A. Bettes, Shane Cashman, Shane R. Collins, Laura Diamond, Rodney James Galley, Michael Griffin, Russell Linton, Adam Millard, Christofer Nigro, and Julianne Snow.
Carnage: After the End – Volume 1 can be found at any of these fine retailers:
Just in case one volume isn’t enough for you, then check out the details for volume two:
Carnage: After the End – Volume 2
Hell has invaded Earth and happy endings are a thing long since forgotten.
The ten stories in Carnage: After the End – Volume 2 tell of the frighteningly horrific and cruel lives the survivors must face. Each one takes us to a place where humanity’s stragglers are forced to battle for their very existence against their own grim reality; creatures from different worlds or times, individuals or groups of miscreants who feed on the fear of the weak, and even the terrifying threat of unknown bacterial organisms. Their will to go on diminishing among the tatters of the civilization they once knew.
In a world where society has collapsed and terror lurks around every corner, no one can be trusted and nothing can be taken for granted.
The Apocalypse has come, leaving in its wake small pockets of survivors battling to stay alive; each carving out a new beginning for mankind…
Contributing Authors in Volume 2 include
Angel D. Callido, Charlie Fish, Harper Hull, Magda Knight, Jason Lairamore, Harry Manners, Zachary O’Shea, Wednesday Silverwood, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and L.E. White.
Carnage: After the End – Volume 2 can found one at any of these fine retailers:
You can find more from Sirens Call Publications from the website or by contacting Kalla Monahan (@KallaMonahan) or Nina D’Arcangela (@Sotet_Angyal) on Twitter.
As you’ve seen from the videos posted direct from the festival I had an awesome time at Abertoir 2012, but I still felt like there was room for a further write-up on it now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the whole thing.
What is wonderful about Abertoir is the fact that you don’t have to choose between screenings as you might with some larger festivals so its easier to take a chance on films that you’re not sure about or would probably not normally make the effort to see. As a result, you can stumble upon some real gems and in some cases, even change your mind about certain sub-genres. This was certainly true for me this year as before attending I had it set in my head that I was not a fan of body horror – however the cold and heartbreaking Errors of the Human Body and Brandon Cronenberg’s stunning debut Antiviral have changed my mind about that and I definitely want to find more films like them. Suggestions via Twitter always welcomed.
There is truly something for everyone at Abertoir and that was certainly highlighted this year through the wide selection of classic and newly restored films showing alongside new projects from experienced and up and coming directors. This is without even mentioning the wide range of sub-genres on offer, including musicals, thrillers and monster movies, as well as short films.
Another thing that Abertoir has is an incredible sense of community. The organisers are incredibly welcoming and this obviously extends to the guests they are able to secure for Q&As. Even those who are unable to attend send videos (some hilarious introductions like the directors of Resolution) and are usually well-received by the audience. I would challenge anyone to find such a selection of films, talks and special events for as little as Abertoir charges.
So with all that said, I’ll discuss my personal favourites from the festival. I had several favourites throughout the festival that changed in order throughout the week, but all remain very strong contenders and certainly future additions to my DVD collection. Ultimately American Mary was my favourite film, closely followed by Sightseers (which was shown with wickedly funny short Him Indoors) with Errors of the Human Body, Antiviral, Resolution and Citadel close behind. An honorable mention has to go to Sleep Tight, which actually had me checking under the bed after I saw it! I’m hoping to have some full reviews of some up pretty soon.
Tomorrow I am off to Aberystwyth for a jam-packed six days of horror goodness. I am also lucky enough to be involved in covering the festival with fellow horror blogger Hayley with coverage set to range from footage of talks and a Rocky Horror themed party to on-the-ground video reviews and reactions from festival-goers. Very excited (and truth be told, a little nervous) about all this and hope that people will be interested in what we produce. At the moment it is likely that I will be reblogging from Hayley’s blog, that can be accessed via this link to save on time spent uploading videos to two different computers. Should also have some written reviews following the festival after I’ve recovered too. Keep an eye on my twitter account (@caitlynmdowns) for bite-size morsels of what’s currently happening.
All in all I can’t wait for the festival and to share the experience with readers. I hope you’ll enjoy it. Check out Abertoir for a full list of films, talks and stage shows that will be covered.
I’m going to start this blog by just stating that I’ve still yet to see a huge number of portmanteau or ‘anthology’ horrors but due to being excited about V/H/S wanted to take a look at those I’ve enjoyed most. I’m grateful to any lovely people who can suggest any others to watch, either on the comments here, or on Twitter @caitd5. Likelihood of spoilers is pretty high.
Arguably the first portmanteau horror is Dead of Night and despite its release in 1945 is still thought of highly to this day. It does hold up well, threading together the stories, blended with elements of comedy and the ever-spooky ventriloquist dummy and builds towards a shocking climax. It sets the scene for future portmanteau films by weaving together the stories in an interesting way, preventing what could be a simple film gimmick into a successful, enjoyable and yes, at times scary piece of work. This pioneering work clearly inspired the work of Amicus studios throughout the 1970s as they adapted horror comics into films starring some of the biggest names in horror.
One of these comic adaptations is The Vault of Horror and contains my favourite segment of any anthology horror (so far) ‘Midnight Mess’ and also my second favourite ‘The Neat Job’. The framing device for the film involves a group of men (including Dr Who star Tom Baker) entering a lift, that instead of taking them to their desired floor opens out to a basement room where chairs are arranged in a circle. The men all take a seat and begin to tell tales of strange dreams they have had in which they meet their demise. While the content has certainly aged the stories have a camp, dark humour to them and the sense of the grotesque that I really love. The idea of blood on tap, direct from the neck of a still-living human being remains a horrifying idea, as does the frustration and anger of a housewife who, unable to keep up with her husband’s meticulous sorting regimes decides to kill him, chop him up and store him in carefully labelled jars.
The segment ‘The Neat Job’ clearly inspired the Dawn French segment of the Psychoville Halloween segment in which the tale is modernised to include the perils of improper recycling. Creators Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith use the anthology formula in order to set-up a variety of different stories that would be unable to fit into the Psychoville storylines but still, through a bit of clever writing, manages to further and set-up the second series. It’s a device the pair used alongside Jeremy Dyson and Mark Gatiss for The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special to use some of their characters in a different way while still remaining true to the worlds they have created. Mark Gatiss also used a form of portmanteau story telling in his fantastic series Crooked House, that moves through different times of the house and the effect it has on its inhabitants.
The thing I really love about anthology horrors is that they allow for a wide variety of horror themes. It can deal with the supernatural, serial killers or any other sub-genre of horror in small chunks. Most anthologies include paranoia, revenge, betrayal, grief and obsession which are integral to the nature of horror. For example, in ‘The House That Dripped Blood’, one of the stories concerns a horror author who begins to see his serial killer creation Dominic around the house, often attacking his wife. This theme of obsession and the dark interests of those who work in horror works well as a story opener. The sight of Dominic is one of the more genuinely creepy things within the often camp nature of some of Amicus’ output.
Another great thing about the anthology horror is the line up of cult and horror names involved in the productions. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Denholm Elliot, Anna Massey, Tom Baker and Vincent Price have all been a part of one or more and the format often allows them to play against type. A good example of which is found in ‘The House That Dripped Blood’ where Christopher Lee appears to be playing the role of a villain before a twist in the tale showcases his talents in a different way. Of course, the performances that conform to their usual roles are just as fun, with Vincent Price explaining the breeds and cross breeds of various monsters in ‘The Monster Club’ being a particular highlight.
So that’s my little ramble about anthology horrors, inspired by the fact that V/H/S is out soon, the format of which (if successful) could allow new directors to collaborate with others and hone their craft by working on smaller tales, but with the creativity to weave them together. My only problem with V/H/S is that its another found footage film and they really have outworn their welcome, but at least there’s a little change to the format and the handover to a variety of directors should inject some life into the genre. Plus, who can argue with how cool that poster is?
Thanks for reading and as already stated at the start of the blog all suggestions for more anthology horrors are welcomed, either here or on Twitter.
I’ve been terribly inept and neglectful lately due to ongoing work but am going to try and post more regularly from now on. Worst of all I’ve even missed commemorating the 1st birthday of Scared Sheepless by 10 days. So this post will just be a little catch-up type of deal then I can sort some more (hopefully interesting) stuff out for the next few weeks.
Scared Sheepless came directly from my starting to write horror film reviews for AllHorror.net, where I realised that I didn’t just like writing about the films themselves, but rather those things around it. A huge thanks first off to Robin and Julie for being so awesome and not only giving me the opportunity to write for such a great site, but also for recommending Martyrs – a film that still hasn’t left my head. I’ve always had really great responses from people who’ve read the reviews, even if they disagree with what I’ve said, people have always been polite.
So about a year or so ago I was in a little market stall and saw a possessed Regan in bed that had sound and movement and I realised that was the sort of wonderful thing I wanted to write about. Coupled with this is the fact that The Exorcist is one of my favourite films ever (and a fair candidate, I think, for one of the best films ever made) and I came back to find out more about the merchandise and Merchandise Monday was born.
Following on from this I was able to attend my first film festival – Abertoir in Aberystwyth. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many films in such a short amount of time. The Abertoir organisers are great and really do find and showcase some gems. Also met some other wonderful film fans who I’d been able to speak to a little bit on Twitter, but nothing bonds a group of people like heavy drinking at Inn on the Pier. Look out for Moore and Roberts too who are currently doing some great audio/visual reviews. Looking forward to going back again this year to see what will be showcased and hopefully getting some reviewing done. One of the best things to happen as a result of Abertoir and AllHorror was that my review of Some Guy Who Kills People was used in a press piece for Newcastle Cinema…the finished piece is still one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and I can’t quite believe its my words on there.
Also huge thanks to authors like Jake Bannerman and Julianne Snow (and Sirens Call Publications as a whole) for being so accomodating and being interviewed and doing guest posts for the blog. I’m pleased to say that I’ve yet to encounter anyone unpleasant or difficult in my time of writing stuff, so long may that continue. So with that said, I’m hoping to get back into the blogging and try and include more opinion type pieces. Thanks to everyone who has read or retweeted my reviews or blog entries, it means a lot. Now on to year 2!
I know, I know, I’m a terrible flake and have forgotten yet another Merchandise Monday. To be perfectly honest it’s proving more difficult than I thought to find new stuff each week and also keep my bank balance in check. Some would say I need more will power and to them I say…well yeah probably. So from now on, Merchandise Monday’s will be reserved for when I find stuff that simply must be seen. Saying that, this week’s entry is something of a merchandise themed one. Just go with it .
Thanks to Twitter, I can pretty much fill my day browsing at all sorts of online shops and avoiding doing anything vitally important but every now and again a site pops up that I really want to revisit. One of those sites is T-Shirt Bordello and as you can probably tell by the name, they sell t-shirts. However, that’s not all they sell as there are also pretty good mugs and such on there too. Now normally I can pick out my favourite shirt from a site, but so many of these are so good I simply can’t choose.
From the Shaun of the Dead themed ‘Zombaid’ shirt (priced at $15.99:
To prints inspired by The Shining (priced at $14.99):
All the way to the not-at-all horror themed, but still great This Is Spinal Tap design ($14.99 too):
The great thing about not being able to choose from any of the designs is that there’s currently a special offer on where you can get 1 shirt free if you buy 3 items. Most of the designs are available in both the men’s and women’s styles so its a great place to pick up some fun gifts for anyone in your life. As well as the online shop, they are also on Twitter on the handle @tshirtbordello. Check it out now, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Instead of a Merchandise Monday post this week, I’m going to do my very own self-involved top 10 list of my favourite horrors of 2011 with a short write up for each. Many of the entries hail from the wonderful screenings at the Abertoir horror festival and some I’ve also done reviews for over at Altered Realities Radio. It’s a fairly eclectic list, but I hope you’ll enjoy the read. As always I welcome discussion about the placements and films. As of writing this I’ve yet to see a few films I really want to see, so perhaps in some time there’ll be a revised list. So without further ado…
10 – Final Destination 5
Yes, the formula is over used now and the scenarios have become ever more ridiculous, but there’s something about the Final Destination series that I think I’ll always enjoy on some level. FD5 isn’t going to convert anybody who isn’t sold on the idea, but for those who like it it was exactly what it needed to be. The opening bridge scene is near perfect in its ridiculousness and the death scenes kept me guessing all the time. A great ‘switch-your-brain-off’ film.
9 – The Woman
Gory, feminist tale from May director Lucky McKee. Heightened emotions, bloody action and heaps of shock make for an intense and uncomfortable experience. Would take a lot for me to sit through it again – in a good way.
8 – Panic Button
A fitting send-up of social networking at its worst and most terrifying. You will always consider the terms and conditions that little bit more after watching this one. While the release date marks it as Welsh director Chris Crow’s first film it is actually his second (after Devil’s Bridge) and it’s stylistic choices further confirm how much of a directorial force he is becoming.
7 – The Perfect Host
Described as the ‘Niles Crane’ movie, the reason for which will be clear to anyone who watches it. The filmmakers know they have David Hyde Pierce and use him to his full potential. Almost cried laughing at least once throughout. A top notch performance works alongside more sinister elements. This was the only film to beat Some Guy Who Kills People in audience votes at the Abertoir festival.
6 – Devil’s Bridge
A brutal look at Anglo/Welsh relations, but on a separate level provides a far more than adequate stalk and kill film with innovative camera work and gritty British shooting to provide an entertaining film for the world at large. I think people probably prefer Panic Button but for me, Devil’s Bridge as a directorial debut is a real force.
5 – Scream 4
The risk of adding to the Scream trilogy was something I was well aware of before going to see this. While I love the first and second in the series, I’m one of those who didn’t much care for Scream 3 so I thought I would be even less impressed with the fourth instalment, but the remake/reboot craze is perfectly handled and reboots the series with all the fun references and humour from the first film. It’s also got one of my favourite scenes of the year, which I won’t go into here as I don’t want people to have their fun spoiled.
4 – Inbred
Balls-out, bawdy gore fest and I loved every second. Purely British in its execution with laughs and winces around every corner. Can’t wait for more people to see it. Has real potential to become a powerfully loved cult hit.
3 – Black Swan
Probably not strictly a horror, but one of those films that kept me thinking about it long after the credits had rolled. Featuring one of the few scenes to ever make my blood run cold. As a standalone and also a companion piece to The Wrestler, Black Swan works on a psychological level and bucks the trend for what a ‘ballet movie’ should be. Reminded me a lot of Repulsion, another film that really sticks with you.
2 – Some Guy Who Kills People
Heart-warming slasher comedies come few and far between and I doubt many could pull it off with the grace that Some Guy does. My favourite film from the Abertoir film festival this year (and by all accounts everyone else’s until The Perfect Host on the final day), it’s a great film, perfect for horror fans, but also accessible enough for those too timid for full genre pieces.
1 – Kill List
Ben Wheatley’s genre-bending film makes my number one for the year simply for the way it made me react on an emotional level. I go to see a lot of films alone and only Kill List has made me wish I hadn’t gone solo. It’s difficult to pick a film like this as a number 1 because such things normally require details, but Kill List needs to be seen blind. Nothing can recreate the feeling of watching it for the first time, but it’s really fun to watch others watch it when you know the secret.
So that wraps up my choice of the top 10 of 2011. I’m hoping to return to doing Merchandise Monday next week. In the meantime, if you want to get in touch regarding your own merchandise or anything you’d like featured contact me either on Twitter @caitd5 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Survivalismo’ is a short film by Jose Pedro Lopes of Anexo 82 Productions (follow him on Twitter @zecopeco) shown at the Abertoir Horror Festival this year. Short films are a relatively new medium for me to review so bear with me.
The film confronts the viewer with a man in a hellish situation – he is perched on a chair, a bag around his head and a noose around his neck. He is alone in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse and throughout the course of the film must come to terms with why he is there and perhaps more importantly, does he deserve it?
The concept of the film largely concerns the man coming to terms with his situation and much of the inspiration of this is taken from the Kubler-Ross school of thought of stages of grief. The stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance and all certainly play out in the film. What is really remarkable about this is that even with the short 9 minute timescale none of these stages feel rushed and all add to the intensity. The performance of the lead enhances this further and even without seeing his face you do feel a connection to him.
What begins as an individual facing his own inevitable death becomes a larger metaphor for all loss and grief. There are many times in life where we ask ‘Why me?’ and this film deals with those feelings of judgement that arise when those things happen. I won’t reveal all about this film as it is a much more interesting and shocking experience.
I am very excited about the next project from Anexo 82 Productions and you should definitely look them up and see ‘Survivalismo’ however you can. Thank you to Jose Pedro Lopes for the opportunity to review this wonderful bite-size piece of intensity.