Late Phases (2014)

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When it comes to werewolf films, the world has been sorely lacking. Aside from the film Wer (which I haven’t seen, so I can’t comment on) the last great werewolf film was 2002’s Dog Soldiers. Since then we’ve had to suffer through or, if you’re a more intelligent person than myself, avoid the likes of Skinwalkers, Underworld, the Twilight films (Team Jacob ftw), or the Wolfman remake. Late Phases is an underdog in the battle against romanticized werewolves with rock-hard abs, helping to bring the subgenre back to a simpler time when the beasts were both fun and terrifying.

The story follows Ambrose, (played by an unblinking Nick Damici, Stakeland, We Are What We Are remake) a Vietnam War vet that has lost his vision in the years following the war. Ambrose, who is equal parts stubborn and badass, moves into a gated community for the elderly and is attacked by a werewolf the first night.

The werewolf of the film is clearly a man in a suit and looks silly the first time it is on camera. If the viewer can get passed this first exposure than they are in for a treat. Fear and tension are ratcheted up to eleven as Ambrose’s confusion and unknowing dawn on the viewer; placing yourself in his position becomes a terrifying mental exercise.

Late Phases is able to deliver two things not often seen in horror films. The majority of the characters are elderly, as opposed to the traditional attractive teens that dominate the genre; the younger characters are used in comedic means to highlight societies attitudes and views toward the elderly in bright, disgusting light. Secondly, Ambrose is blind. There have been horror films (even werewolf films, Silver Bullet) that fills the main roles with disabled characters but this is the first one I have seen in which the main character is blind, apart from The Langoliers (which I am still trying, desperately, failingly, to forgot).

While Late Phases isn’t for everyone – there will be people who can not get behind the special effects or Ambrose’s unrelenting stubbornness – it is, however, one of the best werewolf films to come out in a long time and hopefully a sign of a new trend to take back our monsters and keep them as just that, monstrous.

The Babadook (2014)

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The Babadook is a small budget Australian film by director and writer Jennifer Kent that took the horror world by storm last year. I may be a little late catching up with the film but since I’m three years late with an update, it seems fitting.

The film opens with a stylistic shot depicting a car-crash that is reminiscent of 2007’s Inside and, much like Inside, sets up the emotional landscape for the rest of the film. We are then properly introduced to our main characters: widowed mother Amelia Vannick and her unruly son Samuel Vannick; played by Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. A slow first half hour teaches the audience that Amelia’s husband was killed driving her to the hospital to give birth to Samuel and that she has not been able to cope with the child’s or her own emotional issues. Samuel is obsessed with monsters and terrified of his mother dying, while also being hyperactive.

When a macabre pop-up book (designed beautifully by Alexander Juhasz) appears on her son’s shelf one day things start to take a turn for the bizarre. The mother-son couple begin a spiral into the dark depths of depression and psychosis which I don’t want to say to much about, even though everyone has seen this film by now. The performance by Essie Davis is one for the history books; she sells the depth of her character’s issues from beginning to end and is the highlight of the film by far.

The Babadook is a film that should grace the shelf of horror lovers the world over. It’s a slow burn that challenges the audience to look beneath the visual layer of the film to strike at what it really means.

Dip Your Toes In: Body Horror

Body horror is a sub-genre of horror, that is all about the destruction, transformation, and degeneration of the body, as well as one of my favorite sub-genres. Here’s three titles I hope you’ve all seen.

Cabin Fever

The tale of five college friends who rent a cabin out in the woods, to have a nice little get-away, and instead catch a deadly flesh eating disease. Cabin Fever is Eli Roth’s first movie, and a pretty solid entry, but it enters body horror with the disease it’s self. The slow rotting process, that you watch these characters go through is pure hell.

The Fly

The Fly is one of the many body horror movies that David Cronenberg has directed, I could  write, and plan to, an article all about his work in body horror, so I’m going to just keep it to this one. The tale of Seth Brundle’s tragic transformation into a fly is one of the few movies that lets you feel bad for the villain. The transformation from Seth Brundle, to Brundlefly is one of the most terrifying examples of body horror today.

Society

Society is Brian Yuzna’s first movie behind the chair, and far from his last. Society is a mystery film, with a lot of WTF moments, and a body horror finale that blows you out of the water, almost out of no where.  I don’t want to give too much away, but the body horror elements of Society are some of the strangest in the genre.

Dip your toes in : Underrated Vampire Films

The vampire film is one of the oldest sub-genres of horror, and are prone to both fantastic hits, and utter failures. As with any genre, there are some great films that slip through the cracks, and find themselves lost in the minds of the viewer, with the memories of more recent, or lasting films. Here, for your pleasure this weekend, are three of my favorite, oft underrated, vampire films.

Bitten

Bitten stars Jason Mewes, of Jay and Silent Bob fame, as a lonely night shift paramedic who brings a troubled women in off the streets. The catch? She’s a vampire. The romance  angle played in Bitten is how a vampire love story should be.

Dracula 2000


This may be the most well known of these films, as well as the one most likely to raise criticism. Dracula 2000 is not a great film, in same sense Let The Right One In was, but it is an absolute balls to the wall fun journey, suffused with sexuality and blood, and Gerard Butler as Dracula!

The Night Flier

The Night Flier is based on a Stephen King short story of the same name. The film follows a reporter who is trying to get a lead on a story, about a killer who’s victims all seem to be that of a vampire. The vampire in The Night Flier is one of the most interesting looking,  with great fangs, and captivating vampires on screen, even taking a piss is interesting.

Dr. Giggles (1992)

” For extreme illnesses, extreme treatments are most fitting – Hippocrates ” appears over a blank screen, and as it fades we’re treated to credits, flowing around the blood stream, pulling out and showing us our title character, performing open heart surgery. Our title character being that of the insane Dr. Giggles, nicknamed so because he thinks he’s a doctor, and because he is always giggling, and the patient being one of the many kills in the opening sequence of the doctor escaping the hospital.

Dr. Giggles has a great start for what looks by all means, to be a terrible movie, and for the most part, manages to keep the film going moderately strong through out it’s 95 minute  run time. The film follows Jennifer Campbell around, her mother’s recently been in an accident, she has a heart condition, her boyfriends lack of understanding, her fathers new girlfriend, you know how it goes with slasher films, while the character does have a rich background, it’s all boring in wait for the doctors visits.

The film really work’s best because of Dr. Giggles, played by Larry Drake, who uses these wacky home-made surgical tools, while sprouting off terrible one liners ( ” It’s a good thing I make house calls”), and all the while letting out a high pitched giggles. The doctor speaks to the best of B-horror killers, such as Horny The Clown, or Jack Frost, and plays it rather straight-faced, which always leaves a funnier impression than winking at the camera.

While the acting is weak on the most part, what it lacks in acting it makes up for with early 90s fashion disasters, and some great camerawork. The film is surprisingly engaging, showing a technical understanding one wouldn’t expect from a film with such a concept. The film also managed to have a few gruesome scene’s on a caliber I wouldn’t of expected, such as a small child climbing out of the inside of a corpse, which was rather unsettling.

I highly recommend Dr. Giggles, it’s a fun slasher film, that does just what it sets out for, to have fun, and even manages to deliver some chills along the way. While some of the acting isn’t the best, Dr. Giggles steals every scene he’s in, albeit there’s not enough with him.

Score – B+
Gore – 8/10
Quality of Gore – 7/10

Dip your toes in : John Carpenter’s Apocalypse trilogy

John Carpenter’s Apocalypse trilogy is three films, over thirteen years, which on the surface seem to have nothing in common, other than being in the trilogy together. While each film is different, they all take influence from Lovecraft, and all share an apocalyptic threat to mankind.


The Thing (1982)

The first being The Thing, in which an ancient alien that has the ability to imitate any life form perfectly is awakened and set loose on a research base in the Antarctic. Filled with great gore, and one of the greatest understated endings in horror cinema, The Thing shows an end for mankind in which we’d all be taken over by it.


Prince Of Darkness (1987)

Prince Of Darkness is the tale of a group of students who are brought together to figure out what a malevolent tube of glowing green stuff is. While Prince Of Darkness plays on Christian theories of God, and the Devil, turning them on their head, if you change your point of view, and drop the idea of it being religious, you have a perfect example of Lovecraft inspired cosmic horror.  Prince Of Darkness shows a world where god is evil, what more of an apocalypse could there be?


In The Mouth Of Madness (1995)

In The Mouth Of Madness follows John Trent, who is tasked with finding missing author Sutter Cane, a horror writer who’s works have been driving people crazy. ITMOM is the most heavily drawn from Lovecraft, of the trilogy, with every location, character, and events being lifted from a Lovecraft story in some way. ITMOM shows a world where our perceptions of reality were never correct to begin with, and are much darker than we could of ever imagined

Terror in cinema outside of horror

Horror is an art form devised as a way to scare people, while there is much more under the surface, in the likes of social commentary, at it’s surface it’s all about getting scared. But horror isn’t the only place we can go to get scared, some times the most terrifying scenes pop up in anything from Disney flicks, to war movies, so let’s take a look at a few of these scenes.

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
The Tunnel.

We all know the scene, in this happy family friendly film we’re enjoying a tour of this mystical chocolate factory, with it’s candy park, and chocolate river, it’s a happy time. But when it comes time to hop a boat ride through the tunnel, with images of a chicken being decapitated, and the song, oh god the song. But when it’s over, it’ll never be mentioned again.
“Round the world and home again
That’s the sailor’s way
Faster faster, faster faster
There’s no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
Or which way the river’s flowing
Is it raining, is it snowing
Is a hurricane a-blowing
Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of Hell a-glowing
Is the grisly reaper mowing
Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing ”

Pinocchio
Pleasure Island

Pleasure Island will haunt my nightmares for many a year to come. As a child watching Pinocchio, it’s a fun journey with a animated wooden boy who wants nothing more than to be a real boy. Simple enough. When Pinocchio goes for his vacation on Pleasure Island, he starts drinking and smoking, but shortly after we get treated with the truth of Pleasure Island, in what I still think may be the most terrifying transformation scene of all time. Remember kids, stay away from alcohol, and cigars, you can just send them my way.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Opening the Ark.

Indiana Jones is one of the classic film series that everyone should see, up there with Die Hard, and Star Wars. The first Indiana had some great scenes, including the plane propeller death scene, which took a note from the Texas Chainsaw school of ‘let their mind fill in the rest’. By the end of the film, we’re ready to open the Ark, and one of the most gruesome scenes of our childhood comes out, watched mostly from under blankets, and between spread fingers, this one was sure to give you nightmares.

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Large Marge

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is the story of the world told through a man-child’s eye. Part way through the film really goes off the tracks when Pee-Wee gets ride with Large Marge, who decides to treat her new driving partner with a story of the worst accident she has ever seen. She does more than just tell him though, she shows him what the body looked like in horrifying claymation.

I decided to mostly stick with movies accessible for kids while writing this, as when a scary scene shows up in a children’s film, it always seems to come completely out of left field. There are of course scary scenes in non-horror films that aren’t aimed at kids, such as the suicide scene in Full Metal Jacket, or the bottle/face scene in Pans Labyrinth. The one scene that gets to me most of all though, I’m not sure if the film it’s from would be considered horror, as it balances on that tiny line between horror and thriller. It would be the death following the air plane crash in The Grey.