Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fatal Frame

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Released: 2014
Directed by: Mari Asato

“Have you heard of a curse that affects only girls?”

With this opening line, Fatal Frame draws us into its mythos almost immediately. A dark, brooding boarding school for girls sets the stage. And from there on, the mysteries only intensify.

The story begins with Aya, who is attending an all girls high school, and is quickly approaching graduation. Aya is charming and talented, so much so that many of her classmates begin to fall a little bit in love with her. When Aya shuts herself in her room and doesn’t emerge for weeks, rumors begin to spread about what has become of her. The obsession grows so intense that a ritual forms; girls bring her photograph to a certain part of the school and kiss it at midnight. However, an apparition resembling Aya begins to torment these girls, and after a short time they begin to turn up dead.

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The Forest

The Forestthe-forest
Released: 2016
Directed by: Jason Zada

The Aokigahara forest in Japan is quite infamous, and has long been surrounded by an air of mystery. The name itself means “sea of trees”, but it is colloquially known as the “Suicide Forest”. Upon entering, the density of the forest cuts off almost all outside sound, creating a sense of isolation. There are signs strategically placed at the entrance, urging visitors to seek help rather than take their own lives. It is estimated that an average of 30 successful suicides take place there annually, and more attempted. It is a place of deep sadness and cultural significance to many.

Of course, Hollywood had to try and find a way to make it about white Americans.

There is a natural fascination with foreign locations and curiosities, and Aokigahara certainly does have a unique history. It’s understandable that there’s a draw to this location, and a desire to tell stories about it. But using this location as an “exotic” backdrop for a rather mundane story does not do it justice. This is a location that could be deeply frightening and unsettling given the respect and attention it deserves in a horror film, but this film ultimately did not come close.

The Forest begins with Sara, a woman who is constantly bailing out her perpetually troubled twin sister, Jess, getting a sense that something is amiss with said sister. When she discovers that Jess is missing and was last seen going into Aokigahara, Sara immediately flies to Japan on a mission to save her sister’s life. However, once she arrives and begins her search, it becomes apparent that it may not just be Jess’s life that is in danger.

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She Walks In Shadows

She Walks In Shadowsshewalks
Released: 2015
Edited by: Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Paula R. Stiles

The dearth of female characters in Lovecraft’s fictional world is not a secret to anyone who has extensively read his writing. The women he did include in his works are more notable for being so few in number than necessarily for their contribution to the larger scheme of the world. So the idea of taking this void, and filling it with nightmarish and strange tales of the women who undoubtedly would have occupied these stories, was an attractive concept for me. I had been let down by books I’d greatly anticipated before, but I purchased a copy of this book as soon as it became available and hoped for the best.

She Walks in Shadows is a book that seeks to actively fill the void in the Lovecraft meta, not just of women, but of diversity in almost any regard. It is foremost, however, an anthology of fictional works written by women, and featuring women in the lead roles so often given to the male characters by default.

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Released: 2012
Director: Richard Bates Jr.

Stories about outsiders and loners are popular, often because there’s something deep down that we can relate to in the characters represented. In horror, it often plays into our fears of rejection and social ostracization. In some cases, we also are allowed to feel their anger vicariously through them, and even cheer them on as they finally give in to their madness; Carrie White is one of the most famous examples of this.

Excision is a film that presents a typical loner narrative, but with an uncomfortable closeness to the madness that it is depicting – one that an audience might fear relating too deeply with in the end.

Pauline is a senior in high school, with few friends, poor grades, and a strained relationship with both of her parents. What she does have are aspirations to one day become a surgeon, and a loving connection to her seriously ill younger sister. As the story follows Pauline, she continues to alienate people, pushing her towards taking even more extreme actions to reach out for the help and acceptance she craves – but people are unaware just how far she is willing to go to gain their approval.

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Released: 2006
Director: Pang Brothers

There have been a lot of horror films that take place around the life of a writer; perhaps this is to contrast the idea of what is happening in an imaginative mind versus what is actually happening in the real world, and how thin that line can become under duress. Sometimes, this is used to great effect, and manages to blend fantasy and reality with terrifying consequences; other times, it feels like a cheap writing trick.

Re-Cycle takes this well-used concept and does something unexpected with it, and considering the amount of recycled ideas in movies recently, this is a compliment in and of itself.

The film is about Ting-Yin, a horror writer who is attempting to write a new book and struggling with coming up with ideas. As she’s inventing a story, and subsequently rejecting a lot of her in-progress writing, strange things begin happening to her. Things that she had described in her novel begin to become frighteningly real, and a faceless apparition begins appearing to her. Before she knows it, she has left the world she knows to be real behind, and embarks into a terrifying new dimension.

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Released: 2008
Director: Bruce McDonald

I’ll be the first one to admit it: I’m getting a little tired of zombie stories. There was a point in time where I was following The Walking Dead, watching the new films that came out, and even writing in the genre a bit. Eventually, I reached maximum capacity on them and lost interest almost entirely. Unless something truly feels unique in a zombie story, they tend to leave me a bit cold (cue rim shot); rebranding themselves as “infection” films isn’t really enough, and there haven’t been all that many that have gained my attention in recent years.

Pontypool, a film based on a novel by Tony Burgess, did something I was not expecting: it managed to rejuvinate my interest in the genre, and expand my idea of what an infection story could strive to be.

Pontypool is the story of a small Ontario town and the local radio station that broadcasts from there. Grant Mazzy is a radio personality for the station, and seems disenchanted with the dull humdrum of small town life and clashes with the producer of his show, Sydney, due to her apparent dislike of his crass radio personality. On his way to work, he sees a woman out in the middle of a blizzard who seems disturbed and in distress; when he attempts to stop and help her, all she can do is repeat his words and flee, leaving Grant unnerved. However, when Grant reaches the studio, things start to take an even darker turn.

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Released: 2015
Director: Michael Dougherty

It’s the holiday season, which means it’s time to warm up the fireplace, pour yourself a glass of eggnog, and stay in during the cold weather, enjoying some of your favorite holiday movies. Usually these holiday classics are more heartwarming fare, filled with hope and belief, with life affirming messages. Recently, comedies have started going the more cynical route, with more dysfunctional characters and relationships highlighted. Christmas horror films, however, have still been seemingly sparse.

Krampus, a film that is seeking an audience with both the cynical holiday crowd, as well as fans of the now-cult-favorite Christmas demon, is an attempt to give you a little bit of everything – with mixed results.

Krampus is the story of a family that is pushing its way through the general holiday dysfunctions to try their best and have a pleasant Christmas. Tom and Sarah are trying to keep things together while their children, Max and Beth, have their own concerns. Despite all of this, Max has a profound love and respect for the holiday, which he shares with his grandmother. Things are complicated when Sarah’s sister arrives with her family, and tensions rise. Angered by the actions of his family, Max defies his belief in Saint Nicholas and makes a wish – one he will soon come to regret.

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Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snapsgingersnaps
Released: 2000
Director: John Fawcett

For many years, the moon has been associated with femininity – this isn’t so strange, there are similar cycles shared between the two. As long as they’ve been personified, moon has always been the female counterpart to the masculine sun. Yet somehow, this concept didn’t fully transfer over to the story of the werewolf, which has, largely, been portrayed as a primarily male narrative. There could be quite a few reasons for this; werewolves are often portrayed as a human struggling with more “primal” instincts, the fight between the ego and the id. This is often seen as a masculine story, with they underlying theme that men are beasts at heart. The idea of women having these same primal desires is often dismissed, and so female werewolf stories have been historically less prominent.

Ginger Snaps not only frames the werewolf narrative around the life of a young woman, it takes the logical step of connecting her traumatic transformation to the traumatic experience of puberty.

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The Visit

The Visitthevisit
Released: 2015
Director: M Night Shyamalan

Since almost the moment his instant classic The Sixth Sense was released, M Night Shyamalan’s reputation has been on the decline. Reaction to his films in the past handful of years has been mixed at best (The Village) and an absolute critical disaster at worst (The Last Airbender). His name has grown to be synonymous with hokey, over the top twist endings and disappointment. Still, when advertisements for The Visit began popping up everywhere, I couldn’t help but be compelled to check it out and see what he might bring to the table.

Did The Visit disappoint? It certainly doesn’t have the depth or emotional resonance of his stronger early material, such as The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, but it is an entertaining and solid horror film, with a great infusion of comedy.

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Friday Night Frights: Rings

Enjoy your spooky weekend.  Start it off with this little short, following the American version of The Ring.