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Posts Tagged ‘horror’

This film was something of a departure for Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was previously always known as an action star with the occasional foray into daft comedy (Twins, Junior). This is a post apocalyptic horror, slow moving but thoughtful and poignant.

The world is consumed by the Nercoambulist virus which turns those afflicted into violent ‘zombies’ 6-8 weeks after infection. Wade’s (Schwarzenegger) daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) has been infected but has not yet turned violent and he is determined to bring her home and look after her until such time as she turns violent and becomes a threat to their safety.

There are a few scary ‘made you jump’ moments, but this is not really that kind of a horror film. Instead, it’s more about watching someone die slowly, knowing that they will become a danger to their loved ones. It’s set in the present day, but the world has been ravaged by the virus. Wade loves his daughter but has to struggle with what he knows is to come.

I enjoyed the film, although it was by no means a relaxing watch. Schwarzenegger put to bed any suggestion that he can’t act – clearly he can, and while he might not be Oscar winning level, he is as good in this role as many other talented actors would be, and you can see the pain on his face.

My only complaint about the film is that it is just so dark. I don’t mean figuratively – it’s certainly that – I mean quite literally. A lot of the scenes are so dimly lit that it was sometimes difficult to make out what was happening. This reflected the tone of the film but at times became slightly frustrating. On the whole though, if you like a more thought provoking type of zombie movie, you might want to watch this.

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The book – one of King’s most beloved works – is essentially a story of good vs evil, in a post-apocalyptic setting. It was initially published in 1978 and then reissued including parts that had been cut from the original publication (for financial reasons). In the later version, the setting was moved from 1980 to 1990. It was the later, bigger edition which I read, which came in at over 1300 pages. So a big brick of a book!

The books starts with a man made plague sweeping the earth and killing most humans, although a few remain immune. After the plague come the dreams – people dream of a faceless man who terrifies them, and an elderly lady who they see as a saviour. Two groups form – followers of the faceless man – Randall Flagg, and of the elderly lady – Mother Abagail.

The scene is set for an epic battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil; between God and the Devil or certainly at least between their emissaries on earth.

The story has everything – the supernatural, horror, human relationships and the gamut of emotions – there is love, hate, fear and despair, hope and friendship. There are unlikely heroes and tragic villains. It’s epic in every sense. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although on balance I still prefer Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King, which I read earlier this year.

The Stand is a wonderful book though which really drew me in, and I really came to care about a lot of the characters. Stu Redman was my favourite character in the whole story and I also have a soft spot for Nick Andros. It took the me the best part of two months to read, which is a LONG time for me! But it was worth it. Highly recommended.

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10-cloverfield-lane

Year of release: 2016

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Writers: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle

Main cast: John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

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Genre: Horror, thriller, mystery

Highlights: The acting for all three of the main cast (and for the most part, this is a three-hander) is superb throughout. The first 90 minutes of the film is full of tension, atmosphere and an underlying sinister tone and I loved it

Lowlights: The last ten minutes. WTF?

Overall: Brilliant – if it had finished ten minutes earlier!

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The world is burning, civilisation is collapsing and the human race is in danger of being wiped out…a mysterious disease known as Dragonscale is sweeping the planet – nobody knows how it started, but everyone thinks it will end with the destruction of mankind. The disease starts out as swirling patterns on the sufferer’s skin, and eventually those with it burst into fire and are literally burnt to death. It doesn’t take long before vigilantes roam the streets killing those affected in an attempt to rid the world of the disease.

Harper Grayson finds out that she has Dragonscale at roughly the same time as she discovers that she is pregnant. Her husband Jakob abandons her, and in fear of her life, Harper flees to try and find a place of safety. She is taken under the collective wing of a group of fellow sufferers who have set up their own community known as Camp Wyndham, where they believe they have found a way to, if not cure Dragonscale, at least control it and even use it to their advantage. One of the group is John Rookwood, known as The Fireman. Enigmatic and single-minded, John protects the group and has special skills of his own for using Dragonscale to defend his community. But danger and hysteria lurk within the camp…

I had previously only read one book by Joe Hill – Heart Shaped Box – which I thought was okay but not brilliant. I would probably not have bothered with any more of his novels except that dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels always intrigue me, so I gave this one a try. And wow! am I glad that I did!!

It’s a big brick of a book, at just shy of 750 pages. Sometimes I can get a bit impatient with such long books, but I seem to have got lucky with a couple this year (earlier in the year I read Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ which I also loved), including this one. The writing is engaging and there’s always something to tease you into reading just one more chapter, and oh go on there, just one more…

Some scenes were particularly poignant – crazy as it sounds, one of the scenes that sticks in my head is when Harper gets brief access to the internet after weeks of having none. She goes to Google only to find that it is no longer there.

There’s a lot of characters in the book – some I loved, and some I absolutely detested, as I am sure was the intention of the author. Harper was a feisty heroine – the best sort actually, as she only realised her own strength of character when the chips were down.  found her obsession with the film Mary Poppins a bit odd but I’ll let it go!! The Fireman was exasperating and antagonistic, but fiercely protective of those he cared about, and his bravery knew no bounds.

The story seemed to move quite quickly for me – that is there was always something happening and it didn’t lag at all. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I liked it although I know some reviewers were disappointed.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian novels. It’s well worth your time reading!

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This adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel seems to have attracted some negative reviews, but I liked it.  This may be in part due to the fact that I haven’t read said novel (horror is not really my genre), and neither have I seen the acclaimed 1968 film adaptation, starring Mia Farrow (because, well…horror is not really my genre).  I only watched this latest adaptation – released as a two-part mini-series (four parts in the UK) because it starred Jason Isaacs, who I always find to be a very talented and versatile actor, but I enjoyed the production on its own merits too.

Briefly, the story – which apparently does have some differences to both the novel and the 1968 film – revolves around a young woman named Rosemary Woodhouse (Zoe Saldana), who moves to Paris with her husband Guy (Patrick J. Adams), after suffering a devastating miscarriage.  They become friends with a wealthy and influential couple named Roman and Margaux Castavet (Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet respectively), and suddenly their lives seem to take an upward turn.  However, when Rosemary falls pregnant again, matters take a sinister turn…

I thought the cast were all very good, although the stand-outs were definitely Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet, who both had just the right mixture of charisma and menace.  Zoe Saldana was great as Rosemary (and looked incredibly beautiful), and Patrick J. Adams did a fine job as Guy.  I also particularly enjoyed Olivier Rabourdin as the Police Commissioner, who Rosemary enlists for help.  Christina Cole was good (as ever) as Rosemary’s friend Julie, although she did not have as much to work with as some of the other characters.

Paris was the perfect setting for this mini-series (although I understand that the neither the novel nor the 1968 film were set there).  The dark atmospheric filming made it both creepy and beautiful, and on a personal  level, I am very fond of Paris and always enjoy looking at it and seeing it in films or television shows.

Having read other reviews, it seems that this series was better received by people who are not familiar with the book or earlier film, so if you haven’t read/seen these, I would definitely recommend that you give this production a go.  The only thing that let it down slightly for me was that a few plot points in the last hour felt a bit rushed, but overall I liked this a lot.

Year of release: 2014

Director: Agnieszka Holland

Producers: Zoe Saldana, Mariel Saldana, Cisely Saldana, Andrew Balek, Robert Bernacchi, Joshua D. Maurer, Stephane Sperry, David A. Stern, Alixandre Witlin, James Wong, Tom Patricia

Writers: Ira Levin (novel), Scott Abbott, James Wong

Main cast: Zoe Saldana, Patrick J. Adams, Jason Isaacs, Carole Bouquet, Christina Cole, Olivier Rabourdin

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This is a fairly low-budget British ‘horror’ film (albeit light on the horror aspect), which Cassie (Christina Ricci) is a young woman knocked over by a car in the sleepy town of Ashby Wake.  When she recovers, she has lost her memory and cannot remember what she is doing in the town.  The woman who knocked her over lets Cassie stay with her and her family, and Cassie forms a bond with the young son, Michael.  However, she is curious and concerned about the strangers who she keeps seeing in the town, but who seem oddly familiar to her, and she enlists the help of a man named Dan (Ioan Gruffudd).  Meanwhile, a buried church is discovered underground, and various members of the Anglican church in the neighbourhood are anxious to discover the mystery behind it.

I watched this film for the sole reason that Ioan Gruffudd was in it.  Horror is not really a favourite genre of mine, and religion is not a subject which would normally draw me to a film.  Nonetheless, I actually found this entertaining enough, despite a few plot holes and unresolved questions.

Christina Ricci was fine as the lead character, although some of the choices that character made seemed unlikely.  Ioan Gruffudd (who surely must have an ageing portrait in his attic, as he looks no different eleven years later than he does in this film) was also good as Dan – actually the best thing about the movie, from  my point of view.

In all, while this film does present more questions than it answers (or more truthfully just leaves some plotlines dangling), it’s an undemanding, slightly hokey experience, and not bad if you are a fan of the genre, or any of the main actors.

Year of release: 2003

Director: Brian Gilbert

Producers: Patrick McKenna, Pippa Cross, Rachel Cuperman, Marc Samuelson, Peter Samuelson, Steve Clark-Hall

Writer: Anthony Horowitz

Main cast: Christina Ricci, Ioan Gruffudd, Stephen Dillane, Kerry Fox, Simon Russell Beale, Peter McNamara

 

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This British horror film was directed by Martin Kemp, better known for his music career in Spandau Ballet, and his acting career (The Krays, Eastenders, amongst others).  Also known as Exposé, it is based on a 1976 film called The House on Straw Hill (alternative name Trauma).

Paula (Anna Brecon) is a writer, struggling with her second novel.  At her publisher’s suggestion, she goes to stay at an old house which belongs to her uncle, in order to concentrate her mind.  When an assistant named Linda (Jane March) turns up to help Paula, everything seems fine at first, but it soon becomes clear that Laura is dangerously unbalanced.

I am not normally a fan of horror films, but I watched this because the delectable Colin Salmon is in it.  It was actually pretty entertaining, and held my attention throughout (it’s a short film, coming in at just under 80 minutes).  I would say that it is more of a psychological horror, than a gory horror – and there are definitely no ghosts or ghouls here.

Anna Brecon did a decent job as Paula, and Colin Salmon was great as Leo, Paula’s counsellor and friend.  Occasionally, the dialogue was a bit clunky, but overall it was enjoyable enough, and there was a twist which I should have seen coming, but didn’t.

It’s not the best of its genre, but if you are a fan of thrillers (rather than out-and-out horrors), then I would say that this film is worth an hour and a half of your time.

Year of release: 2010

Director: Martin Kemp

Producers: Kevin Byrne, James Kenelm Clarke, Will Horn, Ciaran Mullaney, Gareth Mullaney, Billy Murray, Gary Phillips, Simon Phillips, Mark Vennis, David Beazley, Johnathan Sothcott, Danny Young

Writers: James Kenelm Clarke, Martin Kemp, Jonathan Sothcott, Phillip Barron

Main cast: Anna Brecon, Jane March, Jennifer Matter, Billy Murray, Colin Salmon, Linda Hayden

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In this 1976 classic horror movie, Gregory Peck plays American ambassador Robert Thorn, who makes the biggest mistake of his life when his newborn child dies, and he agrees to illegally adopt another baby, whose mother died in childbirth. This is all unknown to Thorn’s wife Kathy (Lee Remick), and for the first few years of their son Damien’s life, everything is great. The Thorns have a healthy, happy child, and a wonderful marriage. Things start to go wrong however, at Damien’s fifth birthday party, when his nanny commits suicide in front of all the guests, and shortly afterwards, a Priest warns Robert that his family’s life is in danger from their son. Strange and troubling events soon start to convince Robert that his child is evil incarnate…

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film – I’m not generally a fan of horror movies, and I wanted to see this one, purely because I am a fan of Gregory Peck. I actually did not find it scary – although there were a few genuinely tense moments – but I did find it riveting viewing. Gregory Peck and Lee Remick are perfectly cast as the Thorns, who come to suspect that their child is not all he seems. Billie Whitelaw is also superb, and genuinely unsettling as Mrs Baylock, the nanny who replaces their ill-fated first nanny. Harvey Stephens, as only a young boy, does a fine job as Damien, although he does not get as much screen time as one might have expected. Excellent support is also given by Patrick Troughton as Father Brennan, the repentant Priest who tries to warn Thorn, and David Warner as a photographer named Jennings, who finds himself drawn into the mystery surrounding Damien.

There is very little gore in this film; rather, it is a case of what you don’t see, i.e., the power of suggestion. This creates a more unsettling atmosphere. Although the film is not as frightening nowadays – and possibly has not aged very well – I can imagine that at the time of its release, it was genuinely disturbing.

It’s well worth seeing, even if you’re not a fan of the horror genre – it’s a film that’s a classic with good reason!

Year of release: 1976

Director: Richard Donner

Writer: David Seltzer

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Billie Whitelaw, David Warner, Patrick Troughton, Harvey Stephens

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When Jack Torrance is offered the job of caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, high in the Colorado mountains, over the winter period when the hotel is closed, he thinks it might be just what he and his family need.  Jack and his wife Wendy have been experiencing problems in their marriage, due to his alcoholism and temper – which caused him to lose his previous job as a teacher – and their 5 year old son Danny is caught in the middle.

When they meet the hotel cook Dick Hallorann, Dick immediately recognises that like him, Danny has ‘the shine’ – a gift (or curse) that enables him to see what people are thinking and witness events that happened years earlier, or haven’t happened at all yet.

Stuck in the hotel with nobody but each other for company, the huge snowdrifts prevent anybody from getting in or out of The Overlook grounds.  But they soon find that there is a malevolent force at work – one that wants to hurt the family and won’t let them escape.  Will they get out with their sanity – or their lives?…

There’s no doubt that Stephen King can tell a good story.  He draws the reader in from the first page, and makes them always eager to know what’s going to happen next.  For the most part, there are only the three main characters in the book (except for the hotel itself, which does have a sinister and ominous presence).  This adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere, which keeps building throughout.

Jack and Wendy’s characters were well developed; Jack is a man struggling with his own demons, a recovering alcoholic and a man who struggles with his temper, albeit he loves his family very much.  Wendy is caught in a trap between the man she loves and doing what she thinks is right for her family and her anguish is well depicted.  Danny was less well drawn, although this did not detract from the story.

I didn’t find the book scary, but it was an absorbing read.  I couldn’t help feeling that if it had been perhaps 75 pages shorter, it might have been a ‘tighter’ read, but overall this was an enjoyable book.  If it was an author I was trying for the first time (it isn’t), I would be encouraged to read another book by them.  I would recommend this book, but only to fans of the author or the genre.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Rock star Judas ‘Jude’ Coyne has an unusual collection of macabre and grotesque items – such as a cannibal’s cookbook and a letter from a condemned witch in the Salem with trials from the 17th century.  So when Jude’s assistant Danny discovers a ghost for sale on the internet, Jude knows he has to have it.  A few days later, he receives a heart shaped box containing the suit which the dead man’s ghost is supposed to inhabit.  However it soon becomes clear that this is a very malevolent ghost, with one goal – to kill Jude and anyone he cares about.  A terrifying cat-and-mouse tale ensues, with Jude realising that he has to get to the bottom of just why this ghost has a grudge against him.  But what he discovers will mean that he will never be the same again.

Horror is not usually a favourite genre of mine, but this book was enjoyable.  The writing flowed easily and the story moved on at a rapid pace, never becoming boring, and never lingering for very long at any stage.  It is quite disturbing in parts, but never repulsively so.

Jude and his girlfriend Georgia were well portrayed – the story is told almost entirely from their point of view (although the narration is in the third person), so I did feel as if they became well known to the reader.  The only other characters who were really fully fleshed out were a prior girlfriend of Jude’s named Anna – who is significant in this story – and Jude’s two dogs Angus and Bon (and while they may be dogs, they certainly deserve to be remembered as important characters in this story).

The first two thirds of the book were probably my favourite parts – where Jude and Georgia come to realise the danger they are in, and wonder what they can do to make the danger stop.  The story did tend to sway slightly to the ridiculous in the final third of the book – Jude in particular seemed to reach conclusions and take courses of action that had no rhyme or reason to them.  However, the ending itself is very satisfying and makes up for any little niggles I may have had prior to it.  

Joe Hill certainly has a vivid imagination and I would certainly consider reading more work by him.  Recommended, especially to fans of the horror genre.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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