So welcome to part two of my relentless shaming of others. In part one we covered the first five films of my list: And Then There Were None, Switchblade Romance, Dream Home, Grave Encounters, and Silent House. But where are the other five, I hear you cry? And why am I still reading this? Surely there are better uses for my time? Why didn’t I go to college?
Well your poor life choices are not my responsibility. My responsibility is finishing this list so that you feel inadequate for not having watched all ten of these films and my obsessive compulsive desire to make lists is satisfied (for now).
- Afflicted (2013)
Anyone who knows me will have undoubtedly heard me gush about Derek Lee and his amazingly bald head. But this isn’t just about fan girl ranting. Afflicted is a found footage movie about two childhood friends, Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, who decide to take a yearlong trip around the world. The movie seamlessly justifies the fact that Clif Prowse is somehow managing to film all of this in high definition by establishing that Clif Prowse is essentially playing himself, a movie producer that has access to an orgy of filming equipment. Found footage movies depend upon their believability and Afflicted is believable from the outset, primarily because the vast majority of the film is true. Derek Lee and Clif Prowse are childhood friends, they did both produce the movie and they did take a trip around the world (in a manner of speaking).
Afflicted was filmed throughout Barcelona, Paris and rural Italy, and the sets and cinematography are truly stunning. Smooth, panoramic shots of Italy’s countryside and time lapses of old buildings in Barcelona really give you the impression that you are watching a professional travel vlog. But, as with all found footage movies, everything is not what it seems. After a cheeky late night encounter with a French girl in his hotel room, Derek is found unconscious and bleeding. The film then gradually documents our ill-fated travellers as Derek begins to change. The premise of the film, along with a rather innovative twist, make for an interesting watch with plenty of jump scares and it boasts several sequences filmed using a GoPro that are truly inspired. I strongly urge you not to read anything about the film until after you watch it (not even the synopsis on the back of the DVD) as they all contain spoilers that’ll ruin the delicious twist.
- Haunt (2013)
So the name might seem a little cliché, and truth be told many elements of the film are a little cliché, but in my opinion Haunt is a chilling little ghost story that is well told and provides a delightful diversion from the gore, jump scares and creepy, make-up slathered children that the horror market has become saturated with lately. The film begins with a man named Frank, who is desperately trying to contact his dead children using an EVP box. Now the EVP box was probably my favourite part of the movie and, if nothing else, makes it worth watching. It’s not a Ouija board, it’s not a tape recorder that’s been specially designed to pick up the voices of the dead, it’s just a cute little wooden box with some light bulbs and dials inside. The image of the EVP box, with its tasteful wood panelling, crackling radio and flickering little light bulbs, just looks far too inviting. Lord knows I wouldn’t mess with a Ouija board, but if I found this funky little box in my attic, I’d certainly be tempted to tinker around with it.
The story primarily revolves around the house, which is where Frank Morello’s family used to live. After a series of tragic accidents, his children perish one-by-one and the house is eventually vacated. We all know this story by now, right? A new family move in and suddenly chairs start a-flying and children’s toys chase the newcomers around the house with kitchen knives. Well, not quite. Though Haunt does borrow a lot of the tropes of its haunted horror brethren, it also incorporates a few innovations of its own. The film focuses less on the new family and far more on the relationship that their teenage son, Evan, has with a young neighbour, who is unfortunately the target of extreme domestic violence. After she escapes the cruel hands of her father, Samantha runs into Evan and the two embark on a touching teenage romance. Yet, if you look a little closer, with each touch of the hand and each warm embrace, a dark figure looms behind them. Haunt is full of wonderful little touches that help gradually build up tension and fear without the use of too many cheap tactics, like the aforementioned jump scares or creepy demon children. Though it may not be the best horror film you’ll watch this year, it’s certainly a tad more refreshing than most.
- As Above So Below (2014)
As Above So Below was one of those horror movies where I saw the trailer and was so underwhelmed that I became determined not to watch it. To start with, it was yet another found footage movie to add to the cannon of abominations that started with Cloverfield (or, if you want to get technical, The Blair Witch Project) and has yet to die a horrible, suitable death. On top of that, the whole thing just seemed a little…cheap. I mean, I know found footage horror is meant to look cheap, but this looked really cheap. Like it wasn’t just trying to look cheap, but was actually shot, produced, and acted by some Mexicans that the scriptwriter had picked up outside of Home Depot. The film was released in August of last year, so that pretty much demonstrates how strong my willpower is. I needed me a horror movie, and As Above So Below was the only one on hand. I was desperate, and boy am I glad I was.
The story follows a woman called Scarlett Marlowe, who is an alchemy scholar obsessed with finding the Rosetta Stone. At the start of the film, Scarlett retrieves the “rose key” from an underground system of tunnels in Iran. We are led to believe that this is the key to finding the Rosetta Stone. In spite of the fact that Scarlett is quite possibly the most obnoxious, uncharismatic heroine ever recorded on film, the setup for the story is actually rather intriguing. Scarlett, along with a merry band of disgustingly attractive French bohemians, will travel into the catacombs of Paris in search of the stone. Once inside the tombs, the tension is built gradually as members of the group slowly start to realise that evil forces are at work.
As Above So Below starts off strong but tragically peaks about three quarters of the way through. Some parts of the film, such as the puzzle sequences, are truly inspired and gripped me long after I’d finished watching it. The cinematography and atmosphere is also believably oppressive as our hapless travellers venture further into the crypts. The films main failing is that it doesn’t maintain this tension and this can lead to it becoming a little…boring. The main reason for this is that, as I continued watching, I found that I just simply didn’t care enough about the main characters. They could live, they could have their faces melted off, either way it would have had the same impact on me as eating a bowl of plain yogurt. That being said, As Above So Below is extremely watchable and boasts several highpoints that’ll make up for the main characters lack of charisma.
- The Babadook (2014)
If it’s in a word, if it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of…the feeling that your feet will never be safe outside of the duvet again. After watching The Babadook, one can’t help the feeling that all of those childhood fears of monsters under the bed have suddenly, violently come rushing back. It’s an Australian horror movie that really took the Sundance Film Festival by storm last year. It tells the story of a single mother named Amelia, who is trying to balance her job in a nursing home with raising her wayward son Samuel after her husband’s untimely death. Now first it must be said, Samuel has to be quite possibly the creepiest looking kid in horror movie history. Like I’m talking googly eyed, feral haired, potentially drooling, gap toothed, abomination of nature. His head looks like a squash. I mean good lord, where did they find this kid? Did they make his face out of recycled yogurt pots?
Anyway, Samuel’s oddly shaped…ness is entirely beside the point. Samuel has become obsessed with protecting his mother from “monsters” and has even created quite a few ingenious devices to this end. Unfortunately these ingenious devices keep breaking windows, crippling his classmates and generally causing unnecessary havoc for all of those around him. From the get-go ol’ gourd-head seems a little unhinged, so when he comes across a ratty looking picture book called “The Babadook” and demands that his mother read it to him, we already know that a certain something is about to hit the fan, so to speak. And, like Samuel, the book is just plain creepy.
It features a bogeyman figure named the “babadook” that will supposedly secretly edge its way into your life and proceed to terrorise you, demanding that you “let it in”. The book is wonderfully presented, with an unnerving, scrawling art style that accentuates the unnatural features of the babadook whilst still appearing suitably childish. The singsong rhyme in which the story is told puts you immediately on edge and the final lines, “If it’s in a word, if it’s in a book, you can’t get rid of the Babadook”, will resonate with you long after the sequence is over. As the film progresses, the babadook appears to be more than a twisted childhood fantasy, as it gradually steals its way into the lives of Amelia and Samuel. Essie Davis’ performance as Amelia makes for some of the best acting I’ve seen in any film this year, horror or no, and her withering state as she struggles to cope with the loss of her husband while battling the oppressive, supernatural force that bears down on her family is what makes the film so poignant. In other words, what makes this film so brilliant is not only that it’s incredibly scary, but also that it’s incredibly moving. With that in mind, I’d strongly recommend this movie to anyone, regardless of whether they’re a horror fanatic or not.
- It Follows (2014)
Ever since I saw It Follows at the cinema, I’ve been compelled to listen to its soundtrack, on a loop, frantically rocking back and forth, waiting until it finally comes out on DVD. I need to watch this film again, deep in my bones. I haven’t been this restless since I saw Men In Black at the cinema when I was seven years old. But seven year old me had the money and the wherewithal to go see MIB three full times at the cinema, whilst modern-day me is poor and prone to binging on popcorn. It Follows is one of those films that just sticks with you, resonating with you long after you’ve finished watching it. One could almost say…it follows you (I’m not the first person to make that joke and dammit I hope I’m not the last).
It Follows originally debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and was met with great critical acclaim. It tells the story of a young girl named Jay who has just embarked on a new relationship with a guy named Hugh. However, their burgeoning romance is cut short when they enjoy their first sexual encounter and Hugh confesses he’s been hiding a terrifying secret. Now, as all post-pubescent teenagers and young adolescents know, confessions are the last thing you want to hear after you’ve just engaged in “the nasty” with another person, particularly one you don’t know that well. Yet what Jay is about to hear is worse than anything she could possibly imagine. Worse than an untreated STI, worse than hyper fertile sperm, Hugh has passed a plague onto Jay that will doggedly follow her until she manages to offload it onto someone else. Hugh kindly informs Jay that something will follow her that no one else can see and that will take the shape of a human being, be it a young boy or a naked old woman (yes, you heard me, leathery skin, liver spots and all). It will always be walking, not running, but slowly, purposefully trudging its way towards her with obvious mal intent. If it reaches her, it will kill her and then revert back to Hugh, moving down the line till it reaches the person that started the whole thing.
It Follows is beautifully shot, with cinematography that is truly breath-taking at times. The score, masterminded by instrumental band Disasterpiece, is wonderfully, perfectly jarring and reminiscent of classic 80s horror films like Halloween and Friday the 13th. In fact, the film itself plays out like an homage to these behemoths of horror. The acting is gratifyingly believable as the main characters engage in the banal, offhand conversations typical of teenage youth and the storyline, though simple, is refreshingly original. For me, It Follows ticks all of the boxes and remains one of my favourite films of 2014.