The Battery (2012)

The Battery (2012)

I’m always excited at the chance to see a new zombie film, but the ‘The Battery’ isn’t really about zombies. Not about killing them, or being killed by them. It’s about two baseball players who team up after the world has been taken over by zombies and walk across New England. This is the zombie film I’ve been waiting for because it doesn’t glamourize the apocalypse, much like ‘The Walking Dead’ and ’28 Days Later’ does. Director (and actor) Jeremy Gardener‘s mundane approach to the end of the world is refreshing and entertaining, making his $6000 indie debut an instant success in my opinion.

We all want to be Ben. But we’re all Mickey. Ben is the cool-headed guy, and considering the situation keeps pretty positive throughout the whole movie, he’s the guy that survives the apocalypse and ‘actually gains weight’. Mickey on the other hand is frantic and lets his emotions rule him, which leads to tragic climax of the film. Most of the action in this film is actually between their clashing personalities – not because of the zombies- creating some great comedic overtones.

My favourite thing about this film is how easy it was to watch; the last half hour of the film was just Benny and Mickey tapped in their car, with just each other for company whilst hundreds of the undead waited for them outside. This really exposed the character’s desperation, not just to the audience but also to each other, revealing secrets, desires and jokes. It was this films simplicity that astonished me, being so used to gore and physically seeing the threat, that when they decided to cover up the car windows with blankets all that was left was an eerie atmosphere and the sounds of moaning zombies, creating a whole lot of suspense as we await their fate.

‘The Battery’ for the first time makes a zombie apocalypse seem boring. For me, a zombie apocalypse is something that can excite me; I will spend many evenings with my family planning what we would do, how we would survive and what precious objects we would take with us. This film reminded me that if it were to happen, it wouldn’t be half as exciting as it seems.

This isn’t a scary film, or a thrilling one at that. But it is an original take on an old tale, making this movie worth the watch. Kudos to Gardener for creating something unique in what seems like the most overdone horror genre of all time.

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Who’s the baddest Witch in town?

Who’s the baddest Witch in town?

She’s badass. She’s a femme fatale. She’s a bitch. There is no denying I have a massive girl crush on Jessica Lange. At age 67 she’s still nailing it and destroys every single negative stereotype of older women in the entertainment business, hell, she was even the face of Marc Jacobs beauty in 2014 and was absolutely stunning.

Lange had her debut in the 1976 reboot of King Kong, playing the role of a damsel in distress, but she’s come a long way since then. Her role in the FX series American Horror Story proves how far she’s come as a powerful female actress, and exposes her talent to younger audiences.  If you’re not familiar with the series, each season will tell a new horror related story with a new set of characters played by the same cast. And without a doubt, Lange’s inclusion is what made the show for me. She will often play the baddie, but you can’t help but admire her. No matter how evil or selfish her characters gets, I will still nod my head in approval.

Here is a quick reminder of her roles in each series:

Season 1 – Constance Langdon, the cunning Southern belle neighbour and former resident of the Murder House.

Season 2 – Sister Jude, the pious nun who runs the Asylum with a very firm hand.

Season 3 – Fiona Goode, the supreme witch of the coven with enough style to match Grace Kelly.

Season 4 – Elsa Mars, the owner of the struggling Freakshow and a disillusioned actress from Germany.

Now, in each series, Lange will play a different character, but take note that in each, she is in control. Whether it be in control of a mental asylum, or a coven, she is always the head figure, top of the pyramid almost. And this is what I love – there is a matriarchy. Long gone are the years of diminished female roles, especially in horror. This is what makes her so badass. She’s like the mother of evil (especially so in Murder House) with the power to ruin lives.

I don’t think any of her characters have ever been weak, powerless or lacking in grace. Even when Fiona Goode was dying in Coven, she never once seemed weak or pitiable. And not only is she a great actress, but she has a great voice too. Her powerfully moving cover of ‘Life on Mars’ in Freakshow is one I’m sure Bowie himself would have approved of. Is there anything this woman can’t do?!

As far as the horror genre goes, Lange has made a hugely positive impact on it, and especially the way in which women are perceived in horror. Whilst she may not be a typically scary monster like Leatherface or Freddy Krueger, her roles are just as powerful, and has more of a white-collar approach to killing. She shows us how to get the job done without getting a speck of blood on your Chanel dress. Lange has provided me with a lot of inspiration – but the most important word of advice I heed?

Wear something black.

Street Trash (1987)

Street Trash (1987)

This splatter cult flick is a must see if you enjoy out of the box horror and imaginative deaths. This film began as a short piece for director J. Michael Muro as a thesis for film school, but was actually rejected by his professors. With vivid scenes, sleazy storylines and plenty of dark comedy, Street Trash is a one of a kind film.

This film is about a 60-year-old case of Viper wine sold to (or stolen by) the large homeless community that reside at a junkyard in Brooklyn, New York. The Viper however, causes the drinker to explode, or in some cases, melt, and here begins the birth of the subgenre of ‘melt-horror’. What’s great about this is that Muro decided to go with neon and pastel colours rather than the traditional blood and gore seen in most horrors. This adds an amusing touch to the bloodshed witnessed as well as being rather pleasing to watch.

There is a story to this film, focusing on two homeless brothers and a crazy Vietnam War Veteran who sets up a kingdom in the junkyard, being hunted by a useless cop. The film does grind to a halt here, with uninteresting dialogue and to be honest rather boring conversations, but things speed up quite quickly when someone drinks some Viper or if anything sleazy happens. And this is one thing this film does not lack, sleaze.

With a plot offensive as this, Street Trash would fall on its face if it were made in our modern day. Existing happily as a cult classic, we witness racism, sexism and scenes of necrophilia. The death by gang rape scene is the most brutal and disturbing thing in this film, and probably the scariest. The rest of the offences are heavily diluted with comic overtones and vibrant guts. It’s a wonder this film was even passed for release in the US at the time.

And what’s really great about this film is ability to make you laugh, the funniest moment would have to be when the homeless men play piggy in the middle with one guys dismembered member. It’s a lot of black comedy, which some people won’t like, but for me it’s just great. Another thing about this film is that it can produce some moments of wide-eyed wonder. I’ve never seen anything like this film before, and the moment I saw a melted pool of a man in a toilet, I was truly amazed. Not only were the special effects great, the idea was original and unique, especially at the time of its release in 1987.

This film is vulgar, offensive, and gross to name a few, but also wildly colourful and hilarious. Taking pride of place as mother to the body melt genre, Street Trash inspired many other films such as the 1993 hit ‘Body Melt’. This is a film I will never forget. It’s even inspired me to think out the box when attempting special effects makeup, using bold colours to replace the traditional dark reds of gore.

Check out the trailer here, and let me know what you thought of this film!

Grave Encounters (2011)

Grave Encounters (2011)

One of the best found-footage horror films out there, Grave Encounters follows a group of paranormal investigators who become trapped inside an abandoned mental asylum. Directors Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz have crafted a chilling and macabre ghost film here with some rewarding scares.

The film opens with a production company, explaining that 96 hours of footage was found on the team’s cameras, and has only been edited to reduce the time. The film then goes into the found footage, almost a behind the scenes of any ghost hunting shown you may have seen, even bribing people to make up stories about seeing ghosts in the asylum grounds. For the first 45 minutes of the film, its’s kinda similar to paranormal activity, strange sounds and bumps in the night. But this is where the similarities end, because unlike Paranormal Activity there are physical manifestations of evil spirits and some ghoulish activities. The group are taking their last chances and attempt an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon), and this is when a ghostly hand manipulates Sasha’s hair (Ashleigh Gryzko). Things just get weirder from here on.

At 6am, the doors should be unlocked and the team free to leave, but it turns out they’re trapped inside, with each exit leading to a new corridor. This is a great way of portraying the growing sense of insanity and confusion in the crew, similar to what the inhabitants of the hospital probably felt. With no escape, they’re subjected to 96 hours inside the hospital. During this time people get ill, disappear and eventually go insane.

Whilst this film produces some scares, they can be quite predictable only in the sense not much tension is built up and I was expecting the worst. Other than that, it’s still hella creepy. I have a fear of old fashioned Asylum’s anyway, probably because I watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when I was way too young. With this fear in mind, it’s easy to say I was shitting myself over this film, you couldn’t pay me enough to go in an old asylum.

What I really enjoyed about this film was its ability to create a disturbing atmosphere. It literally grew in insanity, until its climax when we find out everyone’s been subjected to an experimental lobotomy and they’re now allowed to leave. It’s great that the team start out as arrogant sceptics, to mildly scared to full on damaged by their experiences.

This spectral encounter film will entertain as well as thoroughly creep you out. More intelligent than your average ghost film, Grave Encounters excels in its sub-genre. Don’t bother with the sequel though.

Comment what you thought of Grave Encounters below! Check out the trailer here →

10 Badass Women in Horror

10 Badass Women in Horror

I was not previously aware of Women in Horror Month until I stumbled upon it on Instagram. It’s easy to say I’ve fallen in love with the idea. For too long women have been portrayed in horror films as the victim, whether it be sinister or not. I’m happy to have found some amazing horror films that credit the female of the species and break the conventions of horror. Not only do these films have amazing actresses, the powerful portrayals of emotion, lunacy and evil seen in them are truly a credit to the modern age of film.

  1. Carrie, 1976, with Sissy Spacek.

This is probably the worst first period story out there folks, based off the Stephen King novel, Carrie tells the story of a young, shy teenage girl and the horrifying experience of getting her first period.

After being abused by her peers at school and her religious nut of a mother for years, she finally cracks at Prom night when all hell lets loose. Carrie is badass. She spares no one, not giving a second thought to who you are and fucks shit up.

Not only is she accused to be a satanic witch by her mother (which would be super cool), Carrie is a master at killing people in some pretty horrific ways.

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  1. I Spit on Your Grave, 1978, with Camille Keaton

This film is gruelling to watch with a total of 30 minutes of rape scenes, but this film has a whole lot of girl power in it. After being gang raped, leading lady Jennifer Hills gets her revenge on these disgusting men.

Using the power of seduction, Jennifer lures the men in one by one and kills them. And these aren’t quick and easy deaths like being shot. No, no, no. Jennifer is creative. For example, she castrates one of the men, and simply lets him bleed out. Cool right? By the end of the film, you no longer see her as a victim, but as a fierce woman who knows how to take revenge properly.

This film has actually been called feminist by a lot of critics for these reasons, making Jennifer Hills one badass horror lady.

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  1. 28 days later, 2002, with Naomie Harris.

I am in love with 28 Days later for a number of reasons, Danny Boyle directed it and one of my favourite screenwriters Alex Garland wrote it, but there is also a strong female character with a very important role in this film.

Selena is everything I want to be, ok? She’s cool, strong, and knows how to survive a Zombie Apocalypse. She doesn’t take shit from no one, saves Jim (Cillian Murphy) and acts as a big sister for Hannah.

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  1. The Descent, 2005, with Shauna MacDonald

This film is great purely for the amount of gore in it, as well as the all-female cast. With a variety of strong women all dealing with their past, they take a holiday caving in unexplored cave.

The main character Sarah (Shauna MacDoanld) is dealing with a troubled past after a car crash killing her husband and daughet. The Descent explores her path to overcoming her anxieties and killing a bunch or mutants undergoround at the same time. Granted, she never escapes, but she looks pretty sick covered in all that blood as she fights for her life.

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  1. The Exorcist, 1973, with Linda Blair

Ahh, The Exorcist. One of my favourite horrors, and one of the best child actresses there ever was (sorry Lindsay Lohan). 12 year old Regan is played by Linda Blair, who was just 14 at the time of filming, making her portrayal of Regan even more impressive. How many 14 year olds could grasp such an understanding of evil and give such a convincing performance? I mean, The Exorcist is scary, and playing this role must have had its difficulties for young Linda at times.

Sometimes, you probably forget that Regan is a real human child, with that demonic face and intense language. You go Linda Blair.

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  1. The Loved Ones, 2009, with Robin McLeavy

This film is great because, just like Carrie, the woman is the monster. She is not the victim, she is in control. Lola Stone is in love with Bret, and one night kidnaps him and subjects him to torture and made to take part in an at-home prom put on by Lola and her father.

Whilst it’s Lola’s father doing mos of the torturing, Lola herself is still extremely creepy and I wouldn’t want to get her on my bad side in case her dad decided to kidnap me too and pour boiling water in my brain. Ouch.

It’s very refreshing to see a male victim in horror, discarding the damsel in distress archetype that has existed for too long.

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  1. Corpse Bride, 2005, with Helena Bonham Carter

You may be thinking that Corpse Bride isn’t technically a horror, but it has some strong overtones of it and the iconic Tim Burton weirdness that makes it creepy. Emily plays the lovely yet sad Corpse Bride, who is deprived of love and seeks this from recently deceased Victor.

Emily is so important in this film, she helps Victor return to the living and finds peace within herself at the end of the film. Whilst a bit cutesy for horror, Emily is a strong-willed character that should be looked to as a role model for young girls. She reminds us it’s ok to not marry, and is the embodiment of the phrase ‘I­f you love someone set them free’.emily-emily-the-corpse-bride-31495756-2100-1132

  1. The Aadams family, 1991-1998, with Anjelica Houston and Christina Ricci

The ultimate family goals, Morticia and Wednesday are horror’s favourite mother-daughter team. Cool as fuck, the Addam’s family girls are my style icons, I want to dress like them every day,

It’s the scene in The Addam’s Family Values film which I’m sure you all know. ‘Wednesday is at that very special age when a girl only has one thing on her mind.’ ‘Boys?’ ‘Homocide.’ Yeah, that one. Wednesday obviously stands out from other girls at camp, and does so excellently.

Morticia is a powerful woman with effortless sex appeal, amazing outfits and the mannerisms of a Queen. For this badass duo, it’s clear to see that Morticia and Wednesday have helped defined generations of women into feeling comfortable in being different to the societal expectations set for women.

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  1. Misery, 1990, played by Kathy Bates

Now this is one woman I would not like to anger. Kathy Bates is a favourite of mine, and her performance in the Stephen King thriller Misery is where it all started.

One of the most iconic female villains of all time, Annie Wilkes is absolutely psychotic and reminds me of those crazy girls on Tumblr that name themselves ‘MrsBenedictCumberbatch’. With such a powerful performance, Annie goes from being a friendly nurse to a lunatic criminal. The most famous scene which you may be familiar with is the hammering of Paul’s feet so he can’t escape.

With an evil identity that trumps any male villain in horror, Annie Wilke’s character is truly chilling.

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  1. Silence of the Lambs, 1991, played by Jodie Foster

Clarice Sterling, played by a young Jodie Foster, is one intelligent woman. A trainee FBI agent, it’s obvious that all the men around her doubt her abilities (apart from Hannibal) and see her as an object of sexual gratification. This is so frustrating to watch, but it’s all worth it in the end when Clarice captures Buffalo Bill and saves Catherine.

Not only is Clarice physically strong, she is a mentally strong and talented FBI officer who manages to converse with Hannibal Lecter in seemingly normal manner. Severely underrated by the male of the species, Clarice is everything that proves men wrong.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Blu-ray Screenshot

So, who do you think the best woman in horror is? Is there anyone you think should have been on this list? Comment below to let me know!

The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)

The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)

This is easily one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen. I’ve only ever seen one other Japanese horror, and that’s Battle Royale, so I don’t think there’s much room for comparison. The Happiness of the Katakuris is a surreal horror-comedy directed by Takashi Miike, and includes a variety of mediums such as Claymation, musical numbers, and a karaoke duet. If anything, this film will thoroughly entertain you through its bizarre direction and farce acting.

The story focuses on a four-generation Japanese family, who open a Bed and Breakfast at the foothills of Mt Fuji beside an old dump after the head of the family, Masao Katakuri (Kenji Sawada) is made redundant from his job as a shoe maker. A family of failures, they need the Bed and Breakfast to work to make money. The only things is, their first guest committed suicide and the next two died in bed. As bodies begin to build up, the family must bury them to avoid bad press. Whilst all this is happening, there are some other storylines which become quite hard to follow, but entertaining nonetheless.

The Katakuris family have some von Trapp vibes going on, mixed with a lot of ‘oops’ moments and accidental deaths. More a comedy than a horror, I found myself laughing at the wacky editing and the amazing Claymation scenes, which were used in place of expensive CGI. If Aardman Animations got high, this would definitely be the result.

This film is actually a spoof of the dark South Korean drama ‘The Quiet Family’, which may be why it didn’t follow suit to Miike’s other horror film, ‘Ichi the Killer’ which came out the same year as The Happiness of the Katakuris in 2001. This would also explain the farce  acting. Its musical numbers are nothing inspiring, and are hideously funny to watch. Despite my lack of knowledge on Japanese film or on musicals, I know the numbers weren’t great, and it almost felt like a stage production at times. But this is where this film exceeds, by offering a wide variety of platforms to entertain with, if you don’t like one part, you may like the next.

The film ends with Mt Fuji erupting and a long Claymation scene of the Katakuris house being swept away with its family, only to land in a new area further away from Mt Fuji, where there is apparently a secret field in Japan where Elephants and Giraffes roam free.

Whilst this film does not offer the conventions of horror or even any scares, its ability to generate a good amount of dark comedy is impressive. With its manic and delirious style, this film will leave you laughing and in a good mood. At the end of the day, it’s just a film about family sacrifice, with some strong overtones of lunacy.

If you’ve seen this film, I’d love to know your thoughts!

Check out the trailer here.