Thursday, August 4, 2016

Which witch?

In the lead up to Halloween, I thought I'd write about a few of my favourite scare watches of 2016! It's been a genre I've always loved. We've seen good witches, bad witches and just down right scary witches! From watching "The Blair Witch project" back in 96, wanting to research more fan theories after viewing it, to the southern "voodoo" witch, made famous from "The Skeleton Key" starring Kate Hudson, through to American Horror story's season 3 - Coven, the last decade has produced some creepy and comical tales of the witch. I'll be talking though about 2 tales of seriously freaked out witches sure to make your skin crawl. If you are looking for something to beef up your halloween scare, then read on!

The Conjurring - 2013, Warner Bros

Reading about the history of this interesting horror movie concept, the plot of the Conjurring was actually written 14 years prior to it actually being made. It's based on a "true" story from the 1970's making viewing of this film all the more spooky. Ed and Lorraine Warren studied and taught students about the afterlife and demonic possession. As well as this, they were hands on in assisting people with "paranormal" situations. Lorraine being a recognised psychic used her gift to try and talk to surrounding sprits (good and bad) and Warren was there to try and trap those unwanted ghosts so that they could never harm or scare their tormented again.
Lorraine and Ed Warren - The Conjuring
You meet the Perron family. A family of 7 (they have 5 daughters) buy an old farmhouse in Harrisville Rhode Island. The year is 1971 and they soon learn the sordid history of the house which they now own and the horrible witch which haunts every square inch of the grounds. This film has huge scares pretty much from the onset and I regard it as one of the best horror films to come out in the last few years. You learn of a few trapped spirits trying to help the family, help the children but the witch has other plans for their mom Carolyn Perron. Add demonic possession to the mix and you have an all out jump off your couch cinematic experience! Give it a watch this Halloween season.

The Witch - Rooks and nest entertainment/A24

For a film which had originally a 3 million dollar budget, The Witch grossed an excellent takings after opening of 40 million. Featured initially at the Sundance film festival, this American / Canadian piece really takes the original raw fundamentals of the horror/supernatural genre and beautifully executes these to give a tale of scare and woe. Set in the historical period of 1600's when the original settlers came to the America's and settled in "New England", it shows the exile of a young family who had challenged the word of the new testament. Being highly religious back then, many folk based their livelihoods on what god and the land could produce for them. They wander far deep into the woods to build their own farm but the land is sour and returns no yield or corn.

Thomason - The Witch
Thomason, the teenage young daughter senses a danger in the woods preceding their small wood shack and the family's fears are confirmed when her baby brother goes missing out of plain sight. Her mother becomes distraught with grief and the other children venture into the woods to try and see whether they can find him. Thomason takes off into the woods with her slightly younger brother who has twitches of teen romanticism going on, and eventually he does meet his fate by being tempted by the evil female entity which has cursed the forest.

The music through out this film contributes to 70% of the suspense and scare factor, with the score being eerily beautiful and haunting all in the same breath. Again, demonic and possession are featured later on in the film with all members of the family descending into chaos. Without spoiling the ultimate ending, I urge you if you are a horror film fan to give this film a watch. It embodies every horror element precisely, from lighting, fear, through to anticipation of what we cannot see. Some of the forest scenes and the honesty of the child actors really makes this film one of my top scare watches this year.

Creatures from the other side...

Growing up in the late 80's, like many of my fellow friends, I was lucky to be allowed to watch at a young age of 7-8 years old, an assortment horror flicks such as Pet Cemetery, IT, Friday the 13th, Carrie, Nightmare on Elm street and along with these, add classics like Stand by Me, E.T, Alien...the list goes on.

When I heard Netflix Originals series had put out this nice little 8 episode 80's themed extra terrestrial/horror series called "Stranger Things" I was a bit reluctant to give it a watch as Alien series aren't really my thing (and also a genre which truly bring out the scare in me!). After watching the first episode, I was sheerly blown away at the stylization, soundtrack and so much more that it begged me to write this blog post. Enjoy! oh....and warning...there are a few spoilers ;)

Stranger Things - 2016 - Netflix Original 

The year is 1983. 4 young 12 year olds are playing dungeons and dragons in the basement of Mike Wheelers house in a small town in Indiana. They are yet to learn of their fate that evening when they decide to sneak out and go riding on that cold winters night. Track forward to a hidden government institution where you see a young female patient escape. Who is she? And why was she being kept prisoner? Episode then flashes back to Will riding through the woods near this institution in the night, one of the young boys falling off his bike and then a shadow of a creepy "thing" rushing through the forrest appears. Will doesn't come home that night and his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) knows this is unlike him. We're introduced to a frantic Joyce at the moment when she realises its not normal for Will to just go missing. She makes several attempts to contact the town police and after a day, the police do start to search the woods for Will.

Flashback to the girl who went missing from the government institution. She has the number "11" on her arm. After her trying to take shelter in the local diner and be-friending the owner (of which she can't actually speak because she's been locked in a cell for the last 6 yrs) she make's haste and leaves only to then be taken in by Mike and his friends. They hide Eleven in his basement trying to communicate and figure out who she is. Meanwhile the evil government agents try to track down Eleven after she was spotted at the diner. As the boys and Eleven get to know each other, Mike claims that her nickname will be "El".

There is a little side story going on with Nancy Wheeler (Mikes 16yr old sister) and her new jock boyfriend Steve. This part of the story vaguely reminds me of Donnie Darko, but with Nancy as "Donnie" she's a little bit nerdy and weird but has the attention of the popular guy. Lots of teen romance infused into their relationship, made all the more awkward with Will's older brother Jonathan who attends the same school and has a talent for photography. He's known as an odd ball kid and made fun of by Steve and his friends. It's portrayed that Nancy and Jonathan have a weird chemistry and later on you find out why this is. Nancy has a bestie called Beth, and you find out what happen's to Beth when the teen's decide to have a sneaky night at Steve's home without the parents. I won't spoil it for those who are yet to watch the entire series, but you have to feel bad for Beth.

Meanwhile, missing kid Will is trying to make contact from "the upside down" (the dimension accidentally activated by El when she escapes from the institution) and begins to try and contact his mother through the lights in his house. Will's mum becomes frantic convinced that he is trying to reach her and goes crazy buying strings of Christmas lights trying to contact her whilst hiding from whatever terrors threaten him where he is. The chilling scene from the film echo's something from the Poltergeist where she paints a makeshift Ouija board  on to the wall and strings lights under each letter so that Will can speak to her. At any one moment when the lights go crazy, you can bet that horrid "thing" appears trying to pierce through walls, making Joyce seem more insane. Now that Joyce has seen the "thing" she knows that Will has a chance to survive and at this point we are all left asking, just how she can get to him?

The intensity builds in several more episodes with the Sheriff and Will's mum trying to piece together what has happened, who the mystery "El". I think the reason I and so many people loved this series is because the Duffer brothers (creators and writers of the script) based the feel of the boys friendship on that from the film "Stand By Me" and you see the iconic scene of the boys walking along the train track which instantly brings back that moment from the 80's classic. You can read more about the inception of the Duffer brothers idea on Variety.

The imagery of some of the scene's is sheer art and it's these scenes which stay with you moments after you have watched them. To recap, here is a brilliant take of some of the best moments from the series.

And finally, the soundtrack. If you love mysterious synth's which sound John Carpenter-esque, heavy keyboards and deep electronic drums, then the soundtrack will surely bolster your love for this show. Spotify has a playlist created by Netflix with some of the 80's hits featured on the show. There looks to be an official soundtrack being released soon too. A huge 80's music fan myself, it was the era where electronic sounds made a break through, giving new dimensions of sound to music and the birth of "electronic music". This genre and style really emphasises the setting of time period with this series. Everyone who watched and loved Stranger Things are holding their breath for a second series. Something may have given it away in the final episode, but only time will tell whether the Duffer brothers decide to visit the upside down again.