Friday, 29 May 2009

The 10 Best Horror Films


Image property of Universal Pictures ShockTillYouDrop

In celebration of today's much anticpated release I'm sharing my thoughts on the movies that make hair stand on my skin.


Gen-Xers like myself know director Sam Raimi from the Evil Dead 80s. In the 90s he went Hollywood and turned his back on horror. Those 90s that were bereft of scares until Scream remade the genre fashionable profitable and eventually respectable. Now Raimi’s back with the trailer tagline announcing ‘the return of true horror’.

I’m excited.

The Drag Me To Hell storyline is Hammer House of Horror by way of Faust. Entertainment is more the telling than the story. Otherwise James Bond would be dead. The trailer looks crisp and compelling. No bait and switch here.

A bad horror film – they’re aplenty – is always better than a bad drama (like that fantasy wishful-thinking claptrap Juno). A bad comedy is intolerable. A bad action film stars Steven Seagal and all romantic comedies are bad; Anne Hathaway for Julia Roberts? Kate Hudson for Meg Ryan?

I like horror because it holds my attention. When done well there’s dread throughout every frame. The following 10 movies are examples of genre excellence. They walk with you out of the cinema into your bedroom and into your sleep.

I wrote a horror screenplay No Fixed Abode and was quarter final placed at the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences .

My time will come.

10) The Uninvited US 2009
This recent gem rewrites conventional wisdom; it’s a remake that is better than the original.

Like everyone in Britain I grew up on American movies and television. I can close my eyes point at the screen and predict what will happen in the next scene. Foreign movies follow a different template. Ergo they receive my acute attention.

The source movie A Tale of Two Sisters (Korea) is baffling. If a viewer laughs at a horror film it’s a disaster. If the viewer scratches his head, it’s still a disaster.

The Uninvited is streamlined: there is no subplot. There is Emily Browning and David Strathairn who carry the heart soul and anchor of this movie. I’ve never seen Strathairn give a bad performance. I had never seen Browning before this.

Hers is the lead role and she carries the whole picture. Her face communicates. As does her diction, her gait, her body language. There is a contract between cinema and audience ie the suspension of disbelief.

I believed you Emily.

Once this film is over you remember you’ve been told this story before. Two obvious pictures starring A-listers come to mind.

Neither of them is as talented as Emily Browning.

9) The Orphanage Spain 2007
A catholic sensibility in the afterlife makes this ghost story both horrifying and poignant. Belén Rueda carries the movie in the role of nature’s most ferocious: the (adoptive) mother.

Which begs the question which is more maternal – birth mother or adoptive mother?

Watching her mental fragility as she battles the supernatural for her child is poetic heart wrenching and frightening. It elicits an investment from the audience of familia pitch. The resolution is shattering.

And worthy.

New Line Cinema is to remake it for American audiences. The remake of A Tale of Two Sisters worked because the original is flawed. Perhaps they’ll adopt a scene for scene approach as in the [REC•] remake Quarantine. Perhaps they’ll hire decent actors too.

8) Frankenstein US 1931
1931 was a good year for horror and Boris Karloff as ‘?’ is more famous than author Mary Shelly. Make up artist Jack Pierce deserves mention for creating the most enduring monster in horror movie mythology. This is horror as melodrama; the monster as victim. He begs for and receives our sympathy.

When the hulking Karloff tosses the little girl into the river into her death and he laughs with discovered joy because he thought it was a game they were playing. This is horror.

Bride of Frankenstein to my knowledge is the very first sequel worthy of its predecessor. Watch them back to back for the complete story and privilege.

7) Candyman US 1992
It was an oasis in the horror barren 90s. It is modern gothic - this love story between a post-grad student and urban myth. It is a diabolical revenge story. The Candyman has Dracula’s raison d’etre.

The film is based on Clive Barker’s short story ‘the Forbidden’. Good story, good directing and good performances will make any film. What propels Candyman into memorable is the chemistry between actors Virginia Marsden and Tony Todd. The latter captured the (supernatural) serial killer more so than Anthony Hopkins captured his. It’s still Todd’s most famous role – note the wry homage in the Final Destination franchise. The score served to sear the story into UK audiences. Word of mouth made it a hit over here.

6) Ring Japan 1998
I had heard about J-Horror in the late 90s but ignored it. Probably because I signed up for the John Woo led Hong Kong action thrillers and signed off after I’d seen Hard Boiled. I like action. I like thrillers. I don’t like the wallowing in violence of the Far Eastern flicks.

My first experience was through television watching the much trumpeted Battle Royale. I was hooked.

Ring was preceded by its reputation. It did not disappoint. The Japanese have a different way of story telling. Slow. Subtle. Cerebral. This accentuates the horror. The curse of the videotape – this was when DVD’s were taking over – and a new monster to be awed by. She had no dialogue. There was no love story. Just hate. Hate that led to the desperation of the protagonist’s final act. It is horror itself.

Best watched back to back with Ring 2. If you have the nerve.

TFi: Ring 0 the second sequel is backstory tosh that should be avoided. The US versions are bad beyond design.

5) Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde US 1931
I first saw this as a child. The imprint memory I have is of the metamorphosis. That and Miriam Hopkins celebrating her freedom - then begging for her life.

The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson. Yes, he who wrote the boys own adventure Kidnapped. Surely other than Dracula no story has been filmed as much and has more cultural value. The latest version is the 2008 BBC TV mini-series.

I rediscovered the film in my 20s as an aspiring screenwriter. I was able to marvel at Frederic March’s all encompassing dual performance. The movie’s love triangle is a supreme example of a man’s dichotomy.

I love my wife. I will not feed my perversions on her.

The story is tragic stressful and horrifying. Of course it ends in death.

(sobbing) “Dr Jekyll.”

Free at last.

4) Ju-On: The Grudge Japan 2003
Take someone else’s idea (Ring), improve on it and you end up with Ju-On.

The horror film works better when the characters are in the dark and realisation slow dawns on them that death is coming. It becomes a survival of wits. This is where Ju-On beats Ring because the latter starts as an investigative venture. Ju-On is catch as catch can.

This film has its own canon. Ju-On 1 and 2 were made twice in Japan: The first couple were direct-to-video then due to their success were remade as features. The American remake The Grudge starring Sarah Michelle Gellar is good enough to be included in the canon. Ignore the exploitative Grudge 2 and 3. These are American films that go off on their own tangents. The good news is two more Japanese sequels are coming soon.

3) Dawn of the Dead US 1978
Satire as horror. Its doomsday scenario kicks the movie off as a TV news broadcast descends into panic and anarchy. From there a paramilitary police unit invade an African American housing project and fire at will. With malice. With glee. The terror did not end (there).

The abiding cultural image of this movie is the zombie horde in the shopping mall. It’s something that occurs to me every time I go into my local Asda Walmart. They wander aimlessly. I know what they’re capable of.

Like Orwell before him director George A Romero got it spot on.

One of few horror films not to focus on the female as victim actor Gaylen Ross declared she would not serve as ‘den mother’ to the men.

She did.

She had to.

I saw this unprepared.

The sheer simplicity of your dreams coming true is something every human being can relate to.
Nightmares can come true.

How can you stop them? Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.

Director Wes Craven was inspired to write the script after reading in the LA Times the story of a Cambodian kid who refused to sleep after suffering nightmares. He was adamant they would kill him. The boy’s family watched him disintegrating and did everything they could to make him sleep.

It’ll all be better in the morning.

Finally they got him to bed. They heard him scream. By the time they got to his bedroom he was dead. Afterwards they found the coffee and pills he had stashed to prevent him sleeping. It turned out he wasn’t the only one. There were more. Cambodian boys. Dying. In their sleep.

Heather Lagenkamp carried the picture but unlike Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween it did not make her a star. That prize went to the director due mainly to the monster he created. Only one sequel A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is a worthy companion piece. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was a disappointing failure. A remake is incoming. The backstory I believe. I’m not holding my breath.

I can always watch the original.

1) Exorcist 3 US 1990

Based on the novel Legion by William Peter Blatty, directed by Blatty, screenplay by Blatty. It’s all his fault.

A film should not have to follow its source novel scene for chapter. What it should do is retain the spirit of the book. In Hollywood with millions of dollars at risk this does not always happen. Blatty had to reshoot the ending and a better film was made for it.

The movie is highly stylised with every shaft of light and angle of frame; the background, the foreground, the foreboding. Blatty elicited virtuoso performances from Brad Dourif and Jason Miller. Everyone else is just as good in subtlety. Most of all it’s the dialogue.

It mesmerises.

Bombastic and rollicking, eminently quotable, plagiarised in American History X. This is weaving of words into poetic grandeur.

When we were children they told us ‘words will never hurt (me)’.

Another lie.


The 10 Best Horror Films could have been expanded to the 20 best. There are gems not included. There are certainly sub-genre flicks not included. The listed are films that cross over into the mainstream. That in itself is not a criteria but it is an indication of a story well made. I like ‘em better than good.

Approve/disapprove/agree/disagree? Did I miss out your favourite horror? Let me see your thought in words.

Or are you scared?


Read more Thrill Fiction: The 20 Best Horror Films

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Monday, 25 May 2009

Daisy of Love 105

This weekend is not yet over. It's a bank holiday in Britain and America. There's even more time to refelect on 'Sugar' Rashad Evans losing his UFC world light heavyweight title to Japanese Brazilian Lyoto Machida.

He broke my heart.

This week's MVP

Et tu Cage?


Will Fight For Love


At last week’s eliminations Daisy offered London a chain but he left anyway. This morning sees the boys in depressed mode. How does it feel when the girl you’re chasing is cut up over someone else?


Second best. At best.


They lament and feel sorry for themselves while Chi Chi wants them out of the room so he can sleep.


Wrong words. Wrong time.


Emotional transfer: Cage goes from despondent to enraged.

Chi Chi you were warned.


Cage, way to pick on one half of the smallest man in the house.


Big Rig takes the initiative and brings Daisy breakfast-in-bed.

Isn’t that where you eat sitting up without brushing your teeth?


Challenge ahoy! It’s a photo shoot! It’s just like Rock of Love!


The boys have to shoot Daisy for the CD cover of her new single! It’s called Pretty Messed Up.


¿What?


Excuse me while I watch her performance from 101.

Bring back Britney.

I absolutely love photo shoots. I love

playing dress up and of course

I love being sexy.”


Of course. You’re a girl.

I fight for a living.”

Daisy chooses two teams of four. They’ll be in charge of hair make up and wardrobe. They’ll snap the pictures and one team member will be a prop. They’ve got an hour prep work.

I’m super excited because I did my

own album cover with my band and

stuff so who knows more about

album covers than me?

On Team 2 Fox wants to be the model.

You know Fox you do hair for a living.

Er why don’t you do the hair and leave

the modelling to the better looking guy?


Team 1 go first. 12p thinks the words ‘silver screen’ (Pretty Messed Up lyrics) is synonymous with the 50s and so

The team is happy with their work. 12p is happier with his.

Big Rig walks off set and the others make like eunuchs. How does it feel to when the girl you’re chasing is face sucking someone else? 12p’s good at this. Ask Romance.


Ready steady go Team 2.


Sinister is beginning to stand out as a talented kid with a helping of brains. He’s the art director and chooses the theme ‘beautiful disaster’.


Fox bumps the pro hair guy – after all, Fox is a pro hair guy – and does the Warren Beatty on The Hoya.

Over in the kitchen area Team 1 fill their faces. 12p is markedly upbeat.


Chi Chi: “Excited about going on a date later?


12p: “I feel like I just got a little date of my own yeah.”


Lads. Welcome to 12p.


Over at Team 2 Fox wants in on the flash photography.

Daisy’s pair of tits.


These are the contesting album covers.

Team 2 is on the right so left must be Team 1.

Who’s Marylyn Monroe?

Ah. Fox.


Team 2 won and this guy is Daisy’s MVP.

I guess that hair and make out up session paid off.

So she told me I win a solo date

with her. I feel so awesome that

I can be so low with her.”

Ah. Fox.


Cage and Sinister sit in the garden to lick their wounds. Daisy’s blatant favouritism is like London all over again. Cage goes into tailspin.


Daisy’s bedroom date with Fox is Greek toga themed.

Ridiculous but she did say she likes to dress up. This is what happens when you make a bottom top.


On this date Daisy finds out what everyone else already knows.

I’m really not worried about Fox at

all because the guy is just an idiot.

He’s got no brain in his head to play

this game like I can and he’s going to

screw himself out of this competition.”


Daisy goes to bed and the boys party in the pool. A skunk invades the house and a complete melee ensues. Big tough guys chasing a lil’ ol’ skunk.

Conspiracy theory #1: did Vh1 hire the skunk from Hollywood Animals to spray hilarity into this sinking ship? Would a rat have been too obvious? Let me know.


The next day Team 2 sans Fox go out on their date. It’s a skateboarding rink.


Daisy can skateboard.


No one else can.

Daisy decides she doesn’t know enough of 6 Gauge’s deep dark secrets so she pulls him for the 1on1. Her mistake. He tells her about his goals and business acumen.

His mistake.


In the limo drive back Flex goads 6 Gauge into showing Daisy his self mutilated penis.

The day will come when Vh1 is allowed to show such things. Until then be thankful.


Night time in the mansion and Cage has had too much to drink. His antics leave Flex with a burnt hand. He isn’t done yet. Dude starts looking for a fight.

He picks on the biggest guy in the house.


An equal opportunity hot head.


What started as a shove turns ugly as Flex jumps Cage from behind. The production crew try to prevent a homicide.

You’re a lucky boy Flex.


Daisy wants to talk to Cage. It’s no good.

He’s an emotional mess. He’s drunk. He’s infuriated. Humiliated (by Flex’s pearl harbour). He’s unhappy.


Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. Matthew 27:46

I can’t. I can’t be in the same

house with Flex anymore.”


He walks.

There goes a man right there.


There will be no eliminations tonight.

Daisy talks like she evicted him.

I don’t like violence. I grew up with

violence in my own life. And that’s

not something I condone.”


She retires to her room, crying – a hobby of hers – and gazes at the carpet.

Drama tiara.


Next week on Daisy of Love:

I don’t like violence. I grew up with

violence in my own life. And that’s

not something I condone.”


TFi: UFC fans - ever wonder what John Hackleman would do once Chuck retires?


In other news; that's 5 men out of an original 20 who have walked out on Daisy.

Them's council estate slag numbers.


Read more Thrill Fiction: Depeche Mode.


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Sunday, 24 May 2009

I Love Money 2 Reunion

It's been so long ago but I'm not letting that stop me. After all as Sarah Palin was to Saturday Night Live so I Love Money 2 is to Thrill Fiction.

The Gang’s All Here

The cast and crew are all gussied up in their TV best but the (Exorcist inspired) set is missing a starlet.


Wanda Scott

Your parents give you a name. If you don’t like it you can change it.


Aka Saaphyri Windsor

Windsor’ is the name of the British royal family. Girl shame on you for naming yourself after that bunch of dysfunctional freeloaders.


Craig opens by throwing a cheap gag at It’s expense then he introduces Frenchie. You know, the subtitles aren’t funny now that they’re doing it to her face. Really. Craig is still making fun of her accent on her third reunion show.


Frenchie refuses to take offence. Her wit charm and joi de vivre win over all in the studio. She won me over in 207.


That shot of the audience doesn’t impress me though.

That guy should be put on a list. Makes me question my own viewing habits.


What’s the difference between a jilted lover and a stalker? A blogger and a studio audience member.


Or maybe a blogger is an online groupie.


I’m with the gang.


Craig’s still talking but he’s not worth listening to. I’ve bigged up this cat as a premier league game show host. I stand by my assertion but he’s a minor league talk show host.


Angelique exempts Myammee and Saaphyri and calls the rest of them snakes. Prancer on her pedestal takes offence.

Do you think karma is the reason why your plastic

surgeon made you look like Wanda

from In Living Color?”


The obvious shot is the cheapest.


Frenchie lets rip.

This is Becky Buckwild’s contribution to modern culture: a rib concocted out of spite and jealousy gestating into something funny and born as a permalink onto Prancer’s forehead. Forever.

Prancer can’t rap. Frenchie the Foreigner who speaks in subtitles won that argument.


Argument.


In the Flavor of Love reunion New York faked going after Pumpkin. It wasn’t TV fake. It was face. New York had the chance to beat up Pumpkin during the show and blew it. Tiffany’s a gust of hot air. Hoopz called her out on it. Even Smokey tried to get in on the camera time and got thrown of set.


More arguments.


Flavor of Love 2 descended into near riot. Rock of Love 1 reunion had Lacey. Season 2 had Heather trying to kill Daisy. Charm School… You get the point.


At reunions the starlets have seen the broadcast edit and bad blood boils. What we’ve come to expect from these shows is dirty linen aired and scores being settled.


This reunion is missing Saaphyri.


Without her trailer trash Becky Buckwild actually compliments Buddha.


¿What?


She also humiliates her friend(?) Leilene.


Craig calls Leilene to the sofa. The longer this reunion goes on the worse he sounds. Snide comments from the host won’t make anyone laugh except the studio audience – if they can read the teleprompter.


Poor Leilene is still looking for love. She’s still stripping too. You better hurry up love. Good looks don’t last forever and an aging stripper is not a good look.


Leilene’s last beau (a Brit) wasn’t bothered that she was a stripper. He dumped her because he found out she was celebreality. As a gleeful Craig points out – a stripper is higher on the totem pole than a reality star.


Ouch!


As true as it may be why would a reality show highlight that?


Then again why not?


Leilene continues one of the reasons she likes Caliente is he has the Backstreet Boys on his ipod.

Ouch!


Buyer beware: Leilene will drop you in it while thinking she’s doing you a favour.


With Saaphyri being otherwise detained Buckwild needs another alpha male to latch onto.

It’s Frank’s turn to be ‘interviewed’. The Entertainer is one of the best reality prospects Vh1 has right now. Certainly he’s the best thing in the studio. So naturally Craig talks over him.


Random squealing from the audience.


This car is crashing.


Frank campaigns for his own show. Heat a natural follower wants one too. These guys were two of the funniest in the house yet this segment is so lame I have scant hopes for It.


Craig. Stay in Mexico and let LaLa do this job.


Make no mistake It had the best boost on this season even ahead of Tailor Made. These two either reinforced or overhauled their characters from I Love New York 2. It does his It. Craig interjects and asks Ice to chime in.


Don’t ask.


She calls It dumb. It’s amazing what a professional make over will do to an Ice(man). The bleach must be seeping into her brains.

That’s her on her best day.


At last the host mentions Saaphyri. Yes, It’s Mexican romance with a convicted felon.

I flirted with all the girls in the house… I felt on

every girl’s ass… but Saaphyri was the only

girl that gave me play.”

But she not here right now so… I got a thing for Cali.”


Tailor Made is not the most intelligent of all the players. I put him on a par with Prancer and beneath Saaphyri. He is however the best educated and it shows. Looking smart in a suit and speaking with articulate concision he explains strategy. So the rambling motor mouth Becky Buckwild heckles him.


Recall Frank and Heat campaigning for shows. Well shock horror Vh1. They show a clip of The Odd Couple – Tailor Made and It’s show can be caught on Youtube. It is good. Clichéd but funny and who doesn’t like It? Tailor announces they’re making a joint run for city council.

You’re glad you don’t live in New York. It’d be like the 70s all over again.


I almost forgot. Myammee won season 2.


My overriding memory of her is in the finale at the quiz section when she got one answer wrong and started arguing. First with Craig then with the quiz board.

But she does look a hell of good.


Re her lingerie.


Were you trying to be like Megan from season one?


I’m not trying to be like anybody… Myammee is Myammee.”


Lying bitch. She already said she was in 201.


In any case she tells Craig what she’s going to do with all that money. She’s going to spend it on hair thereby saving the Indian subcontinent from starvation. It’s her foray into business – much like Saaphyri’s lip chap.


Oh dear.


I wish you all the best Myammee which unfortunately might mean the weave – like the permatan – is here to stay.


This season is a wrap. Lex did say this reunion was a let down but TFi won’t hold it against season 3.


Oh wait. Did anyone else notice? Where the hell is Tamara?

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