Happy Friday Every-bloody! We made it through another week.
Before I get into the meat of this week’s article, here’s an update from last week. As I constructed my list of 10 truly disturbing Horror movies, I came across films on other people’s lists that I haven’t seen (some I haven’t even heard of), and could therefore not comment on. One such film was Eden Lake.
Read about Eden Lake and my latest Top 10 List after the jump
Welp, I got it on Netflix and gobbled it up. Eden Lake is a damn fine film and I’m glad I decided to look into it. Do I agree it’s one of the most disturbing movies of all time? No, not hardly. Yes, Eden Lake is brutal and horrifying, but no more than films like Hostel or Quarantine, and less so than The Last House on the Left. A “Based on Actual Events” tagline could have upped the intensity factor (as in the cases of Wolf Creek and Them), but Eden Lake makes no such claim. As an admitted work of complete fiction then, Eden Lake stands behind a long line of superiors. It’s still a good flick, almost in the vein of I Spit on your Grave except there are two victims (a couple) and the offenders are teenagers, not adults (and none of the torture is sexual). With plenty of tense situations to keep you squirming and an ending that hits you like a punch in the gut, I give Eden Lake 3 ½ out of 5 skulls.
And now, on to this week’s list!
10 Bloody Brilliant British Horror Movies
I know a lot of Horror fans are wary of foreign movies. Even though it’s clear that some amazing works are coming out of Asia and Europe (and even though American Horror movies are becoming increasingly stale and repetitive). There’s something akin to a mental block keeping some of us from engaging in foreign-language films. Is the slacker mentality to blame? I imagine folks saying, “If I want to read a story, I’ll pick-up a book,” or “I watch movies because I don’t want to read.” I hear that; sometimes you just want to sit back with a bag of weed and enjoy a film as a passive, semi-present participant. Subtitles force you to pay attention and engage. Sure, foreign films dubbed into English are not uncommon, but it impacts the perceived reality of the work (not to mention it looks cheesy when moving lips don’t match spoken words).
Yes, even Saucy Josh was hard pressed to accept foreign Horror for some of these very reasons. I’ve matured and gotten over my resistance, however, as French movies like Frontier(s), The Horde, and High Lane blew my mind. Likewise Scandinavian films like Let the Right One In and Hidden won me over. And Asian Horror is a treasure trove for any aficionado looking to expand his cinematic horizons (Audition, A Tale of Two Sisters, Pulse, Oldboy, and on and on).
I encourage American Horror fans to evolve and break free from mainstream Hollywood monstrosities. But for those of you still not persuaded, here is a list of 10 amazing British Horror films. British movies are a good introduction for Americans looking to test the foreign Horror waters, as the language barrier doesn’t exist (except in cases of extreme accents and local slang). And by British Horror, I don’t mean a film that takes place in the U.K. or an American film with a British director; I mean a films made by English/Scottish/Irish production companies, specifically for European audiences.
So come on lads and lasses, let’s trip to the other side of the Pond for some bloody good fun! Kippers and crumpets anyone?
28 Days Later: I’d like to thank 28 Days Later for adding a new branch to the Zombie Family Tree by introducing “The Infected” and catapulting disease-Horror into the cultural mainstream. It’s also amazing the way they made the crowded city of London look like a ghost town. We later learn that the entire island of Great Britain is under quarantine. 28DL is unflinching in its depiction of society’s collapse, yet still manages to maintain an infectiously adventurous spirit. 28DL’s sequel, 28 Weeks Later, is also well worth a watch, and hopes are high for a third chapter likely to be named 28 Months Later.
Black Death: Have you ever heard of the Historical Horror sub-genre? Well you have now! Black Death takes place in plague-ravaged Medieval England in the 1300’s. A young, love-sick, cloistered monk (who just so happens to be questioning his vows) agrees to lead a group of religiously devout knights in search of a local Necromancer (a witch or sorcerer capable of bringing the dead back to life). Detail oriented enough to please fans of period-pieces, Black Death is also a Horror fan’s delight as violence and torture abound. Director Christopher Smith directed another of Saucy Josh’s favorite Brit Horror flicks, Severance (which you will read about shortly).
The Children: Saucy Josh followers will recognize The Children from last week’s list, “10 Seriously Disturbing Horror Movies”. On that list, TC was the only film I actually urged my Horror fans to watch. One of the best things about this movie is that the nature of the evil does not reveal itself right away. At first, the children who are gathered for a weekend New Years Eve retreat are simply acting strange (like children often do). When one fair haired child begins staring intently into space, I wondered if perhaps this would be a ghost story. And when the children start shrieking and crying for no apparent reason, their parents seem only slightly alarmed. We in the audience know that things are going downhill fast when the pet dog “disappears”. This one probably has the best ending of any film on this week’s list.
The Decent: It may take place in America, but The Decent was produced by the British company Pinewood Studios and shot at Ashridge Park in Buckinghamshire. Six women go on an ambitious caving expedition only to be terrorized by blind Gollum-esque humanoids dubbed “Crawlers”. The “Crawlers” appear to be relatives of homo-sapiens (perhaps a clan that never emerged from underground after the Ice-Age) and they have adapted to life in complete darkness. One of the six women is mourning the untimely deaths of her husband and her daughter, and another one was her husband’s mistress. Hey, it’s an underground Horror Soap Opera! The Decent is about more than an adventurous crew of spelunkers who cross paths with monsters; it’s about grief and madness. A great sequel was released in America straight-to-DVD, a stigma that likely killed what could have been a long and fruitful franchise.
Dread: Based on a short story by Clive Barker (form 1984’s Books of Blood, vol. 2) and one of After Dark’s “8 Films to Die For” collections (2009), Dread is a gritty atmospheric thriller guaranteed to get under your skin. College life never seemed so gray and gloomy as it does in this intense work of cinema. Quaid’s inability to put his childhood horrors to rest manifests in a “Fear Experiment” where subjects are video-taped discussing what scares them most. Unbeknownst to the participants is that Quaid is quite insane and ultimately plans of inflicting the very horrors they are revealing. Heartbreaking is the courtship and humiliation of Abby, a beautiful book-store employee with a huge plumb-colored birthmark that covers half her body. When video images of her naked are displayed via closed circuit TV all across campus (by Quaid), horrified Abby retreats to a bathtub with a bottle of bleach and Brillo Pads determined to wash her imperfections away. Gut-wrenching and squirm-inducing to be sure, but Abby’s bathtub scene isn’t the worst—not by a long-shot.
Event Horizon: Event Horizon has a huge fan base, which I find ironic. Why? Well, it’s basically a rip-off of Hellraiser 4: Bloodline. But whereas EH has been thoroughly lauded, H4:B was almost universally panned. But it’s pretty much the exact same story! Both combine space age technology with demonic theology. Well, I guess it’s true that EH has a better cast, better special effects, better acting, a better story… Okay, okay, I admit it, EH is about a thousand times better than the sci-fi chapter of Hellraiser (even though Bloodline featured more of Pinhead than any of the other installments). Director Paul Anderson claims the first cut of EH was over 2 hours long and extremely heavy on gore, but the studio and test audiences both requested he dial it back. Such a shame. Nonetheless, EH remains at the pinnacle of the Sci-Fi Horror sub-genre, rubbing shoulders with other elites like Alien and Aliens.
The Hole: While blogging recently about Xavier Gens’ upcoming apocalyptic bomb-shelter saga The Divide, I was reminded how much I enjoyed The Hole, another claustrophobic bunker brouhaha. Dimension Films, known for distributing great Horror Movies, released The Hole in the U.K. in 2001. And even though they owned the American distribution rights, it was never released this side of the Pond. Instead it sat on a shelf for two years before going straight-to-DVD in 2003. One rumor is that parent-company Disney purposely killed the film to protect the reputation of Kiera Knightly, then an up-and-comer with a pristine reputation that jived with the bulimic slut she portrayed in the film. But what sets The Hole apart from other underground struggles for survival, is that the victims were not forced into the bomb-shelter by threat of nuclear assault, nor was it accidental. A 4-some of trust-fund-sucking prep-school kids decided it would be fun to spend the weekend in the school’s WWII bunker rather than participate in some lame field trip. But when the weekend concludes and no one comes to set them free, things spiral out of control quickly. What seems like a fatal miscommunication or a prank gone horribly wrong is actually a carefully concocted plot set into action by a love-sick sociopath (Thora Birch).
Ravenous: While it may be loosely based on the story of the Donner Party and takes place in the California Sierras, Ravenous is nonetheless another gift from those Great Brits. While the film is jet-black in its portrayal of cannibalism, the incredible wit and irony throughout has led some to label Ravenous a Horror Comedy. Ravenous also garnered attention for its incredibly unique soundtrack (and normally, a soundtrack is the last thing I care about when it comes to Horror). Staring heavy-weight actors Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, Memento) and Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, 28 Weeks Later), Ravenous is one of the most underappreciated Horror films ever made, and another great example of the Historical Horror sub-genre.
Shaun of the Dead: At the height of Zombie Mania, just as the sub-genre was growing stale, Shaun of the Dead comes along and changes everything. In addition to being true to classic Zombie folklore (slow shamblers chasing the living into claustrophobic confinement) and featuring amazing special effects, SOTD is also one of the funniest Horror Comedies ever. At its core, SOTD is the story of a romantically challenged slacker looking to finally get his life on track. This decision just so happens to coincide with the Zombie Apocalypse. Guaranteed to make you laugh until it hurts, Shaun of the Dead is a great film for cinema-philes of every genre.
Severance: Severance is the second film on this list that was directed by Christopher Smith, the first being Black Death. These two movies, however, could not be more different. Severance follows employees of an arms manufacturing company as they venture deep into a remote wooded area for a weekend of corporate team-building. Every bit as humorous and entertaining as Shaun of the Dead, but with way more grossness. With its meat-pies, bear-traps, brainwashed-assassins, drugs, heavy artillery, and hookers, Severance seems to have it all. But as opposed to Shaun of the Dead, a Horror Comedy that made waves on both sides of the Atlantic, Severance is all but unknown by American aficionados. Give Severance a watch and I think you’ll agree that this one never got the recognition it deserves.
The Wicker Man: Honorable Mention goes to that creepy campy British classic, The Wicker Man. TWM is one of those movies about a small, isolated town (in this case a small island) with a big scary secret. TWM is also one of those movies that seems to suck right up until the final few minutes where it kicks some serious ass. The last 5 minutes literally make the film, which is otherwise a typical who-done-it about a detective looking for a missing girl (who may have been taken as part of a Pagan sacrificial ritual). In the end, the detective learns that he’s been played for a fool by the townsfolk who have their own sinister intentions. He was right about the Pagan ritual, but wrong about the intended sacrifice—dead wrong.
Well, that’s all for tonight. Be sure to check out Film Sponge for my blog about A Serbian Film (another title I discovered while researching the most disturbing movies of all time) due to be published sometime tonight or tomorrow: www.filmsponge.com.
As always, I’d love feedback on anything I’ve written, and I’m opened to suggestions regarding future blog topics. Goodnight Every-Bloody! See you soon!