JUMPSCARECUT: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

Written by Jessica Peña

You’d have to be living under a rock if you’ve never heard of Freddy Krueger. The murderous, sweater-wearing character is literally the thing of nightmares. Arguably one of the most feared villains of horror, thanks immensely to his nature of existence. Whereas icons like Jason Voorhees appear suspiciously to torment and slash in real-world life, Freddy’s battleground is essentially your subconscious, something you cannot and will not escape. It makes sense that this evil fool appears in front of you just as you think you’ve gotten away. The fear is believable and Freddy feasts on it. Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street gave kids of the time something to be scared about when they’re about tuck into bed at night.

Before the franchise started blurring the lines and scratching the rules up, its origin story, as told in the first film, carves out a memorable rule of thumb: Freddy exists only in the dream world. Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep. And then there’s the chance that you may bring some things back from the dream world if awoken. Tina Grey (Amanda Wyss) sort of figures this out as she is chased in her dream by the mysterious figure, waking up to see that her nightgown has four slashes in it. This is a daring revelation to the viewer, imposing a much more sinister threat than that of one’s own imagination. Craven’s film is clever and paced with animosity to its young characters early on. Tina invites her friends, Rod (Jsu Garcia), Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), and Glen (Johnny Depp) to spend the night the day after her close encounter. To her demise, the viewer is placed relentlessly into Freddy’s carnage, seeping deeper into the fear of resting your eyes. The deaths that follow are seemingly hard to run away from, and it works wonders to the narrative at center.

Robert Englund is Freddy Krueger, the nefarious killer that lurks in the dreams of the Elm Street teenagers. Once a child murderer (and most likely molester) back in the day, Krueger was strangely released on a technicality, cornered by a group of parents in an act of just vigilance, and set ablaze. His burned face, covered vaguely under a brown hat, terrorizes the teenagers’ minds moving forward in the aftermath of Tina’s vicious (and artistically clever) death. The searing memory of Krueger’s death haunts Nancy’s mother to this day, as she was part of the group of parents who took matters into their own hands one night. Nancy Thompson, unaware of her mother’s involvement, narrowly escapes Freddy’s fatal attempts and begins to fight back this elusive figure. With the help of her boyfriend, Glen, she orchestrates a plan to bring Freddy out into the real world and burn him once more for good. Now, if only Glen can stay awake and help her out…

Robert Englund is the peculiar star of the film for his portrayal of the bladed glove-wearing maniac. Backdropped by an equally odd synth track by Charles Bernstein, Freddy chases his victims like they’re trophies. In Tina’s second encounter, Freddy appears to her at one point as a silhouette in the dark shadows, elongating his arms to scratch the fences. He then breaks into chasing her in such an exaggerated manner, as if this is all truly a fun joke to him and he knows he can capture you.

Certainly, there’s a cold hard foundation to Freddy’s demeanor this early on. His cryptic manifestations are what pedal A Nightmare on Elm Street as a shock of terror delight. If nightmares were real, this film delves into them brilliantly. It’s one thing to watch a scary film and try to sleep, but it’s a whole other beast trying to get Freddy out of your psyche before bedtime. For those who enjoy the thrill of our scary subconscious, this film is hound for horror. Wes Craven’s vicious evil of an entity helped propel New Line Cinema into “the house that Freddy built,” with its massive box office return and inevitable franchise. In some old stories, it was a myth that if you died in your sleep, you died in real life. This film does a spectacular play on those fears, cultivating the ingenuities of that kind of imagination and letting them run wild. We’re dreaming in Freddy’s world, and sooner or later, he’s coming for you.

JUMPSCARECUT: 30 Days of Night (2007)

Directed by: David Slade
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

30 Days of Night holds a special place in my heart and my personal cinema-going history. In 2007, I turned 15, and 30 Days of Night was the first 15-rated film I saw legally. I proudly showed my Validate UK card when asked by the cashier and sauntered into the screen like I owned the place. I sat down, popcorn and medium coke in hand, ready to be scared shitless in a completely legal, cinematic manner. My mum then also walked in and sat next to me, equally prepared to be scared shitless. It was a mother-son cinema trip that neither of us has ever forgotten.

Josh Hartnett stars as Eben Oleson, a sheriff of a small town in the northernmost point of the United States, Barrow, Alaska. Every year, the town endures the titular 30 days of night; a month-long period of perpetual night-time (scientifically referred to as a polar night, it’s an actual thing!). The majority of its small number of residents leave Barrow for this month, but a select few remain. Seeing such an opportunity, a clan of vampires move into the town, taking the chance to have a month-long buffet. Eben, his estranged wife Melissa, and other locals are left to fight for survival against the vampiric onslaught.

To put it bluntly, 30 Days of Night fucked me up. Going into the film, I knew it was a horror film; I enjoy horror films, but I am susceptible to being easily scared. I can very safely say that 30 Days of Night is the scariest film I’ve seen in the cinema. In part, I’d but the scare factor down to the total surprise of how unrelentingly brutal the film is. It’s as scary as it is violent. I have a high threshold for what I find difficult to watch, but the final act of this film has several key moments that make me wince even today having watched the film countless times. I got the DVD for my birthday the following year which was rated 18; I’m absolutely convinced the BBFC mis-rated 30 Days of Night for its cinematic release. I have seen far, far less violence in 18-rated horrors. Consider that your warning – 30 Days of Night is not for the faint-hearted.

What really sets 30 Days of Night apart as an elite horror film is in its execution. With David Slade at the helm, the film has a reliably stylish edge to it. At the time, Slade was a relative unknown having mainly directed music videos and made his film directing debut the previous year with 2006’s Hard Candy. Since then, he has gone onto direct The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (the best of the series), and several episodes of highly regarded TV shows like Breaking Bad, Black Mirror, and multiple episodes of Hannibal. If you’ve seen Hannibal – if you haven’t, what is wrong with you? – Slade is responsible for the Season 2 finale, Mizumono. Yes, that one.

Slade’s style is apparent from the get-go, making the freezing temperatures of the town feel like they’re creeping into your living room with extreme close-ups of the characters struggling to deal with the cold while playing hide and seek from hungry vampires. In arguably the film’s defining sequence, the vampires are finally let loose by their leader, Marlow (Danny Huston), and they ravage the town in dutifully violent fashion. Slade and his cinematographer, Jo Willems, don’t leave any stone unturned, and present us with an abundance of gunshots, neck bites, blood clouds. A feast of human destruction through the gaze of a man who knows how to shoot action sequences. The cherry on top of this delicious sequence is a glorious top-down shot of the town, bodies and blood spillages lining the snowy streets of Barrow. 30 Days of Night is a feast for the senses.

Continuing the barrage of praise, the film has a memorable collection of characters at its disposal. Hartnett is great as the quiet sheriff capable of decapitating anyone in his path to survival, but the stars of the show are Ben Foster and Mark Boone Junior. Foster and Junior give their characters a kooky edge as the mysterious tourist and the local headcase, respectively. Foster deploys an other-worldly accent as his character’s origins remain unclear for much of the film, and Junior is just happy to get down to it and blow some vampires to smithereens. Junior has one of the film’s many defining action sequences, culminating in his creative use of a tractor with a giant tree chainsaw on the end of it. Yes, really, and it’s awesome.

30 Days of Night isn’t perfect; it has its fair share of horror clichés under its belt that feel a little bit like they’re working through a checklist of horror beats in order to move their characters into place for the finale, and the film does jump through the 30 days at will that may make you wonder how they went through an 8 day stretch unscathed, but those are fairly small gripes to have with such an entertaining, terrifying thrill ride of a film.

30 Days of Night is awesome. It makes vampires scary again, it has a great cast, it has an engaging story, and it has more than its fair share of fantastic horror and action sequences to quench any thirst for blood you may have. This is one of my favourite horror films of all time, and it’s on Netflix! I wholly recommend this as a film to watch in the final few days of Halloween season.

RHYS’ RATING:

4-5

JUMPSCARECUT: The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Directed by: James Wan
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, France O’Connor, Lauren Esposito

Written by Tom Sheffield

James Wan’s The Conjuring was a hit with horror fans when it released in 2013 and has since spawned a sequel (with a third film confirmed) as well as two successful spin-offs – Annabelle, of which a third film will release in 2020, and this year’s The Nun, which was based on the demonic Nun, Valak, who we meet in this entry of the Conjuring Universe. The Conjuring films are said to be based on the true case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren – paranormal investigators who were thrown into the public spotlight following their investigation at Amytiville (which the first film as based on).

The Conjuring 2 is based on the Enfield Haunting, which was a case the Warrens took in the late 70s. The Hodgson family being to experience supernatural occurrences in their home and Janet, the second eldest daughter, appears to be the spirit’s first target. The Warren’s are called in to investigate and determine whether there are supernatural forces at work or if it’s simply a hoax. Whilst investigating, Lorraine’s worst fears come true and she must discover the real truth behind the strange occurrence’s at the Hodgson residence.

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Ed and Lorraine Warren are two of my favourite pieces of casting in modern horror. They both have such a fantastic chemistry on-screen and they nail every single scene they’re in – no matter situation they’re thrown in to. Imagine my delight when I heard they’re confirmed to reprise their role in the upcoming third Annabelle film, which will focus on their room full of demonic possessions.

Joseph Bishara’s score never fails to send chills up my spine, especially in Valak’s earlier scenes when she appears to Lorraine. It’s a score that stuck with me for a good few days after I first watched the film, and makes my ears prick up during every re-watch. Don Burgess’ cinematography also elevates this horror by adeptly making the most of space in the small English house. Wan and Buress create a sense of paranoia that has you constantly looking in the darkest corners of every shot and will make leave your lights on.

At the heart of this horror is a message of family unity and strength through times of uncertainty. There’s a scene where Ed sings ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ (and gives a corker of an Elvis impression) and, for a moment, you forget the horrors tormenting the family. The Hodgson family are all smiling and laughing and Lorraine looks on dotingly – it’s a scene that you wouldn’t expect to make the biggest impact in a horror film, but, for me, it does.

Whilst the film isn’t as much of a mystery to us as it is the Warrens or anyone outside of the Hodgson family, it delivers some genuine spine-tingling moments and is sure to pique your curiosity of what really went on in that house. I recently began reading The Demonologists – a book based on the cases of The Warrens, including Annabelle the doll, Amytiville, and Enfield.

For me, The Conjuring 2 is the strongest entry  The Conjuring Universe by a fair margin. The cinematography, score, direction, set design, and everything in between all add something a little special to this film and it still manages to give me chills no matter how many times I re-watch it.

 

Tom’s Verdict:

4-5

JUMPSCARECUT: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Directed by: Roman Polanski
Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

My final review of the JUMPSCARECUT season is a film I’ve been dying to watch for a very long time and one of my biggest cinema sins. Another highly-regarded classic, Rosemary’s Baby is actually a film I knew very little about going in – which helped massively – although I had a distinctly bad feeling about this pregnancy.

The titular Rosemary and her hubby Guy Woodhouse find a lovely new home in the city, ignoring the warnings that the apartment building has a dark history (of course they do, it’s a horror film). Soon after moving in, their oddball elderly neighbours, Roman and Minnie Castevet, insert themselves into the Woodhouse’s lives and take a peculiar joy in learning Rosemary has fallen pregnant. Now, I’ve heard of “love thy neighbour” but these folks take it way too far, implementing a very hands-on approach to caring for the needs of Rosemary and her baby – you see where this is going, right?

In my previous review, I commented on the slow-burning horror of The Exorcist, but that is nothing compared to the way the unnerving tone of this film shifts from gear to gear. The narrative ticks along, creeping closer and closer to the inevitable, malevolent midnight hour, where everything we feared explodes and comes to a horrifying head. Huge credit must go to Mia Farrow for carrying this intensity and brooding terror on her delicate shoulders in what must have been a gruelling role to bring to life. We the audience empathise with Rosemary every step of the way; we see the nightmare unfold through her eyes, we feel the despair and helplessness in her bones.

It’s a horror which is masterfully brought to the screen by Roman Polanski, adapted faithfully from the novel by Ira Levin. The way Polanski frames his characters in their domestic settings, captures body language and facial expressions, and the dynamic chemistry he draws from the ensemble cast is just exquisitely done, and really drives home the notion that this is very much a horror on a human level, invading the sanctity of the home and torturing us out of our comfort zone.

I am so glad I’ve finally ticked this off my watchlist, and I urge anyone else who was waiting for the right time, to just sink into this devilishly dark tale as soon as they can. Rosemary’s Baby is not just a great horror film, it is a masterclass in the art of filmmaking, and a film which firmly stands the test of time fifty years after its release.

Jakob’s Verdict

4-5

JUMPSCARECUT: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Directed By: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp , Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien

Written by Jo Craig

Halloween offers many traditions for folk to sink their teeth into. Costume sparring, annual ghost tours, or even a Pagan gathering (clothing optional) in the forest out back. For me, all Hallows Eve is as nostalgic as Christmas, and everybody (I’m willing to bet) has their go-to horror movie that pops into their head when the leaves start to fall and the days become darker. Now is the time to reject those invitations to the pub, light some pillar candles for your entertainment alter and press play (or command Alexa to do it for you); It’s too fucking cold to go outside anyway. “It feels very Halloweeny”, I would say, “Must be time to watch Sleepy Hollow.”

Before my horror-inclined spirit was summoned by John Carpenter, Eli Roth and James Wan, my adolescent, PG-rated mind became giddy over Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow the way a fourteen year-old would get their jollies from sneaking a peak at The Hills Have Eyes or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre when the law forbid you from witnessing the gore show. Being only eight at the time of Sleepy Hollow’s release (obviously holding off a few years to watch it because my parents are not psychopaths), Burton’s adaptation of Washington Irving’s gothic story starring the vengeful Headless Horseman was a captivating premise that brought terror and excitement to a young, horror nut in the making . The horseman in question – an undead Hessian soldier that would spring forth from a tree made of blood and severed heads – was a bad-ass creation dramatically brought to life with Burton’s theatrical style and a positively psychotic looking Christopher Walken galloping in on the back of his steed, Daredevil.

Ichabod Crane – a school teacher turned detective for Burton’s feature –  plays to the strengths of Johnny Depp’s eccentricity – despite the original material depicting Crane as lacking the chiselled look with “huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose” – while he investigates the quiet glen of Sleepy Hollow and its string of murders against set decorator Peter Young (Batman 1989) and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s (The Revenant) beautifully haunting backdrop. Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson and a cameo from Christopher Lee – who oozes Hammer into the ambience that initially inspired Burton pre-production – build a stellar ensemble to support Depp and damsel Christina Ricci who all play well with the time period.

Burton is pro at projecting a visionary feast of fantasy (we know) that blends with the horror genre as smoothly as toffee drips over apple. Shot almost entirely with a blue filter, Burton’s cold, grungy style appears ethereal and carries a majestic confidence that is mostly faithful to Irving. A short but bewitching tale that leaves you wanting more, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow provides rich characters and a compelling supernatural whodunnit that’s charming in its 1790 setting that becomes transformative in Burton’s hands. The costume design by Colleen Atwood (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) is another eye-catching feature to the production that adds to its quaint texture and conjures a desire to have lived in that period.

If there’s one scary movie that isn’t typically slasher on the countdown to the witching hour, it’s Sleepy Hollow, providing the answer for trick-or-treaters who lack a strong stomach but still want to indulge in a few thrilling candies while listening to the atmospheric scoring from Danny Elfman. Burton gives this legendary folk-tale a modern welcome to the silver screen that will leave you thinking “creepier than a cemetery on a foggy night”.  Heads will roll if you leave this underdog off your pumpkin party list.

Jo’s Verdict:

4

JUMPSCARECUT: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney, Ted Levine, Kasi Lemmons

Written by Lucy Buglass

It’s no surprise to any of you that I absolutely adore The Silence of the Lambs. You name the merchandise, I’ve probably got it. I can remember the first time I watched it so vividly, and it’s continued to captivate and transport me ever since. Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel is a masterpiece and I’m so excited to finally share my detailed thoughts with you all. Here we go…

First off, Clarice Starling is up there on my list of top female characters. She’s strong, determined and smart, yet still has some vulnerability to her and there’s nothing wrong with that. I loved this honest portrayal of a young, trainee FBI agent and all the troubles she faces on the job. Jodie Foster did a stunning job of portraying her character and after reading the book, I can confirm she met my expectations completely. It’s refreshing to see such a three dimensional, well written female protagonist within the genre. Of course, she’s not the only one, but she was part of my introduction to the horror genre and I’m thankful for her. She showed younger me that horror has a place for educated, respected and smart women. Go Clarice. Both you and Jodie deserved that Best Leading Actress Oscar.

As for Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, I honestly believe this is his greatest performance to date. His meticulous attention to detail when getting into the mind of a psychopathic cannibal was flawless. Despite only being on screen for 24 minutes, he delivered a chilling performance that won him the Best Leading Actor Oscar and infamy amongst horror fans. The Silence of the Lambs actually won 5 Academy Awards in total, and I can’t think of any film that year that was more deserving. Maybe I’m biased though. Lecter really is a fantastic character that many experts have praised as being a thorough and realistic depiction of how a psychopath’s mind works. He really nailed the character and continued to do so throughout the other films. It’s so nice to see an intelligent, darkly courteous and utterly terrifying villain portrayed this well. It’s hard to argue against that. I also loved the way the film deals with cannibalism in a non-gratuitous fashion. It’s very obvious what Lecter is guilty of, but the film doesn’t need gallons of blood or over the top violence in order to scare you. Anthony Hopkins’ acting style does that for you. It’s brilliant.

Whilst Hopkins and Foster steal the show, how could I forget Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill? If you thought Lecter was scary, wait until you meet this guy. He will literally skin you alive with zero remorse. With Lecter’s help, it’s up to Starling to apprehend and bring this guy to justice, and since he was named because he likes to ‘skin his humps’, who can blame her for being a little terrified? Not me. The way Levine plays Buffalo Bill is stunning, and it gives me chills just thinking about it. The scene where he dances to Q Lazzarus’ Goodbye Horses’ has gone down in history and gives us a chilling insight into just what he really desires. That scene will probably haunt your dreams actually, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Moving away from the acting, The Silence of the Lambs also has an incredibly well-paced and well-written script. Whilst a lot of this is to do with Thomas Harris’ novel, director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally made it shine on the big screen. From lingering shots to fast-paced scenes, it keeps you gripped until the very end. The cinematography reflects this too, with a variety of impeccable shots, my favourite being the way Lecter is reflected in his cell window as he speaks to Starling. It’s well polished, iconic, and utterly terrifying. The stylistic choices in this film are well thought out, especially when dealing with the descriptions of crimes and murders throughout. It’s not as visually graphic as some horror films, but the verbal descriptions alone are enough to make your stomach churn. I really loved the way it makes the audience use their imagination, making it 10x more horrifying than anything special effects could achieve. Sometimes, not seeing is worse. The Silence of the Lambs puts the worst of the gore and horror in the hands of its spectator, instead of spoon-feeding them all the information.

Whether you want to call it a crime thriller, a psychological horror, or something else entirely, The Silence of the Lambs is the perfect film to watch this Halloween season (or any other time, ever). The characters have gone down in cinema history, and it’s full of twists and turns and iconic moments that you’ll never forget. It’s a film that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I hope it has the same effect on all of you too.

Lucy’s Verdict:

5

JUMPSCARECUT: Halloween (1978) – Evil Turns 40

Directed by: John Carpenter
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Tony Moran

Written by Michael Dean

40 years ago, John Carpenter unleashed an unstoppable evil in theaters that brought terror to the aisles and eventually proved to be a dominating force in the horror genre.  This was the birth of Michael Myers in Halloween.  This is a film that I remember quite well from my youth.  Though I could not catch the film in the theater, I recall sitting and watching with my sister and her friends on the television in our house, as Michael terrorized the babysitters in Haddonfield.  My sister and her friends were yelling at Laurie, “Don’t drop it!  Pick it up!  Pick it up!!  What are you doing?!  Run!!!”  Watching the film again recently, the film may not scare me as it did when I was younger but it is a marvel in its style and there is no denying the impact that this film had on theatergoers and the influence it had with other films that followed.

When thinking of a horror film like Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 slasher Psycho the one thing most clear is how well the film was made.  John Carpenter’s Halloween is as special as Psycho in that the way Carpenter composes the film helps it stands out over the slew of other films like it.  Long tracking shots are something that Carpenter utilized throughout and they were slow and smooth.  This is shown right from the opening credits as we are treated to a black screen with only a candlelit pumpkin in view on the left side and the camera slowly zooms in causing a bit of uneasiness to viewers as we creep ever so close to the evil grinning pumpkin.  Also, some shots are composed as if the audience is there with the characters and at times it can feel as if we are the killer which makes the audience become even more attached to the film.  Such as just after the title scene the camera drifts towards the Myers house, around some bushes and eventually inside the house where an arm reaches for a knife and a mask slips over the camera, the audience is now in the eyes of the killer.  The camera moves up the stairs where the young Michael murders his sister and there is nothing the audience can do to stop the knife plunging down over and over again.  Perhaps this is how it is for Michael being controlled by evil and there is nothing he can do to stop it.  

In the event you have been sleeping under a rock, Michael Myers is one the most iconic villains of horror.  He is silent, slowly stalks his prey with no reason, no method, and is seemingly invincible.  When watching the film in my youth I thought Michael was just a man, but it wasn’t until later when I realized he was something more, especially with the ending of the film where all we hear is his breathing and knowing he is still there.  It would have been best not to have the sequels and just leave Halloween as a standalone film because seeing Michael Myers, not as a man, but as some evil force that is still lurking out there is very frightening and we don’t need to know more than that. 

Throughout the film we are treated to Michael standing near bushes, standing across from the school, standing near some laundry and all are very effective shots of suspense.  However, what else Carpenter does very well is using foreground to build suspense.  For example in the scene where Laurie thinks she has killed Michael (again), she rests wearily on the floor with Michael’s body blurred in the background.  Suddenly Michael sits up and then Carpenters music kicks.  The scene is highly suspenseful and Carpenter excels in it.  In addition, Cinematographer Dean Cundey, who later went on to do more great things in such work as The Thing and Jurassic Park, made wonderful use of light in scenes to help bring suspense and terror.  This proved to be highly effective, particularly in my favorite scene, when Laurie stands against a wall next to a darkened doorway, Michaels white mask slowly appears through the darkness and it is terrifying!  This is a phenomenal use of light and dark and it is a shot people will remember.  Another element that makes Halloween so special is the lack of gore and blood.  It was a great choice to not have it as too much can become a distraction and take away from the suspense that the film so wonderfully builds up.

Aside from Michael Myers being a highlight in the film, another character to mention is Dr. Loomis, played by Donald Pleasence.  Dr. Loomis has always been as much a highlight to the Halloween franchise as Michael Myers and I love him in Halloween.  Just listening to him talk about Michael Myers is engaging because of the way Pleasence delivers the lines.

“I met him, 15 years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding in even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this… six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and… the blackest eyes – the Devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”   – Dr. Loomis  

Dr. Loomis can come off as a bit crazy with his talk of the danger in Haddonfield, and this is something that can be seen in later horror films as well with the crazy old man warning others of danger in the area.  My understanding is that Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were up for the role of Dr. Loomis, but they declined the offer.  As interesting as either actor may have been, I’m glad they did not take the offer as it is hard to imagine anyone other than Pleasence in the role.

The score for Halloween plays a large part in the success of the film and John Carpenter took it upon himself to write the score to save in hiring an actual composer as they had a limited budget.  This idea paid off in spades as the music has become one of the iconic scores for film.  It elevates the film by building suspense and pulls the viewer’s further into the story.  Like another classic horror film, Jaws, everyone who has seen the film can immediately connect the score to the film once it is heard.  When I was young, I ended up buying the Halloween soundtrack which I listened to on many Halloween nights and anytime I felt like creeping someone out during a drive on a darkened road.  

Halloween turned out to be a very influential film to horror films that would come after such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.  This would be through the various tropes such as the final girl and sexually active teenagers.  Like Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Halloween, the final girl is the one who survives the encounter with the killer at the end of the film and is seen as the more innocent character.  From film to film she will usually share similar traits such as being a virgin, avoiding drug use and alcohol, essentially portraying a very clean image.  Though there are slasher films that came before Halloween, such as Black Christmas and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and contained a similar final girl, it was Halloween that paved the way for the final girl in horror films that followed.  As a matter of fact, films such as You’re Next, took the final girl to a new level and created a stronger character with more background and she is actually the highlight of the film.  This is in contrast to the character of Laurie Strode who is just an innocent character who managed to survive the night.

The film has spawned many sequels and reboots, and though none have been able to touch the original in terms of quality, just the very name of Halloween in the title and Michael Myers as the killer is enough to get people to the theater.  40 years later, Halloween has another sequel in the theaters, with Jamie Lee Curtis returning, and I can only imagine this is not the end.  Halloween is a film that will always remain as one of the best films of horror and like the ominous evil presence that is Michael Myers, it will never go away.

Michaels Verdict

4-5

JUMPSCARECUT: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Directed by: Drew Goddard
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford

Written by Fiona Underhill

Directed by Drew Goddard (who has a film out right now which I highly recommend: Bad Times at the El Royale) and co-written by Goddard and Joss Whedon, The Cabin the Woods is a comedy-horror in a similar vein to the Scream films, in that it is a satire of conventional horror tropes and comments on them in a post-modern, self-referential way. It contains many Whedon hallmarks – including his signature style of humour which comes across in the writing, but also some of his regular actors, including Amy Acker and Fran Kranz (both of whom feature in Whedon’s lovely version of Much Ado About Nothing).

Cabin in the Woods was actually filmed three years before it was released, in 2009, which goes some way to explaining why the actors are all ten years older than their characters. It also helped that it was filmed before Chris Hemsworth made Thor, but was released in 2012, just as he was getting super famous, thanks to Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2012). Having seen Hemsworth as Thor does it make it slightly harder to buy him as a college student, however. Same with Jesse Williams, who is best known for playing a doctor on Grey’s Anatomy.

The five main characters are all college student friends and are archetypes, but audience assumptions are subverted throughout the film. Hemsworth is Curt ‘The Jock’, Williams is Holden ‘The Scholar’, Kranz is Marty ‘The Fool’, Anna Hutchison is Jules ‘The Whore’ and Kristen Connolly is Dana ‘The Virgin.’  Even as the characters are introduced, these stereotypes are played around with, picked apart and commented on. Dana, the Final Girl is introduced in her underwear, Curt is clearly a very well-read Jock, Holden has abs, Jules may be a ‘dumb blonde,’ but she’s only just dyed her hair (and this will have consequences) and Marty is clearly the wisest one amongst them. Marty is very much playing the Randy character (from the Scream series) here – he is one step ahead of the game, he can see it being played and he makes many references to ‘the puppeteers.’

Before we are introduced to this group of young people who are going to the titular cabin in the woods for the weekend, we meet Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins), in their corporate scenario, bitching about their boring home lives. The mundanity of their lives and jobs is constantly juxtaposed with the task they are actually doing, which is orchestrating the brutal murders of the group of young people. This is the main source of the humour in the film, particularly with Whitford’s deadpan delivery. Their rivalry with Japan is another source of amusement and seeing the ‘evil’ in Japan defeated by a bunch of 9-year-old school girls working together is one of the film’s highlights.

There is much foreshadowing that happens at the start of the film and not just from the creepy gas station harbinger. One of Marty’s first lines is (referring to himself in the third person); “they fear this man. They know he sees farther than they and he will bind them with ancient logics.”

There are two pivotal scenes in the film – the first is when the group go into the cellar of the cabin and find it stuffed full of old artefacts. Each one (apart from Marty – who warns them all against being in there) picks up an object and starts examining it. Each of these objects could summon an unspeakable horror, but Dana starts reading the Buckner diary, which summons the Zombie Redneck Torture Family. This cuts to one of the most famous scenes in the film – Hadley and Sitterson with a whiteboard, taking bets from the office on which hideous creature would be chosen; “I’m never gonna get to see a merman.”

The second pivotal scene is when Dana discovers Marty (who she believed to be dead). Marty has been hiding in what appears to be a grave, but on further inspection, is actually an elevator. This leads to one of the most ambitious and audacious scenes in any film that I’ve seen (horror or otherwise) – the elevator is made of glass and through it, other glass elevators can be viewed. Each one contains an unspeakable horror, some of which emerge slowly from the inky black darkness and others appear suddenly, without warning. It gives me thrills and chills just thinking about it now. This sequence culminates with my favourite line from the film; “good work, zombie arm!”

Once in the underground complex, Dana and Marty make two nihilistic decisions – the first being to release the contents of the elevators into this confined space, creating chaos and flushing out the ‘bad guys.’ The second is right at the very end, when they make the ultimate decision to let the ancient ones rise again; “it’s time to give someone else a chance.”

The Cabin the Woods is one of the funniest comedies of the last decade, plus has some genuinely scary moments. It manages to pull off a high concept and successfully juxtaposes two contrasting worlds until they collide in an explosion of blood and zombie vomit at the end. The inventiveness of the creatures and the way they’re revealed to the audience is one of the most original sequences in movies. It features a fantastic cast, a witty and clever script and is very well structured. The Cabin in the Woods is one of THE best horror movies and should definitely be included in your October viewing line-up.

JUMPSCARECUT: The Exorcist (1973)

Directed by: William Friedkin
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

After surviving the zombie apocalypse of Dawn of the Dead, I decided to ramp things up a notch for my next JUMPSCARECUT review and take on the ultimate horror movie – The Exorcist. Truth be told, I was shit-scared all day in the lead up to watching this, but also weirdly excited to finally check out what is regarded as one of the cornerstones of the genre.

I’m sure that pretty much everyone knows what goes down in The Exorcist by now, right? Sweet, young girl gets possessed by an evil, messed up spirit, causing her to spit green shit and violent obscenities at people. In an attempt to heal her daughter, her mother seeks the help of various doctors, to no avail, and eventually resorts to religious aid in the form of an exorcism. You know, the usual trials and tribulations of raising a child.

Whilst some of the make-up and prop work leaves much to be desired, you can forgive this in a 70s horror flick, and actually, many of the practical effects (such as levitation and crab-walking down a flight of stairs) are done really cleverly. The whole thing almost plays out as a period piece, with superb set design and some fantastic visuals, including THAT classic image of the priest under the streetlight, which is just the perfect establishing shot before he embarks on the horror within.

Which leads me to the crux of the matter – just how scary is The Exorcist? Well, I haven’t had any nightmares about demonic girls telling me to “shove it up my ass”, so thankfully it hasn’t had a lasting effect on me. But it is an intensely uncomfortable, unsettling, fucked-up film, whose influence on the genre is clear to see. William Friedkin masterfully creates an experience where the viewer is forced to endure a slow-burning journey, which gradually allows fear to seep in, before completely consuming you by the end.

Whilst The Exorcist was certainly not as scary as I feared, it completely exceeded everything I anticipated in terms of its narrative and visual craft. This was right up my street when it comes to horror; give me a sharp, twisted, brooding tale over ridiculous, jumpy slashers any day.

Jakob’s Verdict:

4