JUMPSCARECUT: The Black Cauldron (1985)

Directed by: Ted Berman and Richard Rich
Cast: Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, Arthur Malet, John Hurt

Written by Elena Morgan

I am a wuss when it comes to horror films, or anything scary to be honest, so when the idea of taking part in a month of scary films for JUMPSCARECUT came up I was unsure what film I could possibly write about. Then I remembered a film from my childhood that even though it scared me quite a bit, I weirdly had fond memories of it. That film was Disney’s The Black Cauldron.

The Black Cauldron is an animated fantasy about a young pig keeper named Taran who dreams of adventure and soon he finds it when he learns his pig Hen-Wen can see the future. When Hen-Wen sees that the fearsome Horned King is after the Black Cauldron and will do anything to possess its mysterious and dangerous powers, Taran sets out to stop him. On his quest, Taran meets brave Princess Elionwy, the minstrel Fflewddur Fflam and Gurgi, a weird dog-like creature.

The Black Cauldron is often seen as Disney’s forgotten film, it appeared to have a troubled production and the fact it didn’t make its budget back domestically earned it the nickname “the film that almost killed Disney”. It’s not a Disney musical, instead being a more serious and spooky adventure with magic, witches and a lot of skeletons.

This was the first time I’d watched The Black Cauldron since I was nine years old or younger and I won’t lie, it made me jump a couple of times. Taran is a naïve young hero while Elionwy is a surprisingly brave and competent heroine for the time the film was made. Fflewddur Fflam and Gurgi are the comic relief characters and, like a lot of comedic sidekicks, at times they’re amusing but they can also be annoying.

The animation when it comes to the Horned King’s eerie old castle is both stunning and creepy. A lot of the major moments of the film take place in that castle and it’s suitably dark and foreboding. Inside the castle is not only the Horned King, but his henchmen, a troll-like creature called Creeper, and a couple of small dragon-like creatures too. The sound those dragon-things make is enough to make your skin crawl. Speaking of sound, the film’s score is big and bold, but it also has a ghostly quality to it that makes the setting even more menacing.

The Horned King scared me as a child and he’s still pretty scary now I’m an adult. The look of him, in a long cloak the hides his skeletal figure and green flesh, and the way he moves so slow and composed until something angers him, it all makes an intimidating and frightening villain. Watching The Black Cauldron now, I thought I recognised the voice of the Horned King under the echoes and it turns out it was John Hurt. No wonder that voice haunted my dreams as a child!

I would recommend people watch The Black Cauldron if they haven’t seen it before or revisiting it if like me you hadn’t seen it for over a decade. It’s an interesting little film full of action, adventure, magic and spooky creatures. With its witches and skeletons, it’s definitely a film that feels well-suited to this time of year.

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JUMPSCARECUT: The Evil Dead (1981)

Directed by: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly

REVIEWED BY JESSICA PEÑA

 

There’s something so incredible about chaos in film. When things suddenly turn into a madhouse of hysteria and gut-wrenching agony, you know you’re in for a wild ride experience. Sam Raimi’s 1981 film, The Evil Dead, delivers the pandemonium on a platter, spewing out eerie disorder and gross unravelment. Rightfully so, it’s gone on to be one of the major cult classic hits that just happens to fit the season. It’s very nauseating at times, and actually very difficult to recommend, but we wouldn’t want to hide this gem from you, no way! We uncover and revisit The Evil Dead this month to remind ourselves of that practical effect heaven of the early 1980’s, and also to tickle that unearthly, Halloween-time fix.

So much of what makes The Evil Dead enticing to the eyes is its lush use of practical effects and just how that imperfect style delivers today. It’s very much a product of its time and dated in its most goriest, atrocious scenes. Still, considering all of its production limitations, it’s a staple to feed your bloodlust this time of the year. The spooky gods would be proud! Of all those tales in film of people getting murdered in isolated locations, is no different story-wise, although a pioneer of sorts.

When Ash (Bruce Campbell), his sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), and their three friends (Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly) rent out an old cabin in the desolate woods for some time, they really aren’t expecting to be slashing each other come nightfall, but you how these things go. As they explore the place, they find vile ritual items in the basement which includes animal products hung from the ceilings, and eventually the discovery of the Book of the Dead. As they find and play a recording of ancient incantations, it summons an air of evil in the remote area that soon inhabits them one by one as the night begins.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all festive horror fun. The scene that just befell part of the film’s integrity was Cheryl’s attack in the woods just prior to her possession. It’s a very, very uncomfortable thing to watch. One could argue that it was unnecessary, ill-advised, and just plain horrid. To the film’s advantage, it does get muddled over in the night as craziness ensues. Raimi isn’t totally out of the woods with that one, though. As you find out, the film doesn’t lay any emotional existence onto its characters, hoping that the audience will latch onto the gore and filth of its survival instead. When it works, it works, and there’s a lot to marvel at in the middle of its fight. When the group have to lock Cheryl away when she gets possessed by the ancient evil, she plays around with everyone, later even taunting Ash as he fends off those who were once his friends. It’s a clustered bunch of gruesome effects and the way it goes batshit crazy is quite the time to pass. This film is dreadfully entertaining, blowing through its low budget with genius care to effects and smart production.

The Evil Dead is a flick to seek out because it’s disarray wrapped in homegrown butchery. From the wicked claymation at the end sequence to its insane makeup effect prowess (credit to Tom Sullivan), it’s a part of the canon that caters to escapism and the suspension of common belief. Betsy Baker’s riotous act sitting at the door frame is reason alone to watch this maddening getaway.

JUMPSCARECUT: Bad Romance

October is synonymous with a few things: autumn leaves, pumpkin-spiced everything, Halloween, the return of The Walking Dead on TV, and more horror movies than you can wield a knife at. Not everyone has a stomach for gore or the mettle for scares though. If you’re wondering where all the romance goes when the monsters come out to play, fear not. It may not be the 14th February, but here are 14 love stories perfect for the spooky season.

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Crimson Peak (2015)

Guillermo del Toro’s 1880s-set ghost story charts the relationship between American aspiring-author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) and English baron/inventor Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). After she suffers a devastating family tragedy, she marries Thomas and moves into the dilapidated Sharpe home, a grand gothic mansion built on a hill that ‘bleeds’ red when it snows. Edith must not only compete with Thomas’ conniving sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) for his attention, but she must contend with the spirits that haunt the house.

 

La Belle et la Bête (1946)

Jean Cocteau and René Clément’s surreal tale of tragic love between a beautiful girl, Belle (Josette Day), and a gentle beast (Jean Marais), was the first adaptation of the 1757 story, Beauty and the Beast. Now considered a French classic, La Belle et la Bête presents the Beast as so repellent, Belle faints at the sight of him – not quite the sumptuously animated creature Disney drew! The story unfolds like a Grimm’s fairy tale, a brooding dark fantasy, with not a singing teapot or candelabra in sight.

 

Warm Bodies (2013)

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has been adapted to film countless times over the years. From direct adaptations, such as Franco Zeffirelli’s 1969 version and Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 modernised version, to more imaginative translations, such as West Side Story and The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. Warm Bodies falls into the latter – a loose reworking of the classic star-crossed lovers narrative. The ‘Romeo’ of Warm Bodies is Nicholas Hoult’s zombie, known only as R, and the ‘Juliet’ is Teresa Palmer’s Julie, daughter of the U.S. Army Colonel hell-bent on eradicating the living dead once and for all. Told from the zombie’s perspective, and notably depicting the undead as retaining some human characteristics in death (un-death?), Warm Bodies will thaw even the iciest of hearts.

 

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The ending of the Universal Pictures 1931 classic, Frankenstein, is heart-breaking, as Frankenstein’s Monster (Boris Karloff) is apparently burned to death in the windmill he hides in, to escape the vicious mob chasing him. The Monster is woefully misunderstood, a lonely beast, desperate for a mate. In Bride of Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorious heed no moral lesson from past mistakes as they create the Bride (Elsa Lanchester), a true icon in the genre’s oeuvre. Raise a glass to “the new world of gods and monsters!”

 

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Known as “the first Iranian vampire western”, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night focuses on a lonesome vampire (Sheila Vand), who spends her eternal life listening to music on vinyl, skateboarding around Bad City, and preying on men who disrespect women. One night, she meets a drugged-up, lost, Arash (Arash Marandi), and is charmed by his vulnerability and kindness. Their tentative attraction is fascinating to watch. With a soundtrack as killer as the girl herself, and shot in exquisite black and white, Ana Lily Amirpour has created a modern gem.

 

Thirst (2009)

South Korean producer/director Park Chan-wook knows a thing or two about forbidden lust – just watch Stoker or The Handmaiden. When Catholic priest Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) volunteers to participate in an experiment to find a vaccine for the deadly Emmanuel Virus, the unexpected side effects include a thirst for human blood, an extreme aversion to sunlight, and insatiable lust for his friend’s wife, Tea-ju (Kim Ok-bin). The two embark on an illicit and deadly affair, as the lines between right and wrong, monster and human, are blurred.

 

A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

Chinese folklore (as imagined by A Chinese Ghost Story) dictates that the spirit of any person buried at the foot of a tree outside the haunted Lan Ro temple will be eternally bound to the servitude of the sinister Tree Devil, whose tongue wraps around its victims to suck out their life essence. Lip Siu-sin (Joey Wong) is one of those unfortunate souls. When Ling Choi-san (Leslie Cheung) meets her ghost, it’s love at first sight, and he vows to free her from her misery. Martial arts meets phantasm meets melancholy in this supernatural tale of love and loss.

 

Spring (2014)

Romantic body horror is not a combination of words one would expect, yet perfectly describe Spring. Evan (Lou Taylor-Pucci) suffers a devastating loss that prompts him to travel to Italy, where he meets the enigmatic Louise (Nadia Hilker), a student of genetics. A creature-feature unlike any other, Louise gradually reveals her ghastly secrets to Evan, as her transformative nature is exposed.

 

The Mummy (1932)

What’s more romantic than a love that spans centuries? When British archaeologists accidentally bring Egyptian priest Imhotep (Boris Karloff) back from the dead, the last thing they expect is to sacrifice their lives in order to bring the high priest’s lover, Anck Su Namun (Zita Johann) back from the dead too. A timeless fable warning us of the perils of reading ancient runes aloud, The Mummy is oft replicated (see The Mummy of 1999, starring swashbuckling Brendan Fraser, or The Mummy of 2017, starring fearless Tom Cruise), but never bettered.

 

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Let the Right One In (2008)

Based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist (who also wrote the screenplay), Let the Right One In centres on the sweet relationship that blossoms between 12-year-old outcast Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) and his new mysterious neighbour Eli (Lina Leandersson). The two exchange toys and Morse code messages through their neighbouring wall, and learn over time that though they are different species (she is a vampire, he is a human), their bloodlust is not so different; he wants to kill, to seek revenge on his tormenters, whereas she needs to kill to survive. Tomas Alfredson directs the children’s disturbing bond with a tenderness and empathy that is rare.

(I urge you to seek out the original Swedish version, though the American remake, Let Me In, is intriguing in its own way.)

 

The Fly (1986)

David Cronenberg’s seminal transfiguration sci-fi horror about scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) and his botched attempt at teleportation doesn’t exactly scream “romantic”. The make-up effects that turn Brundle into half-man-half-fly are gruesome. However, the love between Brundle and girlfriend Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) is so pure, that even as Brundlefly evolves fully into an tyrannical insectoid, she cries for him.

 

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

There’s been a lot of vampires on this list, which perhaps speaks to how romanticised the immortal bloodsuckers are. The love in Francis Ford Coppola’s bat-shit crazy adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is not for the titular evil, but between lawyer Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves, with one of the worst English accents put to celluloid) and his fiancée, Mina (Winona Ryder). When Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) takes a fancy to Mina for her astonishing resemblances to his sweetheart from the 15th Century, Elisabeta (also Ryder), he rabidly pursues her.

 

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Arguably the birth of the “zom-com” genre, Shaun of the Dead is the first in Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, and stars Simon Pegg as the titular Shaun, a 30-something down-on-his-luck dude who realises the importance of showing his love only when the zombie apocalypse is upon him. Arming himself with a bat, he traverses across London with best friend Ed (Nick Frost) to save his mum, Barbara (Penelope Wilton) and win back his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield).

 

The Shape of Water (2017)

Bookending this list with another Guillermo del Toro romance seemed only natural given his proclivity for playing in the backyard of horror iconography. The Amphibian Man (played by the incomparable Doug Jones) may look scary with his big black eyes and scaly skin, but isolated mute Eliza (Sally Hawkins) sees past that to the scared creature within. The ‘Big Bad’ comes in the form fo Micheal Shannon’s villainous government agent, Strickland, a very human face of unsympathetic “just following orders” iniquity. A cinematic masterpiece, taking inspiration from classic sweep-you-off-your-feet grand romance, wrapped up in a brooding fantasy thriller, complimented by an epic score, The Shape of Water is perfect for the spooky season. Perfect for any season, really.

JUMPSCARECUT: Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

Year: 2004
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Ty Burrell, Lindy Booth

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

As a self-confessed wimp, I usually flat-out avoid all the spooky season shenanigans I see people partaking in. I mean, why would anyone choose to spend the whole month of October watching scary films and not being able to sleep!? But this year, I’m feeling a little braver than normal, and have volunteered to watch and review a handful of horror movies in the name of JUMPSCARECUT. First up is the 2004 remake of the classic Dawn Of The Dead, which as a fan of Zack Snyder and a tolerator of zombie horror, felt like a good place to start.

In many ways, this is pretty much your standard zombie-fare; a tale of survival in an apocalyptic world plagued by the flesh-eating undead. In typical horror movie fashion, our band of protagonist’s come from all walks of life, each bringing a different element to the group dynamic; from hard-knocks cop to playboy prick to amiable nurse, and we even get the added treat of a heroic canine and a pregnant Russian lady for good measure. Whilst this may all sound rather generic, it’s interesting that the actual zombies are kept at bay for much of the film, preferring to focus more on the tension, desperation, and moments of humanity between the survivors.

As an early-noughties horror flick, odds are that the acting will be pretty damn terrible, right? Well, that’s definitely true of some of the supporting players here, but for the most part, the main cast are actually rather impressive and very rarely cringe-worthy. Jake Weber and Sarah Polley lead the way with an endearing chemistry, and it’s a shame they’ve done very little in the film world since. The standout for me though, is Ving Rhames. From Pulp Fiction to Mission Impossible, I’m now starting to think Rhames may actually be a really great actor, and his turn here is one of brutish charm and stoic resolve. Another highlight is Ty Burrell – before Modern Family fame – playing a real asshole of a character who couldn’t be further from the Phil Dunphy we know and love. And you know what, even the zombie acting was pretty convincing, which is no mean feat.

Speaking of which, much of the special effects in use here are surprisingly decent, and combined with some fantastic make-up work, create an altogether impressive looking production. Zack Snyder‘s visual style is clear to see throughout, with sharp close-up shots, a splash of slow-mo and a fuckload of visceral violence. It’s interesting to work backwards from the grandeur of the likes of Watchmen and 300, and see Snyder tackling the horror genre in his earlier, more humble days. It’s a task he navigates with deftness, a self-conscious irony, and a finger firmly on the pulse of the humanity behind the horror.

Thankfully, this film is far from terrifying, instead providing ample entertainment, some cheap thrills and a couple of fun jump scares along the way. It’s a film which does very little wrong, at the same time as doing very little to go above and beyond the formulaic, well-trodden path of many before it. Where it succeeds in its characterisations and more tense moments, this remake does fall into the trap of predictability on more than one occasion, and suffers from a couple of ludicrous moments which you can’t help but laugh at. More hardened horror aficionados will most certainly be left wanting, but for this scaredy-cat, Zack Snyder‘s Dawn of the Dead was the perfect way to get in the spirit of things as Halloween approaches.

Jakob’s Verdict:

3

JUMPSCARECUT: Defarious (Short)

Year: 2018
Directed by: Chase Michael Pallante
Cast: Janet Miranda, Jason Torres, Sonia Sierra
Runtime: 13m 17s

“A young woman is tormented by her nightmares and they are beginning to manifest so strongly she becomes disillusioned between the world of her imagination and what is truly reality.”

Written by Tom Sheffield

Defarious is the latest short film from R&F Entertainment and is directed by Chase Michael Pallante. This short has just finished it’s incredibly successful festival run, picking up a number of award nominations and wins along the way, and is now available to stream!

The film revolves around Amy (Janet Miranda), who is tormented by her nightmares. After one of her nightmares jolts her awake in a breathless panic, Amy immediately seeks comfort from the framed picture of her mum, followed by her reaching for her phone which was charging down by the side of her bed. Amy realises her phone isn’t where she left it and decides to go look for it, but while she hunts for her phone, something is hunting her and the lines of reality and imagination blur.

Janet Miranda has only a line or two of dialogue in this film and so the film heavily relies on her physical acting capabilities. Miranda is incredibly talented and her performance here is superb – completely sucking the audience in to this situation and making you shout at the screen to try and help her. Defarious marks a strong directorial debut for Chase Michael Pallante, who also wrote and edited the film. Chase is always very involved with the films he is a part of and has been credited on various projects for producing, sound effects editing, casting, and a handful of other departments – this knowledge and experience will surely benefit Chase on his future projects and we here at JUMPCUT look forward to seeing what he cooks up.

One of aspects I really loved about this short was the music and the sound effects because they both are both used so effectively and really ramp up this psychological horror and take it to the next level. I knew this would likely be the case following how prominently music was used during the short’s marketing. Jonathan Martinez’s score has a familiar and nostalgic sound to it, reminiscent of 80s horrors and slashers that Chase clearly used as influences for this short.

From the word go, the score sets the tone of the film and the tension just keeps on building.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible work from the special effects and makeup department. Jason Torres is completely unrecognisable under the haunting white makeup, and the design of the character as a whole is simple yet terrifying. There is also a scene later in the film that could have come off as incredibly cheesy if the practical effects were half-arsed. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and special effects make-up artist Greer Gillespie has done an incredible job, both with Torres’ character and the aforementioned scene I won’t spoil for you.

The entirety of this short is set at night in an unlit house, but the film’s cinematographer, Christian Reyes, and Chase have used the night setting to their advantage and have created a truly chilling and claustrophobic atmosphere that will make you leave the lights on in your house. We’re excited to have been given the opportunity to chat with Janet Miranda and some of the cast that worked on Defarious and will be sharing those with you all shortly!

Defarious is an unsettling psychological horror that respectfully pays homage to the classic slashers of the 80s whilst adding an unnerving supernatural twist. Each shot is filled with tension and you’ll find your eyes darting around the screen looking for something that isn’t there.

Turn the volume up, switch the lights off, and prepare for a real scare this Spooktober.

Tom’s Verdict:

4

JUMPSCARECUT: 5 Of The Worst Decisions Made In Horror Films

Written by Megan Williams

Warning: This article contains spoilers!

One of my favourite film genres is horror. I’m not sure why I love this genre, but I do. However, the majority of them seem to share the same thing: They’ll have at least one stupid character. These characters will usually make a decision that will affect the storyline, affect themselves or another character, or set the overall film into motion. Their decisions are either unrealistic, ridiculous or just plain stupid. Therefore, I’ve decided to put together a little list of the five worst decisions made in horror films. This is not a top five list; merely a collection of awful, awful choices.

Let’s begin…

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Jeepers Creepers (2001): Going Back to the Pipeline

In this 2001 monster movie, Darry and Trisha, a brother and a sister, have just passed a cathedral where they see a stranger throwing white, blood-stained sheets down a pipe. What would you do in this situation? You’d probably get as far away as possible, or report the incident to the police, right? Well, the siblings don’t do either of these things but, instead, decide to return to the scene of the crime on the suggestion (or guilt-tripping) of the brother. I understand that this decision sets the whole film into motion, but come on. What makes this even more ridiculous is that Trisha even tells Darry that we, the audience, will hate him for making this decision.

 

Saw 2 (2005): Addison and the Box Trap

I love the Saw franchise (it’s actually my favourite horror franchise), but even I can admit that the film is filled with stupid decisions and brainless characters. However, out of all of the dumb decisions I had to place this well-known one, from Saw 2, on my list because her slow death could’ve easily been avoided.

In the red-circled area, you can just make out the key to open the box and get the antidote out. If Addison had stopped and actually looked at the whole trap then she would’ve seen this. Alas, this is not the case and she ends up putting both hands into the box and getting herself stuck.

 

Drag Me to Hell (2009): Wrong Envelope!

In this Sam Raimi film, the main character (Christine Brown) is cursed; in three days, she will literally be dragged to Hell. The cursed item, a button, is placed in an envelope, which she drops in the car after it breaks. A pile of other papers and envelopes also drop on the car floor as well. In a situation like this, where you’d be dragged to Hell in less than twelve hours time, any normal person would double, even triple-check that the envelope you picked up is the right one. However, Christine does not do this. It’s a stupid and unrealistic decision, but it leads to a sucker punch of an ending, so I can’t completely complain.

 

Blair Witch Project (1999): Mike Throws the Map in the River

So, I have a confession to make: I hate this film. None of the characters make a single sensible decision throughout the entire movie, and it was difficult to pick just one bad decision. However, I have to give this one to Mike who, for no apparent reason, decides to get rid of the trio’s map that’ll help them get out of the forest they’re lost in. Why anyone would do this is beyond me and he doesn’t seem to have a good reason for doing it, either. Instead, he laughs at his actions. Not cool, Mike, not cool.

(The reveal and reactions start at the 1:30 mark)

Jaws (1973): Mayor Vaughn keeps Amity Beach open

I know what you might be thinking: Is Jaws a horror film? I would say yes: it has the tension of a horror film (mainly thanks to the fantastic score). As well as this, it has the scares and, at times, gore that would be included in a horror film (e.g.: Quint’s death scene). And the idea of a man-eating great white shark is a pretty scary idea!

The decision I’ve chosen from this film is Mayor Vaughn’s decision to keep Amity Beach open throughout the film, despite warnings about the shark eating people. The reason for it is because the film is set near Independence Day, and the Mayor didn’t want the celebrations dampened by something as insignificant as a man-eating shark. It could be argued that, because Vaughn hasn’t seen any evidence of the shark, he would have no reason to believe them. However, by this point in the film, he’s aware of people dying at the beach and, if a policeman and a shark expert were giving him warnings, then surely precautions would be put in place, just in case they were telling the truth?

Even main characters, Chief Brody and Matt Hooper, disrespect him and dislike him as he sticks to his decision; Hooper even says “I’m not going to waste my time arguing with a man who’s lining up to be a hot lunch!”

JUMPSCARECUT: Alien (1979)

Year: 1979
Directed by: Ridley Scott
StarringSigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm, John Hurt

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

29 years on from its original release, Alien continues to be a masterpiece of sci-fi and horror. At only his second directorial effort, legendary director Ridley Scott put himself firmly in the Hollywood spotlight with both a critical and commercial success in the shape of a terrifying space adventure.

Alien stars a then relatively low-key cast, but today it’s a veritable who’s who of classic actors. John Hurt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, and, of course, Sigourney Weaver. Weaver plays the now iconic role of Ellen Ripley, an officer tasked with the job of somehow saving the day from a horrifying, powerful creature which has found its way onto their ship, the Nostromo, in arguably the film’s most iconic sequence. As the crew of the Nostromo begins to be picked off, Alien becomes a tense survival mission as they attempt to escape the creature’s wrath.

Criminally left unwatched until I was 19 years old in university, I’d genuinely avoided watching it despite knowing I should because I’d heard how scary it was. When I eventually bit the bullet late one night, the film lived up to its billing as a harrowing experience. What begins as a mysterious sci-fi, exploring a moon in the far reaches of space, becomes an unrelenting, thrilling experience that I have genuinely never forgotten. It’s well-written, it subverts expectations, it has outstanding production design, lighting, and sound design, and Ridley Scott meticulously balances the tension in order to maximise the impact of its numerous and plentiful scares.

You cannot write a review of Alien without talking about the actual alien. The Xenomorph. To this day, the Xenomorph has no equal as the most feared, and best design creature in film history. Nothing in Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or Predator can hold a candle to the Xenomorph. HR Giger’s creation is the most iconic thing to come from an iconic film because of its individuality and impactful design that’s equal parts horrifying as it is fascinatingly unique. The mouth within the mouth; the freakishly long, phallic cranium; the slightly humanoid elements (bi-pedal, five fingers) heightened to be so obviously, uncomfortably alien make it unforgettable. Add in its towering height over its human prey and it’s enough to scare even the bravest souls. There’s a reason the Xenomorph hasn’t changed much beyond some in-universe evolvements (the Xenomorph Queen in ‘Aliens’, the weird baby alien in ‘Resurrection’, the white baby aliens in ‘Alien: Covenant’), but the principal Xenomorph never changes because Giger nailed it. Creature designers have tried for years to come even close to the iconic creature and no one has managed it.

In rewatching the film, I thought I’d conduct a short experiment to see how much the Xenomorph is actually on screen. Give or take a few seconds where I had to restart the stopwatch, it came it at less than 4 minutes of screen time. 4 minutes! 4 minutes for it to make one of the biggest impacts we’ve ever seen in horror film history. That takes skill, and it takes the combination of all sorts of factors – building tension, perfectly timed jump scares (I’ve been irrationally scared of vents for the last 6 years since I first watched Alien), and the audience believing in the Xenomorph as a threatening entity, which they surely did – working for it to have such an impact.

Alien is incredible. It has stood the test of time for very good reason and remains as terrifying today as it surely was on its release. Despite the abundance of horror films in the market these days, Alien still stands tall as a scary-as-fuck film, and one of the all-time best scary-as-fuck films, at that.

Quoth the Alien, in space, no one can hear you scream. I’m sure the people of Nottingham heard me scream that night.

RHYS’ RATING:

5

 

JUMPSCARECUT: Fractured

Year: 2018
Directed by: Jamie Patterson
StarringApril Pearson, Louisa Lytton, Karl Davies

Written by Abbie Eales

Young lovers Rebecca (April Pearson) and Michael (Karl Davies) are on their way to a romantic get-away when they find themselves with a flat tyre, in the dark, in the middle of the British countryside. Rebecca becomes paranoid that someone is watching them and tensions between the pair grow. The couple soon find their way to an idyllic cottage in the countryside, where the tension ratchets up further as a sinister presence lurks in the dark.  Shoes go missing, the TV turns itself on and then there is the phone call for the mysterious Alva…

Jamie Patterson’s ‘Fractured’ at first appears to be a straightforward combination of the stranger-on-the-road movie and the home-invasion trope. However, what unfolds over the short running time is far more interesting and tense affair as some familiar horror clichés are broken down, with some deft directorial touches elevating this above many high-concept low-budget films. Shades of Halloween, Los Cronocrimenes (Time Crimes) and fellow Brit horror Hush (2008) permeate throughout, but Patterson’s directorial voice remains firm.

The electronic score is also reminiscent of John Carpenter, but it does feel a little heavy-handed in places, with some scenes possibly being better left to play out without the punctuation.

Both Pearson and Davies are excellent in their roles, with their nuanced performances ensuring that Fractured could stand up to repeat viewings despite the neat sting in its tail.

While it’s a fairly short affair Fractured is thoroughly diverting and is elevated above many low budget horrors by some great performances, great direction, and good cinematography.

‘Fractured’ is available on Amazon Prime now.

ABBIE’S RATING:

3-5

JUMPSCARECUT: Antichrist (2009)

Year: 2009
Directed by: Lars Von Trier
Starring: Willem Defoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Storm Archeche Sahlstrøm

Written by Thom Marsh

Antichrist is split into four chapters including Grief, Pain (Chaos reigns), Despair (Gynocide) and The Three Beggars. Each chapter opens with harrowing artwork by Per Kirkeby. The film centres around a married couple He (Willem Defoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as they struggle to cope with the loss of their son Nic (Storm Archeche Sahlstrøm). Their grief takes them to their cabin as ‘He’ attempts to cure his wife’s paranoid dreams through therapy breaking the cardinal rule against treating family.

A brief warning before I continue, Antichrist is considered by many to be an artistic representation of a parents grief, although not a traditional horror film there are several extremely graphic scenes that to those with a sensitive disposition are certainly horrific. Hence making it my choice for my Jumpscarecut review.

Antichrist definitely ticks the boxes required to be considered an arts film, it opens with a beautifully shot black and white sequence accompanied by a classical score selected by Kristian Eidnes Andersen. It shows the long slow harrowing journey of Nic from his crib to his fall from the second storey living room window to the snowy street below. If witnessing a child’s body bounce from a concrete floor isn’t graphic enough for you maybe viewing Defoe’s erect member penetrating Gainsbourg blissfully unaware of the events transpiring in the next room will be.

Von Trier doesn’t stop there though as he continues to document She’s decent into sadomasochistic  madness using the masterfully shot German forests as a backdrop. Gainsbourg won the award for Best Actress at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival for her portrayal of ‘She’. I can’t immediately recall if Mélanie Laurent was nominated for her depiction of Shoshana Dreyfus in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds but I feel she may have been wronged with this decision as Gainsbourg’s efforts often feel forced and at times even robotic, especially in her monologues with Defoe, who on the other hand is brilliant throughout managing to switch seamlessly between portraying the doting husband and father to the concerned therapist.

Gainsbourg does however redeem herself in the darker and more graphic scenes of the film, I mean she looks completely at ease driving a large piece of timber into Defoe’s penis and then masturbating it until it ejaculates a stream of blood, before removing her own clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors. It’s around this point as you may have guessed that the film starts to lose focus, a little too much for me personally, as it flashbacks to She and a previous trip to the cabin with Nic in an attempt to explain the sudden violent outburst by giving us an insight into her research into gynocide or femicide.

This however feels like a huge detour from the main story, plus throwing Defoe conversing with a fox into the mix, you can understand at times why audiences may feel lost.

As mentioned before, Von Triers cinematography is as artistic and beautiful as it gets, at times however this is let down by what can only be described as an inexcusable amount of shaky camera work which can often be distracting. Pair that with an at times confusing storyline and it makes for a very difficult watch. However if you thought the Saw franchise as being childish over gratuitous violence with very little substance but you don’t think you could deal with A Serbian Film (2010), then I’d definitely recommend Antichrist (2009) as it has all the over gratuitous violence one could hope for with a healthy amount of story thrown in for good measure.

Thom’s Verdict:

3-5