13 O’Clock Movie Retrospective: The Wicker Man

On today’s installment, we’re tackling the classic 1973 British folk horror gem, The Wicker Man, starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee.

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Horror Double Feature: The Awakening and The Canal

Quite by accident, today’s double feature happens to consist of two films from the UK: the 2011 classically-structured English mystery/ghost story The Awakening, and the more modern-expressionist Irish murder-demon tale from 2014, The Canal. While neither of them was particularly original plot-wise, there was a great deal to enjoy in both films, and I have few qualms about recommending them to interested parties, as long as you’re not expecting to get blown away. Keep in mind that both have pretty significant plot twists that will be spoiled here, so read no further if you haven’t seen them. This is your final warning!

First up, The Awakening is the kind of movie that will probably appeal to fans of neo-gothic ghost stories like The Others, The Woman In Black, The Devil’s Backbone, and The Orphanage (of which I am definitely one), with all the standard ingredients: creaky old mansions, possible spirit kids, a plucky heroine, a kindly matron, a murder mystery, lots of shifty characters, and a repressed and horrific past. There are two really outstanding things about this film, one of which is the gorgeous cinematography, painting everything in hues of blue and gray and setting a bleak and eerie mood with long shots of empty hallways, vast green lawns, and shadowed rooms.

The other outstanding thing is the performance of lead Rebecca Hall (who I also enjoyed in her roles in The Prestige, The Gift, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Frost/Nixon), who is electrifying to watch, playing a character who is tough as nails and in complete control of her emotions, all the while seething underneath with a naked fragility that she is loath to show to anyone.

That said, the movie also has some significant problems, which I will get to in a bit.

The Awakening is set in 1921, and Hall plays Florence Cathcart, a fiercely intelligent, no-nonsense spiritualist debunker in the Houdini vein. She has written a well-regarded book on exposing fraudulent mediums, called Seeing Through Ghosts, and has become somewhat famous (as well as reviled by the spiritualist community) for her work with the police in raiding fake séances (as if there are any other kind, but I digress). In fact, the first sequence of the film shows us Florence at work, busting up a deliciously creepy séance with ruthless efficiency, showing everyone the wires and parlor tricks used to make the attendees believe they are talking to their loved ones. Predictably, the people at the séance get righteously pissed off at Florence for exposing the fraud, instead of at the fake mediums who are taking their money and fooling them into thinking they‘re communicating with dead people. Typical.

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It also comes to light that Florence has lost her lover in the war, and that much like Houdini and his mother, Florence maintains her staunch atheism and disbelief in the afterlife both because she feels that fake mediums are taking grieving people like her to the cleaners for a false promise of communication, but also because she still holds out a tiny spark of childish hope that one of these mediums will actually be real and will be able to contact her lost beloved, so that she can apologize for the wrong she did him just before his death.

A short time after the séance raid, Florence is approached by Robert Mallory, who teaches Latin at a boys’ boarding school called Rookford. He explains to Florence that the school is haunted by a boy who might have been murdered there at some point in the past, and that one of the students has recently died, apparently after being frightened to death by the ghost. At first Florence brushes him off, saying she’s too busy and that the “proof” of the haunting he’s brought looks like bullshit, but since there would be no movie if she didn’t go, she eventually agrees to travel to the school and investigate.

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Once she gets to Rookford, she meets matron Maud (Imelda Staunton, who I absolutely loved in Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake), who is almost creepily interested in her and effusively praises her book (which she keeps on the shelf right next to the Bible), saying that she doesn’t believe in any of this haunting nonsense either and that she hopes that Florence will be able to get everyone‘s heads on straight. She also meets a few of the other boys, including the angel-faced Tom (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, best known from “Game of Thrones”), some of the other teachers, like the anger-issue-ridden Malcolm McNair (Shaun Dooley), as well as the requisite sketchy groundskeeper Edward Judd (Joseph Mawle).

One aspect of the film I thought was rather nicely done was the undercurrent of war and the influenza outbreak that was going on in England at the time. At the school, everyone seems either sick or wounded in some way, haunted by the horrors going on around them, and groundskeeper Judd is reviled by all the other teachers because he faked an injury to get out of service. An understated touch, but a welcome one that helps place the story in the context of its times.

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Florence wastes little time in setting up all the latest scientific equipment and using her considerable intellect and knowledge of the tricks of the trade to get to the bottom of the mystery. And here’s where I thought the movie was at its best, because Florence is able to easily discover that the “ghost” the dead boy saw was in fact one of the other students playing a prank, and that the deceased child actually died from an asthma attack after Malcolm McNair punished him for his fear by locking him outside, trying to “toughen him up.” When Florence exposes the truth, Malcolm tearfully apologizes, claiming that he was only so harsh on the boys because he was trying to make them tougher than the current generation, since, having seen war, he would know that they would have to be. The other teachers are sympathetic, but Malcolm still gets fired, and rightfully so.

So, problem solved, right? No ghost, no mysterious death. Not so fast. At this point there was still a great deal of the movie to go, so I figured that even though Florence had presumably found out that the ghost was fake, that there would actually be a real one lurking in there somewhere that would melt the black, unfeeling heart of the skeptic. I have to admit, this common plot device always disappoints me somewhat, because it seems as though skeptics are invariably portrayed in horror movies as wrong and damaged in some way, and this film was no exception. While I know that we couldn’t have horror stories without writing about the supernatural, and while I’ve always been a big fan of supernatural-based horror tales myself, I’m always kind of annoyed by the lazy “hardline asshole skeptic finds out there really ARE ghosts, and becomes a better person” trope. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but I just found it an obvious “twist,” and somewhat jarring within the context of the film.

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After the fake ghost is unmasked, the boys all leave the school for the Christmas holiday, save for Tom, who has to stay behind because his parents are ostensibly in India. Although Florence initially plans to leave, she ends up seeing something in the school that leads her to believe that the place really is haunted, and she is determined to stay there until she finds out what it is. Another thing keeping her at the school is her budding romance with Robert Malloy, and her connection to the lonely little Tom, who adores her and seems to know a lot about her, for reasons which will become clear later.

And right here is where most of the major problems with the movie begin. Florence, presented in the film as a thoroughly modern, rational woman, begins to essentially have a nervous breakdown, chasing after ghosts, crying uncontrollably, seeing strange visions, even attempting suicide by throwing herself into the lake and subsequently throwing herself at Robert Malloy. It’s sort of a bizarre character shift, and while it wasn’t too egregious while I was watching it, when I thought about it later on, it bothered me a lot more.

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There is also a minor subplot with groundskeeper Judd, who attacks and attempts to rape Florence in the woods, before being frightened by the ghost, after which Florence kills him in self-defense and Robert covers it up. I’m not really sure why this subplot is here, because it doesn’t really have anything to do with the main story and doesn’t serve any purpose other than showing the audience that all the other war-hero characters were correct in assuming that the malingering Judd was kind of a scumbag.

And the ultimate resolution of the mystery, which I admit came as something of a surprise, was also unnecessarily convoluted and admittedly a tad confusing. It turned out that twenty years ago, when the school was a private residence, Florence had lived there with her parents, her nanny, and her nanny’s son. Florence’s father had flipped out one day, killed her mother in front of her, and then came after her with a shotgun. Florence hid from him in a hole behind the wall, along with her friend Tom (yep), the nanny’s son. Florence’s father shot through the wall, aiming for Florence, but killed Tom instead, then shot himself when he saw what he’d done.

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So basically, Tom has been the terrifying “ghost with the twisted face” all along (which was actually a pretty creepy and arresting visual, though I thought the explanation that most of the time he could control the twisty-faced thing and look like a normal kid was kind of lame), and it turns out that Maud is his mother, as well as Florence’s erstwhile nanny. That’s why Maud and Florence are the only ones who can see Tom (though this isn’t clear until you watch it a second time, just like The Sixth Sense), and that’s why Maud was acting so strangely at first, because she was the one who convinced Robert to summon Florence there; she was looking to see if Florence remembered her or remembered anything about what had happened. So the whole point of Florence being at the school was not so much to debunk the ghost, but to remember and come to terms with the horrible past she had blocked out.

The ending also got a little weird, as Maud decides that she and Florence should look after Tom forever because he’s lonely and he‘s starting to appear to more of the boys at the school, which frightens them. So Maud poisons herself and attempts to poison Florence, though it appears that Tom intervenes and gives her an ipecac. While some viewers thought that Florence really did die and that it was her ghost we saw at the end leaving the school, I’m pretty sure she actually did live, though it could be read either way because of the cryptic way the scenes and the dialogue are shot.

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As I said, there were some rather odd tonal shifts and bizarre character 180s going on, the repressed memory angle was way too complicated and silly to be believable, and I thought there were some unnecessary plot threads that could have been eliminated; but all in all, it was a rather enjoyable mystery that looked great and had some interesting twists, even though some of them were a little WTF. If you have a hankering for an old-school Victorian-style ghost story with some Houdini-type scientific skepticism threaded in, and if you can live with some clumsy plot developments that don’t always work, then you may find your fix somewhat sated here.

The second film in our UK double feature is 2014’s The Canal, written and directed by Ivan Kavanagh. Though this one had far fewer plot issues than The Awakening and hence was probably the better film overall, I think I ended up liking it about the same, just because it suffered a tad from an unoriginal storyline and had a more modern, jump-scare-heavy aesthetic. That said, though, it did have a slightly surreal feel to it which I appreciated, some decent scares and disturbing imagery, and at times it reminded me a bit of Candyman, which is always a good thing.

We begin the tale as main protagonist David (Rupert Evans) moves into an old house in Dublin with his pregnant wife Alice (Hannah Hoekstra). Not much happens at first to suggest that anything is amiss, but then we skip ahead five years. David and Alice’s son Billy (Calum Heath) sometimes complains about monsters in the house, as five-year-olds are wont to do. In addition, the love appears to have gone out of David and Alice’s marriage, as he begins to suspect that she is having an affair with one of her clients.

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Worse yet, during the course of his job as a film archivist for the National Archives, he is sent a series of police films from 1902, which show the aftermath of a grisly murder that took place in the very house he lives in with his family. The crime spree involved a man who had brutally butchered his two-timing wife and their two children, then later beheaded their nanny before throwing her body into the canal that still runs alongside the street the house is located on.

Soon enough, David becomes obsessed with these films and begins to investigate other murders that have taken place around the canal, and it’s implied that he is seeing parallels between the family dynamic at work in the 1902 murders and what’s taking place in his own life (since David and Alice also employ a nanny, by the name of Sophie, played by Kelly Byrne). Shortly afterward, he obtains definitive proof of his wife’s dalliances when he follows her one night when she is supposed to be “working late” and sees her banging her hunky work colleague Alex (Carl Shaaban).

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In fact, on the night he sees the two of them together, he has flashes of the 1902 murder films, and picks up a hammer as if he is going to revisit the past with extreme prejudice. But then he thinks better of it and leaves without the lovers seeing him. On his walk back home, he throws the hammer into the canal, and then starts feeling sick about what he almost did. He enters a nearby Trainspotting-level public bathroom, where he vomits all over the place, but also has disturbing visions of someone standing outside the stall and a creepy man whispering something unintelligible into his ear. As he staggers out of the bathroom, he sees what he thinks is his wife struggling with a dark figure on the banks of the canal, and then falling in, screaming. Thinking he is imagining it, he heads back home.

But wouldn’t you know it, his wife has not come home by morning, and after dropping Billy off at school, he goes to the police to report her missing. He doesn’t tell the police that he knows about her affair, and he doesn’t tell them that he thought he saw her fighting with a man by the canal, since he believes (probably with some justification) that the cops will think he killed her if they find out he was following her and actually did momentarily consider busting in her head with a hammer.

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Lead detective McNamara (a wonderful Steve Oram) is still intensely suspicious, since, as he tells David, when wives go missing, it’s ALWAYS the husband. He tries to get David to confess by sticking the knife in about the affair, which apparently everyone knew about but David. David is, however, adamant that he loved his wife and wouldn’t hurt her. And because of David’s visions, the audience is actually not sure either whether he really did kill his wife and then sort of blocked it out by imagining all this trippy stuff with the creepy dudes in the disgusting toilet.

Subsequently, Alice’s body is found in the canal, but in a surprising twist, the coroner finds no evidence that she was murdered, and rules that she was probably walking home, broke her heel, fell into the canal, and drowned. David is heartbroken, but also somewhat relieved, though his grief is tempered somewhat by the revelation that Alice was pregnant with Alex’s child and that she had been planning on leaving David when she died.

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There is a funeral, and David hires Sophie on to stay full time to help take care of Billy, but Detective McNamara is still convinced that David is the killer, and his suspicions prompt him to have David watched, as well as contact child services to see about having Billy taken away from him.

It is at this point that the real mindfuck of the movie begins, because although it would seem that David has been exonerated of his wife’s allegedly accidental death, he starts to become convinced that the man who murdered his family back in 1902 is still in the house, or that there is some evil force operating in the house that makes its residents go murderously insane.

Propping up this belief is the sighting of the man (and Alice) at varying times in the house, as well as on the films he makes around the house and near the canal in order to catch the “ghost.” He attempts to rally his work friend Claire and the nanny Sophie to his cause, trying desperately to convince them that not only is there an evil spirit in his house, but that it killed his wife and is going to kill Billy and Sophie next. Sophie and Claire, however, simply think that the grief over his wife’s death has sent him off the deep end, and urge him to get help, which he refuses. It is never really made clear whether the women can see the “ghosts” that occasionally turn up on his films, making the suspense over David‘s supposedly deteriorating mental state all the more compelling. There also remains the intriguing possibility that Alice’s death was simply an accident, and David is blowing it into this batshit demon scenario in order to assuage his guilt about his murderous thoughts.

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Meanwhile, police recover the hammer that David threw into the canal on the night of Alice’s death, and since David’s fingerprints are on it, McNamara’s suspicions are reignited. David finally admits to the police that he had known about the affair and that he had seen Alice and Alex together that night, but insists that the ghost in the house is responsible for Alice’s death, not him. Not surprisingly, the police are less than impressed by this outlandish story.

The real strength of the film is that the viewer never really does figure out whether David actually killed his wife (and later Claire) and is so crazy he’s attributing it to spirits, or whether the spirits are real and are making him murder people, or whether the spirits are the ones doing it and then are making him think that it was him. Late in the film, David finds a series of creepy old photographs behind a wall that imply that the former residents of the house were Satanists who sacrificed babies and threw them into the canal, so it would seem that there was some evil jiggery-pokery going on in the place, but then near the end of the film, as David is trying to escape from police with Billy in tow, he is shown visions of himself drowning his wife in the canal and strangling Claire, so we don’t really know if this is actually what happened, or if these visions were shown to him by the evil ghosts.

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The ending of this was actually rather dark, which surprised and somewhat delighted me, in a grim way. David dies by drowning in the canal, though Billy is pulled out by Detective McNamara. You’d think that would be the wrapped-up, somewhat happy ending, but there’s a nasty little coda: Billy is back at the house with his grandmother, and he goes into his room to retrieve a few of his toys, since Grandma is selling the house and they are moving away. While inside alone, Billy sees David’s eye peering at him through a crack in the wall, and David tells the child that he is in the house with Mommy, and that Billy can stay with them forever if he wants to. Cut to a solemn little Billy emerging from the house and getting into the car with his grandmother, after which he jumps out of the car while it’s moving and gets crushed under the wheels. The last shot is the real estate agent being startled by Billy’s ghost as it closes the door of an upstairs bedroom.

I’m guessing that this final little twist suggests that the evil ghost (or force or demon or whatever) was manipulating the perceptions of everyone who lived there. So Billy didn’t really see his dad in the wall; that was just the demon persuading him to join the party, as it were. At least that was how I interpreted it.

As I said, this film reminded me pleasingly of Candyman, what with a desperate and sympathetic protagonist trying to convince a skeptical world that a supernatural force was responsible for murders which looked very much like he had committed. The acting was great, the story interesting if nothing new, the cinematography containing nicely surrealistic flourishes. The ghost sightings were also effectively creepy, especially the ones that appeared on old-timey looking film. Another well-above-average recent horror entry in this double-feature series, and one I’d definitely recommend.

Well, that’s all for now, so until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.

 

 

Apples Come In Chocolate Brown, Apples Come in Taffy Gold: It’s a 1970s Haunted House Double Feature!

Long time no review, Goddess fans! As usual, I’m having to open this post by apologizing for my woeful lack of recent long-form film reviews on this blog. But as most of you will have surmised, I’ve been up to my forked tail in other projects, including promoting my latest book The Unseen Hand, working on my upcoming true crime book The Faceless Villain, and recording and promoting the 13 O’Clock Podcast, as well as trying to establish a new offshoot channel called 13 O’Clock In Minutes, which will, when it goes online, serve as a more bite-sized version of the show as well as a promotional vehicle for the main podcast.

So as you can imagine, I unfortunately haven’t had much time to sit down to watch and analyze some of the underrated horror flicks I adore so much. But today, a Saturday, fate intervened: the God of Hellfire and I had actually planned a small party this afternoon, but as it happened, when we awoke this fine morning, we discovered that our air conditioning had crapped out yet again (we just had it fixed two weeks ago, but Florida is nothing if not murder on air conditioning units), so we had to call off the get-together so our friends wouldn’t have to spend their Saturday sweating their asses off in our eighty-degree foyer.

Therefore, left at sixes and sevens with no plans, and confined to the bedroom where the emergency window unit is at least keeping the small area around the bed comfortable until the repair guy can come out several days from now, I decided I might as well put my sudden free time to use by watching some horror flicks and writing about ‘em. So after that enormous and probably unnecessary introduction (but hey, I’m the queen of too much information), let’s get to the actual movies!

I decided to return not only to my favorite decade for horror movies, but also to my favorite horror subgenre for this post. In short, I’m reviewing two haunted house films from the 1970s, both of which have made numerous appearances on various “underrated” lists around the internet, and both of which happen to have been made for television.

 

First up is 1972’s Something Evil, a TV movie directed by none other than Steven Spielberg (and airing not long after his much-better-known, classic made-for-television film Duel) and starring a bunch of familiar 1970s faces, such as Darren McGavin (of Kolchak fame, among many other things), Sandy Dennis (who was also in God Told Me To, which I wrote about here), and famously ginger-haired “Family Affair” kid Johnny Whitaker.

The story is a fairly standard haunted-house-slash-possession yarn, concerning a city slicker ad exec, his hippie-esque artist wife, and their two children moving from New York City out to a “charming” rural house in Pennsylvania Dutch country which turns out to be infested with demons.

While Something Evil, due to its subject matter, bears some superficial resemblance to other devil-possession films of the period, such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, I found myself comparing it more to other rural or folk horror stories from the 60s and 70s, such as The Other, The Wicker Man, Burnt Offerings, or Harvest Home.

After a cold open which sees an old man (presumably the home’s former owner) being pursued through a hex-symbol-adorned barn by an invisible force and then falling to his death from the hayloft, the Worden family purchases the property after wife Marjorie falls in love with the place while they’re on vacation. Not long afterward, things start to go south, though it isn’t clear at first whether something is wrong with the house itself or with the flaky and seemingly unstable Marjorie.

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Despite the movie’s short runtime, clocking in at only 73 minutes, it’s still a pretty effective slow burn, and does a lot with its simple story. At first, there are just minor hints that something is amiss; for example, locals tell the family that something is odd about the place, and the townsfolk all seem to sincerely believe that devils are real. Additionally, the Wordens’ neighbor seems to make a point of ritualistically killing chickens in the yard and flinging their blood around, which disturbs Marjorie greatly, as it would.

As if that isn’t unsettling enough, Marjorie thinks she hears a baby crying out in the barn, but nothing is there when she goes to check. She also begins to grow increasingly interested in the occult and with the hex symbology prevalent in the area. Early on in the film, a couple attending the Wordens’ housewarming party is killed in a mysterious car accident on the way home, adding to Marjorie’s increasing paranoia that something evil has been unleashed in the house through her actions.

Naturally, Marjorie’s husband Paul thinks she is losing her mind, as he is often away at work and doesn’t see any of the phenomena that Marjorie claims is taking place. And indeed it does seem as though Marjorie herself is essentially the problem, as she grows depressed, suicidal, and even violent toward her children. It gets to the point where she paints a hex symbol on the floor as protection and keeps her children locked away from her, as she no longer trusts herself around them, sincerely believing that she has become possessed by demons. In a final twist, though, it comes to light that Marjorie is not the target of the demons’ evil at all, and in fact the only possessed person in the farmhouse is the couple’s son Stevie, whose demon-hosting status is revealed at the end in a well-staged scene complete with levitation and scary voices.

While the plot of Something Evil will be extremely familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of horror films from the era, Spielberg’s direction really elevates what could have been just a forgettable, throwaway 70s TV movie into something quite intriguing, using its presumably tiny budget to great effect. Everything is kept very understated, but slightly off-kilter, giving the film a pleasing sense of dread-laden believability. The ambiguity is also very well-done, and adds to the unnerving atmosphere. The movie additionally boasts some eerie, surreal touches, such as the creepy discovery of a mason jar full of red goo from which the ghostly baby crying apparently emanates, and the unexpected appearance of a pair of glowing red eyes in a photograph at Paul’s advertising agency. No rotating heads or pea soup vomit, sure, but the low-key effects work well within the movie’s framework.

I would unreservedly recommend Something Evil, not only to Spielberg fans curious about his early work, but also to connoisseurs of 70s horror in general. The film certainly isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it’s still an enjoyable little occult thriller with some effectively haunting imagery. It’s just a shame it isn’t better known and more widely available.

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Next on our double feature is a British teleplay from 1973 called The Stone Tape. Written by Nigel Kneale (probably most famous for writing the Quatermass series), the movie was broadcast on BBC 2 as a Christmas ghost story, though it’s actually more of a mashup between old-school Victorian ghost story and tech-driven sci-fi, somewhat similar in concept to The Legend of Hell House.

The tale concerns a gaggle of laddish, wisecracking scientists who are in the process of moving into their new research facility in a partially renovated and reputedly haunted mansion called Taskerlands. The scientists are apparently trying to develop a new recording medium to wrest the cutting edge away from their Japanese competitors. But the only female member of the team, a computer programmer named Jill who is also evidently somewhat psychic, almost immediately sees a ghost in the unrenovated portion of the mansion, and shortly afterward, the male members of the team all hear bloodcurdling screams emanating from the same area. It comes to light that the ghost is very likely that of a maid named Louisa who died by falling down the stairs many years before, and that the part of the house that’s home to the ghost is also exceedingly old, perhaps dating back to the era of the Saxons.

While the entire team is disturbed by the haunting, they’re also quite curious and keen to use their state-of-the-art research equipment to record and study the mysterious phenomena. After much theorizing and jiggery-pokery, they figure out that the stone walls of the old room are acting as some sort of crude recording device that takes impressions of extreme emotions that occurred in the room, but that instead of just recording like one of those newfangled magnetic tapes, the mechanism is actually dependent upon the sensitivities and emotional states of the living people present, i.e. that the humans witnessing the haunting are analogous to amplifiers for the titular “stone tape.”

 

The scientists are quite intrigued by this hypothesis, hoping that it might be a scientific breakthrough that can put them ahead of their technological rivals. But the more they try to get the phenomena to perform for their tests, the more frustrated they get, until at last it seems that they have accidentally erased the recording of Louisa’s death, and most of the team decide to abandon the project, since they believe the “haunting” is gone.

Jill, though, isn’t having it. Being more sensitive than the men, she feels there may be something deeper lurking at Taskerlands, hypothesizing that Louisa’s ghost might have been only the top layer of the recording, and that older recordings might have been overlaid by the most recent one. Bolstering her theory is a local priest, who informs her that an unsuccessful exorcism was performed on the land in 1760, before the house was even built, suggesting that the land has been haunted for far longer than anyone thought. She also has a frightening episode in which she hears and feels a malevolent presence, but no one else hears it.

Jill tries to tell the remainder of the team about her discovery, but no one wants to listen, and her friend and director of the project Peter Brock tells her to take a two-month leave because he thinks she’s losing her marbles. Before she leaves, though, she goes in the room one last time, and is summarily killed by the entity. The men find her later, her eyes frozen open in terror.

In a final little “fuck you,” Brock informs the authorities that Jill was emotionally unstable, and he shreds all the research she was doing that showed that the evil presence might have been there for seven thousand years. But Jill gets some small measure of revenge from beyond the grave when Brock goes into the haunted room at the end and is subjected to the most recent recording: Jill’s voice screaming his name before her death and begging for him to help her.

I have to admit, I didn’t like this one quite as much as Something Evil, but it was still an entertaining sci-fi ghost story that was a bit heavier on the sci-fi than the ghosts. The acting was a tad stagy, and the beginning of the film almost felt like a Vaudevillian routine, but that’s to be expected for a British teleplay of this era, and once it moved past that, it was a fairy effective scare-fest, though also like a lot of films of the time, it takes a while to get where it’s going, and the full impact of the story doesn’t come to fruition until the final couple of minutes.

If you liked The Legend of Hell House but thought it needed more focus on the haunting machine, then you’ll probably love this, as it’s a pretty similar concept, and in fact, the hypothesis that ghosts are simply recordings of past events that have somehow been captured by surrounding materials is still known in paranormal circles as the “stone tape theory.” I’d also recommend it if you liked the Quatermass movies or other 70s British sci-fi horrors, such as The Asphyx (which I wrote about here) or The Projected Man (which made a fantastic MST3K episode).

That’s all for now, minions! Keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.

We Don’t Want to Give Anyone Sleepless Nights: An Appreciation of “Ghostwatch”

As you can see, I’m finally getting a chance to do another long-form horror writeup on this here blog, after weeks of being buried under the writing of a new book (which will probably be titled The Unseen Hand: A New Exploration of Poltergeist Phenomena; more details to come) and the work of keeping up with our weekly 13 O’Clock podcast (which you should check out here, if you haven’t already). Oh, and we have shirts too!

Anyway, I had been itching to get around to seeing Ghostwatch for a while now, since I had noticed it on so many “Best Haunted House Movie” lists and since I had heard a little bit about the uproar it caused when it was aired. If you don’t know, Ghostwatch was broadcast by the BBC on Halloween night 1992, and it was presented as an actual live program of a poltergeist investigation, complete with actual BBC TV personalities (Michael Parkinson, Mike Smith, Sarah Greene, and Craig Charles) playing themselves, and a real phone number that viewers could presumably call while the show was going on.

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However – PLOT TWIST – the show was actually a fictional teleplay that had been recorded weeks before; anyone who called the phone number during the ostensibly “live” show heard a prerecorded message explaining that the show was fictional, and then prompting the caller to record their own personal experiences with the paranormal to be used at a later date.

Much like Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, apparently a shit-ton of viewers did not get the memo that the show wasn’t real, and understandably were concerned, and then totally wigged out, as they watched some of their favorite Beeb presenters being terrorized by an increasingly violent haunting occurring on live television. Adding to the realism was the rather clever conceit of callers during the show complaining of paranormal activity like stopped clocks and inexplicably broken glass happening in their own homes as the program progressed, giving the whole affair the feeling that it could get you too.

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In these more cynical, post-Blair-Witch times of meta-fictions, “found footage,” and mockumentaries, it’s probably hard to imagine how so many people could have been fooled by the BBC’s inventive little Halloween prank (though even in 2012, many dumbasses fell for that fake-as-shit mermaid documentary on Discovery, so maybe we can’t judge too harshly). I gotta say, though, even though I saw Ghostwatch in 2016 with the benefit of hindsight and knowledge of the film’s origins, I can kinda see why some folks were confused (well, at least until the end). Ghostwatch did seem, at first, to be a pretty standard, somewhat larky British chat/investigative program of the time (much like the popular CrimeWatch show that it was based on), and the movie even threaded in some cunning little details like lost video feeds, dead air time, prank and drunk callers, and other little glitches that made it seem like an actual live broadcast.

In brief, the film detailed an investigation of an allegedly haunted house in Northolt, London. The home was occupied by a single mother named Pam Early and her two teenaged daughters Kim and Suzanne, and it’s clear that the family dynamic and the phenomena on display was a direct reference to the Enfield haunting (and in fact Guy Lyon Playfair, who had been on the Enfield investigation and wrote a book about it called This House Is Haunted, worked as a consultant on Ghostwatch, so the similarities should not be surprising). Children’s show presenter Sarah Greene and comic relief broadcaster Craig Charles were on site at the house, while the serious and seemingly trustworthy Michael Parkinson acted as the main in-studio host (chatting with a parapsychologist named Dr. Pascoe, played by Gillian Bevan). Mike Smith, Sarah Greene’s real-life husband and a popular presenter in his own right, manned the phones and gave ongoing reports on the public’s reactions to what was unfolding before them.

Although the film is obviously a little dated now, it’s actually still pretty damn effective, and I can imagine how much more effective it would have been if you were watching it without having any idea that it was all staged. The performances are all fairly naturalistic, and the manifestations of the paranormal are rolled out slowly, realistically, and rather subtly (again, at least until the end).

The movie messes with the viewer in myriad ways: for example, a piece of footage shown at the beginning of the program that ostensibly shows the two girls in their bedroom being assaulted by weird banging sounds and a couple of flying objects becomes a bone of contention when, later in the show, callers to the program start insisting that they saw a dark figure standing in the shadows of the girls’ room. As the calls pile up, the parapsychologist asks if they can replay the footage to see what the callers are talking about. Parkinson eventually replays it, and yeah, there does seem to be a dark figure there, maybe, even though you are quite sure you didn’t see it the first time. But both the parapsychologist and Parkinson claim they don’t see anything. Then they rewind the tape and play it again, and now, there’s nothing there. The parapsychologist then draws a little doodle on the screen showing where she thinks a shadow on a curtain is making people see things, but she draws it in a slightly different place to where we think we saw the figure. Very sneaky indeed.

There are other great little moments like that. All the real TV presenters do a believable job of treating the whole thing as a bit of a laugh at first, and Michael Parkinson gets pretty riled up at one point when the camera crew at the house catches one of the girls faking the mysterious banging sounds they’ve been hearing off and on (which is supposedly coming from the poltergeist that the family has dubbed Pipes). Parkinson is huffy and just wants to end the whole show after that happens, but the parapsychologist starts arguing that just because the girl was caught faking doesn’t mean that some of the other manifestations aren’t real, because she (meaning Dr. Pascoe) has been to the house and investigated it herself, and saw many inexplicable things that could not have been faked by the children. This also had parallels with the Enfield case (where the girls were caught faking a couple of times), as did the tape the parapsychologist plays in the studio which is supposedly a recording of one of the girls speaking in a creepy spirit voice (Enfield focus Janet Hodgson would often speak in the gruff voice of an old man who said his name was Bill). There was also the nice touch of a pooh-poohing skeptic from the real-life organization CSiCOP appearing on satellite feed and denouncing the whole thing as a fraud.

I also enjoyed the slow-burn buildup of the story behind the house’s haunting, and the eerie details that emerged when neighbors and people on the street got interviewed by the jocular Craig Charles. Bystanders mention missing girls from the neighborhood, beheaded pregnant dogs found in the playground, and the possibility that the street was once the home of a murderous “baby farmer” (who I’m guessing they modeled after infamous serial killer Amelia Dyer).

Best of all, though, was the way they treated the actual ghost, Pipes, with such subliminal deviousness. According to most internet accounts, Pipes actually appears in the movie eight or nine times, but on my first viewing, I only caught a glimpse of him once or twice, and I wasn’t even completely sure of those. I actually had to go back and check for the other instances, because I had missed him completely. Hell, a few times he was only put in there for three frames, so you would have had to have been watching with an eagle eye to spot him at all. I liked this trope a lot, because it meant that the movie was trying to creep you out without really showing anything that your brain registered consciously. Pipes was always a did-I-just-see-that flash in a mirror as a camera panned across, or a subtle shape in the background that could have been anything, or an uncannily grinning dude behind someone else in a crowd scene who you would barely notice was there. It was actually pretty genius.

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Pipes was only visible here if you brightened your TV screen, for instance.

Now, it should be said that if you watched this “live,” you could be forgiven for thinking it was real until the whole thing went a wee bit over the top as it got nearer to the end. While I loved the concept of the television show itself acting as a “nationwide séance” that was causing paranormal havoc in the homes across the UK that were viewing it, as well as in the studio itself (giving it yet another layer of meta-ness), I felt like it would have been more effective if they had reined it in a tad. That said, the final shot of Michael Parkinson wandering around the darkened and apparently abandoned studio and then talking in that creepy voice as though he had also been overtaken by Pipes, was actually pretty well done.

And you know I couldn’t get through this review without mentioning the unintentionally hilarious tidbit that the scary closet under the stairs where Pipes allegedly lived was referred to throughout the show as the “glory hole.” I’m sure British people of today are aware, but WOW, that phrase has a REALLY DIFFERENT connotation in America. Heh.

All in all, I thought Ghostwatch was a really entertaining and subtly unnerving film that was WAY ahead of its time in terms of its willingness to fuck with its audience in such a clever way, making the viewer complicit, as well as making a broader statement about the believability of media in general. While this theme is old hat nowadays, it was pretty subversive for 1992, and the viewing public’s reaction to the broadcast tells that tale pretty adequately, I think: 30,000 calls to the BBC during the program’s runtime, thousands of complaints pouring in for weeks afterward (mostly from people pissed off that they had been duped by presenters they had grown to trust), a couple claims of children watching it and developing PTSD because they thought it was real, and one sad case of a mentally disabled boy taking the whole thing far too seriously and committing suicide a few days after it aired. The BBC was actually forced to issue an apology, and never broadcast the program again. It developed something of a cult following in the ensuing years, though, and was eventually released on DVD. There was even a documentary made about it in 2013, and to this day, fans of the movie have an annual ritual where they all watch their copy of the movie at 9:25pm on Halloween night to see if they can actually bring about that fabled “nationwide séance” thing for real. It doesn’t appear to have worked so far.

I would definitely recommend Ghostwatch for fans of more subtle psychological horror and found-footage type stuff, but try to approach it from the perspective of the time to really appreciate it. That’s probably hard to do if you can’t remember a time when Blair Witch wasn’t a thing, and I guess it’s also hard if you’re not British and don’t understand the subtle mindfuck of seeing actual famous TV presenters messing with your head like this (the American equivalent might have been Walter Kronkite doing what appeared to be a serious documentary in which he at one point gets kidnapped by a sasquatch), but give it a shot and I think you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.

The Devil Went Down to Oxfordshire: An Appreciation of “The Blood on Satan’s Claw”

The small film subgenre of British folk horror is easily overlooked, with most casual fans only being able to point to a single example, the excellent and well-regarded cult classic The Wicker Man. But there were a few other sterling examples that deserve their place in the earthwork circle, as it were, such as The Devil Rides Out (based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley) and the terrific Vincent Price vehicle Witchfinder General. There is also the rather underrated gem we’re discussing today.

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1970’s The Blood on Satan’s Claw (known alternately as Satan’s Skin or The Devil’s Touch) was the follow-up to Tigon British Film Productions’ hit Witchfinder General, and though it’s not quite as great or iconic as that earlier film, it still has much to recommend it. Tigon, incidentally, was a smaller horror production company that got somewhat overshadowed by film behemoths Hammer Films (who were famous for their Dracula films and their pioneering formula of gore and heaving boobies), and Amicus Productions (who were famous for their rad anthology films like The House That Dripped Blood and Vault of Horror).

The Blood on Satan’s Claw is set in a tiny English village somewhere around the end of the 17th century. Affable farmer Ralph Gower (Barry Andrews) is plowing some fields one day and happens to unearth a janky-looking skull with one staring eyeball and what appear to be tufts of fur. Alarmed, Ralph summons the local judge to come check out his find, but of course, once the judge arrives, the skull is no longer there. The judge (played with great sardonic relish by Patrick Wymark) pooh-poohs all these insufferable rubes and their silly superstitions, and goes about his judgely way.

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Meanwhile, lanky local Peter Edmonton (Simon Williams), who looks like a Bee Gee doing Renaissance cosplay, brings his betrothed Rosalind (Tamara Ustinov) home to meet the family. His aunt is a stone-cold bitch to the girl, and forces her to sleep up in the stinky, unused attic. Peter tries to make the best of things, and promises he’ll be up for some farm-fresh lovin’ after his disapproving relatives have gone to bed.

But later that night, Rosalind apparently sees something horrifying in her room and starts screaming her hussy head off, prompting Aunt Twatface and the other old guy living there to do the only rational thing, which is to board her up in the attic until the men with the butterfly nets can get there to cart her off to the nuthouse. As she’s carried away, she shoots her fiancé a wicked grin, and we see that one of her hands has morphed into a claw. Peter, understandably, is bereft, but his relatives are all insensitive and shit, essentially telling him that he dodged a bullet and he should be happy that he didn’t end up married to some wanton demonic harlot. Peter, obviously, seems less than convinced.

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Soon afterwards, all hell literally breaks loose in the village. All the young’uns start hanging out together and playing creepy “games” out in the woods, and some of them develop icky patches of crepe werewolf hair on various parts of their anatomy. They stop turning up to their Sunday school classes, and act defiant and contemptuous toward village priest Reverend Fallowfield (Anthony Ainley).

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Incidents begin to escalate. Peter has a vision that his hand has also become a claw, and slices it off in a frenzy. The children lure friendly young Simon le Bon lookalike Mark Vespers (Robin Davies) into the woods and murder him, bragging to his mother that they have done so. It soon comes to light that all of the town’s youngsters have fallen under the spell of nubile hottie Angel Blake (Linda Hayden), who apparently got in on the ground floor of the Satan worship and is now running the show. Angel attempts to seduce the Reverend and then accuses him of raping her; orders her followers to hack off their own limbs or forcibly take limbs from others to apparently reconstruct her coming Master out of the severed parts; and perhaps worst of all, paints on crazy Wolfman Jack eyebrows just a touch too high over her natural ones, making her look like some pagan blonde version of Frida Kahlo.

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After Ralph’s intended, the adorable Cathy Vespers (Wendy Padbury), is brutally raped and sacrificed by the child cult (in what is actually a fairly disturbing scene, due to the frighteningly realistic terror on Cathy’s face), the judge is persuaded to come back to the village to deal with all the devilry that his rational ass was initially so dismissive of. The end of the film is actually a bit of a letdown, as it’s somewhat abrupt and anticlimactic, and I’m not too sure how I feel about the final reveal of the Supreme Evil Overlord, who looks a bit too much like a short dude wearing a gorilla suit and a papier-mache Halloween mask, but hey, it was 1970, and I can forgive a touch of cheesiness in costuming, especially since the camera doesn’t really linger on the monster before he is summarily dispatched.

If you’re a fan of this type of pagan British horror, you probably owe it to yourself to see this one, even though it’s not quite at the same level as the other folk horrors I mentioned. Despite the cast looking oh-so-painfully seventies, and despite the over-the-top accents and regionalisms, and despite the pacing being slightly off, this is actually quite an enjoyable little horror flick with some genuinely tense scenes, a bit of decent gore (such as one character having her fur patch sliced off by a doctor, and later getting her leg caught in a bear trap), and some pretty fantastic cinematography of the English countryside.

Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends, and if you suddenly develop an unexplained area of coarse black hair somewhere on your person, consult your local witchfinder immediately.

Goddess out.

Revenge of the Deathless Guinea Pig: An Appreciation of “The Asphyx”

Cheerio, old chaps! Today’s movie is another kinda obscure 1970s flick from Europe, but we’ve temporarily travelled from Italy to Old Blighty. Bizarrely, and completely coincidentally, it also concerns a fucked up aristocratic family by the name of Cunningham, just like my last entry on The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. I swear I did NOT do that on purpose. Clearly, mysterious cinematic forces are at work here.

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Directed by Peter Newbrook and released in 1972, The Asphyx was also known under the titles Spirit of the Dead and The Horror of Death. Set in 1875, it explores many of the same themes as Frankenstein, what with all the hubris about scientists tampering in God’s romaine and suchlike. Sir Hugo Cunningham (Robert Stephens) is a widower, a gentleman scientist, and a cheery, progressive sort of bloke, using his money and expertise in service of the betterment of mankind. At the beginning of the movie, he is bringing his fiancée Anna (Fiona Walker) back to the family estate to introduce her to his two grown children Clive (Ralph Arliss) and Christina (Jane Lapotaire), as well as a young fella named Giles (Robert Powell), who he introduces as his adopted son, but who also has a thing going with Christina, so…huh. Yeah, technically they’re not blood relatives, but still, eeeewwwww. Moving on.

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One of Sir Hugo’s main scientific pursuits involves working with a psychical research society, photographing people at the moment of their deaths. A few of their photographs seem to show a strange black smudge near the dying people, which the psychical society believes are the souls leaving the bodies. Sir Hugo is excited about the implications of this research, but his ward/assistant/daughter-banger Giles is all kinda meh, skeptical of the society’s conclusions and not really seeing the point of it all.

Things start going to shit about twenty minutes into the festivities. Clive and Anna are killed in a freak boating accident, and Sir Hugo happens to capture their deaths on his newfangled video camera. Beside himself with grief, he insists on watching the footage to see his beloved Anna and his only son Clive one final time. He is simultaneously horrified and ecstatic to find that he can clearly see that telltale black smudge appearing on the film right before Clive gets beaned with the fatal tree branch, but now that he can see it as a moving image instead of a static one, he can’t help but notice that the smudge is not moving away from Clive, as his soul presumably would, but toward him. Dun dun duuuuuun.

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This doesn’t seem like a great deal to go on, but from this single piece of evidence, Sir Hugo formulates a theory that obviously, this black thingamabob isn’t really a soul per se, but an entity from Greek mythology called an asphyx, something like a grim reaper deal that comes to claim your ass when you’re fixing to bite the big one. He’s eager to do more research into the matter, and fortuitously, an opportunity soon presents itself: the president of the psychical society, Sir Edward Barrett (Alex Scott) arrives at Sir Hugo’s house, all in a lather because the barbaric British government has decided to reinstate public executions in order to try to stem the tide of a supposed explosion of violent crime. Sir Edward and Sir Hugo are both vehemently anti-capital punishment, and Sir Edward wants Sir Hugo to film the first hanging, hoping that the horror of the images will rally the public to their cause. Sir Hugo pretends that he doesn’t really want to do it, but secretly he’s all like AWWWW YEAH and metaphorically rubbing his hands together in anticipatory glee. He finally agrees, though he doesn’t tell Sir Edward what his true intentions are, vis-á-vis recording dying people’s repo-demons.

During the hanging, Sir Hugo uses a “light booster,” essentially a spotlight using phosphorous crystals, to illuminate the gallows as the condemned man meets the noose; but to the surprise of himself and everyone assembled, the criminal’s asphyx is clearly visible to all, and seems to be trapped within the phosphorous beam. When Sir Hugo reviews the footage later, both he and Giles realize that if a person’s asphyx could be halted by the phosphorescent light, and further, if the asphyx could then be transferred to a purpose-made lock-box with a phosphorous beam shining indefinitely into it, then a person could, theoretically, never die, provided the asphyx is never released. They try the experiment on a guinea pig and meet with rousing success, so of course the next logical step is that Sir Hugo, growing increasingly mad with the potential power of everlasting life, decides to immortalize himself, because his awesomeness cannot be contained within a single lifetime, goddammit.

If you know anything about this type of movie, you’ll know that the situation is going to go drastically, horrifically sideways from that point forward, and you may find yourself asking the following questions: Is it ever morally justifiable to toy with immortality? What lengths will a man go to to preserve his family and his legacy? Is it really prudent to have to live forever when your noggin is hanging on by a single sinew like Nearly Headless Nick? Some pretty fucked up shit happens at the end of this, folks, and here is yet another example of a Cunningham family who really, desperately need some kind of psychiatric intervention. Happy Days this ain’t.

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As with a lot of British films from the early 70s, this one moves at a snail’s pace and is ridiculously talky, so it’s definitely not for all tastes. The characters, further, are all intensely twee, upper-class-twit types, but I found myself kinda liking them in spite of myself. Plus I was so interested to see what new, profanely impious schemes Sir Hugo was gonna come up with next that I was utterly transfixed through the entire two-hour running time. I also found the ending wonderfully cruel, ironic, and immensely satisfying.

That’s all for this installment, so until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.

Hulu Horror Double Feature: Occupant and Knife Edge

Okay, it’s Sunday, I’m hung over and don’t really feel like moving around too much, so that must mean it’s time for me to zone out in front of a couple random horror flicks on Hulu and then pass the savings on to you. So here we go.

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First up, Occupant from 2011. I just picked this one because the cover looked eerie and interesting, and I got lucky, because it turned out to be a great choice. As I was watching it, I was reminded very strongly of Roman Polanski’s The Tenant (and Repulsion, to a lesser extent), which is a very good thing, and afterwards I was browsing some other reviews of it and noticed that pretty much everyone else had also picked up on the resemblance. However, it seemed like most of the other reviewers thought the film was just mediocre or left too many unanswered questions. I had a much different opinion.

The setup is basically this: Danny is a New Yorker who is summoned to his grandmother’s huge, beautiful apartment after she dies of a heart attack. The aggressively helpful doorman Joe tells Danny that the apartment was rent-controlled; granny was only paying $675 a month for a 3,500-square-foot Manhattan showplace that would easily go for ten grand a month on today’s market. Joe sets up a meeting with a lawyer friend, and the lawyer tells Danny that if he is willing to essentially squat in the apartment for twelve days until a court order comes through granting him legal tenancy, then Danny can have the apartment at the same crazy-low rent, since Danny is the grandmother’s only living relative. The only catch is, the building management will obviously not be happy with this little loophole arrangement, so Danny cannot leave the apartment for any reason until he gets the court order, or the management will lock him out. Joe and the lawyer tell Danny to lock himself into the apartment and not let anyone in until everything is sorted. In the meantime, Joe will bring him groceries and anything else he might need. Danny, knowing a great fucking deal when he sees one, agrees.

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And then, because this is a horror movie, things start to get strange. I don’t want to spoil too much (though I can’t really help but spoil it a little bit), because I do recommend you guys watch it, but if you saw The Tenant, you know what kind of creepy, ambiguous vibe you can expect. Just like in the Polanski film, you’re really not sure if there’s something supernatural going on in the apartment, if Danny is simply losing his mind due to cabin fever and lack of sufficient human interaction, if Joe and the lawyer are messing with his head for some bizarre reason, or if it’s some combination of those scenarios. Everyone Danny interacts with is shifty and weird, and there seemingly isn’t any reason for it. There are lots of little unexplained details that could suggest any number of things, and although a lot of reviewers complained about these, I actually thought they were very effective in making the movie such a riveting, unsettling experience. For instance, why was Joe so adamant that Danny live in the apartment, and what was with his oddly paternalistic and almost sexual interest in Danny? What was up with the girl that was “stalking” him for her vlog? What was up with the painter who fell to his death? Why were there scratch marks on the headboard of his grandmother’s bed? Did his grandmother really die of a heart attack? What was with the mobbed-up exterminator guy, and why did he spray the cat with insecticide? Were the cable guy and pizza guy really there because Danny called them and forgot, or was someone sending them there to lure him out? What was with that hole in the wall in the closet that looked like it was breathing? What about the neighbor who claimed he’d met Danny before, even though Danny didn’t remember it? Nothing is as it seems, and none of the weirdness really has any definitive answers. That might piss some people off, but I found it intriguing, and in fact, the whole WTF vibe of the movie was actually my favorite thing about it; it was all so pleasantly disorienting and claustrophobic. Polanski comparisons aside, it actually also reminded me of one of my own short stories that I wrote many years ago, called “Three Stories Down” (available in my Associated Villainies collection), in which I tried to conjure up a similar surrealistic feeling (also in an apartment building setting, as it happens) without really explaining anything outright.

In sum, I heartily recommend this to Polanski fans, or people who like their horror with a healthy dollop of psychological ambiguity and don’t need everything to be clear cut.


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Next up is a British supernatural-type thriller, Knife Edge from 2009. It’s about an English woman named Emma who leaves her job as a hotshot Wall Street stockbroker after marrying a wealthy Frenchman named Henri. Henri takes Emma and her son from a previous marriage Thomas back to England to live in a massive country mansion he purchased three years previously. Once there, Emma begins to see visions and hear things in the house that lead her to believe that it is haunted. Henri doesn’t believe her, the marriage starts to fall apart, and then things get really convoluted and increasingly ridiculous until it all ends with an over-the-top kinda murdery flourish.

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This one actually wasn’t bad; I enjoyed it and the mystery kept me interested all the way through. Director Anthony Hickox has done some work in the horror genre before (Waxwork and Hellraiser 3, for example), and I guess this was something of an anticipated return to form for him, but I definitely felt like something was lacking with this film. The acting was pretty uneven, and the pacing felt a bit strange, too rushed in places where more depth would have been appreciated. The premise also wasn’t terribly original, it must be said; there was the standard old British mansion, creepy dolls and trees, a kid’s “imaginary” friend, psychic visions of a past tragedy, the unclear motives of everyone around the protagonist. The answer to the mystery, while I didn’t completely figure it out beforehand, strained my credulity a bit; it just seemed far too complicated and silly a scheme to ever work the way it was supposed to. There were some decent scares, a bit of gore, and some nicely eerie imagery, but overall I found it just sort of middle-of-the-road. I’d recommend it if you’re into British murder mysteries and don’t mind some overwrought melodrama; you’ll probably enjoy it if you don’t expect too much. It honestly seemed more like an episode of a mystery-type TV show than a movie. If that doesn’t turn you off, then by all means, knock yourself out.

That’s all for this double feature installment. Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.