31 Days of Horror – Week Three

15th October – The Shining (1980)

Writer Jack Torrence moves with his wife and son to a remote hotel, where he will be acting as caretaker during the winter months while the hotel is closed. The hotel has a violent past, and soon its dark influence starts to take its toll on Jack and his family. I must admit, I haven’t read the book (it’s on my long to-read list!) but Stephen King’s objections to this film do stick in my mind when watching it. It’s his story after all, and if he hates this adaptation, then I’m disinclined to argue against that. As it happens, two of the main problems that King has with the film are exactly my biggest issues with it: ‘In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene … And it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag.’ Rolling Stone, 31st October 2014

16th October – America Werewolf in London (1981)

Two American backpackers are attacked by someone, or something, while lost on the Yorkshire moors. One of the boys is killed, and the other – David – is seriously wounded. As David recovers, and goes to stay with one of the hospital’s nurses while he recoups, he finds himself having increasingly weird dreams and hallucinations in the run up to the next full moon. This is a great film, the special effects were revolutionary for the time, and I don’t think there’s a dull moment in the whole movie. One of my favourite werewolf features!

17th October – Thinner (1996)

An obese lawyer runs over a gypsy woman, whilst being ‘distracted’ by his wife, but gets off scot-free because he is pally with the Judge and the Chief of Police. The woman’s father takes matters into his own hands, and curses all three men in a quest for revenge. The premise of this film is great, and I really like Robert John Burke in the lead role. The special effects make up is really good too. My main complaint is the pacing of the film – it drags a little in the middle, and then the ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. Still, it was definitely worth a watch, and is another Stephen King book to add to my to-read list!

18th October – Hostel (2005)

Three backpackers, travelling across Europe, are convinced by a random stranger (as you would…) to take a detour to Slovakia, by the promise of hot women and a good time. They arrive in Bratislava and head to the hostel recommended, not knowing that it is the front for a sick and twisted torture business. I’m really glad I worked my way backwards with Eli Roth’s films this month because – while I was largely unimpressed by Knock Knock and The Green Inferno – it has been great to revisit his earlier and superior work. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to the sub-genre of ‘torture porn’, the Hostel films are the pinnacle – far better than the Saw series. Don’t watch if you’re at all squeamish 😉

19th October – The Invisible Ghost (1941)

Charles Kessler (Bela Legosi) lives with his adult daughter, and has never quite recovered from his wife deserting them. He doesn’t know that his wife was involved in a car crash when she ran away – a car crash which killed her lover, and left her confused and distraught. She has been living in the gardener’s shed, taken care of by the gardener, but ventures out to spy on her husband and daughter on occasion. When Charles spots her one night, it drives him insane, and sets him off on a killing spree. This is wonderfully creepy film, partly due just to its age, and Legosi is a legend. It is difficult to accept that no-one suspects Kessler of the killings – since everyone who is killed is employed by him and dies in his house! – but aside from that rather gaping plot hole, it’s a very enjoyable old film.

20th October – Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Teenagers on Elm Street are having vivid and terrifying nightmares about a killer stalking them. The nightmares soon become far too real, and they need to find out the truth about the mysterious killer if they are to survive their dreams. I think Freddy Krueger is one of the best horror villains out there, so obviously I enjoy the original film, and Wes Craven is a horror master. Nightmare on Elm Street been parodied so many times, and there’s so many sequels, that the original can maybe be slightly underwhelming at first – but it’s nonetheless one of the classics. Plus, it’s Johnny Depp’s first ever film!

21st October – Mother’s Day (2010)

Three criminal brothers return to their family home after a botched robbery, during which one of the siblings was seriously wounded. However, their mother and sister have been evicted and the house has been sold on to a young couple, who happen to be having a birthday party with friends when the angry and bloodied brothers return. The party-goers are taken hostage, and the boys call on their Mother to come home and sort out their mess. Rebecca De Mornay is excellent as the cold and calculating ‘Mother’, and there’s some strong blood-and-gore moments, along with some genuine tension. The partygoers have their own conflicts to hash out between them, which adds another interesting dimension – as Mother comments, ‘God, defend me from my friends. My enemies I can handle on my own’!

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