First of all, the prize for the greatest movie title goes to this pick, which was mine sort of but more Jillian’s because Netflix kindly released it just in time for Halloween and she’s been so looking forward to it. It was therefore a no-brainer that this would be our last Halloween movie of the month!
(I’ve a feeling we might stretch this a bit, so sue us).
A little info about the movie: IATPTTLITH is a 2016 American-Canadian horror film which premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. It’s so far been received quite well with comparisons drawn to Shirley Jackson’s work (tone I think more than specific material), as well as Roman Polanski, Kubrick and David Lynch (all influences I picked up during my viewing, more below).
As I typed that last paragraph and remembered a particular scene, I felt a chill run up my spine which is an excellent sign I would say. To the film!
IMDB Synopsis: A young nurse takes care of an elderly author who lives in a haunted house.
A nervy nurse called Lily (Wilson) arrives at the home of successful horror novelist Iris Blum (Prentiss), who is now bedridden and requires live-in care. Iris has no family or friends to speak of and talks only rarely. Lily herself is getting over a broken engagement so is almost grateful for the quiet afforded to her by the big empty house.
On the first night however, she gets freaked out by unfamiliar sounds and an incident that she manages to explain away easily, putting it down to first night nerves. (I’d have been out of there as quickly as my little trotters could carry me, so she’s braver than me).
What Lily thinks will be a short stay ends up being eleven months and counting. During this time her only contact with the outside world is with Iris’ estate manager, Mr Waxcap (Balaban) who doesn’t give much away. When Lily asks him to look at an ever-spreading patch of damp in the hallway, there’s a long conversation about whether it’s really necessary given the fact Iris is dying. His general demeanor is brusque and to the point.
During the same visit, Lily asks Mr Waxcap who Polly is, as Iris often calls out for a Polly and calls Iris by that name. Mr Waxcap doesn’t really know the answer but refers Lily to Iris’ most successful novel, The Lady in the Walls, the main character of which is named Polly. He looks shifty at this point I think, and buggers off soon after the topic of Polly comes up.
Well, Lily is a pussy (again, she’s definitely a better woman than I) and not at all down with reading any of Iris’ work but she hasn’t much choice if she wants to unravel the story and find out more about Polly. As this slowly plays out, the damp keeps spreading, it keeps raining outside and things go bump in the night.
Lily has a feeling that the story of the lady in the walls is based on the house and piece by piece, concludes that something horrifying happened there. We, the viewer, get an insight into what that was – AKA. what became of Polly (Boynton) – via the medium of flashback. We also get a glimpse of the young novelist Iris, who’s cool as fuck.
This film does have a shock ending, which we already have a fair idea of, as Lily herself tells us in her opening monologue. I won’t spoil it for you but I will say it’s spooky af and rather sad.
Notice I’ve done away with the questions section? There aren’t many left here at the end as it’s quite a well rounded conclusion but it does make you think: What is the moral of the story? I think it’s about not allowing yourself to dwell on the past or you’ll rot away. Ooooooo!
It may seem as though nothing much happens and it would be accurate to describe this as a slow burner, however it’s so atmospheric and genuinely chilling that to have approached it in any other way would surely have lost it its nuance. From the first spooky scene, which occurs as Lily talks on the phone with her friend, to the conclusion, I had goosebumps.
Dat phone cord scene though…
I was also very happy to be viewing something so old-school and rich in 2016 (with shades of good Hammer Horror). Not to say there aren’t truly brilliant, gorgeous ghost/horror stories made today, they just seem so few and far between.
There are a few cheap thrills that you can see coming but they’re executed in such a way that I didn’t really mind. I love the concept of your imagination fucking with you and there’s a particular scene, after Lily reads a few pages of Iris’ book and then stares into a darkened doorway that reminded me of how I felt when I read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters on my honeymoon.
During one scene I got a distinct The Shining vibe and, although the old house is fresher than a Polanksi setting it has the same historic feel, as though the walls have eyes that watch every move. Ruth Wilson is very good as is the beautiful Paula Prentiss who plays the older Iris Blum.
A really interesting, and intelligent literary flavoured film.
My Rating: 4/5. Genuinely eery and recalls a simpler time when horror was very imagination driven, though it doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to shocking either. Loved it.
What did my wifey, The Pretty Thing That Lives in Her House think? Was she haunted by this movie or did it leave her colder than an empty damp dwelling? Find out here.
My penultimate Blogtober 2016 post and I thought I’d ‘review’/pay homage to one of my all-time favourite horror movies.
We watched it again this Saturday night as part of our Halloween Movie Marathon. One member of the group had never seen it, which is always fun to witness and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen it in its entirety so I was delighted to get stuck in again. I did worry it might not stand up after nearly 15 years and, well, the questions is: did it?
IMDB Synopsis: The Candyman, a murderous soul with a hook for a hand, is accidentally summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student researching the monster’s myth.
Oh but where to start? Helen (Madsen) and her BFF, Bernie (Lemmons) are researching urban legends for a thesis paper. They’re having lots of fun gathering tales from the younger students on campus and smoking cigarettes, of which there is a constant stream.
Luckily, Helen looks fucking cool with a cigarette in her hand*. It is also worth noting that the camera is in love with her face, which is that of an old-school starlet and perfect, dammit.
Helen is married to university lecturer Trevor (Berkeley) who is the most pathetic cliché you can imagine. He’s just started teaching urban legends to his students, even though Helen has asked him to wait until she’s finished her paper. You will hate Trevor with the fire of a thousands suns, and you will enjoy every moment of his inevitable downfall.
Helen is suspicious of some of Trevor’s behaviour but her thesis is keeping her busy. Especially since the same name seems to be cropping up the more they chat to the locals. Can you guess what it is? Helen learns more about the Candyman in connection to a murder at Cabrini Green and does what any junior sleuth with an invested interest in a good story would do: forces her best friend to accompany her to the scene of the crime.
Before they gather up their detective kits, Helen and Bernie work out that Helen’s posh gentrified building is a carbon copy of the apartments in Cabrini, meaning that she has a little insight into how they’re set out. This will see her well in the future but while they’re titting about in Helen’s bathroom, they say Candyman’s name into the mirror five times, having learned this is how you invoke his fine arse. I mean, evil presence.
Bernie fails to say it the fifth time, but Helen completes the incantation. Bad idea, love.
To Cabrini Green! Cabrini is a run-down housing project on the North-side of Chicago, and Helen’s type just isn’t welcome there (e.g. white, rich women). She’s remarkably feisty though and ignores the jeers and warnings of the youths at the entrance, bowling straight up to the apartments. The girls find the murder scene in question, which is covered in graffiti about Candyman. It’s a bad scene, man but doesn’t give much away.
They also meet one of the neighbours, Anne-Marie (Williams) who’s not best pleased about the snooping but warms to them eventually. She has an adorable new baby and a big dog. There’s also a local kid hanging around who’ll later turn out to be the worst lookout in the history of movie lookouts.
I don’t think I need to tell you that Candyman (Todd) isn’t one to stay away too long and soon pays Helen a visit. This is after she’s had a run in at Cabrini with some of what he likes to call his ‘disciples’. They’re a gang who use the legend of Candyman to intimidate and reap the rewards of ruling the neighbourhood. Seems legit.
Helen doesn’t want to run away with Candy even though he is a charismatic man with a sympathetic backstory, which she now knows. He fucks with her head instead and frames her for a crime she can’t remember committing. He’s a scamp, this one.
Some more shit goes down, resulting in an incarceration, Trevor reveals his true colours and Helen is forced to make some serious life choices in order to clear her name – I think I’ll leave it here but rest assured, justice is served and Helen is a fucking badass.
It’s reassuring to know that I remembered this being a fantastic film, and it really is. It’s also very socially aware, commenting on white privilege, gentrification, poverty, etc. It’s topical today, right down to the way in which Helen is treated when they think she’s committed a series of horrific crimes (White), while nobody really gives a fuck about what’s going on at Cabrini (Black).
Candyman isn’t a nice guy obviously but his backstory is steeped in folklore and it’s good to have a classic horror villain that you feel something for. I mean, sure I fancy him but I sympathise too, he was a victim of the system as much as his disciples on the ground are, and they all have cause to be fucking angry. Maybe lighten up on the women killing and baby kidnapping though, yeah?
There’s an undertone of vengeance you can see coming a mile off but it is so satisfying you won’t mind one bit. A nineties horror that holds up, bothers to pick up on the tone of the day and builds up your interest in its central characters over gratuitous nudity and teens being over-sexed (not a bad thing, there’s a place for that too). It felt refreshing at the time and it’s still awesome.
My Ratings: 5/5. Fucking ace. Stands up tall, still freaks me out and makes me whoop at the end. Thank you, Mr. Barker (he wrote the story, innit).
What have you been watching this Halloween? 🎃🕷😱🕸📺⚰️
*Smoking kills, don’t do it. Or do, it’s your choice.
I stole this idea from last month’s Cosmopolitan, not going to lie. It was lying around in the gym last night and I take my inspiration where I can get it. Cosmo’s version has more of a single girl flavour though, choosing to celebrate the solo babes of cinema in line with the release of Bridget Jone’s Baby.
I’m just picking the 8 movie women I’d most like to hang with and why, because why wouldn’t I? It’s an awesome plan.
In no particular order:
Who? Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) Why? Look, Lisbeth isn’t exactly warm and fluffy, I know this. Hugs might be a little light on the ground but when it comes to loyalty, there’s nobody more so. I’m all about that and appreciate it in friends. Plus, if I accidentally ever send a dodgy email to somebody, who better than Lisbeth to intercept it before it gets read? What she’d teach me: How to actually use my laptop for more than just streaming Netflix and buying toot.
Who? Beatrix Kiddo AKA The Bride (Uma Thurman, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2) Why? She’s just very cool and focused. I could use inspiration like that in my life. She also has the whole revenge thing down pat so I know, if anyone ever really hurt me, she’d have some tips on how to deal. What she’d teach me: How to be handy with the Japanese steel, or failing that, a stick from the park.
Who? Alabama Worley, née Whitman (Patricia Arquette, True Romance) Why? Alabama is sweetness personified with, like me, a love of martial art movies and pie. She also believes in true love and girl, you got me there. Love is the only thing that really matters in life as far as I’m concerned, be it romantic, parental, whatever – there’s a reason it makes the world go round. What she’d teach me: How to be creative and strong in a fight, whilst rocking the shit out of leopard print and candy-coloured Lycra.
Who? Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle, American Mary) Why? Mary would be the hot friend I had a bit of a thing for. She’s an academic but she’s also open to trying new and bizarre things. The desire to accompany her on these adventures would hopefully rub off on me. She’d likely be the most open-minded of the gang and ferociously feminist, which is fine by me. What she’d teach me: To express myself better. How to be braver when I get piercings.
Who? Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy, Ghostbusters) Why? She’s so fun and smart, and rocks a boiler suit like nobody’s business. She’s also not afraid to fight for what she believes in (ghosts), even when the rest of the world is rolling their eyes at her and her team. She’d probably make me look cleverer just by association. What she’d teach me: Sciencey shit and how to wield a proton pack (like I wouldn’t ask to try it).
Who? Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop, Gilmore Girls) Why? Not technically a ‘big screen’ character but Emily stays. (She was in Dirty Dancing and a load of other films, what more do you want from me?). Em might seem like a controversial choice with a few decades on the rest of us but man is she good fun. Appreciates a damn good drink, always comes through for her loved ones and is the sassiest person in the Stars Hollow area (yes I know she’s a way out of town). You’d always be drunk and/or laughing your arse off round Emily’s. What she’d teach me: How to burn my haters with the flick of my tongue (not like that, you pervs).
Who? Margaret (Lisa Haas, The Foxy Merkins) Why? Why not? She’s so adorable. A bit bumbling but then so am I. She’s a hooker in the loosest sense of the word and one could argue, the worst of all time which just makes her more endearing. Margaret would most certainly be the ‘Bad Sex’ storyteller of the group. TBH I’ve just been reminded of the single best quote in cinematic history, uttered by Margaret about her plus size vagina to “The Mumbling Erotic Accessory Salesman” trying to sell her a merkin. What she’d teach me: How to be resourceful when I’m down and out.
Who? Barb Holland (Shannon Purser, Stranger Things) Why? Barb’s another small screen sensation but I was hardly going to exclude her from my dream girl gang, was I? Every squad needs a sensible type and Barb’s not a great drinker, is the designated driver and will worry about my morals for me (although p. sure that ship has sailed and circled the globe several times already). I’d keep her away from pools and beer cans though, she’s a bit of a liability. What she’d teach me: To make the right decisions. Maybe. Probably not. But she’d try.
If you were to direct a horror movie, what sub-genre would it be part of?
I love horror-comedy when it’s done properly. Good examples are Evil Dead II (1987), Drag Me to Hell (2009) and The People Under the Stairs (1991), so I would like to think I would contribute to that tricky sub-genre. However, if not comedy, a damn good ghost story.
If you could erase one horror flick from your mind, what would it be?
I’m going to say Hostel (2005) for being so awful and disappointing. It plays like soft porn and is completely gratuitous, all the characters are horrific and I just didn’t give a shit about any of them.
Do you have a problem with nudity or sex in horror films?
I don’t have a problem with nudity or sex in any film if it’s not just there to titillate the audience. Too often it feels like it’s only there to appeal to a certain type of audience member, and has nothing to do with the character, the story, etc. At least try and work it into the storyline, yo.
I like to think we’re moving away from the ‘slutty/busty co-ed shags her boyfriend in her parents bed, then gets slaughtered’ trope and we should go with it. Besides, sexy can be done in a white vest and jeans (Eliza Dushku, Wrong Turn) if you can’t bear to have your characters all buttoned up.
Do you have a favourite music score from a horror film? Anything by John Carpenter of course. He’s the King of the Movie Score and a master of manipulating the hairs on the back of your neck.
If you were to write or direct a horror, what would you change or put in to refresh the genre?
I don’t exactly know but I would love to take the concept of the Final Girl (which I blogged about yesterday) and play with that. Whatever happened it would be a very feminist horror film!
Which scary film gave you the most nightmares?
I tend to get more disturbed by realism than horror. Things like The Others (2001) stop me being able to go to the loo alone. Martyrs (2008) was a tough one because the ending shocked me so much.
Would you count horror as one of your favourite movie genres?
It is my favourite, hands down.
Thanks to Vinnieh for the horror questionnaire. You can read my answers to the first one here.
I hope you’re all having a positively spooky Halloween month. Mwahahahahah! 🎃
I realised the other day, in the horror movie of my past life, that I am the Final Girl.
I’d already typed this post up a few times but when I read back my words they felt so clinical, nowhere close to what I wanted to say. It might be construed as unhealthy to look back on bad points in time but I do it to show myself how far I’ve come. Like, gurl, you survived that all on your own (with a little help from my friends, obvi).
So I’m retyping this from the heart because a) I want to pay homage to the Final Girl (and myself) and b) I think it’s important to revisit every now and again. Kind of like a modern-day Ghost of Lives Past. But first, to the Final Girl theory and what it all means.
If you’re any sort of a Horror fiend like me (and I’m starting to believe I really know nothing compared to some of the horror-heads in my life), you will already be well-versed in the Final Girl as a concept. If you don’t recognise it as a traditional horror trope, you will know, and probably love, plenty of final girls.
In my own words, the Final Girl is a Horror movie euphemism most dominant within slasher films, such as Halloween (1978) (God bless you Laurie Strode). It refers to the last woman left alive to face her antagonist, usually to tell the whole bloody tale.
It is important to point out that the Final Girl may be the last survivor of the horror but she doesn’t always live happily ever after (or at all). She is usually seen as more morally sound than the rest of her peers, often brunette in contrast to her blonder friends (not saying this is right or fair), sometimes academic, sometimes the only stability in another character’s life, a sibling or a parent. What makes her stand out from ‘the rest’ is the fact these moral standards never slip.
Sometimes she may veer away from the good girl stereotype (and don’t be mistaken, she’s not always a recognisably ‘good’ character). She may take on questionable characteristics in her fight to the bitter end but the back bone of what she believes will remain.
When I think of the Final Girl, I always think first of Sally (Marilyn Burns), only survivor of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Bloody, limping and semi-naked, this FG runs for dear life through the brush and only just escapes as Leatherface (whose weapon of choice is rather obvious) dances maniacally behind her.
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) of the aforementioned Halloween movies may be the best known Final Girl but there are lots of just as interesting ones.
Most notable for me are: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, the Scream movies), Mia (Jane Levy, Evil Dead remake), Sarah (Shauna Macdonald, The Descent), Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence, Hellraiser I & II), Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara/Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and sequels, as well as the books) and Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle, American Mary), who’s own arc takes her from victim to perpetrator quite quickly, turning the whole issue of moral code on its head. This doesn’t stop her being one of my very favourites (I just fucking love the film, okay).
I recently watched Don’t Breathe (2016) which has a great example of the Final Girl at play (thanks Meghan Lightle). While the film for me was a little disappointing and messy – *SPOILER ALERT* – Rocky (Jane Levy, who also plays Mia in ED (2013)) is a fine Final Girl, rough around the edges, sure but with a strong sense of family (lovely younger sister, hateful mother, dreams of escape).
Of course this doesn’t excuse her actions but it does make you want her to get out and, once the true horror of her situation unravels, you root for it even more. Whether she gets out clean to start her new life with her kid sis is for you to find out but she’ll damn well give it a go.
She might not be the most empowered horror heroine I’ve ever seen but strength is conveyed in different ways (see the contrast between Game of Thrones’ current FGs*, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Aria Stark (Maisie Williams) for a good illustration of this) – and sometimes the proof is in the pudding.
You see where I’m coming from with the Final Girl analogy, right? We are all final girls, or we can be. For a minute there I almost succumbed to surrender, to waving the white flag and accepting my fate: not actual death but the not living either equivalent. I wanted death, prayed for something, anything to stop the pain and then one day it did, turns out it was my own squeaky voice. The fight, when it comes, is the most beautiful feeling in the world.
To all the Final Girls onscreen and all the Final Girls IRL, I feel you. ❤