The wonderful horror of Local 58

Kris Straub of Chainsawsuit, a few years ago created a web based found footage style horror series. Local 58 is based round the schedules of a small American TV channel and the frankly unsettling programming contained in it.

Now a lot of web based horror is awful. This isn’t. It’s nicely done, creepy and unsettling, just like good horror should be so here’s the videos in order of release. Enjoy…

My Top 20 Horror Films-8-The Blair Witch Project

It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a countdown of top horror films, so fully admitting to being a walking cliché, I will be doing a series of blogs running down the films in my own personal top 20. Here’s the previous blogs for numbers 20, Audition, 19, Night of the Demon18, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 17, Last House on the Left, 16, The Beyond, 15, An American Werewolf in London14, [REC], 13, Don’t Look Now, 12, Event Horizon , 11, Cannibal Holocaust10, The Wicker Man and 9, Halloween.

We now go for a wander in the woods in The Blair Witch Project.

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It’s a simple plot which has now become far too familiar as the Found Footage genre became overused but in 1999, it was still fairly new.

Three film students go missing after traveling into the woods of Maryland to make a documentary about the local Blair Witch legend leaving only their footage behind.

 

The film starts with an opening text telling us about the three student documentary makers going missing before launching us right into their lives before going to film their documentary about the Blair Witch.  Not a lot happens for this early part of the film, but in fact this is the most important part of the film as it’s during the interviews with the people of Blair and the telling of it’s history that we as the audience get told what exactly is going to happen to our three protagonists. These scenes need to be watched closely as it’s all about mood, and also, because most of the people are acting naturally they present a convincing tale so by the time our filmmakers are hopelessly lost in the woods being stalked by something, we’re unsure and thrown off balance by the events on screen.

At the end we get what I think is such a simply terrifying shot that was set up in the film’s opening ten minutes or so.

Assuming we’ve been paying attention then we should be sitting in a cooling pool of piss by now. If you’ve not been paying attention then you’ll find all of this boring, and frankly, that makes you worse than Hitler.

The Blair Witch Project is a spectacular horror film even though it’s made for around a fiver and some orange peel because it does everything right, while remembering that without any money the best thing you can do is get the audiences imagination working overtime. This creates a genuinely unsettling experience as the mounting doom of our three main characters looms closer and closer we don’t know how they’ll meet their fate, but as said, we actually do. It also helps if you’ve seen The Curse of the Blair Witch, the mockumentary which was shown on TV just before the cinema release of the film. That gives a lot of background only hinted at in The Blair Witch Project, plus it’s an effectively creepy little film in it’s own right that deserves it’s place with the best of it’s genre.

I adore The Blair Witch Project. I first saw it at a late night showing at a cinema in Leicester when I was living there, and to this day the reaction of that audience sticks in my memory because it was amazing. Having a few hundred people breathe in deeply at the same point as the remaining two characters explore a derelict house is an amazing feeling.

Also, this was the first film to really, seriously use the internet to market itself properly, as well as use the online campaign as part of the film itself.  You can see the legacy of the Blair Witch in virtually  every marketing campaign for every film released today, and that’s not bad for a film that cost just over 20 grand.

However it’d be remiss of me at this stage to not point out The Last Broadcast and the huge similarities between that and The Blair Witch Project.

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I won’t give too much away about The Last Broadcast but I will say that everyone has one good film in them then this is that film for the people who made this. It’s a bloody brilliant piece of horror that is probably the first film of any sort to effectively use the internet within the plot without it seeming awful. Considering The Last Broadcast was made a full year at least before production on Blair Witch started I’ll leave it to you to decide who copied who, but both films owe a lot to Cannibal Holocaust, not to mention there’s a wee bit of Ghostwatch in both films.

At the end of the day I don’t care. Both films are wonderful. Both films should be enjoyed. Watch them both.

Next time, I have such sights to show you!

 

My Top 20 Horror Films-11-Cannibal Holocaust

It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a countdown of top horror films, so fully admitting to being a walking cliché, I will be doing a series of blogs running down the films in my own personal top 20. Here’s the previous blogs for numbers 20, Audition, 19, Night of the Demon18, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 17, Last House on the Left, 16, The Beyond, 15, An American Werewolf in London14, [REC], 13, Don’t Look Now and 12, Event Horizon

This time we talk a stroll in the jungle in Ruggero Deodato’s grueling, controversial Cannibal Holocaust.

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Cannibal Holocaust is an important film, not only because it’s by far the most transgressive  film on my list in terms of pushing boundaries beyond the limits of what’s still accepted to be ‘good taste’, but it’s the first example of the Found Footage genre in horror. It’s massively influential beyond it’s controversy, but at the heart is a splendid example of Italian exploitation cinema at it’s finest, though I have one massive, fuck-off problem with the film, though it’s also a reason why it’s so powerful but I’ll get onto this later.

The plot is simple: an American documentary crew goes missing in the Amazon. The television station behind the filmmakers send a rescue mission to the Amazon headed by a leading anthropologist at New York University where he finds the remains of the crew as well as the remaining tins of film shot by them. Upon returning to New York the footage is viewed by the TV network  & we find out the dreadful truth behind what the filmmakers were doing in the jungle….

This isn’t a hardcore critique of the film, that’s been done better elsewhere, I’m going to deal with how I came to see the film which was during the Video Nasty craze of the early 1980’s. I first saw a very, very poor copy which may, or may not have been uncut. I’m not especially sure as even then watching it through the fuzzy haze I could still be totally sickened by the very real animal deaths in the film. For years I wrote the film off because of this.

Fast forward to around a decade ago and the film is released again in the UK, albeit in a vastly censored version with the animal deaths edited out along with much of the more extreme violence. Even so it was still an amazingly hard film to watch. Around five years ago I watched a full uncut version and was promptly disgusted but at the same time realised this was actually a bloody good film that not only was brilliantly shot with an amazing soundtrack, but it had serious things to say that a lot of horror films don’t attempt to say.

The animal killings are a huge problem, but this is hardly the only film to do this. Watch Apocalypse Now for example for an example of a director using a killing of an animal as part of the film’s narrative, just as Deodato does to lure the viewer into thinking what they’re seeing is real. It’s wrong but it’s an effective, if horrific tool. Thankfully Deodato released a ‘director’s cut’ version which still, sort of, has the animal deaths in it but so obscured that it doesn’t affect the flow of the film, and in fact makes the viewer focus on the film itself. It’s this cut which I recommend people see because not only does it remove the needless animal cruelty, but it makes the film look stunningly beautiful as opposed to the fuzzy haze I first saw back in the 80’s.

It’s an important film as it launched the Found Footage genre for horror, though it’d take a few decades for that genre to truly become successful but I’ll get to that later on this list.

So, Cannibal Holocaust. Watch it but be warned that it’s a hard film to stomach….

One last thing, the score for this film is brilliant.

Next time, oh dear god, sweet Jesus no, it’s the top ten!

My Top 20 Horror Films-14-[REC]

It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a countdown of top horror films, so fully admitting to being a walking cliché, I will be doing a series of blogs running down the films in my own personal top 20. Here’s the previous blogs for numbers 20, Audition, 19, Night of the Demon18, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 17, Last House on the Left, 16, The Beyond, and 15, An American Werewolf in London.

Next is the wonderful Spanish horror, [REC].

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[REC] tells the story of a film crew in Barcelona doing a reality programme about firefighters in the city. When the film crew are called out on an emergency call with the firefighters to a block of flats in Barcelona they find a situation that they couldn’t have expected. It’s a ridiculously simple set up that lets the Found Footage style room to actually work rather than be forced as many films now in that genre are, though it does fall apart a bit at the end as they try to stick to the limits of the Found Footage/Mockumentary genre.

It is essentially a zombie film at first viewing , but it’s not. It actually turns out it’s something else entirely but it lures you in under the pretense of a zombie film so that all the cliches you think you’ve been watching are something else entirely. It’s a masterful bait and switch, not to mention it ends up being very Spanish and very Catholic.

As for the shocks and scares, they come very quickly once the film gets going, not to mention it’s a very bloody film but hardly an excessive one that plays on the fact we can’t see exactly what’s going on as the camera is constantly in motion and not fixed. There’s a vicarious nature in being caught up in the carnage that other Found Footage films have since tried to emulate, but have, on the whole, failed horribly to do.

[REC] is a unique beast. Forget the shockingly awful American remake, watch this to find out just how good the Found Footage genre can get.

I will give a good word for it’s sequel [REC] 2. It’s fun, though nowhere near as good as it’s parent film. Less said about the third film the better…

Next time, E=MC2.

 

Death, gore and violence-An update….

I haven’t done what I said I’d do in my last update as real life has dragged me down, plus a trip to Cardiff last weekend to discuss the next stage of the Cunning Plan left me broken and hungover but it’s coming along well. I will do the Glasgow Comic Art Convention blog next if only to finish it and release it in the wild.

I intend to do another few Glastonbury blogs before this year’s festival, or at least get the timeline up to the year 2000 so I can make a huge moan about the gentrification of the festival and make myself seem edgy and stuff. I also want to do a couple of very personal ones which may, or may not be as open as they could be depending upon how I feel and how explicit I want to make them. No, it’s not going to be Confessions of a Former Comic Book Dealer, though that’s an idea in itself, but it’s a bit Glasgow related so we’ll see how the mood takes me….

This week has been mainly made up of working, sleeping and watching V/H/S 2 which is obviously a sequel to V/H/S, an anthology horror film I really liked apart from one segment which was rubbish, but with the first one it was the first segment, Amateur Night which stood out a mile just for the sheer insanity of it all.

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The sequel isn’t frankly anywhere near as good. The first segment owes an awful lot to films like The Hand, but relies far too much on basic jump scares including at least two or three which seem lifted directly from the excellent Ghostwatch including using this scare several times..

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The second segment is a fun little thing about a man’s first and last day as a zombie, and the final segment is a load of fun featuring aliens and lots of scary jumps. It’s all pretty ok and ordinary.

That is of course missing out the third segment, Safe Haven, from the the film. This part is made by the same people who did the frankly mental The Raid and if you’ve seen that then you get an idea that Safe Haven might not be a quiet bit of horror.

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It’s not. It’s also the only one that uses the found footage/mockumentary format to another level and shows there’s some serious legs in the format if a filmmaker puts their mind to it. At this point it’s unfair to say anything else because you need to see this as unaware as possible because when it kicks into gear after about ten minutes of set-up it doesn’t relent with one extreme image following another and then another and then another….

It batters you into submission while it invites you in on the joke without insulting the audience as parts of the first segment does. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen an anthology horror film and wanted a segment to be much, much longer if only to see how much further they could push the horror, not to mention the very, very dark comedy running throughout the segment.

Basically, it’s the redeeming feature in an average film and makes an average film a bloody good one and I use the word ‘bloody’ quite literally. It’s a quite remarkable section in the film but not one to watch if you’re a pregnant woman, or at all squeamish…

 

And with that quickie review, it’s off to an early night as work beckons and I need sleep to dream of the future…….