Another Halloween tale…

A few years ago I told a wee Halloween story from my youth and promised to tell the story of the time I saw a UFO. This isn’t that story but it’s another wee Halloween story, this time from my time living in Nottingham in the early 1990’s and of either a drug-induced hallucination or a close shave with someone, or something.

Back in the early 90’s, Nottingham was an up and coming city. It was also a young city in terms of population but a very, very old city with many areas 5-10 years away from any sort of gentrification. For folk into the ‘alternative’ cultures available at the time, the city was a dream where one could indulge themselves to their heart’s delight, or indeed, any other part of the body that pumped blood.To aid with this, one would spend an evening at Rock City which back then, was somewhat of a free for all on certain nights, so nights would be drunken, druggy and messy. It wasn’t uncommon to leave Rock City attached to a larger crew after closing to end up in someone’s house to wake up hours later on the couch/floor/bed/wherever.

Basically just what you should be doing in your early 20’s.

One late autumnal Saturday night I headed down to Rock City having little to do after having done a comic mart that afternoon, so I went to see who was there. It was, as you’d expect, a messy night and various people were there doing various things in what was a fun night which when it came to 2am, most of us didn’t want to stop. One chap on the fringes of the scene invited a bunch of us back to his in Hyson Green which was near where I lived. From here on in I need to make clear names have either been lost to memory, or changed to protect the innocent.

The chap’s name was Brian, and he lived in a squat in an old Victorian house off the Mansfield Road. It was a fair walk from Rock City, so we headed off with the promise of drugs, beer and spare rooms to fiddle around with others in. To get to his place meant walking by the old Church Cemetery which even in daylight was a fucking gnarly place to walk by.

One of the other lads, Dennis and his girlfriend Denise weren’t too keen on Brian’s suggestion we dive in and drop some MDMA which he had on him. In fact myself, another girl Amy and her friends weren’t too keen on playing the Goth cliché to this extreme, so we convinced Brian to take us to his place as by now most of us were sobering up and it was cold, dank and wet as we hung around outside a cemetery arguing whether you want to go in it at 3am.

Eventually we hit Gregory Boulevard, which meant I was nearly home, but we trudged further up the road til we went past the Asda in Hyson Green, and entered a large house on a dark street off a main road. We got into a sparsely furnished living room but with just enough seats if people sat on various knees,and so it was that finally the booze and drugs were broken out of Brian’s secret stash. One of the other lads, Bruce, wanted to know if we’d wake anyone up but Brian said nobody else was in the house that weekend and in fact we could crash in the spare rooms, of which there was a few. as we discovered upon playing around in the dark old house which looked as if it’d been in a sorry state for some decades.

It was Bruce who found the basement. The stairs down to it looked like this.

The main difference being there was an electricity meter on the wall, and the steps led down to a large cellar. See, Nottingham is very, very old and as a city is riddled with underground cellars,caves and catacombs with many lost in time. This wasn’t the worst I’ve seen in terms of creepy chills but when you’re in a strange house on drugs and pissed the mind plays tricks and I’m sure things were moving down there in the darkened haze. I thought not to mention it in case I scared Amy who by now had linked up with me for a variety of reasons, but partly I presume to have some sort of protection from an increasingly sketchy Brian who was a changed man on MDMA.

As the night progressed and Brian became odder (not nasty, just odd) he insisted people crash in the house overnight, but it was bare, empty and cold not to mention when Amy and myself checked out one of the rooms it looked as if the mattress was overdue a letter from the Queen congratulating it for getting to the age it clearly was. Upon going back downstairs I suggested we leave and go back to mine which wasn’t too far away but it had things like bedding, warmth and a lack of an increasingly sketchy Goth who was now insisting we go downstairs to ‘check it out, man’.

It was Denis who was the first out the door. He’d humoured Brian and went down towards the cellar and who as we were coming downstairs, was making a sharp exit out, with the others closely behind them. Myself and Amy had Brian in front of us telling us to stay and chill, not to worry and yeah he was the only person in the house as I heard the door to the cellar rattle behind me followed by shuffling sounds on stone steps behind wood. Neither myself or Amy were keen on finding out what was coming up behind us, so pushing Brian aside we walked out into the vague daylight of a wet Sunday morning and made our way as quickly as I could with someone in high heel boots in tow.

As we hit the main road I glanced back to see Brian still standing at the open door and Amy was sure, positive even with the drugs and booze in her system, something was standing behind him that didn’t quite look right.

We ran as quickly as we good onto the well lit main road, and hastily walked to mine where we promptly got to bed and slept as soon as heads hit the pillow sleeping til the late afternoon of that Sunday. We didn’t actually talk about what happened til the next day when Amy asked if I minded going back to hers to grab some clothes so she could stay at mine for a bit and we spoke about it to her flatmate. She also vaguely knew Brian as someone on the fringes of the scene and in fact nearly went back to his squat until she felt something was wrong, and decided against it. That night we went into town to the Salutation to see who was there from Saturday night (in those pre-mobile days one’s social life was infinitely more random) but ended up in the Trip to Jerusalem after being told by the staff that’s where folk went.

So we met with people and told those not in the know what had happened. Denis was adamant he saw something, and I totally believed Amy saw something and I’m sure I saw something but we were all drunk, on drugs in a weird old house occupied by a weirder Goth. Basically we tried rationalising it and anyhow, next time we’d go to Rock City we’d probably see Brian.

Except we didn’t. The autumn turned to winter and while Amy went home to Liverpool for two weeks I bummed around Nottingham for a bit, before spending Christmas in Leicester and coming back for the New Year’s Eve all nighter at Rock City where I’d arranged to go with friends. It wasn’t a great night. One couple split up because both though they were shagging other people, which was true and both knew it, but the lie broke down that evening, while I was loaded with flu missing Amy who I’d now not see til the middle of January as I’d arranged to go down to Bristol and London for a bit to help a pair of friends out with a big comic con that was coming up so that night in the squat started to fade into memory as Brian passed also into local folklore, and seeing as he had no real mates, people stopped mentioning his name.

Then one afternoon shortly after my birthday in February I’d taken Amy into town for lunch and a trip to Selectadisc, while I sneaked off for a wee bit of comics retailing. We’d arranged to meet in the pub so I got there before here, bought a couple of drinks and sat down to read some comics while I waited for her to spend what money I’d given her on records. When she came in she looked whiter than usual for a Goth, and sat down to tell me that she’d seen Brian in Selectadisc but had tried to ignore him before he made eye contact and said hello. She asked how he was and what he was up to, so he said he was there to sell records as he was broke which was why we’d not seen him in ages. She also said he looked awful and that he’d clearly taken a kicking at some point recently but she said her goodbyes, and that she was off to meet me.

We thought his problem was drugs, serious drugs, and we’d probably not see much of him again. Except that night at mine as Amy was drawing the curtains she was sure she saw Brian standing over the road. I said I’d have a look when I dumped the rubbish downstairs in the bin, and he was nowhere near the front of the house but as I went round the back something was moving around which was too heavy for a cat or a fox, too heavy for the skinny Brian and anyhow, it had a shape in the neon streetlights that made me leg it quickly back up to our wee flat and lock the doors double behind me. Whether my imagination was playing with me or not, I wasn’t going to hang around too long to  see if things were in fact there and real.

That was the last time I saw Brian, or indeed, that something which seemed to follow him like something out of Poe or Lovecraft. I’d split with Amy in the messy aftermath of Glastonbury 1991 so there was nothing in Nottingham for me, and I thought moving back to Leicester was a good idea.

And I thought nothing of that night since except one time a year or so later where I took the bus to Glasgow, it passed through Nottingham and I swear I saw Brian sitting begging at the bus station with sad, dead eyes not to mention the suggestion of something just out the corner of my eye when I looked at him.

Next time I tell a story like this I promise it’ll be one of the UFO stories sitting in my memory bank…

Five films for Halloween you may not have seen in other clickbait lists!

It’s nearly Halloween so this means clickbait lists of horror films that have the same films all the time. This isn’t to say the likes of Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Nightmare of Elm Street are crap films; they aren’t but they’re always on these sort of lists apart from this one.

So to dive right in…

5/ Deathwatch.

Horror films set during the two great wars of the 20th century are rare, mainly because the real horrors of warfare surpassed what people can imagine, but 2002’s Deathwatch, written and directed by Michael J. Bassett, tries in what is a gory, grim horror film set in the trenches of WW1.Jamie Bell turns in a great performance in the central role, while Andy Serkis eats up everything he can in a Cage-esque performance but the star of the film is how it looks and how it makes you feel as a viewer as various characters are broken down, in all senses.

This is firmly an exploitation film that relies on atmosphere as well as the jump scares and gore, plus it really is like no other horror film of the modern age thanks mainly to the setting.

4/ Creep

 

The 2000’s were a good time for British horror films thanks to works from Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Descent) and Danny Boyle ( 28 Days Later) helping kick the genre up the arse but films were lost, including writer/director Christopher Smith’s 2004 film, Creep.

Like the splendid Deathline, Creep is mainly set on the London Underground and like that film, uses the winding labyrinth of the network to scary advantage.It’s a film that plays up the oddness of being several stories underground in places, and being in an alien world of darkness and tunnels which in this case are inhabited by a creature that is more than it first seems.

Creep is a splendid, and of course, creepy film not to mention very violent, and very gory. After the July 2005 bombings in London the film seemed to vanish from the collective memory by the very real horrors of that July day and sadly it’s been lost somewhat but search it out as it is a wonderfully effective film.

3/Wolfen.

In 1981 the werewolf film was back with An American Werewolf in London and The Howling leading the way, and you’d think looking at the UK poster above that Wolfen was a total fucking bloodbath, but it isn’t. What it is, is in fact a film that mixes social commentary (this is probably the first film I saw which deals with the issue of gentrification) with a side-order of tense horror and a wee bit of quite wonderfully done gore.

Adapted from Whitley Strieber’s book and written and directed by Michael Wadleigh (who directed Woodstock) this is an eco-horror film mixed with a cop thriller that bends genres and oh, it isn’t actually a werewolf film even if the marketing of the film strongly suggested it was. What it does do is use the decaying New York of the early 80’s to tell the story on the surface of the investigation of the murder of a Donald Trump-esque character who was redeveloping parts of the rotting city. Wadleigh uses New York amazingly well as a backdrop, while Albert Finney turns in a great performance as the jaded New York cop in whose lap this mess lands.

It’s a flawed film for sure, and at times it does get a tad too preachy, but it’s got an odd feeling of unease running through the film, and when it scares, it does it right.Search it out.

2/ The Last Broadcast

The found footage film is everywhere these days, as is the mockumentary but back in 1998 it was still experimental as more portable video equipment and digital technology became available. Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler‘s The Last Broadcast predates The Blair Witch Project,  and is easily its equal, if not often the better film. Both share the concept of footage being found and reconstructed to find out what happened to the people in that footage, but both come at this premise from different angles as the Blair Witch Project is a pure found footage film, while The Last Broadcast mixes elements of found footage with mockumentary.

What I love about The Last Broadcast is the slow burn and the general atmosphere of something dreadful coming. In 2018 you may well be familiar with the tricks used in the film, but remember this was one of the first in a genre while more importantly it works as a horror film exceptionally well. Go watch it now!

1/ Lake Mungo

First time I saw Lake Mungo it was sometime in the late 2000’s on the recommendation of a mate down the pub. I went home that night, a tad pished, downloaded the film, thought ‘ach, this is going to be rubbish‘ after a few minutes watching thinking I’d be drifting off to sleep soon with a cold kebab to wake up to. Instead I spent 90 minutes or so being gripped and scared in equal amounts as writer/director Joel Anderson spins an incredible story of some sadly, all too real horror but something else creeps in from nearly the start.

The terror is almost Lovecraftian as Anderson plays with our fears brilliantly to the point where after I’d watched it and gotten over the end, I couldn’t sleep til the first shards of light poked into my living room. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about as the less you know going in the better because this needs as few preconceptions as possible.

So there you go, five films for Halloween night you probably won’t see on most clickbaity lists. Go try them out, and remember, watch with the lights off…

A few more words about Ghostwatch

I’ve made it clear I’m a huge fan of Ghostwatch on my blog here, and recently over at That’s Not Current where most of my reviews now live. What is clear is that over two decades later Ghostwatch is still a massive thing, and in fact seems to be generational as I’ve spoken to people who were barely a crusty stain on their dad’s underwear at the time but are huge fans of the film.

Looking back at the BBC continuity now it really is looking at a different era. Everything feels, well, less jaded, less dumbed down but the film still fooled people.

Yet as writer Stephen Volk has said, Ghostwatch managed to ‘fool’ people by manipulating their expectations in this TedTalk.

In the above talk Volk talks about Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape as an influence, and indeed, what Ghostwatch influenced with the Found Footage genre of horror especially. I don’t think we’ll ever see something like Ghostwatch on the BBC again, they’re far too conservative now and the reaction to the film in 1992 saw them having to make assurances the programme wasn’t real later in the night.

Indeed, it’s taken on a life of it’s own and thanks to the internet, has entered horror lore as this YouTube video shows.

Yet the BBC do seem to be softening on the stance of ignoring it by finally offering it for download on their online store.

Next year is the 25th anniversary of the programme. It’d be an obvious time to not just have the BBC repeat it, but perhaps see if someone can work out how to do something that follows it up in the age where we’re all perhaps too cynical and jaded to not notice when something is a hoax or to be scared by such programmes? I’m not sure it can be done but it’d be interesting to see if someone could try it.

A little Halloween tale….

Today is Halloween and it’s scary time for loads of people, but this gives me a chance to to tell a true story of my youth……..

A long, long time ago, in a city, far, far away I lived in Glasgow and as a youth learning my drinking spurs, but with not a lot of cash meant that a night out ended either finding a couch/floor to crash on, or if I had the cash I’d grab a taxi back but sometimes if I’d missed the last bus the only option open to me was the long walk home. From the centre of Glasgow this was a long walk home and it’d take the better part of 40 minutes to an hour depending on the route I decided to take.

There was a long route but it was the safest route because being Glasgow in the 1980’s, there were some place you didn’t want to walk down because you’d get knifed, or possibly worse. One route back that took about 15 minutes off the walk was along the Forth and Clyde canal, which is lovely during the day.

At night though it could be very, very scary but I’d used it so often that I felt comfortable as the only things I’d normally see was the odd gypsy traveler (a group used to be camped near the canal near Possilpark) or the odd parked car on one of the roads leading to the canal which would always have a flobbery pink arse going up and down if you could squint through the misted up windscreens.

So one night I wasn’t feeling especially well, so I’d left a late night session early to get the last bus but I missed it, so seeing as I couldn’t afford a taxi that night, I decided to take the walk home to Milton which was a serious walk but I thought I’d take the long walk home but after about  20 minutes walk I felt sick and not wanting to puke next to a main road I thought I’d cut up past the canal and try to firstly throw up, and secondly leg it home and back to bed.

I took the path up onto the canal managing to hold the contents of my stomach til I got into an especially dark area, and once there unleashed all it’s contents onto the grass. Once I’d been ill, I felt better, but I thought rather than hang around admiring the stars (I’d often take this route because you’d see the stars so clear it was astonishing to think you were in a city) as it was a pretty clear, mild night I just injected a bit of pace into my walk and took the canal path as far as I could as back then it wasn’t as open as it is today.

At some point I became aware of something looking at me as I could see something move in the dark, thinking it was either a traveler or someone waiting for me to vanish so they could shoot up (there were the odd addict that used the path) I though nothing of it and moved on as fast as my legs could take me as there was an awful smell wafting from this figure. As I came off the canal track I noticed there was someone walking behind me, but again, I thought nothing of it. After all although it was sometime after 1am, people were still coming back from the pub or wherever and once off the canal path I felt safer as there’s streetlights everywhere and now I was in Possil, it was a 20 minute brisk walk back home.

But then the smell hit me again. It’s hard to describe, but it smelled of a bin the day after Christmas Day when it’s full of rotting Christmas bird. It was rank and make me retch a bit in my state of feeling ill, but even now I just thought it was a mix of several pints and whatever bug I’d picked up so I just kept on walking stopping once to cross the road and flashing a look behind me.

About 100 yards behind me was a shape of a person but it was too dark to see features even though they stood right under a streetlight which was something I noticed and instantly thought ‘this isn’t right’ and then decided to push on faster but at this point I realised the shape was following me, and the dodgy smell was coming from their direction. After another pant-wetting five minutes of being followed I thought I’d do something potentially exceptionally stupid, so I slowed down and thought this would make the shape pass me as we were the only people on the streets.

Except all that happened was it slowed down too.

Fuck.

Back then I used to carry a penknife, so as I picked up pace again I fumbled to find my knife because at this point I perceived this as someone try to mug me, but by now I was coming up to a junction where I took a left to take me home and I looked as the shape had vanished behind me, but there was still a smell of something rotting wafting in the night air.

All of this was in a 15 minute (gave or take) period and I’d managed to make great time so I was chuffed to see I was within sight of my home. There was just a steep lane going down and one going up to go, but I’d stopped being scared as I was sure my pursuer had gone and anyhow, the smell had gone.

So as I got to the bottom of the path leading up to my house the smell hit me again and I looked left to where I thought it came from. I lived at this point next to a school’s playing fields so had darkness illuminated by the odd streetlight in front of me and clear as day I could see something moving towards the path I was on about 300 yards away.

Fuck that.

I legged it that last 50 yards up the path to my home, legged it up the stairs, grabbed a hammer and retreated to my bedroom and looked out the window where I had a view of the path leading to my house. Something was moving in the path. Any minute now I expected a knock on my door but it never came, and I know that as I was awake til light, and then slept with a hammer under my covers.

Next day I was ill still, I’d obviously picked up a virus so stayed at home but my dad asked me what I did to the front door the previous night. I was confused, so I went and had a look and there were scratch marks around the keyholes and the bottom of the door had strange marks on it. Someone, or something had done something to the door and for the next month I made sure I never took that route home ever again as I always got the last bus home or sorted out a place to crash.

I never again saw the shape, but about three years later I’d moved to Leicester, and one weekend I was on a trip to London and one night on the underground that smell hit me again but I never had time to work out where the smell was coming from but I never want to smell that rich, rotting smell ever again…

 

And that’s a little story of the past. Another time I’ll tell the tale of the time I spotted a UFO……………

Want to be scared and repulsed for Halloween?

When I was a lad, the BBC showed a load of horror films on a regular basis. They’d show the classic Universal horrors, Hammer of course, the Roger Corman films and lots of independent films of varying quality.

One film they showed when I was probably ten at the end of the 1970’s or so is a film called Death Line. It’s the film that scared people of my generation who saw it from entering the London Underground late at night when it’s empty and the only sound you hear is far, far away and it’s a weird little clicking sound that seems to be getting nearer even though you’re walking further away from it as fast as your legs can take you….

Even now I enter the London Underground and I think there’s a tapping of water somewhere under the noise of people from all over the world rushing around the city’s Underground. Somewhere under the hectic thrust of the day there’s a wall separating us from them, whomever them may be.

The film is one which stars Donald Pleasence in a great performance supported by a cast of wonderful British actors and directed by Gary Sherman, who frankly never ever achieved anything of the quality of this film ever again. It’s a very, very well directed film and uncompromisingly brutal but the single shot which instilled a primal fear of those long, dark corridors in London’s Underground is this one. Watching this at ten quite simply fucked me up and even today, it still sends a glorious shiver down the old spine as well as making my stomach turn just a bit…

 

What Ghostwatch Did For Me

Ghostwatch was a drama/mockumentary the BBC broadcast on Halloween in 1992. It’s been shown just the once in the UK and it’s possibly one of the single most influential bits of telly there’s been in the last 25 years. There’s bits of it in The Blair Witch Project. Paranormal Activity wouldn’t have a plot. Even Chris Morris might not have felt the freedom to experiment with the format of television & satire in works like The Day Today or Brass EyeGhostwatch really is this important, which is impressive for a 90 minute bit of telly that was shown just the once and only got a DVD release in 2002. It’s lived on in the memory of millions of people because it was a perfect storm of filmmaking, casting and most importantly, scheduling.

Firstly let’s explain the plot. The idea is that the BBC are doing a live broadcast from a supposed haunted house in a quiet street in London called Foxhill Drive, a street which looks like a vast number of streets across the country. The programme is hosted by Michael Parkinson, an amazingly well respected figure, Sarah Greene and Mike Smith, well known for children’s television as well as live TV and radio presenting, and Craig Charles, hugely popular thanks to Red Dwarf.

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The genius in all of this is that by making it seem like a real live broadcast featuring presenters well known for presenting live television and hosted by a massively respected figure like Parkinson made the programme seem as real as any of the genuine programmes the BBC were doing like this at the time and still exist, with programmes such as Autumnwatch. The set-up would have been familiar to people, so the BBC decided to put this out on Halloween night which in 1992, was a Saturday night.

The importance of it being broadcast on a Saturday night is vital. As it was Halloween people were going round houses for Halloween parties and coming home with their kids late in the evening to turn on the television just around the time Ghostwatch was starting. This meant a lot of people might have missed the opening credits the BBC forced the makers to stick on the programme as they suddenly started getting worried that people might react badly to the programme.

As for myself, I missed the first ten minutes or so so we missed the opening credits.

I was living in Leicester at the time and I’d picked my then girlfriend up from her job on the Saturday afternoon to journey straight to the pub. After spending a few hours in the comfy joys of Leicester legendary and now sadly, long lost Pump & Tap, we’d headed to my house for a bit of grub, some takeouts and an early night and also to avoid being battered by the large storm that was whipping the city, and indeed, much of the UK that night. So as we got home we dumped our stuff off in my bedroom and popped our heads into the living room to see two of my housemates sitting there with their mouths open watching something on the telly, and that something was Ghostwatch and we started watching just as things seemed normal about 20 minutes or so into the programme so we’d missed the basic set up but we quickly picked it up. Once the really scary fun and games kicked in the four of us watched the thing without saying a word. The shared experience was simply brilliant but once it stopped we ended up sitting around drinking telling each other how not scared we were.

Yes, of course we weren’t scared. Right

Sadly none of us videoed it. That was a mistake as the four of us had to try to repeat to people over the next few days what we’d seen as the programme had sparked a huge response, so you’d bump into people in the pub, mention you’d seen Ghostwatch and have to  try to get across what was so bloody brilliant about it. This began a decade of mythology building as Ghostwatch passed into modern culture but thanks to the hysterical reaction to it the BBC never were going to repeat it. In fact the BBC have never repeated it, and seemingly never will which is a bloody shame.

This meant that if you wanted to see a copy you had to find one. That meant either taking the risk of spending a tenner on buying a VHS tape full of snow from an advert from the back of Fortean Times, or in my case, scour comic marts across the south of England trying to find a copy. Back in the day there used to be a few dealers who’d turn up at the Camden Marts, or the marts held at the TUC buildings in Central London who’d often have a copy which would sell instantly. See, in those pre-internet days such rarities were hard, if not impossible to find so most people were happy just telling their stories about their experience when seeing it, which is of course exactly what I’m doing now.

Every now and then you’d bump into someone who had a copy, and more. On a trip back home to Glasgow i discovered a mate not only had a copy, but had made a Ghostwatch game. Can you save Sarah Greene??!

Sadly, for some reason that escapes me I didn’t see it, but I did play the game…

For the rest of the 90’s I’d pretty much given up on getting a copy. Every now and then it’d come up in conversation such as the time at one Glastonbury Festival where late at night the conversation turned to Ghostwatch, and again different people told a similar story of how they’d been out, come home and stumbled across this scary as fuckity programme and that they wished they could get a copy.

By the late 90’s the internet was beginning to make such rarities less rare, but dial-up connections meant that if you actually found a copy then it’d take a decade to download it, but thankfully in 2002 the BFI released a lovely DVD of it in time for it’s tenth anniversary.

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I finally owned a copy!!

I remember the day when it turned up, I opened up the box, saw the DVD and stuck it in my player ASAP with my then girlfriend (a different one to ten years earlier) sat there looking confused before piping up that she remembered it all now and was this the one with Pipes? It turned out that she too had a story about how when she was a kid her and her mum watched it and were scared to bits by it.

Over the last decade since that DVD release, Ghostwatch has gained a new lease of life not only because of that DVD release, but because of people who were kids at the time who’d now grown up remembering that thing that scared them to death and wanting to know if anyone else felt the same, while us older folk just wanted to see the thing again!

So we’ve had the excellent Behind The Curtains website, which has spawned a splendid documentary about the programme and the reaction to it, not to mention a book which although I haven’t read yet, is something I will as soon as I get my arse in gear to get a copy.

There’s also the national seance where fans across the country, and indeed, across the world watch it at the same time while having a running commentary on social media like Twitter.

Ghostwatch has dated in places, but it’s still a massively effective bit of television that in especially it’s last half hour is utterly terrifying in places, and I bloody love the thing as my annual Halloween treat, so I’m off to watch it again and I’ll make sure I don’t get a sleepless night tonight…………….

My Top 20 Horror Films-9-Halloween

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 Holocaust and 10, The Wicker Man.

At 9 it’s John Carpenter’s brilliant, Halloween.

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It’s a ridiculously simple plot..

A psychotic murderer institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister, escapes and stalks a bookish teenage girl and her friends while his doctor chases him through the streets.

 

Donald Pleasence plays the frankly barking Doctor Loomis, while Jamie Lee Curtis plays the teenager Laurie, and these frankly are the only characters in the film we need to know about apart from of course, Michael Myers, the killer causing the carnage in the film.

The plot doesn’t matter as it’s only there to provide the set-up for Myers stalking Jamie Lee Curtis round her small town while Pleasence runs around like a demented loon trying to stop Myers. It’s really about how Carpenter deconstructs the horror film to it’s utter basics to create the Slasher Film, even though there’s virtually no blood in the film, rather it creates at atmosphere so that the only character we’ve got to care about as opposed to the future victims that populate the film.

Carpenter teases us to the point where as a viewer, you don’t want to look at the screen just in case something comes out of the dark at us again, but this is the joy of the film: it’s a safe scare which rips out everyone’s natural fear of the dark. That’s the joy of this film, and unlike a lot of the films on this list of mine, it is a joy.

It sadly did unleash a host of crap rip-offs, including the Friday the 13th films. That’s not Carpenter’s fault of course, but some of the crap sequels and remakes just take the piss. Let’s forget about those and look at the original for the classic it is.

Next time, we’re going for a walk in the woods….

My Top 20 Horror Films-19-Night of the Demon

It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a rundown of one’s 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 blog in regards #20, the fucking glorious Audition.

At 19 in my top 20 countdown is the superb 1950’s horror film Night of the Demon. Based upon the M.R James story, Casting of the Runes, it’s simply one of the most atmospheric horror films you’ll ever see. The plot is fairly thin;  an American academic & sceptic visits Britain to help expose a Satanic cult and gets caught up in a very real demonic plot. It’s only a skeleton of a plot to hang on conversations about the nature of belief while generally scaring the shite out of the viewer through a series of images which will stick in your mind for years after seeing the film.

This one in particular has stayed with me since I first saw the film as a ten or eleven year old during a summer in the 1970’s when the BBC used to show late night horror double bills on BBC 2 on Saturday nights during the summer months.

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I had nightmares about that image, and still do some 30 years later from first seeing it. It’s a terrifying image because we don’t quite know what we’re looking at in the dark, and we’re all scared of the dark in some shape or form so it’s this primordial horror emerging out of the blackness that frightens us and this film is full of this.

To go back briefly to those BBC horror double bills. They weren’t just an education in horror film history for kids across the country, but film in general. They were fantastic, but now late night television is full of crap game shows, repeats and just every now and then, the odd gem of a film. A channel bringing these double bills back would be great and yes, I’m looking at you BBC Four.

Search Night of the Demon out in it’s full uncut 96 minute long British cut. Also, check out the American trailer which contains a scene not in either the UK or US edits.

Lastly, here’s the Kate Bush song which starts with dialogue from the film & has a Night of the Demon inspired video…

Next time in my countdown-we are going to eat you!

My Top 20 Horror Films-20-Audition

It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a rundown of one’s 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. I will be tight in what I’m putting in so I’ll be talking about horror, not monster movies like King Kong or Godzilla, or the thriller/horror crossover film like Psycho or Silence of the Lambs. I’ve been tight as well and excluded glorious things like Theatre of Blood or Night of the Comet as although they are horror films I wanted to stick very firmly to what I suppose are pure horror films, and also, I’m not restricting myself to cinema but television series/films as well.

Essentially these are the films I watch to be scared, repulsed, shocked & horrified. My rules so there! Obviously spoilers will be included so be warned if you don’t know any of these films and want to see them fresh.

First up is Audition.

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Audition was my first encounter with the Japanese director Takashi Miike. To say I was utterly unprepared for what I saw is an understatement to end all understatements. I was expecting something shocking, but when I first saw it I was frankly utterly bored rigid by the first 40 minutes or so of the film as it’s a sort or bizarre romantic drama as a widower organises fake auditions in order to find a woman to go out with. The concept is a bit stalkery but this opening 40 minutes lures you in with the empty life the main character Shigeharu Aoyama (played by Ryo Ishibashi) leads with his son.

We’re led through the auditions until Aoyama comes across Asami Yamazaki (played by Eihi Shiina) who he instantly falls for. This leads the film for a while into a romantic drama which is part sweet, cold, and boring all at the same time. There is however a point to all this as Miike is building up to something, or in this case a series of somethings as we’re told that Asami isn’t all she seems. The rest of the film builds up to some of the most horrifyingly painful scenes you’ll ever see in a film. These scenes are agonisingly horrible but you can’t look away from the beautifully shot horror that’s in front of our eyes.

Coming into this blind as I did was an amazing experience. I left the cinema shaking. Few films have ever done that to me and Audition still haunts me. It’s also truly perverse in a way a lot of mainstream horror films made since the millennium can only hope to be as it’s truly transgressive even 14 years later.

See Audition for what it is which is a film which makes you empathise with the leading characters as much as you can before it literally tears one of them apart in front of you. It’s a hard film to enjoy, but it’s an unmissable film.

Next up is is a horror film referenced by Kate Bush in one of her songs…………….