“Ha ha ha! What a film, Mark!” A review of The Disaster Artist

 

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“Just because you want it doesn’t mean it can happen.”

Rating: ★★★★

I was first introduced to The Room during a college Film Studies lecture as a perfect example of how not to make a film. Everything about it was atrocious, but I also found it weirdly compelling. Since then, I’ve made a real effort to follow everything relating to Tommy Wiseau and this bizarre film of his. It’s become a cult classic in recent years, drawing a crowd of dedicated fans to the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square for monthly screenings, and Q&A’s with cast members.  When I found out that James Franco was creating a film adaptation of Greg Sestero’s novel The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, I was so excited!

I was lucky enough to see the film during its opening weekend at the Prince Charles Cinema, which actually made my experience even better. Being around a crowd of The Room fans who knew the film like the back of their hand was hilarious, because they recited familiar quotes along with James Franco, and it was clear the entire audience was having a blast from start to finish. I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed this much at a film. Everyone involved made a real effort to recreate the scenes that we know and love, whilst giving us a glimpse into what life on that film set was really like. It’s possible to forget that you’re watching The Disaster Artist and not The Room at times, because the performances are so spot on.

Once again, James Franco’s ability to take a real life person and bring them to life on a screen shone through. I always refer to his performance as Aron Ralston in 127 Hours as one of his best, but his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau certainly comes a close second. He nails the mannerisms, the accent, and that weird laugh that Wiseau has become well known for. You can tell he has dedicated a lot of time and effort to the project, and it’s paid off. Praise must also be given to the rest of the cast for perfectly emulating the characters. Josh Hutcherson as Denny was amazing; even when he was just sitting there that ridiculous wig was enough to make the audience cry with laughter, and Seth Rogen’s script supervisor character delivers these amazing one liners that show his frustration at Tommy’s ridiculous ideas.

Whilst clearly hilarious, this film is not without its fair share of tragedy, mainly around Dave Franco’s character Greg Sestero. His friendship with Tommy required him to make huge, unimaginable sacrifices both professionally and personally, ultimately causing a rift between the two.  Greg is a classic example of a man chasing the allure of fame, and failing miserably. You can’t help but sympathise with him as he tries his best to keep those around him happy whilst trying to attain life changing career goals. The film also shows a darker side to Tommy Wiseau, as he treats the cast and crew around him very badly. He’s so wrapped up in bringing The Room, his “real Hollywood movie”, to life that he neglects the needs of those around him. There are some highly charged emotional moments in this film, which are perfectly balanced with the comedic moments. Without these serious scenes, the film just wouldn’t have been the same.

The Disaster Artist is a must-watch for fans of The Room, and those who want to learn more about the utter chaos that happened on set. It’s funny, intense, emotional and a one of a kind experience from start to finish. Make sure you sit tight until after the credits too, as there’s an extra scene that you don’t want to miss!

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The truth will set you free: My thoughts on Jigsaw

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“You know what happens if we don’t play by the rules.”

Rating: ★★★

If you haven’t heard of the Saw franchise, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Spanning over eight films, two video games, and a few theme park attractions, it seems like we can’t get enough of it. To this day, the first film is one of my favourite horror films and one that I’ve revisited several times. The recent instalment in the Jigsaw Killer’s legacy is set ten years later, and John Kramer has been dead ever since he got his throat slashed by Jeff Denlon in Saw III. (remember that? Seems like so long ago) The problem is, more bodies keep washing up and everyone’s finger is pointing toward Jigsaw. But that’s not possible, is it?

So, what did I think of Jigsaw? I’ve taken a while to sit down and properly consider this, and I’ve decided that whilst it’s an enjoyable film, it’s nothing special either. It’s one of those films that finds itself being placed into the “good, but not great” category. I can’t bring myself to completely rip it apart, but I don’t want to give it too much praise either. I’ll do my best to explain myself throughout the review.

In classic Saw style, our newest victims are flawed, selfish and full of hidden sins that they do their best to hide. Unfortunately for them, in this universe you can’t even ignore a parking ticket without Jigsaw and his gang grabbing you and finding some way to punish you. It’s a rough world to live in. In a way, this film reminded me of Saw II, as we see multiple victims waking up in the same place, yelling at each other, and figuring out how they’re going to make it out alive. Praise has to be given for the use of flashbacks and the way character’s stories and flaws are revealed to us, as it keeps you guessing throughout and wondering just how innocent these people really are. I was disappointed in some of the acting but I tried not to let that bother me too much and focus on the story instead.

For most Saw fans, the thing that gets you the most excited is the new traps. Throughout the previous films we’ve seen an array of terrifying creations built by Kramer, and the grisly results of being placed within them. Whilst these traps were interesting and the reasoning behind them well explained through tapes, they were nowhere near as good as their predecessors. I didn’t like the way the film cut away to the investigation halfway through traps either, as I felt that made it less unsettling for the viewers. For me, part of the reason why Saw is such an effective horror franchise is because it doesn’t cut away from the action and leaves you feeling uncomfortable, squeamish and forces you as a spectator to be part of the games. Cutting away from that certainly doesn’t have the same effect.

Jigsaw’s character is the main reason why I’m giving it three stars instead of two. To this date he’s one of my favourite horror antagonists and his dialogue is always well thought out, chilling and perfectly delivered. Tobin Bell is the perfect guy for the role and always impresses me with his performance, even if it is just his voice. This film was no exception and it was great to hear that oh-so familiar voice throughout the tapes. It’s his voice and his words that are a central part of the story, and I’m glad they were given as much attention to detail as they were across the rest of the franchise.

Finally, I felt conflicted about some of the special effects in this film. In some places, it’s really well done (and got a unanimous “ewww” from the audience in my screening), but in others the CGI is just awful. It seems a shame that there’s some inconsistency here as sometimes I found myself smirking at just how awful it looked, as opposed to feeling genuinely grossed out. I think the filmmakers got too ambitious, and perhaps should’ve adopted a “less is more” approach rather than trying to go all out and failing.

If you’re a long time fan of the Saw franchise, I’d definitely recommend you go and see it because it’s an experience and worth seeing. I don’t regret buying a ticket, but I won’t be rushing out to buy it on DVD any time soon either.

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Lucy Goes to Film Screenings: My thoughts on “Charismata”

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Rating: ★★★★

Recently, I was invited to a private film screening in Soho. I’m grateful that I got this opportunity and that I got to talk to some of the people involved with Charismata. It was a lovely evening and I want to say a huge thank you to the cast and crew for having me!

I went into Charismata completely blind, all I knew was that it was an independent horror film. In a way that made it more exciting because I had absolutely no idea what to expect; horror is incredibly diverse and can be blended with most other genres. As it happens, this particular film was half crime half horror. It follows the story of Detective Farraway who has been assigned to a difficult case involving ritualistic murders, and how this case starts to take a toll on her. The iconography of this film is reminiscent of gritty crime films like Se7en; especially some of the crime scenes we get to witness. The special effects department did a wonderful job here, and I was blown away with how they accomplished so much on such a small budget. There’s some exceptional talent attached to this film, both on-screen and off.

I was impressed by all of the performances in the film as the quality of acting was very high. Sarah Beck Mather plays the protagonist incredibly well and I got a Clarice Starling vibe from her with the way she plays a strong, independent woman in a police force dominated by men. She’s absolutely fascinating to watch and I loved the way she brought this character to life. Similarly, Jamie Satterthwaite’s portrayal of arrogant businessman Michael Sweet is almost Jack Nicholson-esque – keep an eye out for that unnerving smile, you’ll know exactly what I mean when you see it. Each character felt like they had purpose, nobody came across as two-dimensional or irrelevant. Even the minor characters were engaging, particularly the members of the police force who perfectly embodied British humour and stereotypes. It’s definitely a typically “British film” and it was wonderful to see areas I know well captured on screen.  Some of the scenes are very intense, and the actors performed them perfectly. There’s a particular scene starring Johnny Vivash’s character that I complimented him for in person, because it was so well acted. I will refrain from posting any spoilers but I think you’ll know what scene I’m referring to.

Whilst Charismata isn’t a film with constant jump scares, I was certainly on edge for a lot of it. It is a psychological horror and messes with your head; they’ve done a fantastic job of building suspense and making the audience feel uneasy. A criticism I often have of the horror genre is that it can get repetitive and predictable, but this narrative was filled with pleasant surprises. My predictions throughout the film were wrong, and I was glad. I especially didn’t see the third act coming, and the final scene left me stunned. It’s refreshing to see an entry to the horror genre that doesn’t cash in on horror cliches and obvious endings. It is truly a unique film in its own right.

My only real criticism of Charismata is that the first act was a lot weaker than the others. I felt like the dialogue could have been a bit more polished here, and it felt a little too scripted and unnatural. But please don’t let that put you off watching it; the acts that follow are brilliant, and hard to believe they come from an independent film. Everyone involved has clearly worked so hard and it’s paid off.

The film is currently doing the festival route, so if you get the chance to see it I’d definitely recommend that you do. I will repost any announcements about the film on my social media pages so you can stay in the loop about what’s going on.

I wish everyone involved with Charismata the best of luck and I’m looking forward to seeing more of their work in the future!

Charismata Twitter   Loose Canon Films Twitter

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Short Film Saturdays: “Dinner”

 

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Synopsis: Dinner is a short film directed by Sarah Appleton and produced by Talbot House Films. The film stars Victoria Fitz-Gerald and Matthew Carney as their characters April and Jason come to the end of their second date, as it all starts to go horribly wrong. A role-reversed tale of manipulation.

Length: 5 minutes

Rating: ★★★

I was sent a screener copy of this film by director Sarah Appleton. First off, thank you so much for trusting me and allowing me to review your film! It always makes me happy when a new film finds its way into my inbox.

Something I really admire about Dinner is the fact that it takes huge risks as a film. It’s often difficult to keep people engaged with a dialogue heavy narrative, but this is something Dinner does incredibly well. Both Victoria Fitz-Gerald and Matthew Carney do a fantastic job in their respective roles, and perfectly embody the overall message of the film. If pulled off badly, this ran the risk of being a film about two people have dinner with no real hook. But thankfully, it’s much more than that.

It’s a film that certainly makes you ask questions, and further challenges the double standards that we have in modern society. I love how uncomfortable we’re made to feel as spectators, with the intrusive nature of the camera and the awkward body language of the subjects. In terms of audio, I would have liked to hear more of a soundtrack and I felt that some of the sound did cut off abruptly at points which can often feel quite jarring.

Overall, I believe that Dinner can teach audiences a lot about the way we behave, and that it’s a necessary watch. It’s a clever idea that is well executed and it’s evident that so much effort went into this indie production. I wish them all the best with any festival entries and I hope audiences can take a lot away from this film. It’s short but impactful.

Follow these accounts for more info about Sarah, Dinner, and any upcoming projects:

@SarahAppleton_ @TalbotFilms  @caprisarfilms

 

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Personal Essay: Why I’m Proud to be a Horror Fan

 

 A Q&A with director Adam Green, and freebies from Film4 Frightfest 2013

Sometimes, when you tell people you’re a huge fan of horror films, they give you a look as if to say “…why?”. Some people are a lot more vocal about it and will openly tell you that they find it weird. The fact the genre gets such a bad name is pretty disappointing, and even though you’re entitled to your opinion, the fact you’d make someone feel bad for enjoying a particular genre baffles me. I’m not entirely sure where the stigma comes from, and whether people genuinely believe that everyone who enjoys horror films is some sort of deranged serial killer (spoiler alert: we’re not). But whatever the reasons are, I thought I’d talk about why I’m proud to be a part of the horror community.

Part I: The Genre

Horror is complex and branches out into so many subgenres that it’s impossible to list all of them here. Common examples are horror sci-fi (Alien, The Thing, Invasions of the Body Snatchers) and horror comedy (Scream, The Cabin in the Woods, Shaun of the Dead) The fact horror can be integrated into pretty much any setting fascinates me, and leaves room for endless opportunities. Horror writers can get very creative and scare you in ways you never thought were possible. Some films will parody others, some are set in a completely incongruous environment that you never thought would ever be scary, and some are exactly what you’d expect of a horror film. Whether writers stick to classic genre conventions or completely challenge them, I’m always excited to find out how they make it their own.

With that in mind, I believe that horror is very difficult to write. It’s a genre that, if done badly, can become a laughing stock. Horror writers are under a lot of pressure to get it right, and there are so many bad horror films and novels out there. With this genre, it’s imperative that you generate the correct responses from your audience. You want to scare people, but you don’t want your story to be two-dimensional either. If you opt for cheap jump scares and bland characters all the time, you probably won’t get very far. The characters within horror films are important, and you need them to have substance. The villains within these narratives can take many forms, whether that’s a monster, a ghost or a human being. I’m impressed by the way writers can conjure up a human who is just as scary as any monster under the bed. So many infamous on-screen villains are humans (eg: Hannibal Lecter, Michael Myers, Norman Bates) and at one point in their life, were probably considered “normal”, even if it was only for a brief period. Psychology plays a huge role in horror films, particularly when dealing with the antagonists. It’s fascinating how the mind can be warped, and it’s something I love researching.

Your antagonist in particular needs to be well written, and in some cases, your audience will often sympathise with them which causes them to become uncomfortable. An example of this is John “Jigsaw” Kramer in the Saw series. He does unspeakable things to his victims, yet, his backstory is so upsetting that you’re forced to feel sorry for him. It’s a very clever tactic, and something I’ve always admired about the genre. It places the spectator in some rather uncomfortable situations, and makes them think. It’s a genre that doesn’t spoon feed emotions to fans, and leaves things open to discussion and interpretation. I really love that.

Visually, horror films continue to impress me. When you’re making a film, you don’t just turn on a camera and go, every shot has to be carefully planned and executed. Horror is no exception: you have to think about how your audience is going to feel scared, uncomfortable or nervous. Point of view shots are incredibly popular in this genre, where we get to see things from the perspective of a killer. Here’s a great example.  The use of sound is important too; you need to know what music you’re going to use and when, and where silence is needed. Silence in horror films is a perfect way to build suspense because viewers are expecting something to jump out.

Even if you’ll never be a horror fan, you can at least appreciate the amount of effort it takes to actually scare or disgust people. It’s harder than it sounds, you need to do your research and ensure your characters, sounds and visuals are on point. Unless you want to go down the horror-comedy route, the last thing you want is for your viewers to laugh at your attempts to scare them. There’s so much more to the genre than people realise, and when you start researching it more, you realise how complex it can be.

Part II: The Community

In contrast to the nature of the genre, people in the horror community are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I’ve met so many great friends through my love of horror films, and quite a few of these were at FrightFest 2013. I’m gutted I haven’t been able to attend a film festival since, but I’m definitely going to aim to attend more now that I’m living and working in London. There’s always events for horror fans and the organisers are so generous; we get preview screenings, guest speakers, freebies, merchandise, the opportunity to submit your own short films, the list goes on. It’s the perfect way to make new friends and learn as much as you can about all things horror.

Horror attracts people from all walks of life and I believe the community is very inclusive and accepting. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you look like or what you identify as, the horror community is always there. When you’re in the horror community, there’s so much to talk about, and everyone will have their personal favourite films and sub-genres. I love seeing people get excited about the things they love, and having people to get excited with is such a wonderful thing. It’s important to nurture your passions and surround yourself with those who will encourage you to do so.

I think it’s important to separate films from their fans, and realise that we as spectators view horror as fiction. We aren’t violent or nasty people. Film is often considered as a form of escapism, and the films we love allow us to move away from everyday life for a bit and experience new and exciting worlds. There’s nothing wrong with that, and you shouldn’t condemn fans for it. The notion that simply watching horror films makes people violent is stupid, and we need to challenge those stereotypes.

The Film4 FrightFest 2013 short film awards, and my festival pass

There’s so much more I could say about horror and why I love it, but I’d be writing for days. I hope I’ve been able to sum it up properly, and that you can understand why I’m so proud to be a fan. In the future I’m hoping to write more about specific genres and films, so that will provide a lot more insight. There’s so much more that needs to be explored!

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Short Film Saturdays: The Last Halloween

 

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Synopsis: The city is quiet; the streets, deserted. It doesn’t much feel like Halloween, and yet four young trick-or-treaters – a Ghost, a Devil, a Grim Reaper and a Witch – make their way through the night, door to door and house by house, gathering up an unlikely harvest of kindness amid the devastated wreckage of society’s collapse. In a world where the only rule is that there are no rules anymore, it is perhaps a fitting irony that it should all come down to this… a simple choice between two starkly different options.

Length: 10 minutes

Rating: ★★★★

Weirdly enough, this is the first horror film that I’m going to review on this blog. It was only a matter of time before it happened and I’ disappointed it’s taken me this long! The Last Halloween intrigued me the minute I became aware of it. I was already familiar with Marc Roussel’s work, having previously reviewed Remote back in 2013.

I must start by saying that the cinematography and overall aesthetic of this film is absolutely superb. I loved the way this post-apocalyptic universe was presented to us through decrepit buildings and low-key lighting. The set design is so professional looking that it looks like something from a big budget film, and not an independent one. Everything looks so realistic, yet at the same time, from an era far away from our own. The set and costume design deserves high praise as they’ve delivered something truly wonderful here, set against a dystopian background.

The way this film places children in a position of power is also very well done, and though it’s a common trope in horror films, it’s delivered in a unique way. Children dressing up for Halloween has never looked quite this terrifying.  This film takes a fun annual holiday filled with costumes and sugary treats and turns it into something incredibly dark  The very idea of trick or treating in a post-apocalyptic environment is genius, and something I’ve never seen before. I’m almost angry I didn’t think of it first.

With a runtime of 10 minutes, I did feel as though it drew to a close a bit too quickly. I would’ve loved to see more of a build up, and it is a shame such a good idea was condensed down into a short space of time. In all honestly, if they released this as a feature length, I’d go and see it in a heartbeat. There are a few ambiguities that I wish had been answered; such as the reason for the apocalypse, but that doesn’t detract from the overall quality. It’s a strong short film with impressive visuals and was certainly an enjoyable watch for me. It’s amazing what a dedicated cast and crew can achieve, I was very impressed with everyone involved.

Thank you to Marc Roussel for sending your film to me, it’s always a pleasure to watch your stuff, and you’ve proven yourself yet again. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more!

You can watch the film below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Short Film Saturdays: “Children of War”

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Synopsis: Family and history go hand-in-hand. In this Modern-Western, witness the duel within the bloodline of a small coal mining family born and bred by the rigor within the mountains of Miner’s City – known today as War, West Virginia. Slavy Freeman, the patriarch, forced to confront family secrets, must choose between reunification or the complete dismemberment of the Freeman bloodline.

Length: 20 minutes

Rating: ★★★

I was sent a link to watch this film by its director, producer and editor Apolonia Davalos ahead of its screening at Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival. It’s very exciting helping to promote an indie film and I hope the festival goes well! Thank you to Apolonia for trusting me to review your work.

I’m always fascinated by other cultures. Because of this, I was really drawn to Children of War as it’s based in a mining town called War in West Virginia. As someone who has lived their whole life in the UK and has never holidayed outside of Europe, I don’t know a lot about American culture, besides what’s been shown to me in the media. A lot of the time we’re only really exposed to big cities and popular states, so it’s refreshing to see a different side to the country.  I thought the cinematography in this film was particularly gorgeous and very well filmed too. It captures a side of America we rarely get to see. I wish we could have seen more of the town because it’s something that really captivated me. This is a film with strong familial ties, who are very proud of who they are and what they do. But, like all families, nobody is perfect and a secret soon emerges.

The acting in this film is very good, even if the dialogue is a little too quiet at times and hard to make out. I especially liked the father-son bond in this film and thought it worked well against a quiet, southern American backdrop.  The soundtrack is also well put together and complements the genre and themes. The film is described as a modern Western, and that’s certainly true. The iconography in Children of War definitely bares resemblance to the golden age of Western films.

I did find the non-linear narrative to be quite confusing and something that I had to really focus on, but I also feel that it was the right way to present the film. My only worry is that audiences may be confused the first time around and it may require a second watch, but that doesn’t detract from the emotional storyline.

Overall I did enjoy this film and the characters in it, but it definitely is one you have to pay close attention to if you want to get the full effect. A longer runtime may have benefited the film and allowed the narrative to become clearer, but Apolonia Davalos is definitely a talented individual and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future!

You can watch the trailer for Children of War below, and please check out the filmmaker at http://apolonia.weebly.com/ 

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Introducing: “Short Film Saturdays”

Hello everyone,

I’ve decided that the best way for me to update the blog regularly is to create a proper schedule. Part of this new schedule is the introduction of this new section, Short Film Saturdays. 

It’s pretty self explanatory: I’m hoping to review a short film every week and share it with you all on here. I think this will be a brilliant way to support independent film and showcase just how good short films can be.

I’d love for people to get in touch with me about their favourite short films, or even a short that they were involved in making. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of shameless self promotion! It doesn’t matter if it’s a big budget production or a student film, I’d like to see it! I’m open to all genres and lengths too, though preferably under an hour as that’s what constitutes “short” in my opinion.

If you do have a film you’d like me to watch and review, please email me at lucybgoestohollywood@gmail.com, comment on the blog post or tweet me @lucyjadebuglass.

I’m looking forward to your suggestions!

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Lucy’s Top 10 Horror Films

A few weeks ago on Twitter I asked you guys what “Top 10” list you’d want to see on here, and the vast majority of you voted for horror. So that’s what I’m about to do.

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I know a lot of you can’t understand what draws me towards horror films and the genre does get a bad name due to it recycling the same stories and throwing out a stupid number of sequels. Not to mention, the content itself can be nauseating. But, horror isn’t always about gore and jumpscares, sometimes there is an interesting plot. Of course you’re never going to see a horror film that’s all sunshine and rainbows, but in my opinion the best horror films don’t simply rely on jumpscares every two seconds because it’s a cheap tactic. My list features a variety of films from different eras, and my attempts to convince you to give them a watch. If you happen to watch any of them, do let me know on Twitter or in the comments below! I love hearing your thoughts.

Before I begin I should mention that a few of my all time favourite horrors appear in My Favourite Films so I’ve already discussed them. You can read about those here. The below list is in no particular order because I couldn’t possibly choose, they’re all good, go watch them! As ever my notes are spoiler-free too.

 

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1. The Conjuring (2013)

Directed by James Wan, Rated 15.

This film follows real life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren as they’re hired to help a family who believe they’re being haunted by a malicious spirit. That summary makes it sound like a generic horror film about some ghost, but trust me, it’s better than that. I absolutely love this film and can recall jumping out of my skin at one point when I went to see it at the cinema; it’s a film filled with lots of tense moments and anticipation, and the story of the Warrens is fascinating. I love James Wan as a director and this film is certainly one of his best after Saw.

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2. 1408 (2007)

Directed by Mikael Håfström, Rated 15

This film is based on a lesser known Stephen King short story by the same name. Håfström’s screen adaptation is brilliantly done and features one of my favourite John Cusack performances. He plays a writer who travels to supposedly haunted locations and documents his experiences. So far he’s found little of interest, until he visits the Dolphin Hotel and stays in room number 1408. It’s an emotional rollercoaster with lots of scares – a must watch for fans of ghost stories and Stephen King.

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3. The Descent (2005)

Directed by Neil Marshall, Rated 18

As someone who’s claustrophobic and despises any closed space, this film is absolutely terrifying. It follows the story of recently widowed Sarah, who goes on holiday with friends to try and bounce back after losing her husband and daughter in a tragic accident. It goes without saying that it goes horribly wrong and the group find themselves trapped in a cave. If that isn’t bad enough, they soon find out they’re not alone in the cave. The film constantly keeps you on edge as you follow the characters, as clueless as they are about how they’re going to escape and what lurks in the darkness.

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4. Scream (1996)

Directed by Wes Craven, Rated 18

This one is an absolute classic and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do. It’s a very clever film that is self-aware and mocks the horror genre throughout the story. Protagonist Sidney Prescott and her friends begin receiving anonymous phone calls from a serial killer who tests them on their horror film knowledge. If they don’t answer correctly, they die. Scream is very 90’s and provides excellent social commentary, particularly surrounding high school students and American culture. It’s hard to sell it to you without giving too much away, but it’s definitely worth the watch.

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5. Carrie (1976)

Directed by Brian DePalma, Rated 18

This is the film adaptation of Stephen King’s first published book. The titular character Carrie is a repressed 16 year old girl who lives with her Christian fundamentalist mother. She faces physical and mental abuse at home, and is bullied relentlessly at school. But she soon discovers she has telekinetic abilities and it’s only a matter of time before she snaps, and the resulting chaos that ensues is one of my favourite pieces of cinema. DePalma did a great job of bringing Carrie to life on screen, and making the viewers feel sorry for her, even when she does the unthinkable.

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6. Halloween (1978)

Directed by John Carpenter, Rated 18

In my opinion, this is the best slasher film to date. In fact if you haven’t heard of this film or Michael Myers, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Fifteen years after killing his own sister, he escapes from a mental institution and returns to his hometown. It’s become a popular film amongst film scholars, especially when dealing with the Final Girl Theory. The opening sequence is one of my absolute favourites, even though I’ve analysed it to death in essays.

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7. Poltergeist (1982)

Directed by Tobe Hooper, Rated 15

This film is a must see for fans of the genre, and it’s one of my favourite “haunted house” films of all time. The story focuses on a suburban family who find out their home is haunted, as the ghosts have taken their youngest daughter. It features lots of intense, graphic scenes with special effects that were pretty damn good for the 80’s. You may have seen one of them already, as this was a commercial success and was the eighth highest grossing film the year it was released.

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8. The Orphanage (2007)

Directed by J.A. Bayona, Rated 15

Also known as El Orfanato, this is a Spanish language film about a woman who returns to her childhood home with her family. It used to be an orphanage and she wants to turn it into a facility for disabled children. During her time there, her son claims he’s made friends with another boy, despite the fact the orphanage has long been closed. It’s a ghost story that is brilliantly done and doesn’t rely on constant jump scares, as it favours suspense instead.

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9. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Directed by Drew Goddard, Rated 15

Like Scream, this film satirises the horror genre and makes fun of the tropes we associate with it. I love films that are clever enough to parody the genre without being over the top and cheesy (yeah Scary Movie, I’m looking at you), and this film is no exception. The special effects and makeup are insanely good, and the characters embody everything we already know about the genre, which makes it familiar. It’s hard to say much about this one without spoiling it, but the less you know about it before going in, the better.

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10. American Mary (2012)

Directed by the Soska Sisters, Rated 18

This film is incredibly unique in many ways. Not only is it directed by two females, the vast majority of the main cast are female too. The story centres around medical student Mary, who turns to the world of body modification to help her pay the bills. The characters in this film are unlike any you’ve seen before, and it’s truly one of a kind. I absolutely loved the soundtrack, the story and the overall aesthetic of the film.

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Survivor Meets Saw – “Series 7: The Contenders”

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“I’ve got nothing to live for, but I don’t wanna die.”

Rating: ★★★

Reality TV is something we’re all too familiar with in this day and age. It seems like they’re always commissioning new shows where we act like voyeurs and watch other people live their lives, perform quirky (and often embarrassing) challenges, and compete against each other to win grand prizes. It’s nothing new, and can often feel repetitive and boring, yet the viewership figures for the genre remain high.

Series 7: The Contenders is a black comedy film that presents its audience with a chilling scenario: what if there was a reality TV show where the only real reward was your own life? A show where you were picked randomly and couldn’t refuse to participate? If that hook alone doesn’t make you want to know more, I don’t know what will. The film follows reigning champion from series 5 and 6, Dawn, who is eight months pregnant at the time of the show and the five other contenders. They’ve each been selected to participate through their social security numbers, and cannot decline. The contestants are all from different backgrounds and include a 57 year old nurse, an 18 year old student, a 72 year old retiree, a 39 year old dad of three, and a 33 year old married artist. The way the film reveals these characters to us is clever, and creates very good pacing as all the “episodes” of series 7 are revealed to us during the course of an hour and a half.

The characters don’t feel like characters, and I actually found myself lost in the film, convinced these people were real. You find yourself rooting for people, and trying to rationalise whether or not certain people should die, based on their actions, age, or health.  The film perfectly satirizes the reality TV show genre with its cheesy narration and fly on the wall observations. The camera is intrusive and often made me feel uncomfortable, like I shouldn’t be watching what I was. It oozes drama, arguments, twists and turns, and moments that keep you on the edge of your seat.  Props to director Daniel Minahan for perfectly mirroring American reality TV.

As well as simply satirizing the genre, it explores the dark side of the human condition, and makes you question your morals. Just how far will people go to ensure they keep their own life, whether it’s for their own selfish reasons, or for their loved ones? Would they kill someone for their own safety? It’s similar to the idea of “cherishing your life” presented to us in Saw, and the life threatening situations victims are placed in. Whilst Series 7: The Contenders is less gory than Saw, it’s certainly not less thrilling.

Of course, it does have its flaws, hence the 3 star rating. I don’t think this is a “bad rating” and I definitely enjoyed it, but the third act was considerably weaker than the first two and I felt like this is where the film lost momentum. I don’t know if I liked the way the film ended and I think it was worthy of something stronger, but that’s open for debate. More context about “The Contenders” as a television show would have been appreciated too, as I often found certain things to be confusing and didn’t make much sense. The narrator could’ve provided that quite easily without having to detract from the reality TV style, but instead we were thrown in and expected to understand how things work from the beginning. I’ve noticed that a lot of reality TV, especially British ones, will recap and remind us of what we already know about the show for new viewers, so it’s something the film would have benefited from.

Overall this was a strong film and certainly appealed to my love of films with darker themes. I loved the way it felt real and how much I was either drawn to or repulsed by some of the contenders. I just wish the third act and ending had kept me as captivated, but don’t let that put you off, it’s a unique film where it’s very easy to lose yourself and make you feel like you’re curled up on the sofa watching the latest episode of your favourite show.

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