Mid Halloween Horror Fest

Midsommar (2019)

Written and directed by Ari Aster, Midsommar is both very different from the usual horror films, and is utterly captivating. At nearly two and a half hours long, the movie takes it’s time to slowly build a feeling of inevitable dread and reach it’s finale, but I was engrossed.

Dani (Florence Pugh) is grieving from the death of her sister and parents, finding little solace in her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). Though their relationship is ending, Dani accompanies Christian and his anthropology student friends on a research trip to Sweden, to observe the mid summer rituals of a remote community. Every 90 years is a particularly special celebration, and this year is one of those – thus it’s a rare opportunity for them all.

The friends are welcomed into the commune, and begin to observe their practices and lifestyle in a land where the sun shines almost all day in summer. Gradually, the rituals become more unsettling, as the pagan rites become more and more bizarre and deadly. The isolation of Dani and her friends escalates, as the motivations of their hosts adds to their confusion.

I don’t want to give too much away about this film, as it really is superb. Some viewers will find it too long and drawn out, and the events too obscure and unexplained. But resisting the urge to rush into situations, taking time to develop the painfully unsettling atmosphere and sense of unease is handled spectacularly, I thought. There’s a level of detail in the onscreen clues and themes that is painstaking and engrossing.

Midsommar is folk horror, and comparisons to the wonderful The Wicker Man (1973) are only to be expected. There are a few scenes of brutal violence, but onscreen shocks are relegated to the minimal, sacrificed for an unbearably apprehensive descent to the conclusion. Pugh’s performance is phenomenal, her experiences are heart-breaking and disorientating and she bleeds emotion from the screen.

Deeply disturbing, yet fascinating, this particular folk horror is part mystery and part break up movie. Midsommar has been masterfully conceived and produced, it’s one of the best films – horror or otherwise – I’ve seen in a long time.

9.5/10

The Halloween Horror Fest Bride

OK, time is running out and there’s quite a few films to be covered.  Let’s go!

The Wicker Man (1973)

British horror classic, starring Edward Woodward as the policeman who travels to the remote Scottish island of Summerisle to search for a missing girl.  His investigations are fraught and the locals unhelpful.  Soon it becomes clear that the islanders are pagans, and totally at odds with the devout investigators beliefs. wicker

There is an air of sinister dread that pervades this film, and builds slowly to the shocking, yet inevitable climax.  Though there are no shocks, blood and gore, The Wicker Man creates a believably strange and foreboding world.

Excellent performances from Woodward and Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle make the whole experience all the richer.  A film that gets better with every viewing.

9/10

The Corpse Bride (2005)

Beautiful animated wonder from Tim Burton, with the voice talents of many of the usual suspects, make this film a success on every level. cb

A marriage of convenience for Victor (Johnny Depp) and Victoria (Emily Watson) turns out to be a perfect match, until it all goes wrong and Victor finds himself married to Emily, the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter).  The tangled situation is complicated by trickery and treachery, as our hero tries to escape his situation and make wrongs right.

A superb voice cast and fabulous music enhance the spellbinding visuals, and not a moment is missed to dazzle the viewer.  In particular the scenes in the underworld are vibrant and thrilling, especially compared with the dull land of the living.

The Corpse Bride is great fun for Halloween and a film to enjoy again and again.

9/10.

The Blood on Halloween Horror Fest

Carrie (1976)

Poor Carrie White.  In high school she’s the butt of everyone’s jokes, the outcast, the loser.  At home, this shy and retiring girl is bullied by her religious mother.  And yet Carrie has extraordinary abilities.  Uncanny powers of the mind that will be unleashed, with all the pent up fury she can muster, when a trip to the end of year school prom leaves her the victim of another prank… carrie

Carrie is a total classic.  I watched it again for the umpteenth time and was still heart broken by Sissy Spacek’s performance as the title character.  The film manages to portray the real life awkwardness and isolation of teenage life, as well as the horror that is she creates.  Add a dose of seventies nostalgia and you’ve got one hell of a movie.

Brian de Palma condenses the narrative into an easy to follow, yet still coherent whole.  It’s shot superbly, with the school prom devastation effectively recreated on screen.  And if you like the movie, make sure you read the original Stephen King novel on which it was based!

9/10

The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)

This early seventies British movie – from Tigon, not Hammer – is a strange creation, but disturbing never the less.  Set in a rural 17th century locale, it’s somewhere between Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man, with a folk/Gothic feel. bloodosc

The plot is hard to describe, but generally encompasses the discovery in a ploughed field of a strange claw, ripe with evil.  Events lead on to a group of devil worshipping teenagers, causing murder and havoc in the countryside.  The film is disjointed and hard to follow at first, but is able to create some real feelings of dread.

The general feeling of unease builds, with a bizarre yet chilling atmosphere developing.  However there are some scenes that are quite harrowing to watch, so be warned.

Regarded as a master piece of British horror, The Blood on Satan’s Claw is worth watching if you’re a fan of this type of film (see the examples mentioned above).  Despite my misgivings about some of the nastier scenes, it’s certainly effective in creating a sense of evil in an innocent, remote place.

7/10