About Joanna K Neilson

Writer. Horror fan with a weakness for lifestyle blogs...

Quickie review: The Clown Statue

A quick summary of a spooky urban legend, in honour of the awesome Terrifier (2017).

With clowns being pretty popular at the moment (we all know why) I thought it would be fun to look at a clown-related urban legend. ▪

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Sources: “The Clown Statue”: http://www.urbanlegendsandhorror.com/…

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Movie review: Terrifier (2018)

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Nerd time: Terrifier’s title font screams 1980s exploitation. It delivers on this big time.

Movie review: Terrifier (2018)

Cast

  • Jenna Kanell as Tara
  • Samantha Scaffidi as Victoria
  • David Howard Thornton as Art the Clown
  • Catherine Corcoran as Dawn
  • Pooya Mohseni as Cat Lady
  • Matt McAllister as Mike the Exterminator
  • Katie Maguire as Monica Brown
  • Gino Cafarelli as Steve
  • Cory Duval as Coroner
  • Michael Leavy as Will the Exterminator
  • Director: Damien Leone

No spoilers

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Well hellooo there. Everyone, meet Art the Clown. He’s nucking futs.

It’s a dark and dirty Halloween night. On TV a talk show hostess interviews a horribly mutilated girl. Two other girls are out on the streets, dressed in super-slutty costumes for the night, and now walking home in the dark. They drop into a friendly pizzeria to commiserate over their evening. But they’ve caught the attention of a terrifying clown carrying a highly suspicious black rubbish sack, and now those two girls are in his sights. I don’t think he’s playing, ladies. Oh yes, something very, very bad is going to happen this evening…and trust us, this clown makes Michael Myers look like My Little Pony.

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Just a perfectly safe walk home on Halloween. Right?

When ‘Art’ the clown begins the hunt it’s not long before there’s blood and body parts all over the place. As our heroines try to escape, his kills get very twisted and extremely nasty. Art is a memorable horror villain, able to make you squirm and laugh and scream simultaneously. He treats everything as a joke, but the joke’s deadly serious. Once he sets his sights on you, you’d best run for it and pray for morning. This is actually really good, with some real tension and engaging characters who are mostly quite sympathetic. I honestly cared what happened to them, despite some paper-thin writing. The film even has the sense to give the background characters some halfway-decent dialogue, which makes them feel a little more alive before they’re added to the body-count. But don’t get too attached to anyone, as you can always trust Art to do the worst thing. And oh man, it gets pretty fucking bad…

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Eep.

Terrifier is a short, nasty trip into horror; a bloody, gleeful return to those graphically violent, gonna-get-you-for-no-reason exploitation films from the 1970s and ’80s. This throwback knows its roots and thank goodness, the special effects have come a long way. So be warned. It gets unapologetically gross, and even upsetting to anyone who has a shred of empathy left – even after too many horror films, but the horror genre excels at pushing boundaries. It should sometimes be just about using amazing special effects work to generate a disgusted ‘what did I just see?’ reaction from the bloody-thirsty horror-fan audiences. It’s so over the top it’s kind of…funny? Or is that just this Eyeball’s view? It’s all about perspective, guys.

So watch Terrifier for a front row seat to full-on Grand Guignol, if that’s your thing, because Terrifier knows exactly who it’s aiming this at. Namely, those with strong stomachs. But if you don’t have a strong stomach, then you’d better run for the exits before Art the Clown locks you in with him for the night, and hide before he gets out his rusty, blood-spattered saw…

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You can run, but can you hide?

Spoilers (including for Bone Tomahawk)

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Quickie Review: The Folk Horror Revival

Documentary on Folk Horror and Kill list etc

To tie in with this week’s review of the Wicker Man, this interesting documentary discusses the current resurgence of folk horror in films. These capture the inherent eeriness of the British countryside, exploring our unease about what evil resides in the woods and villages…and if our worst enemies might be the people we live next to.

Folk Horror has evolved over the years, from The Wicker Man in 1973 to Kill List in 2012, but why are we afraid of Folk? What is Folk Horror all about? Inspired by the Folk Horror season at the Barbican (London) this year, I intended to make a quick video looking at Folk Horror but it ended up taking quite some time. It went from being an overview, to being much more about Kill List specifically, but I hope it’s not too much of a mess as a result. It’s my longest video yet, and I was still cutting things out by the editing process! Thanks for watching, I hope you enjoyed this video essay! If you have any thoughts on the ideas in this video, or just your interpretation of the film in general, please leave them down in the comments. 🙂

With references to Blood on Satan’s Claw, Kill List and the Wicker Man of course, this is a very useful overview of films and TV shows that provide that same sense of rural terror.

Movie review: The Wicker Man (1973)

Film review: The Wicker Man (1973)

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Note – this is a review of the 84 minute cut – for more information on all the many versions of this film, please check the Wikipedia entry, but of course beware of spoilers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wicker_Man

Cast

  • Edward Woodward as Sgt. Neil Howie
  • Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle
  • Britt Ekland as Willow MacGregor
  • Annie Ross as Willow MacGregor (voice)
  • Rachel Verney as Willow MacGregor (singing voice)
  • Diane Cilento as Miss Rose
  • Ingrid Pitt as Librarian
  • Lindsay Kemp as Alder MacGregor (the landlord)
  • Russell Waters as Harbour Master

No Spoilers

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The fine and upstanding Sgt Neil Howie (Edward Woodward)

Scotland, 1973. A little girl goes missing, and Sgt Neil Howie, a strictly religious man with a devout belief in the teachings of Jesus, is sent to find her. His search takes him to the idyllic Summer Isle, but the investigation soon becomes very fraught, as he learns that the islanders have long ago rejected the church and have instead reverted to a Pagan lifestyle and ancient superstitions. However, everyone on Summer Isle is incredibly happy, and it does seem like paradise compared to the uptight policeman’s idea of the good life. But it rapidly becomes clear that they’ve had a bad harvest, and the possible fate of the little girl becomes increasingly sinister. However, the real secret hidden on the island is worse than he can possibly have guessed…

For the few that haven’t already heard this or seen The Wicker Man, this non-spoiler section of the review is for you. Try not to learn too much. If you haven’t seen it yet, find a copy as soon as you can. Don’t even look up what the title means. Watch it as soon as humanly possible. Be prepared for joyful nudity, eerie folk songs, leery pub-goers and terrifying pagan rites. This is a very beautiful film, showcasing the sunny Scottish countryside in all its glory (although they filmed in October and November, brrrr), and the print available on NowTV seems to be far better than the version I videoed off the TV in the late 1990s.

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So much more naked flame-jumping than I remember…

Given how much happens in beautiful, hi-def daylight, it’s still an incredibly eerie film. Poor Sergeant Howie has no idea what he’s let himself in for, as he self-righteously dismisses the islanders’ beliefs, and cringes at their open displays of nude dancing, shagging in the graveyards, and teaching the school children about the true meaning of the Maypole. To be fair, a lot of the prancing nudes are almost certainly lot prettier than the cast who keep their clothes on. Very odd, that. Anyway, fan service aside, there’s plenty of cunningly rendered. tension between Howie’s rigid religious fervour and the laid-back but troublingly fanatical pagans. The folk songs are a lot bawdier than the sweet melodies might suggest, too. Although send these islanders to Ibiza, or any town centre on a weekend night, and see if the hedonism still shocks them then. If anything, the Wicker man predicted what much of the UK would ultimately turn into…only with much gentler music.

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Who’s the real fool?

As a slice of disarmingly gentle horror with a savage bite, I can’t recommend this film highly enough. Another one that rewards patience, I sympathised fully with Howie’s priggish struggles, whilst wishing he would let himself go, just a bit.

But then, in the name of duty, some sacrifices do have to be made…

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Can you say…really frickin’ OMINOUS?

Spoilers – including a couple for Shutter Island

OK, everyone here already seen it? Good. Because even when you know what’s about to happen, this film’s payoff is a doozy. The dread leading up to the reveal is luscious. I think it works even if you know what’s coming, because you end up trying to figure out the extent to which the villagers are messing with him, and how their plot somehow comes together to entrap him for their purposes. Much like SPOILER Shutter Island, the whole island has conspired to trap their unwitting visitor within a narrative woven especially to suit him, and while Howie actually IS who he says he is, there’s the same level of deceit and a tragic ending going in this community, which he can never hope to escape from.

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Poor, poor Howie – and all the animals, too. Hope it was worth it you pagan-crazies…

Have to wonder, though. Will the villagers actually get away with it? There is a police-issued sea-plane parked right outside their island. Surely someone is going to miss that, if not poor Officer Howie, at some point? Or is he really that unpopular at work? And in some cuts, he apparently has a fiance. Hopefully she’ll raise some questions, right?

I also love that the success of the sacrifice called into doubt, we never know if it even worked (correlation is not causation, folks). Also if the islanders weren’t already thinking of sacrificing Lord Summerisle should the crops fail again, they’re definitely all thinking about it, now…and that’s something, I suppose, for poor Howie – and the viewer – to hold onto as the flames lick higher.

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Well she can’t jump the flames in that flimsy thing, she’d go up faster than the Wicker Man…

The good

  • The ending. Dear God no! Oh Jeezuz-Chriiiist!
  • Also the line by Lord Summerisle “Come, it is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man’. It looms on the cliff top. Oh shit. Chills.
  • Looks gorgeous. Especially the sunrise at the end.
  • The cast of creepy villagers are unnervingly natural in their roles, and they’re having a damn good time playing depraved (and frequently naked) pagans.
  • The folk music is actually pretty good – did it all sound this creepy before the WIcker Man came out, too? Impossible to think of it otherwise, now.
  • Edward Woodward is amazing. His reactions of terror and outrage, including his despair, and earlier on his repressed lust and self-righteous fury. Christopher Lee is also in his element as the deluded Lord of Summer Isle.
  • Inspired such folk horror gems as Kill List and Blood on Satan’s Claw. Even gets shown on the TV during Danny Boyle’s wonderful Shallow Grave (1994).

The bad

  • Britt Eklund’s dubbing is a little…odd.
  • Christopher Lee’s hair…kind of…and those bright yellow pullovers.
  • The creepy folk singing, there’s just slightly too much of it, for my personal preference anyway. Same reason I’m forever grateful they cut Tom Bombadil from the movies of the Lord of the RIngs…but here it definitely serves a purpose.
  • Those animals, too, though we are assured by the director that they didn’t actually set any of them on fire either, and Edward Woodward ws perfectly fine, too (apart from the worried goat peeing on him at one point).
  • The 2006 remake. So bad it’s good? Nope.
  • Makes pagans seem more unhinged than they are, although I feel it gives all the superstitious beliefs a pretty good kicking.
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Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle. His outfits throughout this film are rather stunning.

Quickie review: Satanic panic

To provide some context for the spirit of the times that House of the Devil was set in, here’s a discussion about Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) from a reliable source – the New York Times

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A 1980s newsreader discusses the outcry over the ‘evil influence’ of kids role-playing D&D in their parents’ garage…

Moral panics are a recurring theme, and have since moved onto computers games and music videos, and then back again to videogames…kind of. But The outrage over Dungeons and Dragons promoting devil worship is a kind of perfect storm of Satanic Panic and ‘moral majority’ paranoia that seemed so rife in the 1980s.

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Some kids undergoing instruction from their Dungeon master…

Movie review: House of the Devil (2009)

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Cast

  • Jocelin Donahue as Samantha Hughes
  • Tom Noonan as Mr. Ulman
  • Mary Woronov as Mrs. Ulman
  • Greta Gerwig as Megan
  • A. J. Bowen as Victor Ulman
  • Dee Wallace as Landlady
  • Lena Dunham as 911 Operator
  • Director: Ti West
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Samantha deals with her troubles by listening to some kickin’ 1980s rock on her personal Walkman.

No spoilers

Samantha desperately needs to get out of her college halls and away from her gross roommate. When the possibility of that is dangled right in front of her thanks to a kindly Landlady (Dee Wallace), she just needs to make a little more money for the deposit and she’s good to go. When she spots an advert for a well-paid babysitting job, it seems like a golden opportunity. But of course, it’s far too good to be true. Or safe…and what’s with the pizza delivery guy? Will she realise the real plan before it’s all too late? Is it really based on true events?

Well, not really. But it is a great movie. Scary yet demure, House of the Devil is a lot more than a typical slasher. The source of its horror comes from the paranoia of the ‘Satanic panic’ of the 1980s, rather than the typical crazed maniac with a knife. Something is definitely stalking Samantha in the vast house with its ominous locked rooms, and it’s probably connected to the moon eclipse that no one will shut up about – but while the reveal isn’t entirely a surprise, the tension is ratcheted up til it screams. In fact, Ti West directs this simple but deadly story with a masterful level of restraint, and a sneaky sense of humour, letting Jocelin Donahue do the heavy lifting in this skeleton crew of a cast. It’s a masterclass in low-key, hugely atmospheric horror that’s perfect for darkening nights in October.

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We get lots of eerie, voyeuristic views of Samantha as she explores this creepy huge house in the middle of nowhere.

With its chilly Autumnal vibe and spot-on music, House of the Devil provides a healthy slice of nostalgic horror for anyone who really enjoys the odd 1980s guilty pleasure. Delivering several of the best ‘oh crap’ moments I think I’ve ever seen in film, with an efficiently brief run time, this is a certified Halloween classic.

And just remember folks, if a job ever seems too good to be true, then it very probably is

Huge Spoilers

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Quickie Review: Visions (2013) short film

Visions by Seraph Films LLC (2013)

Cast:

  • Molly Jackson, Nicholas Jaqua, Leslie McKeller, Jon J. Peterson, and Liv Southard.
  • The film was written by Gene Blalock, the company’s founder and the film’s director, Andria Chamberlin
  • Director of Photography, and writer/producer James Boring.

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Poor Debbie is trapped in her own body, apparently held prisoner by a demon. Her parents are getting desperate at the end of an exorcism. The priest is unimpressed, claiming that drugs are not the answer and that she needs ‘godly counsel’.

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But there’s something about the doctor that’s just a little bit…sinister. Perhaps it isn’t the priest who looks like a demon we should be worrying about. Is there something worse than the devil going on? And is Pop Goes the Weasel ever not scary?

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A little slower and not such a bamn! Payoff! kind of film, have a wallow in its atmosphere and admire how they cast two very creepy authority figures.

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