Day 07: From The 1980’s
The 80’s saw a huge surge of horror with mainstream taking the genre on board like never before, the birth of icons Freddy Freuger and Jason Voorhees were at the forefront. The genre may have hit some big peaks with slashers, horror was more than about the slice and dice in the decade with some truly inspired cinema being made. A unique artist that delivered incredible works through their career was making waves in the 80’s with thought provoking and mind mending films was Ken Russell. His name has come up before with 31 Days Of Horror (Altered States (1980)) and it will again as the month continues, made films where each one was as different as the next and tapped into themes of the human condition.
With Gothic (1986) being a fictional tale based on an actual event, the unsettling script becomes a waking nightmare as the characters come to terms with their own inner demons. Telling a story taking place in 1816, Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne) has guests over to estate including his friend Dr. John Polidori (Timothy Spall), Mary Godwin (Natasha Richardson), her step sister Claire Clairmont (Myriam Cyr) and her partner Percy Shelley. During this visit Mary Godwin who would later become Mary Shelley would be inspired to write Frankenstein and John Polidori would write The Vampyre. The weekend visit is at first fun and bright but quickly descends night darkness and terror as they are all haunted by their inner most thoughts and fears.
Fictional retelling of historical events can make for riveting viewing, in this case it really is as this fictional account tries to explain how Mary and John perhaps were inspired to write such iconic and master works. Psychological horror can be difficult to create successfully and Gothic is an example of where it works well and adds in enthralling visuals that both stunning and sickening to watch. There are some truly horrific scenes that some how manage to look beautiful at the same time, it is a rare feat that Russell manages to pull off. The performances from all the actors are excellent, there is a strange madness in all of them and they each brought something different to the table. Ultimately the film suffers a little with some pacing that doesn’t quite feel right and there are some parts that can be over the top in the wrong way. Overall Gothic is a different sort of horror film, very dark with its visuals and representations and can be quite confronting. It is a difficult film to recommend, however it is one I would suggest for those who haven’t seen much or any of Ken Russell’s work and it is a very memorable one.
Day 08: From The 1990’s
The Fear (1995)
The horror films of the 90’s are truly a mixed bag, the era of direct to video had truly begun and horror felt a lot less main stream until Scream (1996) came along and changed the game. The early to mid 90’s horror films are quite bizarre ranging from the truly marvelous like Candyman (1992), gory and fun like Return Of The Living Dead Part III (1993) and silly goofy efforts with scary box art like Dr. Giggles (1992). The Fear (1995) much like with Dr. Giggles had that scary and eye catching box art and just looking at it when visiting the Video Store would actually send shivers down my spine. I didn’t know what the film was about back then and honestly hadn’t really thought about it until it popped up on TubiTV and decided this would be the perfect one to finally see for today’s prompt.
The film is about a group of college students who are participant’s in a ‘fear therapy’ weekend for the thesis of Psychology student Richard (Eddie Bowz), who holds the getaway at his old family house. The students are joined by a few others, including Richard’s Uncle Peter (Vince Edwards) and his girlfriend Tanya (Anna Karin), which at first starts out well but an old wooden mannequin called ‘Morty’ unexpectedly shows up and it seems his influence starts to incite the groups most deepest fears and the real horror unfolds. A fun retreat soon turns into madness and terror as unexplained events happen, ‘Morty’ appears in random places and hidden truths about the group come to light. On paper The Fear has a solid premise, a psychological horror that involves childhood trauma, repression, abuse and much like The House That Screamed (1969) an Oedipus complex.
There are layers of interesting idea’s with the wooden mannequin being unsettling and mysterious, making for something rather unique as the object of terror. It does however fall a bit flat with extremely unlikable characters, too much conflict to actually follow as each of the characters have secrets and reveals that go on for far too long and ultimately don’t achieve much. The cast actually do a decent job with their roles, given the weak dialogue they had to work with, some scenes are actually handled well whilst others are almost unintentionally comedic. Anna Karin was perhaps the best amongst the cast with her portrayal of Tanya, one of the only characters that isn’t overly unlikable. There are some decent scares, the wooden doll mostly looks very creepy (there are some moments it looks like a rubber suit) and intimidating when still and in weird poses. The film has a very mid 90’s feel, a product of that time and maybe if it had more work on the script and a slightly bigger budget it may have been a better film. Look out for Wes Craven in two scenes of the film and if you do enjoy this side of 90’s horror, The Fear is worth checking out for something a little different from that era.
Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea