This paper was written for University of Houston’s graduate class, Web 2.0, with Dr. Arthur Santana in the spring of 2015. Click on the link below to read the paper in its entirety. Thanks for reading!
Today’s the day. VHS: Viral (which is basically VHS 3) comes out tonight!
The first two gave found footage a reason to continue its existence, in my opinion. Though many people compare them to ABCs of Death, I find the VHS series to be much, much better than that. (I hate ABCs of Death with a passion because it was HORRIBLE. Such great potential thrown away on fart jokes and furries.)
Anyway, if you haven’t seen the trailer, here it is below for your watching pleasure:
I’m gonna try to catch this movie tonight, so hopefully I’ll have some time to pop back in and write a review!
And I Fell In Love Instantly: I was browsing the DVD section at Walmart the other day when I noticed this film. I picked it up and noticed two things – 1) It was created by Blumhouse. 2) It was also a collaboration with the people who made The Strangers. The Strangers is my favorite horror film. Naturally, I was interested, but I waited for it to be released on Netflix. I eagerly turned on the movie and got settled.
Background: Okay, so the basic premise of the movie is that there are several different people who experience the same thing. They receive a video camera in a big red box tied up with a white bow on their doorstep. Naturally, they are excited about the expensive gift and begin recording. Here’s the catch: if you stop recording, you die. Or at least that’s what they are eventually told through a video tape that mysteriously appears at their doorstep. The victims are tormented, the phone lines are cut, blah blah blah. Eventually, the mystery has to be solved and the victims are given instructions on where to go and what to do next.
Characters: One character, instead of being tormented, is given makeup and a clown suit. He then has to perform tasks (almost like a scavenger hunt) in order to supposedly win a monetary prize. He does so happily. His situation at home is that he owes his mother money and so must live with her. From her interactions with him, it becomes clear that she is a horrible mother. The actor really portrays the son realistically, so kudos to him.
The family is cute, but really not that special. The woman seemed nice, but all I knew was that she lived in the guest house on someone’s else’s property. I didn’t get to know them like I did the clown guy. That was my issue with the film – the characters’ stories were touched upon, but not really elaborated. The only character I felt strongly for was the clown. The others were basically strangers to me, so I didn’t have a strong connection to them. That was a major weak point of the film for me.
Favorite Scene: The balloon scene near the end. It was a very unique visual, and I really enjoyed the red tint it threw on everything in the setting.
The Ending: This was the reason I was disappointed with Mockingbird. The ending was horrible; it didn’t work and it felt extremely sloppy, like it was thrown together at the last minute, like Lost. It didn’t make any sense. It was not explained. There were no questions answered. It almost felt like a practice exercise for Sinister, except without the well-crafted storytelling. There was all this build-up, and then… nothing. It’s fine to leave some questions unanswered, but this isn’t The Strangers; we needed an explanation. Anyone can craft some messed up scenario and throw an ending on it like this one. It was as if the director was saying, “OHHH! LOOK AT THIS TWIST! OOH SO SCARY! BE IMPRESSED!” As if the impact of the twist alone would be a good end to a movie. Wrong. Excuse me, but yes, it does need to make sense – in this case, at least. I was so excited to figure out what was going on and that’s what kept me so interested in this movie. The ending was a complete letdown.
The Good: Character development of the clown guy, great build-up, kept my interest, the balloon scene
The Bad: Not enough character development for a character-centric film, horrible/sloppy/too easy ending, too many unanswered questions
Rating: 2 out of 5 – The film had great potential, but the ending destroyed it.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been afraid of the dark. I don’t know at what exact moment that fear began, but I remember it always being there. Usually, I’d call my dad into the room to sleep in there with me, and that would make me feel safe enough to fall asleep. Or I’d hide under the covers, give myself a pep talk and bolt down the stairs to my parents’ room.
As I got older, this fear remained, but not as often. I remember, in my high school years, listening to my clock radio as I fell asleep. For some reason, this one song would always be played at night after 11 p.m. The lyrics said, “Don’t close your eyes. Don’t close your eyes.” Freaky, right? I would force my eyes open until the song ended and faded from my mind.
I loved the excitement potential inherent in horror movies, but hated the after-effects. I would tend to invite friends to sleepover on horror movie nights, or at least follow the movie with a comedy. My best friend, Amy, and I would often get so creeped out that one of us would hide behind the shower curtain while the other person went to bathroom, just so we wouldn’t have to be alone. Looking back, I find that hilarious and pretty cute.
Now, I’m a horror buff. I gobble up anything horror-esque and have seen so many films from the genre that Netflix is running out of suggestions for me. It’s gotten easier to sleep at night, probably due to the fact that aging, maturity, and rationalization skills go sort of hand in hand.
But every once in a while, I’ll watch something that just makes me feel uneasy, and it’ll be hard to sleep.
It’s just a dark room. Why be afraid?
Well, there are several reasons:
1- Deeply personal. I do have PTSD due to a past abusive relationship and experience anxiety and nightmares because of those experiences.
2- Psychology – check out this link for more information.
3- The unknown.
I recently viewed a TED talk on this topic, and found that this comment by someone named Brad Friend summed it up quite nicely:
“Darkness is the second greatest fear of any person who has ever experienced light. It’s not the darkness we fear but what it represents. Darkness is the physical manifestation of the unknown, and of ignorance of danger. It is not the darkness, but what lies inside it. And when we can’t see what is there, we are hardwired to imagine whatever frightens us individually the most. This is why the scariest part of a horror movie is before we see the monster, when we are imagining all the terrible things it could be. Its why, since landing on the moon, we’ve made so little headway in the exploration and colonization of space. Space is the single greatest form of darkness, of the unknown, the very thing we’ve known to fear our entire lives. And it seems reckless, even suicidal, to step boldly into that frontier, without first examining, experimenting, and pushing back as much of the unknown as possible first.”
As Brad mentioned above, this phenomenon is exploited in almost every horror movie. I must be honest – it works.
Because truly, I’m not afraid of the dark, but rather what might be in it. Not really because I’m scared of what I’ll find, but because I’m scared it will find me first.
I’m going to start with the obvious: Why did they change the doll? Yes; this is based on a true story, which you can read about here. You can see the ACTUAL doll below:
How different are these dolls? EXTREMELY. I see intense commercialization here, and I’m not happy about it. Yeah, the doll they chose is really creepy looking, but, at least for me, I think that keeping the doll as it actually looked would have a more profound impact on viewers.
At first glance, the doll (which is the once-popular Raggedy Ann doll) is just cute. And that’s why it works! Here’s why: At first glance of the other doll, you’re already freaked out. This one looks completely innocent; that’s why it’s so powerful. For those that scoff, it’s true; the unexpected can be terrifying. Don’t we always whine about the predictability of horror movies? Don’t judge a book by its cover.
The aforementioned phenomenon has been used in the past, specifically in The Shining. Kids are creepy, let’s just admit it.
Anyway, the fact that the doll was different made the movie lose a few points. It was a nice horror flick, though. There were some great moments. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will just point them out in a vague way.
1- The coloring pages: See? Kids are terrifying. Case in point.
2- The elevator/stairway scene: The pure panic and terror in the elevator scene combined with the horror in the stairway scene was just PERFECT. Kudos.
3- The truck scene: We all saw it coming, but the little gasp that came out when you know what happened was spectacular. It was a big surprise that pretty much flustered everyone in the audience.
It was interesting to see a husband that actually believed the wife this time; that doesn’t happen a lot. There’s always a doubter that eventually has to get slapped in the face to realize the truth. He was a supportive husband. It was nice.
I also enjoyed how they started with the ending. It was a great setup for a sequel.
All in all, a great little horror flick. By no means would this film ever triumph over the incredibly successful Chucky series, but it’s got its place in the horror realm. It topped the box office right along with Gone Girl.
Overall, I give this movie 4 out of 5 hearts.
The Good: Some really awesome moments that are very well crafted. Great actors. Good atmosphere.
The Bad: They changed the doll. A bit too short.
Gore Rating: Low. Some violence and blood, but nothing Saw-esque.
I myself love found footage. I think it adds a personal element to horror. Rather than using CGI, film makers are challenged to keep it as real as possible. That low-budget feel brings the genre down to earth and makes it scarier for the viewer; the person holding the camera could be them.
To read the article by Ken W. Hanley, click on the title of this post. It’s a good read.
Planet Terror actress Rose McGowan stars as Dr. Sonny Blake, a successful radio show host who moves back to her hometown after the death of her alcoholic father. She moves in to his old house, saying that it had been on the market, but “an elephant would be easier to sell these days.”
Her neighbor, Mr. Crumb, advises her to avoid Cam, the paperboy with creepy black eyes, who she soon discovers is quite a nuisance.
After a strange phone call at the station, Blake returns home to find that some of her things have been moved. Panicked, she calls her boyfriend (Barrett, played by Sonny Marinelli) to come over and insists it must have been Cam. Skeptical of her theory, Barrett waves it off as stress from the move.
Blake’s theory, however, is soon confirmed as she discovers Cam in her basement soon after. The kid is pushy and she has no clue how he got in. She ends up chasing him down the street with a baseball bat, along with several neighborhood dogs.
After discussing her situation with the cops, she learns that the paperboy’s real name is Derek Barber, a kid with a medical condition known as aniridia. This disorder is characterized by a colorless iris; the iris hue never develops and remains black like the pupil.
As time goes on, Blake’s encounters with the paperboy become more and more horrifying. He becomes even more dangerous and lands Barrett in the hospital with a concussion and a leg cast.
The paperboy is quite elusive. And just when you think they’ve got him, he strikes again somewhere else.
Derek was a character I loved to hate. His sociopathic tendencies were quite obvious to me and though the aniridia was not necessary, it did add that element of “the unknown” at least in a way; the neighborhood residents didn’t understand the condition and assumed his eyes were black because he was not human. It added to the mystery.
There were times when I was screaming at the screen, frustrated with Blake’s confusion and lack of movement. I don’t think she was stupid by any means, but there were certain moments she did not take advantage of.
This film’s ending left me feeling just like the other characters: confused, afraid, and angry. Barely any questions were answered, although perhaps it was better that way.
I give this film 4 out of 5 hearts.
The Good: Great characters. Fabulous interweaving with small details and background information. Loved to hate the paperboy.
The Bad: Too many unanswered questions. Left it very open-ended.
Gore Rating: Low. Dead bodies, blood, and some violence.
Lights Out Challenge: I watched the entire thing with the lights off, but I can’t deny the fact that the paperboy gave me the creeps.
Here’s some more reviews from IMDB that you might find helpful: click here to read the reviews.
Good ol’ Wes Craven has done it again. His name lit up when it hit the screen. I knew I was in for a good time. Supposedly a cult classic, The People Under the Stairs is a dead-on 80s horror flick complete with mystery, a time-appropriate soundtrack, and just the right dose of humorous absurdity.
The plot follows a young African American boy named Fool on the day of his thirteenth birthday. His family is having some troubles (cancer, money issues, eviction and possible homelessness) and two men (Leroy and Spenser) suggest he learn how to burgle homes in order to keep his family afloat.
Fool reluctantly agrees. Leroy takes him to the house of his family’s evil rich landlords, who are the reason his family is unable to afford rent. During the burglary, Fool becomes trapped inside the house and discovers the dark secret the family keeps hidden in their cellar – the people under the stairs.
I won’t give it all away, but I will tell you that the moment I queried out loud what their purpose was, it was answered. This movie is not slow. It gives answers in all the right places and leaves just enough mystery to keep you wanting more.
McGill and Robie are grade A psychopaths. They played their parts quite well. It was clear that Robie was definitely the one in charge. Their nicknames – Daddy and Mommy – were sickeningly creepy. They were clearly mad. McGill’s facial expressions just rammed in that notion and really made the character fun to watch.
The entire film was quite demented and I think that is the key to its success – not the scariness of the movie, but the idea of what the antagonists are doing. The humor makes it easier to swallow (I really don’t think this movie would have worked as a drama), and the antagonists are quite wacky with their dark-humored slapstick and crazy outbursts.
The feel-good ending was fabulous and not exactly what I expected. Though you would think the neighbors would have done this a long time ago, it felt like the right time. They had had enough. It was the last straw.
The sociopolitical undertones were present, but not pushed over the edge. Craven utilized it to tell the story, not to make a political point. It was effective and I felt it was necessary. More so, it established the idea that economic class and status does not a good person make. Success does not equate to goodness, as made evident by McGill and Robie’s characters. The true monsters might not be who you think; everyone has secrets.
Overall, it was a fun flick sprinkled with dark slapstick comedy that left me feeling great at the end, but it wasn’t Craven’s best.
I give this film 3 out of 5 hearts.
The Good: Fun. Great characters. Good pacing.
The Bad: The gore was excessive. It felt like it didn’t fit.
Gore Rating: Medium. Body parts, blood, and weapon violence.
DISCLAIMER: Some adult language (F word) and gore. Viewer discretion encouraged.
Lights Out Challenge: I watched the entire thing with the lights off. Not very scary. More shocking than terrifying.
Here’s some more reviews from IMDB that you might find helpful: click here to read the reviews.
Here is a NY Times review of the film by Vincent Canby: click here to read the review.
I’m a big horror fan, so naturally I was ecstatic to find the entries for the Who’s There Film Challenge 2013 on YouTube. The challenge requires entrants to create short films, specifically in the horror genre. Though this one did not win first place (it only won Best Director, which I really cannot disagree with), it scared me so bad that I was unable to sleep with the lights off for a week! Sanders, in my opinion, truly masters the concept of fear and the power of the unknown to to inflict such fear with this short.
Read my review and watch the short! Let me know what you think in the comments section. You can open the article by clicking on the title of this post.
Thanks for reading and thanks for all of your support!
I had NO IDEA that we were looking at the girls from the stalker’s POV until he spoke. That was fabulous. I want some questions answered. Who is this guy? Why is he following Judy? Does she know him and if so, how? It’s obvious that she is freaked out by his car following her… but I can’t tell if she knows who the guy is.
“Don’t scream. You’re so beautiful.” And then he cuts off (literally) her scream shortly after it begins. The fact that he stroked her face was so chilling and reminded me of a Browning poem I read in college called Porphyria’s Lover (go read it – you won’t regret it).
I love how we haven’t even seen the guy’s face yet. It’s all shown from his POV, which is fantastic and really enforces just how messed up he is. We couldn’t imagine ourselves in his shoes yet here we are, often sympathizing with him. Not with his actions, mind you, but with his circumstances. The audience is left cringing at every move, knowing that what’s to come isn’t going to be good.
Being a victim of a violent crime (abusive relationship), I’m no stranger to the art of manipulation. Watching the killer type messages to RedLucie86 makes me cringe, because there are so many red flags in his messages – first of all, no picture. Secondly, the way he says, “I think you might be too daring for me.” He manipulates her into wanting to see him even more. So basically he turns it around and tries to get HER to convince HIM to meet her – AKA if asked, it will be her fault and on her insistence that they met. Clever, eh?
- “You know, it was really sweet of you to drive me home.” “I’m happy to do it.” OHHHHHHH, I BET YOU ARE.
- Sidenote: He doesn’t say much.
- Jesus. That choking scene came on quick. It was like it was suddenly nothing for him. I loved how I could only hear how her breathing changed at first. It was subtle, but noticeable.
- Zoom-in on the red spots on her neck where his hands were – that was perfect.
- The fact that he puked right after scalping her was interesting. I wonder how many times he has killed before…
- Back of the van scene: THAT. WAS. AWESOME. No spoilers from me – you’ll have to watch it yourself – but it made me grin.
- 1:19:07 elicited a loud YEAH from me and immediately after, a loud OH SHIT.
I enjoyed this film. I’d say 4 out of 5 hearts. It had everything I want from a horror movie: mystery, a psychopath, gore, lots of idiots, and one smart character. What made it unique was its first person POV, which I love and only is deviated from twice, and the line of work Frank was in. I’ve never seen a horror movie with mannequins as the main focal point (other than one of the monsters from Silent Hill), so it was fresh. It was Jack the ripper-esque for sure, but he was different enough to keep me interested. It was more than a kill – in fact these weren’t even kills to him; I’m not even quite sure what to call them. Though he would probably refer to them as restorations – he wanted to “keep” them. Back on track, the movie was a bit slow at points, but there was nothing really that felt out of place to me. The ending was a bit of a stretch, but it worked. I can’t hate zombie mannequins. I really can’t. So, to sum it all up, I give this movie 4 hearts out of 5, due to the low sound quality and the often slow nature of the movie. Otherwise, it was entertaining and shockingly intriguing and I suggest that you watch it!
The Good: Elijah Wood’s creepy performance, first person POV, the ending
The Bad: Horrible sound quality, sometimes slow
Gore Rating: Heavy. Lots of blood and guts. Not for weak stomachs.
DISCLAIMER: Some nudity, several sex scenes.