Ghostly Art in pulps, comics and paperbacks…
The Other Side of the Door (2016)
Sarah Wayne Callies
You have two children, one will live, the other will die…and you will have to choose. A young American couple are raising two children in India. When the mom’s car is caught in a flash flood and washed into the river, her son’s seat belt is wedged under the damaged car door. Her younger daughter is unconscious and the car’s interior is quickly filling with water. The mom, Maria, (Sarah Wayne Callies) has to make the toughest choice ever, deciding which child she will save from drowning.
Totally broken by the incident, the housekeeper informs Maria of a way that she can speak with her dead son, make peace and say she’s sorry for how the accident turned out. Maria travels by day to a remote temple in the woods where she performs a ritual. As night falls so does the divider between life and death. She doesn’t follow the rules and her son, in ghost form, returns to the house with her. There are signs that he is in the house, piano notes, toys, but there is also a wicked evil streak in him. Meanwhile death is stalking the family in order to balance the world and bring the boys soul back to the netherworld.
There are some genuinely creepy moments in this film, but as a whole it seems to languish in its own breadth. There’s an overall subdued and melancholy atmosphere that pervades. At each point that the film begins to build tension it releases it to yet another lull. I enjoyed the India mythology and folklore. It was a lot to introduce, but similar lore has been in past films. The movie just never built enough steam to keep me in a state of heightened alert. The energy level was flat until the last half hour. Despite the slow pace, the ending was very good. It’s not a terrible movie but it never reached its ultimate potential. It hovers midway between good and not-so-good.
A decent story and new mythologies are interesting but the pacing never lets the tension build.
I give it 2.5 eerie ritual resurrections out of 5 on the shadows of the netherworld scale.
The Woman in Black (2012)
Directed by James Watkins
For a Hammer film, I would expect no less than a gothic ghost-tale, taking place in a deserted mansion, in the countryside of England. Being a period piece only adds to the true Hammer experience of yesteryear. These were elements missing from the re-launched Hammer production’s previous films.
A young lawyer, Arthur Kipps, struggling to provide for his motherless son, is sent on a countryside journey to the estate property, known as the Eel Marsh House. After the passing of the last living relative, Alice Drablow, it is Mr. Kipps’ assignment to wade through the mountain of paperwork at the decrepit estate, in order for his firm to gain the rights to sell it. At the Estate, Mr. Kipps begins to hear strange noises which lead to the frequent sighting of the Woman in Black, a ghastly, dark presence that haunts the Eel Marsh House. In town, there are several deaths of children. Mr. Kipps begins to investigate a recurrence of child deaths throughout many years and their ties to the Eel Marsh House. The intriguing story unfolds in layers as the mystery is revealed.
Daniel Radcliffe plays the young lawyer, Arthur Kipps, wonderfully, sporting old-English style side-burns, causing one to wholly forget his Harry Potter persona. Ciarán Hinds plays an outstanding supporting role as the local neighbor, Sam Daily, who, years earlier, lost his own son to tragedy.
The Eel Marsh House provides a fantastic setting, almost like a character itself; it sits upon an isolated hill that becomes surrounded by water during high tide. There is a small family graveyard on the property, which adds to the creepiness of the house and exudes the perfect atmosphere for sightings of the veiled, woman in black. The inside of the mansion is suitably run-down, genuinely old, and neglected, with cob-webs, worn edges and dimly lit areas for evil to hide. The cinematography in this film was exceptional, portraying the ugly-beauty of the age tattered estate.
The Woman in Black is a classic, old-fashioned ghost story. It’s a slow-burn with a small cast and low-key feel, self contained in the sparse community surrounding the estate. This is not the full-on, ‘Poltergeist’ style ghost film. The haunting is subtle; a noise, a toy turning on for no reason, a movement seen in the mirror, and movement in your peripheral vision. It is the type of film that I have purchased on DVD for my own collection and watch it often around Halloween. If the new Hammer Films would make all of their movies in this style and not try to compete with Hollywood, I would be quite pleased.
parlor of horror – movie review
Pay the Ghost (2015)
Directed by Uli Edel
Sarah Wayne Callies
Elizabeth Jeanne le Roux
Dad, can we pay the ghost? Imagine if that were the last thing your child said to you before disappearing without a trace. Add to that fact that the young son in this film had been seeing a cloaked figure outside his bedroom window and three vultures circling the sky above the NYC skyline. It’s not often that I enjoy a film with Nicolas Cage in it, but this is a decent enough horror tale. It won’t be remembered for being all that scary, but it was entertaining and I cared for the characters by the end. It’s based on the Tim Lebbon novel of the same name, with the screenplay by Dan Kay.
Cage plays Mike Lawford, a father striving to gain tenure at a NY University and after putting in extra hours on Halloween night, he misses trick or treat with his son, Charlie. The carnival is still going on down the block, in the Greenwich Village area, so he asks his wife, Kristen, if he could take their son for a little while. He lets go of the boy’s hand for one second to pay for ice cream and the boy is gone.
Mike and Kirsten (Sarah Wayne Callies, who played Laurie in The Walking Dead) search for him. They fight and blame each other. For a whole year there are no clues or leads to follow until a few days before Halloween. Mike sees graffiti on a wall that reads, did you pay the ghost? This leads him on a trail into the unknown where myth and the darkness of old yarns converge onto the modern city back alleys. There’s some moody atmospheric visuals with the vultures and the witch’s cottage for those who like that kind of stuff (like me).
There’s also a lot of horror flick standards and cliché horror tropes thrown in for good measure. The end is the usual Hollywood faire and although not original, it was good to see the dad be the hero. The film reminds me of older style horror with some jump scares and visual effects thrown in to fill the gaps between the main parts. There’s no blood or gore to speak of and not even much death. It seems like most viewers gave this film bad reviews so watch at your own risk. It won’t win any awards for originality but it can be a fun watch if you don’t expect too much.
Blend Poltergeist, Darkness Falls, Celtic and Greek mythology tales into the subject of missing children, and you have a decent horror film with a decent story.
I give it 3.0 wicked witches out of 5 on the harrowing harbingers of hell scale.
***Top Television Horror Movies of the 1970’s***
The Stone Tape (1972)
The US weren’t the only ones producing TV horror films for network consideration. The Stone Tape was aired on the BBC in 1972. It was written by Nigel Kneale, famous for his Quatermass films combining scientific explanation and conjecture to paranormal events. He always has an intelligent concept in his scripts that is fully realized with the right filmmakers.
A research team for a company working on a new recording method for computer electronics moves into an estate turned lab, only to find that their workers will not enter one of the rooms. Only hours into opening the new lab base for RYAN Electronics, the data technician, Jill, hears a woman scream in the empty room, then footsteps run past her or perhaps thru her. They find evidence of a residual haunting and work to capture its nature while discovering the building’s ancient stone walls have some importance toward the haunting. They comes to theorize that the haunt is caused by the room itself, that the stone walls were somehow imprinted with this woman’s screams, tragedy, and image. It’s a slow burn film but interesting for those who like a bit of mystery and investigation.
The story is a mystery to be unraveled and sets up a frightening twist in the end. The effects are decent enough for an older film but most of the story is relayed through the dialogue, sound effects and character reactions. It’s probably not for everyone because the horror is cerebral; the thought of what has transpired and resulted is chilling, not the image seen on the screen. However, it’s a terrific tale of psychological terror.
One of the first films to demonstrate the possibility of a residual haunting and how the hypothesis would work.
One of the actors in the bar scene uses the word “duppies.” In Carribean Folklore, a “Duppy” is a malevolent ghost or spirit.
I’m pleased to announce that my latest short story is part of the JWK Fiction Anthology, GHOSTS: Revenge
Tales of angry ghosts, vengeful people, scary places and local haunts to chill the spine and spread fear. Over 40 stories, 330 pages of terror, today’s upcoming horror authors come together to offer their take on what it might be like to be a ghost, an angry ghost, the kind of ghost not soon forgotten.
My story is called The Obsidian Box, a tale of NY mobsters, a vengeful spirit, a dominating wife and her undisciplined son.
If you like ghost stories, want your ghostly fix, and feel the need to get your creep on…there’s plenty of horror fiction here to last you many a night.
Currently available on: Amazon Kindle
Paperback coming soon, I’ll keep you posted.
edited by James Ward Kirk
underlined names provide links to authors
Mary Genevieve Fortier
James S. Dorr
Ken L. Jones
Rie Sheridan Rose
Neal F. Litherland
Alex S. Johnson
J. C. Michael
David Schütz II
Lori R. Lopez
Tracy L. Carbone
and Michael Thomas-Knight
Cover Artwork by Stephen Cooney
Cover design John D. Stanton
Inside art illustrations: Gidion Van de Swaluw
Ghostly Shadow in Long Island Mansion – caught on video!
While touring a Long Island, NY Mansion, me and my wife took some photos and video. When we watched the video at home, we saw this strange shadow movement. The shadow seems to hover over the bed and float across it. We also heard a child’s voice that seems like it’s right in the room with us.
The Quiet Ones (2014)
I like the analytical approach toward parapsychology taken by the main character in this film. Dr. Coupland contends that all ghostly activity is the byproduct of living people with strong telekinetic powers. Paranormal activity is not from the great beyond but created in the subconscious of a person and manifested upon the physical world. He intends to prove his theory with experimentation and documentation of his prime test subject, Jane. He ‘rescued’ her from the barbaric grip of the mental healthcare industry. The doctor and a small team of students hole-up in an abandoned countryside home, away from the prying eyes of Oxford’s administrators. With scientific monitoring equipment, they will prove Dr. Coupland’s theory.
With the ‘set-up’ of the camera-man documenting the event, you may get the impression that this is a found footage film. It’s not. Director, John Pogue, limited the 1st person/camera POV to a few well-placed scenes that add to the creepiness of the film. Most of the film is portrayed in traditional style.
The film is an intellectual tug-o-war that successfully has the viewer taking sides on the professor’s theory, then flipping opinion back and forth as events escalate. This is mostly atmospheric horror following a cycle of building creepy tension then releasing it. It’s effective in that aspect. The team spend the day discussing the case but when night falls and the team members sit up alone (in shifts) watching Jane’s behavior on monitors, the atmosphere tenses up considerably. Jane speaks of a malevolent presence named ‘Evey’ and her intensions to do bad things. Coupland argues that ‘Evey’ is just a part of Jane’s subconscious and they will be able to extract that negative energy to cure Jane of her ailment.
There are some good plot twists as creepy Jane (played by Olivia Cooke) manipulates the characters with her words and turns them against each other. I wouldn’t consider this film a ‘classic’ but it’s a good watch on a quiet night, for eerie malevolent tension and some good jump scares. It’s original in concept and doesn’t contain the usual Hollywood clichés; I appreciate that. This is a Hammer film Production. Hammer have been releasing a steady stream of interesting films since their re-launch. It is loosely based on a real event known as the Philip Experiment, conducted in Toronto in 1972.
Creepy little film that was well-acted and original in concept, worth a watch.
I give it 3.9 outta’ 5, on the creepy, dark-haired, goth-girl scale of paranormal psycho-haunt films.
The Banshee Chapter (2013)
There are some good ideas and concepts stirring in this film. Military and scientific studies by the government in the 1970s concerning a drug known as MK Ultra and the threshold and capacity for fear has left a residual energy. A young reporter attempting to recreate this drug and the study, goes missing. His girl friend sets out to discover what he has uncovered and the reason for his disappearance. She watches the video tape of his drug experiment and discovers strange music and voices. Further investigation reveals this white noise is familiar to a local ham operator. It is a mysterious shortwave signal and transmission emanating from an uninhabited area of the desert. This leads her to an old drug-taking renegade, an abandoned test facility and a living test subject still entombed at the lab.
The problem is these aspects are scrambled, disconnected and never form into a cohesive story line. Every time the film begins to build momentum, it veers off in a different direction, deflating all the creepiness, tension, and atmosphere it had built. The scene in the desert with the short wave transmissions was creepy as hell. I wish they would have kept going from that point, but the girl turns her car around, goes back to civilization and has to start the momentum from scratch. The film is laced with some found footage scenes that could’ve had a unifying affect but the footage itself cuts to static so frequently, it becomes a distraction. The film had all the ingredients to make the perfect omelet. But in the end we are served nothing more than scrambled eggs with a bunch of uncooked ingredients on the side. It’s watchable and moderately enjoyable but it missed a great opportunity to be something truly frightening.
Not a total waste but failed to fulfill its potent possibilities.
I give it 2.1 blackened eyes on the scale of screaming banshee, horror-haunting conspiracies!
This is a different approach to the familiar haunted house movie. In this film of opposites, the living are haunting the dead (kind of). Young teen, Lisa finds herself stuck in a groundhog day scenario, where she wakes up every morning and the same events are repeating. The rest of her family, mom, dad, brother, have no clue, repeating the same words and taking the same actions. Something has awakened Lisa’s senses and she has now become aware. She senses another young female, with similar likes and interests and feels the need to make contact, using a Ouija Board in the attic. Eventually she feels the presence of many entities in the home each trapped in their own loop with no knowledge of the others. However, there’s an additional, much darker presence in the house that needs them to stay ‘asleep’ and unaware of each other.
Some viewers may take issue with the fact that, if they are dead, then why are they scared, and why don‘t they just run through the walls, away from the bad man. I think the film showed that there are aspects to fear, even in death, and that since they are stuck in the home, believing they are alive; they are bound by the realism they have created. This issue is going to depend on your suspension of disbelief, which I had no problem with, once I accepted the parameters.
While not really scary, it is still an interesting story with some tense moments. All the parts were well-acted and it was good to see Abigail Breslin, from the movie Signs, grown up and in another film. I kept expecting her to say, “There’s a monster in my room, can I have a glass of water?” Stephen McHattie plays the sinister spirit role quite well and I hope to see him in more films of the genre. I think there is an untapped talent in him that would excel as the horror genre, bad guy.
Worth the once through for an interesting story, entertaining discovery, and a well-paced plot.
I’ll give it 3.7 ghostly ghouls out of 5 for sinister sepulchral secrets revealed.