The Woman In Black (2012) – movie review

 

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The Woman in Black  (2012)

 

Directed by James Watkins

Starring
Daniel Radcliffe
Ciarán Hinds
Janet McTeer
Liz White

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 tThe Woman In Black posterhe 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 woman in black radcliffeblack. 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

 

My Flash Fiction at Microhorror.com

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I have a new piece of flash fiction accepted/posted at Microhorror.com

The Opaque Veil

It’s short, quiet, horror story with a Twilight Zone-esque feel and ending. And best of all it’s FREE ! If any of my reader’s were curious about my work this is a quick, easy piece to check out. If you can, leave a message in the comments. Click on the link to read:

Microhorror.com – The Opaque Veil

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Microhorror.com looks for well-written flash fiction under 666 words.

In the coming week I am going to post an article here about my approach to flash fiction writing.

Apartment 143 (2011) – Movie Review

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Apartment 143

apt 143 pic 1A paranormal investigation team sets its cameras up in the home of a single dad and his two children. In an interview with Alan (the Dad), he tells how the paranormal events started a few weeks after the passing of his wife. They moved from their house to this current LA apartment and within a few days the activities started again. It becomes clear early-on that the teenage daughter hates her father. The six-year-old son is a charming young man full of questions for the investigating team. Alan is struggling to raise his children while dealing with the paranormal events now taking place in their lives.

The activity begins with creepy atmosphere and subtle movements in the apartment. They soon escalate into violent outbursts as doors are slammed and items are moved. In one scene they hear the loud crashing of dishes in the kitchen, but when they run into the room, nothing is out of place. Through a series of interviews and investigations the team learns more about the family, hinting at several different possibilities for the situation. The lead investigator tells the dad that the teenage daughter is exhibiting signs of schizophrenia, and that is when the paranormal shit hits the fan.

There was some good acting and character development considering this was a documentary-style film. It is one of the better ones, providing creepy suspense, jump scares, paranormal action, and a tense build up to the climax. Not for everyone’s tastes but I liked it.

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Footnote:
Apartment 143 is distributed by Magnet, which has clearly become one of the premier distributors for quality, R-Rated, middle-budget, modern horror-films from around the world. They have brought us films such as: Monsters, I Saw the Devil, Troll Hunter, VHS & VHS-2, John Dies at the End, Absentia, The Shrine, etc… When I see the Magnet logo associated with a film, I will not hesitate to watch it.

Mama (2013) – movie review

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Mama (2013)

Directed by Andres Muschietti

No spoilers J

mama pic 1Mama starts with an investment banker on a suicide mission. He kidnaps his two daughters and brings them to the country, with intentions of completing the removal of himself and family from the dismal existence of bankruptcy, jail, and utter failure. When reaching their destination, my first thoughts were, oh no, it’s the cabin from Evil Dead. The older child can sense a presence in the cabin and is reluctant to enter but is reassured by her father. Something goes wrong with the father’s plan and the two young girls, Victoria and Lilly, are left to fend for themselves, or are they?

We are then introduced to the brother of the investment banker, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and his punk rocker girlfriend, Annabel. Five years have past, but Lucas has not given up the search for the two girls. By a stroke of luck the children are found. After some lawyer grappling with a surviving aunt from the mother’s side of the family, Lucas is awarded custody of his nieces. The two wild children go to live with mama pic 4Lucas and Annabel. Naturally, the presence from the cabin has come with them.

An interesting tale unfolds with a strong back-story containing its own plot twists as it is revealed through the investigation by the girl’s psychiatrist, Dr. Dreyfuss. The two young ladies play wonderfully convincing parts and I was fully engaged with their plight. The punk rocker girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain), is left with much of the duty in bringing these girls back to reality and she makes the biggest transformation in character, from non-caring punk rocker to surrogate mother of the children. However, there is another entity that claims ownership of these girls and is not going to let them be taken away so easily.

The spirit is creepy as hell – too tall, with fingers that are too long. Her long hair rises, waves, and flutters, as if by its own will. Mama is a twisted, malformed, contortionist, with a hideous face and wicked eyes, determined to keep these two children with her. The spirit’s warped sense of right and wrong makes her dangerous to all who stand in her way.

mama pic 2At its core, Mama is a classic ghost story, so some of the plot-points and outcomes are predictable. But that doesn’t make it any less creepy or enjoyable to fans of supernatural horror. In the last fifteen minutes, the story twists into a sudden overwhelming sadness, and no matter what the outcome, you will feel bad for all the parties involved. So, when leaving the theater, I was more melancholy  rather than fearful, which to some, could ruin the overall effect of the film. Muschietti shows his love for Guillermo del Toro films with this aspect, but I can’t help thinking it may have been better to leave the audience in a fearful state instead. Despite some drawbacks, I would still recommend it to fans of supernatural horror and ghost stories.
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The Scariest Ghosts in Movies – my top 10 list

The Top 10 Scariest Ghosts in Movies & film
These are my picks for the top 10 scary ghosts I’ve seen in movies and films. I’m talking about physical manifestations of ghosts, not necessarily the best ghost story or haunted house flicks.
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1) The Twins – The Shining (1980 – Stanley Kubrick)
Who knows what makes these twins so scary – they just are. They don’t really do anything, they just stand there with their creepy stares and creepy blue dresses.
  
 
Not so creepy all grow’d up!

2) Samara – The Ring (2002 – Gore Verbenas)
Another creepy little girl, but this one comes right off the screen at you.
  
  
Who is this pleasant young lady…What? No! She’s the actress that played Samara?

3) Blake and his Crew – The Fog (1980 – John Carpenter)
Damn, creeps with hooks that come in the cover of fog. It gives me the chills.
 
  

4) The Jackal – Thirteen Ghosts (2001 – Steve Beck)
If ever there was a character in a film that should get a movie made about him, The Jackal is it. What are the studios waiting for? People even get tattoos of this character!
 
   
5) Jilted Lover – The Grave Dancers (2006 – Mike Mendez)
Imagine rolling over in bed expecting your wife or lover and seeing her instead… I would have a heart failure instantly.
 
  

6) The Headless Horseman – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999 – Tim Burton)
Just the idea of a headless spirit is chilling. Add to that, he runs you down on horseback, wields a sword, and in life he was a Hessian assassin. Plus, he takes your head with him when he leaves.
 
  

7) Kane, the Preacher – Poltergeist II (1986 – Brian Gibson)
If this creepy old guy with the thick southern accent came to talk to me and it rained the whole time, just on him, I’d be outta’ there.
  
  

8) The Knights – Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972 – Amando de Ossorio)
These skeletal dead ones from castle ruins in Portugal are rumored to be The Knights of Templar. The film never explicitly states that, it just hints at it. Turned upon by the church, the knights look for new sacrifices to keep them in the here and now.
 
  

9) Dead guy – The Sentinel (1977 – Michael Winner)
After midnight a fashion model’s building turns into spook central as dead spirits wonder through her apartment. The scariest part is when this blind old guy comes stumbling through, bumping into walls and unable to find his way.
 
 

10) Drowned wife – Dream Cruise – Masters of Horror – (2007 – Norio Tsuruta)
Just when you thought you’ve seen enough J-horror woman ghosts comes the lovely Naomi, murdered wife in this MOH episode. What makes her so damn eerie are her strange movements – a rolling of the head and twisting of the body that mirrors seaweed in the waves and tides of the sea. The actress (Miho Ninagawa) must be commended for her portrayal in this film.
 
  

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Before I go on, I would like to mention that Tombs of the Blind Dead and The Fog sometimes show up on people’s Zombie lists. I believe that in both films; the entities are spirits of the dead, are conscious entities, and are only using their former bodies to affect the physical world. They are not zombies.
     

Here are more reasons why neither film is a zombie film:
*In both films the entities make conscious decisions about who to kill and why.
*In both films the entities have no need to eat the victims, nor do the victims ‘catch’ a virus that transforms them into zombies.
*In both films the entities are called upon at certain times in curse and ritual fashion, then become dormant, waiting the next ‘witching hour’.
– And finally, especially for Tombs of the Blind Dead:
*If an entity chooses to ride the horse instead of eat it, it’s not a zombie.
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Honorable mentions go to:

The Boy – the Devil’s Backbone

Burlap-sack head – The Orphanage

The Woman – The Woman in Black

The Beach Lovers – Creepshow

The Parasite – Insidious

Mary Shaw from Dead Silence

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Dead woman from Black Sabbath

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If you have any other ideas of ghosts that should be included here, let me know. I’ll add them to the Honorable Mentions list.

The Dangers of using a Ouija Board – fact or fiction – part III

 

Ouija Board – fact or fiction – part III
The Dangers of using a Ouija Board

The biggest danger posed while using the Ouija Board is using it alone. I believe the reason for this is the following: when using it with others, there is always one or two people that are skeptics and that somehow decreases the power of the entity you have contacted, or at least keeps it in check. When using the board alone you become fully trusting of the spirit. Wanting to keep the communication open, you offer yourself, your energy and your belief, totally.

Often, the entity will start out nice and cordial. It may tell you things about its life, how it died and other details that may give you some excitement. Then, it may turn in an instant, become nasty, spiteful, and even begin to use profanity in its language. This is when it has become dangerous. You can never tell for sure if some dark entity has taken over the portal and is pretending to be the first spirit you had contacted or if the dark entity had been the only spirit you had communicated with all along and had gained your trust deceitfully for the very purpose of breaking you down.

After the spirit has gained your trust, it may start to offer suggestions for dealing with your own life and situations. It will give you opinions about your loved ones. Sometimes it will tell you that your family, husband, or wife doesn’t really love you. It will make up lies, telling you your spouse is cheating on you, and your family or business partners are trying to deceive you. The entity will say you were adopted or your father was not really your father, etc, anything that will create misery, conflict, hatred, or discord. It may use vulgarity and tell you vulgar things about yourself or family. This is a demonic entity and it will literally try to destroy your life by attacking your psychological well-being.

Getting rid of a board is not always as easy as it sounds. You will be surprised at the board’s tenacity for reappearing in your home, or being replaced by another board. One time I had discarded my Ouija Board by burying it deep within a trash bag with a bunch of other trash piled on top of it. I watched as the garbage men hauled it away. Case closed, job well done. Two days later a neighbor had left a bag for us, as she often did because we had two young children, with some hand-me-down clothes and games. Within the stack of five or six games we found, you guessed it, another Ouija Board. It had been a different board but we have to assume the same entity would be communicating through it. I did not use it. I did not want to find out.

Even after you have successfully dispatched, discarded, or destroyed a board, the entity that you had communicated with may still be present in your home and in your life. You may have opened a doorway, a portal from the spirit world that will not be closed simply because you have discarded the board. Many different entities can pass in and out through this portal. This portal may be in a physical place such as a basement or backyard or it may be associated with you and follow you to new locations if you were to move or vacation. At this point you may have to seek professional help to close the doorway. It will be important to protect yourself with prayer and good spirituality.

  
Anything more than casual or occasional use of a Ouija Board will strengthen this doorway and make it more difficult to close.

The traditional Ouija Board is not the only danger associated with contacting the other side. Doing things like, spreading flour on the floor to see if there are any footprints or markings in the morning and/or using a recording device to ask spirits to come forth are both rituals of communication. Having a séance or trying your hand at remote writing can also have negative outcomes. When it comes to these daring little games always remember, it is not a game.

 

To read part I and part II of this article, click on the ‘Strange but True’ category in the right hand column.

related articles:
The Dangers of using a Ouija Board – part I
The Dangers of using a Ouija Board – part II

Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood – Algernon Blackwood – book review

Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood – Algernon Blackwood
Dover Publications
Selected and introduced by E.F. Bleiber

These collected tales by Algernon Blackwood are not all traditional ghost stories but are supernatural in a larger sense. I had been familiar with his more famous tales in this collection, The Windego and The Willows which portray elemental powers – where natural geographies possess a conscious malevolent will. In The Glamour of the Snow, we find that same elemental will as swirling flakes materialize into a beautiful maiden and lure a man further from the safety and warmth of his mountain holiday hotel. In Secret Worship, a phantom boarding school in the German Alps calls to its alumni in order to continue its secret ceremonies of dark powers.

While the British author is famous for these weird tales and expanding the field of horror to encompass more (along with his contemporaries, Lovecraft, Machen), it is the traditional ghost stories in this book that intrigue me the most. My favorite, The Listener, is a tense ghost story that builds suspense in small steps and never lets up. A writer, seeking the seclusion of a quiet boarding house, finds no sanctity as he is slowly tormented and pushed to the edge of sanity by a malicious entity. The Empty House dares a young man and his aging aunt to stay the night and see the truth, in this epitome of the haunted house tale. The story increases intensity with every paragraph. I would highly recommend both of these tales to anyone who wants to read a good ghost story, write a ghost story, or just wants a chilling yarn to keep them awake at night.

Blackwood does not feel the need to explain the supernatural happenings in his fiction. He only presents them in the stories as fact and for the reader to accept that these things exist. Noting the impact of these stories as I read them, I shudder to think what his readers felt like when these tales were first published in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I imagine that many readers fostered little sleep and kept lanterns burning through the night. Don’t be misled by my analogy, these stories are timeless and will have the same impact today, for those who dare open the pages of this book.