Raven is back with another devilish helping of horror for Halloween week!
This time she’s serving up The Conjuring, Dead Silence, Awakening, and more!
It’s a Fiendish good time… Sorry, bad halloween pun, but it sort of had to be done… Yes? No? Hmmmmm….
Check out the next installment of 31 horror movies for Halloween below!
26. The Awakening
Title Does Not Compute
I’ve been wanting to see The Awakening since trailers for it first hit the screen. I have no idea why it took me almost two years to actually sit down and watch it, but, hey, that’s what the 31 Days of Horror challenge is all about, right? Taking the time to watch the horror movies you may have overlooked.
The Awakening is set in 1921 England and following Florence Cathcart as she debunks supernatural occurrences. The film starts off with Florence at a seance that she then reveals is an elaborate ruse to separate grieving loved ones from their money as they try to contact the dead. Shortly thereafter she is contacted by Robert Mallory, a professor at a boarding school that is seemingly haunted. After a little reluctance, Cathcart accepts the job and prepares to unravel the non-supernatural origins of the school’s haunting. Soon enough, she reveals the cause of the most recent boy’s death and the majority of the staff and students leave for school break. Unfortunately for Florence Cathcart’s sanity, that’s when the real hauntings begin. So as not to spoil, the film wraps with a nice twist and an almost ambiguous ending that fits in well with the overall tone of the film.
I really enjoyed this film. Everything from the setting, to the real-world misdirects, to the shooting style was well put together. The twist was also subtly-enough built to that no one saw it coming, yet it still made perfect sense in context. The Awakening was shot on location in Manderston House in Manderston, Scotland. The house lent itself very well to the 20s time period as well as to the creepy atmosphere of this film. While this is certainly not a haunted house movie where the house, itself, is a character, it certainly is a major presence in the scenes. It also had one of my absolute favorite haunted house plot devices: a to-scale replica of itself that depicts actions around the house accurately enough to freak out the main character.
The character development was refreshingly existent. Most horror films don’t bother developing their characters , or if they do, the characters grow along many horror stereotypes that have been around for ages. This tends to be because the focus of the film is on the events in which the characters are placed, rather than on the characters, themselves (Also, more often than not, a slew of the characters get killed off anyway so character development is a little wasted on them). The Awakening doesn’t trip on that pitfall. From the very beginning the audience can see how each fraudulent revealing of a supernatural occurrence wears on Florence. She subtly manifests her hidden desire for something to be real buried deep under her skepticism and logic. When some of the haunting is proven to her to be real, she is not only terrified, but she also comes alive a little bit more as she delves into the secrets of the house.
The shooting style is what really clinched this movie for me. There were enough open shots that either had something spooky subtly in the background, or just had the potential for it, that it kept me on the edge of my seat with anticipation. It really set the tone that anything can happen at any moment in this house. Also the shots lent really well to implying that the characters were being watched which just added to the creepiness factor.
My biggest problem with this film is something I can’t really talk about without giving things away about the twist. Luckily it’s also something fairly minor, mostly relating to the title fitting the film.
While The Awakening is not my favorite film in its genre, it certainly gets the point across in a spooky way. I give it four spooks.
25. Darkness Falls
Screw Teeth, This Tooth Fairy Just Wants to Kill You
Apparently Hollywood can make a monster out of just about anything. If they can’t think up a concept that is actually scary, they’ll take something not terrifying, like the tooth fairy, and show it in a terrifying light. You guessed it, I’m talking about the 2003 Horror/Thriller, Darkness Falls.
Darkness Falls is based on the fictional legend that, 150 years ago in the town of Darkness Falls, there was an elderly widow, Matilda Dixon, who would give the children gifts or coins in exchange for their baby teeth. After a fire left her disfigured and light sensitive, she began wearing a mask and only going out at night. When two boys went missing, the community of Darkness Falls turned on the widow, accusing her of being a witch and hanged her her. When the two boys returned home safely, the community realized their mistake, too late. The legend goes that the ghost of Matilda Dixon haunts the town of Darkness Falls, visiting the children on the night when they lose their last baby tooth. If the child lays eyes on her, she whisks the child away to its doom.
The story centers around Kyle Walsh, a man who saw Matilda on the night of his last tooth, but hid in the well-lit bathroom, causing Matilda to murder his entire family instead. Kyle returns to Darkness Falls after many years of never being in the darkness, lest Matilda finally get him, at the request of his childhood friend who’s little brother claims to have seen Matilda, as well. Upon Kyle’s return, the ghost of Matilda gets aggressive in her hunt for both Kyle in the boy, chasing them all across the town, and killing any who get in her way.
While this movie has a truly ridiculous concept, it actually did manage to scare me the first time I watched it. It wasn’t so much the movie itself, as the underlying concept of never being safe in the dark. The fact that the darkness, itself, was Matilda’s gateway, got to me. It was a really interesting concept that flopped a bit in its execution.
Darkness Falls fell into a common pitfall for a lot of horror movies. It tried to cater too much to its rating, and in doing so it cut itself off at the knees. By holding back on some of the horror elements to maintain its PG-13 rating, it didn’t allow the storyline, or its villain to reach its true potential. The themes in the storyline reminded me a lot of the thematic overview of another early-200s horror film, Jeepers Creepers. They both feature a malevolent creature-like entity stalking the main characters for their varied reasons. Their creatures both borderline the ridiculous. The main difference between the two is that Darkness Falls limited itself to market a larger potential audience.
For making me afraid of the dark (for a grand total of a week) in high school, Darkness Falls earns itself four spooks.
24. Dead Silence
Be Sure You Never Ever Scream
“Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. She had no children, only dolls. If you see her in your dreams, be sure you never, ever scream or she’ll rip your tongue out at the seam.”
Dead Silence is the most underrated film from horror director James Wan. It didn’t get the exposure that Saw did, and it didn’t have the advertising exposure that made Insidious such a success. However, it doesn’t deserve its lack of recognition, as it is one of my favorite horror films that actually creeps me out every time I watch it.
Ryan Kwanten stars as Jamie Ashen, a typical guy from a very spooky hometown. Sound like the perfect setup? Don’t worry. It is. After receiving a mysterious and creepy ventriloquist dummy, Ashen’s wife is murdered in their apartment while he was out. He comes home to find her dead, tongue ripped out. Now under police investigation, Ashen returns to his hometown to do some investigating, himself, into the origins of the ventriloquist dummy which had been identified as having belonged to Mary Shaw. Mary Shaw was a ventriloquist who was murdered after a boy that had heckled one of her shows went missing. She was found with her tongue cut out, silencing her forever, or so they thought. Now her ghost haunts the families of those who killed her by ripping out their tongues once they scream.
Apparently James Wan has a thing for creepy dolls named Billy. Between the public face of Jigsaw in Saw, and our creeptastic ventriloquist dummy in this film, I would even go so far as to say that James Wan has the monopoly on terrifying horror movie dolls as of late. His twitter handle is even @Creepy Puppet. If that is not a man who is in love with creepy dolls, I don’t know what is.
The film was shot magnificently. It managed to take every aspect of Ravens Fair (the hometown) and make it feel dead. There was no part of the town that was bustling with cheer or even people who weren’t afraid. The entire town was eerie and scared of their demons. The atmosphere was certainly helped by the fact that the scariest scenes did take place at night, but even the daylight scenes were so starkly contrasted out that even the day didn’t feel safe. The sets themselves certainly stood out as well. From the flooded and abandoned theatre to the gothic mansions and the dingy mortician’s house, the sets make Ravens Fair seem like the type of place that the evil the likes of Clive Barker, Stephen King, and H.P. Lovecraft write about, could actually exist.
The storyline is extremely effective in the confines of this setting. It took borderline ridiculous happenings, such as a corpse being turned into a human doll, a casket tipping over onto a little kid, and a doll being the weapon of murder, into truly terrifying moments. Dead Silence even has a twist at the end that, not only do you not see coming, but also that changes your perception of a good portion of the film! My only complaints are small, but still worth mentioning. If the town is aware of the serial killer ghost enough to make up a poem about her THAT EVERYONE KNOWS, you’d think they’d also have the presence of mind to train themselves never to scream. Also at one point one of the characters (character name withheld to prevent spoilers) cries out “No!” in the face of Mary Shaw’s ghost and is killed. ”No!” is not a scream, especially in the Mary Shaw sense of the word. If they wanted to do that, I would have liked to see another precedent where it wasn’t necessarily a scream of terror that allowed Mary Shaw her access to kill someone. There are rules of ghosts for a reason.
This movie scared the crap out of me the first time I saw it and it still creeps me out every time I revisit it. It gets all 5 spooks.
23. The Conjuring
I Don’t Think Anyone Actually Conjured Anything
I had a mini James Wan-athon yesterday because the closer I get to Halloween, the more I want the movies I choose to actually creep me out. Also The Conjuring recently came out on DVD and I really wanted to watch it.
The Conjuring is a 2013 horror film based on a real case that paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren worked in 1971. According to the pre-film text, the case was so disturbing that the details of it have been locked away until now. The case revolves around the Perron family who moved into a severely haunted house. The house starts manifesting its malevolence pretty early on, but it isn’t until the incidents turn somewhat violent and stop being able to be explained as oddities of the house, that the Carolyn Perron contacts the Warrens for their help. The couple agrees to take on the case and schedule a time to check out the house. Lorraine, being a clairvoyant, senses the malevolent presence shortly after stepping foot into the house and encourages Ed to take the case. The pair shows up with their investigation team in perfect time to witness the house having a fit of paranormal hysteria. The investigation culminates with Carolyn Perron’s possession of the spirit of Bethsheba, the witch who’s evil is the root of the house’s malevolence, and the resulting exorcism.
This movie is the only excuse James Wan needs to excuse the failings of Insidious 2. It received an R rating by the MPAA due to the fact that is is scary from start to finish, not due to effects, gore, or any of the other reasons that many horror films get the rating bump. The acting is so impressive that even though I know many of the actors from other projects, they are completely believable in their roles and I didn’t even realize that I knew them from other things until I looked it up later. The film was even shot at a location that was rumored to be haunted and the crew and cast experienced spooky happenings during the filming.
The score is icing on the cake of this film. From the very first notes in the opening to the very end, the score has the audience engaged totally and completely. The opening notes actually had my hair standing on end and had me scurrying for a blanket when I watched this film at home and had me pulling my sweatshirt all the tighter in theatres.
The Conjuring is easily my favorite film by James Wan. It combines the perfect creepy elements of a haunted house, paranormal investigation, and an exorcism. It kept up it’s spine-tingling atmosphere throughout, and mixed in the perfect proportion of jump scares.
A sequel has been announced for an undetermined release date. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with it. I hope it’s a better follow up to the first than Insidious 2 was.
In less than a year, this film has become one of my favorite horror movies of all time. How can I give it any less than 5 spooks?
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