30 Days of Fright – 05: After.Life

It may seem obvious but it needs saying: In a movie so much rests on the actors. Bad acting can ruin a great story, and while nothing can really salvage a poor story good acting can at least numb the pain of the viewing. In horror you do tend to see some decent actors occasionally strutting their stuff. I’m not sure why but they all take a crack at it, maybe they’re looking for a challenge, or maybe they’re slumming it for the sake of a rounded CV, or more likely for a rounded paycheque.

After.Life (2009) stars Liam Neeson as Eliot Deacon a funeral director with a big funeral home in a small town somewhere in America. He seems to take extraordinary care of the deceased and knows just what would be appropriate for their service often putting out the favourite flowers of those who’d passed away without having to be told.
In the same town, Christina Ricci is elementary school teacher Anna Taylor who is going out with local lawyer Paul played by some pleb. Like most teachers Anna is slightly unstable (I’m joking (or am I?)) and at dinner one night a row breaks out between her and the boyfriend just before he was going to propose. Anna rushes out into the dark and stormy night, sitting into her car and tearing off before he can stop her.
Anna then wakes up on the slab at the funeral home where she meets Deacon who’s getting ready to prepare her body for her funeral, scheduled in three days time. Anna points out that she’s not dead, what with the waking up and breathing and talking and all, but Deacon points out that every dead person that hits his table says the same thing and that she’s very dead after she crashed her car. Deacon goes on to explain that he has the rather unfortunate gift of being able to communicate with the recently deceased and so he tries to help them with the transition onto the next life. It turns out that most people, like Anna, cling to life and have to get some help otherwise they’ll never be ready and the transition will be extremely hard on them while those they leave behind will suffer too until the dead are laid to rest.
Anna calls bullshit on this line and comes to the conclusion that Deacon is a creepy murderer with a taste for burying people alive. Deacon spends the next three days trying to convince Anna to accept her fate as she’s most definitely a corpse and therefore bugger all can be done for her at this point. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Paul is badly upset by her untimely passing and all he wants to do is say his goodbyes to her privately. However, seeing as how he hadn’t got around to the actual proposal before Anna supposedly kicked the bucket he’s not technically family and so Deacon won’t let him have a private audience with her. Paul grows increasingly suspicious of Deacon and tries to get the help of the local police who are convinced he’s nothing more than a grieving boyfriend.
Following her “death”, one of Anna’s students, an eleven year old boy called Jack (haven’t a clue who played him, no-one famous anyway) begins to hang out at funerals, becoming fascinated with them as only a small boy can. Deacon befriends Jack and tells him about his gift for communicating with the dead, a gift he thinks Jack also possesses as Jack claims to have seen Anna stood at a window of the funeral home. Jack tells Paul of what he’s seen and this only further convinces Paul that Anna is still alive so, torn between his belief in her up-and-aboutedness and the progress of his grieving, he attempts to determine the truth just as the time comes for Anna’s funeral…
Playing Hide & Seek with Wednesday Addams was always going to end badly

After.Life is something of a horror and something of a thriller but it’s hard to figure out which it is and that’s the whole point of the film. After.Life is deliberately ambiguous as the audience are supposed to decide for themselves just what exactly the fuck is going on. The choices boil down to this: either Anna is dead and Deacon has a terrible gift that he tries to do his best with, or Anna is alive and Deacon is a serial killer burying people alive when he thinks they haven’t lived as full a life as they should have. After watching the film the choice is very much yours as there’s plenty of evidence both ways while logic (not something often present in Hollywood) gets in the way just to muddy the waters further.

If Anna is dead then did Deacon really give her drugs as part of the process of readying a body for burial? And how did that work – if you’re dead then there’s no circulation so how did intravenous drugs do anything without some sort of a pump? Why did he keep turning the temperature down in the mortuary? And why did Jack give his little clue (I won’t reveal what it was) as to what Deacon was up to?
If Anna is alive then how did she get to Deacon’s table? Was it really just a series of mistakes made by paramedics, doctors, and so on? If so, it must happen all the time and funeral directors everywhere must be encountering people (professionally) who aren’t dead all the time. If this is isolated to the town where Deacon operates then he must have a series of accomplices who provide victims or the local medical and law enforcement establishment must all be massively incompetent and Deacon is merely leveraging this for his twisted purposes. Also, if Anna is alive, why was she never hungry or thirsty, and while bodily functions are mentioned all the time, why does she never nip to the toilet?
I suspect that you’re not really meant to question Afer.Life too deeply as neither option really stands up to scrutiny and that’s what writer and director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo probably intended. The ambiguity present in After.Life is the main source of the enjoyment of the flick and in that regard it works well. The film is well paced and directed and there’s little to fault in its execution. The only real problem I saw with it was the casting.
Liam Neeson is a great actor. There’s nothing more to say about that so he’s free to go. The plebs who played the lawyer and the kid are off the hook too as they turned up and did what they were supposed to. However, Ms. Ricci…
When Christina Ricci burst onto the scene as Wednesday in The Addams Family she set the bar very high for herself at quite a young age. In that film she was perfectly cast as the sinister psychopathic child out to kill her brother with a series of deadly childhood games including the brilliantly titled “Is There a God?” featuring an electric chair. However, something bothered me about Ricci even back then and it was her looks, especially the poor girl’s forehead. What a vast amount of real estate she has between her eyes and her hairline. I thought she’d grow out of it or at least employ the aid of some sort of specialist barber who’d be able to cover the dreadful expanse with a wig or something.
Ricci is not a terribly bad looking woman, as can be seen in Sleepy Hollow where she tidied herself up a bit (probably because Johnny Depp is enough weird for one movie by himself without Ricci adding to things) but in After.Life she looked like death warmed up from the start of the film well before the dead or alive part begins. This helps the idea at the core of the film but her appearance is just too off-putting, made all the worse by the fact that she spends about a third of the film utterly naked. This isn’t me just being mean for the sake of it, Ricci’s look is heightened by the style of makeup used for After.Life and it just makes her look like the weird kid who over did the costume for Halloween as opposed to a young woman desperately trying to discover what plain of existence she’s currently on. I am forced to wonder what this film would have been like with someone else in the role of Anna. Considering the amount of nudity, preferably someone hot!
One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for After.Life

Yes, there are links after death, here they are:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After.Life
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0838247/

30 Days of Fright – 04: [REC]2

I read an article recently about Kevin Smith, the bloke behind such films as Dogma, Clerks, Mallrats, and Jersey Girl. In the article it stated that Smith was pulling away from making movies within the studio system, the inference being that he’d go back to the small-scale indie style that made him such as success in the first place. Smith said he liked doing things that way as kids who see those movies are encouraged to try making their own films with their friends as it all feels like something anyone could do and be successful at. Once you add in some big name actors or other expensive element it makes movie-making feel like the domain of only those with the money to pay for it. I wonder then if, in addition to the perceived “realism”, there’s something to be said for the first-person, shot on a video camera and recovered later, style of film made famous by the likes of Blair Witch that might actually redeem that shitty style of film? With the exception of Cloverfield and one or two others, this style produces films that anyone could take a crack at themselves.

It would be nice if there was an upside to this type of movie as it’s a shit excuse for getting material on screen.
 This type of movie makes me as angry as this dude
(and I don’t care if the picture has copyright, I nicked it, and I’d do it again!)
Picking up the action from the closing moments of the first movie, the action in [REC]2 switches from inside the apartment building in Barcelona where the zombie outbreak is taking place to the emergency services responding to the crisis, in particular a SWAT team en route to kick some ass or whatever it is SWAT teams do nowadays. The boys are tooled up for some serious trouble and are packing assault weapons, a battering ram, and the ever-popular pump action shotgun. Each of the SWAT team are sporting the latest in miniature video cameras attached to their helmets and one of the crew has a broadcast quality video camera with spotlight as they’ve been ordered to document their activities in the apartments.
Upon arrival the SWAT team are met by a bloke from the Ministry of Health called Owen who is to go in with them and is in charge. Due to the nature of the health risks associated with what’s going on inside, the building has been sealed in plastic and there’s an air-lock type entrance rigged up, everyone going in has to wear gas-masks, and only Owen can get them back out as he has a radio with voice recognition which is needed to get the doors open again.
Once inside Owen tells the lads that the masks were purely for show as the infection isn’t airborne. He goes on to explain that his mission is to get to the cause of the outbreak and gather a sample of some description. As the SWAT team move up through the building they encounter signs of a bloodbath everywhere but very little activity until they near the penthouse apartment and meet their first zombies. Once in the penthouse all hell breaks loose and SWAT team members are lost in an increasingly desperate fight against rampaging zombies. At this point Owen is forced to reveal that he’s not actually from the Ministry of Health but is in fact a Catholic Priest… and the zombies crawling all over the gaff aren’t suffering from some terrible disease at all, but are actually victims of something far more sinister…
 A la tuhuelpa legria macarena, Que tuhuelce paralla legria cosabuena, 
A la tuhuelpa legria macarena, Eeeh, macarena!

I enjoyed the first [REC], the quirky little indie horror film from Spain, so I was keen to see the follow-up if for no other reason than to find out how they justified another ninety minutes of raw-footage type film-making. The methods used to get away with this in [REC]2 show a depth not normally seen in a little sequel like this but more often feature in the types of movies where you’ve seen them all  before. The SWAT team with the helmet cams are a direct rip from Aliens, but thankfully this is acknowledged by the team leader having a dodgy camera (like Drake did in Aliens) and by one of the team keeping his shotgun close (like Hicks who kept his handy “for close encounters”). Making them bring a big-ass video camera around with them so they could document what goes down is a bit of stretch though especially as Owen flat out states that he and his lot would never let the truth of the outbreak get out.
What’s nice is that this excuse for footage only covers the first third or so of the film when suddenly it flips over to the recording from a video camera belonging to some teenagers who were in the middle of orchestrating a prank on the roof of the building opposite and who, thanks to their pesky curiosity, get mixed up in the zombie goings-on across the street. Their video only covers the next third where it again changes to the other video camera in the building… the one from the first film. Throughout these switches the timeline is preserved with only brief overlaps in the action to help the audience keep their bearings. For me, the first-person filming style is getting really old at this point and unfortunately [REC]2really overcooks certain pieces, like where the helmet cams record gunplay which looks so much like a video game that I’m forced to wonder if there’s a game tie-in somewhere out there. Other scenes then look so much like regular movie style action that it jars you out of the immersive experience the footage was meant to induce.
It is important to point out at this point that the way the movie is filmed is the only failing it has. [REC]2is excellent! When faced with the challenge of making a sequel to the first [REC] the two lads who returned to the Directors chairs from the first movie decided to dial everything up as far as they could and it worked a charm. The SWAT team angle, the nature of the outbreak, the truth behind the zombies, and the twists near the end are flat out genius. There are scenes where you want the action to take a sinister turn – and it does!!! Adults kill children, children kill adults, and zombies kill everyone regardless of age. There’s blood everywhere, a decent religious angle, guns, mayhem, and videotape.
The issues around subtitles in a fast paced film persist from the original but that just can’t be helped as anything is better than dubbing, except maybe a tiny little person in the corner of the screen doing sign-language; everyone hates that shit, even the deaf.

Two Thumbs Up for [REC]2

Aquí hay algunos enlaces de Internet para usted!:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/REC_2
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1245112/

30 Days of Fright – 03: Deathwatch

The horror of war is a cliché that like most clichés, catchphrases, and stereotypes, has some basis in truth no matter how small. In the case of warfare there is no doubting just how horrific the experience is even for those who luckily have no direct exposure to such violence. Considering how awful the concept of war is it’s no surprise that there are so few actual horror films with a wartime setting. There’s no real need for them. Just make a regular war film and you have all the elements necessary – oftentimes including a supernatural disregard for life on behalf of most involved.

Deathwatch (2002) is set in the final part of World War 1 and tells of a squad of British soldiers getting ready to go “over the top” one night. The squad is under the direct command of a snooty officer and contains all the other usual suspects for a bunch of soldiers; there’s the gritty world-weary sergeant, the religious one, the smooth one, the psychotic one, and the young innocent one who happens to be the main character, and a few others to fill out the numbers. The young innocent one, Shakespeare (Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot), is only 16 and like so many eejits of his generation lied about his age so he could sign up with the notion of fighting for King and Country (whereas King and Country had the notion of slaughtering as many 16 – 30 year olds they could get their hands on). On the night in question young Shakespeare loses what little nerve he had and turns coward, unable to climb up the ladder into almost certain death (what a wuss) until his good old sarge promises to stick with him.
Once up and over the squad face into heavy fire from machine guns, motor explosions, and then the dreaded gas. Sometime later and after much confusion the squad find themselves roaming around in no-man’s land in a cloud of gas that mercifully turns out to only be fog. Wandering around aimlessly for a while they come across a German trench occupied by a handful of soldiers all apparently more afraid of something in the trench then they are of the British. Easily capturing the trench after murdering the surrendering soldiers the squad settle in to await rescue.
The lads quickly discover that all is not right in the trench, from the large number of dead bodies, to the radio that occasionally mistakenly reports the squads’ death and the strange feelings of rage and paranoia that grip the men. A surviving German soldier is discovered and he reveals that similar trouble befell his men too and that eventually the squad will all turn on themselves to the point of killing each other to prevent anyone ever leaving the trench…
World War One came to an end once both sides realised it was quicker to just shoot 50,000 of their own men every day*
Like I said, I think the reason no one bothers with a horror film set during a war is that war is so bad already there’s no way you can really make it any more horrific then it already is. Deathwatch tries and falls flat. Not only is the film cursed with all the difficulties of making a horror but it also had to contend with trying to make a war movie at the same time, and as any military strategist will tell you, you should never try to fight on two fronts at the same time unless you’re very, very sure of what you’re doing.
Firstly the war film problems: Anytime you make a film about a bunch of men fighting together on the same side you run into severe character development problems because when you want to use an ensemble cast in a film you need to find ways for the audience to easily tell people apart and then to relate to those people. Deathwatch cracks out all the old tricks to try to accomplish this, using the opening scene to show each man displaying his particular character trait – the smooth one combing his hair as bombs drop, the religious one having a good old pray, the innocent one being scared, and the psycho one being a psycho (what else could he do?). Each of these lads are all in the same basic uniform but each has added his own little twist like the tartan on the Scottish lad to the weird barbarian style waistcoat the nutter prefers. But, once the action kicks off, you’ll be lucky to keep track of one or two out of the whole bunch. When things get quiet again you can pick them apart but you’re so busy doing that that you miss what’s going on.
The issues with ensemble casts in uniform are so great and dealt with in such an unsophisticated manner in Deathwatch that you see the inevitable end coming a mile away as those you had trouble following (and really didn’t give a shit about) are killed off one by one.
As for the horror problems there are two biggies worth mentioning and they’re among the worst failings of horror films. Firstly, it’s very hard to determine what the hell is meant to be happening. The lads are in a creepy trench. It’s weird in the trench and there are scary noises. The boys turn on each other. Um, the end! What the fuck? What was the point? That’s worse than an episode of Lost! Deathwatch fails the fundamental test of any film, it’s impossible to retell the whole story as I just don’t know what happened. I guess that the film-makers wanted to leave as much up to the audience as possible but by the end of the film all you’ve seen is some soldiers killed with little in the line of reason behind it. As a metaphor for war it’s not bad, but as a horror film it’s shite.
The second horror failing however is the unforgivable sin of not making the film scary. Deathwatch is eerie which is not something you see too often but it’s not frightening at all. At points it’s cool and at other times gross (there’s one brilliant effect where an injured man has been attacked by rats) but there are too many times where it’s confusing or silly. It’s never scary and you never fear for anyone in the film, most of the time you’re glad when someone gets killed, which makes you no better than every other warmonger out there.
Two Thumbs Down for Deathwatch
*I nicked that joke from Blackadder – someone who knew a truckload about World War One

30 Days of Fright – 02: Halloween II (2009)

Horror is a funny old business. Setting out to make a career in this particular genre requires a certain mindset. No matter the media, be it books, comics, music, TV, or cinema, when you decide that horror is for you then you just have to accept a few fundamental truths. You will wear a lot of black. You will start talking in an overly dramatic fashion and say the word “Greetings” instead of “Hello”. You will get funny looks from people in the street, especially small children and elderly women. You might get a tattoo. Of a bat.

There are some obvious and famous folk who have made successful careers from Horror. Stephen King, Ozzy Ozbourne, Garth Marenghi, Dani Flith, and the musician and director of last nights film, Rob Zombie – a man so dedicated to horror that he changed his name to Zombie, for crying out loud.

Picking up the story immediately after the events of the 2007 film, Halloween II opens with the sheriff of Haddonfield finding young Laurie Strode walking along in the rain, clutching a gun, drenched in blood, badly injured and severely traumatised. The action moves along as expected, following the police response to Michael Myers murdering rampage including the collection of the bodies and Laurie’s emergency treatment at the hospital where she undergoes surgery for her wounds. As she sleeps off the anaesthetic a rather improbable accident befalls the van transporting Myers body and it’s revealed that he’s not as dead as was thought.
One year later we discover that Lauire isn’t doing very well. She’s living with the sheriff and his daughter (who had also been badly hurt by Myers) and is somewhat off the rails and undergoing therapy to help her deal with the previous October, especially the deaths of her parents. Meanwhile, Loomis the doctor who had been working the Michael Myers case, is on tour for his latest book about Myers and his family and is coming to Haddonfield for Halloween in order to help the promotion of the book, regardless of the objections of the families involved.
Despite everything Laurie had been through she remained blissfully ignorant of the fact that she’s Myers sister until Loomis’ book spills the beans further traumatising her, just as a large stranger bearing a striking resemblance to her dear brother approaches Haddonfield just in time for the 31st.
I gave you blood, blood, gallons of the stuff, I gave you all that you could drink and it has never been enough…
Sequels to remakes can work as was seen with the follow-up to the reworked Texas Chainsaw Massacre; in the case of Halloween II the film doesn’t quite click as a sequel even though it does everything a sequel should, it continues the story and answers the questions concerning what happened after the events of the first film. Where Halloween II slips in this regard is that even though Rob Zombie directed both films there is a marked difference in style between the two outings.
In the first Zombie Halloween (now there’s a great name for a film!) Rob managed to contain his usual stylistic leanings and made a really good but understated film. In Halloween II he let rip and seems to have approached the making of the movie in the same way as he makes albums or tours, where every woman on screen is covered in tattoos, there’s a grungy graffiti look to every building and the cutting edge of fashion is what punks were wearing in 1975. This works really well in only one scene in the film, the Halloween party, where it all fits and feels OK. The rest of the time it only serves to make the people you should be cheering for incredibly unlikeable.
Zombie’s style is the root of the major problems with Halloween II. Laurie’s character has gone through an awful lot and it’s easy to see how she’d stray from the path she was on at the start of the first film, but in changing her from the sweet kid she was to the hard-rocking messed up chick she is in the follow-up makes her hard to like as a person. The same goes for her friends too as they’re all cut from roughly the same cloth; all except one girl who appears to have been done up to resemble Laurie from the first film and is therefore the only one the audience can appreciate.
In dealing with the character of Myers himself, Zombie’s first film delved into the background of the character and the motivations for and slide into proper psychopathy. This made Myers a more interesting and believable character then he perhaps deserves and it also set the bar very high for his further development and story. In this film a more supernatural side to Michael has been introduced, starting off with what appear to be visions of his mother and his own younger self that eventually graduate up to the level of ghosts that haunt him and encourage his pursuit of mayhem.
The visions only serve to get in the way and don’t add much at all. As a slasher flick no motivations are needed beyond “he’s a nutter” and having a supernatural slant only makes the whole thing unbelievable and therefore much less scary. If Myers is just a fruitloop who works out a lot then what he gets up to could happen anywhere, even where you live. But if his is a ghost story then we’re safe if we don’t believe in such things.
On the up side, Weird Al makes a cameo appearance as himself and asks the question everybody asks of the Halloween movies, that is, are we talking about the Austin Powers Mike Myers here? (I made that joke back in 2009 too – so Weird Al is a thieving gypsy!).
I came away from Halloween II planning to give it a low score, but I just can’t bring myself to do that. As bad and all as this film is, it’s strangely haunting. All day today the visuals, particularly the visions Myers experiences and the off-kilter night club scene,  have been stuck in my head and there’s something to be said for that. Rob Zombie has managed to really muck up the Halloween franchise with this film but it firmly stands as a triumph of style. Shame there wasn’t more substance.
One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Halloween II (2009)
Has your big brother flipped out and tried to kill you and all your friends? Click the links for help!

30 Days of Fright – 01: Candyman

Once upon a time I was a city dweller. I grew up in a major metropolis that can sometimes be beautiful and sometimes brutal. In the modern urban jungle man has adapted his ways to suit his environment, but man is a creature of habit and one of those long established habits is the use of stories to pass along history and to teach acceptable behaviours, hence the urban myth.

Candyman (1992) stars Virgina Madsen as Helen Lyle, a researcher at a university in Chicago who is writing a thesis on urban myths with her friend Bernadette. During the course of her research she encounters the myth of Candyman to whom some local murders have been attributed. The Candyman story is concentrated on a parcel of land that had been developed into a housing project. In the late 1800’s, while the area was still farms and plantations, a young black man had been brutally murdered after knocking up a local white chick. Now, according to the myth, it’s possible to summon the vengeful spirit of Candyman by saying his name five times into a mirror.

Helen digs into the story when she discovers that, unlike the usual urban myths that all seem to be removed from the person who tells them (in a “it happened to a friend of my sisters room-mates cousins barber” type way) this legend has some verifiable facts as do the murders that have been blamed on it. Venturing into the gang-controlled projects Helen meets with the neighbour of a murder-victim who firmly believes that Candyman is the killer.

Things turn sour for Helen when she runs afoul of a local gang-banger who’s been using the name Candyman to instil fear in the locals. Thinking that that was all there was to the story Helen gets the shock of her life when she is stalked by a tall man with a distinctive voice and a hook for a hand who demands that Helen believe in him and who sets about destroying her life by framing her for a series of crimes and getting her locked away in the local asylum. Helen slowly realises that perhaps she shouldn’t have said Candyman five times when in front of her mirror, not even for a joke…

A vicious murderer with a distinctive voice – Candyman!

Bitch, what?!?

Candyman is a flick I hadn’t seen in years, and as distanced as I was from the film it was easy to get hung up on the saying his name in the mirror idea which is just a re-work of the Bloody Mary myth. However, imagine my surprise when I watched Candyman last night and it dawned on me that this is a brilliant movie!

This is a film where everything works as it should. The music by Philip Glass sets each scene perfectly, the casting choices were inspired, the setting was ideally modern and creepy, and the story by Clive Barker is solid. Virginia Madsen is great as Helen and she carries her scenes well, but she is utterly upstaged by Tony Todd who plays Candyman himself. Todd is a very tall man and is able therefore to be imposing and scary, but add in the amazing deep voice he carries around with him and you’re onto a total winner with him as a baddie from beyond the grave. Cut off his arm and stick a hook into the stump and you’re in Oscar territory!

The gore and horror that’s present in the film are understated considering that Candyman is very firmly a slasher movie though more time is given over to the urban myth aspect then the cutting people up with hooks aspect. The urban myth hadn’t really been tapped for too many films when Candyman hit the theatres so it was a refreshing way of conjuring up a villain to go an a killing spree in the windy city, it also meant that more thought went into the film-making as they didn’t want to screw up the opportunity of making a mark with urban legends. There are some very clever touches in Candyman, especially the racial and social commentary that’s present in every discussion of housing projects, though also in the little touches like the baby licking Candyman’s finger (it would have tasted of honey as he’d been covered in the stuff as he was tortured to death).

Sadly though the familiarity of the method for getting Candyman to appear, that is to say his name into the mirror five times, is a direct lift from Bloody Mary and it’s a legend that is too familiar to be overwritten by an unknown like Candyman, every time someone says “Candyman” into a mirror a voice in your head corrects them to “Bloody Mary”. This is really the films only failing but mercifully it doesn’t get in the way too much and never robs from the enjoyment. So when you get a chance, find yourself a decent sized mirror, dim the lights, and stick on a Christina Aguilera CD and let the dozy cow say his name five times!

Two Thumbs Firmly Up for Candyman.

He’s a one stop shop, makes my panties drop, He’s a sweet talkin’ sugar coated Candyman…. wait, what? Here are some links:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candyman_%28film%29
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103919/

30 Days of Fright – Prologue

The final days of September 2011 were, in Ireland and the UK, unseasonally warm with the all too short days sunny and hot. This unusual weather is far from what we’re used to but no one missed the chance at some point to enjoy the heat, if only for a little while. The first of October has arrived and brought with it the wet and grey conditions we’re far more accustomed to. Looking back over the past week it feels like summer had one last dying gasp and that October has turned up in its funeral clothes to mourn the seasons loss and trumpet the impending winter. In a matter of hours thoughts that were sunny  and bright have turned to darkness.

The darkness of a winter in the northern hemisphere is welcome as it brings the chance to sit by the fire and enjoy hearty foods and strong drink to fortify against the cold gloom. It also brings the quiet fear of what may lurk in those long nights and that makes it the perfect time to play to those fears and enjoy a series of horror films that can only make matters worse!

My annual quest to bleat on about films most people don’t care about in a funny manner has morphed from an interesting distraction in the weeks before Halloween into a full-blown crusade to bring the true value of these films to the masses in a funny manner. I’m also keen to find out how long I can keep this type of bullshit going for!

Like the very best self-imposed nonsense a small collection of rules and procedures have sprung up around the 30 Days of Fright, and these rules are once again unchanged. I’ve assembled a small collection of DVD’s and recordings off the TV and compiled a list of films to be viewed and reviewed. Should something interesting cross my path then it’ll get snuck in, especially if someone makes a suggestion or request for a particular film to get the treatment.

The previous years reviews are available for your consideration here: 2008, here: 2009, and here: 2010 and hopefully like the first three years you’ll find year four to be entertaining, a bit of a laugh, and maybe just maybe a little bit interesting.

The scoring system is the same as it ever was, with each film rated on it’s merits and assigned a final score on my rather unusual thumb-based scale:

Two Thumbs Firmly Down = One of the worst films ever, never mention this film to anyone nevermind actually watching it!

Two Thumbs Down = A crap fest

One Thumb Up, One Thumb Down = Meh, don’t go out of your way for it but don’t try to avoid it either

Two Thumbs Up = A brilliant movie, well worth a look

Two Thumbs Firmly Up = A must see, a trully excellent motion picture you should make it your business to see as soon as you can

There is another score that is only used in the most extreme of cases: No Thumbs = no rating as the film is beneath contempt due to the handling of its subject matter – when you consider that these are horror films then that’s a pretty extreme rating to get and has so far, only been applied to one nasty little film.

Now the fun starts as the first film gets its showing tonight… let the 30 Days of Fright begin!