Thursday, October 31, 2013
Short Horror Movie Appraisals
For this Halloween, I have a special gift for all of you. I went and saw a bunch of shorter horror movies, some very readily available and some much harder to find. Some of these movies I've seen before and always wanted to review. Others are going to be my first impressions. I've always liked the short format for movies, and I think it works particularly well with horror movies. You get to the horror, and then you get out. It works well in short stories, so why can't it work well here? None of these movies have anything else tying them together except their short nature. So, without further ado...
Our first movie is Disciples of the Crow from 1983, which is an adaptation of Stephen King's "Children of the Corn" short story in his Night Shift collection. It is also known as The Night of the Crow. This movie, directed by John Woodward, is a very solid and fast-paced adaptation. It brings its A-game in suspense and leaves you wanting more. The whole religious angle, especially that focus on the extremism of children, makes the whole thing have a very solid message, even if it's a message I won't go into on here. The focus on both corn and crows is apt and interesting. The brutal deaths are well shot and creepy. And the filming in general is something interesting at the very least. The biggest complaint that I have is that the audio isn't the best and the story is disjointed at times, over before it really has a chance to begin.
The second short is called The French Doors, a New Zealand film from 2002. Although having only a single actor for most of the film and virtually no dialogue, this is one of the best short horror films I've ever seen. It involves a man renovating his home, installing some French doors in, only to discover that in the morning the French doors seem to lead to the dark of night while the sun is in reality shining. He decides to explore it. And it doesn't go well. I don't want to spoil this one, although as an analysis of the movie, I will. So, avoid the next paragraph if you'd rather watch it.
There is something in the dark, waiting for him. While the doors are open, and he's exploring outside, the thing, the shadowy creature, comes into his house and waits. It is brilliantly handled, with first our main character seeing a person inside the house while he's out in the dark. But when he finally goes back in the house, the person is in shadow, a dark thing, and it isn't happy with him. I saw a few asking what the "thing" was, and my only response is that it is a thing from the dark. Simple as that. It's a monster creature of shadow that emerged from the dark world beyond the French doors.
This is a supremely creepy short, and watching it at night is recommended for the full scare effect.
Username: 666 is basically a creepypasta, but it's still a short and is still incredibly creepy if you can put yourself in the right mindset. Brought to us by nana825763, it's a short video about a creepy way to use the YouTube website. With some creepy accompanying music, it works quite well at doing something both very different (certainly true for the time it was released) and very spooky.It's a simple premise of finding a suspended account with some disturbing videos on it, but what happens when YouTube doesn't want you to leave? It's a great little premise and works really well. It's another one I would say to watch at night for full effect.
Another YouTube also made by the same person is a good companion piece to Username: 666. They both take a chance at grabbing the immense creepiness the internet holds, and the worlds within worlds that can be stored there, hidden away until somebody tries something...
Proxy: A Slender Man Story gives yet another take on the Slender Man mythos story directed, this time, by Mike Dahlquist in 2012. It's well shot and obviously heavily produced being on the YouTube BlackBoxTV channel with a bunch of other horror shorts. This short had been on my radar for some time since I like the whole Slender Man thing. The film is okay, with moments of psychological horror spliced into it. There is some gore as well. The biggest problem with this one is that, while well shot and with more dialogue than the other movies I featured so far combined, this one just doesn't hit that frightening spot I wished it would. While Slender Man's shadowy tentacles reaching for the main character is pretty cool, I wouldn't say I was scared at all. The point of Slender Man, in my opinion, is to show as little of him as possible and to concentrate more on a rapid decline into madness. The Marble Hornets crew, I believe, does it the absolute best. I could be biased for them though. I've met them before, talked with them, and find their videos to be the most compelling of the Slender Man mythos. Proxy is perfectly fine if you just want to eat up everything Slender Man though, but don't expect it to be the very best in horror.
Eddie Adamson's Victim, another Slender Man movie from 2013, is also very well shot. It has another very simple premise though, but this time to the film's detriment. While certain movies on this list are helped by having very short plots and a fast-pace, I really feel that this movie, like Proxy, suffers from both its pace and its reliance on its audience's foreknowledge of Slender Man. These movies need a longer build-up, a chase to find Slender Man, not being chased by Slender Man. I liked aspects of the film, specifically the way it was shot. It would have meant more to me if I could have gotten to know the main character rather than just being forced to watch him being antagonized by Slender Man. It's one of those thing where I think the long format of many short episodes works the best, again like what the Marble Hornets crew does.
I really need to stop talking about them and actually review their stuff one of these days...
The Lovecraft Syndrome is a 2013 short directed by David Schmidt. It's an odd one for me to talk about. i get the feeling that most might not like its methodical pace or somewhat trivial ending. But I, for one, found the whole thing somewhat compelling. While it's not a bombastic story and the acting is somewhat lackluster at times, I really found the visuals quite engaging even if the film itself looks like a much older film than it actually is. I liked it more than I thought I would, with the visuals of tentacles and such being the real draw for me. While not really scary, the psychological elements are also well done.
The story here is about a woman who delves too deeply into Lovecraft after a collection of tragedies befalls her. Her descent into madness or comatose response to the stimuli presented in her mind hearkens to the Lovecraftian protagonists, always being so nervous, so easily stricken down by what they've seen. I liked it in that regard as well. It's a solid short, but I get the feeling it won't blow too many people away.
Mannequin directed by Deric Nunez for 2013 is one of those short films that has a great premise, decent filming, and good acting, but never becomes memorable despite those things. Part of the problem is that the movie is shot strangely to me, not directly like a horror movie. And for some reason, despite the jump kind of scares it has, and the slow lingering fear it wants you to feel, it never has the punch that it easily could have. The end of the short is funny too- not scary- and that doesn't help much.
The premise is that a woman is going to take her trash out. She sees a mannequin just chilling near the dumpster. Then, after she leaves, the mannequin moves or is moved. Then all hell breaks loose, ending with blood dripping out of a peephole... for some reason. The best shot in the whole movie is the last second as the door opens.
While mentioning this film, I'll also mention Deric Nunez's earlier Knock from 2011, which I also found had issues, but was all right in it's own way. I probably enjoyed that short more than this one, but I also have a lot less to talk about in that one, besides the paranoia one feels at noises in a house when one is alone.
Mockingbird directed by Marichelle Daywalt in 2008. Just watch it.
Ninja Clown Monster, also 2008, directed by Drew Daywalt, is another great little horror short I've known about for a good long while. Both of these shorts are from Fewdio, which also houses a lot of other really good and effective short horror films. Films like Bedfellows (2008), again by Drew Daywalt, which is exactly what I want in a short horror film. It's clear, effective, creepy, and the story and acting are solid. I seriously couldn't ask for more.
Then we have Katasumi and 4444444444 from 1998, both directed by Takashi Shimizu, you know, the guy who directed Marebito and Rinne. Katasumi (also known as In a Corner) is incredibly odd, involving a dead girl, a ghost(?), and some iconic clicking noise that would become very well known after Shimizu's Grudge was released. The other movie is actually a phone number: (444)-444-4444. This takes a little explaining if you don't already know. The Japanese word for the number four is almost exactly like their word for death, so they are superstitious in Japan about the number four like English speakers are about the number thirteen. They omit floor number four in some buildings just as we omit floor thirteen. Anyway, this short is much funnier than scary, involving a phone ringing, a young man picking it up, and meowing ensuing. Both shorts are incredibly well put together, feeling like much longer movies in their own right despite only being a couple minutes apiece.
For the last short I'll review here, as well as the last one I'll talk about this October, here is So Dark from 2013. Directed by Al Lougher, here is the tale of a modern vampire. This short comes directly from an internet anthology series. Incredibly well directed, well acted, and well shot, this film is a solid entry into any vampire film discussion. While never exactly scary, it does leave your mind asking many questions and seeking many answers. It also makes me wish for more really good vampire movies or shows. I love Angel, the TV series by Joss Whedon, and this is a grittier and, honestly, less sugary version of that. While I like Angel a great deal, that show had one big problem: it never hit a horror high point. I don't even know if I could consider it horror at all despite the vampires. It came off to me as an emotional ride of a drama series that happened to have a vampire or two and some silly demons in it.
So Dark is what a vampire series (and I do mean series here, not short or movie) should be like. The grittiness, the grime, and the darkness of both man and beast is showcased here. It's one thing I certainly like about modern cinema, modern shows, and modern everything. There isn't that reluctance to hide the grime of society anymore. Blood, gore, dirt, and tears are all on display. And while many movies tend to either go too far or not know how to handle that kind of freedom, some pieces of fiction absolutely thrive. So Dark certainly thrives to me.
And the short to which So Dark serves as a sequel, So Pretty (2012), is also quite good. It feels like somebody's response to the love of Twilight and the sparkly and pretty vampires from that book, movie, and franchise. It directly speaks about the amount of vampire fiction out there today, and how it seems like everybody either wants to date or be a vampire despite the fact that historically vampires have been cursed monsters, feared by most, not a pretty little doll that looks cool and loves well. This short focuses on the animal nature of vampires and how they look and act when they've killed. These two shorts were incredible, although again, the horror is light. It seems to be more focused on the production than the actual horror, which is a bit of a shame, but not that much of one.
Anyway, that's another October and another Halloween down for this little series. I'll probably revisit some short horror in the future because there are a ton of things I've missed that I'd love to talk about. I, more or less, recommend the short horror genre for consumption unless they're Slender Man videos or stuff of the popular ilk. I really love The French Doors, which was my main impetus to actually doing this review. I saw it for the first time years ago and always wanted to talk about it a bit more and get the word out there that it exists. So Pretty and So Dark were pleasant surprises and I really hope more things like that can exist in this world of ours.
I'd like to thank everybody who took the ride with me this October. It's been a blast. I'm looking forward to next October already. Even though these reviews are a drain and a half, I love doing them so much. In the coming months I'm seriously going to try to get some reviews out, hopefully a couple (at the very least) each month. My R. L. Stine reviews are going to keep trucking along during the late fall and winter, and I should have a ton of new movies to keep me occupied for quite some time. I also should mention that this October Nights, I also took the plunge of engagement with my long-time girlfriend. So, there's that as well. Again, this October has been amazing. Check out my Tumblr for updates and the like. I've posted there kind of irregularly up until now, but I'm going to post much more often now that I want to talk about horror and the like on every conceivable level.
See you all soon!
Edit: Oh, I have one more video I was told I have to talk about by my fiancee. She sent it to me and likes it a lot, so I kind of feel it's a bit necessary to talk about it at least a little. I won't have any pictures or it or whatnot, just a link, which you can find here.
Cargo from 2013, directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, is a fascinating take on the zombie. I generally don't like zombies, which is why I never review any movies with zombies in them. But this short film is actually done quite well, pushing a smart premise together with overdone cliched zombies to make something very unique.
It's the story of a father who gets into some kind of accident before the short begins. His wife is dead, but strapped to the seat belt of the car. He is bitten and sets about thinking of a brilliant and sad plan to save his infant baby child. It's very effective in the way it's shot, creating a good sense of both mood and atmosphere. I loved the plan he had, and the highlight of my first watching of the movie was actually figuring out what he had planned. It was a satisfying, if very sad, ending. I don't want to spoil too much. Check it out if you haven't already. Again, this is a serious recommendation from my fiancee, who literally told me I had to talk about this one or else she'd beat me.
(I'm kidding about that by the way. But she as a non-horror fan liked it, and me as a non-zombie fan also liked it.)
Labels: 4444444444, Another YouTube, Bedfellows, Children of the Corn, Disciples of the Crow, Katasumi, Knock, Mannequin, Mockingbird, Ninja Clown Monster, Proxy, Slender Man, So Dark, So Pretty, Stephen King, Takashi Shimizu, The French Doors, The Lovecraft Syndrome, Username 666, Victim