Archive for Twist ending

Films That Haunt Me: LES DIABOLIQUES

Posted in Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2015 by smuckyproductions

It’s November now, a time for Halloween hangovers before the Christmas rush begins in full force. After the horror rush of October, some might think it’s time to calm down, watch some wholesome films, get away from the macabre. And some can never get away. For those in the latter group, I continue my discussion of the grotesque and the Gothic, starting off with the noir nightmare LES DIABOLIQUES.

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This gem of French cinema is often referred to as the alternative to “Psycho,” perhaps because Hitchcock and Henri-Georges Clouzot – the director of this film – engaged in a bidding war for the book rights. When one sees the film, this couldn’t make more sense. It’s a dark, psychological, power-play crime story about a brutal man and two women – one his wife, the other his mistress – who conspire to get him out of their lives once and for all. Which they do. But what if he’s not done with them yet?

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So, yes, it sounds like a noir-thriller… until things start to happen. I can’t say what those things are, but just thinking about them horrifies me. Something about classic horror and bathtubs, man. But this is a film that brilliantly combines two genres that often get mistaken for one another. There is the reality and logic of a crime-thriller – murder, cover-up, detective work – but then, out of the dark, comes the cloying nightmare of horror. The latter component has less screen time, to be sure, but it is certainly provides the most memorable scene. Suffice to say, this has one of the best shock endings of all time.

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Its unique atmosphere also sets it apart from most noir-thrillers, which tend to have seedy, hard-boiled tones. Even before the murder takes place, this one adopts a sodden, autumnal aura that might be more at home in a ghost story, full of rainy skies and ill-kept corridors. With the quiet Gothic-ness of the beginning, the horror does not feel out of place.

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And that aura of the uncanny only serves to support the quietly-building hints within the film that something is not right. This is a master-class of tension. The occurrences are minute, almost imperceptible, until it dawns on the viewer that they’re terrified. And that’s when things really begin to happen. The film is patient and trusts that it will achieve its effect – a confidence that is often missing from modern genre offerings, which are too hasty to grab a quick scare, rather than sustaining a mood of dread.

This film is a dream come true for lovers of classic cinema and horror fans alike – perfect for these damp November afternoons, when we need a chill to keep us warm. And perhaps a heart-stopping shock, too.

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Fool’s Gold is available in paperback!

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2013 by smuckyproductions

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“Fool’s Gold,” a new vision of horror, is now available in paperback. Click HERE to buy now!

Top 5 Haunted House Films

Posted in Best Of, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2013 by smuckyproductions

I have a special place in my heart for good haunted house movies. So, in honor of an age-old genre and in anticipation of my new book that uses many of its tropes, here’s a few of my favorites.

5. The Changeling (1980)

This film, extremely influential in the genre, creeped me out beyond words. While not the most well-crafted movie, the storyline is inventive and very chilling, with a great twist and heart-pounding climax. The mansion is perfect, full of hidden rooms and cobwebs. Certain scenes – those who have seen this movie will remember a rubber ball – are wonderfully spooky, and the seance sequence is one of my favorites of all time. A must-see, especially around Halloween.

4. The Woman in Black (1989)

This isn’t really a haunted house movie (the ghost can travel) and it isn’t even a movie, as it was produced for TV, but I forgive this discrepancies. I enjoyed the remake, actually, but the original is one of the only films to manifest its ghost in a truly creepy way – most movies, when they reveal their spirit, loose tension because it just doesn’t look right. The titular character is just terrifying. Again, the atmosphere provided by Eel Marsh House and the misty English countryside is spooky as hell. This movie proves that nothing can beat the British in the 80’s for sheer eeriness. Impossible to find, but worth the search.

3. The Others (2001)

While arguably not a horror film, this quiet tale is horrific enough to include here – at 13, this movie scared the crap out of me. The atmosphere and setting are all perfect, claustrophobic but also large enough to cause fear of the darker corners. Kidman is brilliant, and her character is wonderfully complex. The children’s performances are shockingly good, too. This movie is much more creepy than frightening, but I’ll be honest, the piano scene sends chills up my spine. The ending could have been cheesy, but it’s subtle and beautifully done. A fantastic movie in every sense, and the perfect ghost story for a cold night.

2. The Innocents (1961)

An obvious addition to the list. This film, with its chilling music (can’t go wrong when you have a little girl singing) and dark themes, is fantastic for any genre. Here is another film to make its physical ghosts terrifically scary – when the first apparition appears to the fabulous Deborah Karr in the window, it’s impossible not to be creeped out. The mansion is gorgeous, full of atmosphere. The ambiguous ending – was it real, or is she crazy?? – is ahead of its time, and brilliant. It’s a unique movie, so much so that I was a little put off at first, but when you learn to appreciate it, it will never let you forget it.

And, DRUMROLL PLEASE….

1. The Haunting (1963)

Four years after I saw it for the first time, this movie remains one of the scariest I’ve ever seen… and nothing happens. There are some strange noises, some creepy wallpaper patterns, and a hysterical leading woman (a brilliant performance by Julie Harris), but that’s it. It’s a brilliant piece of cinema. Not only does it raise interesting questions about the nature of ghosts, it also introduces some terrifying ones. Hill House is beautiful and frightening all at once. The cast is amazing. The script is genius. I could go on. Skip the awful remake and see this one – arguably the scariest ghost film of all time.

Honorable Mentions

– Poltergeist: My first real horror film. Would be on this list, but it’s just a little too much for my taste now.

– Full Circle: A great performance by Mia Farrow, wonderful score, cool story – worth a look.

– The Amityville Horror (1979): Rather terrible in some senses, but who can forget Jody? Great memories with this one.

– Dead of Night (1945): This isn’t a 100% haunted house film, but I love it too much to ignore it – one of the stories, after all, involves ghosts.

– The Entity: Very cheesy but very scary, it’s dated but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The Awakening (2012): Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2013 by smuckyproductions

Director: Nick Murphy
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton
7/10

Being a sucker for a good atmospheric ghost story, I was exciting to see The Awakening available on Netflix. I had seen the trailer and was convinced that it was worth a watch. While it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for, I wasn’t wrong to check it out.

Rebecca Hall plays Florence Cathcart, a jaded woman who dedicates herself to debunking supernatural tales and legends in post-Great War England. When Robert Mallory (West) approaches her with the story of a haunted boarding school and a dead child, she decides to investigate. Her cold skepticism begins to slip once she begins encountering the ghosts of the school – and her past.

This film reminded me instantly of classics like The Innocents and The Orphanage, all works that employ sprawling mansions and foggy landscapes to create an eerie atmosphere that sets the stage for some creepy supernatural manifestations. The Awakening uses the wintry English countryside to the fullest extent, with beautiful images of misty forests and grey lakes all surrounding the gorgeously spooky boarding school. The cinematography is impeccable, creating many memorable visuals apart from the creepy stuff. If nothing else, it is a feast for the eyes. The acting is also wonderful, especially from the two female leads. In a horror industry that puts performance last, this film stands out.

The creepy stuff, however, does fall a little short. Compared to the subtlety of the camerawork and the acting, the scares are trying just a little too hard. There are a few scenes that gave me legitimate chills, but I was never very scared. In that sense, looking at the film as more of a supernatural drama puts it in a better light. It feels like an arthouse film more than anything, bringing up some poignant questions about the afterlife and the cynicism that World War I brought to Europe.

As a horror film, The Awakening doesn’t work on many levels. The scares are cliched and the ending has been seen too many times. As an arthouse drama, however, the film is well done, and even borders on brilliant at moments. The imagery is haunting, the performances are wonderful, and the questions raised are actually thought-provoking. It is, in some ways, a thinking man’s ghost story. Recommended, as long as it is looked at as something other than a scary movie.

The Other: Book Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2013 by smuckyproductions

Author: Thomas Tryon
Published in 1971
9/10

Since I don’t have a recent book to review for today, I thought I’d discuss a classic. “The Other,” written by an actor-turned-author, is a fantastically written supernatural thriller with great twists and wonderful atmosphere.

Twins Niles and Holland Perry live on a sprawling farm in 1930’s Connecticut. Their grandmother has taught them to transport themselves into other’s minds, in order to imagine what can be seen through their eyes. One hot summer, strange things begin to happen surrounding them: family members die violently, objects vanish, and sanity dissolves as the twins’ secrets drive the Perry family to ruin.

What really makes the novel fascinating is the evocation of place. Tryon brings the Perry farm to life fully, through beautiful prose and  extreme detail. It’s easy to be lost in the world the novel creates – it’s romantic, peaceful, and at times eerie beyond belief. The characters are given the same care, each one fully fleshed and visualized. “The Other” pulled me into its universe, and I loved every moment I spent there. This intense illustration makes it all the more terrifying, then, when Tryon introduces the horror behind the charming veneer. And there is plenty of horror that shows its head by the end.

The story takes turn after turn into ultimate darkness. Most of the novel is very quietly creepy, but the morbidity of some moments shocked me. The twists are sprinkled throughout, coming at the most unexpected moments. Some may see them coming from a mile away, but I always found myself taken by surprise. As a thriller, “The Other” is marvelous.

I’m surprised to find that “The Other” isn’t mentioned more when discussing horror classics. It’s a fantastic novel, with great characters and plot turns. Though it’s short, it is completely involving and at times, even brilliant. I recommend it, and put it high on my list of favorite horror stories.