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Ruk Watches 31 Horror Movies in 31 Days

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Well, it's the 1st of October and you know what that means! It's time to start dragging out the decorations for a certain popular holiday. I think you all know the one...




That's right! Christmas! What, you really think being three months away is enough to stop it from spreading its oily tendrils? Oh you poor naive fool. No matter how far you run or hide, Christmas will always find you sooner or later. Honestly, this isn't even entirely a joke, several supermarkets near my house have already started selling christmas merchandise already, in spite of it only just turning October. At this point, the holiday is increasingly feeling like the monster from the Thing, slowly assimilating each month into its mutated grasp. Speaking of...




Oh yeah, that's right. Come to think about it, it's also Halloween, isn't it?


Yes, Halloween. The spooky season of scares and spirits. Where ghouls and goblins lurk around every corner, witches cackle over their cauldrons and at least one or two culturally/racially inappropriate costumes inevitably end up being worn by people who should probably know better. Who doesn't love it?


But to celebrate this festive time of the year (before it ends being fully devoured by Christmas), I figure I'm going to do what I do best, watch some horror movies, write up my overly-detailed thoughts and then act like people care about them. Well, I say 'celebrate'. Chances are I was probably going to do this anyway, because it's a fun idea and my attempt to watch old movies kinda ended up getting stalled in the 1940's. 


Basically, I've made a huge-ass list of famous/acclaimed/interesting-looking horror movies that I've not actually seen yet. Each day of October, I'm going to use a random number generator to randomly pick a new horror movie from the list to watch and review. Then rinse and repeat until either October is over or real-life shit gets in the way and I forget about it. I've got a lot of horror movies of all sorts of different styles and genres, foreign, indie, animated, obscure, popular, modern, classic, terrifying or even downright silly. I'm pretty sure I even threw in a Scooby Doo movie or two just for the hell of it. 


Then, at the end of each review, I'm going to judge the movies on whether or not I found them scary, whether or not I found them silly (as many horror movies so often are) and my overall grade. And hopefully, if I make it all the way to Halloween, I'll end up ranking my favourites. 


So with all that out of the way,, let's get started with the first randomly selected movie of the month. And it's a howl of a good time! ...That's right, I am not above making halloween puns in this list. You have been warned.



Day 1: The Howling




Premise: After a traumatising encounter with a serial killer turns fatal, a newswoman is set to a remote mountain resort to relax and unwind. However, she finds that the inhabitants of this particular resort are rather... odd and unsettling. Could there be more to them than meets the eye? What is their mysterious secret?


The answer is that they're all werewolves. Because seriously, the movie is called The Howling. What exactly did you think was gonna happen?





Y’know, I’ve always had kind of a strange relationship with werewolf movies. 


See, in theory, I’m not amazingly fond of them, or to be more accurately, I’m not very passionate about them. After all, the idea is basically just the Incredible Hulk but with bad wolf make-up, right? For me personally, Werewolf stories have always lacked that little bit extra to make them interesting, compared to other infamous famous movie monster icons. Vampire movies have the sheer variety and flexibility of the lore, zombies have the apocalyptic spectacle of watching the entire world go to shit, Mummies have the cool Egyptian magic/curse shit and so on. Werewolves just have the full-moon transformation thing and that’s every bit as likely to end up looking stupid as it does scary, depending on the quality of the make-up.


So yeah, Werewolves have always been that odd red-headed stepchild among famous movie monsters in my eyes, popular enough to be well known, but not really something I get the appeal of that much. Or at least that’s how I view them in theory. In practice… honestly… most werewolf movies I see I genuinely end up really kind of enjoying. The Wolf Man, An American Werewolf in London, Dog Soldiers, all movies I really really liked and are among my favourite horrors period. And they're not the only ones. And yeah sure, arguments can be made that I liked those so much because those are the classics of the genre, but that’s never a guarantee for me liking a film and I really did like those movies a lot.


So, when I started off my random number generator and it ended up on this as my first horror movie of the month, I was little curious as to where it would end up. Would it prove my personal beliefs of werewolves being less interesting than their monster movie counterparts or would it once more end up being something I really really enjoyed? 


Long story short, it was the latter. This movie was great fun.


Now, I will start off by admitting that the story in this is not exactly going to strike anyone as being amazingly unpredictable, A woman gets sent to a retreat where all the colonists act weird, of fucking course they’re all going to turn out to be werewolves. But I’ve always been of the opinion that a simple story told well is far more worthwhile than any amount of overcomplicated twists or turns and the story here is honestly told pretty dang well here. The characters are sympathetic, it's fairly well paced, the mystery is slowly unfolded in an interesting manner, it never feels like it’s going on too long and even knowing as you do how it’s likely to end doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable journey. Plus there’s some neat foreshadowing as to the surreal nature of the colony and many of the smaller details and hints in the background are cool and so on.


Now, as for the werewolves themselves, there’s more or less only one real question that’s important here, especially since this movie is pre-CGI. Is the make-up and/or practical effects good? To which the answer is… it varies. Sometimes the effects are great. A lot of the transformation scenes are enjoyably grotesque and drawn-out, including one great little sequence with a severed hand. Other times… it does look a little bit silly, especially when it’s clear they’re relying on the cheaper masks. One particular dramatic scene at the very end is kinda undercut by the fact that the werewolf effects in question make her look more like a fluffy terrier more than a deadly creature of doom. But honestly, it’s a nice kind of silly, the sort that’ll make you chuckle rather than just get annoyed or bored with the movie. And, like I said, half of the time it honestly does look really good. It’s the sort of inventive practical effects work that they just don’t really make any more and that’s honestly a shame


In conclusion, yeah, I really enjoyed this movie quite a lot. It’s not exactly going to take anyone whose familiar with werewolf tropes massively by surprise, but if you’re looking for a simple werewolf movie told well then I’d probably recommend it. Either way, it’s a great start to the season and here’s hoping it’s an indicator of the quality for the rest of these.


Was it Scary?: Not exactly terrifying, but it had a good share of creepy and grotesque moments. 


Was it Silly?: …A little bit, yeah. But endearingly so.


Overall grade: A


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Day 2: Dark Water




Premise: A recently divorced mother moves into a new apartment with her young daughter. However, they find that weird stuff starts happening. A large damp patch appears on the ceiling, hair is found in their tap water, a mysterious Hello Kitty bag keeps turning up around the place and the movie starts seeing a creepy ghost girl around the place.


Because, y'know. It's Japan. Of course there's a creepy ghost girl.



Okay, first things first, I ought to admit that this movie kinda has a home-field advantage in regards to creeping me out. Mainly because, when I was very young, I watched a little movie called Ju-on: The Curse. In case you’re unaware, Ju-on: The Curse is basically the original Japanese version of The Grudge and, needless to say, it freaked younger me out a lot, to the point of having nightmares for weeks and a mild phobia of the dark that has persisted to this day. So, basically, to put it in Pokemon terms, stringy-haired Japanese ghost girls have a type-advantage against me that lets them hit for x2 damage.


Now, admittedly, this isn’t necessarily a universal advantage. After all, I never really got all that scared watching Ringu and/or The Ring, in spite of both movies being classics in the ‘stringy-haired ghost girl genre, (although I did still enjoy them both quite a lot) and I spent more time laughing than shivering when I saw 'Kayako vs Sadako' a couple of years back. (Which yes, is a thing that exists and is hilariously bad). But I still get pretty fucked up whenever I rewatch Ju-on: The Curse during a dark night, so it’s not exactly something to discount.


But anyway, the ultimate question is, how well does Dark Water hold up against its stringy-haired ghost girl peers? And the answer is, honestly, fairly well. It’s a pretty creepy movie.


I think one of the things that really makes it work well is the main setting. It’s a grimy rundown apartment building that feels increasingly decrepit and more and more ‘off’ as the movie goes on. It’s especially creepy when you realise that, aside from the main protagonist and her daughter, it’s more or less completely abandoned, with not a single other tenant anywhere to be seen. This creates a strong sense of isolation that makes all the freaky shit feel even more freaky than usual.


I’ve also got to give a lot of credit to the main actress, who does an excellent job as an increasingly harangued single mother simply trying to look after her daughter while more and more stress gets piled on her, both paranormal and regular. The movie itself puts quite a lot of emphasis on her personal drama and relationships and she does decent job of carrying it. Although it feels possible that the movie maybe puts a bit too much emphasis on that and maybe not quite enough on the spooks?


That’s not to say there’s not a lot of scares or spooky stuff going on, because trust me there is. There’s a lot of creepy shit that happens and some fairly good horror setpieces, especially towards the end. But I couldn’t help but feel that maybe it could’ve used one or two more big horror moments somewhere in the middle to help pace it out a little better. Because, as it is, it does feel a little light on the scares at a few points.


Still, it’s a good movie and I definitely enjoyed it a fair bit. It’s maybe not Ju-on: The Curse levels of creepy, but it was scary enough that, when I ended up having to do the dishes in the middle of the night not long after I finished, I was least a little bit unsettled about it. So yeah, it’s a solid Japanese ghost story. However, while it did scare me more than The Howling did, I can’t help but feel that the latter was overall a better movie. Either way though, it’s still worth checking out.


Was it Scary: Movie used Creepy Ghost Girl! It's Super Effective!


Was it Silly: Not really.


Overall Grade: B+

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Day 3: Kuroneko




Premise: A mother and her daughter-in-law are raped and murdered by a group of marauding samurai. After being resurrected by black cats (which is apparently a thing in Feudal Japan), their ghostly spirits trick and murder passing samurai in vengeance.


However, after enough samurai turn up dead with their throats bitten out (apparently the preferred method of execution for demon cat ghost ladies), a recently promoted samurai warrior, Gintoki (no relation to my current avatar), is sent out to find and destroy these demon ghosts, unaware that they're actually the ghosts of his own mother and fiance...


*soap music starts playing*





Huh. So I guess that makes two Japanese horror movies in a row about women/girls dying tragically before being resurrected as creepy ghosts. Weird coincidence. ...Well, okay, maybe not that weird, since there are like 20 famous Japanese horrors with the same premise, but still.


However, where Dark Water felt more like a modern creepy urban legend ghost story, this movie more resembles a spooky old folk tale than anything else. Not tremendously terrifying, but the sort of solid story that you could easily see having been passed down through the ages, more akin to Baba Yaga than Sadako. And I feel like that both works and doesn’t work to this film’s advantage.


The first thing I will say though is that this movie isn’t really all that openly scary, at least as far as I was concerned. Oh sure, there were some spooky and unsettling moments, but they were spooky in a fairly low-key sort of way. The ways the ghosts seemed to fly through the air and move unnaturally smoothly was a genuinely fairly cool visual, but it’s about as genuinely frightening as you’re going to get.


Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, there are plenty of horror movies out there that I enjoy a lot in spite of not really being all that afraid of them. That said, I don't feel like this really clicked with me quite right. I didn't dislike it by any means, but it didn't hit me as strongly as the other movies I've watched thus far on this.


The thing is, behind all the ghost story stuff, Kuroneko kinda feels like an old-timey Japanese melodrama. Lots of melodramatic acting and monologues and Japanese cultural stuff that I’m not entirely sure I got. And, to be perfectly honest, Japanese melodramas aren’t really my thing? Don’t get me wrong, like I said, there were a lot of things I liked about it. As much as I decried the movie for ‘not being all that scary’, a lot of the times when the ghosts get to really show their shit and do ghostly stuff is genuinely pretty cool to watch and has a lot of visuals that do hold up. It’s just that when the emotional melodrama turns up… Well, again, it’s not really my kind of thing.


Still, I can’t say that this movie isn’t worth watching and if that sort of old-timey melodrama-y ghostly folk tale sounds like it might interest you then definitely check it out. It just wasn’t really for me is all.

Is it Scary?: Not really.


Is it Silly: Kinda. The fact that the ghosts turn out to be cats was a little goofy.


Overall Grade: B/B-


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Day 4: Audition





Premise: An aged widower is convinced by his son to try and find a new love. He is convinced by a friend to hold an 'audition' for his new wife by interviewing various different women. While the audition is initially a bust, he does meet an interesting young woman with a tragic past named Asami, and becomes infatuated with her.


Absolutely nothing bad comes from this. Totally. He probably didn't need that foot anyway.





Okay, first things first, I swear this list isn’t going to be all terrifying Japanese chicks. Seriously, I don’t know why they keep turning up, but this is the third in a row now. At least this one isn't a ghost, as far as I could tell. 




Okay, so yeah, this was kinda fucked up. I mean, admittedly,  I kinda knew that going in, since the whole 'girlfriend turns out to be a psycho yandere' twist in this movie is pretty well know. And chances are that if you’ve heard of the movie, you've also probably heard of at least of the shit that ends up going on during it. It’s credited as one of the things that popularised the ‘Yandere’ trope after all. But, even knowing what it was going to be like going in, it still managed to squick me out more than once. It’s the sort of movie that I kinda wish I could see in a packed theatre if only to hear the audience reaction at various moments.


Still, I have to admit, I was kinda surprised by the first half or so of the movie which was… well… surprisingly normal considering its reputation. Hell, take out a few of the more suspicious moments and you could almost mistake it for a tame romcom or something. No (obvious) Yandere’s or piano wire or needles or kiri kiri kiri kiri to be seen. And sure, I’ll admit I wasn’t amazingly engrossed during that first half (and thought it maybe went on a touch too long) but, I appreciated the way it almost lulled you into a false sense of security before slowly scaling up the Holy-shittery. And boy did it end up going balls-to-the-wall insane as it went on.


The fact is, the movie is fucked up and unsettling and grotesque and that’s even before the big torture scene at the end. The flashbacks of Asami’s abusive childhood only become more and more strange and unsettling the more we see of them and need I even fucking mention Bag Man? In fact, on second thoughts, let's not mention Bag Man because huuuuugggh.


I will say that if I did have any problems with the movie once shit starts going off the walls is that it kinda had a slightly abrupt ending. Maybe I’ve just been spoilt by other insane gore/torture movies (which is... not a sentence I ever thought I'd say), but I felt like the big torture scene was leading up to something a bit more than what we got. And Asami's death was kind of a disappointment. Still, as far as crazy-ass Yandere torture flicks go, I think I more or less got what I was expecting and I can see why this is considered a classic in that genre.


Is it Scary?: Kiri kiri kiri kiri


Is it Silly?: Maybe, in that terrifying Yandere sort of way.


Overall grade: B+



Also, just a brief spoiler for tomorrow's movie, but I'm not going to be relying on the RNG for it. Why? Because I'm actually going out to the cinema to see this one. And it's also maybe not technically a horror movie as one might imagine, but it stars a pretty horrific figure as the lead... kinda. 


Okay, it's Venom. And I'm including it on the list because I want to see Venom. And it's my list, so screw you, I'm counting it.

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Posted (edited)

Day 5: Venom





Premise:  Sony still somehow thinks they can make their own Cinematic Universe with just Spider-Man properties. Only this time with Tom Hardy.





Huh. Well, that was certainly a thing.


You know, it’s kinda funny. I made a big deal at the end of yesterday’s entry about how and why I should totally be allowed to count this as a ‘horror’ movie, in spite of how clearly the trailers and marketing have made it look like it’s supposed to just be another superhero movie in the style of Marvel. Yet, upon watching the movie itself, I couldn’t help but notice that the most interesting parts of it where when it stopped trying to be a superhero movie and instead acted like a creepy horror possession flick, while the least interesting parts of it were when it was actually trying to be a superhero movie.


Yes, this is attempt No 372 of Sony’s to attempt to cash in on the MCU/Cinematic Universe craze. You’d think the absolute car crash of a reputation TASM2 got, combined with the almost universal internet mockery of the dozens of rumoured ideas they’ve been throwing about (an Aunt May movie, fucking seriously?) would’ve discouraged them, but no. But in this case, their shameless greed and absolute incompetence more irritates me than amuses. Because… honestly… I actually think there’s a fairly good movie buried within Venom. A weird and silly and probably hard R movie, but a good one nonetheless.


See, the comment I made earlier about the least interesting parts of Venom being the parts when it most tries to act like a superhero movie more or less sums up my thoughts on the movie. You could practically make a tally about all the boring scenes that feel like they're there just because that's what superhero movies do. It’s especially notable in the 1st act which was probably the most generically boring ‘1st act superhero movie’ I’ve seen in a blockbuster since forever. You can practically predict every scene and character beat in it note for note and there’s not a single spark of imagination or charisma or anything worthwhile in it whatsoever. Even Tom Hardy seems somewhat boring to start with (which trust me, is not the case for the rest of the movie).


However, after Tom Hardy gets infected by the Venom symbiote and starts hearing voices, the movie takes a hard 180 from painfully generic to hilariously bugfuck insane. Tom Hardy clearly has a blast with the mentally deteriorating Eddie and his weird cravings and ticks and interplay with the sociopathic voice in his head are all great fun to watch. Push it a little further and reattach that R-Rating that was sorely missing and I could easily see this being a fantastic horror/black-comedy. I was about ready to mentally switch off after about half an hour of the first act, but this immediately pulled me back in as Tom Hardy takes a bath in a lobster pool or does some crazy stupid shit that's hilarious to watch.


However, midway through the second act, after a cool little fight scene bolstered by Tom Hardy’s fantastically twitchy performance, he gets into a big car chase sequence, something that’s again often a staple of a lot of superhero movies. Which is why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s the point where the movie immediately starts getting boring again. Its not a good car chase. It feels like it goes on too long, only has a handful of cool moments and features the most stupidly wasteful use of drones I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, kamikaze-ing them into vehicles can not be the most cost effective way to kill someone). Fortunately, once it’s over, we get right back to Tom Hardy and Venom being bugnut insane and having great chemistry with each other, but it only goes further to prove my theory that Venom is at its least interesting when it's just trying to mimic its competitors.


It's especially notable because I actually really enjoyed the action scene that came shortly after, with a full-suited Venom going full movie monster on a swat team and picking them off out of the smoke while they desperately try to kill him. It's violent and brutal (albeit still clearly tamed down for the PG 13 rating) and fun and not really something you'd see in a traditional superhero movie. I'm not going to call it outstanding, but I had more fun with it than any of the other more traditional action sequences.


Anyway, more crazy stuff happens with Tom Hardy and Venom and it’s relatively entertaining, right until we get up to the big superhero movie climax. You know the one and, if you’ve been paying attention, you know exactly how it’s going to play out. Venom fights a slightly more powerful version of himself and it's as smashy and dull and filled with all the same boring emotional beats you expect. And I’ve especially got to bring up Ric Ahmed’s villain here, who I just fucking hated all throughout the movie. Almost every scene he’s in, he’s delivering some self-righteous ‘for the greater good’ speech that is clearly supposed to make him seem intelligent and just a bit frightening and give him ‘complex’ motivations, but it feels more like someone just opened up their ‘Dummies Guide to writing ‘for the Greater Good’ speeches and copied and pasted the most basic examples. It doesn’t make him intimidating or sympathetic, it just makes him boring and self-righteous and yet again another superhero movie feature that just doesn’t work in this movie. It doesn't help that Riz Ahmed, as much as I've loved him in other movies, has absolutely no menace. Absolutely none. He's more punchable than intimidating.


Honestly, it really is kind of a shame that this movie didn’t end up being what it wanted to be. Almost all the issues I had above feel like stuff re-shot or ordered by executives to make it more palatable and like the traditional superhero movie format, yet it’s ultimately what drags the movie down from it’s original glorious vision. Which is a bugfuck crazy, hilariously fun horror-comedy ride that I really did want to see more of. Heck, I’m not surprised in the slightest to learn that Tom Hardy said nearly 40 minutes of content was cut out of it and that said 40 minutes contained almost all of his favourite bits. And I really want to see how that 40 minutes turned out, because what little I could see though the cracks of this movie was deliciously insane and entertaining.


Basically, long story short, screw the Snyder cut, that’s going to be awful either way. Bring me the goddamn hard R Venom cut, with all the drippings.




And then bring me a sequel with Woody Harrelson in a terrible wig attempting to outham Tom Hardy. Which is something I never would’ve thought I wanted until I saw the post-credits scene to this film, but now I can’t think of anything I want more.





Is it Scary?: Not really? But maybe a bit more than you might expect.


Is it Silly?: Gloriously so, when it gets the opportunity.


Overall Grade: C (B+ for entertainment value though)

Edited by rukaio101

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Day 6: Scooby Doo and the Gourmet Ghost




Premise: It's a Scooby Doo movie. What exactly do you think is going to happen? Gang go to place, find place is haunted, split up and look for clues, get chased around by a ghost and then find and unmask the bad guy. S'not exactly complex.





Eheh. Remember the lengths I went to to try and convince everyone that I should be allowed to count Venom as a horror movie? I was really not intending to have this immediately turn up on the Wheel of Doom afterwards.

Still, I don't feel like I should have to argue too hard to justify this film's appearance. After all, Scooby Doo is basically a kid's introduction to both the horror and mystery genre. Hell, the Mystery Incorporated TV show had an episode that was an homage to freaking Saw of all things. They've covered all kinds of spooky movie monsters, many fake, some even real, so I don't feel like I'm pushing my luck too hard including this.


Plus, I really like Scooby Doo.


As for why I picked this movie in particular, well, I'd already seen most of the really famous Scooby Doo movies like Zombie Island and the like, and this one only seems to have come out a short while ago so I thought I'd give it a try. I should note, I have absolutely no idea who any of the real life celebrities in this are, or really anything about the cooking world period, so I was going in a little blind.


And honestly? I really enjoyed it.


Admittedly, I wasn't going into the movie with astoundingly high aspirations, at least compared to many of the other movies on this list. I was going in expecting a fun Scooby Doo adventure and it delivered more or less exactly what I was hoping for and maybe a little extra on top of that. The jokes were sharp, the animation nice, the hijinks amusing, the side characters appropriately quirky (with special to Chef Sue, the psychotic Russian Sous chef who stole every moment she was on screen) and even the ghost had a fairly creepy design.


Honestly, in some ways, my reaction to this is a bit like what I said when I reviewed The Howling, in that it doesn’t matter if your story is predictable as long as you tell it well, or at least make it fairly entertaining to watch. And in that regard, this movie pretty heavily delivers, with a lot of laughs and great character moments and a neat main villain, even if I did figure out who was behind it almost immediately. It's basically just a Scooby Doo story, but it's a Scooby Doo story told fairly well. Which is more or less all I can ask for.


Is is Scary?:  It's a Scooby Doo movie.


Is it Silly?: It's a Scooby Doo movie!!!


Overall Grade: A-

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Day 7: Seoul Station




Premise: A zombie outbreak breaks... well... out in Seoul, Korea. In the middle of the usual bitey chaos, a man hunts for his runaway prostitute daughter as the city falls apart around them. But as the situation grows more and more desperate and more and more truths are revealed, could it be that the normal are the real monsters all along...?

Yes. Because, as we all know, that's literally the message of almost every since fucking zombie movie in existence.



This is one of the more obscure entries I had on my list and, weirdly enough, actually probably one of the ones I was looking forward to the most. I don't know how many of you have seen the 2016 film 'Train to Busan', of which this film is an animated prequel, but if you haven't seen it I would recommend you find a copy asap and watch it right now. It's legitimately one of the best zombie movies I've ever seen and left my heart in my chest for nearly every last minute of the run time. It's the sort of zombie movie that makes you question why people are getting tired of zombie movies.


But yeah, this movie is technically a prequel to Train to Busan although, in practice, the two don't really have much in common aside from being ostensibly set during the same zombie outbreak. So I was interested in checking it out, especially since it's animated and I do love me some animation.


Unfortunately, the movie itself is... nor particularly great.


Weirdly enough, I actually think a large part of this comes down to one of the bigger selling points of this movie to me; the fact that it was animated. Because the animation in this movie isn't really all that good. I don't whether it was down to the budget or just the preferred style of the director (who's done some other acclaimed animated movies I've not seen), but most of it is fairly clearly rotoscoped and pretty flat and lifeless to boot. There's no real taking advantage of the relative visual freedom that animation can afford you and it's really somewhat difficult to see why this couldn't have been done in live-action instead. Plus all the zombies end up looking almost identical, just with different colour t-shirts. Weirdly enough, the normal looking humans often end up being designed to look more grotesque and ugly than the zombies, something I'm not entirely sure if it's deliberate or not, but whatever. Like I said, I suspect part of the issue is down to budget, but compared to the frantic and exciting action scenes and cinematography in Train to Busan, this was just kind of flat and banal in comparison.


As for the story itself, it was just kinda eh. More or less just the usual stuff you'd expect to see in a zombie movie. 'Oh no, zombies are here, let's get away from where the zombies are while trying not to get bit and/or dead.' And while, to some degree, Train to Busan had technically the same kind of plot albeit on a train, that movie didn't really need much extra since the entire selling point in that movie comes from the awesome action. (Plus 'train' is a unique enough setting in zombie movies to be interesting, at least compared to 'city'.) This doesn't really have that or anything particularly capable of setting it apart, IMO. There were a handful of neat twists at the end, but said twists also made it so that almost every character ends up being a massive jerkass or dead or both.


To be fair, I'm not going to call it the worst thing ever. There are some neat action scenes, some neat character moments and some neat twists towards the end, but I still can't help but feel somewhat let down. If you're looking for an exciting zombie movie, just watch Train to Busan. Or, if you've already seen it, watch it again. There's really not enough worthwhile here.


Is it Scary?: Not really.


Is it Silly?: Maybe some of the cheap animation, I guess?


Overall Grade: C-


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Day 8: Alice (1988)




Premise: A retelling of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice in Wonderland story, with a mixture of live-action and stop-motion puppetry. Also kinda fucked up.




Well, once again it looks like we have another unintentional three-in-a-row, although this time it's animated movies… kinda? Technically, Alice (or Neco z Alenky to use its original title) is less a traditional animation and more like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where it’s a mixture of both live action and animation constantly interacting with each other, albeit in this case stop motion animation rather than more traditional fare.

Also, it's freaky as fuck.


In case you’re unfamiliar with this movie (as I suspect many of you are), I wasn't lying in the premise when I said basically it’s a fairly faithful retelling of Alice in Wonderland. But, where both the original story and the Disney movie were more about the child-like whimsy, wonder and silliness of the world, this is more… well… uncanny. For example, this is what the White Rabbit looks like.




Now I don’t mean to crib this bit from Audition, but AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


Yeah, if the original Alice in Wonderland is a fun LSD trip, this movie is more of a uncomfortable freak-out. Technically, it doesn’t really change all that much from the original story, it merely tells it in a different, more unsettling way. The settings aren’t so much magical wonderlands, but more reminiscent of abandoned old houses and attics, with chicken coop cages and taxidermy which doesn’t just fall into the Uncanny Valley, but actively seems to revel in it.


Now, there’s not much in the way of active jump scares in this film, but that doesn't stop the movie from having a constantly unsettling off-kilter edge to it. There’s no score and the movie is largely ‘narrated’ by Alice herself, giving it the impression of a children’s story that’s not quite right. Like one of those cheap theme park animal costumes that’s ended up looking more unintentionally terrifying than huggable. But in this case, it’s fairly deliberately terrifying (at least I hope).


But honestly, this was actually a really fun watch. It’s not something I’ve really seen before all that much, but I definitely don’t regret seeing it. It’s unsettling and disturbing but in an entirely enjoyable way. Plus, there's very little dialogue so most of the creep factor comes solely from the visuals and the deliberately disturbing animation and puppetry. So yeah, I’d give it a recommend.


Is it Scary?: Did you not see the fucking rabbit? Jesus!


Is it Silly?: Yes, but not in the way this category was intended for. (This is Alice in Wonderland after all.)


Overall Grade: A

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Day 9: The Orphanage




Premise: Intending to set up a school for different-abled children, a young woman returns to her old orphanage with her husband and their adopted son. However, things take a turn for the weird when their son starts claiming to see ghostly children, including a boy with a sack mask over his head. 


Weird shit is afoot and, when things take a turn for the tragic, the woman is forced to question whether the ghosts are the real danger here.




This may seem like an odd non-sequitur to start this off with, seeing as he wasn't responsible for directing this movie,but I really love Guillermo Del Toro movies. I love the way he throws himself into every movie with such visible passion and treats all the genres he covers with such respect, be it wartime drama or giant robots smashing shit up.


But when it comes to my favourite GDT movie, funnily enough, it's not Pan's Labyrinth or Hellboy or Pacific Rim or any of the more common answers. It's the Devil's Backbone, a Spanish-language horror movie that, like this film, is a ghost story set in an orphanage. And in a lot of ways, this movie really does feel like a spiritual successor to that film, both in tone, setting, atmosphere and some of the ultimate themes and twists.

And, quite frankly, I loved the hell out it.


Seriously, this movie captured so many of the things that I loved about The Devil's Backbone and matched it beat for beat in quality, while still adding its own twists and quirks to set it apart. It creates such a haunting atmosphere, not through jumpscares or loud creepy music, but through a slow build of emotional tension to craft visibly affecting scenes. There was one scene in particular, involving a psychic medium, that just gripped me by my teeth and refused to let go.


A large part of the credit does need to go to the film's main actress though, Belen Rueda, who carries a large amount of the movie's emotion on her shoulders and does it magnificently. She really does work as a mother driven half-to-derangement in fear for her child and it never feels too over-the-top or unrealistic. Most of the side cast does a great job too, even if the child actor is a little irritating at times.


But the vast majority of what makes this movie work is the direction. J.A Bayona is increasingly becoming one of those directors who I really need to keep an eye on, especially after his excellent job with A Monster Calls (which beat Train to Busan as my second favourite movie of 2016) and The Impossible. A small part of me wonders what kind of job he could have done with Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, had he not been tied down by Colin Trevorrow's fairly lousy script. Because here he's absolutely on point, with an almost masterful control of atmosphere and tension, all leading up to a dramatic emotional climax and a magnificently bittersweet ending.


Admittedly, it's not all 100% perfect. There are a few scenes that came off a little silly when I think they were meant to be frightening and one moment in particular involving a bus crash had me howling in laughter (although that laughter died pretty quickly after, following a particular scare). And I would say that ultimately I prefer The Devil's Backbone just a bit more. But the fact that it came this close is certainly impressive indeed. Definite recommend


Was it Scary?: At points, yes, but it's more focused around the atmosphere than active jump scares.


Was it Silly?: A few moments here and there, yes.


Overall Grade: A+/A




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Day 10: The Fog




Premise: A mysterious fog rolls in on a secluded harbour town and weird things begin happening in its wake. Electrical equipment starts malfunctioning, washed up flotsam starts leaking water even when dried and ghost lepers start murdering people with hooks.


Oh yeah, ghost lepers are a thing. And they're feeling pretty homicidal. Better stay out of the fog...





You know, there's an interesting thing I heard somewhere about this movie. Originally, it got pretty mixed reviews when it initially came out, to the point where even John Carpenter himself (the director) said he wasn't fond of it and that it could've been better. Now, obviously, it's gone through a bit of vindication with time and for good reason but, as a writer myself, I kinda sympathise with John Carpenter's position on it. Because the movie is good, no doubt about that... but it feels like it could've been done better.


I mean, let's face it, it's a great premise. A strange otherworldly fog rolls in from nowhere, hiding a bunch of murderous shadowy ghosts out for revenge. And the build-up is fantastic, establishing a cast of likeable characters and slowly adding more and more strange and mysterious events as the fog grows closer. The movie has that real classic unmistakable John Carpenter feel to it that reminded me a lot of his best films, like Halloween or the Thing. Plus the soundtrack is outstanding, using deem thrumming noise to really build up the tension and mystery and other-worldliness of the titular fog.


Unfortunately, I kind of feel like the movie doesn't really live up to that excellent premise in the second act. Oh certainly, there are a few creepy and well done scenes here and there, but the meagre few kills in the movie are relatively banal and samey, there's no real interesting invention or playing around with the premise, the ghost just come, smash stuff up and attack people until they're driven away. I won't say it feels anti-climatic, since the scene where they're driven away is pretty dramatic, but it feels kind of... underfed, for lack of a better term.


Don't get me wrong, I ultimately did enjoy the movie quite a lot. Like I said, it's really got that classic John Carpenter feel to it and the build-up in the first act is outstanding. I just feel like the second half could've maybe used a bit more attention and imagination, to really do the premise justice. Also, if your big thing is 'SIX [people] WILL DIE', maybe don't kill three of them off all at once very early into the story and have two extras die midway through in pretty quick succession.


Still, like I said, I did enjoy it, even if I feel it could've been done a bit better.


Was it Scary?:  Not terrifyingly so, but at times it was a bit creepy, yeah.


Was it Silly?: Not really?


Overall Grade: B+/B


Edited by rukaio101
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A/N: Apologies for the brief delay in this entry. I was over in Glasgow for the weekend, so I didn't really have time to do write-ups. I'm going to try and increase my productivity for the next few days to catch up


Day 11: Eraserhead




Premise: Hah!





Okay, I joke, but I actually mean that in a very positive way. Eraserhead is one of the most famous surrealist movies out there, as well as being David Lynch’s directorial debut and it has a pretty strong reputation for its atmosphere of weirdness and horror. And I can see why because this movie is really good. Like really good.


Honestly, surrealist movies tend to be a bit hit and miss for me. Sometimes they work really well, sometimes they just feel like they’re trying too hard to be random and end up feeling unfunny or uninteresting as a result. My view on this even applies to major acclaimed surrealist films. I enjoyed Holy Motors, but Un Chien Andalou felt dull and uninteresting, once the infamous eye slicing scene was finished. However, I honestly think I enjoyed Eraserhead more than any of those movies. Because it really is something spectacular.


A large part of why this movie works so well comes down to the sound design. Now, I will admit that, like most people I expect, I’m really not the sort of person who tends to pay that much attention to sound design or care about it too much. Hell, I’m still not 100% on the difference between Sound Design and Sound Mixing. So needless to say, it takes a really good example of sound design to make me sit up and go ‘Holy shit, the sound design in this movie is amazing’. And, to be honest... Holy shit, the sound design in this movie is amazing. Almost every sound or note or clunk or cry is designed to just leave you unsettled, create an almost oppressive weight and atmosphere over you. The guttural distressed cries of the ‘baby’ were slightly inhuman, yet close enough that they still seemed to actively hammer on that part of my hind brain that dislikes children crying. The overwhelming throooooms during particularly dramatic moments seem to almost press down on you like a slowly descending weight, it’s truly an outstanding example of how sound design helps a movie.


However, it’s not like the sound design is all there is to the movie. The cinematography is equally outstanding, taking full advantage of the film’s black and white nature to create a dark dank environment that’s defined by its heavy use of shadows and this distinct unshakable feeling that something seems… off somehow. It’s also an excellent showcase of practical effects, especially in regards to the ‘man-made turkey’ and baby puppet. Apparently to this day nobody is entirely certain how Lynch created said puppet (which is never a good sign) but it looks amazing and unsettling and everything it needs to be. And as small as the cast of the actors are in the movie, each of them does a fantastic job, capturing the weird, slightly uncomfortable mood that Lynch was aiming for perfectly.


Personally, a large part of the reason for me as to why the movie worked where other surrealist movies didn’t, is that all the surrealist elements in this movie, while weird and bizarre, all seem to strangely fit within the world and atmosphere that the movie creates. It doesn’t feel like weird shit is happened for weird shit’s sake, it merely feels like this world is working perfectly and every action makes sense in its own messed-up way, just to completely different laws and dynamics than ours. It’s a truly fascinating look into an almost alien environment.


Honestly, no joke, I genuinely think I enjoyed this movie more than any other horror movie I’ve watched for this month thus far. It really gripped me in a way that few others have and refused to let go until the very last minute. It’s uncomfortable in the right places, creepy in all the right ways and never goes too far into the surrealist stuff that it becomes uninteresting. I can entirely see why this movie has grown so popular and beloved and entirely recommend it to anyone interested in seeing more.


Was it Scary?: More in terms of oppressive atmosphere and uncomfortableness than open scares, but yes.


Was it Silly?: Yes and no. It is a surrealist film after all.


Overall Grade: A+





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Day 12: Hausu 




Premise:  HAH!






Okay, jokes aside, once again I do mean this in a fairly positive way. I’m not entirely sure what Chaos God led to me getting two of the weirdest surreal horrors on my list in a row, but both of them have honestly been pretty fun, so I can’t exactly complain.


However, where Eraserhead was a masterclass of unsettling tension and oppressive atmosphere, Hausu is... silly. Really really silly. And weird and crazy and clearly not meant to be taken seriously. Hell, the main characters, a bunch of Japanese schoolgirls (because of course this comes from Japan) who are invited to a mysterious haunted house, are called Gorgeous, Prof, Kung Fu, Fantasy, Sweet, Melody and Mac (presumably after the Big Mac) and have the personality traits to match. This is clearly not intended to be a normal, serious movie and not only is that made clear from almost frame one, it doesn't for a moment pretend otherwise.


However, that doesn't mean it's not really enjoyable on its own merits. It's absolutely chock-filled with great gory effects (and some which are terrible but enjoyably so), trippy visuals and crazy sequences and a girl being eaten by a piano. And then another being eaten by a lampshade. But not before her severed legs escape from said lampshade so they can launch a flying kick towards the... Okay, I think you get my point on why I think this movie is hella weird and silly.


Like I said though, it is really fascinating to watch. Apparently the director got many of the ideas from his young daughter.... which makes a lot of sense if you watch the movie, but I really think it works in its own unique way. Like a story written by a young child, it has its strange leaps in narrative events and logic that, if you think about them make a twisted kind of sense, but not quite. Especially when you throw in the visual style and effects of Evil Dead 2 on top of all that. There aren't really many movies, horror or otherwise, that I see willing to just go out and get as weird and crazy and silly as this movie.


So yeah, in a lot of ways, in spite of both movies being fairly surrealist, this was really the polar opposite of Eraserhead. Yet, in its own unique way, I ended up really enjoying it. There were a few moments were it felt a bit slow and/or got a little too silly (or, more accurately, got silly in the wrong kind of way), but otherwise this was one hell of an amusing trip.


Was is Scary?: There were actually a few neat horror effects here and there.


Was it Silly?: VERY.


Overall Grade: A/A-

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Glad to see this thread came back, I was worried when it wasn't there for a few days.


And yes, I've been reading it all.

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Ended up being too busy to update this last few days so I'm going to do a bunch today and tomorrow to catch me up. 


Day 13: Village of the Damned



Premise:  A mysterious event leads to every man, woman and child in a small English village suddenly falling unconscious for several hours. Not long after they wake up, it is discovered that every single woman of child-rearing age is mysterious pregnant.


Said women give birth to a small legion of eerie, white haired children with emotionless expressions, mysterious psychic powers and tremendously British accents. Naturally everyone attempts to destroy them on sight.




Like most people I expect, my only real knowledge of this movie going into was the whole 'creepy, white-haired psychic children' thing that has been so often parodied and referenced in pop culture over the years. Because, let's face it, that's really the only big thing people actually remember about this movie. Creepy psychic children being creepy.

Which is honestly kind of a shame, because the movie itself is actually really really good.


Seriously, I was genuinely surprised at just how quickly and effectively the movie grabbed my interest. There's no boring build-up or uninteresting background setting, we just get a few minutes of one of the characters talking on the phone and, next thing we know, an entire village has fallen mysteriously unconscious onscreen.


It's honestly a really strong beginning. We get an interesting mystery right off the bat and the characters outside the village approach it an analytical and sensible way to try and find out more. They cordon off the village with the military, send people in in various experimental ways to see if they can get past the mysterious effect or, at the very least learn about it. There's even a bit of tension as one particular test, involving an airplane, goes terribly wrong.


And even once the village awakens, it still doesn't lose that strong interesting premise. The actual story itself moves pretty fast, each scene revealing more and more of the mystery and showing various reactions to it. It's tremendously well paced, with no moment feeling like it's being lingered on too long and, just when you get comfortable, a new twist is added to the fray.


As for the creepy kids themselves, yeah I can definitely see why they've made such an impact on popular culture. Even as infants, there's something just not quite right with them, with the way they seem to mysteriously communicate with each other ala hive mind, and that only grows more unsettling when they grow older and starting using their powers more and more. The eerie glow in their eyes and the way the music stings when they're using their psychic powers is simple, but really effective in terms of showing something terrifying and unnatural.


So yeah, I honestly enjoyed this movie a lot more than I expected to. If you're only aware of this movie for the whole 'creepy kids being creepy trope', I'd actually kinda recommend you give it a look. It doesn't quite reinvent the wheel in terms of 50's horror movies involving sci-fi elements, but it's a story told well and it's a very fun watch.


Was is Scary?: *stares menacingly with glowing eyes*


Was it Silly?: Not really/


Overall Grade: A

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Day 14: Zombi 2




Premise:  A boat drifts ashore in New York City, belonging to a missing scientist and containing one angry zombie. A curious reporter teams up with the missing scientist's daughter on a mission to find the truth and track the boat's trail back to an island in the Caribbean, where the dead have been rising.


Also a zombie fights a shark and very horrible things happens to someone's eyes.





Ah Lucio Fulci. Godfather of Gore and King of Sharp Objects Getting Uncomfortably Close to People’s Eyes. You know, for as much as I’ve enjoyed some of his other previous works, like The Beyond, it always struck me as odd that I’d never actually seen his most famous film, Zombi 2 (the unofficial Italian sequel to Dawn of the Dead, which was Zombi 1 in Italy). So naturally, I was pretty excited when the Wheel of Chaos brought up this classic as its next choice.


However, it was also why I was kinda disappointed when I ended up finding this movie… well… fairly boring.


Now don’t get me wrong, the gore is great. Fantastic even. As is the make-up on the zombies which is enjoyably grotesque and decompose-y. It is pretty clearly practical effects, but it’s good practical effects and it looks great. Plus, there’s some pretty solid action to boot. I’m sure all of you have at least heard of the infamous zombie vs shark moment and, even if you haven’t, there’s an absolutely hand-biting moment fairly early on in the movie involving a large jagged door splinter and somebody’s eye. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t seen the movie, trust me when I say I can sum it up with the simple phrase of ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!’


In fact, I’m actually going to go one step further and say that almost every moment of the film with the actual zombies in, is great fun and enjoyably gruesome and gory. The problem is that said zombie scenes only really feel like they take up maybe a third of the movie and… well… the rest of the movie is dull. Tediously dull. The main characters aren’t interesting, the dialogue is flat and even the few moments of emotional pathos they attempt to squeeze out just feel kinda bland and lifeless. You spent most of the time waiting for the zombies and the fantastic practical effects to pop back up and just get bored when they don't.


Because, like I said, when the actual zombies and gore/make-up department get a chance to shine, the movie is great fun and up there with the best of Fulci's work. But when said zombies are offscreen (which is far too often) there's just nothing left to give a crap about.


In conclusion, honestly, while I’d like to give this movie a higher score, I ultimately can’t. The zombies look great and the gore effects are fantastic, but everything else is a flat uninteresting squib. And the flat uninteresting bits outnumber the cool zombie v shark bits two to one. So I'm giving this a solid mixed score.






Overall Grade: C

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Day 15: Candyman




Premise:  Helen, a graduate student writing her thesis on urban legends, decides to try and research the Candyman (a hook-handed wraith who appears if you say his name five times in a bathroom mirror) and his relationship to a rundown, gang-infested housing estate.


What results is a murderous mindtrip of bees, hooks and murder as the real Candyman makes his appearance and systematically rips Helen's life apart.





I’m not going to lie, this was a hell of a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I was going in expecting a fairly typical slasher movie, one based on that whole ‘Bloody Mary in the mirror’ thing. What I got was something significantly more thematically rich and complicated, with explorations of race, urban legends and the blurring of lines between a good ghost story and almost religious parable.


Well, okay, maybe I’m overplaying it a little bit, but I ended up really enjoying this movie. Everything from its characters. to its ideas, to its themes, to its settings, to its soundtrack, which resembles less a traditional creepy slasher theme and more an angelic church choir, fitting nicely with the themes of the movie. It all just worked for me.


In particular, I’ve got to make mention of Tony Todd as the titular Candyman. I’ll admit, I’m not amazingly fond of unmasked serial killers in horror movies and I’m fairly mixed on whether or not I think it works here, but one thing I can’t criticise is his voice. I don’t think it’s exaggeration to say that Tony Todd’s voice is like pure liquid honey being poured into your ears.I don’t know if they added modulators or whatever to it to give it that tone, but it’s the kind of sexy-ass voice that's impossible not to love, regardless of sexual orientation. It really adds to the mythic god-like status the movie provides him and makes him sound something more than your regular slasher villain..


Not to say the main heroine isn’t worth her share of compliments either. Virginia Madsen's Helen is our main focus for much of the movie and she knocks it out the park, going from curious investigator to barely deranged and unhinged as the results of the movie take more and more of a toll on her, right up until the final scene which, while I won’t spoil it here, is one hell of a doozy.


Honestly, there are so many great scenes that stuck with me in this film. The toilet scene, the parking garage introduction of the Candyman, the ‘crunchy’ kiss (you know the one), more scenes than even a lot of the better serial killer movies tend to provide. Combined with its genuinely interesting and philosophical look at the idea of urban legends and this was really a movie that delivered a lot more than I was expecting.



Was is Scary?: More in terms of creating a strong atmosphere of dread, than open actual scares. Still effective though.


Was it Silly?: Tony Todd may have the voice of a sexy god, but his face isn't exactly the scariest.


Overall Grade: A

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Doing stuff a little bit different with this one. I'll go back to regular format next time though. Also, this is the last I'm posting today. I'll post the rest of the catch-up series tomorrow.


Day 16: Whistle and I'll Come to You






Double-billing time! Okay, admittedly, this wasn’t entirely a deliberate choice. This was actually one of the movies I had on DVD, based on a classic story by M.R. James which also happened to be one of my favourite ghost stories growing up, hence why I put it on the list. The original story is about an academic who comes across a strange old whistle while exploring the English coast. He blows it and naturally bad things happen.


However, what I didn’t realise was that the DVD in question I’d bought had not one, but two tv movie adaptations of the short story, one produced in 1968 and the other a more recent 2010 version starring John Hurt (one of my favourite actors, RIP) However, both movies were only about 40-50 minutes long, so I figured I might as well watch them and review them both and see how they hold up.



1968 Version:


Probably the more faithful of the two to the original short story and also I reckon probably the better of the two? It takes a very classic black-and-white horror movie approach to the story, with the less in the way of big jump-scares/sudden shocks and more about the creation of an eerie atmosphere, slowly building and building in tension as the story goes on.


There are some genuinely fantastic moments and shots in this movie, including one not long after the protagonist finds the whistle, where we see a shadowy figure watching him from the beach as he walks away, a shot that immediately stood out to me as something special. (In fact, you can see part of it on the box-art above.) I’m pretty sure the 2010 filmmakers agreed with me on this one, because they very heavily reference that shot in a moment of their own. And there’s another one, on the same beach, involving a mysterious apparition in bedsheets that looks really great, spooky and unsettling for the time period.


That said, there are two things I’m not all that fond of. The first is Michael Hordern’s performance as the main protagonist. It starts pretty alright, but as the movie goes along, it goes from a quirky introverted professor character to… well… 'Mr Bean'-lite. He just hams it up and overplays the quirkiness of the character way too much and it ends up hurting the movie as a result. In particular in the final climax, which is actually my second criticism. The final climax in the original short story was one of my favourite moments and freaked me the hell out. The final climax in this, in comparison, is… a little underwhelming. Even ignoring Hordern going over-the-top and sucking his thumb, it basically just amounts to a few sheets rustling about a bit. Considering it was my favourite moment in the original story, it's just a tad disappointing, is all.


Still, I did like it quite a fair bit and I wasn’t really bored at any point. Plus, like I said, there are some truly classic shots and moments. SO I’d give it a fairly solid score.


Overall Grade: B+


2010 version:


Okay, as far as adaptations go… this takes a lot of liberties with the original source material. The main character is completely different, as are his motivations/drives, it has different themes and story beats and scares. Hell, there isn’t even an actual whistle in the thing, being replaced by a ring. And, honestly, I’m kinda mixed on a lot of the changes. Some work, some don’t, some are just headscratching (see the aforementioned whistle) and some are good but just make you wonder why it was stuck in a ‘Whistle and I’ll Come to You’ adaptation. Honestly, in hindsight, it’s probably better to think of this less as an adaptation of the short story and more a work lightly based on a similar premise.


And, taken on its own as its own work… it’s alright. It has some good moments of tension, some good spooky bits and John Hurt is fantastic as always. It goes for the whole ‘ghosts and symbols for mental/real-life issue’ thing, similar to the trend in recent horrors like the Babadook or Under the Shadow. And even if I don’t think it comes anywhere close to the heights of those movies, I give it credit for at least trying to be its own thing and handling itself with at least some level of competency. That said, it’s significantly less memorable than the 1960’s version and all the changes means that it loses a lot of what made the original ghost story so interesting to read. Still, maybe give it a check if you’re interested.


Overall Grade: B


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