Sunday, 29 December 2013

The TMT Awards 2013: Category 1 - Music

Hi all,
It's almost the end of the year and I've been incredibly lazy with this blog. My last post was at the end of October and that's just slack! Especially since so much has happened. I finished my novel, there was Christmas and I finished my novel. So, over the next four days (to make up for my laziness), I present to you the TMT Awards! TMT, by the way, comes from the name of the fanzine I created called Theta Morbius Times. It's stuck with me, so most of the things I do are linked to that in some way. Anyway, these awards will be split into four categories; music, books, television and film. In these, I'll basically just state what I liked during the year and what I'll remember from 2013. So, today, I present to you the first category; music.


Is it just me or were there some really good songs this year? Many of my favourite artists (Alexander Rybak, Eric Saade, Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding, OneRepublic, One Direction, Maria Mena, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, Jessie J and Lilly Allen) released new albums and songs in these 12 months, which has made for a really great soundtrack to my year. This year also saw me discover some new favourites which make me desperate for their new albums. Fall Out Boy, Kodaline, Bastille and Father Tiger have all entered into the canon of singers that I just adore. However, the biggest discovery for me this year was Avicii. I’d only held ‘Levels’ before, but this year saw the DJ release a fantastic new album, on which I’ve been obsessed with many of the songs. It’s just makes me want to dance and sing along and I really love it.
   I’ve noticed a bit of trend this year in terms of song themes. Many of them are about hope and happiness, which makes for a big change. Usually, the biggest hits are about break-ups and sadness (that’s not to say there hasn’t been some of that. ‘Wrecking Ball’ was one of my favourite songs from the year), so it was really exciting to see some great new songs which actually make you feel better. Even Lorde’s ‘Royals’ can be seen to fit into the category of hopeful songs, looking past the darkness to see the light.
   However, not all of this year’s songs have been awesome. The worst song of the year was Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ which is just disgusting and horrible (in terms of composition and lyrical content) and I hate it. It was number one for weeks which just makes me even more sickened. It just seems like a giant leap backwards and I get so angry just thinking about it, so I’m going to stop.
   There was also a few changes in identity and music for some key artists. Agnetha Faltskog (of ABBA) struck out on her own and has released a really awesome album about love, but from a distance which just adds so much to it. Both Eric Saade and Katy Perry changed from a pop flavour to a slower and Lorde-esque type of tune. This has resulted in big hits like ‘Dark Horse’ and I’ve really welcomed this change. In contrast, Miley Cyrus’ attempts to shake off her young Disney girl image by creating the ‘We Can’t Stop’ video resulted in one of the most unpleasant experiences of the year. Opinions have been divided about her, but I think we can all agree that seeing her twerk against Robin Thicke was needlessly disturbing. She almost reformed herself in my mind when I heard ‘Wrecking Ball’ but then I saw it’s video. What are you doing, Miley? Really? ‘Wrecking Ball’ is a great song, almost ruined by a needlessly provocative music video. Just pointless.
   Overall, I found that this was a really good year for music and one that I would never have seen coming. I was thinking on this as I was trying to compile my list of 60 favourite songs, wondering what next year’s 60 will hold. But who would’ve thought that a song about a fox would become a huge viral hit because of it’s silly video and catchy lyrics? Who would’ve guessed that Katy Perry and Sara Bareilles would release almost the same song in the same year (‘Roar’ is nowhere near as good as ‘Brave’, by the way)? And I would never, ever have guessed that Eminem would release a song that I actually like. What does the next year hold in terms of music? I don’t even want to guess.


The Sexy 60
So what are my favourite songs of the year? Well, I tried to do a list of top 5 or most played, but I just kept ending up with too many. Too much great music. So, I decided that I would do the Sexy 60. It’s a bit like the Hot 100, except there’s only 60 and I pick weirder and more obscure songs. And that doesn’t mean that these are the sexiest songs of 2013, because they’re not (Lady Gaga’s ‘G.U.Y.’ wins that award. I feel so dirty listening to it). These are just the songs I most loved. A lot of work and suffering went into this list. I had to work it down from 97. Deleting some songs was like I was confining them to obscurity forever. Yeah, I take these things too seriously. They’re not in any particular order, just the songs in alphabetical order shuffled 5 times. But this is the list I will look back on in five years. And reflect on how bad my music taste was.

You can listen to the whole list here on the YouTube playlist: listen here
1.       Bonfire Heart (James Blunt)
2.       The Fox (What Does The Fox Say) (Ylvis)
3.       Over The Love (Florence + The Machine)
4.       My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Fall Out Boy)
5.       5 To 7 Years (Alexander Rybak)
6.       My Boyfriend Is Gay (Hailey Rowe)
7.       Crimson Warrior (Attack On Titan theme)
8.       You (Robin Stjernberg. Sweden’s 2013 Eurovision entry)
9.       Burn (Ellie Goulding)
10.    Young And Beautiful (DH Orchestral Version) (Lana Del Rey)
11.    Still Into You (Paramore)
12.    Wake Me Up (Avicii)
13.    Clarity (Zedd, Foxes)
14.    This Is Gospel (Panic! At The Disco)
15.    My Love Took Me Down To The River To Silence Me (Little Green Cars)
16.    Only Teardrops (Emmelie De Forest. Denmark’s Winning 2013 Eurovision entry)
17.    Dark Horse (Katy Perry)
18.    Counting Stars (OneRepublic)
19.    How Come You Don’t Want Me (Tegan & Sara)
20.    Timber (Pitbull & Ke$ha)
21.    Carry You (Union J)
22.    The Monster (Eminem, Rihanna)
23.    Marching (In The Name Of Love) (Eric Saade)
24.    Something I Need (OneRepublic)
25.    All Comes Down (Kodaline)
26.    Complicated (Kento)
27.    Compromising Me (William Beckett)
28.    Best Song Ever (One Direction)
29.    Fuck You (Maria Mena)
30.    Another Love (Tom Odell)
31.    If I Lose Myself (OneRepublic)
32.    Heart Attack (Demi Lovato)
33.    I Could Be The One (Avicii Vs. Nicky Romero)
34.    High Hopes (Kodaline)
35.    Song For Fifty (Murray Gold at the Doctor Who prom)
36.    Story Of My Life (One Direction)
37.    Applause (Lady Gaga)
38.    Lanterns (Birds Of Tokyo)
39.    Summertime Sadness Remix (Lana Del Rey vs. Cedric Gervais)
40.    The Phoenix (Fall Out Boy)
41.    Winning Ground (Eric Saade)
42.    Tennis Court (Lorde)
43.    Run Away (Evermore)
44.    Loved Me Back To Life (Celine Dion)
45.    People Like Us (Kelly Clarkson)
46.    First Love (Father Tiger)
47.    Pompeii (Bastille)
48.    Unconditionally (Katy Perry)
49.    Close Your Eyes (Michael Buble)
50.    Closer (Tegan & Sara)
51.    Brave (Sara Bareilles)
52.    Should’ve Gone To Bed (Plain White T’s)
53.    Here’s To Never Growing Up (Avril Lavigne)
54.    I Always Liked That (Maria Mena)
55.    Hey Brother (Avicii)
56.    Clair De Lune (Flight Facilities, Christine Hoberg)
57.    King And Lionheart (Of Monsters And Men)
58.    Hard Out Here (Lily Allen)
59.    Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus)
60.    Stay (Rihanna, Mikky Ekko)


Best Album
Pure Heroine (Lorde)

 Despite only one of her songs making the Sexy 60, Lorde’s album Pure Heroine was the best of the year. Putting into words what it really feels like to be part of this generation (more so than Miley’s album, which I’ve heard described as defining a generation) and sung with her gorgeous vocals, this is just brilliant. From the opening line of its first track, ‘Tennis Court’,  ‘Don’t you think it’s boring how people talk’ to the number one hit ‘Royals’, it just gives you a different feeling than any other album this year, possibly ever. Oddly enough, I don’t like ‘Royals’ as much as several of the other tracks. But even now as I listen to it, it’s growing on me considerably. The reason for this may be that there are so many other awesome songs on the album. ‘Tennis Court’ has a great beat and evocative lyrics, ‘Ribs’ is a showcase for Lorde’s incredible voice, ‘Buzzcut Season’ is like an anecdote of teen awkwardness but filled with both regret and celebration (it would almost work as a graduation song because it induces the same sort of feeling; looking back on how you used to try and fit in with the popular kids and thinking how much of an idiot you were), ‘Team’ is the happiest song of the album, about giving a two-fingered salute to authority but my favourite track off the album is ‘Glory And Gore’. Thematically, it’s incredibly deep, summed up perfectly by the main line ‘glory and gore go hand in hand’. It’s almost a mediation on how when we fight for what we believe in, we almost end up losing ourselves and doing terrible things and that this might not be such a bad thing. But that’s what I love about this album. If you just want a great beat and a great voice, you can easily sit back and relax or dance to it. But if you pay some attention to the lyrics, you’re supposed by just how deep and relevant they are. It’s a stunning experience and my pick for the best album of the year.
Just Missing Out: True by Avicii (Best track: ‘Heart Upon My Sleeve’), Demi by Demi Lovato (Best track: ‘Nightingale’), In A Perfect World by Kodaline (Best track: ‘All I Want’), Heartthrob by Tegan & Sara (Best track: ‘Goodbye, Goodbye’)


Best Soundtrack Album

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

While I have yet to see the film, the soundtrack for the second Hunger Games was the best of the year (I can’t count the one for Frozen yet because I refuse to listen to it until I’ve seen the film. Despite the fact that everyone is saying ‘Let It Go’ is one of the best songs in any Disney movie ever). The one for the first film was the best of last year with some really exceptional songs such as The Secret Sisters’ ‘Tomorrow Will Be Kinder’ and Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars’ ‘Safe & Sound’ (one of the most played songs in my library) and I was really looking forward to the new one. As news of the artists slowly dripped through, I became even more desperately excited. Coldplay, Of Monsters And Men, Sia, Christina Aguilera, Lorde, Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers and Ellie Goulding all contribute tracks and it’s just an incredible collection of songs. Most of them are incredibly depressing, but that makes perfect sense because Catching Fire is one dark story. There is no bad songs, just songs that aren’t utterly stellar, but that’s probably because I haven’t listened to them enough. If you only listen to a song once, I don’t think you can really judge if it’s any good or not. It requires at least 3, probably 5, before you can really get a grip on a song’s merits (or lack thereof in some cases. Hello, ‘Blurred Lines’). On first listen, I immediatley had some favourites (Of Monsters And Men’s ‘Silhouettes’ and The Lumineer’s ‘Gale Song’ really stood out to me) but listening to those songs again led to the discovery of further awesome songs. Because of ‘Silhouettes’, Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’ has become one of those songs I can’t just listen to once (it’s a very energetic song that just makes you feel like you’re preparing for some big battle, that you’re strong against a terrible adversity). The same with Christina Aguilera’s ‘We Remain’ (a hopeful song, rare for this album) and Lorde’s cover of ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ (injected with a healthy dose of super depressing vocals). I just love this soundtrack because it becomes more than just a soundtrack. This is an album, centred around the themes of authority, rebellion and strength. And that gives it an immensely repeatable quality.
Just Missing Out: The Great Gatsby (Best track: ‘No Church In The Wild’ by JAY Z, Kanye West & Frank Ocean)


Best Video

Same Love (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis)

No, this song isn’t in the Sexy 60. Unfortunately, it was listed under 2012 (like P!nk’s ‘Just Give Me A Reason’), so it was excluded. As a compromise, it’s my decision for best music video of the year (I downloaded it off Youtube on the 27th of January, so it just works). You can’t imagine how much this song means to me as a gay person. It’s sometimes quite hard to grow up gay. You feel like no-one else ever felt this way, but then you might some people like yourself and you begin to like yourself again. However, there’s still all those other people who don’t get you. There’s the homophobic slurs (I successfully managed to train my brother not to say ‘that’s so gay’. At least, not in my presence) and the political two-fingered salutes (the day I heard that Tony Abbot was elected was one of the worst of the year, because I’m convinced it’s set marriage equality back about three years. This was confirmed when he had all the same-sex marriages in Canberra voided. That was a sad, sad day). It all just leads to the feeling that you’re some sort of oddity that you don’t belong and you never will. This fear still gets me occasionally. But now, I have a way to get out of this sadness. This video and the song. From the perspective of a straight person who decides that enough is enough and that gay people are still people, it seems like the most revolutionary statement in years. What was more amazing was that this song came from the people who brought us ‘Thrift Shop’ which is a great song, but incredibly silly. His next major song was this. Listening to this and watching the clip, it’s like being enveloped in a warm hug of belonging. For once, I feel as though people are noticing this struggle and frustrated at it and working to change it. When I first heard this song, I thought it was mildly offensive. I was younger and stupider. It took me a few listens to realise just how sensitively it was done. If any doubt remained, it was dispelled when I saw the video. I related to it so, so much. The pain of being in a dance alone or raging against your parents because they don’t understand. You think they’ll hate you for this big secret you’re keeping and sometimes they do (like the father in the video) but often they accept you too (like the mum. Seeing her at the wedding made me cry). It’s incredibly powerful and moving and has done so much for my acceptance of the way I am. I attribute this song to me being more open in my University life. Like any good thing, it has changed me, for the better. Last year’s video of the year ‘Laura’ by Bat For Lashes led me to learn and understand more about trans people. It has made me a more accepting person, while ‘Same Love’ has made me feel more accepted. It’s amazing to think that a music video of all things can cause huge change in communities and politics and individuals, but I suppose music and songs are universal. They make us feel something and that’s incredibly impressive. I applaud you Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert. I have so much to thank you for.

So what was your favourite music from this year? Do you agree with some of my choices? Or am I just completely obscure? Probably the latter, haha! Tomorrow, will be books which includes novels and graphic novels so be sure to check back soon!
Thanks,
James

 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

H13. This Is Halloween

Hi all,
And here we are at the end of the 10 days of Halloween. I have seen my 13 films. Some have been good, some have been the very worst films I have ever seen. But before we break open the Jack 'O' Lantern and crown the scariest Halloween 13 film, there is one more film yet to be reviewed, the final film. The one film named after the holiday itself. I present to you, Halloween. A truly great film from the 70s, it brings the Halloween 13 to a rousing close. However, you shall have to be patient as the rankings of these films will not be released just yet. But you don't have long to wait. Beginning next Monday will be my September/October Recommendations posts. I've planned something a bit different which, if is successful, will become the traditional way I do them in the future. See you then!
Thanks,
James

 Halloween
1978, USA, Directed by John Carpenter

Halloween is one of the most successful horror films of the last 30 years because it’s still genuinely terrifying. Be it because of the wonderfully creepy piano theme (which I now have to have on my computer, it would make great writing music) or because it all takes place in an otherwise peaceful suburb, it has lost none of its power. It’s all about (as Tim Curry would say) “antici…pation.” We’ve seen Michael in the background, he was there a few seconds ago but now, he’s gone. Oh, crap where is he? Oh, there he is again. Run, lady! This happens about 30 times as Myers hunts down one of Laurie’s friends and when the final moment of her death comes, it’s truly shocking. The protagonist, Laurie, as played by Jamie Lee Curtis, is also key to the film’s success. Appearing unassuming, but soon proving herself to be kind, resourceful and a magnificent screamer. Her fear in the horrifying climax is enough to make you question your own sanity, as terror is rammed all the way up to 11. From the moment she discovers her friends, her commanding way of protecting the children under her car and hiding out in a closet knowing he’s coming, it all is enough to make you pull your hair out. And then, he just doesn’t stay dead. He dies 3 times in that climax and still his fate is left ambiguous (in a hugely unnerving final scene), making this one of those films that’s going to make it difficult for me to walk around in the dark. In fact, even during the day, because of that shot where Michael is standing by the clothesline or patiently staring at her from outside her classroom. Through undertaking The Halloween 13, I’ve learnt that not all horror movies are scary because they just haven’t had the attention and love required to pull off a really successful film. What makes Halloween different is that it’s all about the horror of waiting for something to happen. Compare this to Playback or Hellbent and the difference becomes palpable. It comes from a different time, but arguably a much more frightening one. And Halloween proves that utter terror created through stunning cinema is timeless.

Gore/Violence: 3 (bit of blood)
Sex/Nudity: 3 (topless women and a little sex scene)
Scares: 5 (completely terrifying)
Best Scene: The climax (because I doubt a scarier scene has ever made it to film)
Overall Verdict: 10
 
It's Halloween, everyone's entitled to one good scare.
- Halloween

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

H13. Diabolical, Dark And Disturbing

Hi,
Happy Halloween! Apologies for not posting anything yesterday, but again I left my USB at home. Damn. But to compensate, we have three of the very best movies I've seen as part of this marathon! The first two are Japanese, the first a strange comedy, the second an unsettling ghost drama. However, it is the final film I'd like you to pay most attention to. The Loved Ones is a film I've been wanting to see for ages (I remember seeing the posters everywhere) and it was... an experience, I'll say that much. I would recommend it but it's not for the faint of hearted as you'll see. Only one more film to go and that will be reviewed tomorrow (hopefully). I know these things usually finish by Halloween but I actually want to see it on the night, so you'll have to wait :D. Anyway, until then,
Thanks,
James

 Dead Sushi
2012, Japan, Directed by Noboru Iguchi
When I sat down to watch this film, I knew it was going to be weird. It’s a film about killer sushi for god’s sake, how can this not be strange. But even knowing this I wasn’t prepared for just how batshit crazy it would be. I also didn’t realise I was going to enjoy it so much. It’s an incredibly satisfying film, by far the most entertaining thing I’ve seen this marathon. Describing this film is almost impossible other than to see it’s hugely violent with more blood gushing than in any other film I’ve seen (it’s more than Kill Bill) but it’s also done in a way that’s stylish and not gory. There are only a few scenes that threaten to gross you out and even then they’re brilliant. There’s one iconic image of a man’s face being pulled apart and it’s both gory and cool and in another part a sushi bites someone’s tongue pulling it out way past its natural length. Plus, it’s got sushi with teeth, rice spewing zombies and a tuna man. This probably isn’t a film for everyone but you should at least give it a go. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this film, I really didn’t, but now I can’t help but think it’s one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen. It makes you want to punch the air and say yeah a lot. Basically, it’s a film that demands to be watched with a group but even watching this by myself I couldn’t help but love it. In terms of story and acting, this would probably rate very low but in terms of sheer awesomeness, this is one of the very best movies I’ve ever seen.
 
Gore/Violence: 5 (oceans of blood, muscles, holes in stomachs. Super violent)
Sex/Nudity: 4 (topless female nudity which is then covered by a shower of blood from a decapitated head and body sushi which is where sushi is eaten off a woman in a bikini)
Scares: 2 (not all that scary because you’re just cheering but there were a few moments that scared me a little)
Best Scene: All of it. I really don’t know what else to say. I want to say one scene but then I think of another. I can’t decide. It’s that good.
Overall Verdict: 10
 
  Dark Water
2002, Japan, Directed by Hideo Nakata
 
 Because of the slower nature of this film, I didn’t like it all that much while I was watching it. I was desperate for something scary to happen. This was, after all, a horror film. However, nothing truly terrifying happens until the last 20 minutes of the film which led to a general feeling of dissatisfaction. As soon as I finished it, I rated it a 7 and went to sleep, incredibly disappointed by it. However, time has been incredibly kind to this film. It’s only been a day and my opinion of it has already grown considerably. The reason is this; Dark Water is far more than a horror film, it’s an experience. While many horror films opt for terror, this one opts to unnerve you. It often comes across as quite reflective and the pace is very lax. But I really liked this film because it’s more about the characters than it is the scares. By the end of this film, we know these characters so well and in the final quarter it becomes really quite moving. I think it’s something about the ghost sub-genre which allows horror filmmakers to become incredibly poignant. Many of these films are about repentance and allowing the spirits to find peace. Looking back on it, I realise just how beautiful and well-directed it was and how it was more than just about the scares (which when they come are quite frightening and unsettling), it was about making us feel something, to experience what these characters are going through. It’s a great film because it allows you to think about what’s going on. While I may not have liked it while I was viewing it, in reflection it comes across a sensitive, incredibly accomplished film that transcends the horror genre. Brilliant.

Gore/Violence: 2 (extremely minimal)
Sex/Nudity: 0 (none at all)

Scares: 4 (oh, Jesus)
Best Scene: The last time we see the daughter, because it’s a stunning image.
Overall Verdict: 9
 
 
  The Loved Ones
2009, Australia, Directed by Sean Byrne
  
As I was watching this film, I came up with so many ways to begin this review. I was going to say it was my first example of torture porn, that it was quite a neat full circle as the penultimate film was Australian just before the final one and even that the casting of the super-hot Xavier Samuel made this even nastier. But then as I was watching it, all these thoughts gradually faded away as it became even more vicious and sadistic. Part of me really wants to hate this film because there were moments when I wanted to turn away or to turn it off but it’s a bit like a car crash, you want to turn away yet you’re desperate to find out what happens next. It caused a visceral reaction within me which wasn’t particularly pleasant. Even just thinking back on it freaks me out. I have this thing about body horror/mutilation. I don’t know why but that has always disturbed me more than anything else. There’s a moment in the very last bit of the film when Lola goes limp-wristed and I was truly horrified. Before that was the drilling scene which made it almost impossible for me to get to sleep. And yet I also have to say I really liked this film because it’s doing something quite clever. It’s almost like a reverse Carrie as the innocent dreamer is shown to be a complete and utter psycho. With Carrie, we’re almost made to sympathise with her because we’ve seen how cruel the students are to her, but with this film, Lola just comes across as one nasty bitch, condescending, child-like and completely and utterly twisted. Her dad is no better and the two of them make for one of the most unpleasant villains in any horror movie. Xavier Samuel’s casting does make this quite a hard film to watch but even if they’d cast someone I wasn’t attracted to, the visceral horrific nature of this movie would have had the same effect on me. That’s not to say this film is perfect. There’s a sub-plot about the real prom which feels unnecessary and breaks up the tension created by Lola, but part of me is thankful for these moments because they allow us a break. Usually I rate films depending on how much I enjoyed them so even if they’re technically accomplished and well-directed but I hate them, then they don’t rate highly with me (case in point is Avatar and Oz, The Great And Powerful). I could never say I enjoyed watching this film. Even thinking about is making me feel a little sick (something that rarely happens with me) but I have to say looking back on it, I really liked this film because it’s horrific but it’s clever. And it really has to be quite a good film to create such a real reaction within me. However, I will say one last thing; it has royally ruined the song ‘Pretty Enough’. 
Gore/Violence: 5 (nasty as knives, hammers, nails, forks, drills, kettles, cleavers and pillows are all used)
Sex/Nudity: 4 (sex scene at the start with Xavier’s topless girlfriend and much of what motivates Lola can be seen to be sex. Oh, and the real object of her desire just adds to the nasty)
Scares: 5 (No jump scares but a sense of utter horror)
Best Scene: The drilling (not really a best scene, just the most disturbing).
Overall Verdict: 10

Monday, 28 October 2013

H13. The Orphanage ATM had a poster of Darna Zaroori Hai

Hi,
These are the films from the weekend and yesterday. I was going to post the first two reviews yesterday but I left my USB at home! Aargh! Anyway, not to worry, they're here now and we have quite an eclectic mix today. Two world movies and one awful one from America. Almost at the end of this marathon now with only 4 films left. It's a bit sad really, I've been enjoying scaring myself silly after midnight. There's something so wonderfully primal about it all. Anyway, two J-Horror flicks removed tomorrow and then only one more day until Halloween itself. Spooky.
Thanks,
James

 The Orphanage
2007, Spain, Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
I loved this movie because it took my expectations and shoved them through the window replacing them with something infinitely more satisfying. I was expecting a ghost movie freak-out that was akin to turning my brain off for a couple of hours but was ultimately unmemorable. It’s what haunted movies are quite good at and I wasn’t expecting anything more than that. I was too stupid to realise that this is directed by the great Guillermo Del Toro. Creator of the exceptional Pan’s Labyrinth, I should have realised that with writers and directors certain themes reoccur. Like Pan’s, this film is scary in parts and incredibly creepy with some really great jump scares, but ultimately it’s about much more than that. While the former film is all about imagination, The Orphanage is more about memory, past mistakes and family. Del Toro uses the framework of the ghost story to tell an incredibly moving story, complete with a stunning final twist. Like all good twists it seems incredibly obvious in retrospect (as all the clues were there) but because of the filmmaker’s ability to create misdirection we don’t see it until they want us to. And similar to Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage positions death as a hopeful transcendence from earthly pains but still with that ambiguity about those we leave behind. In the end, this film actually comes as really rather sweet if incredibly creepy (that mask) and unlike most horror films it has no sex and very little violence. A film to treasure.

Gore/Violence: 2 (a little bit of blood and a memorably gory death but the violence minimal)
Sex/Nudity: 0 (none at all!)
Scares: 5 (oh dear God, the terror)
Best Scene: “OMG, how did I not work that out”
Overall Verdict: 9
 
  ATM
2012, USA, Directed by David Brooks
 
The first thing to know about this film is that it’s not actually a horror movie, it’s a thriller. I picked it up at my local library and thought, ah, a horror movie, because of its freaky DVD cover and interesting concept, but it’s not, so there you go. Second thing is that it’s an awful movie. It has a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is widely reviled and for good reason. It’s hard to really know where to begin when talking about this film because it’s get everything so wrong. It’s a film about three people who get stuck in an ATM cubicle on a freezing winter night because a creepy guy is standing outside. They want to ask you what you would do in this situation and I was immediately drawn to this idea. I love it when we see people under pressure as we see their true selves because it’s so much more unnerving than the unreal. Except in this film, the characters are so bland and one-dimensional that you don’t care about what they’re saying or doing. We know absolutely nothing about them. They’re enigmas which is a big, big problem when the film is basically a three-hander between them. A larger problem is that these people are incredibly stupid. There’s a number of really obvious ideas but they don’t seem to think these are a good idea. It’s mind-numbingly stupid and unlike Hellbent it isn’t offensive so it just comes across as really bad but unmemorable. It’s not even that scary. It’s a huge case of missed potential. There’s a good film about people being put under pressure because of tense situations, but it isn’t ATM. Don’t watch this.
 
Gore/Violence: 2 (minimal, bit of blood and head smashing, but not all that much)
Sex/Nudity: 1 (couple of references but that’s all)

Scares: 2 (again it’s the characters. They’re just stupid)
Best Scene: The last one (because it was a little tense and because it signified that it was finally over)
Overall Verdict: 2
 
 
  Darna Zaroori Hai
2006, India, Directed by Various
 
In undertaking this marathon I’ve learnt that I’m not as easily scared as I thought I was. Very few of these films have freaked me out on a deep level so I’ve actually become quite comfortable with the horror genre. And then this film screwed all that up. It’s terrifying for the vast majority of its hour and three quarters. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie this scary. My nerves were shattered after watching this and it took me ages to get to sleep as I began to be terrified of what else may be in my darkened bedroom. It’s an anthology film which I generally love (Creepshow is one of my absolute favourite movies and would have formed part of this marathon, but I was unable to get a copy in time) made in India. This is my very first Indian film and I was a little concerned simply because I had no background to rely on. What was really great about this movie is that it makes you realise that scary things transcend cultures. We all get scared and this film does it really well. It has more jump-scares, shocks and twists than you can possibly imagine helped by some freaky music and a terrific cast. This is a film that will keep you up at night and I doubt if I’ve ever been quite this scared while watching something (well, I suppose that’s not quite true. The trailer for the original Japanese version of The Grudge is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. It freaked me out. I am both desperate to see that and horrified by the idea). This was a really great film, filled with memorable moments, stylish direction and enough terror to make you tear your hair out. A truly great Halloween movie.
Gore/Violence: 2 (a bit of blood)
Sex/Nudity: 2 (bit of a sexual reference, but nothing really onscreen. However, the opening song is really sexual even though she’s talking about death)

Scares: 5 (I considered turning it off because I was convinced my nerves couldn’t take anymore)
Best Scene: So many to choose from, but probably the first story (with the movement in the house)
Overall Verdict: 9