This trip through horror movies around the world has been that heady mix of educational and occasionally terrifying (like high school, amirite, fellas?) I have seen enough gore to last me until next Halloween. The body count has been uncountable, the screams still ring in my ears, I’m still laughing about bits of Dog Soldiers, I’m still confused about the end of Viy, and I still don’t think the torture porn genre has a point. It has been a blast and I’ll have to do the same thing next year.
Viy / Вий (Russia 1967)
When I found this film, and for the sake of creating mystique we’ll pretend I found it in a back alley antiques shop a la Gremlins and not on YouTube, I knew nothing about it save for the fact it was Russian and made in 1967. To my shame I was expecting something poorly made and odd. Instead I found a movie that is actually something pretty special. And odd.
The story concerns Khoma, a young priest/vodka enthusiast who is tasked with saying prayers over the body of a recently deceased girl/witch for three nights. As the witch tries to destroy him he must rely on his faith and a chalk circle to protect him. The special effects in this movie are, for their time, excellent. The final thirty minutes of the movie, as the witch tries to attack and entice Khoma are just a series of effective images as the witch rides around the room atop a coffin, skeletons dance, monsters come out of the walls, and ghostly hands rise from the floor.
Viy is a throwback in terms of horror. It is spooky and creepy without any gore or jump scares, relying on its atmosphere and images to create the scares.
A Bollywood horror film and melodramatic remake of The Exorcist, Phoonk had some moments of inspiration but they were lost in the cheap attempts at jump scares and the overly dramatic sound effects and music.
It tells the story of a father who, after firing two staff from his construction company, suddenly finds his daughter acting very strangely. It is revealed she is possessed and, because we have all seen The Exorcist (and if you haven’t then we can’t be friends and I won’t share my GI Joes with you), we know the story beats pretty well. First there is doubt, then weird stuff happens, then the character with the crisis of faith (in this case the atheist father) finds his lost faith and saves the day.
There were some interesting ideas. Throughout the movie the camera keeps focusing on the eyes of toys, posters, statues etc. as though the evil lurking in the house is watching at all times. And the soundtrack is filled with quiet, angry growls amidst the music.
Ashwini Kalsekar, who plays the giggling Mahdu, is amazing and the film suffers once she disappears from the action for a long stretch in the middle. She is wide-eyed and perpetually unnerving with her giggles and big, hungry smile.
Otherwise this was a quite boring rehash of established possession movie tropes, only with more interesting looking gods being talked about.
The rating system in Thailand is pretty slack. That’s probably why I was able to see the trailer for this movie, during which a baby puts his hand into a blender, before watching Superman Returns (the baby-blender thing wasn’t the worst thing I saw that day – zing!) at a cinema in Chiang Mai at four in the afternoon.
Colic is the story of a pair of newly-weds and their first child. The mother of the child is forced to quit her job to take care of the child and the father must take on more shifts to support his new family. As the mother becomes increasingly bored and the father more stressed, the baby begins to cry and will not stop. At first the doctors diagnose colic and say it will pass in a few months. However, it doesn’t and terrible things begin to happen to people who come in contact with the baby.
This is a jumpy horror film. A lot of its scares rely on things happening abruptly set to jarring music. And it is very effective. I spent most of this movie jumping a foot out of my seat and crying out bad words. The scares are cheap but they are anchored by some very effective spooky scenes, and it seems that Thai movie makers aren’t too squeamish about putting a baby’s life in danger. Or it’s hand in a blender. And showing it before a G-rated movie screening full of children. Man, I miss Thai cinemas.
One of the joys of writing this trilogy of articles was discovering how each horror film on the list was shaped by the country it was made in. Phoonk is heavily influenced by Hindu religion and a fear of black magic that wouldn’t translate to a lot of other countries. Colic and its fear of demons and the unrestful dead is a very Asian concept that appears in a few different movies from that area in the world while Dog Soldiers plays on the fear we all have of being trapped in Scotland.
100 Bloody Acres is gory, funny, irreverent, silly, scary-ish, and could only come from one place. A place populated with savvy, beautiful women, crazy old ladies, annoying Englishmen, and farmers trying to make
ends meet anyway they can. Or to call this place another name, Australia.
This was one of the best films I watched for this feature and, to give it very high praise, it put me in mind of Shaun of the Dead in the way it took horror conventions and, without being smug and winking, presented them in a witty, entertaining way. It was creepy and funny, and Damon Herriman (Dewey Cox from Justified is Australian?!) gives a stellar performance as one half of a pair of blood and bone fertiliser salesmen whose product has a grisly, secret ingredient (It’s people, it’s obviously people.)
Drenched in blood and with a confident rebellious streak, 100 Bloody Acres is a fantastic little horror film that keeps you guessing and has a great ending.