As it’s October, I’ve decided to give most of this first Cuttings post over to Halloween.
I’ve been getting very much into the spirit all month and a free trial of Shudder has meant I’ve had a lot of stuff to enjoy these past few weeks. So, for now, here’s a random selection of spooky films I’ve enjoyed over the past month. (Not all of them on Shudder – a service like that always makes you painfully aware of what’s missing when you’re reminded of old favourites).
A Dark Song (dir. Liam Gavin)
I first watched this a month or so ago but it has stayed with me. It’s atmosphere is incredibly dark, as if von Trier’s Antichrist was set in the Welsh countryside. Whereas that film focused on the psychology of trauma, this film takes a more explicitly occultist path and to very good effect. It is not camp as so many films like it doom themselves to be, instead it exacerbates the trauma of repetitive ritual with a brutal patience. Both characters are engaged in a disciplined breakdown of their selves and the climax is fantastic – it unnerves to the very last moment.
The Canal (dir. Ivan Kavanagh)
There’s something very Silent Hill 2 about this film – a grotesque public bathroom as a portal into a world of paranoiac horrors? Yes please.
At first, this film reminded me of 2012’s Sinister, but it established itself as its own beast. “Psychological horror / thriller” is too banal a category. Few films have gotten this successfully under my skin, drilling deep into my head and then spooning out the insides onto the grotty bathroom floor.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (dir. Tobe Hooper)
After hearing that Tobe Hooper sadly passed away this year, a rewatch of this classic has been on the cards for a while. I love everything about this movie. It’s soundtrack, from the very first sound you hear to the last, is incredible and shows what sound can add to a movie evidently made on a shoestring budget. Nevertheless, the rest of the film holds up to this day. I was surprised by how long its build up was and the deaths that do occur prior to the climax are still shocking in their immediacy. Leatherface does not hang out. The ending is still so satisfying also.
Leatherface swinging his chainsaw around in the dawn light is one of the best moments in all of horror.
The Whisperer in Darkness (dir. Sean Brannery)
It’s hard to believe there aren’t more Lovecraft adaptations but then what hope does anyone have of committing his poetic horrors to screen? Having recently played Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth but ending the game feeling unsatisfied, I have been on the hunt for something – anything – that does Lovecraft’s tales justice. It certainly feels possible but too many adaptations are reluctant to leave space for the imagination – like so much modern horror. This, however, does a pretty decent job by channelling a B-movie aesthetic. A slow, creepy homage to both writer and period. Worth a watch.
An American Werewolf in London (dir. John Landis)
A very old favourite that I haven’t watched since I was a pre-teen. The transformation scene is still an excellent example of body-horror SFX but so many instances in this film really disturbed me as a kid. Dark, dark humour.
The Sentinel (dir. Michael Winner)
The Sentinel is another old favourite of mine that I completely forgot existed until very recently. It’s a truly creepy and grotesque home invasion movie and I still can’t get over the fact it was made by Michael “Calm Down, Dear” Winner.
Triange (dir. Christopher Smith)
This film actually came up in a lecture on time-travel and templexity and the temporal maze it knots for itself is great.
Grave Encounters (dirs. Colin Minihan & Stuart Ortiz)
I was very surprised with how much I liked this, to be honest. The terrible face-distorting CGI is a heinous and unnecessary crime but, for me personally, the long build-up saves this film from itself. Well paced and parodic enough to float above most of films like it.