Archive for Classic

Guest Post: Review of The Shining, by Stephen King

Posted in Guest Post with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Published in 1977 by Doubleday Publishing

Currently on Amazon’s Books from Hell: The 25 Best Horror Books Ever Written

Written by Bridget Cannon

Are you looking for a book to get you in the Halloween spirit? The Shining has always been one of my favorites. Perhaps because it was my first “grown up” horror experience. Since then, I have seen a lot of horror movies and read a lot of horror books. Stephen King has remained on the top of my list. I think it is because of the nature of his writing. He brilliantly weaves real life with the supernatural. This is a clever way to allow the reader to feel secure about reading things that normally might just hit a little too close to home. I happen to think that this layer of reality is what makes his books scary. It gives them some real teeth.

The Shining is no exception. In fact, I think it is one of the best books of his to start with because it showcases his early writing so well. We have an ordinary family, the Torrances, with very ordinary problems. They are then thrown into an extraordinary and dangerous situation; specifically, a haunted hotel called the Overlook. The extraordinary then pushes these people to the brink, forcing them to either battle their monsters or to become them.

These battles, in my humble opinion, are far scarier than whatever is in room 217 or the hedge monsters because these are the battles that people have to fight every day. It is a battle that can be lost at any time with very real consequences. The reader gets to see that early on with Jack Torrance. Yes, the ghosts are scary and, yes, we worry about Danny but it is the humanness of it all that is the scariest. That really makes us care about what is happening in the Overlook Hotel.

The Shining is one of my favorite books for these reasons. If you are looking to try the film, there are two versions. I like do the 1980 movie version despite it losing parts of the book, but Jack Nicholson is wonderful in it. The 1997 miniseries is a lot closer to the book and the version I prefer. I have found that to be true with a lot of King’s miniseries since they were able to keep more of the book without having to worry about a run time.

So, if you are looking for a good scare this Halloween, pick up a copy of The Shining! You won’t regret it. If you have read it, then perhaps you should give it a quick reread before picking up a copy of Doctor Sleep, which is the wonderful sequel.


Review of Nosferatu (1922)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Dir. FW Murnau, Starring: Max Schreck, Gustav Von Wangenheim, Greta Schroder
Currently on Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Horror Movies list

Nosferatu is a classic film from the German Expressionism era. Much like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, this film is silent and relies on sharp imagery to get its point across. This film is the first full-length feature made based on Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula. It follows Hutter (Von Wangenheim), a real estate agent who is based on Jonathan Harker, as he travels to Count Orlok’s (Schreck) castle in Transylvania. While away, he discovers Orlok’s secret identity as Nosferatu. Hutter’s wife, Ellen (Schroder), based on Mina, is plagued with dreams and visions of her beloved’s immediate danger.

As I’ve said, Nosferatu is classic. I don’t even really need to review it. It’s obviously a must watch if you’re a film buff. If not, though, I’d say you can skip right to the 1931 version of Dracula that I reviewed previously. For a non-film buff, this movie will be boring. It moves slowly with long periods of inactivity. The dialogue, written down, is cheesy and uninspired.

For the film buff, though, there are magnificent shots of landscape and very interesting uses of color and imagery. It’s an interesting study of the German Expressionist era, especially when compared to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, because it comes at the end of this period of film. While Cabinet had painted sets, Nosferatu has real, built sets. It’s much less severe looking than its predecessors, but no less creepy. They still utilize the sharp angles and the contrast of dark versus light, but it’s much less pronounced within the film itself.

This film also has iconic images used throughout the years. Everyone knows of Count Orlok’s slow and creepy entrance into Hutter’s room at night, before he sucks his blood. Also, the scene where Orlok is crouching over Ellen has been made and remade in every Dracula movie or TV show ever created. That’s the shot that everyone thinks of when they hear the word “Vampire.”

I have mixed feelings about Nosferatu, personally. It’s fascinating to see the progression of the history of film, but, watching as a person from the modern era, the movie ran too long for me. I found myself bored by Act 4 and almost completely disinterested by Act 5. This can be chalked up to many factors, however, other than the film itself. Among those factors are the fact that I more recently watched Dracula (1931), which has a nearly identical plot, and because I knew the ending.

Despite my personal feelings about this film, I suggest you see it. Not only will it help to give you a better understanding of the film industry, but you’ll also gain a more thorough knowledge about the evolution of the horror movie. Anyone interested in film needs to see Nosferatu. Next on my list: Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979).

Let us know what your thoughts are about this movie in the comments!


Guest Post: Review of The Haunting of Hill House Novel

Posted in Guest Post with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2015 by Xander Woolf

The Haunting of Hill House is currently on Amazon’s Books from Hell: The Top 25 Horror Books Ever Written

Written by: Bridget Cannon

There is a real pleasure in reading simple physiological horror. That is what The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson reminded me. It is like when you are being told your first ghost stories as a child. Those stories are not about gore. They are about anticipation. About the small sounds and all the little things that you don’t want to admit frighten you. So you sit there with your brave face on but later you hide as deep into your covers in the darkness, anticipating what will happen. That is what it is like to read The Haunting of Hill House.

What was really interesting for me was how the characters have been written. I didn’t particularly like any of them yet I still cared about them. I worried for their well-being. I related to them but, to be honest, I’m not sure I would like to be stuck in the house with any of them. I give Shirley Jackson a lot of credit for being able to write them so well. They are well rounded and incredibly human. The story begins after the Doctor has sent out letters to people, whom he has carefully screened, to spend a few months with him at Hill House to help with an experiment in the paranormal. The main character is Eleanor, who accepts the invitation as a step toward reclaiming her own life after spending many years caring for her dying mother. The other character who accepts is a vivacious woman named Theodora. They are joined by Luke, who is going to inherit Hill House one day, and by the couple who care for the house.

The suspense creeps up on you in the best way while you read. If you are a fan of ghost stories, I would highly recommend this book. If you scoff at ghost stories, I would recommend this book.  Also, if you are looking for a movie version I would find the 1963 version of The Haunting over the 1999 version. I found this style of horror refreshing to read. I have always liked ghost stories and this one reminded me why. Like Montaque tells us: “Fear,” the doctor said, “is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.” Sometimes it is just fun to give in and wonder about the shadows and the slight creaks in the night.

Review of The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Dir. Jonathan Demme; Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins and Scott Glenn
Currently on Rotten Tomatoes’ Top 100 Horror Movies list

There’s not one person in the English speaking world who hasn’t heard of Hannibal Lecter. Whether they’ve watched any of the movies, seen the more recent TV show Hannibal, read the books or simply heard of “Hannibal the Cannibal” by word of mouth, it is highly likely that most people you’ve met have some knowledge of the notorious cannibalistic psychopath. Hell, before I had any knowledge of the books or movies, I thought Hannibal Lecter was a real person who might come to eat me at night. I had nightmares about it. It was a problem.

The Silence of the Lambs was the second movie made from Thomas Harris’ popular book series after Manhunter (1986). Released in 1991, the movie follows Clarice Starling (Foster), an FBI Cadet pulled from the Academy by Jack Crawford (Glenn) and assigned to interact with the convicted Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins). It is Starling’s goal to gain insight into another killer, nicknamed Buffalo Bill (Ted Lavine), through her interactions with the famed cannibal.

This movie is amazing for so many reasons. The first reason is simply: Clarice Starling. Not only is she a strong and independent lead female character, but she’s also a complete badass. Starling is a role model for every girl out there who wants to be a cop or an agent and Jodie Foster played her perfectly. The acting in this movie in general was superb. Anthony Hopkins is the scariest Hannibal I’ve ever seen and Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill is delightfully deranged. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins both earned their Academy Awards for these roles.

The script has many memorable lines. Even people who haven’t seen the movie have heard “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti” and “It rubs the lotion in its skin or it gets the hose again!” It’s the sign of a good script when, 24 years later, the general population is still quoting it. Not only that, but the level of intelligence displayed by this film is so well done. Hannibal is an intelligently written character designed to enter our worst nightmares. Also, Starling is a well-rounded character who, unlike most female characters of the time, is able to hold up her end of a clever conversation. No wonder they won an Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay.

The Silence of the Lambs deserved its many awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. It’s an extremely well done movie. While the plot itself isn’t exactly scary, the movie introduces one of the most frightening villains of all time, Hannibal Lecter, who would go on to appear in such other films as Hannibal, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising. He is also the subject of Bryan Fuller’s recently canceled NBC show Hannibal.

If you haven’t seen The Silence of the Lambs – or any of the other Thomas Harris based movies and TV shows – I highly recommend it.


Review of Carrie (1976)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Dir. Brian De Palma; Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, William Katt
Currently on Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Horror Movie List
*May contain spoilers*

Carrie has a special place in horror film history. Not only has every horror fan heard of this 1970s classic, but it was the first movie adaptation ever made of a Stephen King story. As we all know today, you can barely swing a stick without hitting a Stephen King film/television adaptation (and for good reason, if you ask me).

If you haven’t seen it, Carrie centers around a telekinetic young woman named Carrie White (Spacek), who not only lives in an abusive household with her mentally unstable mother, Margaret (Laurie), but also deals with a brutal amount of bullying at school. The plot itself consists of Carrie learning how to use her telekinetic powers while her fellow students prepare for the senior prom.

This movie captures what it means to be a Stephen King story. The biggest praise for Stephen King is that his characters are all everyday people. Carrie is just a teenage girl with an abusive, religious zealot of a mother. The other students are typical high school students, who pick on the weird girl. Carrie discovers her telekinetic powers and, when provoked, uses them for revenge. If this isn’t an anti-bullying story for the ages, I don’t know what is. Don’t pick on the weird girl. You’ll regret it.

The use of imagery in this movie is powerful. A major image in this film is the statue of a bleeding, crucified Jesus, at which Carrie is forced to stare whenever her mother locks her in the closet for sinning. This icon sticks with Carrie throughout the film, creating an air of oppression and punishment. Blood is another powerful image that surrounds Carrie wherever she goes. Blood causes Carrie nothing but pain and suffering and, eventually, leads to her eventual provocation.

Carrie isn’t the type of film that’s designed to make you jump. Instead of going for the traditional jump scares associated with modern horror, the director decided to let Carrie White’s story create that air of horror. Not only do we, the audience, feel bad for Carrie and the way she’s treated, we also start to fear her as the movie progresses. We see how she’s tortured both at school and at home; we see how she develops her powers; and we see how it all drives her crazy. We know that she’s going to snap at some point – nobody can endure that much bullying without lashing out at least once – and this knowledge is what keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. This knowledge is what makes Stephen King such a genius.

Carrie is so well done, with an amazing cast, and will leave you with chills. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend you rectify this situation.

Let me know what you think in the comments.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2015 by Lilliandra Winters

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Director: Philip Kaufman
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy
Currently on Rotten Tomatoes’ Top 100 Horror Movie List
I vaguely recall watching this movie when I was much younger and I remember being overcome with the same feeling. Overwhelming disinterest.

Don’t worry. I can already hear you booing and hissing from here.

Listen, I love the concept. I find the idea very interesting, but this is one of those movies that didn’t translate very well for me. If you read my previous review of The Exorcist, I go into how some movies, as wonderful as they may be, just don’t translate without a sense of nostalgia attached to it. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is by far the opposite end of that for me.

Donald Sutherland has always been an amazing actor; Brooke Adams was a bit touch and go for me; and Jeff Goldblum is stalking me on this project, I swear. I expect him to pop up again soon. So, the acting wasn’t the issue. The story was a bit erratic, I felt, but I tried to chalk that up to writing about hysteria. It isn’t easy to convey hysteria properly, as it most often comes off as confusion or idiocy.

Of course, the old nature of the movie combined with the special effects and the fact that I wasn’t alive in the 70s made it harder to relate to their ‘daily life.’ None of these factors helped me. In fact, I consider them all great hindrances.

So, here is where I am going to confuse you. It wasn’t a bad movie. I liked it. I didn’t love it; I won’t rave about it; but I liked it. There are several moments that were very worthy of undivided attention and I rather agreed with the ending and applaud the character, Matthew Bennell (Sutherland), for his response to the situation. Many of you may not agree with that, but, honestly, what more could he have done?

It’s on the list for a reason, so I recommend you watch it and form your own opinion. It was a tad heart-breaking seeing Leonard Nimoy appear on the screen, but also oddly wonderful.

Moral of the story? How well do you know your friends and family? Could you tell if they’ve been taken over by pod people?


Correction to my Review of Dracula (1931)

Posted in Correction with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Hey guys,

It’s come to my attention, through my own research about Romania and the history of the Romanian language, that 3-7% of the population of Romania actually speaks Hungarian. This is due to the Hungarian invasion of the Daco-Roman province north of the Danube river around 1200 CE. The Hungarians ruled over the country (much like the French did in England around the same time), which not only influenced how Romanian is spoken today, but left a small population of Hungarian language speakers within the country. The language is centralized around Transylvania, leaving entire villages that speak the language. So, I must revoke my major qualm with Dracula (1931). It is entirely feasible that Mr. Renfield would stop in a Hungarian speaking village on his way to Borgo Pass. It is still my opinion that the villagers should have spoken Romanian, but I no longer find it to be as unrealistic as I first thought.

Thanks for the understanding!