Ginger Nuts of Horror
An odd, esoteric little piece of work, generally forgotten by culture at large
Budget is not horror's friend, generally. Certainly not in televisual or cinematic terms. There is something about the guerilla style of production, in which invention is forced by lack of resources, that perpetuates artistry in horror, resulting in some of the most iconic shots, scenes and complete works that define the genre.
That is not to say there are not examples of horror cinema and television that have money behind them and which “work;” there are many, but...in comparison to those created on shoe-string budgets, by what were (at the time of production) considered non-entities and nobodies...they are few and far between.
Jee-woon Kim’s I Saw the Devil is an incredibly thoughtful film in both theme and presentation; it’s clear that every frame was chosen to provoke a reaction, to get you to think and feel a certain way. Gory, violent, almost comical at times, it sticks with you the way few movies can. While the theme of revenge and its fundamental futility has approached cliché in modern cinema, Jee-woon Kim manages to take it in a new, disturbing direction. It’s not a mere cautionary tale about the cost of vengeance, nor is it a ho-hum meditation on a man becoming the monster he hunts, but something different, something better: a story of how violence in any form can poison both the actor and the victim, no matter how justified.
To celebrate the relaunch of his novel Reinheit Thomas S. Flowershas kindly agreed to write a retrospective review of the horror classic Freaks.
"Before proceeding with the showing of the following HIGHLY UNUSUAL ATTRACTION, a few words should be said about the amazing subject matter. BELIEVE IT OR NOT - STRANGE AS IT SEEMS. In ancient times anything that deviated from the normal was considered an omen of ill luck or representative of evil. Gods of misfortune and adversity were invariable cast in the form of monstrosities, and deeds of injustice and hardship have been attributed to the many crippled and deformed tyrants of Europe and Asia. HISTORY, RELIGION, FOLKLORE AND LITERATURE abound in tales of misshapen misfits who have altered the world's course. GOLIATH, CALABAN, FRANKENSTEIN, GLOUCESTER, TOM THUMB AND KAISER WILHELM are just a few, whose fame is world wide. The accident of abnormal birth was considered a disgrace and malformed children were placed out in the elements to die. If, perchance, one of these freaks of nature survived, he was always regarded with suspicion. Society shunned him because of his deformity, and a family so hampered was always ashamed of the curse put upon it. Occasionally, one of these unfortunates was takes to court to be jeered at or ridiculed for the amusement of the nobles. Others were left to eke out a living by begging, stealing or starving. For the love of beauty is a deep seated urge which dates back to the beginning of civilization. The revulsion with which we view the abnormal, the malformed and the mutilated is the result of long conditioning by our forefathers. The majority of freaks, themselves, are endowed with normal thoughts and emotions. Their lot is truly a heart-breaking one. They are forced into the most unnatural of lives. Therefore, they have built up among themselves a code of ethics to protect them from the barbs of normal people. Their rules are rigidly adhered to and the hurt of one is the hurt of all; the joy of one is the joy of all. The story about to be revealed is a story based on the effect of this code upon their lives. Never again will such a story be filmed, as modern science and teratology is rapidly eliminating such blunders of nature from the world. With humility for the many injustices done to such a people, (they have no power to control their lot) we present the most startling horror story of the ABNORMAL and THE UNWANTED."
Let’s face facts here, people. The 1990s had some damn good horror movies! But what sets the ’90s apart from every other decade? It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyhow), every era has its own brand or style of horror. The classic silent pictures of the early 1910s with its German expressionism and tales of old legends and then moving on to the Universal Monsters, such as:Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Mad Ghoul, The Leopard Man, Cat People, etc. etc showed us a new world, reconstructing itself from the maiming machines of the Great War. And then we had the “invaders” of the ’50s with its outlandish sci-fi horror-esk Cold War-esk flicks, like The Day The Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Invaders from Mars, Them!, The Blob, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Plan 9 From Outer Space, etc. etc. And then in the ’60s movies drew downward into psychological freights, with Psycho, Night of the Living Dead,Rosemary’s Baby, Black Sunday, Carnival of Souls, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, and so on and so on. And of course, who could forget the ’70s? The decade ofSavage Cinema with terrifying flicks, such as: The Exorcist, Dawn of the Dead, Alien, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Jaws, Carrie, The Omen, Shivers, The Brood, Deathdream, etc. etc. And of course moving into the big hair, more of everything, excess-excess of the 1980s, with films like:The Evil Dead, Re-Animator, Nightmare of Elm Street, The Thing, The Fly, Return of the Living Dead,The Stuff, Hellraiser, Poltergeist, American Werewolf in London, Videodrome, Creepshow, and so many more, not to mention the birth of the Friday the 13th series and the modern slasher.
A population in panic, a record number of complaints, the BBC under siege, stories of descents into mania, demonic possession, spontaneous happenings all around the UK, all attributed to one programme which aired at 9:00PM, October 31st, 1992.
What work of fiction has ever been this successful?
The most frightening video game ever made, and one of the least known. System Shock 2 occurred during a particularly turbulent era of video game evolution, when the likes of Half Life, Deus Ex and myriad others were redefining what video games were capable of in terms of narrative and world building.
A quiet release from the now defunct Looking Glass studios, System Shock 2 was the child of talents who would later go on to create the industry-shattering BioShock and BioShock: Infinite, games which owe more than a little to System Shock in terms of their atmosphere, mechanics and the manner in which their respective narratives are communicated. But whereas the BioShock titles tend to preoccupy themselves with metaphorical explorations of certain notions and ideologies, System Shock has only one agenda on its mind: to scare the player utterly witless, which it succeeds at more aptly than any game I have ever played.
Clive Barker's UNDYING "Still Crazy After All These Years"
It boggles my mind how few people know about this game, despite being one of the best horror games of all time, created by one of the 20th century's most famous horror writers, Clive Barker. His later foray into gaming, 2007's Jericho, went a little too far into the combat realm for me, but 2001's Undying had the perfect blend of survival horror, gunplay and magic (that's right: fucking MAGIC!), combined with an intricate, terrifying story that still, nearly 14 years to the day of its Valentine's 2001 release, has me wishing for an HD update.
Retro-Horror Video Game Review: Super Metroid
There is a popular assumption that horror in video gaming didn't begin until what is (fallaciously) referred to as the “32-bit era,” that it came about with the likes of Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Whilst these were arguably some of the first to popularise what came to be known as “Survival Horror,” (a sub-genre in which characters are placed in extremely dire situations with little in the way of ammunition, health or defence and forced to run a gauntlet of traps, monsters and inevitable betrayals), the tropes, techniques and subjects of horror have been a part of video gaming arguably since its earliest days.
DEAD ISLAND "ZOMBIES IN A SANDBOX"
Do you like to be scared shitless? Do you like to be scared shitless by zombies?
If you answered yes to the above questions, chances are you'll at least get some kind of thrill out of Dead Island.
Dead Island started its undead life with one of the gaming world's most beautiful trailers—which, as eager gamers soon discovered, happened to have nothing at all to do with the game aside from the setting, causing mass internet outrage.
The slow-motion, backwards footage of a vacationing family dealing with a sudden zombie outbreak tapped directly into our collective fears. The game itself seemed a rather tepid foray into the hack-and-slash zombie survival genre.