Blogathons, Horror

The Horrorathon: Dead Of Night (1945)

Horrorathon 2

This is my entry for my horror blogathon. I can’t wait to be able to read all of your spooky film reviews.

I’m going to be writing about one of my all time favourite horror films. That film is Dead Of Night. As many of you already know I personally much prefer creepy and psychological horror stories instead of the violent and gory ones.

This film is the perfect blend of the supernatural and scares for me. The film brings to mind the scary stories from books, you know the ones I mean, those creepy tales of terror which are best read by a blazing fire on a dark and stormy night.

A sequence near the end of the film does the best job I’ve ever seen of bringing to life nightmares. This sequence manages to capture the disorientation and outright terror you experience when you are having a nightmare. Images and faces are jumbled up, time has no meaning and there is no escape from what you’ve become part of.

At the time this film was released the horror genre was practically non existent in British cinema. America was churning out scary and spooky flicks on a regular basis, but we just were not doing the same.  Then Dead Of Night was released, and this film quickly showed the world that the UK could also produce films that were able to chill the blood.

I would have so loved to have been in the audience when this film was first released. Not only was the content and style of the film something new but this film came out of Ealing Studios. Why is that important you may ask?

Well, the content of this film was about as far from Ealing’s regular output as it was possible to get. Ealing is best known for its comedies and picture postcard portrayals of British life, but during the 1940’s they did start to produce some grittier and darker films. This horror film was one of their darkest. 

The content of this film was so different that it must have come completely out of the blue for audiences at the time. Other films worth watching from the studios grittier and darker years include: Went The Day Well? Pink String and Sealing Wax and It Always Rains On Sunday.

Dead Of Night is not only a good horror film, but it is also a very unique and cleverly put together film. It has four of Britain’s finest directors at the helm. These directors each directed the different segments of the film. Basil Dearden directs the linking narrative, and also directs the hearse driver story. Alberto Cavalcanti directs both the Christmas party and the ventriloquist dummy stories. Robert Hamer directs the haunted mirror story. Charles Crichton directs the golfing story.

Although this wasn’t the first anthology horror film to be made (the earliest  that I’m aware of is Eerie Tales from 1919); Dead Of Night would however go on to become a film that was to become extremely influential on future horror anthology productions. The style of this film paved the way for films like The Amicus horror films, such as Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors and The Vault Of Horror.  The hearse driver story surely has to have inspired the films Final Destination and The Night My Number Came UpThe Twilight Zone season 2 episode called Twenty Two also has strong similarities to this story too.

Dead Of Night consists of five individual horror stories, with each one being connected via a clever linking story. Ghosts, Deja vu, recurring nightmares, premonitions, haunted objects and a creepy ventriloquists dummy all feature here. 

Unlike many other anthology films, the stories and the overall structure of the film combine together here to make a perfect whole. It’s not like there are only a couple of good parts and the rest is rubbish, each of these horror stories sucks you in. The horror stories are not the only high points of the film though; the linking story itself is also extremely chilling, and it is one that I always want to keep returning to as the film goes on.

I actually think that the film would have still worked and been creepy (although undoubtedly not as successful) if only the linking story was shown, and instead of us seeing the horror stories we just see the characters telling their respective stories.

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The film begins with architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns)arriving at the country home of Elliot Foley (Roland Culver). Craig is there to consult on some renovations being undertaken in the house. Foley has some houseguests and Craig (despite never having met any of them before)knows them and claims he knows them due to seeing them in a recurring dream. As the guests speak to him he begins to start predicting things they will do, and he becomes increasingly uneasy and is convinced something terrible will happen soon.

The other guests all try and convince Craig that there is no truth to his fears. As the day goes on the guests are inspired by Craig’s claims, and they start to share weird and scary stories of strange incidents they have witnessed themselves. We see these stories play out on screen.

The first story is about a racing car driver (Anthony Baird)who is injured in a crash during a race. As he recovers in hospital he begins to have frightening visions. He later comes to understand these were premonitions. This sequence is very unsettling indeed and is one of my favourites from amongst the various stories. This sort of story is one that never gets old. It can be set in any situation really (public transport, meeting a dangerous person who will do you harm, an accident etc.)

The second story takes place at a Christmas party in an old country house. A young girl (Sally Ann Howes) goes exploring the rooms during a game of hide and seek. She comes across a lonely little boy dressed in old clothes. Chills are guaranteed when she later discovers who he is. This sequence is both creepy and touching. It is inspired by a real British murder case. The actor who plays the boy is uncredited, I find that very strange as he has quite a large role within the sequence.

The third story concerns a couple who are plagued by a haunted antique mirror. The husband (Ralph Michael)sees a different room reflected back to him in the mirror, instead of the room in which he is standing. He soon becomes obsessed by this mirror and undergoes a personality change. His wife (Googie Withers)tries to help him and she soon comes to see that he is not going mad as she had first feared.  

The fourth story is comic in tone and seems a bit of an odd one to have been included really. Having said that though there are some creepy moments to be found here (the man walking into the lake to drown himself for example). There’s also some clever camera trickery too. The story is about two obsessed golfers (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne)who are in love with the same woman. One of the men ends up as a ghost and haunts the other . This one strikes me as just an excuse to show Wayne and Radford in a film; these two appear regularly throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s as the comic characters Charter’s and Caldicott, their characters in this film might just as well have been those characters.

The fifth story is the one that is best remembered. A ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave)descends into incurable madness. What causes this? He is convinced that his dummy is actually alive. Is he correct, or is he just simply an ill man who is sadly losing his mind? Ventriloquist stories are always creepy and this is one of the most unforgettable and well made of these stories.  Michael Redgrave gives one of the best performances of his entire career here, you really do believe he is becoming tired, unbalanced and downright terrified.

After the individual stories are over the horror continues on as we return to the linking story. I won’t reveal the ending in case people haven’t seen this, but if you have, then you will know the horror which awaits the viewer at the end of the film.

The film features many of Britain’s finest actors. Michael Redgrave and Googie Withers were two of the biggest British film stars of this era, and I’ve no doubt that their presence was a major reason for fans to check this film out. Mervyn Johns and Roland Culver were wonderful character actors and they are both excellent here. A very young Sally Ann Howes makes quite an impression in an early role.

The photography by Douglas Slocombe is incredible. The photography really helps to create an eerie mood which carries on from sequence to sequence. The film looks fantastic too. The music by Georges Auric is suitably chilling and it is the perfect accompaniment to the spooky visuals.

My favourites of the stories are the following. The linking story. The hearse driver. The ventriloquists dummy.

I think the best of the stories are the following. The linking story. The ventriloquists dummy. The haunted mirror. The hearse driver.

Be sure to see this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking at its best and to enjoy some interesting interviews about the film. Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below. If you’ve never seen this one, I highly recommend it to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Horror, Unsung Classics

The Fog (1980)

Continuing on with the Halloween films theme, I’m now going to take a look at one of my all time favourite horror films. That film is The Fog. This is one that I will stick in the DVD player when I’m in the mood for something really eerie.

This is a film that is shockingly, and very strangely, underrated in comparison with so many of the other films from horror legend John Carpenter. As far as I’m concerned this film should be up there with his classic films like Halloween and The Thing.

It seems very strange to me that this ghostly tale of revenge and horror hardly ever seems to be mentioned now. It is a very good film and more than that, it is also a very good horror film too. I consider this to be one of John Carpenter’s best screen efforts.

The Fog is so atmospheric, it’s scary and it’s very eerie. The scenes featuring the glowing fog are seriously creepy and are quite an unforgettable sight. John’s own score for the film is one of his very best, I think it adds so much to the film and is the perfect accompaniment. This is a film that sends shivers down your spine. It is also reminiscent of those ghost stories which are best read by a blazing fire on a dark night.

Photo0144The year is 1980. The film opens on a beach, with the great John Houseman playing an old sailor. The sailor is telling the spooky story of the crew of the ship, The Elizabeth Dane to a group of children, as they all sit around a blazing fire. Houseman conveys such terror, and paints such images in your mind with his words alone. This sequence really sets the tone for the horror to come.

The residents of the beautiful seaside town of Antonio Bay, California, are looking forward to a celebration event being held to mark their towns 100th anniversary. The local Priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers a diary written by his grandfather, through which he learns the terrible truth of how their town was actually founded.

In 1880, six men who would go on to found the town killed Blake, a wealthy man with leprosy, and his crew, and then robbed his ship The Elizabeth Dane of its gold. This gold was then used to fund the building of Antonio Bay.  

Blake and his murdered crew have returned from the dead in order to hunt down six residents whose lives they can take in revenge for their own murders. This group come ashore after midnight, shrouded in a mysterious, eerie glowing fog. Strange events start happening, three sailors are killed out at sea, and then other deaths start occurring. Nick Castle (Tom Atkins)and his girlfriend Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis)start to investigate and try and get to the bottom of the strange events. Who will survive? Can the undead be stopped?

This film manages to be the perfect combination of ghost story and slasher flick. The murder scenes are not overly graphic, but they come across as quite disturbing. The supernatural element makes your skin crawl, adding some real shivers to this horror tale.

I have to mention a few things I’ve picked up on . Has anyone else ever noticed these things? Twelve and six are key numbers in the story; the horror starts at midnight, there are twelve key characters in the film: Stevie, Andy, Father Malone, Nick, Elizabeth, Kathy, Sandy, Dan, Mrs. Kobritz and the three fisherman. Elizabeth tells Nick that he makes her twelfth time being picked up while hitchhiking. Stevie starts broadcasting at the radio at 6pm, there are six victims claimed by Blake.  

I also noticed that Elizabeth(Jamie Lee Curtis)has the same first name as Blake’s ship. Also, at around the 53 minute mark in the film, there is a man in glasses wearing a blue coat, this guy looks like Steven Spielberg. Does anyone know if it actually was Spielberg?

I also have a theory that is a possibility that the film is all a nightmare experienced by Andy (Ty Mitchell)after he hears the story on the beach. I’ve started to think that because the film opens with that scene, and just before that there is this quote from Edgar Allen Poe: “All that we see or seem is but a dream. A dream within a dream.” There must be a reason this was included. Could it be that this is supposed to be a nightmare after all? The film also has many moments where something suddenly happens, or changes suddenly to something scary just as nightmares have a tendency to do.

Adrienne Barbeau is excellent as Stevie, the sultry voiced DJ who gets caught up in the strange events. Stevie is a strong and resourceful woman, and Adrienne makes her one of the most memorable characters from the film.

My favourite scenes are the following. The windows mysteriously breaking on Nick’s car as he is driving. Stevie making her way down the steep steps to get to the radio station (located within a former lighthouse on top of a cliff). Blake and his men killing the fisherman. The finale in the church. Nick and Elizabeth finding the missing fishing boat. The children listening to the ghost story on the beach. Andy being rescued from the house.

The film was made on location out in Point Reyes, California. The beautiful location provides a stunning backdrop for many events in the film.

Spooky and a lot of fun, The Fog really is a film that makes for perfect viewing at this time of the year. Any other fans of this one?

 

Blogathons

Announcing The Horrorathon: 26th and 27th Of October, 2017

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In a couple of months time it will be Halloween; cue the scary music, flickering candles, screams, and people banging at your door thinking it’s fine to demand sweets. A perfect opportunity then for us to discuss those films that scare us.

You can discuss anything related to horror films. For example you could discuss your favourite scary film. The Universal Monster Movies (Dracula, The Invisible Man etc.) The Hammer Horror films. The films of Val Lewton. The Horror directors. The Horror stars, such as Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Sr, Peter Cushing etc. It’s entirely up to you.

As usual, I will only be accepting two duplicate posts about the same film, actor etc. There are so many films and stars out there for this genre, that we shouldn’t all need to write about the same ones. Check the participant list below to see who is writing about what. You are welcome to write more than one post.

New to blogathons?

How do I take part?
Very easily. Leave me a comment below telling me what you want to write about.  Leave me your name and the name of your blog too. Then grab one of the banners below, and put it up somewhere on your site to help spread the word.
What will happen on the Blogathon days?
I will put up a new post on each day saying the Blogathon is going live. Leave me your name and the link to your completed entry in the comments. I will then create the link to your entry on my post.
I’ve never participated in a Blogathon before. What’s it all about?
You’re in for lots of fun then. 🙂  Blogathons are a great way of connecting with other bloggers. It’s a good way of getting more visitors to your site who may not otherwise have ever known your blog existed. I love Blogathons for the varied opinions and comments different bloggers can bring to the same subject.

It’s up to you on which of the days you make your entry live. All I ask is that nobody posts late, you can post early if you like, let me know and I will add your link in on one of the days.

Grab one of the banners below to help spread the word, and put it up on your site somewhere. Have fun writing, and please don’t scare yourselves too much!

 

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Participation List

Maddylovesherclassicfilms – Dead Of Night

Cinematic ScribblingsSpirits of the Dead

LifesdailylessonsblogThe Haunting      13 Ghosts

Thoughts All SortsMy Reaction To Horror Films.

                                   VinniehCat People

Sparksfromacombustiblemind –  Post on Jamie Lee Curtis       Halloween (1978)

Bonnywood ManorDon’t Look Now      The Haunting of Julia

RealweegiemidgetKill Keith

Wonders In The DarkI Walked With A Zombie

Serendipitous AnachronismsThe Legend Of Hell House

In The Good Old Days Of Classic HollywoodThe Bat

dbmoviesblogLes Diaboliques

Critica RetroThe Page Of Madness

The Wonderful World Of CinemaTopic to be decided

Moody MoppetThe Raven

Old School EvilMonster Squad

Sat In Your LapComedy Of Terrors

It Came From The Man CaveTrick or Treat?

Silent-ologyThe Man Who Laughs (1928)

The Stop ButtonSuspiria

A Viewers Guide To Classic FilmsHouse Of Dracula

 

British Cinema, Horror

The Innocents (1961)

For me this is the greatest British horror film. When I think of haunted houses, or of ghosts wandering about amongst the living, this is the film which first springs to my mind. 

The film is based upon the Henry James novel, The Turn of the Screw. It is a very creepy, and atmospheric film. I think that it makes for perfect viewing on a dark night, or on a dark and stormy afternoon.

The film is directed by Jack Clayton, it has photography by Freddie Francis, a screenplay by William Archibald and Truman Capote, and has some truly eerie and atmospheric music by Georges Auric.

From the very beginning this film is highly unsettling. The opening film logos and credits are accompanied by an eerie song that sounds like its straight out of the Victorian era, birds can be heard chirping, we also hear the whimpers of a woman.

We then see a distraught Miss Giddens, her hands clasped together in prayer, we see she is deeply distressed but we have no idea what is going on. It is a good way to open the film as it creates atmosphere and makes you wonder about what you are seeing.

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The young and much repressed Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr)becomes the new governess to adorable siblings Flora and Miles (Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens). As time goes on, she begins to suspect that the two children are being possessed by the souls of two dead former servants Quint and Miss Jessel(Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop.)

Miles acts like an adult in the way he speaks and behaves. There is just something not right about him at all and he acts in a very creepy manner. For one so young, Martin Stephens very adeptly conveys a wisdom and worldliness way beyond his years, and he does so in a very unsettling way indeed.

Miles and Flora seem to be almost telepathically linked, which adds even more creepiness to the proceedings. Miss Giddens begins then begins to see ghosts around the house too, or does she?

It is precisely this ambiguity regarding the ghosts that makes this film so effective I believe. You can view the occurrences in the film in two ways; either Miss Giddens really does see the ghosts, and the children are possessed; or Miss Giddens is suffering a mental breakdown and is imaging the whole thing. Either scenario is terrifying and whichever you believe(I actually believe that it is a combination of both)is scary and makes the ending shocking and sad.

Personally I think the children were corrupted by the things they saw Quint and Miss Jessel do together, so what they witnessed has affected their behaviour. Quint and Miss Jessel were also the only companions the children had ever known, so they now try and imitate these adults even after their death. In a way their imitation means that they are bringing these people back to life, isn’t this another form of possession?

Miss Giddens hears about the servants and begins to fear them and see them. I think she really does see these horrors, but whether they are actually real ghosts or just her fears manifesting I wouldn’t like to say, to her though they are real apparitions.

This is the type of horror film I like best; one where you’re not sure if you just glimpsed something in the corner of your eye, or if something just brushed past a character causing a candle to flicker. I much prefer psychological horror to gore and this film certainly makes you think and it is one that really creeps me out.

Deborah gives one of the very best performances of her entire career here. She captures this woman’s growing fear and paranoia. She starts off portraying her as an eager and happy woman. By the end of the film we see her as a broken, terrified and unstable woman.

I think it is a real shame that Deborah never again got another role like this. She does such a terrific job of conveying Miss Giddens growing fear and obsessions. As the film goes on she looks more and more paranoid, worn out, ill and nervous.

The children are excellent and deliver performances far beyond what most child actors could deliver. The fact that they manage to be creepy, unsettling and adorable all at the same time says a great deal about their acting abilities.

Megs Jenkins is very good as the kindly housekeeper who adores the children. Megs conveys her characters great difficulty in believing any of what Miss Giddens says, but also being powerless to undermine her and her authority within the house.

Beautiful costumes, a stunning garden location (Sheffield Park Gardens)and a gothic atmosphere all combine together to make The Innocents a must see horror film.

My favourite scenes the following. The ghost sighting in the lake. Miss Giddens first walk around the beautiful gardens. The conversation between Miss Giddens and Miles, where she becomes convinced that he is possessed. The scene where Miss Giddens walks around the corridors with a candle hearing laughter. Quint’s appearance in the windows.

Are you a fan of this film? Please leave your thoughts below.