The Haunting of Hill House – The Stuff Of Nightmares

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“Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

Whatever you do, set aside some binge time for Netflix’s new ten part horror series, The Haunting of Hill House. Since both Shirley Jackson’s original novel and the 1963 movie The Haunting from director, Robert Wise, are among my all-time favourites I went into this quite guardedly. Thankfully, what we have here is not a straight adaptation or remake, but something else entirely.

Directed and written by Mike Flanagan (Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil), the show is a slow-burn drama of a family going into emotional meltdown, with the added bonus of an utterly malevolent haunted house as the disease which tears them apart (in that way completely faithful to Jackson), told through a constantly surprising series of time shifts – which gradually peel away to reveal what lies at its rotten core.

Loss and mourning lay heavily against the beams and timbers of the house, and it’s these psychological terrors that are used to torment the unfortunate Crain family who choose to inhabit the spooky corridors and clammy bedrooms.

Though one or two revelations are a little too easily signposted (I picked up on the true identity of The Bent-Neck Lady at least two or three episodes before her mid-season unveiling) this is pretty masterful stuff, and one episode in particular revels in its glorious nature of seemingly taking place as one, 50-minute long, continuous shot (it’s not, of course, but the trickery is sustained), but does so in service of the story, racking up the tension of a family gathering for a funeral to sometimes truly queasy degrees.

The cast are uniformly excellent, featuring excellent turns from both Carla Gugino and Timothy Hutton (who really comes into his own during the previously mentioned ‘single take’ show).

If there’s a downside to all this, it’s in an element of the denouement which I actively disliked, but it’s difficult to discuss without going into spoiler territory. It’s enough to say that it irritated me but didn’t take away from the excellence of the preceding story.

Filled with both plentiful jump scares and a surprising number of subtler chills, the show will not disappoint viewers either looking for a funfair ghost train ride or those of us hoping for something whose depth of character allows for horrors of a darker shade.

The Haunting of Hill House is streaming now on Netflix and comes with my highest recommendation. Just don’t expect to sleep easily afterwards…

 

Spellbinding New Trailer For Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

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Regular readers will know I’m all about the forthcoming Netflix show, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. And after seeing this new trailer I’m even more all about the forthcoming Netflix show, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina! Cast a look at this:

Campy, funny, sexy and downright creepy in places, this is frankly the most fun I’ve had with a trailer in ages.

Can you tell I’m excited yet!?

With an awesome cast (Kiernan Shipka, Jaz Sinclair, Michelle Gomez, Chance Perdomo, Lucy Davis, Miranda Otto, Richard Coyle, Ross Lynch, Bronson Pinchot and Tati Gabrielle) and a really cool look (those are some stunning visuals up there), this is shaping up to be one of my most anticipated shows this season (alongside the return of The Deuce, of course).

Based on the Archie Comics series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina hits Netflix just in time for Halloween, on October 26th!

She’s coming to get you, Barbara (yeah, yeah, I know… I couldn’t resist)!

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Teaser Is, Well… Chilling.

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Regular readers of this site will know that the forthcoming Netflix series of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is highly anticipated around this neck of the (haunted) wood. The brand new teaser trailer has just dropped and it’s rather lovely.

Based on the cult, hit series from Archie Comics, the show tells an updated version of the 90s kid-TV favourite, with less emphasis on humorous shenanigans and more on blood and horror.

The trailer is appropriately spooky and the show,  starring Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina Spellman, who has to decide whether to sign the Devil’s book and become a Bride of Satan on her 16th birthday, looks like a whole heap of horrible fun.

With a great cast including Miranda Otto, Michelle Gomez and Lucy Davis, I can’t wait for this to raise my spirits on October 26th.

Hereditary: New, Old-Fashioned Scares

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I’ve seen many reviews stating that Hereditary is a “new kind of horror”, and similar nonsense. In fact, there’s very little new about Ari Aster’s film, but that doesn’t mean that what he does with it won’t creep the living daylights out of you.

Rather, what Aster and co. do is not wholly rely on what have become the standard, tired tricks of a great deal of modern horror: the jump scare of something appearing in frame, or a door slamming, the sudden burst of sound and music. Instead, we are treated to long moments of dread and unease, surrounded by a film which takes its time exploring the emotions of its central characters and wrapping it all in the universal pain of grief – in particular, how we often don’t deal with it. Only once we’re pulled in by all this does Hereditary blow up with reanimated corpses and family members crawling across the ceiling.

And then, of course, it gives us that much talked about ending, which will really test whether or not the film has you in its hooks.

Hereditary begins quietly, pulling a little Stanley Kubrick Overlook maze trick from The Shining with a model house, but doesn’t do so frivolously: it’s a great unsettling moment, revealing one of the movie’s first pieces of disturbing symbolism, teasing us that there’s something not quite right about this family home. More of the film’s themes are immediately set out as we follow the family preparing for a funeral, for the mother of Toni Collette’s Annie.

Soon enough, both Annie and her two children, Peter and Charlie, are sensing things around the house and at school, and we see the family, rounded off by Gabriel Byrnes’ father, Steve, resolutely not coming to grips with not only this death but also events that have occurred in their lives previously.

Tension builds, and Aster, along with editors Jennifer Lame and Lucian Johnston and committed performances by the cast, allow their film all the time it needs to do so, as we are gradually introduced to wilder events beyond the confines of the house and the family, before one of the truly great shock moments of cinema leads us into a more heightened third act, letting the story fully off the leash in the last fifteen minutes or so. One or two of the final scares and revelations almost threaten to derail the careful build, but by the time they come we’ve been engulfed enough by the family’s deterioration not to stop us from enjoying their obvious pleasures.

It’s difficult to discuss the final five minutes without veering into spoiler territory, but suffice to say the various breadcrumbs laid throughout the previous two hours are brought together in a truly off-kilter way, with an ending which reminded me both of Rosemary’s Baby and of Robert Egger’s modern classic, The Witch, being both truly horrific (as you understand the fates of two of the central characters) and utterly bizarre.

Hereditary allows a few howlers through which occasionally threaten its entry to the hallowed halls of classics such as the aforementioned Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Haunting: clunky lines of dialogue here and there (“Dad, it’s the cemetery,” “About what?”), the discovery of a book (“Guide to Spiritualism”) which might as well be labelled “plot device”, and some irritatingly, The Deadly Bees level superimposed flies (yes, I’m being nit-picky, but these elements stand out like sore thumbs in an otherwise classy affair like this).

But despite these caveats, Hereditary works like a dark charm because it picks at a sore scab and works at it: grief is something most of us struggle with, and while we may not conjure up dead loved ones in an effort to deal with that grief – or at least, I presume we don’t – we are given time to empathise with the very real and raw emotions experienced by the film’s family, and the unravelling of that family as a result of their inability to deal with their pain. And that’s true horror, after all, even with the addition of a meddling witch’s coven.

To return to my original point, Hereditary might not actually offer us something new, but it does what it does to a mostly masterful level, where the simple sound of a vocal clicking is made scary, and follows the lead of John Carpenter’s Halloween by using the frame to create unease.

And if you’re unfortunate enough to have dealt with death and the ensuing emotions we’re left with, it will resonate long after a dozen pump-up-the-volume, jump scare Paranormal Nun horror movies have faded into one another.

Second Suspiria Trailer Brings The Three Mothers… And The Shivers!

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Another day, another trailer for the new Suspiria. Turn on all the lights and feast on this:

There’s really not much to add about this latest slice on intensity since we talked about Suspiria just the other day (see here), but damn, Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s classic of Italian gothic horror is looking more impressive with everything we hear about it and see from it. I couldn’t be any more sold on this baby.

Which means I’ve reached peak saturation point on PR for Suspiria, and this is definitely the final trailer I’ll be sharing. I want to go into this as cold as possible (especially considering my familiarity with the source material), but suffice to say I’m going to be first in line come November 2nd.

The New Suspiria Trailer Arrives

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Take a look at the brand new, long-awaited teaser trailer for the remake of Dario Argento’s classic horror, Suspiria:

So let’s be clear on this from the outset: this one is going to divide people. On one hand, the film has tremendous word of mouth: early reaction to just a preview scene of the film, at Cinemacon in Las Vegas, saw viewers outraged, traumatized and, allegedly, vomiting (of course, that could just be a piece of classic old ballyhoo), it has a very intriguing director, Luca Guadagnino, lauded for his previous work including the Oscar-nominated Call Me By Your Name, and the writer is the showrunner of the superb AMC series, The Terror, David Kajganich. Plus the film has a killer (pun intended) cast headed by Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz and Jessica Harper (star of the original).

Alongside this we have the reported reaction of one Quentin Tarantino who, according to an interview with Guadagnino in the Italian publication, La Repubblica, had an emotional response to his film:

“I showed it to Quentin Tarantino. We’ve been friends since our jury duty at the Venice Film Festival. I was nervous but eager to hear his advice. We saw it at his place and his reaction warmed me. He was enthusiastic about it, in the end he was crying and hugged me.”

Well, that’s not too shabby.

Finally, we have a trailer which, is nothing else, is suffused with a peculiar and mysterious atmosphere and some genuinely creepy imagery, and at the very least it certainly isn’t trying to copy Argento’s colour palette, as this is all about your wintry browns and greys. I mean, this thing has a lot going for it, right…!?

On the other hand, these guys are messing with a much-loved, bona fide classic of Italian horror cinema (in fact, of just cinema). Dario Argento’s colour-splashed 1977 original, co-written with the great Daria Nicolodi, has wormed (pun intended again, sorry… if you’ve seen the original) its way into the affections of cinema-lovers for its outrageous visuals, sound and dread-drenched atmosphere.

I held a showing of the original at one my regular Dave’s Music & Movie Nights screenings, here in Norway, a few years back and the reaction of viewers to Argento’s unsettling masterpiece was palpable.

I’ve kind of made peace with the fact that Hollywood is never going to stop with its obsession for remakes, and so long as the originals aren’t hidden from view I’m of the mind that it can be of genuine interest to see artists take a new spin on much-loved favourites. Without this kind of thinking we wouldn’t have John Carpenter’s The Thing or David Cronenberg’s The Fly, and aren’t we all grateful for those!? Of course, the downside to that thinking gives us Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, about which, the less said the better (don’t @ me, okay!?)…

Either way, the new Suspiria from Amazon Studios is a bold move that’s bound to be divisive and might just be something special. Personally, I’m ready to have the shit scared out of me. So, show us what you’ve got come November 2…

 

Halloween Is Back (Again)…

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Michael Myers slips on the Don Post William Shatner mask once again, in the new trailer for a film in one of the most frequently rebooted film series ever, Halloween.

Take a look at the trailer and we’ll talk…

There’s certainly a lot to pique interest here:  David Gordon Green and Danny McBride at the helm (Green directing, McBride co-writing with Green and Jeff Fradley), series creator and underappreciated movie god John Carpenter on music duties, and scream queen legend, Jamie Lee Curtis back as an obviously-ready-to-kick-some-slasher-ass, Laurie Strode.

Necessarily missing of course, will be much-loved and long-departed Donald Pleasance (as Doctor Sam Loomis), but other than that the trailer looks like a lot of fun, already telegraphing a couple of decent scares (that final closet shot is a hoot).

While there’s a decent conversation to be had about whether or not the world actually needs an umpteenth reboot (with this one apparently only acknowledging the original Halloween while ignoring the rest of the six thousand sequels – which should drive long-time fans nicely insane), the trailer at least promises a good time to be had. It looks brutal as a November weekend in Scarborough and there are some truly gorgeous-looking shots!

Halloween opens… not on Halloween, but on October 19th, just to annoy anyone with OCD.

Netflix’s Sabrina The Teenage Witch Gets Chilling

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The forthcoming reboot of Sabrina The Teenage Witch today got an official title, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

The news came from Entertainment Weekly, via Sabrina executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Twitter feed, which also gave us the first look at the character, played by Kiernan Shipka (from Mad Men).

This is exciting as the show is supposedly based upon the recent run of comic books – bearing the same title – from Archie Horror (oh yes, the creators of Archie and Betty & Veronica do horror comics), and if that’s the case we could be in for a fun ride – the comics come highly recommended.

Sabrina, played by Melissa Joan Hart in the 90s sitcom, veers closer now towards gothic horror in the new comics, and this promises to be an intruiging take on that material.

“It’s official! Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is our title! Something wicked this way comes” tweeted Aguirre-Sacasa.

Sabrina will grace our Netflix screens later this year, already pre-booked for two seasons, and will also star Miranda Otto, Lucy Davis, Ross Lynch, and presumably, a much better animatronic/CGI version of Salem, the cat.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Castle Rock – “This Place” Trailer Unnerves…

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The Stephen King screen renaissance seems set to continue (we’ll conveniently ignore The Dark Tower) with a new series, coming from Hulu this summer.

The network has the very welcome team of King and producer J.J. Abrams working on Castle Rock, from Warner Bros. TV and Abrams’ Bad Robot, and here’s the latest trailer to unnerve you…

The official synopsis for the show reads:

“A psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King’s literary career: CujoThe Dark HalfIT, and Needful Things, as well as novella “The Body” and numerous short stories such as “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller — a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories.”

If that sets your pulse racing as much as it does mine then we can all settle down together on the sofa when the show drops on July 25th. I just recently revisited the 1994 TV mini-series of The Stand, and despite having a screenplay from King himself that sorry production left me seriously jonesing for a genuinely great small screen take on the novelist’s work (short take: King & co pretty much ballsed-up one of his greatest works).

Will Castle Rock float with Andy Muschietti’s It, or will it linger with the undead stench of Nikolaj Arcel’s The Dark Tower? We’ll know soon enough…

Netflix and King – 1922

1922

Netflix appear to be getting into the Stephen King business in a big way.

With their film of Gerald’s Game dropping this week and looking as kinky, creepy and gnarly as King’s book, the channel has now released a trailer for 1922, based on a novella taken from his 2010 collection, Full Dark, No Stars.

Starring the always watchable Thomas Jane as a farmer who manipulates his son into murdering his wfe, the Netflix film looks like it will fully embrace the ghastly goings-on as Jane’s wife (played by the equally watchable Molly Parker) comes back to torment him along with a plague of rats.

With the success of IT and these two new productions from Netflix, it’s good to see a rash of King adaptations that might just help us to forget 2017 was the year Sony made a trainwreck from The Dark Tower.

1922 arrives on Netflix on October 20.