Tag Archives: Demon

THE LAST KNOCK PRESENTS: Five Star Horror – The Scariest

The Last KnockDo you want the scariest horrors out there? Thanks to the amazing Dee Emm Elms, we have a whole new series to bring you: Five Star Horror!

That’s right, it’s all about the best of the best in the genre. So to kick it off right, we discuss the ultimate horror films that bring the fear.

Now, hide in the corner, start trembling, and keep one eye open as we bring nothing but the best damn scariest Five Star Horror films to keep us awake at night.

Of course, this show’s dedicated to Dee Emm Elms! Now check out the author’s book, Sidlings.

Thanks again, Dee Emm for the Five Star Horror suggestion!

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@d_m_elms @Scream_Factory @michasloat @OliviaHusseyLA @AFiendOnFilm @ShoutFactory @jeffreygoldblum @palkodesigns @synapsefilms @Art_Hindle @VicsMovieDen @Oren_Peli @DavidSchmoeller @sm_henley @LinneaQuigley @iamgoreblimey @katiedianne @terry_oquinn @mastermystery7 @ArrowFilmsVideo @LoudGreenBird @blunderground @J2thecarpenter and Paul J. Williams

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Horror Double Feature: SPLIT and THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER

The Last Knock

Another interesting mix of horror with M. Night Shyamalan’s Split and Oz Perkins’ The Blackcoat’s Daughter. We’ll explore what works, what doesn’t, what’s cool, and what’s a far cry from worth watching.

We’ll discuss if Night’s slipping even though he’s returned to making “smaller” films. But is Oz Perkins’ star rising? Both films have received mixed reviews, but for horror fans, The Blackcoat’s Daughter seems to have an edge. We’ll weigh in, and don’t forget to share your views in the comments section.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@AFiendOnFilm @Mark_Cassell @TraCee_tr @GuyRicketts @LizzyStevens123 @wilkravitz @KissedByFate2 @tammysdragonfly @SeanMaxwell @RealJillyG @PromoteHorror @dixiefairy @palkodesigns @BettyBuckley @kiernanshipka @juliekirkwooddp @ElvisPerkins

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20th Anniversary by Billy Crash

 

Welcome to the Hellmouth

On March 10, 1997, creator, writer, and oftentimes director, Joss Whedon unleashed Buffy the Vampire Slayer upon the world in a television series that drew in fans from a multitude of demographics and a multitude of countries. The show featured Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, a high school student forced into accepting her fate as vampire slayer in mythical Sunnydale, California.

With a kickass theme from Nerd Herder, and her watcher Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Buffy kept her “Scooby Gang” close (Nicholas Brendon as Xander, Allyson Hannigan as Willow, and someone just as reluctant as Buffy, the “better than you” Cordelia Chase, played by Charisma Carpenter), as she tackled, drop-kicked, and staked vampires, destroyed demons, and more in an effort to thwart the Hellmouth and save the world.

Each week, we’d find something different than the average show at the time, and for a dramatic comedy/horror/fantasy/action series, Buffy had more drama in one episode than a month’s worth of “ER” or “Chicago Hope.” Unlike other television shows that entertained and faded away by morning, people just didn’t talk about the show at the office, they incorporated the “lexicon of Buffy” in their speech, much like many of “Twin Peaks” fans who know that you can trust the Bookhouse Boys, but “The owls are not what they seem.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t just a television show people talked about, but an event that changed how they talked.

Prophecy Girl

Beyond words, we had a vampire slayer who fell in love with not just one vampire, but two, while still kicking ass and never turning her back on her friends, the world, and the woman she was becoming. Other than “Xena the Warrior Princess,” it’s hard to think of another show that presented woman as strong, powerful, and self-assured, and who wouldn’t give a man the satisfaction of seeing her fail. Where men rescued women at nearly every turn throughout television history, Buffy saved every man, woman, and child she ran into. And even if she told others to run for safety, Buffy didn’t stand tall to play martyr or find sympathy or become a legendary figure, she just wanted to fight and win every damn time.

And with strong females at the center of the show, Joss introduced the love of two young women without exploitation or apology, and once again, the show only became stronger, more multi-faceted, and more ahead of the curve in social consciousness. If anything, on this front, Buffy brought us some of the most depth-ridden romances ever to appear on the small screen regardless of gender.

As Buffy grew, so did her Scooby Gang: Cordelia became a woman who respected others instead of laughing at them, Xander developed a spine, and little Willow Rosenberg became a witch of epic proportions. Others came into the gang, from vampire lovers Angel (David Boreanaz) and Spike (James Marsters), as well as Tara (Amber Benson), Oz (Seth Green), Anya (Emma Caulfield), and baby sister Dawn Summers (Michelle Trachtenberg). Wait, Buffy had a sister?

New Moon Rising

I remember when Dawn appeared at the beginning of season five. Michelle Trachtenberg not only appeared in the opening credits as if she had been there forever, but Buffy and her mom (Kristine Sutherland) acted like she’d had a room in the house the whole damn time. A head scratcher for certain, and many of us didn’t know the key to this sudden introduction, but that’s what Joss Whedon always did: He kept the story fresh without jumping the shark, having a special wedding episode, or the worst damn thing imaginable, the birth of a child. Instead, we got Dawn, unexpected deaths, bad-grrl Faith (Eliza Dushku), Buffybot, a slew of evil adults from high school administrators to scientists at a secret base, and an endless flow of demonic forces with their own cruel agendas. Joss changed Buffy like a pro bono plastic surgeon: He improved the exterior but didn’t mess with the heart and soul.

At one point, Buffy stated, “My mother said my life is fruitless. No fruit for Buffy.” But the entire show bore fruit. “Angel” became one of the best spinoffs of all time, and people even gave the failed Buffy the Vampire Slayer film another chance, where Pee Wee Herman’s Paul Reubens crushed it as vampire kingpin, Amilyn, and Seth Green played a vampire – which makes him the only actor to appear in both the movie and the series. The stars went on to other projects on television or the silver screen, and twenty years later, Buffy continues to be recognized and appreciated by first generation fans to Millennials and Generation Z as if the season finale had taken place last week.

Once More, With Feeling

Some shows have survived the test of time: “The Twilight Zone,” “Twin Peaks,” “Seinfeld,” “The X-Files,” and “Firefly” because they were “big damn heroes,” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues in that off-the-beaten path vein of absolute coolness. Yet, at the end of the day, Buffy hasn’t held up for twenty years simply because it’s cool, but it had something to say about youth, exploration, love, bureaucracy, judgment, parenting, friendship, goals, desires, humanity, and ultimately sacrifice. Even so, at its heart, at its very core, Buffy wasn’t afraid to venture into the darkest regions of the brightest characters or find blinding light within the abyss of demons. If Whedon taught us anything, it’s that there’s good and bad in everyone, and we all need to do our part to not only help bring that greatness to the surface, but to forgive those who falter at times, and give them love, respect, and a second chance.

Because when it’s your turn to save the world, you never know who’ll be fighting by your side. So hush…

Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk) loves great in depth characters and storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on TwitterLinkedInIMDbAmazon, and his professional website.

(Photo of Buffy from Buffy Wikia.)

The 2000s: Horror’s Best Decade (Part 2) by Paul J. Williams

Please allow me to preface this article with a warning and a statement: Beware! Dozens of movies are discussed and spoilers will exist, so please keep that in mind as you read.

And, I’m not a movie historian or expert; I’m just a cinephile, probably like you, who enjoys horror movies. I also like to reflect upon times and situations in our history and ask: why? I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic, as well.

LIFE AND TIMES OF THE LATE 2000s: A (Very) Brief Summary

The late 2000s continued the trend of worldwide heartbreak and despair:

Hurricane Katrina ravished the southeast United States and other areas in 2005, making it one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history, and the costliest in terms of damage.

The Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 became the U.S.’s deadliest mass shooting, up until the Orlando nightclub massacre in 2016, claiming thirty-two lives.

2008 brought the Great Recession, which was felt around the globe, with many still suffering from its fallout.

Haiti was nearly destroyed by an earthquake in 2010, killing over 100,000 of its citizens and leveling scores of buildings, including the Presidential Palace.

LATE 2000s HORROR: Let the Fun Begin

2005 to 2010 gave us some of the best movies in the history of cinema, and especially horror. Low budget, huge budget, foreign and domestic; every demographic is represented and we are lucky to have been alive to catch it all…

A NEW SUBGENRE IS BORN: Torture Porn

Well, admittedly, it’s not my favorite, but we have to talk about it, don’t we? Film critic David Edelstein is credited with coining the term for a new subgenre (sub to the Slasher/Body Horror genres, I suppose) that emerged in the mid-2000s called “torture porn.” These films emphasized nudity, mutilation, and sadism, and though movies associated with this subgenre are not personal preferences, I can’t not mention them.

Eli Roth wrote and directed 2005’s Hostel, a story about a group of American college students traveling across eastern Europe, and historically, the first movie assigned to the torture-porn subgenre. These poor vacationers become kidnapped and sold off to be systematically tortured and killed. Over the years, proponents of this movie have tried to extract bigger meanings from it, most notably the socioeconomic implications and the consequences of U.S. involvement in foreign affairs. Maybe; who knows? Quentin Tarantino, who was probably tangential to the production at best, smartly had his name plastered all over the promotion of the film that, despite mixed reviews, grossed over $80 million on a $5 million budget, and spawned two sequels: the second again being written and directed by Roth, who would then sit the third one out.

What followed was filmmakers trying more and more to gross out audiences:

Australia’s 2005’s Wolf Creek, using the tried-and-true promotion of being “based on a true story” has a Crocodile Dundee-type hunt and kill three backpackers in the outback. It received mixed reviews from critics, but was a hit at the box office, grossing $28 million on a $1 million budget. Wolf Creek 2 followed in 2013, but like most sequels, didn’t live up to the first film.

Turistas was released in 2006. This time harassing backpackers in Brazil, the film was received poorly by critics, but made a profit in ticket sales.

Captivity, from 2007, tried, mostly in vain, to ride the wave of success of Hostel and Saw, and ultimately grossed $11 million.

The Collector, released in 2009 from Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunston, winners of Project Greenlight a thousand years ago, is a distant cousin of Saw, and now considered a cult classic. It tripled its budget, despite negative reviews, and spawned the sequel: The Collection in 2012.

ELI ROTH

With a dearth of worthwhile horror, or any horror at all, really, in the late 1990s, the early 2000s was up for grabs for anyone looking to be the next horror maestro. Love him or hate him, Eli Roth was the someone who stepped up. Starting in 2002 with Cabin Fever, which has since been remade (more on that nonsense later), Roth followed in the footsteps of The Blair Witch Project with its online marketing, showed everyone who his influences are, became a hit with audiences, grossed $30 million on a $1.5 million budget, and even managed to get a lot of good reviews.

He followed with the aforementioned Hostel in 2005, also launching the “torture-porn” subgenre, and followed with Hostel II in 2007.

Since then, he’s mostly worn the Producer’s hat, being the man behind such films as The Last Exorcism and The Sacrament, and dabbles in acting, as well, with his most notable performance of him chewing the scenery as “The Bear Jew” in Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 fantasy, Inglorious Basterds.

His next film looks to be a departure from horror, remaking the 1974 Charles Bronson classis, Death Wish.

LOOK WHAT I FOUND: Another New Sub-genre is Born

Obviously kicking off the modern “found-footage” subgenre is 1999’s The Blair Witch Project (shout-outs recognizing Man Bites Dog and The Last Broadcast), but what’s odd is that it’ll take years before another recognizable film of this nature is released.

Fred Vogel starts his August Underground “franchise” in 2001, but these are extreme genre films only a select few can sit through.

Zero Day, from 2003, though not a horror, dramatizes the Columbine massacre of 1999.

Septem8er Tapes, also not a horror, was released in 2004, and makes use of every penny of its estimated $30,000 budget, and puts a War on Terror spin on the found-footage subgenre.

The U.K.’s The Last Horror Movie from 2003 is a very disturbing movie, sort of like the found-footage version of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

2007’s The Poughkeepsie Tapes from brothers, John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, has become more about whether people are ever going to see it or not than about the movie itself, and in some ways, this has given more longevity to the film than if it was widely released as originally planned in 2007. First, I’ve seen it, and surprisingly, it lives up to the hype: it’s very disturbing and odd. Second, when is this ever going to be released permanently to the masses? Hell if I know, but it’d probably be the worst thing for it.

What starts off, what I guess we can call the postmodern “found-footage” frenzy, is Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity. It originally premiered in 2007, then after a few ending changes suggested by Hollywood, and a fake story about Steven Spielberg being scared shitless of it, and we get the 2009 wide release, which you most likely viewed. If you don’t know what follows, then you must not be a horror fan: almost $200 million at the box office and, count them, six sequels to date. Not surprisingly, it has (almost) all the same ingredients that made Blair Witch a phenomenon: D.I.Y. filming and editing on a miniscule budget, amateur actors, more happening in the viewer’s mind than on screen, effective online and word-of-mouth marketing, and ultimately, perfect timing for a movie like this to come out.

[REC] is a 2007 Spanish found-footage/zombie film that shows just how much “fun” these types of movies can be. It doesn’t take long getting into the action with our attractive news reporter, watching the craziest 75 minutes of her life. [REC] became a huge hit and spawned a franchise.

Lake Mungo, from Australia, has several release dates between 2009 and 2010, but is ultimately a 2008 movie. More like one of these true-crime documentaries that are so popular today, the movie’s presented with interviews, news footage, etc. Ultimately a story about a family’s grief, Lake Mungo is very effective and downright creepy at times. I do see it listed on various “Top 10” lists every now and again, but I acknowledge it’s a divisive film and, admittedly, it’s a personal favorite.

Quarantine is the 2008 American remake of [REC] by the aforementioned Dowdle Brothers, and in my opinion, might actually be better. One thing I like about the movie is right from the beginning they shed the idea that this is actually real footage, using actors, including Jennifer Carpenter in the lead, that you have seen before. Just like [REC], we jump right into the action, following the reporter covering a local firehouse in L.A. Jump scares, creepy visuals, and claustrophobia follow, and it’s all a blast.

2008’s Cloverfield is what happens when you make a found-footage movie, which historically are independent and very low budget, by a Hollywood studio on a $170 million budget. A recipe for disaster, no? Nope. What you get is one of the best monster movies in horror cinema history. (Yeah, I said it.) J.J. Abrams and Co. make us hang out with a party of yuppies for a full half-hour before anything happens, but once it does, what a ride. Showing only glimpses of the monster throughout, he (or she) finally gets their close-up at the end (literally). A sequel has been talked about ever since, but it seems 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane and the upcoming 2017 movie God’s Particle, described as being in the “Cloverfield universe” is as close as we’re going to get…and that’s fine with me.

The Last Exorcism, produced by the aforementioned Eli Roth, is a 2010 “young girl possessed by a demon” movie presented in the same way as Lake Mungo in “documentary” format. It starts off great: perfectly casted and acted by Patrick Fabian as Cotton, a fraudulent Reverend, and Ashley Bell, as the aforementioned young girl. For me, the ending soured the movie, but it was received well by critics and movie-goers.

Though, not technically a horror, I feel I would be remiss not to mention 2010’s Troll Hunter from Norway. Another “documentary” where we follow some poor documentarians who wind up finding way more than they bargained for, the movie is a real fun take on Norwegian culture and folktales.

ROB ZOMBIE

Always a horror movie fan, musician, and former front-man of the band White Zombie, Rob Zombie started his filmmaking career with House of 1000 Corpses. Filmed in 2000, this movie would go on an odyssey before being theatrically released in 2003, after being acquired and dumped by one distribution company after another. The concern, not surprisingly, the content and potential for an NC-17 rating. Once released, you can guess the reception: critically panned, but it did manage to make a profit, most likely due to loyal Zombie and horror genre fans, and people finally getting to see a movie with so much mystique surrounding it over the previous few years.

Lions Gate Entertainment, seeing the financial potential they had with Zombie, quickly approached him inquiring about a sequel to Corpses. What follows is what is commonly regarded as Zombie’s best movie in his filmography, with Lords of Salem in the running as well: 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects. More grounded and visceral than Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects follows the Firefly Family who are on the run from just as crazy Sheriff Wydell. More successful with critics than Corpses and just as profitable in the box office.

When the Powers-That-Be decided it was time to remake one of the best horror movies of all time, they chose Rob Zombie in 2007 to do his take on John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween, and boy did he change things up. Despite my opinion about the movie (I prefer the original, to say the least), the film was a smash-hit with audiences and prompted the obligatory sequel in 2009, which fared far worse this time with both movie-goers and critics.

Zombie has remained in “the business” ever since, mostly with horror, but it seems he’s eager to reach out to other genres to write and direct.

KNOCK, KNOCK… Anybody Home?

Nobody was safe anywhere during the 2000s, and if you think locking yourself inside your house was the most secure place to be, you’d be dead wrong. The home invasion subgenre broke out big during this decade. Here are some victims:

2002 starts us off with Panic Room, though not exactly a horror. The famed David Fincher directs a stellar cast in this tale of a single mom, Jodie Foster, who protects herself and her daughter, the new Kristen Stewart, from a band of thieves. Ultimately not one of Fincher’s better films, the movie examines many themes and is still worth a watch.

Ils, the 2006 movie also listed in the New French Extremism category, opens with a great, Scream-esque prologue, then goes on to set-up a simple story of a young couple besieged in their huge home by a clique of criminals, who once their identities are revealed, turns out to have a pretty cool ending.

Funny Games is Michael Haneke’s 2007 American shot-for-shot remake of his 1997 Austrian movie, that does more than tell a terrifying home-invasion story, it plays with the audience. Characters break the fourth-wall, the movie rewinds to replay a scene giving it a different outcome, and ultimately, Mr. Haneke asks: If you think this movie is too nihilistic, then at what point did you stop watching?

2007’s Inside, also listed in the New French Extremism section, is a bloody revenge tale set on Christmas Eve as a very pregnant single mother fends off an intruder all night. The end reveal when the antagonist’s motivations are exposed is a really cool twist.

Strangers is a 2008 movie by first-time screenwriter/director Bryan Bertino, which also tells a depressing story of a young couple stalked and terrorized in their home for…well, just because. Taking inspiration from John Carpenter, the film is very effective and despite mixed reviews, grossed a sizable profit on its $9 million budget. Bertino was one of the rare spec-script stories of the 2000s, but oddly he has remained relatively dormant in the years since.

While, for whatever reason, Bertino did not produce any more low budget horrors for a while, other film-makers like himself sure did, which is where we’ll pick-up next time with Part 3 of 2000’s Horror…

(Photo of Lake Mungo from Pinterest.)

Crash Palace Support Team

12496273_131479987232834_5948852029879239438_o

Paul J. Williams is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, and his short films have appeared in numerous festivals. Although Paul’s the man behind Rolling Dark Productions, he’s also a detective in Morris County, New Jersey. Paul’s a Medal of Honor recipient from the City of Newark for actions on December 14, 2002

Chronic Demonic Vomit: 666 from Billy Crash

 

 

Number of the Beast

I’ve had it. While watching a movie I’m not at liberty to name, the digital clock ramped up speed – and landed on 6:66 o’clock. I began to roll my eyes but stopped when acid shot into the back of my throat as I endured another horror train wreck. When it comes to the “Number of the Beast,” the only thing I want to hear is Steve Harris and company knock it out as Iron Maiden.

Since The Exorcist, films using demonic possession as a foundation have copied many a scene from William Friedkin’s much feared horror classic. The genre is loaded with bitter or ex-communicated or faithless priests taking on a young girl or woman possessed by a demon. Of course, she must be tied down spread-eagle to a bed, she must speak in a Cookie Monster-like devilish voice, and when the priest asks the demon’s name, she must say, “We are Legion” with a grimace before a splash of Holy water burns her flesh and really sets her off.

I certainly don’t mind demonic possession in film, but as many a sub-genre in horror, the idea has become cliché, and every new low-budget disaster is an even worse copy of the copy before it. Besides the priest, we either get a virgin child or teen, or a hot young mental patient who has survived on the streets but really has a heart of gold. I can’t recall the last time I saw a boy or man possessed in a film (except for 2014’s The Possession of Michael King), but when a woman’s bound and has a priest coming at her, it’s an exploitation fantasy from a third-rate porn mag where misogyny reigns supreme – or maybe viewers hope she’ll grab the cross and use it like Reagan’s stabbing phallus from The Exorcist. Usually, especially if the priest is young and survives the ordeal along with the possessed female soul he rescued from the clutches of the Devil, his eyes will linger on the now demure survivor for a moment. Yes, he loves her, but dammit, he’s a changed man with a higher purpose, and loves God more because his faith’s been re-established – even in the face of Roman Catholic bureaucracy that never thought the girl/woman was possessed in the first place. Our priest now reborn must engage his new mission to save other souls, and our survivor’s left to find some semblance of normalcy in her world.

And why Roman Catholics with the Vatican, the papacy, and church politics all the time? Other religious holy men answer the call of the damned and expunge demons. In 2012’s The Possession, though ultimately a disappointing movie, we find Tzadok, a rabbi’s son played by Matisyahu, who battles a dybbuk before it completely possesses a little girl. In Vikram Bhatt’s 1920, after his wife Lisa (Adah Sharma) becomes possessed by the spirit of a former occupant, Arjun (Rajneesh Duggal) regains his faith in his Hindu God, which may be enough to save his spouse.

The whole Roman Catholic element and its clandestine hierarchy has become a bore.

Daniel Stamm attempted to do something different with 2010’s found footage film, The Last Exorcism, which introduced Ashley Bell and Caleb Landry Jones to many. Groovy Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, and Necronomicon beasties rocked possession in a different, comedic, and gory fashion with The Evil Dead franchise, and now with the phenomenal television series, “Ash vs. Evil Dead.” (Yes, Ash had become possessed and even lost his hand in the demonic process, but unlike female characters, he was able to break free from the clutches of evil.) One of John Carpenter’s most under-appreciated horrors is the heady and unsettling Prince of Darkness from 1987 where possession is embraced from a skeptical scientific point of view, ironically at the behest of a priest (Don Pleasance) no less. In 2006, Hans-Christian Schmid’s in-depth look into the true story of Anneliese Michel in Requiem rips one’s heart out, while The Taking of Deborah Logan pulls one straight down into Creep City thanks to the brilliant acting of Jill Larson. For a thriller, don’t pass up Denzel Washington on the hunt for a leap-frogging demon in the under-respected Tinseltown story, Fallen from 1998. And although the Roman Catholic factor exists, and regardless of the narrative’s imperfections, The Vatican Tapes brings viewers something new in the third act many didn’t see coming.

616 Becomes 666

666 is certainly one number that lives in infamy, especially in Judeo-Christian-Muslim religious culture. But where the hell did it come from, and how does it have so much damn power? This “Number of the Beast” is in Revelation (never “Revelations”) chapter 13, verse 18.

As a child, I took it to heart that 666 was the spawn of Satan’s number, and The Omen reaffirmed that for me, though the actual three-digit number appearing on a child born on 6/6/66 seemed downright silly. Even so, interpretations of the number and its origins have led to many an argument and have found their ways into many a book. What blew my mind many moons ago, however, is the discovery of Papyrus 115. Irenaeus, who’s responsible for the attacks on Gnosticism in the second century AD, decreed that the beastly number was indeed 666, when he knew of the original number as 616. This numerical difference found confirmation in 2005 when a 1,700-year-old fragment of Papyrus 115, which had been discovered at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt, turned up in Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum.

Now, if the number was originally 616, why the change? The answer can be found in Hebrew numerology, gematria to be precise, as well as Greek isopsephy where every letter in the alphabet has a matching number. In this case, 616 is the “numerical name” so to speak of Caligula, the whacked out Roman Emperor who declared that his horse was a senator (among other weirdness and genuine horror whether sponsored by Bob Guccione or not). After the assassination of “Little Boots,” Nero took the helm, and his name as number is 666. This would indicate that redactors (editors) altered the number to reflect the true beast to Jesus Christ and fledgling Christianity in general: The Roman Empire and its main man. The number code would protect the small group of Christians hunkering down for survival since Romans wouldn’t know what the numbers meant, and the horrific warnings from the Book of Revelation would prevent Christians from giving up this newborn religion out of fear. (Please conduct your due diligence and check all this out for yourself. It’s pretty wild.)

The Possession Sub-genre in Horror

With the aforementioned in mind, let’s keep 666 on the shelf, in a jar, locked in a box, and forgotten – unless you’re doing something with the number that we’ve never seen before. Storytellers have used 666 as a cheap device to strike fear into the hearts of audiences by letting them know the Devil is afoot – or ahoof. But this trope has been so overused and misused that it’s become comical. It’s just as bad as hearing that demonic voice state, “We are Legion” before her open sores leak and stain the bedsheets.

Yawn.

And the next time you have some young woman tied to a bed as she’s being exorcised, don’t do this: If she can move objects, imitate voices, make the bed rise, vomit pea soup, adjust room temperature, launch objects, and project hallucinations, I’m sure that bound demon has the power to untie its human host and run amok.

If Satan, Mephistopheles, Old Nick, Old Scratch, or whatever you want to call him – or her – come calling in your story, take a page from Al Pacino as the Prince of Lies in The Devil’s Advocate: make it so we never see him coming. Unleash the beast in a way that will surprise and rock audiences, but leave the overused numbers, rituals, and “The body of Christ compels you!” chanting out of it. Think of demonic possession in a new way, shape, and form to bring a different angle to horror audiences craving something different and shocking. Hell, it isn’t horror if you’re not making readers or audience members gasp.

Now run to the hills, blast some Iron Maiden, and don’t call me in the morning – especially at 6:66 AM.

Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk) loves great storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, IMDb, Amazon, and his professional website.

(Photo of Al Pacino getting his Satan on in The Devil’s Advocate from AV Club.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Hodgepodge of Horror IX

The Last Knock

No, Billy and Jonny aren’t trying to catch up to the Super Bowl type numbers, but they are getting there. With the ninth installment of “Hodgepodge of Horror” they travel the realms of horror cinema from Eduardo Sanchez’s Altered to Kate Beckinsale in Underworld: Blood Wars – with some intriguing films in between.

So kick back, relax, indulge, and check off your  horror list about what to watch, and what to avoid like a zombie virus.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@LoudGreenBird @AFiendOnFilm @CrypticPictures @d_m_elms @dixiefairy @ThisIsHorror @RealJillyG @wilkravitz @Jimbomcleod @RonGizmo @UKHorrorScene @Tammysdragonfly @MFFHorrorCorner @GuyRicketts

THE LAST KNOCK presents: 2016’s Best Horror Films

The Last Knock

2016 was a pretty damn good year for horror – the movie variety, of course – and we’re happy to take a look at all those films that made the genre great. In fact, we’ll give you a reverse order countdown to the very best after we look at honorable mentions. Sure, we can wail about neon-colored witches hiding in rundown bars or something, but we won’t.

Is your favorite on the list?

This episodes SCREAM OUTS from Twitter:

@RealJillyG @ThisIsHorror @dixiefairy @awholelottabern @KissedByFate2 @Tammysdragonfly @DarkCorners3 @LianeMoonRaven @aus_warrior @actorMartinez @DeadExitComic @GreyaABC @Brooklyn99FOX @CSINY_CBS @GrindhouseDave @d_m_elms @smburkett @DFITWmovie @RomanJossart @jessicaalba @ThomasJane @ponysmasher @LightsOutMovie @maria_bello @teresapalmer @jenamalone @10CloverfieldLn @TheWitchMovie @anyataylorjoy @NicolasWR @canevrenol @SouthboundMovie @mariaolsen66 @sunchokefilm @SarahHagan4Real @BenCresciman @barbaracrampton @mickeykeating @laurenashleycar @saulnier_jeremy @GreenRoomMovie @GreenRoomFilm @SirPatStew @MaconBlair @BlueRuinMovie @murderpartyfilm

Don’t forget to weigh in with your comments, Billy and Jonny love to respond because they don’t get out much – unless it’s keeping the zombie hordes at bay…

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Exorcizing Possessions

The Last Knock

As with any other horror sub-genre, tropes abound, and exorcism and possession are no different. How often have we seen the possessed girl or woman bound to a bed to endure torture from demonic forces and patriarchy alike? But we’ll take a closer look at those tales that move beyond copying William Friedkin’s renowned film The Exorcist. Get ready to dive into the bodies (or something like that) of different kinds of possessions and exorcisms, from Session 9 and Oculus, to 1920, The Entity and more. Growling demons and puke fetishists need not apply.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@inthenightdoc @dixiefairy @RSBrzoska @SiaraTyr @TheNightGallery @ValeriePrucha @madbradpotts @OwenMcCuenQuest @aicforever @Israel_Finn @isaacrthorne @RonGizmo @GARVEY66 @machinemeannow @iamgoreblimey @HalloweenQueenW @RealJillyG @seams16 @TheresaSnyder19 @ChadSchimke @SugaryLove09 @Kent_Harper

THE NEON DEMON and the Provocation of Beauty (2016) by Jonny Numb

 

The-Neon-Demon-Film-Nicolas-Winding-Refn-8-892x467[118 minutes. R. Director: Nicolas Winding Refn]

The world of fashion modeling is ripe with metaphorical potential. And while nobody would seem more suited to bring a new and unique angle to this topic, Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is a conundrum that piggybacks off some of the best examples of this interesting subgenre, while infusing the proceedings with a variety of scattered horror fruits and nuts.

While theories are left ambiguous in Demon, Refn posits that models could be blank-eyed zombies; machine-tooled cyborgs calibrated for a world hung up on the concept of physical perfection; aliens beamed down to Earth from another planet; or bloodthirsty, Elizabeth Bathory-styled vampires looking to maintain their Forever 21 looks by any means necessary.

This is the type of film that Austin Powers, lulled into submission by the lethal Fembots, would love. It presents a paradoxical world of beauty and danger where mystery and piercing color schemes are the true aesthetic currency, something that comes as a given from the man who gave us the divisive, style-drenched panoramas of Drive and Only God Forgives.

Considering Refn’s icy, meticulous attention to color and symmetry within his shot compositions, the match of creator to subject is appropriate. Demon, a brazenly unclassifiable film that swims in a steaming genre soup is, like its characters, marked by the exclusivity of club rules. Narratively dense, it runs nearly 2 hours and follows a myriad of story threads, few of which are met with satisfying conclusions. The ending, which has all the stylistic trademarks of a Calvin Klein fragrance ad, contributes only more thickness to a well-muddied narrative path.

But for all intents and purposes, the type of story Demon tells will determine whether it will pique individual viewer interest: following the well-established narrative catalysts of films where bright-eyed, beautiful young women seek fame (Starry EyesBlack Swan; and especially Mulholland Drive), it borrows freely and unabashedly from its forebears, while the director inverts expectations by gorging style over substance. This approach tows a tricky line between virtue and self-indulgence, and will be a point of contention for people unversed in Refn’s hyper-stylized aesthetics. For a director whose previous film was jeered at Cannes, he seems to be going for the jugular in widening the gap between his fans and detractors.

Lulled by the shifting color hues on a velvet surface (or the surface of a distant planet, who knows?), the opening credits bear a tongue-in-cheek “NWR” watermark, as if Refn is presenting us with his 2016 entry in the cinema fashion wars. He then progresses into a macabre tableau centering on Jesse (a deliberately somnambulant Elle Fanning), a 16-year old who has fled small-town Georgia and her deceased parents to establish a name for herself in Los Angeles. In a surreal string of events, Ruby (Jena Malone, oozing steely authority throughout) takes Jesse to a party, underscored by a strobe-lit performance art piece, and introduces her to Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee), two wide-eyed, highly competitive models.

While the performances are uniformly excellent, Refn’s presentation of his mostly-female cast is problematic. In Drive, women were presented as either passive spectators to male-centered action, cannon fodder, or topless eye candy; in Only God Forgives, women were presented as passive sex objects with no function outside of fulfilling the desires of the men of the piece, or gender reversals on monstrous villains (for as ruthless and brilliant as Kristin Scott Thomas is in that film, it is a role that could’ve been inhabited by a male with few script changes). For example, there is a shower scene in Demon that provokes a disconnect between prurience and narrative necessity; photographed in slow motion, in pale lighting, and accompanied by Cliff Martinez’s otherworldly synth score, it contains important cutaway shots to a specific character’s point of view, but its protracted nature seems to be Refn staging a deliberately leg-crossing sequence of sheer excess. While the film shunts its male characters to the periphery (despite a greater significance being teased for all), the women are not necessarily “strong” by design or default – if anything, the vagaries of the script leave them as more signifiers and symbols than fully fleshed-out beings (which, to add to the frustration, is appropriate for the story). My perspective: the icy presentation of femininity, beauty, and sexuality synthesizes well enough with Refn’s aesthetic fixation on surfaces (both literal and figurative) for the lack of texture to make sense on a narrative level.

The recurring imagery of Demon, in another bit of obvious aesthetic deliberation, uses mirrors to emphasize the illusory nature of the modeling business (many over-the-shoulder shots, or off-sided glimpses of characters casting distorted reflections; and yes, a bathroom mirror gets shattered at one point). The actors’ reliance on wide-eyed glares is vapid in a way that drains the sexuality from the film’s amorous moments; in fact, there is a jaw-dropping sequence near the end that creates a blunt visual metaphor of beauty as a form of sexual violation, ice-cold to the touch. Complementing this further is Ruby’s ornate yet empty-feeling mansion – all long, echoing corridors and high-ceilinged rooms, recalling the sets of many classic Universal and Hammer horrors.

“My mother said I’m dangerous,” Jesse intones to Ruby near the end, and one wonders at the implications of that statement. Despite top billing and her visage being front and center in the film’s ad campaign, Fanning comes across as a cipher in her own story, while the more powerful (on the surface, anyway) women manipulate her for their own ends. With the images of penetration, consumption, and birth that mark the film’s closing minutes, the facial blankness and soft-toned naivete of Jesse leaves one’s mind venturing into the “what ifs” that spring up from her minimal backstory and hallucinatory initiation into the high-profile, high-cost world of high fashion. If there are answers to be found within The Neon Demon, none of them come easy, but the decoding process is part of its lethal charm.

4 out of 5 stars

Crash Analysis Support Team:

Jonny Numb (aka Jonathan Weidler) measures his life in coffee spoons, and writes reviews once every couple years at numbviews.livejournal.com. He co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast, and can be found on Twitter and Letterboxd @JonnyNumb.

(Photo from gds.it.)

Crash Analysis: RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (Finland/Norway/France/Sweden, 2010)

The Best Holiday Horror of All Time

One strong story from start to Finnish…

I had put off RARE EXPORTS long enough. After all, Christmas horrors are usually rare_exports_official_poster_ennothing but slashtastic misadventures, and I wasn’t in the mood for another run of the mill tale about a wingnut in a Santa suit wielding an ax instead of a candy cane. Well, this film from writer/director Jalmari Helander (with some writing help from Petri Jokiranta and Sami Parkkinean – as well as his brother, Juuso who had worked on the idea), is one of the most intriguing foundations for a movie to come along in quite some time.

No, RARE EXPORTS is not a gorefest, but the suspense is palpable when a mining company working on the Russo-Finnish border locates what might be Father Christmas and decides to blast him out of the mountain. This turns out to be the equivalent of a Japanese team setting Godzilla loose. Pre-tween Pietari Kontio (played remarkably well by Onni Tommila) senses danger, and in his remote village where life is rough, he wants to get a better idea of what new thing might be coming.

The only problem is Pietari is a squirt, and a squeamish one at that. This doesn’t mean he’s your cliché ridden wimpy kid, he hasn’t earned his stripes to be considered one of the growing lads who should be paid much attention. In the meantime, he shuts his eyes when his dad (Rauno Kontio) slaughters a pig. It’s clear his father loves him, but there’s much to do, and with his wife since dead, that workload’s compounded by trying to raise a son who seemingly isn’t hellbent on becoming Paul Bunyan Jr. Although Pietari listens to everyone bigger or older from the village, he won’t cower or cry. After all, those miners are getting ready to unleash hell, so Pietari does what any kid with a brain does – he researches. Sure, the village is out in the desolate north, nipping along the edges of the Arctic Circle, but he’s got books, dammit, and he’s going to investigate. Because that beast bound up in the soil might just be hungry for children…

Helander amps the suspense at every turn, and the story moves along at a steady pace to keep you enthralled. Of course, since RARE EXPORTS has the distinction of being the most intriguing and unique of holiday horrors, it’s hard to look away. But it’s not just about the story or the great characters that inhabit the film.

Mika Orasmaa’s cinematography truly captures a frontier village in isolation, as well as the hardship of living life in perpetual cold. The colors, however, are not muted, but the tone definitely establishes one of daily drudgery due to monochromatic earth tones. Oddly enough, the director handled the production design, and the end result is a masterful one. Due to the environment, the village is as sparse as it is pragmatic, where everything feels half-done. After all, how can one complete anything, like a lovely home and yard, when there is serious work to do? Aesthetics be damned: the weather’s bad, and the basics of food, clothing, shelter – in their own basic elements – must come first. To add to the flavor, Juri and Miska Seppä provide the music that enhances the tale without getting in the way.

In this coming of age tale for Pietari, we’re left wondering what we’d do if we had to face adversity on a grand scale, especially one of the extraordinary kind. Could we pass the test? Whether he makes it or not, Pietari’s out to prove he has what it takes to do his father proud.

I’ve definitely seen one too many holiday horrors, and I still have a few more to go. But RARE EXPORTS is a rare treat indeed for the weary, and I have no doubt it will find a place in your collection. And it’s so good, when someone asks if you have a holiday movie to watch, this is the DVD you’ll pluck off the shelf.

Other great holiday horrors: Steven C. Miller’s SILENT NIGHT (Canada/USA, 2012), and Lewis Jackson’s CHRISTMAS EVIL (aka YOU BETTER WATCH OUT) from 1980.

4 out of 5 stars

(Photo from Imp Awards.)