Blog posts with the tag: "Gothic"

 

 

Okay, so this title is a misnomer. In 1992 a small film about a Californian high school girl fighting vampires was released. I remember my mum renting it from the local video store. She told me the synopsis, but wouldn’t let me watch it on account of the ’15’ certificate (thanks, mum!). And I sooo wanted to watch it, because it had Kristy Swanson as the titular character, and she was in the Mannequin sequel which I had rented out an embarrassing amount of times, along with the Splash sequel and Mac and Me (as you can see, I had a high-brow taste in films back then). So it’s ironic that instead of loving the poor man’s version of a box office success, I ended up loving the cult hit.

 

I grew up devouring shiny Hollywood portrayals of high school, probably because I lived in Scotland, and the amount of rain there makes Forks from Twilight seem like the Costa del Sol in comparison. I watched Saved by the Bell, California Dreamin’ and yes, Baywatch. I got excited every time a new Sweet Valley High book came out. But I also absolutely loved the supernatural. Ghost stories were my jam, Halloween was more exciting than Christmas and I would’ve given my left arm to go to Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. So to marry the two; glossy California high school and paranormal intrigue was so perfect.

 

 

 

This concept wasn’t new. In the 80s, the teen film really came into its own. Slasher films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street featured teens been murdered in an array of creative ways, while comedy horrors such as Teen Wolf and Teen Witch showed in cheesy fashion how being different can make you the most popular kid in school (if only). It’s a clever concept because as a teenager, everything feels like a horror film, especially your body. Spots, blood, and raging hormones, oh my! (This is illustrated beautifully in the film Ginger Snaps, if you haven’t already, watch it).

 

Unfortunately, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was nothing really more than fluff. Fluff with fangs, but nothing groundbreaking. Creator Joss Whedon was so frustrated with how the Hollywood bigwigs changed his vision, that he walked off the set and never returned.

 

Now fast forward to 1997. Or more accurately, 1998, because back then in the UK, we had to wait for an age for anything good from the States and it was so frustrating! I was 16 years old and had gone over to the dark side. Perfect 30-year-old looking teens from Beverly Hills 90210, I love you, but I’d chosen darkness. Several years earlier, I had discovered Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire in the book cupboard at school. Her books, together with Stephen King’s, had replaced my earlier passion for Point Horror novels. Scream had come out in the UK the year before, The Craft was my obsession and I was still probably growing out the red dye I’d put in my hair after Angela Chase had gone ‘crimson glow’ (I know My So-Called Life wasn’t supernatural – well apart from the ghost and angel episodes – but the angst and awkwardness was scary real).

 

I remember seeing the advert for Buffy on BBC2 while I was eating my dinner. I don’t remember what I was eating – my memory isn’t that spectacular – but I’d probably just been geeking out watching Quantum Leap or Star Trek: The Next Generation. There was Buffy kicking ass and wielding a wooden stake like nobody’s business. I wanted to be her. The guys fancied her, she had cool clothes (ahem – check out twitter.com/badbuffyoutfits), she had the Scooby Gang and fought the forces of evil. What more could you want? I wasn’t to know that I’d become more of a Willow later in life. Books, research, and witchery are my passions.

 

The Scooby Gang. And Dawn. And Riley.

 

The series was a phenomenal success, and fans still obsess over it. It inspired countless other supernatural shows but could not be surpassed in its greatness (sorry, Angel). The actors are wonderful, but the real magic lies in Whedon’s savvy writing, whether he is being innovative (‘Once More with Feeling’, ‘Hush’), funny or heartbreaking. He creates characters that you genuinely care about (even, dare I say it, Dawn – or is that going too far?). He makes likable villains (Drusilla and Spike forever). He makes female characters that feminists can cheer on. Okay, so the fashions have definitely dated, but the enduring appeal in Buffy lies in its heart, in using horror tropes as an allegory for adolescence, whip-smart dialogue, being meta before it was a thing, and for using varied and loveable characters who significantly progressed and expanded in the show’s seven-season duration. It really was the perfect show. Except for Dawn. And Riley.

 

 

 

P.S. when I originally watched the show, I was all about Angel. So much so, that my first trip to London sans parents was to meet David Boreanaz in person at a Forbidden Planet signing. It was awful because I was dreadfully shy and naturally had a quiet voice. Couple that with my British accent and the poor guy had no idea what I said to him. I wanted to be sucked down into the Hellmouth. Anyway, last time I watched Buffy, I realised I now prefer Giles. At least he would understand my accent, and being quiet is (silently) applauded in a library, my hang-out place of choice (because sadly, The Bronze isn’t real).

 

If you liked Buffy watch Hex. It was never as clever as Buffy but it’s still fun.

The Nightmare

 

Confession time. I love love love horror movies. Actually, that might not come as such a surprise if you know that my masters was in Gothic Studies, or that my novel is in the supernatural genre. My love affair with all things spooky began when I was a young kid, and I loved to watch old Hammer Horror movies late at night (in secret – whoops, sorry mum!) and read ghost stories and Point Horror novels. The one problem was that I couldn’t quite stomach the gore, not excessive gore anyway. I can quite happily watch the majority of vampire movies and I love the Scream franchise, but anything labelled ‘torture porn’ is definitely not my cup of tea.

 

In light of this, when I’m searching for a new horror film to watch I tend to go onto the film’s profile on IMDB and head straight to the Parental Advisory section (much to the annoyance of my husband). If there is any kind of eyeball gore or anything really hideous then I’ll give it a miss).

 

The past year I didn’t actually see many films. I kept missing them at the cinema, and I rarely really sat down and watch television much, which is probably why I’m so behind on so many of my favourite shows.

 

However, there were a few films I managed to see, and here is my pick of the best:

 

It Follows

 

 

I think the primary reason I have for enjoying this movie was the ambiguity of the time it is set in. It feels very much like the slasher movies of the early eighties, in particular, Halloween. The cars, clothes and houses all lend themselves to that era but there are devices which some of the characters use which look like shell-shaped compact e-readers. This ambiguity adds to the creepiness factor, just as the changing appearance of ‘It’ scares the characters and viewers into guessing where and who it will appear as next.

You catch ‘It’ by sleeping with an ‘infected’ person, and once you’ve been infected you can never escape, much in the tradition of The Ring/Ringu films where anyone who watches the cursed videotape must die. There is a dread which runs through films like this and leaves you with more questions than answers. And I love films where I have to go off and make my own conclusions and read up on it, because yes, I’m a geek.

 

The Final Girls

 

 

This movie is so fun. It’s like an 80s slasher version of Pleasantville. It isn’t scary, probably because it’s rated PG-13 and is a comedy of sorts, but it’s fun to spot all the slasher clichés. When I was studying Gothic films at university I read quite a few seminal books on the final girl trope – the main female character – usually with a masculine name – who has to rise up against the mindless stalking serial killer and become the last character standing. Think Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in Halloween and Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott in Scream. I was never a big fan of the 80s slasher genre (I loved Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but the sequels usually got sillier and gorier) but I was a huge fan of the slasher resurgence in the late 90s, films such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend. Those films proudly carried on the final girl tradition. Another reason I like this particular film is that it has a big heart. The bond between the protagonist Max and her mother is one of the film’s strong points, and something often lacking in these types of films (although there’s no denying that Mrs Voorhees loved her son).

 

Crimson Peak

 

 

This film is simply put, gorgeous. It is a sumptuous period piece filled with gloomy darkness and vivid colours. It is gothic perfection with a cast of respected actors. For once, the ghosts look creepy (sorry Insidious et al but your ghosts are obviously just actors in bad makeup) and although I previously stated that I hate gore, just as the red clay beneath the manor Crimson Peak flows thick, this film flows with a torrent of blood. Beautiful, romantic and yes, creepy in places. Top marks to Guillermo del Toro.

 

Honorable Mention:

 

The Nightmare

 

 

Although flawed, this documentary is worth a mention because some of the reenactments of the sleep paralysis episodes are genuinely terrifying. Sure, some of the accounts are a bit hokey and odd (in particular one where a man speaks to higher beings in a forest, and it’s insinuated that he is not sleeping at this point but actually out with his girlfriend in a wood), and there are no scientific explanations as to why people suffer from sleep paralysis, but it is interesting how so many sufferers see these ‘shadow people’ and experience similar things. Perhaps it was all the more frightening for me because I have actually experienced sleep paralysis on several occasions and know just how disturbing it can be.

 

There are still films from last year that I hope to get through, as I know this list is pretty short. But I’m looking forward to what 2016 will offer, and I’ll look at some of those upcoming films in my next post.

 

 

 

 

Feb
28

Sadly I have missed a lot of great films that have been released recently, but I was looking at upcoming releases and there are quite a few interesting ones coming out soon. Here is my pick of the bunch:

 

I do love a good costume drama and this one looks promising, although Thomas Hardy’s novels are always somewhat depressing, and there are no actors in this that I am particularly excited about. The screenplay is written by the author of One Day, David Alan Nicholls, and the the film is directed by Thomas Vinterberg, whose last film was the tense The Hunt (2012).

 

 

This film looks weirdly funny, and that is probably why I’m drawn to it. However it also looks like one of those quirky films that I’m inextricably drawn to and then disappointed by, but I’m willing to give it a chance. I like Kristen Wiig and she’s usually amusing.

 

 

I’m not sure about this, Ryan Gosling’s director debut, but I’m obsessed with villages under lakes for some bizarre reason (if you are too, then watch the 1999 film by Neil Jordan, In Dreams) and so I might just watch this to see how that particular motif unravels.

 

 

Let me just say that I dislike remakes. I really don’t see the point of them. If a film was great to start off with, leave it alone, and if it sucked then definitely stay clear. The original Poltergeist was the stuff of my childhood nightmares, and it probably didn’t help that the main character was a little blonde girl who was called Heather in real-life. I have recurring nightmares about poltergeists and anything coming out of televisions isn’t great either. Oh and the clown doll, let’s not forget that (actually, please let’s forget it).

The difference with this remake is that it is ‘reimagined’ by a bona fide respected horror director, none other than Sam Raimi. Ok, so he isn’t actually at the helm, but surely his input will save this from shoddy remake hell? (I gave up on The Nightmare on Elm Street remake after ten minutes). The trailer doesn’t look like a particularly fresh take on the original, but hopefully there’s more on offer than the ‘highlights’ of the trailer.

 

 

Now this I’m excited for. For one, I genuinely like Guillermo del Toro’s films, and even the ones he merely ‘presents’ such as The Orphanage, and secondly, this looks so wonderfully, sumptuously gothic and has such a potentially great cast that I can’t see how it would go wrong. Recently I have been disappointed by the horror films on offer though, especially as they seem to have a great premise but fizzle out by the end (I’m thinking of Mama in particular). Fingers crossed this one will deliver.

 

Apologies for the weird lady talking at the end of the ad – I couldn’t find a version without some intrusive presenter babbling away.

 

Hello!
Heather Blanchard

Welcome. Are you a writer, a bookworm, a daydreamer? Are you still clinging on to that magic that pervaded childhood? Pull up an armchair and get cosy. This blog is my dreamscape through an enchanted forest to a world of stories and the little things that make me happy; a chance to add a dash of sparkle to the daily grind. Here you will find the whimsical, the coveted, the Gothic and the romantic. Happy exploring!

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