Ghost Stories Review

It has been argued that the best format for a horror story is a short story, because then the horror is delivered to you in one sitting. So that is perhaps why not only do we see a lot of horror short story anthologies on our bookshelves, we see them on the screen as well. It’s why we have Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow and Trick r TreatGhost Stories, brought to us by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson adapting their stage show of the same name, follows this format, though there is something bigger beneath the stories it tells.

Professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman) has been exposing so-called psychics and debunking the paranormal, but then he is sent to investigate three people who claim to have had genuine interactions with the supernatural. A former night watchman (Paul Whitehouse) who encounters a spectre on his shift, a young man (Alex Lawther) who has a nasty surprise while driving without a license and a man (Martin Freeman) haunted while awaiting his child’s arrival.

The stories themselves are very suspenseful and well-told, utilising the classic horror tropes marvellously. It truly does feel like classic British horror – it may even be familiar to those who have read or seen Whistle and I’ll Come to You. The film really gets interesting after the stories are told, and Phillip sees that things might not truly be as they seem. Actual places are turned into paper backdrops, an unseen baby eating dog food…it truly feels like a nightmare.

If you enjoy British horror, anthology horror, or well, horror in general, this is a fine film to watch.

(The original version of this review had spoilers but I made it less spoilery as per Andy Nyman’s wishes)

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Six Terrifying Versions of Humpty Dumpty

Easter is just around the corner, and when you think of that time of year, what comes to mind? Bunnies. Chickens. Daffodils and sunshine and of course, eggs. When you think of eggs in a whimsical, fairy-tale setting, the story of Humpty Dumpty is bound to come to mind. It’s a poem that’s only four lines long, and yet has become a massive, instantly-recognisable pop culture icon.

It also is one of those things from your childhood that can come off as a bit creepy when you think about it as an adult. A children’s poem, a nursery rhyme that revolves around a sentient creature being smashed to pieces, unable to be reassembled. Several writers and artists have noticed that too, and have created their own versions of Humpty Dumpty that err more towards horror than humour. These are just a few of those versions:

Smarties Mini Eggs

Well, okay, this isn’t exactly what you’d call horror, and is an advertisement for children’s snacks, but there is something, well, rotten about this advert. Here, Humpty’s fall was no accident. He was sitting on the wall, minding his own business, when he gets spooked by a Mini Egg, causing him to plummet. Adding insult to injury, as he’s being carried away on a stretcher, the Mini Eggs laugh sadistically, even calling out “omelette”. The nice pastoral backdrop only makes this malicious act all the worse.

McFarlane’s Action Figure

This “Twisted Fairy Tales” figure is definitely not one for the squeamish; here’s a link if your stomach is strong enough. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the rhyme never actually says that Humpty was an egg (not even by yours truly) and that’s the direction this action figure takes. This Humpty is one of flesh and blood, not shell and albumen, and that’s fully revealed to us here. However, even with all these disgusting details, even with all the stitches and blood and worms, the most noticeable thing about this character is his cute little propeller beanie.

TurboTax

If you ever wondered what Humpty would be like if he existed in real life, this might give you an idea. I must say, however, that the “king’s men” anachronistically existing alongside helicopters and televisions make this a very surreal take on the rhyme. Unlike most versions, Humpty is put back together but you still feel bad for his predicament here, especially given that he’s fully conscious while broken in pieces. When he says “everything hurts”, you believe it.

WC Field’s Version

The most famous appearance of Humpty outside the rhyme was Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and while he was arrogant there, it wasn’t exactly what you would call frightening. The same can’t be said for his appearance in 1933’s Alice in Wonderland, where he was played by none other than WC Fields. A giant rubber-faced egg with beady eyes and a gigantic smile that could rival that of the Cheshire Cat. It’s a wonder Alice stayed to chat.

The Big Over Easy

This is a spin-off of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, and like that series, features several characters from literature interacting with each other and satirising the very nature of fiction itself, with “Amazing Crime Stories” being a true crime magazine that wants to outlaw bodies being discovered by people walking their dogs. This is a murder mystery about the circumstances of Humpty’s fall, where it might have been more than just the fall that killed him and he might not have been such a good egg after all. Not only does Humpty appear, but the case is being investigated by Jack Spratt and Mary Mary, with Solomon Grundy as a suspect and Wee Willie Winkie as another victim. It’s an interesting and entertaining read, as is its sequel.

Kinder

When one thinks of “creepy Humpty Dumpty” this is most likely the first thing that came to mind. Certainly one of the most infamous renditions of the character, with him almost always coming up in discussions about unintentionally-disturbing children’s TV. He has the same beady eyes and wide smile as Fields’, but it’s even worse here. Like McFarlane’s, is a creature made of flesh, but is terrifying without resorting to excessive gore. A giant talking egg in the real world would be a frightening sight and this just proves it.

Unsane Review

Includes spoilers

That’s right, I’m using that warning instead of “may include spoilers” because the first thing I’m going to talk about regarding Unsane is the ending, or rather, what the ending isn’t. Unsane is the story of Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) looking for help regarding a man who is stalking her and ending up involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Now, this set-up led me to think ‘Oh no, is it going to turn out she really is insane like in Shutter Island and The Ward?’ Such a “twist” would especially be egregious considering the film was about something as serious as stalking.

Thankfully, “Sawyer is crazy” is not the twist of the film, but what the stalker, David (Joshua Leonard) wants everyone to believe. When Sawyer is taken to the institution, she sees that one of the doctors is her stalker giving himself a different name, but no matter how much she yells, no-one at the institution believes her.

Unsane can be rather hard to watch. It acknowledges the clichés of asylum-set horror flicks and makes sure to push them aside to create a truly terrifying story of a woman trapped in a frightening situation. The institution feels oppressive and David is a chilling villain so this horror film is an horrific one, where you fear for Sawyer’s safety.

Upon hearing the title and synopsis of Unsane, you might think it to be another dull horror flick set in an asylum, but it really is a chilling, thrilling watch.

Black Panther Review

While watching Thor: Ragnarok, I did fear that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was running out of steam, but thankfully, Black Panther proved me wrong. There is still a lot of life and a lot more corners to explore in this world. While the title character may have been introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther works as a standalone film, but thankfully is not yet another origin story.

The story is mostly set in Wakanda, a secretly-technologically-advanced nation of Africa which has always been protected by a “Black Panther”. The current Black Panther, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has been made the new king of Wakanda after his father’s death, but his reign is challenged by the arrival of a mysterious figure known as “Killmonger” (Michael B. Jordan).

Like most Marvel movies, Black Panther is a visual treat, and the futuristic city of Wakanda is a joy to behold. There’s a lot of fun to be had seeing their technology in action and how they are utilised in fight scenes, said fight scenes also being very exciting and fast-paced. What really brings Wakanda alive, however, is its residents.

Boseman again turns in a great performance as Black Panther, creating a hero that while noble and regal, still has a human side to him. This human side is most effectively shown through his interactions with his sister Shuri (Letita Wright), who is a scientist who acts as T’Challa’s Q. She’s a very entertaining character and gets in some good banter with her brother. Sherlock’s Martin Freeman plays a role that is likeable and amusing.

Marvel may have had a history with mediocre villains in the past, but have been trying to remedy that with the likes of Ego and Vulture. Jordan’s Killmonger is another intriguing villain – true, he does gain a Black Panther suit himself but wears it only briefly. Killmonger is not only a threatening villain, but an intriguing, sympathetic character.

Black Panther is another fast-paced, exciting and fun addition to the Marvel library. It certainly gives high hopes for Infinity War.

Top Ten Movies I Reviewed in 2017

10
Logan

A fitting end to the character of Wolverine, at least until his inevitable introduction into the MCU.

9
Better Watch Out

Surprisingly clever film which will make good viewing for those who seek something other than saccharine holiday fare.

8
It

Proof that horror remakes are not always unnecessary, and has a lot of fun with its monster.

7
Split

Thrilling and suspenseful with a surprising and satisfying twist, but worth watching just for McAvoy.

6
Spider-Man Homecoming

While not the best superhero or Marvel-related release this year, this was still enjoyable and had a great performance from Michael Keaton.

5
The Lego Batman Movie

A tonne of fun and a barrel of laughs, it’s strange that a Lego movie is a better 2017 Batman movie than a live-action Justice League.

4
A Monster Calls

Not only has some interesting visuals but a heartfelt story as well.

3
Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot was one of the best parts of Batman v Superman and shines even more in the best DCEU film yet (or ever, it might seem).

2
Baby Driver

Hilarious, exciting and makes good use of music.

1
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Speaking of a film that makes good use of music, this is a film you could watch again and again, filled with great comedy, action and even emotion.

 

Better Watch Out Review

What holiday works better for the world of horror then Christmas? You might say Halloween, but that holiday’s a little too obvious. Christmas works well for horror because not only do the usual cheer and festivities make great contrast with blood and terror, the holiday itself has a little sinister side too (see 2015’s Krampus for a film that makes fun use of one of Christmas’ more sinister characters).

It seems every year brings forth a new Christmas horror flick, and so here we have Better Watch Out. Now that does seem a rather generic title for a Christmas-themed horror, bringing to mind the “All Through the House” episode of Tales From the Crypt somewhat, and like that episode, deals with home invasion.

Don’t let that fool you, however. Better Watch Out knows what came before it and subverts the viewers’ familiarity with the genre wonderfully. It’s not unlike Cabin in the Woods in that regard, and like Cabin in the Woods, it’s best to go into this one blind. Thus I don’t really want to go into too much detail with this one, but let me just say Better Watch Out offers great suspense, excellent performances, and a despicable, monstrous villain, and all with a sense of twisted humour.

Some people may like watching nice, heartwarming Christmas movies, but for those who prefer a little bit of gore in their Yuletide flicks, Better Watch Out is a good choice.

The Man Who Invented Christmas Review

There have been so many adaptations of A Christmas Carol over the years that a film about the book’s creation seemed a no-brainer. However, I suppose The Man Who Invented Christmas could be considered a “version” of the classic story itself, as in some ways Charles Dickens’ (Dan Stevens) story mirrors that of Ebenezer Scrooge. The movie isn’t exactly subtle about it either; Dickens is frequently visited by his miserly creation (Christopher Plummer), as well as the four ghosts, most of them made to look like people Dickens has encountered.

Indeed, subtle isn’t the right word to use for The Man Who Invented Christmas. It sadly doesn’t include the famous story about Dickens misreading a grave to come up with his main character’s name, but there is a sequence where Dickens hears a man talk about the “surplus population”, then sees two children resembling Ignorance and Want, then comes across an unmourned death. Scrooge represents Dickens’ dark side, and his redemption means Dickens’ own, which is more or less firmly said in the film’s finale.

That is not to say this makes it a bad film; the original Christmas Carol wasn’t exactly all that subtle itself, after all. The film still manages to be fun and festive, capturing some of the holiday cheer of the original novel. Stevens is a delight to watch as Dickens, and Plummer is a fantastic Scrooge. Like Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol, I would like to see him play the role in an actual adaptation, along with Donald Sumpter as Marley, who I would have liked to see more of in this film. The film has some creative ways of bringing the ghosts to life, as it were, like making the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come a gigantic, gangly figure that creaks when it moves.

On a side note, Plummer also appears as King Herod in this year’s The Star and the Jesus of Nazareth miniseries, and voiced Barnaby the crooked man in an animated adaptation of Babes in Toyland, so he’s an actor who’s played Scrooge among other Christmas villains. The only other actor I can think of off-hand who can also boast that is Jim Carrey.

The Man Who Invented Christmas isn’t perfect, but with its fine acting and visuals, it’s a good film if you’re looking for something to get you into the spirit early.