Tag Archives: Psycho

Final Destination #30DaysOfFright

fd7Flight 180, a packed passenger plane, explodes minutes after take-off from JFK killing everyone on board. Everyone accept a small group of passengers who find themselves ejected from the plane after one claims to have had a premonition of the impending disaster.

Now, those lucky few are dying in mysterious circumstances, is it just an accident or is death trying to catch up with them?

Final Destination is an amazing title (it was originally Flight 180) and concept for a horror film. If it sounds like a pitch for an episode of The X-Files, that’s because that is exactly what it started out as.

This unproduced episode was picked up by New Line Cinema, the house that Freddy built, and soon a new horror franchise was born. Talking of The X-Files, the film was written by Mulder and Scully alumnus, James Wong and Glen Morgan, and is also the big screen directorial debut of Wong. He’s no stranger to the odd though having helmed numerous episodes of both The X-Files and its darker sibling, Millennium.

Final Destination flies in the slipstream of the smart and knowing writing of Scream, its deaths however lend more of a debt of gratitude to The Omen films, was it just a nasty accident or something more?

Death is the ultimate villain; it can strike anywhere and can use anything and everything at its disposal. It is also unstoppable so no matter how far you run it will eventually catch up with you. There’s no challenging it to a game of Twister or Battleships to get out of this one.

fd2In horror film terms you also don’t get much more perfect than Death, none of that bogeyman returning due to some oversight. It’s relentless, something which the likes of It Follows cleverly taps into.

The deaths, all inventive, range from the horrendous slip and strangle in the shower (who hasn’t nearly slipped to their death when in the shower in the house on their own) to the frankly Itchy and Scratchy-like death of the teacher in her house featuring a block of knives, kettle, cracked vodka glass and dodgy computer.

fdThat initial plane premonition really grips you from the off and has to be in the running for the most jaw-dropping plane disaster sequences ever realised on film that makes Alive look like a flight in the park. I don’t think I blinked during that scene.

And the cleverness doesn’t stop with the fiery end to the vision, once the group are arguing in the airport we see the plane explode in the distance with the sound wave and smashing glass hitting them seconds later.

And the devil really is in the detail in this film, from the sprinkling of portents of doom that range from John Denver playing in the airport toilet, he died in a plane crash, to a baggage cart that reads 666 to name but two.

fd4The biggest shout out death wise must go to the bus hit though, brilliant, because although you expect it, it hits you with such speed and force that your jump is coiled tighter than ever. A death so audience rousing that the filmmakers had to add in a few extra moments of tablets dissolving in the next scene so that they could compose themselves.

And the names of all those striving to divert death are all nods to famous horror movie directors and actors, Browning (as in Todd, Director of Dracula), Hitchcock (as in Alfred, Director of Psycho), Chaney (as in Lon, star of The Phantom of The Opera) and Murnau (as in F.W., Director of Nosferatu).

fd3Tony Todd (Candyman himself) has a nice but brief turn as a mortician, the suitably named Bludworth, he essentially embodies the character of death and tells the teens the rules of death. I’ll see you soon, he proclaims at the end of the scene and indeed he does appear in the parts 2, 3 and 5. In part 3 he is the ironically the voice of the devil, on a theme park ride.

The deaths may all seem implausible, but you only have to flick through the strange deaths pages of the Fortean Times to see that sometimes real life deaths are often stranger than fiction.

In echoes of The Omen’s original marketing campaign – if something bad happened to you today, perhaps it was The Omen. I now get that Final Destination effect whenever I’m behind a tractor with bales of hay, a van with lots of scaffolding poles (as happened directly after watching Final Destination 2). 

fd6My wife was even less amused when we were about to catch our flight back home from JFK and I noticed a class of high school students travelling on the same flight. It’s just like Final Destination I proclaimed. Death didn’t follow me but a death stare certainly did.

We haven’t seen a new Final Destination for a few years, franchise wise it was a dream as it theory could go on as long as there were inventive deaths and opening scenes of disaster. But don’t be fooled into thinking Death has gone, it’s merely dormant, biding its time. 

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Scream #30DaysOfFright

ghost2Scream didn’t just reinvigorate the horror genre back in 1996 – can it really be 20 years old – it took it to another level. From its shock opening this seminal shocker mixed knowing titters and terror to triumphant effect.

Horror director, Wes Craven, had previously scared us witless The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street and he had already dipped his toe in post-modern horror with Freddy’s New Nightmare, but Scream wouldn’t just rewrite the rule book, it would eat it and spit it all out, defining much of Hollywood’s horror output for the next decade.

scream3Although everyone now knows how the opening sequence of that first film turns out, no one can deny its power and shock seeing it for the first time on the big screen, surely the modern day equivalent of Janet Leigh meeting her maker in Psycho some 36 years earlier.

Shock endings have long been a staple of horror but shock beginnings with such a well-known name and so early on in proceedings, which was a humdinger and justifiably secured its place high in the history of highs in the genre.

It was visceral and I vividly remember the murmurs of uncomfortableness and hushed ‘did that just happen?’ as the smash cut frames of Drew Barrymore could be seen hanging from her parents tree as I sat in that Odeon cinema in Luton. Jesus, they had just killed the little girl from E.T.!

This was the end of the innocence and the birth of a new horror icon, and if that wasn’t enough he went onto slay The Fonze as well.

ghost1With that opening it set its stall out early that this is a horror with a whole new set of horror-savvy rules. Boasting assured direction and writing it was the perfect meeting of minds with the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House on the Left, meets the writer of Dawson’s Creek, Kevin Williamson.

The Scream films, all four were helmed by Craven, are essentially like the main character, lean, mean, pull no punches and list anyone and everyone as a possible victim (and suspect for that matter).Was it the dad, the boyfriend, the cop?

There were red herrings aplenty and everyone is a suspect, like a teen Agatha Christie movie, even going so far to use the double killer device from Murder on the Orient Express.

Even after 20 years it is still really fresh and sharp, the dialogue and scenes canter along. As well as expertly crafted in its own right Scream is a bloody love letter to the genre.

There are film references galore throughout, which makes it all the more fun to watch. It covers everything from Psycho to Carrie, a Wes Craven cameo in a Freddy sweater, Halloween on the TV, Friday the 13th, and a cameo by The Exorcist’s Linda Blair as a news reporter to name but a few.

Like those films, Scream has a memorable bogeyman in the form of Ghostface, who quickly established himself as part of the pantheon of iconic horror ghouls.

ghost4These kids aren’t stupid either and they know the rules of horror films, are self-aware. Knowing and clever it doesn’t insult the audience, instead it – like the characters themselves – it outfoxes them. Craven had stepped one foot in that arena with his previous film, Freddy’s New Nightmare where Freddy Krueger stepped into the real world.

The only difference being that Scream takes place in our world also, a world where previous horror films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th exist. All of this is delivered with effective jumps throughout, that teeter between comedy elements and pure frights.

ghost5As Matthew Lillard’s character touted, “These days, you’ve got to have a sequel.” And Scream did, three, all directed by Craven. Scream now lives on rebooted for the new MTV generation, on where else, MTV, where it is currently enjoying its second series.

Like Freddy, Norman and Hannibal before it Scream has joined TV. And it’s in good company with the likes of the continuing American Horror Story, The Walking Dead and the newly launched The Exorcist TV series.

I loved the original Scream trilogy, but was less impressed with the fourth chapter which returned after an 11 year break. It also turned out to be the last film of Wes Craven, who sadly passed away in 2015.

ghost3It’s doubtful we’ll see Scream back on the big screen anytime soon but as Craven showed with Freddy – returning to write Part 3 and direct Part 7 – you can’t keep a good horror franchise down and with horror resetting itself anew every few years and Scream being at its best, a celebration of horror films and trends, you can be sure of a back from the dead ending for this franchise on the big screen.

DEATH BECOMES THEM: TOP TEN DEATHS IN JAWS (AND ITS SEQUELS)

Jurassic World has taken a bit of a beating in some quarters over some of its horrible deaths, but then the previous films in the series didn’t exactly skimp on that either and neither did the Jaws series. Before Freddy, before Final Destination and (just) before The Omen, that is what we wanted, inventive and exciting death scenes. The Jaws series has them aplenty.

They say that Hollywood has a habit of chewing up and spitting out talent, little wonder then that Spielberg ‘fondly’ nicknamed the first films creature after his Lawyer, ‘Bruce’. Such a phrase has not been truer when looking at Jaws and its three sequels, all with deaths aplenty. The sequels have all taking a bit of a bashing, certainly they don’t a candle to the original, but they still hold a fondness and even Jaws the Revenge has its moments, well okay then maybe that should be singular.

Anyway ‘Open Wide!’ and ‘Smile, you sons of bitches!’ as we celebrate the best Jaws deaths…ever!

Is yours below? If not, which is it and why?

JAWS (1975) AKA THE ORIGINAL AND BEST

Chrissie Watkins

jaws chrissie watkins 1975The opening night time attack is up there with the shower seen from Psycho and even after all this time packs a punch like a train. It’s the perfect opener for a movie (indeed Spielberg even copied it himself of sorts in 1993 in the opening of Jurassic Park). It effectively sets the shark up as a Jack the Ripper like monster. The noise, the screams and the music all blend to still create a sense of dread in the pit of your stomach. Also one of the most iconic, and oft-imitated, poster images ever. She was the first…

Pippet the retriever

Ishot-1297You may scoff but one moment this dog was happily jumping around the surf, the next we see a floating piece of wood, which can’t be good. Showed that anyone could be next and that this fish didn’t care who it devoured. It takes someone with balls to have an animal die on screen.

Estuary victim

As a child this death haunted me when I closed my eyes. A man in a row boat comes to help Michael Brody and chums on their boat when the unfortunate soul is tipped from his boat and seen hanging to the side of his upturned craft to only have the open mouthed shadow of the Great White sweep up to him and drag him sinking beneath the waves, For me, at that moment I certainly don’t see a mechanical shark.

Only his leg is left, which can be seen drifting to to the bottom of the ocean floor. I used to try and convince myself that perhaps he survived but I think his estuary victim credit tells me what really happened…

Ben Gardner

jaws (1)We might not see him meeting his maker but we join Matt Hooper in the fright of his life when his head comes bob, bob bobbing along. Even now you know it’s coming but just not exactly when. This moment was captured in the safety of Editor Verna Fields’ swimming pool due to the film needing a jump moment. It certainly got it.

Quint

Ironic as Quint is roughly translated as five in Italian and he is the fifth human victim of the movie. Early he and the crew of the Orca drank to their legs so it was only fitting that this was the way he went, legs first. Nice blood explosion in the mouth as well before he is dragged to his watery grave.

Jaws

Well I say watery grave as he exploded with the shark several minutes later. A master stroke of tension as the Orca slowly sinks with Brody and rifle on its mast, which if you notice is ticking down to his ‘death’ like the second hand of a clock. Smile you son-of-bitch indeed.

JAWS 2 (1978) AKA THE ONE WITH THE ANNOYING TEENAGERS ON BOATS

Water skier

Also the poster girl for Jaws 2. A technically brilliant scene that showed that even those on water skies were not immune to the jaws of doom. The photography and tension in this scene is one of the highlights and showed how much more versatile the shark models and special effects were only three years later. Clearly lots of lessons had been learnt. It’s two for one on the deaths front here as the boat manages to pour petrol all over herself and then fire a flare at the shark blowing herself up and scarring the shark, just to make her all the more sinister (boo, hiss). We do get another payoff though as the corpse comes in one the tide straight into Chief Brody’s arms.

Boy on boat

Much of the film is spent routing for the shark to pick off the annoying teenagers, something of a pre-curser to Halloween and Friday the 13th as the shark is basically stalking and slashing (or should that be gnashing) them. The best death from these has to be that of Eddie Marchand who is dragged (echoing Chrissie in the first film) across the water and slammed into his boat – he hangs on for dear life and even pulls part of his boat with him as he is dragged under leaving his now hysterical girlfriend alone.

Helicopter pilot

Hey we are safe! Don’t count you chickens yet kids. Shark Vs quite frankly rubbish 70s helicopter and kills pilot with a quite frankly lame beard. In the original we never see what happens but on the Jaws 2 DVD there is great footage of him under the water as well. Worth checking out.

JAWS 3D (1983) AKA THE ONE AT SEA WORLD

Philip FitzRoyce, played by Simon MacCorkindale

A shame TVs ‘Manimal’ couldn’t change into a fish as he might have escaped this monster. Notable as we see and hear him being crunched up inside the shark’s mouth and then have him dangling like a piece of food stuck between his teeth. Was nice they tried something different with a death.

Now I know this film has been slammed but I actually really like the concept, essentially Jurassic World of sorts in many ways, and the ending to the movie. It’s a variation on the original but I like the original way they tried to do it. I certainly found it tense and exciting. I even like the 3D explosion – the blood and guts quota is certainly all here – and even have a soft spot for the upper and lower 3D jaws.

JAWS THE REVENGE (1987) AKA THE ONE WITH MICHAEL CAINE AKA THE ONE THAT’S NOT MUCH COP…REALLY IT ISN’T

Sean Brody

A film of little note, this could be included alone for the death of the franchise. It does have its moments in places though and none more than the death of the youngest Brody, Sean, who is now a cop in Amity like his old dad was (Scheider decided against this one so they killed his character off screen – as shameful as the whole Alien 3 Newt death – what a waste). Still Sean Brody is worth a mention as one of the main original characters to kick the big yellow barrel, juxtaposed with Christmas Carols and sepia shots of the original, just to remind us how crappy this film is.

Top Ten Film and TV Reveals

10. The Phantom of the Opera… as seen in Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Even some 90 years later the image of the Phantom as he is first revealed in the classic Lon Chaney silent version is an indelible image that still possesses the power to repulse and shock, so one can only imagine the impact it had in its day.

 

9. Norman Bates… as seen in Psycho (1960)
Oh mother! Another classic that still retains all of its power to this day, even if you know the true identity of the murderer, it is still an impressive reveal, and is one of double proportions if you count Mrs Bates in the rocking chair and that swinging light bulb!

 

8. Doctor Who… as seen in Doctor Who (1963 – Present)
No matter the Doctor, no matter the transformation, the regeneration of one Doctor to the next has always made for must see television. For me the most memorable has to be Tom Baker falling off a giant satellite dish and turning into Peter Davison via some bizarre figure dressed in white (dunno either) to the most emotional, that of David Tennant into Matt Smith. Tennant pretty much was the Doctor so we really felt his emotional exit and the humility he brought to his final moments, moments that had been deftly built over the course of a year of specials and three final episodes. This really was the end of an era as it also spelt the end of show head writer, Russell T Davies, who clearly left no emotional stone unturned.

 

7. An ape on horseback… as seen in Planet of the Apes (1968)
We are as gobsmacked as Chuck Heston and his fellow astronauts when the hunting horns bellow to the crescendo of horse hooves and the sight of apes on horseback with ruddy rifles. It’s the first reveal that Heston and co are on a whole darned planet of them. As shocking and memorable as the final Statue of Liberty shot is, for me, it is this first stark reveal that truly sets the tone for all that follows.

 

6. James Bond… as seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Connery had gone, James Bond was dead…but long live James Bond as another actor filled his shoes, namely George Lazenby. I can hardly comprehend on what the mammoth search for Bond must have been like or the anticipation of a new actor filling the role that Sean Connery had made his own. Cleverly, we are teased by the filmmakers who show us glimpses of Bond here and there in his rear view mirror behind the wheel of his beloved Aston Martin DB5 as he drives onto a beach to rescue a damsel in distress from some thugs. Once the villains are dispatched and the woman runs off and drives away in her car. Bond stands up and wryly talking directly to camera, the only time this ever happens, says to the audience as much as to himself: “This never happened to the other fellow!” A text book physical reveal that has rarely, if ever been bettered.

 

5. A Body Snatcher… as seen in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
It’s the final reel of the film and we are just relieved to see that Donald Sutherland, despite his Hair Bear Bunch barnet, is safe and not been nobbled by the pod people, but wait. He stops as Veronica Cartwright approaches, points, eyes roll and mouth opens distinctly inhuman like to let out one of the most chilling sounds and images ever to greet cinema going audiences. ‘They’ had finally caught up with him. The screen freezes and that image of Donald stays with you for ages after you first see it.

 

4. A Chest Burster… as seen in Alien (1979)
We know that John Hurt seriously hurts when he is flung around the Nostromo and that all is not well with his belly, in what is surely one of cinema’s greatest ever entrances as the aptly named chest burster, doing exactly what it says on the tin, and promptly shrieking as it exits Hurt’s body and splattering the white exterior crimson red. Primal stuff.

 

3. The Thing… as seen in The Thing (1982)
In the end the reveal is a massive relief of sorts, as you feel the anguish and paranoia of all the scientists and researchers sat on the chairs strapped to each other. We know the reveal is coming, but like those men on the chairs, we do not know when it is coming or from whom and we certainly aren’t prepared for what follows.

 

2. Doug Quaid… as seen in Total Recall (1990)
One of Arnie’s true classics I am of course talking about Arnie’s disguise as an overweight middle aged woman – thankfully not him in drag in the risible Junior – to get him through security before ‘she’ ends up with a facial tick of sorts only for her head to fall off and Arnie to step out from her as she opens up, with her head exploding as a bomb, as you do, with the immortal line “get ready for a surprise!” prior to detonation.

 

1. Keyzer Soze… as seen in The Usual Suspects (1995)
Who’d have thunk that weedy little Kevin Spacey was the murderous criminal mastermind behind it all. As ‘Verbal Kint’ states: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he never existed.” It’s a bravura performance that doesn’t need prosthetics or a fake accent to pull it off. Spacey dragging his foot one moment, then walking normally the next and then miraculously regaining the use of his withered hand is misdirection of the highest order and never fails to delight. It is unsurprising that Spacey won a best-supporting actor Oscar for his mesmerizingly understated performance.