Once again, October is upon us and a film fan’s fancy’s turn to horror. Though I’ll watch scary/creepy films any time, I like to pack October full of first time horror watches. My first four consist of: The Taking Of Deborah Logan, V/H/S: Viral, Creep and The Nightmare.
The Taking Of Deborah Logan (Adam Robitel – 2014)
I thought I would start my viewing with several “found footage” style horror movies – mainly because they are just so damn plentiful these days. Though many people are sick of them at this stage, I can usually still find something appealing in them if they make an effort to build atmosphere and don’t simply go for the cheapo jump scares. Much of The Taking Of Deborah Logan does indeed do the former we watch a documentary film crew slowly realize that the Alzheimer’s patient they are capturing on camera is not quite afflicted with the standard form of the disease. As the titular character starts to descend more and more into seeming madness and the supernatural angle becomes more apparent, the film loses a bit of steam – it forgets the basic premise of setting up an unsettling environment and goes for back story and plot. Neither of those are anywhere near as disturbing as, say, a simple shadow or an old woman’s unexpected appearance in an attic. Still, the film has its moments if you can get past some of the inherent problems these films typically have (e.g. the necessity to fabricate reasons to keep a camera running or the shells of characters that do little more than complain).
V/H/S: Viral (Justin Benson, Gregg Bishop, Todd Lincoln, Aaron Moorhead, Marcel Sarmiento, Nacho Vigalondo – 2014)
Even if you didn’t find anything of merit in the first two films (though how you couldn’t see the insane brilliance of that cult sequence in the second film is beyond me…), there are moments in this third “chapter” that are shockingly terrible. One would be charitable to say inept. The opening segment (which becomes the wraparound, uh, “story”) of a guy obsessed with filming everything and having something go viral is not only frustratingly pointless, but becomes headache inducing as the filmmakers insist on thinking that throwing in overlapping images, tracking issues and sudden bursts of static will heighten the authentic nature of the video. It doesn’t. Nor does this story add any glue to the other random standalone segments – none whatsoever. Fortunately, two of those individual segments (Nacho Vigalondo’s tale of two parallel universes briefly connecting and the Benson/Moorhead story of skater punks creating a Mexican zombie apocalypse) have a sense of fun and creativity about them. Neither are the best work of those particular directors (each is stretched a bit thin by its end), but you can tell there is craft, effort and a desire to try something a bit different – all of which are elements totally lacking from the rest of the drivel on hand.
Creep (Patrick Brice – 2014)
Though it’s mostly the Mark Duplass one man show for much of its runtime, Creep is pretty effective at slowly building a rather confining feeling of inescapable, impending doom for its cameraman. The videographer in question has been hired by the awkward and, go figure, slightly creepy Duplass to film him throughout the course of a day to capture his thoughts and feelings for his not yet born child. Of course, things are not quite what they seem, but the film does a nice job of not tipping its hand for the first 45 minutes or so and keeps things on an interesting and slightly skewed level. If I didn’t quite like the direction they chose for the story in its final half hour, it remains one of the better and more original found footage ideas of late. It still suffers from a character behind the lens who is so inert that he barely registers even when he does appear on camera. You also can’t help but throw your hands up during several moments of completely stupid behaviour by the doofus in question. In all fairness, the film would have been much shorter than its already neat, tidy and efficient 77 minutes, so I’ll allow some room for insipid decision-making. Duplass is pretty strong throughout as he bounces from kind and earnest to weird and possibly dangerous.
The Nightmare (Rodney Ascher – 2015)
Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? It’s a bit frightening as you find yourself unable to move or wake up while desperately trying to regain control of your body and snap your brain back to its day job. Because of that weird sensation, you can see how some people might interpret it as being caused by some supernatural force and it’s, in all likelihood, the root cause behind the experiences of alien abduction many others have felt. But even the worst occurrence I’ve ever had of it is no match for the stories and feelings detailed by eight chronic sufferers in The Nightmare (by Rodney Ascher – he of Room 237 fame). While the documentary enables its interview subjects to tell their own stories, it also “recreates” their experiences in often disturbing ways that further highlight the terror these people must experience on a regular basis when they are just trying to get some shut-eye. Ascher does give a bit more screen time to those who are more “creative” in their views as to why this happens to them (with the one logical interpretation woman getting less than a minute of screen time), but the film isn’t about the causes of sleep paralysis. It’s meant to put you in the jammies of these people and let you partake briefly in a rather terrifying aspect of our biology. Think you control your thoughts? Think again.