Monday, October 27, 2008

Classic Horror Film: Psycho (The Original)

Psycho is a 1960 horror file direct by Alfred Hitchcock, based on a novel of the same name by Robert Bloch, about a psychotic killer. The film centers around an encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh), who is in hiding at a motel after stealing from her employer, and the motel’s owner, the lonely Norman Bates, (played by Anthony Perkins).

Marion Crane is a Phoenix, Arizona secretary who is fed up with having to sneak away during lunch breaks to meet her divorced boyfriend, Sam Loomis. They can not get married because most of Sam’s money goes to paying alimony.

One Friday, Marion’s employer asks her to take $40,000 in cash to a local bank to deposit. Desperate to make a change in her life, she makes the decision to run away to be with Sam and make a new life in California with the money.

As night falls and a torrential rain blurs the road ahead, Marion turns off the main highway. Exhausted from the long drive and the stress of her criminal act, she makes the decision to spend the night at the Bates Motel. The motel is run by Norman Bates, a peculiar young man who appears to be very much under the control of his invalid mother.

Although the movie initially received mixed reviews it is now regarded as one of Hitchcock’s best films and has won numerous international awards. Psycho was and remains a genre defining film. The film has spawned several sequels and a remake in 2000, but nothing comes close to the original.

The films use of shadows, mirrors, windows and water as key themes was instrumental in its success of creating suspense. The shadows are present from the very first scene, casting the appearance of bars as Marion peers out her room window. The stuffed birds’ cast a shadow over Marion as she eats and of course Norman’s mother always appears in the shadows until the very end of the movie.

Mirrors reflect Marion as she packs, her eyes as she checks the rear view mirror, her face in the policeman’s sunglasses, and her hands as she counts out the money in the car dealership’s bathroom.

Even if you have never seen the movie, we are all familiar with "The Shower Scene". This scene has been studied, discussed, and cited countless times in print and in film courses with much debate on why it is so terrifying and how it was produced, including how it passed the censors in 1960.

Psycho is definitely a horror film classic and another great Friday night video rental.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


A phobia is an irrational, intense, persistent fear of certain situations, objects, or activities.

Unconscious learning takes place to keep us safe. In primitive conditions when coming into contact with something dangerous, the mind/body would create the optimum state for survival - a panic attack. This type of learning is not of the intellectual or rational type. This type of learning takes place at an emotional level so that the response can bypass the ‘thinking brain' and can be attributed to the causes of phobias.

To become phobic, all you need is a high anxiety state paired with an object. The causes of phobias are basically giving over to your imagination. Non-specific phobias can come about either through a 'spreading-out' of panic attacks, or through a person's levels of general anxiety becoming so high that panic is easily triggered whenever stress levels are raised even slightly.

Clown phobia is an intense fear of something that poses no actual danger and while adults with clown phobia realise that these fears are irrational, they often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety. To add insult to an already distressing condition, most clown phobia therapies take months or years to cure and often require the patient to be exposed repeatedly to their fear. Known by a number of names - Coulrophobia and Fear of Clowns being the most common - the problem can often significantly impact the quality of the suffers’ life. Symptoms of clown phobia typically include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, dry mouth, and overall feelings of dread. Like all fears and phobias, clown phobia is created by the unconscious mind as a protective mechanism. At some point in the past, there was likely an event linking clowns and emotional trauma. Whilst the original event may have been a real-life scare of some kind, the condition can also be triggered by a number of things including movies, or TV.

Attaching emotions to situations is one of the primary ways that humans learn, but sometimes the wiring goes a little wrong. Most sufferers are surprised to learn that they are far from alone in the surprisingly common, although often unspoken, clown phobia.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

'Tis the Season to be Frightened

Halloween is celebrated on the night of October 31st. Activities include trick-or-treating, ghost tours, bonfires, costume parties, carving Jack-o-Lanterns, reading scary stories, watching horror movies and for the die-hard fans visiting “haunted houses”.

Halloween is not celebrated the world over but most commonly in Britain, the United States, Canada, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Japan and New Zealand.

The name Halloween is shortened from All Hallows Even (both “even” and “eve” are short forms of “evening”, but Halloween gets its “n” from “even”), as it is the evening of All Hallows’ Day, which is also known as All Saints’ Day in many parts of the world. All Saints’ Day is a day of religious festivities in various parts of Europe. Although All Saints’ Day is now considered to take place one day after Halloween, the two holidays used to be celebrated on the same day.

The carved pumpkin, (affectionately known as Jack-o-Lantern) lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween’s most obvious symbols in North America. Funny but true, the first “lanterns” were carved in Europe from a turnip or rutabaga. The Irish believed that the head was the most powerful part of the body, containing the spirit and the knowledge so they used the “head’ of the vegetable to frighten off spirits.

Halloween images tend to involve death, magic or monsters. Traditional characters include your ghosts and ghouls, witches, owls, crows, black cats, spiders, goblins, zombies, skeletons and of course your demons.

Particularly in America, the symbols of Halloween are inspired by horror movies.

Perhaps my love of one inspires my love of the other.

Classic Horror Film - Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary’s Baby, a 1968 film now considered a classic horror movie by many. The file centers on a young couple, Rosemary and Guy, played by Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, who move into an apartment building known as the Bramford (filmed at the famous Dakota building in New York) where they seem to be surrounded by neighbours who become friends. Guy is a struggling actor and Rosemary a housewife.

Rosemary is initially warned that the Bramford has a disturbing history, but she and Guy simply laugh over this news, choosing to dismiss it. Early in the film, Rosemary and Guy are befriended by Minnie and Roman Castavet, an elderly couple whose apartment is next to their own. Rosemary finds them pushy and more than a little bit odd, so she is disturbed when Guy begins spending a lot of time with them.

Guy and Rosemary decide to have a child and on the night they plan to try to conceive, Minnie stops by with a special treat - chocolate mousse. Although Rosemary eats only a small portion, she soon begins feeling faint and dreams that she is being raped by a creature, while her elderly neighbors watch. The next morning, Guy tells her that she just had a bad dream and that he had made love to her during the night.

Soon after, she discovers she is pregnant; while at the same time; Guy's acting career takes off. The pregnancy is very difficult at first; Rosemary suffers terrible, ongoing pain. As the months wear on, the pains ease but Rosemary begins to suspect her elderly neighbors are not the kindly souls they appear to be. She soon discovers that her neighbours are leaders of a coven of witches and she convinces herself that they are after her child to use as a sacrifice. Not surprisingly she is not able to convince anyone to believe her.

As the movie draws to its conclusion Rosemary goes into labour, fainting and when she awakens she is told that the baby died shortly after birth. Grief stricken she takes to her bed. However, when she hears a baby’s cries somewhere in the building she suspects her baby is still alive. In the hall closet of her apartment she discovers a secret door leading into her neighbours’ apartment where the coven meets and there she finds them gathered around her baby, worshipping her son, the spawn of Satan. Rosemary considers killing the demon infant but after some coaxing she beings to sing a lullaby to the baby which quiets him.

The file is excellent at conveying all the fears, confusion and hormonal changes that occur for a young expectant mother. Rosemary is overcome with panic and paranoia. The horror of Rosemary’s Baby is found in the happenings that take place on a daily basis in the everyday events that we take for granted. The film exposes human interactions in a disturbing and negative manner. The file ending leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions about the future of Rosemary’s baby.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What is Fear?

Fear n.
1. A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger.
2. A feeling of disquiet or apprehension: a fear of looking foolish.
3. Extreme reverence or awe, as toward a supreme power.
4. A reason for dread or apprehension: Being alone is my greatest fear.

What is Fear and what are the causes of Fear? In what ways can Fear be constructive and destructive? How to cope with Fear? How is human Fear different from that of animals?

We all fear, which makes Fear about the most common and the most natural emotion we experience.

Fear is based on the instinct of self-preservation and is therefore, a defensive reaction. The sensation of Fear starts with changes in your nervous system, resulting in changes in heart rate, blood pressure, secretion of stomach acid. In the most general sense, the feeling of Fear is a reaction to a threat.

On the surface level, Fear is a rather uncomfortable experience that often upsets people, paralyses them and may cause psychological disorders. Some scientists believe the emotion of Fear was first generated in the process of evolution as a defence mechanism against threats from the nature.

Another function of Fear is in the strong negative emotions caused by pain or other unpleasant experiences. There is a well known experiment on mice that proved Fear can be easily manifested by putting live beings, whether animal or human through such unpleasant experiences that the memory of acute pain stamps itself on the subconscious of the being essentially serving as preventative measure against encountering the cause of the pain again.

Finally, when Fear can be created in situations when not enough information is available for one to make a weighted decision Fear dictates the strategy. Fear in this case protects the individual from both possible biological and social threats.

In short people say “Fear” like it’s a bad thing – but is it?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Can Horror and Comedy Mix?

Just ask the fans of the 2006 Feature - "Slither"

Slither is considered by many to be a successful blend of horror and comedy. It was a great sort of alien movie that didn’t take itself too seriously, but instead had fun with the things that were going on.

PLOT: It's deer hunting season in the small town of Wheelsy, when a meteor falls in the woods with an egg of alien worm. After a fight with his wife, a local businessman, Grant, heads to the bar to have some drinks. He meets an old acquaintance Brenda, the younger sister of his former girlfriend, who has a crush on him, and they head out into the woods. Grant sees the weird egg on the grass, and when he touches it, the egg releases a sort of bird like creature with an alien parasite that dominates Grant's brain. During the next few days, Grant has an insatiable hunger for meat, and while his hostage body is transforming, he builds a nest of slugs in his cellar. Grant infects Brenda and the slugs attack the human beings in Wheelsy, possessing their bodies. The local sheriff tries to find a way to stop Grant, the leader of a new breed of starving zombies.

The plot alone suggest that horror and comedy can mix. This blending is not for everyone. Some of us like our horror - pure and terrifying. Yet for many a good dose of laughter can take the edge off. So along with some good action and suspense as well as some laughs Slither is a good Friday night video rental.

One Person's Opinion: Why We Like To Be Scared

We have tried to scare each other with stories that trigger the less logical parts of our imaginations for as long as we've told tales. From the ballads of the ancient world to modern urban myths, people willingly offer themselves up to sadistic storytellers to be scared out of their minds, and are happy to pay for the privilege. There are countless reasons to try and explain why. Do we get basic thrills from triggering the rush of adrenalin which fear brings, or do horror stories serve a wider moral purpose, reinforcing the rules and taboos of our society and showing the ghoulish fate of those who transgress?

Horror movies have long served both purposes. They deliver thrills by the truck load, as well as telling us stories of the dark, forbidden side of life and death. They also provide a revealing picture of the stresses of their time. Nosferatu (1922) is not simply a tale of a vampire, but offers a heart-wrenching image of a town struggling with premature and random deaths, echoing real life disasters of World War I and the Great Flu Epidemic dealth. At the other end of the century Blade (1998) is also not just a tale of vampirism, but reflects a fear of the powerful and sometimes irresponsible elements in society.

Each generation gets the horror films it deserves, and one of the more fascinating aspects these movies are the changing nature of the monsters who scare us. In the early 1940s, a world living under the shadow of Hitler identify a part-man, part-wolf as their boogeyman, whose inhuman nature caused him to tear apart those who crossed his path. In the 1990s there was no need for a part wolf component, Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs 1991, Hannibal 2001) was completely human in his calculated and highly stylized killing methods. As we move on into the twenty first century, ghosts and zombies are back in vogue as Eastern and Western superstitions meet. In an era of war and high tech, supernatural terror is more appetizing than the fear brought on by today's news headlines.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

October 17 to 24, 2008

Bloor Cinema (all movies)
506 Bloor Street West, (just east of Bathurst Street - Bathurst Subway Station)
Tel: 416-516-2331
Google Map here.

What: The Toronto After Dark Film Festival is one of the world’s leading showcases of international thrillers and runs every October, just before Halloween. The Festival features new horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action, animated and cult films from around the world, including a number of award-winning features and shorts.

Last year's festival was attended by over 6,500 die-hard horror fans.


No After Dark Festival would be complete without the usual Tales of the Undead featuring:
Trailer Park of Terror
Netherbeast Incorporated

There are also our "Heroes In Action" Flicks. Stories of heroic action featuring self-made superheroes, justice-seeking old timers, and future Earth soldiers:
Mutant Chronicles

For the devoted Cult Seekers there are an assortment of five new leading edge films which make up the Festival's first ever Cult Discoveries spotlight. Everything from a gothic sci-fi horror musical to cutting-edge comedy, technicolor crime noir to over-the-top Asian gore action, and twisted animated storytelling:
Repo! The Genetic Opera
Tokyo Gore Police
Who is KK Downey?
South of Heaven
Idiots & Angels

And for the dedicated Adrenalin Junkies who like to get their hearts pumping while watching a horror flick we have on tap:
4BIA (Phobia)
Home Movie
Donkey Punch

Finally, no Festival would be complete without our "Shorts". In the short film series, you are invited to check out these mini-masterpieces:
Shorts After Dark (International Short Film Showcase)
Canada After Dark (Canadian Short Film Showcase)

Enjoy the Festival!

Upcoming Movie Release: Quarantine

Release Date: October 10, 2008

Directed by: John Erick Dowdle (Full Moon Rising released in 1996 was his first film)

Television reporter Angela Vidal and her cameraman, Scott Percival are assigned to spend the night shift with an L.A. Fire Station. After what appears to be a routine 911 call takes them to a small apartment building, they find police already on scene in response to calls about screams coming from one of the apartment units. They quickly learn that a woman living in the building has been infected by something unknown. After a few of the residents are viciously attacked, fire fighters and police try to escape with the news crew, only to find that the government has quarantined the building. Phones, internet, televisions and cell phone access have all been cut-off, and officials are not relaying information to those locked inside. When the quarantine is finally lifted, the only evidence of what took place is the news crews videotape.

Friday, October 3, 2008

(Off topic) What if you won the lottery?

What if anyone of you won the lottery? What would you buy or do?

I know if I won the lottery I would take a two week trip to the Bahamas or somewhere warm, to get away from a line-up of people asking for donations and funds, as well as to go and relax. I would return home, invest some of my money and send some money to Bolivia, the country of my parents for medical and food supplies. I would want to move and get a house somewhere more open then the suburbs, as well as a car. I’m not sure what car I would be interested in buying, but I’m sure it would be really nice. I would certainly get a very nice HDTV as well as the top end home theater surround sound system. It would be like going to the movies at home. After all that was completed and more, I would take a trip to Europe for a month, to get away from the everyday North America. From there I'm not sure what I would do with the money, guess I'll save up. Life would feel much more relaxing and great; I would feel like there's almost nothing I can't buy. It would certainly open much more doors to achieving goals and success.