I realize I'm preaching to the choir here, defending horror on a website devoted to it, but stick with me for a minute.
Recently I found myself in a heated debate with someone who claimed to dislike horror. "What did you think of Silence of the Lambs?" I said, having heard this claim a dozen times before.
"That's not horror," the supposed horror hater said.
"Okay. Well, did you like Misery?"
Review: A Walk Among The Tombstones
Look at the posters for A Walk Among The Tombstones, and it appears to be one of the least impactful films of 2014. Why? Well, it's because the poster features Liam Neeson holding a gun, and we've seen that story about a hundred times before. The image calls to mind yet another two hours of Neeson kicking ridiculous amounts of ass. While that's usually fun, it does get old at some point. Alas, this is not that point, because despite its somewhat misleading promotions, A Walk Among The Tombstones is more of a slow-burning detective tale than an action flick. As Matt Singer at The Dissolve summarized nicely, this is "just good old-fashioned sleuthing." Go figure.
Basically, this film is the story of former NYPD cop Matt Scudder (Neeson), now a deeply brooding, recovering alcoholic who works as a sort of unofficial freelance detective. Scudder is called upon by a high volume drug dealer whose wife has been kidnapped and gruesomely murdered, despite the dealer having paid a hefty ransom. Scudder hesitates to take the case, but ultimately dives in due to the horrific nature of the crimes. Naturally, he winds up against a bigger case than he bargained for and as he gradually uncovers information on the killers and their previous, similar crimes, he and those around him grow ever closer to mortal danger.
All in all, it's a fairly run-of-the-mill outing despite a refreshingly calm performance from Neeson, a very strong supporting cast, and some pretty gut-wrenching crime. That being said, A Walk Among The Tombstones does a few things well enough to warrant mention in a review.
First of all, it grounds its characters in something resembling reality. Films like these can only land their heavy-handed punches if we feel something real in them, and in this one that's pretty much how it goes. No one (even Neeson) is immune to danger or betrayal, everyone has flaws, and everyone, at some point or other, is playing catch up while being in over his head.
Next, the film doesn't try to get too cute, and these days that's saying something. Sit through the first hour and you'll be rifling through scenarios in your head, trying to think of some ingenious twist or mind-blowing scheme that's just below the surface. This is the case with most films in the thriller, detective, or action genres, with the trouble being that more often than not the big surprise falls short—not clever enough for its own build-up. Well, A Walk Among The Tombstones skips the whole process. Yes, that means it's a little simple at times, but it's oddly enjoyable to sit through a tense crime film that thrills with atmosphere and creepiness rather than attempting the twist of the century.
But where the film really excels is in following through on its name with some genuinely creepy, back-to-basics graveyard action, and that's something scary movie fans will eat up. To be clear, most of the film doesn't actually take place in graveyards. However, when the camera ventures between the tombstones, we get the kind of creeping action that has been sapped from graveyard scenery by comedies, misfiring action films, and even video games in the past decade or so.
Indeed, try to think back on the last graveyard scene you saw and it's comedies that come to mind, for many. Films like Zoolander and Old School have had what amount to be mock funerals, turning daytime graveyard scenes into sources of laughter. Even the hit FXX comedy sitcom The League recently opened its sixth season with a funeral home and graveyard setting, complete with coffins flying open unexpectedly and all those cheeky shenanigans.
Gaming, too, has turned graveyards from chilling ghost story/horror settings into cartoonish backdrops. The Plants vs. Zombies online arcade and app phenomenon is the most significant example. The game uses grave plots and cheesy gravestone graphics as obstacles for cartoon zombies—but this is far from the only example. Any number of zombie games can be pointed to as additional instances in which graveyard scenes become somewhat-comical. In fact, the Betfair Casino is even hosting a "Full Moon Fortune" slot game that combines werewolf horror with a graveyard-themed backstory to enrich the atmosphere of the casino experience. Even the James Bond console game Everything Or Nothing ventured into a graveyard for one memorable level (though to be fair, that was a pretty creepy level).
The point is, while there will always be obscure ghost stories and small-scale films that do the setting justice, most mainstream action in films, on TV, in gaming has seen graveyards robbed of their creepiness in recent years. And A Walk Among The Tombstones sets this straight with some graveyard-heavy action that manages to be both original and terrifying. Between a mysterious graveyard groundskeeper wading through a pond raking up bags (of chopped-up body parts) during a grey fall day, and a late-night, pitch-black gunfight complete with shattering stones and ominous confusion, the tombstones in this film are used wonderfully. It's not a ghost story, and it only borders on horror with no supernatural forces at work. And yet, for what feels like the first time in a while in cinema, this film uses a graveyard to deliver genuine scares and thrills. Given the title, that's the main way in which the film delivers.
To celebrate Hellraiser's birthday on September 18 (an apt date as it seems as after today we will have all eternity for the soul of Scotland's nation to be torn apart) some of horror's finest and unwashed have dropped in to give their thoughts on this iconic film.
There is also two special additions to Kit Powers My Life In Horror series of articles which can be found by clicking on the following links
WE HAVE SUCH SIGHTS TO SHOW YOU
THE DEVILS ADVOCATE
Ginger Nut's reviewer Charlotte Bond has also written a review which can be found here
CHARLOTTE OPENS THE BOX
And the wonderful Chantal Noordeloos, Hollands finest horror export has also writtern a review.
CHANTAL SAYS THE UNMENTIONABLE
And why don't you check out these classic interviews with The Chattering Cenobite and The Female Cenobite
CLICK READ MORE FOR SOME THOUGHTS FROM THE GREAT UNWASHED ON HELLRAISER
In a counter review to Kit Power's comprehensive review of Hellraiser and Chantal Noordeloos shows why she doesn't think Hellraiser stands up in a modern world.
Up until about a month ago, if you would have asked me what I thought of Hellraiser… I would have gushed and told you how awesome it was. I was a big fan of the first three films and I really loved everything about the demonic series. How can you not love the Cenobites that dance the fine line between pleasure and pain?
And then I made the mistake of watching it again… Spoiler alert: teenage memories were ruined. I don’t remember how old I was when I saw it for the first time, but I was young enough to be terrified. Now that I’m old and jaded, all I could see were crappy special effects and even crappier acting. Not even Doug Bradley (who still is the best pinhead ever) could save this movie from the awkward stares and uncomfortable 80’s montages. The film is slow… not good slow, not the kind where you get a nice build up and you get stuck into the characters before the story really begins… it’s the kind of slow where you find yourself wondering what the hell happened to the plot?
The idea behind Hellraiser is still pretty good, though I do feel it could use a few more layers to lift it to a higher level. I know the Barker fans will crucify me for this one, but my love for Hellraiser has died a thousand painful deaths. More painful than Larry’s demise when he opened the puzzle box. Sadly I must conclude that for me Hellraiser is just not the kind of movie that can stand up against the test of time. *runs and hides from the fans*
Chantal Noordeloos lives in the Netherlands, where she spends her time with her wacky, supportive husband, and outrageously cunning daughter, who is growing up to be a supervillain. When she is not busy exploring interesting new realities, or arguing with characters (aka writing), she likes to dabble in drawing. In 1999 she graduated from the Norwich School of Art and Design, where she focused mostly on creative writing. There are many genres that Chantal likes to explore in her writing. Currently Sci-fi Steampunk is one of her favorites, but her ‘go to’ genre will always be horror. “It helps being scared of everything; that gives me plenty of inspiration,” she says. Chantal likes to write for all ages, and storytelling is the element of writing that she enjoys most. “Writing should be an escape from everyday life, and I like to provide people with new places to escape to, and new people to meet.”
Hellraiser – The Movie
When I was a kid, I wasn’t even allowed to watch Labyrinth as my mother deemed it too scary. Horror movies were not welcome in our house, my mother’s attempt to shield me from them (yeah, see how well that worked). So I missed Hellraiser first time around, which meant when I finally watched did, I came to it having seen many more modern horror movies. I felt that it got off to an impressive start. The opening music was far grander than I was expecting and set the scene for something truly great and the music quality continued unabated. When I got to the resurrection scene, the music was so familiar, I Shazamed it, only to discover that it was in fact the original soundtrack, and my knowledge of it was through its reuse in many later productions. Having read the book, I knew Frank’s background and thought the flashbacks were handled well without breaking the overall build-up of the opening sequences. Once you got past the big hair, billowy blouses and baggy trousers, the characters were convincing. Clare Higgins’ interpretation of the bold Julia particularly appealed to me, and it has to be said the make-up department did a wonderful job with her startling eye make-up and hair. There was no comic book set design like Nightmare on Elm Street. Instead, the film focussed on a definite plot and strong character development, which for me made it stand out from its contemporaries. Unfortunately, the overall quality decreased around the time that Kirsty got her hands on the box. The downfall, like so many horror movies, was that once you actually see the monsters, they start to be less scary. It seemed that once Clive Barker began with his special effects budget, he really went to town, at the expense of the character development and tension which he had built up so beautifully at the beginning. Less would have been more, and when the Cenobites first appear, their sinister words would have had greater effect if spoken in hushed tones in a dark room, rather than in the maelstrom of wind machine and dry-ice that Barker uses. And of course, the problem with special effects is that they are the first thing to make a film seem dated. In summary, the soundtrack is definitely going to find its way into my library and while I would watch this film again, I expect I’ll end up doing the washing up by the end.
- Charlotte Bond
Charlotte has had several short stories published in various formats from print to electronic and even audio. She has a novella out with Screaming Dreams publications, and a short story anthology due out this year. She is currently working on a novel and some radio productions.
Charlotte is thrilled to join the Ginger Nuts of Horror team, and is looking forward to indulging in two of her favourite things - reading new books and spouting opinions.
Originally from North Yorkshire, Charlotte now lives in Leeds and that's as far south as she's prepared to go. She is married and lives with a small child and a very fluffy cat. One of them is a small bundle of hurricane-level energy which tears up everything it passes; the other leaves hairballs wherever it sits. It is left up to the reader to decide which is which.
With Halloween fast approaching it’s time to dig out the best scary stories we can find and what better way to do that than with a few horror comics.
Because there are far too many of these terrifying titles to choose from we’ve picked what we think are the top five worth checking out. Be warned though as these aren’t as easy on the eye as bingo memes and may leave you a little mentally scarred.
First up is a taste of the orient with legendary Manga creator Junji Ito’s Uzumaki. Uzumaki is Japanese for Spiral. The plot centres on a small town and it’s obsession with spirals of various sizes and types.
It’s a rather abstract tale that leads to some quite grotesque and tragic scenes that are genuinely horrifying to behold. With an unforgettable ending and a cast of endearing characters, you won’t regret starting out with Uzumaki. There’s even been a film adaptation if you can’t get enough of the spooky spirals.
Written by Alan Moore, the famous mind behind the likes of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Neonomicon is a stark contrast to Moore’s previous works. It centres around two FBI agents and their investigation into a cult and horrible events following their discovery.
This dark tale plays heavily on the Lovecraftian mythos and it’s filled with sex, violence, nightmare inducing monstrosities and a story that leaves you questioning your own sanity.