This post is part of our Nanu Film Trail for April – which this month is an anthology of horror. Looking at horror, it’s very easy to be lost in the culture of it without focusing on the effect it has. One of the questions we wanted to ask is this – what makes something scary? For our “free for all” this month, we choose something slightly unusual – a celebration of all the dark and creepy corners of youtube. A lot of what makes things scary are the circumstances within which you are experiencing things… turning off the light and turning up the volume both make a film feel that little bit harder to bare. But with new media comes new ways to experience horror – and nothing works better than stumbling through to the darker sides of the internet, where people have left their mark without leaving an explanation, uncertain shards glimpses into unanswered realities of an unknown world. There are many mysteries out there, tonight, let’s find them. How to make your own Creepy Youtube Horror Night For your own Creepy YouTube Horror night, you will need: One Laptop Some Snacks Some Drinks Some Friends A few links The recipe is simple – all of you sit together, turn the lights off, and put the laptop in front of you. One of you nominate yourself to be the curator for the evening. Pop yourself along to this reddit page, where some wonderful people have compiled an almost exhaustive list of videos on youtube that are considered by many to be of interest for this sort of thing. Amongst you, decide which sounds the most intriguing, and click play… and repeat! Importantly, as much as
this night is about exploring our fears, it’s important not to bully or go further than anyone in the room is prepared to go. Nothing spoils the night more than someone. This said, YouTube is fairly good at policing content which might be too violent or innappropriate, so although many of these are odd or freaky or even unknown, they are at least “safe” to a certain extent… For our attempt, the rules were simple – if someone read a title outloud, we watched it, and we soon learnt to keep
our intrigue to ourselves. For our sins, we kept a record of what we watched, and have made a playlist to get you started, which you might enjoy. Some of them are well-made horror shorts, some of them tread the line between hoax and horror, where others are just oddities from the past which now look odd and fun. We’ll find out about Finlay’s reaction to some of these later in the month. Have you given this a go? What videos worked for you, what videos didn’t work? Let us know in the comments, or get in contact on twitter.
As a rule, I don’t like horror films – not because I scare especially easily but more due to the fact that I am both disgusted and bored by gore. However, I recently read about the relationship between director Alfred Hitchcock and star of The Birds and Marnie, Tippi Hedren, a model and actress discovered by Hitchcock in the early 1950s. Hitchcock’s reported unreciprocated obsession with Hedren effectively ruined her career: her contract with him preventing her from working for anyone else. Perhaps most shockingly of all, however, during five days of filming of the penultimate scenes of The Birds, Hedren was in fact pelted with live birds.
This real life romantic obsession/revenge dynamic was fascinating to me. So, while I may claim not to appreciate the genre, I decided there was analysis to be had in The Birds: also known as My First Hitchcock. Of course, the film has been reviewed numerous times over the years, and there is simply one aspect I want to focus on: the female characters, specifically Melanie. I expected little from the female characters in this film: firstly because it was produced by a man in the early 1960s, but more specifically due to Hitchcock’s feelings regarding Hedren. I was thus pleasantly surprised to discover that, for the majority of the film, Melanie is in her own right a fantastic character. She is confident and strong, warmly charming those around her in order to
achieve her goals. Her relationship with Annie (Suzanne Plechette) is something that I feel modern day film makers could learn a lot from.
(Suzanne Plechette and Tippi Hedren in ‘The Birds’)
Although there is brief animosity between the two invoked by their respective relationships with the male lead, Mitch (Rod Taylor), Melanie and Annie do not treat each other like bitter love rivals, instead respecting each other enough that they even become friends. Perhaps more realistic than the hair pulling cat fights seen frequently in more recent productions. Melanie is also taken seriously throughout the film. For example, when alerting locals in a café to the dangers posed by the gathering birds, she is not dismissed as simply an irrational woman – because she is not. My positive feelings about the film and its female characterisation lasted until the penultimate, bird-chucking scenes. While Mitch and his family sleep in the living room of their house that has been boarded up in order to prevent death-by-beak, Melanie decides it would be a great time to carry out a little exploration upstairs. Naturally, this is when all feathery hell breaks loose. As she slowly climbed the stairs, I felt myself screaming at the screen. Why would a character who has otherwise been so rational and intelligent decide to make this move? Curiosity? Hysteria? Rebellion? It’s fair to say that Melanie’s reputation of rebelliousness precedes her at the beginning of the film, but she adamantly defends herself throughout, both vocally to Mitch, but also in her behaviour. My fear is that she is sent upstairs in order to make Mitch the hero, the stereotypical image of masculinity, carrying Melanie’s limp, injured body back down the stairs and leading the family to safety. I wouldn’t have such a problem with this if that had been the apparent dynamic throughout the movie – but I truly expected more. I did enjoy The Birds. The suspense was fantastic and I appreciated that it resulted from something other than the threat of an axe murderer. I will definitely continue to explore Hitchcock’s work, but my expectations of characterisation have been pared right back once again. It’s a shame, that.
It's twenty days to go, and if I'm honest – it's time to get genuinely excited by the prospect of Christmas. Remembering traditions are all important at this time of the year, and it is worth preparing yourself now before Christmas gets on top of you. There is no other way to prepare then to let yourself become a child again and watch, what is for British audiences, a classic animation for this time of year.
The adaptation of Raymond Biggs wonderful story of The Snowman has been experienced by any number of school children and adults in the 30 years since it was first released. The shrill voice of Aled Jones – who know has reprieved a place in the heart of the UK once again as a radio DJ – is a wonderful addition to some beautiful animation that is now iconic with a classic family Christmas (although there is a thing about it not being his voice or something. Google it, I'm not getting into it now). And lo and behold, it's on YouTube in it's entirety. Few!
As it's only short, to make things extra special I thought I'd include a few other festive favourites from around the world.
qe2hGUN3wGzVqPjZQ0HIc7eQ&sig2=aoVri7KN2gCPtWdyk5T1Zg”>How the Grinch Stole Christmas (from 1966 would you believe!) – the original animation and not the remake – is a film I've never personally experienced except through other culture and cinema, but is one that is universally
adored by vast swathes of American society, and another adaptation of Dr Seuss that is beloved. Far less recognised, but no doubt inspiration for the superb festive episode of Community, a number of claymation online casino animations including Jack Frost (1979) make the perfect accompaniment for any Snowman animation binge.
But for those of you not in the mood for some shitty kids animation – and who would blame you, there is bloody 20 days til christmas! Can't it fuck off already? Check out this little
beauty for today's alternative film…
Dick Maas, 85 Mins
This dark Dutch film is a horror that will begin to feature more prominently in people's Christmas film canon. In it, the myth of Santa Claus takes on its implicit, dark story that makes many fear the very thing they are supposed to love – as religion returns to sour the fun of Christmas through the murderous bishop of St. Nicholas. Furthermore, it's set on December 5th, and so tonight is no better day to watch
This marks the first of several horror films that make it into the advent calendar – you'd better watch out for the rest…
Angus Niven doesn”t scare easy, this is a lie. I scare easier than something that scares easy. Even so I struggle to get myself scared at the current “horror” section of my local Blockbuster. Scary films are on the most part lame-zo snorefests. Saw I-IIV are testament to the guff churned out, much like American Pie 3 through 26, Saw shows cinematic formula”s are exploitable. Lots o gore, a couple of pale English school girls and perhaps an unsuspecting cheerleader with unsupported boobies. Look at that I just wrote a horror film.
Renowned pedophile Roman Polanski riled against this formula with Rosemary”s Baby (1968). This was over 4 decades ago, Polanski”s psychotic Mia Farrow terrified but did so intelligently. We have seen many examples of smart thrilling horror since then but also a suffocating barrage of sewage.
I scare easy but what is scary about watching a couple in an empty house? Doors open and close and you rightly shit yourself, but thats when you are home alone not when you are watching a couple of muppets with an scarily incompetent cameraman. The focus on bums leaving seats has lead to me jumping out of mine to change the channel (I don”t have a remote in this scenario). Despite moments of genius, horror is a genre in free fall. Not unlike Keanu Reaves we are expected to accept Horror on the back of a few good films despite an overwhelming majority of nonsense. Why is that? Why aren”t more filmmakers trying harder? Why was there three Matrix and only one Point Break?
I can”t help but wonder what if horror wasn”t deemed a genre? What if filmmakers were forced to draw more out of 90 minutes than a few scares? Horror films, or at least the good ones, provide good scares but a little more.
Take zombies, a horror staple since Mr Romero showed the world how it was done. Of course they are scary, but they are only scary when used properly. As shown in the sensational 28 Days Later (2002) where Zombies are used for some truly thrilling action sequences and more importantly engaging character development. Using the horror and scares to build characters and tell a story of humanity is something we could use more of. If the scares aren”t the focus would this make a difference? I think 28 Days Later proves that taking the focus of seat jumping leads to much more worthwhile cinema. Sadly it is apparent that few filmmakers took this lesson on board
Personally the scariest film I have ever seen is Fatal Attraction (1987). It may not have kept me up at night like It (1966) but good grief Charlie Brown is it scary. Fatal attraction is a slow psychological thriller, from mundane beginnings director Adrian Lyne presents a very realistic and terrifying descent into complete insanity. Glen Close is phenomenal, her monstrously believable depiction of a regular person”s descent is terrifying. It is the lack of mysticism and magic and the embrace of simple horrifying humanity that makes Fatal Attraction so scary for me. Even the hint of the unexplained in Rosemary”s Baby can remove you, Fatal Attraction is nothing but humanity and there is nowhere to turn for comfort.
Yet you probably won”t find Fatal Attraction under horror, why not? It”s a good deal scarier than Saw or Paranormal Activity. It is an engaging and terrifying film, the fact that it wouldn”t be described as “Horror” says more about the state of the genre than enthusiasts are willing to admit.
So this Halloween when you are deciding on what scary film you should watch let your mind wander. Don”t neccesarily accept what the suits in Hollyweird classify as Horror, find something that engages you as much as it terrifies. Find a film that scares you the more you think about it. More importantly remember to stay prepared for some personal character growth, you never know there might be a zombie apocalypse tomorrow.