Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Real Horror

During Halloween, many people celebrate by dressing up as their favorite characters or monsters while some watch horror movies. 
It wouldn't be wrong to assume that in many ways Halloween commemorates the horror genre and fandom. 
So just imagine, there is a festival that celebrates horror.
I think the one thing that draws people to horror stories in movies and books is that just for that one moment, we are pulled into a world where the supernatural exists and where our deepest fears are given birth. But we find solace in the fact that once the movie is over and the credits roll in or when you read the last page of a horror tale, the nightmare you were brought into, willingly, is over. And whether or not the story ends on a happy note, we are given the opportunity to walk away.
For us readers and viewers, the horror is over.

However in real life, horror has many facets and all of them effect us in some way or the other. In real life, we cannot walk away or turn away from news items that we feel do not affect us.

The real horror is the bias people harbor in their hearts. It can be as much as a tad of jealousy at a person who has what you wants, or as terrible as someone transforming their bias into hatred for people.

We cannot look away from the fact that gender bias still exists in this world. Girls and women are subjected to prejudice and labelled as the weakest sex or the apex of all problems.

We can't turn away from the fact that people are still bullied for physical appearances- be it in school or the work place. A single flaw is seen as an opportunity by a bully to vent his frustrations on. 

Living in this age, what is more troubling is the prejudice against race. We try to tell ourselves that a person of another race and cast doesn't matter to us, but unfortunately some people cannot turn a blind eye to skin color.
These are the people who with heightened feeling of hatred, are ready to hurt people in the worst possible way. 

This is the real horror- the fact that we cannot escape the hatred some people have for others based on such superficiality. 
Rather than judging a person by his behavior and attitude, importance is given to things that shouldn't even matter. A person with different ideals from yours doesn't make them a target for your hatred. 

People can have different opinions and instead of respecting a differed outlook, why do we condemn them?

Being different and feeling different shouldn't be a crime in this world. 
As evolved beings, we should be more accepting of change and different things that could help enlighten us. 

Only then can we eliminate the horror that is haunting our world. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sinister--my take on the movie (with spoilers)

Research is an integral part of writing. As writers, it is our job to go in depth of the subject we are writing about; be it fiction or non-fiction.

But should there me a limit to how much we are ready to pursue the knowledge of our subject? 

Mark Twain said that first we must get our facts right and then distort them as much as we please. The question is: how much should we delve before we have gained satisfactory knowledge to work on a story.

Sinister, shows us just how risky doing research for a book can be.

Ellison Oswalt (played by Ethan Hawke) is looking for a new story that would sky rocket him back to success. As a writer of real crime stories, doing research for him means getting inside the story by living in the place where the crimes took place.

His passion is what puts his family at risk as unknown to his family, Ellison has moved into the house where a family was hung from a tree that still stands. There is however a mystery attached to it: the youngest member of the family- a girl- disappeared on the night of the murders.

Ellison is warned by the police to stay away from the story he thinks will propel his book as the next bestseller, but his arrogance makes him ignore to heed all warnings. 

Then when Ellison finds a box of snuff films in the attic, he feels he's on the right track and watches all the tapes. It is then the true horror is unleashed and the mystery of the missing girl is solved.

Sinister was scary and I loved how the character with the least screen time turned out to be the one who was going to surprise everyone. 

Is the movie disturbing? Yes, very! 

It's simply uncomfortable to watch so much violence be unleashed on screen and though the movie shies away from unnecessary bloodshed, the use of children as tools of crime was disturbing. 

Horror movies are known to use children and innocence as props to showcase horror. It is scary to think that something that is seemingly harmless could be so dangerous. Horror movies prey on our fears and being shocked to think that such innocence could be hiding something so violent, is an unnerving thought.

So yes, Sinister does follow the same path that shocks us and perhaps that is forgivable in this movie only because it manages to give you the creeps without being too gory.

A definite scary watch for Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Alone-- My take on the movie (with spoilers)

Loneliness can be scary to some people because being alone means having to face all your problems all alone. Life is tough and it helps to have someone backing you up and most importantly being there when you need someone the most.
Being physically may not always be possible; the person that cares for you may have other commitments and sometimes you have to be the one to stand back and tell them that you are doing fine
 After all, not everyone can be there for you all the time.
Or can they?
Imagine having a conjoined twin. Yes, there could be medical complications, but physically, someone will always be there for you- your sister or brother, your best friend.
Spending all these years together, eating and sleeping together, going everywhere with your twin- the bond would no doubt be strong. The only problem you would imagine conjoined twins face is when they get into relationships. 
The movie ‘Stuck on you' gave a comical twist to the idea of conjoined twin brothers trying to develop relationships with girls. Both brothers find girls that are compatible with their different nature. 
But imagine what would have happened had the worst brothers fallen in love with the same girl? 
In ‘Alone' two conjoined twin sisters are faced with this dilemma when Kabir falls in love with only one of the twins. Sanjana too loves Kabir but jealousy brews between the sisters as Anjana too loves him. When Kabir asks to meet Sanjana and Anjana refuses to budge, her sister decides that she doesn’t want to be conjoined anymore. During the operation, Anjana dies and Sanjana is left with the guilt of taking a hasty decision, though she does marry Kabir. 
It is when a ghost starts haunting Sanjana that dark secrets are revealed. 
This movie was based on a Thai horror movie of the same name which in turn was inspired by an Agatha Christie book. There’s a Tamil movie with the same story as well though it apparently ends on a happier note than the others.
In terms of horror, Alone is actually a pretty decent movie and does manage to scare at intervals. Just because it is a remake of another horror movie, I suppose that is what has prejudiced the audience causing the movie to suffer box-office-wise. 
It doesn’t matter if the movie is a remake! Besides the original movie was in Thai and does everyone understand the language? It’s a creepy movie that was made in a language to be enjoyed by an audience who speaks it.
Definitely worth a watch! 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pay the Ghost-- My take on the movie (with spoilers)

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. If you've rejected her love, she'll hold onto a grudge forever, and if you hurt the ones she loves, she will curse you and your future generations. 

Pay the Ghost is yet another tale comprising of a curse uttered eons ago that haunts the present. In the 1600s, a mob breaks into a woman’s house who is a Celtic worshipper and capture her. She futilely tries to hide and save her children, but they are found out and captured as well. The cruelty of the townsfolk knows no bounds and the poor woman is made to watch her children burn to death right before her eyes. 
When it is her turn, she promises to avenge the death of her children and before she burns, she curses the town and promises to abduct three children on the same day every year so that the people too would know what it would feel like to lose their children. 

Cut to the present and a child is shown being haunted by dark visions. He sees dark figures outside his bedroom window and vultures swooping down from rooftops. As always in every horror movie, his visions are taken lightly by the adults who blame it on childish imagination. 

However, come Halloween night- also the day the woman had been burned alive all those years ago- the child mysteriously disappears and the parents are left broken-hearted. 

If only they had believed the child…..

It seems many movies and TV shows follow the same trite pattern. One of the characters tries to tell the truth, but no one believes them and in the end, when the truth comes out, that character isn't even honoured with an apology! 
Just once I would like to hear the other characters apologising profusely for not believing their friend of family in the first place, just once! 

Anyway, back to the story. The parents are shown estranged after a year passes. Three days before Halloween, both parents are haunted by who they believe to to be their son. They come together once again and learn about the curse. They have a tiny window during which they can save their son, but they have to find the place where their son is kept soon or he would be lost forever. 

What do the children mean when the utter ‘pay the ghost’ before disappearing? Basically they have to feed dolls to the fire as some sort of sacrifice- The dolls’ life for their own. 

In a not so thrilling climax, the father saves the son who apparently has no memory of where he had been for over a year. Of course he would find out when he celebrated his next birthday and finds out he's not only a year older, but two years older!! 

The movie ends with a cliffhanger scene wherein the father’s work associate is seen possessed by the crone. 

In terms of horror, this movie didn't have too many scary scenes and the story was just cliched. The climax was nonsensical and too quickly played out. There was ample room of drama and thrills that could have been added. Instead, the father is pushed off the bridge that connects the two worlds and his son calls upon the other ghosts to save them. 

Here's the thing: if the children’s’ ghosts were indeed that strong, then why didn't they band together against the crone in the first place? All the children could have escaped alive, alas the rule of the place they were in gave them only a year to try and escape. Another thing that didn't make sense. 
The crone’s children were burnt alive and they died instantly. She was indeed gracious allowing the abducted children to live for almost a year before they turned into ghosts. Why have that window and not give parents a clear clue as to what they must do and how they had to pay the ghost? 

Regardless, the movie was an ‘okay’ watch for me. Just a way to pass a lazy afternoon. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Tall Man (my take on the movie with spoilers)

How do you define a good person? They do kind things, help the needy, keep secrets and never betray those who are close to them.
How do you define a bad person? They betray you in the worst possible way. They physically and emotionally hurt people and show little regard for the people around them or their dire circumstances.

In movies and books, villains and heroes are carefully and easily identified by the audience. In a visual medium, their introduction is accompanied by an appropriate background score- something peppy for the hero and something ominous for the villain. 
The villain bears dark outfits and ugly smirks and overdramatized by giving them an unusual costume and appearance- bald heads, mustaches, dark hair with curls…
Our hero on the other hand is usually a simpleton and wears bright clothes. So okay, we’ve established that good means colorful clothes and smiles while evil means brooding and chilling grins and dark attires.
In books, the contents villain is easily identified by their sharp dialogues or a secondary character usually pointing it out to the hero.
In any case, the creator of movies and books clearly lay out for the audience on who we are to root for and who to hoot.
But what happens when we are presented with circumstances in a movie where the hero performs villainous deeds and the supposed villain isn’t actually that evil? As a viewer, I was in quite a dilemma when I watched the Tall man.
The Tall Man is not an all-out horror movie. There is actually quite a bit of drama in it and the plot has a touch of ambiguity in it. It is up to us decide who is right and who is wrong.
After the mine closes in a small remote town called Cold Rock, the citizens are in despair and if their livelihood hasn’t already taken such a beating, they live in fear of an unseen entity called the Tall Man who apparently abducts  children. 
My first thought was that the movie was drawing inspiration from the legend of Slenderman- the faceless entity who plays with peoples' minds and traumatizes and stalks them. As the movie progressed, it seemed something even more sinister was afoot.
The twist in the middle, took me by surprise. Here we were presented with a sweet and kind nurse- Julia who stayed in town after it went bankrupt, and took care of the people. She can’t stand it when people tease the needy and even offers her own food to those who need it. Her kind deeds and her ability to keep secrets of families is what makes her trustworthy and everyone loves her.
She is also brave and when her son is kidnapped, she follows and tries to fight off the assailant. Unfortunately, she is no match against the cloaked figure and soon she is incapacitated. 
It is when she wakes up that the truth unfolds and I must admit- I did not see it coming! 
Spoiler alert! Julia is not as innocent as she appears. In fact the small boy she calls her son is not her son and in fact her hostage. Not in the terrifying sense- at least not according to Julia who argues that she had been a good provider and a wonderful mother.
Her argument is that as soon as the town fell into despair, the children were deprived of a good education and toys and basically a childhood. She was helping them by giving them a life they deserved, by er…kidnapping them.
In her twisted mind, she was doing a huge favor to the families by abducting children and giving them to other families who could take care of the children.
Just before you could process this, we are presented with more chilling information- Julia had killed the children and buried those she couldn’t take care of. 
As one of the children- Jenny narrates- was Julia really wrong? While some children made it to good families and lived happy lives and got everything they deserved, many didn’t get to live. In the end too, Jenny asks the audience if by voluntarily getting herself abducted by the Tall man who turns out to be Julia's husband, alive all this time- was a good choice. She did after all, abandon her family and kept David’s existence a secret (the child Julia had claimed to be her son and given away for adoption). 
It is quite a moral dilemma but crime is crime. Julia did take the children against their will. Perhaps their families would have found a way to take care of their kids and the townsfolk definitely didn’t need to live in terror of a legend Julia had created. They had enough problems already.
It was the kind of movie that questions everything you believe in and I enjoyed the twist that took the story to a whole new level. 

The Midnight Game- My take on the movie (with spoilers)

How far would you go to seek a sense of thrill? Would you be ready to summon a dark evil and play hide and seek with it?
Would you put your life at risk just so you can have a few moments of excitement and anticipation of whether or not you'll die?
The Midnight game is then just what you need.
It seems that bored high school teenagers have nothing better to do than to play dark games based on pagan rituals and summon demons.
Want to hangout at the mall? Boring. Want to go bowling. Ugh, no!
Want to summon ghosts and evil demons... Perhaps even the devil? Hell, yes! (Pun intended)
So after playing on ouija boards and chanting the name of bloody Mary, here's another game to play with evil forces- The Midnight game.
Apparently, in this game you have to write your name on a piece of paper, sacrifice a drop of your own blood, knock on the door 22 times, with the last knock being exactly at midnight, and then wait for the midnight man to catch you. All you have to do is wait for the midnight man to leave you by 3:33 am after you've invited him.
Looking at this in another way, it's kind of rude inviting someone to your home, then turning off the lights and ignoring the "guest" until it leaves on its own because of deep neglect and rudeness inflicted on him. Rude!
Anyway, five teenagers play this game and wait for the midnight man to attack them with their worst fears. The candles go off, the friends take more than ten seconds to relight them and barely form a circle of salt in time.
Creaks are heard and a chandelier sways. Creepy!
The movie doesn't mention one of the rules of the game- which is, that the players are not supposed to fall asleep while playing.
Apparently these teenagers don't know this and fall asleep while everything is going creaky in the house. I'm assuming here that it was because they broke an important rule is why the midnight man attaches itself to them.
It is here that I have to mention how terrible the acting is. And apparently the writer gets confused and interchanges the fears of two of the characters. For example, Jenna was afraid of going insane and Rose was afraid of ghosts. Yet, when trg time comes, Jenna was seeing ghosts and freaking out while Rose appeared to have lost it as she kept staring out the window and talking in a deadpan voice.
But the worst has got to be the ending part that turns the movie into a convoluted mess. Everyone likes a good twist and horror and thriller movies are expected to have them. I try to write unexpected twists in all my stories but I make sure they fall into place and not added at the last minute and seem disjointed to the story.
The midnight game unfortunately suffers from the delusion that it can carry off a terrific and clever twist.
The teenagers all die and are apparently caught in a loop where they relive their deaths.
The problem however was this, when the friends play the game again (minus one friend), they all supposedly die but wake up at 3:33 am, alive and happy. Two years later, a realtor shows the house to a potential buyer who speaks of "the incident" and refuses to stay in the curses house any longer. Seconds after he leaves, the friends are shown arriving at the house and the camera pans out to show one of them lying dead in a ditch.
Here's where the loop is disturbed. The teenagers woke up at 3:33, what happened afterwards? Did their ghosts wake up?
If the teenagers were going on in a loop, did they pause their ghostly lives whenever a buyer came in to see the house? Because why did they not see the realtor or sense someone moving about in the house?
And if the cycle was restarting, why is one of them still dead?
I'm going to deduce that the guy was already dead, possessed by the midnight man after seeing the video and urges his friends to "join" him by playing the game.
Yes, I think that would make some sense.
So, was the movie enjoyable- no.
Was it scary- nope.
Was it confusing? Yeah, it doesn't do a good job of explaining the story.
All in all, not the best movie to watch if you like horror.