When was the last time you were afraid? I mean, leave the lights on, jump at every noise, check under the bed afraid? Because that, to me, is the one really accurate litmus test of a horror movie. When something in a movie causes an instinctual drawing up of the proverbial bed covers over the head as you revert to your childhood self. Gore makes you gag, or turn away, sometimes for the deeply depraved it makes them crave more, for reasons I won't speculate on. But, the triggering of a primal fear response so deep rooted that it raises all the protective instincts a human can possess, now that's good stuff. Not every movie can do that nor can every movie that's good do that to every person.
I offer these three films up as proof because they each powerfully and expertly utilized the setting of the film as a pivotal character for creating a lasting malevolent atmosphere. A bucolic nature trail. An crumbling, abandoned asylum. The dark and lonely New Jersey Pine Barrens. Each one not necessarily unique, but used so well that they transcended the ordinary and became something.....else. Something unsettling. Something terrifying.
The credits will roll, but the images and the fear the movie has raised in you won't leave your mind.
Isn't that the way it should be?
1.The Last Broadcast
This movie came out one year before The Blair Witch so technically, it was the first real found footage genre film. I had never heard of it till I was roaming the internet websites for good horror flicks and found a list of cult favorites. This was on it. I was instantly drawn to it because it was placed in my home state, New Jersey, and had the added perk of being placed in the Pine Barrens. A vast acreage of strange and unusual woodlands that I had visited more than once in my childhood, and of course the residence of our own urban legend, the Jersey Devil. I've seen both films, The Blair Witch when it came out, and The Last Broadcast just two years ago. Both worked really well to give a good scare, from the setting to the story background, but in retrospect, only certain elements of the The Blair Witch really worked, and alot of it grew increasingly distracting(I shall snot elaborate on that one).
The Last Broadcast in contrast has what is now a common theme (documentary on famous unsolved murder), but what was then, a relatively inventive plot. The pace is exceedingly well done and the raw footage style handled with less jiggle and nausea inducing flair than The Blair Witch. The acting is also handled by a set of solid performances which help ratchet up the tension nicely as the plot unfolds.
What makes this movie surpass so many others? The incredibly creepy ending twist. If you haven't seen it, do not Google or attempt to find out anything beyond the basic plot, which you can find here. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0122143/)
I have seen a multitude of horror/supernatural movies over the last several decades and very, very few have been able to pull off a twist like this.
2. Yellowbrick Road
This movie definitely flew under a lot of horror movie fan radars and I can't understand why, because it's a gem. I stumbled on this one during a Netflix grazing session and decided to give it a try. If you want a movie that cleverly creates a eerie display of nature's darker side along along with one of the most gruesome and gory scenes done, then you have to check this movie out. I'm not kidding when I say you will never look at binoculars same way again. This isn't about the shock and gore strewn splatter that movies like Saw or Hostel have done to the point of yawn-phoria. This is about something so disturbing that the image will haunt your dreams, literally, for months to come. This isn't a film about what lurks in shadows or scurries away with the coming of daylight, it's about what hides in plain sight and what creeps around inside us waiting for the right moment to emerge. The only down side to this film is the ending. It's not nearly up to the level of quality the rest of the film carries off. I can only think that they just had a issue with resolving some of the plot lines. It's still absolutely worth watching. Dorothy, I don't think we are in Kansas anymore..we're in the cave behind you.
3. Session 9
This is actually a well known cult favorite and has a ton of fans. I include it for the generation of fans being raised on the gore porn that has flooded the market in the last few years. Because as wave after wave of new movies flood the market, some are great at paying homage to the classic style(Insidious), while others just ramp up the gore and nudity to compensate for no plot and bad acting. Session 9 has a moody, and macabre atmosphere with the a chilling voice over to end the film that is just sticks in your head like a commercial jingle by Satan.(Narwal, Narwal, singing in the ocean, causing a commotion...)
Here's what I think, in the world of horror movies, there are some that raise the hackles on the back of your neck and there are some that just raise the bile in your throat. We all have a little darkness in is, these movies just might help you connect with yours...