OCCULT. (2009) A JAPANESE HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


OCCULT. (2009) DIRECTED BY KOJI SHIRAISHI. SCREENPLAY, CINEMATOGRAPHY AND EDITING BY KOJI SHIRAISHI. INSPIRED BY THE WORKS OF H.P. LOVECRAFT.
STARRING MIKE AZUMA, HORIKEN, KOEN KONDO AND KIYOSHI KUROSAWA.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an excellent ‘found footage’ Japanese horror film that actually delivers on its promises. I loved it, anyway. It starts with a stabbing on a beautiful scenic bridge in Japan overlooking the ocean. The stabber, one Ken Matsuki, kills two women and injures a man called Eno, then he drops off a cliff into the sea, and no-one ever lays eyes on him again.

Three years later, a documentary crew decide to investigate the stabbings. They discover that the souls of the two murdered women are not at peace and that the women keep appearing to their loved ones, apparently trying to tell them something. Warn them about something, maybe?

The man who was injured, however, is still very much alive and delighted to be in the film. Eno thrills the crew with tales of the supernatural incidents- he calls them ‘miracles’- that have been occurring around or near him since the stabbing. He also confides in them that he has premonitions now and has been hearing voices in his head since the stabbing. The excited film crew agree to pay him for any of the ‘miracles’ that they can capture on camera.

They let Eno sleep in their office because he’s down on his luck and a bit short of a few bob. They pay him well for film footage of the weird stuff that happens when he’s around, and this provides Eno with some much-needed brass with which to buy, well, Korean barbecue and booze for himself and his newfound film-making buddies, although he turns into a bit of a jerk when he’s pissed, lol. Fancy telling a woman the reasons why she can’t get a boyfriend! You’re taking your life into your own hands there, Eno matey…

Anyway, remember the stabbing, right? Eno shows the film crew the pattern of elaborate symbols that the stabber engraved into his person during the attack. What do the symbols mean, the film crew guys wonder? Also, it turns out that Matsuki said something significant to Eno when he carved him up that Eno specifically remembers.

It’s your turn now, he said. To be stabbed? Maybe, but Eno interprets the cryptic words differently. He sees them more as a passing of a baton to him from Matsuki, but a baton in what sense? What exactly is Matsuki passing on to Eno, and what is Eno meant to do with it?

Eno, a very strange young man indeed, thinks he’s been touched by God, much to the unease of the documentary crew. No offence intended to anyone here, but frequently people who say they’ve been given a mission by God end up hurting other people and then we call them terrorists…

In vino veritas, they say. The film’s director and his producer get Eno good and drunk so he’ll tell them precisely what he thinks his God-given mission is. They’re also keen to know why Eno, an obvious loser who normally kips in one of those all-night Internet and manga cafes because he’s so skint, secretly has, literally, bazillions of yen in his possession. Where did he get it and, more importantly, what the hell is he planning to do with it…?

The best bit in the whole film is the bit they film on the haunted mountain, Kuturo Rock, once dedicated to a Japanese god who took the form of a leech. Eeuw, leeches! The crew is given this information by none other than the real-life movie genius, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who makes a special guest appearance in the film as himself. As he’s credited with directing such superb films as CURE, PULSE, EYES OF THE SPIDER and SERPENT’S PATH, I’m guessing that Koji Shiraishi had a little director-to-director crush on him, lol.

Anyway, up the scary mountain we go, and it really is PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK-level scary. The creepily discordant score will freak you out even if the spooky rocks themselves don’t. Koji Shiraishi and his assistant find some rocks up there with the by-now familiar symbols carved into them… the same artwork carved onto the body of Eno by the ‘missing, presumed dead’ Matsuki. That’s not meant to sound misleadingly mysterious, by the way. Matsuki’s dead all right, lol.

The other equally weird thing is that, a few years previously, at the precise time Matsuki was busy stabbing people on the bridge overlooking the ocean, Shiraishi was up on Kuturo Rock, aka Nine-Headed Spine Rock, and nine leeches were biting his leg in an orderly fashion… There are just too many strange coincidences in this case. Shiraishi and his crew are badly shaken.

If I were them, I’d have gone straight to the cops with my information, scrappy as it was. Shiraishi & Co. decide to skip the going-to-the-cops bit and instead say they’ll stick with Eno to the end, so that they can film whatever special event it is he’s planning in his sick mind that he claims God wants him to carry out. Okay, but whatever happens to Eno will taint them too, if not kill them. On their own heads be it, and so on and so forth. Great film, great build-up, great ending. End of story…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

BLAIR WITCH. (2016) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

blair-witch-still

BLAIR WITCH. (2016) DIRECTED BY ADAM WINGARD. WRITTEN BY SIMON BARRETT. STARRING JAMES ALLEN MCCUNE, BRANDON SCOTT, CORBIN REID, CALLIE HERNANDEZ, WES ROBINSON AND VALORIE CURRY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This film follows on from the hugely successful THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT that hit our screens in 1999 and more or less founded the whole ‘found footage’ genre of films. So, next time you slide a horror film into the old DVD machine, only to be confronted by a bunch of four to six annoyingly good-looking college students wearing night vision goggles and running around like mad things filming nothing we can visibly see, well then, you know who’s to blame, lol.

I must admit I get tired of the genre myself sometimes, especially when a film seems to be mostly shot in the greeny night vision that gives everyone alien eyes. I always defend THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, though, whenever people slag it off. I don’t care what its detractors say, it scared the living shite out of me, anyway.

This film here sees Heather Donahue’s brother James going back into the woods with a bunch of his friends, the woods where Heather disappeared twenty years ago, to see if he can find out what happened to his poor missing-presumed-dead sister.

Oh, and of course they’ll be documenting their journey every step of the way with their modern cameras and memory cards and memory sticks, and some eejit’s even come up with the bright idea of letting them bring a drone along as well to take pictures from up over their heads. I would fire that guy if it were up to me, and no, there’s no ‘lol’ this time. I’m deadly serious.

Anyway, d’ye remember Heather? She was the only girl on the original expedition and she was also the one in the much-parodied night vision scene where she was sniffling and snotting and apologising profusely to everyones’ Moms for having gotten everyone on the expedition- herself and two lads- into such a pickle.

I should think so and all, humph. I blame her entirely for what happened to everyone. No real reason but ya gotta blame someone and she’s the only one whose name I remember. Now we can ‘lol,’ lol…!

So, Heather’s brother James brings his three mates Peter, Ashley and Lisa into the super-spooky Black Hills Forest in Maryland for a scout round to see, as we said earlier, if he can find out what happened to Heather twenty years earlier. Can he and his mates succeed where the police failed? Well, I’m sure they’re welcome to try but there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

Let’s quickly get the dross out of the way so we can move onto the good stuff and, yes, there is some good stuff. I didn’t like Talia and Lane, especially Lane, who was very off-putting.

These are the two locals who tag along uninvited with James and his mates because they claim to know the area and they have stories about the real so-called Blair Witch, the Elly Kedwards (Kelly Edwards, anyone?) who died in the area at the hands of the gruesome locals back in the day.

The first morning in camp, they wake up surrounded by the freaky folk-art corn-dolly symbols from the original film. Then there’s the usual mad rushing around, with the students trying to leave the woods only to find that the woods won’t let them leave. Time starts to lose all meaning for the campers once the sun literally stops rising and they’re trapped in a permanent state of night. That bit’s good and scary.

Ashley’s foot injury looks like it’s going to be extremely sinister but then it just ‘peters’ out, if you’ll excuse the pun. Her fate and Peter’s are not scary at all. Much more could have been made of these two situations but they were left to go to waste, sadly.

The film doesn’t really start to kick ass until the house, the house that featured in Heather’s found footage and that the police failed utterly to locate themselves, suddenly hoves into view in the middle of the darkest, rainiest, most frightening night of the campers’ lives…

I might actually leave it there because nearly everything that happens from now on is super-scary and it shouldn’t be spoiled for new viewers. I’ll always give a BLAIR WITCH film, be it a follow-up, a sequel or a re-make, at least one chance because the original premise is so strong. BLAIR WITCH definitely deserves at least one viewing. Y’all can make up your own minds as to whether it’s worthy of a re-watch…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE WOODS. (2013) A CREEPY ‘FOUND FOOTAGE’ SASQUATCH MOVIE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

woods sasquatch rebecca

THE WOODS. (2013) DIRECTED BY MARK BACCI. STARRING REBECCA DAVIS, MARK BACCI, GRAEM BEDDOES, JOHN FITZGERALD AND ALIYAH O’BRIEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I would always automatically want to watch a film called ‘THE WOODS,’ because some of my favourite horror films are either set in woods or feature woods heavily in them, like, obviously, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. This film was probably the Mammy and the Daddy of the genre known as ‘found footage,’ even though I’m not sure if it was the very first such film.

Remember when Principal Seymour Skinner from THE SIMPSONS set the kids of Springfield Elementary a film project but he qualified it by saying he didn’t want ‘thirty BLAIR WITCH knock-offs,’ to which the disappointed kids all chorused ‘aaaaaaaaaw…!’

That shows us how often THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT has been copied, aped, imitated, mirrored, emulated, plagiarised and so on, lol. Lisa Simpson herself copies it at one point in another episode of THE SIMPSONS, the one with the chicken bones in the attic when it turns out that Marge’s former high school beau Artie Ziff has been squatting in the Simpsons’ house for some reason.

Lisa does her own version of the famous close-up scene from THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, in which the lead girl in the woolly hat, the Last Girl Standing, incidentally, does her big crying scene to camera.

She’s apologising like mad to everyone and anyone she can think of for getting herself and her fellow campers into the mess they’re in, she’s basically apologising to posterity for her mistakes and she’s got snot and tears racing each other down her face, which is lit from below with a torch, night-vision style. It’s a terrific scene, much parodied.

THE WOODS, not to be confused with the Harlan Coben novel of the same name, is billed as ‘TROLL HUNTER MEETS THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.’ Now, I’ve never seen TROLL HUNTER but I’m a big fan of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and I thumb my nose jauntily at its critics.

They can go hang for all I’m bothered, lol. And to the people who say it’s not scary, well, I tell them that they must be completely lacking in imagination. Lacking in a soul, even. It scares the Christ outta me, anyway.

I can also tell you unequivocally that THE WOODS is pretty much exactly like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, but with the Sasquatch, or the Bigfoot, as the predator in question. I’ve never really found the Sasquatch terribly threatening as a movie monster but there were a few eerie moments in THE WOODS that made me think about the subject a bit more in-depth.

Like, there was this scene set at the edge of a lake or a stream or something, and suddenly I’m thinking, what if you were standing there at the lakeside all alone, in one of those dense forested areas in Canada or North America or somewhere like that? It’s silent all around you except for the faint rustle of the wind in the treetops or maybe the lonely call of a bird. It’s a completely isolated part of the woods.

You’re standing quietly looking out over the peaceful lake when suddenly you notice a huge shape, bigger than a man, standing across the lake from you amongst the trees, watching you just as quietly…

Your blood freezes over in that way it does and you take a step but then the shape, that hulking figure across the water that you can make out but you can’t tell exactly what it is, all you know is that it’s enormous, takes a step too…?

I think I’d wee myself with sheer terror, excuse my French. This film made me think of the Sasquatch, big enough and strong enough to tear a man to ribbons with his huge bare- but furry- hands, in a whole new creepier light.

Rebecca and Mark are an attractive couple in their thirties. For some reason known to themselves, they’ve decided to go into the titular woods to make a ‘hoax’ Sasquatch film/ documentary.

Why it has to be a hoax film is unclear to me, as they’ve already talked to loads of very convinving locals who’ve assured them that there is, in fact, a murderous Sasquatch up in them there hills. It’s responsible, seemingly, for the deaths of a married couple who went up into the woods with their baby, who was very kindly spared by the possibly maternal Sasquatch.

Anyway, Rebecca and Mark trek up into these fabulously spooky, dense tangly woods, woods that it would be very easy to get lost in, never mind the Bigfoot, to retrace the steps of this unfortunate couple who preceded them.

Very quickly, the couple encounter signs that the so-called ‘mythical’ Sasquatch isn’t a myth at all but a very real danger. A couple of mauled hunters and some blood-stained trees later (Bigfoots, or should that be Bigfeet, mark their territory by daubling tree stalks with blood) and the couple are tearing into each other with fright.

It’s sort of a knee-jerk reaction to take their fear out on each other. People do it all the time in real life. It’s also perfectly normal and natural to apportion blame for the predicament to each other, rightly or wrongly. 

People do that all the time in real life too! Often when we do it, it just means that we’re scared shitless and feel helpless to lift ourselves out of our particular dilemmas, whatever they are. Blaming the other person makes us feel marginally better for a bit.

If I were Mark and Rebecca though, I’d stay together, very close together indeed. Separating, voluntarily or otherwise, while in these accursed woods and being stalked by an unknown and unseen terror, is not a good idea. It might even be the last thing the terrified couple ever do…

The camera is careful to always keep Rebecca’s butt in her tight shorts in view, as well as her nice round boobies in her little vest top. Like two bobbing apples they are…! Director’s got the right idea anyway. Tits and ass are never out of place in a movie like this.

The only thing that’s not believable is the fact that the couple- one of them in particular- seem to survive several days and nights in the woods without food or drink or even shelter. How is that even possible?

And, even though they’ve long lost their tent by the end, why aren’t they at least carrying any backpacks with water and vittles in ’em? Without water and vittles to sustain you and give you energy, why, that Sasquatch, he gon’ have you for breakfast and wipe his butt with whatever’s left…

Other than this piddly beef, though, THE WOODS is a superior found footage film and probably the best one I’ve seen with a Sasquatch in it. Well, it’s the only one I’ve seen with a Sasquatch in it but hey, we won’t split hairs. Sasquatch hairs, lol. We’re amongst friends here.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE PARANORMAL INCIDENT (2011) and THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL (2013). A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

clophill

THE PARANORMAL INCIDENT and THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL- A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE PARANORMAL INCIDENT. (2011) DIRECTED AND CO-WRITTEN BY MATTHEW BOULTON. STARRING OLIVER RAYON, CHELSEA VINCENT, BRETT EDWARDS, DERRICK SCOTT, SABRINA VILLALOBOS, NADIA UNDERWOOD AND AMANDA BARTON.

THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL. (2013) DIRECTED BY KEVIN GATES AND MICHAEL BARTLETT. STARRING CRAIG STOVIN, CRISELDA CABITAC, KEVIN GATES, MICHAEL BARTLETT, MARK JEAVONS AND ROB WHITAKER.

‘Six students venture into an abandoned asylum to prove the existence of the paranormal…

Only this footage remains…’

I wasn’t crazy about THE PARANORMAL INCIDENT, although I was vastly looking forward to it because it’s set in one of my favourite settings for a horror film, an abandoned mental asylum. It’s an American found footage film, and the sole survivor of the trip to the deserted loony bin is being blamed for the murders and murder-disappearances of his five friends.

A po-faced lady detective or FBI Agent is going through the found footage with John, the handsome sole survivor. John went into Odenbrook Asylum for the weekend with five college friends, all of whom were there to either prove or disprove the existence of the supernatural for the purposes of a college paper they’re all doing. Wish I could go to Ghostbusters College too, lol.

I already firmly believe in the existence of the paranormal, however, and I’m of such an imaginative and easily-spooked nature that I’m surprised- and kind of a bit miffed!- that a million ghosts aren’t queuing up to show themselves to me every night of the week. Well, it’s their loss, haha. I’d have been so receptive and open-minded as well, but hey, them’s the breaks.

Anyway, the really annoying sextet of eager-beaver college students do indeed spend the weekend- without official permish from any authorities, I might add- in the infamous old Odenbrook Sanitarium, empty and out-of-business since a mass suicide there sixty years ago. Clearly it wasn’t a nice place to live, as indeed most such places weren’t.

Sounds great, doesn’t it, but in reality very little happens in the old insane asylum. A couple of doors slam shut or open of their own accord, a girl’s curly hair is ruffled slightly in the night (as observed through the irritating, ever-present bloody night-vision goggles), but that’s about it.

The ending, with those agents- are they FBI guys or what?- looks like it’s going to be really cool but, as the film-makers leave even this bit unexplained, I was still none the wiser. A disappointing film all round, I’m sorry to say, despite the exciting starting premise.

The bit about the room known as ‘the Dental Suite’ was fascinating though, I’ll give them that. Very ‘MARATHON MAN,’ if you get me. Not a room I’d ever wish to enter, put it like that. I have good choppers but a terrible fear of dentists…!

‘In God’s Church, the devil built his altar.’

THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL is based in and around an ancient old English country church that’s supposed to be haunted and has a history of actual supernatural happenings taking place there. St. Mary’s Church, the old ruined one as opposed to the later-built one that’s in use now, is the edifice in question.

What makes the film look like a real documentary are the interviews, interspersed throughout the film, with historians, local people and folklorists who all claim that Clophill is haunted to buggery, a site of black masses, black magic rituals and satanic orgies. Well, they didn’t mention any orgies, but you can imagine ’em, can’t you, lol.

A film crew, all playing themselves, a local paranormal investigation group and even a small security team (hiya, Gerry and Dana, y’awright?) set up shop in Clophill, outside the ruins of the old church, over the period of one summer solstice.

It sounds gorgeous, doesn’t it? It’s such a fabulous green, woody area as well, I absolutely love the rustic setting. An old English country churchyard, especially a ruined one, can’t be beaten for the old gothic atmosphere.

Not much happens in these real-life-action bits, just a load of typical night-vision shots of peoples’ eyes glinting like demons. I’m so bored of the greenish night-vision bits of horror films. They all have ’em. It’s like a bloody plague, so it is. 

There’s talk of a demonic face which I didn’t see too clearly myself, there’s an actual sinister figure in a monkish cowl standing still and silent in the back of one shot, and then there’s footage of A, a drumming circle and B, a load of figures dressed in monks’ robes tying a naked blonde girl with very dark pubes (collar and cuffs definitely DON’T match) to a tree and painting a red cross on her naked body.

Don’t get excited now, you randy lot, that bit’s over very quickly. The police are called and they can’t find any traces of the cult activity. Boo-hoo, lol. The film crew, at least the main two ghost-hunters, a married couple called Craig and Cris, go home to find their small daughter standing in the darkened kitchen with her long dark hair all over her face, in the best traditions of every boring horror movie DVD cover ever.

They really lost me at this bit. It demeaned everything they’d been trying to achieve thus far, everything they had achieved thus far. Girls like this, in long white nighties, their faces obscured with long dark hair, are ten-a-penny now. Since the early days of films like RING and THE GRUDGE, in fact. They’re on the covers of half the DVD boxes nowadays, the pictures often bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the contents of the film inside.

For crying out loud, there’s a girl exactly like that on the cover of THE PARANORMAL INCIDENT, carrying an axe, and there’s no such person in the actual film, and no axe murderers in it whatsoever either.

What makes it worse in the case of the CLOPHILL film is that Craig says that this unexplained appearance of his daughter in the kitchen in the dead of night with her hair all over her face is proof that ‘something evil has followed them home from Clophill.’ Meh.

The best parts of the film are the stunning shots of gravestones, tangled overgrown grass and thorny bushes and the ruins of the old church itself, faintly outlined against the darkening sky.

What a place this must be to visit! During the daytime, that is. Not for all the iPhones in Apple would I set foot near there once the sun had gone down. There’s something evil there. That’s one thing the film did convince me of…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS. 

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor