There are certain places in the world where the rules just don’t apply—where tragedies have occurred, and will occur again—where the dead refuse to stay buried—and where the living venture at their peril.
Such a place can be in the city, or in the country; on land, or at sea; in the middle of a crowd, or the middle of the woods. It might be a town—or a house—or a single room. It might look terrifying—or worse, it might look like home…
Welcome to The Bad Place…
|1000 Misspent Hours and Counting||Crimson Peak||First, an important but easily overlooked point: del Toro wasn’t just being a genre snob when he told interviewers that Crimson Peak was not a horror movie, but a gothic romance. To make sense of that claim, though, we have to discard the baggage of our modern definitions, and look back to what that phrase would have meant circa 1790.|
|1000 Misspent Hours and Counting||Dragonwyck||Ephraim is disinclined even to consider the idea of sending Miranda to Dragonwyck when he comes home from the fields, but a bibliomancy check made at the girl’s insistence turns up Genesis 21:14: “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.” Not one to argue with God, Ephraim grudgingly consents to the arrangement— assuming, of course, that Van Ryn doesn’t turn out to be a libertine or a sodomite or worse yet, a Catholic.|
|1000 Misspent Hours and Counting||The Maze||Located in the middle of nowhere, Craven Castle is accessible only via a long cab ride from a driver who would visibly rather go anywhere else. As advertised, it is without phone service, electricity, gas heat, and probably even plumbing. That’s not the weird part, though. The windows in all the guest rooms are walled up, the floors in most areas are covered with rubber mats instead of conventional rugs or carpeting, and the staircases are of extremely peculiar design, more a series of landings than stairs in the ordinary sense; climbing or descending them is both awkward and tiring. The grounds are dominated by a spooky old hedge maze, made even spookier by the perpetually locked doors at all the entrances. And speaking of locks, Kitty and Edith will soon discover that the Craven clan’s idea of hospitality includes locking any and all guests into their rooms overnight. Now that’s weird.|
|1000 Misspent Hours and Counting||Rebecca||Now that we have the ill-advised marriage, let’s go see the haunted castle. Outwardly, Manderley is quite gracious as such places go. Maxim’s staff keeps it as clean and orderly as any vacation resort, and housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson, from Inn of the Damned and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) runs as tight a ship as any martinet captain at sea. Nor is the tranquility of Manderley intruded upon by anything as gauche as a ghost or an attic baby. And yet Manderley is haunted just the same. It’s Rebecca, you see.|
|Braineater||Stalker (1980)||The Writer, disconcerted at being so far out of his element, offers up a constant stream of cynical chatter. The stolid Scientist, who seems much more concerned with his knapsack, tells him to put a sock in it; but the Writer just keeps on with his pretentious yattering. The Stalker privately hopes that these two apparently hopeless men are hopeless enough… that they have been sufficiently beaten by life that they have learned to bend before it, rather than be broken by the pressure. Only those people, the “truly wretched”, seem to be able to pass through the Zone… provided they know how to behave.|
|And You Call Yourself A Scientist!||The Amityville Haunting (2011)||The Amityville Haunting was sold by The Asylum as a documentary (as was Paranormal Entity). In pursuit of this aim, the film has no credits beyond an ambiguous end-card allowing that the footage had been pieced together by Geoff Meed and Cody Peck, in actuality the film’s director and editor, respectively. Since its release, the identities of most of the cast have leaked out; conspicuous by his or her or their absence, however, is anyone willing to take credit for the screenplay. But perhaps this is the one point where the truth was told. Having sat through this thing, I’m prepared to believe that the dialogue was largely ad-libbed: it has all the awkwardness and numbingly dull repetitiveness that comes with inexperienced actors left to their own devices. The upshot of this is that the viewer is left to cling desperately to the tacit promise of the film’s tagline:
The family did not survive. But the recordings did.
Evidently the producers were well aware that, spoilers notwithstanding, only the promise of the bloody slaughter of the entire cast would be sufficient to induce anyone to sit through this mess to the end.
|And You Call Yourself A Scientist!||Sinister (2012)||We know quite a bit about Ellison Oswalt, by this time, none of it sympathetic: that he has deceived his wife over this most recent venture, that he is careless about the impact his work has about his family (Tracy keeps reminding him to keep his office door locked, and yet it rarely is); now, that he is prepared to stay silent when he finds evidence of several appalling crimes in his possession, so that he may turn that discovery to his own advantage.
Though he maintains a pose of it being “all about justice”, we already suspect that it is celebrity that drives Ellison Oswalt. The huge success of Kentucky Blood, both as a piece of crime investigation and as a book, made him a household name: he keeps a drawer full of recordings of TV appearances made at the time, and re-watches them upon occasion. But that was ten years ago, with nothing but failure and humiliation in between, and now his longing for a second “hit” has become desperation—as we see from his occupation of The Murder House: unnecessary for his research into the crime, but gold as a publicity hook that he can use to sell his book….
|The Unknown Movies||Death Ship (1980)||You might be asking at this point what the movie’s production values are like when it comes to delivering horror sequences. Unfortunately, the movie cheapens out here as well. While there are eventually a few corpses in various stages of decay found, and a couple of other moments (like a shower suddenly spraying blood) that show some work by the special effects crew, most of the horror is done in the cheapest way possible. I’m talking about doors closing by themselves, record players and film projectors working by themselves, and ghostly voices uttering various statements. Oh, that is so scary (sarcasm). Well, I guess that material could have been made to come across as creepy with the right direction, but director Alvin Rakoff directs the movie in a way where the horror comes off in a blasé manner. For example, when the first of the nine survivors is killed by the death ship, the remaining survivors right afterwards seem rather indifferent to have seen their friend killed in a bizarre and supernatural manner…|
|Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension|
|Teleport City||We Are Still Here (2015)||For most of its run-time, We Are Still Here delivers few surprises but plenty of chills, executing formula with skill. Anne and Paul are haunted by the loss of their son. Anne thinks she hears the voice of their dead son. They are visited by a couple friends. And then people start ending up dead in and/or seemingly possessed while horrifying, charred apparitions stalk the floorboards of the otherwise lovely farmhouse. None of this is unexpected, but it’s effective because the film is not trading in winking self-awareness. We Are Still Here is a “simple” haunted house story that is perfectly happy being a haunted house story, with no need to cloak itself in ironic distance or rely on tiresome nostalgia for its appeal. Instead, there’s commitment to the material and an earnest desire to scare, rather than simply shock, jolt, or reference the familiar.|