I’m not big on Halloween but dabble in Halloween-related media when October rolls by. I’m also partial to a good horror movie as long as it doesn’t mess my head up too much. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the movies in The Morning News’s “Secret Horror” list would fall under the latter category, regardless of quality. Dennis Mahoney chose 5 “underappreciated horror movies to thrill and disturb you this Halloween season” including Don’t Look Now which I have seen, funnily enough:
This one’s known for a scary red dwarf and an infamous sex scene with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. It’s really about dread. You should know going in that Don’t Look Now (1973) isn’t a traditional horror movie, nor are the supernatural forces readily apparent. The story is one of constant anxiety, a cumulative holding of breath that makes your brain more susceptible to hidden meaning, hallucination, and psychological discomfort.
That one did mess me up. The jumpscares and transformation scenes get you first but it’s the psychological stuff that lingers after the credits roll.
Ultimately, DaCosta’s Candyman character becomes a cipher that the film’s characters, and by extension its audience, have no choice but to live with—the absence upon which anything can be projected, bequeathed by centuries of Black trauma. This is perhaps where the film hews most faithfully to the Clive Barker short story upon which it is based. “I am rumor,” his monster reminds his victim, and us, in “The Forbidden.” “It’s a blessed condition, believe me. To live in people’s dreams; to be whispered at street corners; but not have to be. Do you understand?”
I enjoyed Candyman (1992) even if it was a white liberal depiction and exploitation of Black pain as Wallace surmised. Candyman (2021) rewrites, recreates, and renews the ghosts of that film (figuratively and literally) and extends the lore for Black people to feel much more than they could imagine—myself included. I want to watch it again and I will at some point. It was an intriguing film and something to be appreciated and studied (but maybe not by and for white people).
I watched Hellraiser for the first time a few weeks ago and fell down a very dark and sadistic rabbit hole as I watched the next two sequels (II was very good, III was not). But the common denominator from both films was Doug Bradley aka Pinhead (and, as a brilliant Freudian slip, I initially wrote that as demoninator).
The British actor spoke to Elliott Fullam of Little Punk People about his life, his roles as Pinhead, and what his vision of Hell was. I loved this interview because it cut out all the rubbish you often get with celebrity interviews. The questions were clear and interesting, and so were the answers. No bullshit.
My man Dom knocked it out of the park with his latest review of Them: Covenant, the newest Black torture porn horror series on Amazon Prime. As you can see from the above thumbnail, it’s trash. I’ve not watched it but I could tell it wasn’t for me just from the trailer and Dom confirmed many of my initial thoughts when he watched it for our sins.
It’s spoiler-heavy but I never planned to watch it so whatever. Even if you hadn’t planned to watch Them either, I implore you to watch the review anyway. Not least for its razor-sharp critiques on a lot of things regarding Black media and how some of it is made for white people to coax them out of their privileged world view (I guess?). As much as I loved Get Out and it helped me deal with a lot of personal demons, I fear that it has unintentionally awoken a beast that is white studios greenlighting Black horror because it’s seen as “diverse” to peddle Black torture narratives that just make Black people feel worse.
But those are my thoughts. Go listen to Dom’s and laugh your way through otherwise you’ll just cry. If you watched Them, what did you think? Let me (and Dom) know in the comments.
I stumbled on this video by Darwin’s Media last year, showcasing the evolution of Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies.
Pinhead is one of the leaders of the Cenobites, formerly humans but transformed into creatures which reside in an extradimensional realm, who travel to Earth through a puzzle box called the Lament Configuration in order to harvest human souls. His origins and the nature of the Cenobites vary depending upon the medium: while the character began as an amoral entity blindly devoted to the practice of experimental sadomasochism, later depictions have portrayed him as explicitly evil and even demonic in origin.
I’ve never watched Hellraiser (maybe I will one day) but I’ve always been fascinated by Pinhead and after watching the video, I’m a big fan of his one liners.
What I didn’t know was how many times he’d been portrayed, on film and television:
Pinhead has also appeared in The Simpsons, Robot Chicken, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Family Guy, and South Park. That’s a lot of media for someone who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves compared to Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, or Leatherface.
I’ve expressed my dislike for horror movies before. Well, my avoidance at least. But I love The Thing.
It’s a classic for a reason and even though it contain my #1 least favourite horror elements to endure (transformation scenes), they’re so good, I can tolerate them. It’s intense, claustrophobic, and a brilliant movie.
One thing I like to do with a good or interesting film is to research it. The Web has made it easier to do dig deeper, between blogs and database sites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.
Did you know: John Carpenter’s favourite genre isn’t horror but, in fact, westerns. He calls Howard Hawks and Sergio Leone two of his favourite filmmakers.
That’s why film commentaries help so much. You get to hear facts straight from the director’s mouth. But when that director is John Carpenter, you’re in for a great listen. And when you add Kurt Russell and his raspy laugh? It’s a comedy movie on its own.
Stream the condensed version below. If you want to listen to the full commentary, check it out on YouTube. And thanks to the person on Twitter who posted it (sorry, I can’t remember you if you somehow read this).
Ever heard of deepfaking? It’s a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake” and describes a technique involving the superimposition of images and videos onto other images and videos. Put another way, it’s like Face/Off but in 2019 and without surgery.
Ctrl Shift Face is a content creator who makes entertaining deepfake videos. He’s produced videos featuring Bill Murray in Full Metal Jacket, Sylvester Stallone as The Terminator, and Heath Ledger as The Joker in A Knight’s Tale. Ridiculous, right?
In this deepfake video, Ctrl Shift Face exchanges Jack Nicholson’s face for Jim Carrey’s in a scene of The Shining. It’s eerie in that we know it’s not really Carrey’s face but it kinda fits and it also doesn’t. That’s what makes deepfakes so mind-bending. It’s also The Riddler from Batman Forever swapping faces with The Joker from Batman.
At time of writing, the video has clocked just under a million so it’ll reach that milestone by tomorrow at least. Ctrl Shift Face’s videos are entertaining and it’s good to see this technology put to good use rather than scaring people in a bad way. This is just scary in a WTF way, which is fine.
If you want to help Ctrl Shift Face continue with his creative endeavours, check out his Patreon, subscribe to his YouTube channel, and find him on Twitter.
I’d have to say Berlin, so far. The people were mad friendly and the architecture is stunning. There’s some parts of the city that are understandably heavy, but it seems to be a city that is thoughtful and apologetic about its history. I don’t know what it’s like to live there, but from a tourism standpoint, they don’t seem to hide it or sweep it under the rug. Every museum is like, it happened, it never should have, and it won’t again if we can help it.
What’s the most unusual item you take everywhere you go?
I take crystals to really important days, depending on what I feel I need on the day. That’s always good as an ice breaker, if they don’t think I’m the Blair Witch. I guess that’s the most unusual thing.
Why do you do what you do?
I’ve loved horror since I was a kid. I remember being about 7 and watching Scream for the first time and just… It was like time stopped. I was scared but I felt it in my whole body, but I couldn’t look away. I still think that’s a dope mask too. One of the best. And it kind of started there and exploded. I’d watched all the Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween films by the time I was 10. I’d never experienced anything like it. I was just hooked.
Then when you start trying to make it yourself, you really understand the mastery, and it gives you a deeper love for it. And then I looked around Britain and was like… We don’t back horror like America does. Like there are directors that really back and advocate for horror and see it as the pride of their body of work. They love it so much. I don’t think it’s because there’s not people that want to do it, I think it’s because there’s not visible people here that are like “Yeah, that’s my shit” loudly, y’know? They don’t say it with their whole chest.
And then when I figured out I was gonna make a go of it and commit to my love, I noticed there wasn’t a lot of people like me in it (mixed race, lesbian, etc) and there weren’t those stories. So it became even clearer and I couldn’t escape it. And my friends too. Any representation of colour I’d seen in horror, was of people my colour, so there was even less representation for people darker than me, which was so crazy to me. So, that was it. And that’s what I’m committed too. Just making dope shit with my mates, and if we scare people, we scare people. If we don’t, we sure had fun!
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
I tell my dad and step mum a lot. You just never know. And my dog. He’s probably sick of hearing it, tbh!
Where do you go to relax?
I drive at night a lot. Go swimming. Watch a good film, but the soundtrack has to be on point.
69, 280, or 420?
280. 280 sounds good. Like an old horror film’s kill count.
How do you say goodbye in your culture?
I’m a hugger, I think. Everything ends with a hug.
But the main focal point of his homage was John Carpenter’s The Thing (besides saying the N-word as many times as possible). I usually refrain from watching horror films because they scare me but The Thing is my favourite. I think it’s the cabin fever suspense a la Alien. The special effects are incredible even though they scare the crap out of me but that confirms their quality.
Below is a shot-by-shot comparison of the two films and the resemblance between them is uncanny. As homages/muses go, The Thing is a superb choice.
Get Out is probably one of the most unique and intriguing horror films I’ve seen since It Follows. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or two, Get Out is a huge box-office success and a critically acclaimed horror/thriller/comedy mash-up from the mind of Jordan Peele. A lot has been written about how Get Out derives its horror from racial overtones. This is certainly true and as a young black man myself, what resonated with me most was how Chris attempted to initially combat the awkwardness of the situation – particularly through his language.
In Get Out, Chris Washington, an African-American, accompanies his white girlfriend Rose to meet her parents in a predominately white community but he soon discovers something sinister is afoot. Most black people in predominately white countries are aware of the concept of microaggressions. Get Out successfully highlights how those day-to-day microaggressions contribute to fetishizing an individual by reducing them to stereotypical components. Instead of greeting Chris normally, white characters in the film adopt forced African-American slang and proclaim their love of Obama. To them, Chris isn’t ‘Chris the Individual’, instead, he’s reduced to ‘Chris The Black Guy’ – a thoroughly isolating experience.
Chris’ attempts to remedy this isolation strongly resonated with me. Whilst staying with Rose’s parents, Chris only encounters three other black people. His first solution to avoiding that segregation is to appeal to them for solidarity. But there’s something ‘off’ about the black servants who serve Rose’s family, and similarly something unsettling about the only other black man who Chris meets at the parents’ party. When he tries to engage with them on their assumed level, i.e. through African-American idioms, slang and gestures (the fist bump for example), they don’t reciprocate.
On my initial viewing of Get Out, it got me thinking about the ‘black guy nod’. Personally, I don’t even know when I learned or when I started doing the ‘black guy nod’, otherwise called just ‘the nod’ or the ‘Negro nod’. This refers to a knowing look and small nod of the head shared between black people whenever they see each other in an area without many other black people.
Last year, when walking down the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I did it when I noticed a black guy walking past me and he kindly returned the gesture. We didn’t even say anything to each other, we just nodded knowingly, kept it moving and I never saw him again. I don’t know his name, where he was from, but it just seemed like something I ought to do.
It’s not the only tool for establishing solidarity; code-switching is an effective tool for connecting with someone from the same culture. Code-switching refers to when a speaker alternates between two or more languages or dialects. It’s often context and audience dependent. For minorities, this can be especially important. Referencing shared cultural experiences can be a form of emotional survival. And considering that survival is at the core of Get Out, it’s probably the best exploration of code-switching I’ve seen on cinema. (Dave Chappelle has a hilarious stand-up routine where he mentions Black people looking out for each other in dangerous situations.)
Some academics propose that this type of intra-communal code-switching can be divided into “we” and “they” codes. “We codes” are geared towards the home, family and immediate community, while “they codes” are associated with wider public discourse. A “we code” might consist of something as overt as a shared language or regional dialect that people of a shared heritage might use versus the standardised language they use when corresponding in formal settings. “We codes” establish solidarity for people who might be marginalised and minorities in a specific context.
A good example of Chris attempting a “we code”, is when he tries to establish a rapport with Walter, a black groundskeeper who serves Rose’s family. It’s a short scene; whilst Walter is outside doing manual labour, Chris says to Walter, “they working you good out here, huh?” in a friendly manner. Potentially, this is Chris’ attempt to highlight a distinction between the wealthy whites who own the property and the African-American outsiders, namely Chris, Georgina and Walter. Walter responds by reaffirming his link with Rose’s family, leaving the audience to feel that Chris is alone and Walter is not an ally.
It’s an awkward moment when Chris tries to segue into a “we code” with fellow African-Americans in the town, only for it not to be reciprocated. For Chris and the audience, this confirms that there’s something ominous brewing in the community with regards to the way it views black people. This shifts the tone of the film from merely being a clumsy navigation of meeting the girlfriend’s parents (a la Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) to a disturbing and unsafe atmosphere. There’s no one there who can relate to Chris, which poses a threat to him as the true horror of the story unfolds.
There are many things we can take away from Get Out. There are so many thematic points to unpick which makes me look forward to re-watching it. The importance of reciprocating code-switching is demonstrated by the fact that the only person looking out for Chris, is the person who is most relatable to him culturally and linguistically. It’s a film with a lot of substance, but my favourite aspect of the film is its encouragement for ethnic minorities, particularly African-Americans, to look out for each other.
Get Out was released in UK Cinemas on the 17th March 2017.
The original project was a 12-15 minute short promoting the new Addams Family Values movie but due to Michael’s molestation allegations, the project was shelved. This didn’t stop his motivation towards and the short became “Michael Jackson’s Ghosts” three years later.
Very little changed from the 1993 version compared to the final 1996 version apart from the role of Mayor. Ken Jenkins, better known as Dr Bob Kelso in US comedy Scrubs, played the Mayor in 1993. In Ghosts, Michael played both the Mayor and the Maestro. Yup, that’s Michael dressed as an overweight white man with a chip on his shoulder. Spot the irony if you will.
Read an extract about the making of Ghosts from the book, Making Michael.