Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 42: The Russian Sleep Experiment

creepypastaDARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 42: THE RUSSIAN SLEEP EXPERIMENT

There are a small handful of Creepypasta stories that have taken on an almost mythic quality with fans. Stories that are so highly regarded, so captivating, that they become an integral building block of the community. I’m not just talking cool characters (which is arguably the appeal of the likes of Slenderman or Jeff the Killer), I’m referring to stories that capture the imaginations of the reader and become a form of internet mythology, actually disseminated as fact by some.

One of the most popular – and chilling – of these is The Russian Sleep Experiment.

The earliest incidence of it online that I can find is this post on 8 August 2009 at Rip&47’s WordPress blog here (https://rip747.wordpress.com/2009/08/08/russian-sleep-experiment-the-best-short-story-ive-read/) However, I have also seen claims that it was first posted on 4chan by a user named Orange Soda in May of that year (http://i.imgur.com/l9znS.png) The story itself details a scientific experiment conducted in Russia in the late 1940s. The subjects of the experiment were prisoners, extracted from jail and promised their freedom in exchange for their participation, if they were to stick at the project for the full 30-day duration.

rsz_russian-sleep-experiment-1The doctors conducting the experiment had a simple aim — to test a stimulant gas designed to keep subjects awake and simultaneously monitor the effects of sleep deprivation. Five inmates were selected and sealed within an airtight chamber, where they were observed via a two-way mirror.
The first few days passed without incident, however, the subjects’ attitudes changed around Day Five. First they became irritable, then paranoid as they turned on one another. On the ninth day some of the subjects started to scream, running back and forth gripped with a manic energy. More disconcerting still was that some proceeded to rip the pages from the books provided, plastering them to the two-way mirror using their own excrement. And then they fell silent.

Unable to monitor the events inside the chamber, the scientists were unsure how to proceed. Finally, after three days of silence, they communicated with the subjects via the intercom, saying that they were entering the chamber to test the microphones and, should the subjects comply with the researchers’ instructions, one would be granted his freedom. A single voice replied: ‘We no longer want to be freed.’ Finally, after two further days, the experiment was aborted and the scientists (along with their armed guards) entered the chamber. However, they were not prepared for what they would find inside…

The Russian Sleep Experiment is a fascinating pasta with a lot of cool hooks for readers. Like many early pastas, it was circulated as a true story for some time. There were a number of decidedly unethical medical experiments conducted both during and just after the Second World War, in a host of locations including (but not limited to) the Soviet Union. The film Experiments in the Revival of Organisms depicts a number of disturbing 1940s experiments conducted by Russian researchers, including one which saw a machine used to keep a decapitated dog head alive.

It doesn’t feel like much of a stretch for the experiment described to have been conducted in this era, particularly by a regime notorious for the harsh manner in which it treated political adversaries. Much like Where The Bad Kids Go, it is a story aimed at Western, primarily American readers, and relies a great deal on their lack of experience with the East to boost its believability. ‘Something that horrible could never happen here in the “civilised” West,’ readers might think. ‘But over there, in those dark, cold, alien, lawless countries that have seen such terrible trouble and turmoil? Well, that’s a different matter altogether…’

Except it really isn’t.
The Russian Sleep Experiment is a work of fiction. It’s a clever and well-written one, but it is fiction nonetheless. As well as the flaws its own narrative (the KGB wasn’t actually officially formed until 1954, the number of prisoners doesn’t tally up at the end), there are actual, documented cases of sleep deprivation that have not lead to incidents of superpowered, undead, poetry-spouting uber-monsters.

In 1964 San Diego man Randy Gardner stayed awake for 264 hours (that’s 11 days). He became a little dizzy, had trouble with his concentration and short-term memory and even reported the odd hallucination. He did not eat himself. That same year Toimi Soini of Hamina, Finland, stayed awake for 276 hours, an effort that saw him included in the Guinness Book of World Records right up until 1989, when the entry was removed amid fears that people attempting to break the record could cause harm to themselves. Nonetheless the BBC has since run a blog by Cornish man Tony Wright in his attempt to stay awake for 266 hours more recently (http://www.bbc.co.uk/cornwall/content/articles/2007/05/15/aboutcornwall_sleeplessdiary_feature.shtml), while unverified reports claim that a woman from Cambridgeshire, Maureen Weston, actually went without sleep for a staggering 449 hours (that’s 14 days, 13 hours) as part of a ‘rocking chair marathon’. Not one of these individuals has since been reported as ripping out their own internal organs or speaking on behalf of the darkness at the heart of human nature.

Yet even with these facts easily findable online, the story gained plenty of traction. Some just liked it as a horror story, posting it to the Creepypasta Wiki on 16 August 2010 (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The_Russian_Sleep_Experiment), while others have questioned its validity, such as those who posted it to Reddit’s WTF sub multiple times. One of the earliest examples as this post by redditor thatguynamedguy, posted on the evening of 2 March 2010 which drew plenty of speculation from the community (https://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/b8ev3/russian_sleep_experiment/)

In 1 October 2013, YouTuber IReadCreepyPastas posted a reading  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEwbfnCpKA4&feature=youtu.be) accompanied by a series of spooky black and white photographs, which have become an iconic and intrinsic part of the lore around the story. The most striking of these is that of a deranged, grinning ghoul, said to be one of the subjects of the RSE. This image is often touted as photographic evidence of the horrifying events described in the story. I can understand how it could be quite compelling proof to those already unnerved by a legitimately scary story, but once again, this ‘evidence’ can be quickly discredited.

The picture is actually one of a Halloween decoration named Spazm, which is available here (https://www.costumesupercenter.com/products/animated-spazm-prop) among other places. It’s not quite so frightening when looked at more clearly — a clear example of the power of using a good filter on your images! Despite the overwhelming evidence to disprove the Russian Sleep Experiment as a factual account, the story is still widely circulated and remains one of the most popular creepypastas to this day. It captures the imagination of the reader and, in some cases, even inspires further works of deeply unsettling art.

These range from the usual YouTube readings, such as this classic by the inimitable Mr CreepyPasta (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1EW4r6Kiiw&feature=youtu.be), which has clocked up an astonishing 848,000+ views since it went live on 24 November 2011.

rsz_russian-sleep-experiment-spazmFellow YouTuber Creeps McPasta loves the pasta so much that he even penned an unofficial sequel to the story, The Russian Sleep Experiment 2, which he narrated on his channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6JvgOsZy54
However, one of the Russian Sleep Experiment’s greatest legacies is that it served as the inspiration for the quite fantastic novella of the same name by UK author Holly Ice, which you can read about here: http://www.russiansleepexperiment.net . Published by Almond Press in August 2015, The Russian Sleep Experiment is a fantastic expansion on the original pasta, one that remains faithful to the source material, effortlessly addressing (and in many cases rectifying) the flaws of the original.

In a very clever move, Ice steers clear of the pseudo-supernatural mumbo jumbo of Orange Soda’s story, instead focusing on the personalities and relationships of those involved in the experiment. The novella is split into three sections, each taking a very different approach to describing its horrors. The first chapter focuses on the subjects, especially the stoic Mikhail and his optimistic comrade Alexei, their lives in a hellish Siberian prison camp and the selection process that sees them taken away to the shadowy Dr Glukhov’s laboratory.

The second chapter is the one that will be most familiar to fans of the pasta, detailing the events of the experiment from both the point of view of the subjects and via Glukhov’s log. The final chapter focuses on one of the researchers, Luka, in the days after he returns to his isolated rural home in the frozen Russian countryside. Luka has been left with physical wounds from his ordeal, yet it is his mental scars that are deepest. Can anybody truly survive the Russian Sleep Experiment?

As a published author, Ice is a wonderful wordsmith and her take on this story is captivating, compelling and very, very disturbing. As a professional writer her product is so much smoother and better-structured than your average pasta, which is often the work of enthusiastic amateurs.
The novella shows intelligence, tight plotting and some genuine emotional heft. In short, it really is a must read. You can buy it direct from the publishers here: (http://www.russiansleepexperiment.net ) or via Amazon for Kindle: (http://amzn.to/2rSczzb)

I was blown away by the novella, so I was delighted when the kind folks over at Almond Press arranged for me to speak with very talented and charming Ms Ice.

Our interview follows below.

UK HORROR SCENE: Hi Holly, Thanks so much for agreeing to speak with UKHS. First, please tell my readers a little about your novella?

HOLLY ICE: The Russian Sleep Experiment novella is loosely inspired by the Creepypasta of the same name. My publisher and I wanted to pay homage to the original story but create our own interpretation of what a disturbing sleep experiment could be like. We wound up downplaying the supernatural angle in favour of the science, for example.

It was exciting for me to explore the idea of human experimentation within the cold war, as I have family from that region of the world and had read a lot about the history of the area during the world wars. I wanted to get into the setting and explore the areas this experiment could have taken place in, plus the characters and character conflicts which may have arisen. As a result, the focus is on the psychological impact on the characters more than the horror of the sleep experiment itself. Because of this, I explored the narrative in terms of before and after – where the characters were coming from and how they put their lives together after the experiment (or didn’t). This required my characters to have families, loves, hopes, and their own motivations to participate in the experiment.

There’s a greyness about everybody, from the scientists to the labour camp prisoners and the experimentees. There’s no pure evil here. It’s human decisions and failings behind this experiment.

rsz_russian-sleep-experiment-bookUKHS: Why the Russian Sleep Experiment? Were you familiar with the story before you started the project?

HI: I was actually approached by the publisher. They wanted to support a novella loosely inspired by the short story and came to me with the brief as I had worked with them before. It was a bit of a departure for me. I had previously written sci-fi, romance and fantasy stories but this was my first in-depth foray into horror fiction. However, while writing the book, I realised horror gets at the core of what I love to write about – the unknown, and the magic, or trepidation, it so often brings.

UKHS: By focusing on different narrators, each of whom plays a different role in the experiment, you were able to give a very human face to an otherwise quite out-there horror tale. Was it this element of the story that most fascinated you? What was your motive behind telling the story in this way?

HI: Thank you! Yes, it was this element which most inspired me. The human angle was not fully explored in the short story because the focus was different – a philosophical, internal message questioning the core of what a human is. For this message to work as well as it did, the short story author needed the characters to represent everyone that read the story, and so they avoided giving too many individual character details. I wanted to explore individual lives and motivations, the real-life story behind what these people may have experienced in the historical context, and the implications of this story never getting out into the history books.

UKHS: Are you a fan of Creepypastas? If so, are there any others that you like?

HI: I think Creepypastas are generally great reads. Many create or perpetuate urban legends, and most are atmospheric encapsulations of horror that are perfect for an evening read – if you’re not too keen on sleep! I don’t have any particular favourites as I’m still relatively new to the horror genre and have much more to read.

UKHS: Who are your favourite writers? Who inspires your style most?

HI: That’s a really difficult question, particularly because I came to horror late. I was inspired to write by fantasy and crime, so my favourite authors are people like Naomi Novik, Laurell K Hamilton and Enid Blyton, but my years in university instilled a great love for the Gothic. Henry James’ Turn of the Screw was a particular favourite for me during my GCSE and A Level years. I also really enjoyed Carmilla, one of the first interpretations of the vampire story. I have no idea who I most resemble in terms of my writing style. I don’t consciously try to imitate anyone, so much of this will come down to my subconscious mind and the associations readers bring when they come to my work.

UKHS: Which work of your own are you most proud of? Why?

HI: I’m most proud of my current work in progress, a fantasy series loosely inspired by old Welsh poetry which refers to King Arthur as a soldier involved in a supernatural world rather than a King. I’ve mixed this loose idea with Arthur rising from the dead into the modern world. This event coincides with a number of deaths in rural Britain which may be linked to the Fae.

The first book in this particular series, While I Slept, is one I have been working on since 2012, on and off. I’ve learned a lot in the production process, particularly about structure, and am proud of the progress I have made as a writer. I’m also really enjoying blending cultures and creating societies. It’s a complex process but one I’ve become fully immersed in. I’m hoping it comes together as I want it to in the next year or so, and I am hopeful the sequel will come together much more easily. I tend to move on from pieces once they are published and put my passion into the next project on the horizon, so this favourite will likely change in future!

UKHS: Would you consider returning to the RSE story in the future? Or possibly adapt another online horror story?

HI: I don’t think so. For me, the story came to a logical end in the Siberian wilderness. I also don’t think I would reinvent another online horror story unless something really hooked my attention. As much as I enjoyed the experience, readers come to reimaginings or reinventions with expectations based on earlier editions. That’s completely natural and expected, but I’d like to focus on other areas going forward, and not in the horror genre exclusively. As well as the fantasy series, I’m currently working on a number of horror short stories which (fingers crossed) will be out in the next year or so.

rsz_holly-ice-author-small1UKHS: Where is the best place for my readers to find out more about your work and upcoming projects?

HI: Readers can find my published works on Amazon, with my novella available on a number of other online retailers, including ibooks and kobo, with PDFs available direct from my publisher’s website for the book here: http://www.russiansleepexperiment.net/
To keep up to date with upcoming projects, readers can check my author website’s work in progress page http://www.hollyice.co.uk/works-in-progress
The site has a mailing list to update readers on new publications here: http://www.hollyice.co.uk/mailing-list

I’m also on a number of social media sites, including:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/HollyIce
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollyIceTheAuthor/
Wordpress: https://hollyemmaice.wordpress.com/

UKHS: Thanks so much for speaking with us!

As well as literature, the Russian Sleep Experiment’s very visceral visual nature lent itself to film adaptations.
One of the most highly-regarded of these is Let Me Out, an italian web-series that actually sticks pretty closely to the original plot of the story. You can find the first episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAUFAB8ID2g&list=PLS1tY8LybT6Tjck9G6QaqyqoDjJLsYBMs

However, arguably the finest cinematic adaptation of the story is Framed Pictures’ The Russian Sleep Experiment, which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zr4C_cLgXR0

Helmed by talented director Timothy Smith and starring a great cast of actors including Gary Brunner, Michael Bugard, Zach Ross and Brett Solferino, the 28 minute short film looks fantastic and manages to tell a story that, while it differs in some aspects, absolutely nails the tone of the original. Originally released early last year, the film has recently been posted to YouTube to watch for free and has already racked up nearly 50,000 views.

I’ve become quite the fan of Horror Shorts in recent months, and Smith’s film is a sterling example of what the ambitious filmmakers currently plying their trade on the scene are capable of.

I was lucky enough to speak with Timothy Smith about the creation of his film. The interview follows below.

UKHS: Hi Timothy, and thank you for agreeing to speak with UK Horror Scene. So, what drew you to The Russian Sleep Experiment?

TS: I wanted to make a film about The Russian Sleep Experiment because it had so much interesting content for a story. Since it was written in log forms it left a lot of creative freedom to develop characters.

UKHS: Why do you think fans enjoy the story and your adaptation of it?

TS: I think what draws fans to the story (as well as what drew me to the story) is that RSE is a unique approach to the psychological thriller genre. While the blood and guts are a staple in the genre, the setting of a post-WW2-era Russian experimentation camp is a bloody playground that may have never been explored in a horror film before.

UKHS: Are you a fan of Creepypasta? If so, what are your favourites?

TS: I’m a huge fan of Creepypasta, RSE attracted me to the following years ago. My favorite Creepypasta currently is The Song and Dance Man.

rsz_10351302_779404245471643_6669191330715530978_nUKHS: Your adaptation is very faithful in terms of tone and feel, but there are some plot changes. Would you care to explain your decision-making process?

TS: Probably the most notable change I made for the film from the story is regarding the prisoners. In the original story they were Russian prisoners of war held by their own country. I personally found it to be much more interesting to make the prisoners Nazi war criminals as it adds a bit of irony to their torturous capture. I also wanted to avoid the cliché of the purely evil Nazi and made them a bit more humane which I personally find more terrifying. If we can sympathize with monsters then what does that say about us?

Another change I made regarding the prisoners is that there are three instead of five in the original story. I chose three for aesthetic purposes and since none of the characters in the original story had names or characteristics it was an easy decision to make.

UKHS: What were the major challenges of adapting the story? And what were your favourite moments during the filming/editing process?

TS: The major challenge in filming this short was the planning. We had a very tight budget and had to stretch the money as far as we could. Since time is money in film (and everywhere else) we had to shoot the whole 28-minute film in two days. It was a sleep experiment for the cast and crew as we stayed awake for 2 days straight to get everything we needed. The shooting process, while exhausting, was by far the funnest and most enjoyable time I’ve had onset. Despite the dark melancholy content of the story, we had lots of laughs and ridiculous banter on set. Maybe we were getting slap happy from the sleep deprivation?

UKHS: Do you have any plans to adapt any other creepypastas into short films?

TS: I would like to make another short based on another Creepypasta in the near future. The fan-base of Creepypasta has been very supportive and being able to contribute to such a wonderful community is incredibly rewarding. I’m currently working on an original short film that is currently in the pre-production phase.

UKHS: And finally, where is the best place for my readers to find out more about your work and upcoming projects?

TS: You can follow us on our youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK4qB18nDgz17UZZV8wonBw) and Facebook page
(https://www.facebook.com/rsefilm/).

UKHS: Thank you once again.

TS: Thanks so much for the questions. I’m incredibly grateful for the morbid curiosity!

Even today, The Russian Sleep Experiment is finding a new audience and collaborators. On the IMDB there is a listing for a Russian Sleep Experiment movie, currently in production in Australia, due to be released this Halloween. Perfect for viewing after you’ve finished setting up your Spazm decoration!

A strong story that has inspired arguably greater works of art, The Russian Sleep Experiment looks set to remain popular for many years to come.
Join me next time when I shall be covering not just a story, but a whole lore adopted and embraced by the pasta community.

Until then, sleep well.

Don’t Hang Up (2016) Review

rsz_dhu1DON’T HANG UP (2016)

Starring Gregg Sulkin, Garrett Clayton, Bella Dayne and Sienna Guillory

Directed by Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot

Written by Joe Johnson

Out on DVD on 12th June 2017 and Digital on 26th June 2017 courtesy of Solo Media and Matchbox Films

An evening of drunken prank calls becomes a nightmare for a pair of teenagers when a mysterious stranger turns their own game against them…with deadly consequences“.

Social media themed thrillers are everywhere now. Some are actually quite successful, with Unfriended somehow managing to make a film entirely shot through webcams gripping, and the glossy thriller Nerve was a fun time. But they all come with a built in flaw, one that is completely incurable. As soon as they’re released, possibly as soon as they’re scripts are finished, they become dated. Social media is constantly evolving, on a daily basis. Seriously, how many Facebook updates have you had in the past month? In the digital age, a techno thriller has a tough task staying up to date for its savvy target audience.

Enter Don’t Hang Up, which does itself no favours by having characters who are still using consumer camcorders when they have 4K iPhones that can upload their pranks directly to YouTube! I wouldn’t bring any of this up if not for the fact that this is all vital to the plot and characters. And it’s details like these which start chipping away at the believability.

rsz_dhu2Speaking of characters, there are no heroes here. Our protagonists are dicks, particularly Brady (Clayton), an irritating dick. And no matter how lovesick Sam (Sulkin) is, he is still a dick. Which is fine, we don’t need likeable characters, as long as they’re interesting. But these are just those pricks Lad Bible like to make famous. The opening scene, involving their horrible prank on Sienna Guillory’s mother, establishes that. Now, this would all again be fine, if the film took a more satirical stance, and really analysed these YouTube personalities and their affect on society. But the filmmakers go with a traditional thriller instead, stalked by an all seeing malevolent home invader playing a twisted game Jigsaw would do after he watched When A Stranger Calls, and the suspense in those only works for me if I give a shit about the people involved. And I really didn’t.

The leads struggle with the script, which forces Sulkin and Clayton to be hysterical as soon as the shit hits the fan. It would have been much more fun to see the snivelling little sociopaths begin to show their true colours. But they are just asked to cry or look like they’ve been crying a lot. It’s annoying.

I’ll say one thing though, the directors know how to make a small film feel big, with lots of cinematic stylistic flourishes throughout a very brisk runtime. It’s just a shame the writer didn’t share their ambitions.

rsz_dhu3This all may sound like I didn’t enjoy Don’t Hang Up, but I actually did. It’s a fairly fun contained thriller, with some nice sadism thrown in and some actual surprises. But this subject is so rife and relevant and ready for an ambitious exploration that I wanted more. It just fails to live up to the promise of its premise for me.

6/10

The Ferryman – Official Teaser Trailer & Stills

fmTHEY’RE HERE PRODUCTIONS Presents…

THE FERRYMAN

FIRST OFFICIAL TEASER TRAILER & STILLS

After a failed suicide attempt, troubled and lonely teen MARA finds herself stalked by a malevolent entity.

From Director Elliott Maguire:

“As much a psychological drama as a horror film, The Ferryman explores important themes such as depression and alienation in the modern world, while also delivering a truly terrifying cinematic experience. In the writing process I took inspiration from classics such as Let The Right One In and Candyman, to create that deep sense of evil, while creating characters that the audience actually care about”.

“The Ferryman” began production in March 2017, with a fantastic cast that includes NICOLA HOLT as MARA; GARTH MAUNDERS as ROLAND; SHOBI RAE MCLEAN as JULIA; AZZ MOHAMMED as THE DETECTIVE; PAM ASHTON as THE NURSE; FRANK MATHEWS as THE THERAPIST and PHILIP SCOTT-SHURETY as the mysterious THE FERRYMAN.

Shooting took place in and around Manchester throughout March and April, with the production taking inspiration from Sundance hit “Tangerine” and shooting on the iPhone 7, allowing a level of intimacy rarely seen in the horror genre and pushing this advancing technology to its limits.

Below you can find the first official stills from the movie, as well as the new teaser trailer.

You can follow the production on Twitter @ferrymanmovie and Facebook @ferrymanmovie, for all other enquiries you can contact the team on [email protected]

fm7fm6fm5fm4fm3fm2fm1

Worm (2013) DVD Review

rsz_worm1WORM (Dir- Doug Malette, USA, 2013)

Starring- John Ferguson, Jes Mercer, Shane O’Brien, Scott Ferguson, Josh Matthews

Out NOW (and cheap) from LEFT FILMS!

Having already been reviewed on this site before almost 3 years ago in fact, WORM has been on the shelf waiting for a UK DVD release and its thankfully arrived via the good folks of LEFT FILMS who have been making a habit of picking up quirky low budget genre fare and putting out on general release. WORM is another example of quirky and unusual and having little to no knowledge of the film I decided to give it a shot and see if it can bring something new to the table or end up falling off it in more ways than one.

Set in a near future where people cannot dream any more, a corporation has got around that little set back by allowing consumers to purchase nicely presented packaging which contains a genetically modified worm. The worm can be placed into the ear and dissolves on the brain allowing the user to dream brilliant fantasies. Our central character Charles (Ferguson) wants the worms, known as fantasites, to escape his mundane life. However he cannot afford the premium brand and has to settle for the economy brand. When this brand is not enough to impress one of his tenants, Reed (O’Brien), who is a premium user and worker at a news channel which is investigating the side effects of fantasites, Charles’s luck soon changes when he finds a box of premium brand left outside his apartment. With his confidence soon improved Charles wants to be friends with Reed more but only for his own desire to start a relationship with his live in girlfriend June (Mercer). However a humiliating dinner date between the three leads to Charles slipping into the fantasites more and more, neglecting real life. Once the fantasites have been found to cause more harm they are banned and our three central worm addled users becoming increasingly desperate to get their fix prompting them to buy and become involved with dubious and violent dealers that start to lead to darker and desperate consequence’s for all involved.

rsz_worm2In its execution WORM is a film that acts almost like a drug in its layout. Starting with a first part that seems colourful, funny, vibrant and at times harmless, then slowly dipping into a more desperate part that sees people becoming more and more closed off, to eventually where things take a darker and more violent tone and the euphoria is replaced by desperation, betrayal and eventually self loathing. This is one of the elements that is most impressive of the film and Malette perfectly embraces you into this world. Admittedly whilst the concept of people not dreaming is an element that could do with a bit more explanation, the story’s drive and ambition is such that the alternate world we are in, is one that we recognise but with the added warped bonus in a TWILIGHT ZONE-esque alternative earth kind of way where worms on our brain are a part of life leading to the films second part where human intuition and scientific as well as journalistic investigation, discover the negative impact of the use of fantasites. Indeed the second part and the conclusion is the films strongest element with the illegalization of the drug leading the characters to source illegal ways of finding the fantasites.

rsz_worm3This leads to an intense scene where Charles discovers thanks to a local drug dealer the nasty and gruesome way the fantasites are harvested and its this turning point where the films earlier charming often fantasy like elements are slowly eroded to stark reality. The first part of the film is slightly weak in parts in that we establish the characters who come across as slightly one dimensional and at times irritating. Particularly Charles who has too many social ticks that make him seem more annoying and awkward and despite some empathy being built towards him, there’s still a tendency to start seeing that he is his own fool and that he does not recognise when he is being mocked or being talked down to or when he is easily led. Though this is evident throughout the darker parts of the film where his affection for June drives him to become increasingly involved and associated with more dodgier and violent characters. Yet despite the irritations Ferguson and the other two main actors, O’Brien and Mercer, do well with what they are given and provide surprisingly decent performances to root for, particularly Charles and June, who are slowly unaware of the dire situation we the audience know they are unwillingly and willingly heading towards.

rsz_worm4Working on a low budget Malette has managed to craft an impressive feature that does have a few rough edges and slightly flawed character portrayals but on the whole WORM is a surprisingly engaging experience and one with the possibility of developing a cult appeal and shows that the director has enough ideas and ambition to confidently handle and command your attention throughout. The only thing the film left me wondering though is why the hell would you put a live worm in your ear in the first place?

7.5/10

The Amityville Horror (1979) Review

rsz_ah1The Amityville Horror (1979)

Running Time: 117 minutes

Director: Stuart Rosenberg

Cast: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger.

Ltd Ed Steelbook Out June 26th 2017 from Second Sight Films

The Amityville Horror began life as a book by Jay Anson, based on apparently true events that took place on Long Island in 1975. Naturally, the book then became a film, directed by ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Director Stuart Rosenberg. Both the film and book tell the story of the Lutz family, who move in to their dream home to begin a new life together. They obtain the house at a knock down price due to its past. The previous family were killed in their beds, by their son who claimed voices told him to murder. Such a horrific incident of violence within the all American home seems to have stepped off the screen itself, life imitating art.

rsz_ah3In a style reminiscent of Halloween, the film opens with a brief depiction of the murders committed; a stylish opening prologue that swiftly sets the scene for the rest of the film. Events then jump to a year later when newly married George and Kathy Lutz, along with her three children move in to the house which immediately starts exhibiting some strange paranormal phenomenon. George’s behaviour and physical appearance starts to worryingly change and Kathy’s daughter Amy finds a new ‘imaginary’ friend; Jody. Moving forward day by day, it becomes very clear that the family and those who come in to contact with the house are in grave danger.

By the time The Amityville Horror was released in 1979, iconic films such as The Exorcist, Carrie, Halloween and The Shining had already set the bar for horror exceptionally high. Arriving at the tail end of the 1970’s then, it was no mean feat to try and craft yet another great movie to add to that illustrious canon. Accomplished director Rosenberg hits many of the right notes, the opening haunting theme has a disturbing childlike quality and there are some well placed Bernard Hermann style strings used later in the film. The house itself is also imposing, even Hitchcock-esque, with its two glowing windows carved out like eyes. Stepping inside the house with the Lutz’s for the first time, a high shot down from the staircase further evokes that Hitchock feel. It’s a succinct and strong start, putting the viewer immediately inside the world of the Amityville Horror.

rsz_ah2The film works best when it implies rather than shows. Of course we have to take in to account that the film is now nearly forty years old but dated special effects aside, it feels that it loses some of its strength as soon as it starts to try and depict red eyed demons and gateways to hell. It is far more disturbing to see young Amy having a conversation with ‘Jody’ whilst staring at an empty rocking chair, or the babysitter desperately trying to scratch her way out of an apparently locked cupboard.

When the film starts to try and explain events, it loses its way somewhat. We are introduced to George’s work colleague and his girlfriend, who has an acute sensitivity and knowledge of the occult and events become more literal, leaving little room for imagination or possible scepticism. It harms the story in the sense that surely the family would leave the house at this point rather than remaining even longer for the final climax. Equally, George’s transformation happens a little too quickly. After moving in, he spends most of the film in a pale, red eyed glaze. A slower burn would have been more disturbing and raised less questions.

There are many other threads left undeveloped. Kathy’s close relationship with Father Delaney (an excellent and scene stealing Rod Steiger) is left hanging and Sergeant Gionfriddo’s initial appearance seems to serve little further purpose. More depth in these areas would have elevated the film, allowing the viewer to become even further immersed in the world created. Having said that, the film maintains its distinct 70’s charm and you can’t deny the appeal of a ‘true story’ retelling.

rsz_ah4This Blu-Ray release has a raft of special features including interviews with James Brolin, Meeno Peluce, composer Lalo Schriffer and screenwriter Sandor Stern. Alongside the obligatory trailer and TV spot features, there is also ’My Amityville Horror’, the story behind the film with Daniel Lutz and ‘For God’s Sake Get Out’, a retrospective of the film with Kidder and Brolin. A nice extra package for those wanting more.

Six out of Ten

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Limited Edition SteelBook
Restored version of 1080p HD transfer
‘Brolin Thunder’ – A new Interview with Actor James Brolin
‘Child’s Play’ – A new Interview with Actor Meeno Peluce
‘Amityville Scribe’ – A new interview with Screenwriter Sandor Stern
‘The Devil in The Music’ – A new Interview with Soundtrack Composer Lalo Schifrin
‘My Amityville Horror’ – feature-length documentary with Daniel Lutz
‘For God’s Sake, Get Out!’ – featuring James Brolin and Margot Kidder
Intro by Dr. Hans Holzer, PhD. in Parapsychology (author of ‘Murder in Amityville’)
Audio Commentary by Dr. Hans Holzer
Original trailer, TV spot, radio spots
4 reproduction lobby card artcards (SteelBook Exclusive)
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and uncompressed stereo options
New optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

We Have 1 x Blu-Ray of All The Colours of The Dark to give away from Shameless Films.

rsz_coloursThanks to our good friends at Shameless Films we have 1 x BluRay of Sergio Martino’s stunning All The Colours Of The Dark aka Tutti I Colori Del Buio to give away to a lucky UK reader.

All The Colours Of The Dark is available from Shameless Films here – http://www.shameless-films.com/films/colours-dark-blu-ray/

For the first time ever in the UK, Shameless is very proud to present ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK, Sergio Martino’s dark and dazzling 1972 giallo masterpiece.

Italian celluloid icon Edwige Fenech (THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS WARDH, TOP SENSATION) leads an all-star cast as Jane Harrison, a nervous housewife plagued by nightmarish visions of her own bloody murder. To cure her hellish fantasies her bewitching neighbour Mary (Marina Malfatti, THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES) initiates Jane into a Satanic coven. But when she witnesses Mary’s ritual sacrifice at a candlelit black mass, Jane’s diabolical dreams start to come true. Who is the blue-eyed phantom stalking her and has she already witnessed her own death?

Genre acolytes George Hilton, Ivan Rassimov and Susan Scott join the unholy alliance in Martino’s tense and paranoid fever dream. Presented in ravishing high-definition and with a haunting score from Bruno Nicolai, satanic panic has never been so stylish!

To win the Blu-ray simply email your name to [email protected] and put Colours in the subject line . The winner will be randomly chosen and contacted for their address. UK readers only!!

The competition will run until July 1st 2017.

New Manchester company bring a series of Horror Themed Escape Rooms!!

rsz_moviescapeNew Manchester company bring magic of Hollywood to your door !

moviESCAPE is the newest, spookiest and most stylish escape room company to hit the UK and they are about to open their new venue in ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE. Their first venue opened in Stockport in October 2016 and due to popularity and huge demand have now opened their second venue un Ashton-Under-Lyne, which stars some well-known TV celebrities.

moviESCAPE is the brainchild of a group of movie producers (including a BAFTA winner)  and attraction owners that have brought their film and TV contacts together to form what many regard as the UK’s best escape room experience.  They are due to launch their new venue in Ashton-Under-Lyne early June with the room Haunted House: Exorcist. Their escape rooms have a mix of puzzles, games, entertainment and video interaction. This room features actors Ciaran Griffiths (Mickey from Shameless) and David McClelland (currently staring as Sean Beans brother in Broken).

Unlike other escape rooms, moviESCAPE has used movie props and sets to build the ultimate movie themed experience. The first room, ‘Haunted House’ took 8 months to build as it has sourced props from Horror movies and even contains props from real life haunted houses including a record player from the ‘Enfield house’ and an antique bible from the ‘Amityville house’ as well as other haunted artifacts. To ensure players get the full immersive experience, owners have used crew from major Hollywood movies to build and design their rooms.   A spokesperson for moviESCAPE says: “As film makers and fans we have done everything we can to make the players feel like they are in a movie. We have used real movie sets, props and crew to ensure our clients get the best experience possible. People have likened the quality of the rooms to attractions at major theme parks like Universal studios.

moviESCAPE said “We chose to theme our first two rooms as Horror due to Halloween 2016 , but we are currently working with production designers to plan our Adventure, Action and family themed rooms which will open this summer”.

moviESCAPE currently has two rooms in Stockport, a Haunted House room and a SAW themed room, and one room in Ashton, Haunted House: Exorcist.

The first two escape rooms are located in Welkin Mill Stockport, and Ashton is 12a George Street, Ashton-Under-Lyne.For more information about the rooms, visit: http://www.moviescape.co.uk

Here is the trailer –


SAW room video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iaplDIjmgE
Haunted House video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKoR5Jl2uzw&t=14s

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #20 – Stage Fright (2014)

rsz_stage_fright_posterChe Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #20 – Stage Fright (2014)

Join Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

Title: Stage Fright

Year: 2014

Director: Jerome Sable

Starring: Allie MacDonald, Douglas Smith, Meatloaf, Minnie Driver, Kent Nolan, Brandon Uranowitz

Netflix Percentage that I’ll like it (or rating): 2.4 stars. No recommendation on whether Netflix thinks I’ll like it or not.

Seen it before: No

rsz_stage_fright_1First Impressions: My deepest wish is that it will be a slasher musical. If my dreams come true that doesn’t mean it will be any good LOL! From the description it looks like a fairly standard slasher with the addition of musical theater camp. So I’m guessing it will be OK but nothing to write home about.

The Verdict: For once I was right! It IS a musical slasher film! And a darn well done one at that! It’s (unfortunately) a rare occurrence to be pleasantly surprised by a horror film these days. But Stage Fright was an entertaining romp through musical theater camp peppered with gruesome deaths and surprisingly good musical numbers.

Young Camilla and Buddy Swanson (played by Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith) were orphaned as children when their mother, up and coming Broadway star Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) was murdered after starring in The Haunting of the Opera. Her manager Roger McCall takes the children in and raises them as his own. Camilla and Buddy now work as cooks at the theater camp Roger owns. When the camp season starts the campers embark on a production of The Haunting of the Opera, which meets the same bloody fate as the original.

rsz_stage_fright_2This musical meets slasher is original, funny, toe-tapping and gory. Pretty much everything that anyone could want in a horror film. It takes some nice twists and turns, and skewers everything from actor rivalry to skuzzy locals. Camilla is the rising ingénue, auditioning for the camp musical when she’s technically ineligible as an employee. Smelling a profit to be made though, Roger allows it. Buddy is disgusted his sister wants anything to do with show business and the snobby campers who snub them on a yearly basis.

The songs are unexpectedly good. Often a film like this has trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, and the songs will suffer. But not this time. From the opening number sung by the campers, to those from the Haunting of the Opera, they are entertaining and fun. The gore effects are decent too, and there are a number of creative deaths which befall the unlucky campers during their annual production.

rsz_stage_fright_3As great as Stage Fright is, there are a couple of small nitpicks. The masked villain has only one rock solo toward the end of the film, but they flash on him several times earlier in the movie which would have been a perfect time for a rock song about what he wanted to do to the campers. Secondly, the deaths are all loaded into the very end, during the production of The Haunting of the Opera. I expected the deaths to be spaced out, more Sleepaway Camp style. Instead, after Minnie Driver’s death at the very beginning, the story of the camp takes over, and no one dies again until the climax. The intervening story IS good, so it’s engaging, but still loses sight that this is a slasher film, and therefore requires slashing to happen.

Still, the complaints are small and the entertainment is high! Treat yourself to this unusual and hilarious mash-up.

Rating: 8/10

Charismata (2017) Review

rsz_charis1Charismata (2017)

Written & Directed by Andy Collier & Toor Mian

Starring: Sarah Beck Mather, Andonis Anthony, Jamie Satterthwaite, David J. Peel, Ethan Chapples, Johnny Vivash.

What’s it all about?

When a ritualistic serial killer strikes the streets of London a young detective finds herself struggling with her sanity, questioning what’s real and what isn’t.

Is it good?

This was a very nice surprise. With smart direction, an engaging story and a solid cast ‘Charismata’ holds the attention until the end. From the off we meet detectives Smith (Andonis Anthony) and Faraway (Sarah Rebecca Mather) on their way to a gruesome murder scene. Soon they find themselves on the hunt for a serial killer, joined by slightly bumbling duo Perkins and Lawrence (David J. Peel & Ethan Chapples). They make for a very likeable team and, if anything, we never see enough of them all.

rsz_charis2The team’s investigation leads them to Michael Sweet (Jamie Satterthwaite) a charismatic, smooth talking and cocky businessman. He’s a prime suspect, but they have no evidence and despite doubt being cast over his guilt, with other suspects popping up such as security boss Tony Dewire, a slightly wired Johnny Vivash putting in a fun performance, and Ross Mullan as Doug, a shady salesman, Faraway finds she cannot let it go, becoming more and more obsessed with the dubious Sweet. Her sense of reality starts to blur and the film undergoes a change in tone from a straight forward serial killer thriller to a study of a tormented mind. It’s not an uncomfortable change of tone, although it loses the nice interplay between the investigation team, laced with some decent humour, and leaves us with a confident and emotional performance from Mather.

With her world crumbling, Faraway’s name is never more appropriate. As the story whirls to its conclusion it’s never clear how far it will push itself and there were some genuine surprises making it a satisfying journey. It leaves a number of questions behind, but that may be part of Collier and Mian’s master plan. They have put together an entertaining low budgeter here, one which I really enjoyed.

rsz_charis3The cast put in great shifts, Andonis Anthony’s ‘Smith’ is smug, but has an affable charm, which is balanced nicely in his performance.  Mather connects well with the audience and there is a real sense of pain and anguish in her struggles. As for Jamie Satterthwaite as the prime suspect, well, he looks like he’s having the time of his life as he fills his performance with glee and menace. He is conceited and arrogant, perhaps representing the ‘one percenters’ of the real world. Sweet makes for a good villain in a film that deserves some attention to come it’s way.
Keep an eye out for it!

3.5/5

The Eyrie by Thom Burgess – Graphic Novel Review

rsz_theerrieThe Eyrie (Graphic Novel) Review

Written by Thom Burgess
Illustrated by Barney Bodoano

Available here – http://theeyrie.bigcartel.com

What’s It All About?

From the writer of Malevolents ‘Click Click’ and illustrated by the talents of Barney Bodoano comes a whole new haunting tale of terror.
‘After accepting a last minute job request from an old client, New York based photographer, Rebecca finds herself alone in one the remote parts of Britain’s South Coast. Amidst the mist swept fields and superstitious townsfolk, Rebecca will soon find out that there are worst threats than simply not finishing her job on time….’

Is it good?

I’ll be honest, I don’t read many graphic novels, in fact the last one I did read was Burgess’s Malevolents: Click Click. However, due to the quality of ‘Click Click’ I was looking forward to seeing what he would produce next. ‘Click Click’ had an old fashioned horror vibe about it, the story moved at a good pace and all in all was a very satisfying read. No pressure here then, Thom!

Fortunately, it turns out that Thom Burgess is no flash in the pan and he has again given us a story that moves along briskly and smartly, throwing in characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a seventies horror movie. We get a cool, isolated, old town setting and a heroine who is out of place. All could have collapsed into cliche, but the writing keeps it fresh, lively and interesting with Bodoano’s illustrations lending to the atmosphere. The story pulls you in and races off coming to a neat conclusion giving us some nicely crafted characters and menacing supernatural villains along the way.

Burgess is compiling a cool series of stories, all feeling grounded and all compelling. I know he has a number of projects in the works and based on his last two works I’m very much looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

By the way, ‘The Eyrie’ has a foreword penned by Reece Shearsmith. Not a bad feather to have in the cap.

A good 4/5!