From Silent Hill to [REC]: Nisha-Anne Digs Into the The Daily Horror Hunt with Varied Results

A film challenge is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a particular genre, explore new areas, or focus on a period of cinematic history. The first one I did covered a whole range of eras and subjects, and I found myself revisiting formative films, examining how my attitudes had and hadn’t changed, discovering whole new depths to stories I thought I knew. Last year’s AUSgust challenge set up by Andrew spurred me into interrogating my own relationship to Australianness and its expressions onscreen as I rewatched faves and took the opportunity to watch films I always meant to get around to but was either too scared or plain forgot. I was supposed to watch 31 films, I ended up watching 45. It was brutal but wonderful.

And now with the endless treasure trove of Letterboxd, it’s easier than ever to find a film challenge that fits your broad or niche interests. It was through a Letterboxd mutual that I discovered the ongoing Horror Hunt. Each month, a different person compiles a list of categories and themes so you have a movie to find and watch each day. You comment on the original list, set up your list of movies to fit the daily prompts — pro tip: source all your films at this point, and note in each list entry where to watch them because you will forget — and get stuck in when the month begins.

I stumbled upon the Horror Hunt in the last week of May, so promptly signed up for June. Over the course of the month, I caught up on a few classics, watched a few recent hyped films, discovered a personal quirk, developed a passionate hatred for a whole cinematic culture, snarled and snarked about a lot of shitty film, and reaffirmed my love for certain subgenres. I also ended up adding a lot more horror to my watchlist.

The Daily Horror Hunt #48 for June 2022 set up by Riley.

Day 1: Choose a movie from the favourites of the person who compiled the May prompts, agracelm:

Silent Hill (2006)

A film I was always latently curious about but never remembered to watch. I spent the first half hour waiting for the plot to kick in. At the halfway mark so an hour in, there was plot in massive info dumps, which admittedly got me vaguely interested. The showdown was pretty spectacular. The ending totally caught me off guard, beautifully sad and really cleverly filmed. There was great production design, CGI that totally did not stand the test of time. But really most of it felt like a game walkthrough and a disservice to a cast of fantastic female actors: Radha Mitchell, Laurie Holden, and Jodelle Ferland.

If the babies had started dancing, I would have been properly horrified.

Day 2: Italian horror:

Suspiria (1977)

Another film I’ve been meaning to watch. The production design and score more than lived up to the hype and I thoroughly enjoyed both. Everything else bored, maddened, and frustrated me on so many technical levels. Atrocious acting, characters I did not care a damn about, camerawork and stunts that occasionally embarrassed me, a plot that was patently obvious and also I did not care about any of its flourishes. But it did make me glad I’d finally gotten around to watching this and can pinpoint with authority every other imitation/homage I see from now on. I swore “Never again” but have been told since that I will probably enjoy the remake. We’ll see.

Day 3: The third in a franchise:

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)

In which Doug Bradley and his delicious voice triumph over shitty dialogue, everyone else’s terrible acting, and a thoroughly silly showdown. Just like the first Hellraiser, I enjoyed that sexy gore so much. Probably because of the supernatural angle. Humans and their tedious misogyny are so boring — give me a supernatural being dealing out torture to men and women alike and spouting delicious nonsense as justification. A small highlight was the bit when our heroine was running for her life and I was admiring the lovely cable pattern on the high neck of her sweater, wondering if I could replicate it in crochet.

No, it did make me want to go back and rewatch the first film which I did a week or so later and enjoyed so much more in all its anti-establishment destruction of the nuclear heterosexual family, and all that gooey viscerality transposed so well from the page. Dear Clive Barker: if he didn’t exist, we horror queers would have to invent him.

Day 4: The most popular horror from 2021 I hadn’t seen:

Titane (2021)

Man, all I wanted was a nice wholesome story of a person having filthy sex with a car with no consequences and just fulfilment. But nooooo, I can never have nice things, can I?

Intellectually, I appreciated the queer subtext, the weird twisted longing for family, and the grotesquerie of all those bodies in all their forms. The colours were pretty and the music was great. But emotionally, it did absolutely nothing for me.

Really, it would have been the perfect short film: have the car sex, kill the guy, shower off, go back and have more sex, fade out on afterglow, the end.

Why can’t I ever have nice things?

Day 5: Eco horror:

The Host (2006)

That was excellent. Totally lived up to all the hype.

The camerawork, the colours, the detail, the comedy and the horror, the pathos, the badass family, the commentary on social class and the complex historical ramifications of the American presence. Of course I felt very sorry for the creature but it goes to show how excellent this was that I felt just as sorry and invested in the plight of this human family. Oof, that showdown hit hard. And the weird gorgeousness of that last shot.

So glad I watched it.

Day 6: Robert Englund’s birthday:

Freddy vs Jason (2003)

No, I didn’t go with the obvious choice here for reasons that will become clear later in the month.

This was so much fun. I went in with super low expectations, anticipating a shitty plot, shitty dialogue, shitty acting, and cheap lazy visuals. Instead, I got a halfway decent plot, shitty dialogue, shitty acting but an ultimately awesome final girl, and fucken glorious visuals. I may have cackled and cheered at some of the kills, especially when they involved gutting some cocky little manboy. I also either forgot or never fully realised what a cheeky motherfucker Freddy is, and how utterly gleeful Robert Englund’s performance is. A delight.

Day 7: Seventh entry from my horror watchlist on shuffle:

The 8th Night (2021)

God, I love Korean horror so much.

Even though I was too bone-tired to deal with subtitles and a typically intricate plot, that final half hour was excellent. I loved the cinematography all the way through, the textures and colours and the visual style.

Day 8: A Gremlins movie:

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

I went with the second since I watched the first only a few years ago so it was relatively fresh in my memory.

Man, I was in no way prepared for how deliriously bizarre that was. And the cameos! Tony Randall! Leonard Maltin! John Astin! Also John Glover is so underrated. I enjoy him so much.

You do have to wonder what’s going through Gizmo’s mind when he’s watching (and helping) humans viciously slaughter his less than well-behaved brethren. It reminded me of the model minority unease: this is what will happen to you if you’re not cute and cuddly and retain the love of your overlords, if you don’t Behave.

Day 9: Horror from the 30s, 40s, or 50s:

The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)

Look, I will not apologise for my very strong feelings and opinions about Mary Shelley, her awesome mum, and her brilliant novel that got bastardised into the first film, this, and most of the subsequent adaptations. (The Hallmark miniseries is surprisingly excellent, the Creature actually looks like he’s described in the book.) So here was the push I needed to finally watch this.

The Bride of Frankenstein – Martin Ansin – Regular

I love James Whale but his stories frustrate the fuck out of me. Such gorgeous angles and lighting and faces and such delicious little bits of humour and such raging queerness in this particular narrative. But even approaching it as fan fiction (which I love as a thing), this made me so mad. All the wrong names and wrong characterisation and worst of all, so much of the film was about the Creature instead of the Bride who only turns up in the last act. False fucken advertising, ugh.

But I did enjoy Elsa Lanchester’s fiery defiance as Mary Shelley and then her twitchiness as the Bride. I loved the blind man bit just as I love the origin in the novel. I loved Karloff’s tenderness and joy as the Creature like in the first film. I loved those crazy stairs and James Whale’s framing, god. I loved how Una O’Connor damned near stole the whole film. I loved the composites for the little figures so much. And one day I really have to read up on the production design.

Best of all though was how that egregious fuckup from the first film was corrected in this sequel with the writing credit changed from Mrs Percy B Shelley — chauvinistic pigs, Universal; Anita Loos would not stand for such condescension — to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley as it should be. And also that delicious specificity of citing the 1816 text. Not the 1831 revised edition, not even the 1818 text when it was first published, but the very first 1816 manuscript from that weekend? How very cool. Even if the film ended up as total fan fiction, I liked that gesture toward the very origin. The litnerd in me approved.

Day 10: A movie from 2010:

YellowBrickRoad (2010)

I loved that.

Sure, the acting wasn’t top notch. But that sound design was above and beyond awesome. The editing was pretty cool, too. The creepiness mounts and mounts and is so effective, very Algernon Blackwood. Which makes the occasional violence and gore that much more shocking. Though I would have liked the genders to be swapped in the first death. And my god, the fall unnerved the hell out of me. I won’t forget that image for a long while.

Some of the dialogue exchanges pierced me to the core, particularly Liv talking about feeling understood. That made me a little tearful with recognition even as it raised the hairs on the back of my neck. But that final act, holy moly. Never saw that coming and then that full circle, and the circle within the circle — it’s the donut hole! The Wizard Of Oz analogy was wonderfully cool though I got so caught up in everything I forgot to actually track who was who and if the characters totally fit the archetypes.

It occurred to me this would fit right in with Resolution and The Endless, in a similar use of film and recorded narratives looping around. It’s just so fucken cool.

Totally my jam.

Day 11: Cannibalism:

Dark Waters (1993)

Hooray, an Italian horror that did not make me furious!

I really, really enjoyed that. Even though the acting was wholly unconvincing, the pacing was totally off, it badly needed an edit, and at one point I pretty much gave up trying to understand what was going on. It’s like the movie’s attitude was “Plot, what plot? I like to wave at actual plots as they go by.” At least the core was clear from fairly early on and that was enough for this first watch.

But oh my gosh, the Aesthetique. The gorgeous grain and texture of Nineties film, the grunge, the flames, the paintings, the gore, the self-flagellating nuns, the lesbian undertones that turned incesty even. The score was quite derivative with the synths but the sound design with the crying children was such a clever touch, it kept me constantly off balance.

I felt a bit cheated out of the monster money shot and also felt so bad for the poor creature. But it was thrilling to see the monstrous-feminine in a particularly Lovecraftian mould. Ha, he’d probably approve, the racist sexist doofus.

I wonder what Barbara Creed thought of this.

Day 12: Cronenberg, dad or son:

Possessor (2020)

Yeah, that was all right. I wasn’t particularly moved or surprised or horrified by anything though I was pleasantly astonished at the explicit nudity. So many of the concepts were things that have lived for years in my imagination and so I was vaguely startled to see someone else put them onscreen but unenthused. Really, this was one more instance of “Oh, so basically The Cell?” Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the world who has watched and remembers and values that movie.

Day 13: My own thing:

The Whole Truth (2021)

The theme was 13 but none of the films with 13 in the title interested me, and I’ve already seen Thir13en Ghosts a few times. So I went with a film off my Netflix watchlist.

Yeaaaahhh, that was not good. Great production design but awful acting, horribly over-explained plot, characters who asked the same question three times. The narrative logic was so belaboured I zoned out and only tuned back in when necessary. Also, the CGI was embarrassing.

But I did appreciate the anti-ableism subtext and definitely recognised that prejudice and stigma from my own Asian culture though not necessarily my own family, thank goodness.

Day 14: Korean horror:

Svaha: The Sixth Finger (2019)

Holy god, that was so good. Such a fantastic example of everything I love about Korean horror: several storylines with strong characters and deep complex mythology that slowly intertwine and finally converge in this absolutely thrilling and frequently deeply emotional climax where everything twists and flips upside down and I’m mindblown with sheer delight.

It was really quite excellent characterisation, particularly with the pastor as protagonist. He was very John Constantine and brought a lot of the humour which I loved. The steps bit was too funny, and the bickering with the monks. The women were all rather sidelined, that was disappointing, and I expected the shaman at the start to play a much bigger role but she never did.

It was less heavy on the gore and CGI, and the showdown wasn’t as visually spectacular as it could have been, but my goodness, the discourse on faith and religion made me so goddamned happy. The weaving of Christianity and Buddhism in its many forms, gesturing to so much of its history — hallo, my birth country — and so much rage against an indifferent god, all of that made for a powerful experience for me with my stupid Catholic hardwiring and positive atheist fury. And the humanity got me so emotional. I didn’t expect that, the poignancy of three characters who had touched my heart way more than I realised. I got quite teary at the end.

I love Korean horror so much.

Day 15: A directorial debut from the last five years:

Spontaneous (2020)

Was that an allegory for the pandemic or for American school shootings? Either way, it was incredibly harrowing as well as being very, very funny but ultimately got too fucken real for my very tired brain. Charlie Plummer was excellent, the parents were particularly lovely and heartbreaking, and really that script shone. I hated how the movie made me feel but it was excellent.

Day 16: A mega classic I hadn’t seen:

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

I get very bored by slashers — except for Scream — and am very grossed out by redneck hillbilly tales which is why it took a film challenge to get me to watch this. And yes, it was wonderfully filmed with all that use of light and weird camera angles. I really loved the sound design and that brilliant score, how even the truck sounded like a chainsaw, how that grinding of a whetstone got my teeth on edge and actually put a metallic taste in my mouth. It also weirdly reminded me so much of first season True Detective.

The radio voiceovers of violence and atrocities had me thinking of so much academia analysing this film as symptomatic of American anxiety about the disintegration of American society. Still I was pleasantly surprised at who got killed first, who survived the longest, and who came to the girl’s rescue at the end and then charged off for his own survival. Interesting nuance of representation in terms of gender and race and ability.

Gosh, I did not expect the Ed Gein influence to be so overt. That was all rather thrilling, I’ve never seen anything replicate the Gein knick-knacks in such detail. Though I bet even he put some plastic down before he picked up his tools, good christ the walls. (Dennis Nilsen did.) And no one told me Leatherface was an artist! I loved those arrangements, the elongated dimensions in such elegant grotesquerie. So fab.

I was rather astonished by the elaborate plot turns of the final act. I thought the whole movie would just be one guy with a chainsaw cutting down every eejit coming to his front door, final girl escapes, boom, done. So that whole last section did perk me up, until she started screaming and thrashing again and generally being the most useless final girl. I could not have been the only one to think “Christ, if you stopped screaming, you could run faster and further. And put a bra on, you’re making my chest hurt. Ugh, Seventies film.”

Ultimately, I watched the iconic final scene of the unhinged laughter and the whirling chainsaw with an expression of complete boredom. Are you done yet, mate? Can I open up Letterboxd now? Oh thank fuck.

Give me a good demonic possession any day. Not that one, argh.

Day 17: Lucio Fulci’s birthday:

The Devil’s Honey (1986)

Yep, that was exactly as terrible and infuriating as I expected. I was mildly amused at the approximation of menstruation fetish or whatever it’s called, and the slightly more disturbing connotations of bestiality. But really, there was not enough sexual torture of the man as promised. I did smirk at the hot wax moment which was the only good bit. Everything else frankly lacked imagination. As Mrs Slocombe from Are You Being Served would say: “Weak! As! Water!”

The acting and dubbing even in Italian was atrocious. Compounding my fury was the fact that our heroine was frequently full frontal naked but the men always had their bits covered. If Paul Verhoeven can put a blood-smeared flaccid cock right up front in the very first scene of Basic Instinct, you can bloody well do the same, Fulci. Different decades is no excuse.

It was mildly sweet that our heroine came into her domme powers when she found a male sub but god, that was an incredibly disappointing consummation. Movies like this convince me that straight men have no idea how to do sex either on the page or on the screen. (I’m assuming Fulci was, of course.) Feh.

Day 18: Rewatch a movie integral to my love of horror:

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

So when I was five, I happened to see this film. For the next twelve years, I had actual nightmares about it. Not about Freddy himself, but two bits in particular: that moment when she goes up the wall, and the moment when the body wrapped in bloodied plastic appears in the classroom doorway. Much later when I was forced to watch first season of Twin Peaks, I was a little amused but mostly bewildered at the similar image.

In my final year of uni, I decided enough was enough, I was going to make myself rewatch this and all the rest of the films. I think the shift into parody got rid of my lingering terror. I had stopped having nightmares when I was seventeen, I think mostly out of sheer irritation at myself.

Nightmare on Elm Street – Mike Saputo

So yeah, went into this viewing a little trepidatious. And then what do you know? Totally zoned out. But it was nice to revisit the origin of Freddy, even if it wasn’t handled particularly well. Funny how much better a filmmaker Wes Craven becomes between this and Scream, and how much Scream benefits from that excellent script and Kevin Williamson in general. I guess then Scream was the movie that started my love of horror rather than my horror of horror?

Really though, the Lin and Robert Shaye links to so much iconic horror is amazingly cool.

Day 19: Fathers:

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Oh my gosh, I enjoyed that so much. I love a good anthology film, and the structure was so interesting here. Plus I really respond to Michael Dougherty’s visual style, the spectacle and colours with which he fills the screen.

Anna Paquin and Dylan Baker were marvellous in their respective stories and beyond. And I absolutely loved the werewolves effects with the skin sloughing off and all that delicious bloodlust. I might have to rewatch this to really put it all together because I feel like there were still little references and loop-arounds that I might have missed.

Fuck yeah to little Sam, I enjoyed their shenanigans so very much.

Day 20: When animals attack:

Black Sheep (2006)

That was … too silly for words.

I am speechless.

Day 21: Indigenous horror:

Blood Quantum (2019)

Turns out even fantastic cinematography, gorgeous colours, brilliant sound design, interesting animation, an awesome score, and Michael Greyeyes wielding a weapon with cool ferocity cannot get me to engage with a zombie story.

Also, the gendertyping annoyed me, especially the final death.

I want so much more First Nations horror and using the horror tropes I love. Zombies bore me so goddamned much, ugh.

Day 22: Bruce Campbell’s birthday:

Black Friday (2021)

I liked the increasingly colourful lighting but this just made me miss Superstore, except it wasn’t nearly as goodhearted or scathing as that wonderful show. Also, the race representation of the survivors sucked. But the creature makeup was very impressive.

Day 23: A film logged by another challenge participant, in this case my friend Eric:

Black Sunday (1960)

I really enjoyed the prologue which set up such a thrilling narrative. I was so eager to see this gorgeous witch lay waste to the family. Like yes, shag and slaughter ’em all, dew it Anakin!

But nope. What I got instead was insufferably tedious plotting, dreadfully overwritten dialogue, wooden acting for the most part, incongruously serene dubbing, and worst of all, the witch didn’t even get that much screentime. What a waste of potential.

But oh my gosh, the cinematography and production design were remarkable. The production design was definitely flying its Cocteau flag high, though not quite as ethereal and otherworldly. This was more like Corman meets Cocteau.

I loved the choice to film in black and white with such stark lighting. If it had been in colour, the whole film would have looked either dull or garish. But it was almost luscious and so beautiful to look at, it made my eyes so happy even while it bored my brain into a stupor and irritated the fuck out of me. I realised three-quarters through that I was grunting Nanny McPhee style at every torturous info dump and logic wrangle. I have a horrible suspicion I do that at bad dialogue in every movie.

So I prefer Mario Bava as a cinematographer rather than a director? Yeah, I’ll take it.

Italian horror, my new frenemy.

Day 24: Produced by Roger Corman:

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

I pressed play on this and then almost immediately hit pause because I wanted to reread the Lovecraft short story that I barely remembered. And then a small part of my mind cackled hysterically all the way through the film, practically crying with laughter at how they completely bastardised what is genuinely a pretty great narrative even with Lovecraft’s typical flaws. At the same time, most of my brain found a perverse delight, even admiration, in how this adaptation reframed the super creepy super rural omniscient — omni-withholding? — approach of the short story into a very modern super Sixties/Seventies normcore plot with obvious protagonists and antagonists from the very start.

The sexuality which is a sort of brief latent revulsion in the background of the original text totally dominates this version. The film is so much of the sexual revolution era with the same anxiety about female virginity and fear of pagan hippie free love. I almost felt sorry for poor sex-repulsed ace Lovecraft at that point but also kind of admired such a modern take on such an old text. There was also a sort of religious persecution subtext which startled me a little, an almost sympathy for the weird ole Whateley’s in this incarnation at least.

Poor Dean Stockwell. I love his smouldering energy even though every time I look at him, I see his sweet little boy face from Anchors Aweigh. But he was way too pretty and way too short for monstrous eight-foot tall Wilbur Whateley. (“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”) And poor Sandra Dee. I liked the significance of putting her very virginal persona into this movie but I swear she had only five lines of dialogue. The rest of her performance was just moaning and writhing. She deserved better.

I suppose the Corman production design was in muted effect here. I loved that blue wallpaper and got a bit sad when it went up in flames. The editing of the early montage was so promising with its glimpses of tentacles, and there was that particularly fascinating sequence with optical effects on a riverbank. But then the filmcraft got shockingly lazy and the showdown was pathetic, the final shot laughable, like the filmmakers either ran out of money or enthusiasm.

What a waste of Lovecraft. I’m actually somewhat offended on his behalf, the wildly racist doofus.

Day 25: Folk horror:

A Field In England (2013)

The combination of Michael Smiley and Reece Shearsmith made this absolutely riveting to me, both such interesting actors who never ever bore me. I’m fascinated by their little choices and big choices, the play of emotion on their faces, the intelligence of their performances, and the dark humour they both do so well.

It definitely helped that this is only my second Ben Wheatley film so I applied all the lessons I learned from In The Earth. I knew not to expect a tidy explanation or any explanation at all. And I was totally fine with that, to make up my own meaning from all the interactions and subtexts presented. Also, I had zero knowledge of the war in question so all I went on was the feudal and self-determination stuff in the text.

It was such a good decision to film in black and white. The sight of an English meadow is so iconic, I knew exactly the blues and greens and golds I was looking at. If all those colours were onscreen, it would have been too modern, too now, and the black and white definitely helped to distance the story from my time.

Also for me, the black and white really made this a war movie in the classic Brit and Hollywood tradition: a small senseless story in the greater senseless narrative that is every war ever. But the important things make sense: friendship, “mateship”, the looming terror of the multiverse, power and self-determination. “I am my own master”, such a defiant English concept. I also wondered if the artifice of black and white made it even more surreal, to make us even more conscious we’re watching a constructed story, like the constructed tableaux within the film itself, life frozen into almost paintings. History is a construct over and over again. Demanding sense is a construct.

Ben Wheatley films always get me deconstructing everything. I enjoy them so much.

Day 26: Comedy horror:

The Selling (2021)

The first half was so much fun, I laughed more than once, especially at the male screaming and Richard our hero yelling back at the ghost, “I’m trying!” Barry Bostwick was having way too much fun in his couple of scenes, he always gives such good value. The second half was not so great, it felt very much like they had run out of ideas with the ghost narrative so lapsed into a demon plot which really didn’t work for me. Though admittedly the showdown was kind of interesting.

Obviously the film was working with a limited budget which showed in the CGI and the sets and the murky lighting and fairly mediocre cinematography. But the humour and the characterisation really shone, I loved that. The mum and the tenderness of her relationship with Richard made me melt in every scene. Ginger our heroine was wonderfully sarcastic and clever and quite badass, particularly in the very relatable mid-credits coda. Such a combination of comedy and horror, despite the low budget, had me promptly adding the rest of the Diani-Devine films to my watchlist.

Also, Gabriel Diani has a great arse. I’m just saying.

Day 27: Rewatch the first horror I logged on Letterboxd:

Get Out (2017)

Oof. Just as hair-raising and unnerving as that first time in the cinema, when I was the only person of colour with three white people down the front. I felt positively triggered that first time, and it damned near happened again this time, the actual creeping horror you feel as a person of colour in conversation with white people with everything friendly on the surface and an awful weirdness pressing up inside the words. Every alarm bell in your head is clanging loud, screaming to get the hell out of this conversation, this situation, this room. You feel it as a person of colour, you feel it as a female-bodied creature, you feel it as a queer.

That final act is such a release, both in terms of comedy and sheer catharsis. Watching Chris stomp them is so damned satisfying, total wish fulfilment because in real life, the best you can do is lob a cutting remark into the conversation and leave the room. Never mind that you’re shaking inside.

How curious to realise my boyfriend Daniel Kaluuya displays none of his absolutely thrilling menace in this role. It’s a stellar cast, even more so now that I’ve seen Lakeith Stanfield in so much since this movie and his face is so dear to me. His performance is fucken exquisite, the layers of uncanny and terror. And oh my god, I only just started rewatching Living Single and there is Erika Alexander in this iconic film. I recognised her voice first and then realised it was her and shrieked a bit. And Lil Rel Howery that utter treasure, I adore his chaotic energy so much.

It occurred to me this time how the use of the camera in this film subverts that old stereotypical superstition of tribal people fearing the camera stealing their soul. Here the camera flash restores them to themselves. Which leads to the reflexive notion of what happens when people of colour take hold of the camera and record our own stories and our own experiences: we are both subject and object for ourselves instead of being the object of the colonising white gaze.

God, I can’t wait for Nope. It’s gunna be Epic.

Day 28: Pride:

32 Malasana Street (2020)

I waited three-quarters of this film for the queer content, wondering whether I had been inadvertently misled or chose wrong. And then it came out of nowhere in the final act, and went from outright transphobia to making me tear up with a sort of emotional catharsis. Ultimately, it was a very unsatisfying ending which I rewrote in my head during the final two scenes to go The Babadook way.

Still the cinematography and production design were absolutely gorgeous with all those shades and textures, the sheer richness onscreen even if it devolved into murkiness a few too many times. And as usual with Spanish horror, I got mildly obsessed with the elaborate wallpaper. The storytelling was very muddled with nil characterisation but that didn’t bother me much. The jump scares were either annoying or ineffectual but the creature design was wonderfully creepy.

We need so much more queer horror with wonderful affirming endings. I want all of that so much.

Day 29: From the Criterion Collection:

The Phantom Carriage (1921)

It’s official. Buster Keaton has ruined me for silent film.

The pacing of silent drama drives me nuts. I get so impatient with the long reactions and laboured mimed conversations that I want to burst out of my skin. Give me the dizzying pace of silent comedy or at least the stately intricate momentum of The General.

But I did get very obsessed with the lighting of the interiors in this film. It was extraordinary, both the quality of the light and the quality of the restoration, my goodness. Those first few scenes were absolutely flawless in their detail. I was mesmerised by a very plain shawl, the fact that I could see every square of that filet pattern. The way the light glowed on their skin and in their eyes — it must have been so bright and maybe they were also super fair in that typical Swedish way? I don’t know but it was fascinating.

The deliciously creepy premise thrilled me when it finally was revealed. But then the plot got bogged down in insufferable Victorian (or is it post-Victorian?) sentimentality, complete with the ministering angel trope which enrages me just as much as the angel of the house trope — screw off, Dickens — and then heaped with so much melodramatic brutality. I suppose that was the original source material from the novel. It was torture.  

But the score was very effective. I’m assuming what I heard was the Matti Bye score rather than the more atmospheric KTL score, but it was chilling enough and emotive enough to have my hair standing at several points of the disgustingly human drama playing out onscreen.

Really, this made me want to reread Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man, that perfect novel about Death as a character.

Also I did not realise the Swedish phrase for “The End” is “Slut.” I had a very comically outraged reaction to that and then laughed at myself.

Day 30: Choose a movie from the faves of Robert Berlin who organises the Horror Hunts:

[REC] (2007)

I have such a soft spot for found footage films even though there’s been a glut of substandard takes for too damned long. And this was an excellent example of everything I love about the subgenre: the mundane turning to unnerved weirdness turning to panic and chaos; lots of people screaming and running around and bumping into each other and the walls; unexpected shocking violence with the thrilling bonus of practical rather than CGI effects because man, that is proper bloodied silicone being torn off that person’s face — I watch Glow Up, I know how these things work.

It’s also the only time I accept and take an unholy glee in wildly shaky handheld camerawork.

Yes, I was a little disappointed when this turned into a zombie flick but the found footage aspect had me hooked by then. And I very much enjoyed the wonderfully creepy blend of religion and science in the final act which makes total sense for Spanish horror, a subgenre that goes hard in ways that delight me nearly every time.

Mind you, the movie hits a bit differently when watched three years into a pandemic with all its onscreen hysteria around isolation and lockdown and contagion spread. I might have snorted at the line “The speed of infection depends on the blood type of the person.” Nah, mate, it’s your immune system, not your blood type, and even then, good bloody luck.

All the Spanish horror I’ve watched recently has me convinced that Spanish cities are full of gorgeous old apartment buildings with long corridors, cute wrought iron balconies, and many rooms filled with interesting wallpaper and fabulous vintage furniture. Never tell me otherwise.


Born in India, based in Sydney, queer nerd who would like to assure you they only put their feet up for the one second it took to get the pic.

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