Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)

Don't Be Afraid of the DarkLord Emerson Blackwood is a renowned 19th century wildlife painter, who lives in a huge manor called Blackwood Manor. One day, he bludgeons his housekeeper to death in the basement, and afterwards he removes her teeth. Not only that, he also removes his own teeth…and offers them as some kind of sacrifice to a bunch of mysterious creatures living inside the old fireplace, who has kidnapped his son. The creatures reject his offer, and tell him that they only want the teeth of children. And then, just like his son, he also gets dragged in by the creatures. Fast forward to present day, we meet 8-year old Sally who moves into Blackwood Manor with her father Alex and his girlfriend Kim. They want to restore the old manor for a client, to have it put on the market for sale. Very soon Sally gets to hear and see glimpses of the teeth-craving creatures, who are eager to finally get some of those children’s teeth they want…

 

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a supernatural horror film from 2010, directed by Troy Nixey as his feature directorial debut, and written by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins. It is a remake of the 1973 ABC made-for-TV film of the same name. In the original Sally was the wife of Alex, not his daughter, but this change kind of fits well for the more apparent fantasy-theme this remake has been given. And yes: obviously, it has Guillermo del Toro’s fingerprints all over it.

 

With the movie’s opening there isn’t much of a mystery plot going on, as we already know that there are some creatures living in the house which craves for human teeth, or specifically those from children. Thus, we already know the mansion is infested with ghoulish tooth fairies. We do find out a little bit more about them as the mansion reveals some of Lord Emerson’s secrets, which includes some of this paintings. Despite a lack of actual mystery, the atmosphere is one of the focal points in the film, blending the gothic mansion interior and exterior with the fantasy aspects and making it spookily fun. As for the monsters themselves, they’re…well, not exactly very impressive. They’re the standard CGI fantasy creature, fitting in a fantasy plot more than a horror one I guess.

 

Now, the original from 1973 is by many deemed a classic, and it appears to have given lots of kids the willies when they saw the movie sometime in the 70’s, and according to del Toro it also gave him quite a fright when he watched it as a child. A remake is bound to not have the same effect, especially when also changing the perspective from a grown woman to that of a child. It works pretty well, but it does of course change the tone of the story quite much. And since Guillermo del Toro was involved in this, I guess that there were also some people expecting a new Pan’s Labyrinth or something, which it is definitely not. It’s a typical movie that plays primarily on childhood fears, mixing in some bits from the world of mythology and turns it into something sinister, but not as dark as what can be seen in the aforementioned film. Overall, I still think it’s a well made gothic fantasy-horror movie, with enough spooky atmosphere to be enjoyable.

 

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

 

Director: Troy Nixey
Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Country & year: US, 2010
Actors: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Bruce Gleeson, Eddie Ritchard, Garry McDonald, Carolyn Shakespeare-Allen, Jack Thompson, Julia Blake, David Tocci, Lance Drisdale
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1270761/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Antlers (2021)

A middle school teacher, Julia, becomes interested in the life and well-being of one of her students. He is harboring a dark secret, one that will lead to terrifying encounters with a legendary ancestral creature.

 

Antlers is based on Nick Antosca’s short story The Quiet Boy, a story that I truly enjoyed…not to mention that I also find myself intrigued by the mythology surrounding the Wendigo, which this story could be considered a modern take on. Anyway: needless to say, I got a little bit hyped up for this movie…and it was also delayed twice due to Covid-19 (originally it was supposed to be released in April 2020). So, after finally being able to see the movie on the big screen, did it live up to the hype? Well…so far, people’s opinions of it are quite mixed, and I can see why.

 

First of all, there’s been more than a few changes to the original story. Some of these changes were obviously made to flesh out the teacher character by adding a trauma of her own, with flashbacks and descriptions of how she and her brother grew up in a home of abuse. I guess this was made in order to clarify why she becomes so taken by Lucas, and how she wants to save him from growing up under similar circumstances. The depiction of just how damaged she is, by subtle hints such as her standing in the store looking at the liquor bottles and always forcing herself to not buy one, is a nice touch. Julia’s childhood trauma is defined in a sufficient way without taking up too much of the story and screentime.

 

Now, since this movie is based on a short story it’s kind of hard to write a review without making comparisons, but I’ll try to keep away from any major spoilers when doing so. In the original story, it’s not revealed until much later why Lucas is living under such conditions, and why he’s doing the things he does. This gives everything a chance to build up with some mystery and suspense. In the movie, however, there’s a very big change: in the very first moments of the movie, we meet Frank (Lucas’s father) who is making meth inside a cave where he and his companion encounters the malevolent spirit, and thus Frank becomes affected. This also changes a major factor in the original story. This does (in my opinion) subtract a bit from the actual horror of the original story, where the movie plays more upon a monster coming to get you, rather than how poverty and desperation can make people bring out the monsters. Oh well…all that aside, the changes in plot doesn’t outright destroy or damage the movie, it’s just a bit different from the original story which, in my opinion, feels both darker and scarier.

 

As for the killing scenes and the horror of how Frank and Lucas’s brother are transformed into hungry and malevolent beasts, there’s nothing to complain about here. There are close-ups of heavily mutilated corpses and gruesomeness all around. Guillermo del Toro as producer for this movie comes as not much of a surprise, as dark fairytales with monsters is kinda his forté. And in the movie’s final moments, when we get to see the wendigo monster in its fully glory, you can easily see his fingerprints all over the place. It’s one of the movie’s definite highlights.

 

If you have read the story (which I recommend, despite there being more than a few changes in the movie), you’ll know that this is not a fast-paced horror story. Overall, I think that Antlers doesn’t really match the darkness and horror of the original story, and there are a few instances where it moves along a little too slowly for its own good. However, it delivers grim and gruesome scenes, some very effective and gory ones too. Visually, it looks great, and the wendigo-monster is awesome. So while I prefer how the story unfolds in The Quiet Boy, I still enjoyed how Antlers turned out.

 

Antlers

 

Director: Scott Cooper
Country & year: USA, 2021
Actors: Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, Amy Madigan, Sawyer Jones, Cody Davis, Lyla Marlow, Jesse Downs, Arlo Hajdu, Dorian Kingi, Ken Kramer
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt7740510/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THRESHER – Inter-Dimensional Horror Short

A man locked in a room faces inter-dimensional terror.

 

Thresher is a short that offers a little bit of inter-dimensional horror, where a man is locked inside a Victorian-styled room while trying to figure out a way to escape. Guillermo del Toro was the set designer for this short, and it was shot for the Guillermo del Toro & Legendary pictures House of Horrors competition.

 

THRESHER - Inter-Dimensional Horror Short

 

Director: Mike Diva, Sam Shapson (co-director)
Country & year: USA, 2014
Actors: Nick Gregorio, Ruben Pla, Douglas Olsson
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt4172114/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)It’s 1968, and we’re in a small town called Mill Valley where a group of teens are dressing up and getting ready for Halloween. This trio consists of Stella, an aspiring horror writer, a nervous nerd named Auggie, and the prankster Chuck. It’s their final year of trick-or-treating on Halloween together, and they’ve planned to use it as an opportunity to play a trick on the local school bully Tommy. This ends up with Tommy’s car getting vandalized, and he and his gang starts chasing them into a drive-in theater. While the trio is desperately looking for a hiding place, they all enter a young man’s car. His name is Ramon, and Stella immediately feels attracted to him as it becomes clear that he also shares the same passion for horror movies as she does. When Tommy and his gang are out of the way, Stella suggests that they visit the haunted house nearby: the old Bellows family residence. The Bellows family had a daughter, Sarah Bellows, whom they locked inside the house. No photos of the girl existed, and the story tells that she hanged herself inside the house after being accused of causing the death of several children after reading them some of the scary stories she used to write. When the group of teenagers enter the old house, they find the secret entrance to the room where the family kept Sarah locked in…and one of her “Scary Stories” books. Stella brings it back home with her, but when she starts reading it, a new story suddenly starts writing itself on one of the blank pages. Sarah Bellows is back at telling scary stories again…

 

“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is a movie that plays a lot on the nostalgia for those of us who have read the book series by the same name, with the infamous illustrations by Stephen Gammell. The illustrations have played the biggest role in making the blood run cold in many a child’s veins when browsing through the pages, and the movie is actually taking clear references from the actual drawings themselves, even more than from the original stories. Like for example “Harold”, the scarecrow story. The story in the movie is nothing like the original story (in fact, the original story from the book is much darker), but in the movie’s setting it works in order to tie it up with the rest of the characters. And the woman from the story called “The Dream” is so much like the character from Stephen Gammell’s original illustration that I actually got a little chill. Now, in order to tie the original stories together with the plot in this movie, changes had to be made of course. Many of the stories from the original books were also based on folklore and urban legends, and thus some of the characters in the movie actually references to remembering some of the stories from their earlier childhood. There is also a new addition to the movie: the “Jangly Man”, which is a character composed from several of the stories and Stephen Gammell’s illustrations (including the “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker” story). While there aren’t references to every single story in the series of three books, there’s enough to keep you satisfied.

 

Now, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is not a horror movie for gore-hounds or those looking for something really scary. It’s a visually rich film with the excellent dark fantasy-mood that Guillermo del Toro has become so known for, and the direction by André Øvredal (who previously made “Trollhunter” and the quite dark and scary “Autopsy of Jane Doe” is confident and strong. Also keep in mind that the books were all written for and intended for children (so why they had some of the most nightmare-fueling illustrations you could possibly find is a bit mind-boggling, but really cool nevertheless). Still, the movie is really entertaining and chock-full of atmosphere (and actually some creepy scenes as well). You’ll also easily be able to enjoy it without having read the books, but there’s still no doubt that this movie will probably get a stronger hold on those of us that have read (and seen) them.

 

There’s also possibilities for a sequel or two here, and I hope they use that opportunity. Maybe a trilogy, just like the books. We’ll find out, sooner or later!

 

And, of course, the Horror Ghouls own the books and have done so for some years now. Here’s some photos from the books, and you’ll easily be able to see the similarities of the characters from Stephen Gammell’s illustrations. And for those interested in getting their hands on these books: they used to be out of print and not so easy to get your hands on (aside from some eBay listings), but they had a reprint a couple years back. The books had a reprint earlier as well, but that version didn’t contain Stephen Gammell’s illustrations as instead they hired Brett Helquist for the job to make new ones. While Brett Helquist is a very talented illustrator, known for making the art for books like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and many others, the new illustrations just weren’t as bloodcurdling as the originals by Stephen Gammell. Thus, the replacements in the previous reprint did of course disappoint a lot of people. But now, you can easily get your hands on the books with the original drawings!

 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

 

Director: André Øvredal
Country & year: USA | Canada, 2019
Actors: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn, Austin Abrams, Kathleen Pollard, Stephanie Belding, Hershel Blatt, Brandon Knox, Jane Moffat, Amanda Smith
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt3387520/

 

Vanja Ghoul