As the last person on earth to start a blog, because I’ve never had time, and aware of how important an online presence is for emerging writers, I’ve decided to talk aloud to myself in this space and process my thoughts on what I have read, watched and heard: books, films, music. In short, what’s important to me. And has been since my youth. I’m not going to change. But instead of adding formal reviews, I plan to just throw down either recommendations, or warnings to the curious (that something might be a terrible disappointment).
I’m an inveterate collector of horror films, and rarely abide by the critics (though word of mouth from those whose taste you trust is priceless). I will, however, freely admit that I often come unstuck. There are few films as bad as bad horror films, and few films packaged deceptively well in the way bad horror films are. Stretching back to my early teens, heading to the video shop and loading up on horror films has been a treat I’ve been unable to let go of (despite previous administrations of domineering girlfriend). So me and the horror film are bedfellows for life. And I like to take risks – when renting or buying a film I have neither heard of or read of. Because there is nothing like discovering a low-budget masterpiece. And often, it can be as little as a solitary scene in a horror film that stays with you for life, that hits the sublime of terror, that inspires you to write.
So last Saturday, I spent two hours in the big HMV in the Westfield Mall close to where I live in West London. Two hours in the impressive horror section. Because of online piracy, the price of a new DVD – and I always buy or rent, and don’t download – is now great value. In fact, I cannot ever remember films being so cheap to buy. So I bought five for thirty quid.
Wind the clock forward to nine o’clock on a Saturday evening, I am going through all three bins in the house looking for the receipt for said five films. Up to my elbow in the kitchen bin, and collecting Special K soaked in yoghurt around my watch strap (forgot to take it off). The recycler is then upended and I find three paper receipts – one for Morrisons, two for Waitsrose. Fuck all for HMV.
How did I get here? The first film I slipped into the DVD player cost £5 (could have been worse, could have been £15). It’s not particularly new, and I have circled it in video shops for years. Particularly in that 2000 – 2003 glut when about ten horror films were being released each week and the Asian films were usually the best. Anyway, the first film on Saturday night was ripped from the machine within 25 minutes and cast down, as all terrible shit should be cast down. I’d been had, taken, shaken down and fleeced by a great cover, a promising setup, and reviews that said “Scary as Hell” and “Terrifying”. As I’m writing a novel of supernatural horror, a novel of psychic terror in the wilderness, this film looked like it might keep me in the right mindset. Which I find important when writing – constantly feeding the maelstrom with books and films and anything that works as fuel. Like method acting, but for a writer. But this film possessed a trait I deplore in film making – the made-up-as-we-go-along feel. It followed the five-American-college-kids-on-spring-break formula without cessation, whilst trying to shoe-horn Romero style flesh-eating rednecks into the storyline too. I’ve sat through plenty of shit in my time, but life was too short to sit through this steaming turd. Eject.
The receipt was not found. I found the HMV bag, but not the receipt. So I wasted another 20 minutes moaning to my girlfriend that “I could not have been given one” and “why would I throw away the receipt?”. Until she suggested we watch one of the other films; start over so to speak. I agreed, but only like a degenerate gambler about to throw another grand on to a Craps table. What if the next film was shit too? Subliminal flashes of me putting a gun in my mouth, or at least lying awake and irritable all night, planning a return to HMV without a receipt to attempt an exchange, haunted me.
The next film was slipped into the DVD player, but not before I first looked on the rear of the case and saw “Magnet Films”. Who’s ever heard of Magnet Films? And why did I not check the rear of the case more thoroughly in the shop before buying five films?
Fortunately, for my sanity, and the salvation of the girlfriend’s Saturday evening, the second film was a body-horror classic, and kept me engaged until the credits and obligatory nu-metal song kicked-in. It was inventive, tense, surprising, superbly acted, and employed one of those simple but harrowing horror film “motions” that become signatures i.e. the way the ghost in The Ring or Pulse moved towards the camera all double-jointed and jerky; the way the elderly woman runs across the ceiling/walls like a spider in Legion and Mirrors etc In this film, the hideous creature, slung it’s human head on a slack neck against windows and doors to gain entry. And if its mottled and dead-eyed head did not effect entry, it carried on knocking with its skull and leaving stains, so you could still hear it. Terrific stuff. The film also featured three people trapped in a mini-mart/gas station for hours, with this thing crawling around outside the building and on the roof, and the situation gave me that childish glee throughout – “I’d eat the chocolate, smoke the cigarettes, and drink the beer before it got me.”
The first film was called Cabin Fever. And will be forever known to me as Cabin Fucker.
The second film was called Splinter, and will be recommended by me for some time to come.
If you’re curious about the other three I bought and no longer have the receipt for, they were Messengers 2: The Scarecrow; The Hamiltons; Dying Breed. Feel free to warn me against any terrible shit I have in store.