31 Days Of Horror Movie Challenge: Day 16

Each day in October, three brave souls from our gang of Groovy Goolies (co-editor Paul Childs, Boardgames Master Aaron Nash and Ultimate Movie Geek Nathaniel Jepson) are watching horror films from around the world and across a wide spectrum of the horror genre, so expect slashers, ghosts, cultists, demons, vampires, cannibals, zombies, kaiju, aliens and more!

Paul’s Choice – Arachnophobia (1990)

Everyone is afraid of spiders, right? Actually, I’m not, but this is almost enough to change my mind! What stands out immediately in this 1990 family-friendly horror is the quality of the practical effects.

Every single spider was a real living specimen (aside from close-ups of the enormous “General” which was quite clearly a puppet because if spiders like that actually exist then I’m taking Richard Branson up on his flights into space) and not a single one was harmed in the making of the film. Even the scene where John Goodman’s character steps on one was film trickery (he had a hollow section in the sole of his boot which the sneaky spider curled up in). There’s a scene where Jeff Daniels is chucking bottles of his expensive wines at The General, played by a real-life bird eating tarantula Big Bob. Daniels was instructed to miss the beast by three feet so as not to startle him. Daniels and Bob didn’t get on, according to behind the scenes stories and the spider-wranglers were ready, just off camera, to leap in and grab Bob in case he tried to attack Daniels!

When this came to UK cinemas in early 1991 I did something I’d never done before – I asked a girl out on a date. I rang my friend Marina, asked her to come out to see this with me, and much to my astonishment she said “Yes”. We agreed where to meet, I walked down there and waited. And waited. And waited. What you have to remember is that in those days mobile phones were cumbersome beasts and only yuppies carried them. I had no way to contact her, nor her me.

So I went home, rang her from there, having missed the film. She had also waited for me just around the corner from where I was stood. We never attempted a second date. So whenever I watch this film, I think of that cold January night, my hopes raised and eventually dashed on the rocks.

Anyway – back to the film… It’s more of a rollercoaster ride than a horror. Disney themselves once said that with Arachnophobia they invented the rather clumsily monikered “Thrill-omedy” genre (I wonder why people don’t use that phrase anymore? Or ever!!)

Fun, silly, but just not very scary. Unless you don’t like spiders. Or are a rare wine collector.

Aaron’s Choice – The Blair Witch Project (1999)

To this day Blair Witch Project still creeps me out by the atmosphere the revolutionary filming style creates. It may not have been the first ‘found footage’ style film but in my eyes, it is the best and most ground-breaking. It was the first film I can remember to properly use social media to make viewers think it was real. Fake news reports, posters, interviews with people the apparently knew them. As a kid, thus blew my mind. Was it real? Was it fake? News travelled fast around us all, even by those who hadn’t seen it. It truly kicked up a craze.

This, of course, all settled down and nowadays everyone knows it was just a fictitious film but what it does still do is provide a great haunting film that feels like it could still be real. It’s one of the few films where I loved the film even more after listening to the audio commentary on the DVD. It gives real insight into how the filming feels so much like it’s from the actors perspective. That’s because it was. The actors were given 2 cameras, given a direction to head and it was pretty much up to them to film their journey. The directors would occasionally throw a spanner in the works to scare them, meaning a lot of the reactions are true and real.

Again getting genuine reactions out of actors, especially fear has been done for many many years, even the Exorcist apparently had incidents of the dire for firing guns next to actors to scare them. But here none of it is over the top, the chills are slow building and the fear builds at the same rate the fear builds with the characters. It’s clever and works so damn well.

I also love that they don’t push the myth of the Blair Witch too strongly, it’s there and that’s kind of what the characters are aiming for but it’s not layered on too thickly. It’s minimalist writing at its darn finest.

It’s going to have its haters or those that pass it off as yet another found footage film, but in my eyes, it’s a must-see film and the originator of the new wave of found footage films.

Nathaniel’s Choice – The Grudge 2 (2006)/An American Werewolf In Paris (1997)

He’s back! After a day off, our resident YouTuber has a fiendish double bill of sequel reviews! Read his reviews here and watch the videos below:

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