Posts Tagged ‘ghost stories’

It wasn’t a dud! It wasn’t a dud! IT WASN’T A DUD!!!

Sorry, had to get that off my chest. I’ve seen so many bad horror films lately, it felt necessary to shout praise of a good one. And I’m not surprised that this one is so good. Leigh Whannell, James Wan, Jason Blum, and Oren Peli all worked together on this film. These guys are known for great, scary films, so when they come together you know you’ve got something worth getting excited for.

The third chapter in the Insidious saga takes place a few years before the events of the first two films. Quinn Brenner, played by Stephanie Scott, believes she’s being contacted by her dead mother, and encourages this contact. This tragically leads to a car accident that breaks both Quinn’s legs and puts her at the mercy of the spirit after her, The Man Who Can’t Breathe. At the same time, Elise Rainier, the medium from the first two movies, reappears to try and help Quinn, while facing her own darkness and a loss that has made her afraid to do what she does best.

There’s a lot to be said on this film, so I’ll try and keep it to the things I think everyone should know before going to see this one. First, the actors all handle their roles very well. Scott, along with Dermot Mulroney and Tate Berney as her harried father and annoying preteen brother, have great chemistry as a family crippled by a devastating loss and pulled together again by the dark events surrounding them. Best of all though is Lin Shaye as Elise, whose personal journey to recover her confidence is extraordinary and heart-wrenching. I almost cheered in the theater when she had finally regained her former airy manner from the first two films. Plus it’s fun to see her first interactions with Specs and Tucker and how they formed the team we met in the first film.

And speaking of the first film, there’s a notable change between Insidious 3 and its predecessors. In the first two films, they built a mythology based around astral projections and the realms of the dead (aka the Further), but Chapter 3 seems to eschew that mythology for the most part in favor of creating a good old-fashioned ghost story, and a great one too. The suspense is powerful, the atmosphere tense and the creepiness of the whole movie, coupled with the amazing visuals and sets, the jump-scares and the screeching violins in the background music, will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the movie.

Creepiest of all, of course, is the villain, The Man Who Can’t Breathe. Honestly, even when you see him fully in the light near the end of the movie, he’s still one of the freakiest looking villains I’ve seen in recent memory. What makes him even scarier than his appearance is that you’re not sure exactly why he’s menacing this girl or where he came from. There’s mention of him living in Quinn’s building long ago, and something about “pets” is also mentioned, but we’re never really sure what his reasons are. And that just adds to the horror factor here.

There are only two major complaints I have with this movie. One is that the character of Hector, the lovestruck boy-next-door, seems like he was going to be a bigger part of this movie than he was. Were most of his scenes cut for time? That, and I feel that the climax was a little cliched and a little too short to be truly frightening, though the ending makes up for that. Other than that, I had a really good time.

All in all, I’m giving Insidious Chapter 3 a 4.3 out of 5. A scary good movie that’s put out of my mind all the bad horror films I’ve seen lately and make me want to tiptoe through the tulips with terrified glee. And if the critics and the box office agrees with me, I think we can expect a Chapter 4 someday. And you know what? Even if it might be a little unnecessary (ah horror, the original junkie for unnecessary movie sequels), I might just be okay with that.

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I’m going to tell you right now, I’m a little disappointed with this film. That might be because I hyped myself over this film due to the trailer being so awesome. However, I think a lot of it was because…well, it was a bad film. Not kidding. There was a little girl in the audience, I thought she was brave for coming to see this. She didn’t need to be brave. It just wasn’t scary.

I should’ve known a Poltergeist remake wouldn’t be good.

We all know the story, so I don’t think anyone will mind if I spoil this movie. If you don’t know the Poltergeist story, then spoilers ahead, and I wonder what rock you’ve been living under. Basically the filmmakers decided that since almost everyone knows the story about a family moving into a haunted house and the cute, innocent kid being abducted by the dead and her family having to go after her, they’d just update it for 2015, change some minor details, and throw the mythology at the audience, who will hopefully find it scary. Really, they would’ve done better going in a new direction, which Insidious did with a new mythology and some slight twists on the familiar formula, adding atmosphere, mystery, and surprise to scare us to death.

Here, like I said, they just throw the mythology at the audience. We’re drowned in it so that we  aren’t scared at all and the moments that actually halfway close to being scary were either included in the trailer and don’t have the same impact, or the sense of danger is just not there. For instance, there’s a moment with a power drill that could’ve been very scary, but the way it’s done you just know things will turn out fine before it does.

The thing about the original Poltergeist was that it took its time. It slowly built up the strangeness and horror and helped us wade into a mythology that would be expanded in the later two films. Here, the filmmakers are so concerned about paying homage to the original film that they rush us into it and pay homage to all that made the original scary in ways that just don’t terrify. “Look here!” “Here’s this reference!” That’s literally what they do.

Another thing is the humor in this movie. They try and insert humor at various times in the movie, and while humor in horror does help in some horror stories in-between terrifying moments, the ones here are all at the wrong places and seemed forced. They’re only barely funny. I think they would’ve done better not to insert humor at all the wrong places and instead try and expand on the character development of these barely-developed characters. Maybe show how the dad is trying to be a good provider even though he’s jobless and refuses to allow his wife to get a job and then show how he fixes that?

Also, why does the the little boy have a sink in his attic bedroom? There’s no bathroom up there, so why’s there a sink? Is it an unfinished bathroom or something? And I don’t care how much wiggle room there is on a house in a neighborhood with plenty of foreclosures and that was built on a cemetery. You don’t buy a freaking huge house like that when you have no steady income! Move into an apartment until you can find something better! You’ll avoid the ghosts too!

There are some good points to this film though. The few variations they make from the original are inventive and interesting, and the scene in the afterlife is much more visually interesting and creepy than the weird green screen effect they had in 1986’s Poltergeist II. And I like how the movie incorporates the ghost-hunting field and how some ghost hunters have become famous through reality TV. As a fan of some of those shows, I had a little laugh at that. Plus I don’t think this version has a curse on it (unless the curse either left the movie alone because it was so bad or it made the movie bad, in which case it’s a very intelligent curse we’ve got here).*

But other than that, not much going for this film. Even the “They’re here” falls flat where it should soar, which is just sad. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the Poltergeist remake a failing grade of 1.4. It’s almost as bad as the Friday the 13th remake. Almost as bad. Poltergeist wasn’t ruined by Michael Bay, and it didn’t use sex to try and utterly fail to liven things up (which is good, because two of the main female characters are under the age of 18).

All for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m signing off for the night. Let’s hope I find a good horror film next time around. I’ve gotten so many duds lately.

*If you didn’t know, the original Poltergeist is supposedly cursed because during one scene it cost too much to make fake skeletons and instead they used real ones dug up from actual graves. Between the first and third films, several members of the cast and others associated with the film died strange and/or violent deaths. Well, if you let monetary considerations overshadow your respect for the dead, you have to expect some sort of karmic backlash. Too bad it came down on the ones who didn’t deserve it.

A while back I said I was going to try and catch some more Korean horror films after seeing one that wasn’t too bad. Well, I just saw another one. And it sucked. So I’m sharing my thoughts on it here, partly because I feel like I should tell people in case they want to see it, and partly because I need to exorcise my thoughts on it or they’ll stew in my head for a while (never a good thing).

Cinderella is only very tenuously connected to the story we all grew up with. This movie follows Hyeon-su, a very pretty teenager who lives with her talented plastic surgeon mother Yoonhee. After one of her friends suffers a gruesome death after getting plastic surgery from Yoonhee, Hyeon-su starts to wonder about things her mother has kept from her. As more of her friends are attacked after getting surgery and as Hyeon-su’s mother starts to lose her mind, Hyeon-su must find the answers, all while being stalked by a blue-eyed ghost with a preoccupation for pretty faces.

While I give that the premise is good and the story told in the movie is very interesting as well, I have a lot of problems with Cinderella. I found myself having a lot of trouble understanding what was going on, the filmmakers didn’t do a very good job of emphasizing the supernatural elements so that you knew they were supernatural, and they didn’t do a good job explaining the mother’s dark secret very well either, making it so that the final twist loses its punch (if you actually find yourself not having to look up the Wikipedia article so you can have the final twist explained to you). Not only that, but the flashbacks are often forced on us so rapidly we have trouble figuring out whether we’re in the past or the present. Add in only a few real scares and that just shows how bad this movie is.

For what it’s worth though, the scares, when they do happen, are spectacular and frightening. And they do chronicle Yoonhee’s deterioration into madness quite well. And like I said, the premise is good, and the story they were telling would’ve been more impactful if they’d done a better job making the movie.

All in all, I’m giving Cinderella a 2.4 out of 5. Not great, but it was a good attempt, and if it had been done right, Cinderella might’ve been a great horror movie with an underlying theme of how some people, especially some South Koreans, are obsessed with beauty and achieving it through plastic surgery. I’d suggest a North American remake, but I have a feeling that that would just be another House at the End of the Street: great potential but poor execution.

My next review will probably be the Poltergeist remake coming out later this week. I’m a fan of the original and I’d like to see what they change in this adaptation (besides the little girl being a brunette and the medium being a forty-something Brit) and how scary it is. Judging by the previews, it should be plenty scary.

I wanted to see this movie in theaters, but the one near my place wasn’t playing it (or it might have but forgot to post it on their website. Believe me, they did that once). So when I got it recently, I was hoping it would break the string of  bad horror films I’ve seen lately. Sadly, Ouija has only become the latest dud on my list. Even the great horror producer Jason Blum couldn’t make this project terrifying. I blame the fact that Michael Bay also produced this film, and most of what he touches blows up in his face, even if it does make tons of money.

Ouija is about a group of teenagers who try to contact their friend after she kills herself using the titular board game. This causes them to get marked by an angry spirit that seems intent on killing them. From there, it’s a race against the clock to stop the spirit before it gets strong enough to kill them all.

This movie’s good on jump scares, but it fails to keep up an atmosphere of suspense and dread, making the movie a long drag towards the end without even gore or sex to try to make up for it all. The acting is passable, though most of the “teens” in this movie look college age or older. Two of the characters are sisters and that’s supposed to mirror the ghost’s relationship with a living relative, but they don’t go into it enough to actually make the connection more than scant at best.

Still, Lin Shaye from the Insidious films and Shelley Hennig from Teen Wolf both have minor roles in this film, so that livens up the film slightly. Slightly.

I’m going to give Ouija a 1.3 out of 5. If you want to see a horror film and tell your friends that even though you’re a scaredy-cat you weren’t scared, this is the perfect film to be the foundation of that lie. I doubt it’ll ruin Ouija boards for enthusiasts of the game, which is something considering Michael Bay’s track record and possibly the one true positive thing to say about this film.

Still, I can’t say it’ll bring anyone joy to know that there’s a sequel in the works. Not surprising, considering that it made nearly a hundred million dollars at the box office and was made on only five million. Let’s hope the sequel will be several years off and direct-to-DVD, right? And in the meantime, I hope a good horror film comes out soon. I could use one!

For those of you who read the title and are thinking to yourselves, “He plans to become ghost?”, yes, I do. I plan to become a ghost and haunt people as I like. Nobody’s safe, too. I plan to haunt everyone and anyone! Mwha ha ha!

Anyway, most people who know me know that besides being a fan of horror stories, I’m also a believer in ghosts and have had a few experiences as well that terrified and excited me (though mostly terrified). I thought it’d be interesting if I did a list of ten places purported to be haunted that I want to visit and see if I can capture ghostly evidence. And it’s possible that I might be able to go to a few of those soon, so I’m super-excited for them!

The list isn’t in any real order, except my number one is last and I REALLY want to go there when I have the chance. The rest of the list is pretty random in order. I didn’t intend for that to happen, it just did. Or did it?…

So without further ado, let’s get this list started!

10. Longfellow’s Wayside Inn
Location: Sudbury, Massachusetts, USA

The oldest working inn in America, the Wayside Inn gained its name as it was the place that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his collection of poems, Tales of the Wayside Inn, back when it was the Howe Inn. There is another tale though of this historic inn: the inn is reportedly home to Jerusha Howe, the daughter of the inn’s original owner who fell in love with a sailor who disappeared at sea. She died pining away for her missing lover. Today, male guests at the inn report being visited by Jerusha in two adjoining rooms she is said to frequent, leading to some amorous ghost stories that have been collected in a trunk full of love letters in one of the rooms. You can see why I’d want to go there. It’s the making of a great supernatural romance story, among other things.

9. Lizzie Borden House
Location: Fall River, Massachusetts, USA

Lizzie Borden was a woman living in Fall River, MA with her family in 1892 when her family was brutally murdered with an axe. The violence of the massacre and Lizzie’s subsequent strange behavior afterwards made her seem like a prime suspect, but bungling on the part of the local investigators led to her acquittal at trial. The case gained quite a lot of attention in its day, making it one of the most infamous murders in American history. Today the house is a working bed and breakfast, and guests have reported being dragged from beds and other unpleasant happenings. Doesn’t that sound like it’s right up my alley?

*This location was visited July 6th-7th, 2017. Full report of that experience here.

8. Alcatraz
Location: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California, USA

America’s most famous federal prison, it held numerous famous criminals, including Al Capone, from 1934 to 1963. Today the prison is a landmark and a museum (and it was also a short-lived TV show), but it’s also reportedly haunted by former inmates who died here, sometimes under mysterious circumstances. Not only that, but the island was called by Native Americans “the Evil Island” and rumors of demonic activity continue to this day. I can imagine wanting to spend a night in the big house if it was this one!

7. Ohio State Reformatory
Location: Mansfield, Ohio, USA

I’m proud to say that this one is in my state, and haunted tours are regularly given there around Halloween, so I’m definitely going to visit it one of these days. During its heyday, this prison housed over 155,000 prisoners, and there were several mysterious deaths, murders, and suicides. Since it closed, it has been used by film crews for a variety of films, including the Shawshank Redemption, but it has also been the home of some very nasty spirits who are said to touch prisoners and even become violent. Maybe I should visit there this Halloween. Anyone care to come with?

*This location was visited August 5th, 2018. For full details, check out my post here. I visited a year later for an overnight ghost hunt. Click here for more details.

6. The Stanley Hotel
Location: Estes Park, Colorado, USA

The inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, the Stanley Hotel has been the site of many paranormal experiences, with people becoming so frightened they’ve had panic attacks and have been sent to the hospital. Some of the most famous haunted rooms are the ballroom, where music is said to be heard, and Room 217 (any King lover knows why). There’s also a reported ghost thief that steals luggage, jewelry, and othe valuables from right under the guests’ noses, and there’s been no proof it might be a maid. They had me at Stephen King.

5. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Location: Weston, West Virginia, USA

One of the most haunted sites in America, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was one of the busiest insane asylums in the nation, housing 2400 patients at its peak. It was forcibly closed in 1994 due to treatment of its patients, but popular belief states that some guests haven’t left. There have been screams, doors opening and closing, and a bunch of other weird happenings there, and it has been investigated by numerous paranormal investigators, including the Ghost Adventures Crew, who did a live seven-hour long lockdown during which viewers on the Travel Channel website could view and examine evidence in real time. And I think it’s about time I got committed there, don’t you think?

4. Pennhurst State School
Location: Spring City, Pennsylvania, USA

An asylum for the physically and mentally handicapped, Pennhurst was plagued by overcrowding and not enough staff members for all its years. There are reports of children five or six years old not being taught to walk because there weren’t enough staff members to teach them, and of patients lying in their own feces or delusions for hours on end. The facility was finally closed when an investigative news team exposed the overcrowding and abuse there, leading to a public outcry. Today the facility is reportedly haunted by patients who never left its walls, and tours and investigations there have yielded some interesting findings. As one of those investigations inspired a novel I plan to write someday, I hope to get a tour someday. Road trip!

3. Aokigahara
Location: Honshu Island, Japan

An ancient forest at the base of Mt. Fuji, the forest is nicknamed “Suicide Forest” due to its popularity as a place for suicides, despite official’s efforts to stop visitors from killing themselves. It is said that in addition to the suicides, the forest is haunted by demons and yurei, spirits who have been unable to move onto the afterlife. If I ever tour Japan, I’m making this place a sure location to visit. Only Godzilla could keep me away!

2. Hellfire Caves
Location: West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

A series of man-made caverns that extend very deep underground, the Hellfire Caves were once the stomping grounds of the Hellfire Club, a group of politically and socially affluent figures led by Sir Francis Dashwood, who reportedly held a number of pagan rituals in the caverns. Some accusations against the group say that these rituals were satanic in nature. To this day there are reports of dark spirits in the caves, as well as reports of Sukie, the ghost of a woman who was accidentally killed by three village boys who lured her to the cave and a rock fight broke out, as well as the ghost of Paul Whitehead, a friend of Dashwood’s who asked that his heart be put in an urn in the caverns upon his death. When the heart containing his urn was stolen in 1829, reports of a man in 18th century garb sighted in and around the caverns started to crop up. I wonder whose heart he’s looking for? Because these caves have certainly stolen mine.

1. The Paris catacombs
Location: Paris, Il-de-France, France

A series of underground ossuaries in the heart of Paris, the catacombs were once a series of ancient mines before becoming the homes of nearly six million corpses and skeletons when Paris officials needed to do something about the health problems caused by poor burial practices. Today certain sections of the catacombs are open to the public, and the legends about them never seem to cease, including that of the ghost of the man who oversaw the transfer of the bones below, of a man who got lost while going down to drink liquor and became a wandering ghost forevermore, and a bizarre tale of a woman who was kidnapped and tortured by a werewolf below, among others. I’ll be visiting France for my study abroad trip, so you can bet I’ll be making a visit to the catacombs before I leave the City of Light. And I’ll be taking plenty of photos.*

*This location was visited on May 21, 2014. For a full account of that experience, click here.

Have you ever been to these or other haunted locations? Has anything happened to you? If it did, could you give us some detail?