The Awakening – UK, 2011

The Awakening is a 2011 British supernatural horror feature film directed Nick Murphy (The Mist TV series; Dracula TV series) from a screenplay co-written with Stephen Volk (The Guardian; The Kiss; Gothic). The movie stars Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton and Isaac Hempstead-Wright.

Plot:

In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the ‘missing’ begin to show themselves…

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“Cinematographer Eduard Grau maintains a healthy, overcast atmosphere throughout, even when things go indoors, helping give the ghosts, in all their forms, an expectedly welcome place to manifest themselves within.  Everything feels like a nice British chamber Guignol, mildly stodgy and claustrophobic…” Kyle Saubert, Allusions of Grandeur

” … a ghost story with a nice kick and deeply felt emotions. The surface details suggest a banal return to a formulaic haunting, yet The Awakening, while imperfect, captures an intensity of gradually eroding conviction that carries the iffy material all the way to the intriguing head-scratcher of an ending.” Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com

The Awakening unfolds in a purposely calculated manner that matches the supernatural literature of its setting’s post-Victorian era. Some call that boring; I call it a slow ratcheting of suspense, and the lovely, headstrong Hall serves as a terrific guide through the good ol’ ghost story.” Rod Lott, Flick Attack

“I found the final, colossal revelation to be contrived, but there are some nicely creepy moments, and director and co-writer Nick Murphy interestingly dramatises some of the neuroses feeding the appetite for ghostly phenomena…” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“Some of the creepiest stuff actually happens outside of the ghost hunting and what you don’t see.  It’s not a scare-fest, but it’s intense and well-written. It’s absolutely stunning to look at in that gloomy, foggy, muted colors way you want your British ghost stories to be.” Horror Honeys

” …the film has a strong and well-written series of themes that run throughout about fear, loneliness and the guilts of the past. Perhaps the least satisfying section of the film is when it feels the need to have to throw in a M. Night Shyamalan-esque conceptual spin…” Richard Scheib, Moria

“The trouble was, there was a very decent ghost story that could have been drawn from this groundwork, it’s just that the filmmakers chose to plump for sensation (loud music courtesy of Daniel Pemberton overemphasising every fright) over a nice, creepy atmosphere.” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

“Rarely does a horror film make the back of your neck tingle with the calibre of its performances as well as its jumps and jolts – but The Awakening, a beautifully mounted ghost story in the style of The Turn of the Screw, provides chills of both kinds.” Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

” …familiar goings-on featuring the requisite dank shadowy halls and dead children mouthing CGI-stretched Edvard Munch screams. Nick Murphy’s big screen directorial debut has good atmospherics that only go so far to prop up a mystery whose overdue explanation is convoluted and underwhelming.” Dennis Harvey, Variety

Cast and characters:

  • Rebecca Hall … Florence Cathcart
  • Dominic West … Robert Mallory
  • Imelda Staunton … Maud Hill
  • Isaac Hempstead Wright … Tom Hill
  • Shaun Dooley … Malcolm McNair
  • Joseph Mawle … Edward Judd
  • Diana Kent … Harriet Cathcart
  • Richard Durden … Alexander Cathcart
  • John Shrapnel … Reverend Hugh Purslow
  • Cal MacAninch … Freddie Strickland
  • Lucy Cohu … Constance Strickland
  • Anastasia Hille … Dorothy Vandermeer
  • Andrew Havill … George Vandermeer
  • Tilly Vosburgh … Vera Flood
  • Ian Hanmore … Albert Flood
  • Steven Cree … Sergeant Evans
  • Alfie Field … Victor Parry
  • Felix Soper … Julian Dowden
  • Sidney Johnston … John Franklin

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Inner Ghosts – Portugal/Brazil, 2018

‘The key to Hell lies deep within your heart’

Inner Ghosts is a 2018 Portuguese-Brazilian paranormal horror feature film written and directed by Paulo Leite. The movie stars Celia Williams, Elizabeth Bochmann and Iris Cayatte.

Plot:

If ghosts can think and remember who they are, then the physical brain is not the only place where we store our inner selves. Helen is asked to train two young women into the art of communicating with the dead. However, Helen’s days as a medium are long gone. In fact, she gave up that life fifteen years ago when she lost her daughter.

Today, Helen is a different woman dedicated to her career in brain research. Things start to change when a visit from the other side offers her the design of a device that can do amazing things. But with everything there is a risk…

Cast and characters:

  • Celia Williams … Helen
  • Elizabeth Bochmann … Elsa
  • Iris Cayatte … Rachel
  • Norman MacCallum … Steinman
  • Amanda Booth … Moira
  • Patricia Godinho … Lilly
  • João Blümel … Albert
  • Inês Sá Frias … Maria

Released:

Inner Ghosts was released in Portugal on 7 September 2018.

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Dead of the Nite – UK, 2013

‘Death follows those who seek it’

Dead of the Nite is a 2013 British horror feature film written, edited and directed by S.J. Evans. The movie stars Tony Todd, Joseph Millson, Cicely Tennant, and Gary Mavers.

Plot:

“When a group of ghost hunters investigate the infamous Jericho Manor, they soon realise it’s not just ghosts that go bump in the night! As people get murdered, the survivors need to discover who or what’s killing them before it’s too late….”

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

” …its experiment of dabbling in multiple formats never fully succeeds in creating an enveloping experience.  The whodunit mystery is so-so and the final third lingers nearly to a standstill while the momentum does the same.  With respectable acting and respectable value for the budget, “Dead of the Nite” is above average, but unremarkable.” Ian Sedensky, Culture Crypt

” …a mundane piece […] The eventual revelation of the killer’s identity comes with a reasonable surprise […] Todd is clearly playing into his latter day role as horror icon and hams it up, giving the part the full force of his mellifluous basso voice.” Richard Scheib, Moria

” …a tight story with decent cameo and cheesy acting does not a film make overall. Dead of the Nite is flat out boring and uneventful – even the death scenes are pretty bland. There are some things done right with this hooded/masked figure, but ultimately I’m not impressed.” The Other View

” …with a £20,000 budget it was really well shot, with great use of sound especially in regard to the whispers and understated noises that came from the house. The cast are all solid in their roles and although Tony Todd has only a cameo, he does tend to give the film a certain authority…” Dave Wain, The Schlock Pit

” …the film is creepy in all the right spots, features plenty of shocks, tension and suspense scenes, and keeps the audience guessing about the goings-on until the very end, when the killer isn’t pulled out of a hat though but presented with a proper motive and all. Plus, the movie’s very nicely acted by all involved.” Mike Haberfelner, Search My Trash

“Whilst there aren’t any true gore scenes and the mystery is easy to figure out, Dead of the Nite has enough in its briefcase to at least deliver the odd moment that is worthy of praise. I wasn’t expecting much, but I enjoyed the few jolts and the attempt to make the stalking sequences as scary as possible.” Luisito Joaquin Gonzalez, A Slash Above… 

Cast and characters:

  • Tony Todd … Ruber
  • Joseph Millson … Detective Anderson
  • Cicely Tennant … Amanda
  • Gary Mavers … Detective Jenkins
  • Claudio Pacifico … Killer
  • Paul Fox … Paul
  • Simon Bamford … Gary
  • Suzi Lorraine … Crystal
  • Simone Kaye … Anne-Marie
  • Stuart Boother … Jason
  • Rachel Littlemac … Sheila
  • Anna Carteret … Mrs. Matthews
  • Sousila Pillay … Newsreader
  • Johnathon Farrell … Police Officer

Filming locations:

Cardiff, South Glamorgan, Wales
Craig-y-Nos Castle, Pen-y-cae, Powys, Wales
Fonmon Castle, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales
Wimbledon Common, Wimbledon, London, England, UK

Budget:

£20,000 – estimated

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Jaga Pocong – Indonesia, 2018

Jaga Pocong is a 2018 Indonesian supernatural horror feature film directed by Hadrah Daeng Ratu from a screenplay by Aviv Elham. The Spectrum Film production stars Acha Septriasa, Zack Lee and Aqilla Herby.

Plot:

Mila is a dedicated nurse so does not refuse when she is assigned to take care of Sulastri at her remote rural house. However, when Mila arrives it turns out that Sulastri is already dead. She prepares the body for burial and is left alone…

Cast and characters:

  • Acha Septriasa … Mila – Midnight Show
  • Zack Lee … Radit
  • Aqilla Herby … Novi
  • Jajang C. Noer … Sulastri

Release:

Jaga Pocong was released in Indonesia on 25 October 2018.

Related:

More Indonesian horror

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The Nursery Man – UK, 2019

He’s watching. He’s waiting.’

The Nursery Man is a 2019 British supernatural horror feature film written and directed by Nottingham-based Anthony M. Winson (The Baylock Residence; Cry of the Magpie; Unholy; House of Afflictions). The Mr Stitch Films production stars Sarah Ellis (also a co-producer), Ben Clatworthy, Sarah Wynne Kordas and Stella Lock.

Cast and characters:

  • Sarah Ellis … Marion Kelly
  • Ben Clatworthy … Richard Kelly
  • Sarah Wynne Kordas … Florence Taylor
  • Stella Lock … Charlotte Turner
  • June Tracy … Emma McDonald

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Soul Contract – China, 2018

Soul Contract – original title: 灵魂契约 – is a 2019 Chinese supernatural horror feature film directed by Wang Chenliu.

A pair of twin sisters live together. One sister runs a bar for a living and supports her sister’s literary ambitions. Unfortunately, the latter has writer’s block.

On a trip to an island, she inadvertently knocked over a body that was intended for burial in the sea. This caused evil spirits to rise up from the sea in anger to terrorise the sisters…

The movie was released in China on October 26, 2018.

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Let’s Scare Jessica to Death – USA, 1971

‘Something is after Jessica. Something very cold, very wet… And very dead.’

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a 1971 American horror feature film, directed by John D. Hancock from a screenplay by Norman Jonas and Ralph Rose. The movie stars Zohra Lampert as Jessica, plus Barton Heyman, Kevin O’Connor and Gretchen Corbett. It depicts the nightmarish experiences of a psychologically fragile woman in an old farmhouse on a Connecticut island.

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The movie was shot in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The village of Chester was used, as was the Chester–Hadlyme Ferry crossing the Connecticut River. Tonally similar to Rosemary’s Baby and The Haunting, the film tells its story from the vantage point of a female protagonist of doubtful sanity, and emphasises story and atmosphere rather than gore and violence.

Orville Stoeber (Freddy’s Nightmares) composed the unique erratic electronic synthesizer soundtrack score.

Moreover, like its precedents, it ends ambiguously, inviting viewers to draw their own conclusions. Though it made little impact during its theatrical release, the film later became a cult favourite on late night TV…

Reviews:

As the film begins, Jessica (Zohra Lampert) has just been released from a mental institution. As Jessica explains it, she’s been hearing voices ever since her father died. She struggles with depression and sometimes, she gets paranoid. Her husband, Duncan (Barton Heyman), has just purchased a farm in Connecticut, a place where he believes that Jessica can find some peace.

Their friend, Woody (Kevin O’Connor), will be moving out to the farm with them. Woody is a bit of a hippie. Some people would say that Jessica and Duncan are hippies as well but honestly, both of them seem to be more like people who desperately want other people to believe that they’re hippies as opposed to genuine members of the counterculture.

Upon arriving at their new farm, Jessica is shocked to discover a woman named Emily (Mariclare Costello) standing in their farmhouse. When the shocked Jessica calls out for Duncan, he immediately assures her, “I see her, too!” Emily explains that she’s spent the last few months living in the deserted farmhouse. Though Emily offers to leave, Jessica insists that Emily have dinner with them and spend the night. When it becomes obvious that Woody likes Emily, Jessica suggests that Emily should be allowed to live with them.

Duncan agrees to let Emily stay and, much like Jessica, you immediately start to wonder about his motives. Is he merely letting Emily stay to keep Woody happy? Or is he agreeing with Jessica because he’s scared that disagreeing with her will cause her have another breakdown? Or is it possible that he’s attracted to Emily himself?

As the days pass, Jessica struggles to adjust to life in the middle of nowhere. The location is beautiful but, because it’s so remote, it’s menacing as well. The people in the nearby town are strangely hostile and they always seem to be wearing bandages on their necks. Jessica starts to hear voices in the distance, taunting her and telling her that she has no place out in the country. Are they real or is it just her imagination? Is Jessica trying so hard to convince everyone that she’s okay that she’s actually pushing herself to a relapse? And what about the mysterious blonde girl that keeps appearing in the distance, watching Jessica but running away whenever Jessica tries to approach her?

And then there’s the picture that Jessica finds in an antique shop. It appears to be a picture of Emily but the shop’s owner assures her that the picture is over a hundred years old….

Apparently, the script for Let’s Scare Jessica to Death was originally titled It Drinks Hippy Blood and it’s intent was satirical. You wouldn’t be able to guess that from watching Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, which is one of the creepiest and most dream-like horror films ever. Unfolding at a leisurely pace and featuring hazy but gorgeous cinematography, the movie keeps both Jessica and the audience off-balance.

You’re never quite sure if Jessica is right about Emily and the town or if she’s relapsed and is drowning in a sea of her own paranoia. Duncan and Woody both treat Jessica as if she might fall apart at any second. At times, Duncan and his constant concern is so suffocating towards her that you feel that, if Emily hadn’t been there waiting for them, Jessica would have had to create her. As frightening as Emily may be, only Emily can set Jessica free from her domineering husband.

More than being just a character study of a woman struggling to remain above water, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is also a portrait of the death of counterculture idealism. Jessica, Duncan, and Woody appear to have a chance to live the ideal hippy life on their Connecticut farm but that dream collapses under the weight of all the petty human emotions and foibles that they wrongly thought they could escape. Duncan treats Jessica like a child, gaslighting her whenever she questions anything that’s going on. Woody seems like a good guy but he’s so laid back that he refuses to stand against the tide. Jessica is betrayed by everyone around her. In the end, not even the mysterious blonde girl is willing to actually warn Jessica about what’s happening.

Zohra Lampert gives a wonderfully empathetic performance as Jessica and Mariclare Costello and Gretchen Corbett are well cast as the enigmatic strangers that Jessica can’t seem to escape. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a creepy and atmospheric dream of dark and disturbing things and it’s definitely one to see.

Lisa Marie Bowman, HORRORPEDIA – guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens

Other reviews:

“A classic character study of a woman under siege from those around her and from her own mind, this is an underrated film that will satisfy the discerning viewer.” Digital Retribution

“In tone, the whole thing comes across as sort of a horror cross between Easy Rider and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with the ageing hippy-ish leads looking for a countryside idyll and finding a hostile community and a malevolent, supernatural force, unless it really is all in Jessica’s mind. The atmosphere of trespassing in a domain that ambiguously either wants you gone or wants to possess your soul for its own ends is one that is hard to shake here.” The Spinning Image

Cast and characters:

  • Zohra Lampert … Jessica – The Exorcist III
  • Barton Heyman … Duncan
  • Kevin O’Connor … Woody – It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive; Tales from the Darkside TV series; Special Effects
  • Gretchen Corbett … The Girl – Jaws of Satan; The Savage Bees
  • Alan Manson … Sam Dorker
  • Mariclare Costello … Emily

 

Let's-Scare-Jessica-to-Death-publicity-stunt

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Kuntilanak aka The Chanting – Indonesia, 2006

‘Her laugh will be the last thing you’ll ever hear.’

Kuntilanak is a 2006 Indonesian supernatural horror film directed by Rizal Mantovani (Tembang Lingsir; The Uninvited; Wewe; et al) from a screenplay co-written with Ve Handojo. The movie stars Julie Estelle, Evan Sanders and Ratu Felisha.

The English title is “The Chanting”, although this is not a direct translation as a kuntilanak or pontianak is a type of ghost in Indonesian (and wider Malay) folklore.

The film was followed by two sequels, Kuntilanak 2 and Kuntilanak 3, setting up a trilogy with Mantovani returning as director. In 2018, the director rebooted the franchise, making the protagonists a group of children. This latest incarnation is currently available on Netflix.

Plot:

Samantha “Sam” is an orphaned young woman who moves to an isolated boarding house in North Jakarta, trying to avoid the advances of her lecherous stepfather. The landlady of the house, Yanti, tells her that the second floor is locked up with no one allowed inside.

While listing other restrictions, including about a chair in front of a Javanese mirror in Sam’s room, Yanti chants durmo, a Javanese poem said to be able to summon Kuntilanak, a female ghost with half the body of a horse rumoured to be living in a weeping fig in front of the house….

Reviews:

“Many of the scenes with the kuntilanak were suspenseful, and there were plenty of frightening sequences to keep you happy (past the first 45 minutes, that is). The ending was a decent one, though not wholly unsurprising. Kuntilanak wasn’t an overly spectacular film, but it held up well given its deficits.” Beyond the Darkened Door

“The whole visual art of the movie adds to the spooky feeling and the haunted boardinghouse is nicely shot as well. The acting, while not stellar is above average […] The gore is low key and while not entirely original, Kuntilanak is one of the best Indonesian horror movie I’ve seen so far.” Daily Dose of Horror

Kuntilanak is a very creepy movie with quite a few jump out of your seat moments and a soundtrack ‘Lingsir Wengi’. Each and every appearance by the Kuntilanak managed to raise some hair on the back of my skin.” Zainal A, Letterboxd

Cast and characters:

  • Julie Estelle as Samantha – Macabre
  • Evan Sanders as Agung
  • Ratu Felisha as Dinda
  • Alice Iskak as Raden Ayu Sri Sukmarahimi Mangkoedjiwo
  • Lita Soewardi as Yanti
  • Ibnu Jamil as Iwank

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Paranormal Farm – UK, 2017

Paranormal Farm is a 2017 British found footage horror feature film written, directed by and starring Carl Medland (The Spiritualist). The movie also stars Lucy French and Darren Earl Williams.

A sequel, Paranormal Farm 2: Closer to the Truth, was released in 2018.

A middle-aged couple living on a remote farm put out an advert for a paranormal investigator after their daughter went missing in the woods. Since their daughter’s disappearance, nothing has been the same around the farm. We see what Carl Medland captures on camera…

Reviews:

” … due to the earnest intent of the filmmakers and a basically sound story, the few moments where it does lag a bit quite often lead to bits of humour and irony, which also work well within the context of the film.” Jane Foster, Britflicks

Paranormal Farm is everything a great found footage film should be; an experience of simulated reality to lose yourself in, only to be scared shitless by fantastic classic scares. It’s a whispered ghost story put to film and I thoroughly enjoyed it!” Horror Fuel

“It is testament to Medland just how impressive an experience this was considering the very indie stylings of it. The performances of the three main actors are very very good indeed and that adds so much to the film, it elevates it from the dense layer of awful found footage horrors out there.” Daniel Simmonds, The Rotting Zombie

Trivia:

The film was shot in just two days on an iPhone fo £200.00.

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Aswang – USA/Phillipines, 2018

‘The Philippines has several legends, this one is the scariest.’

Aswang is a 2018 American-Filipino horror feature film directed by Michel Laurin (Cry in the Night; Onryo) and Gary Ambrosio from a screenplay by Laurin, who also stars alongside Shannon Laurin and Bryan Billy Boone.

Awaiting the completion of their new beach house, a family decides to stay in an abandoned mansion, built on a cemetery, that is rumoured to be the home of the terrifying aswang…

Cast and characters:

  • Michel Laurin … Richard
  • Shannon Laurin … Alice
  • Bryan Billy Boone [as Bryan Boone]… Jake
  • Shelene Atanacio … Tia / White Lady
  • Christopher Eli Razo Hubahib … Merwin
  • Merwin L. Gicain … Vince
  • Ernesto A. Tundaan … Mananambal
  • Violeta P. Ragudo … Grandmother
  • Brigida H. Magalona … Old Lady
  • Shelene Antanacio … Tia
  • John Michael Laurin … David
  • Jesreel S. Mendez Sr. … Police Officer

Filming locations:

Samal, Philippines

Horror from the Philippines

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