Titirangi Storyteller

Telling tales from around the world

Posts Tagged ‘horror

Sometimes it’s just black & white

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Written by Titirangi Storyteller

01/11/2014 at 9:48 pm

Matilde the She Boar

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Came upon this beautiful she-boar the other day. Very friendly, and would have been friendlier had I offered her a snack – though I have a policy of not feeding other people’s animals without their consent. Though disappointed, she was happy to pose for photos and didn’t seem to mind that I struggled with getting such a magnificently enormous creature into the frame. I think we both agreed a head shot would be the right thing.

Love the long snout… bear-like, a bit dangerous. Lotta grunting. But really, a rather nice girl. If she had a name, I think it would be Matilde…Hog-4

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25/07/2013 at 1:06 am

Turning up for night shift

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The sun crests on the horizon, shades of burnt sienna, a spray of muddy wands traversing a dirty sky.  With torpored gaze, we observe its slow descent, devoid of interest: transmutation to vapid ochre, indiscriminate casting of mustard hues.

Peering from heads lowered over stooped shoulders, over curved spines, arms hanging limp at our sides; wan eyes survey a smoky landscape.  Forms looming, receding, pockmarked by tired, bent trees and faded pastel structures.

We step, one foot raised, lowered, then the other, an endless journey over circular paths.  We stop unarrived.  We continue unrested.  Circumambulation, tireless, ceaseless.  Silence, muffled tones, silence.  The march continues unabated under the sinking ochre orb.

We are mute, deaf but for hushed echoes, so faint, imperceptible except in that moment when the foot has completed its rise, but has not begun to fall.  In that briefest of interludes when all is stopped, the echo claps, echo echo echo.  We hear, nod grunts of recognition and continue the pace as the indifferent eye of heaven darkens and sinks from view.

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

16/06/2010 at 12:47 am

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Pan’s Labyrinth

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untitledIt’s 1944, five years after the end of  Spanish Civil. The close of WWII in Europe is at hand.

Ten year old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her heavily pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) travel to a remote fascist outpost in the Spanish forest, where they will join her new husband, Capitán Vidal (Sergi López). A ruthless man, he is charged with dispensing the last of the rebels. Despite the risks to her health, he has insisted she give birth to his son where he is.

Capitán despises stepdaughter Ofelia, not least for her love of fairy tales. But deep in the woods, Ofelia has met a wondrous faun, who has given her three tasks to complete to prove her character. If she passes, she will be returned as a princess to her true home deep in the earth. Can she do it? Or will Capitán and the horrors of the real world devour her first?

pans_labyrinth_xl_04-film-aThis is one of those rare movies that pulls you into its heart so you share the suffering of each the characters. It is savagely brutal in the way classic fairy tales usually are, though this is balanced by the beauty of the otherworld.  (Note – this flick is much too violent for young viewers to handle! Don’t be misled by the little girl on the cover.)

pans-labyrinth-picsGuillermo Del Toro is a master of fantasy. In Blade II (2002) and Hellboy (2004) he brought comic book characters to life. Here he draws on his passionate love of classic fairy tales to create his own fantasy world, so delicately crafted the CGI special effects blend seamlessly and you are simply dazzled by all that unfolds.

pans-labyrinth-1The two-disc set is loaded with special features, including making of featurettes on set and costume design, cast and crew interviews, commentaries, storyboards and more. One of my favourite movies of all time.

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

14/04/2010 at 8:12 am

All My Trains (Chinese train part 3)

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Previously on Trains of Our Lives, our fair heroine (me) survived a death-defying descent from the upper berth of her miniscule train compartment. She has just made it through a trip to the filthiest loo on five continents.


Today’s episode is once again brought to you by haemorrhoid cream, incontinence pads and of course, ointment – because what is life without a good, all-purpose ointment?

Back in the compartment, my cohabitants had awakened. The other couple, after hearing my tale of woe regarding the western toilet in this car, with the wailing French woman providing back-up, went in search of something possibly cleaner in another. My spouse merely went to the Chinese toilet in our car, being male and therefore able to point rather than sit.

A porter arrived with a flask of boiling hot water and we made ourselves a breakfast of ramen noodles, tea and a small Mars Bar. Sated, we dressed and set out to explored the train.

We passed through a dozen cars like ours, a very narrow corridor with a dozen or so compartments opening off it. I peered inside some of the open doors and saw as many as eight people crowded into a compartment that contained six berths – with no mattresses, just wooden berths that folded up to the wall when not in use. The Chinese have a reputation for inscrutability, but these families – parents, grandparents and one or two children were busy and excited – I felt a little ashamed for grumbling about my quarters.

We finally reached the dining car. It was crowded to capacity, standing room only with men smoking. The air reminded me of a 70’s New York nightclub. At the doorway, a vendor sold rice porridge and noodles, neither of which looked inviting. We bought a couple of Cokes.

nameless town
nameless town

The train rattled through interminable towns, wheat fields, coal mines and the occasional nuclear power plant, stopping every hour or so to exchange passengers.  Though we saw so much of China during our stay, this long train ride was an uncensored glimpse into ordinary life. But it was the Golden Week, there were virtually no workers in the fields .

nuclear power
nuclear power

A passive-aggressive conflict arose between east and west – the Chinese do not care for open windows – drafts are not good Feng Shui. Westerners prefer open windows and those drafts dispersed the cigarette smoke produced by those (mostly Chinese men) who did not care for the dining car. A westerner would walk along the corridor opening all the windows. When they returned to their compartment, a Chinese would come out and close them all. I amused myself for 20 minutes observing this from the end of a corridor.

coal, everywhere coal!
coal, everywhere coal!

Every three hours or so, a porter came and cleaned the loos. This was the only time to go. I imagine there was one porter assigned to all the loos on the train and that is how long it took him to complete the task before starting all over.

China is so very beautiful. It possesses a strange quality of being veiled.

solar powered hot water
solar powered hot water

Up close, colours are almost unbearably vivid, but long before your eyeshave reached the horizon, the world has disappeared into the mist. So this vast country has the curious quality of seeming very small.

Having cultivated the land for 6000 years, every hill is a sculpture, no spot of land goes to waste. They are the most efficient people I have encountered.

mines, crops, cemetery
mines, crops, cemetery

And going back to that inscrutability – also the happiest. Nowhere else on earth are people so inclined to break into song or laugh so freely. They can find the humour in almost anything. And despite some of the hardships, are truly appreciative of what they have. I spoke with a few people old enough to remember the days of the Cultural Revolution, though not many of my generation speak English, but those I talked to wanted to tell me about it, and that things are so much better now.

sculptured mountain
sculptured mountain

At 4.30, Eric our guide told us we would be arriving in Xian in half and hour, so we should pack up and be ready to disembark. We would go directly to our hotel, where we would have an hour to shower and change before our dumpling dinner and Tang Dynasty show. We packed up and once again Mother Nature called. I debated whether I could hold it for another hour – no, I couldn’t.

Xian train station - at last!
Xian train station – at last!

The loo was nearly as bad as my morning nightmare. I pulled down my pants and positioned myself again so no part of my body came into contact with the toilet. When I stood up, I realised something was terribly wrong – my pants were soaking wet. In my attempt to avoid the seat, I had leaned too far forward and missed it completely. I did not have a change of clothes with me. Using all my entire roll of toilet paper, I sopped up as much as I could and returned to the compartment just as we pulled into Xian. One long, hot, stinky, soggy-bottomed trip to our hotel – and this nightmare was over.

For me – the romance of overnight train travel is ended for life. Strictly day trips from here on out!

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

06/04/2010 at 7:59 am


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High-brow Finnish horror washes all your sins away
Director: Antti-Jussi Annila

At first glance, this may seem like a standard horror flick, other than its setting – 16th century Finland. The Swedes and Russians have just ended 25 years of war and each have sent a party to define the new borders. We meet brothers Eerik and Knut, represent the Swedes, en route to the official rendezvous.

Whilst they are glad for peace, the endless years of war, away from their family has taken its toll and Eerik has become increasingly violent. He declares he has killed 73 people, including a farmer we meet as the film opens, who he claimed wielded an axe. Knut fears for the farmer’s adolescent daughter and locks her in the fruit cellar to keep her safe. As they set out for their destination, he asks Eerik to let her out.

Eerik & KnutThey are a day’s journey away when Eerik confesses he never let the girl out. Knut begins to see a young woman in the swamp who whispers for him to ‘come back!”

They meet up with the Russians and together they come upon a sauna, built in the middle of the swamp. Nearby is a village not on any of their maps. The people are accommodating, but rather strange – and extraordinarily clean, forever washing themselves and their clothing. There are 73 people in the village, but only one child. And the girl in the swamp is calling more desperately.

This film is a mere 85 minutes long – but the script is so complex and multi-layered and the suspense so thick, it was a relief when it ended. Afterwards, watching the making-of documentary was almost cathartic – seeing how it was made took some of the chill away. A director’s commentary helps answer some of the questions left dangling at the movie’s end, but still – it’s one you will ponder for a while. One of my top choices for 2009.

Eerik & Knut

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

20/12/2009 at 10:47 pm

Quelles Horreurs!

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devilscastle1896While some of us object to the invasion of American Halloween and K-mart clad ghosts and goblins knocking at the door demanding treats, we would do well to recall that the holiday is rooted in the Druid Samhain – the last day of the ancient Celtic summer – a between-seasons day, when the dead walked among the living and the veils between past, present and future could be lifted in prophecy and divination.  What better time to examine our deepest fears than how we’ve presented them on film for the last 110 years?

Horror is one of film’s oldest genres, with the first, George Méliès’ The Devil’s Manor made in 1896. Since then filmmakers have had a love affair with horror, though the genre is the most maligned amongst critics and move-goers alike.  But scratch the surface of a Sandra Bullock fan and you’ll find someone who’s seen Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula over and over again; or an ageing hippie still quoting Charlton Heston from Soylent Green, “It’s people!”


Alfred Hitchcock's genre-blowing Psycho (1960)

Defining horror seems to be the problem.  It ranges from pornographic violence (as anyone who’s sat through Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein can attest) to art-house (Shadow of the Vampire).  People know what they like and pretty much hate everything else.

Folks who came of age in the fifties and early sixties tend to think of Hammer Horror monster movies, or Cold War paranoia and post A-bomb reality checks – when George Romero, Roger Corman, and Roman Polanski first made their mark.  Even The Sound of Music director Robert Wise tried his hand at horror with The Haunting in 1963, an arty examination of a woman possessed by the spirit of a house.  While still of interest as a psychological thriller, the film was dated even then, as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963) upped the ante with levels of graphic violence that had never been seen before.  The sixties had an outpouring of B-grade horror flicks, most of which starred Vincent Price, Christopher Lee or Boris Karloff – all attempting to shock – though in reality, the trailers were always far more frightening than the films themselves.


George Romero's Night of the Living Dead

Then along came George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968, where the dead rise up and eat the living – lungs, livers, hearts and entrails, in glorious black and white – no one had ever seen anything like that before. The film opened a floodgate and horror reached new levels of bloodletting, violence and gore as budgets got bigger special effects got better.  It was as if the entire genre was reinvented in living colour, monsters, murderers, demons, and genetically mutated wildlife.  While there certainly was quality horror produced in that time (The Exorcist, Jaws, Wickerman, Eraserhead, etc. etc.), the volume of horror was incredible and no social issue or pathology went unaddressed.  The ultimate in paranoia was It’s Alive (1972) about a killer newborn, apparently driven to a frenzy in the womb over its mother’s ambivalence over whether or not to abort. And the wildlife gone mad! Jaws (1975), Frogs (1972), and James Cameron’s debut behind the camera with the horrendously awful Piranha II: The Spawning.  Tobe Hooper’s splatter ‘masterpiece’ The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) (which I have never been able to sit through), set the standard for deranged killers and spawned a slew of copycat slayers, slashers, slicers and dicers – and gave birth to Michael Meyers in Halloween (1978), Jason in Friday the 13th (1980) and Freddie Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) at which point the horror flick literally lost the plot and collapsed under it’s own gore and guts and reran these last in what seemed like endless sequels that evolved into parodies of themselves, played more for laughs than for terror.


Dead Again

By the end of the eighties there was an enormous drop in the number of horror flicks produced, with a return to the level of quality of the 50s and 60s, with greater emphasis on psychological horror and suspense, and little sign of the 70-80s fondness for vivisection.  But audiences seemed repulsed by the very word ‘horror’, so studios and directors went to great lengths to describe their films otherwise. Kenneth Branagh insisted Dead Again was a mystery romance and Francis Ford Coppola declared Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a drama, not a horror film (though he surpassed Tobe Hooper when it came to amount of blood spilled.)

Until recently, much of what we’ve seen has been self-parodying teen comedy/horror.  But the genre is alive and well.  Hannibal Lecter continues to make friends; Nicole Kidman wasn’t exactly slumming in The Others; we adored The Sixth Sense and the Blair Witch Project scared us witless.  Virtually every film mentioned on these pages is now available on DVD.  In theatres right now we’ve got The Locals, 28 Days Later, Identity, Hypnotic, and the ultimate face off arriving soon – Freddy vs. Jason.  Go get scared!

Directors who’ve Dabbled in horror

  • Kenneth Branagh – Dead Again (1991), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)
  • Francis Ford Coppola – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
  • Stanley Kubrick – Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980)
  • Adrian Lyne – Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
  • Robert Rodriguez – From Dusk Until Dawn (1996) – co-written with Quentin Tarantino)
  • Ridley Scott – Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982)
  • Stephen Soderberg – Kafka (1991)
  • Robert Wise – The Haunting of Hill House (1963)


    Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

Directors who specialise in horror

  • John Carpenter
  • Roger Corman
  • Wes Craven
  • David Cronenberg
  • Tobe Hooper
  • David Lynch
  • Sam Raimi
  • George Romero

Directors who cut their teeth on horror

  • Peter Bogdonavich – Targets (1968)
  • James Cameron – PiranhaII: the Spawning (1981)
  • Francis Ford Coppola – Dementia 13 (1963)
  • Brian de Palma – Sisters (1973), Carrie (1976), Dressed to Kill (1980) and the strange Phantom of the Paradise musical.
  • Peter Jackson (see Director’s Cut, this issue)
  • John Landis – Schlock (1971), American Werewolf in London (1981)
  • Roman Polanski – Repulsion (1965), The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth are in My Neck (1967), Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
  • Barry Sonnenfeld  – Addams Family (1991)



David Lynch's Blue Velvet

Leading Lights

  • Boris Karloff – silent star who broke into talkies in 1931, forever defining the look and feel of Frankenstein.  Went on to make nearly 100 mostly horror flicks – some ultra cheesy.
  • Bela LugosiDracula – 1931 – followed by a career as other monsters, mad scientists and megalomaniacs.  Those made for Universal were high quality, but drug addiction and a disastrous personal life lead to ridiculous choices in later life – including the legendary worst movie of all time – Plan 9 From Outer Space, for director Ed Wood (the subject of Tim Burton’s biopic of the same name, starring Johnny Depp – in a cashmere sweater.)
  • Vincent Price – Classically trained stage actor who turned to horror in 1953, and spent the next 40 years as the Master of Menace, often working with director Roger Corman.
  • Christopher Lee – Hammer Horror’s perennial leading man, starred as Count Dooku in Star Wars Episodes 1-3 and as Saruman the White in Lord of the Rings.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis – Probably the only woman who ever launched her career as a horror star – playing Michael Myers’ sister in Halloween, by managing to survive.  Daughter of Janet Leigh, who played Norman Bates unfortunate victim in Psycho, she earned the nick ‘Queen of the Creepies’ with The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train (all 1980) and Halloween II (1981).  Once she broke out, she refused to do another horror flick until Halloween H20: 20 Years Later in1998.  Having made her peace, she returned in H8 in 2002 and will most likely star in H9.
Vincent Price & Tim Burton ES

Tim Burton and Vincent Price on the set of Edward Scissorhands

Makers & shapers

  • Alfred Hitchcock – directed over fifty films, virtually inventing the psychological thriller.  Upped the ante in the horror genre with nudity and violence in Psycho in 1960.  Followed by The Birds in 1963.
  • Stephen King – The Source.  Has had 25 of his novels made into films, Made for TV movies or television series.
  • Terence Fisher – single-handedly created the Hammer Horror franchise with his 1957 remake of Frankenstein with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and followed it with 24 low-budget classics more over the next 17 years.
  • George A. Romero – broke the boundaries for gore in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead and then topped that with Dawn of the Dead in 1978.
  • John Carpenter – was paid $10,000 for directing the original Halloween.

Jamie Lee Curtis in the original Halloween, from John Carpenter

Monster movies

  • Frankenstein
  • Dracula
  • The Mummy
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Any Hammer Horror

Sci-fi horror

  • Alien
  • The Fly both the 1958 version with Vincent Price and the 1986 remake with Jeff Goldblum.
  • Blade Runner – 1982
  • Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!

Social commentary

  • Soylent Green
  • 28 Days Later
  • It’s Alive
  • The Possession of Joel Delaney


  • Psycho
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • Halloween
  • Friday the 13th and all their offspring


  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
  • Shadow of the Vampire
  • Repulsion (Roman Polanski)

Roman Polanski directs Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion (1965)

And many many more…

Have a horrific Halloween!

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

30/10/2009 at 8:55 pm

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