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Tag Archive: Gothic horror


Review by C.J. Bunce

Your next creepy movie for fall is waiting for you now on Netflix.  It’s director Stacie Passon′s 2018 adaptation of award-winning author Shirley Jackson′s 1962 mystery thriller, We Have Always Lived in the Castle And although it is not technically a story about one of our favorite horror tropes, creepy little girls, you will meet two very creepy young adult sisters who live alone on the hill at the edge of town with a secret that may not be all that secret.  Taissa Farmiga (The Nun, American Horror Story) stars as Mary Catherine Blackwood, called Merricat, the stranger and younger of two siblings, with Alexandra Daddario (White Collar, True Detective) as the older sister, Constance.  No doubt inspired by the acquittal in the murder trial of Lizzie Borden, the movie (as with the original novel) takes places six years after the poisonings of the sisters’ parents, with Constance as the sole suspect.  Who really poisoned them?

Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, Alice in Wonderland) delivers possibly his finest performance as Uncle Julian.  Present at the deaths of his brother and sister-in-law, Uncle Julian was also poisoned, but survived with an addled mind and failing body.  Constance seems to have never recovered from the accusations, and the townspeople certainly will not let the family forget.  Constance has a smile fixed as she goes about surviving each day, a PTSD victim ready to snap at any time.  Merricat is left to venture out once a week to get groceries and get lambasted by all those that looked down upon the family for their wealth and scandal.  Yet Merricat is happy with the status quo, burying her father’s possessions to ward off evil spirits and bad fortune.  As she tells us as narrator, Constance is the most precious person to her in the world.

But the sisters’ world comes crashing down as a cousin, played by Sebastian Stan (Captain America: Winter Soldier), appears in a sports car and begins taking over the house.  Worse for Merricat, Constance seems to be falling in love with him, and the new couple begins to make plans for the future.  In a world of oddities out of Great Expectations, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? or Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, can anyone in the house find normalcy or have any hope of getting their lives back?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

An exciting new Gothic suspense thriller has arrived in the new Netflix series Requiem.  Like any great mystery–and it seems even more so in this sub-genre–you never can tell what kind of story you’re in until the very end.  Clues are everywhere if you only look at what is right in front of you.  Call it a psychological thriller, call it a ghost story, call it a police procedural, call it another X-Files entry, call it outright horror, Requiem is a British production that, unlike so many past British series, it’s arrived for American audiences as quickly as it premiered in England.  And one of the great things about Netflix is it’s now bridging that gap of time that has so often taken British television series years to arrive in the States.  We don’t know their trick but we love it.  Requiem is as creepy, as atmospheric, and as chilling as anything you’re going to see this year.

Fans of the original The Watcher in the Woods will appreciate Requiem for many reasons, including getting that obligatory British estate nestled in the far-off woods so very right.  Viewers familiar with the Gothic genre will find themselves transfixed, scrabbling to follow clues and guess before the final episode the true nature of the darkness in the story.  The beauty of the script, acting, and setting is that you probably won’t be able to figure it all out.  It’s that good.  Expect a few “I didn’t see that coming” utterances and a satisfying ending.  Is this just another procedural crime drama about a missing child?  Something like The Missing, Thirteen, Broadchurch, Hinterlands, Shetland, or this year’s Netflix release, Collateral Or something with a more supernatural twist like British series Marchlands, Lightfields, The Secret of Crickley Hall, or a litany of creepy ghosts, haunts, and other fears from the big screen across the decades, like Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing, Gaslight, The Lady Vanishes, or The Woman in Black, like the film adaptations of the Daphne du Maurier novels My Cousin Rachel, The Birds, and Rebecca, or adaptations of Gothic classics Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Turn of the Screw, or Great Expectations?  Maybe this is a modern horror tale wrapped in Gothic dress, like The Boy, The Ring, The Sixth Sense, The Shining, The Others, The Fog (and other John Carpenter classics), Skeleton Key, the Oscar winner Get Out, this year’s film Winchester, or Guillermo del Toro’s modern creation inspired by the classic Gothic thriller, Crimson Peak Or maybe it only has the atmosphere of the above productions.  

Virtuoso cellist Matilda Grey (Star Trek Beyond, Black Mirror, and Never Let Me Go’s Lydia Wilson) is readying a London premiere with her musical partner Hal (Game of Thrones’ Joel Fry).  But her world falls apart when her mother Janice (Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams and Spaced’s Joanna Scanlan) commits suicide.  At her mother’s home she finds a hidden box of secrets that reveals her own past may not be what it seems, and she and Hal find themselves trying to come to terms with Matilda’s loss in the seemingly unpronounceable Welsh town of Penllynith.  Something wicked this way comes, or does it?  Is everyone just caught up in an old missing persons case from years ago and the quirky lore of an old village?

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The first instinct of diehard fans of any classic book, song, TV show, film, or anything else, is to flinch at the notion of a remake or reboot of a beloved original.  For years we here at borg.com have included The Watcher in the Woods as a favorite recommendation of a ghost story.  It’s a Disney film unlike any other Disney film–the rare instance of a movie being stronger than its source material (the novel by Florence Engel Randall), a Gothic ghost story (or is it?) that may be the creepiest and scariest story the studio released, certainly the spookiest of the 1980s.  So a remake that is being released this year for the Lifetime channel being previewed at San Diego Comic-Con this year is going to hit our radar.

As a kid, the film bridged being surprising enough to get you to jump out of your seat without being an adult horror movie. As an adult, I have recommended The Watcher in the Woods to friends for children’s Halloween parties, and it’s proven still to be a hit for kids into their pre-teens.  Melissa Joan Hart, known best for her Sabrina, the Teenage Witch series, is directing the remake, and as with the original, she enlisted one of the best to ground the film, Anjelica Huston, who takes on the role made famous by Bette Davis.

The result?  Hart has at a minimum completely nailed the trailer.  In an interview below she discusses concepts kept and concepts updated.  But when you get to the trailer, any concerns for the remake pretty much vanish, like the key image of the trapped, blindfolded girl in the film.  And the creepy woods as a singular character.  In the original, “Bond girl” actress Lynn-Holly Johnson (For Your Eyes Only, Ice Castles) and Kyle Richards played the sisters with Richards at the height of her child-actor career between Halloween and Little House on the Prairie.  In Hart’s new movie, these roles are played by young actors Tallulah Evans and Dixie Egerickx.

Even if you don’t agree Hart gets this one exactly right, you’re going to watch it because it’s on cable, and why not?  Check out this nicely spooky trailer from Comic-Con:

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Last seen in the theater 62 years ago, author Daphne du Maurier’s novel My Cousin Rachel is returning to theaters next week in a new adaptation.  Although the title may sound like a somber, pastoral story you might see from the likes of Jane Austen, get ready for a psychological thriller that could only come from the pen of the author of Rebecca and The Birds.  Film adaptations of both of those films would become thriller classics for director Alfred Hitchcock, with Rebecca as the 1941 Best Picture Academy Award winner.  The original 1952 adaptation of My Cousin Rachel starred multiple Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Rachel, a beautiful Englishwoman believed to have murdered a man under her care.  de Havilland’s sister, Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, had been nominated for an Oscar for Rebecca.

This time around Roger Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson, Notting Hill) wrote a new adaptation of du Maurier’s novel and directs the film.  He cleverly cast an Oscar-winning Rachel for the role of Rachel–Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, The Mummy)–whose performance looks quite convincing in the first trailer released for the film.  Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) plays Rachel’s cousin, the role originally played by Richard Burton.

The overall look and feel from the film’s trailer is similar to other Gothic novels made into movies: dark, creepy, and mysterious, particularly in the romance between the two lead actors, like that found in Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and more recently, Crimson Peak.  Check out this trailer for My Cousin Rachel:

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by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Last month we offered our review of Guillermo del Toro’s new gothic film, Crimson Peak, raving over its atmosphere and performances.  Since it won’t be released in a home-viewing format for a while yet, how are we supposed to refresh our Crimson Peak fix until then?

Read the movie tie-in novel, of course!

crimson peak cover

Crimson Peak by veteran horror author Nancy Holder is a dead ringer for its onscreen counterpart, offering a scene-by-scene text recreation of the film.  But Holder often goes deeper, offering perspectives from characters not fully expressed on screen, elaborating on the story’s emotional arc, and adding to the haunting atmosphere with her own nuanced, sometimes surprising voice.

If you’ve seen the film, there’s nothing new here.  At times the book feels flat, as if the words alone can’t live up to the actors’ performances, and the author was required to give as close a blow-by-blow account as possible.  But in other moments, Holder’s own prose shines:

It watched the house’s breath scatter the dry leaves that drifted in, drifted by.  The walls were bleeding from fissures in the wallpaper.  Stab wounds, or a razor blade drawn across a vein? Moths flew out; maggots fed.  The mad head of the house was rotting, and night was dragging her wings across the moon, tracing filigree on the floor.  In the attic, more black moths were dancing because it was cold, because it was dark. Because they were hungry.

For the butterfly.

Oooh, shivery!

The biggest challenge here is the same minor plot weakness that caused the film to stumble a bit at the end.  With so much glorious setup, with the fantastic otherworldly intervention of the supernatural–which is what drew us to this story, after all!–Crimson Peak deserves a bigger payoff, a less predictable and mundane explanation for all the horror.  But Holder actually manages the material a little more deftly than it appeared on screen; the pacing is more dread-inducing as she doles it out piecemeal.  We already know what’s happening, and yet the book’s buildup is better than the film’s letdown.  Whatever Holder can’t render as stunningly via prose (del Toro’s visionary ghosts), she makes up for in suspense.

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crimson peak tom hiddleston

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Think you know what to expect from veteran horror and genre director Guillermo del Toro?  Gangly, pallid, slimy creatures such as we saw in Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, right?  Cryptic underworlds, bewildering dreamscapes, and collossal, ocean-stomping robot avatars?!

Think again!  In his latest effort to scare and transport his audiences, Crimson Peak, del Toro has conjured up a true Gothic world of Victorian elegance, tender romance, and Sherlockian sleuthing…  With some slimy creatures.  Which are also, strange as it may sound, beautifully executed.

No doubt about it, del Toro is a visionary.  Despite some clear aesthetic leanings, his film repertoire is surprisingly diverse, from 1997’s Mimic to 2013’s Pacific Rim.  His films are always rich in detail and visually stunning.  And this time he just happened to hit all the right notes for this particular viewer.

Allerdale Hall

Crimson Peak is the tale of young American heiress and authoress Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland), deeply skeptical of the British aristocracy… until she’s won over by the ambitious, earnest baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, Thor, Avengers, The Hollow Crown), who is trying to secure financing for a risky mining venture to extract red clay from beneath his crumbling family mansion.  Though Edith’s father nurses doubts about the man and his motives, his own untimely death frees up both the young woman—and her fortune.  Swept off her feet, she is whisked off to Cumberland, England and the less-than-enchanting family home, the gorgeously decrepit Allerdale Hall.

She must share her new life with her sister-in-law Lucille (Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty), in the archetypal role of unwelcoming Gothic housekeeper.  She knows all the family secrets, and keeps them from her young, impressionable sister-in-law.  It’s a powerhouse performance, captivating and creepy, and Chastain inhabits the role perfectly. Continue reading

The Boy trailer

Too bad this one isn’t ready for release in time for Halloween.  This is some creepy and disturbing stuff.  It’s one of our favorite genres–a Gothic thriller–and we just may have a new competitor for all those movies with creepy little girls.

Greta, played by Lauren Cohan (Chuck, Supernatural, The Walking Dead), is hired by an older couple as a nanny at a big, old, secluded, English estate.  But the eight-year-old boy she is to take care of comes with a list of strange rules.  And he’s not at all what she bargained for.

Is he real?  Or is something dark and sinister at work here?

The Boy film

Of course it is.  Hey, Chucky.  Meet Brahms.

Check out this trailer for The Boy:

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Crimson-Peak-Ghost-Pianist

Ghosts are real. That much I know.

Back in February we previewed the first look at Guillermo del Toro’s next reported masterpiece, a Victorian gothic romance with ghosts called Crimson Peak.  It will finally hit theaters next week and today we have even more previews and cool featurettes from this nicely timed Halloween horror flick.

In Crimson Peak, Gothic haunts like Rebecca and Jane Eyre, meet Watcher in the Woods, The Others, Psycho, and Skeleton Key, with director del Toro amping up the gore and violence.  We don’t often see fantasy horror releases but you can be sure del Toro is a master of the genre.  And it adds another movie to that sub-genre of horror we keep talking about featuring creepy little girls.

Crimson Peak house

Not for the faint of heart, check out this trailer and featurettes for Crimson Peak, after the break:

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Mia Crimson Peak

Victorian gothic romance directed by Guillermo del Toro with ghosts?  Yes, please.

But unlike previous Gothic haunts like Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Watcher in the Woods, The Others, or Wolfman, genre favorite director del Toro is amping up the gore and violence in Crimson Peak, his latest and–reportedly–the greatest of his trademark visually spectacular fantasies so far.

And it adds another movie to that sub-genre of horror we keep talking about featuring creepy little girls.

Chastain Crimson Peak

Not for the faint of heart, check out this trailer for Crimson Peak, after the break:

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