Posts Tagged ‘horror’

After Dark Ukecast #1

After Dark Ukecast #1

After Dark Ukecast #1

Come chat to me and my co-star on twitter @lonedreameryaoi @MXHarryBentley
I can also be found on tumblr at Letzoespoilyou

Also check out my Anime Yaoi/bl/slash list here: http://www.lzsy.co.uk/2013/02/my-yaoi-shonen-ai-boys-love-slashable-anime-list-2/

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Anime Spotlight – Ranpo Kitan Game of Laplace

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This anime was a wild little find and one of those series that no one talks about but is definitely more original and interesting than most other series out there. The anime is inspired by the works of author Edogawa Ranpo and commemorates the 50th anniversary of his death in 1965.
It’s a murder mystery detective show with a lot of social commentary about the state of modern Japan mixed with horror elements. The show has great cases such as a serial killer making furniture out of women and does not shy away from some disturbing images, it is the very definition of aesthetic violence. They use a lot of very artistic but dark imagery which I really love. What’s awesome is that under the cases there is a feeling of dissatisfaction in Japanese society being reported on the TV, they story brings in ideas about the failing justice system and they rise of those who are not supported by modern Japanese values. If you liked Psycho Pass and want to see an anime tackle similar issues but in a different genre this anime does it very well.

The cast is a diverse mix of characters that all have some interesting personal quirks with the exception of Hashiba the voice of reason. Our main character is Kobayashi a boy bored by his life and a weird sense of what is attractive and interesting until he meets detective Akeshi a 17 year old detective. Kobayashi is suspected in a murder case but after working with Akeshi to solve the mystery he decides to become the detective’s assistant as it’s the first time he’s really had fun. Kobayashi’s best friend Hashiba tags along to be the voice of reason and keep him grounded (plus it’s rather obvious that he’s in love with Kobayashi). There are some very colourful characters but there are better off kept a surprise.
The show has a great art style using metaphor and staging to display various points and bring a great surrealism to it. I see flashes of Ikuhara (Utena, Mawaru PenguinDrum) but darker in this series and very much Danganronpa. The show looks great, has real emotion, dark and imaginative cases, quirky characters, unique set pieces, grittiness and great social commentary so was a real win for me.
Plus a bonus for a fugoshi some real slash/BL potential.

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LZSY does Valentaine’s Like a Geek

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The Quiet One’s – surprisinly good horror from Hammer

The Quiet Ones Banner

This is a surprisingly good horror film and I’m glad I went to see it. I wasn’t really expecting much I went to see it purely cause I’d seen the poster on a bus and thought “oh new horror” and gave it a try. I am normally not that impressed with horror films these days the current crop have left me feeling disappointed and totally unafraid. From Mama’s cgi ghost to The Conjuring’s happy ending horror has been a bit of a bore. I am even finding it hard to find good horrors from the Asian market and I prefer their films. But alas there hasn’t been a Dark Water or Tale of Two Sisters in years. The Thai’s have been coming up with some good stuff like The Victim, House and Body 19 but these are still a few years old.
So horror has left me flat and as one of my fav genres that is a real shame. I love a good scare, decent drawn out frights and an unhappy ending cause nothing ruins a horror faster than “they all lived happily ever after” where is the fear in that, half the fun of a horror is the idea that it’s still out there and can come for you, not in some priest or shaman coming to the rescue. This was why the Conjuring was such as disappointment, not only because it has 2 jumps in its entire running time, it failed to set a strong paranormal presence or a chilling environment and then drifted down the demonic position route to end with an exorcism and a happy family. I mean Mama could have been good but I don’t want to see EVERYTHING!!! Keep some mystery about your creature or supernatural being don’t give me a giant whirling cgi creature and a sad melodramatic plot with a beautiful and touching ended, I don’t want to be moved I want to be scared.
Well The Quiet Ones did a lot better than these previous films. For one thing it was a slow build playing on that line between mental illness and paranormal. When is something a hoax or the real thing? You do spend a vast amount of the film trying to figure out if this is a haunting or just a tortured girl and a man possessed by his own research and theories. The film is supposedly set on true events or this case loosely inspired by events that apparently really happened but were found out to be faked. The plot is simple, Inspired by true events, THE QUIET ONES tells the story of an unorthodox professor (Harris) who uses controversial methods and leads his best students off the grid to take part in a dangerous experiment: to create a poltergeist. Based on the theory that paranormal activity is caused by human negative energy, the rogue scientists perform a series of tests on a young patient, pushing her to the edge of sanity. As frightening occurrences begin to take place with shocking and gruesome consequences, the group quickly realizes they have triggered a force more terrifying and evil than they ever could have imagined. (Cited from: http://www.hammerfilms.com/productions/film/filmid/364/the-quiet-ones).

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So as a Brit myself I can attest to their being some freaky old buildings in the UK and ghost sittings have been publicised, were an old country that has seen a lot so I for one assume we must have some haunted sites (I will prove this at the end of April on a Ghost hunting expedition to Fort Horstead in Kent!!). So I don’t find it farfetched that someone would investigate this phenomenon or that an Oxford professor would research it, we love a bit of research and theoretical discovery in the UK. But what makes this a surprisingly good film I suppose is that I had seen so much poor horror I wasn’t expecting anything much but I was surprised to see what we Brits had to offer the Horror genre, after all it was the god of horror cinema Hammer that was helming this movie. Well the acting was good for one thing, Jarred Harris is a brilliant actor and he doesn’t disappoint. The build is slow and subtle mixing a couple of horror troupes like the lights going out and all we see is what the hand held camera of one protagonist sees.
The win comes in the fact that we don’t see much at all and proof that less is more. There are a lot of loud noises; I jumped so many times because of that, some doors opening and the occasional thing flies across the room. But not enough to truly make me go “omg it’s a ghost this place is so haunted, that girl is so possessed”. Really its one man possessed by his own thesis that fails to see that something supernatural may be occurring. You never really see what’s attacking them and it’s wonderful, strange marks appear, a lot of horrible screaming (which made me ask why these people kept running towards the screaming or banging noises if it was me I’d be running in the opposite direction) and two noticeable appearances of something that makes you go. WTF, something is not right. Not seeing the evil works so well its left to your imagination as a plot on cults and a demonic deity arises but it never goes into the troupe of being possessed by a demon and calling in the local priest who just happens to be well versed in dealing with this.

The OMG WTF moment, so brief but enough creep and random to make you go oh oh they are in trouble!!!
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Maybe it’s a British thing but these characters get into trouble and don’t run to the clergy, first they think doctors, then they think, shit were in trouble. It’s not patriotic or family unit focused it’s just a mixed group that are in way over their heads. By the time it’s all going Pete Tong it’s too late there is no one to help them, some evil has been released and it’s bigger than any person. Us Brits don’t need a happy ending, were the makers of realistic film movements and non-mainstream social protagonists and thus not heroes and saviours, just people that can get into shit and not survive. So I was very happy with an ever body dead or mental ending because that’s how it should be. You provoke supernatural forces and they fight back, religion is not always the answer or there to save you.
I overall enjoyed the simple creep factor of this film, the loud jumps, the blurring of mental states and the feeling that no one is getting out of this unharmed and therefor it warns us not to go messing with the supernatural world because it is often beyond our understanding. This film was well acted, totally British, nicely scored and while didn’t always know where it was going it gave us the unhappy ending I’ve wanted from a horror for a long time.

As always you can follow me @lonedreameryaoi or on the Let Zoe Spoil You tumblr.

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The Terracotta Distribution Back Catalogue Challenge 4

So I have taken it upon myself to watch every film in Terracotta’s back catalogue. How will I be a UK leading expert in South East Asian Cinema if I’m not totally up to date with what’s being released by the main distributor in the country. I want to nice and up to date for the start of my studies in September 2013.
Next up is Death Bell

Now this is another film I saw when I was living in South Korea and my god is it one of the best films I have ever seen. Now Death Bell struck a chord with me (no pun intended) because I was working as an English teacher and some of my students were the same age as the students in Death Bell. I also knew a lot more about the South Korean education system when I saw the film then most people who haven’t lived out there have. South Korean students have the same demands and pressures put on them as Japanese students when it comes to their education. Students go to school at 8am and then by the time they get to 14years of old the extra classes in subjects such as English and maths keeps them in class till 11pm. South Korean school days are on average 8am to 11pm 6 days a week to compete in the global job market. There is a lot of pressure on them to be the best in their class and if not beatings by parents for poor results and requests to teachers for extra homework are common. Now this broke my heart a little and I have to admit I would go easier on my older students because so much life, energy and passion is gone from them and they are just study zombies with no free time or time to relax and enjoying being a child. South Korea is another of these school systems that when the exam results are released they are put up on boards for all to see each child ranked according to academic achievement and exam results. This is a harsh way for children to find out how they are ranked within their school and who is top of the class and who are not achieving as well as the others. Competition and pressure on these students is so very high and South Korea has the highest suicide rate amongst 14-16 years olds in the world. I’ve seen how depressed these students get and they work themselves to the bone to make their families proud and not feel like a disappointment.

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So when a film came out that was South Korea’s commentary on social pressures on youth culture I was in film buff heaven. This is South Korea’s answer to Japans Battle Royale. This time the film uses the genre of horror and thriller to show the pressures on Korean youth and exam stress as well as their psychological breakdown. Death bell concentrates on a special class made up of the elites in the school that are kept at school during the school break for extra lessons to make sure the school looks great when students from their sister school come to visit. The principle wants his school to be the best and wants to use his elite pupils to show off how well they are doing. We are introduced to the harsh school systems and the pressure of exams. Students pop caffeine pills, desperately write there exams and eagerly stare at the ranking board to see where they place. The film manages to expertly in one seen show just how much pressure is on these students and how hard they work for top results. One student the pressure gets too much and he is convinced he is seeing a ghost. So is there really a haunting or has the student cracked under all the stress. He suffers a complete mental break and we are left wondering if this is because of supernatural pressure or exam pressure.
But before we can go any further into this possible haunting we are then faced with a very much real and horrific series of events. The PA system is hacked and shows a female student locked in a glass tank with a math problem written on it. The student watch in horror as a girl from the class slowly drowns and a voice tells them to solve these tests or more will die. It doesn’t take long to realise that someone is playing a very serious and deadly game. Think Saw but with students, these young people are scared they are too young to be faced with such unyielding violence. These students have been groomed for top careers, to be the educational elite and not to deal with the realities of life they are for a higher purpose. So the students freak out unable to pull themselves together to solve the problems. The class want to escape but unfortunately leaving the school results in death as they find out early on.

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Luckily a few teachers with them take on the roles of leaders to help settle the students and get them to solve the tests to save their colleges. So the bodies start to pile up, students disappear and find themselves in some of the mostly grisly tortures and terrifying situations. Questions are carved into their flesh and the pressure is mounting to not only answer the questions and save their colleges but also try and work out who the mastermind is behind this game. Just when you are so sucked into the mystery you are also reminded that there isn’t just a human horror but a possible haunting as other students sees the ghost of a girl. Just who is she and how is she related to the hideous test these students are participating in.

It is very hard not to spoil too much and write about all the wonderful twists and revelations on this film. The grisly deaths get more intense as does the desperation of the students. You have two horror films here that of the Saw like torture death game and that of a haunted school and a ghost out for revenge. It’s double the threat and the outlook doesn’t look good. I adore a social commentary film and this one make good use of the society it is judging. Liking the tests and pressure of everyday school life to a game of death makes us really see the pressure on these students. It successfully exposes just how intensely Korean students work, the sense of desperation, the force at which they push themselves and the concerning dedication to further education above all else. When this is turned on them and they have to use this to save the lives of those close to them how will they deal, how do they cope with increased pressure and the threat of death, at what point will these student crack, how much can they take.

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The film is brilliant not only for the plot and the message but because of the filming and scoring. The music is amazing really building up the tension and the desperation. Its true scene building scoring and add the wonderful cinematography and use of colours. The film uses lots of earth tones and very vibrant prime colours. There are the deep reds and evergreens, browns and blacks for the insides of the school and the torture rooms but outside is the clear blue skies and a whiter purer world. Flash back scenes and scenes up on the roof in the day light showing our characters as happy and care free are bright to match the brightness of a world not trapped in a classroom.

The film takes something that is an issue in Korean society and youth culture and that is teen suicide because of exam pressure. We find out more about our students and how they cope with their exams and expectations as well as question what the focus for students should be. Does giving up everything in pursuit of good grades and exam excellence really set you up for the real world? Can you still be smart and creative, does taking the time to enjoy life outside of study make you a failure or give you more strength to face problems not found in test papers. Are good exam results and social statues amongst parents worth your life and sanity? Who is at fault, the parents or the teachers? Who deserves the punishment and is this school system actually failing its students because like later in life corruption will always be found and even results can be fixed.

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The Terracotta Distribution Back Catalogue Challenge 1

So I have taken it upon myself to watch every film in Terracotta’s back catalogue. How will I be a UK leading expert in South East Asian Cinema if I’m not totally up to date with what’s being released by the main distributor in the country. I want to nice and up to date for the start of my studies in September 2013.

First film up is Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack
The plot is pretty simple to start, 3 friends on holiday before graduation head to the coast and are plagued by a rotten fish smell at their summer home. They soon discover and small mutated fish with legs that they kill and throw out. Thinking this is the end of it turns out to be a mistake as a shark with legs is lurking and goes on the attack. They escape its attack only to discover legion after legion of legged fish are leaving the sea and their fight for survival has only just begun!

Things escalate pretty fast at first the fish being a curiosity to the public then a menace as they disrupt transport and infrastructure. The movie breaks into two storylines; Koari our brave and noble female lead takes the first flight back to Tokyo on a mission to save her Fiancé. Meanwhile back at the summer house slutty Erika is dealing with the mess in her own way by ignoring it favour of fooling around. In true horror staple don’t have sex, you meet a horrible end and Erika’s is truly awful. Turns out a scratch by the mutant fish spear like legs turns you into a rotting overinflated living corpse, swollen and grotesque, producing a vile smell described like human corpses and rotting fish. But then starts a conflict between Erika and friend Aki. Whose nerves have been shattered and feeling abandoned and betrayed has started to lose the plot culminating in a harsh character assassination on Erika before beating her in with an ashtray. But this isn’t the most horrific part as things begin to get truly horrific and out of control.
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This is not a film for the faint hearted and the escalation of the grotesque is truly something. The movie is an adaptation of a Junji Ito manga and he is the man that brought us Uzumaki and Tomie. I have in fact many years ago seen these films and they are quite something. They merge the horrific and grotesque with the insane and unpredictable. You either love these films or hate them and since I enjoy a bit of horror, macabre and the aesthetics of the grotesque this work and his previous movies have appealed to me. Gyo however had me really thinking hard whether to turn away, its one thing to see a swollen mutating girl spew gas from her mouth and arse it’s another to see girl merge with fish carcass leg structure as weird tubes are forced into her mouth and anus. This is the worst kind of forced fellatio!!!!

The reason I did enjoy this movie is that it has a strong plot, there’s a reason to what’s happening and a natural evolution to the events of the film. I’ll try not to spoil the plot too much as it’s a clever and in depth one but I know I can get carried away when describing things. The basics are crazy scientists creates bacterial gas that can be used as a biological weapon. Experimentation takes place on a remote island then abandoned. Fish get infected but it’s not truly a mutation instead the gas, a rotten mixture that smells like corpses and may have developed a mind of its own, has used material found in the sea to make legged structures attaching itself to the fish. And there you have it walking fish; if only it stopped there this movie would be very different and if it had been an American film then the military would have saved us all. No such luck as the fish hosts decompose and explode the scaffolds are left behind so that the next thing infected can get strapped into them and power their crazy rampage.
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Oh yes this movie goes from gross to disturbing to just mind blowing oh god insanity. There should be some test on scientists so they’re not allowed to experiment with mutant gas that rots, mutates and sends people crazy. By the time the fish are dying there’s so many infected people that the scaffolds just uses their strange tubes to combine them hence the mouth and arse rape of hideous bloated people. Despite all, friends Aki and Erika’s disagreement comes to a head, Aki resents Erika for being slim and pretty and getting the boys even though Aki has too low self-esteem to overcome. As Erika suffers Aki feels a sense of superiority finally not the fattest one in the group, nothing like a tough situation to bring out the best in people and to learn who your friends really are. Aki sees her opportunity to get her revenge on Erika for feeling fat, left out and boring but doesn’t take the time to listen to Erika that despite her behaviour sometimes and Aki’s attitude about herself she wouldn’t have hung out with her if they weren’t friends. This is a test of friendship that fails as Aki soon finds herself in trouble and no matter how much she begs Erika has forsaken their friendship.

We are left with Kaori who has teamed up with a cameraman she met on the plane called Shirakawa. They fight their way through Tokyo escaping sharks and Giant squids only to discover crazy scientist has turned Kaori’s fiancée into a prototype walker powered by the gas, a more mechanical lab based version of the evolved scaffolds running lose in Tokyo. Kaori isn’t one to give up, convinced there must be some humanity left she chases after her mutated infected Fiancée Tadashi. Now you can tell this film was never going to have a happy ending, no miracle cure or military force strong enough. There’s no way you can fight against an evil cloud of disturbing gas that infects and destroys all in its path. This is pretty much one of those films where you can safely say it’s the end of the world. As the human scaffold corpses, rotting, abominations they are start to merge together its pretty much lights out for humanity. But only in a film so disturbing would it end with a view of the gas swirling into the sky making beautiful patterns and colours and when asked about the smell the reply “I’m already used to it”.

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As I’ve said this film isn’t for the faint hearted but it’s also not to be mocked or ridiculed. It has its fair share of controversial material but I don’t feel anything was done just to shock and offend people. Everything seen was shown for a reason mostly to help us the viewer understand the mechanics of the scaffold and the workings of the gas. The film wanted us to see the horror of bio bacterial weaponry and how ill prepared humanity is. The film shows us the harsh realities of how people behave when in crisis and the harsher truth that people easily get used to things they shouldn’t and that something horrendous soon becomes the norm. I may not be eating fish for a little while which will be hard as I’m pescaterian so I’ll be sticking to foods that don’t mutate like vegetables. I will however recommend this film to anyone who does like a horror that not only disturbs you visually and mentally but also is so surreally engaging you are left wanting to find out more. I for one have more questions and want to see how the world copes with this epidemic. I do enjoy a bit of the deconstruction of people both physically and mentally and this film does this well.

To check out the amazing releases by Terracotta Distributions head to their site:
http://terracottadistribution.com/films

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Top 5 Movie Musicals

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1 – Repo the Genetic Opera – The best musical film ever and a cult classic. I don’t know how this film didn’t get the response or praise that it deserved it’s a mater piece. I mean a musical done in a horror comic book fashion set in a post-apocalyptic rock opera about a repo man harvesting organs for an evil corporation. I mean it’s sexy, violent and has great songs and great performances. Comic style panels explain how an epidemic of organ failures devastated the planet in the future. The mega-corporation GeneCo emerged as a saviour. GeneCo provides organ transplants, in addition to cosmetic surgeries. GeneCo is legally able to repossess defaulted organs. Clients who default on payments will be hunted down by Repo men; skilled assassins contracted by GeneCo to recover defaulted property by any means necessary. Its lead is the fabulous and talented Anthony Head aka Giles from Buffy or Uther from Merlin.
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Now if you though this wonderful example of British actor was amazing before wait till you hear him sing it’s one of the most sexy experiences and me being a horror fan even more amazing since he sings songs about things like killing his victims. Other cast members include Alexa Vega (spy kids) as his 17 year old ill daughter who doesn’t know about her father’s secret identity, Sarah Brightman of stage and star of musicals such as Phantom of the Opera.
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There’s also a wonderful performance by Paris Hilton parodying herself, an idol so obsessed with plastic surgery that she goes to new extremes to get a new face. The film is shot beautifully with amazing costume designs and gorgeous cinematography. It really is a mouth-watering example of cinema with songs that get stuck in your head.

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2 – Les Miserable – One of the biggest triumphs in musical history the stage version is amazing but the movie stands apart as a wonderful example of cinema. Not only does it has some of the most amazing cinematography in years it an unbelievable epic of storytelling, set design, performances, costume and music. In 1815, convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole by prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) after serving a nineteen-year sentence. He is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson), but steals his silver during the night. He is caught by the authorities, but the Bishop informs them that the silver was given as a gift, giving him even more, securing Valjean’s release. Moved by the Bishop’s grace, Valjean breaks his parole vowing to start an honest life helping others under a new identity. Javert swears he will bring the escaped convict to justice.
Eight years later, Valjean has become a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Fantine (Anne Hathaway), one of his workers, is discovered to be sending money to her illegitimate daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen), who lives with the unscrupulous Thénardiers (Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen) and their daughter Éponine (Natalya Angel Wallace), and is dismissed by the foreman. In a desperate attempt to support her daughter, Fantine becomes a prostitute. She is arrested by Javert after she attacks an abusive man, but is saved by Valjean, who has her hospitalised. Later, Valjean learns that a man believed to be him has been arrested. Unable to accept that an innocent man is condemned, Valjean reveals his identity to the court before departing for the hospital. There he promises a dying Fantine that he will look after her daughter. After escaping from Javert, Valjean finds Cosette and pays the Thénardiers to allow him to take her, and promises to be like a father to her. I knew Hugh Jackman was going to be good but he blew me away with the strength of his performance as well as Anne Hathaway who broke my heart with her performance. Now the weak link I thought would be Russell Crowe but alas I really like him in this Javert is my favourite character. Russell was great he played the character wonderful he was intense and yet broken, he was a little weak when he sang ‘”stars” but I loved the gravely quality to his voice when he did the confrontation.
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What I loved about the movie was how claustrophobic it could feel it never let you escape from the harshness of these characters lives you couldn’t turn away as their plight was there up close for you to witness. This made Hathaway’s “I dreamed a dream” all the more heart breaking cause as you saw her break and fall to despair you had nowhere else to look than into the eyes of a women whose world had betrayed and destroyed her and it stole my breath away and broke my heart.
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I love Les Mis it’s a story of hope and human triumph in the face of adversity, I love a tale of overcoming the harsh reality of your life and finding a higher purpose so this film really applied to me plus some amazing songs that will always be classics no matter what.

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3 – Singin’ in the Rain – An absolute classic one of the greatest musical and proof you don’t need to be modern and or full of special effects to be a great movie. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a popular silent film star with humble roots as a singer, dancer and stunt man. Don barely tolerates his vapid, shallow leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), though their studio, Monumental Pictures, links them romantically to increase their popularity. Lina herself is convinced they are in love, despite Don’s protestations otherwise. One day, to escape from fans, Don jumps into a passing car driven by Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). She drops him off, but not before claiming to be a stage actress and sneering at his “undignified” accomplishments. Later, at a party, the head of Don’s studio, R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell), shows a short demonstration of a Vitaphone talking picture but his guests are unimpressed. To Don’s amusement and Kathy’s embarrassment, she pops out of a mock cake right in front of him as part of the entertainment; Kathy, it turns out, is a chorus girl. Furious at Don’s teasing, she throws a real cake at him, only to hit Lina right in the face.
Later, after weeks of searching, Don makes up with Kathy after he finds her working in another Monumental Pictures production. She confesses to having been a fan of Don and Lina’s all along and they begin to fall in love. After a rival studio has an enormous hit with its first talking picture, 1927’s The Jazz Singer, R.F. decides he has no choice but to convert the next Lockwood and Lamont film, The Duelling Cavalier, into a talkie. The production is beset with difficulties. By far, the worst problem is Lina’s grating voice. An exasperated diction coach tried to teach her how to speak properly, but to no avail. Cosmo then comes up with the idea to dub Lina’s voice with Kathy’s, and they persuade R.F. to turn The Duelling Cavalier into a musical called The Dancing Cavalier, complete with a modern musical number called “Broadway Melody”.
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This is one fun and light musical maybe that’s why I love it so it’s about friendship and having a good time with the people you like the most and it will be a classic. To this day everyone will always know Singing in the Rain and the sight of Gene Kelly splashing through puddles as he sings it. It’s also a very funny movie marking an important change in cinema when sound was brought to motion pictures and the very real problems that lent to silent screen actors. One of the funniest things I’ve seen to this day is Lina trying to act and speak into a microphone with the world’s most annoying voice. I love the songs in this film I regularly like to sing “good morning, good morning” it’s the perfect cheer up song for mornings. This film is and always be a classic film at 60 years old it holds up today.

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4 – Chicago – I love this film for some reason it just adore it. It’s great fun with catchy songs and filmed really well. In Chicago, circa 1924, naïve Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) visits a nightclub, where star Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) performs (”All That Jazz”). Roxie is there with Fred Casely (Dominic West); a lover she hopes will get her a vaudeville gig. After the show, Velma is arrested for killing her husband and sister after finding them in bed together. A month passes, and, after Roxie admits she wants the relationship to go on a long-term basis, Fred reveals to Roxie that he lied about his connections in order to sleep with her and abandons her, hitting her when she protests. Roxie, enraged, shoots him three times, killing him. Roxie convinces her ever faithful husband, Amos (John C. Reilly), to take the blame, telling him it was a burglar and that he needn’t worry, he’ll get off. When the detective brings up evidence that Roxie had been sleeping with Fred, Amos abandons his lie and says Casely was dead when he got home (”Funny Honey”). Roxie is sent to Cook County Jail.
Upon her arrival she is sent to Murderess’ Row, under the care of the corrupt Matron “Mama” Morton (Queen Latifah), who takes bribes and supplies her prisoners with cigarettes and contraband (”When You’re Good to Mama”) while awaiting trial. Roxie meets Velma, and learns the backstories of the other women in Murderess’ Row (”Cell Block Tango”). Roxie decides that she wants to engage Velma’s lawyer, the brilliant and amoral Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) (”All I Care About”), and convinces her husband to talk to him. Flynn and Roxie manipulate the press at a press conference, reinventing Roxie’s identity to make Chicago fall in love with her (”We Both Reached for the Gun”). Roxie becomes the new infamous celebrity of the Cook County Jail (”Roxie”), much to Velma’s disgust and Mama’s delight. Velma, desperate to get back into the limelight, tries to talk Roxie into opening a vaudeville act with her once they get out of jail (”I Can’t Do It Alone”). Seeking revenge for an earlier mocking, Roxie haughtily refuses, and Roxie and Velma become locked in a rivalry to outshine each other.
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Top 5 Movie Musicals
Now while I’m not a big Renee fan and find her very flat chest rather off putting I adore Catherine Zeta Jones and thinks she beautiful and talented. I just love the power play between them the trying to outshine each other. There is something very sexy about this film just all those perfect bodies dancing and singing, the “Cell Block Tango” is just a wonderfully filmed and choreographed number.
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It has catchy songs and that’s what’s important about a musical if you come away singing the songs you know it’s been a good film and performance.

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5 – Rocky Horror Picture Show – Another cult classic and timeless film that has one of the best entrances of a character in film history. No one will ever forget Tim Curry appearing from the elevator in his transvestite gear, amazing. A criminologist narrates the tale of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, a newly engaged couple who find themselves lost and with a flat tire on a cold and rainy late November evening. Seeking a phone with which to call for help, Brad and Janet walk to a nearby castle, where they discover a group of strange and outlandish people who are holding an Annual Transylvanian Convention. Brad and Janet watch as the Transylvanians, servants and a tap-dancing groupie dance the film’s signature song, “Time Warp”.
They are soon swept into the world of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a self-proclaimed “Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania”. The ensemble of convention attendees also includes servants Riff Raff, his sister Magenta, and a groupie named Columbia.
This film has always a classic to anyone non-mainstream, it’s a representation to all of us that don’t want to live by normal social conventions and celebrate our differences. This film is for all those who consider themselves alternative for the society outsiders who refuse to change themselves to become more “normal” and fit into boring conformism of mainstream society. This such my world, I’m a geek, alternative, have a different sense of aesthetics (which explains why repo was 1 on my list) and pro-gay, transgender, gender non-conformist rights and not conforming so of course this is a film for me. I want to celebrate the bizarre and macabre plus the “Time warp” is a great dance that no party is complete without.
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Cinderella – A twisted tale of motherly love.

The title of this Korean horror doesn’t quite match up with the story as it’s less about a step mum abusing her daughter but more about how her love makes her lose her grip on sanity and the true meaning of being a parent. On the surface this is another stylish horror film from Korea that is well made and filmed beautifully. It does have some very scary moments and a very creepy atmosphere but it treads a thin line between being creepy and being silly.

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I have and will probably always be afraid of the archetype of Asian horror, the woman with the long black hair. Ever since Sadako crawled out of her well and through the television set I have hated that image. It is an image that hasn’t sat well with me I don’t like it, its unnatural and sinister in a way that western horror hasn’t been able to capture. Maybe because it is a very foreign image after all I’m a western woman in a western world not in Asia. But I also lived in Korea and strangely that didn’t take the sting out of the image, no matter where, a woman with long black hair crawling towards me is very unsettling.

In Cinderella it is done very well through the eyes of a girl on the operating table who is between wakefulness and unconsciousness. Is it a true vision of a ghost crawling towards her or is it a cocktail of drugs making her hallucinate? If you’ve ever had an operation then you know that anaesthetics and pain killers can cause mild hallucinations and the lines of reality can blur. So this already sets up a nice scene, helpless and losing consciousness about to be operated on and unseen to the surgeons and doctors in the room a disjointed dead like woman is crawling under your operating bed and the last thing you see is her reflection in your eyeball.

It became apparent that this young girl is being haunted as the ghost seems to possess those who have had plastic surgery. Young girl’s mother is a skilled plastic surgeon and is obsessed with beauty and making sure her daughter has everything she desires including perfect looks. This seems to also mean that if daughter’s friends want plastic surgery to improve their looks then she will also indulge their whims and operate on them. The downside is that whoever gets operated on is possessed and is driven mad by the whisperings of the ghost. A ghost who believes her face was stolen and wants it back convincing its victims they have stolen her beauty and eventually in madness disfigures themselves.

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The film gets a little close to silly as two friends who had nose jobs get possessed at the same time and in a surreal moment sit telling each other how pretty they are while slicing at each other’s faces completely taken over by their madness. But the rest of the time it stays suitable creepy with stillness and solemn music. Long walks down corridors and a mystery being pieced together in flashback makes for an intriguing plot and a good atmosphere and soon you are invested in the storyline and why this ghost is out to seek revenge.
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So here is where the plot gets interesting and we get a story of motherly love and whether flesh and blood means more. What does it truly mean to be a mother and how far you will go to prove you love your child? As the mystery is pieced together it doesn’t take long to work out what is behind this plot. A mother has a child who was disfigured in an accident and somehow steals away an abandoned child. While flesh and blood lies dying needed a face transplant new daughter is raised in the basement not allowed to see the light of day and not allowed to be discovered. Mothers love for her biological daughter is so strong that she operates and transplants their faces allowing biological daughter to live a full and happy life while adopted daughter is left to live in the basement. Mother all poised to kill the unneeded child has a change of heart, she has grown used to speaking, playing and raising this other child who loves her and the love is returned. Unable to kill her adopted child she raises her in secrete. Now it seems that biological daughter knows nothing of her sister that she stole a face from and grows up wanting for nothing into a bit of a spoilt brat really. She is egotistical and selfish and doesn’t really seem to appreciate the life her mother built for her. Instead mother has bonded more with her secret disfigured daughter who is far more appreciative and warm and caring even if she doesn’t really know much better having been raised in the cellar.

The movie raises the usual questions of the meaning of beauty and privilege, those that have everything can be ugly people but those not blessed can be far more caring and compassionate. Also sometimes unconditional love isn’t reserved just for those related by blood you can still love a child every bit as much as a flesh and blood daughter. While trying to save one daughter Mother ended up having a more meaningful relationship with a child not related to her one that far more appreciated her. But alas adopted child grew up and learnt about jealousy, wanting to know why she could never come out to play with her sister. She grew to hate her sister for being able to have a life, friends, mother’s undivided attention and a beautiful face. It all got too much and she commits suicide and in her anger and hurt a ghost of revenge seeking her true face is born. Now we know who and why one mums very bad parenting skills breeds contempt, jealousy and anger all the ingredient of a vengeful ghost and the only outcome is for a mother to work out where her love and compassion should truly lie, which of her daughters really needs her the living or the dead.
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What makes this movie a little more interesting and brave is the fact that it uses the theme of plastic surgery. Many of the Asian horrors are now using modern situations and technology as the instruments of horror. Cursed video and phones are now prominent, modern family units are the victims and social and cultural changes are being brought to our attention. It is a known fact that the Koreans are obsessed with plastic surgery; I lived there for a year and witnessed this. Parents would take their children as young as 10 to a plastic surgeon to have all moles and freckles removed as they are seen as blemishes on the skin. Korean women strive for perfect, flawless skin, bigger eyes and cuter noses are all the fashion. Women are under a lot of pressure to look perfect or they won’t get husbands and succeed in life and it’s a cultural phenomenon that hasn’t really been addressed. We as westerners can see it for ourselves when out there; I had at least 1 in 10 children who had had plastic surgery during the time I was teaching. What is rare is that a Korean film has commented on this has made a stand to say that this is happening in Korean society. Horror has always been unique in taking modern fears and social irregularities and exposing them in terrifying ways. Cinderella not only exposes the fear of an atypical family unit (a single mum) but also plastic surgery and how it can change the way you perceive yourself.

I enjoyed this movie for its creepy factor but also because it wasn’t afraid to do something different and try to expose a real Korean problem that hasn’t seen that much media attention or truly been exposed yet. This is the beauty of horror social problem versus the underlying fears.

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Contemporary Japanese horror and how it compares with Hollywood’s horrors of recent years

Horror has always been a popular theme for films, from very early cinema to modern and from Western to Eastern films. Horror has always been used to frighten, disturb and shock audiences. It is one of the largest film markets as people still desire to be scared. Therefore horror is reinvented for each generation of new fans, and it must be updated for these fans. This means finding new ways to scare people.

“The reason these films are popular is that audiences want to see something that’s forbidden. All these films toy with the rage and anger we have within us” (Carpenter – The Aesthetics of Fright – Dickstein 1980)

Both America and Japan have a large market for horror, yet the differences in the styles and themes of the films from these countries are significant. Horror has undergone many changes over the years and it has become apparent that the horror genre in America over the last 20 years has seen a decline while recent Japanese horror has become more popular and successful. The ability of Japanese horror films to create fear in the audience is what makes the film successful and enjoyable. As with all films, success lies with the film’s ability to relate to audiences contemporary issues and developments. In the past horror was a metaphor for the fears of man, so as people’s fears change, so must the films. Fear of nuclear power’s ability to create monsters becomes the fear of genetic engineering doing the same. As technology advances so does the fear of what problems these new technologies may bring. A major part of this comes from knowing your target audience and their changing demands. A successful horror film must know how the audience has changed in its tastes, and how much terror they can handle when viewing a film. The reason many recent American horrors fail where Japanese films succeed is the simple fact that they are not taking into consideration these factors. Japanese horror proves more successful than American horror of the last 20 years because it has gone back to the classic days of cinema, where you didn’t need to completely show your monster to scare your audience. Of coarse there are exceptions to the rules, M. Night Shyamalan and Alejandro Amenábar. In terms of atmosphere and original plot twists, Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense and also Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others are the best examples of films that have captured the subtle yet suspenseful feeling of Eastern horror.
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Of recent Japanese horror films the most successful have been the Ring films and Dark Water both being directed by Hideo Nakata, of which Ring has already had an American re-make, and Dark Water and Ring 2 about to be re-made. This alone may prove that American producers, unsure of what their audiences want, are capitalizing on the success of Japanese horror films.

“Nobody knows what makes a hit or when it will happen, since audiences make hits not by revealing preferences they already have, but by discovering what they like” (W. David Walls – Identifying Hollywood’s Audiences – Maltby 1999)

Ring is the story of a cursed video tape that has become an urban myth. After watching this tape you have a week to live unless you can solve its mystery and its relationship to a strange girl named Sadako. The story deals with one family who has been affected by the curse. The young single mother watches the tape, shows it to her estranged ex-husband and it is also unfortunately viewed by their young son. The movie follows this family and their fight to end the curse as well as solve it using the clues left behind in the tape itself. You are also aware of the strange presence that is haunting this family since they watched the tape.
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Dark Water is the story of a young mother fighting to gain legal custody of her five year old daughter. Because of the divorce and separation, mother and daughter move into a sullen and musty apartment building. All our young mothers’ fears of insecurity and uncertainty are exaggerated by unsettling events and the appearance of another unknown girl that seems to be haunting them. In Dark Water this fear is represented buy the leaking ceiling and reappearance of a small child’s red handbag. What would at first seem like every day occurrence like that of damp take on a new and horrifying meaning in this movie, as the young mother struggle more with her problems and insecurities so does this damp patch increase in size spreading across the bedroom ceiling.
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The films do not have huge special effects; there are no CG monsters or people in exaggerated make up and costumes. They are driven very much by the script, which in both Ring and Dark Water is based on a book (in the case of these two films the author of both was Koji Suzuki) Also it has a subtle score the music helping to create a more ambiguous atmosphere, the use of chilling music and sound effects (like the strange noises used during the cursed video clip) to promote fear. The music is never over dramatic it mainly exists as background noise such as the breathing of the characters, the most frightening scenes done in silence letting the imagery do the work. Japanese horror films such as Ring and Dark Water rely on suspense rather than making the audience jump at regular intervals.
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The Ring plays out more like a mystery than a horror it invites you to solve the curse saving the final scare for the end of the film. By this time you are not expecting anything as the film has played out at a subtle pace exploring the relationship between the characters as well as Sadako herself and her relationships, making the final scene of the film even more terrifying. Another aspect of this movie is that as well as being a mystery and horror it is also part melodrama with the central characters being a broken family not only having to deal with issues such as separation and being a single mother raising a child but now the fear of death that hangs over them. If you were to take out the supernatural element of this film as well as Dark Water you would still be left with an interesting drama about the breakdown of family and how they no longer are able to cope with their problems and social complications. The film has its own social commentary about the family unit and then upon this other genres appear in various layers, the rest being mystery and then finally horror.

“One might say that the true subject of the horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses and oppresses: its re-emergence dramatised, as our nightmare, as an object of horror, a matter for terror, the ‘happy ending’ (when it exists) typically signifying the restoration of repression.’” (Wood – American Nightmare: essays on the horror film, 1979, p10)
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Both Ring and Dark Water follow the theory of return of the repressed as the characters have been oppressed as well as having the emotions repressed. The human characters have been repressing their emotions in the struggle to hold together the fragments of their families and broken lives. They are dealing with their own insecurities (especially the young mother character in both films) but these problems have to be forced down for they also have to deal with being strong in the face of their child. The young mother has to show much strength in protecting their child and by putting the child before them they don’t think about their own feelings and are far more susceptible to the supernatural element. As for the supernatural element whether it manifests itself as a woman with a veil of dark hair or a child with a veil of dark hair it is the representation of these fears and insecurities. But more importantly, these creatures of nightmares that have manifested themselves were once human and in their lives were oppressed. So in death, all that was oppressed in life comes back as a terrifying and haunting power.
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Why the representation of horror in these films is a woman is a much more difficult question to answer. For one thing Japanese and American cultures are very different therefore the role of women in their society is different. Women are looked upon and treated differently in Japanese society so it’s harder for a western audience to understand the cultural significance of the female “ghost” in far-eastern culture. Western viewers may find these movies far more unnerving because it is a mother that has become the symbol of fear when normally the mother figure is something we can rely on for safety and security. Though this is not always the case; in Species (directed by Roger Donaldson) the monster is female. It is far harder to see the female ghost in recent American cinema, which normally uses a male killer or a monster, however, a rare example of the female ghost can be found in What Lies Beneath by Robert Zemeckis. The child as a representation of horror has been used in American cinema (such as the Omen movies by Richard Donner), but this has been rare in recent cinema (with the possible exception of Godsend by Nick Hamm). The child is mainly placed within the horror or is susceptible to it like in Sixth Sense by M. Night Shyamalan and Bless the Child by Chuck Russell.
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A mother or a child seems much safer because we fear them less, so to see them in these different roles of avenger, tormentor and killer is far more unnerving. To eastern audiences, using women as the element of fear may make more sense because in Japanese society the women are still seen as the lesser sex. Women are rarely seen as equals in Japanese society as they take on far more traditional roles like mother and housewife. Women are more often than not repressed by their own society, so it makes much more sense that in death they seek vengeance for this repression. Another reason that the female is used to represent fear is also related to the culture that these stories are born from. A lot of Japanese horror stories started of as folk tales and myths from times when the role of women was even less respected than it is in modern Japan. Also Japan has a different religion and therefore different beliefs when it comes to the spirit world and how it can interact with our world.
Sadako herself also is a nice twist on the ‘final girl’ image that exists in American horror of recent years. The ‘final girl’ is the term used to describe the last remaining character (that is nearly always female) who can kill the monster or killer in the movie. This surviving female character is the one to out wit our monster or killer, saving herself and signifying the restoration of normality (the ‘final girl’ has redeemed herself). But in horrors such as Ring Sadako takes the live of her victims, there isn’t another girl to stop her, no character to stop her, Sadako gets the final revenge so normality isn’t restored.
The other thing that sets Japanese horror apart is the very fact that many are based on the idea of something supernatural. A majority of American horrors have an evil presence which is either a man like in the slasher cycles such as Scream or follow the “monster of the week” formula like Jeepers Creepers. But these films are wearing thin becoming formulaic and predictable. Because Japanese horrors evil presence is not a man or a monster but something supernatural and other worldly it plays by a different set of rules. It is not a presence that is inherently good or evil it haunts who it haunts for a reason; generally one of revenge and therefore the body counts for these films is significantly lower than that of American horror. The point of the film is not to create a large body count, its not about how many victims are created and how they die it’s about the mysterious presence and the fear it generates.
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American equivalents such as Gothika by Mathieu Kassovitz don’t have this subtle atmosphere and play up the jumps until it become predictable to where the ghost will appear to scare you. Hollywood horror will overdo the scoring, the tension in the scene lost due to music where silence would have worked much better. There are also exaggerated sound effects when scary events are taking place, music crescendos to the climax of the scene. Where there is a monster it’s a large computer generated beast like the killer bat in Jeepers Creepers. Hollywood horrors rely far more on spectacle rather than subtlety, the ending of the American re-make of Ring being a very good example. Unlike the Japanese version which was a slower but a shorter scene, the horror comes for you and takes you; the American ending is a faster paced scene but filled with more spectacle like the husband falling over a filling unit then trying to crawl away through broken glass. The other difference is the appearance of Sadako herself, while in the Japanese version she was a girl in a white dress with long black hair that obscured her face the only part you see of her at the end is a close up of bloodshot eye, in the American it’s the same basic image but you see her arms and legs all rotted and decayed, as well as the same has happened to her face in which she has a evil expression.
American horror tends to be set away from the home, featuring teenagers lost in unfamiliar locations. The Japanese understand you don’t need to take someone far away into such remote locations. Something as simple as a block of flats can hold a frightening secret, and something supernatural can follow you to somewhere you think is safe and familiar (such as your school). American films have rural locations, unlike Japanese films that have urban and inner-city locations. This goes to prove that Japanese filmmakers understand their audience, and what that audience will find terrifying changes with changing times. The best example of this is Ring. The source of horror is a video tape, a modern invention so taken for granted by today’s society that no one could suspect what kind of horror could be created from it. By placing objects that are so familiar to us in a frightening setting they become scary to us, objects that we take for granted now become our worse fears.
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The final climatic scene of horror in both Ring and Dark Water is so terrifying that the scene itself haunts you like a ghost long after the movie is over. The image of Sadako implanted in your memory lingering there so that the movie stays with you. Even at the very end of the movie you are left on a cliffhanger still guessing the true nature of this evil presence as well as wondering what will happen next to the characters affected by Sadako. As with Dark Water the image of the child that has haunted the family now haunts you. It’s this subtle nature of telling the story that makes Japanese horror so much more effective for you are not presented with over glorified monsters but a more supernatural atmosphere. One factor that also makes these Japanese films scarier is the very fact that most of the time they are left unresolved or open ended. By the end of the Ring you are left with this cliffhanger, therefore the thing you fear is unresolved and you are left to think about it. Again this allows the movie to stay with you haunting your thoughts and continuing to scare you, a true sign that it has indeed been an affective horror. With Dark Water the plot has been resolved; you know who has been haunting the family (the small girl). You also know the fate of the small girl (how she became a ghost and why water and a red handbag relate to the haunting). Lastly you know why she has been haunting this family (she wanted a kind and caring mother to replace the one that abandoned her as a child and led to her unfortunate death). Though even with this film there is an open end, for the ghost has won, it was able to take the mother away leaving her daughter alone. The mother is now a ghost herself and alone with the ghost child they still haunt the apartment where this nightmare occurred. Normality hasn’t been resolved, the child’s vengeance may have been carried out but she hasn’t moved on she still lingers in this apartment continuing to haunt it, the difference being that now she has someone else to share this fate with.

“Sublime terror rests in the unseen – the ultimate horror. Things seen, fully described, explained, and laid to rest the last reel or paragraph are mere horrors….” (Rockett – Journal of Popular Film and Television, 1982, p.132)

Hideo Nakata’s movie was to create one of the most famous characters in the form of Sadako. Her image would become a famous image in nearly every horror film made after Ring. Sadako’s image, the women with a veil of dark hair partially or fully obscuring her face, would become a motif for horror movies. She would not only now represent fear but repressed emotions turning into the most horrifying events. Her image would later appear in other Eastern movies such as Ju-on a.k.a The Grudge 1 and 2 (again having had an American re-make) by Takashi Shimizu, Tale of Two Sisters by Ji-Woon Kim, Kakashi by Norio Tsuruta (which is not unexpected as he was also the one to direct Ring 0) and even American horrors such as Gothika by Mathieu Kassovitz and Saw by James Wan.

The movies themselves are also edited very differently from American films and they contain far less cuts. There are no close ups of characters till the end of the film where it is the horror element like Sadako or the ghost child that get the close up. The camera stays motionless with characters moving abut the frame entering or exiting the scene. Where characters interact the camera is positioned so both characters can be scene rather than cutting between them. The films themselves seem to have a slight hinting to them, Ring it is blues and grey whereas Dark Water is more green in colour. The colours in Ring could symbolize the sorrow of Sadako’s death as well as the coldness of Sadako’s isolation from the society that oppressed her. While in Dark Water green is used to emphasize the damp and root from the water that stains this movie.
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As mentioned in an early quote by Maltby that discusses that in fact American producers have really no idea what their target audiences want, so it’s not surprising that they have been making less successful horrors in comparison to Japan and are increasingly re-making successful Japanese, Korean and Thai horrors. If the success of the film relies on being able to relate to a modern audience, then trying to cater for a wider audience is also valid. Horrors have been seen as something for a younger audience, mainly teen generations. As a result, they feature a cast of teenagers and do not deal with issues that would relate to an older audience. Therefore, what makes both Ring and Dark Water more successful is that they cater for a wider audience. Both films at their core have a family unit and play out more like a melodrama with supernatural elements. Since everyone can relate to the themes of family it makes the films that more frightening. It’s not just teenagers that are at risk but anyone. Both films reflect issues that would scare a family without the supernatural element like divorce and separation. These issues are made even more horrifying with the supernatural elements. Ring and Dark Water use everyday objects and situations to breed horror. They understand that you need go no further than your own home to find something to scare you.

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