Revisiting Halloween.

Recently I viewed the original Halloween movie, which is timed perfectly for this year’s Halloween (even though we don’t celebrate it here in Australia). It’s one of those films that I enjoy watching every now and again and I just love the theme music. Totally!

After having done some film studies at University, I’ve become a bit more aware of the tropes within horror movies. It seems to be the stock in trade, which is why it was so good to see successful spoof films such as Scream and Cabin in the Woods. Totally!

I found it quite remarkable that for such a suburban setting, the streets seem deserted and people just ignore Jamie Lee’s cries for help (isolation – check). You also have to have the sexually active young girls getting the chop, because in the end it always comes down to the ‘final girl’. And like all good ‘boogie-men’, Michael Myers can’t be stopped no matter how many times you may injure him and bring him down (even to be shot at and fall out a window), the guy just keeps on coming. I mean, how else are we supposed to have sequels?

And yes, who could ever forget the theme music, because like Jaws, it just sticks in your mind? To me it sounds like the approach of impending doom while you race against the clock, because after all, the boogie man strikes at Halloween. And as a writer, I like to listen to it every now and again to help build up some atmosphere in my own writing. 😉

Maybe I’ll sit and watch it with my kids over the coming weekend. They’ve sat through Aliens, so surely, they can handle Michael! But then, ‘boogie-men’ never really die, do they?

To those of you who celebrate it – Happy Halloween!

Have you been watching some old movie favourites lately? What horror movies do you watch at this time of year? Have you watched any of the Halloween sequels?

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Feud: Bette & Joan.

I love old movies, especially those around the time of what’s known to be the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’. Call me old fashioned, but stories really mattered back then. It may sound strange, but thanks to such films, it was these that made me a writer in the first place. Because of such an upbringing, I recently watched the television show Feud: Bette & Joan.

I was fortunate enough to have seen the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane before the show began. It was one of those films that I had always heard about, but never actually took the time to watch. I was glad I did because not only was it a good movie, but it played an important part in Bette & Joan.

I had known of an existing feud between these two actresses, but never understood the reasoning behind it all. Naturally, this show went into that, as well as the personal lives behind the two of them, and what goes on behind the screens within the movie studios. The show also acted as part documentary, where other actresses were questioned regarding the Bette & Joan relationship. One actress questioned included Olivia de Havilland (played by Catherine Zeta Jones), which also hinted at the feud between her and her sister Joan Fontaine. I became interested in that relationship and began to wonder if a show would be made regarding their own feud.

This is a great production; the sets, the fashion, the makeup. I can’t fault the detail that went into it. And above all, of–course was the acting. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon were brilliant in their roles as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. It was certainly creepy watching Susan Sarandon play Bette Davis in her role in Baby Jane – between her performance and the talents of the makeup artists it was truly frightening (and I mean that in good way). Despite their tough exteriors, Bette & Joan explored the vulnerabilities of both actresses, thus putting a more human face on both of these icons.

Throughout the show, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Mamacita, Joan Crawford’s housekeeper (played by Jackie Hoffman), who is a great character and very loyal. I was also surprised to see Judy Davis and I had to look twice (sorry, but I still picture her as Sybylla in My Brilliant Career), but it just goes to show how versatile an actress she truly is.

With shows like Feud: Bette & Joan, I’d like to think that we are now facing the ‘Golden Age’ of television.

Did you watch Feud: Bette & Joan? Were you impressed with it as much as I was? Do you think we are currently facing the ‘Golden Age’ of television? What show/s have you watched recently that impressed you? Did you grow up watching old movies?

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Child’s Play: When Horror’s Not So Scary.

Back in the 1980s, I had never seen the movie Child’s Play and recently when it aired on television, I thought I’d have a look. Sure I knew of Chucky, but the film itself I had no interest in.

I watched the movie with my teenage son. Years earlier, he had been at a friend’s place and they had a Chucky doll in their bedroom. When my son pointed it out to me I shuddered.

‘Eww, Chucky’, I said.

‘Told you’, he said to his friend.

I guess creepy looking dolls rate high up on the list with clowns for me. Hate clowns, hate creepy looking dolls. My mum has a creepy looking puppet in her house and one day I told her what I thought of it. Of-course she thought I was mad. Maybe, but I can’t stand looking at it. So when I began to watch Chucky, it met my expectations.

Just looking at the doll even before it was taken over by the guy gave me the horrors. How that kid desperately wanted one was beyond me. It’s horrible! That kid looked like he had a struggle walking around with it too; they were pretty much the same size. Then there was the horror element. Hardly scary; in fact I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In the end, I did laugh. What made me laugh more than anything was watching Chucky run. I loved that!

‘This is supposed to be a horror movie?’ my son said at one point, but I was too busy laughing. Well, it was the 80s!

I know there have been other Chucky movies since then, but one was enough for me. I don’t think I could tolerate anymore. After watching it at long last, I think it’s hardly scary. When I look at Chucky now, I just think of those little legs running and his arms swinging by his side (even if he does have a knife in his hand).

Chucky just might have made creepy looking dolls appear somehow less creepy. Well, almost. 😉

Have you watched Child’s Play? Did it scare you or make you laugh? Have you watched all the Chucky movies? Do you hate creepy looking dolls too? What’s a horror movie you’ve seen that actually made you laugh instead?

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At the Movies with Stephen King.

Monsters are real

Some time back, I had written a post regarding the influence of film when I was younger. It was watching movies that made me want to become a writer. Recently, I watched A Night at the Movies – Stephen King. As I had read some of his books when I was a teenager (and of-course had seen a number of those film adaptations), I found it interesting to hear what he had to say regarding the horror genre within the movie industry.

  • The first movie that ever scared him was ‘Bambi’ as he was terrified of the forest fire.
  • The terrifying thing about zombies is they won’t stop – death is not the end.
  • The ghost story that scared him the most was ‘The Changeling’.
  •  He believes the big films of the horror genre are ‘Psycho’, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.
  •  The ending of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ has no real explanation, which is where the real horror lies.
  • Favourite movie versions of his books include ‘The Dead Zone’,’ Misery’ and ‘Cujo’. He describes the movie version of his book ‘The Shining’ as ‘a beautiful car that has no engine’.
  • He still has a big affection for the monster movies – the B grade movies from the 50s and 60s.
  • If anyone gives us a run for our money in the horror genre, it’s the Japanese.
  • The reason he goes to see horror movies are to lay down his fears for a while and indulge some of his darker emotions. If the movies have supernatural elements to it, it’s a chance to exercise his imagination, to give it wings and let it fly.

These are just a few items that stood out to me – especially that one about poor innocent, Bambi. Who knew? That’s my favourite Disney movie! There are a couple of movies on his list that I still have yet to see, but I find it a fascinating insight into the mind of one of the greatest writers of our time.

Do you have a favourite Stephen King movie? What horror movie scared you the most? Do you enjoy watching movies that make you think? Do certain movies ‘exercise your imagination’?

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Lessons in Writing from Alfred Hitchcock.

Im-a-writer-and-therefore

As a child, it was watching the film Picnic at Hanging Rock that fired my imagination, but it was Alfred Hitchcock that made me want to become a writer. This may sound strange, but I grew up heavily influenced by film. Watching images on the screen helped me to see the images within my own mind. As Alfred Hitchcock played such a huge influence on my life, here are some lessons I have learnt from him regarding both writing and suspense.

‘The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them’.

Replace the word ‘films’ with ‘books’ and this statement can be pretty well spot on. Our fears may not just be of monsters or murderers, but of the fears we may face in our everyday lives; betrayal, abuse, infidelity, bullying. We’ve all experienced fear at one time or another; it’s a basic human emotion. We’re writers because this is how we express ourselves best and what better way to reach our audience than through emotion.

‘The length of the film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder’.

As readers, it’s exciting to read a book that you can’t put down. We may even stay up late into the night to find out what’s going to happen next all the way to the very end. Readers have become hooked and can be eager to read more of that author’s work, and as writers, this is exactly what we want to happen – for our readers to keep reading.

‘Drama is life with the dull bits taken out’.

No-one wants to watch everything that goes on in a person’s life in order to get to the best parts – even reality television doesn’t do that. It’s the same for our stories. The reader is more interested in the plot; the action. Sure we need scenes with less action, but they need to help move the plot forward. This is when we need good editing and beta readers to help us out. An extra pair of eyes can help us weed out the dull bits to help keep our story on track.

‘Always make the audience suffer as much as possible’.

Due to the nature of traditional publishing, authors are well known to have long spells between books, especially in a series. This is one of the reasons why authors have taken to self-publishing. Yes, authors want their readers to be eager for their next book, but if they are expected to wait too long, readers may well lose interest altogether. Readers will move on to another author willing to fill that gap. This is why authors having a backlist, as well as writing short stories and novellas, has proved popular. Fulfilling this need for readers helps ensure a loyal customer base.

Have you learnt any lessons through film? What influenced you to become a writer?

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Back to the 80s: Is Hollywood Out of Ideas?

Back to the 80s: Is Hollywood Out of Ideas?With the recent release of RoboCop; a movie from the 1980s that was so successful it spawned a franchise, it is startling to see how many more movies from the 1980s Hollywood is bringing back to life.

Personally, I loved the 80s; it was a fun time and looking back on that decade is a great piece of nostalgia.Yet, that’s exactly the point; is Hollywood really interested in being sentimental over that period in history, or has Hollywood simply run out of ideas? The thought of remaking some of these films either fill me with dread or shaking my head in disgust. Remakes such as Endless Love, Dirty Dancing (apologies to Patrick Swayze, may he rest in peace) and Romancing the Stone, make me question why? Sure the special effects in such films as The Terminator and Highlander may be dated when you watch them now, but there are some things better left alone. Remakes do not necessarily mean a better film.

Many of these films help define the decade and helped make it what it was. If we really wish to revisit them or see them for the first time, isn’t it best to see them in their original form? We do this with many older movies – such as black and whites, classics and the ‘golden age’ of Hollywood. The trouble with remakes usually means changing things to suit modern audiences, therefore changing what we loved about that film in the first place.

Okay, so maybe I’m being overly sentimental, but I believe that some things are better left the way they are; not only does it preserve a piece of cinematic history, it also captures the era itself.

Do you think Hollywood has run out of ideas? Do you prefer to watch original versions or the remakes? What is your favourite film from the 1980s? Are the 1980s a decade you’d rather not relive?

Image copyright Universal Studios.

Wolf Creek & Ivan Milat – A Backpacker’s Greatest Nightmare.

Wolf Creek undoubtedly has to be one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in a long time. John Jarrett did a brilliant job in the creepy role of Mick Taylor. If anything was to put off potential tourists to this country, one would only need to watch this movie.

Every summer, in my local caravan park, back-packers arrive to work as fruit pickers. Last summer, I watched as many of them stood by the side of the road and began hitch-hiking.  This became a daily routine of theirs.  I thought to myself ‘haven’t  these people heard of Ivan Milat and Wolf Creek? I don’t know about you, but it would certainly stop me in my tracks! I know for some it is their only means of traveling, and they were fortunate to have been given rides, yet one cannot always be too trusting.

The words ‘Ivan Milat’ and ‘backpackers’ have become synonymous in the Australian psyche. It was during the late 1980s that Ivan Milat began murdering backpackers in Belangalo State Forest in New South Wales. He abducted, sexually molested, tortured and murdered seven people and concealed their bodies, making him one of Australia’s worst serial killers of the 20thcentury. Fortunately his killing spree came to an end in the early 1990s, however his legacy still remains. Which is why it is so creepy watching Wolf Creek.

Now there is the prospect of John Jarrett reprising his role as Mick Taylor – a seriously spooky thought!

Have you ever done any hitch-hiking? Did watching this movie put you off visiting Australia? Are you looking forward to a Wolf Creek sequel?

Images copyright South Australian Film Corporation.