31 Horrifying Days- Day 20: A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2012)

This is one of my favorites that I’ve watched since starting this project. I’m behind, I know, but I’m catching up.

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The film centers around Jack; a crime novelist whose research on serial killers has turned him into a paranoid, delusional, insomniac wreck must confront his worst fears when a film executive takes a sudden interest in his movie script. He assumes that the exec is planning to kill him of course. He’s suspicious of the only person who’s still speaking to him: Clair (Clare Higgins, “The Night of the Doctor”). Clair is his friend with money who buys him lunch and fluffs his hair and affectionately tells him that he’s sensitive. Clair also wishes that he would go back to writing children’s books. But Jack is past that. His new effort is consuming him. And he doesn’t understand why she doesn’t understand.

#1 I frigging love Simon Pegg and he really brings horror comedy to the next level.

#2 I love when academics/artists/workaholics get pushed to the brink.

 I have undying affection for anyone who does anything so wholeheartedly that it eats them alive. So Jack starts carrying a butcher knife everywhere, losing time, seeing things out of the corner of his eye, falling in to narcoleptic naps, seeing a “psychopathic stare” in people’s eyes, narrating his own life, envisioning Vietnamese crimelords and concocting relationships between people that make o sense.

“I’m not here to hurt anybody. I’m a professional writer.”

His terrifying moments jump from seeing ghosts with eyes in their mouth to the humiliation of tossing his dingy underwear across the laundrette in front of a beautiful woman, Sangeet (played by an actress who is of Sri Lankan descent. Diversity is cool). 

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For any aspiring professional, not having clean dress clothes for an important last minute meeting is as terrifying as any serial killer. 

Visually magnificent, great soundtrack. Written and co-directed by Crispian Mills, it’s his first feature and it’s truly outstanding. Chris Hopewell co-directed. For two unknowns especially: it’s outstanding. Part of it is reminiscent of James and the Giant Peach

Towards the end of the flick Jack and Sangeet end up in real danger, held captive by a madman. Can Jack pull it together and help get them out of it? Or will he crack? Or will Sangeet save them? Or will art save them?

But is it scary? Parts are actually creepy because you don’t know what to expect. But really? It’s just a ton of fun and amusement.

5/5

 

31 Horrifying Days- Day 8: Devil’s Pass (2013)

This film follows a group of American students who set out to Russia’s Ural mountains as they film a documentary trying to uncover what happened to 9 skiers who died under mysterious circumstances on a trip to Siberia in 1959. The project is lead by psychology student Holly who has always had nightmares that she later recognized to be Dyatlov’s Pass.

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This incident with the 9 skiers? That really happened. For reasons unknown (but heavily theorized) the group went mad all of a sudden, some fleeing camp without shoes or outerwear in temperatures ranging from -17 to -24 degrees, when they were found many had inexplicable internal injuries, and one was missing her tongue and eyes. Most had no sign of defensive wounds, not even abrasions or scratches on the skin but suffering cracked skulls or broken ribs. A current theory is that a repetitive wind even caused infrasound that caused unease and panic in the travellers and drove them mad. You can read more about that here.

When a viable possibility of the real events is that the wind itself caused the skiers to become paranoid and suicidal/homicidal the movie pretty much writes itself. The current bunch of students become increasingly afraid that they are being followed, then they become suspicious that Holly is planting foot prints to make her film more interesting, Holly and film crew travel mate Jensen find a door, locked from the outside to a snow covered bunker but before they can explore they are hit by an avalanche that claims one party member and seriously wounds another. They agree to set off a flare, but help arrives what Andy deems to be “too soon” and he fires at them with the flare gun while the others make a run, the other men fire back and the audience is left wondering whether they only began firing because Andy aimed the flare gun.

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Are the frigid temperatures, isolation, dwindling resources, unreliable technology and possibly infrasound getting to them all?

It seems reasonable. And the film is suitably tense and gripping.

Which is why it’s so bizarre that the last 30 minutes is a completely different film.

Instead of a psychological thriller set far off from civilization where a Scooby Gang of artists and academics rile each other up and freak themselves out: we end up with weird creatures, teleportation and the Philadelphia Project. 

Devil’s Pass was written by Vikram Weet, who’s been a coordinator on many popular reality shows, his experiences really enhance the realism of the interactions between characters and the developing malaise and hysteria. Finnish director Renny Harlin, known for Die Hard 2, Exorcist: the Beginning and several episodes of “Burn Notice” lends his eye on this one. I’m just baffled at the final twist.

Was it scary? Yeah… It was a bit scary. The thought of temperatures between -17 and -24 degrees is actually terrifying enough for me on it’s own.

3/5