Tag Archives: Saw

Do You Wanna Play A Game? Halloween Bonus: The Saw Chronology

I hope you folks enjoyed my Halloween/Hellraiser 30th anniversary retrospective for this year. But I have a Halloween bonus for you. See, I was deciding which of two franchises to do a retrospective on as one franchise had a new film out while the other marked an anniversary. Seeing as this year marked 30 years since the release of the original Hellraiser –  I decided to go for that one. However, I was also planning on doing a retrospective on the Saw franchise. And just as with my Hellraiser retrospective – I sat down to watch all of the films and made notes along the way. I didn’t really want to do two retrospectives, so what can I do with all the notes that I made?

It was while making my Saw notes when I began to think about the chronology of the series as the films don’t follow a linear timeline. There are flashbacks within sequels, prequels in flashbacks that are sequels and just plain old sequels….with prequels and flashbacks. Its a confusing timeline to follow… but follow it I did. So here, I’d like to present the chronology of the Saw series of films as best as I understand it

Jigsaw John

Now, full disclosure here. I’m not a big fan of the Saw franchise. Loved the first flick but personally found they just get pretty dull and predictable from Saw II onward. There are fans out there that think the Saw plot-line is amazing and deeply complex (it really not) but that is a whole other article. So not being a huge fan, I’ll most probably make more than a handful of mistakes along the way. But before I get to the chronology, for those that say the plot of the Saw films is complex – I’ll attempt to disprove that right now. I’ve not seen the new flick – Jigsaw. But I bet I can tell you the plot (or get pretty damn close to it) without watching the film itself…

Okay, so Jigsaw sees the return of the main man himself John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) who most definitely died within the timeline of the other films. So I’m calling it now – its a prequel. Then by the time the film ends, you’ll discover that Jigsaw had some kind of super secret protégé carrying out his work and it’ll most probably be one of the investigating police who are trying to catch the person who is responsible for the trap-like deaths.

Why do I think that… because that is how all the Saw films work from Saw II onward – the plot is not that complex or surprising as they use and re-use the same twists and plot points over and over and over through the entire franchise. Its just not told in a linear fashion, which is where the ‘confusion’ come from – but the plot itself is straight forward and obvious. If I’m wrong then I’m wrong – but I’ll watch Jigsaw when it hits the home market just to see how right (or wrong) I am…

Anyway, enough of all that crap. With the aid of my many notes and some research and huge help from a Saw wiki – lets crack on with the chronology for the franchise…

Eric Matthews Saw II

 

Saw II

So there is this detective, Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) who fakes the evidence in a few of his cases which results in the arrest of Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith).

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Another detective, Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) and his partner, Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) are investigating a teacher with a penchant for violence and has been abusing his own daughter. The teacher gets off with thanks to his lawyer Art Blank (Justin Louis).

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Marks’s sister is murdered by her boyfriend Seth. Mark enters a state of depression and anger while Seth is sentenced to life imprisonment.

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Mark shoots a former mental patient who is attacking officer Matt Gibson (Chad Donella) – despite the fact the patient dropped his weapon. Mark earns a promotion despite the fact Matt reported him over the previous incident. Matt convicts several of Mark’s colleagues who swears vengeance.

Saw VII Hoffman

Saw III

Civil engineer John Kramer (Tobin Bell) designs the Gideon Meatpacking Plant – his first building.

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John’s wife Jill (Betsy Russell) opens a centre for drug addicts – The Homeward Bound Clinic. Amanda becomes a patient at the clinic.

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William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) is an insurance company manager for Umbrella Health who sponsors a party for Jill’s The Homeward Bound Clinic. Through this, William meets and gets to now John, who quizzes him about his questionable commercial practices.

Saw IV

Jill becomes pregnant with her and John’s son, who is set to be born during the Chinese year of the pig. John shows Jill his new workshop, and presents her with a cot and a wooden puppet for their soon to be son. John becomes the leader of the Urban Renewal Company. He and his lawyer, Art team up on a project for new housing for families in need.

Amanda convinces fellow patient, Cecil to pull off a robbery at Jill’s clinic. This results in an accident where a door is slammed into Jill that causes her to miscarriage. After his unborn son’s death – John falls into a pit of severe depression which has him withdraw from both Jill and the project he was working on with Art. This kick-starts a rift between the two.

Saw Jill

Saw

Doctor Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) diagnoses John with an inoperable brain tumour.

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John learns about an experimental therapy and asks the insurance company manager William, to cover the treatment costs – he refuses. This results in a rift between them.

Saw II

Suffering from depression and not seeing any way out – John attempts suicide by crashing his car – but survives the incident. From this, he learns to become a survivor and decides to spend the rest of his life on testing other people’s will to survive. He separates from Jill to carry on his ‘work’.

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John’s his first test involves Cecil, who accidentally killed his unborn son. The ‘test’ does not go well and Cecil dies. John cuts a jigsaw piece out of Cecil’s flesh, which leads to the press labelling him the ‘Jigsaw Killer’.

Saw Cecil

Saw V

Mark Hoffman kidnaps his sister’s killer, Seth and murders him in a Jigsaw-like trap. He then cuts a jigsaw piece out of Seth’s skin in an attempt to frame the real Jigsaw killer and keep himself out of suspicion. John manages to work out that Mark killed Seth and forces him to help set up future games and traps.

Meanwhile, special agents Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis) are investigating an arson attack – which the FBI eventually gives up on.

Saw

John places Doctor Lawrence Gordon’s penlight at the scene of his next crime. Lawrence is arrested but has an alibi, as he was cheating on his wife at the time. Amanda is abducted by John and put into one of his traps, she becomes the first person to survive on his tests.

Saw III

John convinces Amanda to becomes his next apprentice.

Saw

Detective David Tapp (Danny Glover) and Detective Steven Sing discover John’s secrect hideout Steven is killed by John while David survives – but he suffers a major breakdown and is let go from the police force. Convinced Lawrence is behind the murders, he vows to keep a close eye on him.

Saw Tapp

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Jill learns of John’s secret as the Jigsaw killer. But John shows off a drug free Amanda as proof that he is doing good work… unorthodox but good.

Saw

David hires photographer Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) to spy on Lawrence as he tries to gather evidence to prove he is the Jigsaw killer.

Zep Hindle is tested by John, as he hides in Lawrence’s apartment and holds his wife and daughter hostage while Adam takes a photos of him from afar. Lawrence Gordon is then kidnapped and brought to an abandoned underground bathroom. Adam is also kidnapped by Amanda and brought to the same place. John poses as a dead body in the same room.

Lawrence hears on the phone his family in a shootout with Zep, while David hurries to the scene to free them. Back in the underground bathroom – Lawrence saws off his own foot to escape and shoots Adam (but not killing him) before leaving. David follows Zep to the bathroom but is shot and killed. Adam kills Zep, while Gordon escapes and promises to find help for Adam.

John stands up, and locks Adam in the bathroom to die.

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John tracks down the escaped Lawrence and convinces him to become his third apprentice.

Saw III

Amanda returns to the bathroom from Saw and mercy kills a slowly dying Adam.

Saw III Amanda

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Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) writes a book claiming he survived one of Jigsaw’s games and milks the fame for as long as he can. The thing is… its all a lie as Booby was never a Jigsaw victim.

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John gives his executor a black box which he asks to be given to Jill in case of John’s death. The box includes a tape for Lawrence along with a modern version of one of John’s most infamous contraptions – the Reverse Bear-trap, which is intended for Mark Hoffman.

Saw II

Mark and John abduct various people who were convicted by detective Eric Matthews and placed in a nerve gas trapped house, along with Matthews’ son Daniel, and an undercover Amanda.

Everyone except Amanda and Daniel die as John locks Daniel away in a safe at a nearby steel plant. A video broadcast of the game’s recordings is prepared at a fake nerve gas house, almost identical to the other. The detective trio of Eric Matthews, Daniel Rigg and Allison Kerry (Dina Meyer) find the steel plant, and Eric soon learns of his son’s situation. They see footage of the other house, not knowing it’s merely a recording.

Eric beats John, until he agrees to reveal where Daniel is. Eric leaves John to go and save his son. Daniel finds the fake nerve gas house and discovers the game has already finished. Eric discovers the infamous the bathroom from Saw but is locked inside by Amanda.

Allison finds Daniel alive at the steel plant.

Saw III

Eric escapes the bathroom by breaking his foot. He has a fights with Amanda, who subdues him and leaves him to die.

Saw IV

But Mark Hoffman discovers Eric and manages to nurses him back to health. He also removes all the bodies in the nerve gas house of Saw II, and completely renovates the building. He sets up another trap in a different room connected via an underground tunnel. Mark interrogates Jill, after police discover the Jigsaw killers true identity. She is represented by lawyer Art Blank, and police discover Jigsaw’s items at her house. Art is abducted and survives a test, but remains under the control of Jigsaw.

Saw IV Mark

Saw III/IV

So here things get s little ‘confusing’ as the two films events happen at the same time

Detectives Mark Hoffman and Allison Kerry investigate Jigsaw’s latest crime scene. Amanda abducts Alison with Mark’s help, and Alison evetually dies. Amanda then places Daniel Rigg’s fingerprints on the corpse. Mark sends a key with a cryptic note to special agents Peter Strahm and Lindsey Perez. Along with a message which claims that two officers are in danger.

Jill pleads with John to stop playing his twisted games. John gives her the key to his black box. Amanda and Mark abduct several people and take them to the Gideon Meatpacking Plant. Art abducts several other people at the same time too.

John gives abductee doctor Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) the instructions for her test, while Amanda is putting a ‘shotgun collar’ trap on Lynn which would kill her if Kramer dies. Amanda doesn’t realise that his instructions are also meant for her.

Mark places Eric in another trap, and poses as a victim. Amanda forces Lynn to perform surgery on a slowly dying John. She succeeds, but Amanda has a breakdown.

A SWAT team led by Peter Strahm head to Daniel’s apartment, locating planted photos of victims, as well as of Jill. Peter interrogates Jill, which reveals more about John’s past. Daniel arrives at a school and finds a photo of his wife, leading him to the Gideon Meatpacking Plant.

Special agents Peter Strahm and Lindsey Perez find that a crime scene was rented by Art Blank, as well as another building that he owns. They are led to the school, and find a tape that warns Lindsey that Peter will soon kill an innocent man. She is injured by a shrapnel bomb. Lindsey gives the key from Allison Kerry to Peter. He makes the connection between John and Art, and heads to the plant.

Saw IV Peter

Art reveals that he, Mark and Eric will survive if Daniel doesn’t enter their room. He does so, and Eric is killed.

Amanda argues with John, and shoots Lynn. Lynn’s husband Jeff Reinhart (Angus Macfadyen), who has also been completing his own set of tests, arrives and shoots Amanda, killing her. He slashes John’s throat, which in turn kills Lynn. He discovers a tape about the whereabouts of his missing daughter. Peter arrives, and shoots Jeff in self defence.

Daniel shoots Art, before Mark reveals himself to be Jigsaw’s accomplice. He locks Daniel up – leaving him to die. Mark also locks Peter inside the same room in which John, Jeff, Lynn and Amanda all died.

Saw V

Peter Strahm discovers a secret door, but is subdued by Mark Hoffman. He then manages to escape a trap that was meant to be inescapable. Mark takes Lynn and Jeff’s daughter Corbett Denlon (Niamh Wilson) outside, where he is met by police. Peter is taken to hospital while Mark is declared a hero. Agents Dan Erickson and Lindsey Perez fake the latter’s death.

A tape is discovered inside the body of John Kramer. Mark hears the tape, telling him there will be more games including his own test in the future. Jill receives John’s black box after his death as requested.

Mark Hoffman prepares a game for the people connected to the arson which Peter Strahm and Lindsey Perez were investigating a few years earlier. Mark receives an anonymous letter, and he believes it is from Peter. When he visits him, Peter tells him that he believes Mark is John’s accomplice.

Peter steals files about Jigsaw’s victims, and learns of Mark’s sister’s death, and her killer’s subsequent murder. Mark tells Dan Erickson of Peter’s accomplice theory, before Dan discovers the files are missing. Peter returns to the room in which John died.

Jill visits Dan and says she is wary of Peter, while Mark rings Dan using Peter’s phone and hangs up. Mark then places the phone in the surveillance room of the current game.

Peter finds the nerve gas house from Saw II and the underground tunnel network. Mark enters and they have a fight. Peter locks Mark in a coffin. However, he accidentally activates a trap and dies.

Dan Erickson finds Pete’s phone and the surviving members of the game, and orders an APB on Pete Strahm.

Saw VI

Mark Hoffman finds Pete’s dead body, and takes his severed hand.

Pamela Jenkins (Samantha Lemole) learns of Jill’s black box and receives a copy of Mark’s letter to Amanda. Meanwhile – Mark uses Pete’s severed hand to plant fingerprints on his latest trap.

Dan Erickson and Lindsey Perez arrive at the crime scene, and are joined by Mark Hoffman. Dan tells him about Peter’s fingerprints, and why they faked Lindsey’s death to keep her safe.

Pamela tells Mark about the black box and asks for an interview with Jill.

A coroner discovers that the knife used to cut the jigsaw piece from the latest victim is different to all other victims, other than Seth (the man Mark killed before joining up with John). Dan and Lindsey seek to find if the tape at Seth’s crime was recorded by someone other than John Kramer.

Mark visits Jill and demands the envelopes from the box, in order to start William Easton’s game early. Jill secretly holds one envelope back. William is abducted and taken to a zoo, where several other people have been captured. He receives instructions from John (before he died).

Saw VI William

Pamela gives Jill her copy of Amanda’s letter, but Jill doesn’t want to talk. Jenkins is then abducted by Mark, and taken to the zoo, where she watches her brother, William’s progress.

Dan realises that Peter must have been dead by the time of his latest ‘crime’, but he doesn’t tell Mark.

Jill leaves an envelope containing a tape from John for Lawrence Gordon – which asks him to watch over Jill. Jill heads to the zoo with the bear-trap in the black box, and the sixth envelope.

After discovering that the voice on Seth’s tape from years ago is in fact Mark Hoffman, he kills Dan and Lindsey, and then plants Peter Strahm’s fingerprints all over the crime scene, before setting fire to the lab.

Jill places the letter she received from Jenkins in Mark’s surveillance room. He returns and finds it, before Jill electrocutes him. She then places the bear-trap on his head.

William Easton dies during his final task, which in turn activates Mark’s trap. Jill leaves Mark to die without giving him a chance to escape. However, he is able to escape by jamming the trap between the window bars and ripping his cheek open.

Saw VII

Mark Hoffman escapes and takes the bear-trap with him.

Jill asks for Matt Gibson (Chad Donella) and tells him about Mark being Jigsaw’s successor, and offers him all the evidence in exchange for immunity, which he agrees to.

Mark Hoffman continues his games, and sets one up for Bobby Dagen at an abandoned mental facility. After another game, he sets a bomb, and drapes his bear-trap along with a message for Matt..

Speaking at a self-help group for Jigsaw survivors, (fake story writer) Bobby receives a sarcastic applause from Lawrence Gordon. Bobby, along with his wife and others who helped him fake the story are abducted by Mark to take part in another game.

Saw VII Lawrence

Mark finds Jill at a safe-house, and sends a CD to Matt Gibson. He offers to end Bobby’s game in exchange for Jill, but he denies him. Mark Hoffman takes one of his latest victim’s corpses out of its body bag, and hides inside which is then taken to the morgue.

Matt Gibson manages works out where Bobby’s game is being played out, and sends a SWAT team over, while he goes after Mark. After realising Mark has infiltrated the police station, Matt is killed by an automatic machine gun. The SWAT members are also killed by a booby trap. Everyone apart from Bobby Dagen are killed during his game.

Mark kills several people at the station, before he is stabbed by Jill. He beats her up and kills her using the infamous bear-trap. Mark Hoffman is now hunted by the police. He tries to flee, but is attacked by Lawrence Gordon, who fulfils John Kramer’s final request by locking Hoffman inside the bathroom from Saw without any chance of escape.

Saw VII LawrenceHoffman

The end, game over… eventually!

So there you have it the entire plot of the whole Saw film franchise (with the exception of Jigsaw)… I think.

Saw Gif

Happy Halloween folks!

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An Incomplete History of Horror Films Part VII.

Its been a long, long journey from 1896 to the 2000s.

The early 2000s saw a lot of run off from the 90s, there were sequels to some of the 90s biggest horror hits as well as some original and interesting new movies. But 2001 brought about a real horror that would change cinema… 9/11. After the twin towers fell, the horror film became something ‘dirty’ and there was even a select few people trying to end the production of horror films afterwards. The aftermath of 9/11 impacted all of cinema, but especially the horror genre which fell into a slum for a few years as ticket sales dropped while writers, producers and directors struggled to find a happy middle ground as to what the public would deem acceptable now.

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Final Destination (2000): Director James Wong offers a refreshing take on the supernatural horror film. A group of students board a plane to France for a school trip when one of the students, Alex, sees a premonition that the plane will explode shorty after take off. Alex panics and gets taken off the plane along with a few of the other students and one of the teachers. Its soon proven that Alex’s premonition was true and he learns he and the others have cheated death… but death is not very happy about that at all.

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If you are scared of flying, then its probably best to avoid this flick. This one was a surprise hit when it was released and went on to become its own successful franchise with multiple sequels. I love the idea of death itself coming for its victims instead of some maniac with a big knife. Some of the kills are really creative too and the film offers more then a few scares along the way… bus scene anyone? The film is great as is its premise, but its just a shame the teenage victims are so cookie-cutter.

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Ginger Snaps (2000): Directed by John Fawcett, this interesting twist on the classic Werewolf lore stars Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins. Two sisters who are obsessed with death find their lives drastically change when one of them is bitten by a werewolf.

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This one past me by for several years, I didn’t even know the film existed until about 5 years ago. It really is a refreshing take on the classic movie monster. The two leads are amazing and the script they have to work with makes them feel ‘real’ and not like the stereotypical teenagers you’ll find in a lot of these pictures. The werewolf itself looks very similar to the one used in the John Landis classic; An American Werewolf in London (1981). The blood and violence never feels gratuitous, but what is shown is still pretty damn brutal, the opening involving a dog sets the tone. A really great film from start almost to finish. I say almost to finish as I personally found the last 20 odd minutes a bit of a drag and the finale is a disappointment.

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28 Days Later (2002): Directed by Danny Boyle comes this zombie film with a difference. Animal activists break into a lab and release several chimpanzees that are being experimented on, a virus the chimps had begins to spread. 28 days later and Jim wakes up from a coma to find he seems to be the only person alive.

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The zombie film fell out of favour by the end of the 80s and nobody really made a truly great one for over a decade and then this film was released. But what separates this zombie flick form others is how it tends to focus more on the sparse human characters of the film and not the zombies themselves. Its a well written movie that manages to avoid many of the zombie film clichés we have seen hundreds of times. There is a real feeling of sadness and helplessness all through the film that adds to the atmosphere.

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Dog Soldiers (2002): Yet another werewolf movie given a fresh coat of paint, directed by Neil Marshall. A squad of British soldiers are sent on a training mission in the Highlands of Scotland where they find a wounded Special Forces captain and the bloody remains of his team. They seek shelter in a farmhouse where they have to fight for their lives against a pack of ravenous werewolves.

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Bloody brilliant, that is all you need to know about this flick. Its gory and intense, all with that British charm that big budget Hollywood movies lack. The effects can be a little ropey at times and the film is far from perfect, but don’t let that put you off. I really enjoy ‘claustrophobic’ movies, ones where most of the action takes place in one simple locale and this one delivers in that regard. In an era of ‘slick teen horror’ films that the late 90s and early 2000s brought, this film offers something more grounded and visceral. The flick is loaded with references to past horror classics too for the horror fan to enjoy spotting. While not a ‘funny’ movie, it never takes it self too seriously either with some memorable and quotable dialogue. A horror film that actually cares about its characters and this shines through in the end as you’ll be genuinely concerned about what happens to these guys.

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Freddy vs. Jason (2003): Director Ronny Yu brings together two of horror’s biggest icons. Freddy Krueger has long been forgotten about and the residents of Springwood have moved on. Trapped in Hell, Freddy resurrects Jason Voorhees and tricks him onto killing for him so people will remember Freddy once more. However, Jason becomes uncontrollable and the two horror giants finally clash.

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Us horror fans waited years, over a decade in fact, for these two titans of horror film to fight, but was it worth the wait? This film is a mixed bag. It has the bog standard, mundane and cookie-cutter teens that I personally became bored of by the time the 90s came around. It also messes with the lore of the past movies and creates problems that never previously existed… Freddy is scared of fire and Jason is scared of water, since when? The flick just lacks so much heart and sadly becomes a sub-standard slasher picture and tiresome… until the final battle. Freddy and Jason hardly ever meet in this film titled Freddy vs. Jason, but the last fight is simply awesome as both Freddy and Jason are let loose on each other. I think the plot is kind of interesting and definitely far better than other films of this ilk tend to have. The concept of Freddy manipulating Jason is a great one, its just a shame the film is weighed down with a lot of uninspired tat. Worth a watch even if only for that final battle.

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Saw (2004): Psychological horror from director James Wan. Two strangers wake up in what appears to be an abandoned bathroom. The two are both chained by their ankles to pipes and are unable to move much. In the middle of the room lies a dead body in a pool of blood. The two men have to work together, while not trusting each other, to escape their shackles and the room as they learn they are part of a sick game set up by an unknown killer.

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One of the most tense and refreshing modern horror films ever made… shame about the poor sequels. Still forget about those films as I’m talking about the first film here. Such a minimalist movie with a small but impressive cast. The plot is kept pretty secret for us viewers as it is slowly drip-fed via flashbacks and we can start to piece together this intriguing puzzle. Its a well written picture and another one that requires subsequent viewings to pick up on the subtle clues you may miss first time. Brilliantly constructed and acted and it all ends will one of the most memorable and intense finales in recent years. Love the first film so much and yet detest the sequels and franchise even more so.

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Shaun of the Dead (2004): British horror/comedy at its finest. From co-writer/director Edgar Wright and starring co-writer Simon Pegg. Featuring a great cast including; Nick Frost, Kate Ashfiel, Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy. Shaun is stuck in a dead end job, is having trouble with his girlfriend and spends most of the day slacking off with his best friend, Ed. When his girlfriend dumps him, Shaun and Ed decide to go the pub for a few ales and they wake up the next day to find themselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and Shaun along with Ed decide to try and save his loved ones.

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This flick is amazing. Just the right blend of horror, comedy and numerous horror references. Much like the overlooked Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright sitcom, Spaced. You can tell this film is made by fans of the genre who actually care. A brilliant love letter to the works of the grandfather of the zombie film, George A. Romero but injected with a fresh new twist and wonderful British humour. Essentially, this film is a romantic comedy, it just has the unusual setting of a zombie apocalypse as its backdrop. The first part of what became known as ‘The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’ followed by Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013).

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The Call of Cthulhu (2005): Based on the H. P. Lovecraft short story of the same name and directed by Andrew Leman. Following the death of his uncle, a man begins organising his affairs. He stumbles across a series of clues that point toward an ancient horror lurking beneath the sea.

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Brilliantly shot in the style of a 1920s silent film, this could possibly be the best movie adaption of a H. P. Lovecraft story. Even the acting has been nailed to fit the style and often feels stilted and over exaggerated as actors often were in the silent era. The film’s (few) flaws actually work as a plus and all add to the overall concept of a 1920s silent film. Well worth checking out of you love H. P. Lovecraft and the silent horror films of the 1920s.

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Wolf Creek (2005): Written, co-produced and directed by Greg McLean. Starring John Jarratt, this film is ‘inspired’ by real,life killers Ivan Milat and Bradley Murdoch. Three eager backpackers explore the Australian Outback and become stranded at Wolf Creek. They are rescued by a bushman named Mick who offers them a helping hand and much more.

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This movie is a very, painfully slow starter… and I love it. The very slow first half allows us to get to know the three main characters, so by the time the second half and carnage begins, we actually feel for the victims. The cinematography is beautiful and really shows off the amazing backdrop of the Australian Outback, this also works as a great juxtaposition for when we finally enter the world of Mick. Its a very tense and taught film and it manages to avoid a lot of horror movie clichés. Oh and John Jarratt’s Mick is one of the greatest modern horror villains created in recent years.

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Grindhouse (2007): Two films in one from writer/directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof is a 70s inspired ‘slasher’ flick where the killer uses a specially adapted stunt car to murder his victims. While Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is inspired by the zombie films of the 80s when an experimental bio-nerve gas is accidentally released turning a small town into a backdrop for a zombie apocalypse.

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An experience of a movie. A love letter to the grindhouse cinemas of the 70s and 80s that would show exploitation flicks often as double features. While the films were later released in a slightly extended cut and both separately. If you want to feel the experience as it was meant to be, then you need to watch Grindhouse in its original cut complete with faux trailers. This isn’t high brow cinema, this is dirty, grimy and glorious too.

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): Directed by Tim Burton, an adaption of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s stage musical of the same name. Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman. Corrupt Judge Turpin frames local barber, Benjamin Barker of a crime he didn’t commit. Fifteen years later and Barker returns to extract his revenge but now taking on the persona of Sweeney Todd.

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A musical horror film… why not? Tim Burton’s directing is always at its best when he’s dealing with the dark and Gothic, this film delivers on both accounts. If you don’t like musicals, then you’ll not enjoy this flick, I personally found the film to be a much needed breath of fresh air in the stagnant mid 2000 horror film scene. Depp is amazing as Todd and is both scary and charismatic. The music, is taken directly from the stage play but slightly adapted. The film is not shy with the blood either and the whole movie feels very Hammer Horror from when they were in their heyday.

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Drag Me to Hell (2009): Director Sam Raimi returns to his roots with this horror film. Christine Brown works as a loans officer at a bank where she has her eyes on a promotion. But she is worried that her boss thinks she is weak willed when it comes to turning down loan applications. When Mrs. Ganush, a lonely old woman who faces foreclosure and the loss of her house applies for a loan, Christine rejects it. Mrs. Ganush then places a curse on Christine.

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Very tongue in cheek and a horror film that also offers that very specific Sam Raimi humour. Its loud, brash, humorous and scary all at the same time. The PG-13 rating put me off for a while, you can’t have a good PG-13 horror film… but I was happily proven wrong with this one as this offers plenty of shocks and scares. This is a B-movie, but one done with a clear passion and respect.

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The ABCs of Death (2012): A modern twist on the horror anthology sub-genre. 26 different short films, each by different directors spanning fifteen countries, based on the letters of the alphabet.

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This film will not be for everyone. In fact there is quite a lot about it that I do not like myself. But this is a very intriguing concept and I do love the horror anthology idea too. The trouble with this film that there are a few great stories here, but there is also a hell of a lot of utter crap too. 26 very different short films from 26 very different directors and they all have their own style and tone. Its hard to tell a good story in a short amount of time, and this is the film’s main failing as the stories are too short to really engage the viewer. Plus as there are 26 of them, sadly there is more crap then good in the overall grand scheme. But the flick is worth watching once. There was also a sequel ABCs of Death 2 (2014), but I never bothered to watch it.

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The Woman in Black (2012): Starring Daniel Radcliffe and directed by James Watkins, this is a remake of The Woman in Black (1989). A solicitor, Arthur Kipps is grieving the loss of his wife who died giving birth to their son Joseph. Arthur is sent to the village of Cryphon to review the personal papers of the deceased Mrs. Drablow. Arthur soon learns that the residents of the village are none to happy about his arrival.

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Released by Hammer Films, yes THE Hammer Films. This one is a not only a brilliant remake, but also proof there is still life in the classic bygone age of horror films. The cinematography and directing is wonderful and the set design is both gorgeous and foreboding. Creepy and atmospheric, the picture oozes a Gothic style sadly underused in horror films today. If it was not for the HD cameras being used, you could easily mistake this for a haunted house film from the 1960’/70s, and that is a good thing.

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Bad Milo! (2013): Directed by Jacob Vaughan. Duncan is an average, every day kind of guy working a regular, boring office job. Whenever he feels stress, he gets pains in his stomach and these pains reveal themselves to be a devilish little creature called Milo that Duncan ‘gives birth’ to.

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Well this is a strange one. Very similar in tone to the cheap and nasty monster movies like Basket Case (1982). This is crude, bloody and very immature… but then it also has a softer side and even gets a little emotional too. You even start to feel a sorry for Milo as he and Duncan build a twisted father/son relationship. The movie is absurd and weirdly moving at the same time.

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Mahi va gorbeh (2013): AKA Fish & Cat. An Iranian horror film directed by Shahram Mokri. A small group students travel to the Caspian region to participate in a kite-flying event. They set up camp near a local restaurant and things get strange.

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Right from the off, I have to say that this film suffers for a few pointless and slow scenes that in the grand scheme mean nothing and offer little. But the film as an overall piece is utterly fascinating, playing around with the perception of time and more specifically, time loops. I quite honestly think this concept and they way it has been brilliantly captured on screen by director Shahram Mokri is a little too good for a horror movie. There is a mystery to be unravelled in this picture and that is pretty much all I want to say about it over fear of stumbling into spoilers. Never heard of this film? A lot of people haven’t, but it is well worth checking out as the plot will keep you captivated and riveted to your seat from the ominous start right to the shockingly beautiful ending. A true masterpiece in direction and camerawork.

Well I think I’ll end my Halloween celebration and very long pilgrimage from the very first horror film to modern day-ish. As you have probably noticed, I skipped a few years in the 2000s and offered nothing of the last 3 years. Mainly because I feel the horror film has been lacking for well over a decade now. For me, the pinnacle of horror films was the 70s and 80s. Now I’m not trying to say there are no good horror films anymore, as there are. But sadly they are few and far between and hard to find in a sea of the mundane horror film that the genre has now become. Besides, after Mahi va gorbeh/Fish & Cat, I honesty couldn’t find anything else that even comes close to its excellence, so I may as well end it right there.

And yes, I am aware I failed to mention dozens upon dozens of other great horror films, classics and modern. But this list was already way too long as it is and I already covered over a century of horror films, what do you want from me, blood? Besides, there is always next year…

This whole multi part article has been a great labour of love for me. I aimed to highlight some of the obvious and famous horror films out there, but also hopefully turn the spotlight on a few lesser known and less obvious titles too. I think I achieved just that. So close the curtains, turn off the lights and sit back to watch a few scary films this Halloween season.

There really is not much more to add other than…

happyhal

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