Arts Feature: Alternative Horror for Halloween

By Charlie McDaid    –    A Review of three alternative horror films in time for Halloween

REC 2007 (Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza)

There are certain films that I’ve encountered when, as soon as the menu flashes up on the screen, I think “this is a bad idea.” This was one of those times.

REC focuses on a reporter, Alexandra and her cameraman, Pablo, who are filming a local fire crew for their reality television series. The station receives a call about an elderly woman who is trapped in her apartment. When they arrive the building is put into sudden lock down. As Alexandra fights for her survival, the calm atmosphere is broken down and the viewer is left feeling as helpless as the characters through the camera lens – the only reason we are able to watch is because of Alexandra s insistence: “remember to record everything,” she says.

At first glance, the plot line seems to follow that of 28 Days Later etcetera with a deadly virus outbreak. However, REC takes a brand new bite out of the zombie genre by delivering a shocking twist at the end (not to mention absolutely terrifying. Some things can’t be unseen…).  REC is a first-person horror picture that delivers some brutally effective shocks, and gradually creates a haunting atmosphere of escalating panic and claustrophobia.

Verdict: conjuring reality is not an easy mission for the horror genre, but REC pulls few punches and fears no taboo. It feels like it reaches for the throat, literally, until you realise its only pure fear you’re choking on.

LIVIDE 2011 (Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)

Lucie, a young nurse in training follows her older colleague Ms. Wilson on visits to various elderly patients. When they arrive at the abandoned mansion of Jessel, a former ballet instructor (and the embodiment of terror) in a permanent coma, Lucie is told about an undiscovered treasure in the mansion. Cue Lucie, her boyfriend and his brother attempting to loo

t the mansion – with horrible consequences and frequently baffling scenes.

Initially I had high hopes for this film; the plot offered “a unique spin on the vampire myth”. The film was slow-paced, and as a consequence of this, it was atmospherically perfect. But Livide becomes increasingly surreal as it progresses – the director’s clearly know how to exploit imagery to fit the ‘Art house’ label. Unfortunately, when you look beyond this, Livide is little more than the same old story of three kids and a haunted mansion.

Verdict: it’s impossible to walk away from this film feeling fulfilled. Livide becomes more and more baffling as it progresses. Maybe the internal logic of it eluded me, but it was frustrating, as well as disappointing- this had the potential to be a fantastic film.

Funny Games 2007 (Directed by Michael Haneke)

For those who appreciate the psychological elements of the horror genre, Funny Games is one of the best.

A family of three arrive at their remote summer cabin for a quiet getaway, and the sudden appearance of two boys wishing to borrow eggs seems an innocent enough opening. But, several awkward moments and aggressive interactions later, things go rapidly downhill. The stage is set for a harrowing life-or-death struggle.

Funny Games offers a brutal commentary on the use of violence as entertainment, and it is satire of the highest quality. The plot goes against what we expect – and want – to happen while still maintaining that all important shock factor. Michael Haneke forces us to look at the bases of our power relations, notions of love and self-sacrifice while casting a poisonous spell on the reader. It is atmospherically perfect; it builds a tangible feeling of dread and suspense in the pit of your stomach.

Verdict: For those who privilege psychological terror over upfront gore. This movie is unforgettable and will provoke a reaction from you whether you liked it or not. This film is not a reassuring vision when scratched beneath the surface, but it will definitely have you reconsidering answering the doorbell.