“WE ALL GO A LITTLE MAD SOMETIMES”

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So much about Pscyho fascinates me. A balls-out, in-your-face shocker from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, it hit the big screen in 1960 to very mixed reviews. It was seen as a cheap schlockfest, it was seen as scandalous in how it stuck two fingers up to the moral decency code that had made movies keep their clothes on for years, but most of all it thrilled the general public. So no matter how sniffy the critics might have been, it got bums on seats and became the blueprint for every slasher movie that followed over a decade later.

From its opening bars, literally coming at you thanks to the strings of Bernard Herrmann, you know you’re not in for a subtle time. Then the first scene, sliding through an open window on a hot Arizona day to find a couple of lovers half naked and post-coital, sets the tone for a film that is about sex and loneliness. Heroine Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) wants to be respectable and settle down to the life society thinks she should lead, but shock horror she’s in love with the recently separated Sam Loomis (John Gavin) who isn’t divorced yet. So like a pair of adulterers they’re forced to meet in hotel rooms that you rent by the hour for a little afternoon delight. Personally meeting John Gavin for a sex session every week in a stuffy hotel room would suit me down to the ground, but things were very different for an office working female in the 60s.

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She’s boiling over, desperate for escape, trapped in a rut by her financial situation and Sam’s. So when opportunity presents itself in the form of $40,000 waved under her nose by a rich Texan, she makes a snap decision that will change her life forever, and dare I say – SPOILER – end it.

Marion jumps from one trap into another, and when she stops at the Bates Motel she meets the shy, awkward but rather gorgeous Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). He’s trapped by his own circumstances – a domineering mother, a life unfulfilled, and his crippling shyness belies a desperate loneliness. In a fantastically written and played scene Norman and Marion compare battle scars of those who are trapped and alone, and Norman convinces Marion to turn on her heels and dig herself out of her hole. But before she can do that, she needs to take a shower. And Norman’s mother isn’t happy to find her son perving over this naked lady as she switches on the hot water and begins to cleanse herself of past mistakes.

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Anyone who doesn’t know the twist that comes when Marion hops into the shower has either been living under a rock their whole life or is very lucky. In recording this podcast, Martin was surprised to find his partner Matt was indeed one of the lucky ones. What an absolute thrill to be taken by surprise when the inevitable fate befalls our heroine. That’s the thing with Psycho, there is a sense of inevitability and doom that scores its entire first half. You’re asked to sit and watch as Marion makes mistake after mistake, when all you want to do is reach into the TV and shake her, tell her to keep driving or to go back. But she doesn’t, and that’s what is so shocking. Not only does it make you feel voyeuristic and helpless, it leaves you conflicted. Because when Norman’s got a mess on his hands, you kinda want him to get away with it. A film of two halves that set the bar for shock twists as, we tend to forget, not only does it have the shock shower scene… but there is another twist 10 minutes before the ending, when Mrs Bates shows her bony face.

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Hitchcock had a wicked old sense of humour. He took glee and relish in horrifying us whether it was a bird attack on the fabulous Tippi Hedren or a dead body in a trunk whilst the corpse’s loved ones sipped wine and wondered where he’d got to. In Psycho his wicked humour plays out like a carnival ghost train. He tips a wink to the audience whilst traumatising us, which is perfectly summed up in the comedic and macabre trailer for Psycho. Here Hitch takes us around the scene of a crime, beckoning us into darkened rooms, daring us to feast our eyes on the horrors within.

Many rumours exist over the making of Psycho. That Hitch shocked Janet Leigh with cold water in the shower scene, that Anthony Perkins drew from real life (and very disturbing) experience for Norman’s mother/son relationship, and that it was the first movie to ever feature a flushing toilet! Not to mention Marion’s license plate – was it on purpose? To find out give our new podcast a listen. It’s a feature length episode with clips and music aplenty, and one where we discuss everything from Pat Hitchcock’s tranquilisers to the sad death of Anthony Perkins from Aids.

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At the heart of it we talk about our love for the movie and just what makes Psycho a bona fide slasher movie to beat them all. Apologies in advance for my constant references to Gavin and Perkins indulging in sodomy. What can I say? They were made for each other!

Get the podcast via iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/screaming-queenz-ep-36-psycho/id1070845275?i=1000384397368&mt=2

Enjoy. You might need a shower afterwards…

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(JL)

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What is The Void?

In 2015 a trailer appeared online, you can see it below as well as a link to the original Indie Go Go campaign.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-void–10#/

The creators were looking to raise money to create a horror film. Not just any horror film, a horror film that does away with the tiresome, overused CGI in favour of real practical effects, a horror film that takes us back to the 80’s when John Carpenter was king.

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What are you looking at?

The film was successfully funded and began doing the rounds at the horror festivals in 2016. The buzz was all positive, descriptions in the vein of “Assault of Precinct 13 meets the Thing with a Lovecraft twist, with a dash of Fulci” had me very excited, being a Carpenter fan and also a Lovecraft fan too. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the finished product for some time, and finally I have!

The Void comes from the writing/directing duo of Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski who have previously worked on a segment for “ABC’s of Death” and something called “Manborg” which sounds great if the title is anything to go by!

It takes place in small-town rural America, Marsh County if I recall correctly, a place where nothing much happens, the cops get to sleep on the job most nights and it seems to make no difference. Except this night is different. Officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) finds an injured man in the road, covered in blood and not making any sense. Carter proceeds to take him to the local emergency room, staffed by a skeleton crew.

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Things take a sinister turn when the hospital is surrounded by evil cultists.

Part of this skeleton crew is a nurse named Allison, who also happens to be Carter’s wife or maybe it’s his ex-wife, it’s never really made 100% clear. Many things about the film remain enigmatic to be honest, which some will see as a strength and others will no doubt see as a weakness, I personally am fine with things left unexplained and mysterious.

The situation very quickly falls apart as cultists surround the hospital and the people inside begin turning on each other or turning into monsters! The acting across the board is all to a solid standard, with Aaron Poole as Daniel Carter doing a particularly good job as the reluctant “leader” of the group.

Fans of 80’s horror and Carpenter specifically will no doubt be in their element, the Carpenter love is strong throughout, from the siege element reminiscent of “Assault of Precinct 13” to the tentacled, unimaginable monstrosities that rampage around the hospital, all created practically with hardly a trace of CGI to be seen.

Fans of practical effects will get a thrill out of much of the film, things like puppets and prosthetics and costumes and make-up effects all make an appearance. I do personally get tired of the CGI overload sometimes so it’s massively refreshing to see. This helps add a sort of grimy authenticity to proceedings, there’s no cartoonish CGI invading the screen every two minutes. Anybody who enjoyed the recent practical effects driven sci-fi horror “Harbinger Down” should certainly check out The Void.

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Make-up test of creature from The Void

You’ll be surprised at the things you find when you go looking”

The influence of H.P. Lovecraft and his prominence in popular culture does seem to have been growing in recent years and The Void certainly has plenty of nods to Lovecraft and his weird fiction, which I’m sure will please Lovecraft fans.

The overall plot of the film is decidedly Lovecraftian, a sinister cult leader has summoned “a great force” to do his bidding. When confronted by Carter towards the film’s climax this cult leader is accused of playing God, to which he replies “Some things are older than God” perhaps hinting at one of Lovecraft’s Great Old One’s at work.

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We never see any obvious Lovecraftian monsters on screen, Cthulhu’s tentacles never slither on-screen or anything like that but I think this is to the film’s strength, it plays on the unknowable and imperceptible nature of most of Lovecraft’s work. What we do see however are occult rituals used to summon inexplicable monsters with the help of weird shapes and esoteric tomes, which also helps give the final third a bit of a Hellraiser vibe, not that that’s a bad thing.

Subtle nods or “Easter Eggs” as we apparently call them now can be seen throughout, the town itself I’m pretty sure is called Marsh County, referencing Innsmouth’s Obed Marsh perhaps? Even our main character Daniel Carter might be a nod to Lovecraft’s recurring character Randolph Carter. We do spot a mysterious book filled with weird shapes and diagrams and, one can assume, instructions for summoning this ancient power, perhaps collated by a mad person? We also see a storage container in the medical supply closet with the name of “West” on it, I wonder what that could be referencing?

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I may be biased because The Void takes inspiration from so much stuff that I love it almost seems like this film was made for me, it’s the perfect antidote to all the CGI driven nonsense that we get nowadays, a throwback to when a horror film was just a film, and not the start of an unending franchise with hundreds of inevitable sequels and spin-offs coming forever…

Giving a star rating on a film is always a little tricky, if like me you love practical effects and H.P. Lovecraft and Gory 80’s horror then it’s an easy 9 slimy tentacles out of 10 and I will call it highly recommended. Even casual horror fans should still get a kick out of much of the film. It’s a fun, gory throwback to a style of film making we don’t see much any more, with mind-bending imagery and a good dose of cosmic horror to get your head around.

(JB)