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HorrOctober Wrap Up

To conclude HorrOctober, I watched three different horror films in quick succession. Baskin on 30th October, and then a double bill of 2018’s Halloween as well as the first Final Destination (ho ho) on 31st October. Baskin I knew nothing about, and quickly learned that it is Turkish, beautifully designed and thoroughly freaky. From eerie dreams to a dread-drenched location to graphic gore (including serious eye trauma) and a doom-laden finale, this blend of haunting, occult and body horror left me shaken and stirred. Writer-director Can Evrenol focuses on a squad of police officers investigating a disturbance rather than teenagers who stumble into something, and this gives the film a convincing flavour. The five cops are clearly out of their depth and there were a few points when I was almost yelling ‘Run, you fucking idiots!’ However, their training, authority and, let’s face it, guns did indicates why they believe they can handle themselves. By the time they ascertain that they cannot, it’s rather late. Interwoven with the deranged and gruesome material, the film has a strong element of melancholy, which gives it a human heart that makes the fear all the deeper. As it isn’t that well known, I won’t say more about Baskin except that it is highly recommended.

I viewed and reviewed David Gordon Green’s Halloween when it came out in 2018, and as well as enjoying the film as a horror I was also impressed with its progressive gender politics. It was interesting to watch this film again soon after re-watching the 1978 original. The two films feature a similar creeping dread, judicious use of music and long takes that escalate the tension. The 2018 film is less stripped down than the original and its higher budget helps to make it much slicker. It also has some distracting comedy elements, and is at times over-stylised, but it does succeed in making Michael Myers frightening. This is partly due to Michael being an unknowable evil, the looming shape that appears and kills without warning or hesitation, just as he was in John Carpenter’s film. But it is also due to the added visceral gore of this film. Several points show bodies that have been violently broken, and this makes the danger of Michael somewhat more tactile and nasty.

Final film of the month was the much-vaunted Final Destination. I found this to be an amusingly convoluted take on a simple idea, that of Death being the killer that stalks the (incredibly 90s) group of teenagers. The film is crammed with devilish designs such as a sword in stained glass that a victim bends down in front of, as well as the Mousetrap style ‘accidents’ that occur. These elements made for an effective blend of suspense followed by gory release.

My main criticism of Final Destination is that it was somewhat over-cranked. The regular device of having a dark shadow or cloud appear behind the victims, as well as the seemingly sentient movement of liquid, made the idea of a design behind what was going on too explicit, rather than suggested. In addition, random electricity was a danger used too frequently, even though no victim was actually electrocuted. Had the deadly events occurred with a greater sense of randomness, I think it might have been scarier, suggesting that our heroes’ attempts to find meaning in these incidents might have all been in their heads. After all, what is more frightening than the random and ultimately indifferent nature of death? Then again, without that element we wouldn’t have had Tony Todd’s delicious monologue about mortality. The moral of the story, it would seem, is always listen to Candyman.