You Want Horror? We Got Horror!

Three films watched recently on DVD.

NB: contains plot spoilers.

Where the Devil Hides (2014)

This film is set in an Amish style community, where Elder Beacon (Colm Meaney living up to his surname) rules with an iron fist. There’s a prophecy that six girls will be born on the sixth day of the sixth month, but only one will survive to be eighteen, at which point she will become the Devil’s Hand. Beacon wants to kill them at birth, but a father won’t let him, though one of the mothers takes matters into her own hands. And then there were five. Skip forward to the present day, and with just a few days before they turn eighteen, somebody starts killing the girls. And then there were four, three, two, and one. Despite the attempt to conjure up an air of unreality, there is very little supernatural stuff in this film. Instead we get a serial killer movie, transplanted to an Amish community, with a side order of teen love when Mary meets a boy from outside her village. There’s plenty of misdirection, with regards to the killings, and there are moments of tension as one or other of the girls meets their ends, though it is artificially enhanced by the apparent lack of outside authority, despite the odd flying visit from a local sheriff. All of this has been done before and better. Where the film has a chance to stand out is in the depiction of the community of Jerusalem, with its strict rules and superstitions, and in the figure of Beacon who appears to be simply using his position to indulge his predilection for young women. The film touches on these things, but doesn’t make them central, instead simply using them as a backdrop to the other, far less interesting stuff. What happens after Mary turns eighteen was gratifying in its way, but also I think diluted even further the interesting elements of the film by having the old pervert Beacon proved right and reducing things to just another end of days piece of nonsense.

Episode 50 (2011)

I fell asleep on the first go round with this. Unfortunately I kept awake for the rematch. Once again we have a team of psychic investigators with a television show getting sent into a building where strange things have been reported. The difference is that this time they are ghost debunkers, with 49 successful shows to their credit and an explanation for everything (smug bastards! I dislike them already). A rich man with a fatal illness pays for them to go inside an infamous former insane asylum, and also for another team of investigators who are true believers to join them. You can of course guess the rest. Poor acting, dull characters, and special effects produced on a shoestring budget all help to undermine the film. But the main problem is that there is simply nothing of any real interest here. It’s like watching an episode of Most Haunted only with all those moments when we get to laugh at Yvette and crew edited out. And shaky cam did not help one bit, though perhaps it wasn’t shaky at all, just my head nodding up and down as I fought to stay awake. At a guess, I’d say we were meant to feel a certain satisfaction at seeing the debunkers, whose smugness is set up in a completely risible opening sequence where they explain to a guy that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why he hits his wife in the face with a hammer, get some harsh medicine courtesy of the spirit world, but unfortunately it didn’t pan out as planned, with the true believers getting the worst of the karmic payback. I’m sorry, but this was a dreary film, from start to finish.

Half-Light (2006)

Demi Moore stars as thriller writer Rachel Carlson whose five year old son Thomas fell in the canal and drowned while she was writing. Beset by guilt, with her marriage on the rocks, Rachel goes off to the splendid isolation of a cottage on the Scottish coast to finish the novel she is blocked on. It’s then that she starts to have visions of Thomas, and also gets involved with lighthouse keeper Angus, who locals tell her committed suicide years back after murdering his wife and her lover. Rachel starts to think she is going mad, but of course there is something more to it. I have mixed feelings about this. It’s beautifully shot, with some lovely scenery, and the wildness of the locations helps reinforce the atmosphere of the film, the feeling that we are in a place where the walls between worlds are wearing thin. Both Moore and Hans Matheson as Angus put in excellent performances, and you can believe in the chemistry between them, that they are lovers despite the baggage they carry, that for Rachel at least this is a healing process. The rest of the cast do a creditable turn, especially Henry Ian Cusick as deranged and jealous husband Brian. For much of its length the film plays out like a non-comedic version of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, but the end game, with a sub-Hitchcock thriller plot surfacing was neither unexpected nor aesthetically satisfying, instead simply stretching credibility and raking over old chestnuts with an almost decrepit zeal, as with the “ghost in the machine” assist that gets Rachel out of trouble. I liked it more than not, but doubt that I will watch it again.

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