Autumn TV Recommendation: Haunted

Haunted (2018)

*Mild spoilers*

Netflix has just released this little anthology just in time for Halloween and I’m quite stoked about it.

I spent the majority of Sunday bingeing it in my pajamas and although I will concede that it won’t change your life, it does explore some interesting stories. What makes it especially chilling is the fact that these tales aren’t tales at all but real supernatural experiences told by real people.

We meet a man terrorised by The Woman in White, a women living with a demon called Clarence and another lady who is routinely taken by extra terrestrials in her sleep.

There’s the surviving daughter of a prolific serial killer and a man who’s life was made infinitely better by a trio of ghost children – and a few more.

What strikes me most about these stories is the sadness and isolation that accompanies many of these events. More than a couple of these now adults have spend a great deal of their lives living with a secret and that’s terrifying. Some tried to reach out to their parents who didn’t believe them or worse, punished them for speaking out.

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These lives have been peppered with suffering and pain and it’s hard to watch these ordinary folk tell their stories to a select group of friends and family. The whole set up is a little like an intervention but it’s a safe place with no judgement, thankfully.

The most petrifying thing? Most of these experiences are ongoing. More than one of the ‘afflicted’ has become resigned to the fact that that’s that, they’re still living the experience. I can’t accept that somehow even though I believe in it wholeheartedly.

Imagine living with a real life demon/ghost for the rest of your days, with no control or choice in the matter?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

What are you watching?

Slender Man

Slender Man (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends, fascinated by the internet lore of the Slender Man, attempt to prove that he doesn’t actually exist – until one of them mysteriously goes missing.

*Minor spoilers*

The Slender Man will always be a fascinating subject matter, ever since his conception on the horror forum Creepypasta (don’t fact check me, I don’t know his exact origin). There have been several films about his legend over the years – The Slender Man (2013) and the Beware the Slenderman documentary (2016) to name a couple – but so far none have been very good. Somehow, this seems to be one folktale that is difficult to get right.

Does Slender Man finally nail our boy in all his glory? Well, no. No it doesn’t.

Unfortunately, this movie’s main crime is that it’s boring and there’s not really any coming back from that. Our leads – Joey King and Julia Goldani Telles – really try to keep up their end and they are the best things in this but it still falls flat. That said, it is by no means the worst film ever made, there are parts that work, if only the makers had followed those through.

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My exact face when I found out there’s Slender Man porn

Our foursome, Wren (King), Hallie (Goldani Telles), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) and Katie (Annalise Basso) are just like any friendship group. They’re slightly rebellious, have precocious banter in the school hallways and enjoy heavy sexual tension with the boys. When the same boys boast about a secret ‘project’ they’re doing together one night, the girls are naturally intrigued.

When they find out that the boys plan to summon Slender Man via a video on YouTube, they’re keen not to be outdone and impulsively watch it themselves. The video, reminiscent of the one from The Ring is a mish mash of dream sequence and bizarre symbolism featuring the skinny one. Although it makes little sense at this time, it is haunting and deeply effects each of the girls.

Katie seems the most spooked, staring out into the middle distance and being quieter than normal. Shortly afterwards she goes missing on a school trip (to a grave yard?). This leads her friends to dig deeper and try to make a bargain with Slender Man to bring her back. Well, you can imagine how reasonable a child killer compared to The Pied Piper of Hamelin might be.

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Got wood(s)?

Although a lot of the forest imagery becomes tiresome quickly (and the film is REALLY REALLY DARK all the time making it hard for 40 year olds with bad eyesight to follow), there are a couple of things I did like. Firstly, I should say that Slender Man is not revealed too soon which I really appreciate. When he is though the effects are questionable and I just think less is more when it comes to an enigmatic character like this.

While the girls are researching SM on a Creepypasta-esque website they stumble across a series of ‘real life’ sightings and these are really creepy and effective. Likewise when Hallie spies him in the trees at school, that’s a potentially iconic image.

There’s also a pretty tense scene in the library as Wren receives a visit which I thought was good. Ultimately though, a couple of cool ideas are not enough to see this one through and it loses steam about half way. As each of the girls experiences their own sighting, to varying degrees of horrible, their friendship is pushed to the limit. How are they going to stop him before it’s too late?

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Prank calling had suddenly got a whole lot more serious

As I type this I realise that I can’t even remember what happens to Wren and Hallie and that is not a good sign (I looked it up, oh yeah). I would say this is one that might be worth a look when it comes on Netflix but would probably piss you off if you’d spent £10+ on a cinema ticket.

Back to the drawing board I guess.

My Rating

2/5.

Marrowbone

The Secret of Marrowbone (2018) or Marrowbone (original and much better title)

IMDB Synopsis

A young man and his three younger siblings, who have kept secret the death of their beloved mother in order to remain together, are plagued by a sinister presence in the sprawling manor in which they live.

*Spoilers*

Sometimes I’m in the mood for something gentle and spooky, much like the Gothic novels I like to read in the Autumn.

Marrowbone is perfect for these occasions and ticks all the creepy boxes nicely. It also offers up a genuinely moving tale of loss, secrecy and familial loyalty which plays out in the hands of a good-looking young cast, which includes The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy, Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton and A Cure for WellnessMia Goth.

When the family matriarch (Nicola Harrison) passes away after an illness, eldest son Jack (George MacKay) is left to keep the family afloat. Having promised his mother on her death-bed to keep her passing a secret from society, lest the children be split up, Jack keeps his siblings mainly indoors. This arrangement is far from satisfactory to Jane (Goth), Billy (Heaton) and little Sam (Matthew Stagg) but needs must and all that.

Marrowbone

Especially when the family harbor more than just this secret. Comfort and normality does come to the children however, in the form of the lovely Allie (Taylor-Joy) who befriends them instantly and becomes a joyful part of their every day life. But, as the romance between Jack and Allie deepens, love rival Porter (Kyle Soller) becomes dangerously jealous – and this in turn threatens to bring the true story of the Marrowbones out in the open.

And what’s with all the weirdness going on at the house while we’re at it?

What I like about Marrowbone is that for a long time we can only feel the tension and the fear as it manifests itself around the family home and for a contemporary ghost/horror not to play its hand so soon makes it stand out more to me. You can’t accuse this of being scary really but it has some effective moments and I enjoyed it as a thriller that sometimes has the vibe of a Sunday night BBC drama. (Not necessarily a bad thing).

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As the story unfolds it leaves you feeling more and more sympathy for the family and the climax is a bit of a corker, in a heart wrenching way. It also looks at mental illness from an interesting perspective and in a way I haven’t seen that much before on film.

Not bad at all.

My Rating

3.5/5.