Tag Archives: Halloween

The Amateur-ville Horror

IMG_3048It may not be to the level at, say, Universal Studios with their Halloween shenanigans but my brother certainly does take time and scare over his Halloween spook-tacular.

The front of his house and garden (the rockery horror picture show?) was transformed into a mysterious mist heavy graveyard complete with listing headstones and accompanying ghouls and fiends…all of which stands between would-be trick or treaters and their candy…if they dare!

IMG_3044Fittingly it all took place in the last house on the left (before the school) and this year visitors had to dodge the likes of uber scary clowns (are there any other type?).

There was also a dapperly-suited Jigsaw (yours truly) that kept children and adults guessing if it was real or not.

Well, of course I wanted them to play a game of real or not real as I hid among the tombstones Baron Samedi-style.

Then there was an illuminated cloaked devil figure (my brother’s guise for this year) that was one part Ghostface and one part Darth Maul.

IMG_3038And then there was Iz, otherwise known as spooky speedy pumpkin (I have no idea, that’s the name Iz gave herself), a black and pink striped cat (must be a pedigree with that name) as played with much relish by Isabelle.

She gave the likes of Nicole Scherzinger and Michelle Pfeiffer a run for their milk money with her zeal, which started out as domesticated friendliness  before ending the evening as feral claws and hisses.

Iz was a whisker above Claudia Winkleman, who’d chosen a frightfully feline outfit for this week’s Strictly Come Dancing as well.

IMG_3516Not to fear though if any of the intrepid visitors needed medical attention though as there was a member of medical personnel on hand, feet and torsos in the form of a sinister psycho surgeon complete with death-oscope,

Sarah here channeling her inner Incredible Hulk with those eyes! Is it me or do they follow you round the room?

IMG_3549With such a menagerie of monsters on display you’d have thought that perhaps the neighbours might have stared, not to matter as Shona would stared right back at them and right through them.

Beyond the front door a world of the macabre awaited Halloween party guests in the form of Ringu figures on the stairs, a river of dry ice emanating from a cauldron across the food (of the gods) that put Top of the Pops to shame and curtains of cobwebs aplenty.

Isabelle loved it, merrily swishing the hubbling and bubbling mist, although I think Isabelle must have thought that the food was on fire judging by her reaction.

IMG_3563It was also the night of the living dad and mum as my parents showed they weren’t too cool for ghoul arriving in full costume and make-up, here caught it the kitchen which was full of its own devilish delights.

There was also no sanctuary to be found the other side of the house either as those escaping through the back door were met by a baby complete with spinning head and and creepy lullaby.

IMG_3559Reeling in horror from that you are then faced with a body bag and shovel amidst more graves to make your (Burke and) hairs stand on end, before being chased from the property by a cackling head hidden in the wall.

It certainly was an evening of high spirits where a good fright was had by all and nobody could deny that it was a real scream.

Perhaps most frightening of all though was when I removed my mask (steady) and wore it on my head as I became less Jigsaw puppet from Saw and more Max Wall!

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The night SHE came home…

hall1…with loads of sweets!

That’s right, Iz experienced her first ever tick or treat evening…in fact I think it might even have been my own frst experience of trick or treating!

For this evening’s noctornal antics Iz decided to go as a witch, complete with green face of course, and with us not having a cat she gave some real contemplation to taking Missy but settled on her ginger cat, Crookshanks, from The World of Harry Potter.

DSC_1214Her partner in cantation crime was one of her best friends from nursery, Violet, who was also dressed as a witch – think of them as the witches of Westcliff so to speak.

In the night sky the searchlights were out in Southend for one of the nightclubs so we said tat they were looking for witches on broomsticks.

Talking of broomsticks, I don’t think Iz would get by very far on hers as she was trying to fly it tandam but also the wrong way round!

DSC_1219 - CopyIn the end I don’t think she would have got off the ground though as the pair of them were laden with just that many sweets that it would see them through to next year.

Iz and I may have been tick or treat virgins (I’m suprised we weren’t sacrificed considering the evening) but we had joining us a real Halloween expert in the shape of Violet’s mum, a native of Florida where obviously Halloween is done on a mega scale which must make the UK version seem rather PG-13 horror.

Still, there were a few houses that had made a real effort and Isabelle and Violet loved hitting the streets and knocking on doors and they were perhaps the politest pair of witches which you could ever wish to meet which guaranteed them a devilishly decent haul of sweeties.

Above is some footage of them calling at a house, it’s quite dark for obvious reasons (to be honest it is more about the audio) but you can here them jabbering along, almost like Mogwai – certainly we didn’t want them eating sweets after midnight. By the way the toilet Iz is referring to is on the door as it is a skeleton sitting on a toilet, that universal image of Halloween.

For them at least this Halloween was far from a nightmare on Elm Street!

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Pat Higgins: There Will Be Blood

It’s a while since I last crossed paths with Essex’s most prolific horror film maker, Pat Higgins.  Since I last interviewed him he has become a first time dad and been back behind his word processor and the lens of a camera. Pat’s back and this time it’s personal. There will be terror, there will be death and you can be sure that…there will be blood!

It is the year 1981 and little Pat Higgins was getting his first taste of media exposure on local radio talking about horror. The film the six year old was talking about was David Cronenberg’s Scanners, the poster to be precise and the fact that it scared the bejesus out of him. It kind of reminded me of the phone in flashbacks to a young Norman Bates in Psycho IV: The Beginning, thus forever melding those words Higgins and horror as one.

Higgins has since made his peace with the head-exploding classic as that very same poster design now sits in his house, almost trophy like, although it’s more that it has captured him and his imagination than the other way round.

In some ways you could describe Pat as one part Wes Craven meets one part Quentin Tarantino. The 38 year old from Leigh, like Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream horrormeister Craven, is a college lecturer by day and , like Tarantino, used to work in a video shop, Blockbuster in Westcliff-on-Sea no less.

What screams may come then as rather than renting video nasties to the public, he is now making them and over his seven years helming and writing horror films he has built up quite the body of work (and number of bodies) that has seen him win numerous awards and also attend the Cannes Film Festival.

His latest feature, Nazi Zombie Death Tales, is a horror anthology, like Bordello Death Tales in features segments from the horror holy trinity of Higgins, Jim Eaves and Alan Ronald, and was released on DVD recently and is now available from the likes of Amazon, HMV and Asda.

For him this latest project, WW2 practically a horror sub-genre in itself these days, has been a fantastic experience for Pat. He said: “As both a horror fan and filmmaker, I’m massively proud of it and sees it as a really strong, commercial piece of work.”

Like most filmmakers he’s involved in several projects at various stages, both new and old, which also includes going back into the editing suite and delivering director cuts of two of his earlier efforts, Killer Killer, and The Devil’s Music.

Higgins first broke onto the horror scene with TrashHouse, which won him both rave reviews and the Best Screenplay Award at the Troma Fling in Edinburgh as well as Runner Up in Best UK Film, back in 2005, and with each passing film he has grown as a director, so what has he taken from each new project.

Pat said: “Really I’ve managed to pull one big lesson from each film I have written or directed. Hopefully this hones what I do better and to a degree it’s been me growing as a filmmaker in public and discovering what worked and didn’t work. TrashHouse is a movie with an awful lot of things that I would do differently today but I wouldn’t know how to do them differently if I hadn’t had made TrashHouse. You can’t look back with too much regret as long as you can take something away from it and learn from it.”

Higgins had TrashHouse bubbling in his head for a while before he decided to step behind the camera for the first time at the age of 29, sneaking it in before his 30th and ticking that item off his bucket list, which perhaps would be more appropriate if it were a bucket of blood list.

Keen to find out what influences we would find if we sliced open Pat’s brain open and it spilled out, his answers came thick and fast.

“Rubber monsters of a Gremlin’s ilk, huge giant squid knocking about in my brain from 20,000 leagues under the sea, always prominent and if they were cheaper to realise I would have probably made about four killer squid movie s by now.

The work of Fred Dekker, apart from Robocop 3. I just love Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad to pieces. Night of the Creeps is the closest blueprint to some of the stuff knocking around in my head at any one time. Also, Hitchcock from a narrative point of view and the suspense element is something always there in the mix.”

Asked whether he thought he has changed as a writer or director since becoming a dad, or see things from a different perspective, Higgins’ answer was clear.

“Absolutely, in terms of what you watch as well. You certainly react differently to different stimulus and the things that worried you when you were a teenager are probably very different things that worry you as an adult and then again as a parent. I’ve had conversations with much younger people who can’t understand why the Exorcist is a scary film.

I always say to them come back to me in 20 years time when you’ve got a child and then you’ll see why. The Exorcist doesn’t prey on the fears of teenagers it preys on the fears of parents, whereas something like Scream or Halloween I don’t put my self in the shoes of a baby sitter in peril. Screw and Die movies, for want of a better word, they don’t resonate with my own concerns as a parent. Those things do change and the horror movies you react to change.

Just because it is no longer the stuff that doesn’t keep me awake at the end of the night it doesn’t mean I still can’t tap into it. I can hopefully still empathise with that section of the audience still scared by the monster under the bed and the bogeyman and that kind of level of slasher horror. I might do slightly more when my daughter is a teenager.

Charlie Brooker recently said in an interview that becoming a parent is like being totally being reprogrammed in a second and I think that is true and if I were to pretend that it doesn’t impact the way you write something I’d be lyng.”

We already know what scared a five year Pat but what scares Pat Higgins on film and real life today? For Hitchcock it was famously the law and the police but according to IMDB for Higgins it is chainsaws, or is it?

Higgins puts the records straight, saying: “Weirdly enough that was written by an actor – I won’t name him – and he said I needed to have something interesting about me on IMDB and before I knew it that was there. Ten years later I nearly get asked it in every interview – its not true but I do get asked it an awful lot, even though I’m cheek to cheek with a chainsaw on my Twitter profile pic.

I think the sudden loss of the rules that you think are established for reality those crumbling are the things that bother me more than anything, that moment where the killer can walk through walls or is people around you conspiring against you. For me there is something in that reveal, something in the heart of that where the scare lies.”

For Higgins those scares begin at the writing stage, for him it is the most exciting stage of the journey. He concluded: “I love the writing and sadly I don’t get as much time to do it as I would like to. There should always be time for writing as it’s the seed from which all else springs.”

Somewhere, there is a five year old who has seen a Pat Higgins poster and is currently phoning up a radio station to complain about it…

Pat’s Entertainment! Those Pat Higgins films in full

TrashHouse (2005)

Simply put, five strangers take up a winner takes all challenge to test an experimental implant that grants their wildest wishes in a virtual world. One lives out his greatest sexual fantasies, another conjures a technological environment and sets about curing cancer, one can’t think of anything more interesting to do than sit in a chair and have money flutter about around him. Soon, dreams are shattered and the stuff of nightmares are unleashed in the form of monsters and zombies. Those who are dead are the lucky ones!

Hellbride (2007)

Everything is working out for Nicole Meadows. She has a great job. She has an adoring boyfriend who has just proposed. She has a doting father who is preparing the wedding. She also has a dark secret and a cursed engagement ring (as you do). Come the wedding day, there will be bloodshed, but at least there will be cake, too. Here comes the Hellbride…just don’t hold your breath for the honeymoon!

Killer Killer (2007)

In the middle of nowhere, sits a secure facility housing only serial killers. One morning the doors are open and the guards have vanished, but a strange freezing mist surrounds the building, preventing the inmates from leaving. Then, one by one, they are murdered. It’s time for the victims to take their vengeance…you’ll never look at a cheerleader in the same way again!

The Devil’s Music (2008)

The first film to document the strange story of notorious shock-rocker Erika Spawn. Spawn was briefly the most infamous woman in the world after her music had been linked to a series of real life murders.  It’s Spinal Tap meets Blair Witch as we see ever before seen footage showing us what became of Erika and how her final tour had a bloody end.

Bordello Death Tales (2009)

A unique, sexy and terrifying anthology movie in the tradition of Creepshow. This trilogy of terror delivers blood and boobs in buckets, welcome the macabre tales of The Ripper, Stitchgirl and Vice Day and discover, if you dare, how each tale is linked to the mysterious Madam Raven

Strippers Vs Werewolves (2012)

The title says it all really as werewolves have their eyes on the wrong bunch of women, these wolves have picked the wrong company. A screenplay credit here for Pat that sees his name on then credits but not necessarily his vision on screen. The cast does boast Robert Englund, Steven Berkoff, Lucy Pinder in her big screen debut and Martin Kemp.

Zombie Nazi Death Tales (2012)

War is truly hell with these three interlocking stories from the dark days of World War 2. A soldier on a suicide mission. A troubled family with a monster in their bomb shelter. A supernatural investigator on her most dangerous assignment yet. The war of horror has never been so real.

The Wicked Witch of the Westcliff

The Halloween costume of choice in the Newman household this year was that of a Witch (for the second year running I hasten to add). Isabelle donned her rather funky outfit and, taking inspiration from the wedding of Wills and Kate perhaps, went for the rather fetching spider fasinater rather than the traditional pointy hat.

Happily posing with her broom she practicaly looked ready for take off to nursery. She could still be found in her outfit when I returned home from work later that evening, munching on her tea.

It may have been a struggle to get Isabelle in her outfit that morning (struggle handled by Sarah) but when we got to bathtime it was even more of an issue getting Iz out of her Witches costume, although to be fair historically Witches aren’t exactly great fans of water they are about to be dropped into!

Ghostwatch with mother

For those that tuned into BBC1 on the evening of Saturday 31st October 1992 things would never be the same, especially for those of a nervous disposition. The events that took place that evening caused such panic and fear that they have never been repeated again…ever, anywhere…but those who watched it have never forgotten.

Early 90s Saturday night TV could normally be counted on to be a jolly diet of Noel doing his usual from Crinkly Bottom, Cilla playing cupid and people falling off ladders in Casualty, but Halloween 17 years ago was to prove to be a very different affair.

Ghostwatch was an ambitious BBC project that pre-dated Most Haunted by years and saw some of the most respected TV people, okay so maybe not Mike Smith and Craig Charles, but we all liked Sarah Greene and Michael Parkinson lent the whole proceedings some gravitas, investigate Foxhill Drive, one of the most haunted houses in Britain and have it beamed live into our homes.

That was the premise, I say premise as despite the presence of Parkinson it was all a fake, a rouse, something to give the audience a fright and boy did it work in that department. Witten by Stephen Volk, who also latterly penned the also suitably creepy Afterlife, the drama took its central idea from an actual documented Poltergeist case, The Enfield Poltergeist.

Looking back at the BFI special edition DVD, its first appearance on any media, thus showing it to be a seminal piece of British television the like we will probably never see the like of again, some of the acting is a tad ropey but despite this it still drags you in and still unnerves as it did all those years ago.

Certainly for inducing panic and fear, it caused numerous complaints regarding sleepless nights and even allegedly caused a number of women to go into labour and even unconfirmed reports of the suicide of a young man, it deserves to be uttered in the same breath as Orson Welles’ radio presentation of War of the Worlds 1938, also broadcast on Halloween. And with that in mind you can certainly understand why it has never been repeated, something which almost makes it The Exorcist of the TV world.

We are of course back in traditional haunted house territory here but there are enough efficient twists and moments to make the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up, and if you are watching it on DVD, reach for your remote control in disbelief. Ghostwatch still has the ability to provoke significant chills with scratches appearing on a young girls face, tales of mutilated dogs and the building’s disturbing history and fleeting glimpses of ‘Pipes’, the evil spirit haunting the house. The climax still has the power to shock too with Sarah Greene being dragged into the cellar and the door slamming shut just as we lose contact with the house…

Modern audiences may scoff at it all and wonder what all the fuss is about but you can be sure that there are still those who still cower and freeze at the very mention of ‘Pipes’ in what is one of the most-fascinating pieces of British television history and its viewing is a firmly established Halloween ritual in my house…never too far from the light switch.