Happy Horrordays, Fiends!
Horror Cinema: Sadako vs. Kayako
This Halloween, I revisited the Ring and Grudge series of movies. In addition to the classics, the US remakes and the Netflix Grudge series, I discovered movies that were new to me, Ring 0, a Japanese prequel to the Ring series, and Sadako vs. Kayako, a mash-up movie of the two franchises.
Ring 0 was good and worth the watch, but it was Sadako vs. Kayako that captured my imagination. I was ready to like it because the director was Kōji Shiraishi, who made possibly one of my all-time favorite horror movies, Noroi: The Curse. The style of Sadako vs. Kayako is nothing like Noroi, but Shiraishi succeeded in making another scary movie.
I fully expected and even wanted the cheesiest, corniest movie out of a Ring-Grudge mash-up, akin to Freddy vs. Jason. It held up to my expectations in the best possible ways, with jump scares and spooky scenes with Sadako, Kayako and the cat-crying boy, Toshio. What I liked more was how unforgiving and cruel they were.
What I liked best about the movie was how it told the story of two cursed girls: how they got cursed, crossed paths and fought together to break their curses. I cannot say that I loved the ending of the film, but the way it took a flimsy and kitschy idea and turned it into a tale of two cursed girls was enchanting and lasted with me.
Shiraishi, Koji. Sadako vs. Kayako, PKDN Films (via Universal Pictures), 2016.
Images from IMDb and Fear Forever.
Halloween (2018) Behind the Scenes
Audrey & Audrey II
Horror Cinema: Gone in the Night (2022)
As a teen in the 90s, I loved Winona Ryder. Her movies, from Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael to Reality Bites, shaped much of my adolescence and coming of age. I was excited to see that she recently starred in a horror movie, Gone in the Night.
I admit that I went into the movie with low expectations because I haven’t liked much of Winona Ryder’s work over the past 10 or 20 years. But her renewed popularity being on Netflix’s Stranger Things gave me hope that she could be working on a better quality movie.
I enjoyed the film. The characters were interesting, and how the story unfolded kept my interest. Although it had plot reveals throughout it, there were clues in scenes well before the reveals, which I appreciated. I don’t like twists and turns that blind-side me, so I liked how I could piece together the story as the protagonist uncovered the plot’s mystery.
The movie could have ended in one of many ways, and I liked how it concluded. It felt just artsy and weird enough to make me feel satisfied that I was watching a Winona Ryder movie.
Horowitz, Eli. Gone in the Night, Vertical Entertainment, 2022.
Horror Cinema: The Sentinel (1977)
I discovered the 1977 horror movie The Sentinel on late night tv as a teenager of the 90s. With its mix of ghosts and strangeness—like the birthday party for a cat—I was hooked. By the time I saw The Sentinel, I was already a fan of Rosemary’s Baby and the 1930s movie Freaks, so, when the movie ended with the heroine being forced into the role of the sentinel after being groomed for it like Rosemary as the mother of the anti-christ along with actors with deformities crowding the halls as the denizons of Hell, I knew that this movie would be a personal favorite. Over the years, I have revisited The Sentinel, and I always enjoy its quirkiness and creepiness.
Researching trivia on the movie, I was surprised to learn that it was fraught with problems. The story’s writer, Jeffrey Konvitz, did not like the director, Michael Winner, or what Winner did with the casting or film. Konvitz commented that Winner was “too pedestrian a director” to make the film a good horror movie like The Omen and called him an egomaniacal maniac in a bluray commentary. Konvitz did not like that the protagonist looked different than the protagonist from his story, and he would have cast an unknown in the part who looked more like the story’s character.
Winner himself was not happy with the casting. He originally wanted Martin Sheen to play the male lead, but he was told that Sheen was a “tv name,” so he could not cast him. The producer wanted Chris Sarandon because he had recently been nominated for an Oscar.
For how much I love this movie, I was also surprised to find out that it is not a popular film. In fact, most people hate it.
Despite its problems, The Sentinel tells a great ghost story with that slower pace common of 70s movies that builds toward a creepy ending.
Winner, Michael. The Sentinel, Universal Pictures, 1977.
Behind-the-scenes facts from IMDb Trivia: The Sentinel (1977).
Horror Cinema: Grave Encounters
Full disclosure: I love Zak Bagans and Ghost Adventures.
The host, Zak, is endearing and kind to others but becomes angry and dramatic around ghosts and ghost activity. I live for ghosts caught on camera, and the show has some of the best audio and video recordings that send chills up my spine. I also like that the episodes are thoughtful in their storytelling about the locations they visit, with their mix of spookiness and a reverence for the past and the spirit world.
Watching the movie Grave Encounters, I was immediately connected to the characters because they were a parody of the Ghost Adventures crew, and I felt like I already knew who they were. I love jump scares and all things ghosts, so I truly enjoyed the movie. I was particularly surprised by the turn of events in the last quarter. It was not what I was expecting, but it was everything I never knew I wanted! Grave Encounters is one of a few horror movies that I liked from beginning to end, and on multiple viewings.
A sequel was made that I did not like as much, but I would recommend it for the purists who want to see it for themselves.
The Vicious Brothers. Grave Encounters, Tribeca Film, 2011.
Famous Accused Witch: Anne Hibbins
Anne Hibbins was not popular in her Boston community in the mid-1600s. There was her privilege, her demanding standards, and her penchant for speaking her mind.
When Hibbins’ husband died in 1654, she became vulnerable—on June 19, 1656, she was hanged for being a witch. It would be some 35 years before rampant accusations of witchcraft consumed the nearby town of Salem, but Hibbins’ conviction would lay bare the vulnerability of women in patriarchal New England of the 1600s. It was later said that Hibbins “was hanged for a witch, only for having more wit than her neighbors.”
“Traditionally, witchcraft was considered a ‘working class crime,’” says Emerson Baker, a historian at Salem State University and author of A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience. “That is, most of the accused were the poorer members of society. And, when wealthy and prominent people were accused, they usually were found not guilty. Anne Hibbins was the first high-status New Englander to be executed for witchcraft.”
Learn more about the trials that led to Anne Hibbins’ conviction and hanging on History.com’s This Wealthy Woman Was Hanged as a Witch for Speaking Her Mind.