10 Creepy Films About Toxic Relationships – Part 1

I have a deep appreciation for human psychology, especially abnormal psych. A big part of psychology is how we relate to each other as human beings. Human relationships can be beautiful, and complex, and they can also be horrific. Today I’m listing some great films that examine the disturbing results that occur when fate brings the wrong people together. I’m breaking this article into two parts, because I don’t want it to get too long. (Keep in mind these are in no particular order.)

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301/302

301/302 is a Korean film that examines what happens when two people’s obsessions clash. The two female characters live next door to each other in an apartment complex, one is a chef and the other is a writer with anorexia. The chef ends up taking desperate measures to force the writer to sample her culinary talents. This film is weird, and funny, and gross. I like how it shows the histories of both women, allowing the viewer to understand how they came to be the way they are. There is an American remake of this film. It’s called Compulsion, and it stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Heather Graham. The original is by far the superior film, though.

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Silver Tongues

Silver Tongues is one of my favorite films about sociopaths. I’m shocked this movie isn’t more popular. It revolves around a couple that moves from place to place, finding people to psychologically toy with. Unlike 301/302, there is no deep reason for why the main characters do what they do, which makes it all the more troubling. They seem to just enjoy destroying the lives of others for kicks.

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Grimm Love

Grimm Love is one of the horror films released by Fangoria as part of their FrightFest. It stars Keri Russell as a psychology student studying a case that is based on Armin Meiwes, aka “The Rohtenburg Cannibal”. As many of you may know, Meiwes is known for convincing a man to let him eat him. Of course for the purposes of the movie, the names of the characters are changed and the details are scrambled about, but it preserves the shocking nature of the real crime. Russell puts in an excellent performance, and the film raises some interesting questions, like “What is love?”. I’m still saying it’s not cutting off a guy’s penis and eating it front of him, but hey, that’s just me.

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Bug

Bug is the story of the insanity that blossoms between a mysterious drifter and a battered woman. Bug can be considered a textbook example of Folie a deux. Folie a deux is a French term that basically means ” a madness of two”. It occurs when two people share a delusion. In order for Folie a deux to occur, there has to be isolation and one of the parties is dominant, while the other just sort falls in line with the delusion. In this William Friedkin film, Michael Shannon’s character convinces a damaged Ashley Judd, that the government has planted insects in their hotel room. It’s all downhill from there.

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Proxy

I don’t feel like I can say much about this film without giving plot points away. I guess I’ll just have to tell you something vague, like “No one is what they appear to be.” While, that’s true, it hardly does this movie justice. Proxy is bursting at the seams with well crafted shots, fascinating characters, and gut-wrenching violence.

What are some of your favorite horror/thrillers about toxic relationships. Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @HallowsHaunts.

It Comes at Night… Sort Of

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Theatrical horror releases have been pretty thin this year so far. So when I saw the trailer for It Comes at Night, I couldn’t wait to get out and see it. The limited cast and ambiguous threat had me hoping for something like It Follows, but the film that was advertised wasn’t exactly the film I saw.

It Comes at Night centers around a family living in a post apocalyptic world where infection lurks around every corner. The film opens with the family being forced to kill the diseased grandfather.  It’s an introduction that packs an emotional punch and sets the tone of the movie quite well.

From there on, our young protagonist Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) struggles to come to terms with the emotional reality of the situation. He is overcome by ghastly nightmares involving the sickness and his grandfather. Then one night a man breaks into their home. His parents (Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo) and the intruder, Will (Christopher Abbott) form a tentative agreement to pool their resources. Will retrieves his wife and child (Riley Keough and Griffin Robert Faulkner) and the two families begin living together. At first, things are great, but then suspicion and paranoia begin to propel them all in a violent direction.

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It Comes at Night has a lot going for it. The performances are top notch. I was especially partial to Harrison and Keough. All of the characters are well rounded and they all feel like real people. The relationships between the characters and the mounting tension create a palpable sense of dread. I’d compare It Comes at Night to The Walking Dead. Both rely on characters in desperate situations facing heavy moral dilemmas, where neither party is right or wrong.

In addition to the characters, the architecture of the cabin allows for a unique setting. With its narrow passages, woodwork, and the surrounding forest it presents a wide range of cinematography options.

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The soundtrack consisting of a lot of low key drumming also stands out. It’s a sound I definitely haven’t heard in any other recent horror movie, and its a nice break from the usual orchestral or synth music that seems to pervade the genre.

Unfortunately, for all of its positives, It Comes at Night still doesn’t feel like much of a movie. It was halfway over before I could even figure out exactly where the plot was going. It’s only about 90 minutes, but it feels about twice as long. The supernatural threat alluded to is nonexistent. All of the nightmare fuel imagery is from Travis’s dreams, and those dreams are a rare occurrence throughout the film. In fact, not much happens in the movie at all. The characters are almost enough to make up for this, but not quite.

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I tried to pinpoint why this film felt so lackluster for me, because on paper I should love it. Usually, psychological slow burn films are my favorite, but this one didn’t stick the landing. I think it’s because many of the scenes don’t serve to drive the story forward, so it starts to feel stagnant. When the climax finally came, it was about what I expected. Then it just sort of ends. Everyone in the theater started grumbling, saying things like “That’s it?”. I liked It Comes at Night, and I’m glad it’s out there because it is something fresh in this landscape of Alien and Annabelle sequels. Just don’t expect it to live up to the hype.

Split- M. Night is officially back!

Every horror fan knows that M. Night Shyamalan has had a rocky career. He’s hit some high highs, but unfortunately he’s also hit some extreme lows. In 2015 he gave us the Wayward Pines series, which I’ve yet to finish, but showed promise. He also released The Visit which falls into a weird gray area where it manages to be both awesome and awful. His latest film, Split places him firmly back into good filmmaker territory, well at least for now.

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Split follows a teen outcast (Anya Taylor-Joy) and two of her classmates (Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula) that are captured by a man with multiple personalities (James McAvoy). The girls must figure out how to stay alive, and how to protect themselves from their attacker’s 24 identities.

Split relies on heavy tension and well crafted characters to hold the viewer hostage until the very end. Each one of McAvoy’s personalities is unique and feels like an actual person, or perhaps even something supernatural. He sheds personas with ease, allowing him to shift back and forth between characters. Like his captives, the audience is left waiting for him to snap and change into someone or something else.

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The film tackles issues of mental illness and abuse with an unexpected level of compassion. Split makes you feel for McAvoy’s character, even as he commits horrific crimes. There is great deal of debate about whether Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder even exists. For the purposes of Split, DID is both a gift and a burden. McAvoy’s character, possesses a multitude of talents, due to the diverse nature of his personalities. However, it makes life difficult for him, as he essentially has 24 identities competing for control, and some of them have bad intentions. In addition to DID, Split also delves into abuse. Both the protagonist and the antagonist are victims of child abuse. This is intriguing, because in a sense it makes them kindred spirits, who have wound up on different paths.

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Split is a great theatrical horror film to kick off 2017. It’s smart, it has fully developed characters, and one hell of an ending. Hopefully M. Night can keep producing quality work like Split.

 

Lola’s Top 5 Episodes of The Twilight Zone

It’s a tradition for the SyFy channel to air a marathon of The Twilight Zone every New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I thought, what better time to countdown my own favorite episodes of Rod Serling’s classic show. I imagine some may be surprised by my picks. Most of my favorite episodes fall into the psychological horror category, and they’re not necessarily the most popular of episodes. However, these are the ones that I believe are the most bone-chilling, the most unsettling. Bottom line, these are the episodes that give me the creeps. Enjoy!

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5. The Hitch-Hiker

I love driving alone in the middle of nowhere. There’s this feeling that anything could happen at any time. It feels a little dangerous, and a tad thrilling. Add in a mysterious stranger lurking on the side of a desolate highway, and you’ve got yourself a situation that is ripe with horror potential. The Hitch-Hiker isn’t especially groundbreaking with its plot twist. However the setting and imagery is darkly poetic, and the lead character’s terror is palpable.

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4. The Masks

I think I love this episode so much, because I just love masks. Masks fall into that wonderfully wacky territory of the uncanny. A mask is an expression of our inner selves. It’s us in the most wild, expressionist way. At the same time, masks are used to hide identity and shield the truth that’s beneath. All of this symbolism, is at the heart of this episode. Let’s just say our protagonist gets his revenge, in the best way possible.

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3.  Perchance to Dream

Dreams are one of the most bizarre, confusing parts of life. There’s so much that we don’t know yet about dreams, so it makes sense that The Twilight Zone would want to tackle this topic. In Perchance to Dream, a horrified man is driven to seek therapy, after a series of dreams in which a beautiful woman is trying to kill him. Unfortunately for him, his dreams are bleeding over into his waking life. This is a super surreal episode, complete with a scene at a carnival. Picture Freddy Krueger as a sexy lady, and you’ve got Perchance to Dream.

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2. The After Hours

I like The After Hours so much that I based my short film, Plastic Bodies on it. There’s something undeniably frightening about mannequins. Mannequins are human, yet not human. They are crude representations of us composed of hollow artificial materials, and disguised in the latest fashions. Now imagine these uncanny monsters were after you. Imagine, that the world as you know it, is not the true reality. That’s what our heroine is up against. This is a theme that The Twilight Zone covered many times, but never with as much finesse as in The After Hours.

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1. Mirror Image

I’ve always had a fascination with dopplegangers. There’s something petrifying about the notion that there’s a sinister double of you wandering around. When I was a child, I had a dream about my doppleganger, and it still freaks me out today. In Mirror Image, the protagonist must come to terms with the possibility that she has a look-alike wandering around, or she’s losing her grip on reality. Perhaps the worst enemy you can have, is yourself?

Until Dawn- Horror Video Game

Before we get started. I should state that I know almost nothing about video games. Zip, nada, zilch. My brother practically forced me to play Until Dawn, and boy am I glad he did. I was lured in with a promise of gore, wendigos, and psychological horror. What I got was all of that and so much more. The plot of Until Dawn follows a group of twenty somethings that return to a cabin in Canada where their friends disappeared the year before. As they attempt to deal with their grief, and unresolved conflicts, they begin to realize they are in grave danger. They are surrounded by threats both human and supernatural. Not to mention the freezing weather that prevents them from seeking help. As they investigate further, they stumble upon an old mine and a horrifying mystery dating back to the 40s.

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I’m being purposefully vague about the plot. There are several major plot twists that I didn’t expect, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Also, this is a game about choices. Every decision you make alters your fate, so everyone’s experience is different. The game keeps track of your choices, and explains to you how they relate to what occurs.

One of my favorite aspects of the game are the impromptu therapy sessions. There are interludes during which one of the characters (You can’t see which one.) is talking to a shrink played by Peter Stormare. The doctor has you analyze pictures to get to the root of your psychological problems. You’re even forced to rank your friends based on how much you like or dislike them. The sessions are nerve wracking and bizarre. Although it’s never mentioned in conversation, you’ll notice that the appointments are being held inside an abandoned house or something of the like. It comes complete with torn curtains and broken windows.

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Another great thing about this game is you play as almost every character. There is a clear cut protagonist, played by Hayden Pantierre. However, you’re given equal time with each character. It’s fascinating, because they start out as bland genre tropes, and as you get to play them and make decisions for them, each one begins to feel like a real person. There were characters I started out hating and by the end I loved them. This makes it a painful experience when one of them dies. If you’re a good gamer, you’ll be able to keep all of them alive. If not, you’ll witness some violent deaths like a guy being hung on a giant meat hook.

As for the actual game play, the majority of the game is just spent walking around and collecting clues. You do get to do the occasional shooting, when you encounter a monster. If you’re a fan of mystery/horror games like Silent Hill, it’s safe to say you’ll enjoy this one. However, if you need a game where you’re constantly running, jumping, or fighting, then maybe Until Dawn isn’t for you.

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Until Dawn is available exclusively for the Playstation 4. I absolutely adored it. It’s as good if not better than most of the horror movies coming out right now. It’s not easy, but it is playable for even the most inexperienced gamer. With it’s top notch writing, unique monsters, and creepy atmosphere, this is not a game to be missed.