Categories
Featured Scary Movies and Series

HAIL TO THE DEADITES

One thing we love at Puzzle Box Horror is The Evil Dead franchise. From cosmic horror icons such as the Necronomicon to evil spirits and possessions it just butters our biscuits. It’s no mystery why this movie has created a cult-like following. We’re excited to share the news about this new documentary “Hail To The Deadites” and remember “Shop smart, shop s-mart.”

After 7 years of hard work, HAIL TO THE DEADITES will have its world premiere next month at the Fantasia International Film Festival.  

“Inspired by the 1981 classic’s cult following, HAIL TO THE DEADITES is a documentary about the fans of the EVIL DEAD franchise. Through interviews with the cast, crew, collectors, fans, freaks and geeks, HAIL TO THE DEADITES seeks to illuminate the darkest reaches of the EVIL DEAD franchise’s undying and still-growing popularity, a popularity that has spawned four films, a TV series, comic books, figurines and surpassed even its creator’s wildest dreams.

HAIL TO THE DEADITES puts the spotlight on the fans that cultivated and spread this groovy pop-culture infection! It celebrates those who’ve celebrated the films! ”Some people might find it weird to not see any footage of the franchise in the documentary but this is what I’ve been aiming for since day one. I’m really proud to say that everything you will see or hear in this documentary was created by the fans. So, rev your chainsaws and load your boomsticks, it’s time to give the DEADITES some sugar, baby!” – Steve Villeneuve

Bruce Campbell aka Ash Williams from the Evil Dead

Beside meeting with fans around the world, the 80 minutes documentary feature interviews with Evil Dead franchise cast members such as Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Tom Sullivan ,Dan Hicks ,Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Sarah Berry, Rick Domeier & Bill Moseley.

Given the continuing uncertainty related to physical cinema spaces and large gatherings which will likely continue through the remainder of the calendar year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Fantasia International Film Festival decided to mount their 2020 edition as a cutting-edge virtual festival in August. From what we heard so far, the movie should be available on the Fantasia online platform from August 20 to September 2nd. All film screenings will be geo-blocked to Canadian audiences and only accessible from within the country, vastly expanding the number of viewers we can engage with outside of Quebec.

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

History of Demons, Possessions, Exorcisms, and the Films They Inspire

History of Possession and the Church

On the topic of possessions, it is widely believed that a person’s mind and soul can be possessed by spirits, whether by man, demon, or god. Prior to the biblical explanation of possession, in ancient Greece, the pagans put an emphasis on the belief that the gods would interfere with their daily lives. Their idea of possession was when a God would cause them to act in a certain manner, or simply inhabit their body to achieve an end of their own. Buddhist and Hindu beliefs considered possessive interference by gods and demons to be everyday occurrences; African tribal religions and their respective offshoots consider possession the way that their gods and secondary deities show favor and proof of their power. Christianity over the centuries has been very vocal in regards to possession, declaring that true possession was only ever the work of, “unclean spirits,” either a minion of hell or the Devil himself. There are rare references to possessions by the divine spirit, just as Jesus Christ’s disciples were reportedly overcome with the Holy Spirit after his crucifixion. Alternative theories of this suggest, however, that possession by the divine spirit is actually just the Devil in disguise, in an attempt to fool the vulnerable. Early theologians denied there was ever an instance of possession being anything but the Devil’s handiwork.

St. Francis of Borgia Exorcising a Demon
St. Francis of Borgia – Exorcism by Goya

The Christian culture continues to dominate when it comes to popular theories of demons—any average person is going to associate demons with the Devil and his origin in Christianity—this can be troublesome to those deeply immersed in the religion, as it is still an incredibly popular topic in possession movies. Popular demon culture is the driving force for how we continue to see them in books and films and is what is most concerning to people with respect to horror culture. After all, there’s nothing more terrifying than the thought that a malicious spirit or demon has complete control of your body and mind—that you are what goes bump in the night—and showing signs of unusual behavior or expressing radically different ideals that what was common for the day would essentially damn an individual to being accused of possession. Luckily in the modern era, individuals are given more leeway to change up their perspectives, and essentially change the way their lives are going without being considered to be under demonic possession. Surprisingly, an aspect of possession theory that is not fully explored is exactly how the Devil or his minions claim their victims in the first place. There are two popular explanations within possession lore, that the spirit can pass directly into a person’s mind and soul or by using a witch to curse the victim. Of course, the Church’s position on the method of possession was that the Devil preferred to enlist the help of the evil individuals to do his dirty work—so witches would transmit the demons to the vulnerable through charm, potion, amulet, and most frequently food. The food of choice is the infamous apple—not just the symbol of the fall of man, when Eve took a bite of the apple of Eden, but also a popular symbol elsewhere in folklore, such as the original Germanic tale of Snow White. The only formal rite of exorcism is practiced by the Catholic church, which to this day recognizes clairvoyance, abnormal physical strength, blasphemy, and levitation as proof of demonic possession—the only salvation from possession is a formal exorcism.

The Spiritualist Movement

Many practices began gaining momentum with the spiritualist movements, including the act of psychic mediums inviting possession in order to speak to the dead—the belief is that the possession is temporary and controlled by the medium and their spirit guides. These possessions typically would take place within a séance, in conjunction with other practices such as the use of Ouija boards, or automatic writing.

The Exorcism of Roland Doe

Horror culture classic The Exorcist (1973) was actually inspired by a true story; a thirteen-year-old grief-stricken boy, under the pseudonym of Roland Doe, had recently lost his spiritualist Aunt Harriet a woman who had taught Roland how to use Ouija Boards, as well as many other taboo practices.  Directly following his Aunt’s death, in January of 1949, Roland began to experience troubling things—scratching and other inexplicable sounds echoed from the floors and walls of his room, and his bed would jerk around suddenly. Psychiatrists and their local church were of no help to Roland’s family, but they still sought the help of a local Catholic priest who received permission to perform an exorcism which ended in the priest being slashed by the boy. Roland was still in trouble, scratches appeared on his skin, at night after going to sleep for the night, the boy would scream out, trash about his bed wildly, and speak in tongues. After many failed exorcism attempts, he was finally moved to a hospital where the boy underwent one final attempt, during which he screamed that Satan was with him until the priests called upon St. Michael to rid the boy of his demons. From that day forward, Roland no longer experienced any strange happenings and went on to live a normal life.

Exorcism Movies and TV Shows that you need to see!

Do you have any movies or tv shows about demonic possession and exorcisms you’d like to see on our list? Let us know about them in the comments!

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

Hoodoo, Horror, and The Skeleton Key

The Skeleton Key Movie Poster

A tragically underrated Southern Gothic style horror movie, The Skeleton Key (2005) has been given a bum reputation; a movie that is often overlooked movie within the horror genre, it’s actually worth watching at least once. Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson) is a confident, yet sweet-natured hospice nurse living in New Orleans who grows frustrated with the general lack of compassion and care that her patients receive from the home at which she works. This frustration leads her to find a new opportunity wherein she becomes a live-in nurse for Ben Devereaux (John Hurt), an elderly man whose health has rapidly declined directly following a stroke. The wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands) seems reluctant to have Caroline there, insisting that she isn’t the right fit for the job.

After a discussion with the family estate lawyer, Luke (Peter Sarsgaard), Violet finally agrees that since no one else will take the job, she’ll just have to settle for Caroline. After moving in, it becomes evident that there are disturbing things going on within this neglected mansion in the Bayou. Caroline only becomes aware of these peculiarities after the mute, wheelchair-bound Ben is found trying to escape the house during a storm. She begins to explore the house and comes across strange artifacts in the attic, where she was told Ben had been when he had the stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Suspicions further rise after she learns of the house’s mysterious past from Violet—that it originally belonged to a family that had lynched two African American servants that had a hoodoo room in the attic where Ben supposedly had his stroke.

Violet tells Caroline that the house still belongs to them, insinuating that their ghosts punished her husband for going into their sacred space, but that she refuses to let anything happen to herself. Caroline seems to never fully trust what Violet has to say and decides to investigate further by going to an authentic hoodoo shop to see what it’s really all about and find out if it’s possible for someone to recover after they believe that they’ve been cursed. Her distrust of Violet leads her to perform her own secret hoodoo ritual to try to reverse the state that Ben is in—which results in Ben regaining some ability to speak, immediately asking Caroline to help him get away from Violet.

Caroline walking down the hallway in The Skeleton Key
The Skeleton Key (2005)

It becomes increasingly clear to Caroline that Violet has been performing hoodoo on Ben and her growing belief that hoodoo is real causes her to try to rescue Ben from Violet’s evil clutches. When she’s unable to flee with Ben, she’s caught by Luke and it’s revealed that he has been Violet’s accomplice all along. The culmination of the movie comes when Caroline is somehow able to call 9-1-1, then her friend, where she proclaims that the hoodoo is, “all real,” before the line is cut. She inadvertently traps herself inside of a magic circle where it’s made clear that Violet is actually the female servant Mama Cecile and shortly thereafter, she turns on the recording of the Conjure of Sacrifice, which effectively switches their bodies.

It turns out that Papa Justify had previously been inhabiting Ben’s body and had taken over Luke’s body and after switching bodies with Caroline, Mama Cecile force-feeds Caroline (now in Violet’s body) a potion which induces the paralytic state that Ben had been in. The whole thing had been a trick to get Caroline to believe in the power of hoodoo—because after all, you must believe in hoodoo for it to work on you. Once emergency services arrive in the morning it’s also revealed that Violet had left the house to Caroline so that Mama Cecile and Papa Justify could remain in the home and continue their body-swapping plot as long as they desired.

Categories
Indie Horror Creation Indie horror film makers Scary Movies and Series

Horror Comedy “The Central Authority” Gets Creative and Releases During Lockdown

Using groundbreaking techniques, the first socially distanced feature film was shot entirely during the pandemic
The Central Authority Horror Movie Poster
The Central Authority, the horror-comedy  brainchild of Kristin West and Dana Olita, has been a brave undertaking in these hazardous times. “We knew this was a huge endeavor going in,” said West, who co-directed with Armin Nasseri. “We were forced to use the technology  available, which meant doing some unusual things.” Those “unusual things” included dusting off some archaic film techniques and using brand new processes. “We gave ourselves permission to fail,” says West, “but things worked out fine in the end.”

Those processes including having actors from all over the world come together on the screen. Actress Anna Elena Pepe, who plays Dr Zhivaga, a quarantine sex therapist, says it was an experience for her like no other, “I was in London, and my scene partner (Lachelle Allen) was in Los Angeles. ‘It was fantastic.'”

“The actors were the key,” according to Olita, “We basically let them pick and choose characters and wrote around their choices.” West agrees, “We gave our actors a tremendous amount of freedom, there was a lot of improvisation. Everyone gave great performances and the chemistry the actors have with one and other is magical.”

The Central Authority, takes place in a dystopian future, where entertainment is king. There is no content, so the government (“The Central Authority”) creates a streaming channel where “performers” can submit their material, in order to obtain items in short supply.  The film takes place over one day of programming.

In addition to West, Olita and Nasseri, The Central Authority uses an ensemble cast of working actors, Tick Tock stars, comics and podcast hosts: Lachelle Allen, Brandy Bryant, April Monique Burrill,  Jimmyo Burrill, Lily Burrill, Candice Callins, Charles Chudabala, Rodney Damon Collins, Michael Coulombe, Lauren Deleon, Vanessa Esparanza, Jonathan Freeman-Anderson, Sara Gaston, Katie Gordon, Nate Gordon, Joe Grisaffi, Josh Hutchinson, Betsy Johnson, Allison Michelle, Rory Ogden, Marco Antonio Parra, Anna Elena Pepe, Jake Red, Genoveva Rossi, Nailya Sharakova, Narlyia Sterling, Todd Stroik, and Cristina Vargas. Nasseri said he was “proud to work with such a strong group of diverse actors.” Inclusion has been a recurring theme in Nasseri’s films, with award-winning shorts The Carting Call, and Seeking Valentina, already under his belt, Nasseri felt like this was the perfect vehicle for him as a director, editor and actor.

The Central Authority is written by Dana Olita and Kristin West, directed by Armin Nasseri and Kristin West, and produced by Matt Chassin, Armin Nasseri, Dana Olita, Narlyia Sterling, Kristin West and Quarantini Productions.

For more information go to https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12265464/

Visit us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheCentralAuthority/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CentralAuth

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_central_authority/
Categories
Indie Horror Creation Lifestyle Scary Movies and Series

Horror Trends From Gore to the Supernatural

It’s been well over a hundred years since the first horror movie was created—since it’s fair to say that the three-minute short film, Le Manoir du Diable (1896) counts as the first horror film ever created. Known in English both as The Haunted Castle as well as The House of the Devil, which you can actually watch here. While considered tame by today’s standards of the horror genre, it launched a multimedia genre that has gotten increasingly popular over the last one hundred twenty-four years. The sheer number of horror movies made per year continues to grow steadily, but since 2001 it has been an ever-accelerating trend—sources cite that by the year 2000 an approximated two-hundred horror films had been produced, then by 2016 the number had jumped to well over a thousand films in the genre.

This says nothing of the vastly different topics that this genre actually covers, which essentially has a taste of every kind of interest paired with the one thing that brings horror lovers together—the fear factor!

Popularity Within Horror—What Draws the Audience In?

It used to be that gory, disturbing, and slasher flicks brought the crowds in, at least that’s what the data has said since 1996. Interestingly enough, ever since 1999 this particular subgenre of horror has dramatically declined, coinciding with the introduction of stellar horror movies that fall within other genres, especially the paranormal and supernatural subgenre.

Gore, Disturbing, and Slasher Films

Static image on television screen
Photography by Jisun Han

For those of you unclear about what thematic elements cause a horror movie to be classified as either a gore, disturbing, or slasher film, I’ll clear that up here. Gory and disturbing movies tend to focus on portraying violence, blood, and guts in the most graphic way possible—the general emphasis is the shock factor. Violence tends to incite the fight or flight instinct that lays within each and every one of us, which in turn causes a huge release of adrenaline as well as mood-altering hormones. It’s safe to say that real-world events had some impact on whether or not a person might want to go see a horror movie that depicted obscene amounts of violence, as the early 2000s displayed a steep decline of this violent subgenre of horror. There have been exceptions to this rule, of course, the Saw movie franchise and the rebooted Hellraiser franchise enjoyed success, but 2008 marked the rapid drop in popularity. To compare fifty percent of the horror movies produced in 1999 were categorized into the gore, disturbing, and slasher film genre, whereas it now makes up less than fifteen percent of horror films being made. That being said, it’s been suggested that much like senses of fashion, certain trends are cyclically popular and that the gore, disturbing, and slasher subgenre should be expected to make a comeback sometime in the future.

Audiences have a remarkable fascination with gory violence and disgusting scenes, and scientists who have studied the depths of human recall, when surrounding horrific events have discovered—not surprisingly—that participants in this study had detailed recall of the scene itself, but the overwhelming nature of the event causes a “temporary blindness,” in our memory of what happened just before and just after the event. This is why gory movies are so jam-packed full of violence—they want the movie to be memorable, even if they aren’t the best movies ever. As an example, films like Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Green Inferno (2013) are talked about more frequently than any other horror film simply because of the abhorrent events that take place within the film. These films often surpass box office hits like Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005) when it comes to how memorable they are because these movies are violent and gory just for the sake of being violent and gory.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) continues to be talked about today because it was legitimately believed to be a snuff film and the director even got brought up on murder charges until he produced the actors that were believed to have been killed during filming—that’s not all though, it featured live animal torture and is now one of the main reasons why films are required to divulge that “no animals were harmed in the making of this movie,” in a testament to animal cruelty laws that are now in effect. Films like this were made for shock value and although they remain in the memory of those who have dared to watch them, they leave the audience feeling somehow dirty. Suffice it to say, watching a movie like this once is often overkill if you like horror for more than just shock value.

Bridget Rubenking and Annie Lang argue that even though disgust makes us feel bad, it has evolved to a functional response of attention capture—as a form of entertainment, filmmakers can’t lose with the factor of disgust on their side. It keeps audiences engrossed and engaged, hoping that somehow the story gets better. From the 482 participants that were studied in Germany and the United States, they reached a conclusion that gory scenes function to reinforce our hope that good will inevitably triumph over evil.

Paranormal and Supernatural Films

While it’s clear that not all paranormal and supernatural films can be classified as horror movies, which can be easily explained by referencing A Ghost Story (2017)—a movie where the featured version of ghosts is literally a guy wearing a sheet with eye-holes cut out, over his head and walking around in a kind of vacant melodrama. A Ghost Story (2017) isn’t meant to be a scary movie, it’s meant to be a depressing drama and honestly kind of failed at that too. The horror franchise marks paranormal and supernatural movies as having content that, “deal[s] with phenomena which defy scientific explanation such as ghosts, demons, psychics, the dead and other such spooky experiences.” These days, paranormal and supernatural take the proverbial cake, as they become increasingly popular in production and now take up the largest share of the box office. It’s thought that this trend is due to the mysterious nature of this subgenre of horror—people like to be kept guessing what is going to happen next. A huge benefit to the volume of production for paranormal and supernatural films versus monster films and violent flicks is that they have a low cost to produce—with ghosts and other paranormal phenomena it’s what is left unseen that makes the movie more compelling. With a low cost in production means that more ideas are able to be brought to fruition on-screen without the burden of raising funds or seeking sponsors. The major uptick in viewership of paranormal horror came with the beginning of the Paranormal Activity franchise, which hundreds of films being added into the genre.

Low budget costs for creating a movie means that creating a captivating film becomes more attainable for people that aren’t already known in the film industry. So, these paranormal and supernatural films are brought to us from a wider collective of filmmakers who have fresh and exciting ideas, original takes on existing content, or a new idea entirely—then they help thrill-seekers who have an affinity for horror find their adrenaline rush.

What this means for the Horror Genre

Violence and Monster-centric movies aren’t going to die out anytime soon, don’t worry—we’re still going to have plenty of new slashers and monsters coming (we’re personally excited about Antlers (2020) coming out this April. So while the popularity of these movies may have decreased to the point of minimal production, it seems like the ones that do make it end up generally being well worth the watch. Take Films like I Am Legend (2007) and World War Z (2013) as examples, both were large budget movies (over $150 million dollars each) and unqualified successes within the monster subgenre. Then again, despite the average horror audience’s proclivity to enjoy things that scare or disturb them, they inevitably want to see a positive ending—instead of being left with an ending that raises questions or leaves the audience wishing for some emotional closure. This can be seen in how I Am Legend (2007) was released with two different endings, one in which the main protagonist sacrifices himself and the one that was ultimately used for the final cut—where the main protagonist finds a way to fix the problem.

Why We Keep Watching

Horror films are entertaining—anyone who enjoys watching them would wholeheartedly agree—according to Søren Birkvad, a film scholar at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences—they are a way we keep the boredom away. Those who are prone to boredom more often than not, score higher than others in a trait dubbed, “sensation seeking.” These people are then more likely to have an increased affinity for horror films.

Creepy House in Camera Image
Photography by Caleb Minear

Horror films help us explain away the evil and darkness in the world—they enable us to essentially get to the root cause of why evil exists in the world. Whether or not it’s the true cause of evil doesn’t really matter in this scenario, because the fictional explanations give the audience closure for their curiosity. If people want true reasons why people do awful things to one another, they generally have a fascination with movies or television series that revolve around serial killers, who have been psychologically studied and often diagnosed with a mental disorder—psychopathy, sociopathy, the worst of the worst helped define evil within forensic psychiatry.

In modern culture, it’s a rarity to discuss evil as a true force of nature—what drove the conversation before was the dominant religious influence within western culture. The beliefs of religious extremists, it’s simply not common for people to believe in a demonic force within the world; in popular culture, especially within books and movies, evil is easily conveyed within the horror genre. More and more noticeably we’ve seen the gore and monster subgenre move from the fantasy realm to the science fiction realm, where instead of relying upon the explanations from the church, we’ve begun to explore the hubris of man. Unexplainable forces that were responsible for vampires and zombies turned into explainable scientific procedures gone wrong—in the form of viruses, or cures, they generally allude to man trying to play the role of God.

The final reason why people frequently seek out the thrills that horror movies provide is what Birkvad calls the anthropological and therapeutic utility of horror film. Birkvad insists that horror movies help us to cope with our own anxiety by stimulating us through a “familiar framework,” which is essentially our safety net. The audience need never overwhelm itself with how they would feel if these film sequences were really happening in front of them, as they can easily disconnect from the action—cover your eyes, cover your ears, make a joke to ease the tension, or indulge in comfort foods.

In psychology, we call this activation of a feeling “emotional regulation.” By watching horror films one can have a sense of control over both the situation, or the viewing experience, and over the feeling of fear. Watching a scary film may possibly also function as a distraction from other feelings.

Svein Åge Kjøs Johnsen

Freud’s attempts to provide a reason to how we perceive things that are considered strange or unusual—he insists that entertaining the idea of the existence of ghosts can create undue excitement, so when we experience things that we cannot explain it incites the adrenaline response. Then again, considering Freud’s work on behavioral psychology he also insists that we never fully overcome the triggers of stress and anxiety from our childhood. Fear of the dark, excessive solitude and eerie silences are things that some adults just can’t shake the trepidation of. Come to think of it, have you ever had an unbearably awkward silence with someone you’ve just met—it stands to reason that the feeling of anxiety most people get from those awkward silences stems from the same source.

So, what are your thoughts on why we as horror lovers have moved away from the gore and violence and begun to embrace paranormal and supernatural themes within the horror genre?