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Sunday, 13 November 2016

DARK WEB: AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA 25 – AN INTERVIEW WITH SESSEUR/KILLERJEFF


PLEASE NOTE, THIS FEATURE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED AT UK HORROR SCENE HERE. ALL SUBSEQUENT CHAPTERS WILL APPEAR FIRST THERE.

Long term readers of this series of features on the darker side of Internet fiction may remember that the very first feature I wrote was on the dark posterboy of Creepypasta, Jeff the Killer
Based on a decidedly disturbing image of ‘Jeff’s’ nightmarish face, Jeff is one of the oldest and most popular creations among the CP community. However, as big an icon as Jeff has become, his origin has been shrouded in mystery and more than its fair share of controversy. 

As I wrote before, Jeff’s earliest appearances seem to be as an image posted to the website, newgrounds.com, in August 2008.



The post claims that Jeff is actually summoned through a ‘Bloody Mary’-style game. Those who wish to call Jeff must switch off the lights, then sit cross-legged in a closet and, while turning their head back and forth, repeat the following saying three times: ‘He’s in here with me.’ Upon doing this, the player is instructed to close their eyes and call out to Jeff. He is then said to appear, his face mere inches from the summoner’s and begin to scream at them. The only way to dismiss Jeff is to compliment him — failure to do so will result in something KillerJeff ominously refers to as ‘a nightmarish field trip’.
Pretty soon a number of ‘backstories’ for the picture sprang up, one of the very first of which was in a comment that accompanied the picture on newgrounds in which, when questioned about why Jeff looks the way he does, KillerJeff replied: ‘I was holding a container full of acid when I slipped on my soapy floor and it spilled all over my face, luckly someone heard my cry for help and took me to a Hospital, the doctors fixed my face up and vola, I’m sexy!’

It was this origin which formed the basis of a video uploaded to YouTube by user Sesseur on 3rd October 2008. Sadly, Sesseur’s YouTube account has since closed, but the video used the popular Jeff the Killer image as well as another, rougher looking draft of the picture along with text accompanied by The Posie’s track, I Guess You’re Right. Once again, the story told of an accident involving a slippery bathroom floor, a bucketful of acid, devastating facial injuries and a subsequent psychological breakdown that lead to Jeff becoming a serial killer. In 2011 another origin story for Jeff was written, one in which his facial injuries were caused by a gang of bullies, a story which has since become the most popular backstory for Jeff.

Yet as popular as this version of events became, the originator of the Jeff the Killer legend seems to have been forgotten. Sesseur has since disappeared from YouTube, but there is a DeviantArt account in that name. Of course, a shared name on the internet means nothing (I’ve seen Catfish, I know the web is full of phonies and fakers) so when I managed to make contact with this Sesseur I remained cautious.

However, KillerJeff still seems to be the oldest source for Jeff the Killer and is notoriously difficult to contact… until now.

After months of looking (and plenty of dead ends) I managed to contact KillerJeff directly who confirmed that he and Sesseur are indeed one and the same. What’s more, he confirmed that the DeviantArt account also belongs to him.
It seems that both Sesseurs, plus KillerJeff are one and the same individual — one Jeff Case, a 22-year-old man from the eastern United States.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited by this breakthrough, and even more delighted when he agreed to answer my questions about the creation of one of the internet’s most infamous monsters for you, my readers.

What follows below is an interview with the original creator of Jeff the Killer.

HICKEY'S HOUSE OF HORRORS: The most obvious first – In your own words, tell us a little about Jeff the Killer?

SESSEUR A.K.A. JEFF CASE: He’s a tortured soul, once living a normal life, until an accident turned him into a disfigured freak that society shunned due to his appearance. He decided to become what they see him as and tried his best to murder as many people as he deemed wicked.
He and his brother both hide out in a regular suburban New Jersey home with a very dark story behind it. Jeff’s brother Liu makes sure Jeff is hidden (he even managed to convince people that he died in surgery), hiding bodies that Jeff returned to the house hold, alluding police so no one would be suspicious of the Hodek household. Liu doesn’t murder people, he doesn’t want Jeff to be a killer but their bond is very strong so they both end up being crime brothers. Jeff does the killing, Liu does the providing.

HHoH: What served as your inspiration for the character?
S(JC): Just sheer boredom, I was 15 years old, and I wanted to make something that would be a meme, I decided to make a short story and the picture I had since late 2006 was a perfect visualization of the main monster for Jeff the killer. In 2008 I made a simple 5 minute video of Jeff’s backstory. I never expanded the story there, because it was meant to be a short urban legend, until 2011 where someone took the story and popularized Jeff, however, vastly changing him from my vision of Jeff.

HHoH: Which idea came to you first, the image or the story?
S(JC): The image was made first, then 2 years later a story was made for it.

HHoH: Speaking of the story, there seems to be another very well-known origin story out there, which describes Jeff’s battle with bullies and subsequent disfigurement in a fire. What are your thoughts on this ‘alternative’ take on your character?
S(JC): It helped bring Jeff to fame, but it ultimately turned Jeff into what he wasn’t at all.

HHoH: Are you a fan of Creepypasta? If so, what is your favourite Creepypasta by a creator other than yourself?
S(JC): Back before the teeny boppers made creepypasta wiki to get their pasta fix, there was only a few good pastas on Encyclopedia Dramatica, the real scary stuff, none of that fan stories you’d find all over the pasta wiki.
I wasn’t really a fan of one specific one, but I really enjoyed the urban legend ones, none of the narrative stories that Jeff was turned into, but a story that was told by someone else, in a way that would really make you wonder if it was true or not. Those are the gold stories.

HHoH: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?
S(JC): To be honest, I’ve got no horror writer of any that I look up to or can say I’m that big over. I know about Steven King, but I only know him for the movies that are based off his work. I know of H.P Lovecraft only by name and some characters. I am very fond of David Lynch’s style of horror, very surreal, nightmare-like, subtle. Jeff is not David Lynch inspired, if any horror writer/director was to be compared, it would maybe be Wes Craven, since Jeff will be slasher horror once I get to working on a full Jeff story.

HHoH: What work of your own are you most proud of?
S(JC): The ones that were deleted along with my youtube channel, due to people who didn’t agree with me creating Jeff and made it their goal to hide the fact that I’m the creator, so I have my pictures to be proud of, and the saved stories that will be within the Jeff-verse (non-official name) based on my percocet-laced dreams.
I’m really eager to get my fictional universe out there to whoever is interested in the mythos that goes beyond Jeff himself, but other characters and events. It’s a really exciting thing for me and I hope that it all comes into full fruition — maybe then Jeff won’t be the only thing people ask from me.

HHoH: I did notice that your YouTube channel had been deleted. What happened there? Is there anywhere else I can send your fans to watch the origin story?
S(JC): People who think I’m a phoney is what happened. Many people tend to disagree with my version of Jeff and all they do is flag their problem away. Sadly there is no other video that I possess, someone might have a copy video somewhere, I do hold on to hope that I get my account back soon.

HHoH: The fans are very passionate about the character. Are there any examples of fan art, such as images, films or readings, in particular that have impressed you?
S(JC): The ones that don’t display him in sexual situations relieve me, and there are the ones that really have a different and cool spin on him — some are impressive that really make me think: “Aw shit, I want to do that with him too!”

HHoH: By the same token, are there any unauthorised attempts to cash in on the popularity of your character that have upset you?
S(JC): Many, but I’ve taken it all in my stride, as my production company (who’re going to help make Jeff more than just a story online) take care of the people who unfairly take the credit and money without any compensation for me. I welcome all the fan works, but when it comes to the monopoly of my creation they should understand how wrong it is to take what I made for themselves. I even get people telling me that on messages that it’s going to be for profit, no joke.

HHoH: Arguably the most popular spin-off is Jane the Killer. What are your thoughts on that character/story?
S(JC): In all honesty, I don’t read any of those fan stories that tend to go against what Jeff is about, so my opinion is pretty much neutral.

HHoH: The Jeff the Killer image is one of the most recognisable in all of Creepypasta. Where did it come from? Did you create the image yourself, and if so, what acted as the base model for your pic? I’ve heard rumours that it could be based on animals or even the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme.
S(JC): When it comes to the Overly Attached girlfriend, it wouldn’t make sense due to the fact that Jeff was around in 2006, and OAG was around like 2010-2012, something like that, so that speculation is rendered null.


HHoH: There has also been some controversy over Jeff the Killer caused by web users who claim the image is of a young lady named Katy Robinson who committed suicide after being bullied by trolls on 4chan. Would you care to address this?
S(JC): Oh yes, those rumors, I know all too well. The Katy Robinson one has become a little in-joke at this point, people speculate that it was a photoshopped version of her, because a person on 4chan said so, and they took the bait because 4chan is known to be creditable. I really wish that one day these rumors of Katy and Jeff would die, but people are people so I expect this to last until 2027 if Jeff is still relevant.
Jeff is a latex mask, that was worn. Three pictures were taken, two made it online. I’m not sure about the 3rd, I think it was sideways in the bathroom instead of the closet. One picture is unedited where the eyes are red around and the mouth is open, the edited one is where the eyes are blackened, and the mouth is smudged a little with Photoshop to make a smile.
The clothes worn during the two pictures were a white T-shirt and blue jeans. That’s the real Jeff a creepy mask.

HHoH: Do you still have the mask or any other pictures of it? Can you remember where you bought it? I’m sure readers would love the chance to own the same mask that inspired Jeff.
S(JC): The mask was purely man-made from latex and I think a little other material to have it cover the whole head, plus a wig ensemble. The pictures taken were long gone, and the mask was put in the closet after use so it’s definitely long gone. 
If I had that mask with me, there’s no telling how valuable it would be. But I do know that with every success there is merchandise, so I’m sure fans will be getting professionally made masks of Jeff instead of that crudely put together one that was the original.

HHoH: What else can your fans look forward to from you (and Jeff) in the days ahead?
S(JC): Aside from Jeff, I got a truck load of stories that I’ve been saving until the right time. New Characters, even ones that I will be in the process of purchasing from creators that don’t want nothing to do with them, a really rich world that I hope everyone will enjoy!

HHoH: Is there any link you’d like me to send my readers to so they can discover some more of your creations? Or any in particular that you’d like to share?
S(JC): Deviant art is a good place to get the idea, soon I’ll be adding more pictures and story, so stay tuned!

Come back next time, when I’ll be revisiting another classic Creepypasta tale, complete with an interview with the man who created it.

Monday, 31 October 2016

DARK WEB : AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 24: BEDTIME

THIS FEATURE FIRST APPEARED AT UK HORROR SCENE HERE. ALL SUBSEQUENT CHAPTERS WILL BE PUBLISHED THERE FIRST.

As children there are few times in which we’re as likely to feel the icy suffocating grip of panic as those moments in which we wake in the middle of the night, our familiar room transformed into something unrecognisable by the cloak of darkness.
The imagination of a child is more than capable of filling the murky gloom and eerie silence with any number of otherworldly monsters, pushing them over the edge to tears and hysteria.
But what if these monsters were to be more than a figment of the imagination?
This week’s feature covers a story, plus a series of sequels, that examines this exact scenario — and has become one of the most popular and highly-regarded Creepypastas for the skilful manner in which it does so.
This story is Michael Whitehouse’s Bedtime.

Unlike a lot of the stories I’ve covered in this series, there’s very little doubt as to where this Creepypasta originated. On 8 August 2012, prolific author Michael Whitehouse (under his Redditor name Mike_Rants) published Bedtime to the nosleep subreddit.
You can read the story here.

In the story, Michael describes a series of incidents that occurred in his childhood home. When he was eight years old, Michael writes, he and his brother were each given their own bedrooms. Michael’s room was an odd, narrow shape, and he was given the bunk beds that he and his brother had shared prior to the move. Like any young boy would, he promptly claimed the top bunk as his own.
That first night, the young lad wakes having been disturbed by a noise. Still groggy, it takes him a little while to realise that he can hear movement… and it’s coming from his bottom bunk. Disturbed, he gives away his position, which causes the mysterious presence in the lower bunk to become agitated, wheezing angrily and thrashing about, prompting Michael to cry out for help.
When his mother checks on the boy there is no sign of any intruder, but the feeling of fear continues into the next day.
The following night he is visited once again by the mysterious entity and it becomes quite clear that the thing in the bottom bunk wants one thing and one thing only — our young protagonist.
These events continue night after night, until one day the boy makes a terrible mistake and fills the bottom bunk with obstacles — which prompts the nightmarish visitor to come to his bunk instead…


The story is pretty simple but it works incredibly well. Whitehouse’s writing style echoes that of the classic Victorian ghost story writer, the likes of the James’ (Henry and M.R.) or Blackwood. It’s highly descriptive and focuses a great deal on evoking a sense of dread, something which becomes palpable by the time the story reaches its spine-chilling climax.
It plays on our natural fear of the dark (something that, when it reaches a severe enough level has been called achluophobia, lygophobia, nyctophobia or scotophobia), a fear that is especially common in children. By featuring a young protagonist, Whitehouse’s story works on two levels: first, it inspires more sympathy as children are smaller, weaker and less capable of coping with such horrors than an adult character; and second, it transports us back to our own youth and encourages us to remember the days when the dark, or rather the imagined threats concealed within, were so haunting and terrifying to us.
The creature in the story, complete with the twisting, wringing sheets, is reminiscent of the nightly visitor in M.R. James’ iconic Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You, My Lad and the phenomenal 1968 BBC adaptation directed by Jonathan Miller. Later descriptions of it as otherworldly, almost arachnid presence also tap into one of the most widespread phobias, all while imbuing it with a predatory aspect.
In short, the whole thing is impeccably crafted to terrify the reader.

And terrify a huge audience it did, with pretty much universal acclaim from the NoSleep community. So imagine that same community’s joy when Whitehouse rewarded their support with a sequel, Bedtime: The Aftermath, a mere two days later. You can read the story here.
In this chapter, Michael goes on to describe another childhood incident, this time in his new room. He writes of a series of encounters with an otherworldly intruder who appears to him each evening sat in a battered old armchair at the end of his bed. Much like the first part of Whitehouse’s story, these visits soon take a decidedly threatening turn.
Some readers reacted with displeasure towards the sequel as they felt that Michael’s superb first story had such a wonderful conclusion, but for the most part, the vast majority of Michael’s fans were delighted to see the story continue.

And this was not yet the final chapter of Bedtime, with another sequel, Bedtime: My Fears Realised, published to NoSleep on 17 August 2012. You can read that chapter here.
Whitehouse’s third chapter outlines his decision to return to his childhood home to confront and banish his fears once and for all. Needless to say, the visit does not go well, and what is worse, this chapter concludes with the startling revelation that something may have followed Michael home. This is another wonderful chapter in the story and finishes on an exquisitely crafted double chill that had readers clamouring for more.

Thankfully for those readers, they had but one week to wait before a fourth chapter was published, this one entitled Bedtime: Something Wicked This Way Comes. Check it out here.
As if the events of the first three parts of Whitehouse’s story weren’t bad enough, it is in this fourth chapter that the incidents with the monstrous entity really escalate. In this part Michael reveals that the nightly haunter has turned its attentions not just to our narrator, but also those close to him. It describes a truly nightmarish scenario that leaves our protagonist at rock bottom and with only one option available to him — to put an end to his torment.
It’s another fantastic story and really pulls on the heartstrings, ensuring that the reader roots for Michael and feels his anguish at the loss of his beloved Mary.
The altercation described in the story is terrifying and surprisingly graphic, but it needs to be, because it is this chapter that finally spurs our hero on to stop playing the victim and take the role of aggressor in the game of cat and mouse between he and the wheezing thing. By now the fans were gripped and eagerly awaited the concluding part of Whitehouse’s story.

They had to wait a mere five days before the fifth and final chapter, Bedtime: Sleep Tight, made its way to NoSleep. Read it here.
In this thrilling conclusion to the series, Michael takes the battle to the thing in a series of life-threatening clashes. I shan’t spoil the conclusion here, but rest assured it matches up to the quality of the preceding chapters.


As is so often the case when a Creepypasta becomes a smash, Bedtime was soon shared and uploaded to all the usual web sites, including the Creepypasta wikia and Creepypasta.com, where Whitehouse himself posted the story. It proved to be just as popular here, drawing even more admiring eyes to Whitehouse’s work.

This in turn translated into the usual examples of fanart, including some fantastic readings on YouTube, arguably the finest of which is by the always excellent Otis Jiry for the good folks over at Chilling Tales For Dark Nights. I thoroughly recommend checking it out here.

Yet as brilliant as some of these adaptations are, none of them could have existed without the work of one man: Michael Whitehouse.

The charming, articulate Michael was kind enough to agree to speak to UK Horror Scene about the creation of Bedtime, and you can read his words right here.


HICKEY'S HOUSE OF HORRORS: Hi Michael, thanks so much for agreeing to speak with me.
The most obvious question first — what served as your inspiration for the story?
MICHAEL WHITEHOUSE: It happened to me. When I tell people that they usually look at me with an expression which says this man is quite mad. I imagine your readers doing the same. It would be truer to say it’s a memory I have. I’m pretty skeptical about these things. I always say seeing is not believing because the human mind is so easily tricked. For that reason I tend to think that it was some sort of sleep disturbance, perhaps sleep paralysis. That being said, the memory is so strong that it does make me wonder occasionally, and not in a good way. Some people might think I say this to be dramatic or promote the story, but that’s the truth of it.
I would like to say that I changed a couple of details of course for dramatic effect, the last line of the story for example, but for the most part it’s what I remember.
People often refer to Bedtime as a creepypasta, but it actually appeared first as a story on the subreddit No Sleep. For those who have never visited it, NoSleep is a subreddit where people share first person horror stories which “are real”. NoSleep was quite small at that time, but I received enough encouragement that I went on to write four sequel stories. I had been reading a few posts there, as well as acquainting myself with creepypasta, and decided to share a story or two. It was the first one I shared, and after appearing on the website creepypasta.com it was embraced by the horror community in a big way. It changed my life, and without getting too maudlin about it, I owe that to everyone who has read, narrated, shared, and listened to Bedtime and its sequel stories. Most of all to those who come back for more.

HHoH: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?
MW: Most of my influences come from the late 19th and early 20th century ghost story writers. M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, W. W. Jacobs, Sheridan LeFanu, E.F. Benson, Oliver Onions, Edith Nesbit – the list goes on, and so could I; I’ll stop there. Needless to say I write often in the ghost story genre, and it’s a genre I love dearly.
Then there are the weird fiction writers like Ambrose Bierce, H. P. Lovecraft (despite his racist ways), Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, etc.
It goes without saying that I’m a huge fan of Poe (both his poems and prose), but I also love more modern writers like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Neil Gaiman.
Outside of horror I admire Hemingway and Orwell, although I don’t write like them and they’d probably consider my work overly descriptive.
I love Tolkien, The Hobbit was the first full novel I ever read, and I go back to Stoker’s Dracula every few years. I also love a bunch of comic, radio, and film script writers, but I won’t bore you with another list. Okay, I’ll stop there, but there are so many wonderful writers past and present that it’s easy to be overwhelmed by who to read next!

HHoH: What work of your own are you most proud of?
MW: I wrote a story called Forgotten Valentine (read it here), which, if not the best thing I’ve written, it’s certainly the most important to me. It was the story which got me writing again after a few years away from it, even before I shared Bedtime, and it’s the first story I ever wrote that was more. Not just filled with bones which rattle in the night or an unseen breath by the reader’s ear; it was about life. I’m reminded of when Bradbury said he first knew he’d written something moving, and that was a big moment for him. Forgotten Valentine was, and is, that moment for me.

HHoH: What is your favourite Creepypasta by an author other than yourself?
MW: You’ll get me into trouble with this one! I’m lucky to count many of the great creepypasta writers as friends. It’s very difficult to boil it down to any one single story. Needless to say you can’t go wrong with anything written by Vincent Vena Cava or Milos Bogetic. Leon Chan is excellent and underappreciated. William Dalphin, M. J. Pack, Slimebeast, Bloodworth, Matt Dymerski, Anton Lesch, T.W. Grimm… Again, the list could go on.
If I had to pick one story though, I’m going to have to be boring and predictable and say Dathan Auerbach’s Penpal. It’s a rip-roaring read, and while it initially started off as a NoSleep story, I think most would consider it to be a creepypasta classic, certainly the first ever creepypasta novel. It has all of the ingredients: first person narrative, childhood fears, adult insecurities, and heart as well. It’s written in a very matter of fact style, but that only heightens the feeling that it could have happened.

HHoH: The fans are very passionate about the story. Are there any examples of fan art, such as films or readings, in particular that have impressed you?
MW: A lot of people have adapted Bedtime in different ways. It was adapted into a play in London for a short time, and I was even in negotiations at one point to have it turned into a pilot for an anthology TV show, but unfortunately that fell through, I even wrote a script.
In any case, there are some great narrators out there who have read the story. I’d have to highlight CreepypastaJr as he was the first high profile narrator to do the entire Bedtime series, which brought me a lot of new readers early on, and he did an amazing job.
I'd also give special praise to David Cummings and the Nosleep Podcast who did a brilliant version and have always been so supportive of my work.
HHoH: I've heard an excellent reading of the story by Otis Jiry over at Chilling Tales for Dark Nights. What were your thoughts on the adaptation?
MW: I’m a big fan of both Chilling Tales for Dark Nights and Otis Jiry. Otis lends a level of gravitas to every story he reads, and his adaptation was no different. He has such a wonderful voice, you can hear a character moment in every nook and cranny of each word. I’m actually producing my own anthology horror series podcast called Near Midnight at the moment, with Otis lending his talents to episode 3 of the first series.

HHoH: You have a few stories up at CTFDN, what encouraged you to work with them? Is this an ongoing partnership and what else can we expect to see the guys there cover in the future?
MW: CTFDN has always been really welcoming to me which I put down to Craig Groshek, the founder, and Jeff Clement who used to be a producer there. The production value is always so high. I’ve signed a bunch of stories over to them so that they can do their own narrations. I’d love to write some exclusive stories for their podcast at some point, we’ve talked about it, so fingers crossed down the line that’s something which can be hammered out.

HHoH: You're a prolific writer, regularly releasing stories to the web. How do you keep the creative juices flowing? Is writing a process that you enjoy or is it more about getting your stories out there to an audience?
MW: I love writing, so much so that it’s my full time job. Not that it says anything about the quality of my work, but I’ve probably released more stories than any other writer in the online community. I’m not exactly sure why that is, I think it’s because I try my best to finish projects and write every day. That’s the biggest challenge as a writer. The tale goes stale, and you want to move onto something else. Staying the course is the hardest thing to do, but the most rewarding.
Continually putting out material is difficult. While I write full time, most of that is as a freelance writer, even a ghost writer. I write other people’s stories or articles for their websites to pay the bills, and then when it comes to writing my own stuff sometimes the tank is empty. It’s incredibly frustrating. Hopefully in the next couple of years I’ll be able to write fiction full time if my book sales keep up, then it’ll have been all worthwhile and I can focus on what I love.

HHoH: Finally will you ever return to the story of Bedtime in the future? And what else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead?
MW: After writing Bedtime, I wrote four sequel stories. Then I started tidying up the stories so I could publish them. Writing is strange sometimes, it takes you places you didn’t even know you were going. Now, those stories have grown legs, wings, and tentacles, and I’m sitting here with a finished draft of a novel called Bedtime: A Ghost Story. I’m nervous about putting it out because the original story has so many fans, but I’m really excited to be releasing it in the next few months. Can’t wait to see what people think. Hopefully, they’ll like it.
I also have two horror novellas which really just need edits – The Mermaid of Porthleven which I’d describe as The Goonies meets Lovecraft, and The Sins of Abigail Flesh, which is a supernatural detective story. On top of that I have about 30 short stories, some of them released others gathering dust, so I’ll probably put them together as a couple of short story collections at some point. I’ve already released a horror novella called On A Hill and two short story collections, The Face of Fear, and The Horrors of Christmas, but it’s been some time since I’ve published anything else other than the free stories I release regularly. The next six months are going to be pretty crazy with three books coming out.
As for other projects, I run a Youtube channel called Ghastly Tales () and a podcast of the same name. It started off as a solo project, now we have a great team of people there and I love it! We make horror narrations, plays, and films. It’s a blast, and something I hope can grow and grow into the future.
Thanks for the interview, it’s been a pleasure.

To read more of Michael’s work, do check out his official site: www.michael-whitehouse.com plus his social media accounts at https://twitter.com/HorrorOfMike and www.facebook.com/Michael.Whitehouse.Author  

Much like those names of accomplished and talented authors that Whitehouse was kind enough to list, he is one of the finest talents exhibiting his skills in the genre. It is the discovery of horror gems by the likes of Michael and his contemporaries that has fuelled the growth of Creepypasta into something as popular and enjoyable as it has become. In the hands of writers such as these, that growth won’t be slowing any time soon.


Join me again next time for another exclusive interview with one of the fathers of Creepypasta — the creator of one of the most iconic and popular characters in the genre.

If you haven’t already, do please check out and Like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House @HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.


Friday, 21 October 2016

RAW REVIEW: OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL


If there is a key genre archetype for the 2010s, such as the slasher revival of the Nineties or the classic monster movies of the Fifties, it is almost certainly the Blumhouse-esque jumpscare heavy ghost story.
Some of these have been fantastic (Such as The Conjuring and Sinister), others… well, less so. One of the more underwhelming of these was 2014’s Ouija, which was pretty average at best. However, it obviously did well-enough with audiences to warrant a follow-up, and despite initial reservations, my interest was piqued when Mike Flanagan, director of Oculus, was attached to the project.
The film has hit UK cinemas today, so is there life after Ouija?
Or is this a franchise that should have stayed buried?
Read on...

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)


Dir: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Parker Mack, Henry Thomas

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, but continue at your own risk.

Flanagan’s follow-up to Ouija is actually a prequel, although it holds up well enough as a film in its own right if you haven’t seen the previous movie.
Set in 1967, it is the story of widow Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) who holds fake seances in her home to make ends meet, often assisted by daughters: sweet young Doris (Lulu Wilson) and rebellious teen Paulina (Annalise Basso).
However, when Alice decides to incorporate a Ouija board into their act, Doris thinks she has made contact with her deceased father. At first overjoyed, Alice starts to become suspicious about who, or what, might be communicating with them, when the girls’ headteacher (and her potential love interest), widower Father Tom (Thomas) raises some concerns.
Even headstrong Paulina’s is dragged away from her burgeoning relationship with fellow pupil Mikey (Parker Mack) to re-evaluate what she knows when Doris’ behaviour takes on a steadily more disturbing turn. Finally the family must work together to face the terrifying truth about the board… and the beings beyond it.




THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I think the most important thing to state in this review is that Ouija: Origin of Evil is a MASSIVE improvement on its lackluster predecessor. If you take one thing from my words, it should be that this is twice the film of the 2014 original.
Director Mike Flanagan proved himself to be a filmmaker to watch with his impressive short film Oculus and the feature-length follow-up, and that skill is again evident here. He knows how to craft a scare — and not just the piano-slam jumpscares that seem prevalent in horror nowadays, but genuine, unsettling creep-outs. However, he also knows how to tell a good story, with characters we actually care about.
The film definitely benefits from its Sixties period-setting, having a kind of Conjuring-lite feel that helps to draw the viewer in. I love horror movies that immerse us in a different time period, so I may well be biased, but this instantly helps the film to stand out from the crowd. With the likes of the aforementioned Conjuring and the retro Eighties charm of Stranger Things being all the vogue at the moment, the throwback charms of Ouija: Origin of Evil come at just the right time.
That the movie is cast with decent actors, rather than shiny, plastic Hollywood teens is also a plus.
The central trio are impressive — both Reaser and Basso are fine actresses (and have the requisite movie star good looks to ensure they’ll go far). Reaser manages to combine a sympathetic vulnerability with the toughness you’d expect of her character, which gives her more depth than your average horror movie lead.
Basso is also excellent (she has serious Scream Queen potential) but I was most blown away by young Wilson. She’s astonishingly good for an actress of such tender years, effortlessly veering between cute and sympathetic and spooky as hell. I know the creepy kid trope has been done to death in horror, but this time it really does work.
Sadly, some of the other characters are given a little less to do (with the exception of the solid and reliable, if unspectacular, Thomas), although the actors play their roles well and the story doesn’t suffer for their inclusion.
This storyline is simple and, as I stated before, is not reliant on knowledge of the original movie. It’s the manner in which this story is told that is the movie’s biggest strength. As those of us who saw the first film already know exactly who will be surviving until the end credits and how/why the others meet their end, a lot of the suspense of the story is snatched away, although I imagine viewers who are new to the story will be legitimately shocked at some of the things that happen late on. It’s difficult to review the plot precisely for this reason — I imagine half the audience will already know all about the Zander family, while others will simply scratch their heads the first time Doris receives the chillingly portentous message from the other side: ‘Hi friend’.
I think writers Flanagan and Jeff Howard do a fine job of walking that fine line, throwing in some nice references to the original film while telling their own story.
Ultimately, the film works because it is atmospheric as can be (and that’s before the always creepy gimmick of viewing the spirits through the lens of the planchette comes into play — spirits brought to spine-tingling ‘unlife’ by creature feature legend Doug Jones), and shows real heart in the family dynamic of the leads. That's right, warmth and chills in one package – bravo Mr Flanagan.



THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Of course, no film is without its flaws and Ouija: Origin of Evil, while better than its predecessor is no exception.
As good as our lead characters are, some of the supporting players are actually pretty pointless in all honesty, existing solely to serve as fodder to the evil spirits late on. Oh well, you can’t win them all.
I also praised the movie for the manner in which it neatly managed to avoid an over-reliance on familiarity with the first flick to tell its story. In fact, this raises its own problem, because at times it directly contradicts some of the established facts from the 2014 film. The relationship between Doris and Alice is quite clearly explained late on in the original movie, as are the events that occur at the climax of this one, and Flanagan and Howard clearly pull a bit of a fast one with the etsablished mythos. Although an argument can be made that the pair do have a legitimate way out due to the mental state of the person telling the story in the first entry of the series. I think it's safe to say that this may irritate any fans of the original, but as they seem pretty few and far between, I can't see that becoming much of an issue here!
One problem that plenty of genre fans had with the trailer for Origin of Evil that arrived a few months ago was the decidedly iffy CGI on display. Sadly, some elements of this are still evident in a couple of key scenes (plus there are some of moments that unintentionally conjure up memories of the LG phone ‘found footage’ ad from last year) but I don't think they're quite poor enough to derail the film from delivering some well-executed frights and a solid 99 minutes of entertainment. In fact, some of those CG effects, especially the distended jaw gag, are considerably better than that same ropy trailer may have led you to believe. 


THE VERDICT: In all honesty, I very much doubt that Ouija: Origin of Evil will end up as anybody’s favourite genre flick of the year, but over a 12 month spell in which we’ve had very few squibs, this is another effort that defies expectation to pleasantly surprise. It has a stellar cast, a coherent and creepy story and takes the time to actually deliver genuine tension and frights instead of cheap jumps. It's good enough to warrant checking out and actually proves an even better flick than fellow horror short alumni, David F. Sandberg's Lights Out.
Plus, any film that runs a spot-on Exorcist 3-style jump-scare homage late on has got to be worth your time, right?

Ouija: Origin of Evil is in UK cinemas now. You can read more about the film at its official Facebook page here.

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