Thursday, 10 March 2016

DARK WEB: AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA — PART 9: 1999


PLEASE NOTE, THIS FEATURE FIRST APPEARED AT UK HORROR SCENE HERE. ALL SUBSEQUENT CHAPTERS WILL APPEAR AT UKHS FIRST.
 
The last couple of entries I’ve written for this ongoing series of features on internet creepypastas have focused on childhood terrors, more specifically those based on supernatural threats attached to them. From the Corruptus of the Abandoned By Disney series to the cursed tape of suicidemouse.avi by way of the mysterious source of the deeply disturbing Candle Cove, each has been based on an otherworldly horror.
Today’s creepypasta continues this theme of children’s television but adds a more realistic threat. This story is 1999.


The story of 1999 first appeared on 19 September 2011 when it was posted on Creepypasta Wiki here by a user named Giant engineer.
The lengthy story, which you can read at the link above, is written by a young man named Elliot who recounts the events that happened in his life back in 1999 when he was five-years-old. At the height of Pokemon-mania young Elliot found his viewing of back-to back episodes of the cult cartoon clashed with his father’s watching of the evening news. Eventually his father, tired of the boy’s complaints, bought an old fashioned ‘bunny ear’ TV for his son’s room.
The boy, overjoyed at his gift, soon settled into a routine of post-school viewing — which was when he discovered Caledon Local 21.
The station was a small local channel, broadcast from the town of Caledon, Ontario, not far from the city in which Elliot lived.
Its programming consisted solely of children’s programmes, airing between 4 and 9pm, all of which appeared to be shot in the same location and by the same individual.
One of these was called Booby and featured a live action hand who would get into various hijinx, often involving ‘friends’.
The second, and arguably the most disturbing was titled Mr Bear’s Cellar and featured a man in a dirty bear costume who lived in a dingy cellar and cheerily welcomed pairs of young children to his home each week.
The final programme was decidedly more bizarre. Titled Soup and Spoon, it featured a can of soup and a spoon on strings, swinging around in front of a camera and having various poorly executed adventures, before eventually cutting to several nervous looking children sat at a table and being served the soup.
As Elliot’s tale progresses, his stories about the shows become more and more disturbing, until he describes an episode in which Mr Bear encourages children to write to him to visit his cellar. Elliot naively does so and receives a response, encouraging him to come to visit Mr Bear and Booby.
When Elliot’s father agrees to take him, the pair soon discover how close he came to real evil… and Elliot’s story is not over yet.


Written as a series of VERY sporadically updated blog posts, 1999 is legitimately chilling. The events of the videos that Elliot watches in his quest to discover the truth about Caledon Local 21 are horrifying, while the extremely detailed story gives us plenty of reason to believe Giant engineer’s story.
Not only is it very well written (an absolutely invaluable tool in convincing people that the content is worth entertaining is by presenting it in a suitably polished manner), it hits a lot marks with the little things it does well.
From the description of the town of Caledon (a real and otherwise pretty nondescript place), to facts such as the time at which Pokemon actually aired in the region, there’s plenty here to make us wonder ‘What if?’
Of course, the fact that the monster of the piece is no mythical web bogeyman but a psychotic child abuser boosts the legitimacy of the tale. Sadly the daily news is full of stories of such real world monsters.
1999 has convinced plenty of people that it has a basis in actual events, as this post on Yahoo! Answers proves with plenty of people even claiming to have viewed some of the shows in question.
Elsewhere posts asking about the ‘truth’ of the story have appeared all over the web, such as this Reddit entry.
What’s more, other stories have emerged online since the story first went viral. One of the most famous of these 1999 – The Terrifying Truth was uploaded to Deviantart by user Sabian002 on 12 August 2014 and details what happened when somebody attempted to test the story and attempted to contact Mr Bear himself. Others, such as this nosleep Creepypasta, claim to be by members of Mr Bear’s victims’ families, and there are even YouTube videos claiming to show the programmes described in the story, plus (even more frighteningly) hinting that the man from inside the fluffy bear suit is still producing his tapes.
With so much material online it’s easy to see how some readers would believe the story, but let’s look at this more closely shall we?
First, what can you remember watching on TV when you were five years old?
I’m guessing the answer is a big, fat nothing, but even if it isn't, I’m sure you can’t describe it in the level of meticulous detail that Elliot/Giant engineer uses. That’s red flag number one.
Now, while a quick Google search for Caledon Local 21 and ‘missing children’ yields plenty of hits, not one of them is from a recognised and reputable news outlet. Not a single news report.

Surely if over a dozen children were abducted and burnt alive there would be some reports of such a heinous crime somewhere?
Finally, let’s look at the sources for this material: the Creepypasta Wiki; the nosleep sub-Reddit; and Deviantart. These are all creative outlets for people to show off their skills at creating fiction.
The reason for this is that every single one of these stories is fictional. They are not even loosely based on any real events.
So why are people so quick to believe the events of 1999 and its spin-offs?
Like the very best urban legends and myths, it serves as a warning about a very real problem. Children should not trust strangers.
That 1999 is so frightening also helps its cause. Deep down, people are frightened, every single one of us. Horror is so popular because it gives us, the viewers a cathartic release from our own fears by allowing us to transpose them onto a safe fictional bogeyman or monster. As such it provokes a strong suspension of disbelief in us, which in turn can easily veer into actual belief if the story doesn't push its luck.
The key scare of 1999 comes from that staple fright of urban legends: the unwitting close shave with a dreadful fate. From Humans Can Lick Too to Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Turn On The Light to The Killer in the Backseat, the most famous, popular and outright scary urban legends all focus on this one element, that somebody going about their normal business unknowingly ventured headlong into mortal danger. In a world in which peril potentially lurks around every corner it’s obvious why these stories gain traction.
In fact, it could be argued that narrowly avoiding death is actually scarier than suffering the gory fate. If these people came that close to a messy end without realising it, what’s to stop you from doing exactly the same thing?
As 1999 proves, there are few things as scary as fear itself.
The last blog post from Elliot was added on 21 May 2015. The story remains unfinished. But with gaps as long as 18 months between his previous posts, I think it’s a safe bet that Giant engineer will return to further flesh out the ongoing mystery of Mr Bear, INRI and Caledon Local 21.
Much like the rumours of its legitimacy, this is a story that is set to run and run.
Join me again next week when I focus once again on a chilling children’s TV Creepypasta.

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.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

RAW REVIEW: THE BOY

In my recent feature on the Creepypasta story Candle Cove I discussed automatonophobia, the common fear of man-made objects created to closely resemble the human form. These can include mannequins, ventriloquist's dummies and scarecrows, but one of the most common forms of the condition is pediophobia, the fear of dolls.
Horror has been quick to recognise this fear and the creepy doll has become a staple of horror films and stories.
The latest of these, William Brent Bell's The Boy hits UK cinemas this weekend.
Is this a film you'll want to play with?
Or is it one ready to be forgotten at the bottom of the toy box?
Read on...

THE BOY (2016)


Dir: William Brent Bell
Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Stephanie Lemelin, Ben Robson

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

Greta (Cohan) is a young American nanny hired by a wealthy English couple to care for their son.
Upon arriving at the decidedly Gothic country house and its sprawling grounds, Greta is introduced to the pair who hired her — the elderly Mr and Mrs Heelshire. Mr Heelshire (Norton) seems weary while his wife (Hardcastle) is stern and imposing.
However, Greta is shocked when the pair take her to see their son Brahms — and she realises that she has been hired to care for a life-size doll.
It emerges that since the couple lost the real Brahms years ago, they have used the doll as a replacement to help them cope with their grief. Now they plan to go away on a holiday and they want to be sure that their beloved 'boy' is in safe hands.
After they set off Greta finds herself living a lonely existence in the house. Miles from the nearest small village, her only interactions come in chats with the charming friendly grocery delivery driver, Malcolm (Evans), and long-distance phonecalls to her friend Sandy (Lemelin) back in the States, calls that hint at a tragedy in Greta's past.
But is Greta as alone as she seems? Little events around the house suggest that she may not be the only resident — and how does Brahms seem to move around the home on his own?


THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I like horror to be spooky, for the frights to come from unease and carefully cultivated atmosphere. That is something that The Boy manages admirably.
The dark and dusty mansion may have become something of a horror cliche but there is a reason why it continues to be used to this day — because it works!
The production design by John Willett is superb, the house is full of little antiquated trinkets and disconcertingly alert-seeming portraits glare down imperiously from the walls.
Of course, the most striking design triumph comes in Brahms himself. In the Candle Cove feature I discussed the Uncanny Valley hypothesis, in which when inanimate objects reach a certain level of realism there is an abrupt and steep drop in the comfort-level of the beholder. The team behind The Boy understand this and, instead of creating a cartoonishly scary doll a la Annabelle, they give us a decidedly understated design which is more the frightening for its realism. The only nod to an obviously unsettling appearance is the sharp contrast between the doll's deathly white porcelain 'skin' and its jet-black hair and attire.
Further adding to the spooky aesthetics is the work of cinematographer Daniel Pearl who gives the whole film a murky, washed out look, heightening the feeling of age and long-buried secrets. 
This atmosphere is ratcheted up by the awesomely chilling soundtrack by the very talented Bear McCreary. It's a somber and understated affair that gels perfectly with the shadowy look of the movie.
As well as the impressive visuals the film also boasts a strong cast. The Walking Dead's Cohan proves a capable leading lady and her ability to emote frailty with her big expressive eyes proves a valuable asset. She's a talented actress and acquits herself admirably.
Evans lends strong support (even if the character is a bit too stereotypically 'British') while the excellent Norton and Hardcastle more than deliver with their limited screentime.  
But let us make no bones about it, this is a film built on atmosphere, one which emulates horror classics of yesteryear.
The story, written by Stacey Menear, affords plenty of old-fashioned shocks, and fans of older gothic horror will certainly get a kick out of the big reveal in the final act.
What's more, the story gives director Bell plenty of opportunities to deliver more visceral jolts. There are some excellently worked jumps, while a couple of key moments deliver proper squirming discomfort. 
Bell is undoubtedly a talented director, ensuring that the film always looks and flows well, with some sterling production values. But more specifically, Bell is a superb horror story teller. He takes a handful of quite hackneyed genre tropes and mixes them together in such a way as to keep them frightening. Impressive work indeed.


THE BAD BITS (mild spoiler warning): I suppose the problem that most viewers will have with The Boy is its lack of originality. I think it's fair to say that the film doesn't exactly break new ground, but it tells a story that feels like a clear homage to Gothic horror, and what's more, it does it very well. 
That the big twist is somewhat predictable is another problem that stems from this, but luckily, unlike Goodnight Mommy, it doesn't overly telegraph this twist, nor does the whole film hinge on this reveal.
Now some of the more extreme horror fans may well complain about the comparative toothlessness of The Boy. It's a fair comment, this certainly isn't a sadistic splatterfest for the hardened gorehound. Instead it is essentially, a very atmospheric thriller with plenty of horror trappings. I don't think this is a bad thing — there's room for both types of flick on the DVD shelf here at The House.
Finally, while I praised the well-worked jumpscares, I did feel that Bell may have overdone it with 'BOO!-Not-really,-it's-just-a-dream'-cliche. It's ok to deliver an audience awakening jolt in this way once during a movie, any more is really pushing your luck.


THE VERDICT: The Boy is a fun little shocker with bags of atmosphere and some supremely spooky design work. Sure William Brent Bell's movie isn't the most original flick out there, and those craving a high bodycount would be better off looking elsewhere, but if you want spooky, this one's for you.

The Boy is released in UK cinemas this Friday, 11 March. For information, check out the film's official Facebook page here.

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.



Sunday, 6 March 2016

DARK WEB: AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA — PART 8: CANDLE COVE

PLEASE NOTE, THIS FEATURE FIRST APPEARED AT UK HORROR SCENE HERE. ALL SUBSEQUENT CHAPTERS WILL APPEAR AT UKHS FIRST.

My last two entries in this series of features on Creepypasta looked at stories made all the more potent by subverting and twisting media properties associated with the innocence of youth. However, these are not the only stories to do this to pack a dramatic punch — far from it.
This week we look at another of my favourite Creepypasta stories, one that also uses this approach, but with a twist — for while suicidemouse.avi and Abandoned By Disney used the familiarity of Walt Disney’s creations to craft its scares, this utilises a long-forgotten kids TV show from cable TV back in the early Seventies.
This show is Candle Cove.


The first appearance of the Candle Cove story was on the Ichor Falls web site on 15 March, 2009. It was submitted by artist Kris Straub, and took the form of a series of forum entries on the aforementioned cheaply made show, following the adventures of a young girl named Janice with a motley crew of pirates aboard the ship, The Laughingstock, around the titular Candle Cove. The crew would often experience dark and decidedly unsettling situations, often at the hands of the terrifying villain The Skin-Taker. As the members of the forum reawaken their long forgotten fears regarding the show, they build towards a terrifying revelation.
Read the story below:

NetNostalgia Forum - Television (local)
Skyshale033 
Subject: Candle Cove local kid's show?
Does anyone remember this kid's show? It was called Candle Cove and I must have been 6 or 7. I never found reference to it anywhere so I think it was on a local station around 1971 or 1972. I lived in Ironton at the time. I don't remember which station, but I do remember it was on at a weird time, like 4:00 PM.

mike_painter65 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
it seems really familiar to me…..i grew up outside of ashland and was 9 yrs old in 72. candle cove…was it about pirates? i remember a pirate marionete at the mouth of a cave talking to a little girl

Skyshale033 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
YES! Okay I'm not crazy! I remember Pirate Percy. I was always kind of scared of him. He looked like he was built from parts of other dolls, real low-budget. His head was an old porcelain baby doll, looked like an antique that didn't belong on the body. I don't remember what station this was! I don't think it was WTSF though.

Jaren_2005 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
Sorry to ressurect this old thread but I know exactly what show you mean, Skyshale. I think Candle Cove ran for only a couple months in ‘71, not ‘72. I was 12 and I watched it a few times with my brother. It was channel 58, whatever station that was. My mom would let me switch to it after the news. Let me see what I remember.
It took place in Candle cove, and it was about a little girl who imagined herself to be friends with pirates. The pirate ship was called the Laughingstock, and Pirate Percy wasn't a very good pirate because he got scared too easily. And there was calliope music constantly playing. Don't remember the girl's name. Janice or Jade or something. Think it was Janice.

Skyshale033 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
Thank you Jaren!!! Memories flooded back when you mentioned the Laughingstock and channel 58. I remember the bow of the ship was a wooden smiling face, with the lower jaw submerged. It looked like it was swallowing the sea and it had that awful Ed Wynn voice and laugh. I especially remember how jarring it was when they switched from the wooden/plastic model, to the foam puppet version of the head that talked.

mike_painter65 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
ha ha i remember now too. ;) do you remember this part skyshale: "you have…to go…INSIDE."

Skyshale033 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show? 
Ugh mike, I got a chill reading that. Yes I remember. That's what the ship always told Percy when there was a spooky place he had to go in, like a cave or a dark room where the treasure was. And the camera would push in on Laughingstock's face with each pause. YOU HAVE… TO GO… INSIDE. With his two eyes askew and that flopping foam jaw and the fishing line that opened and closed it. Ugh. It just looked so cheap and awful.
You guys remember the villain? He had a face that was just a handlebar mustache above really tall, narrow teeth.

kevin_hart 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
i honestly, honestly thought the villain was pirate percy. i was about 5 when this show was on. nightmare fuel.

Jaren_2005 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
That wasn't the villain, the puppet with the mustache. That was the villain's sidekick, Horace Horrible. He had a monocle too, but it was on top of the mustache. I used to think that meant he had only one eye.
But yeah, the villain was another marionette. The Skin-Taker. I can't believe what they let us watch back then.

kevin_hart 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
jesus h. christ, the skin taker. what kind of a kids show were we watching? i seriously could not look at the screen when the skin taker showed up. he just descended out of nowhere on his strings, just a dirty skeleton wearing that brown top hat and cape. and his glass eyes that were too big for his skull. christ almighty.

Skyshale033 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
Wasn't his top hat and cloak all sewn up crazily? Was that supposed to be children's skin??

mike_painter65 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
yeah i think so. rememer his mouth didn't open and close, his jaw just slid back and foth. i remember the little girl said "why does your mouth move like that" and the skin-taker didn't look at the girl but at the camera and said "TO GRIND YOUR SKIN"

Skyshale033 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
I'm so relieved that other people remember this terrible show!
I used to have this awful memory, a bad dream I had where the opening jingle ended, the show faded in from black, and all the characters were there, but the camera was just cutting to each of their faces, and they were just screaming, and the puppets and marionettes were flailing spastically, and just all screaming, screaming. The girl was just moaning and crying like she had been through hours of this. I woke up many times from that nightmare. I used to wet the bed when I had it.

kevin_hart 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
i don't think that was a dream. i remember that. i remember that was an episode.

Skyshale033 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
No no no, not possible. There was no plot or anything, I mean literally just standing in place crying and screaming for the whole show.

kevin_hart 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
maybe i'm manufacturing the memory because you said that, but i swear to god i remember seeing what you described. they just screamed.

Jaren_2005 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
Oh God. Yes. The little girl, Janice, I remember seeing her shake. And the Skin-Taker screaming through his gnashing teeth, his jaw careening so wildly I thought it would come off its wire hinges. I turned it off and it was the last time I watched. I ran to tell my brother and we didn't have the courage to turn it back on.

mike_painter65 
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid's show?
i visited my mom today at the nursing home. i asked her about when i was littel in the early 70s, when i was 8 or 9 and if she remebered a kid's show, candle cove. she said she was suprised i could remember that and i asked why, and she said "because i used to think it was so strange that you said ‘i'm gona go watch candle cove now mom' and then you would tune the tv to static and juts watch dead air for 30 minutes. you had a big imagination with your little pirate show."
  

It’s a wonderfully creepy tale and it went on to become a big hit online, especially after it was posted to Creepypasta.com on 5 June 2009, where it was met with massive acclaim, with a user score of 9.1/10 at the time of writing. Soon YouTubers started to post their own interpretations of Candle Cove episodes, while discussions of the mythical creepy show appeared on those heavyweight spreaders of Creepypasta, 4chan and reddit, not to mention numerous other forums and messageboards. 
As is so often the case with these stories, it wasn’t long before people were asking whether it was actually based on fact on various web sites, including Yahoo! Answers. Several mischievous web users (notably those on the aforementioned 4chan and reddit) have helped spread this belief by claiming to have seen the show themselves as children and acting surprised when asked whether the show is fake. 
It has since become so popular that a wikia has been created about ‘the show’, which includes detailed descriptions of the characters and even synopses of its fictional ‘episodes’.  
The reason for this popularity should be pretty apparent to most readers — it’s well-written and, most importantly, is legitimately creepy.
Straub’s story is a success that induces fear through several means, not least of which is the use of skewed or distorted childhood imagery mentioned above. However, let’s also not forget the inherent creepiness of marionettes.
The fear of dolls, puppets, ventriloquists dummies, among other semi-realistic artefacts that falsely represent sentient beings is known as Automatonophobia, while the specific branch that deals with puppets is called Pupaphobia. Like many phobias, it is said to originate in sufferers during childhood, often if they saw a puppet in a way that could be construed by their young mind as aggressive or frightening.
I think it’s safe to say that the skin grinding antics of Candle Cove’s Skin-Taker more than fits the bill here.
The fear of these types of item also builds on the ‘Uncanny Valley’ theory. The term was first coined in 1978 in the book Robots: Fact, Fiction, and Prediction, by Jasia Reichardt, describing a concept first lauded back in 1970 by robotics professor Masahiro Mori.
‘a hypothesis in the field of aesthetics which holds that when features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some observers. The "valley" refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of beings as subjects move toward a healthy, natural likeness described in a function of a subject's aesthetic acceptability.’

This is a pretty common phobia among people and horror films have been quick to play on the inherent creepiness of dolls (Child’s Play and Annabelle, for example), waxworks (Waxwork, House of Wax), scarecrows (Husk, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Jeepers Creepers 2) and dummies (Saw, Puppet Master, Dead Silence). 
Furthermore, the format of the story works by very effectively replicating real life message board posts. By skillfully blurring the line between fiction and reality, the stunning twist ending hits that little bit harder, forcing the reader to wonder: ‘What if…?’ 
The ending is one which forces the reader to ponder the story, trying to ascertain if the tale is one of psychological or supernatural horrors. Ultimately, the biggest strength of Straub’s story could well be that he never gives us that answer.
However, fans anxious to get even more from the world of Candle Cove are in for a treat — TV channel SyFy has announced that it will be adapting the story for its horror anthology show, Channel Zero.
The show will be scripted by Nick Antosca (Hannibal, Friday the 13th), while Chronicle and American Ultra’s Max Landis will also oversee creative direction with him.
Channel Zero: Candle Cove is due to hit our screens in October.
Yet exciting as this news is, Candle Cove would not exist were it not for one man, original author Kris Straub. Artist/cartoonist/writer Kris’s work can be seen over at http://chainsawsuit.com and he was kind enough to speak with me about his phenomenal creation.


The House: Hi Kris, thank you so much for agreeing to answer my questions.
I’ll start with the most obvious one — what served as your inspiration for the story? 
Kris Straub: I've thought a lot about my own childhood and the idea that we all misremember details, things that should not have been frightening, or at least weren't intended to be. And as a child, you can't quite express your thoughts fully yet, so you can't get something subtle cleared up by an adult. You just accept it.
But I can point at two specific things which focused my interest in writing Candle Cove. One was my dad telling me about a comic or story book he'd had when he was very little, before he could read words. It was about Donald Duck, who had stolen fruit from a farmer's field. The farmer angrily chased Donald off with an axe, and on the next page, Donald was standing in a shallow pond, with his feet in the water. But my dad assumed the farmer had cut them off. That's what he thought the story was about.
The second thing was an Onion article from 2000, titled "Area 36-Year-Old Still Has Occasional Lidsville Nightmare", which is very funny and accurate, and got me thinking about my own childhood and the poorly-constructed puppets and TV effects which get passed off as fun or whimsical. But the cheap look of those old kids' shows always felt like it had an undertone of malice, of other-ness.

TH: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?
KS: I like Lovecraft and his contemporaries, Stephen King, Steven Millhauser (although he isn't really horror, more like weird fiction), and lately Thomas Ligotti, who may be my all-time favorite. 

TH: The story has taken on quite the life of its own, complete with a wiki that boasts synopses of episodes. How does it make you feel to know that so many people have taken your story to heart and are inspired to create their own fiction in its world? Are there any examples of fan art in particular that have impressed you? 
KS: It's difficult because I was happy that the story resonated so deeply with so many people that they either wanted it to be real, or actually did believe there was a mystery around this fictional show, but I never intended for it to be a hoax. It was presented as short fiction. But early in its existence, Candle Cove was copied and pasted a lot of places without a byline or a credit, so it was assumed to be posts from an actual forum. 
So it's hard — because as an artist, I didn't want to clamp down on people enjoying it and sharing it, but I would get frustrated coming across others saying: "This is great! I'm going to make a video game/short film/book out of it and sell it!" And they never wondered if it was intellectual property.

TH: Congratulations on the recent announcement by SyFy that Candle Cove will be adapted as part of Channel Zero. How much input have you had in the creative process of the show? Is it strange/thrilling to see your story adapted from one medium to another? 
KS: Thank you! They've kept me up to speed on the series, but I haven't wanted input in the creative process. The reason why Max Landis won me over was that he understood the core of the story, what I wanted to say with it, and what Candle Cove represented; what it would mean to adults who remembered it. Being able to read writer Nick Antosca's work has been amazing. I think Channel Zero is being produced with a great deal of understanding, of this kind of horror that appealed to me in the first place. 

TH: Finally, with the show all set to introduce the story to a huge number of new fans, do you have any plans to return to the story in the future? Are there any other Candle Cove projects coming up that you feel at liberty to share with our readers? And what else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead?
KS: I love that Channel Zero will explore and expand on Candle Cove, but I never wanted to give it a sequel. To me, the horror comes from not knowing; not being able to express what you've seen and what you feel. With sequels and continuations, you run the risk of giving the viewer too much information, too many tools to dissect the intangible with. We are afraid to confront a thing that cannot be understood; even in stories we struggle against that.
I'm continuing my fascination with nostalgia-tinged horror at my comic series Broodhollow, which has completed its first two books, as well as a new faux found footage webseries called Local 58.

So now it’s time to set sail from Candle Cove. Come back next week when I’ll be looking at another haunting children’s television tale sure to chill the blood.

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.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

RAW REVIEW: GOODNIGHT MOMMY



One of the most hyped horror films of the past year has been the Austrian psychological horror flick, Ich Seh Ich Seh aka Goodnight Mommy.
Filmed back in 2014, UK audiences will finally get the chance to check out Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz's movie on 4 March.
Is this a creepy masterpiece that is worth the wait?

Read on...


GOODNIGHT MOMMY A.K.A ICH SEH ICH SEH (2014)





Dir: Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz

Starring: Susanne Wuest, Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz


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

Nine-old-twin brothers Elias (Schwarz) and Lukas (Schwarz) lead a peaceful existance, playing in the woods surrounding their pretty cabin, racing from the picturesque cornfields and swimming in the idyllic nearby lake.However, life is not quite as perfect as it seems.

When their mother (Wuest) returns from hospital, having undergone surgery that leaves her whole face swathed in bandages, the boys find things become darker – quite literally.
After Mother orders them to keep the blinds and curtains drawn, to remain silent and telling them that they absolutely cannot bring anything into the house from outside, her behaviour worsens.
Cold and cruel to the boys — especially Lukas who she totally neglects — she is entirely different to the mother they knew from before her operation.
As the boys try to stay out of her way and care for their collection of hissing cockroaches a chilling realisation starts to dawn in their minds — what if the person under the bandages isn't their mother after all?





THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning):
When it comes to creepy atmosphere and visuals, there are few movies produced over the last decade that come close to Goodnight Mommy. It looks, putting it simply, absolutely beautiful. From the striking lake house with its huge windows and the leafy surrounding countryside to the phantom-like appearance of the bandaged Mommy, the visuals are stunning.
A large part of this is undoubtedly due to the impressive cinematography of Martin Gschlacht, but there are plenty of touches in both the costumes and set decoration that also prove arresting for the eye. The interior of the home is stark, white, sterile, mirroring the hospital from which Mommy has returned, while vague, blurry outlines of female figures on the artwork that adorns the walls reflects the theme of obscured identity running through the film, a theme heightened with some decidely disturbing masks in the film's closing moments.
What's more there is a clever use of nature and animals to make a strong impact throughout the film, from the sweet but unkempt cat to the frankly horrible hissing cockroaches that the boys keep as pets. Even the wallpaper in some rooms seems to echo the crawling skittering insects.
The bandaged look of Wuest's character is haunting and decidedly chilling, conjuring up classic horror imagery from the likes of The Invisible Man or The Mummy (The Mommy?), but it is her impressively icy performance that is most terrifying. Aloof, yet eerily dependent on her boys, Mommy is a character who hides behind so much more than surgical gauze — she is clearly a damaged individual and it becones very uncomfortable to watch the way in which the character mistreats her sons. Wuest takes the character on quite the journey, taking her from a monstrous antagonist to something else.
It's excellent work.
Equally excellent are the young Schwarz brothers who walk the fine line between sympathetic and creepy admirably. The boys give assured performances, wide-eyed or grim-faced according to the requirements of the scene, and absolutely nail their roles.
I mentioned that the film is often uncomfortable to view, and this is very much by design. The framing and aesthetics are surgically precise, the camera often unsettlingly static. With a clever use of close ups to heighten the claustrophobia of the boys trapped within the house and wide angles to reinforce the isolation, Fiala and Franz know exactly how to leave an audience squirming in their seat.
They keep the sense of dread mounting throughout, slowly and patiently spinning a web around the audience, before suddenly delivering a violent jolt.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the stomach-churning final sequence.
The shocking turn the plot takes is genuinely disturbing, leading to a lengthy harrowing sequence that is as hard-hitting as they come. Credit must go to writers/directors Fiala and Franz for making the ballsy decision to run the plot down this particularly dark rabbit hole, plus for pulling no punches as they bring the story to life onscreen.
The effects work during this sequence is also to be praised — it's vile and will leave you grimacing at the screen, and I mean this in the very best way.





THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): With a towering central performance and eye-catching visuals, not to mention a ruthlessly cultivated sense of dread throughout, Goodnight Mommy should be an instant classic. Sadly, it is let down by a major flaw.
The plot of Goodnight Mommy hangs on a pretty huge plot twist that is revealed during the final act — except it isn't.
The twist is so heavily foreshadowed that it's made GLARINGLY obvious within 10 minutes of the film starting. It's not the most original reveal either, so it doesn't take much to guess what it might be, but the film absolutely tips its hand far too soon. Honestly, it really took the shine off the film for me, as it came across as ridiculously clumsy in a film where every other aspect is meticulously and exquisitely well executed.
I know some readers will not mind this, but I found myself thinking 'Well, this is too obvious, there'll be a double-twist or some major revelation to spring from this.'
I was wrong.
Instead I spent over an hour waiting for the shoe to drop, before the movie hurriedly dived into the bloody conclusion.
Which brings me to another potential issue — pacing. I like a film that has the patience to craft a story, building atmosphere throughout. However, Goodnight Mommy is very slow moving and some may find themselves fidgeting in their seats — especially when they have already worked out where the story is heading.
As bizarre as it may sound following these criticisms, the final potential problem for viewers is how extreme the movie gets. It goes to a horribly violent, gory and sadistic place, which may well be too much for horror fans who prefer teen friendly jump scares and cartoonish slasher kills. Playing with the taboo subject of children and violence, viewers need to be warned.
Goodnight Mommy is not for the squeamish.





THE VERDICT: Both incredibly well made but hobbled by a wholly avoidable flaw, Goodnight Mommy is quite a frustrating viewing experience.
There's so much to love here, but by god that predictable plot twist really robs the film of so much of its impact and takes away a lot of an audience's goodwill towards it.
Ultimately, if you want to be unsettled and witness a masterclass in shooting a horror movie, you need to see Goodnight Mommy. Just be mindful of its shortcomings before you do.

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