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Interview with Horror Director, John Ainslie

INTERVIEW WITH HORROR DIRECTOR JOHN AINSLIE

 

John Ainslie

 

I BECAME aware of Ainslie’s work when I stumbled across his feature film, The Sublet (AKA The Resident, in the UK). This film captured my attention, because it seemed different from other horror titles. Themes of hauntings are common in the horror genre, but The Sublet appears to take the “haunted house” story and shake it into something entirely different. Exploring themes of relationship breakdown, motherhood and postnatal psychosis, The Sublet treads a very dark path that leaves the viewer feeling marked, somehow. It is a dark experience, an unrelenting one that leaves a strong impression on the audience. As a big fan of dark film, I really enjoyed The Sublet and wanted to learn more about the director.

John Ainslie kindly agreed to spend some time answering my questions, and the interview below is the result. I hope you enjoy the exchange, and more than that, I hope this leads you to grabbing a copy of the film. If you are a fan of horror, you will not be disappointed..

 

John, you are involved in not only writing but in directing films. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got into this field?

I got into this young. In many ways I’m still not “in it”. I started out editing and moved into cinematography before focussing on writing. All of these were great jobs, but I never felt like I had enough control over the process and I was always at the mercy of someone else. I wanted to tell my own stories. After my time studying at the Canadian Film Centre as a writer it really cemented my voice and pushed me towards directing. It’s one thing to have a voice, but it’s another to learn how to articulate it to others and get it onscreen. After, the CFC I gave myself two years to direct my first feature and that lead to The Sublet

 

I’m a massive fan of the horror genre, but only recently saw The Sublet (AKA The Resident) on DVD. I’ve no idea how I missed this release – I really enjoyed it. Immensely dark and creepy. Can I ask, how did the idea for this film come about? What inspired it?

It’s actually only been released in the UK. The American and Canadian release will happen this summer so don’t feel bad that you missed it!  I’m happy you enjoyed it. The original idea came from my co-writer Alyson Richards who had moved to LA and was subletting different places and always had the feeling someone was watching her. She wanted to make a low budget horror so we started bouncing ideas off each other and brought in the paranormal concept which seemed interesting. Then later we fell in love with having ambiguity in the protagonist’s mind which would create confusion for the viewer and really draw them into Joanna’s insanity. I fought pretty hard for this ambiguity during production and met with some resistance. They wanted a ghost story, but I felt that it had been done before and was far less interesting. As well, the subject of postpartum psychosis is one that I find incredibly fascinating so while this isn’t really the focus of the film it does add an intriguing element. I wanted to create a character that felt real, that would give the viewer something to identify with. Even, without the paranormal and psychosis having a baby can be terrifying so this is fertile ground for film.

 

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Above, a scene in the film, The Sublet

 

What, if any, where the challenges involved in writing the script and directing The Sublet? Were there issues that were hard to overcome?

The hardest thing was time. Both Alyson and I had just had our first children when we started to write so finding time to focus was a challenge for sure. Then during production we had fifteen main shooting days, which is not a lot to make sure you get what you need. After that, post was a challenge as I had to keep my day job up at the same time, which seems insane to me as I think about it…

Creatively though, with this film the hardest thing was keeping the narrative together. With all the confusion it became tough to track Joanna’s psychological state, but thankfully I had a great actress in Tianna Nori to help with that. It’s one thing to create confusion and doubt with an unreliable protagonist, but doing that and maintain enough lucidity for the viewer to stay interested.

 

You were also involved in writing Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer . The films you have been involved in are quite dark in nature. Have you always liked darker films – what draws you to these types of movies?

I never really set out to be “dark”, but somehow every idea I get falls into that category. That said I also try to bring a bit of my dark sense of humour with me. I do gravitate towards dark films… but who knows why? My next few films are pretty dark too.

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A disturbing scene from the film – photo from The Sublet

 

What project are you currently working on? I have read about a film called she came knocking. Is this an upcoming release, can you tell us about it?

She came knocking is a short film I made with actress Kimberly-Sue Murray (Scarehouse). She and I had wanted to work with each other for a while and when this idea came to me I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for us. It was a very collaborative and fun experience to work with an actress from concept to final cut. She was involved at every stage and helped shape the narrative as well as the character. I really like to involve cast early, but the way the system is set up this is sometimes a challenge. The film premiered in Toronto at Canadian Film Fest and won Best Short Film which was a nice way to start the festival run. The film is about a Uber driver who witness’ what she believes might be domestic abuse and when the police won’t help her she takes matters into her own hands. It’s a tense thriller with a three minute continuous shot at the end which was a really fun challenge to execute with our cinematographer Ian Macmillan.

Next up I have two features with scripts that close to ready to shoot once we secure financing. I’m very excited about both of them for different reasons. One is another psychological-thriller/horror and the other is action/thriller and I’ve just begun writing a new one which will be an action thriller.

 

What are your favourite horror/thriller films, and why?

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane always comes back to my mind as a favourite. Just so classic and bizarre. Shot so beautifully.

I really like The Others too.

A random question: Do you think that the closure of many cinemas and the growing popularity of online film streaming is having a negative effect on the film industry?

It’s definitely having a negative effect on the film industry as we now know it, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing over all. Things evolve over time. Segments of the industry didn’t like the addition of sound to films and many directors complained about switching to a widescreen aspect ratio at first. At the end of the day we’re in the business of telling stories and finding a way for those stories to reach an audience. Part of the compromise you make whenever communicating is to communicate in a way that reaches the audience. You can tell the best story ever, but if you tell it to an empty room – what’s the point? I love classic films and while I would love to make a film like Lawrence of Arabia or Rebecca, I’m not sure who would watch it. You have to reconcile your desire to make films with the need to sell tickets, there’s no real way around that.

 

Do you have any tips or advice for people reading this that may want to get involved in script writing and directing?

Just do it.

A big thank you to John for taking the time to answer these questions.

You can find The Sublet (named The Resident in the UK) in all major DVD retailers and online stores.

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Step Into THE VOID – A Movie Review

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THERE IS A HELL. THIS IS WORSE –  so says the tagline on promotional posters of new movie, The Void, starring actors Aaron Poole and Allison Fraser, and directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Konstanski. Released across theatres in the US and Canada, and with a DVD release in Europe, this film has already garnered positive attention from horror and sci-fi fans.

The Void follows character Daniel Carter, a police officer (played by Aaron Poole), who comes across an injured man in the middle of secluded land during his shift. Taking the bleeding man to a hospital to get him help, Carter soon realises something is amiss. A small group of staff and patients are trapped in the eerie hospital as they are surrounded by sinister looking figures who lie in wait beyond the darkness of the hospital. Who they are and what they want remains a mystery throughout much of the film, which lends to the suspense of the story. Add to that the mysterious deaths occurring amongst those who are desperately trapped in the hospital, and you have the ingredients for an unsettling and creepy film.

 

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This movie is likely to appeal to fans of sci-fi and horror – I won’t be the first to say that there are elements in the film which bring to mind the Netflix series Stranger Things. There have also been comments in online reviews which mention the work of John Carpenter in comparison. What the directors and script writers have developed here, in The Void, is an animal of its own kind, in my opinion. Yes, some of the comparisons are understandable, but the film stands strongly on its own; such is the strength of the script, setting and atmosphere achieved. It is uniquely its own – The Void is a creepy drive on a uniquely dark road – gripping and uncomfortable, gritty yet other-wordly.

It is hard to place The Void in one category. I am first and foremost a horror fan, and there are plenty of dark elements to this story that pulled me in. The dark magnet of mystery and fear was certainly enough to grab my attention and keep it. The other-wordly aspect to the story lends those vivid flavours of science fiction, as previously mentioned, keeping fans of that style gripped. There is also drama – the relationships between characters deeper and more complicated than first imagined, the cast bringing to life the script impressively.

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I enjoyed The Void. It was a creepy setting – the story unfolding within the corridors of a dark hospital, which I loved – and the cast were strong. Aaron Poole delivered his role as Daniel Carter with a vivid authenticity, breathing life into his character in the brilliant way Poole does in his roles. Kenneth Walsh, Daniel Fathers and Kathleen Munroe were equally impressive, as were the cast as a whole. The tension, believability and strength the film possesses is because of the weight of the cast presence.

Atmospheric, unusual, dark and sinister. These are the words that come to mind after spending time in The Void. It is different from any other horror I have seen lately, standing out amongst other recent releases. I highly recommend it, and rate the film 5 stars out of five.

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Enrolment Open for Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research

MY THOUGHTS ON THE DIPLOMA – SO FAR

 

YOU may have followed my previous blog posts about my taking part in an online Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research run by tutor and author, Jayne Harris. Today marks the day that I am officially half way through the course – and indeed, is also the day that the course is now open for the public to enrol. If you are interested, the link will follow at the bottom of this post.

I promised to share my thoughts as I worked through the course, and today feels like an appropriate time to share my impressions – so far.

 

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I am very much enjoying myself as this course progresses. I am a person who has been studying many aspects of the paranormal since I was a teenager, so I wondered whether there would be enough depth and information to strike and hold my interest in the course. I needn’t have worried. Jayne has composed a course which – whilst obviously having to cover some general and basic information on the subject – is actually full of interesting case studies, articles, theories and differing ways of viewing the paranormal. As well as video tutorials and a student handbook to aid study along the way, Jayne has also provided recommended reading for further study, so the student can look into certain subjects more if they want to pursue it further.

I don’t want to go too far into course details at this stage, because I am only half way through, and I intend to write a more fuller, more exact review of the course and what it compromises once I have completed it. Yet I did feel that, on this day when the course is now open to general enrolment, that this was a good time to share my first impressions.

I believe Jayne Harris has created a course that, to my mind so far, is extremely interesting, engaging, mind-opening and fun. As someone who has held an interest in this subject for many years, I am glad to have had the opportunity to learn more. I am experiencing theories and ways of looking at the paranormal field that I had not before, and even for that alone, I recommend any potential student to look into this course. I don’t believe you will be disappointed.

 

”  I am experiencing theories and ways of looking at the 

paranormal field that I had not before, and for that alone,

I recommend any potential student to look into this course “

 

If you think you may be interested in studying this course, the link is as follows:

http://www.hdparanormal.com/diploma-in-applied-paranormal-research

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Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research – Let the Fun Commence!

JAYNE HARRIS1

I HAVE been interested in the paranormal since I was a child, although I cannot say specifically what sparked this interest within me. I simply remember from a young age that the subject drew me in; I recall reading books about ghosts at the library, and telling friends scary stories at sleep-over parties. This interest has stayed with me through it all. Here I am, all these years later – very much an adult enjoying studying the paranormal and even taking part in investigations.  So, when leading figure of the paranormal, Jayne Harris, invited me to undertake the Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research, a CPD accredited diploma that involves learning about metaphysics, parapsychology, forensic approaches to studies and several practical assignments, I knew I had to accept.

 

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Jayne Harris has quite a following in the world of the paranormal. Collecting and studying haunted objects for many years,  Jayne has worked with many popular and respectable figures, including Zak Bagans from Ghost Adventures, and paranormalist, Uri Geller. She has co-authored a very popular book with Dan Weatherer, What Dwells Within, and even written articles for paranormal magazines. She is the owner of the very famous Peggy, the Haunted doll, and has featured in national magazines and newspapers. I have a lot of respect for her work, and I trust that the Diploma will bring those interested in this curious subject into deeper and inspired knowledge.

 

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Above, Jayne Harris with Zak Bagans, of Ghost Adventures and Deadly Possessions.

 

So, this week and for the foreseeable future, I shall take part in this interactive, online, and self-paced course. I am going to review regularly my thoughts on the course and on the topics it covers here on my blog, so that people who are interested in the subject can learn more, and also people who are curious about enrolling on the course themselves can see if the study appeals to them. The course itself opens for public enrollment in March.

 

LINKS:

Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research:

http://www.hdparanormal.com/diploma-in-applied-paranormal-research

HD Paranormal Website:

http://www.hdparanormal.com/

When is Dead Really Dead?

Death is a Process – Not a “Moment in Time” Event?

 

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This is a morbid subject. Talking and thinking about death – of ourselves, of our loved ones. If you’re happy to continue, I’ll be interested to know your thoughts.

 

ACCORDING TO respected author P.H Atwater, who has studied and written numerous articles and books on the subject of death and Near Death Experiences, being brain dead isn’t quite enough to be declared medically and legally dead – and here is her explanation of why:

 

“It didn’t take long for brain death to be deemed unsuitable as a dependable criterion (to pronounce someone dead). That’s because too many patients who were brain dead tested with biological activity up to SEVEN days afterwards, and too many of those used for organ donation showed increase in blood pressure and heart rate as organs were being removed.” P.H Atwater, in the Book of Near Death Experiences.

This startling comment from the author really caused some big questions to arise within my mind: if even brain death isn’t enough to pronounce death, is there more we could be doing through medical science and health care professionals, to ensure that dead really means dead? It has come to light through science advancements that death really isn’t a one time event, but rather a slow devolution, a process whereby the body shuts down in phases.

Of course, tied in with this line of thinking is the powerful subject of the Near Death Experience. Encountered by many the world over (and often during a state when the person has been declared clinically dead)  NDEs have often been touted as proof of an after-life: people leave their bodies and are able to see, hear and remember things they should not be able to (because they are at that time dead before being revived). They report travelling through tunnels of light, seeing deceased relatives and even facing a ‘movie’ of their life from beginning to end. These experiences are, by many, valid and real – and even some scientists now admit that there is at least a possibility that consciousness is separate from mind.

If, however, we arrive at a new assumption: death is a slow process and perhaps our minds are still functioning, (even when this doesn’t register on a hospital monitor), then perhaps the NDE is happening when some kind of life is still in the person. Therefore – does this undermine those that seek to use NDE as proof of an after-life? I personally am undecided.

Outside of the paranormal/after-life aspect to these thoughts, there is a harsh and important reality – when IS dead really dead? We have all come across chilling tales before, of those who were almost buried, but were later found to be alive, or morgue staff who, about to move a body, find that the individual is actually still alive.

In August of 2015, a tragic story was reported by the Express newspaper about a young lady who was three months pregnant, but after collapsing was pronounced dead by a doctor only three hours later. However, friends and family heard banging and shouting from within the coffin but when they lifted the coffin out – they were too late. She was dead. (Read full story here: http://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/600659/Woman-wakes-from-dead-coffiin-buried-alive )

 

Family members broke inside the tomb with a sledgehammer

Above, family members remove the coffin, photo from the Express

Or, there is the recent account from UK newspaper The Mirror, who reported a morgue worker found a man alive – in a fridge. The man had been pronounced dead after a serious road crash, five hours after being left in the morgue’s fridge. (Read the full story here: HERE

Above photo, courtesy of The Mirror

As a result of the above story, the family are looking into how their relative was pronounced dead – and if anything could have been done differently to save him as a result.

It’s a dark and morbid subject, not one that many will want to focus on. However, death – whether you believe in the after-life/paranormal or not – is a part of all of us, and I do feel that this warrants more attention and thought. Is there a way we could do things differently? And for those that believe in the power of NDE, do you still feel this brings us confirmation of the after-life, or merely a result of a dying brain?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Thank you.

 

The Dark Verses of Richard Bell

Richard Bell

 

I LOVE DARKNESS – in novels, films and television. I never knew how much I could love dark poetry, until I discovered the work of writer Richard Bell.

Bell has been writing for over ten years, including flash fiction, but focuses heavily on poetry – dark poetry full of the macabre and creepy. He has had his work featured in several anthologies and websites, and I am pleased to be featuring two of his poems here.

So, lower the lights, turn off the TV, and get caught up in the world of Richard Bell.

Subtleties of Spirit Sounds

Call unto the never end and never shall it be
Call unto the graven stones awash with pitted grief
Susurrate a tone below the cochlea sea foam
They scream inside their silence
Once departed from the bones

Call to cameos of life
Remembered as a dream
Call to their recorded trek
The dead discerned as steam
Breath that glides electric chills
On curdled starlit wings
Carried from the there to here
By dark before dawn sings

Call unto the candle dance
By those attuned to loss
Call unto the brittle air
By those who’ve been across
The Bell, the Lamp, the Likeness Spell
For those come forth to talk
The linking skin feel hope within
Where highways meet and fork

Call to those gone much too soon
Beloved, wrenched out hearts
Call to hints, reminded glimpse
In states and worlds apart
Plunge in pools of ectoplasm
Teeming with our prayers
Submerged in swirling liquid dirge
Yet breathed as light as air

Call to shining spheres of them
In warmth devoid of pain
Unbridled joy, they cry “Ahoy!”
And be with us again.

 


 

The Ouija Tablet.

“Daddy, wake up, he wants to speak
I can’t shut down until he’s talked to you
A voice in the darkness, my screen has gone blank
Help me! I just don’t know
what I should do.”

He grumbled and coughed, sat up in bed
Looked at the clock in bleary dismay
His shift would begin in less than four hours
Yet another grim fourteen hour day

“Why are you not asleep in your bed?
I told you no games to be played after ten
Who wants to talk to me? What does he want?”
“Daddy, the man with the red eyes again.”

She handed him over her tablet with caution
He tapped twice on the blank screen yet to discover
The darkness stared back, but a much deeper blackness
Then slowly two terrible eyes were uncovered

A dread that he’d known only once in his life
Passed over his soul with awful despair
Knocking at death’s door in the heat of a battle
He swore that he saw them above in the air

“I am brought forth from behind the child’s mirror
What strangeness is this realm that keeps me from yours?
One soul awakened me
one soul I shall claim
The spirit board’s power hath opened hell’s door.”

He laughed at the horror then noticed the address
‘Virtual Ouija’ in brittle red script
The lump in his throat hit his gut like a gunshot
He needed to barter her clean soul for his

“I will bequeath my life force for her gentle soul
If that will appease the one I now address?
She could not know of the danger, in innocence
Attraction to floundering fish in distress.”

The tablet screen flashed and it fell to the floor
Spinning three times to counter the clock
“Daddy, he’s gone!” She smiled in relief
Then cold breath descended and all lights went off

From shallow and panicked to deep with relief
A breath on the pillow and he was asleep

“Daddy, he wants what is rightfully his
You are the sacrifice, you made the bargain.”
The little voice growled through a stirrup pump rasp
The screen of the tablet it burst into flames

He grabbed the girl and ran into her room
Blocking the door with a table and chair
She was asleep the whole time as her eyes rolled
Something was making its way up the stairs

The flickering lights saw a shape at the door
Three giant raps on it followed by hush
She fell to the floor laughing hysterically
He shouted “Begone!” in an adrenaline rush

“I have crossed over the spirit division
Called to this realm through thy looking glass board
Surrender your shine that escapes with the last breath
Fall with dark angels beyond rule of law
Bleed until pain is thy boatswain’s command
The serpent’s tooth sharpness of obscenity
Rivers of death thick with black sails, emblazoned
Bound for the gates of the kingdom
Of He.”

He picked up the child and put her to bed
As silence duped hope that the sound dissipated
The door split in two with a terrible crack
And breathed as he breathed and waited and waited…
And waited…

Then darkness with nothing from modern design
No lights and no motors just sibilant hiss
Into his left ear a little voice uttered
“Will you take the summoner’s place with a wish.”

“If I make the trade she’ll be spared, you will swear
and I will breathe hell’s stench ladened air?”

Morning it broke like an egg
in the pan
She heard her tablet say ‘message for you’
The eye of the planchette grew large in the screen
Her father appeared but not one she knew

He grinned and he pointed just off to her right
She turned with dread to face the foul demon
The tablet claimed two souls in one awful night
Transported to realms beyond natural seasons

Message for you from the Ouija Board Tablet
Click it to contact someone you once knew
Ask as the planchette sweeps over old letters

Beware the dark forces that are out to trick you.

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Find more about Richard Bell:

https://richardbellhorror.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @rick_nightmare

http://www.ricknightmare.com

A big thanks to Richard Bell for allowing me to share his work.

The Devil in our Lives – a Countdown of Possession Movies

 

The Devil in our Lives –

A Countdown of Possession Movies

WHEN THE Exorcist was first released in 1973, audiences around the world were both shocked and fearful at this new breed of horror. Exorcism was a well known religious ritual across the world, taking various guises and forms in different belief systems, but there were very few references to the dark and creepy ritual in film – until then. Directed by William Freidken, the film became a horror classic and stories of audience members fainting and being physically sick during watching the film only added to the legend of The Exorcist. Since then, however, the devil has visited our cinema and TV screens many times. The themes of the devil, of possession and exorcism are now widespread in our horror entertainment. Some films are similar to The Exorcist – others take a very sharp departure from that style. I’m a big fan of this theme in horror, and so I thought it’d be fun to compile a list of the best devil movies – some well known, others not so much. Take a look, and if I’ve missed any that you think worth mentioning, please drop me a comment. I’d love to know about any I have not come across.

 

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The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Starring Jennifer Carpenter, this 2005 horror movie changed the direction of the demonic possession genre. Yes, there were plenty of jump scares, creepy scenes and frightening moments, but more than that, this film was also a courtroom drama. The contrast between the courtoom scenes and the possession scenes are stark and really keep the viewer tense throughout the story. Said to be based on the real life case of Annaliese Michel, this film has enough atmosphere and scares to please the most ardent of horror movie fans.

 

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The Last Exorcism

Directed by Eli Roth and released in 2010, The Last Exorcism is a supernatural found-footage horror film about the demonic possession of a young, religious teenager. If you’re not really a fan of the found-footage genre, this might not be your thing. However, because it is filmed as an “on location” documentary for the most part, it doesn’t suffer too much from the jerky, jittery filming that comes often with others such as The Blair Witch (not until later in the movie, anyway!) I really enjoyed this film, I think the cast were strong, the atmosphere was very unnerving – and the ending was very twisted. If you haven’t already given it a go, I recommend The Last Exorcism (and its sequel – part two).

 

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Rosemary’s Baby

I deliberated for a moment about whether to include this film in the list. It isn’t an actual possession film, however it most definitely focuses on the themes of the devil and his influence on the world. Based on the book by Ira Levin, this epic and classic horror movie was released in 1968 and was directed by Roman Polanski. The story focuses on a young woman, a mother-to-be, who notices some very dark and disturbing events in the block of apartments in which she recently moved into. This film is a classic for a reason – the script, the acting, the sinister music and the dark storyline really work well. I highly recommend this one.

 

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The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund

This film, released in 2015 and directed by Andrew Jones, is one of the most recent releases of the demonic possession genre. Said to be based on a real life case of possession, this film feels sinister to the audience because it has an air of authenticity behind it. Starring Lee Bane and Tiffany Cerri, this film is creepy and expertly delivers the tale of a young girl’s spiritual battle with the devil himself. The acting is strong, the atmosphere tense. I really enjoyed this offering to the genre.

 

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The Devil’s Child

The Devil’s Child – AKA as Joshua – was released in 1997 and it is a perfect specimen in horror film. Based on an affluent American family, who increasingly become disturbed by the behaviour of their once angelic son, this film has creepiness in buckets. It is sad, twisted, dramatic and scary. This film in itself isn’t specifically a possession movie, either, but you’ll have to forgive me for adding it, because it is a notable and worthy film. It does explore the nature of evil – is this child possessed by some dark force? Or is he simply a product of his environment? You decide.

 

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The Omen

This 1976 horror flick most definitely is all about the devil – in the shape of a seemingly innocent child. You’ve probably seen this classic, if not, where have you been? It’s up there with The Exorcist in terms of how good it really is. Starring Gregory Peck and directed by Richard Donnor, The Omen is a horror film without flaw, in my opinion. A rich and respected family adopt a child – but who is he really? Death and destruction follow this boy and lead to one terrifying conclusion: he is from the devil himself.

 

There you have it. My list of favourite devilish movies. I haven’t noted The Exorcist, because I didn’t think it was necessary – but it definitely is up there as one of the greatest horror movies of all time.

Don’t forget, new TV series The Exorcist has also recently started screening here in the UK.

If you like your entertainment dark, check out the above titles. Happy viewing!

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Thanks for reading. Let me know if I missed any horror greats!