31 DAYS OF SPOOKY STUFF – DAY 1 (JOURNAL #65) – Written In Blood

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Wait, how long has it been since I wrote one of my Journal columns? Yikes, well I guess I’d better get on this thing again, hadn’t I?

Scott’s Film Geek Journal rings in October with a new sense of purpose. Being the month of my favorite holiday (and no, it’s not National Vegetarian’s Day), I thought it would be a good time to share some of the horror flicks that I’ve been watching lately. Originally, I started this with the intent of watching 100 horror films by October 31st. Will I make it? I’m thinking there’s no chance of that happening. But there will be a lot and I urge you to come back and see what I’ve unearthed in my own collection.

RATING SYSTEM

The Best – Reserved for the absolute cream of the crop.
Highly Recommended – Very good. Far better than your typical film and one that I will remember for some time. 
Recommended – Just what it says. This is a good film and earns a recommendation. Don’t think that because it’s not one of the top two categories that these films aren’t worth your time. The “recommended” tag is a winner and nothing to sneer at.
Barely Recommended – The middle of the road. Those films where I didn’t feel it was a complete waste of time, but it didn’t set my world on fire either. Not bad, but leaves me feeling bored and/or apathetic.
Disappointing – Close but no cigar. Does a few things right but is ultimately a whole lot of wasted potential. Not recommended.
Awful – A bad movie. Pure and simple. Not worth your time. 
The Worst – The Britta Perry of ratings, though not as entertaining. The bottom of the barrel.

CRITERIA

What was the film trying to accomplish and how well did it meet those goals?
In addition to (or sometimes despite) that, how does the film hold up on sheer entertainment value?

 

FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 65

(31 DAYS OF SPOOKY STUFF – DAY 1 – OCT. 1, 2013)

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isoldmysoultosatanI SOLD MY SOUL TO SATAN (2011) – This actually isn’t a horror film, but a documentary about some potentially scary stuff. The filmmakers were intrigued by how much fame and fortune is embraced in modern American society. Wondering how far people would be willing to go, they placed a Craigslist ad, asking people who would be willing to sell their soul to the Devil to allow their attempts to be chronicled for their film. Out a thousands of applicants, the filmmakers eventually narrowed it down to two potentials. Still, the only one they really follow (perhaps because he is much more sympathetic than the shockingly callous and shallow reality show wannabe) Kai, an aspiring musician.

The filmmakers follow Kai as he consults an occult expert and various texts, going through the process as described in demonology where one sells their soul to Satan in exchange for success on Earth. Kai is at first amused by what is required of him. Unlike people who did this centuries ago, he can turn to the internet or even a general store to purchase the items needed for the ultimate ritual. Eventually however, he starts getting more and more frightened about what might happen. After all, what if it’s all real?

You can find a lot of homemade videos my paranoid fundamentalists, who claim to reveal all the multitude of people who have sold their soul to Satan. These video are, without exception, completely ridiculous, often revealing more about the superstitious and prejudiced nature of the uploader than anything reflected in reality. This documentary is a professional job however and should not be confused with those videos, of which there are many.

My own beliefs on this matter are in a continuous state of flux. I am not willing to completely accept any truth to what is going on but I’m not willing to completely dismiss it either. Perhaps it aided my appreciation of this film that I am also reading DIALOGUE WITH THE DEVIL, a harrowing book by Stephen Biro that touches on the subject of possible personal damnation. People expecting a doc that pokes fun at the subject matter or winks at the audience will not get what they bargained for in I SOLD MY SOUL TO SATAN. The film manages to keep things from being preachy by refraining from preaching and allowing the audience to make up their own mind about the validity of what is going on.

What we do get is the story of a desperate man who may be getting in over his head. He encounters various people who steer him in one way or the other, none of whom are presented as one-dimensional. This documentary released by Chemical Burn (sporting the type of garish cover they are known for) is a pleasant surprise. You can watch the whole thing for free on YouTube. I have provided the link below. Highly Recommended.

 

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insidious_chapter_two_ver2INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (2013) – I was very surprised by James Wan’s INSIDIOUS when it was released a couple years back. It didn’t indulge in many of the shopworn cliches that have plagued horror films in recent years (some of which Wan practically invented with SAW). Also, the characters were well-written enough that you cared what was going on. It was one of the most refreshingly high-quality spookshows of the last few years.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 picks up right where the first one left off, so SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen that film yet. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Dylan has been brought safely back from the supernatural waiting room known as the Further. Unfortunately, his father’s spirit is now trapped in the Further. The person inhabiting the body of Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) is an imposter, and one with some very nasty designs on the rest of the Lambert household. This sends his wife (Rose Byrne) and mother-in-law (Barbara Hershey) to seek the continued guidance of Carl and Specs (Steve Coulter and Leigh Whannel, respectively), who are still mourning the loss of their mentor.

James Wan has succeeded in creating a worthy sequel to his film, and he does so by expanding our understanding of the world these people inhabit. This is the sign of a skilled and successful sequel, a formula practiced in everything from STAR WARS to MAD MAX to PLANET OF THE APES. It is rare to see this technique successfully employed in the horror genre.

I watch a lot of horror films, but even I was genuinely spooked by INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2. I found myself cringing and curling up in my theatre seat, especially when the stakes got higher. I’m not sure if it’s quite the accomplishment the first film was, but it’s so close to the mark that any delineation would be nitpicking.  Highly Recommended.

 

Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 288

Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!

And tune into my new web series, Moviocrity!



Categories: 31 Days of Spooky Stuff, Scott W. Davis, Scott's Film Geek Journal

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