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I Love Ghost Stories

Light blows out the window and changes our perception of shadow.

Moments of light slow to a full stop and we are captured in amber.  Remembered… forgotten… remembered.

Blurred faces are real.  Soft sofas and tired trunks are real. Memories are made up of all these weathered, lived in moments that pass through light and shadow.

Sometimes the clock stops and we are here forever.

Tami

 

Photo Credit: Jefferson Ross

 

The thing about the end of summer in Savannah is that it is still warm… but despite the lack of chill in the air my favorite time of year is upon us.  I have all ready seen the shelves of Kroger lined with terracotta jack-o-lanterns.

It doesn’t matter much now, but when I was growing up Halloween was the only time of year you heard ghost stories and it was the the only time of year you could watch the haunted specials on TV.  The rest of the year I read Edgar Allen Poe and Henry James… which is what I find myself doing this year.

For my Senior Thesis I’m very much interested in shooting a southern gothic ghost story and my research this quarter will be on the ghost stories of Henry James.  Turn of The Screw is my all time favorite, but another one that intrigues me is The Jolly Corner.  It’s about a man who may or may not be haunted…by himself.

They tell us to write about what we know and it doesn’t matter what I set out to write my characters always seem  haunted in one way or the other.  And on some level I think we are all haunted by a version of ourselves that would have existed if we had taken another path.  This idea draws me the writings of Henry James and I’m looking for a little nugget of inspiration to help me finish my script.

So to practice I think I’ll take a page from “cowbird’s” book and find an image that inspires me and write about it… we’ll see how it goes.

Tami

 

Synopsis: After seven years of “absentia” a woman (and her sister) are filing paperwork that will pronounce her husband dead…but her husband’s disappearance and a few others, may be linked to a mysterious tunnel.

I really liked this film.  At first I thought it was going to be a ghost story, but the supernatural elements began to lean toward some kind of monster.  Usually that would disappoint me, but it really worked for this film.

My favorite aspect of Absentia was the time they took to develop the characters.  It felt… real.  Something that I feel is missing in most ghost/horror films of today.

I could relate to Callie, the lead character… her need to redeem her past, to find peace with the need to change, to finally be there for her sister.  This depth of character wrapped into a horror/thriller film was refreshing and truly a model I’d like to follow.

Another notch for me – Absentia is truly an independent film.  It was shot on a Canon 5D mark II with an estimated budget of $70,000. (IMDb) – $23,000 of it was raised through crowd funding.  I really liked how everyone got involved with the campaign.  Check out their Kickstarter Page – Katie Parker’s Pledge Pitch is pitch perfect!  They had over 300 supporters and the film went on to win a number of awards on the film festival circuit.

I really liked it,
Tami

 

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Synopsis: Danny Hill, mid 20’s, inherits his late grandmother’s rent controlled apartment.  In order to do this he must prove he was living with her (which he wasn’t) or get a occupant court order by not leaving the apartment until the court order has been approved.  Day by day we watch Danny become more obsessed with keeping the apartment as sights and sounds start to play with his paranoia.

I really liked the premise of this film.  Isolation is key in the horror / psychological genre and The Occupant created a believable scenario.

I loved the shot design and how the Gothic architecture and time lapse was incorporated into the pace of the film.

The title cards, however were unnecessary.  The Occupant is told through Danny’s perspective so the placements of the cards telling us how many days are left in his self imposed imprisonment only served to take me out of the story.

I’m old school in my filming philosophy so although I love all things digital, I still like to incorporate as many “effects” into the actual filming and not during post production.  I don’t feel The Occupant needed to create all sort of weird and jarring post work to show Danny’s decent into madness…the cleanliness of the apartment was deteriorating, Danny was resorting to eating cat food, and the growing threats of eviction and not being able to reach his lawyer were helping us to feel his frustration and obsession.

Despite what didn’t move me about this film, there was plenty I liked.  I’m always a sucker for those, is it madness or is it a haunting stories.  The script was good, the characters interesting (loved the doorman) and the set was perfect.

I Liked It,
Tami

As campy and eye rolling as they are, I usually enjoy found footage films, especially when they are ghost stories.

I know it’s been done, over done, but I always have faith that  the filmmakers will take the idea and make it their own. Paranormal Incident does NOT offer that kind of experience…

I streamed it through Netflix where it displayed what can only be a false reading of 3.4 stars. The film was a story we’ve seen 1000 times on paranormal television shows with a cast of one dimensional characters that you don’t really care if they live or die.

The jarring flipping from the “found” footage (all of which has been edited within a few days) and the present day interrogation served only to take me out of the film.  To top it all off the ending is so horrible and confusing that the whole thing just pissed me off.

If anyone knows what it all meant please share.

Did not love it,
Tami
 

 

 

***SPOILER ALERT***

I have to preface this post by telling you I was preconditioned to like this film.  My sister and I watched the made for TV version back in the 80’s and “the woman” gave me nightmares for months.    The A&E version wasn’t that good but it lead me to Susan Hill’s book The Woman in Black (1983) and into a life long love of Gothic ghost stories.

The last time I was in London my husband and I bought the last two seats to see the stage adaptation.  We had to sit in opposite ends of the theater and this physical isolation made the play a little more intense for me – I loved it.

The Woman in Black (2012) directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake) and screenplay by Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass) is both a Gothic and a modern tale.  The deep contrast lighting and color palette reminds me of The Godfather and although the costumes and vintage toys play a prominent role the speech does little to tie it the Victorian period.

As with my original introduction this film will haunt me a little.  I found myself looking into the dark corners trying to see what was there and the ending makes me wonder if the woman’s intention was to reunite the Kipp family or was that just a soul she couldn’t claim?

My favorite parts of this film pertain to the set design.  I loved the purple walls that subconsciously remind us of death and decay.  The sound design was fantastic.  The film wasn’t filled with music, but instead used silence to draw us in, inviting us to look into the dark.

My least favorite is unfortunate because I think Daniel Radcliffe is an amazing actor but I felt he looked too young to play this role.  We meet him as a reflection in a mirror, shaving, a manly thing to do but still not enough for me.  However, I loved how his character wasn’t only trying to keep his job, but was also seeking answers — we knew that within a few minutes.  He entered the town already knowing he was haunted, that his dead wife seemed to be somewhere on the periphery trying to contact him.  An idea that was mirrored by Daily and Elizabeth’s dead son who seems to be trying to contact them as well.

Ghost stories that truly scare and haunt us usually give us layers of meaning and that’s what I found with The Woman in Black.  Or maybe that’s what I went looking for.  This is still one of my favorite ghost stories and I wasn’t disappointed.  What did you think?

Tami

 

I have always loved ghost stories and I’m always in search of the next scary novel or film.  The old ones, based on some hand me down urban legend are my favorite.  Those are the ones that speak to our very souls and on some level we all believe in.

As a film student I enjoy exploring the horror genre and plan to shoot a ghost story for my Senior project.  I will be sharing the experience on my blog.  To join the community of Ghost Story Enthusiasts and stay in the know please sign up here.

Tami

 

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