Country: U.S.; filmed in Morocco Horror themes: War, evil Director: Daniel Myrick Verdict: 60/100… Solid supernatural horror
I had eagerly anticipated The Objective for a couple of reasons. First, The Objective reminds me of Red Sands – another creepy supernatural horror film with a wartime setting in the Middle East. Also, The Objective was written and directed by Daniel Myrick, who made his debut in 1999 with the scary-as-hell breakthrough supernatural horror film The Blair Witch Project.
The Objective: Official movie trailer (YouTube)
Plot synopsis of The Objective
In Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, a Special Forces team meets CIA Agent Benjamin Keynes, who explains their mission to find a very important Afghan cleric by the name of Mohammad Aban. Led by team leader Wally Hamer, the team finds a local guide in a village in southern Afghanistan where the cleric is from. The team sets out for the mountainous area where intelligence reports indicate the cleric is hiding.
As the soldiers travel deeper into the desert mountains, they begin to have strange encounters – first with armed gunmen, who simply disappear after they are shot, and later with other seemingly supernatural forces. The further they go, the more dangerous the mission becomes; eventually, the team realizes they are not looking for someone, but something…
Ben Keynes (Jonas Ball) is a CIA operative based in the Middle East who is keeping his eyes peeled for a potential crisis a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Keynes is checking some readings from a spy satellite when he discovers what appears to be a massive cache of radioactive material in the mountains of Afghanistan. Worried that Al Qaeda guerrillas are constructing a nuclear weapon, Keynes arranges to join a reconnaissance mission headed to Afghanistan, using the cover story that he’s trying to ferret out an international terrorist leader. Keynes and the soldiers head into the mountains with a local, Abdul (Chems-Eddine Zinoune), serving as both translator and guide. Abdul warns Keynes and the soldiers that their intended destination is considered sacred ground by Afghans, and that they’re risking their lives by trespassing. Keynes pays him little mind, but he and the soldiers soon discover that Abdul’s warnings were well founded, and that a supernatural force lurks in the mountains more dangerous than any band of terrorists.
The film’s title is apparently in reference to such high-level government missions, typically arranged by high-ranking officials and carried out by elite special forces. In this case, the ground operation is led by Benjamin Keens of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
— More to come… gotta go for now – it’s Christmas morning, after all! 🙂 —
More than one person has noted that the narrator’s voice sounds a bit like David Duchovny.
Aside: Movie setpieces
What is a setpiece in film production? Long ago, I assumed I knew what a setpiece was, in general – but eventually I read something about a horror setpiece that did not make sense to me which prompted me to look it up. I finally, belatedly learned that a setpiece has nothing to do with the physical items on a movie set.
In the universe of film production, a setpiece is a scene (or a series of scenes) which required detailed logistical planning and a significant expenditure of funds in order to carry out and pull off successfully.
The term setpiece is often used more broadly to describe any important dramatic, suspenseful, or frightful high point in a story, especially when a dramatic payoff, resolution, or transition is made possible through it. So, the term setpiece is often used to describe any scenes that are so essential to a film that the movie would not have been possible or made any sense had that setpiece been omitted. In standard Hollywood popcorn flicks, screenplays are often constructed around a succession of such setpieces.
Setpieces can be meticulously planned using storyboards, screen tests, and rehearsals; for the sake of comparison, the director and actors may be more improvisational in smaller or more artful productions. In the big films, every onscreen event requires the combined efforts of an array of departments working as a team: set builders, physical effects, special visual effects, and so on.
In the production of standard Hollywood movies, different sets of people will work on the various setpieces individually since the more complex setpieces can take weeks or months to prepare. A well-known example: the car chase in The Matrix Reloaded took months to prepare and cost $30 million – including $5 million to build the interstate/freeway set.
(Source: Wikipedia entry for setpiece)
One thing’s for sure: Whatever else Daniel Myrick may do, the words Blair Witch Project will forever remain attached to his name – which is not a bad thing.
Resources: The Objective, 2008 supernatural war horror film
The Changeling is one of a handful of supernatural horror movies I will not watch alone at night; it’s too creepy! :O
Country: Canada/U.S. Directed by: Peter Medak, IMDb Horror themes: Ghost, revenge, haunted house, death of spouse, death of child, exhumation, wheelchair, objects moving by themselves, murder, politics, hidden room, fatal accident, solving murder Verdict: 85/100… One of the best classic ghost stories on film – plus it contains the top-notch acting chops of George C. Scott; a very creepy movie – you may forever be creeped out at the mere sight of a wheelchair
Movie trailer: The Changeling, 1980 (YouTube)
Much more coming soon…
Plot summary: The Changeling, 1980
It was the perfect family vacation for John Russell and his family, or so it seemed until a freak automobile accident claimed the lives of his wife and daughter. After the death of his beloved girls – hit by a truck in a snowing road upstate New York – the composer and music professor John Russell moves to Seattle to teach music in the local university. Consumed by grief, John – at the request of friends – leases a huge mansion in Chessman Park that belongs to the Historical Society and has been empty for twelve years. Mammoth in size, the house seems all the room that John needs to write music and reflect. He does not realize that he is not alone in the house. John hears some weird noises always at 6:00 AM and later he experiences the contact of the ghost of a child that lived many decades ago in the house, which he now shares with the spirit of the murdered child who has homed in on John’s despair. The spirit uses John to uncover decades of silence and deceit. With the help of Claire Norman, the one who aided John in procuring the house, John researches the mansion’s history, revealing a despicable secret. They race to find answers and soon learn that a devious and very powerful man guards them with his very life.
Country: Canada Director: the Vicious Brothers (This was their first directorial effort; great job!) Verdict: 8/10 – a great horror movie… Grave Encounters is, without a doubt, the scariest paranormal investigation movie I have ever seen. Horror themes: Ghosts, wheelchairs, objects moving by themselves, paranormal investigation, abandoned hospital, trapped, medical experiments, blood, rats, suicide, found footage, 1st person cam, haunted hospital
Grave Encounters (2011) – Official trailer (YouTube)
Grave Encounters: Plot summary
Lance Preston and the crew of Grave Encounters, a ghost-hunting reality television show, are shooting an episode inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where unexplained phenomena have been reported for years. In the name of good television, they voluntarily lock themselves inside the building for the night and begin a paranormal investigation, capturing everything on camera. They quickly realize that the building is more than just haunted – it is alive – and it has no intention of ever letting them leave. They find themselves lost in a labyrinth maze of endless hallways and corridors, terrorized by the ghosts of the former patients. (Source: Official Grave Encounters site)
Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital staff, other interviewees
Bob Rathie as Kenny Sandivol, Collingwood caretaker
Ben Wilkinson as Jerry Hartfield
Arthur Corber as Dr. Arthur Friedkin
Luis Javier as the Collingwood gardener
Shawn Macdonald as Morgan Turner, Town historian
Gary, a contractor who did some work there
Musings on Grave Encounters: The scariest paranormal investigation film yet
IMPORTANT NOTE: Although this lengthy section contains some personal musings and a partial account of what happens to the crew in this film – and therefore DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS – you CAN read this and STILL be totally freaked out and creeped out by what happens on the screen when you actually see this obviously frightening movie. However, if you don’t want to know ANY DETAILS, then you should stop reading here. I am not revealing everything that happens, but I do describe quite a few of the supernatural events and scares.
Soon after the crew is locked inside the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital by Kenny the caretaker, they explore various parts of the building – all the while calling out for any spirits to make themselves known. In the sub-level tunnels, they finally may have gotten a response: some noises are clearly heard. The crew looks for the source of the noises, are scared to fully open a slightly ajar door, and are shocked to find rats in the room.
Many paranormal investigators don’t even believe.
Cheesy, fake psychic medium Houston Gray has a big laugh about the rats, but Lance Preston fails to see the humor. "It’s not funny. This place is about as haunted as a sock drawer," he moans.
So, what we have here – just like in real life, basically – is a jaded paranormal investigation crew whose members don’t actually believe they’ll ever capture any evidence of a real haunting; they may not even believe in the paranormal in the first place. They are simply out to create entertainment and make a buck – and that’s that. This was already fairly clear based on Sasha Parker’s quick, informal interview with Lance Preston just before they entered the building.
They’re jokes and pranks – not hauntings.
When strange events begin to occur, they find it interesting and coincidental. But when these inexplicable occurrences happen in their immediate vicinity – thus becoming indisputable – they are convinced, NOT of any supernatural cause, but instead that they are being pranked or punked by some jokesters who happen to know they are filming there at Collingwood on this night. They start looking for someone who has been making these noises, successfully playing these jokes on them.
There is no need to be frightened; they are all together, cameras rolling – and besides, it’s nothing more than a gag: simple tomfoolery.
The first unquestionable supernatural event that occurs to the crew while most of them are together (Lance, Sasha, T.C., and Houston), happens just after cameraman T.C. has captured a heavy metal door closing on its own. He calls the team together and they collectively search for any possible cause for it. Failing to find a natural cause, they attempt to invoke a spirit – pleading with any available entity to make its presence known by slamming the door again, knocking, or whatever. The pleading here is honest; Lance is begging at this point. “Slam it!… Right now, please give us a sign…If there is anyone here, please give us a si-” – and right at that moment, before he even finishes uttering the word sign, Lance Preston starts to doubt. He is exasperated and frustrated, no doubt thinking to himself it is all a sham anyway, and how foolish he was to believe something might actually happen.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s a haunting after all.
Lance mutters, "F&$k…f#@k…I thought we were actually going to have something here -"…and right then, in their immediate presence, W H A M !!! Someone or something has answered Lance’s plea, loud and clear. But it wasn’t the heavy metal door just behind them; that door did not move. (I’m still not exactly sure what made that loud noise.)
They are scared out of their collective minds – cursing, questioning…
Then they all hear a strange, distinct whirring sound coming from a nearby room. They follow the sound to its source: an overturned, wheeled operating table, with two of its wheels spinning rapidly, making the whirring noise. This is indeed strange, and while they are OMGing about it, they hear thudding coming from the floor above.
They radio Matt to ask if anyone is above them. No, no one. I think they want to believe that pranksters are close by, that they’re about to catch them. It probably makes them feel better – somewhat reassured – that the source of these events is just human antics. They call out to whoever it might be, hoping these events to be nothing more than a joke. "We’ll call the police," they yell. "We have a permit to be here, and you don’t!"
OMG: It’s DEFINITELY real!
At this point, Sasha is the only one who has questioned out loud that it might be a real paranormal event. "You guys, quiet… What if this is something REAL?" So Sasha decides to give the EVP another go; that is, audio taping to see if any voices are recorded. And this is where it gets really, really scary… As the four are listening to the playback of what Sasha has just recorded, an unseen force lifts some of Sasha’s long dark hair! OMG!!
Sasha is completely freaked out and is ready to end the whole thing. She wants to go back downstairs where Matt is, if not leave altogether. Lance asks Houston Gray – that cheesy medium – to escort Sasha downstairs, then come back up for more exploration and taping for the show. Houston wusses out and says he’s not coming back upstairs! After Lance yells at Houston, demanding that he be a bleeping professional, he agrees to come back up.
Three of them – T.C., Lance, and Houston – try to make contact with the spirit in the hallway where Sasha’s hair was manipulated by the unseen. They beg and plead to no avail. Lance gets frustrated, angry, and exasperated once again at the lack of response. Lance: Come on, you did it before, now do it again… What are you, effing scared?
In retrospect, perhaps Lance should have been more patient and tolerant when addressing the unseen.
Grave Encounters has some humor scattered throughout, too; however, I was too taken by the terrifying events to comprehend much humor the first time I saw the paranormal investigation film. For instance, when Lance asks the ghost to manipulate his hair, he’s straining to holding his video camera way back behind his head in order to capture his hair being manipulated, should it happen. Then:
Houston, the cheesy medium: Lance, it’s gone. It’s left us. [Closing his eyes, being dramatic] I’m sensing that it’s toying with us, that it’s a more mature – Lance: That’s enough of that s&$t, give it a rest! T.C.: Can we go home now?
Lance decides to engage in some spirit photography; he takes pictures with a flash down each dark hallway from the intersection they’re at. Of course, Lance and crew could not possibly know this, since the results of spirit photography don’t show up until the pictures are reviewed carefully (and after being developed, when film is used); but ghostly figures appeared in at least two of the photographs Lance just took. The first is a ghostly white shadow of a human figure; the second is a human shape with his hand against a window.
At this point, Lance concludes that they have enough footage to create a decent episode six of their show, Grave Encounters, and that they can head back down and start packing it up. T.C. is happy to hear this. They get a little lost but soon find their way back to Matt and Sasha.
Of course, the group has absolutely no idea that their horrific, ultimately doomed adventure has barely even gotten started and that the unseen are merely warming up. Yikes.
Why does Lance make Matt trek around the psychiatric hospital by himself to retrieve all the cameras he set up earlier? That seems downright cruel. But Matt is a sport and trudges off to take down the camera equipment. "I’ll be right back," Matt says. "Don’t leave without me." See ya, Matt… Much, much later.
Matt is seen for the last time (for a while, at least) as he realizes the window has come open by itself. This is the window that Kenny, the property caretaker, pointed out during the brief daylight tour as being a possible hotspot; there were numerous instances of the window being open in the morning when it had definitely been locked tight the night before. This is where Matt had taped an ‘X’ with red duct tape earlier.
Matt closes the window and locks it, then gets on the radio to tell the crew he has something they need to see. No one can hear him. Then Matt is distracted by a crashing echo reverberating through the hard halls. Matt yells at what he thinks are the guys messing around with him, then disappears down the hallway.
Sasha has convinced the crew that Matt should have been back by now, that it’s pitch black in the halls and he could have fallen and hurt himself. (Premonition?) Thanks to Sasha, she, Lance, and T.C. go searching for Matt. Houston stays behind in the group camp-out area, lounging comfortably. Instead of finding Matt, they find his camera equipment and other belongings scattered all over the place. Just after they split into two groups to look for Matt, T.C. falls – or is pushed – down a flight of stairs. He’s shaken but OK, physically – but T.C. is really pissed off and ready to leave at this point.
Breaking through doors: Quest for the exit
So T.C. gets the bright idea to ram through the exit door using a heavy metal-framed table on wheels. His outburst of anger basically forces Lance to help him, despite the fact that they will be liable for the door if they break it.
When they crash through the door, they get more bad news: it is not the exit – at least, not anymore. They are virtually certain that the very same doors were the way out.
The next issue was unexpected: there were major anomalies with regard to time of day, when daylight should have occurred, when caretaker Kenny had agreed to show up to unlock the doors, etc.
At this point in the film, the shocks and scares come at a much faster, soon-to-be unrelenting pace.
Unseen forces broke their main light. Let’s try to find another way out… there should be a fire escape leading from the roof. Time to find roof access. No dice; there is a wall where there should be a door to the roof. At this point Sasha is whimpering and crying a bit, and I can’t say I blame her.
Someone is screaming somewhere down a hallway – it must be Matt. (Wow – they forgot all about poor ol’ Matt!) They run toward the screams and end up in a large room that’s pretty bare except for the metal frame of a cot or small bed. When Lance gets near it, the bed frame scoots along the floor a bit – all by itself – at which Lance understandably verbally expresses shock. Then the metal frame rises into the air, twists around, and is hurled against the ceiling and back onto the floor. HOLY S! This is too much; all hell breaks loose, and the group flies into screaming, wailing, yelling, panic mode. (So would I.) As they run out of the room, there is the chattering sound out of a sci-fi movie – a sound an alien creature might make.
The gang has taken refuge in a small room – scared, hungry, dead dog tired. Soon after a pledge to sleep in shifts, they awake to find the word HELLO carved into Sasha’s back, now bleeding.
Absolutely chilling revulsion #1
The next ghostly apparition and accompanying terror – despite being partly revealed in the official Grave Encounters movie trailer – is so freaking horrifying that I will not even attempt to describe it here. Suffice to say that the visuals are only part of the abomination that fills this long 65 seconds or so. In this bit of pure pandemonium, Houston Gray loses track of the other three and is left behind. Although it wasn’t addressed in the film, there’s little doubt each crew member wet his or her pants at this point (that is, if they hadn’t already).
I’ll be quite happy to never, ever see or hear these things in reality. (It’s a safe bet I won’t, thank goodness…)
At some point – like after such an extreme, anxiety-inducing shock – the jaded horror fan may believe the maximum scare has been received, that no events to follow could match what has been seen and heard. That would be wrong.
After another nap, they awaken to find hospital admittance ID bracelets on their wrists – with the correct names on them. Whoa!
Matt is huddled on the floor, against a wall, dressed in a hospital gown, quivering and shaking, probably in shock.
Let’s try the tunnels.
Resources: Grave Encounters, 2011 supernatural horror film
Movie trailer for The Mothman Prophecies, 2002 (YouTube)
Plot summary: The Mothman Prophecies
When John Klein (Richard Gere), a Washington Post journalist, and his wife Mary (Deborah Messing) finally find the house of their dreams, they just can’t believe their luck. On the way back from the bargain, Mary nearly runs over strange figure in the road, jerks the wheel, and skids into the sidewalk. She hits her head badly, lsong consciousness – and dies in the hospital a little later. John is completely devastated and soon finds some sketches his wife made just after the accident occurred, which depict a frightening winged creature. Two years later, John all of a sudden finds that he has inexplicably driven himself to Point Pleasant, West Virginia – traveling 400 miles in less than two hours. In the small town of Point Pleasant, local cop Connie Mills (Laura Linney) struggles with multiple sightings of a mothlike creature taller than a man being reported, while John believes that an explanation for his wife’s fate can be found. The deeper John digs, the clearer the mothman’s purpose arises – only to leave his life in immediate danger, as it seems.
Scene from The Mothman Prophecies, 2002 (6:55 – YouTube)
The Mothman Prophecies is based on a true story – or so it claims. Chasing the Frog is a great place to look for the truth contained in those works of fiction claiming to be based on a true stories; there’s an interesting page about The Mothman Prophecies.
Interview with Mark Pellington, director of The Mothman Prophecies (excerpt):
The Mothman Prophecies is one of the better supernatural thrillers of the new millennium. Based on a supposedly non-fiction book by John A. Keel, the Richard Hatem’s screenplay details the strange events that befall journalist John Klein (Richard Gere) after the untimely death of his wife in an automobile accident. In some inexplicable fashion, Klein finds himself two years later in the small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where there has been a rash of sightings of an elusive, frightening figure, sketches of which bear a startling similarity to drawings made by Klein’s wife just before she died in the hospital. The film was directed by Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), who appeared after a 2002 screening of the film in Hollywood and made the following comments on the subject of translating the story to the screen…
The Grinning Man, Wikipedia – a feature-length episode of the BBC mystery/ crime drama series Jonathan Creek – sounds like a pretty good show, but what does this have to do with anything? Could not find a connection during my brief review, yet it came up high on a Google search for Indrid Cold… hmmm
Although Boogeyman (2005) received poor reviews overall, the first few moments of the film are among the most deeply and personally frightening in all of horror (to this fan, at least). When Tim, as a young boy, is going to bed, he’s scared out of his wits by shapes and movements he perceives in the room. One small but strong example of a personally terrifying horror theme expressed in the opening of Boogeyman includes clothing that just happens to be arranged in the shape of a person. (That reminds me of the intro to the horror TV series Fear Itself; a similar image of clothing is shown.)
The attempted CGI portrayal of the boogeyman entity in that film is a major weakness of Boogeyman, IMHO; apart from that, it was a rather creepy, atmospheric supernatural horror movie. I believe Boogeyman would have been much scarier throughout – and that this would have been reflected critically, in the movie reviews – had no attempt been made to show the entity onscreen. As all horror fans know, sometimes these things are best left to the imagination.
A man learns his past was more truth than imagination in this horror story. Tim Jensen (Barry Watson) is a man who is still haunted by traumatic childhood memories, many linked to the death/disappearance of his father while Tim was still a boy. Desperate to resolve his issues, the death of his mother while visiting his beautiful girlfriend Jessica gives Tim a reason to return to his hometown and the old house he grew up in. Tim would prefer to learn that the terrifying memories he still carries with him are merely a figment of his imagination; however, the evidence and events revealed during his visit point to something more – something more real than not.