Friday, July 14, 2017

Random Article - A History of Ghost Movies, Part 2 (A)


So, last time I talked about ghost movies and what different styles there were in the genre, and it's time to get a little deeper into the style. Since we're still dealing with Hungry Ghost Month this time around, we'll go one at a time here and go through these different styles starting with the Haunting style.




So, as a brief refresher, the Haunting style was about the ghost(s) of the movie staying at a specific location, whatever the individual location may be. Common logic dictates that a home or house be the most prolific, and indeed that is the case here, but there are other places of interest for ghosts to haunt littered throughout the genre. Let's take a look at several of the most prominent of these locations.

Apartment:
It seems like a rather odd setting here that an apartment complex would be a viable setting for a ghost to attack, but there's quite a healthy number here. Though apartment-building-set horrors had existed long before then, it doesn't start using ghosts there until 1988 with Poltergeist III, which was a fine enough entry to get this started off nicely.

Afterward, it seems as though Asia started utilizing the concept, mixing in with their penchant for screwball comedy that was slowly working its way into their films. Starting with the insane Japanese effort World Apartment Horror (Wârudo apâtomento horâ) in 1991 and Hong Kong's Stephen Chow offering up his own version of the wacky apartment-set ghost film with Out of the Dark (Wui wan yeh), there are some solid baselines here for their work to come.

Though it would be a few years before they returned, a steady stream of work started appearing after the turn of the decade. Hong Kong offered up a more serious-minded effort in Horror Tower (Meng gui san shi liu ceng) allowing Japan to do the same with Dark Water (Honogurai mizu no soko kara) which got a big-screen American remake in 2005. India chimed in with the classic Bhoot in 2003 while The Philippines brought out The Echo (Sigaw) a year later which introduced a righting wrong element into the haunting rationale and getting its own remake in 2008. South Korea offered up two entries in the same year, with both Apt. (Apateu) and The Curse of February 29 (2 wol 29 il) in 2006, while Thailand's third entry in their highly-popular Rahtree series, Buppah Rahtree 3.1: Rahtree Returns came in 2009, following a similar pattern from Indonesia which did the same thing three years earlier by placing Pocong 2 of the series into an apartment after using the first film to tell its story elsewhere.

In the later half of the 2000's, it was more a case of countries providing additional entries of the trope, Having already brought forth two fun entries, Japan brought out Tales of Terror: Haunted Apartment (Kaidan Shin Mimibukuro: Yûrei manshon) and Apartment 1303, the latter of which being the third particular film in this particular style to get a remake. Apparently still enamored with their goofy slapstick comedies, Hong Kong kept the laughs going with Yes, I Can See Dead People (Ngok nam shi kin) that employed a lot of similarities to a specific American blockbuster to the location. Even the Philippines caught up a second effort with The Blacksmith (Tumbok) to give them a pair of films in the style.

All this activity over in Asia must've inspired the rest of the world which picked up the baton set forth there. Putting down the remakes, the US quickly put out both Circle of Eight and Haunting at the Beacon in 2009, Strange Rooms and The Room, it comes off as an attempt to play through the type of interest founded through the Paranormal Activity series just getting started at the time. Not to be outdone, even Europe contributed two stellar entries in 2011 with the Spanish effort Apartment 143 [Emergo] and the German 205: Room of Fear (205 - Zimmer der Angst) which despite being a remake itself of a Danish film has more to do with the location than the original. More recently, the US brought out other rather impressive efforts The Abandoned and The Charnel House to give this section a little more life.

These here remain the most recent efforts of this particular style, it's quite a nice array of work that comes off a lot more fruitful and expansive than most would imagine.

Hospital:
This is another rather odd location that seems unusual to have a lot of titles involved, but delving deeper into the genre finds this one with another strong selection of titles out there. Again, like the apartment series of films it has a pretty decent history as a setting used for other films long before it became a setting for ghost films to be featured there, and while it's a pretty small contained set of films there's definitely a set here.

Despite not really being a true hospital-set effort, the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill could certainly lay claim to being the launching point of this particular style as it does fall more into the haunted house sub-genre yet it's still worthy of inclusion. Still, it's not until 2005 that this one really picks up.as prolific Spanish director Jaume Balagueró scored an international hit with Fragile, which immediately set off a small chain of impressive work throughout the genre. unleashing both Death Tunnel and the utterly impressive Boo the same year.

That outburst of activity was oddly reflected in Indonesia, where it used the international success as the tipping point to start in on a series of films involving one of the country's most sinister legends. Featuring the legend of the leg-dragging nurse, they produced a slew of films regarding this sinister ghost beginning with Nurse ngesot (Suster negesot) which told the being's origin story. 2009 saw three more entries that featured the same ghost in pretty enjoyable efforts, Hospital Tunnel (Terowongan rumah sakit)The Curse of the Leg-Dragging Nurse (Kutukan suster ngesot) and Nurse Shampoo (Suster keramas) in one year alone with this last one producing a sequel two years later. Producing this many films in such a short period of time is certainly a rather impressive feat for anyone, much less to have it be done in a rather obscure country about a local legend makes it obvious that something was happening there. Singapore even got into the act with an effort of their own, offering the found-footage chiller Haunted Changi a year later in 2010.

Finally, back after that brief break in the action, the US returned to action with several new efforts that quickly showed up around that time. Starting with a more slasher-influenced Room 33 in 2009, providing another effort in this already crowded year with the three Indonesia efforts, then onto The Crying Dead in 2011 and Greystone Park in 2012, there's a nice bit of life breathed into this part of the genre. More recently, while the 2013 release of The Hospital and its sequel two years later as well as the US/Colombia co-production City of Dead Men produced in between showed that the style isn't as completely dead as it looked several years earlier.

So it's obviously not a rather overflowing genre by the examples listed above, but this shockingly does contain more than expected here which is what generates some interest here with the setting providing quite a bit more than expected that are by-and-large highly enjoyable in their own right.

Prison/Jail-
Much like the previous setting, this isn't really a prominent setting but in fact, this does have a rather healthy selection of titles in a limited capacity. It doesn't have too many titles, but there's enough here to ensure the setting a place of prominence here on the blog.

Now, obviously prison-set films had been in use long before, but its first showing was with the 1987 effort simply titled Prison, about a prisoner's ghost haunting a prison when a new shipment of recruits arrive to repopulate it. Not the most impressive start, there's enough to give it some legs here when it starts up again. Hong Kong would answer with the exploitation effort Haunted Jail House (Jian yu bu she fang) in 1990, naturally melding the ghost-haunting plot with a rather sleazy Women-in-Prison main story to add in more fun here.

However, after these films, it would take until 2002 for another prison-set ghost film. This time, it's another Hong Kong effort with the long-running series Troublesome Night 17 (Yin yang lu shi qi zhi jian fang you gui) coming out to bring the genre to life. Much like the other films in the series, the mix of goofy comedy and genuine supernatural hijinks gives this a rather fun air, and the more ferocious haunting antics are rather enjoyable overall. From there, it would take until 2006 for another effort with the rather strong Death Row although it originally aired under the rather bland Haunted Prison title. After that point, one effort a year emerged with the titles Furnace, The Unquiet and Ghost Machine coming out in rapid succession.

It would later be resurrected in 2011 with the solid The Task, also a part of the burgeoning trend at the time of filming reality shows in spooky places only for something to interrupt the actual shoot. However, that would be the last impressive effort as the two most recent efforts in 616: Paranormal Incident and Bleed both arriving without too much fanfare to add to the genre as a whole. However, in terms of keeping it alive, there's something to be said for ensuring that, and it brings up the question of what the top spot might be as there's plenty of room for that to occur.

Sanitarium-
What seems like a likely source for letting loose with such titles ends up providing this small subset of the genre with the most amount of films in the style overall. This is a pretty popular location which you'll soon see based on the full quantity of titles in the style.

Now, much like the previous settings here, it had been in use long before the first official title in this little genre. The initial start of these types of films is in 1971 with A Taste of Evil, which is a bit of a cheat since the film concerns a woman leaving an asylum being tormented by a ghost trying to drive her insane. Again, it's here merely as a starting point where the inclusion of the two is first noted, and that fact is rooted in the fact that the next entry is so much later. This next entry is another loose entry and is again merely here for completions' sake which is the 1988 Nightmare on Elm Street rip-off Bad Dreams, which is not so much about a ghostly figure but is instead more of a straight-up supernatural-tinged slasher film, yet because it's about a killer who had died and is coming back to claim revenge the mention is warranted.

So, with these being such hard-to-claim titles, where does the true aficionado start this special feature? The most obvious choice is the 1999  House on Haunted Hill remake, and it starts not only the full start of utilizing ghosts in mental asylums and sanitariums but also with the remake trend that ran through the later decade until today and is still going strong. It's still one of the better entries in both setups and starts us off proper on our journey.

While not imminently noticeable, the first traces can be seen quite soon afterward. One of the first ones to utilize the concept was Session 9, where a cleaning crew prepares a disused mental hospital and begin t suffer strange hallucinations and visions. While it plays with the idea of whether or not the ghosts are actually there, it's close enough to count here especially considering the quality of the film overall anyway. Moreover, the best aspect here is the fact that it manages to really bring out the setting for more appropriate killer ghost films with the later low-budget efforts Never Play with the Dead and Strawberry Estates both released the same year.

Several years later, the big-budget effort Gothika which again is somewhat controversial in terms of actually being about ghosts haunting a sanitarium and is merely listed here for completions' sake. It would be the underground which provided the true genre efforts where the lower-budget efforts Screaming Dead and Hellborn/Asylum of the Damned really provided this genre with truer entries. Furthering this, the next few years featured efforts like Madhouse, Death Tunnel and Bloody Mary all arriving one year after another to help build up this burgeoning trend.

From this underground explosion came a multitude of underground horror efforts. While the UK struck first with The Devil's Chair, a slew of other efforts arrived including Shadow Puppets, Psycho Ward, Asylum and Parasomnia as well as the Philippine horror/comedy Scaregivers which all emerged within a few years since all of the above-mentioned films were released between 2004 and 2008. Although it's all underground and direct-to-video style titles for everyone mentioned, this gluttony of releases that range from better-than-expected to just merely average forced a small break in productions as the only film the next year was one of the rare Asian horrors with the Indonesian effort Anak setan in 2009. However, it's all merely setting the stage for the biggest and most prolific outpouring yet of the genre.

Now, before we get to that, one more film squeaks through the cracks just before then. Rightfully considered one of the masters' biggest disappointments, the surprisingly mediocre The Ward from John Carpenter arrived in 2010 and was almost completely dismissed away as the far more important film emerged closely behind it. This would be the spectacular Canadian effort Grave Encounters, which here is mostly known for kickstarting the faux-reality show part of the sub-genre into fine form as the concept of people filming supposed reality shows in haunted asylums only to meet up with actual ghosts.

This became one of the biggest styles in the genre from the success of this film here and spawned waves of imitators. Within the next few years, almost a dozen films have been released focusing on this concept as efforts like 7 Nights of Darkness, Episode 50, Reel Evil and The Lost Episode, alongside the Grave Encounters sequel all arrived within a two-year span which all followed the same formula of people filming a reality show or movie in a thought-to-be-abandoned asylum only to meet up with real terror. Other, more recent efforts of the style include Asylum, The Lost Footage, Archivo 253 and the two films recently released just this very year in Asylum of Fear and The Devil's Toy Box which all showcase riffs on this very trend.

Now, while this faux-reality show format was exceptionally popular, there's still a somewhat more normalized series of films featuring haunted asylums and sanitariums. Still resigned to the direct-to-video market at that point, efforts like Paranormal Incident, Paranormal Asylum and House of Dust all emerged during the outpouring of fake reality show style of films. Even the legendary Amityville series picked up an entry with The Amityville Asylum being set in such a facility, and a slow, steady stream of films all continually emerged like a factory assembly line producing such films. Some were decent enough to be watchable at worst, such as Dark Feed, Kingdom Come and Exeter, some showed promise but were undone by a slew of detrimental issues like Sanatorium or The Purgation while still others are just wholly disappointing such as Stonehearst Asylum, Patient Seven or Eloise which is where we leave this genre for the time being.

Ships/Boats-
The last entry we'll look at for now is one that I really won't be going in-depth on, mainly because I've already monopolized enough of your time so far with the other entries but also because a written history of haunted boats and ghost ships would be a blog post in and of itself. Therefore, I'll just skip that and get onto the films themselves as that's what you're here for anyway.

So, it should be no surprise that efforts onboard boats and ships had occurred long before the official start of the genre, but for completions' sake we'll start our journey with the 1952 effort Ghost Ship, about a luxury ship haunted by the ghosts of the crew that disappeared years before. This is a solid enough effort overall, but its relative obscurity is somewhat justified and more than likely is responsible for the few tentative steps to occur afterward as the only other efforts to follow are sporadic and foreign due to the next efforts to arrive span the globe. It took until 1968 for the next entry as it was the Japanese effort The Living Skeleton and then the Philippine effort The Deathhead Virgin to round out the early section of this style.

Still, once again this never produced much in terms of actual genre output, which is to be expected considering the low-number of actual titles. The 1980's produced just as many titles here with the effort Death Ship and later on Moon in Scorpio arriving which figures being the decade was about the big glossy effects which isn't possible in the subgenre. It's what pretty much enables this to having such low numbers since there's a lot more needed to ensure this style emerges onward since the next one coming in 1997 being The Haunted Sea which is all that really arrived.

This sporadic trickling of movies in the style continues onward as the 2000s offers a few more efforts overall but still nothing that can be settled on in terms of an overall scene. The low-budget made-for-TV effort The Lost Voyage is where it really starts off in 2001, followed up by Ghost Ship remake a year later. Now, considering the mainstream success of that one, it's a little surprising nothing else really emerged to capitalize off that, as all we got were one-shot deals one year apart starting in 2005 with Haunted Boat and carrying on from there with efforts like Ghostboat, The Ferryman, Black Ops and finally Triangle which is the most recent effort to take advantage of the style.

All right, I think we'll leave it at there for now, both in the interest of my sanity as well as your attention span. We'll be back with more looks at ghost movies around the world for the rest of the month so come back for more.