Archives for category: Halloween

Seriously creepy films for Halloween.

Nosferatu (1922, Murnau)
Silent, German classic of the first incarnation of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. Max Schreck, with his claw-like fingers, razor-sharp teeth and pointed ears, is terrifying as Count Orlok. If his looks are scary, it’s his slow-moving, shadowy gait on the stairs as he makes his way to Ellen’s bedroom that really gives you the shivers. Typical of German Expressionist film, the use of light and shadow is integral to the visual narrative and heightens the suspense. Stoker’s widow, Florence, tried to destroy all copies of Nosferatu, claiming she was not asked permission for the adaptation. Fortunately for us, some copies were missed.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968, Polanski)
Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes star as newlyweds who move in to an apartment block in new York City, where there are many sinister goings on, including unexplained deaths. Rosemary (Farrow) quickly becomes disconcerted with their surroundings and their peculiar and intrusive next door neighbours. The strangeness in the film is slow-burning reaching an almighty climax when the neighbours try to steal Rosemary’s ‘unusual’ baby. The genuine terror Rosemary displays when she sees her child for the first time is palpable. Pray for Rosemary’s Baby.

Eraserhead (1977, Lynch)
David Lynch’s first full-length feature is arguably his darkest. Shot in black and white to emphasise the industrial landscape, there is no dialogue, only the sounds of machines, for the first ten minutes of the film. Henry (Jack Nance) and his girlfriend Mary (Charlotte Stewart) appear to live in a soulless world. Mary soon becomes pregnant and gives birth to a grotesque mutant baby, straight out of a Francis Bacon painting. Can Henry learn to love it? Apparently Stanley Kubrick made the cast of The Shining watch Eraserhead in preparation for filming. Says it all really.

Marquis (1989, Xhonneux)
Not exactly ‘Halloween scary’, but one of the creepiest films I have ever seen. Set in the Bastille before the French Revolution, a group of incarcerates played by animal puppets await their fate. The main character, the Marquis (who is a dog), has been accused of trying to overthrow the king. He spends most of his day writing and talking to his penis (yes, his penis), which talks back to him (yes, it has a face). What’s probably most creepy about this film, as well as the inter-species breeding, is when about half way through the film, you realise that a talking dog having a conversation with his penis has become normal.

Little Otik (2000, Svankmajer)
A barren couple attempt to create a child from a tree in this horror fantasy based on a Czech fairytale. Alas their tree baby is not the little darling they had dreamt of, and it sets out on a path of gluttonous murder. The ‘baby’ has that overtly jerky animation synonymous with Jan Svankmajer’s films, which only heightens the creep factor. This, combined with the paedophilic neighbour who pursues the precocious little girl living upstairs, all adds up to a pretty disturbing movie.

After compiling this list, I’ve realised that three of these films centre around a creepy baby. How strange…Happy Halloween everyone!

Autumn has got to be my favourite season. Russet-hued falling leaves, chestnuts, that crisp, fresh air, and of course an abundance of pumpkins. Sadly, this is the only time we get to see pumpkins in the UK, so it was nice to see so many of them (75 varieties), and so proudly displayed, at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in Richmond, Surrey.

In the Waterlily House, a pumpkin pyramid featuring varieties of pumpkins from all over the world, many of which I had never seen before, such as the Red October and the Buttercup – which is black – rose from the water. Around the edge of the pond, there were pumpkin displays from different continents, featuring traditional recipes and ingredients.

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Kew Gardens, as it is more commonly known, was founded in 1759, becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. It is a world leader in plant science and conservation.

As well as beautiful plants, trees and flowers, Kew Gardens features many decorative structures, the tallest of which is the Pagoda. It is 163 feet high and has 10 stories, completed in 1762. The size of the Pagoda is impressive and looks fabulous from a distance, but it doesn’t look particularly interesting close-up. It was once adorned with 80 gold dragons and was very colourful. After restoration, it unfortunately looks a little bland.

Another decorative structure is The Japanese Gateway, a replica of the Gate of Nishi Hongan-ji (Western Temple of the Original Vow) in Kyoto, although it is not as large. It was built in 1910 and the landscaping has been specifically created to complement the Japanese design.

Kew also has eight glasshouses including The Palm House, designed by Decimus Burton and engineered by Richard Turner. It was constructed between 1844 and 1848 using iron and 16,000 panes of glass, at a time when the Victorians started to import tropical plants to Europe. It features a walkway around the top so you can look down on all of the palms and exotic blooms. In the lower level of the Palm House there is an aquarium with seahorses and upside down jelly fish – a new one on me. I think one of the seahorses was pregnant: his belly was huge!

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A newish addition to Kew is the Xstrata Treetop Walkway, an 18 metre (59ft) high construction, which opened in 2008. It was nice walking around the path amongst the tree tops but if you’re looking for a view, there isn’t much to see beyond the leaves.

Overall, Kew Gardens is a very nice day out, one that would be enjoyed by all ages. It’s the kind of place that you’d want to visit every season. The squirrels, geese and peacocks seem to agree.

The pumpkin displays last until November 3rd. Adult tickets cost £14.50, open daily from 9.30am. Visit http://www.kew.org for more information and upcoming events.