"Run-of-the-mill" seems like a modestly accurate way to describe myself in terms of horror fandom. In certain respects I find that valuable, since ideally I can make an appeal to those like myself, to those who may be testing the waters, and hopefully to the hardcore horror fans as well. (And I sincerely encourage feedback, especially from the latter.) It wasn't until several years ago, the present time of this writing being December of '09 to give perspective, that the genre genuinely appealed to me and I owe all that to the film adaptation of Stephen King's 'IT'. After that, it was a slow and steady progression that grew into watching more Stephen King film adaptations, then into watching general horror films. In more recent years it's branched from solely films into different mediums, namely: comics (comic books, manga, graphic novels, webcomics, etc.), purely written literature, and different games.

But let's get to the point, shall we? The Darkley Niche is something I've constructed after the comic-in-progress that a friend and myself plan on self-publishing, an anthology of short horror stories much in the same vein as 'Tales from the Crypt' and similar titles. The series centers around a faceless persona we've affectionately dubbed Alan Darkley, the Niche's namesake, and a cast of storytellers whose tales fall within particular subgenres and sister genres of horror. This site is the drawing board, if you will, where everything posted is either a form of research or a roughing out of ideas. It's all relevant in some fashion. By exploring these different horror stories and their mediums a better understanding and influence of the genre, as well as inspiration, can be put into the comic. Even if you have no personal interest in the project, perhaps you can glean something from the reviews and the like. And if nothing else, the Niche will work to serve my own purposes.

Be sure to browse over the column of banners below if you're looking for posts on a particular topic. (And at the very bottom of the blog, if you would like to consult the complete listing of post labels.) Otherwise, scroll down past them to get to the most recent articles. Likewise, refer to the right side for our latest tweets.

Meet The Darkley Storytellers

Meet The Darkley Storytellers

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Well, here's yours truly. The name's Drew, in case you were wondering. The Niche is my personal site, while the comic-in-progress is a partnered effort with Don, a lifelong friend of mine. We collaborate on the stories, but my partner's the writer in the outfit while I am the illustrator. This is currently little more than a side project, but we hope to make something of it.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

triple haunted feature: The Echo, The Uninvited, and The Dark

Afraid I'm falling behind on the film reviews, no pun intended. More recently Don, friend and Darkley comic co-conspirator, and myself have splurged on the movie rentals in the past few weeks. So to help catch up, the Niche presents a special feature reviewing three movies about hauntings. Actually, one of these is not a haunting, but I'll let you learn for yourselves which it is. We'll keep the synopses shorter and leave out the important spoilers, so have at it.

An American remake of Fillipino horror film 'Sigaw' (which neither of us have seen and only learned that it was a remake after the fact), 'The Echo' follows recently released ex-con Bobby Reynolds (Jesse Bradford) who moves into the apartment of his late mother. The circumstances surrounding his mother's death are vague and appears to have gone senile, shutting herself up in the apartment in the remaining weeks of her life. The apartment building supervisor, having replaced the prior super not so long ago, is less than helpful on the details. Bobby is left to find unsettling pieces of the puzzle: piano keys stained with blood and whole fingernails inside the piano itself, a closet with cans of cat food and locks on the inside, and a hole in the wall caused by some sort of hard impact, just to name a few.

To make matters worse, Bobby is put in a precarious predicament by the evidence of abuse going on next door, which only he seems to take notice of. Several times the victimized mother (Iza Calzado) and daughter (Jamie Bloch, 'Diary of the Dead') reach out to Bobby, each in their own way. But when it's the word of an ex-con against a police officer (Kevin Durand), and a rather large man at that, who menacingly tells Bobby to mind his own business, who would they believe? However, it's not long after that we learn the apartment next door is abandoned and that there is no family. At least no living family. Following the pattern of horror films like 'Ju-on', the spirits of 'The Echo' are trapped in a violent cycle that extends its reach to any who make contact, apparently those who visit or live on that particular floor. Oh, and there's also an old girlfriend (Amelia Warner, 'Nine Lives') that gets caught up in this mess, but who really cares, right?

While maintaining an ominous atmosphere and some legitimately creepy elements, there is relatively little that 'The Echo' offers that makes it original from other American remakes or the Asian horror films that they're based on. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad movie by any means, just average. I give it three out of five blood-stained piano keys.

While the title of 'The Uninvited' (2009) would lead you to presume that it's referring to a haunting spirit or such, it's actually a flesh and blood woman. Meet Anna Ivers (Emily Browning, 'Ghost Ship'), a teenage girl recovering from the traumatic death of her mother, which lead to her stay and rehabilitation in a mental institution. Anna has reoccurring nightmares of the night her mother died in the boat house from an unexplained fire, but has blocked out the incident from her conscious memories. Having worked through a suicidal phase, Anna's psychiatrist deems her ready to go home and in parting says, in the hopes that her memories will gradually return, "finish what you started".

But as they say, you can never go home. Anna returns with her father (David Strathairn) to their seaside house, but it is not the home that she left before. Anna's sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel, 'Freakdog'/'Red Mist') is resentful, initially, of her sister leaving and has developed a bit of a drinking problem. Aside from Anna's absence and their mother's death, what has driven Alex to further drinking is Rachel Summers (Elizabeth Banks, 'Slither'), their mother's former nurse and stepmother-to-be. It's apparent at this point that Rachel is the "uninvited" person in the house. Hoping to make a good impression on Anna, Rachel puts on a friendly, if somewhat pushy, facade for the girl.

But when the frightful apparition of Anna's mother (Maya Massar) starts appearing to her, making accusation of murder in a manner almost reminiscent of 'Hamlet', she begins to suspect that Rachel may have had a hand in her death. Together with her sister, Anna tries to solve the mystery of Rachel Summers' past, the circumstances of the boat house fire, and three murdered children whom Anna sees in visions.

'The Uninvited', like 'The Echo', is also an American remake of an Asian horror film, South Korea's 'A Tale of Two Sisters'. And likewise, Don and myself learned this only after the fact. It does deserve credit for not feeling like a typical remake, since neither of us suspected. A decent story with a few well done twists at the end, I give it three-and-a-half out of five pearl necklaces. (It'll make sense when you watch the film.)

Based on the novel 'Sheep' by Simon Magin (which I haven't read -- by now you've likely noticed my trend of unfamiliarity with the original sources of most films), 'The Dark' (2005) takes us to the gorgeous countryside of Wales. Visiting her estranged husband James (Sean Bean, 'Silent Hill'), Adele (Maria Bello, 'Secret Window') hopes that this time together will help bridge the gap growing between her resentful teenage daughter Sarah (Sophie Stuckey) and herself. However, all is not peaceful as the grassy pastures by the coast would appear. A stone monument inscribed with the word "Annwyn" stands erect on a cliffside, memorializing the suicides of a small congregation who fell into the sea. This is explained by Dafydd (Maurice Roƫves, 'The Nightmare Man' series), an older local and friend of James', who further elaborates that Annwyn is the land of the dead in Welsh mythology.

After Sarah disappears while exploring the shore, a strange girl later appears in her place named Ebrill (Abigail Stone). As Adele unravels the mystery of Ebrill and the history of the monument she learns that the two are connected to a figure called "the Shepherd", Ebrill's father and a local pastor. Losing his daughter to illness fifty years ago, Ebrill's father (Richard Elfyn) convinced his congregation to commit mass suicide as a path to Paradise. Believing the Welsh legends, he lied and sacrificed them to bring Ebrill back from the underworld. She did return, however she brought an evil over with her. Attempting to bleed out the darkness with trepanning, this backfired and led to his untimely death. Afterward, Ebrill went to the sea, back to Annwyn, but has come back after all these years for what she wished most for: a loving father. Eventually this leads up to a climatic conclusion as Adele crosses over with Ebrill into Annwyn to bring her daughter back.

While the plot unfortunately starts to fall apart towards the end, the concepts of the story itself were quite good. And the cinematography was absolutely beautiful, no question of that. If I may be so bold to compare films, 'The Dark' reminds me slightly of 'The Wicker Man' (1973, not the 2006 perversion) and 'Silent Hill', appropriate since Sean Bean starred in the latter. After weighing the pros and cons, I have to give it three out of five ghost sheep.
~movie trailers~

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