Tom Humberstone

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horror month - day 31

Ils/Them (2006)

"We just want to play."

Quick summary: A french couple living in a remote mansion in the Romanian countryside face a home invasion from unknown intruders who like to obnoxiously announce their arrival via the use of metal music.

I was unsure how to finish this month with a strong, Halloween-friendly film - most of my decisions on what to watch this month has been made after twitter/facebook recommendations and just taking the plunge without reading much about the films beforehand. Ils/Them was, it turned out, a perfect way to finish off - a taut, incredibly tense, mercifully short (77 mins), stripped-down home invasion movie. Definitely the best of this sub-genre (which I'm not much of a fan of) I've seen since You're Next.

The film reminded me of Haute Tension - another great French horror movie - in the way it maintains  a sustained, mounting tension throughout. Both films have genuinely had me on the edge of my seat and desperate for the relief of a final act. There's even a very effective scene involving dangling plastic sheeting that calls to mind a similar scene in Haute Tension.

It smartly keeps us and the protagonists from ever glimpsing much more of the intruders than some feet or a hood - and there's something in the way they move and the way that sound is used that made me think of mime and Philippe Gaulier style clown school techniques.

After reading around the film in an attempt to find out how much the "based on a true story" is genuine or just another horror cliché - I discovered a piece which criticises the film for it's xenophobia. The piece is here - if you're planning on seeing the film, it contains spoilers. Without revealing too much, the protagonists are French, living in Romania, and the intruders are Romanian locals. The piece suggests the film (which came out just before Romania joined the EU) was either consciously or unconsciously a racist attack on Romanians and served to increase and play into French fears of Romanian immigrants. I think the piece is unfair on the film in terms of how successful it was on a purely technical level, but I think it raises very interesting points. I can't think of a reason (other than potential budgetary ones?) that this couldn't work in the French countryside. Don't get me wrong though - it is nowhere near the sexist, racist and homophobic levels of the Eli Roth trips to Europe.

And I'm done. That's 31 days. 32 illustrations. 38 films.

Films I found the scariest: The Borderlands, The Innocents, Dark Water, Unfriended, Ils.

Suggesting the things that scare me the most are: Under-explained paganism, creepy children, and greyed out boxes on facebook.

Films that left me with a lingering sense of unease for a few days: Threads, Bug, Possession, Repulsion, Berberian Sound Studio.

Directors I plan on delving into more: Val Lewton, Larry Fessenden, Ti West, Mario Baba, Dario Argento.

I really enjoyed this and while the addition of the daily illustration had me cursing myself for promising to do it on days when I had a lot of other work on, I'm going to miss having this routine. I would love to do this again sometime. The daily illustration gave me a chance to try out new inking and colouring techniques, and I can see an improvement from the first to the last piece which is gratifying. I wish I'd managed to fit more double-bills in and push that number of films watched to 40 but life, and principally a heavy workload, took priority.

Thanks to everyone on twitter/facebook who suggested horror films for me to watch throughout the month. Every film had something interesting in there, I don't think anything was a complete disappointment, and I've probably come away with at least five new favourite films. The list of recommendations can be found here - where I still have over 90 films to eventually get around to - I just may not be illustrating those! Please do get in touch if you think of any films that need to be on that list.

Also, thanks if you've been following along every day, and for everyone who shared the blog on social media. It's been really nice to see compliments on the drawings, or find out when people have a watched a film based on the blog - and it helped to hear that on the days when I was overwhelmed with work and finding it hard to fit this in.

Prints

I've had a little bit of interest in prints of some of the illustrations I did throughout this. I've started looking into a place where I can get really nice quality, A3 giclee prints on textured, thick, Hahnemuhle paper for a reasonable price. It's looking like I probably wouldn't be able to charge less than £20 per print but I've still got a few more printers to call.

If you're interested in getting a print, and £20 sounds like a fair price - let me know on my twitter or on facebook (and tell me which illustration you'd like) as that will give me some idea of how much interest there is.

I could also sell the original ink drawings if people wanted those.

Anyway. Icky capitalism aside. Thank you so much for reading and Happy Halloween!