Month: February 2014

Horror Films

Why Do We Watch Horror Films?

According to Wikipedia, “Horror is a film genre seeking to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s primal fears.”

Why would anyone choose to spend their time viewing a genre that affects them in an emotionally negative way? What kind of masochism is being indulged in here? I’m usually too busy watching my favourite classic horror films to care why I enjoy them, but it’s something I’ve been thinking more about lately.

The fact is, some of us get a kick out of being scared. This is a universally accepted fact. The question is, why do we enjoy feeling threatened by imaginary monsters, vampires and ghosts? (more…)

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Aranya Witch Mountain

Aranya – Friction/Refraction EP’s

I found this Portland, Oregon based band through Witch Mountain. Their vocalist Uta Plotkin is the founding member of this band, which plays live and records in between her Witch Mountain activities. Aranya’s music is a little different from WM’s more traditional sludge/rock/doom, and takes a more progressive approach.

Uta happens to play the viola (and I think piano as well), having had classical music training growing up. She makes good use of the viola in Aranya, playing some solos and melody lines to add variety to the otherwise guitar-based songs. I’ve noticed that many of her vocal melodies sound like viola or violin melodies, which is kind of interesting. I don’t know if it is intentional but it gives the music a unique feel that sounds completely different to the way most bands approach vocals.

Friction and Refraction are two separate, self-released EP’s that when put together, make up a short album’s worth of music. The first one, Friction, deals with “sexuality through heat metaphors” and it’s counterpart contains “five songs of reflection and rejuvenation,” to “soothe the beast.”

Aranya - FrictionFriction is made up of mainly aggressive, punkier material, similar to that found in the debut A Violent Birth album (released as a CDR in 2009). The four tracks pass by quickly in a blur of energy and passion that is difficult to make sense of.

This is, of course, intentional. The more time you spend listening to Aranya, the more you realise that everything they do is deliberate.

Being the sexual part of this binary experience (including the title), it doesn’t try to be too high-brow or deep. This is the animal, primal part of the two EP’s, as illustrated by the erupting volcano on the cover.

It’s exciting and intense, but it is over all too quickly, leaving the listener with a mild sense of disappointment and asking themselves “is that it?”

Friction is the passion, senseless intensity and ultimate meaninglessness of sex condensed into four songs.

RefractionRefraction is a much more introspective listening experience. Its five tracks are slower paced and more melodic than Friction with darker lyrics.

What I like about this EP is the sense of depth that the songs have. Lyrically, they are just as avant garde and weird as the rest of Aranya’s output, with esoteric references and metaphors that don’t always register on first listen. For me, this is one of the band’s greatest strengths. They don’t dumb themselves down in an attempt to pander to a wider audience. I can’t help thinking that this may prevent them from gaining a larger following, but I don’t imagine they care. The fans they do have are too busy enjoying the music.

After the sexual frenzy of Friction, this second EP can feel quite bleak and depressing in places. Again, intentionally so. Both recordings manage to manipulate the listener’s emotions and take them on a journey. They have no control over the destination, and are required to put their faith in Uta and her band. Hopefully they will be able to deal with the results!

Refraction features some unusual instruments such as trombone and accordion on the track Chicory Key. Hearing the old squeeze-box instantly put me in mind of ‘Allo ‘Allo. Though it’s possible that the band have never seen the show, it did make me smile!

Both EP’s are dedicated the the memory of Cyan Wunderlich, a friend and supporter of the band.

You can stream Friction and Refraction for FREE (alongside other releases) before you decide to buy, from the Aranya Bandcamp site:

aranya.bandcamp.com

www.aranyamusic.com

Copyright © Steve Wilson and The Third Realm, 2014

cult film horror

Cult Film: Blood Orgy of The She Devils (1972)

“A terrifying, screaming plunge to the depths of Hell!”

BOOTSD

Blood Orgy of The She Devils

Produced by Ted V. Mikels (Astro Zombies, The Doll Squad), this film has a one-star rating on its IMDB page. Despite this less than encouraging first impression, I was determined to give the film a chance. After all, someone had kindly uploaded it on to Youtube so I would be watching for free. I had nothing to lose and I can’t resist an obscure old horror with witchcraft and scantily-clad actresses. In fact, the one-star rating piqued my interest. If the general viewer considers the film to be complete garbage, then it just might turn out to be a hidden gem!

Of course, the film does not entirely live up to it’s title, but it does feature some scenes that attempt to depict witchcraft.

Lila Zaborin stars as Mara “queen of the black witches.” She presides over a coven of impressionable teenage girls (who also happen to be reincarnated witches!) and performs demonstration rituals for them for a living with a view to teaching them the secrets of the Black Arts.

While these rituals are taking place, Dr. Helsford (an expert on witchcraft) meets with two students, Mark (Tom Pace) and Lorraine (Leslie McRay). He attempts to explain the historical truth behind witchcraft, and goes into some detail about the real life witch trials that took place in centuries past. There is a relatively chilling reenactment of a witch being burnt at the stake about mid-way through the film. This is one of the most interesting scenes along with the Mara coven scenes, which build in intensity as the film reaches its climax.

The plot is not that engaging, and the acting and dialogue is beyond cringe-worthy. That said, it is worth a watch for fans of obscure 60’s and 70’s horror. If you discovered these films through bands like Electric Wizard and Cathedral, then this will be a good choice. It’s not a patch on The Living Dead at The Manchester Morgue (this film makes it look like Shakespeare!), but is does have some cool retro scenes for connoisseurs of exploitation cheese. Visually, it’s the kind of film you would expect to see projected behind a band at the Roadburn Festival.

If you’ve seen Zombie Flesh Eaters so many times that the idea of re-watching it scares you more than the movie itself, then you could do worse than Blood Orgy of The She-Devils. Just don’t set your expectations too high.

Remember: You can find the whole thing on Youtube for free, but to be honest the two-minute trailer I’ve included here covers all the best bits!

Copyright © Steve Wilson and The Third Realm, 2014