So it’s done. The thirteen episodes of American Horror Story‘s third season have all aired, and we’re left to pick through the wreckage left behind by wild plot-twists and insane characters.
I reviewed each episode as it happened, and throughout I’ve been very impressed overall with just how much fun this series has been. It was the first that I’ve watched by broadcast, rather than binging on whole series at a time, and it is a very different way of consuming TV.
One of the best things about this show is its bravery. It goes to places that other shows just wouldn’t dare. Even Game of Thrones, with its infamous disregard for the wellbeing of its characters, hasn’t had half of the off the wall moments that American Horror Story has over the same number of seasons.
This was not an easy task, but I’ve boiled down the third series to my five favourite moments. There are countless others I could have included, and viewing American Horror Story: Coven from start to finish is highly recommended. It isn’t perfect, but it gets a lot closer than most modern TV series manage. AHS, as always, goes where others fear to tread.
So before Christmas, I ran down what I thought were the five worst examples of found-footage horror in film. It was a spot of spleen-venting, in which I knocked down a few of my pet hates about the format. However, I fear that in the process I may have given the impression that I don’t like found-footage as a rule.
I’m a sceptic, that much is true. As the last blog indicated, there are many pitfalls for films to fall into. But that’s not to say all of them do.
These strengths are centred around the ability to put the viewer in the midst of the action. Done right it can melt away the fourth wall from the viewer’s side, and ramp up tension, in a way which is perfectly suited to horror films.
So here you go, my top five found-footage horror films.
Found-footage is a much loved and much used technique in horror cinema. Done right, it can be hugely immersive and really add atmosphere to a story. In the same way as video games, it puts the viewer in the story.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always done right.
The recent ubiquity of the format has led to a bit of “found-footage fatigue“. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the technique, but some filmmakers have hit upon it as a rubber stamp for a good film, or — worse — a cheap-and-cheerful get-rich-quick scheme.
So here is my rundown of five of the worst, which have played a larger part than most in the wrecking of the genre.
Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.
This week’s heresy:
“CGI has made incredible leaps and bounds over the past few decades, resulting in incredible visuals. But the film industry’s headlong rush down the computer-generated highway, it is fast attaining a singular dominance, in danger of eclipsing not only other effects techniques, but plot and character development too.“
Opening sequences are something (I think?) common to all television series. On a basic level, they tell you what you’re watching and who is in it.
But, if effectively used, they can really add to the series, and the episode, they are attached to. The best opening sequences lodge themselves in the mind, becoming inseparable from the series itself in the same way as cover art on a book. Just look at the Friends opening sequence.
So here’s something I’ve been musing on for a while, pushed to crystallisation by a recent io9 article. My personal top five TV opening credit sequences.
Ah, Star Trek: Voyager. In many ways the middle child of the Star Trek family (for reference, TOS would be the father, TNG the mother, DS9 the angsty eldest child, and ENT the runt of the litter). There’s nothing out and out wrong with it, but you’ll find few of the rabid evangelists that haunt the fanbases of earlier shows.
Well, there’s a fair following for Seven of Nine, but I think they’re only really interested in Jeri Ryan’s… Let’s move on.
Voyager took the lessons of Deep Space Nine and applied them to the ship-based format of The Next Generation. The overarching storyline is there in the ongoing journey home, but the episodic, exploration is also there. Invariably we get one or two episodes a season where they almost get home, but don’t quite.
And on the way, there were many episodes which lived up to the very best of Star Trek.
Of all the four children of Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek series (yes, we do have to count Enterprise), Deep Space Nine is my favourite. Sorry, I’ll get my coat.
But really, whilst The Original Series and The Next Generation were off exploring strange new worlds, DS9 was exploring something much more interesting: human nature. Yes, all of Star Trek has done this — hell, it’s what all good science fiction should do — DS9 did it in much greater depth.
I think that’s largely down to the setting. Being on a space station, they were stuck. Unlike the various ship-based series, the DS9 crew couldn’t float off at the end of each episode, to ruin someone else’s shit the next week. If they made a mess — which they often did — then they had to sit in it.
And that meant that the themes and the stories were bolder, braver. From the strains of religion running through the entire series, to the brutally devastating Dominion war storyline of the last two seasons — which bizarrely the studio only wanted to last six episodes.
So here’s the run down. My five favourite episodes of my favourite Star Trek series.
Welcome, also, to too much sugar, pumpkins everywhere, and endless debates about whether or not it constitutes the Americanisation of British culture (answer: nobody cares).
But all of that misses the point. Halloween is not about any of that. Halloween is about horror films. The TV listings are jammed with them, Netflix have a “Halloween film” section, and HMV have been doing a roaring trade (I imagine) in the classics since about mid-October.
So here’s my contribution to the mix. My top five horror films, for your enjoyment. Enjoy.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was my very first encounter with science-fiction. Literally, when I was five, six, maybe seven I first saw an episode of the second son of Gene Roddenberry, and from then on I was hooked. Really, my whole addiction to SF and started there.
I sometimes have to remind myself just how ground-breaking a show this was. It broke boundaries of the time in the way that the most cutting edge shows today do. And it beat Apple to the iPad by over a decade — strangely a source of no small pride to me.
It had its poorer episodes, as with all shows. But it had some real gems amongst its 178 episode run. Below are my own personal top five, and an bit by way of explanation of why I rate them so highly.