It’s October, which means that No But Listen is due to become even more of a relentlessly obsessive horror blog than it normally is. We watch an average of eight hundred horror movies between us a week, and that means that we have stacks of recommendations that we are waiting to unleash on our unsuspecting (though, at this point, if you suspect anything other than horror, I don’t know what to tell you) audience. This week: tech horror! Scary stories built around technology as a conduit for (or creator of) malevolent forces. Let’s get to it!
The Cleansing Hour
I actually reviewed this for our Halloween season last year, and it’s a movie that I really think deserves more in the way of props than it currently has. It’s a good gimmick to start with – The Cleansing Hour of the title refers to a long-running streaming show wherein a “priest” carries out an exorcism on a fake-possessed person to scam a few God-fearing Christians out of their donations – and the turn it takes into uncomfortable reality feels predictable at first. The added layer of the live-stream element and an eager audience observing events as they unfold gives The Cleansing Hour an uncomfortably voyeuristic edge that lifts it out of standard-issue. But it’s the performances, especially from my secret favourite Kyle Gallner, really deliver in giving this movie some depth; the relationships are believably heavy and complex, the story dealing with more than just some immediate monstrous entity and delving into a darker past that lends the film some genuine weight.
Talk about a one-woman show. Madeleine Brewer leads this miniature masterpiece of a thriller, as a cam girl shaken by the apparent theft of her account; the deeper she dives, though, the more clear it becomes that this is far more than just a few stolen passwords. Pitch-black with a dark sense of humour and an unabashed approach to the sexuality at the centre of the camming world, CAM is a superb identity crisis nightmare that really allows the brilliant Brewer to shine. Inventive, witty, and constantly twist-turning into yet another unguessable plot point, CAM is a modern-day Hitchcockian piece of pulp fiction about watching your identity slip through your fingers, and Brewer glows in an outstanding performance(s).
Unborn but Forgotten
So many tech horrors buckle under the weight of time passing; anything’s going to look out of date when you build a whole movie around how cutting-edge and new it is. But this 2002 South Korean thriller has a stylish, dreamlike quality that manages to evade too much of the out-of-date trap that so many technology-based movies fall into. Following a journalist as she investigates a website which appears to kill women who view it, it’s got a striking visual style that makes it feel more folkloric than anything else. Creepy, unsettling, and artfully constructed, it might look retro now at almost twenty years old, but it’s got enough enduring horror to overcome any datedness.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via The Berge)