Haunted Transmissions Vol 1

Please note there will be spoilers..

So the brain fart behind this list, with all the best intentions, was to collate a bunch of movies where some kind of media has been possessed, cursed or a strange entity is controlling, and in turn is spreading itself via modern(ish) technology such as video, photography or radio signals etc.

Throughout history fairy tales and horror stories were filled with twisted tales of cursed items, a spinning wheel here, fake food there, red dancing shoes everywhere. The notion of something being cursed isn’t new at all but the type of items that surround us everyday have changed and it’s only natural that they too become subject to this affliction of being cursed or possessed.

For me the first memorable modern story featuring haunted media was in the Koji Suzuki 1991 novel The Ring, where a girl, Sadako is able to project her hate onto a video tape where the viewer is given 7 days to live after watching the abstract footage. The video description was chillin it kept cutting out going back every few seconds, it’s not until the end of the novel you realise it was literally looking through the eyes of Sadako and perceiving her blinking.

In the original book Sadako possess the paranormal trait known as Nensha, the ability of Psychic Photography but it was okay as a book in the written format you could only read about the video recording, the actual recording didn’t exist, although things really changed when the movie was released, all hell broke loose in fact, with people losing their shit about a real curse. The cursed video tape remains a constant fixture in the movie and book series, eventually it begins to evolve into other formats both in fiction and in the mass hysteria that it caused, there were reports of Japanese school girls losing their minds about reading reports about the tape and then dying 7 days later, had their raised a tulpa? Is the power of suggestion that strong, Ring mania has begun.

Nensha, is the ability to burn thoughts onto photographs, was around a long time before Koji Suzuki’s groundbreaking novel, the earliest claim comes from Tomokichi Fukurai around 1910 and even Uri Geller jumped onto that bandwagon in 1995. The only evidence that I’ve seen of this in a movie was the darkly comical Premonition (2004) and that’s when I started this magical list, but 16 years later here I go with my first installment…

So here we go 10 Haunted Transmission movies, please note that these are not rated in anyway.

01 Demons 2 (1986) Television

In Lumberto Bava’s terrifying sequel to Demons follows the tenants of a tower block who find themselves trapped with some roaming deadly demons. The night of ultimate fear and danger begins when the demons infiltrate the minds of the inhabitants through a terrible splatter horror movie being transmitted into the apartments on the dark and stormy night. It’s clearly spelt out but much like it’s professor it seems the occult nature of the film and the raging storm creates a conduit for which the evil can pass through from the haunted celluloid to the minds of its audience. In this case a birthday girl who wants to cry if she wants to, is subjected to the influence of the unknown, grows some fangs and claws and begins to eat her guests, infecting them with evil that spreads throughout the tower block like a zombie infection. It’s a blast once it gets going, a really bucket of gore horror with gremlins, demons, tons of puss and a few familiar faces from the previous movie and a cracking post punk soundtrack.

02 Poltergeist (1982) – Television

A family have just moved into their dream home, parts of it are still being constructed, including their much needed new swimming pool, but their youngest and totally adorable daughter starts having conversations with the TV when it’s tuned to static. The abilities of toddlers and babies to communicate with the dead and supernatural beings is well documented but when things get really creepy and the daughter is abducted by the spirits connected with the house and the only way for the family to communicate with her is through a static channel on the television. An interesting concept which ties together White noise and Spirit Box theories.

3 Pontypool (2008) – Radio

In all fairness I’m being hoity with this choice as it’s just about fits into the category. In this comedy horror a radio host turns up to his shift noticing something strange is going on within his town. After going about the usually drawl of updates and boring music, the acute host begins to work out that a zombie like virus is being transmitted through spoken language. Like a cross between an acute earworm and War of the Worlds this brilliant and slightly obscure horror really incites on it’s viewers to think outside the box, but what would happen if the language you utter could infect those around you, how to you survive and/or keep your sanity. How can we survive as language is one of our biggest and most important breakthroughs. The movie, originally a radio play, throws up a lot of deeper, more confounding ideas and McHattie’s gonzo-esque performance is outstanding. It’s not the transmission which is possessed in any way but it does help spread the virus but it’s also being used to help spread the warning.. along with the virus, it’s such a perfect set up.

04 V/H/S (2012) Video Tape

I’m going to stick with the first V/H/S for this list, as I pray and hope that there will be a part 2, there are so few movies which play with this concept I’m going to need all the fodder I can get! So bear with me and watch this space! V/H/S is an anthology which wraps around a story where some young thrill seekers have been sent to recover a video tape, on discovering the owner has committed suicide they sit back and check out some of the movies. This opens up the anthology as a series of a new wave of creepy stories that are made purely to unsettle its audience. This debut of the trilogy was really ground-breaking and the wrap around remained pretty intense and has this intense feeling of foreboding terror which is rare in a lot of modern horrors, it’s easy to see why this was so popular.

05 Ringu / The Ring (1998) – Video Tape

Sticking with the movie which kicked things off and mentioned in the intro. The Ring universe is kickstarter by an urban legend of a cursed movie who’s viewers have 7 days to live before they are mysteriously killed. It’s a benchmark in horror cinema which began the cultivation of the iconic Japanese Ghost, a gaunt figure with strange upturned eyes, long dark hair, it’s become a staple in both pranks, remakes and Halloween costumes galore. The idea that a video tape or a copy of it could spread a curse is awesome, it’s like the ultimate Rickroll, you’re watching a family home video and your kid brother has recorded this cursed segment into it, you watch it by accident and now you’re cursed. After all the running around investigating who made the tape and how it works, the show stopper is how the cursed entity, known locally as Yotsuya Kaidan, creeps from the movie into our reality to kill her victims. A marvellous movie which really put Japanese Horror in the limelight.

06 Halloween III : Season of the Witch (1982) – Television

I could never quite work out what this had to do with the Halloween series but I’ve always adored this bat crazy horror. The hottest commodity for Halloween is a Silver Shamrock Mask, designed to turn your much loved children into a witch , a pumpkin or a ??. but unbeknownst to the tiny tots and their bemused parents the owner of Silver shamrock has struck a black magic deal and once all the bin lids are wearing their coveted masks he plans to send out a transmission which will activate something within the kids brains and turn them into killers. The 1970’s paranoia is writhe in this 80’s classic, I remember watching on at a child all freaked out that the television was going to possess me and make my kill my family and while the idea of subliminal images have been toyed with over the years the mechanics of the movie are clunky but make an effective popcorn horror movie.

07 Videodrome (1983) – Television

Welcome to the new flesh! This somewhat surreal and yet familiar experiment of cinema is one of the better known Cronenberg movies which follows a man dropping into a rabbit hole of sex and violence. James Woods stars as Max Renn, a man who finds an unusual television station while flicking around last one night. As his obsession grows with the Dark Web styled “shows” his sanity slowly filters away, this speeds up after his new-found love Debbie Harry, tries to get a spot on the unknown show and seems to be absorbed by what he learns is Videodrome, a sort of conscious live stream. It’s body horror on acid as organic guns grow from arms and televisions reach out to touch their intended victims. It’s a crazy film but so majestic in it’s vaporwave styled response to American culture.

08 9-7-6 Evil (1988) – Telephone

In Robert Engluds directorial debut, 976 Evil is a film about the now defunct premium rate phone system which was very popular in the 80’s and now replaced by the area code 900. A young nerdish outcast discovers the premium rate number and begins receiving comfort from an unknown assumed pre recorded source, but instead he becomes the embodiment of evil as he is possessed by dark forces, which he uses to enact his rage against those who bullied him. It’s a wonderful horror from someone who has spent a lot of time in front of the camera and who really understood what fans wanted. Englunds ability to read what makes a horror fun and watchable really pays off in this once in a decade horror.

09 Dark Angel (1990) DVD

AKA as I Come In Peace. This film is a little off kilter for the list but I feel it needs a mention. The Media in this film isn’t haunted but instead programmed to kill humans! A pale alien lands on earth with the intention of getting people high to farm of their endorphins to make another almost priceless drug on his planet, but one of his neat little weapons is a CD like disc which is tuned into “human” and it flies around like one of the silver balls in Phantasm but more 90’s. it’s an interesting concept, not sure how practical it could be but who doesn’t want a targeted weapon when trying to collect drugs on an alien planet.

10 Demons (1985) – Cinema

In Lumberto Bava’s cult classic zombie horror a group of random strangers are invited to a mysterious movie premiere. As the supernatural movie unfolds on the big screen one of the unfortunate viewers Rosemary (Gretta Gretta) having scratched her face with a mask which features in the movie feels unwell and while attempting to clean her wound it begins to puss as she freaks out and turns into a demon and starts attacking the other guests at the premiere. The connection between the cinema screening and the events in the hotel are doppelgangers and it’s a wonderful inventive way of connecting the demonic film events with real life.

If you can think of anything which can begin to make up Vol. 2 then please contact me in the comments.

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