While the documentary series “The Missing Cecil Hotel” arrived on Netflix on Wednesday, we take a look at five urban legends that have previously given rise to films.
The legend : Originally, the croquemitaine or “boogeyman” takes unexpected forms according to the stories, but he still has only one goal: to punish children. From this premise, the cinema created the films of “slashers”, led by characters of relentless serial killers seeming unstoppable and attacking all those crossing their path. The best known of them are Michael Myers from Halloween, Freddy Krueger from Claws of the Night or Jason from Friday 13. There will even be a trilogy of feature films soberly titled “Boogeyman”.
The film : The first part is called Boogeyman – the Door of the nightmares. Traumatized by the sudden disappearance of his father from his closet when he was only a child, Tim is now an adult still marked by this event. If he has succeeded in placing safeguards in his home by depriving himself of these pieces of furniture which terrify him, it is not the same with the parents of his girlfriend, where he is invited to dinner. And the evening will turn badly … Signed Stephen Kay, the feature film is not the best of its kind, but clings to the original legend of the “monster in the closet” to gently scare the children, and will inspire two sequels: Boogeyman 2 and Boogeyman 3 – The Last Nightmare.
In cinema, the croquemitaine has also taken the form of a children’s book (Mister Babadook), an internet creation (Slender Man) or a huge man (Phantasm). There are many others missing, and as many to (re) discover!
THE PROPHECY OF SHADOWS
The legend : In West Virginia in 1966, two couples say they saw a bird-like, human-sized creature chasing their car. Consequently, during the following days, several people say to have seen the same beast. In 1970, author and ufologist Gray Barker quotes the creature as “Mothman” (“moth-man”) and blames it for the very real collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, a town near which the couples would have seen this strange animal. By granting him supernatural powers, he inspires John Keel, investigator of the case of the 60s, who validates the theory of Barker and the fact that the beast is magic. He titles his book The Mothman Prophecies, and years later, producers seize it for the needs of a film released in 2002.
The film : Entitled in French The Prophecy of Shadows, the feature film begins in Washington, where journalist John Klein (Richard Gere) sees his wife pass away shortly after seeing a strange figure. While investigating the causes of his death, Klein discovers that in Pleasant Point, people have also died under the same conditions. Worse yet, the silhouette would hide a creature capable of orchestrating mass murders!
Director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road) offers well-crafted shots and fluid staging, directs his actors very well, but is not helped by a poorly constructed script. The film nevertheless deserves the rediscovery, and we must salute the performance of Laura Linney who is, as often, quite remarkable.
REMEMBER LAST SUMMER
The legend : The Hook is a character dating to at least the 1950s, a pirate-like killer with one arm ending in a hook. The most commonly told story is that of a young couple kissing in a car. Hearing that a madman armed with a hook is on the run, the young woman asks to be brought home as soon as possible. Her husband does so and when he gets out of the car to open the door for the young woman, he is amazed to see that a hook is hanging on the door handle … they have slipped away!
The film : On National Day night, Julie, Helen, Ray and Barry accidentally run over a stranger and decide to make the body disappear. They take an oath not to tell anyone, but the following summer, each of the four friends is confronted with terrifying events. They have to face the facts: someone knows what they have done and seems determined to make them pay for it.
The Scream writer returns with Remember Last Summer (1997), inspired by The Hook, whose legend is even told at the beginning of the film. The teenagers (including Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar) quickly find themselves pursued by a ruthless man armed with a hook, who returns to hunt down the survivors in Remember Last Summer 2 (1998). A third opus will be released directly on video in 2006, but will be completely decorated with the previous films.
TERROR ON THE LINE
The legend : This is the so-called “babysitter and guy above”, which dates back to the 1950s and is believed to start from the unsolved murder and rape of a babysitter named Janett Christman. According to the legend later born, the babysitter receives mysterious phone calls, and the killer’s voice continually asks her if the children are okay (“check the children”, in English). A gimmick featured in Terreur sur la ligne by Fred Walton (1979).
The film : First feature film by its director, Terror on the line tells how a young babysitter finds herself harassed on the phone by an individual who seems to be hiding … in the house itself! The second part of the feature film takes place years later and departs from the legend itself but remains a classic of the genre. This isn’t the only film based on this urban legend, as a few years earlier, Black Christmas (1974) had adapted it, placing the action on a college campus where a group of young girls are harassed over the phone. by a serial killer. The same year, she was also the subject of a Brazilian film titled O Anjo da Noite.
In 1993, Fred Walton directed for television a sequel to Terror on the line with the same actors, titled When a Stranger Calls Back. This time, the killer no longer rings the phone and prefers to knock directly on the door!
The legend : Located on the slopes of Mount Fuji in Japan, the Aokigahara forest (“sea of trees”) has always been famous for sheltering yūrei, the ghosts of the dead. It is also known as “the forest of suicide”, since it is one of the sites attracting the most people to commit suicide, to the point that signs regularly indicate to visitors wishing to end their days to contact an association of prevention.
The film : A young American investigates the mysterious disappearance of her twin sister, who appears to have entered the forest of Aokigahara, Japan, where people go to end their lives. The Forest is Jason Zada’s first feature film, which has the merit of filming on location, in Japan, which gives a very authentic side to the story. The horror effects are sometimes questionable, especially when it comes to scare-jumps a little too announced, but Natalie Dormer (who therefore plays two roles here) brings all her charisma to this soral quest.
Note that there is another horrific feature film set in this forest, the TV movie Grave Halloween by Steven R. Monroe, to whom we owe it rape and revenge I Spit on Your Grave.
BONUS: URBAN LEGEND
More than one specifically, Urban Legend multiplies the references to many urban legends. Alicia Witt and Jared Leto play the main roles of a group of students fascinated by this type of story, finding that one of them is brutally murdered. And when disappearances start to hit campus, one student speculates that several legends are in fact linked with each other. Released in 1999, this film by Jamie Blanks is full of winks, which keeps viewers on their toes, but does not add anything original to the genre.