Friday, 26 October 2012

The Ring — A film by Gore Verbinski

Dr. Scott: You don't want to hurt anyone. Samara: But I do, and I'm sorry. It won't stop. Everyone will suffer.

16-year-old Katie Embry and 17-year-old Becca Kotler are bored at home and watching TV.

Eventually, they discuss a supposedly cursed videotape while alone at home at the former's house. According to legend, those who watch the tape die seven days later. Katie reveals that seven days ago, she went to a cabin at Shelter Mountain Inn with her boyfriend, where she viewed the video tape. The girls laugh it off, but after a series of strange occurrences in the next few minutes, involving a television in the house turning itself on, Katie dies mysteriously and horrifically while Becca watches, leading to Becca's institutionalization in a mental hospital.

Katie's cousin, Aidan, is visibly affected by the death. After Katie's funeral, Ruth Embry asks her sister Rachel, who is Aidan's mother and a journalist, to investigate Katie's death, which leads her to the cabin where Katie watched the tape. Rachel finds and watches the tape; the phone rings, and she hears a child's voice say "seven days", upsetting Rachel. The next day, Rachel calls Noah, her ex-boyfriend, to show him the video and asks for his assistance based upon his media-related skills. He asks her to make a copy for further investigation, which she does, but later takes it home herself.

After viewing the tape, Rachel begins experiencing nightmares, nose bleeds, and surreal situations (for instance, when she pauses a section of the tape in which a fly runs across the screen, she is able to pluck the fly from the monitor). Increasingly anxious about getting to the origin of the tape, Rachel investigates images of a woman seen in the tape. Using a video lab, she discovers images in the tape's overscan area, which through further research she discovers to be a lighthouse located on Moesko Island. It also turns out that the tape's overscan does not include time code, which hints that the tape was not made using electronic equipment. The woman turns out to be Anna Morgan, who lived on the island in Washington, many years prior with her husband Richard. Rachel discovers that, after bringing home an adopted daughter, tragedy befell the Morgan ranch – the horses raised on the ranch went mad and killed themselves, which in turn supposedly had caused Anna (who loved her horses) to become depressed and commit suicide. After waking from a particularly jarring nightmare, Rachel is horrified to discover Aidan watching the tape. Panicked, she calls Noah, revealing that Noah is Aidan's father.

Rachel goes to the Morgan house and finds Richard, who refuses to talk about the video or his daughter and sends Rachel away. A local doctor tells Rachel that Anna could not carry a baby to term and adopted a child named Samara. Dr. Grasnik recounts that Anna soon complained about gruesome visions that only happened when Samara was around, so both were sent to a mental institution. While Rachel is investigating on Moesko Island, Noah is investigating the institution, where he finds Anna's file and discovers that there was a video of Samara, but the video is missing. Back at the ranch, Rachel sneaks back to the Morgan house where she discovers a box containing the missing video and a live centipede that was shown in Samara's tape. Rachel watches it, and is confronted by Richard who claims that she and her son will die, and that there is nothing they can do about it. He then electrocutes himself in the bathtub, sending Rachel running out of the room screaming.

Noah arrives and, with Rachel, goes to the barn to discover an attic where Samara was kept by her father. Behind the wallpaper they discover an image of a tree seen on the tape, which grows near the Shelter Mountain Inn.

At the inn, they discover a well underneath the floor, in which Rachel finds Samara's skeletal corpse, experiencing a vision of how her mother pushed her into it. Rachel notifies the authorities and, feeling sorry for Samara, gives her a proper burial. Rachel informs Aidan that they will no longer be troubled by Samara. However, Aidan is horrified, telling his mother she had freed her body, and that Samara "never sleeps" and that she was not supposed to help Samara. While he says this, his nose begins to bleed. In his apartment, Noah's TV turns on, revealing an image in which a decaying Samara crawls from the well and out of the TV into the room. Horrified, Noah trips backward and tries to crawl away from Samara. Samara faces him, exposes her true face and stares directly at him, killing him with fear, which Rachel discovers after racing to his apartment and seeing his face distorted like Katie's was.

Upon returning to her apartment, Rachel destroys and burns the original tape. Wondering why she had not died like the others, she remembers that she made a copy of the tape. Rachel realizes the only way to escape and save Aidan is to have him copy the tape and show it to someone else, continuing the cycle. Rachel helps Aidan copy the tape, who asks her what is going to happen to the person they give the tape to. She does not respond as a shot of the well is shown in the tape. Then the screen goes to static and ends with a few pictures from the tape.

Directed by Gore Verbinski.

Written by Kôji Suzuki, Ehren Kruger & Scott Frank.

Music by Hans Zimmer. Cinematography by Bojan Bazelli. Editing by Craig Wood. Distributed by DreamWorks Pictures. Release date(s): October 18, 2002.

Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Daveigh Chase, Jane Alexander, Shannon Cochran, Amber Tamblyn, Rachael Bella, Lindsay Frost & Brian Cox.

The Ring is based on the 1998 J-Horror film リング or Ringu. Which itself is based on Kôji Suzuki's 1991 novel of the same name.

Note: During the cursed video, about 25 seconds in, a young boy's muffled singing can faintly be heard. This audio track is taken from The Innocents (1961).

Further information here, here & here. Video content here, here & here.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Children of the Stones (1977)

Created by Jeremy Burnham & Trevor Ray.

HTV. Original run: 10 January 1977 – 21 February 1977. Directed by Peter Graham Scott. Producer: Peter Graham Scott. Executive producer: Patrick Dromgoole. Composer: Sidney Sager. Location: Avebury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom.

Regular cast: Iain Cuthbertson (Raphael Hendrick), Gareth Thomas (Professor Adam Brake), Peter Demin (Matthew Brake), Veronica Strong (Margaret Smythe), Katharine Levy (Sandra Smythe), Freddie Jones (Dai).

Scientist Adam Brake and his son Matthew come to the quiet village of Milbury to study the 4000 year-old stone circle that surrounds it. But the stones seem to hold some kind of ancient power, one that the mysterious Mr Hendrick hopes to tap into and that holds all of the villagers in its thrall.

Children of the Stones borrows plot strands and styles popular in 1960s and '70s British horror cinema, mixing them into a satisfying serial that appeared fresh and new to children. The sinister air of a relentlessly happy, sunny English village echoes the film Village of the Damned (d. Wolf Rilla, 1960), while Professor Brake's scientific detachment in the face of seemingly supernatural Pagan or alien forces recalls Nigel Kneale's works Quatermass and the Pit (BBC, 1958) and The Stone Tape (BBC, 1972).

Brake can plausibly hold forth on topics such as psychic ability, the power of ley lines, the energy of the stones, black holes, supernovas, psychokinesis and atomic clocks to happily fulfil an educational remit. This factual basis helps to create a horror fantasy grounded in some scientific, rational reality, making events seem even more frightening.

"Anger of fire, fire of speech. Breath of knowledge, render us free from harm. Return to us the innocence that once we knew. Complete us the Circle! Make us at one with nature and the elements... It is time!"

Director Peter Graham Scott remarked on seeing the script of Episode One, "And this is for children?" Not only is it genuinely frightening, thanks in no small part to Sidney Sager's unsettling pseudo-Neolithic vocal score, but the script is unpatronisingly complex. The ending - which sees Hendrick seemingly absorbed by an alien force focused on the ring of stones and events then jumping back to the beginning of the serial on an alternate 'time plane' - was perhaps slightly too complex for younger viewers.

A product of ITV's regional structure of the 1970s, both storyline and location filming are centred in the West Country. The stone circle that rings the village of Avebury in Wiltshire provides the basis of the script and doubles up as Milbury for filming. Production company HTV also dabbled in Arthurian and Pagan myth with Sky (ITV, 1975) and Robin of Sherwood (ITV, 1984-86). Writers Burnham and Ray next wrote Raven (ITV, 1977), a fantasy serial based on the legends of King Arthur.

Alistair McGown.

Further information here, here & here.

Video Content here & here.

Happy Days: The Children of the Stones. Writer and comedian Stewart Lee explores the ground breaking television series Children of the Stones and examines its special place in the memories of those children who watched it on its initial transmission in a state of excitement and terror. Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 11:30am, Thu, 4 Oct 2012.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The London Sound Survey

"Welcome to the London Sound Survey, a growing collection of Creative Commons-licensed sound recordings of places, events and wildlife in the capital. Historical references too are gathered to find out how London's sounds have changed"

Ian Rawes, of TLSS, has been kind enough to share his thoughts on a few aspects of the project, namely: Hobbyism & Stamp Collecting vs. Theory.


The London Sound Survey is a hobby project and an example of the kind of electronic self-publishing which characterised the internet in the 1990s and early 2000s.

It was very easy then to build a static website and, without ready-made templates to fall back on, site layouts alone told you a lot about the capabilities and personalities of their makers.

It was like the growth of printed fanzines in Britain in the late 1970s, made possible by access to printing equipment in community centres and cheaper commercial offset litho prices. I'm happy not to have to display adverts or the emblem of some grant-giving body. First, there seems to be no consistent relationship between a site's quality and whether or not it receives external funding. Second, hobbyism is about independence.

It's an escape from being told what to do at work, where recognition for your own effort and initiative can easily be claimed by someone higher in the food chain. Many people who have jobs rather than careers understand that achieving some measure of self-actualisation can only be done on the side.

Stamp Collecting vs. Theory:

There are no intellectually coherent general theories of sound other than that of acoustics, which is a branch of physics.

Specialisms with considerable explanatory clout are then built on that: musicology, phonological aspects of linguistics, the studies of hearing by neurologists and psychologists, and investigations of animal communication.

Some people don't accept this, of course, and are lured by the mirage of a big idea which always eludes them, leaving a lot of very bad and opaque prose in their wake. What I get up to is influenced by having taken statistics courses at night school.

Making and collecting recordings is a bit like stamp collecting, but with the optimistic belief that if enough material is gathered, then it turns into an array of data from which patterns will emerge. But there is no sign of that yet, other than a hunch that as urban society becomes wealthier and better organised, so the variety of sound in public spaces dwindles.

Best wishes, Ian Rawes. The London Sound Survey.

< A set of 18th-century playing cards illustrating street-sellers' cries in London. This was a perenially popular theme and sellers' cries found their way into poetry, music and even the old Thames Television theme tune 'Fanfare for Thames', which reworked the violet seller's call of 'Who will buy my sweet violets?' The last violet seller in London was around in the early 1970s.

Further information here, here & here.

London's Lost Rivers: A Walker's Guide — A book by Tom Bolton & S. F. Said

Wherever you live in London, you’re never far from water. I used to live off Angler’s Lane in Kentish Town, beside a fisherman’s pub that is now a Nando’s, and once helped to dig out an underground tributary in Soho, where I found myself surrounded by clay pipes and animal bones washed down from the butcheries on the riverbanks. The rivers are all around us, but remain frustratingly elusive. Imagine a cutaway diagram of London from the ground up; its terraces, shops, offices, public buildings, stations and substations, extending from the few remaining single-story bungalows to the top of the Shard.

Now mirror that image downwards to form a reversal, a ghost-map, a city inverted. What do we find below? Basements, tunnels, railways, ducts, security bases, crypts, wells, tubes of all kinds. And connecting them, a hidden roadmap created by the rivers of London.

It has become a pub game; how many of London’s lost rivers can you name? Some of us know that London is bookended by the Brent and the Lea. More know a little about the Fleet and its tributaries, but it wasn’t until I moved to King’s Cross that I realised I could see one from my kitchen.

Blocking the channels with detritus and culverting them was not enough to stem the flow of rushing stormwater; every time it rains, the Regent Canal towpath opposite my window floods, water bubbling up through the cracks in the paving. Cyclists skid, children splash and adults detour around the small lake that forms, but nobody thinks about why it’s there. In the basement of the converted warehouse in which I live, there’s a filled-in Victorian well. Further along the street, another eruption of floodwater, rising through drains and split macadam. In King’s Place, new home of the Guardian newspaper, there’s another well, extraordinarily deep. It was filled in when the old pub on this site, the Waterside Inn, was pulled down. I watched the workmen puzzling out how to demolish it. So the water pushes South, to Sadler’s Wells, to Clerkenwell, to Bridewell, and finally to the river Thames itself.

Map the wells, connect the lines and you start to redefine London’s topography. Overlay the result onto the most current map of the metropolis, and you understand the present. This is no mere exercise in geography, for the rivers tell you something more.

I was drawn to ghost stories because I came to understand why they worked. The streets of ancient London followed the lines of hedgerows, which of necessity followed the rivers, because fields have to be watered. The lowlands were poor areas largely because they were close to the water-table and always damp. Water and fog brought respiratory illness, and early deaths created superstitions; that’s why ghost stories were more associated with say, the poor East End than the city’s prosperous hilly North. The sooty, partly derelict London of my early childhood was a city of ghosts.

The underground rivers became sewers, and canals were often riverways remade by man, but when we think of canals we conjure Venice, not Berlin or St Petersburg or London. Especially not London. In 1849 Charles Kingsley described the environment of Bermondsey residents "the water of the common sewer which stagnates, full of dead fish, cats and dogs, under their windows". And yet J Stewart’s depiction of the notorious Jacob’s Island, painted just nine years earlier, makes that cholera-riddled waterway a place of almost Mediterranean charm. This, in a nutshell, is the paradox of the lost rivers.

Despite the fact that mere proximity to them eventually became enough to kill you, their mystical significance was once so strong that the Romans floated gods upon their waters. Now, with walking maps to guide us, the journey of the hidden rivers becomes clearer.

Christopher Fowler, King’s Cross, 2011.

Foreword to London's Lost Rivers: A Walker's Guide by Tom Bolton, with photographs by SF Said (Strange Attractor Press, 2011).

Further infomration here, here & here.