TDcore's Horror Journal 2018: Pt. 2
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The Borderlands (2015)
This is another more recent found footage effort that has managed to gather quite a little cult following in just a few years, so I was eager to track it down, though it's not an easy film to find. And much to my pleasure, it was indeed worth the effort. It's quite distinct for it's genre in it's subject manner, execution and strong character development. The acting is what carries the film along at most times, with fantastic performances from all of the cast and solid writing that forms the characters into real and likeable human beings over the film's course. The on location shooting sites and thoughtful cinematography also add more atmosphere to the film than your usual found footage endeavor. The story also moves in a direction completely opposite from what anyone will be expecting from the outset. Suffice to say that if you're tired of ho-hum ghost stories and demonic exploits, this film will be a breath of fresh air, with it's ending truly being a standout moment. There are a few too many moments of the usual "spooky noises" and in-fighting between characters that we've come to expect from the sub-genre, but in the end the film is quite scary, moody and inventive. It's a black sheep of it's kind, in the best way possible. Those who don't appreciate found footage horror need not apply, but fans of the genre should consider this a must see.
In Fear (2013)
This one created a pretty big splash in the indie-horror scene back when it came out, and has sustained a cult following. I was told it was a frightening and intelligent little flick, but that there was more than meets the eye to it. Having watched it now, I can say, it's neither frightening nor especially intelligent and it's certainly not deep in the least. It's actually a rather straight-forward, down to basics pic about a young couple being terrorized by a deranged lunatic who preys on lost travelers in the Irish countryside. It sounds like the sort of thing that could easily be a sustained white-knuckler, but it doesn't play out that way. Thanks in part to the poor decision to improvise most, if not all of the dialogue on the director's part. It really shows that the film doesn't really have any direction to it, and after awhile the whole thing just becomes grating. It truly boils down to a couple driving in circles, jumping at noises in the woods and catching glimpses of white-masked figures in the shadows.
Towards the end things begin to pick up a bit as the antagonist is introduced, but this only leads to more bickering and driving about. It does keep the viewer's attention, if only because you want to see how the whole thing ends up, but when it ends up going nowhere it mostly feels like a waste. The performances are spot on, and the improvised dialogue feels natural, but those are really the only good things to be said for it. I'm not quite sure what scared all the critics so badly, but my pulse hardly quickened for the film's runtime. It's an oddity, and not a particularly good film, but rather a simple premise stretched into something pretentious. Don't waste your time.
The Last Winter (2008)
Larry Fessenden is one of the biggest names in independent horror and has helped helm the careers of genre directors such as Ti West and Adam Wingard. However, this was my first time watching one of the few films he actually directed himself. The films he produces can be pretty hit or miss, but are always imaginative and original, and while this film certainly fits into that category, it's more of a miss for me.
I greatly appreciate the ecological side of the film and it's metaphorical musings with global warming, which ensures in today's political climate that this film is still as relevant in subject matter as it was in the Bush era, maybe even more so. And though I do appreciate Fessenden's humble intentions of presenting a world of nature run amok and the earth fighting back against it's pollution, the film rather quickly becomes too jumbled and ambitious for it's own good. A lot is left ambiguous, and while I often have no issues with films that end as such, this film didn't use it's ambiguity properly. We're never really sure if nature is simply striking back, Wendigo's are preying on the characters, ghosts of animals killed by pollution and global warming have come to haunt their tormentors or if it's all in the characters' heads. Some may appreciate the luxury of being able to pick whatever solution suits your tastes best, but to me all the loose ends feel more like a cheap copout by a writer who had no idea what direction they wanted to take the material, and decided the pretentious arthouse crowd wouldn't mind if they just threw everything in the blender and called it a day.
The film is beautifully directed and the cast is excellent. There's even a select few moments of suspense and disturbing imagery, albeit the creature at the end is brought to life with some downright wretched CGI effects. But I wasn't satisfied with the end result. It's not a bad film, just an acquired taste, and in my opinion, one that is far too busy for it's own good. For my money, if you want a horror flick about global warming you're better off checking out "The Thaw".
Pet Sematary Two (1992)
The original Pet Sematary is easily one of my favorite horror films of all time, and one of the scariest as well. Reception of this sequel has been pretty mixed, as it shares the same director but a different writer. The original's script was penned by Stephen King himself, and while this one is still a solid flick when all is said and done, it just can't quite compare to the magic of the first.
A solid cast forms the backbone of this one, led by the (in my opinion) ever underrated Edward Furlong and featuring a frightening and at times darkly comedic turn by Clancy Brown. There's some nightmarish moments in the vein of the original, and the strong story helps carry it along, this time with focus on how grief effects pubescent teens. There's some moments in this film that every once-bullied teen will strongly identify with and others where they'll leer in demented satisfaction. The only place this one falters in is it's ill-advised attempt at some added dark humor. While Clancy's performance itself is great, seeing him pounce about uttering Freddy Krueger style one-liners doesn't quite fit with the tone of the film. And at the end, it gets a bit too busy for it's own good. But it is a satisfying film, with several fantastic moments of horror and emotion. It deserves a better reputation, and if you loved the first, I'd say you should at least enjoy this one.
This is an extremely rare film, and thus reception of it has been fairly mixed as far as I can see. Giving a film this rare a chance is always a risk, but I can gladly say that this one was worth it. It's more of a thriller at times, but there's a few gruesome moments that cement it as a horror film as well. The concept is not terribly original, but it's handled in a fresh manner that keeps the viewer continually guessing. The performance of Charlie's Angels babe, Jaclyn Smith is great, while the rest of the cast is rather hit or miss, but decent at it's worst. There's a few moments of sheer suspense and the tension is quite high by the end, when the genius twist comes in, ensuring that this one is worth remembering. The direction can be somewhat stiff, but the end result is suspenseful and involving enough that it should satisfy those who enjoy thriller/crime flicks. It's certainly better than some of it's better remembered contemporaries.
This was one of the last films Hammer produced before going out of business in the seventies, and one of the not-so-well remembered in their catalogue. It's an alright psychological thriller, with some good performances and a unique setting in that of an abandoned boy's private school. Judy Geeson is wonderful as the leading lady, with Peter Cushing playing a creepy role as the old headmaster. The problem is, none of this is remotely original, and there was already an influx of films like this in it's own day. It doesn't do much to separate itself from the pack of superior titles it was inspired by, even including some of Hammer's past efforts in the psychological horror genre. The final twist is supposed to be shocking as well, but is instead one of the most blatantly obvious "twists" I've yet seen. The good performances and a somewhat satisfying conclusion make this one watchable, and it's certainly not a bad film, but still not one I would recommend unless you're a Hammer or Cushing enthusiast. Or you just want to stare at Geeson when she was hot.
This is an adaptation of one of King's more recent novellas, perhaps the first to be adapted from one of his most recent works. It's a fairly straight-forward tale of a simple farm man whose wife grows restless with country life, wanting to move to the big city with their son in tow. Needless to say, husband doesn't take too kindly to this notion and convinces his son to help him kill his wife so that they can remain together.
It's more of a slow-burn than anything else, blessedly passing up the shoddy, jumpscare approach that so many modern horror films take. There's moments that I would call disturbing or haunting, but never any outright scares or gore so grisly you'll find yourself looking away. And though the film is well directed, it's this very thing that ends up stifling it to some degree. As said, the story is not anything all that original, and nothing unexpected is really done with the material, leaving a film that plays out effectively, but never gets the viewer's heart beating and ends exactly the way any seasoned genre veteran will be expecting. It's certainly not bad, with atmospheric direction and gorgeous cinematography, plus a great cast led by an amazing performance by Thomas Jane. Jane once again proves himself to quite possibly be this generation's most underrated actor by turning in another magnificent performance as the vengeful husband. His accent alone is enough to grant him an Oscar. It's these things that keep the film moving along, and if you're a fan of slow-burn horror or King's works, you won't regret watching it, but I can't help feeling so much more could have been done here.
The Ritual (2017)
I was thoroughly surprised by this one, and I hope that it's Netflix marketing helps it get the attention that it deserves. An atmospheric, expertly directed monster movie, that's not only scary and hosts one of the most incredible monsters in some time, but is also deeper than your average creature feature. The cast is fantastic with wonderful character writing, presenting us with realistic human beings who never feel like a checklist of clichés and whom we truly feel fear and pain for. Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier and Sam Troughton being the most magnificent. As said, the monster design is amazing, there truly has never been a creature quite like this one in movie history. The CGI and practical effects mix used to bring it to life is also fantastic for a lower budget effort like this one. But besides all this, it's a film about brotherhood, dealing with grief and depression and confronting one's demons. If you can manage to pull off a thinking man's psychological horror and mix it with a wildly enjoyable and frequently frightening monster flick, then you've created a masterpiece in my opinion. Go watch this immediately if you haven't.
This one has become somewhat of a cult film albeit being a huge box office flunk in it's day. It's tale of a haunted submarine is quite unique and brimming with potential, but the film never really takes off. The first half hour is a solid build-up, with a great cast and steady direction that holds one's attention. However it never really builds up to anything. The film makes several attempts at scares, but never really does anything more than creep one out a bit. This is a problem when the entire film is basically build-up to something that is obviously supposed to be frightening. The acting, directing and cinematography are all on point, and the story is a good one, but it feels a bit wasted. Still, worth a look and certainly not a bad film, but don't go into it expecting what it promises on the cover.
Raising Cain (1992)
This is quite possibly DePalma's most unheard of film and easily one of his most maligned. And it's easy to understand why. It's a mess of themes, tones and influences that "borrows" more than just a few pieces from Psycho. As with most DePalma films the direction and cinematography are stylish and top of their game, as well as a fantastic performance by John Lithgow. But the film is too often borrowing from others, or trying to brandish some poorly written black humor to be as good as it could have been. It's still not a bad film thanks to it's expert craftsmanship and acting, and the superbly executed finale is quite intense. It's a good thriller and an enjoyable film, but it's flaws are very obvious and far too great for it to be anything other than a curiosity for fans of the director.
I wasn't expecting this one to be connected to the original Cloverfield in the most literal sense, seeing as 10 Cloverfield Lane was proof that the producers wanted to do something very different with this franchise. And yet again, here we have another horror/sci-fi flick with the Cloverfield name thrown in seemingly just to get it more publicity than it would ever garner without a franchise name attached to it. Luckily, just like 10 Cloverfield Lane, this one may not be what you're expecting, but is a good science fiction yarn all the same. Think Event Horizon, but instead of going through a portal to hell this ship ends up in another dimension. The film could've easily re-hashed the sci-fi/horror conventions we're used to, but instead opts for something more fresh. There's no monsters stalking weary astronauts here, but instead an examination of the effects caused by mass inter-dimensional travel. It leads to some pretty original places, with some scenes you definitely haven't seen in other movies, and it's this originality pared with the great cast that makes it worth watching. It does become much too busy for it's own good, and although it's fresh and fascinating, it doesn't feel like it exploits the true potential of it's plot. Still, worth a look for thinking sci-fi/horror fans.
American Gothic (1987)
Helmed by the ever underrated John Hough (director of The Legend Of Hell House), this is easily one of his most overlooked endeavors. It's not a particularly original film, as it's basically The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on an island, without chainsaws and featuring a family of murderous Christian fundamentalists instead of barbecue loving cannibals. By all accounts, it shouldn't work at all, but it does thanks to a number of things. Solid direction by the veteran Hough, a chilling score and the performances of most of the cast. It really is the unhinged performances that make the film. Yvonne De Carlo and Rod Steiger are fantastic as "Ma" and "Pa", but it's Janet Wright, Michael J. Pollard and William Hootkins as the fully-grown "children" of the family that truly stand out. Obviously the offspring of in-breeding, these characters are ten year-old kids trapped in the bodies of fifty year-old adults. Janet Wright is particularly disturbing as the violently insane "Fanny", whom will not easily be forgotten after watching the film. All of this combined with some original and deeply unsettling kill scenes make this one more than worth watching. It may not win points for originality, but it's a prime example of it's kind and proof that sometimes keeping the wheel turning can be just as effective as re-inventing it.
This one has garnered a cult following and a reputation as one of the last great slashers of the eighties. And it certainly deserves that praise. It's not the most original film, as at it's core, it's your basic slasher flick, but things are enlivened by an enjoyable sense of humor, likeable (if not superbly acted) characters, clever Raimi-esque cinematography, moody direction and of course, buckets of blood and gore. Once the kills start they don't really slow down in this film, so when the blood starts gushing it continues in a steady stream right to the end. Luckily the gore effects are superb and the kills themselves are inventive, stylishly shot and deliriously violent. Don't watch this one unless you can get your hands on the uncut version, as you won't want to miss any of the good bits. If you like darkly humorous, gore-drenched slashers, this one is sure to please you greatly.
Deep Star Six (1989)
This is one of two Alien knock-offs released in 1989 that both differentiate from the pack by setting themselves underwater instead of outer space. The other is Leviathan, which is often better remembered, but for my money this one is the better of the two, which really isn't saying much. Although this one often works better as a disaster film than it does a creature feature. In fact it feels more like a disaster flick most of the time, seeing as the monster is an afterthought that doesn't really show up until the last 20 minutes and even then isn't that much of a presence. Luckily, the disaster elements are well executed and the characters are likeable, with witty writing and decent acting. But it's a shame to waste such a fantastic monster on a flick that's interested in being almost everything but a monster movie. Still, worth a look for those who like these types of films.
There's been a huge buzz and glowing praise for this film, but I've kept my expectations in check seeing as I wasn't at all impressed by director Alex Garland's directorial debut, Ex Machina, which also received nearly perfect reviews. I found that film to be almost completely unoriginal and stiflingly bland and emotionless.
Annihilation is actually a much better film than Ex Machina, but not by much. At least the concept and execution is quite original this time. The effects and visuals are absolutely striking and at times equally beautiful, haunting and terrifying. There's some images in this film that you won't find in any other and that's always praise-worthy. But fantastic visuals often need a good story and strong characters to back them up, neither of which this film has. It's attempts to be something more deep than it actually amounts to being stifle it from being the enjoyable sci-fi romp it could've been. It's scientific elements alone are heady and original enough to satisfy the intellectual crowd, but it feels the need to throw in some half-assed philosophy regarding human nature and self destruction, all without providing us with any characters that are either likeable or well-rounded. The acting is decent, but only as good as it can be with such a bare-bones, lazy script. The film spends a big chunk of it's runtime wanting you to think it's more psychological than it actually is, when at the end of the day it ends up being nothing more than an imaginative riff on the Bodysnatchers theme. Also, theoretical and logical inconsistencies abound, which far too many to mention in this review, but others have made explicit notice of.
I must commend a picture this daring, original and inventive, and it certainly has plenty to offer an audience, but it's an incredibly un-even, incredibly disjointed experience. One that in attempting to feel as much like a half-lucid dream as possible loses itself in a sea of melancholy and existential drivel that feels more like wading through knee-deep corn syrup that dining on intelligent sci-fi. Still, there's much to see for fans of the genre, and I recommend that most give it a try, just don't expect the greatest thing since sliced bread. Or actually even loaves.
This just may be the first truly good film from Joe Lynch, who gave us the wretched Wrong Turn 2 (which can also be blamed from the influx of repugnant sequels) and Knights Of Badassdom (which showed glimmers of potential). Mayhem isn't perfect, but it's the first effort from this director that I can actually recommend to some people.
We essentially saw this same concept with 2016's far superior "The Belko Experiment", but I don't think the films were really copying each other, but rather, happened to be similarly themed films released around the same time. I love the build-up of this film, in which it separates itself from Belko with the virus angle and much more emphasis on black humor. The dialogue and violence in the first half-hour are fantastic and really set the stage, but as the film wears on, it steadily begins to fall apart. Lynch still has an un-bearably sloppy hand when it comes to direction and cinematography. Especially when the violence and gore sets in, we have to suffer through some agonizingly poor fight-choreography. The humor also groans and grates throughout, sometimes hitting the mark and sometimes wildly missing it and veering into the territory of annoyance. Especially in the spectacularly botched ending, which just feels totally out of place.
I do like things about the film, despite all these problems, however. The acting is fantastic across the board, with the always great Steven Yeun (Glenn, of Walking Dead fame) standing out the most. Samara Weaving also continues to cement her place as a new talent to keep your eyes on. I also have to give credit to any film that this vigorously shoves it to modern America as well. The whole thing is basically one big, gleeful "Fuck You" to capitalism and I have to applaud that. I just wish the fantastic writing and good pacing lasted for the entire runtime, instead of coming undone. Still, worth a look. Especially for those that love socially aware horror, gore films or enjoyed Belko.
This is quite possibly the most completely un-frightening horror film I have seen in some time, and also one where so much potential is wasted. The once talented Spierig Brothers (Daybreakers, Predestination) have sunk to near rock-bottom after the failure of Jigsaw last year and now this. The Winchester Mystery House is ripe with potential for a fantastic horror film, and the ingredients are certainly here, but the film often feels like two completely different films. In one we have a polished, intelligent supernatural thriller with fantastic acting and crisp, well-written dialogue. In the other we have a ghost flick chock-full of the most unoriginal jumpscares, loud music cues and utterly embarrassing emotional sappery. When there are no blink and you'll miss 'em CGI ghoulies appearing on screen, this is a solid, enjoyable film. But that's not what comprises most of the runtime. I'm shocked that actors like Jason Clarke and Helen Mirren would waste their talents on such a film, let alone such imaginative, unconventional filmmakers as the Spierigs. Hopefully they can reclaim their fast-degrading reputations. In the meantime, well, what's one more lazy, jumpscare-riddled supernatural horror these days?
The concept here is really nothing new, but one can't gripe about a good old creature feature in a horror landscape filled with uninspired supernatural flicks. This film plays things to a more thoughtful, down tuned tempo, however, and is just as much about puberty and teenage angst as it is werewolves. Sort of like this generation's version of Ginger Snaps, just not nearly as light-hearted. The first half of the film is fantastic, with an atmospheric setup, beautiful cinematography and utterly amazing performances from the entire cast. The standbys like Liv Tyler and Brad Dourif are as impeccable as expected, but it's really the work of rising star Bel Powley in the lead that stands out. She's amazing and it's a performance that must be seen to appreciated. But things start to fall apart towards the end, with some slap-dash editing and a denouement that feels much too rushed compared to the pace of the rest of the film. It doesn't give us the time to absorb the atmosphere and emotion as the first half did, thus almost transforming from a thoughtful indie-horror into a basic creature feature, albeit the ending shot being gorgeous enough to save the film. There's also a few too many plot holes for me as well. What are the Wildlings? Why are they in this town's woods? Why were they massacred? It just feels as though so much more could have been done. I really wanted to like this one more than I did. But as it stands, it's a very worthwhile, if flawed sort of horror fairy-tale.
Truth or Dare (2018)
This is truly about as dumb as a horror flick can get. I'm not exactly sure why Blumhouse (who's productions have been consistently better as of late) was proud enough of this mess to attach their name to the front of the theatrical title, displayed in the poster and trailer as "Blumhouse's Truth Or Dare", but they shouldn't have been. Perhaps they were thinking back to the landslide success of their other misguided teen horror attempt, Ouija. Unfortunately it's done just as well at the box office, proving once again that no one likes to have their intelligence actively insulted as much as modern teenagers.
The concept here is not exactly original, but somewhat fresh. However it's the concept itself that presents the biggest problem. It's patently stupid as fuck. How can a game be "evil" or "possessed", when we're speaking of a "game" that doesn't even feature a board or any actual solid objects? The film tries to explain this away with "demons can possess games, even ideas", but this requires more suspension of disbelief than is possible without copious amounts of alcohol. And it presents another of the film's issues. Instead of trying anything remotely original, it simply settles for the usual "demons did it" scenario that plagues modern horror. As if all this isn't enough we're left with a script full of dialogue that sounds as if it was written on napkins between episodes of "The Young And Restless". Also we are subjected to a ridiculous special effect for the face of those "possessed" that recalls a shoddy snapchat filter. One of the characters even points this out. The acting is quite good, there's some effective kill scenes and moments of fleeting emotional gravitas, but it's all squandered by the sheer, inescapable stupidity of the whole thing. It can be dumb fun, especially with a group of friends to poke fun at it, but for God's sake, don't give these people your money.
Incident In A Ghostland (2018)
This is the first film in four years from Pascal Laugier, the French director infamous for "Martyrs" and whose last effort "The Tall Man", failed to impress nearly everyone. I wasn't a huge fan of Martyrs, though I could see why it was so well received in some ways. This is only Laugier's fourth film and his second English endeavor, and it's more of a return to his French New Wave style. This film feels like it could've fit in with the New Extremist movement back in the late 2000's, right alongside the likes of flicks like Frontier(s), High Tension and Inside. It's not as good as those flicks, however, and unlike Laugier's previous films it doesn't seem to have much of anything to say underneath all the sickness. Make no mistake, this is just as fucked up as any French horror film, and you'll want to feel like taking a shower after seeing it, but that's kind of the point I suppose. It very successfully captures a feeling of total hopelessness and despair, at times antagonizing to even watch. There were moments I almost switched it off out of sheer discomfort, and that hasn't happened to me in a long time. It is a beautifully directed, photographed film with impeccable set design and gorgeous cinematography. Even at it's ugliest moments, it's a sheer joy to look at. The acting is also phenomenal by everyone involved, with young actresses Emilia Jones and Taylor Hickson giving especially intense performances. And unlike so many other films of it's ilk, it doesn't end on a completely nihilistic note. Those who enjoy films like this, that bathe in their controversy and excesses will find themselves enamored, and it is a more than competently made film, but not my cup of tea.
I decided to give this one a try despite hearing nothing but bad about it. Mostly my interest was due to Blumhouse picking it up, the involvement of Sonny Mallhi, who's previous film "Anguish" I had heard praise about and James Ransone as a vampire. The film had an extremely short theatrical run and then went straight to Netflix. This was a bad move, seeing as this is certainly not the kind of film teens and housewives surfing Netflix all day are going to be able to appreciate. It's a slow-paced, more thoughtful take on vampirism, but it's downfall lies in the fact that it seems to think it's the first film to ever use vampirism as a metaphor for addiction. Anyone who's ever seen more than one vampire flick will tell you it's not. It plays the concept so straight however, that it offers almost nothing new. The acting is decent from everyone, especially the teens. Vinessa Shaw is good, but looks as though she desperately needs a cheeseburger long before being turned into a vamp, and James Ransone (whom horror fans will recognize as the loveable "Deputy So And So" from the Sinister films) finds his talent wasted on a vampire who is vapidly dull and more personality-less than most. The film takes time to develop it's characters, whom are mostly likeable, dialogue is believable and the direction is nicely simplistic. But all of this fails to deliver when things devolve into nothing but cliché. I found it interesting, not at all as mind-numbingly boring as mainstream audiences felt it was, but rather a wasted opportunity.
I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)
I've wanted to see this one since it came out. I knew the moment I watched the trailer that I would adore this film, but I strangely wasn't able to get my hands on a copy until now. And I'm glad to report I was correct. This is one of the most original, most distinct films I've seen in some time. The concept of telling the story from the point of view of a young sociopath is daring, and Max Record's performance as the main character is star-making. He completely disappears into John Wayne Cleaver. Equally fantastic is the rest of the cast, but especially Christopher Lloyd, whom, without spoiling too much, delivers the best late career performance I've seen from a classic horror actor. The 16mm cinematography is gorgeous as well, which paints the film in vivid colors and elicits atmosphere from every frame. Writing and dialogue is also exceptional, with a fantastic sense of black humor and characters that feel like real human beings. It's not a film where things are jumping at the camera every ten minutes, the build-up is slow, allowing characters to develop before the carnage sets in. I can't imagine anyone finding the crisp dialogue and acting boring though. The only thing holding it back is some shoddy effects towards the end. Otherwise we have the kind of horror film we only get once in a great while here. One with it's own completely unique voice. Don't miss it.
It's been a while since we've had a "robots on a rampage" horror, and the genre is still a relatively fresh one. This one looked like it had the stuff to present an interesting take on things, but it's not much more than the sum of it's parts, and they're mostly parts we've seen before. The effects are the drawing point and for a lower budget effort they're damn good. There's only CGI here, but most of the time it's not that obvious, although I can't help but think the robots would've looked even cooler if practical effects had been used sparingly. Still, the CGI is much more convincing than your usual Syfy original. Acting is decent and the characters, though cliché upon cliché are likeable. But things mostly devolve down to fast action and lots of flying bullets, without much inventive gore or suspense. It's a fairly brainless film, albeit fun, that doesn't do much of anything with it's potential past the tricks expected. Enjoyable on a pizza and beer level, but not good for much else. If you like films such as the original Terminator and Death Machine though, this one could scratch that itch. Just don't expect anything new.
It saddens me to think that this film has been largely ignored, but here is my recommendation to anyone else who is a fan of director/writer Jaume Balaguero's works, go watch it immediately. It's more of a dark fantasy than it is a horror film, but there are some moments of gore and suspense that qualify it. This is a film that is much more concerned with story, and it's quite an original tale it tells. It can be hard to keep track of what's going on at times, and there are some rather large plot holes, but by the end of the picture everything is resolved in such a perfect manner that all is forgiven. Not often does a horror film probe depths deep enough to bring tears to my eyes, but this one did. The cast is also worthy of mention, Elliot Cowan and Ana Ularo being the most noteworthy, also with a cameo by none other than Christopher Lloyd. This is a thinking man's horror film, and further proof that Balaguero is one of our generation's finest horror directors.
This turned out to be a somewhat pleasant surprise, in the sense that it ended up being not what I imagined from the outset at all. I was expecting more of the routine "killer kid" template and was instead presented with a refreshing riff on that formula. Don't get me wrong, it's not great stuff. The direction is stiff and mostly workman-like with skeletal dialogue and severely underdeveloped characters. The small cast are all very good, but they don't have much to work with when all is said and done. I also wish the plot had been fleshed out much more, focusing on a larger scale rather than downsizing a big story to an intimate tale that feels too familiar in some ways. But the whole thing is competently made, features some decent effects and a few moments of gore, and tries some unexpected things. Worth a look if it seems up your alley.
This is easily one of the most intense and uncomfortable viewings I've had in some time. The plot device of a group of characters stranded on a desolate stretch of highway and picked off by an expert marksman is fairly original, but I didn't realize how timely a theme it was until the bullets started flying and I was reminded of all the recent shootings. Suffice to say, not enough films properly demonstrate what it's actually like to be shot at/or shot. This one does. The bullets whiz about, stirring up clouds of dust and forcing sickening noises from their targets. They don't simply pass through one side of a person and out the other, but leave unthinkable carnage and gore. It doesn't matter what side of the great "gun debate" you're on (and I won't get into that here), this film will elicit a very real response from an American audience. Thankfully, it's not all mindless exploitation, however. The film is actually quite suspenseful, with several moments sure to have you on the edge of your seat. Characters are also likeable, and actually refrain from making terribly stupid decisions. If you're looking for an intense, edge of your seat ride, with some truly gruesome gore, this one will scratch the itch raw. Just be prepared, it's not easy viewing.
This little oddity has almost drown in obscurity, despite being written by Tom Holland, who would later give us classics such as Fright Night and Child's Play. And sadly, there's good reason for that. This is not a very good film by any stretch of the imagination. Direction and cinematography are spotty, characters almost non-existent and acting ranges from spectacularly ham-fisted to depressingly average. I'm not really sure if the story made much more sense in the novel either, but if it did, something was lost in translation to the big screen as well. The denouement tries to offer up some kind of explanation, but instead only serves to make the film less believable. This one is best left to drift away, not even good enough for a cult reputation.
The Premature Burial (1962) (1962)
This is one of the lesser known of the Corman/Price Poe Cycles, mainly due to the absence of Price, who is replaced with Ray Milland. This does nothing to bring the picture down, however. It still stands side by side with Corman's best. Milland is magnificent in the main role, and direction is expectedly smooth. It does follow the same course that most of Corman's Poe adaptations do, but with considerable style. It deserves to be better remembered.
Where to start with this one? Suffice to say, it's cult reputation holds up. The last 30 minutes of this film will become permanently ingrained in your cinematic memory, for better or worse. Those final 30 minutes are a fantastic menagerie of wild special effects and body horror that will leave even the most hardened genre fanatics speechless. Sadly, the rest of the film can be quite uneven, and the tone is incredibly inconsistent. When operating as a teenage David Lynch project, the film is fantastic, but it too often attempts to veer into the horror comedy realm. Still, for the effects and the more than memorable ending, horror fans who think they can take it will be glad they indulged. If only the entire film was as well paced as it's denouement.
This is a mostly dreary ghost story. The only things really worthy of note are the actors, especially the ever underrated Aidan Quinn and an early performance by the lovely Kate Beckinsale. The story is all been there, done that, cinematography resembles an upscale TV-movie and the special effects are dreadful. If you're interested in seeing a much better rendered version of this story, try Crimson Peak, which wasn't perfect, but was infinitely more inspired. This one is not awful, but rather dull and unimaginative.
I stumbled upon this one never having heard of it before and decided it looked intriguing. I wasn't expecting much, but what unearthed itself was a hidden gem. It's not a perfect film, one that has very rough edges, but is worth seeking out for the fantastic performance of Dennis Lipscomb, the atmospheric direction and cinematography and several well executed death sequences. The story is not incredibly original, but likeable, well written characters and surprisingly fantastic (for such a low budget film) special effects make it stand out. It's a shame this one doesn't have the cult following it deserves.
Night of the Scarecrow (1995)
This is popcorn horror in it's most pure form. A shameless parade of gore, nudity and ghastly effects trawled out for enjoyment. There isn't much in the way of story or character, but stylish direction and several fantastic effects sequences make this one worth a watch when you're in the mood for something undemanding and to the point. Make no mistake, this is not a great film, but it knows how to cater to it's market. Good, albeit stupid fun.
The Outing (1987)
Now this was so trashy it was hard to enjoy. The effects and production are much better than one would expect from such a low rent production, but that's where the compliments end. The rest of this film is one giant, unpleasant mess. Awful acting, shoddy dialogue and incredibly dark cinematography conspire to make this one a chore to sit through. There's a few moments of decent gore, but the rest is unlikeable, bizarrely written characters and cheap nudity with a cheesy as cheddar story tying it all, ever so loosely together. There's a tiny cult audience for this one, but it's remained mostly forgotten. That's right where it belongs in my opinion.
The Legacy (1979)
Here is another mostly forgotten curiosity, that quickly proves why it is not better remembered. All the ingredients for a great horror film are here, but none of them quite gel. The story becomes more and more laughable as it moves along while the tone remains starkly serious. Acting is fantastic with Katharine Ross and Sam Elliot giving their best, but it's wasted on a bare bones script. Even the death scenes are unimaginative. It does sport some beautiful cinematography and direction, and it's not horrible, just rather silly and unremarkable. Also worthy of note, the upbeat soundtrack is completely inappropriate.
I've yet to be blown away by any of William Castle's films. He strikes me as a two-bit Hitchcock imitator just trying to make a cheap buck, and most of his films are laughable at best. With this one, the Hitchcock influence is incredibly strong as it's basically a rip off of Psycho, which was released only one year before. It's so similar in some instances that it takes away from the picture, but compared to Castle's other works, this one is much more assured. It contains a few moments more shocking and explicit than Psycho and sports an almost equally brilliant cast. Jean Arless is perfect in the main role with her wide eyed grimace, and there are some moments of well sustained suspense. The obligatory gimmick comes in the form of a "Fright Break", which allowed theater goers to walk out of the picture if they were too frightened with a full refund. Obviously this is useless now, which only dates the film. But for the most part this is a watchable little thriller, if too familiar.
Anthony DiBlasi is no doubt one of our generation's most fascinating and underrated horror filmmakers. You'd be forgiven if you haven't heard of him, but now that you have, you owe it to yourself to go check out his other works. "Dread" was his first film and one of my personal favorites and he garnered some mainstream recognition with "Last Shift" a few years ago.
This one, his second effort seems to have slipped far under the radar, and that's a shame, because it's a pretty interesting little flick. The plot is quite original and as with his other films, deeply disturbing, mixing together "Silence Of The Lambs" with a supernatural element and a unique antagonist who strings his victims up like marionettes and plays with them as if they were toys. It's certainly not for the squeamish, even the opening scene will shake hardened viewer's expectations. But there's plenty of substance besides the gore and fantastic acting from most of the cast, with the sorely underrated and incredibly beautiful Kelen Coleman standing out in the main role. There are problems, though, that hold it back from being the hidden gem it could've been. The plot oftentimes becomes more concerned with the emotional aspect, and leaves the killer's motivations muddled. I would've liked to probe deeper into the mind of this madman and some twists would've been welcome as the ending is easy to see coming. Also, muddy digital cinematography does the film no justice. It's a unique, disturbing little flick that's worth your time, but it's not the director's finest, and I can't help but feel it could've been so much more.
This is one of the first pictures from Charles Band's Empire Pictures before he started Full Moon Features. Also worthy of note is the fact that it is directed by Ted Nicolau who would later bring us the cult favorite Subspecies franchise. This one is pretty cheesy when all is said and done, but it's enjoyable in a guilty pleasure way. The effects are superb and though there's no blood (rather green goo) there's plenty of gore. The comedic elements are where things fall apart, as the characters and dialogue are often cringe worthy instead of endearingly funny, as well as some sleaze that doesn't gel with the rest of the film. It's not great stuff, but if you're looking for a decent trash flick for a Saturday night, this one fits the bill and has it's moments.
The Crazies (1973)
One of Romero's early efforts, this is not one of his best. It's a competent picture, and it contains the same political undercurrent that runs through the Dead trilogy, this time focusing on the ineptitude of the government and army when dealing with a chemical disaster. The moments in which we follow a group of survivors trying to escape the quarantined town has it's points of excitement and suspense. But when the film deals with the political and military components of the story it becomes quite bland. Throw in some extremely haphazard editing (which could've been done intentionally, but is annoying nonetheless) and bad acting from some of the cast and you have a missed opportunity. It's worth a watch, but not on par with Romero's better works. This is a case where the remake turned out better than the original, in my opinion.
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
I'm a big fan of anthology style horror films such as Creepshow and V/H/S, so I've wanted to check out something from Amicus Productions, a production company that released a series of anthology horror films in the 70's, for a long time now. This wasn't their first production, but is quite possibly their most well known and beloved. And I can see why. While I don't feel that it's on the same level as Creepshow, it is a rock solid film that manages to avoid the anthology's worst pitfall, it has no boring segments. All of the stories are equally creepy and enjoyable, and while none of them are particularly original, they each find a way to close on a firmly tongue in cheek twist ending. There's also a wonderful cast of recognizable British talents and atmospheric direction. This is a fine little film.
This was a rather pleasant surprise. Here I was expecting a low budget crapfest, instead I was met with a thoroughly enjoyable b-movie. It is a rather goofy premise, centering around a teenage boy who discovers his stepfather is actually a werewolf. Luckily, the effects are mostly practical and the werewolf looks pretty cool. He also spouts Freddy Kruger style one liners which either hit or wildly miss. There's also quite a lot of gore and some pretty shocking scenes, one including what may be the only werewolf rape scene in cinema history. It's not all trashy exploitation though, the characters are loveable and well written and most of the actors do a decent job. It's not great stuff, but it is quite fun. If you dig werewolves and you can handle the gore and crude humor, you should check this one out pronto.
Ghost Stories (2018)
This one has been gathering quite a following since it hit the festival circuits, even being called the best British horror film in 20 years. It's not, at all. In fact, this is a staggeringly inept and shallow film hidden under a slick coat of beautiful cinematography and visual polish.
It's a spectacular looking film, but it's dumb as bricks underneath the hood, despite reeking of pretension. It presents itself as an anthology of sorts, but none of the three ghost stories it contains is even a complete tale. Each one is an incredibly short build up to an unimaginative jumpscare, and there's no exaggeration in that statement, that's literally what the film is comprised of. Otherwise we are left with the wrap around, in which the big bad skeptic gets the cruel hand of almighty fate for daring to expose fraudulent psychics and religious phonies. That's the films biggest problem, it's personal ethics. The main character is punished for his lack of belief and for a childhood mistake that wasn't even his doing. Even with these narrative and moral problems aside, the film has almost no asemblance of story and makes no attempt to scare, surprise or do anything remotely original. It's good looking, but that's about it. I'm thoroughly baffled at why anyone would think this drivel a masterpiece.
Dead Shack (2017)
Where to begin with this one? I had prepared myself for a campy, crude horror comedy full of awesome gore after seeing the poster and trailer for this disaster. What I was met with is instead, what I can honestly call the worst film in any genre that I have seen in a few good years. There isn't one saving grace in this entire film. The humor is crass garbage that sounds as if it was written by edgy Tumblr kids, the characters are all despicable, unbelievably annoying cretins, the dialogue feels as though it was written by an alien lifeform attempting to imitate human speech patterns and the cinematography and direction are completely bland. There's hardly even a story present here. A crass, extremely dysfunctional family heads out into the woods for a camping trip only to find that their next door neighbor keeps her zombified family in the basement and feeds tourists to them. No explanation for how this particular family became zombies, no attempt at explaining exactly why this family are headed to the middle of nowhere to sit around and hurl expletives and one-liners at each other. Just an hour and fourteen minutes of annoying individuals squawking and treating each other like pieces of human garbage. I wanted to punch a hole through my screen. I can't urge you to avoid this film enough, I feel I seriously lost braincells during my viewing.
Our House (2018)
This one has a lot of good things going for it. Beautiful cinematography, thoughtful, well paced direction and a cast of loveable characters each played convincingly. The story, linking supernatural phenomena to electricity, is nothing new, but is presented in a fairly fresh manner. Some will grow bored quickly, waiting for the scares to start, but the film's greatest strength actually lies within it's emotional aspects, and watching the characters come to terms with the grief of losing their parents. The drama is done perfectly and we really care about these people. However, when the horror kicks in we're left with a fairly humdrum explanation for things and the film starts to lose it's distinctness and bleed into all the other supernatural films we've seen this decade. It squanders it's potential to be something more memorable, but it is worth seeing and a very well made picture that satisfies overall. It's just unfortunate that something more original wasn't done with it.
Demon Seed (1977)
This one doesn't have the reputation it deserves, as I feel this film was quite ahead of it's time, fiercely original and handles the "A.I. gone wrong" subject better than any modern film has. It's thought-provoking and actually quite scary, with some deeply unsettling scenes both in the sense of graphic violence and psychological horror. Although, Fritz Weaver is given top billing, the film mostly focuses on Julie Christie, and her performance is top notch. But as intelligent and frightening as the rest of the film is, the ending didn't satisfy me. It's not exactly ambiguous, but it leaves a lot to the viewer's imagination. I often enjoy films that let me fill in the blanks, but in this case it took away from the horror of the film not to have things tied up at the denouement. It remains, however, that the film is very worth seeing and deserves to be better remembered. If you love sci-fi/horror you need to see this one.
Black Christmas (1974)
This one gets props right out the gate, as it is, for all intensive purposes, the first true slasher film ever made. It enjoys classic status, but not as high as that of Halloween, which did reasonably better at the box office and often overshadows Black Christmas. And while Halloween is a slightly more superior production, this is still a great film. Carpenter no doubt took some form of inspiration from it, as it sets up the basic slasher template in it's most pure form. Even "When A Stranger Calls" borrowed this film's creepy phone caller. But the film has it's own identity, and when you take into consideration it's release date, it was quite original.
Solid, moody direction and shadowy cinematography casts an atmosphere of palpable dread and creepiness. But it's the obscene phone calls that really get under your skin. With just some superb voice acting, and the horrified expressions of the cast, these moments create fear out of nothing. The madman's demented ramblings and unnatural, guttural noises are unspeakably unnerving. Never before have I wanted to take a shower just by hearing someone's voice. But the atmosphere is sustained throughout, with cleverly directed kill scenes and solid acting from most of the cast, including the original final girl herself, Olivia Hussey. The ever underrated John Saxon also delivers a fantastic performance as yet another police lieutenant. The only gripe I really have is that the killer's motivations aren't developed at all. I do feel that this actually makes him more frightening, not unlike the meaningless rampages of Michael Myers himself, but some of the dialogue in the phone call scenes begs for elaboration. But, alas, that didn't turn out too well for the wretched remake, so maybe it's all the better. You can't call yourself a slasher fanatic until you've tracked this one down. It's a classic.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Obviously, no one is going to watch this picture and expect anything original. And most of the time this is a paint by numbers slasher flick, but it does have it's charms and several unexpected moments. It's strange that a film written and directed by two women, whom were prominent feminist figures at the time of it's release, somehow manages to be even more misogynist and trashy than half of the other films being produced in that period.
Not only does the killer seemingly have no motive, much less a personality, but we see his face from almost his first appearance on screen, which arguably works against the film. It doesn't waste any time getting to business with any of that silly plot and character development stuff either, the blood starts flying within the first ten minutes. Acting isn't anything to write home about, but isn't awful either and the characters, while cardboard cutouts, are at least not annoying. The killer's weapon of choice is a large drill (obviously a reference to a phallic symbol, in this case), but unfortunately there aren't very many creative kills. Things unexpectedly ramp up in the finale, in which several of the girls go commando on the madman and there are several moments of clever humor, but for the most part this is pretty average stuff. It's not bad, but I can't give props to something this lazy either. If it seems up your alley, it probably will be, but if you're the sort (like me) who asks yourself why you're even watching this in the first place, don't bother.
This one is really more of a thriller, but IMDB and most other film sites have it categorized as horror as well, and really it's a fine line between the two. So I think this one belongs on this list anyway. I'd seen trailers for it and knew that I'd most probably enjoy it at the least, but I wasn't prepared to like it as well as I do. Most will watch this simply for the involvement of David Tennant, but that wasn't what drew me, seeing as I have yet to see any part of Doctor Who whatsoever (please forgive me).
Really, the plot is nothing original. We've seen several variations on "thieves break into a house and discover something horrible" like Don't Breathe and The Collector. But this film pulls it off in it's own fashion, and whereas those films focused much more on the sheer horror, this one takes plenty of time to develop characters. That's not to say it's a slow start, because the pacing is pretty much perfect from the get go. It's really the performances that carry most of the film, with David Tennant playing the antagonist remarkably well and Robert Sheehan providing an instantly likeable hero. The dialogue is crisp, and the characters actually evolve over the course of the film. It's also been quite some time since I've seen a thriller that made me grip my armrests, but this one did the trick. There's tons of fantastic moments of incredibly well sustained suspense, and the film also doesn't shy away from the gore (without overdoing it, either) like most thrillers often do. It's not anything new or especially fresh, but it's a superb little thrill ride with loveable characters, able direction and fantastic acting. I was quite satisfied.
The Babysitter (2017)
This is a fairly solid horror comedy. It's well directed, with a fantastic cast and some decent gore as well. Samara Weaving turns in another impressive performance, further cementing herself as a new talent. Truly impressive however, is young Judah Lewis, who shows incredible chops for such a young actor. He has big things ahead of him. Unfortunately the humor can grate throughout, as the teenage antagonists are incredibly annoying. I suppose they're supposed to embody everything wrong with millennial teens, but that doesn't make them any more tolerable. There's a few comedic moments that fall completely flat, and the film also often tries too hard to look more self-aware, and in trying to be a meta-horror masterpiece for the Facebook generation, just comes across as a little desperate. There were a few moments that made me chuckle, there's some likeable characters (not any of the teens, obviously) and the film wraps itself up in a surprisingly touching "coming of age" manner. It's worth a look for those who enjoy laughs with their gore, but it's not perfect.
I'm quite shocked at the bad rap this one is getting. It's incredibly low IMDB score right out of the gates coupled with it's pushed back release date (it was supposed to come out in 2015) and the fact that it's yet another "infection/running zombies" movie, almost made me not give it a chance. I'm very glad I did, however, and I can only imagine the score is so low because not many have watched it yet, especially not it's core audience. Because those who yearn for intelligent "zombie-like infection" films such as 28 Days Later will be very pleased.
The film's infected are quite different animals than we're used to, and the concept of one of the characters being able to speak the infecteds' "language", in order to try and find the origins of the disease, is fresh and inventive. It ends up allowing the film to also focus much more on the emotional aspect of the characters and probe more scientific/philosophical depths. Acting is good from most of the cast, with several familiar faces, but Stanley Tucci stands out the most to me as he plays a highly intelligent infected. Leading man Matt Smith also turns in a worthy performance. There's also a twist at the end that I didn't really see coming, which keeps the film from feeling too much like Deja vu. Towards the end the film does become more fast-paced, momentarily shedding it's philosophical intentions to focus on more action and bloodshed, and although the final frame ends in a very predictable manner that calls to mind many others of it's sub-genre, the solid characters and what came before makes it remain individual. This is one of the best of it's kind in years, which is saying something considering the massive amount of piss-poor efforts we see in this sub-genre every year. If you love these kinds of films, this should be a hidden gem for you. I only hope it will get the love it deserves.
Gerald's Game (2017)
I've been anticipating getting my hands on this one for a while now, seeing as I'm a huge fan of both director Mike Flanagan and Stephen King. The combination of the two sounded like a masterstroke to me, and that's exactly what it turned out to be.
This is a fantastic film on every level, and although it's much more than a simple horror film, it's also fantastically suspenseful, disturbing and truly frightening at times. The acting is the centerpiece here, seeing as the concept of a woman left handcuffed to a bed after her husband suffers a stroke during sex, leaves not much else but the performances to anchor the film. Luckily, the cast is absolutely phenomenal. All of the actors are amazing, but Carla Gugino deserves the most praise for turning in a truly Oscar worthy performance. The film also finds inventive ways to sneak past the confines of it's one room story, and turns into a rich psychological horror story, which weaves in some twists you won't see coming and gives the film it's emotional core. I won't mention what that entails here, as it would spoil the film, but suffice to say that this isn't simply a horror flick full of blood and guts, and it will unhinge you in very real and human ways. It's an important film, and one that will remain timely forever, and deserves to be seen by all as both a fantastic genre picture and a moving, deep cinematic experience. It's one of the finest of the decade so far, and Mike Flanagan's most superb effort yet, cementing him as (in my humble opinion) our generation's greatest horror director. It's also easily the best film based off of a King book in a good while. Hell, for me, it even beats out Jordan Peele's "Get Out" as last year's best horror film. If you haven't yet, go watch it now.
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