TDcore's Horror Journal 2018: Pt. 3
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This is certainly not what most will be expecting from the appearance of this film. Most critics seem to have treated it as a horror comedy, and though there are smidgens of pitch black humor, this is just a strange and very surreal film. It's not perfect and suffers from several rather large flaws, but it's unique and haunting enough to be very worth your time.
It's also a very psychological film as we experience it through the eyes of an obviously disturbed little boy who realizes that his parents just may be suburban cannibals. It's a chilling premise that is played straight for the most part, and the film focuses for quite some time on how this effects the child's psyche, complete with some incredibly disturbing dream sequences. It also spends time exploring how terrifying being a kid can be in general, including confronting several touchy sexual angles. It's certainly not what one would expect from an 80's Vestron production, but those who can handle the weirdness should find plenty to like. The surreal atmosphere is kept constant, and not one of the characters seems to be a normal human being. The film's greatest downfall is perhaps it's main actor, young Bryan Madorsky is absolutely terrible, most of the time acting as though he doesn't even want to be on camera and mumbling his lines so quietly you'll have to keep adjusting the volume. Seeing the film through the eyes of his dreary, completely uninspired performance takes away from the film. Although Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt are perfect as the creepy parents. Sometimes the occasional humor doesn't gel with the Lynchian feeling of the rest of the film either. But for the most part, even if uneven in several ways, this one is worth seeing. It's not one you'll forget, that's for certain.
A Quiet Place (2018)
This one has been getting a massive amount of praise, and everything about it seemed right up my alley. Monsters, a fairly original plot and of course, the lovely Emily Blunt. How could this go wrong? And happily, I can report that this is indeed a wonderful film. It's easily one of the most intense, frightening viewing experiences I've had in some time, and director/writer/actor John Krasinski proves himself as adept behind the camera as he is in front of it. He elicits suspense out of every moment, and the film is peppered with moments of sheer tension that had me on the edge of my seat until the end. It's truly one of the most suspenseful, thrilling films I've ever seen. Few directors know how to create this kind of suspense, but Krasininski elevates it to an artform. It's purely Hitchcockian, and that's something that can't be said for most thrillers or horror films nowadays. The cast is utterly fantastic as well, with Krasinski and Blunt's real life marriage lending believability to their performances. It's a touching film as well, that's as much about the strength of family as it is a creature feature about monsters that hunt by sound. Speaking of the monsters, they're incredibly well designed and brought to life with surprisingly solid CGI. This is a satisfying film in almost all aspects, and one that will surely go down as a modern classic.
The Terror (1963)
This is perhaps the most poorly received of the Corman Poe-Cycle (even though it is not actually based on a Poe text), and it's easy to see why. Not only was Corman working with what was obviously a much smaller budget than most of his Poe adaptations, but the film is a mess in many other ways as well. The cinematography is muddy and much too dark in some scenes, the plot unfolds in a manner that is pure cheese and towards the end some twists are thrown in that make the whole ordeal next to impossible to understand. There is some good, though. The acting keeps things moving along with great performances by Karloff, a very young Jack Nicholson and Dick Miller. They don't have much to work with, but they give it one hundred percent all the way. Also, there are a few effective moments, though nothing frightening, and the film does sport a spooky atmosphere. The ending also closes things on a fiendish note, but by then you'll be far too restless with the tedious plot and near incomprehensible twists to look back upon it with favor. It's not notably awful or anything of that sort, but a very messy film indeed. I can't really recommend it to anyone. Even Corman fans are better off skipping this one.
I found that I enjoyed this one much more than I expected I would. It's another of Hammer's psychological horror efforts, released after Psycho in an attempt to cash in on the hype. It's penned by Jimmy Sangster, whom also wrote many of Hammer's other psychological horrors, which I didn't find very satisfying, such as Fear In The Night and Paranoiac. Luckily, this film is quite different and may well be Hammer's best psychological effort. Sangster's script is much more refined this time, but it's also the presence of veteran
Hammer director Freddie Francis that adds much smoother direction to the production. Beautifully atmospheric black and white cinematography and a measured pace anchor the film, and the acting is magnificent from all involved. But it's really the twists that make this film stand out from it's peers. From the outset things seem to follow the same path as most Psycho-inspired thrillers do, telling the tale of a disturbed young woman who saw her mother stab her father to death on her birthday as a child and fears she too, may be insane. The film seems to be headed in the same direction as the before mentioned films, but takes a sharp turn towards the middle that is a very clever riff on it's sub-genre. It deserves to be as well remembered as films like Diabolique and Wait Until Dark, and if you enjoyed those films, you should love this underrated gem.
The Nameless (1999)
This was Jaume Balaguero's, the Spanish director of films such as Rec, Fragile and Sleep Tight, first film. I consider Balaguero to be one of our generation's finest horror directors, so I was eager to track this one down and see where his work began. And while this film shares many of the themes and directorial flourishes that would become his trademarks, it just doesn't stand up to the rest of his filmography. Make no mistake, it's not a bad film, just a very uneven one.
It plays out like a Silence Of The Lambs-esque horror/thriller, focusing on a woman who's supposedly deceased daughter was killed years ago by a mysterious cult, but begins calling her and leaving cryptic messages. The film's mystery is a relatively complex one, and unravels slowly, which is both a strength and a weakness in this film's case. The slow pace either comes across as creepy to the bone, mostly during the more sinister, atmospheric parts, or just plain boring, as it often does when more concerned with character. The dialogue is incredibly stilted, and the actors, while all delivering solid performances, don't have much to work with at times. This ultimately makes the film a bit boring during the stretches in which nothing much advances the plot. As for the plot itself, towards the middle it becomes rather convoluted and difficult to understand. The themes it plays with are deeply disturbing, but it never feels like the film comes together in a completely coherent manner. The direction and cinematography are top-notch, and amazingly brooding. This is a quiet, but deeply sinister film that easily burrows under the skin, and it's strongest points are surely Balaguero's behind-the-camera skills. The twist ending is also very clever and an absolute sucker punch to the stomach after the rest of the film. It ends things on a completely nihilistic note, and although I appreciate that it was intended as such, it left me with an incredibly sour taste in my mouth and a melancholic depression. This film is pretty much a visual portrait of the word "bleak", and as a disturbing thriller, it works well most of the time. Balaguero's talents are very apparent, and the film is worth seeing, but not as good or well defined as his works have been since.
The Comeback (1978)
This one is about as rare as they come and only has the smallest of cult followings, but it is quite worth checking out when all is said and done. The drawing card back in it's release day was the presence of singer "Jack Jones" as the main character. Most horror films nowadays starring popular musicians in lead roles are safely avoidable, but this one surprised me. This doesn't simply come across as a money-making vehicle for an established star, as one might imagine. It's a very well directed effort with a good sense of atmosphere and some creepy touches. It also succeeds in keeping one guessing until the end. I thought I had the whole thing sorted out rather quickly and prepared myself to be disappointed, only for the ending to take a rather pleasant twist, that while still not exactly shocking, was welcome. It throws a lot of red herrings at you, but in this case the direction is solid enough that they really do keep you confused as intended. Jack Jones is also much better at acting than most modern vocalists that end up on film and anchors the film with his everyman performance. The rest of the cast is good too, with some surprisingly familiar faces like the lovely Pamela Stephenson and David Doyle. It works reasonably well, and succeeds in creeping one out. While it's not anything terribly original, it is worth seeking out for horror fanatics, and it's certainly better than some of the crap from it's day that have even bigger cult followings. If this one peaks your curiosity, give it a try. It'd be a shame if a solid little flick like this one was mostly forgotten.
Alien Raiders (2008)
This was pretty decent for the almost micro-budget that it was produced on and has managed to accumulate a bit of a cult following as one of the few good titles to come out of the short-lived Raw Feed Films, a low-budget production company that was a subsidiary of Warner Bros. This one is a competent sci-fi/horror flick, with well-written characters and steady direction considering the budget. Sadly, the budget holds it back from doing much with it's plot. The characters are supposed to be fighting off parasitic aliens, but we have only one infected person who looks more like a zombie than anything and there is an absence of special effects until the very end. The film focuses more on the hostage situation and the tensions between the hostages and alien hunters, and as said, this generates some well paced suspense and crisp dialogue. Acting is good for the most part and the film keeps one's attention until the end, thanks to likeable characterization. I just wish a little more money had been spent to make it feel like a film about hunting aliens, as apposed to a film that feels like it's about hunting a lone zombie at times. Still, it's amazing that this was accomplished on such a miniscule budget, and it deserves praise for that alone. Worth a look for sci-fi/horror fans.
I saw the trailer for this one when it first came out, even before the trailer itself became infamous on the interwebs, and remember being blown away by it and unspeakably excited for this film. I tempered my expectations, however, as I've learned to do with most modern horror flicks and because while I have enjoyed A24's output, a lot of their films such as The Witch and It Comes At Night are mildly overrated (vastly in It Comes At Night's case). Therefore, while massively excited, I didn't have expectations for this one. I did track down director Ari Aster's first short-film, "The Strange Thing About The Johnsons" and was absolutely blown away by that. I hoped this film would have the same disorienting, immensely disturbing and incredibly thoughtful atmosphere as that short, and it certainly did.
Very rarely can I say that the hype train was correct, but in this film's case, everything you've heard is true. This is an exceptional film, one of the most frightening I have ever witnessed, on a fundamental, psychological level. Never before have I seen a film that feels anything like this one. It is something completely new and entirely unique, yet incredibly human, emotionally effecting and classically scary. It's not one that will be appreciated by those expecting jump-scares or to have things spelled out for them. I had to watch the film twice to connect all the dots, but it was a pure joy to have to watch it again. It plumbs depths that no other film has touched, just as Aster's short films did. The cast is also absolutely phenomenal, with Toni Collette front and center in an Oscar worthy performance, and young newcomer Alex Wolff almost equally as impressive. I won't attempt to explain much more, other than to say that this is a masterpiece on every level. Open your mind, sit back and let this film completely overtake you and you will have one of the most frightening, original horror film experiences in a very long time. Aster is already working on his next film, and to say I can't wait would be a massive understatement. With films like this, A Quiet Place and Get Out, horror is starting to look up again in the last few years. This one is an absolute must-see.
This may be Spanish director, Jaume Balaguero's weakest effort. It goes without saying that it was his first English-speaking endeavor and his first under a big budget studio. And it positively wreaks of studio interference. That's not to say it's an awful film. Balaguero imbues it with the same sense of dread and moody atmosphere that he does with all his films. The cinematography is excellent and uses the dark to paint beautifully haunting scenes. It's mostly the craftmanship of the film that keeps it moving. The plot is a mixture of Balaguero's usual occult/cult influences and a mash-up of Amityville and The Shining. It mostly feels like the director's riff on American ghost stories through a very Spanish lens, but that also means that it's scarcely original. Dialogue is also painful as it was obvious Balaguero and his co-writer didn't have a clear grasp on the English language quite yet. Acting is also rather blotchy, with Iain Glenn giving a laughable performance as the father, which is not good seeing as we're supposed to be frightened by him. Young Anna Paquin and the always amazing Giancarlo Giannini are the only worthy actors in the entire picture. It's worth seeing for the atmosphere and masterful cinematography and pacing, and if you dig Spanish horror films. But it's Balaguero's weakest by far. I would've loved to see what he could've done with it if given complete control of his vision.
Hostel: Part II (2007)
I have seen this one before, but while I found it worthwhile, didn't think it was on par with the first. After suffering through Eli Roth's last two films, his first two since this one, I wanted to come back to this film and give it another chance as I adore Roth's first two films, Cabin Fever and Hostel. And I certainly appreciated this one more the second time around.
Most praiseworthy is Roth's refusal to deliver a paint-by-numbers horror sequel. In no way is this just a rehash of the first film, but a look at entirely different angles within the first. Seeing things from the view of the torturers is fresh and allows for some thoughtful social commentary that goes much deeper than anyone ever gives these films credit for. Rogert Bart and Richard Burgi are also fantastic as the two common dudes who sink into the pits of depravity. The rest of the cast is also great, with the three female leads all likeable and believable, just as the guys were in the first film. Although these ladies are slightly more likeable in general, seeing as they act from the outset as if they think with something more than their genitals. As with Roth's other early films, cinematography and direction is impeccable, and the whole thing is shot on lovely film as opposed to digital cinematography. There's of course, a handful of grisly moments, but for the most part the film feels much different than the first, even in it's violence, as most of the icky moments don't even occur in the torture facility. The "Bathory" scene is also, quite possibly the single most gut-wrenching moment in this entire franchise. All in all, this is a solid sequel with lots to offer fans of the first, without devolving into a predictable mess. If only Roth could go back to making films like this.
The Tripper (2006)
Most of my interest in this film came from the fact that it is David Arquette's first and only directorial credit. I know he's not a fantastic actor, but I've long had a soft spot for the guy, and thought his sense of humor could translate wonderfully into a horror comedy like this. I also liked the idea of sticking one to the conservatives with Ronald Reagan as a serial killer, hunting hippies in the woods. Surprisingly, the film slams corporate Democrats and modern hippie-types just as much as it rips the Republicans a new one. The cast is fantastic with plenty of cult favorites like Thomas Jane, Jaime King, Jason Mewes and Balthazar Getty. Also, Arquette proves himself a solid director with a fantastic sense of pacing. The cinematography is nicely oldschool as well, lending the film a classic 80's slasher feel. It's not all perfect. The film starts out rock solid, but eventually the humor starts to grate and the thin plot falls into cliché, but even up until the end this is a purely enjoyable slasher flick. Some great kills as well. If the concept isn't too politically incorrect for you (funny that I have seen many conservatives on IMBD and such complaining about a film such as this being "allowed". I thought they were the ones who were against this "political correctness" stuff?), then you should enjoy this one.
The Ninth Gate (1999)
This was Polanski's return to the horror genre, for the first time since "The Tenant", and it's quite difficult to think of reasons why it should've failed. We have a classic story, fantastic director, impeccable cast and top-notch writing, but even all of this isn't quite enough to make this the film it should've been. It's very subdued for a thriller, and though there's plenty of death and violence, there's hardly even any bloodshed. This isn't a problem, really, as the atmosphere and acting are pitch perfect, but mainstream audiences will most likely be bored out of their skulls. The first hour is fantastic, but after that things begin a downward spiral. The film prepares us for a fantastic, mind-blowing finale, and we're left with a rather muted fade-to-white when all is said and done. It's not in any way a satisfactory end to a film like this, and it brings the rest of the picture down, seeing as the whole thing basically ends up nowhere. It's a well-crafted, amazingly enjoyable journey, to a mind-bogglingly disappointing conclusion. Nothing of Rosemary's Baby caliber here, but worth seeing for horror and thriller fans. What it could've been, though.
I really have no idea why I held off on this film for as long as I did. I suspect it's because I had the twist ruined for me long beforehand and thought I wouldn't like it much. Boy, was I wrong. This is every bit as amazing a film as you've most likely heard, and even if you have the initial twist ruined for you as I did, be prepared, because there's two more, equally as jolting ones to follow. Everything here, from the concept to the brilliant twists is genius. It doesn't simply feel like a cheap thriller trying to be shocking either, but a real look inside some interesting areas of the human psyche, though I won't say more than that without ruining things. On top of all this, we have an utterly fantastic cast full of familiar and dependable faces and brilliant direction from the underrated James Mangold. I can't really say more without ruining multiple aspects of this flick, so just suffice to say that it's brilliant, and one of the last decade's best, hands down. Also, fun to note for horror fans, this was written by Michael Cooney, the same man who brought us Jack Frost 1 & 2. Who would've thought? It's too bad he didn't try his hand at writing some more straight-faced scripts.
Into the Mirror (2003)
This is the original Korean version of the American film Mirrors. If it weren't for the remake, this film would be even harder for an American to get their hands, but strangely, even as Korean horror films go, this one is rather underrated. I'm terribly picky when it comes to Asian horror and have not at all been impressed by the likes of The Grudge or Pulse (or their American counterparts), probably the only Asian horror films I have appreciated thus far are Ringu (and the American remake, of course) and Battle Royale. Now, I can proudly add this little gem to the list of worthwhile Asian horrors.
Most praiseworthy is the film's originality when compared to other Asian and J-Horror projects of it's time. While other films of it's type seemed concerned solely with cashing in on the "long haired, pale ghost-girl seeks vengeance and contorts body/face frequently" trend, this one plays with much different ideas. The concept of haunted mirrors and the fashion in which it is used to facilitate the kill scenes is genius and incredibly creepy. Smooth direction and moody cinematography keep things moving along, and acting is quite good from most all of the cast as well. The film also plays with drama aspects involving a disgraced former police officer, and thanks to the acting, these moments are just as strong as the rest of the film. However, as I have found with most Asian films, it can be a bit over-long, sometimes focusing for long periods on details and moments that are neither pivotal to the plot or all that interesting. But overall, the film is a creepy, thoughtful little endeavor with some great kills and a brilliant twist ending as well. I'll be watching the American remake soon as well, seeing as I have faith in Alexandre Aja not to screw it up. But this one is very worth your time. And surely one of the better Korean horror efforts.
As far as American remakes of Asian horror films go, this one is probably the only one worth seeing besides the legendary "The Ring". This is due mostly to the talents of director Alexandre Aja. His smooth direction, impeccable sense of pacing and fiendish imagination give this one an aura that a film of it's caliber wouldn't usually have. Credit must also be given to the cast, with Kiefer Sutherland turning in an expectedly great performance that anchors the film at all times. The dramatic aspects are surprisingly as well fleshed-out as the horror bits, so we have a cast of characters we care for. Being an Aja film, we also have some memorable moments of gore and carnage, with the bathroom scene being one that sticks out as one of the greatest/most shocking scenes in modern horror. Hell, even if you hate the rest of the film, you have to admit that moment is incredible. Things do get pretty cheesy towards the end and take a turn towards predictable hollywood horror tropes, but even then, Aja keeps things beautiful and brutal and the film shares a genius twist ending with it's Korean counterpart. There's things I liked about both versions that the other didn't have, so I think they compliment each other rather nicely. Both are well worth your time.
This is a fairly underrated little flick. Those expecting something along the lines of "Orphan" or "The Good Son" should slightly temper their expectations. This film is much more grounded and more of a slow-burner. It focuses much more on the dramatic aspects, and thankfully we have a fantastic cast to flesh them out. Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga are perfect for a film like this, and the supporting cast is just as good. Young Jacob Kogan, in the title role, will thoroughly creep you out as well. However, I can't help but wish there had been a few more outright "horrific" moments, though I understand why there wasn't. The film does leave a lasting impression and is suitably haunting. Very much worth your time if you can manage to seek it out.
Home Movie (2008)
Now this is on the opposite end of the "killer kid" genre, from "Joshua". Here is a film that pretty much goes all out and knows no subtlety. It's certainly one of the more disturbing viewing experiences I've had in some time. The cast is pretty good all around, and is clear from the first shot that something is quite wrong with this family. I suppose my biggest gripe is a complete lack of explanation. While it does succeed in making the film more frightening, it also makes it feel more exploitive. It's quite an empty-headed film and one that is much more interested in eliciting a shocked response from the audience instead of causing them to think or feel. In this film's case I feel that wasn't quite enough. Still, this is a thoroughly disturbing, intensely dark riff on the sub-genre, and one that won't easily be forgotten.
Red White & Blue (2010)
This is not an easy watch by any means. You will be drowning yourself in the company of three very flawed, highly detestable human beings for almost two hours and watching as the chaos wrecked by their bad decisions creates the kind of horror that only humans can inflict upon each other. Perhaps the most disquieting and disturbing aspect of the film, however, is that at one point or another, we feel for each of these lost souls, however disgusting they may be. This is truly a tragedy, of rather epic proportions. And an unflinching look deep into the underbelly of American society. It's not a pretty film, nor an easy one to stomach, but it has something to say and it refuses to dull it's edge for anyone. This is what happens when people live recklessly, and carelessly. Acting is phenomenal from everyone involved. The only thing holding it back is severely ugly cinematography, but even this lends to the film's grimy aesthetic in it's own way. I can't give it a higher rating and I can't say I'd ever watch it again, but in a world where society has decayed to the point it has, I wonder if a film like this should be shown in schools. This is not just a film, but a message, a warning. Heed it. There, I'm done being all preachy.
Dead Birds (2004)
This one has already become a cult favorite, so I was eager to track it down. It has the distinction of being one of a handful of "horror westerns", and is often regarded as one of the best in that sub-genre. Sadly, I wasn't as impressed with it as others have been. We have most of the ingredients here for a classic horror film. A fantastic cast, slightly new bent on a classic concept and some pretty cool and unsettling creature effects. But the story never takes much shape, and in the end it feels like the filmmakers copped out of trying to explain everything and just settled into trying to be creepy. Make no mistake, it is a fairly scary film at times, but I wanted a more cohesive experience out of it. Direction can also be workman-like and although acting is good, the characters are hardly fleshed out. It's worth a look, and has some creepy imagery that will stick with you, but I wish a little more time had been invested in the story and characters. We might've had a masterpiece on our hands.
Now this is a hidden gem. It does enjoy a reputable cult status, but still, I don't think enough folks know about this flick. It's not anything mind-blowing, or terribly original, but it's film-within-a-film narrative, well-written characters, witty humor and first class direction and cinematography combined to make it a top notch example of for-fun horror done right. Also, it played with meta-horror five years before Scream did, and is eerily similar in some ways. Some complained that the fictional films were actually more entertaining than the film itself, but, though it wasn't exactly original, I thought the great characters and cast made the whole thing work wonderfully. If you haven't seen this one yet, go seek out a copy now. It's worth it.
I was thoroughly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. It doesn't seem to have much of a following, which is just a damn shame. This is a great film in all respects. It's original, quite suspenseful, and the characters are well written and likeable. Usually, horror films with child actor leads are a gamble, but young Joey Lawrence is easily one of the best child actors I've seen, and the rest of the cast is just as convincing, which is a good thing, because besides all the horror aspects this is also a pretty good drama. It can be quite scary at times as well, seeing as household mishaps and electronic malfunctions are something we all deal with on a frequent basis. The finale especially, is a real nail-biter. I'm pissed that this film is not a cult classic. Get your ass out there and watch it, right now. You're welcome.
This is often heralded as one of the best of the After Dark Horrorfest lineups, which granted, doesn't mean much. But this is actually a pretty nifty little film. It's dumb, cartoonish, nasty fun and it knows it, therefore it comes across as being made by horror fans for horror fans. I'm also surprised at how well the visual effects were pulled off with such a low budget. Other low budget horror flicks should take notice, there's no excuse for them to look like clunky crap when this film came out in 2006, featured mostly CGI effects and looks as good as it does. There's a decent amount of practical effects work too, and the appearances of the ghosts are actually quite frightening. The film does actually succeed in being scary from time to time as well, and the cast, while not Oscar worthy are just right for this kind of film, with likeable characters. It's not a piece of art or even a masterpiece as far as horror films go, but it is a whole lot of fun.
This one stirred up enough controversy at it's release date that it was rated "X" in the UK. I'm not quite sure what warranted that, seeing as there's not so much as one drop of blood in the entire film. I suppose the concept was so disturbing back then that it seriously unhinged some folks, but I find even that, rather hard to believe. Nonetheless, the film has become something of a curiosity because of it's status. It's alright, but nothing fantastic. When it comes down to it, the whole thing feels like an overlong episode of The Twilight Zone, and not a particularly good one at that. The acting is good and there's a creepy score as well as some ahead of their time camera tricks, but the whole thing just ends up dragging on for too long without developing into much of anything. Nothing special here.
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
This is a case where I believe the remake turned out better than the original film. This one isn't bad. It has more directorial flair and better cinematography than Craven's previous effort, The Last House On The Left (whose remake was also, much better) and there's some tension and suspense. But, compared to the remake and even on it's own, there's a lot of problems as well. Foremost being, that once revealed, the antagonists are not the least bit frightening. Unlike in the remake, where they were presented as inhuman, hideously deformed monsters, these characters are much more human. They talk and laugh, and come across as nothing more than desert hillbillies with cannibalistic tendencies. This takes a lot of punch out of the second half of the film. The family we're supposed to root for is also, mostly comprised of unlikeable characters, which doesn't help. The teenage son, the mother and the adult daughter and her husband are likeable enough, but there's also the headstrong, racist father (whose stupidity leaves his family stranded in the first place) and the squawking, annoying teenage daughter. However, when the film works, it works admirably, with some intense chase scenes and satisfyingly gruesome moments of revenge. It's worth a look for it's place in horror history, but as said, the remake is superior in every way. Sorry, Wes.
Dead End (2003)
This one has amassed a small cult audience, but I wasn't blown away by it. It's a horror comedy, with horror and comedy in pretty equal doses. It's tale of a dysfunctional family stuck on a haunted road that never seems to end is not exactly original either, but the great cast keep things watchable, with Ray Wise and Lin Shaye sticking out as the husband and wife. The humor also works many more times often than it doesn't, and there's a few scenes that will have you chuckling. But the whole thing wraps up in a "twist" ending that anyone who's ever seen a movie before will see coming a mile away, and one that they'll be hoping this film isn't going to take. But it does, and it drags the whole thing down. There's some funny moments and great acting, but I feel it's wasted on a very uninspired premise.
This was the debut feature of Hollywood producer Sonny Mallhi, who gave us his second directorial effort (Family Blood, which didn't impress me) this year. This one looked too intriguing to pass up, despite overwhelmingly negative responses from audiences. It plays with a concept that I don't think enough horror films explore (and one that hasn't been explored much since the 70's), the notion that spirits of people who have died can possess the living not unlike a demonic force, in an attempt to live again through another body. It's an original and terrifying concept, ripe with potential for a great horror film. And while this isn't awful, it's not that film either. Mallhi takes his seemingly trademark route of subdued, minimalistic horror. There's a few more moments of horror and tension in this film than his most recent, and the film does succeed in building a moody atmosphere, but general audiences will quickly grow bored. Acting is decent from most of the cast, but the main character suffers from an anonymous mental disorder that seems to be Asperger's, which actress Ryan Simpkins plays as rather emotionless. Still, it's an interesting watch and it succeeds in being quietly haunting, but I feel it's a tad too subdued at times.
This sequel was fairly controversial at it's release, and had to undergo many cuts to make it past the censors without a damning "X" rating. Actually, it's a pretty tame film, even when compared to it's predecessors. It starts out pretty well, with solid direction, decent acting and some intense chase sequences. But then things begin to fall apart when the film takes things back to the Sawyer house and introduces us (yet again) to Leatherface's family. It isn't quite as cringy as in number 2 or the dreaded "The Next Generation", but it still makes the film cheesy and over familiar. The only thing that keeps the latter half of the film watchable is Ken Foree's performance as a weekend warrior who kicks some serious hick-ass. The rest is the same story, different film.
I wasn't expecting to like this one much, seeing as I'm not a big fan of military or war themed films. But I was thoroughly surprised by what may just be the best war horror film and the best nazi zombies film ever. The atmosphere and darkly lit cinematography succeed in creating a brooding aurora, and there's a few creepy moments that stick out. There's also a handful of creatively gory deaths and the fantastic cast keeps things moving with a group of soldiers who don't just feel like carboard-cutout strongmen. This is a creepy, gory, fun little romp. It deserves to be better remembered than that Dead Snow bullshit. (Just my opinion, there.)
The Vagrant (1992)
You know those sorts of films that in an active attempt to be so off the wall and kooky, simply become kind of bad and rather annoying? This is one of those films. At first glance, one would wonder why this is not a cult classic. The premise of an evil vagrant tormenting a neurotic office worker in his posh suburb is genius, as well as a great cast featuring the likes of Bill Paxton and Michael Ironside. What goes so horribly wrong, is the execution and the script-writing. Things go from enjoyably zany, to Lynchian-style weird and then the whole film wraps up in a manner that almost makes one feel as if they're watching something entirely different than they were half an hour ago. It's not nearly as funny as it thinks it's being most of the time either. Paxton turns in a great performance and the direction is stylish and whimsical, but it's not enough to save this cluttered mess of ambition, imaturity and pretension.
This is a polished film, with a decent international cast, but instead of trying to do anything different with it's setting, it simply replicates American hollywood horrors. It's touted as being "Holland's first horror film", but besides the setting and the presence of the title windmills, this is no different than the low-budget efforts cranked out of America's film system every year. As said, it does have a polished look, some good gore and decent acting, but there's really nothing worth seeing here that hasn't been done a million times before in other films, and done much better at that.
Fender Bender (2016)
Here we have a pretty straight forward slasher, which we don't get too many of these days, so right off the bat I have to admire that. And this one does have a classic feel to it, with it's retro score and suave killer. The setup is pretty brilliant, a killer who finds his next victim by causing fender benders and stalking them through their contact information. And as said, the killer himself has a pretty cool look, and there's some suitably gory, if not exactly inventive kill scenes. Writing and acting is good as well, with Bill Sage turning in a memorable performance as the baddie and a charming, adorable final girl in newcomer, Mackenzie Vega. Things do kind of go downhill momentarily at the end, when some very dumb choices are made, but the end result is a fairly stylish, modestly suspenseful attempt. Worth a look if you dig slashers.
Obviously, this is no masterpiece. Here we have the only film in the world about killer mutant slugs, and it's just as much fun as you'd hope it is. Easily falling into the category of "so bad, it's good", this film is a mess and the best part is no one seemed to know it. Awful acting, even worse writing and inept direction abound with such memorable lines as: "How about if we get naked, and get crazy?" or "Funny, you don't look anything like the wicked bitch of the north to me." And on top of that we have some first rate gore effects and memorable scenes of carnage. Some of the moments in which the slugs attack are actually surprisingly effective and the gore is certainly squirm worthy. This one deserves to be better remembered among bad film fans.
I've seen this once before, back when it came out, but remember being terribly disappointed by it. I'm a huge fan of the V/H/S films and most of the same team that worked on those films is present in this one's direction and writing. I did enjoy it more this time around, but I still think it's far from what it could've and should've been. Luckily most of the segments are good. Only the second one is extremely unsatisfying. The whole film connects together, and most of the stories are rather obtuse and a lot is left up to the viewer to interpret. Most of it is rather easily figured out, though. David Bruckner's segment, "The Accident" remains the best, with the following segment "Jailbreak", providing Lynchian style weirdness and some solid gore. The first and last segments are both directed by the superb Radio Silence team and although nothing groundbreaking, they compliment each other nicely and feature some very cool creature effects. But the film itself is surprisingly routine compared to the surreal nature of the V/H/S films. We've seen dozens of films about this topic before, but luckily this one throws in just enough odd touches that it's somewhat worth seeing. But I wanted a zany, disturbing masterpiece, and that's not what I feel I got. Still, this one is more than worth a watch for what it is.
I was incredibly excited for this film due to it being the 2nd directorial effort of Leigh Whannell, the genius behind the original Saw trilogy and writing partner of James Wan. I knew that once he got out from behind the shadow of those wretched Insidous and Conjuring films (yeah, I'm a horror fan who actually loathes those films), that he was capable of delivering something awesome. I never expected this film to be as great as it is, however. This is seriously one of the best horror, sci-fi, action and just films in general, that I have seen in several years. It's a masterpiece, to put it simply, and better than anything James Wan has produced since Dead Silence. It's a truly original film, that succeeds in all aspects, from gore, to suspense and action, as well as having a brain and a heart in equal measure. Acting is fantastic too, with Logan Marshall Green front and center in an amazing performance that seriously made me reevaluate him as an actor. As said, besides being a bona-fide crowd pleaser, the film is intelligent as well, with a serious statement to be made about our technology obsessed culture and the dark places it could lead us. I really can't recommend this one enough. I love this film, and I'm so happy that Whannell is finally getting all the attention he deserves. Hopefully he has plenty more masterworks in store for us. Now go watch this, immediately.
I remember seeing Damian Leone's original short film "Terrifier" on YouTube back in the day, and being blown away by it. Leone in the following years, directed All Hallow's Eve, which was really nothing more than a collection of his previous short films with a wrap-around. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. But interest in the original short film never died down, and fans like me have been waiting for years for Art The Clown to be given a proper feature film. This is that film, and as someone who has waited for it for a long time, I can say that it satisfies. It's shot with the same old-school cinematography that the short was, giving it a creepy, dingy look that matches it's almost snuff-like qualities. David Howard Thornton is just as "terrifying" as ever as Art The Clown too. His performance is arguably even more horrific than Bill Skarsgard's turn as "Pennywise" last year. He's skin-crawling, even when merely smiling at the camera. The gore is as abundant and disturbingly imaginative as in the short as well, ensuring this one is not for the faint of heart. Even this seasoned gorehoud flinched at moments, and the hardest of hardcore will walk away with a (contentedly) sick stomach. It really is in poor taste, and comes down to nothing more than a flick about a killer clown, brutally mutilating people in a disused apartment complex on Halloween night, but I can't remember the last time a slasher flick was pulled of this successfully. It's got a haunting villain, a cast of beautiful women, gruesome gore and some surprisingly well-directed creepy moments. What more could a gorehound want?
The Pact (2012)
This wasn't what I was expecting, in ways both good and bad. It's a much more restrained effort than one would guess, which is a rarity among the jumpscare-laden supernatural horror films of today. It's rather slow-moving, which is good when the scares come into play, most being more reliant on disquieting imagery than loud music cues, but it's not so good when focusing on the cliched, underwritten characters. Luckily, the cast works great with what they have, with the underrated Caity Lotz turning in another good performance. This may be the best film that Casper Van Dien has been in for two decades as well. The plot also pans out in a manner that most won't see coming, that feels blessedly original. But for the most part we've seen this all before, and at times the film creeps along at such a measured pace without doing anything particularly interesting. But the final product is fairly effective, and a film like this is much more welcome than another Insidious or Woman In Black. Worth a look, but not quite all that it could've been.
Irish horror films are rare, and with this one being directed by Billy O'Brien, whom impressed me recently with "I Am Not A Serial Killer", I thought I'd give it a go. This is one nasty little creature feature, that will surely make you think twice before ingesting cow products again. No doubt inspired by the "Mad Cow Disease" scare back during it's release time, this flick handles about a genetic experiment that produces a slimy, sharp-toothed parasite which gestates in the wombs of cattle. It's full of icky moments, but thanks to measured direction and a mature cast it never feels like tasteless exploitation. That's not to say that there's not plenty of squirm-inducing moments, as well as a few expertly suspenseful bits. One reviewer deemed it "Alien on a farm", and at times that's quite an apt comparison. It's a creepy, gross and well directed effort that will leave an impression, and should satisfy creature feature fans like myself. Bovine have never been so scary.
House of Usher (1960)
This was the first of the Corman Poe Cycles, and the first teaming of Corman and Vincent Price. One would think that would make this no less than an immortal classic, but it's not. It's much less refined than the films that followed it, and mostly consists of pure cheese. The concept is frightening, but not pulled off in any satisfactory manner. Luckily, we have fantastic performances from Price and Mark Damon, which make the film watchable at all times. Price only need speak for the film to suddenly become completely engrossing, and Damon is instantly likeable and shows great emotional depth. There's also some of Corman's trademark hued dream sequences, creepy paintings and a memorable ending. It's not bad stuff by any means, but it's also not one of Corman's best. Worth a look for fans.
I was thoroughly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. I was expecting a very low rent, but perhaps mildly enjoyable horror comedy. Instead I was met with an old-school, oftentimes genuinely funny creature feature/horror comedy with guts and heart to spare. The only thing holding it back in the slightest is the sometimes cheap CGI effects, but they're still more convincing than what one regularly sees on the SyFy channel. Otherwise this is a fun, funny, occasionally heart-touching little effort. I'm shocked that it isn't at least enjoying cult status by now. I'm glad I gave it a chance, though, and you will be too.
The Haunted Palace (1963) (1963)
This is another of Corman's most underrated films. Some do not consider it a part of the Poe Cycles due to the fact that it mixes together elements of Poe and Lovecraft, it's Poe relations only tracing back to a poem. Although not as well known as some of Corman's other Vincent Price led Poe flicks, this one is a solid film. Corman was obviously working with a slightly bigger budget than he sometimes had at his disposal, which results in a rich, gothic horror picture full of foreboding castles, swirling fog, creepy townspeople and black magic. It avoids being cheesy most of the time thanks to a fantastic performance from Price, who almost feels like two different people at times as a man possessed by the spirit of his evil ancestor. His fantastic performance really sells the horror of the concept. It does have it's weak spots, particularly a lackluster ending, but for the most part it's one of Corman's strongest in my opinion.
Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)
I've been waiting to get my hands on this one for some time, as I greatly enjoyed the first and most agree that this is a superb sequel. It's a much darker film than it's predecessor, and lacking in much of the black humor that the original had. But the film still plays with the same themes of puberty and female hormones, with a touch of feminism thrown in for good measure. Emily Perkins is fantastic, reprising her role as Bridgette, and is joined by a mostly good cast, most notably featuring a very young Tatiana Maslany, who plays a role that won't soon be forgotten. The first half of the film ebbs and flows, with some problems, chief being a lack of likeable characters besides Bridgette, but the film really picks up in the second half and comes into it's own. Suffice to say it's a much different film than the first, but they compliment each other nicely. This one features some clever metaphors and plenty of fiendish touches, including a genius twist ending. As far as sequels go, this one is satisfying for fans of the original. Much better than that Ginger Snaps Back crap.
Suspect Zero (2004)
This is such an underrated film. A box office flunk at it's release and mostly ripped to pieces by the critics (besides Richard Roeper), it has sat on the sidelines for far too long. Hopefully one day it will have the cult reputation it deserves, because in my opinion, this one is right up there with films like The Silence Of The Lambs and Seven. It's a thriller, but it does have a touch of supernatural horror and a disturbingly dark mood about it. The direction from E. Elias Merhige (who gave us the cult classic Shadow Of The Vampire) is stylish and nightmarish, lending the film the disorienting quality of a half-remembered dream. Merhige hasn't made a film since this one flunked so badly, and I think that's a damn shame. Acting is also superb with another great turn from the ever underrated Aaron Eckhart, and another masterful performance by Ben Kingsley, who devours every scene he's in. The plot is also fairly original for a crime thriller like this, and plays with some surprisingly deep themes. The disturbing atmosphere, constantly evolving plot, stylish cinematography and first rate performances make this one a hidden gem that desperately needs to be unearthed. Give it a chance, this one needs a critical reevaluation.
Dead Night (2017)
I decided to give this one a chance solely based on the presence of some of the actors involved. Namely, scream queen, Barbara Crampton and AJ Bowen, who frequently stars in worthwhile lower-budget genre efforts. This is not one of them, however, and as bad as you'll hear if you go looking anywhere online. This is easily one of the most bizarre films I've seen in recent memory, and not in the good way either. The film makes no effort to explain it's muddled narrative, which cuts between a tale of a family retreating to the typical cabin in the woods only to be preyed upon by what seem to be some sort of tree-like demons, and then cuts off regularly to a true crime TV series chronicling the events we are currently watching, as some witches seated around a pile of TVs in the woods watch it. Seriously. I can't make this shit up. My only guess is that either the cast and crew were on some top grade ganja, or there was heavy re-editing. Most likely a mixture of both. But besides some well done gore and atmospheric shots of the snowy landscape, this is an unpleasant, at times purely laughable mess. I'd say it won't be more than a few years before this one becomes a contender for a spot on IMDB's bottom 100. Do yourself a favor and skip this shit.
The Haunting (1963)
This is often heralded as one of the scariest films of all time and lauded by filmmakers such as Spielberg and Scorsese. Needless to say I was prepared for an amazing film, but I wasn't really blown away by it. In fact, this may be one of the most overrated films in the genre. It's certainly not a bad film, but it had a lot of problems. The dreadful remake took the route of showing us absolutely everything and assaulting our senses with visual effects at every turn. This one is too far down the other side of the aisle, and shows us so little that it becomes ridiculous. There are some effectively creepy scenes, but nothing here that warrants the film's reputation. The performance of leading lady Julie Harris is also a problem. Harris is fantastic in the role, but the character she is playing, whose eyes we see most of the film through, is one of the most annoying, bratty, mean-spirited and self-centered wretches to ever be written on page. We're supposed to identify and sympathize with her mental breakdown, but instead, I found myself just wanting to shake her silly. The rest of the cast is great too, and there's also some beautiful cinematography, with Hill House itself being a menacing piece of architecture. The film chugs along, relying mostly on the performances, spread with hit or miss sequences of spooky noises, and that's about it. This is a decent film, with it's moments, but nothing spectacular at all. For my money, a much better film with a very similar story is "The Legend Of Hell House", which is actually genuinely frightening. As said, this one is okay, but extremely overrated.
I'm not a great fan of Hammer films. I often find them to be hammy, shallow and pretty much the equivalent of modern big-budget horror for their day. They have however, produced a few great films, and this is one of them. The concept alone is incredibly original, but here we have a beautifully directed film that hits all the right marks for horror fans. Lovely cinematography, a very good cast and some surprisingly gory murders. The film could even be seen as a predecessor to the slasher sub-genre. A cult classic, very deserving of it's status.
The Medusa Touch (1978)
Telekinesis was an incredibly popular topic for horror films in the 70's, especially after the success of "Carrie". So here we have the British response to the phenomena. It's mostly the performances that make this one work, with a fantastic turn by Richard Burton, that makes one wish he had even more screen time. Lino Ventura and Lee Remick are also wonderful. The film itself however, is quite silly, and takes itself far too seriously, to the point that it almost becomes cheesy. There are some very effective moments, and the film is solid throughout, but never quite feels like it settles into the proper mood. Direction is also rather stiff and pedestrian much of the time, leaving the film often feeling not quite as stylish as it should. But as said, it has it's moments and remains fascinating the whole way through. But somehow this more mature vision, feels even more ridiculous than "Carrie". Worth a look, but not the cult classic that some say.
The First Purge (2018)
This has been a shaky series from the start, although I enjoyed the first and found the second to be amazing. The third installment failed to impress me, and my thought since has been that this franchise should call it quits. But, while nothing groundbreaking, this film was surprisingly decent and much better than the last. The political underpinnings are unavoidable now, so suffice to say that this film won't be one that conservatives find any value in. It struck a nerve with it's initial poster design (with a parody of Trump's MAGA hats) back when it was announced, and the all black/Hispanic cast ensures that this one will be controversial, although if you have a problem with the color of the cast, you have the issues in my opinion.
For an open minded individual, this one plays with some interesting themes, exploring issues of systematic racism and also problems within the black community itself, such as gangs and drug dealing. The cast is fantastic, Y'Lan Noel and Lex Scott Davis in star-making performances and even Marisa Tomei shows up as the essential "creator" of The Purge. The dialogue and action sequences are also much better directed this time around, proving that perhaps it was best that director James Demonaco handed the reigns to someone else this time. The film does end up feeling much more like an action flick than a horror film, but the series has been headed in that direction and there's still plenty of vicious bloodshed. This is an entertaining, thought-provoking film, and as said, a vast improvement over the last effort. But I do wonder if in such times as these that a film where political violence is solved with more violence is needed. This is a perfect way to end the series in my opinion, especially now that the ill-advised TV series has flopped. If you enjoyed any of the other films, don't be afraid to give this one a try, though.
I wasn't expecting much from this one. Just perhaps, a fun, cheesy slasher flick. And while the film certainly is filled to the brim with cheese, it's not exactly enjoyable for the duration of it's bloated runtime. Never before have I seen so many painstakingly long, slow-motion sequences in one film. In this one they are also spliced with horrible, eighties synth rock as well. If these useless sequences had been cut out or trimmed down, the film would've been significantly more bearable, but even then, this is a film with a ton of filler. To cover up the absence of story, we spend time with a lot of different characters, but horrible writing ensures that these scenes are a chore to watch, and most of them feel incredibly pointless. The kill scenes themselves are also rather mundane and un-imaginative. Some of the acting is shockingly decent, especially from the older cast like Michael Pataki as the hilarious, stressed out principal and of course, Christopher George as a disgraced track coach. The reveal at the end is also rather well executed compared to the rest of the film. But it's mostly a sluggish, boring and surprisingly un-campy endeavor. Not really worth anyone's time, slasher fiend or not.
The Final Terror (1983)
This incredibly rare slasher flick would be best described as "Deliverance" meets "Friday The 13th". Scream Factory just recently released a Blu-Ray transfer, and that's most likely the only way you'll get your hands on this one. It's pretty decent for what it is, and it manages to feel distinct thanks to it's survival elements and glorious setting. The untamed and beautifully brooding forest reminds me of the scenery in "Just Before Dawn", although this film isn't quite as good. There's an imaginative kill scene at the beginning, but besides that the slasher elements are severely underdeveloped. Characters, while some stand out, are also not particularly likeable. The acting is decent, though, with some early performances from future stars, including a young Daryl Hannah. The ending is also rather memorable and perfectly shot. It's just unique enough to stand out from the pack, and while I'm not sure if it's worth the money and time it takes to seek it out, it is worth seeing if you want to badly enough.
This could really be seen as the beginning of Charles Band's obsession with producing/directing "killer doll" flicks. And many connections can be drawn between this and the infamous "Puppet Master" series. Luckily, it's enough of it's own film to stand by itself, and cult favorite director, Stuart Gordon, adds his steady hand to the proceedings. It's an incredibly short film, but somehow it's brief runtime feels perfect, making sure there's no filler and no time for the film to become boring. The effects used to bring the dolls to life are superb, and make no mistake, this isn't a quaint little film. These cutesy dolls deliver some thoroughly nasty kill scenes. There's also a good cast, headed by Puppet Master standby, the incredibly underrated Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason as the creepy old couple of toymakers. Stephen Lee is also incredibly loveable as the bumbling "kid at heart", and young Carrie Lorraine is cute and surprisingly solid for a child actor in the lead role. The twist ending also ensures that this one is a polished, just distinct enough entry into it's sub-genre. It may not be Gordon's absolute best, but it deserves to be as well loved as his other films. This just may be the most professional "killer dolls" film ever made. Nothing mind blowing, but just good fun all around.
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