Saturday, 21 April 2018

Insidious: The Last Key

"Insidious: The Last Key" aka "Insidious Chapter 4" (2018, Adam Robitel, Blumhouse Productions, Stage 6 Films, Universal Pictures) is the fourth film in the Insidious series, but the second in terms of story chronology. We follow the parapsychologist from the series, Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), who is brought in on a case that is very close to her own heart.

Young Elise (Ava Kolker) did not enjoy much of a childhood. Her connections with the ghostly world were not well received by her father (Josh Stewart) who was abusive and violent anyway, and her timid, yet supportive mother (Tessa Ferrer) was met with an unhappy and untimely end for which Elise feels largely responsible. After running away as a teenager (Hana Hayes), Elise is sure that she will never have to see that unhappy house ever again, but alas, fate brings her in on a new case set within the very walls of her initial torment.

A fairly formulaic entry to the franchise, we once again enjoy the company of awkward nerd duo, Specs (Leigh Whannell, Mr Writer/Producer) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), who's uncomfortable patter did a good job of breaking up the scenes. We are also introduced to Elise's estranged brother, Christian (Bruce Davison) and her two nieces, Melissa (Spencer Locke) and Imogen (Caitlin Gerard). I can completely understand Christian's anger towards his sister who abandoned him with their abusive father alone as soon as she was legally able. What I didn't understand was the girls' sudden repartee with Elise; an aunt that they had never known existed. It all seemed a bit sudden, a shade more than curiosity and... unlikely.

The film offers a few fun jump scares and skilfully holds back often enough to deliver a surprise every now and again. The setting is the familiar haunted house of the series, but it works well.

I do not dislike Lin Shaye. I have seen her in plenty of things where I've liked her performance and I would say that my dislike of Elise Rainier is not due to Shaye's performance but the character itself. It's pleasant to watch an older female take the lead in a film, especially as such a flawed character. Elise is not a heroine, per se, she is a woman exploiting her unusual skillset for money and to soothe her own guilt. Not unlike the character of Angel in the Whedonverse who saves people in an attempt to make up for his past transgressions, Elise is driven by good intentions but also selfish ones. Helping people makes her feel better about her past. And there's nothing wrong with that, in fact, I enjoy that aspect of the character. I think what I dislike about Elise as a character is the way she responds to everything. I think the intention is to make her appear strong and methodical, but to me she reads as cold and a little flat.

The monster of the piece enjoys some good scare factor but is a little over-revealed and loses a bit of its edge early on, although the design innovation is commendable.

As fourth sequels go, it's pretty decent, but it does feel like they may be running out of ideas to keep this particular branch of the franchise going.

[Image: Universal Pictures, et al]


Saturday, 31 March 2018

The Greasy Strangler

"The Greasy Strangler" (2016, Jim Hosking, Drafthouse Films, Rook Films, SpectreVision, Timpson Films, Filmrise) is a surreal dark comedy horror film about a killer who strangles victims to death while wearing nothing but a layer of grease... It's also a film about love, betrayal, weirdos, nakedness and disco... Kind of.

Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels) is a strange man who runs a disco walking tour with his son, Big Brayden (Sky Elobar). The tour offers little in the way of facts, disco or free refreshments; much to the chagrin of the customers. The father and son also live together, hang out a lot in their underwear and eat a lot of excessively greasy food; just the way that Big Ronnie likes it. Big Ronnie also enjoys moonlighting as a greased up murderer in the buff, washing himself off at the end of his escapades at a car wash run by his blind disco friend, Big Paul (Gil Gex).

Big Brayden meets Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo) on one of his father's walking tours, and the pair fall in weird love, much to the distaste of Big Ronnie. The perturbed Ronnie begins a campaign immediately to win Janet over from his son.

A very marmite movie that will either have you rolling your eyes and laughing or completely repulsed. Maybe both. The characters are outlandish and dirty and the dialogue is purposefully stilted. If you're up for watching some fully frontal nudity with a lot of swinging prosthesis' and a fair amount of cartoonish gore then this is the movie for you.

This is a film that will stay with you forever and have you wondering why you watched it for weeks, possibly years, to come. And yet, like me, the experience has probably taught you nothing and you will definitely watch more like it in the future.

[Image: Drafthouse Films, et al]
What a pair of bullshit artists!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Mirrors 2

"Mirrors 2" (2010, Victor Garcia, Regency Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) is the sequel to 2008's "Mirrors".

Max (Nick Stahl) is a man recovering from the loss of his fiancée as a result of a car accident.  In an attempt to get his life back on track, Max accepts a job at the Mayflower Department store which his father, Jack (William Katt), has refurbished using some of the original features of the previously derelict building. The opening for a security guard had recently come about due to a gruesome and mysterious "accident" left the previous guard unable to work anymore.

Upon taking the position, Max begins to see strange things moving in the mirrors of the building and beyond. As department store staff begin to succumb to disturbing ends, Max begins to piece together links to a larger mystery with the help of Elizabeth (Emmanuelle Vaugier), who's missing sister (Stephanie Honoré Sanchez) may be the key to the grim goings on.

A surprisingly good sequel to 2008's excellent jump fest. Although the second film doesn't enjoy quite as polished effects,  it enjoys some good character interaction and some effective gore. The mirror harbingers of each death are as disturbing as the original, although once or twice the actions were less effective due to cartoonish style of gore, however, the actual resultant character deaths are, in the main, realistic and gruesome.

A fun, if a little "by the numbers" plot which keeps a good pace and strong leads from Stahl and Vaugier.

[image: Regency Enterprises, et al] 


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Happy Death Day

"Happy Death Day" (2017, Christopher B. Landon, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures) is a horror comedy homage to "Groundhog Day" following an entitled college girl.

Theresa "Tree" Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is a student at an American college. She is a member of a Sorority, she parties hard and drinks too much and she's having an affair with one of her lecturers. Basically, she's a typical college movie-biatch. On her birthday, however, Tree wakes to find herself sleeping on the dorm bed of one of her male classmates, Carter (Israel Broussard) (hint, not a cool classmate). Enraged at her drunken shenanigans, she rudely makes her leave and goes about her day as planned. However, that night she meets a masked killer on her way to a party and dies.

But, that's not the end. Tree then awakes to relive her birthday again and again, trying to find out who her killer is before it becomes too late!

A fun film boasting some good old horror carnage, wit and humour and even a likeable protagonist who develops depth and emotional attachment through her journey.

All in all I'd say this film was as sleek as it was funny and, teamed up with "The Final Girls" and "Tucker and Dale vs Evil", we'd have ourselves a pretty damn good night.

[Image: Blumhouse Productions]

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Lord of Illusions

"Lord of Illusions" (1995, Clive Barker, Seraphim Films, United Artists) is a film based on one of Barker's short stories, "The Last Illusion" from the Books of Blood volume 6.

A cult led by a man called Nix (Daniel von Bargen), who possesses magical powers, sees a bloody battle in which a group of former cult members take Nix down with the help of a young girl whom the cult had been holding as a hostage.

Years later, Detective Harry D'Armour (Scott Bakula), becomes involved in investigating a string of murders involving the cult's victorious defectors; occultist and fortune teller, Quaid (Joseph Latimore), and popular stage magician, Swann (Kevin J. O'Connor). And what's this? He's enlisted by none other than Swann's wife, Dorothea (Famke Janssen), who turns out to be someone key from the earlier plot! But can D'Armour help solve the mystery of the murderous cult, or will he and Dorothea die trying?

In true Clive Barker style, there's some really nice practical effects in this film and a few sordid scenes and magical battles. While nowhere near the visual splendour of the first "Hellraiser" movie or "Nightbreed", "Lord of Illusions" still holds its own as a visually impressive film with a slow and wandering, but not dis-interesting plot.

[Image: United Artists, et al]

Sunday, 25 February 2018


"Emilie" (2016, Michael Thelin, Uncorked Productions) is an unnerving home invasion thriller preying on the fears of a lot of parents leaving their kids alone with someone new.

When their usual babysitter is unavailable on the eve of their anniversary dinner, the Thompson's arrange for a new babysitter called Anna to take care of their three children. When Anna shows up she seems perfect, but it isn't long before the kids come to realise that Anna is not who she says she is....

A well executed film that really builds some tension as it gets going. "Anna" (Sarah Bolger) is revealed to be a twisted young woman called Emilie who is keen to push the kids to dangerous levels. The film is difficult to watch, particularly as it involves the endangerment of the kids. The kids themselves give an excellent and believable performance.

While the film isn't completely without flaws, the pacing for instance can be a little patchy, it does enjoy an excellent shocking creep factor and pushes the boundaries well.

[Image: Uncorked Productions]

Saturday, 24 February 2018


"Splatter" (2009, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, Netflix) is a short web series from the earlier days of the concept of TV streaming.

Johnny Splatter (Corey Feldman) was a troubled rock star who filmed himself graphically committing suicide. A small group of family, friends and colleagues are invited to his home for a will reading. Each, suspecting that they're about to be handed a massive payout, turn up, despite revealing that they didn't exactly like Johnny much.

Suddenly, the TV springs to life, revealing that Splatter filmed his will prior to his untimely demise... Or, is he back to take vengeance on his unappreciative acquaintances? As the episodes progressed, viewers were asked to vote for who would meet their death next.

The series suffers from its overtly corny style that comes across as a little too sincere, but overall I found the layout, practical effects and over the top characters to be tongue-in-cheek and a bit of fun.  There were, apparently, more episodes but only the initial run of three are available to view easily on Netflix. It is undeniably a disappointing effort from Dante and Corman, but this is likely down to the confines of the schedule and the gimmick.

Horror films have a great and long history of using gimmicks, and this early example of a Netflix original is no different. Feldman's vengeful zombie delivers a demanding "Who's next?" at the end of every episode and, at the time, the audience were given the chance to vote. It's cheesy, but that's what I was there for. I've also just always liked Corey Feldman.

We have the usual tropes and a small cast of characters including the ever awesome Tony Todd bringing us the only seemingly sane character in the bunch. While the short series is hammy and manages not to be particularly innovative, despite its natty gimmick, it delivers its resolution quickly and was certainly part of Netflix's foray into changing viewer's habits and a step towards the innovation and horror series being created today.

[Image: Netflix]