Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Pact

"The Pact" (2012, Nicholas McCarthy, Entertainment One, IFC Midnight, ContentFilm International) is an American haunted house horror.

Nicole (Agnes Bruckner) and Annie (Caity Lotz) are sisters. Their mother has died and they are reluctantly (and seperately) cleaning out the old house. They both had unhappy childhoods and do not want to be there.

When Nicole disappears whilst in the house, Annie goes to investigate, and look after Nicole's young daughter. It isn't long before Annie, Nicole's babysitter and a cop are all investigating the strange happenings of the house.

They seek the help of Stevie (Haley Hudson), a strange girl who can see things... Mainly dead people.... and she helps them to uncover a whole heap of creep.

It's a typical modern horror film. Bumps, jumps and dodgy camera angles. One thing I'll say is that the director does keep us watching, and often does not give all of the jumps when they're expected. I like that. I don't want it to be too predictable.

The gore and effects are good and there's a fair few jumps that aren't as cheapy thrilly as we've seen with other modern horrors recently.

However, the plot is just too tropey and dumb. I didn't love the reveal so much, and have to say that it's a pretty basic modern horror that's geared more to the non-horror fan who may be up for a horror for a change rather than anyone actually interested in being scared.

Tame, but not the worst.

[Image: Entertainment One]

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


"Jessabelle" (2014, Kevin Gruertert, Blumhouse Productions, Lionsgate) is a strange horror film.

Jessie (Sarah Snook) and her fiancé are about to move in together and have a baby. But this is a horror movie, so before they can get that far they have a horrific car accident which kills him and causes Jessie to lose the baby and the use of her legs.

Several months later, Jessie moves back to her dad's house to recuperate. Her dad, a strange and impulsive man, puts her up in her mum's old room. Jessie finds a shoebox marked "Jessabelle" filled with video tapes. She plays the first one to discover that it's her mum giving her a tarot card reading from beyond the grave. Her mother tells her that there's someone in the house with her and they want rid of her.

Terrified, Jessie begins to experience creepy happenings. This is by far the film's strong point. The effects are good, the scenes with the bed are really effective and, although clichéd, the mirror scares are really well done.

Eventually, Jessie and her friend, Preston (Mark Webber), begin to unravel the strange circumstances surrounding Jessie's family and the deeper they go, the more convoluted the plot becomes.

In fact, the plot was so complicated that I just did not understand a whole segment at the end. It was holding it together until the last act when it just got very cheesy and complex. The scares were promising and, as tropey as the action was, it was an otherwise well paced film with Sarah Snook providing a strong, yet sympathetic lead role, however, the plot just goes haywire at the last moment, going from slow burning creepfest to fast action, voodoo-ghosty-adultery-racism vibes. It just makes a mess.

[Image: Blumhouse Productions]

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Ginger Snaps

"Ginger Snaps" (2000, John Fawcett, Motion International) is a teen werewolf movie.

Death obsessed, misfit sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are terrified of growing up, joining in with normal society and of getting their periods. They much prefer to pose as the recently, horrifically deceased for their school art project and rebel against society's norms (and bullies). Their lives are turned upside down, however, when Ginger is bitten by a werewolf on the first night of her first menstruation. Unfortunately for everyone else, this unlikely happenstance results in Ginger beginning to transform into a rather voracious and sex mad werewolf creature. Firstly she begins to find her sex vixen side by going to class looking like she's going to a goth nightclub, then she begins growing a tale and hungering for fresh meat.

Yep, this movie is not very classy but it has all the hallmarks of a great werewolf movie and is a fun film in general. Firstly, it's about two entertainingly misfit teens. These girls are just weird; creative and weird. Their relationship is something different from most siblings (they have a suicide pact for a start!). We also get to enjoy Katharine Isabelle (one of today's most diverse and entertaining horror honeys, in my opinion) doing what she does best; funny dialogue and gore. Thirdly, the effects are admirable and the plot is nice and quick and interesting.

There's little nods to American Werewolf, the Howling and other sub-genre favourites and the soundtrack caters right into my tastes: Hatebreed, Machine Head, Killswitch Engage and yes, I'm even fond of a bit of Cradle of Filth now and again.

The characters are good. I care about them. They're real. Even the whacky mum is adorable.

So while, yes, it's not classy horror fare and it's definitely catered more to the teen gore shelf, "Ginger Snaps" is a gory, violent and sassy lycanthrope film that captures some of the anxieties of the teen girl going through "changes" in a tongue-in-cheek, blood spattered way.

[Image: Motion International]

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Raven

"The Raven" (1963, Roger Corman, AIP) is a somewhat comic adaptation of Poe's famous poem of the same name and should also not be confused with another Karloff film from 1935 of the same name which also starred Bela Lugosi.

In this film a sorcerer named Dr. Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) is going about his wizardly business and mourning the death of his wife Lenore (Hazel Court), when he is interrupted by a rather blustery talking raven. Using a potion that the raven instructs him on how to make, Erasmus returns the raven to its true form, that of Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre), a fellow sorcerer.

Bedlo reveals that he was transformed during a duel with the evil wizard, Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff) and also happens to mention seeing Craven's wife's ghost wandering Scarabus' castle. Both wizards set out together, along with Erasmus' beautiful daughter, Estelle (Olive Sturgess), and Bedlo's son, Rexford (a very young Jack Nicholson), to deal with this Scarabus once and for all.

Of course, this advance results in a rather funny and tongue-in-cheek wizard duel between Price and Karloff with a lot of entertaining 60s special effects.

The wardrobe of the cast is also quite amusing: the wizard hats especially!

Whilst it's not really a horror movie, I like this film for several reasons:
  • It stars some of my favourite horror icons
  • It has a sense of humour
  • It's set in a big creepy castle
  • It involves B-movie special effects
Essentially, this is a light hearted romp starring some extremely wonderful people, and Vincent Price reading the poem really gives me the chills! (although it's notable that aside from that and the fact that there is a raven present for some scenes, this film has practically nothing to do with the actual poem).

[Image: AIP]