Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

"The Autopsy of Jane Doe" (2016, André Øvredal, 42, IM Global, Impostor Pictures, IFC Midnight) is an intriguing horror about a father and son coroner team, who are tasked with identifying the cause of death of an unknown woman.

Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and his son, Austin (Emile Hirsch) are a small-town coroner and medical assistant. They are clocking off, Austin planning on going to the cinema with his girlfriend, Emma (Ophelia Lovibond), when the local sheriff (Michael McElhatten) comes bursting in with an urgent case: a mysterious Jane Doe (Olwen Kelly) found at the scene of an unusual homicide. Abandoning their plans for the evening, Tommy and Austin knuckle down to determine the cause of death.

As they begin to investigate the corpse they become more and more convinced that things are not as they seem....

A creepy, engaging and inventive film which has the right balance of slow eerie build up and action to keep things moving. The viewer discovers the secrets of Jane along with the characters, keeping a good plot flow. The setting and effects are very effective and the film achieves a gruesomeness without actually being too gory.

The film is very dark, both in subject matter and in lighting style, and really filled the 99 minute run time without becoming dull. It's not without its cheesiness, but this adds to the experience.

All in all, a very entertaining film.

[Image: IM Global et al]
Hani 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Krampus

"Krampus" (2015, Michael Dougherty, Legendary Pictures, Zam Pictures) is a Christmas horror about St. Nicholas' demonic counterpart, Krampus.

Tom (Adam Scott), Sarah (Toni Collette) and their kids, Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and Max (Emjay Anthony) are preparing for Christmas at home with Tom's mother (Krista Stadler). Sarah's sister, Linda (Allison Tolman) also visits with her brash husband, Howard (David Koechner), their new baby and other, older, rude children, Stevie (Lolo Owen), Jordan (Queenie Samuel) and Howie Jr. (Maveick Flack). They also bring Sarah's disapproving, demanding aunt (Conchata Ferrell). As the night progresses, Max begins to feel that the Christmasses of his childhood are over and, in his anger, he unwittingly unleashes Krampus on his family...

The film starts out very much like any other non-horror Christmas movie. Then, the horror aspects are introduced with cheesy relish. The cast are good, the action is silly, but fun and the film delivers a good holiday horror that doesn't try to take itself very seriously. The result is a film which isn't especially scary, but manages to deliver a fun holiday romp which feels a little like "National Lampoons' Christmas Vacation" meets "The Demonic Toys", but with better production value.

Definitely one I'll be watching again.

[Image: Legendary Pictures]
Hani

Monday, 28 November 2016

Within

"Within" aka "Crawlspace" (2016, Phil Claydon, Safran Company) is a 'new house' horror set in Suburban America. I say 'new house' horror because it all begins with a family moving into a new house. Genius, right?

A man, his new wife and his daughter, Hannah (Erin Moriarty), move into a new house. Everything seems fine until Hannah notices strange things going on in the house. Of course, her parents do not believe her, especially upon learning that the house has a dark past. Her dad, especially, believes that Hannah is just freaking herself out. But Hannah is convinced that there is a presence within the house and she's determined to put a stop to it.

This film is pretty generic with lots of genre tropes and a few plot twists that weren't particularly effective in grabbing viewer imagination. It plays out as a standard haunted house film which goes through the motions and then takes another avenue that muddies the plot. On the other hand it's far from terrible. The acting is good, and the film doesn't outstay its welcome. It does, however, meander through a plot by numbers and doesn't really break any new ground.

[Image: Safran Co. et al]
Hani

Sunday, 20 November 2016

I Sell The Dead

"I Sell the Dead" (2008, Glenn McQuaid, Glass Eye Pix) is a horror comedy about grave robbers.

Arthur (Dominic Monaghan) is visited by Father Duffy (Ron Perlman) to take down his last words before he is executed for the crimes of murder and grave robbery. Seeing no reason for not sharing his side of the story and seeing his last opportunity to state his innocence of murder (but not grave robbery; that he did do... a lot), Arthur describes his life as the young apprentice of grave robber Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden), his on-going career and the events leading up to his and Willie's arrest. Oh, and his frequent adventures with the undead.

Although silly and chalk full of cheesy scenes and action, it's a fun little flick that doesn't quite break through into anything amazing, but keeps viewer interest enough to be entertaining. The characters are funny and outlandish and the almost horror anthology style of story telling splits up the incidents as the interview goes on. I also enjoyed the inclusion of Angus Scrimm (of Phantasm fame) as the devious blackmailer, Dr. Quint.


Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Crawling Hand

"The Crawling Hand" (1963, Herbert L. Strock, Donald J. Hansen Enterprises) is an American sci-fi horror about why even med students shouldn't take home severed human remains as souvenirs...

Right, Vyvyan?

Back to the film...

Young Paul Lawrence (Rod Lauren) discovers the severed arm of a deceased astronaut whilst out on the beach with his girlfriend. He takes the gruesome discovery home but lives to regret this decision as the arm comes back to life, strangling everyone in its wake....

A very of-its-era black and white film, with fun background music and too much dialogue. Man finally landed on the moon in 1969, but this film was made right at the time of the space race hype. The action is quite tame by today's standards, but people like me will still get a kick out of it and enjoy the film for what it is; classic, cheesy horror. The acting is pretty campy, but for me that just enhances the experience.

The film also features Syd Saylor in his final film role, and a small nod to Bela Lugosi. It was also featured in the Mystery Science Theatre 3000.


Hani 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Ouija: Origin of Evil

"Ouija: Origin of Evil" (2016, Mike Flanagan, Allspark Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Hasbro Studios, Platinum Dunes, Universal Pictures) is a film centred around the Hasbro game, Ouija and is the prequel to 2014's film: "Ouija".

Set in LA in the 1960s, we follow the Zander family: widowed mother, Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters, Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). Alice is a medium, giving false seances with the help of her children. She tells herself that her job helps her customers cope with their loss, but she's not completely sure herself. As part of her seance kit, Alice picks up a Ouija board game, however, it turns out that at least someone in the house has actual supernatural talent.... and the Ouija board is about to unleash something dark. And angry....

A sequel that is far superior to its predecessor in plot, action and acting. The film is creepy without feeling too tropey. And while it does suffer some plot flaws nearer the end, the characters are extremely relateable and I genuinely felt remorse for some of their losses. By far the best performance was from the youngest star, Lulu Wilson, who absolutely aced her role.

A really rare return to form after what was a severely blah first movie. Definitely worth a watch.

[Image: Blumhouse Productions, et al]

Hani

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

"Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" (1972, Benjamin 'Bob' Clark) is a low budget zombie movie from the man who later brought us 'Black Christmas' and 'Porky's'.

A theatre group lead by a contemptible actor called Alan (Alan Ormsby), sail out to a secluded island graveyard for the night. What begins as a bit of fun ends up going too far when Alan digs up the body of a man called Orville (Seth Sklarey) and then proceeds to perform a ritual supposedly to raise the dead. As the night go on, some of the group become unhappy with the lack of respect they are showing to Orville's body, but it's not long before they have bigger worries when the other underground island tenants begin to rise....

A cheesy horror mostly cast with Clark's friends and college classmates. The acting and scripting are not exactly stellar, but the film manages to cross the so-bad-it's-good-line and venture into cult territory. There's surprisingly little gore but some fun action scenes with zombies attempting to enter the caretaker's house in which the group are hiding.

A great film title, but the plot is just very, very weird and macabre. I'm still not sure why these people would continue to play along with Alan's antics. Personally, I'd rather get fired from the theatre company. But then, I'm not an actress trying to make it in the industry.... A good 70's schlock-fest for movie nights, but don't expect too much.

Hani

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Tall Man

"The Tall Man" (2012, Pascal Laugier, Image Entertainment) is a thriller with a disturbing message masquerading as a horror film. It is not a horror film.

Beware, spoilers below...

A small former mining village called Cold Rock has seen a lot of child disappearances over the years. The villagers have associated these disappearances with an urban legend known as The Tall Man, a figure who is seen taking the children into the woods where they disappear without a trace. Jessica Biel plays Julia, the town's nurse. We see Julia's son, David, being kidnapped and follow her as she fights for his return...

The film starts off as a horror, but quickly boils back to a confusing mystery plot that seemed to be going in a different direction, before quickly jumping in yet another direction and passing into a plot quicksand pit that delivers a garbled message about child abduction being a good thing? Provided, apparently, that the children are taken from the poor and delivered to the rich. Besides this somewhat misguided premise, the film suffers from a jumpy, complex plot which wasn't intriguing enough to make the big twist very forceful.

For me, the only redeeming feature of this film is Biel's character showing injuries throughout the film that didn't miraculously heal themselves in that good ol' fashioned Hollywood manner.

[Image: Image Entertainment]
Hani 

Monday, 31 October 2016

I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in The House

"I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in The House " (2016, Oz Perkins, Netflix, Paris Film, Zed Filmworks, Go Insane Films) is a horror thriller about a haunted house.

A live-in nurse, Lily (Ruth Wilson), moves into elderly horror writer, Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss)'s home when she becomes too senile to care for herself. Lily, a scaredy cat in nature, becomes convinced that Blum's best known novel is actually based on a true murder which happened within the house itself and suspects that she and Ms. Blum are not alone in the house...

A lot of people might find this film too slow burning and with little payout, but I have to put my hand up and say that this film really gripped me. It's haunting and extremely well shot. Every scene seems seamlessly set up. The opening is slow and atmospheric with an excellent monologue which sounds almost literary in nature.

There is very little actual action, but the film sets up a building feeling of dread and a chilling atmosphere that is almost palpable and really had me on the edge of my seat. It's a good old-fashioned haunted house film which provides more chills than scares.

[Image: Netflix, et al]
Hani

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Return of the Living Dead

"Return of the Living Dead" (1985, Dan O'Bannon, Hemdale Film Corporation, A Greenberg Brothers Partnership, Orion Pictures) is a horror comedy about zombies. And punks.

We follow the misadventures of a medical supply warehouse foreman, Frank (James Karen), and his new employee, Freddy (Thom Mathews) when they accidentally release a poisonous gas which both kills the living and reanimates the dead... After escaping the warehouse full of newly animated, hungry cadavers with their boss, Burt (Clu Gulager), they seek the help of the local mortician, Ernie (Don Calfa). The mortuary is unfortunately a bad refuge from the dead, however, due to its close proximity to the graveyard where, amongst other things, a group of teenage punks are having a party...

A fun film with practical effects that are an excellent blend of gruesome humour. The script is witty and well paced satire with enough horror in there to merit this film as a genuinely good genre film as well as a good comedy. The film also enjoys a great soundtrack and some scream queen goodness from Linnea Quigley as punk rocker, Trash, who quickly loses her clothing upon entering the graveyard.

Aside from the fun, goopy, grossness and cheeky nude scenes, the film also manages to branch into some quite deep subject matter with an almost heart-breaking few scenes focussed on some key characters actually slowly and painfully becoming the shambling undead, and a few nods to government conspiracy.

An exciting and remarkable film that really embodies what horror comedy is capable of at its best.

[Image: Hemdale Film Corporation, et al]
Hani

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Friend Request

"Friend Request" (2016, Simon Verhoeven, Warner Bros., Freestyle Releasing, Wiedemann & Berg Film, SevenPictures Film, Two Oceans Productions) is a supernatural horror centred around social media and a college campus.

Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is a popular girl with over 800 social media friends. She lives off-campus with a group of pals and gets good grades. One day, she receives a friend invite from a reclusive girl in her class, Marina (Liesl Ahlers). Laura accepts the girl's request, seeing that she would become Marina's first friend... She even tries to connect in person. Big mistake. The girl becomes obsessed and takes very public umbridge when she is not invited to Laura's birthday dinner, vowing to get revenge on Laura for slighting her.

Laura gets freaked out and deletes Marina on social media. The next day news comes that Marina has committed suicide. Not just that, but she filmed it and the video has went viral about campus. In her death video, Marina publicly names Laura as the reason for her suicide. Laura's many friends begin to shun her and she soon suspects that she has been cursed...

The film has a good premise. Social media is the latest trend in horror lore, taking over from some of the older evil-technology films including the "Ring" series, etc... It does suffer from some bad scripting, some hammy scenes and a lot of tropes: of course the recluse is a goth, of course she is an orphan...

It's all very by-the-numbers, but is perfect for its target audience - teens who may just be getting into horror. As an established horror fan, it falls a little flat to me, but I don't believe I'm in their intended demographic. Whilst that does make the film suffer a little, it does deliver some good scenes and a strong, if flawed, message about being careful who you add on social media, and how much of yourself you put out there. You just never know what will be used against you.

[Image: Warner Bros., et al]
Hani


Monday, 17 October 2016

Shrooms

"Shrooms" (2007, Paddy Breathnatch, Vertigo Films, Capitol Films) is a film about taking hallucinogenics...

A group of American college students go on a camping trip in Ireland and take a lot of hallucinogenic mushrooms... After telling some scary stories by the campfire the group retire, but Tara (Lindsey Haun), takes a deathcap mushroom which causes her to have seizures and begin to see a creepy figure stalking them all. As the night progresses, Tara witnesses the deaths of her friends at the hands of the creepy creature... Or, is she just tripping?

A trope heavy feature with some heavy handed scripting and a meandering plot with some obvious twists. The trippy atmosphere is effective considering the subject matter, however, it does make the the already slow plot seem even slower. It's a film about taking mind-bending mushrooms, but a slightly more coherent plot could have saved what was a promising film with some good, if tropey, jump scares.

[Image: Capitol Films]
Hani

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Holidays

"Holidays" (2016, Kevin Smith, Gary Shore, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Scott Stewart, Nicholas McCarthy, Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch, Sarah Adina Smith and Anthony Scott Burns, Distant Corners Entertainment, XYZ Films) is a horror anthology inspired by different well-known Western holidays and celebrations.

Valentine's Day
A bullied teenaged girl has a crush on her swim coach and decides to get him something gruesome to show her feelings...

The characters are quite well built up in this short with a fun, if slightly predictable end. But the run time is very short in order to fit in the whole calendar and so the short suffers a little by having to pack everything in quickly, losing some of the pacing.

St. Patrick's Day
A teacher tries to make a withdrawn new child come out of her shell. The child informs her that she will only smile when she makes the teacher's deepest wish come true and leaves a small snake emblem on the desk. Over time, the teacher's wish comes true, but maybe not the way she really wanted.

A short that has some really good, creepy elements and a lot of potential, but just didn't have much to do with St. Patrick's day (other than snakes) and managed to feel oddly longer than the other shorts. It didn't pack the punch that the plot deserved.

Easter
A little girl sneaks downstairs the night before Easter to catch the Easter Bunny delivering her eggs, only he is not what she anticipated, and there is a penalty for seeing him in the flesh...

Probably the most successful short of this anthology, the plot packs a nice punch but the small run time and budget also limit it.

Mother's Day
A woman who cannot stop becoming pregnant every time she has sex is taken hostage by a coven of women who cannot have children.

A pretty horrific premise, but the short was a bit artsy and dithery and then switched direction completely again.

Father's Day
A woman finds an old cassette tape from her deceased father and listens to it. The voice on the tape takes her down memory lane (he recorded it whilst out walking with her younger self years before) and then asks her to go to a special location to meet him...

A beautifully made short that came together into an emotive piece. However, the time limit again robbed the plot of the finale it deserved and made the rest of the build up seem wasted.

Halloween
A douchebag who runs a pay-per-view webcam porn site using ladies he's lied to as his cam stars meets his deserving demise at the hands of his victims. Oh, and it's also set on Halloween.

This is the Kevin Smith piece. I like Kevin Smith, but his work can be very hit or miss for me. This one was a miss. My main problem with it was that it had very little to do with Halloween; the most horror-centric holiday on the calendar and you take it to this generic, anytime of year gore-fest. Talk about wasted opportunity. The short also tried to be funny, and also be serious and didn't seem to know what it was.

Christmas
Seth Green and Clare Grant star in this virtual reality/jingle-all-the way inspired piece. A man goes to extremes to ensure he gets the latest gadget for his family's Christmas; a UVU virtual reality visor which shows you the real you. However, he and his family may not be too comfortable with their real selves, or each other's selves once they plug in...

A good concept with some good scenes that are again reminiscent of older festive films. Although it wasn't the most engaging short in the bunch, it did its job.

New Year's Eve
A serial girlfriend murderer sets out to welcome in the new year his way....

A good short with some gore and a nice twist. It rounded off the anthology on a high after some obvious lows.

This anthology is a mixed bag containing a lot of misses. There's no enveloping story which could have brought it together and each segment is very short (even by anthology standards) and has to round off quickly often taking away from each piece's story somewhat. Some segments are better than others, but certainly none jumped out enough at me to make me want to rewatch this film again. I think each director was trying too hard to make their segment the 'weirdest' of the bunch and many veered too far away from their core holiday, losing the point of the film.

There are better anthologies out there which make this one look like a film student's 2nd year project.


[Image: XYZ Films]
Hani

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Street Trash

"Street Trash" (1987, J. Michael Muro, Street Trash Joint Venture, Lightning Pictures) is a bad taste body horror film about homeless people based in New York.

A liquor store owner discovers a case of old, cheap booze called Viper in his stock which has gone bad. But he decides to sell it cheap to the local homeless community. Unfortunately, Viper
causes anyone who drinks it to gruesomely melt to death.

The cops are trying to find the cause of these puddle-y deaths and also deal with Vietnam vet, Bronson, who has taken over the local junkyard as his own private, hobo kingdom.

A strange splatter film that makes other splatter films look sensible. This is definitely my favourite film about melting New York hobos... Possibly because it's also the only one! Gross, stupid and crude this film is just insane to the max.

The effects are daft, with the men and women melting into gooey primary colours, but also gross with body parts sagging off and splattering all over the place. The characters are oddly funny and sad and the film enjoys a grimy shock factor.

Some scenes of note include an excellent chase scene and a game of 'keep away' with a severed member instead of a lunchbox and a lady melting boobs first into a gooey mess.

Weird. So very, very weird.

[Image: Lightning Pictures]
Hani

Friday, 7 October 2016

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956, Don Siegel, Walter Wanger Productions, Allied Artists Pictures) is a film noir-esque, sci fi film about plant-like aliens which can create a realistic replica of any human and replace that person. The only flaw being the replica's complete lack of normal human emotion. The film is the inspiration behind the phrase "pod people".

When people begin to say that loved ones are being replaced by identical copies Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) begins to suspect that there is more going on than a case of Capgras delusion! He and his ex-girlfriend, Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), begin to investigate the supposed mass hysteria, when they make an unusual discovery: a half-formed replica of someone they know!

Soon they realise they are surrounded as they desperately try to escape and save humanity!

A thrilling and poignant sci-fi caper which has been interpreted as capturing several underlying themes, including the 50s era fear of communism and an illustration of McCarthyism.

Themes and messages aside, this film was one of the way-pavers for films like "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) and all of today's apocalyptic, dystopian-world films. And all with very little on-screen violence and very few visual effects, aside from some human-sized seed pods!

The film remains a very watchable, very enjoyable piece of sci-fi and you will also spot Carolyn Jones who, in the 60s, went on to give her ever-memorable performance as the darkly ethereal Morticia Addams.

Definitely worth a watch!

[Image: Allied Artists Pictures, et al]

Hani


Monday, 26 September 2016

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

"Dawn of the Dead" (2004, Zack Snyder, Strike Entertainment, New Amsterdam Entertainment, Metropolitan Filmexport) is the remake of the 1978 Romero film.

Ana (Sarah Polley) is a nurse who comes home from a long shift to have her quiet night in ruined by the sudden zombie virus outbreak. Terrified, she leaves her home and comes across another small group of survivors. Together they take up refuge in the local shopping mall along with a group of inhospitable security guards. Quickly, however the mall is surrounded by the undead, attracted by the living treats within and the group have to decide what to do.

An uncommonly good modern remake with a good balance of gore, action and plot to keep the viewer entertained. The film also enjoys a good score and soundtrack. Despite a relatively large group of characters, there is enough familiarity built up to make some of their deaths feel like a loss and for the viewer to root for the demise of a select few.

Although the film does not convey the same deeper message of the original, it does create a good ride and allows enough adrenaline pumping scenes to make it a genre favourite.

[Image: Strike Entertainment, et al]

Hani

Friday, 23 September 2016

31

"31" (2016, Rob Zombie, Bow + Arrow Entertainment, PalmStar Media, Protagonist Pictures, Spectacle Entertainment Group, Windy Hill Pictures, Saban Films) is the latest Rob Zombie horror picture.

A group of carnival workers are travelling in their van on Halloween morning 1976 when they are captured by a group of mysterious people and are then forced to play a "Running Man"-esque survival game called "31" (after the date). The aim of the game is to survive for 12 hours while battling murderous, torture-obsessed maniacs with clown paint on, wielding weapons. The game appears to be for the amusement (and gambling interests) of a group of madcap aristocrats lead by Malcolm McDowell.

The film has the same chaotic feeling that most of Rob Zombie's film enjoy with sudden scenes of violence split by scenes of random banter between the characters. However, the overall effect is less easy to follow than his previous films with a major flaw for me being there were so many characters to begin with, especially since it became apparent that a lot of these characters weren't required and are quickly lost in the confusing capture scene. There wasn't enough personality built up around these surplus characters to make them an emotional loss either, so I didn't feel their demise to be of any significance.

The settings are familiar: dusty back roads of America, big empty warehouse... The jump from one to the other is jarring and seems almost like 2 separate films. Zombie has also paid homage to Rocky Horror, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other genre favourites, but some scenes seem more like replication than actual homage.

The action and kill scenes are good viewing, but our protagonists leap a little too easily into the roles of survival killing machines against supposed professional maniacs. The villains are colourful but would have benefited from some more screen time.

I did really enjoy main villain, Doom Head (Richard Brake), who, although very chatty, had a really effective menace to his character on top of being very violent and giving a good monologue.

As did Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects", "31" features a good group of familiar and established cult and genre faces including Meg Foster (she of the mesmerising eyes in "They Live" and more recently, "Pretty Little Liars") amongst a cast of many others. The acting is good, but the style of scripting sometimes makes the aforementioned banter seem less comfortable between characters.

All in all, it will certainly not be overtaking "House of 1000 Corpses" as my favourite Rob Zombie film and suffers from a few pitfalls, but it had the gore and action to bring it back.


[Image: Bow + Arrow Entertainment, et al]

Hani

Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Invitation

"The Invitation" (2015, Karyn Kusama, Gamechanger Films, Lege Artis, XYZ Films, Drafthouse Films).

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend, Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), are on their way to Will's ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard)'s house for a dinner party with some old friends and Eden's new husband, David (Michiel Huisman). On the way there they accidentally run over a coyote and Will is forced to put the creature out of its misery.

Will and Eden split up after their son tragically died and Eden met David through her grief support group. Amongst other strange things at this dinner party, the old gang are joined by some of Eden and David's friends and David shows everyone a video from their grief support group where a young woman dies on screen....

Throughout the night Will begins to fear that there is something more sinister going on than just a strange dinner party, but is this fear founded in reality, or is he just feeling emotional seeing friends and Eden again and entering his old home since the death of his son...?

A slow, slow, slow burner that seems to relish in showing very little up until the end. I've seen a lot of positive things said about this film, but I don't fully share the enthusiasm. While others have remarked at an excellent build of tension, I found the plot slow and meandering. The acting is really good and the setting in the Hollywood hills is nice, too, but the film just felt too slow for me. Will's nagging feeling that something is wrong is plausible and real doubt in his instinct is well crafted by flashbacks and nice camera angles. The film is also very well shot. I just didn't feel that the quick, brutal payoff really made up for the pace of the build up.

I do appreciate the lack of usual horror tropes used in the film, however, which was a breath of freshness over some other recent horror efforts which have resulted in a lot of same-old, same-old.

[Image: Gamechanger films, et al]

Hani

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Ghoulies

"Ghoulies" (1984, Luca Bercovici, Empire Pictures, Ghoulies Productions).

Jonathan Graves (Peter Liapis) moves into his family's mansion with his girlfriend, Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan). Jonathan finds his father, Malcolm (Michael Des Barres)'s dark magic equipment in the house and decides to play with the paraphernalia during one of his parties as a joke, but unwittingly raises some demonic creatures known as 'ghoulies'. The power then begins to go to his head and he begins to follow the path of his black-magically-charged father...

I love a good B-movie, but this one is not one of the so-bad-it's-good gems of the era. And yet, it's not quite bad enough for me to hate it.

The demon puppets are fun, but cheap. And the film is neither scary nor funny and a little too long winded. While the film's not quite the calibre of other B-movies of the period, it went on to have some good sequels which made more use of the ghoulie monsters and focused less on demon-raising, cloak wearing party animals.

One of the odder things about this film was that the characters constantly put on sunglasses inside and at night. Confused, I did some trivia searching to discover that the film was meant to go into 3D when the characters put on their sunglasses, but that the difficulty of doing this was too much and so the creators decided not to bother. Alas, the scenes had already been filmed so we're left with this oddness.

All in all, I've sat through worse and don't get all the hate online about this film, but even I can see it's genuinely not that great.

[Image: Empire Pictures, et al]
Hani

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Sicilian Vampire

"Sicilian Vampire" (2015, Frank D'Angelo, In Your Ear Productions) is a mobster vampire film.

Santino Trafficante (Frank D'Angelo) is a mobster who is bitten by a bat whilst at a weekend trip with his associates. He soon begins to notice that he is changing into a vampire, and puts his new found talents to use against his enemies whilst also trying to ensure the safety of his wife, Carmelina (Daryl Hannah), and daughter. He also seeks the help of mysterious doctor, Professor Bernard Isaacs (James Caan).

While the idea isn't bad and the cast includes some known mobster genre names, as well as Daryl Hannah rocking jet black, straight hair, the film feels too much like a vehicle for the director to play out his dreams of being a mobster family man with Rat Pack-esque charisma. And winds up feeling a little flat and stilted.

The horror is minimal and low budget. Although, as you know, I never deduct points for low budget horror. I just feel it could have done with some more gore to make the kill scenes more fun. Most of the kills happen together in tandem, which I liked as it broke up the slow pacing of the rest of the film and rounded off the loose ends.

A mouse farting joke and the actual bat biting scene were fun additions. But the musical number and the dream sequence could have done with some cutting down.

All in all as a film it just doesn't stand out particularly.


[Image: In Your Ear Productions, et al]
Hani

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Lights Out

"Lights Out" (2016, David F. Sandberg, New Line Cinema, Atomic Monster, Grey Matter Productions, RatPac Entertainment, Warner Bros.) is the feature length adaptation of the fabulously jumpy 2013 horror short of the same name also by Sandberg.

Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) becomes concerned when her mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), begins to suffer from depression again and starts talking to an 'imaginary friend'. She is also worried for her little brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), who is beginning to suffer from insomnia and behaving strangely. She soon learns why this is happening, however, when she sees for herself the creepy apparition which moves in the dark around them...

The short had a great premise and truly gave me the wiggins. The creature is only able to be seen in the dark and by flicking on and off the light, you can see it slowly (and yet somehow also quickly) approach you. It's menacing and effective.

As a feature length film, however, this effect loses some of its impact and the film began to feel somewhat gimmicky. However, as a whole the film is quite enjoyable in a simple, jump-scare-by-numbers-horror way. The characters are good, but they're not given enough time to develop effectively and there's perhaps too much going on in the back story to be cohesive.

The thing that worked so well for the short was its simplicity and this felt a little lost in the feature length film. In an attempt to create a personal origin story for the shadowy creature, the story lost some of its simple, effective mystery around the creature. I feel that sometimes horror monsters don't need to have their motives explained; they just need to be scary. A sympathetic backstory can be effective, but this explanation in "Lights Out" felt forced into the story.

My advice is by all means see this film, then go re-watch the short to remind yourself how good the premise really was.

[Image: New Line Cinema, et al]

Hani

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Before I Wake

“Before I wake” (2016, Mike Flanagan, Intrepid Pictures, Demarest Films, MICA Entertainment, Relativity Media) is an innovative film about the dangers of having your dreams come true and the imaginative resilience of children.

Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) are absolutely devastated after their son Sean (Antonio Evan Romero) tragically dies. After some time, they decide to adopt a young boy called Cody (Jacob Tremblay) who is the same age as Sean would be: 8. 

Cody is a polite and pleasant child whose mother died when he was only 3. However, Cody does not like to sleep, and Jessie and Mark are surprised to find out why. You see, when Cody dreams, his dreams become temporarily corporeal in the real world. Jessie begins to take advantage of this skill, but they all soon learn the downside when they meet up with one of Cody's recurring nightmares. And Cody's nightmares can kill...

This film has a lot going for it. Jacob Tremblay gives a fantastic performance as the haunted young Cody and both Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane create realistic and relateable parents. Jessie is consumed with her guilt and pain over the loss of her son, but Mark is determined to make the most of the new opportunity that Cody has given them, and his scenes are frankly adorable. 

The premise is so imaginative and beautifully realised with stunning imagery and a haunting premise. The monstrous nightmare creature is also very different and very creepy. The design of the creature is creative. I love the way it moves. The twists and turns in the plot were good, I found myself thinking about the film quite a lot later on. There are admittedly some leaps in reality at the end of the film, but the full movie comes together nicely. 

Director, Mike Flanagan, was also behind "Occulus", another film I found innovative and haunting to watch. I think we'll be seeing some more from Mr. Flanagan in the future. 

Suspenseful and creative, this film was refreshing viewing. 

[Image: Intrepid Pictures]
Hani

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Other Side of the Door

“The Other Side of the Door” (2016, Johannes Roberts, 42, Kriti Productions, TSG Entertainment) is a British-Indian supernatural horror about a family tragedy, the powers of grief and not doing what you’re told.

Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Michael (Jeremy Sisto) love their trip to India so much that they decide to stay there and start a family. They enjoy a life there for some time, until tragedy strikes and Maria is forced to choose to save one of her two children after a terrible accident. She saves her youngest child, daughter Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky) and cannot get back in time to save her eldest son, Oliver (Logan Creran).

Grief-stricken and guilt ridden, Maria is distant and suicidal. Her housekeeper, Piki (Suchitra Pillai-Malik) offers Maria a chance to speak to Oliver one last time at an abandoned temple, infamous for sitting on the line between the living and the dead. Maria leaps at the chance to tell her son how sorry she is, but she cannot resist the urge to do the one thing Piki warned her not to; she opens the door…

The premise is really good, standard horror fayre, but this film just doesn’t deliver. The styling is very J-horror and feels odd in the Indian setting. And the ‘evil’ ghost of the son is just too literal. But the main issue is just the plot-by-numbers style of storytelling and the fact that the story is based in India and features only one main Indian character. 

Our protagonist, Maria, is a massive pain in the ass who’s moved to India and had children there and hasn’t bothered to learn the language, make friends and even raise her children to understand the local culture. Other than using some Hindu mythology within the story, they might as well have set this film anywhere else.

Anyway, the ghosts are fun, but the jump scares are too obvious and used over-liberally and Maria doesn’t seem to react to the ghosts in the normal way. I get thinking you have your kid back and reading him bedtime stories, but when a creepy-ass ghost creature starts following you, I doubt you’d stand there staring at it….


The film just wasn’t as refined as the story deserved and came across as a cheap knockoff J-horror rather than something new. 

There were certainly good elements, but as a whole the film didn't quite hit the spot. 

[Image: Kitri Productions, et al]

Hani

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Conjuring 2

"The Conjuring 2" (2016, James Wan, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures) is the sequel to the 2013 film and centres around paranormal hunters, The Warrens, as they try to help the family infamously tormented by the haunting in the Enfield council houses in London.

Set in the 70s,  Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) travel to London to help the Hodgson family who believe that their home is occupied by a malevolent entity, which is probably the previous owner of the house, Mr. Wilkins. The Warrens try to help, but Lorraine is troubled by a vision she had seen at a previous investigation.

The Hodgson children and their mother, Peggy, witness some paranormal occurrences, but there are many sceptics thinking that the sightings are not real. However, the more they learn about this angry spirit, the more they think there is to this crooked man.

It seems I'm in the minority here, but here goes...

James Wan creates really thrilling jump scenes and some really stunning visuals, however, "The Conjuring 2" just does not live up to the same impact that its predecessor had. It felt somewhat samey, due mainly to the similar styling and 'universe' rules which Wan has built around his films. Some of the English accents were also a little too Mary Poppins for my comfort level and make the film seem silly. This in turn made the characters feel a little fake and made me care less about what happened to them.

 It has some nice earmarks of a 70s ghost movie and managed to recreate the era very well, but it never struck that chord that actual 70s horrors do. I felt I knew what was coming and the sidebar plot line felt like it belonged in a separate film.

All in all, it has some successful scenes, but as a full film I didn't feel it held together as well as the original one.

[Image: New Line Cinema, et al]
Hani

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Rebirth

"Rebirth" (2016, Karl Mueller, Netflix) is a film about peer pressure and the dangers of self-help groups.

Kyle (Fran Kranz) is a guy trying to live the American dream. He has a wife and a kid and a white collar job and spends his evenings going to through the same routines. Every day is the same and he feels a nagging feeling of unfulfilled potential. But in the main, he has a beautiful family and a beautiful home and what more could a guy want?

Kyle's everyday life is soon turned upside down, however, when his old college friend, Zack (Adam Goldberg) shows up at his office looking and acting every inch the free spirit he was in college. Intrigued, Kyle agrees to join Zack on a weekend self-help retreat called "Rebirth" which Zack maintains is the key to self discovery and enlightenment.

When he gets there Kyle finds the experience to be somewhat different to his expectations and he becomes lost in a maze of confusing situations, emotions and rooms as he tries to make sense of it all. But his terrifying ordeal may not simply end when he finally escapes the labyrinth as although you are free to leave "Rebirth" at anytime...."Rebirth" may not leave you....

I like Fran Kranz. I've mentioned this before. I think he's a talented actor and it's just a bonus that he's also cute. This film has flaws, but one thing really shines through and that's Kyle's palpable frustration and terror. He feels like he's missing some big joke and everyone is in on it except him and his awkward attempts to join in to the 'big group' are almost hard to watch. He's a dull, normal, everyday guy and he doesn't want to be the protagonist. I feel for the guy.

Nicky Whelan, however, steals the show as the mysterious, sophisticated and cold Naomi.

I have met people who are involved in something I'd consider along the same lines as "Rebirth" as an organisation. They live the brand, they breathe the brand, they wear the brand, they drink the brand, they eat the brand and they only talk about the brand. They're so indoctrinated into their organisation's influence that it's honestly scary. And while this film pokes fun at organisations like the one I'm thinking of, it also makes a hard hitting statement: everyone thinks they need this. Everyone thinks they're doing something wrong and that they could achieve more, all they need is for some nice, easy, secret potion to make everything fall into place. And that potion's price is not so important if it's shiny enough...

The film is really slow to start and I did find myself thinking about giving up, but once it got going it was interesting enough. Almost everyone in the film is an asshole. And the underlying tone that everything is a big sham but no one is willing to say it is pretty haunting. But all in all the film feels a little under produced and something felt missing, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Whilst it's not exactly a ground breaking film, I did enjoy it and felt some things about it ponder at the back of my mind over the course of the following day, which I appreciated.

[Image: Netflix]
Hani

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Incredible Shrinking Man

"The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957, Jack Arnold, Universal International) is a classic 50s sci-fi film based on the book and screenplay by Richard Matheson.

Scott Carey (Grant Williams) and his wife, Louise (Randy Stuart), were enjoying a short holiday on his brother's boat when a strange mist engulfed their vessel. Luckily for Louise, she was inside the boat at the time, but Scott was completely covered. Some months later he notices that he is losing weight and height and that none of his clothes are fitting him!

Doctors find a possible cure which seem to halt Scott's decrease for a time, but soon he begins to shrink again! As well as affecting his relationship with his wife and drawing a lot of unwanted attention from the media, Scott also soon learns that the home can be a dangerous place when you are the size of a borrower!

A surprisingly emotional film with good dialogue, sympathetic characters and amazing effects for the time! I felt completely drawn in to the action and could easily believe that Williams was truly shrunk. The action scenes with the cat and the spider are truly inspired.

I love a good classic sci-fi horror, but am more than aware of some pretty terrible films from the era. "The Incredible Shrinking Man", however, is not one of these. The film still stands well today and is extremely watchable.

The outlandish subject matter does have some glaring flaws: how would a doctor make the connection so easily between the shrinking symptoms and their cause? But the film remains surprisingly provocative and thoughtful, with a haunting ending.

Although the film makes fun use of props and proportions to enhance the physical impact upon our protagonist, it actually maintains quite a cerebral subject matter, focusing more on the psychology of this change. A quite disturbing film.


[Image: Universal International]
Hani

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

"The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1977, Don Taylor, American International Pictures) is one of the film adaptations of H.G. Wells' famous novel.

Andrew Braddock (Michael York) survives a shipwreck and eventually lands on an unknown island after 17 days at sea. He finds himself the welcomed guest of honour at the island's leader's house, that of Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster); a mysterious and unusual scientist who has been living on the island for some time.

Moreau is joined by a mercenary called Montgomery (Nigel Davenport) who serves Moreau as his associate, but does not like the man, and a beautiful young woman called Maria (Barbara Carrera). There are natives on the island, too, who are very odd-looking, they almost do not look like men at all. Moreau's personal servant is one such native called M'Ling (Nick Cravat).

Braddock becomes intrigued by Moreau's experiments and learns, to his horror, that the 'natives' are not in fact human at all, but man-beasts: the results of Moreau's twisted experiments to make humans from wild animals....

Although key aspects of the story were changed for the screen, and Moreau's experiments lose some of their shocking awfulness by being entirely serum based, instead of part vivisection, the film still packs a cold, dreadful punch.

Michael York is always so upstanding and polite. His portrayal of Braddock is good, however, and his anguish is quite disturbing. Lancaster portrays an excellent Moreau. His menacing intellect and his obsessive control over the island are unsettling. The makeup and effects are really impressive, but then, John Chambers was the makeup designer (Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and other such impressive credits) so it could not be anything but.

It's a relatively tame flick, considering the subject matter, but this is in most part due to the era in which it was made. But it is still an enjoyable film with some solid performances, but not as much mystery as I would like.

[Image: American International Pictures]
Hani

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Cell

"The Cell" (2000, Tarsem Singh, RadicalMedia, New Line Cinema) is a psychological horror about the mind of a serial killer.

Catherine (Jennifer Lopez) is a child psychologist who is on a team leading the way in a new, experimental treatment for coma patients using virtual reality and mind-connecting. She is brought in on a case with a deranged serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio) when he goes into a coma before the FBI could find out the location of his most recent victim. Catherine and FBI agent, Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn), are in a race against time to save the girl before it's too late. But can Catherine survive being inside the mind of the killer?

I did not know what to expect going into this film but I have to say it actually performs quite well. Lopez gives a relatively good performance as the concerned dr and as the kick ass virtual lady. And it was strange to see Vince Vaughn in a serious role, but his obsessive, desperate FBI agent character came across quite well.

The effects are beginning to look a little too over-processed in comparison to today's effects, but still give a good virtual impact. The makeup and costumes are really spectacular as well. The virtual reality dreamscapes really do look very freaky too, but it's the subject matter that really make this film interesting. D'Onofrio really gives an excellent portrayal of the killer. His sexual perversions and fetishes are disturbing, but it's the cold, calculating and yet nervous nature of the character that are truly scary. He knows he's a monster, but he can't help himself, and worse, he thinks he's entitled to be considering his past...

An intriguing, surrealist sci-fi with music video-esque aesthetics.

[Image: RadicalMedia]

Hani

The Old Dark House (1963)

"The Old Dark House" (1963, William Castle, William Castle-Hammer, Columbia Pictures) is a horror-comedy remake of a film of the same name from 1932 and is based on a novel by J.B. Priestley.

Tom Penderel (Tom Poston) is an American car-salesman working and living in London. He is flat-sharing with an eccentric, rich fellow called Casper Femm (Peter Bull) and is invited by Casper to see his family's mansion and deliver his new car there. When he reaches the house he discovers that his friend is dead and that Casper's family will not let him leave the house. They reveal that all Femm family members must be present at the mansion each night by midnight or else they will forfeit their share of the family fortune. Penderel is not initially too concerned until it seems that someone in the house is hell-bent on keeping the full Femm fortune for just themselves, and they won't let anyone stand in their way!

A cheesy, fun, Castle film with a cast of weird and unusual characters (played by some iconic faces) and a divinely dilapidated setting. It's silly and hammy and contains ridiculous fight scenes. And it is good fun.

While it is extremely dated not just in styling, but in humour, the film is still very enjoyable and worth checking out.

[Image: Columbia Pictures, et al]
Hani

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Christine

"Christine" (1983, John Carpenter, Columbia Pictures, Delphi Premier Productions, Polar Film) is the film adaptation of Stephen King's novel, "Christine".

I'm on a bit of a John Carpenter kick.

Christine is a sentient 1978 Plymouth Fury car. She's furious and out for blood. Anyone's blood. She is purchased by Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon), an unpopular nerdy teen who plans to bring her back to her former glory. Christine is grateful to him. She just likes to show her gratitude in strange ways.... like attempting to murder Arnie's best friend, or his class bullies... Or, well, anyone really. Arnie becomes obsessed with his new metal lady-love and cannot look away.

Although I enjoyed the book and I am a fan of Carpenter's films, I'll admit to being a little bored with this film after a while. The car is pretty and the music is superb, but in the main there's only so much fear that can be derived from an angry killer car with a sarcastic stereo. The action, naturally, becomes very same-y and the film suffers for that in my opinion.


[Image: Columbia Pictures]
Hani

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Thing (1982)

"The Thing" aka "John Carpenter's The Thing" (1982, John Carpenter, Turman-Foster Company, Universal Pictures) is one of the most defining and masterful pieces from genre great, John Carpenter. I'm a Carpenter fan, but "The Thing" really stands out as one of his finest films. It's also one of my favourite sci-fi films which comfortably straddles the worlds of horror and science fiction.

Based in the Antarctic, a group of American researchers are disrupted by an apparently crazed Norwegian helicopter chasing after and shooting at a dog. The dog is saved, but the Norwegian gentlemen and their chopper are not so lucky. The crew of Americans are shaken, but put the dog along with their own and decide to investigate the Norwegian camp. They send their own 'copter pilot, Macready (Kurt Russell), and camp Doctor, Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart), over to find out what they can but all they find is the burnt remains of the Norwegian camp, some research and a grotesquely misshapen corpse.

Their troubles really begin, however, when they return back to their own base to find that the creature they saved is not in fact a dog and that this Thing is now amongst them....

An intense and well crafted sci-fi mystery with a good cast of three-dimensional characters and some truly disturbing effects (which still stand up today). The plot keeps moving along at a good pace as our team begin to unravel, each suspecting that he is alone amongst imposters. It's a good character study on the human mind's reaction to fight or flight survival. The character banter-turned-bickering really helps hammer home the change in team dynamic, too.

I'll just put my hands up now and admit how much I like Kurt Russell: he is one of my favourite actors. It helps, of course, that he was as handsome as hell in this film, but he really is one talented and very cool guy. Macready loses his shit along with the rest of his camp-mates, but he does it with style and a big hat, and you have to respect that.

"The Thing" remains a disturbing film and, as much as special effects have developed and changed over the years, this film still holds its own and churns the stomach. But it's more than just the effects. "The Thing" creates a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere that draws the viewer in to the camp where the danger isn't just the lurking creature, but the other frightened humans ready to murder each other to survive.

[Image: Turman-Foster Company, Universal Pictures]
Sure, I could have chosen a monster-pic.... But Kurt Russell just seemed like the right choice to me...
 
Ok... Here's a monster pic too for good measure:
Happy?
 
Hani
 


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Ava's Possessions

"Ava's Possessions" (2015, Jordan Galland, ODD NY, Off Hollywood Pictures, Ravenous Films, Traction Media, Momentum Pictures) is a horror comedy about a support and rehabilitation group for people who have been possessed.

Ava (Louisa Krause) was possessed by a demon called Naphula for 28 days, and during that time she did some bad stuff. Now demon-free (but not demon-proof) Ava has to attend a therapy group to avoid jail time. Her friends and family are having a hard time forgiving her for the demon's behaviour, despite knowing that she was not in control of her faculties during that period. Ava tries to remember her missing 28 days and avoid the demon which is still lurking around her trying to find a way back in, but she might not like what she finds out and her attempts to help a friend may cause more trouble.

It's an interesting concept; the post-possession movie. What happens after the exorcism? Very creative. Whilst amusing, I'm not convinced by the 'comedy' description of the film, however. as I didn't find it particularly funny, but I'll admit it's satirical and it touches on some dark stuff. The strong parallels drawn with the demons of alcoholism or substance abuse are really quite clever.

The premise is good, but the plot gets bogged down too much in other sidelines and loses its track. Low budget and cheesy, but not gory, the film is very different to what I had anticipated. It's ok, but it could have been more of a game-changer, had the story had more clarity.

[Image: Momentum Pictures, et al]
Hani

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Human Form

"Human Form" (2014, viddsee.com, Doyeon Noh) is a South Korean horror short about the dangers of plastic surgery.

Inhyung (Si Yeon Kim) is a young girl who is obsessed with getting facial plastic surgery to look like everyone else. Her family and almost all people around her have had fashionable surgery to give them doll-like, creepy faces. In her desperation she is tempted by less reputable sources....

A creepy film which is inspired by the popularity of plastic surgery in Korea, as well as a study on self-image and peer pressure. The premise behind the film is unsettling, but it's the doll faces that really get you. They are really well done. Especially Inhyung's mother's face, which is the most freaky.

The ending left me feeling hollow: it definitely did its job!

[Image: viddsee.com]

Hani

Monday, 13 June 2016

Dead Alive

"Dead Alive" aka "Braindead" (1992, Peter Jackson, Wingnut films, Avalon Studios Limited, The New Zealand Film Commission, Trimark Pictures, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment) is a slapstick horror comedy set in New Zealand. 

Lionel (Timothy Balme) lives with his overbearing, controlling mother, Vera (Elizabeth Moody). Vera is enraged when Lionel falls in love with the shopkeeper's daughter, Paquita María Sánchez (Diana Peñalver), and follows them on their date to the zoo. Whilst hiding, she is bitten by a rabid rat-monkey, whose bite begins to turn her into a rabid, rotting corpse. Lionel tries to hide his murderous zombie mother and carry on dating Paquita, but his mother escapes, causing all kinds of trouble around town and spreading her zombie virus, wherever she goes.

A fun, ridiculous film with zombie babies, guts, gore, lawnmowers and slapstick comedy. It stays firmly in the B-movie realm with cheesy lines, silly action and very fake blood flying everywhere. A genre favourite with deserved cult status.

[Image: WingNut Films, et al]

Hani

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Dead Zone

"The Dead Zone" (1983, David Cronenberg, Dino De Laurentiis Company, Lorimar Film Entertainment) is an adaptation of a Stephen King story.

Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) is a schoolteacher in the small American town of Castle Rock. After spending the day with his girlfriend and colleague, Sarah (Brooke Adams), he declines her offer to spend the night at her place and drives home in a storm. He is involved in a terrible accident and ends up in a coma.

Five years later Johnny awakes not only to find that Sarah has married another, but also that his coma has caused Johnny to develop certain psychic abilities. He reluctantly helps the local police with some cases, but his abilities lead him to more and more trouble. Johnny decides to try to use his powers to stop a huge catastrophe, but he may not live to tell the tale...

A relatively slow moving film, that remains engrossing regardless of its pace. Walken brings the role to life in his usual characteristic and intense manner. More of a thriller than a horror, the film manages to make you almost forget entirely that you're watching a film about supernatural abilities: it seems so matter of fact and normal. It's also quite true to the source material and feels like its made by a master, despite being more mainstream than Cronenberg's usual films.

Poor Johnny gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop in this film. Poor guy.

[Image: Dino De Laurentiis Company, et al]
Hani

Monday, 6 June 2016

Finders Keepers

"Finders Keepers" (2014, Alexander Yellen, HFD Productions) is an evil doll/possession movie based in a large old American house.

Alyson (Jaime Pressly) is a single mother who moves herself and her daughter, Claire (Kylie Rogers), into a large old house with a dark past so that she can focus on her writing. Claire is sad to be leaving her old home and school behind and, upon finding a creepy old doll left behind by the previous home owners, becomes extremely attached to it to the point where she seems like a completely different kid. In fact, is the doll possibly more than just a doll?

Evil dolls are a popular theme again, it seems. And Lilith the doll is pretty creepy looking to give it credit. She's a bit underutilised, however, with very few creepy doll scenes. The main issue is, however, that the film doesn't build up much sympathy with the characters. Claire's pretty upset at moving home, and I can appreciate that, but they made her come across as a bit of a brat before she even became possessed and it's a shame because Rogers did an excellent job otherwise. Jaime Pressly was pretty believable in her role as concerned parent also.

The film wavers a bit in plot and rules with the doll getting tossed about a fair bit without harming Claire, but then becoming voodoo doll-ish as and when it suits. And the plot twists rely on a few great leaps in logic that just don't add up. The ending is pretty unsatisfying also, leaving a lot of unanswered questions.

The film has gore, but isn't particularly scary, losing a lot of creep factor through being a tad too predictable. In the main, it's a good effort, but not one I'd rewatch in a hurry.


[Image: HFD Productions, Syfy]

Hani

Sunday, 22 May 2016

From Beyond

"From Beyond" (1986, Stuart Gordon, Empire Pictures) is a cult, sci-fi, body horror film based loosely on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft.

Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) is a genius scientist with unusual fetishes who has developed a machine which allows people to see outside of the known reality by stimulating the sixth sense. Unfortunately, the machine's effects are addictive and, despite discovering that the other realm can access ours using the machine, Pretorius cannot allow himself to stop. His assistant, Dr. Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs), is bitten by a creature from the other side and tries to stop the experiment, seeing it's destructive nature, but a larger creature comes through the void and kills Dr. Pretorius.

Dr. Tillinghast is locked up in an ward for the criminally insane, suspected of Pretorius' murder and no one will believe his outlandish story. No one, that is, until he meets determined blonde, Dr. McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) who, with her associate, Detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree), take Tillinghast back to the house to repeat the experiment and prove his innocence and sanity.

A funny cult film which enjoys close links to "Re-Animator" in casting, direction, behind the scenes team and special effects. While dated, it still stands as a fun, gross B-movie and captures the Lovecraft vibe. There's some funny patter between characters ridiculous dominatrix outfits, questionable science, floating eel creatures, humorous decapitations.... there's a lot going on in this film.

I like a bit of dated special effects and I have to appreciate the Lovecraftian creativity of this film's effects: they are both very fun and very squidgy. Definitely my kind of film. "From Beyond" is also really watchable and has an easy to follow plot that doesn't veer too off story like some other B-movies. It's silly, humorous and ludicrous in equal measures. Sheer campy horror frolics not to be taken seriously.


[Image: Empire Pictures]

Hani

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Bite

"Bite" (2015, Chad Archibald, Black Fawn Films, Breathrough Entertainment) is a gross out body horror movie.

While on her exotic hen party weekend with her friends, in between drunken and disorderly behaviour, Bride-to-be Casey (Elma Begovic) is bitten by a bug. When she gets home she begins to have serious cold feet about getting married and her bug bite also becomes infected. But that's not all, she starts to change...

A low budget film that delivers some surprisingly disturbing gore reminiscent of, if naturally unequal to, Cronenberg's classic remake of "The Fly" and also Andy Stewart's 2014 short, "Split" (http://horrorev.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/split.html). Casey's transformation is both gross-out and entertaining and also highly likely to put you off of drinking bubble tea with strawberry boba for while.... Eew, Casey-spawn....

Aside from the fun effects the film doesn't offer anything ground breaking. The plot is relatively simple and the characters are all highly unlikeable: Casey is a moany flake, her betrothed is really pushy, her pals are self-interested bitches and her future mother-in-law is a presumptuous hag. It's safe to say I didn't become emotionally attached to any of them in any way.

I did, however, feel my lunch threatening to come back up several times and I think that's a fairly good sign that this body horror film did its job. So while you might not find the film particularly enthralling, if you can stomach it, it has a pretty good gore pay-off.

I'm kind of glad I'm not going abroad for my hen party now though....


[Image: Black Fawn Films, et al]
Hani

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Pumpkinhead

"Pumpkinhead" (1988, Stan Winston, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group) is a supernatural horror about revenge.

The film starts with a scene set in the late 50s where we see a farmer, Tom Hardy, and his wife and child, Ed, hiding in their farmhouse as a neighbour tries to seek entry to escape from something. Tom warns the man to leave or he will be shot. The family then witness the man being killed by a demonic creature.

Fast forward to the 80s, the film continues to follow Ed (Lance Henriksen) who has a young son of his own and runs a store. He leaves his son and their dog, Gypsy, as he runs a short errand just as a bunch of teenage campers show up with dirt bikes. Gypsy runs out, followed by the little boy, to chase the bikes and the kid is hit and killed by one of the campers. In despair, Ed takes his child's body to a witch who tells him that she cannot raise the child back to the living, but she can help him wreak is revenge. Ed readily agrees to follows the witch's orders to dig up a twisted corpse from an old graveyard.

The witch raises the twisted body into a demon called Pumpkinhead who then goes on a spree, killing the campers responsible for Ed's son's death. With each death, Ed begins is effected, seeing the killings from the perspective of the demon. The revenge won't bring back what he has lost, but does he have more to lose than he realised?

The film's effects and use of animatronics still stand up exceptionally well to today's films. Although the film doesn't offer anything ground breaking and the plot is a little thin in places, I really enjoyed it. The monster is well designed and gory, there's a sub-plot with a cautionary tale and the action is silly, but enjoyable. It makes for a fun 80s romp.

[Image: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group]
Hani 

Monday, 25 April 2016

Hush

"Hush" (2016, Mike Flanagan, Blumhouse Productions, Intrepid Pictures, Netflix) is a psychological thriller/slasher/home invasion movie. 

Maddie Young (Kate Siegel) is a young, deaf author who is living alone in a secluded house whilst trying to finish her latest novel. She is targeted by a masked killer (John Gallagher Jr.) who soon notices that she cannot hear and tries to take advantage of this fact as he baits her.

A creative film for the genre, with some really good casting and smart, tense scenes. The action is gory and fast paced. Our protagonist is a strong lead, despite her lack of spoken words. Our antagonist is also pretty strong as the sick, twisted psycho who's motivation we are not truly sure of. And the few other supporting characters manage to create rounded, sympathetic roles despite a small screen time. "Hush" is a really excellent piece that breaks down tropes and keeps the viewer engaged throughout. 

Definitely worth your time.


[Image: Blumhouse Productions, et al]
Hani

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Brood

"The Brood" (1979, David Cronenberg, Canadian Film Development Corporation, New World-Mutual, New World Pictures) is a sci-fi horror film.

Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) is an unconventional psychotherapist who runs a retreat called the Somafree Institute where he practices "psychoplasmics" on his mentally disturbed patients. Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) is a disturbed woman staying at the institute who's also in a bitter legal battle with her husband, Frank (Art Hindle) over their five year old daughter, Candice (Cindy Hinds). After Candi visits her mother Frank spots some marks on her back and tells Raglan that he will not allow his wife to see their daughter again because he believes that she is physically abusing her, as her own mother did to her. Things become even more concerning when some people close to Candice are brutally murdered by what appears to be children...

A strange film which manages to juggle some pretty heavy topics about abuse, alcoholism, relationships and mental illness as well as being a pretty substantial 70s body horror scifi film and also having a pretty shocking plot all in. Whilst it certainly pales in comparison to some of Cronenberg's other works, The Brood provides some interesting characters and some very 70s era special effects.

[Image: New World Pictures, et al]
Hani

Friday, 15 April 2016

Trilogy of Terror

"Trilogy of Terror" (1975, Dan Curtis, ABC, MPI Home Video) is a made-for-TV horror anthology starring the awesome Karen Black; one of my favourite scream queens.

All three stories are named after the women's names and all of the centric women are played by Karen Black who embodies the nerdy, the crazy, the devious, the shy and the terrified in her usual charismatic way.

Three fun stories, the first being about a college professor and her creepy student, the second about an unusual sisterly relationship and the third about a bullied young woman who purchases a Zuni fetish doll for her boyfriend. All three shorts are quirky, engaging and the right balance of cheesy TV 70s horror and good storytelling. My favourite is certainly the final piece, "Amelia", which is a kind of one-woman play. It really focuses on Black's ability to portray a whole plot through her acting and I absolutely love the creepy little doll. It's a really fun short.

Maybe it's not as sophisticated as today's horror and certainly it has its flaws (being too obvious for today's genre-savvy audience being one), but this remains one of the classic 70s anthologies and is definitely worth your time.

[Image: ABC]
Hani