Monday, 25 April 2016


"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]

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]

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]

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Witch

"The Witch" (2016, Robert Eggers, Parts and Labour, Rooks Nest Entertainment, RT Features) is an atmospheric horror set in 17th Century New England and centred around a very unlucky family.

William (Ralph Ineson) is excommunicated and banished from his puritan Christian plantation, along with his family; wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) and twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson). They set up home at a rough farm and Katherine gives birth to a boy called Sam. The infant disappears whilst Thomasin is playing with him and the disappearance is blamed upon "the witch of the wood". But there really is something lurking in the shadows and, as the unlucky family begin pointing fingers at each other screaming witchcraft, something is tearing them apart.

Oh, and the twins claim to be able to speak to the black goat called Philip.

A slow burning film with a good atmosphere and realistic, harsh depictions of the hardships of the puritan era. The language can be quite difficult to stay in tune with and, although the horror elements are really good, they are relatively scarce and the film is certainly not jumpy. But the tale is grim and the fear and grief of William and his family is palpable. It really explores some of the darker themes of humanity and the little doocots we put ourselves in.

The scenery, costumes and sound design are all absolutely spot on and bring a sense of period drama to the film. The film felt old and it had a lot to say. I expect more great things to come from Mr. Eggers, certainly. I was left with an almost shell-shocked feeling towards the end of the film which is a good sign, but as a whole it wasn't at all what I'd expected and I feel it was more thought-provoking and unsettling than 'scary'.

[Image: Rooks Nest Entertainment, et al]

Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Forest

"The Forest" (2016, Jason Zada, Al-Film, Lava Bear Productions, Focus Features, Gramercy Pictures, Icon Film Distribution) is a supernatural horror set in the infamous Aokigahara Forest, also known as "the suicide forest", in Japan.

Sara (Natalie Dormer with blonde hair) travels to Japan to seek her kind of flaky, missing identical twin sister, Jess (Natalie Dormer with brown hair). Jess was last seen going into the suicide forest and Sara feels certain that her twin is still alive.

She meets a reporter called Aiden (Taylor Kinney) who handily speaks Japanese and helps find her a 'guide' in the form of Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) who will take them into the forest to look for her sister in the daylight, but not after dark. Sara is also warned several times to stay on the path. Upon finding some hope in the forest shortly before nightfall, Sara refuses to leave and Michi eventually relents, leaving her there with Aiden who decides to keep her company. But the forest is full of sorrowful and angry spirits and Sara's mental state puts her in peril. She also definitely ventures off the path.

A moody, slow film which delivers some effective jump scares but relies a little too often on tropes to maintain any kind of fear factor. The film also suffered from a patchwork feel due to its stylistic flashbacks and dream scenes. I like Natalie Dormer, but her character's descent into madness felt more like a psychotic ex turning on somebody mid-date than a spiral into sorrowful insanity. However, within the forest itself I did appreciate the atmosphere. The final few scenes felt kind of rushed, however, and the film felt overall a little hokey. Japanese horror films have a special kind of scare factor that really make them different. Simply setting a horror movie in Japan, even in somewhere so emotive as Aokigahara Forest, doesn't constitute a scary film.

Although, this girl I liked. She was my favourite thing about the film, really.
[Image: Lava Bear Productions, et al]

Cabin Fever (2016)

"Cabin Fever" (2016, Travis Z, Armory Films, Contend, Pelican Point Media, IFC Midnight) is the remake of Eli Roth's movie of the same name and premise from 2002. Roth produced this remake, but it still doesn't really explain why it was made...

A group of fairly unlikeable young people go up to stay at a secluded cabin in the woods to party. The kids are soon exposed to, and eaten quickly alive by, a flesh eating virus which pretty much ruins their plans.

Z used a slightly modified version of Roth's original script and so the film is almost a direct remake of the original, but without some of Roth's gory humour. Essentially, the film is neither as gruesome nor as good as the original because it takes itself too seriously. The characters are completely disposable because they're just pretty horrible people and the locals are equally so. Deputy Winston, this time a female portrayed by Louise Linton, was a fairly inspiring deviation from the original and took that specific element in a new direction, but essentially the film as a whole is serviceable but fairly forgettable. I just can't fully fathom why they decided to make this remake in the first place!

[Armory Films, et al]