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]

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]

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]

Monday, 17 October 2016


"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]

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


"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.

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.

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.

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]

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]

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]