Monday, 9 October 2017

The Stepford Wives

"The Stepford Wives" (1975, Bryan Forbes, Palomar Pictures, Columbia Pictures) is a science fiction horror film based on a novel by Ira Levin.


Aspiring photographer, Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross), and her husband, Walter (Peter Masterson), have just moved from the bustling streets of New York City to the quiet, homely suburb of Stepford.


Joanna finds life in Stepford dull and isolating. All the other women are perfect housewives who's interests seem limited to looking perfect and household chores, all the men are members of a secretive local men's club and spend all of their time split between the club and work. Walter quickly settles into life in Stepford, joining the club.


She finds two other women who are also new to the area; tennis playing Charmaine (Tina Louise) and messy Bobbie (Paula Prentiss). Like her, they have other interests and personalities than housework and pleasing their husbands. However, to Bobbie and Joanna's dismay, Charmaine mysteriously changes overnight and becomes a housework obsessed wife, even going as far as to have her beloved tennis court removed. Worried that they may be simply paranoid, the two remaining women begin to uncover some clues.


During their investigations into the strange behaviour of the other women in the area, they uncover some very disturbing things and realise that they too might be in danger of becoming... a Stepford Wife.


A fun, but chilling concept. The film is very of its time, and suffers from being a little too slow-burning in the build up. The wives are all perfectly, surreally creepy; especially Carol van Sant (Nanette Newman) who's unnatural reactions are the first trigger warning for Joanna.


The settings are all very cheerful and colourful; a perfect contrast the what is going on under the surface and a sure inspiration for other following horrors and homages set in the suburbs.

Although slow starting and a little leisurely, the film enjoys an exciting climax on a stormy night and boasts some nicely chilling scenes with the Wife characters. It delivers a strange and unsupporting message on the suburban "dream" and makes a commentary on the value of marriage.

[Image: Columbia Pictures]
Hani 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Cult of Chucky

"Cult of Chucky" (2017, Don Mancini, Universal 1440 Entertainment) is the seventh Chucky film and a direct sequel to 2013's "Curse of Chucky".


This time we get to meet up with Andy (Alex Vincent) again. He's all grown up and making extremely strange life choices... like living in what looks like Grandpa's house from "The Lost Boys" and keeping the still-animated severed head of his childhood trauma, Chucky (voiced so iconically by Brad Dourif), around for torturing. No wonder he's single, really.


We then catch up with our pal from the last movie, Nica (Fiona Dourif), who wound up taking the blame for all of Chucky's murders in the last film and has found herself incarcerated in a home for the criminally insane. When a new therapy technique with Good Guy dolls is introduced, more Chucky mayhem unfolds as the wisecracking mad-doll begins his usual rampage.


The film has some really good points. Brad Dourif, as usual, being one. He always gleefully takes the role of Chucky on. It's hard not to enjoy it. The doll is also very well animated and looks pretty organic without losing that nice 80s vibe that makes Chucky such a fun franchise. Another good point is, of course, having Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), around a bit more. She deserves more screen time.


The film has a B-movie feel about it. From the weird, awkward silences, the strange unnatural acting and all round scripting of it, it's pretty apparent that this is on purpose. However, it was maybe too successful and lost some of the atmosphere and more satisfying jumps that were garnered in "Curse of Chucky". Nica's character is also a bit underutilised until past the halfway mark making her feel less like a protagonist and more of a plot device.


There are hidden jokes and nods to both previous entrants of the Chucky franchise and other projects of the cast and crew. It's a pretty self-aware piece, clearly made for fans. The film enjoys taking the already batshit premise and antics of Chucky and not only slabbering them on with gusto, but also adding to the lore and creating a premise for new opportunities for the murderous duo.


It is more cheesy than Curse, less fun than Bride and gives a sprinkling of cartoon-style gore.




[Image: Universal 1440 Entertainment, et al]
Hani

Friday, 22 September 2017

The Houses October Built

"The Houses October Built" (2014, Bobby Roe, Room 101, Foreboding Films, Image Entertainment, RLJ Entertainment) is a found footage horror set at Halloween.


The film opens at the end. I imagine to whet your appetite and rev you up for the movie, but for me it just robbed a bit of the mystery out of the experience.


Flash forward to introduce us to a group of pals from Ohio setting out on their road trip around the American South's scariest and most extreme Haunted House attractions. They plan to film their experience as a documentary and uncover the darker side of the 'harmless' fun of thrill-seeking.


They start out with the more mainstream Haunts, introducing us to the characters and letting us see some of the attractions. But their ultimate goal is to find a legendary and exclusive extreme haunt called "Blue Skeleton", which is said to utilise actual torture techniques for a more realistic experience.


Throughout their journey they encounter natural resistance from Haunt staff to divulge their trade secrets or oust their employers' more sinister tricks. They're chased, threatened and thrown out a fair few times. Additionally, they get to hear some more disturbing tales from less coy staff.


Finally, they catch wind of the elusive Blue Skeleton and, with some difficulty, are able to gain entry to the Haunt. However, once inside, will they live to tell the tale?


A directional debut from Roe who also plays one of the main characters, he has brought together a cast which interacts fairly well on screen. However, the film suffers from a bit of a lack of strong pacing and a few conflicts of style. The characters start out making a documentary, but this theme doesn't seem to continue much throughout the film and it winds up just a stream of clips. I get it, they haven't edited it yet (and maybe won't ever get around to it) but you'd think they would have filmed a few more documentary-style scenes and interviews than are shown.


The film premise is pretty good with plenty of footage of the haunts themselves, but there's very little action throughout most of the movie and then, when stuff does start to pick up, it's over really quickly without any explanation and not enough mystique to make it a satisfying mystery. The movie ends with the only explanation being "*shrug* just 'cause".


I'm not a huge found footage fan, and when I do find a FF film that I like, it invariably has some wraparound or a few scenes of traditional filming to bolster out the shaky cam (see my thoughts on 2016's "Hell House LLC"). One of my main issues with "The Houses October Built" was that its reliance solely on 'unedited' found footage reels, made it noisy and disjointed to watch. And it's never really explained how we're watching it. Have the Blue Skeleton staff sold the videos on? Are we watching it over their shoulder/through their eyes? Was this even the Blue Skeleton?


Although, for a debut it's a fairly solid Found Footage entry and, if you like haunted houses, there's a few good scenes.


[Image: Foreboding Films, et al]
Hani

Monday, 11 September 2017

IT (2017)

"IT" aka "IT: Chapter One" (2017, Andy Muschietti, New Line Cinema, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, KatzSmith Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures) is based on Stephen King's amazing novel of the same name.

On a stormy day, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) gives his little brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), a sailboat made of paper to play with outside. But, when innocent little Georgie's sailboat floats down a storm drain, he makes the acquaintance of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård) and meets a gruesome end. For Bill and his band of misfit friends, however, it is just the beginning as he tries to find out what happened to his baby brother, and they are all taunted by IT...

What a thrilling experience it was to see a horror film in a cinema and actually get a few scares! I had been apprehensive as Tim Curry's rendition of Pennywise is so iconic that I couldn't imagine anyone else in the role, but Skarsgård has really made this version of the clown creature his own. Not only is he bitter-sweet, off-balanced and straight up freaky, but he's also so well designed. The clown is just different enough to mark this character as a whole new imagining.

The film stays pretty close to King's masterpiece, and although obviously not every plot point could be squeezed into the run time, I didn't feel that it was rushed or lost any of the pacing. Of course, we still have the next part of the book to cover, and, having now seen the first instalment, I have high hopes for the second battle.

The 80s vibe and styling is excellently achieved. From the clothing to the background advertising, it feels very authentic. I'm really enjoying the 80s love at the moment.

The Losers Club are perfect. All the actors give such a great, realistic performance and bring the roles to life. I can only hope their adult counterparts in the next movie can continue with such style. The characters in this story have such horrid background stories and face some traumatic situations and the movie does well to lighten the tone with some humour now and again. This also just makes the darker scenes all the more cutting.

Aside from leading man, Bill, who gives a fantastic performance and holds the club together, we are joined by Bev (Sophia Lillis); lone girl of the group who, as well as being bullied relentlessly at school also has a traumatic and horrifying home life. Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor); love sick, overweight romantic who is also the new kid at school. Richie (Finn Wolfhard); a motormouth who masks his own personal demons with humour and crassness. He's also a face you'll recognise from "Stranger Things" (and he really proves his mettle with a quite radically different and equally iconic character). Stan (Wyatt Olef); a quiet, smart Jewish kid who manages to get a good few quips in when Richie takes a breath. His father is the local Rabbi and he feels under pressure to make him proud. Mike (Chosen Jacobs); a home-schooled kid raised by his grandfather after his parents met a grissly end. He doesn't want to be an outsider, but equally he isn't sure if he wants to join the others when he knows what he's let himself in for. And, Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer); a hypochondriac fuelled by his mother's blatant Munchhausen's by-proxy.

Keeping the Losers Club terrified even before Pennywise awakens, we have the local gang of bullies, led by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), son of a local cop who constantly belittles him, Henry feels like he has to terrorise others to make himself feel more like a man.

While Skarsgård's Pennywise does a fair bit more chatting that Tim Curry's did, the film benefits from taking more from the book and enjoys some truly disturbing images. The scares are frequent, quick paced and effective and the plot moves along smoothly.

All in all, it was my most satisfying cinema trip in some time!

[Image: Warner Bros. Pictures, et al]
Hani

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Death Note

"Death Note" (2017, Adam Wingard, LP Entertainment, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Netflix) is an American horror film based on the Japanese Manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.

Light Turner (Nat Wolff) is a high school student. He's not popular, he's not athletic and he makes cash on the side through doing others' homework. When Light comes across a mysterious notebook and meets the sinister Ryuk (Willem Dafoe), a demonic death god, his life begins to change. Quickly unlocking the secrets of the notebook's power: to kill any individual properly targeted using the book, Light finds a kindred spirit in his crush, Mia (Margaret Qualley), and also attracts the unwanted attention of L (Lakeith Stanfield) , an FBI agent seeking to halt their murderous spree.

Although Light's original intentions may have been good, things become complicated and messy as time progresses and he becomes suspicious that Ryuk may not be on his side after all. The overall taking from this film is the old adage: 'power corrupts'.

The film offers some good qualities: Dafoe's performance as the creepy and charming Ryuk is very effective, and the aesthetics of the film are nicely put together. However, the film attempts to pack so much in to the run time that it feels slightly unfinished and focuses perhaps too much attention on the puppy-love aspect of the sub-plot as opposed to mysteries of the notebook or of Ryuk. The ending is also convoluted and felt unhinged from the rest of the film.

I've learned that as well as removing the story from Japan to suit a more Western audience, the film has made other changes to the plot and characters as to make this version very different from the base material. I am not much of a Manga reader, but I feel intrigued now to search "Death Note" out and give it a whirl, if anything to understand the base material more and perhaps seek a better appreciation for this interesting story.

[Image: Netflix]
Hani

Monday, 14 August 2017

Death Spa

"Death Spa" aka "Witch Bitch"  (1989, Michael Fischa) is a campy 80s film about a haunted gym.

It's the late 80s and everyone is into lycra and leg warmers. We open onto the parking lot of the Starbody Health Spa. It's a stormy night, and the neon sign suddenly falters, losing the letters s,t,a,r,b,o,y,h and l. Cunningly leaving our movie title lit up in the rain. And that, my friends, is where all the cunning behind this picture ends.

"Death Spa" is a ridiculous romp through a haunted health club, chalk full of sweaty beautiful people in colourful workout outfits, gratuitous nude scenes, extremely 80s dance workouts and terrible dialogue. Oh, and it's set at Halloween. It's great and also a bit crap at the same time!

Michael Evans (William Bumiller) owns and operates the Starbody Health Spa. A recent widower after his wife committed suicide, Michael is back on the dating game. When some of his clients, including his new squeeze, are suddenly (and often fatally) attacked by his gym equipment, Michael begins to suspect that his late wife is haunting his gym!

Although slow in places and suffering from serious pacing issues, the film benefits from some fun, low budget effects and hilarious gore. It really is a great candidate for a so-bad-so-good cheesy movie night and definitely one for the low budget horror aficionados out there looking for something a little different to your usual haunted house flick! Just don't go in with any high expectations.
Hani

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Knock Knock

"Knock Knock" (2015, Eli Roth, Camp Grey, Dragonfly Entertainment, Sobras International Pictures) is a home invasion thriller.

Evan (Keanu Reeves) and Karen (Ignacia Allamand) are happily married with kids, a dog and an idyllic home. When Karen and the kids go away for the weekend, Evan stays at home to work but his night is interrupted when two young women (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas) come to the door in the pouring rain looking for a house party. Evan tries to call them a taxi but the girls proceed to make themselves comfortable before the cab gets there... and what started as him helping them out becomes a potentially life ruining game of seduction and violence...

An interesting premise that became a little repetitive as the film went on. It is essentially one big cautionary tale: On one hand, that women can be predatory too and that it's pretty easy to ruin your life in one easy step.

The characters aren't developed in Roth's usual style, although the film differs vastly in style and genre from Roth's previous films so much that it's not really worth comparing. Reeve's misguided and somewhat naive character is set up from the start with a few scenes portraying his loving family man side and his sexually frustrated side. It's disappointing, but not surprising when he gives in to the two promiscuous ladies cavorting around his home. The devious vixens themselves are not as well rounded as characters and go from victims to cackling, comic villains pretty quickly with not as much build up as I anticipated.

There are one or two fun scenes, but the more torture-orientated scenes seemed satirical and the film in general would have benefited greatly from either delving more deeply into the implications brought up or by maintaining the satiric humour throughout.

A lot of people have expressed disappointment in the end of this film, but I thought this was probably the scariest part of the movie. All in all, the film had some weak points, but overall it was an interesting 99 minutes.

[Image: Camp Grey, et al]
Hani

Monday, 7 August 2017

Wish Upon

"Wish Upon" (2017, John R. Leonetti, Busted Shark Productions) is about the danger of getting what you wish for.

Clare (Joey King) was scarred as a child, finding her mother's body shortly after her suicide. As a teen she has become an outcast, with only a few close friends. When her father (Ryan Phillippe) presents her with a Chinese music box, which he found whilst dumpster diving, Clare is able to recognise one part of the inscription on the side which states "Seven Wishes". As a joke, she wishes for something awful to happen to her school bully and when the event transpires Clare begins to run with it, wishing willy nilly for everything she desires. If only she could work out the rest of the enscription, she might not be so keen...

An overdone premise that could have been a lot of fun, but failed to be either scary nor campy enough to salvage the film. From the trailers I had went in open minded, and hoping for some "Scream"-style teen horror fun mixed with "Wishmaster" and "Bad Girls from Valley High". But unfortunately the delivered material was pretty tame and not too clever. Most of the supporting characters were underutilised and, although King gives a good performance, her protagonist doesn't garner much viewer sympathy because of her actions.

All in all, it is an adequate starter movie for budding young horror fans to cut their teeth on, but it's certainly not the best example of a teen horror out there.

[Image: Busted Shark Productions]
Hani

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Heidi

"Heidi" (2014, Daniel Ray, Neon Mirage, Wild Eye Releasing) is a found footage film about a haunted doll.

Two teenage YouTube pranksters find a doll in an old lady's attic and are then plagued by creepy happenings.

A found footage film which draws upon some elements of Chucky and other killer doll horrors. The idea is pretty good but the execution is mixed. But it's a low budget film, so I am inclined to be more forgiving. The build up, for instance, is pretty long winded and some of the supporting characters are not as well rounded as others, however, the main characters are pretty relatable and some of the scenes with the doll moving are pretty fun. The dolls scenes are made more effective by what they don't show. The film overall benefits from doing more with less.

At only 90 minutes the film isn't overly long, however there are scenes which felt a little drawn out. The main character also doesn't seem to get really freaked out until quite late on in the film resulting in a lot of late gore scenes. The film also goes over the same ground a few times with the doll coming back after being destroyed or disposed of over and over again. This did eventually become a little tedious.

"Heidi" has some good points, but overall loses its way and becomes a little unfocused towards the end.

[Image: Neon Mirage, et al]
Hani

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Mummy (2017)

"The Mummy" (2017,  Alex Kurtzman, Universal Pictures, Perfect World Pictures, K/O Paper Products, Sean Daniel Company) is the modern take on the infamous Egyptian-themed monster movie.

"The Mummy" 2017 is also what happens when mainstream Hollywood does "horror". Even with the historical links of Universal Pictures and horror, this movie fails to deliver either a fun, campy monster movie or any kind of scares. It sits in a chasm, lost in its confusing plot and satisfies neither the horror aficionado nor the intrigued, average cinema goer.

Nick (Tom Cruise) is a soldier serving in Iraq. He and his pal, Chris (Jake Johnson), happen across a buried Egyptian tomb. With the help of archaeologist, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) and their other army friends, they accidentally set free the vengeful mummified corpse of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Nick finds himself cursed by the Princess who is determined to reclaim her throne under the blessing of the God Set (Javier Botet). Oh, and for some reason Russell Crowe is Dr. Henry Jekyll because... reasons.

The movie's aesthetics are great. Boutella's mummy is beautiful and ambitious. The effects on her eyes are particularly cool and she gives a good performance. Unfortunately, the character is neither scary nor gross so her antagonist loses some effect.

Tom Cruise's character is pretty generic but I enjoyed his overall performance as a roguish asshole. However, the ridiculous plot robs Nick of any relatability and things quickly dissolve into action flick madness with little substance.

For me the best character was probably Chris who plays a small homage, in part, to Jack from "An American Werewolf in London" and gets in most of the best lines in the film.

All in all there was just so much going on which gave the film an overall feeling of being directionless. The inclusion of other franchise's characters *cough* Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde seem tacked on and pointless and the film lacked the gruesome qualities of the Brendan Fraser era Mummy films or the classic eeriness of the Boris Karloff Universal movies. The plot seemed stuck in a limbo where we weren't sure what kind of movie this was trying to be.

All in all too much of a weak mish-mash to consider a successful remake. But some of it was pretty to look at.

[Image: Universal Pictures, et al]
Hani

Friday, 30 June 2017

Hell House LLC

"Hell House LLC" (2016, Stephen Cognetti, Cognetti Films) is a found footage mock-umentary film set in a Halloween haunt.

The film circulates around a film crew trying to unravel the mystery of a tragedy which struck a haunted house in an abandoned hotel. Although authorities reported a 'malfunction' as the cause of the panic, survivor footage and accounts have made it seem like something more sinister happened. When someone steps forward as a witness who was involved in the tragedy, along with a lot of new, unseen footage, the crew think they might be on the verge of a breakthrough. We follow the story of the group of haunters setting up shop in the small town just outside of New York city and see first hand the events as they unfolded.

I'm not the biggest fan of found footage as a rule. The jumpy camera style gives me motion sickness and often the acting is unnatural and distracting. But, "Hell House LLC" manages to be dark, entertaining and filled with effective jump scares. The camera motions are very typical of a found-footage flick, but the effective screen cutting, styling and overall storytelling keep the viewer engaged and stop it from becoming boring.

The characters are well evolved and a good sense of camaraderie (and even arguments) is built up effectively. The jump scares are pretty by-the-book, but are well paced and nicely shot.

The film delivers an effective scare fest that creates a great Halloween party atmosphere. And while the plot isn't exactly breaking any new ground, it does inject the jump-scare, found footage genre with a fun, atmospheric entry.

[Image: Cognetti Films]
Hani

Friday, 23 June 2017

Silently Within Your Shadow

"Silently Within Your Shadow" (2015, Scott Lyus, Crossroad Pictures) is a short horror from the creator/director of "The Order of the Ram" (2013). Having picked up a couple of awards and completing many festivals, it is currently available to view on Amazon.

Lucette (Sophie Tergeist) is a budding ventriloquist. Her boyfriend, Jace (Byron Fernandes), is jealous of Lucette's close relationship (see "obsession") with her dummy, Hugo (voiced by Bill Moseley). He feels that they're trapped in a strange love triangle where the dummy is always present. His protests are not heard, however, as Lucette says simply that Hugo does not like to be alone....

As things progress, more than Jace and Lucette's relationship becomes strained. And Hugo begins to make his presence known.

A fun short of around 15 minutes run time. Whilst the premise isn't hugely innovative, the film really earns credit due to some smooth editing and by not overusing the puppet prop too much. He's utilised just enough to make him creepy and Bill Moseley gives him an excellent chilling edge.

The story is built up in a good, timely manner with enough dialogue to understand the characters and plot without going overboard and becoming too bogged down in monologue scenes. The stage scenes are particularly well shot considering the budget.

A very 'indie' style film, but with some nice character to it and some fun, bloody pay off within also.

[Image: Crossroad Pictures]
Hani

Monday, 12 June 2017

Dig Two Graves

"Dig Two Graves" (2017, Hunter Adams) is a tale of loss of innocence and revenge.

Jake (Samantha Isler) is obsessed with the death of her elder brother. One day she is offered a chance to bring him back, but at a terrible cost. Her grandfather, Sheriff Waterhouse (Ted Levine), tries to make up for his own terrible choices, but can he help Jake in time or will she make her own way?

An intriguing premise with some interesting characters and substantial core acting, but a slow, meandering plot that didn't keep my interest. Some of the cinematography is striking and the themes of the loss of childhood innocence and the dangers of obsession and revenge are strong. Although the film explores some dark themes, including power, rape and murder, the styling of the film and its pace rob it of some of its more shocking strength.

All in all, not a terrible film by any stretch, but the artistic choices make it seem like nothing of note really happens and everything seemed a bit muddy.

Hani

Monday, 5 June 2017

Vampira

"Vampira" (aka "Old Dracula", 1974, Clive Donner, Columbia-Warner, American International Pictures) is a horror comedy about everyone's favourite vampire Count.

Count Dracula (David Niven) is getting old. In order to survive, he has began hosting tours of his castle where he can feast on curious tourists. When a group of beautiful, young Playboy girls stay at the castle, Dracula sees an opportunity to attempt to revive his lover, Vampira. One of the Playmates was a black lady (Minah Bird) and so, naturally, the Countess comes back as the beautiful Teresa Graves. While the Count hunts down more blood for the Countess with the help of a photographer called Marc (Nicky Henson), the Countess goes out on the town, enjoying the sights and sounds of the 70s.

A rather silly flick in both plot and acting. It's certainly not one of David Niven's best films by a long shot, but he brings the Count to life in his usual gleeful, gentlemanly style. Teresa Graves plays the proper Countess letting loose with her new persona and her new modern time in a fun and flamboyant way.

The premise is a little controversial, and the film is full of awkward comments, but on the whole the film is pretty innocent and mildly entertaining. From the comedy vampire bites to the vampire disco it's very of-its-time.

[Image: Columbia-Warner, et al]
Hani

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Last Witch Hunter

"The Last Witch Hunter" (2015, Breck Eisner, Atmosphere Productions, One Race Films, Goldmann Pictures, Summit Entertainment) is a horror-fantasy action thriller set in New York City.

Kaulder (Vin Diesel) vanquished the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) over 800 years ago when her Black Plague took his family, friends and countrymen. Before her demise, however, the creepy queen bestowed upon Kaulder the curse of eternal life.

In modern day we find Kaulder is still hunting and stopping witches from causing havoc under the orders of the Axe and Cross organisation. Often, however, he does not kill the witches, finding that they are sometimes young and unable to control their powers. In some instances, however, offending witch criminals are arrested or executed at his hand. He is helped in his task by a priest known as "Dolan". His current Dolan is number 36 (Michael Caine), although a new, younger Dolan is prepped ready to take over as number 37 (Elijah Wood).

When Dolan the 36th is harmed, Kaulder goes on the hunt for the perpetrator with the help of a young witch called Chloe (Rose Leslie). However, the deeper Kaulder gets in on the mystery, the more he fears that the dark, forgotten powers of the Queen are rising...

A silly, hokey, dark action fantasy film that plays through almost like a film version of someone's D&D campaign read-through. Whilst it's entertaining enough, it does suffer from some slow scenes and a few side plots that don't add much to the overall story. The effects are fun, though, and our Witch Queen is a much better realised character than, but somewhat similar to the concept of Enchantress from "Suicide Squad".

Hani

Monday, 15 May 2017

A Dark Song

"A Dark Song" (2016, Liam Gavin, IFC Midnight) is an indy horror from Ireland centred around the Occult.

Sophia (Catherine Walker) is a grieving mother who goes to an isolated house in the Welsh countryside with occultist, Joseph (Steve Oram), in order to perform a series of rituals to summon her guardian angel and speak with her deceased, 7-year old child. However, any slip can lead to the ritual going awry, with possible deadly results.

A slow, quiet movie with a really effective soundtrack and a stylistic storytelling method that doesn't particularly grab you by the shoulders, but does build up ominously. The black magic rituals have an element of realism to them that make the scenes effective. The magic is hard, and dirty and gross. The pretty stuff is simple and limited and the things on the other side are not friendly.

The gritty realism of the occult elements really play well with the disharmonious relationship between the determined, desperate woman and her reluctant, angry, world-weary spiritual guide. Sophie's inexperience and desperate resolution goes up against Joseph's seen-it-all-and-sick-of-it attitude, and his brash rudeness towards her drives her to fight against him, making the already gruelling process worse.

The quiet, desolate story telling style is effective, but it does make the experience of the film quite slow-going. While there were parts where I was on the edge of my seat, there were certainly sparse areas where I was just waiting on something moving the plot forward.

An altogether gloomy piece with a haunting impact. Innovative, if a little slow to get started.

[Image: IFC Midnight]
 
Hani 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Belko Experiment

"The Belko Experiment" (2016, Greg McLean, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, The Safran Company, Troll Court Entertainment, Orion Pictures, BH Tilt) is a horror movie along the lines of "Battle Royale".

Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) works at Belko Industries; a non-profit of no explained purpose based in Columbia. He and his colleagues (including girlfriend, Leandra (Adria Arjona) and boss, Barry (Tony Goldwyn)) come in to work to find new, heightened security. This isn't the only strange thing to happen that day... With shifty security, a limited, non-local skeleton staff only being allowed entry and a strange voice over the loudspeaker giving terrifying orders, it looks like things might get violent. And, spoiler alert: they do. Really violent.

An intense, savage romp that remains entertaining, but doesn't cover any new ground. The story is not the most innovative, but the action keeps moving and the characters remain three dimensional. The casting is good; especially Wendell (John C. McGinley) who makes an excellent creep and an equally effective office-politics Goebbels.

While I think the creators intended the film to have some deep meaning about office life, human survival and faceless corporations it kind of gets lost in the gory, gory, gorefest that is most of this film. A slimy, bloody, B-movie massacre, but not as cerebral as I had anticipated.

[Image: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, et al]

Hani

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Get Out

"Get Out" (2017, Jordan Peele, Blumhouse Productions, QC Entertainment, Monkeypaw Productions, Universal Pictures) is a horror that explores themes of racism through the context of an interracial couple hitting the 'meet the parents' milestone of their relationship.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) head out to Rose's family home to introduce Chris to her parents. Chris is apprehensive about meeting Rose's parents because she has told him he is her first African-American boyfriend and he's not sure how her Caucasian family will react to him. Rose assures him that her folks are not racist and that they'll just be glad to meet him.

Upon arriving this does seem to be the case, although as the day goes on her parents make some awkward 'well intended' remarks that begin to make Chris uncomfortable. However, it is the black people he encounters that strike him as 'wrong' somehow, but he can't quite place why. As the visit becomes overlong, the couple are dragged into an odd family gathering and Rose's mother also offers to cure Chris' smoking addiction with hypnosis...

Things become slowly more and more unsettling and Chris becomes aware that this friendly, suburban setting may not be as safe as it first appeared...

A fantastically paced film that balances its social statement with good scripting, humour and character development. The acting is spot on with a strong lead from Kauuya who's both confused, but strong and an excellent antagonist in Rose's father (Bradley Whitford). The unsettling build up really makes the twists and turns effective and keep them from being hokey or too obvious. The film isn't just about blatant racism; it explores that smiling-cat, quasi-jealous, self-congratulatory kind of racism that is prevalent all over.

A really striking film that's definitely worth a try. The horror elements are more tailored to a chilling thriller than a straight up fright fest, but the true horror is in the message being portrayed.


[Image: Universal Pictures, et al]

Hani

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Institute

"The Institute" (2017, James Franco, Pamela Romanowsky, Jeff Rice Films, Redwire Pictures, Campbell Grobman Films, Dark Rabbit Productions) is a period horror set in The Rosewood Institute; a real life place in Baltimore which was closed in the 90s.

A grief stricken well-to-do girl called Isobel (Allie Galerani) checks herself into the institute in order to get over her parents' death. She is subjected to torturous "treatments" at the hands of Dr. Cairn (James Franco) and his staff.

A dull and arduous movie that takes a long time to get going and then doesn't deliver anything worthwhile. The acting is tedious and the plot is over-trodden tropes that have been done better elsewhere. The story waivers between wanting to be psychological and wanting to be supernatural and the draw for our leading lady to wish to stay at the institute is very weak.The horror elements fall straight into the sexploitation category and don't manage to make much more of it than re-tread ground already done rather effectively in the 60s and 70s.

All in all the only thing I enjoyed about this film was the slide at the end of the credits where I learned that Rosewood was a real place and that led me down a short rabbit hole about the place's history. And guess what, it was nowhere near as interesting as the film hinted at.

[Image: Dark Rabbit Productions, et al]

Hani

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Bye Bye Man

"The Bye Bye Man" (2017, Stacy Title, Huayi Brothers Pictures, Intrepid Pictures, Log Angeles Media Fund, STX Entertainment) is a supernatural horror set in a house rented by some American college students.

The film enjoys an exciting and brutal opening where a man toting a shotgun goes around slaughtering his neighbours whilst repeating "Don't think it. Don't say it" and demanding to know if his victims have said "his name". We then shift to present day where three students, Elliot (Douglas Smith), John (Lucien Laviscount) and Sasha (Cressida Bonas), are moving into the house where most of the murders took place 40-odd years ago. The group find all the furniture in the basement (this scene felt like it was going to take a "Cabin in the Woods" turn) including a bedside table with writing scratched into it saying "Bye Bye Man". The table also keeps producing weird old coins.

The group have a party which results in a seance where they basically blurt out the boogeyman's name, releasing him upon themselves. We then spend the rest of the movie watching the group try not to murder each other, while being pursued by the dark, mysterious figure.

There's a whole lot of hate in internet-land for this movie, and I don't feel it deserves it completely. The acting is fine, the characters are developed enough and the setting is spot on.

There's a somewhat weak cop plot line involving Carrie-Anne Moss which could have been more effective, but all in all the movie is just your average, unimaginative teen horror fodder. And that's OK! Movies age, and as an ex-teen horror fiend myself, having more up to date teen horror movies helped introduce me to the genre and then the classics (where I learned that there is much more to horror than a Scream mask). The genre needs these light, silly horrors as much as it needs challenging, mind bending ground-breakers. And, in comparison to some other horrors I've sat through recently, "The Bye Bye Man" is far from the worst. There are a few effective scenes with tiny doors, shadows and dressing gowns (although that last one gets seriously overused). I'd say the effects are familiar and tropey, but have a kind of safe, fun jump-scare charm. Like a horror film with training wheels.

Now, that's not to say it's not got some glaringly obvious flaws. The first, of course, is the title. It's awful. I'm sure they were going for "nursery rhyme horror chic", but what we ended up with is just a crap title for a bad guy. Which leads me on to the Bye Bye Man himself; this character is portrayed by the great Doug Jones. Jones is someone you'll recognise from Hellboy, Buffy, Pan's Labyrinth, Hocus Pocus (to name but a few) and he's a talented, respected character and creature actor. The real tragedy is that he was not utilised nearly enough in "The Bye Bye Man". The character design is dull and tropey and we barely get to see Jones actually do anything in this film. So many missed opportunities!

All in all, this movie does not deserve the ribbing it's getting. It's a bit of a cheesy, throwaway modern horror film that will end up in the 'sleepover horror' box, but it's certainly not the worst attempt I've seen even this year.

[Image: Intrepid Pictures, et al]
Hani

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Eyes of my Mother

"The Eyes of my Mother" (2016, Nicolas Pesce, Borderline Presents, Tandem Pictures, Magnet Releasing) is a black and white horror drama about trauma.

Francisca's mother (Diana Agostini), an ex-surgeon from Portugal, teaches the young girl (Olivia Bond) about anatomy. One day, a creepy stranger (Will Brill) asks to use the family's bathroom. Against her instincts, Francisca's mother lets the man into the house, where he brutally murders her. Francisca's father (Paul Nazak) comes home and beats the murderer bloody before dumping him in the barn - An event that the murderous intruder will live to deeply regret. Francisca (Kika Magalhães) grows into a disturbed young woman, with an unusual fascination with death...

A slow burning film punctuated with disturbing scenes of suggested  mutilation and gruesome ideas. Francisca is a lonely girl, who's young experiences with horror have left her broken and unfeeling. There's a lot of unsettling content in this film.

Despite this and despite Magalhães' engaging performance as the main role, the film does suffer from being so slow and quiet, however, its bat-shit, mental content makes up for this in abundance. A truly awful vision.

[Image: Magnet Releasing, et al}
Hani 

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Void (2016)

"The Void" (2016, Steven Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie, Cave Painting Pictures, Astron-6) is a Canadian monster movie set in a small town's hospital at night.

We open to an exciting and horrific scene where a man called James (Evan Stern) flees a house while two other men, Vincent (Daniel Fathers) and Simon (Mik Byskov), kill a screaming woman. James is later found by local Deputy, Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole), who takes him to the nearby hospital.

James turns hysterical upon entering the hospital and is sedated by Dr. Powell (Kenneth Welsh). Soon Vincent and Simon appear hunting James. They are closely followed by a Marshall (Art Hindle) and a group of strangely garbed cultists brandishing knives. Aside from being surrounded by creepy, hooded figures, the group are terrified to find that some of them are becoming less than human...

I really wanted to like this movie. The marketing had made it look like an updated answer to Carpenter's "The Thing", but unfortunately, the reality was nowhere near as comprehensive.

The initial build up is excellent: dark, atmospheric and brutal. There's enough going on to get you involved as a viewer, and the characters have just enough screen time to establish their personalities before the real horror begins. The effects are really fun and the action moves... Until it doesn't.

Around the third-way mark we move away from Carpenter and into Clive Barker terrirtory where the plot takes a sudden "Hellraiser"-esque turn and things become bogged down in trying to be artistic and weird instead of scary and weird. Although there is an enveloping theme established, it felt like there had been two concepts and the directors decided to try merging both with disjointed results.

While I commend the technical aspects of the film and the creatures, the story-telling really let it down and we ended up with a muddy, bloody mess that isn't sure if it wants to be a Lovecraftian epic or a gritty, 80s gorefest. With a bit more of a decisive direction, however, the Astron-6 guys will undoubtedly bring us some really great stuff.


[Image: Cave Painting Pictures]
 
Hani

Sunday, 9 April 2017

House IV

"House IV" (1992, Lewis Abernathy, New Line Cinema) is the third sequel to 1986's "House"... Kind of. Although it sees the return of lead character, Roger Cobb (William Katt), to the houseit has very little to do with any of the original films, not even the humorously irreverent "House 2". And I know, I know, "House III" is not really a true sequel à la "Halloween 3: Season of the Witch".

Roger Cobb has a new family now. He, his wife, Kelly (Terri Treas), and their daughter, Laurel (Melissa Clayton), have moved into the Cobb house. You know, the house that attacked Roger in the first film?! Genius move, Roger.

Roger's half brother, Burke (Scott Burkholder), is keen to take the house off of Roger's hands in order to sell it to some gangsters for storing toxic waste, but Roger won't sell. It seems that things will change when Roger and his family suffer a horrific car accident. But Burke will have Kelly to deal with, not to mention the spooky inhabitants of the house itself who are unlikely to like Burke's plan.

A straight-to-VHS film that really feels it. Hokey, silly, and chalk-full of tropes (*cough* bathrooms!). The film is neither funny like the second entry, or scary like the first and the plot just keeps hammering the same things (lone mother being haunted/hounded by evil brother-in-law) over and over again until we reach the finale.

Really a bit of a disappointing end to the series.

[Image: New Line Cinema]
Kelly did not order anchovies on her pizza!
Hani

Thursday, 6 April 2017

A Cure for Wellness

"A Cure for Wellness" (2016, Gore Verbinski, Regency Enterprises, Blind Wink Productions, New Regency Productions, 20th Century Fox) is a psychological horror set in a luxury spa in the Swiss Alps.

An NYC financial firm sends a keen, young executive called Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) to a secluded spa to retrieve the firm's CEO, Pembroke (Harry Groener), in order to coordinate a merger. They also have some dodgy dealings to pin on someone, and if Pembroke won't be the man to go down, Lockhart will do.

Lockhart arrives at the spa to find that the staff will not let him see Pembroke. During his return to the village to decide what to do, his taxi has a horrific accident and he awakes to find that he has broken his leg and is 'recovering' at the spa himself. As he familiarises himself with his surroundings he becomes suspicious that there is something much more sinister going on than just outlandish treatments. He also meets a young girl called Hannah (Mia Goth), who has lived at the spa all of her life. Lockhart decides to dig deeper, but how long can he resist before he becomes just another of the sinister Dr. Volmer's (Jason Isaacs) patients?

A creepy, slow moving film with some action and a lot of unsettling scenes involving slimy eels. It's a sly plot with some plot-holes which dislodge the viewer slightly, but on the whole an intriguing and gruesomely distasteful concept.

The setting and styling have a familiar, old-fashioned vibe; "The Phantom of the Opera" meets "Dracula" but with a few elements of "Saw" chucked in there. The film is beautifully shot and the more disturbing scenes are truly imaginative and uncomfortable. However, the film felt overall too long, and the dreamlike quality of the storytelling made it feel longer still. There was certainly an element of style over substance, and the ending didn't fit with the rest of the build up and felt hokey and out of place.

Despite its shortcomings, the film is successfully interesting.


[Image: 20th Century Fox, et al]
Hani

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Masque of the Red Death

"Masque of the Red Death" (1964, Roger Corman, Alta Vista Productions) is the film version of Edgar Allan Poe's story of the same name.

Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) terrorises a plague-ridden, medieval Italian village whilst holding lavish parties in his castle home with the local, desperate but disillusioned gentry and a young, red-headed village maiden named Francesca (Jane Asher) whom he is holding captive.

The film boasts a macabre, spiteful and gleefully malicious prince in the form of Vincent Price, but we are also treated to a devious, dwarf court entertainer named Hop-Toad (Skip Martin) who likes his revenge served searing hot, a surprisingly strong female lead and two heroes, Francesca's lover, Gino (David Weston), and her father, Ludovico (Nigel Green). Ever present also, is The Red Death (John Westbrook), for you see death comes in all colours!

The Masque was to be one of Corman's most faithful Poe adaptations, and gladly so as the story is so outlandish and fun that there was little need to change it. The sets, costumes and colours are fabulous and lavish; well suited to the tale.

The gothic surroundings, debauched party atmosphere and the final lesson: that death does not discriminate, come together as a fun and characteristically cheesy horror tale.


[Image: Alta Vista Productions]
Hani

Daughter of Dr Jekyll

"Daughter of Dr Jekyll" (1957, Edgar G. Ulmer, Film Venturers, Allied Artists) is a low-budget, black and white horror.

Janet (Gloria Talbott) returns to her childhood home with her fiancé, George Hastings (John Agar), to celebrate her 21st birthday and to inform her friend and father figure, Dr. Lomas (Arthur Shields), of she and George's engagement. Upon returning, Janet learns that she is actually the daughter of the infamous Dr. Jekyll and she becomes concerned that she may also suffer from her father's monstrous affliction. However, all may not be as it seems!

A slow moving film which takes it's time to get to the point, but once there is quite entertaining. The setting is a big mansion in the woods surrounded by a small town of superstitious people who are quick to start an angry mob; it feels like most other horror films from the era. And although the scripting is a little clunky in places and the fight and transformation scenes do not compare to other, larger budget films of the era, I did enjoy the overall plot-line.

A film about a young girl's struggle for identity, masquerading as a cheesy monster movie. It's the kind of late night cheese-fest that hits the spot on a dark and stormy night.

[Image: Allied Artists]

Hani

Friday, 31 March 2017

Split (2016)

"Split" (2016, M. Night Shyamalan, Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures) is a psychological horror. Not to be confused with either the bowling movie, or the short horror film from 2014 of the same name.

Three teenage girls are kidnapped by a man called Kevin (James McAvoy) who has been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, or split personalities. He has 23 personalities in total. Whilst only some of his personalities actively want to harm the girls, none of them are inclined to help them, fearing rebuke from Dennis; the dominant personality and head kidnapper.

McAvoy delivers such a wealth of talent in this film. Although he is not given opportunity to show all 23 personalities, the ones he does portray on-screen are expertly delivered, very different and so very sinister. It's enough on its own simply to watch him switch between characters and costumes with ease.

The acting from all characters is pretty solid, the main failing for me of this film was the story telling itself. M. Night Shyamalan films can be hit or miss for me. In the main his ideas are excellent concepts, but his twists and turns often feel a little forced and last minute. For me, Split also suffered from this aspect. An excellently quiet, sinister build up suddenly spiralled into a bit of a mess in the pursuit of a twist.

However, overall the film was intriguing enough to engage my attention and the superb acting from McAvoy really keeps you guessing.

[Image: Blumhouse Productions, et al]
Hani

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Kong: Skull Island

"Kong: Skull Island" (2017, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Legendary Pictures, Tencent Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures) is a monster movie about the infamous giant ape, King Kong. It is a reboot of the legendary King Kong franchise. However, this time the story is not a carbon copy of the original, instead re-imagining Kong's origin tale.

A group of scientists and Vietnam war soldiers travel to an uncharted island to face the legendary beast and a host of other gigantic killing machines. Can they make it back off of the island alive?

A glossy blockbuster with lots of explosions, murderous CGI beasties and angry humans. Although the film is undeniably entertaining, it lacks some of the class of the old-time monster movies. There's a subtle hint to Kong's affection for kind-hearted female humans, but without the dramatic, heartbreaking familiar storyline, most of our drama is human-centric. In the main, the action is relatively repetitive and the real hero, Kong himself, actually sees very little screentime.

A blockbuster with a B-movie vibe that should be great, but feels misplaced. However, the success of the creature design bodes well for the impending face-off between Kong and Godzilla.

[Image: Legendary Pictures]
Hani

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again" (2016, Kenny Ortega, Fox 21 Television Studios, Ode Sound & Visuals, The Jackal Group) is the tribute to Richard O'Brien's 1975 cult masterpiece homage to sci-fi cinema, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The bulk of the movie is a scene for scene remake of the original but there's additional wrap-around scenes involving a cinema full of Rocky Horror movie-goers and we get some screen time from The Usherette (Ivy Levan) who was present only in the stage production of the original and not present in the 1975 film. She's a good addition, looking pretty awesome in her kick ass outfit, and keeping the rabble of cinema goers in check... Kind of. The wrap-around plot also brings in some of the traditional audience participation aspects which surround live viewings and stage productions of the cult classic.

We follow Brad Majors (Ryan McCartan) and his new fiancé, Janet Weiss (Victoria Justice), on a road trip which leads them to the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Laverne Cox) when their car breaks down. Upon admission to the castle by the handyman, Riff Raff (Reeve Carney), they discover that the inhabitants of this home are not normal. From Magenta the maid (Christina Milian) to Columbia the groupie (Annaleigh Ashford), everyone is a touch insane and Frank is not keen to let the couple leave. But when they do leave, will they ever feel the same?

As well as the audience wrap-around, which I appreciated, the film does have some good points. Victoria Justice's rendition of Janet is very close to Susan Sarandon's original film version. Her singing style is absolutely pitch perfect. Reeve Carney's rendition of Riff Raff is also very similar to Richard O'Brien's vision - except for that wig! Adam Lambert also does a really good job of playing Eddie, and although his part is short, it was a good few scenes. Ben Vereen also updates the character of Dr. Everett von Scott.

Our title character, Rocky (Staz Nair), looks amazing in his little gold boxers, and Laverne Cox gives an excellent portrayal of Frank-N-Furter with a sexual flare that is both very different to Tim Curry's iconic rendition and also similar in its power. My only main bicker with this character is that I feel that not having stockings and suspenders on kind of takes away from Frank's style.

Having Tim Curry himself play the narrator was also very moving.

Now to the flaws; Mr. Director, Ortega, is from High School Musical fame and you can tell. This feels like a shiny penny of a production and it kind of robs some of the soul away that the original and the stage productions enjoy. It's overly produced and the costumes look like costumes, not what the characters happen to be wearing. Magenta's outfit in particular looked way too pristine. However, I liked her hair!

Having all the songs the same is, of course, a must for Rocky. It's all about the music! But I feel like updating the story to modern day might have been a good twist making this remake seem a little more worthwhile.

All in all, it's not a terrible movie, but it feels like a shiny TV homage more than an update of the classic. I doubt there will be many die hard fans of this version in years to come and it might slink into obscurity.

[Image: Fox Television Studios, et al]
Hani
 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

What ever happened to Baby Jane?

"What ever happened to Baby Jane?" (1962, Robert Aldrich, Seven Arts Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures) is a psychological horror film about two ageing actress sisters. The film is based on a 1960 novel of the same name by Henry Farrell and stars the famously feuding Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

To be honest my sudden compulsion to re-watch this famous flick was inspired by the first part of the episodic docudrama "Feud: Bette and Joan" (2017) starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, which is very entertaining and definitely worth watching!

"Baby" Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) is an ex-child star who, after casting a shadow over her sister's childhood due to her booming stage career, later found that her own adult acting career was then overshadowed by her elder sister, Blanche (Joan Crawford). Having turned to drink to drown her sorrows, Jane is suspected to have caused the car accident which paralysed Blanche.

Years later, it is evident that Jane's mental state is not good, and as sole carer for Blanche she has the power to hold her captive, away from the world. All attempts from outsiders to intervene are halted by an angry and devious Jane and eventually drive her to becoming more and more erratic and dangerous in her attempts to live out her delusional plan of becoming America's sweetheart once again.

A fascinating study on the feelings that lost popularity and fame can have, and on the breakdown in the mind of someone who cannot move on with their lives. Jane's father drove her to stardom, but didn't provide her with any sense of longevity; her career would always end when she grew older. Her jealousy of Blanche is the exact reflection of Blanche's own feelings of jealousy and resentment which she had as the 'unfamous' child.

Both sisters are fabulously portrayed with relish by Davis and Crawford, helped along by their own off-screen dislike for one another. Jane's spiralling mental state and heart-breaking delusion are almost difficult to watch. A particularly chilling scene where she is singing in the mirror and then catches a glimpse of her aged face is really aweing. Blanche's quiet desperation and helplessness builds the sense of dread to match the madness of her sister.

The film enjoys a tense and exciting ending with some revelations and last pieces of both character puzzles falling into place. A genuine classic that will continue to be discovered by new audiences as time goes on.

[Image: Warner Bros. Pictures]
Hani

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Night Watchmen

"The Night Watchmen" (2017, Mitchell Altieri, Contender Films, Indie Entertainment, Studio BOH) is about a vampire outbreak in an office block all started by the miss-delivered corpse of a famous clown....

Ken (Ken Arnold), Jiggetts (Kevin Jiggetts) and Luca (Dan DeLuca) are night security guards for a large office block. They are joined by a new rookie (Max Gray Wilbur) for his first day on the job.

Aside from oogling Karen (Kara Luiz) on the monitors and consistently forgetting to acknowledge Penny (Diona Reasonover), the guys' job seems to pretty much consist of playing cards and eating. That is, until they receive the unusual delivery of a coffin by mistake containing a deceased, famous clown. Unfortunately, the dead clown doesn't stay that way for long and swiftly fills the building with a horde of ferocious vampires!

An epic battle ensues, but can our unlikely heroes actually save the day?

A fun film with a so-bad-it's-good vibe that really hits the mark. The banter between the characters, who were surprisingly well-rounded considering the genre, is entertaining and the action is gory, silly and well paced. The film is a perfect party movie, not overstaying its welcome and containing angry, zombie-esque vampire clowns.

Definitely worth a shot.

[Image: Contender Films, et al]
Hani

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Ghost Ship (2002)

"Ghost Ship" (2002, Steve Beck, Dark Castle Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros.) is a film about a haunted cruise liner.

The opening scene to this film is a really fun bit of carnage. I had seen a short clip of it on You Tube that essentially drove me to hunt down this film. The scene might be a little against the laws of physics, but it's fun regardless.

We follow a salvage crew (Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Marguilles, Isaiah Washington, Ron Eldard, Karl Urban and Alex Dimitriades) on their tug boat as they hunt down a bounty that was brought to their attention by a stranger in a bar (Desmond Harrington). When they come across the abandoned cruise liner in international waters they think their dreams have been answered, especially when they go aboard and find everything left as it was. By maritime law that would mean that it is rightfully theirs. However, they are unnerved to find that there are no traces of people left on board. They find out that the cruise liner disappeared in the 60's and there were no survivors.... Deciding it might be best to leave, the team attempt to escape, but a presence on the ship has other plans for them,,,

A very early 2000s film with a soundtrack seemingly composed entirely of Mudvayne (not a complaint but it felt very odd with the setting). The action is hokey with all the usual haunted house tropes and, aside from the initial scene, the film doesn't offer anything new to the genre. It's difficult to set a period horror in a ballroom without accidentally ripping off The Shining. And Ghost Ship also doesn't manage to avoid this, with several overly reminiscent scenes. But it's not awful. It's silly and a bit predictable, but the characters are more rounded than I anticipated and sometimes a bit of the familiar isn't a negative.

Frankly, I've seen much worse films. At least this one had a few fun scenes and a plot that kept moving. It's not a groundbreaking piece of cinema, but it's definitely a film I would have added to my high school horror collection back in the day.

[Image: Dark Castle Entertainment]
Hani

Monday, 20 February 2017

Shut In

"Shut In" (2016, Farren Blackburn, Transfilm International, Lava Bear Films, Canal+, Ocs, Cine+, Europa Corp) is a psychological thriller.

Mary (Naomi Watts) is a widowed child psychologist who lives and works in her secluded home with her 18 year old stepson, Stephen (Charlie Heaton), who has been left catatonic after the road accident that killed his father. During a snowstorm that renders them trapped in their home, Mary becomes concerned that she's either losing her mind, or that her home is haunted.

A slow burning film. The plot is pretty simple with a couple of twists and turns to try and flesh it out. The setting is effective, but the characters are a little rough and not entirely realistic, with the exception of our protagonist, Mary. Although, I find it difficult to believe a psychologist would miss some of the things that Mary misses...

On the whole, the film is pretty slow to get going and the premise is a little too 'out there' to give the slow build-up much of a payoff. Naomi Watts gives an excellent performance, essentially carrying the movie along, but the film has a hollow feeling that makes it feel a little... off.

[Image: Lava Bear Films, et al]

Hani

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Rings

"Rings" (2017, F. Javier Gutiérrez, Parkes/MacDonald, BenderSpink, Marci/Edelstein, Vertigo Entertainment, Waddieish Claretrap, Paramount Pictures) is the third movie in the American "The Ring" franchise.

Since the happenings of the first two films, Samara (Bonnie Morgan) has taken her haunting ways from the VHS world into the digital world with the help of Gabriel Brown (Johnny Galecki) and his AV club.

This is unfortunate for Julia (Matilda Lutz), who's boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe), is in the AV Club. In her bid to save him from Samara's gruesome curse, she jumps down the rabbit hole of Samara's past, finding more than she anticipated...

A pretty typical horror sequel with some pretty typical horror sequel pitfalls:

Firstly, retreading old ground - why does every Ring movie have to focus on Samara's origin story? We've established that she will stop at nothing, why can't we just enjoy her brutal, endless pursuit of the curious without having to find her motivation?

Secondly, our ghoulish villainess sees so little screen time. One of the best things about "The Ring" is Samara, just as the best thing about the original Japanese version is Sadako. The unsettling movements she makes, the way she pursues her prey... Her overall aesthetic.... the hair. Both antagonists are the stuff of nightmares, and "Rings" barely makes use of her. Sometimes less is more, but it felt like Samara was barely chasing anyone after the first 30 minutes.

There are good points, too, however. There is one good entrance through a face-down TV, however, that I enjoyed. I like Johnny Galecki's morally questionable lecturer character, and the both Julia and Holt were actually pretty likeable.

Not a terrible film, just a little pointless.

[Image: Vertigo Entertainment, et al]

Hani

Friday, 17 February 2017

Twins of Evil

"Twins of Evil" (1971, John Hough, Rank Organisation, Universal Pictures, Hammer Film Productions) is actually the second sequel to "The Vampire Lovers" (1970) and the third film in the Karnstein trilogy, based loosely on "Carmilla" by J. Sheridan Le Fanu.

Identical twins, Maria and Frieda (former Playboy playmates, Mary and Madeleine Collinson respectively) arrive in Karnstein from Venice to live with their uncle, Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), after the death of their parents. They are surprised to find that their uncle is a puritan witch hunter who leads a cult of fanatical witch finders who prey on the town's women, burning them in the name of god. Frieda in particular takes a severe dislike to Gustav and becomes fascinated by Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), who enjoys a risque reputation.

Things become complicated, however, when Frieda becomes more entrenched into the darker side of Count Karnstein, much to her sister's horror.

 A schlocky film from Hammer with some well trodden, but no less fun. tropes and some opportunities for the leading ladies to show flaunt around in pretty period outfits. Although cheesy, the film is quite original and the plot spotlights evil from two different angles; the judgemental puritans, burning innocent people to sate their holy bloodlust and the unclean vampires with their own, more literal blood lust.

Peter Cushing plays the villain with a scary coldness that brings some ominous presence to the film. And Damien Thomas' villainous vampire is devious and horny, a scary mix.

Definitely a worthwhile entry from Hammer's latter films, and while flawed, a good bit of fun.

[Image: Hammer Film Productions]
Hani 

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Brides of Dracula

"The Brides of Dracula" (1960, Terence Fisher, Hammer Film Productions, Universal-International) is a Hammer Horror sequel to "Dracula" (1958) although it does not feature the prince of darkness himself.

Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) is a young, French teacher on her way through the Transylvanian countryside to take up a job. She is abandoned by her coach driver and is invited to take refuge for the night at a large, impressive castle by an elderly noblewoman called Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt). Of course, the Baroness has devious plans for young Marianne...

At the castle Marianne happens across the Baroness' handsome son, the Baron (David Peel), whom she sees is chained up. The Baroness and her servant, Greta (Freda Jackson), inform her to take no heed of the young Baron; he is insane. Having taken pity on the Baron, however, Marianne frees him of his shackles before fleeing. Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) arrives, having been called due to the suspicious death of a young lady on the first night of the Baron's freedom. But can he stop the villainous vampire before he claims every fair maiden in the village in his quest to create an army of sultry, vampire vixens!

A very typical Hammer Horror production with wonderful sets, some cheesiness and beautiful 60s colour cinematography. While we lack Christopher Lee's ominous presence as Dracula, Peter Cushing brings a touch of class to the production with his effortless style and presence. The vampires enjoy some extra skills that Dracula himself did not get to enjoy and we get to see some lady vampires rise from their graves.

[Image: Hammer Film Productions]
 
Hani

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Don't Knock Twice

"Don't Knock Twice" (2017, Caradog W. James, Red & Black Films) is a haunted house / urban legend movie.

Chloe (Lucy Boynton) is a teenager who is grudgingly giving her estranged, recovering addict, mother, Jess (Katee Sackhoff), a second chance. She is also fool enough to have knocked twice on the door of a house rumoured to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. And now she's scared.

This film doesn't deliver much in the way of anything new. The jump scares are hokey and a little silly and the build up between scenes is somewhat tedious with the friction between the two main characters feeling forced. The resulting film feels a bit stale as we visit old ground, with not very much to differentiate itself from others in the genre.

[Image: Red & Black Films]
Hani

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Love Witch

"The Love Witch" (2016, Anna Biller, Oscilloscope Laboratories) is an homage to the 60s technicolor era.

Elaine (Samantha Robinson) is a beautiful young witch turned femme fatale, who uses witchcraft in her bid to find a lover. Unfortunately, her charms and potions never quite strike the balance leaving a trail of lovesick corpses in her wake...

A beautifully crafted film that merges the style, fashions and feel of the 60s era films with a more modern setting. The film also enjoys the randomness of 60s horror with a ridiculous plot and set of characters. The colour palette is very pleasing to the eye. Stylistically this film is outstanding.

Elaine is used as a metaphor for womanhood and man's fear of the powerful woman, but conversely, Elaine is also a weak character; completely narcissistic, self involved and obsessed with finding someone to fawn over her. Her sudden disinterest in any man she wins over and her ongoing thirst for more affection  drives her to enchant and enslave more and more men. But it's a thirst that may never be sated...

Although the plot veers a little too into the obscure style of technicolor/pulp era with a large diversion to a medieval fayre and with a run-time of 120 minutes the shlockiness and purposefully stilted acting do begin to outstay their welcome. However, the style and humour make up for any short comings, and the film overall creates a very memorable impact.

Definitely something different to try this Valentine's Day.

[Image: Oscilloscope Laboratories]
Hani 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Bone Tomahawk

"Bone Tomahawk" (2015, S. Craig Zahler, Caliber Media Company, RLJ Entertainment) is an American horror Western movie featuring two actors I admire greatly; Kurt Russell and Sid Haig.

Set in the 1890s, we follow a group of men, lead by Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), as they attempt to save two of their townsfolk who have been kidnapped by a brutal, cannibal troglodyte clan.

A gritty hybrid horror which begins as a pretty traditional seeming Western film but eventually delves into some truly disturbing and creative horror gruesomeness. The cast give a stellar performance making each character rounded. The dialogue is good and the film keeps an excellent pace.

Despite the outlandishness of the story and its almost supernatural villains, the film plays out so confidently that it all seems perfectly reasonable and realistic at the time. Kurt Russell cuts a fine image as a strong sheriff with some great facial hair, In fact the whole cast is perfectly suited to their roles.

A genre blending piece which is both entertaining and shocking, "Bone Tomahawk" is a really excellent piece of cinema.

[Image: RLJ Entertainment, et al]

Hani

Friday, 27 January 2017

Most Likely To Die

"Most Likely To Die" (2015, Anthony DiBlasi, Snowfall Films, Marvista Entertainment) is a slasher movie about a high school reunion gone wrong.

A group of friends arrange a party the night before their 10-year high school reunion. They soon realise that they're being picked off one by one by a slasher-killer wearing a graduation outfit. Each of them meets their fate in a way related to what they were voted "most likely to..." in their high school year book. The friends begin to suspect that the killer may be a guy who they played a terrible prank on in senior year, resulting in ruining his life... But, how could it be, when they were sure he was dead?

The film has a very 90s feel to it, despite being made in 2015. However, its predictable nature and style wears a bit thin after a while and it become less charming and more formulaic. The characters are very disposable and 2-dimensional, so there's very little emotion invested in their untimely deaths.

All in all, it has a made-for-tv quality that puts it firmly into the teenage-sleepover-party movie box.

[Image: Snowfall Films, Marvista Entertainment]
Hani

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Sadako vs Kayako

"Sadako vs Kayako" (2016, Kōji Shiraishi, Kadokawa Daiei, NBC Universal Entertainment Japan) is a crossover of the Ring and Ju-On series. The film actually began life as an April Fools' Joke, but was actually turned into a real feature length film after having a good reception.

When college students, Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) and Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa), come across the cursed video tape they had learned about in class they unwittingly watch it, releasing the curse of the forever creepy and forever vengeful Sadako (Elly Nanami).

In another part of town high school student, Suzuka (Tina Tamashiro), moves in next door to the infamous Saeki house and begins to notice creepy things. After unwittingly following some young trespassers into the house she becomes 'grudged' by the ghosts of Kayako (Runa Endo) and Toshio (Rintaro Shibamoto).

The girls' seek to rid themselves of their respective curses, with the help of psychic, Keizō (Masanobu Ando) and his associate; brutally honest, blind, psychic girl, Tamao (Mai Kikuchi). The psychic team decide to try to pit the ghouls against one another in a bid to end both curses forever!

While the film is a little cheesy, busy and definitely favours Sadako's screentime over her rival, Kayako, it works well as a crossover due to its fun characters and humorous fight scenes. There are still some eerie scenes reminiscent of both franchises' roots, but also some comedy in there that oddly works with the offbeat, and somewhat ridiculous plot. I also enjoyed Keizō and Tamao's extremely random repartee.

The film is oddly charming and, like all crossovers, has a strange fanfiction-like atmosphere.

[Image: Kadokawa Daiei)
Hani