Friday, July 20, 2018

Sometimes the biggest terrors are found in a house of God

The Devil's Doorway (2018)
Dir- Aislinn Clarke

One of the worst real-life horrors were the Irish Magdalene Laundries that held "fallen" young women and forced them to work without pay to seek redemption for their sins. Irish director Aislinn Clarke's film "The Devil's Doorway" uses a Magdalene Laundry as the backdrop for this found footage movie that focuses on a pair of priests who are sent to investigate a reported miracle. The elder priest Father Thomas is a scholarly man who has traveled the world and is very skeptical of events like the one he is sent to check out. His younger colleague Father John films the events using a 16mm camera and displays a much more hopeful outlook on the possibility of witnessing a blessed sign from the Lord. Once inside the Laundry, they are met with hostility from the Mother Superior and appalled by the conditions the young women are subjected to. Yet the real terror emerges when the younger priest begins to hear voices of children in a place that has no children and witnesses some unexplained events. It gets worse when the two priests find a young pregnant woman who has the staff on edge and what happens next will test the faith and stamina of the two priests. The Devil's Doorway effectively captures the dismal condition of the notorious Irish Catholic Laundries that were prisons for many young women who worked like slaves and often had no legal protections. Ms. Clarke spent years researching the history of the Magdelene Laundries and uses an old manor house and linen mill as the setting for the movie. The institutional look of the buildings reminds one of prison while creating the perfect environment for the found footage setup. The movie does follow common tactics of found footage movies so much of the film will seem familiar, yet the realistic looking sets and dark interiors will terrify you as the events unfold.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

10 Great Horror Films of 2018 So Far

The Ritual 
The Ritual plays on a theme similar to that of Deliverance as well as The Descent. Both films center on a group of friends who find their friendship challenged when they get lost and face a threat in the woods. The Ritual does make efficient use of the wooded scenery that adds significantly to the element of fear in much the way that The Blair Witch Project did two decades ago.

Mom and Dad 
A mysterious static noise triggers parents into killing their kids as mass hysteria sweeps the nation. Carly and Josh Ryan fight for their survival as their mom and dad plot their demise in this black comedy that features Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair.

Art, the Clown, was the center of the horror anthology All Hallows Eve and this film gives this most creepy clown a chance to showcase his bloody bag of tricks. Like the gory slashers of the 80's this film is bloody in its gore and surprisingly well made given its small budget and cult following.

A woman's sanity is called into question as she is committed to a mental institution against her will. While there she is being pursued by someone and not sure if its real or imagined. Unsane uses ones own suspicion and paranoia to fuel this creepy film directed by Steven Soderbergh and featuring Claire Foy.

Ghost Stories 
Andy Nyman appears in this creepy ghost movie that has him playing a skeptic who investigates a number of supposed hauntings. The cases are told in anthology format and follow in the tradition of the great English horror films of the 1960's. Martin Freeman also appears in this film that wowed the critics and has excellent word of mouth from the audience.

"Upgrade" is an intense action thriller that shows the perils that technology can offer despite the promises of making our lives better. In many respects, the movie reminded me of the original Robocop movie of the 80's with all the action, violence and some of the dark humor thrown in to lighten the mood.

This film is a more conventional horror film in the style of The Conjuring and does not rely on found footage. Instead, we see a paranormal movie that plays into the standard possession tropes that involve Quija board, Catholic teachings and misguided kids playing games they shouldn't.

A biologist is called in to investigate a region that has been quarantined with a mysterious force called The Shimmer. Once inside the team sent in to find the laws of physics don't seem to apply. Annihilation is a sci-fi horror thriller that critics complimented for its ambiguity and style that owes significantly to HP Lovecraft.

Hereditary is a slow burn kind of film that presents an uncomfortable situation for the family and throws in some shocking scenes and unsettling moments of terror. The young daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) stands out with her odd habits such as her tongue clicking as well as the creative but strange toys she makes.

A Quiet Place 
A year after an unknown event has left the world mostly empty of people a family somehow survives by keeping as quiet as possible. Despite all efforts to maintain as normal a life as the circumstance allows the threat of death looms closer as the family prepares for its future. How one can survive and fight back is portrayed quite effectively in this thriller from first time Director John Krasinski

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

15 Movies to Watch If You Love Jaws

Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Peter Benchley novel Jaws is a return to the major elements of fear and the use of suspense in telling a story. With its release in June 1975, Jaws proved to be a huge commercial success and became the first ever Summer Blockbuster. Here is a list of films that involve dangerous water creatures or terror on the sea. After 43 years it's still not safe to go back into the water.

Jaws 2 (1978) 
Sequel the 1975 Blockbuster picks up a few years later with a group of teens going sailing and getting stranded after a shark causes the boats to collide. Not as huge a movie as the first one yet the young cast are all likable, and you do cheer for them to survive.

Piranha Series (1978 & 2010) 
The original Piranha was a surprisingly fun Jaws ripoff that has become a cult classic and one that even Steven Spielberg liked. The 2010 remake is an amazingly well made B movie that amps ups the blood, gore and scares with a great cast and campy style. This remake is easily one of the best horror films of the past decade.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) 
The crew of a remote research facility finds trouble when their genetically modified sharks escape and show off their newly enhanced abilities as they stalk the survivors after a devastating hurricane has damaged the facility.

The Shallows (2016) 
A young woman travels to Mexico after her mother's death and goes surfing only to find herself injured and stranded on a small rock with a shark stalking her. She then must find a way to survive as the tide threatens her safety.

The Reef (2010) 
A yacht carrying friends sailing to Indonesia hits a reef and capsizes. The survivors then find more trouble when they become the target of sharks looking to attack. The Reef is based on an actual event that occurred in the early 1980s off the coast of Australia.

Open Water (2003) 
A couple on a scuba charter are mistakenly left behind by the crew of the boat and find themselves stuck in the middle of the ocean with no means of rescue in sight. They then face the elements as well as predators hoping to be rescued. Open Water was based on a real event and is a fictionalized account of what the couple may have faced when they were lost at sea. 

Orca (1977) 
A salty old fisherman faces off against a pissed off killer whale after he accidentally kills its mate. This Jaws ripoff is one of those rare movies that has you cheering for the deadly creature. A genuine drive-in classic that seems a bit absurd in a few scenes but delivers the goods and plenty of thrills.

Bait (2012) 
A group of shoppers is trapped in a grocery store after a tsunami floods their beach community only to discover that a deadly shark has swum into the store and begins to stalk them as they are waiting for help. As silly as this movie sounds it comes off better than you would expect and is surprisingly entertaining.

Shark Night (2011) 
A group of college kids vacationing on a remote lake finds themselves being attacked by sharks that are not only out of place but purposefully released by some group looking to profit on shark attack videos. This shark movie is not as well received as many of the other films on this list yet is still fun to watch for the over the top special effects and variety of deadly sharks shown.

47 Meters Below (2017) 
Two sisters on a Mexican vacation go on a shady boat tour that promises a once in a lifetime shark cage encounter that leaves them stranded under water after the cable breaks. With limited air and injuries drawing sharks it is a race against time to see if they can survive in this distressing thriller.

Sharknado Series (2013-2018) 
This franchise is pretty absurd, yet the movies are fun and best enjoyed if you sit back and watch the likes of Ian Ziering and Tara Reid battle all sorts of crazy storms and sharks flying about causing havoc. Get your chainsaw ready as there are now six movies as of 2018. 

Below (2002) 
A US Navy submarine picks up the survivors of an attack on Allied hospital ship. Once aboard the survivors begin to question the actions of the Captain and crew as they face an attack by an enemy ship and encounter some bizarre events that seem supernatural. 

Lake Placid (1999) 
A very salty Betty White highlights this movie about a giant saltwater crocodile that is feasting on the local wildlife and people in a Maine lake. The efforts to catch or kill the beast pretty much cover the plot in this standard monster movie. 

Deep Rising (1998) 
A group of armed mercenaries set out to hijack a luxury cruise liner on the high seas instead find an abandoned ship save for a few survivors who are terrified of something. They are then stalked by a savage seaborne tentacled creature that is an FX extravaganza of what is great and bad about CGI in action movies.

The Deep (1977) 
Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset's wet t-shirt highlight this thriller by the author of Jaws that focuses on the pair finding a sunken treasure and a World War Two era cargo ship that has a secret cargo that someone is willing to kill to get their hands on. No deadly sharks in this one but did I mention Jacqueline Bisset's wet t-shirt. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

10 Good and Bad Dad's for Father's Day

Daddy Stone- The Loved Ones (2012)

This father is willing to do anything to please his little girl even if it means kidnapping, hot water lobotomies and giving his daughter the best pink princess prom ever. 

David Drayton- The Mist (2007)

In the middle of an unknown foggy event, this dad must keep his cool while people panic and get carried away by giant critters and creatures of gigantic size.  

Steve Freeling- Poltergeist (1982)

You try to raise your family in a beautiful house only to find that a shady developer hid some details about that perfect plot of land. Plus he makes sure to keep the TV time down.  

John Baxter- Don't Look Now (1973)

Losing a child is the hardest tragedy that a parent can face and finding the strength to cope and overcome is what drives this couple to Italy in the hope that a new job will help ease the pain.

Daddy- The People Under the Stairs (1991)

A good mother and father believe that discipline is the best way to raise a child, yet what if the parents are complete whack jobs with a habit for kidnapping, murder, and a few other vices.

Chris Cleek- The Woman (2011)

This family man and an attorney is the model of the perfect husband and father, he will even help a wayward soul out who is in need of civilizing. Just ask this wife and daughter.

Daddy Meiks- Frailty (2001)

This father is on a mission from God to find and kill demons that are hiding in plain sight. The trouble is one of his sons may not be fully onboard with his father's mission from God.

Louis Creed- Pet Sematary (1989) 

Yet another father who must handle a difficult family moment until he finds a way to fix the mess. This solution is not as simple as he hopes and he will find that maybe it's best to leave the dead buried.

George Lutz- The Amityville Horror (1979)

A man marries a widowed mother of three and wants to provide the perfect home for his new family. The perfect house is found, but the recent history may be too much for this family to handle.

Jack Torrance- The Shining (1980)

Being isolated in a remote hotel can be a tough experience especially if your sanity is in question. It also does not help that the previous caretaker went nuts, but I'm sure All Work and No Play Will Make Jack a Dull Boy. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

He Has His Father's Eyes

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Dir- Roman Polanski
What price is someone willing to pay for fame and glory in the film industry. Well, it seems that Guy Woodhouse is ready to give up the soul of his firstborn. A young and pre-Woody Mia Farrow plays a lovely homemaker who finds her hubby hanging around a spooky collection of people who are awaiting her baby's arrival. Rosemary does a little research and is shocked to discover that her unborn child is desired for purposes too sinister to consider. Gimmick filmmaker William Castle produced this film based on the novel by Ira Levin and directed by Roman Polanski. Polanski had sought actresses Tuesday Weld and Sharon Tate for the role of Rosemary before selecting Mia Farrow when her fame rested on being married to Frank Sinatra. John Cassavetes beat out Jack Nicholson for the part of Guy Woodhouse and Ruth Gordon who won an Oscar for her role as one of the members of the coven. For a movie lacking violence Polanski evoked a feeling of dread and menace that builds slowly making this one of the most effective thrillers ever made. A classic that predates the more gore infested Omen and Exorcist in the demonic possession genre.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Evil Runs in the The Family

Hereditary (2018)

Dir- Ari Aster
The death of a loved one is commonly employed in many horror movies to add tension to an event or to set up a premise that factors into the story and Ari Aster's Hereditary is undoubtedly the latter. Annie (Toni Collette) is mourning the death of her mother with whom she had a problematic relationship, her husband is supportive, but their marriage appears strained. Her children include the moody teenager son Peter and her talented but reclusive daughter Charlie who had the closest bond to the deceased. Annie has lived a difficult life with some family tragedies and will soon face another that will set in motion the events that will tear apart her family and put her sanity on edge. Hereditary is a slow burn kind of film that presents an uncomfortable situation for the family and throws in some shocking scenes and unsettling moments of terror. The young daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) stands out with her odd habits such as her tongue clicking as well as the creative but strange toys she makes. It is her bizarre behavior that helps carry the film, and she makes quite an impact when she is on screen. Mr. Aster does an excellent job with the setting of the film, and Annie's detailed house models do look impressive especially in the way they add to her characters difficulty in dealing with the stresses she encounters. Despite the stellar cast, the movie may not appeal to many who may be expecting a film filled with wall to wall scares and frights, the movie does have those but mostly toward the latter half of the film and as mentioned earlier the slow burn style may not appeal to some viewers.  Hereditary is a terrifying movie, but I felt that calling it one of the scariest movies of all time was somewhat opinionated as what scares an audience depends on what that the viewer is most terrified by the most.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Full Scream Ahead

Deep Rising (1998)

Dir- Stephen Sommers
The late nineties was a time of creature features, and Deep Rising was one of the best of the bunch. A group of armed mercenaries set out to hijack a luxury cruise liner on the high seas instead find an abandoned ship save for a few survivors who are terrified of something. They are then stalked by a savage seaborne tentacled creature that is an FX extravaganza of what is great and bad about CGI in action movies. Deep Rising was one of many creature features that emerged in the late nineties along with Lake Placid, Anaconda, and Mimic.  Deep Rising is one of those movies you go into with no expectations and find it to be surprisingly entertaining, it has a great cast, occasional humor and it never takes itself too seriously given how silly the plot is.  This is a B Movie with Grade A special effects and recognizable actors in a film that is more fun than you would expect it to be. In many ways, this film is an Aliens knockoff with male and female roles that are well written and fun to watch.  In the twenty years since its release, the special effects may seem dated, but the movie is still fun to watch and is recommended if you are a fan of 1950's creature features.