Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Beach House (2019)

The Beach House (2019)
Dir- Jeff Brown

It is not uncommon for a horror movie to occur in a location that would otherwise be seen as a vacation destination. In director Jeff Brown's The Beach House, a seemingly perfect vacation home becomes the setting for terror as four people encounter a mysterious series of events that seem to be coming from the sea. 

Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) are a young college couple hoping to reignite their relationship by staying at his estranged father's remote beach house. Their seemingly perfect weekend is interrupted by another couple who are already using the house. They decide to make the best of the situation and enjoy food, wine, and recreational drugs. Yet a strange illness begins to affect each of them as they encounter some bizarre events that test their trust in each other as well as reality.     

The Beach House arrives on Shudder during a global pandemic with its plot that is all too relatable to many viewers who have had to socially isolate. The film blends several horror genres mixing a little Cronenberg with some Lovecraftian imagery. Liana Liberato is well cast as a scientifically minded young woman who has her whole world shaken. She witnesses her boyfriend and house guests, each falling ill to an unknown but seemingly natural threat. The shift in horror styles is carried out quite well and allows the movie to set its own path, giving viewers a terrifying journey as they are left little time to figure out what is going on. 

The Beach House makes effective use of isolation and the threat of an unknown illness to make it a surprisingly scary movie that makes use of bizarre visuals and some gory imagery that helps it stand well against more significant big budget horror films. 

Three and a Half Stars out of Five 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Metamorphosis (2019)

Metamorphosis (2019)
Dir- Hong-seon Kim

After losing a young woman in a failed exorcism, a young priest Joong-soo (Bae Seong-woo), begins to lose faith and considers leaving the priesthood. His faith is then challenged when the vengeful demon seeks out his brother's family and terrorizes them in their new home.

In recent years Korean horror movies have made quite an impact with films such as A Tale of Two Sisters, I Saw The Devil & The Wailing winning praise from critics and fans worldwide. Director Hong-seon Kim's film Metamorphosis pits a family of five against a vengeful demon that can change its appearance to mimic family members. The family first thinks the pranks are from their new neighbor. Still, it is soon shown that each family member's strange behavior may be the result of a demon targeting them due to the recent fight it had with the father's younger brother, who is the priest from the beginning. 

In some ways, Metamorphosis uses many of the same elements used in other possession movies, such as The Exorcist and The Wailing. Director Hong-seon Kim deviates from the usual possession trope by having the demon mimic one of the family to disrupt their daily routine and sow distrust in them as they are not sure who among them is possessed. This is aided by the great performances of the cast that include Sung Dong-il as the father Kang-goo, Young-nam Jang as the wife and mother Myeong-joo. Not only do they play themselves, but they also portray their demonic doppelgangers who, at times, are difficult for even the audience to determine if they are real or demonic influence. 

The film makes excellent use of practical special effects, especially the makeup prosthetics used to make each of their evil double look genuinely terrifying. The movie is frightening enough to recommend for older audiences as young children may be easily terrified by the imagery. Despite its Asian setting, the film should not seem too foreign as most horror fans will be familiar with the usual tropes found in possession movies. Metamorphosis should be appreciated for the great cast, frightening imagery, and the special effects that make the film worth checking out.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Jaws 2 (1978)

Jaws 2 (1978)
Dir- Jeannot Szwarc

"Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water."

Things are going great for Amity Island as tourism is picking up, yet Officer Brody soon discovers that another shark is lurking the depths after a series of accidents occur. This time it's his two sons and their friends who are being stalked by ole Bruce the Shark, and with its nasty overbite, some of the teens are going to wish they stayed ashore. Sequels are often not as good as the source film, and with few exceptions, this film is pretty much the case. Jaws 2 is not the classic horror film that the first one is and has a slightly less dark feel to it. Still, the movie is entertaining, and when you compare it with the follow-up films, it is a decent movie 40 years after its release. Not as commercially or critically acclaimed as the 1975 classic, Jaws 2 still rates as an above-average sequel and is worth checking out if you avoid the other two movies.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Warning: Do Not Play (2019)

Warning: Do Not Play (2019)
Dir- Kim Jin-won

A young filmmaker struggling to make a horror movie is drawn to a legend of a student film that was banned after some people died when it premiered. The search for this movie and the obsession of the young director is the focus of the film Warning: Do Not Play. Directed by Kim Jin-won and starring Seo Ye-ji as Mi-Jung, Warning: Do Not Play is more mystery than horror but does borrow elements of popular Asian horror films such as Ringu and Lights Out. The movie appears to be told in a usual fashion. A series of flashbacks reveal that the story we see might be more than just a simple mystery as Mi-Jung discovers that her quest for the horror movie may be more hazardous mentally than physically. Director Jin-won's previous film The Butcher was a brutal found footage film, yet this film is less gory and a more traditional ghost story. The movie does have a great opening that sets up the events but loses steam until the end, which may confuse some viewers. With so many outstanding Korean horror films released in recent years, it is disappointing that Warning: Do Not Play does not have the impact of a movie such as Train to Busan or I Saw the Devil. It instead follows in the path of Japanese horror films with its ghost centered story. It certainly is a decent film in its own right, but it will not stand out too much compared to its contemporaries.         

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)- Joe Bob's Last Drive In

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Ever wonder what would happen if you shoved a piece of wrought iron into your leg. Ever wonder what would occur if you suddenly developed a metal fetish. Using some techniques that seem more suited for a rock video, Tetsuo starts and finishes as if the director was on speed, and maybe something stronger. The film starts with a shocking scene of a man who cuts open his leg and inserts a metal shaft into the skin. The pain notwithstanding, he then runs into the street and gets hit by a passing motorist. The man in the car then suddenly develops a strange personal affliction, while he is shaving a piece of metal sticks out of him. He then finds himself being stalked by an unknown woman who is not entirely human. Even though the movie is about an hour-long, Tetsuo has the pacing of a much longer film. The rapid sequences and nightmare-like imagery create an atmosphere that rivals something by David Lynch.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019)

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019)

A retrospective into the life of actor Mark Patton and the single role that defined his short career. What should have been a stepping stone for more significant roles ended up destroying his promising career as his closeted lifestyle came out amid a national panic with the AIDs virus. Scream, Queen shows Mark's life from his childhood to working on Broadway at 23 and being cast in A Nightmare on Elm Street Sequel. The film shows interviews with several of Mark's castmates, including Robert Rusler, Kim Myers, Jack Sholder, and Robert Englund. Mark's post-Freddy world is also explored as his world is shaken by the AIDs crisis of the mid-'80s, learning his partner was dying and how he struggled with the same illness. Leaving Hollywood and retiring to Mexico, Mark would enjoy a life of anonymity until he was rediscovered for the Never Sleep Again documentary. The final act shows how Mark was able to step back into the world of horror through fan conventions, and special appearances were he was able to enjoy the support of fans and the gay community that appreciated his role as a male scream queen. The movie is cathartic and shows how Mark was able to address the problems he faced with the director and writer. We also see the impact that homophobia played in Mark's life and how he used it to empower himself and others as fan opinion on Freddys Revenge is now being reassessed. An excellent documentary for an actor who deserves more appreciation and shows that despite the challenges he faced, he can now embrace his role as the first male scream queen.    

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)- Joe Bob's Last Drive In

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Dir- Ruggero Deodato

Like the spaghetti westerns of the sixties, Italian cannibal films were the rage in the seventies. Like many of those westerns, these films had similar plots as well as the same tragic conclusions. A group of white explorers would enter the dense jungle of the Amazon rainforests and meet up with seemingly friendly cannibals who were only looking to have these guests as their next meal. With the many films made, one wonders why no one noticed the very similar techniques and stories. We see women gang-raped, and men getting castrated or having their skulls opened up for a dessert of fresh brain. Everyone seemed to be a potential meal for each other. Cannibal Holocaust is considered by many to be the most graphically intense and brutal film ever made even compared to its grotesque contemporaries.   

The film begins with an award-winning documentary expedition, who travel to the Amazon to film cannibal tribes. Months pass, and not a word is heard from them. A rescue/search party is put together and led by a Professor Harold Monroe, along with his guides he travels to the Amazon and hopes to discover the fate of the expedition and possibly get their lost film. The footage brought back by Prof Monroe is shown to an audience, and the outcome of the film crew is revealed for the remainder of the film. What sets this film apart from the other cannibal stock is the brutal nature of both the cannibals and the explorers. The addition of real animal deaths is quite unsettling and resulted in the film being banned in Italy. It may have been included to suspend our belief, but little can divert the fact that this is still a cannibal movie and a ruthless one. The filmmakers revel in showing us that the explorers are, at times, just as cruel and brutal as the savages they are documenting. Director Ruggero Deodato created the film as a commentary on sleaze journalism and how they often exploit death for ratings. Yet, he became a target of criticism due to the animal deaths that occurred. As a sign of the human condition, this film gets bloodier, darker, and unsettling with each scene in hypocritical contrast to the Directors supposed intent to criticize the very violence this movie seems to excel in. Cannibal Holocaust was the most notorious of the many cannibal films of its era; it is also the first found footage movie predating The Blair Witch Project by 20 years.