Sunday, February 25, 2018

Playing with Ouija Boards never ends well

Veronica (2017) 

Dir- Paco Plaza
Sunday, June 15, 1991- Madrid Police respond to an emergency call after midnight after receiving a distressing call from a frantic young girl. What the policemen find in the apartment stops them in their tracks and makes them visibly distressed. The movie then flashes back to show a teenager named Veronica "Vero" and her three younger siblings getting ready for school as their widowed mother sleeps in after working late. The school day is interrupted by a solar eclipse where Vero and two other friends hold a seance with an Ouija board as the sun is eclipsed by the moon. What happens during the seance sets in motion a series of disturbing and terrifying events that force Vero to seek answers as she tries to fight off the evil forces that target her and her siblings. Spanish director Paco Plaza made an impact as half of the team that brought us the 2007 horror movie classic REC and two of its sequels. 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 film that plays into the standard possession tropes that involve Quija board, Catholic teachings and misguided kids playing games they shouldn't. Sandra Escacena plays older sister Vero convincingly and has genuine chemistry with the three young actors who play her siblings; you feel they are related and not merely actors. The film is in Spanish, but the subtitles do give non-speakers enough to follow the film and not lose out on any of the dialogue. A well made foreign horror film that should be included in any horror fans watch list.

Feral Women should be left alone

The Woman (2011)

Dir- Lucky McKee
A feral woman is captured and held prisoner by a country lawyer who tells his family that he intends to civilize her, but his intentions mask a darker desire on his part. This 2011 film by Lucky McKee is a sequel to the 2009 film Offspring which is based on Jack Ketchum's novel Off Season. The Woman is a dark story with a dysfunctional family serving as the backdrop for what is a disturbing look into the mind of a Sociopath, using black humor to satirize the perfect family unit. The Woman created a firestorm of controversy when it was screened at Sundance with some viewers responding negatively to the subject matter yet this did help with its marketing and distribution. Watching this movie may unsettle some, but the performances by the cast do standout with special attention to the female roles. Scottish actress Pollyanna McIntosh reprises her role as the unnamed cannibal woman along with Angela Bettis, Sean Bridgers, and standout Lauren Ashley Carter as the daughter. This movie is easily one of the more disturbing movies I have watched recently, though not as intense as Saw or Hostel, The Woman will make its impact.

Friday, February 23, 2018

What lurks in the tunnels may not want to be disturbed

The Tunnel (2011)

Dir- Carlo Ledesma
Like many found footage films this one shares the plot of so many other films. What makes it stand out is the use of original setting and the lack of supernatural antagonists. A reporter finds herself on the hot seat unless she can bring in a hot story. Her interest is piqued when she looks into a story involving the disappearance of homeless people and some underground water tunnel projects that were abandoned for unknown reasons. Her inquiries yield few answers, so she decides she will take a film crew into the tunnels and find out what the city is hiding. As they descend into the tunnels what they find will terrify and shock them as they discover what is hiding down below. The Tunnel was filmed in a series of underground tunnels located in Sydney, Australia. This natural setting adds significantly to the atmosphere while the secrets are revealed as the movie follows the pattern of most found footage films. To stand out and seem less derivative The Tunnel does feature interviews with the surviving cast to give viewers further insight into the tragic events that will unfold and the effect it has on them. This is a great movie to watch late at night and offers genuine scares for its small budget. Worth checking out.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Some women just won't give up on their man, even after death

Nina Forever (2015)

Dir- Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine
After the death of his girlfriend Nina, Rob considers suicide to escape the grief he feels following her loss. He instead finds the companionship of a young co-worker named Holly who is drawn to Rob after finding out why he tried to kill himself. Their night of intimacy is disturbed by the sudden appearance of a bloody and naked Nina, who has returned from the grave as a revenant to remind Rob that he still has a girlfriend. Nina Forever is a British Horror Comedy that seems to share the same plot of two other movies, Burying the Ex and Life After Beth. This film is nothing like the two other films as they are more zombie inspired and play off the campiness of a reanimated former love. Nina Forever instead focuses on the grief and struggle of someone who has suffered a deep loss and the difficulty of seeking closure in a healthy way. Irish actress Fiona O'Shaughnessy portrays Nina with sarcastic glee, she truly is a pain in the ass and will not give up on her boyfriend or allow him to share intimacy with another woman without ruining their encounter with her bloody body and biting wit. Since Nina appears during a sexual act, it goes without saying that there is plenty of female nudity and lots of bloody sheets left behind. A much better film than Burying the Ex and Life After Beth, Nina Forever is a sexy and morbid film that does seem strangely romantic with its dark humor and deadpan style.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Government testing of psychic behavior, what could go wrong.

Atticus Institute (2015)

Dir- Chris Sparling
There are Cold War stories of how the US and USSR put money into psychic research in the hopes of gaining the upper hand on one another. The Atticus Insitute uses this as a backdrop for a pseudo-documentary that reveals the outcome of a top-secret experiment that involved a mysterious woman who displayed genuine psychic abilities that would later prove to be something much darker. The movie has the authentic feel of a documentary with the testimonials from former researchers and project members. The cast of relatively unknown actors adds to the genuine feel of the movie that plays out like a creepypasta. Given the history of the CIA and KGB, it is no secret that black projects like this may have been carried out and the Atticus Institute has that impact with an ending that will leave you asking questions and wondering just how dirty our government can be.

The night it opened, 15 died. What happened inside the Hell House that night?

Hell House LLC (2015)

Dir- Stephen Cognetti

Found Footage movies are a hit and miss, more often the shakiness of the camera tends to be a distraction, but there are those instances when the cameras flawed views work for the subject. Hell House LLC has been compared to The Houses October Built as both focus on Commercial Haunted Houses, but Hell House is more similar to Lake Mungo in that multiple video sources are used to create a documentary feel. The setting of Hell House is important as it is an actual commercial Haunted House, so the creepiness of the setting adds to the genuine feel of the events. What makes Hell House stand out is the seemingly mysterious way the horrible events of its fatal opening are presented, making efficient use of Youtube and Cell Phone videos we view the panic of the situation along with the mystery of what exactly is going on. The movie does slowly reveal what did happen but also leaves some mystery for the viewer to ponder. Most reviews of the film agree that Hell House is unique and does not seem too derivative among the dozens of recent "found footage" films. The only area of the debate centers on the ending; you will either love it or hate depending on how much closure you seek. Overall Hell House LLC is a terrific film, and for its small budget, it compares well with bigger budget films that focus more on FX and less on the plot.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Horror has no Borders

Savageland (2015)

Dir- Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, David Whelan
This pseudo-documentary focuses on a small Arizona border town that is wiped out most brutally with the sole survivor being held responsible for the crime. The events of the evening are played out with interviews from police, attorneys and citizens with diagrams to show the extent of the carnage yet what looks like an open and shut case gets complicated when a camera is found that reveals the accounts of that evening may not be what is being reported. Savageland shares some similarity to a film called Lake Mungo, both are documentary-style crime films that feature a tragic event with the evidence pointing to conclusions you did not expect to see. The investigation of the crime shows how racism will play a huge part in the outcome of the case, but the film does reveal photos taken by the suspect that show blurry images that are as terrifying as they are mysterious. Savegeland is not the usual horror movie fare; this is a crime film that reveals a horrific event in a slow burn style that allows the payoff to be as scary as any found footage horror movie.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Five Films for a Terrifying Valentines Day

My Bloody Valentine (1981)
This early slasher film was part of a wave of Canadian horror movies that would arrive after the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Despite following a similar pattern to the two earlier slasher films, My Bloody Valentine does offer an antagonist wearing a gas mask and miners equipment that truly makes the killer look sinister and scary. The deaths are unique and quite graphic despite the cuts made. Filmed in Nova Scotia the production studio made use of an existing closed mine to get a more genuine setting and this adds significantly to the suspense and fear.

My Bloody Valentine (2009)
This 2009 remake of the 1981 Canadian slasher classic tells pretty much the same story but does alter enough to make the film stand out on its own. On Valentine's Day in a small town, a mining accident traps six miners with only one found alive after rescuers were able to reach them. A year later a massacre occurs, and in the aftermath, the town lives in fear of the gas mask-clad killer who promised revenge on the town. There are enough changes in the plot to allow this film to stand on its own along with the nifty 3D shots that make this a fun remake.

The Loved Ones (2009)
A young lady wants to go to a dance with the boy of her dreams, but his rejection won’t do when she decides that she will plan her own dance with him as her special guest. Robin McLeavy stars in this twisted tale that shows just how far a girl and her father will go to make her special night one that her date will never forget. This directorial debut by Sean Byrne mixed horror and teen genres to deliver this bloody yet surprisingly tongue in cheek tale.

Let the Right One In (2008)
A young preteen boy who is bullied by his classmates befriends a young girl who has a secret she shares when they bond as friends. This new friendship gives him the confidence to face his bullies and to learn what love can mean despite her secret. Based on a novel, the film would be remade in the US and is one of the few remakes that stands on its own.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

A Valentines Day picnic for an Australian girl’s school turns into tragedy after a teacher and three students disappear while exploring a rock formation. The disappearance will cause tension in the school and raise more questions when one girl is found and can’t explain her experience. More a mystery than horror, Picnic at Hanging Rock makes effective use of the mysterious rock formation and flute music to set an atmosphere of beauty and dread.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What we see and what we seem are but a dream - a dream within a dream.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) 

Dir- Peter Weir
In 1900, a Valentines Day picnic for an Australian girl’s school turns into tragedy after a teacher and three students disappeared while exploring a nearby rock formation. The disappearance will cause tension in the school and raise more questions when one girl is found yet can’t explain her experience.  Based on a 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock was filmed in Australia and utilized the Hanging Rock formation located in Victoria most effectively. Picnic sets an atmosphere that showcases the vast difference between the sexually repressed Victorian lifestyle of the young students with the foreboding mystery of the new and unknown land. More a mystery than horror, Picnic at Hanging Rock makes practical use of the strange rock formation and flute music to set an atmosphere of beauty and dread. As a child, I remember watching the preview for the movie, and it was terrifying yet when I watched the movie years later it was mysterious, haunting yet beautiful in its direction.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Boarding Schools are not the best place for some troubled ones.

Alena (2015)

Dir- Daniel di Grado
Alena is a young girl who has been accepted at a posh private school with the hope she can make friends and excel in her new environment. Her attempts at socializing are thwarted by a group of girls led by the leader of the Lacrosse team who makes it her goal to get her kicked out of school. Alena does have some dark secrets and a mysterious friend who seems ready to defend Alena to any extent. Horror movies set in boarding schools often focus on some secret society of witches or ghosts, yet Alena is not a horror movie in the conventional sense. Based on a Swedish graphic novel by Kim W Andersson, Alena is a tale of the horror of teen life as seen through the eyes of a young woman who has faced the pain of loss and struggles to overcome the bullying she faces for merely being from a low-income family. Although the film does follow the formula of some supernatural themed teen revenge films, it is not a copycat of Carrie. Instead it a coming of age film that uses themes that most teen girls face along with the trauma felt after one faces tragedy. Watching Alena, I was drawn to the title character as she is well cast in a role that is more Carrie White and less Clueless. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Weren't you warned to stay away from cabins in the wood.

The Ritual (2018)

Dir- David Bruckner
After a mutual friend is killed in a store robbery, four friends get together to go an adventure that they all were planning before their friend's death. Their journey takes them on some hiking trails in the wilds of Sweden where they intend to enjoy some buddy time and pay tribute to their lost friend. Things get crazy when they decide on taking a shortcut into the woods after one of their friends hurts his leg. Once in the woods, they find themselves lost and at the mercy of some unknown threat that is stalking them and pitting them against one another. Along the way one of the members face survivors guilt that seems to manifest stronger as the movie progresses. In many respects, 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.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Good Old Fashioned Cannibal Western

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Dir- S. Craig Zahler
Western-themed horror movies are a rare breed, as the Western genre tends to focus more on adventure or drama. Set in the 1890's in the frontier town of Bright Hope, the local Sheriff is called upon when some townsfolk are captured in the middle of the night by what appears to be a native raid. Upon closer inspection, the local Native American member of the community informs the Sheriff that a far greater threat is responsible, and it is up to the Sheriff to lead a rescue party against this unknown tribe with the fear they may not find anyone alive. "Bone Tomahawk" was written and directed by S. Craig Zahler making his directorial debut. The cast is quite impressive featuring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox as well as David Arquette and Sid Haig. The film received critical acclaim from movie critics for its unique script and unconventional mixing of horror elements with a Western setting. The movie is a bit of a slow burn but well worth the time as it offers outstanding portrayals by the principal cast as well as the supporting roles in a movie that must have been a quite a dream project to work on. Director Zahler not only wrote and directed the movie but also composed the film's score. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Cloverfield Part 3

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

Dir- Julius Onah

The crew of the Cloverfield Spacestation, facing a worldwide energy crisis and a potential war over resources, is tasked with testing new technologies that could result in unlimited energy for the planet yet their experiments have a surprising result that shock the whole crew as well as people on the planet's surface. As the third movie of the Cloverfield franchise, the Cloverfield Paradox was known as The God Particle and was intended to be released in early 2017 but was shelved until February of 2018 where it was premiered on Netflix after Super Bowl LII with its new official title. As with the previous films, there was plenty of secrets and speculation on the plot of the film as well as a similar space station centered movie called "Life" that forced the film to go through some reediting. Unlike "Life," Cloverfield III does not feature an alien or creature as the primary nemesis but is more Sci-Fi centered with a plot that focuses on the aftermath of a failed experiment that has unintended consequences. The movie has an excellent set design, good special effects and the performance of the actors is pretty decent, yet some may have difficulty with the plot as it does rely upon some scientific principles that may be above some viewers understanding. Overall this third entry in the Cloverfield series should add to what is already a great franchise.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

"Every Body Has a Secret"

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

Dir- André Øvredal

The discovery of a beautiful yet unknown female corpse has a Coroner and his son baffled as the clues they find reveal even more mysteries. As father and son piece the evidence together a brutal storm traps them in the morgue overnight. As they discover more about her, they soon find that she has some darker secrets that may be best left alone. André Øvredal, known for Troll Hunter delivers this well made and chilling tale that blends old world superstition with elements of the supernatural. The Autopsy of Jane Doe features veteran Scotish actor Brian Cox as Tommy and Emile Hirsch as his son Austin, but special praise goes to Olwen Kelly who portrays the eponymous female corpse. Autopsy scored well with critics and has gained attention for its genuinely terrifying and original concept. After reading so many other posters heap praise, I finally watched this movie and made sure I went in as cold as possible as spoilers will ruin some of the mysteries.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

No from this girl comes with a Bite!

Teeth (2007)

Dir- Mitchell Lichtenstein

Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a virtuous girl who has made a promise she would remain chaste until her wedding day, that is until she is raped by a boy who she thought was the one true love. Dawn's rapist soon learns most painfully that this young girl's "No" comes with a bite. "Teeth" is a black comedy about an adolescent girls emerging sexuality and the adaptation that allows her to fight off the unwanted sexual assaults she faces. Jess Weixler stars as Dawn, she is sweet and kind but soon learns that her naive lessons about abstinence will be cast aside when she begins to understand the extent of her newly found mutation. Teeth had a limited release, but its appearance at the Sundance Film Festival garnered an acting award for Ms. Weixler. Since then Teeth has attained positive reviews and enjoys cult status for its unique and original concept. As a fan of black comedies, I found Teeth to be intriguing and recommend it for fans of teen angst, revenge, and female empowerment.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Aaagh! I'm tweakin', dude!

The Wraith (1986)

Charlie Sheen stars as a mysterious figure who returns to avenge the death of Sherilyn Fenn's murdered boyfriend in this mediocre thriller. More of a car chase movie than a horror film, The Wraith does boast some cool race scenes, some weird characters with funny haircuts and a cool turbocharged Dodge. The Wraith mixed car chases with elements of the supernatural and has become quite a cult classic since its release over 30 years ago. In recent years I have enjoyed watching this movie again and again for the chase sequences and the soundtrack that is quite well done for a seemingly minor film. Can you find another movie with a pair of brainless minions named Skank and Gutterboy? If you answered The Crow, then you just discovered another revenge based thriller worth checking out. Look for Randy Quade and Clint Howard sporting an Eraserhead inspired hairpiece. Most of all enjoy the Dodge Turbo Interceptor and a very young and sassy Ms. Fenn.