The Witch [REVIEW]

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There’s evil in the wood – William

Sometimes a movie gets so hyped that when you watch it, you find yourself going hmmm is this really that good? In the case of The Witch, the moment I found myself confronted with such a delightfully shocking moment I found myself smiling afterwards.

The film plays for large stretches like a drama about isolation, religion and character study, when suddenly it throws something at you that changes the context of the film. The Witch is not a movie that you see coming. Some movies you can see the twists coming a mile away. The Witch plays in a way that some how feels wholly original while also being strongly connected to films of the past.

The incredibly detailed sets, costumes and period accents are the kind one normally sees in the kind of movie that would sweep awards season but mixed with the kind of horror one might expect from the love child of Argento and Lynch.

It is difficult to say more without getting into specifics that would ruin the surprises in the film. Suffice to say, The Witch will chill you, thrill you and if you have a heart condition possibly kill you.

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Baskin [REVIEW]

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Are you ready to be one with the cosmos? – Baba

Going in to Baskin I was expecting Clive Barker level craziness and boy did it deliver! The story concerns a group of cops responding to a call to an abandoned police station who discover hell waiting for them. Thing is, the narrative is more complicated than that. It has a very Lynchian vibe with visions within dreams within nightmares. The film is very gory. Like the goriest I have seen in 2016. But the film does it in such a way that will delight genre fans. The whole film is cast in these beautiful shades of red, purple, blue and yellow. The kind of horror candy that reminds us of Argento before he was making 3D movies with giant praying mantis and visually molesting his grown daughter with his camera. I won’t go deep into the plot because the finer points will spoil it. But I will say, I googled it and I am pretty sure that dude’s lips are real. And by real I mean that they are not prosthetics. Pretty sure someone injected his mug full of silicone in a back alley in Istanbul.

Point of story? If you like movies like Hellraiser, you need to get your eye balls on Baskin.

Starry Eyes [REVIEW]

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I will do whatever it takes for this role – Sarah

[Programming note: It’s Shocktober at Final Girl and the first movie she picked to review happened to be one I had recently seen and had been meaning to review cause I loved it so much. So here is my review and make sure to check out the incredible Stacy Ponder’s review over at Final Girl.]

If I were to make a list of various tropes and such that I love from horror movies, somewhere very near the top of that list would be ‘The cult members arrive for the ceremony’. I live for the cult members arriving. A montage of cars arriving, rich old white people in full robes, taper candles, walking single file. It never fails to get me. The neighbours cooing over their new born Anti-Christ in Rosemary’s Baby. The cult members arriving to pay respects to their martyr in Martyrs.

Let’s be honest, I’m a slut for anything resembling Satanic horror/religious thriller. Seventh Sign, Prophecy, End of Days, Bless the Child, Stigmata, Lost Souls. I just can’t help myself! So what I am trying to say is that even if Starry Eyes was a complete turd, I probably still would have gone batshit for it. But thank Satan, it’s actually a gory, well made and refreshingly original and simple take on some really age old ideas and horror tropes.

The set up is super simple. Pretty aspiring actress who hates her shitty day job, has a group of friends she doesn’t seem to care for and who are kind of shitty to her. All she wants to be is a STAR! The kind of girl Hollywood is (one would assume) full of. When she is offered her dreams on a silver platter, she learns that there isn’t much of a difference between selling her soul figuratively versus literally.

I won’t go into the plot beyond that. It’s good to not quite know what will happen. That said, there are some truly gross moments and some great gore. The film has a pervading sense of dread, you feel just as uneasy watching a group of friends drinking in by the pool as you do when someone enters a room not realized they’ve walked in on someone being murdered.

A great horror movie that pays homage to some classics while still managing to be very original. Come for the Satanists and stay for the body horror.

The Taking of Deborah Logan [REVIEW]

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Alzheimer disease is never about just one person -Mia

Found footage has become the dead horse which studios choose to beat when making horror movies these days. While I prefer it to the remaking of cult classics and foreign properties, it is often done poorly. With The Taking of Deborah Logan however, we see all the reasons why this tactic can be so chilling.

The premise of the film is that Mia a med student is doing a documentary as part of her thesis on Alzheimer disease. Sarah Logan agrees to let Mia and her two man crew film her mother Deborah as she slowly succumbs to senility in exchange for a much needed stipend which will allow them to keep their family home. So far a pretty basic horror set up.

What makes this movie so great however, is a truly chilling performance by Jill Larson as the titular Deborah. I remember Larson from my mother’s favorite soap growing up, All My Children. One doesn’t normally associate actors from soap operas as being the most talented at their craft. But the sheer dedication and fearless choices made by Larson make this one of the most chilling possession films ever.

The found footage angle is utilized so well to create a slow sense of building tension. By the time some truly insane stuff starts happening, you are so drawn in, it makes sense. Rather then going from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye, we slowly build towards some truly disturbing visuals.

While it trades in some fairly standard tropes, a combination of great performances mixed with interesting narrative choices make for a truly enjoyable horror experience.

 

Big Bad Wolves [REVIEW]

big_bad_wolves_ver5_xlg It might look like I’m enjoying this, and maybe I am in a way… but believe me, I’d be happy to stop breaking your fingers. Now would you please start talking! – Micki

Going into Big Bad Wolves, I had some pretty steep expectations. I mean it was lauded by Quentin Tarantino as the best movie of the year. I read nothing but rave reviews. As a result I was a little let down. That is to say, Big Bad Wolves is a pretty great movie. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It just didn’t scare me. And it didn’t shock me. It almost felt like a less bleak version of the film Prisoners.

The premise is pretty simple; a series of grisly murders wherein young girls are tortured, raped and decapitated has shaken a town in Israel. As the police investigate the murder, one of the victim’s fathers takes matters into his own hands. Motivated by blind grief and animal rage he will stop at nothing to get answers. The film delivers some flashes of gore and some very tense scenes but it’s the few well placed twists which really make the movie. I won’t spoil it for you but I will say that they feel organic to the plot. With just a light sprinkling of humor to balance things out, Bad Wolves is definitely one of the better thrillers of late. Definitely worth checking out, it is currently on Netflix.

All Cheerleaders Die [REVIEW]

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Somebody got fucked. Somebody got killed. And I’m going to PE! – Leena

I was just the other day reading Final Girl and agreeing with Stacy on how awesome horror flicks about witches are. There just aren’t enough. And then I came across a positive review for All Cheerleaders Die. I figured I’d give it a go. And god damn am I glad I did! While it suffers from some less than mind blowing CGI moments and standard contrivances of low budget horror comedy, it’s a pretty fun ride. After her childhood friend Alexis dies suddenly, Maddy decides to try out for the now vacant spot on the cheer leading squad. What the girls don’t know is that Maddy is out for revenge. When things take a dark turn and the squads car careens off a cliff, Maddy’s ex girlfriend and teenage witch brings the girls back.

The girls navigate life as zombie succubi, body swapping drama, sex, drugs and the violent urges of the Captain of the football team. The audience is treated to a subversive horror comedy that manages to play into all the tropes one expects like sexy cheerleaders and lots of gore, while still having some fresh ideas. There are some great laugh out loud moments, and some pretty dark moments don’t sour the otherwise comedic tones. While it might not have the same cult quality of films it pays homage to (Jawbreaker, The Craft, Shaun of the Dead), it is a hilarious treat for fans of movies about mean girls and murder.

At The Devil’s Door [REVIEW]

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I want you to go to where the roads meet, and say your name. – The Thin Man

As a horror nut, I end up watching a lot of movies. I’ve seen a good chunk of the films that show up on top 10 lists for scariest horror flicks. I don’t get spooked easily. That is to say, it takes more than your run of the mill Saw or Final Destination movie to freak me out. Last night I was faced with a choice of watching another terrible episode of True Blood, or check out a well reviewed horror flick called At The Devil’s Door. After my download of True Blood wouldn’t work, I took it as a sign and settled down with my cats to check out the movie. I am trying not to over hype this movie, but it’s pretty fucking great.

The movie tells the story of Hanna, who falls in love with a boy while vacationing in California. It’s 1987 and when the boy convinces her to play a mysterious game with a creepy old man in exchange for 500 smackeroos, she says why not? What follows is an incredibly creepy and well crafted story of possession and the Devil.

The film plays out in a style that reminded me of The Grudge, in that it tells three loosely related stories. In the 80s we have Hanna, who enjoys standing at the cross roads and shoes. In the modern day we have Leigh, a real estate agent tasked with selling Hanna’s old house in the present day. I won’t spoil the third act/storyline, but suffice to say they manage to fit a ton into a very short running time. The film never feels rushed or over stuffed. Instead we are treated to innovative and stylish takes on standard possession horror tropes. The terror is complemented by some of the best light touches of CGI and some great practical effects.

It’s hard to get into the plot too much without spoiling things, but any fan of quality horror films and possession tales need to check this gem out. It’s currently on Video on Demand, and well worth it.

Penny Dreadful Series I [REVIEW]

70081c84jw1ei5cbuephaj20ll0vkdmoWe all have our curses don’t we? – Vanessa

When word first got out that Showtime would be bringing us a psycho-sexual horror show over flowing with characters plucked from the pages of classic horror lit; most horror fans either frantically searched for a fresh pair of panties after messing themselves, or got super butt hurt about it. The show was either going to be the first season of American Horror Story, or the fifth season of True Blood.

What we got was quite possibly one of the most consistent and well done horror shows in history. Within 8 episodes Penny Dreadful took us on a journey that managed to be as thrilling as it was unique. They some how managed to take what on paper sounds like a sexier version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and bring us atmosphere and character but the butt load. Be warned that I am going to get into some spoiler territory so ya, you’ve been warned or whatever.

The basic plot of the show is this: Sir Malcom Murray (Timothy Dalton) is searching for his daughter Mina who has been taken by dark and evil forces. He is joined by Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), the gorgeous, likely insane and definitely touched by dark forces herself. Vanessa feels compelled to use her connection with the darkness to help Sir Malcom find Mina. But this isn’t just a standard save the girl plot. As the show unfolds it reveals the incredibly troubled and complicated past that Vanessa and Mina’s families have shared through the years.

Joining them are Sembene (Danny Sapani), Sir Malcom’s hulking African man servant/body guard; who despite the fewest lines of any of the core cast remains a powerful presence. Sexy American sharp shooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) joins them as a hired gun trying to run from a bloody past.

In their quest to find out more about the monsters that have taken Mina, they come to Victor Frankenstein. A sad eyed poet who dissects bodies and pontificates about science as if it is equal parts prose and alchemy. Victor’s own dark past complicates his work for Sir Malcom to say the least. But I suppose that’s what happens when you have slightly homoerotic over tones with reanimated corpses.

Penny Dreadful manages to take all the elements so loved within the various works it draws from and manages to make them feel fresh and exciting. The show manages to include references to just about every important element of Dracula without it feeling ham fisted or as if they have a check list of easter eggs to get through.

The acting is fantastic throughout. It is a true testament to Eva Green’s talent that she is able to go from Victorian lady blushing while Dorian Gray flirts to an unhinged mess channeling the dead loved ones of her friends and revealing the other character’s darkest fears and secrets. Josh Hartnett gives a career best performance as Ethan, whether he is getting his drunken homo love on, or praying for his consumption riddled girlfriend. Timothy Dalton is in turns heart breaking and enraging as a man determined to do anything to save the last shred of his soul as represented by Mina.

The show manages to be one of the queerest on TV. While American Horror Story gave us Lana Banana, Hannibal gives us more gay subtext than cannibal puns and True Blood gives us beefcake galore and a few throw away gay day dreams, Penny Dreadful is like one giant queer melting pot. Dorian Gray is a proper bisexual, Mina’s brother is definitely friends with Dorothy, Mina and Vanessa have some strong Hammer Horror lesbian under tones, Victor might be a little too obsessed with building the perfect man and don’t even get me started on that kiss!

In addition to a riveting take on it’s source material, fantastic acting and a masterful plot, Penny Dreadful is gorgeously shot. Everything in frame is perfectly art directed, lit and filmed. By treating the costumes and sets as if this were a Merchant Ivory period piece and the practical effects and gore like something out of your favorite horror film, they manage a show that manages to be as delightfully pulpy as the titular horror stories and as exquisite as the worlds found in the novels by Shelley, Stoker and Wilde.

At just 8 hour long episodes which have finished airing, Penny Dreadful is the kind of show made for binge watching. And since it’s been renewed for a 10 episode second season, you can rest assured that the various plot points left unresolved by the first series end will be explored. If you are a fan of Hannibal, American Horror Story, you will fall in love with Penny Dreadful.

 

Enemy [REVIEW]

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The last thing you need is meeting strange men in hotel rooms. – Mother

Before we get into the mindfuck that is Enemy, I have something to point out. This movie was apparently filmed right outside my building. It may have added to the surreal nature of the film, but mostly I was sad I managed to be unaware bearded Donnie Darko was filming in the hood. Now for the review part…

Enemy is about a man who meets his exact double. And spiders? It also is kind of about spiders. It is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you are a fan of movies like Lost Highway or Memento you will love this movie. The entire film is soaked with a sense of forboding. Jake Gyllenhaal is fantastic in the dual roles of the history professor and the arrogant actor. Enemy is the kind of movie you need to watch several times. The kind of movie you talk about with friends, theorizing what it all means. Are they twins? Is one an alien? Are they the same person? What is with the spiders?

Enemy isn’t a ‘horror’ film. It’s the kind of movie that gets away with being a thriller, despite being far more chilling than most of the horror flicks getting wide release these days. Come for Donnie Darko’s beard and stay for one of the best mind fucks of the year.

 

Only Lovers Left Alive [REVIEW]

only_lovers_left_alive_ver3_xlgThat was visual. – Eve

Sometimes you hear so much about a film. A film with great stars. A film with an interesting premise. I’ve heard so much about Only Lovers, that I went into it expecting something. I am not sure what I expected, and I guess that is my problem not this movie’s. But at the end of the film my friend and I looked at each other and said, “That’s it?”

Only Lovers Left Alive tells the story of Adam (British darling of the Internet and mother effing Loki! Tom Hiddleston) a sad sack vampire living in seclusion in Detroit. His wife Eve (Tilda FUCKING Swinton) travels from Tangiers to Detroit to visit with him. Eve’s sister shows up, and causes drama. The plot is incredibly simple, and dare I say non-existent. And while the performances are captivating, the film suffers from it’s lanquid pace and general lack of a compelling narrative. Everything about the film is great, except the story. Characters are well drawn and interesting. The film is a beautifully dark and moody affair. But it just lacked any kind of tension. You only ever really care about the vampires and being vampires they aren’t really ever in much danger. You will laugh, you will swoon, but don’t go in with great expectations. That shit will ruin it for you. Thanks a lot Dickens.