The Witch [REVIEW]

thewitch_online_teaser_01_web_large

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.

Baskin [REVIEW]

Baskin-Poster

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.

The Taking of Deborah Logan [REVIEW]

spooky-trailer-and-clip-for-the-taking-of-deborah-logan

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]

all_cheerleaders_die_xlg

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.

Enemy [REVIEW]

87C

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.

 

Oculus [REVIEW]

hr_Oculus_6 The purpose of today’s experiment is to prove the object behind me is responsible for at least 45 deaths in the 4 centuries of it’s recorded existence. – Kaylie

When my mother recommends a horror film to me, it isn’t often I actually find it scary. I’d heard of Oculus. I’d even heard good things. It was one of those films that I intended to watch some day, but never made it a priority. And the other day I found myself with a day of nothing to aside from the ever dreaded laundry. So while laundry hung out to dry, I decided to check out Oculus. I had no real expectations. it scarred my mother which means it could be Seven or it could be Case 39. I watched it and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

I have nothing against found footage horror films. I think the concept can work quite well (Blair Witch Project, REC, VHS etc.) but it can also be an awful attempt to make a film for less (Paranormal Activity’s various sequels). And I am so frigging glad that Oculus didn’t go the found footage route. I could likely have worked as a mockumentary ala Lake Mungo. But instead it gives us a brilliant straight forward horror film that feels almost like an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark meets Memento.

I won’t get into too many plot details since the plot jumps around in time and any details will detract from the tension. The set up is simple. When Kaylie was little, her mom and dad went crazy. It likely has something to do with the giant terrifying mirror in the den. Dad killed her mom, and her little brother killed their dad to protect them. Now Tim is about to get out of the looney bin. The I just got out of the asylum am I crazy or is this actually happening trope is one of the best tropes! He meets with his sister (Karen Gillian giving whiskey throated American accent realness) who is all “Here are some listings for apartments and job leads, and by the way can you help me kill the evil mirror that drove our parents insane?”

You see while little brother spent years with shrinks telling him he is disturbed and helping him ‘realize’ that the whole evil mirror killed mommy and daddy thing was just his mind’s way of coping with an abusive home life that ended in murder. His sister on the other hand has spent the past decade plotting to destroy the mirror. That is right, gurl is in full blown Tommy Jarvis! The rest of the film tells both the story of what happened to their parents, and their attempts to determine whether the mirror is evil or if mom and dad were just crazy.

Despite some questionable moments with make up effects on Katie Sackoff, the film is incredibly solid horror fare. It leaves the viewer guessing as to what is real and what isn’t. It provides just enough mind fuckery without seeming overly complicated and most importantly, is it will scare you.

The Sacrament [REVIEW]

THESACRAMENT_38_final_small

Help me mother – Andre

I went into Ti West’s The Sacrament with some pretty high expectations. I worship at the altar of his period piece slow boil House of the Devil. It’s premise seemed promising, a found footage fictionalized account of a Jamestown-esque cult. What resulted was a movie that would likely have been incredibly innovative if I wasn’t remotely familiar with the Jonestown Massacre.

Ti West essentially recounts the events of the infamous cult which left over 900 men, women and children dead. The names change, and we follow a camera crew from the actual magazine Vice. But the found footage angle seems less like a stylistic choice and more a way to produce a movie cheaply. The cult leader gives off a Marlon Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau vibe but all in all the film fails to impress. West’s talents would be much better utilized if the film was a direct adaptation of events and exchanged the Blair Witch vibe, for a more structured traditional cinematic format.

Banshee Chapter [REVIEW]

91TAaXx7SIL._AA1500_Have you ever read any H.P. Lovecraft? – Thomas Blackburn

I didn’t realize that Banshee Chapter is actually an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s From The Beyond when I started watching it. All I knew about the plot was that it some how concerned unethical testing of hallucinogenics on people. Let me say that this movie actually scared me pretty good. By reworking the Lovecraft themes through the lens of  government conspiracy makes it easy to not realize the true extent of the horror until the final act of the film.

The plot revolves around a young journalist trying to figure out the events surrounding the sudden mysterious disappearance of a friend who had taken a strong hallucinogen before disappearing off the face of the earth. Her search leads her to a Hunter S. Thompson-esque writer and a conspiracy with sinister implications.

The movie is chock full of incredibly chilling scenes. While the effects are not the most stellar they are sparingly used. The film has the feeling at first like it is a documentary but as it progresses the perspective is as if you are there experiencing the horrors from beyond.

The film presents an enjoyable and more importantly terrifying take on Lovecraft. It is modern, eerie and all round a great flick and worth checking out if you are a hardcore Lovecraft lover or don’t know a Cthulhu from calamari.

 

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining [Review]

shining_ver1_xlg

Don’t worry mom. I know all about cannibalism. I saw it on TV. – Danny Torrance

Arguably one of Stanley Kubrick’s greatest achievements is his adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The film is often cited as one of the greatest in cinema history. The camera work, the mood, performances and sparing use of effects and scares have it placed up there not just as a seminal horror film. But a seminal film respected even by those who deride the genre we love so dearly.

But upon rewatching this movie I was struck by just how many horror tropes it manages to fit into a single feature. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) plays what we know realize is just a fictionalized version of a young Stephen King. Those unfamiliar with the plot should just stop reading immediately and go watch the movie.

In the first 15 minutes we find out that Jack is a recently sober drunk, that the previous caretaker axe murdered his wife and twin daughters, the hotel is built on an ancient native american burial ground, and little Danny has “the shining” a sort of ESP.

That is right folks one of the greatest films in cinematic history is full of everything anyone could ever want in a horror film. Ghosts, creepy psychic children, axe murders, living on top of old native burial grounds, elevators full of blood, Diane Arbus style little girls, references to the Donner Party and Shelley Duvall shrieking and sobbing and smoking (nobody smokes like Shelley) like no one else ever has or will again.

The Shining is kind of like Citizen Kane in that it changed the genre forever and it’s influence can be found in everything from Funny Games to American Horror Story. But unlike Citizen Kane it is actually fun to watch and worth every last drop of hype it gets.