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.

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.

More Romantic Horror Movies For Valentine’s Day

I was checking in on my previous list of horror movies to watch for Valentine’s Day, for inspiration this V-Day since it’s minus 25 Celsius here in Toronto aka a the perfect weather to be anti-social and avoid others. To my shock I seem to had left off some of the most romantical horror films! So I figured now was a good time to list some more great romantic horror films for everyone to watch while eating cheesecake alone.

It is worth noting this is a list of romantic horror films, rather than Valentine’s themed ones. There aren’t any slashers like Valentine’s Day, My Bloody Valentine. I also avoided movies like The Voices or Maniac where the protagonist can’t discern the difference between romance and chopping up the girls he likes.

So without further ranting I humbly present the follow up list-sequel (hasn’t the internet come up with a portmanteau for that yet?)

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Candyman: How could I have left this film off my previous list? Tony Todd’s flawless baritone purr calling out to beautiful grad student Helen Lyle from across a parking garage, his voice some how a whisper in her mind! A movie whose romance is only rivalled by it’s scares.

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Hellraiser: If you think about it, Hellraiser’s plot is essentially a Lifetime movie on acid. A woman in a loveless marriage reconnects with her brother in law, with whom she had a torrid affair with years previously. Only in order for them to be together she must bring him men to consume. How I managed to leave this off my list is beyond me. I mean seriously, who doesn’t want someone to want them as much as Julia wants Frank? Even after Frank ends up a skinless cannibalistic attic dweller.

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The Fly: A large percentage of Cronenberg’s Oeuvre would work for V-Day. I mean Crash, Videodrome, A Dangerous Method, M. Butterfly, Map to the Stars or Dead Ringers would be great viewing for the weird on V-Day. But The Fly is Cronenberg at his most gooey and romantic. Brundle-Butt aside, the sheer glamour of Geena Davis and the top notch practical effects should have you sold.

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Interview with the Vampire: Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt as immortal boyfriends? Yes please. While director Neil Jordan definitely subdued the gayness of the original text, the movie comes out hella gay none the less.A beautiful and sumptuous film with some of the last great practical effects of the 90s.  As romantic as it is bloody.

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Byzantium: A spiritual sequel to Interview with the Vampire, Neil Jordan stuns with a more subtle vampire story. Set in modern times with flashbacks to centuries previous, two vampires on the run hide in a small seaside town. But when the younger attends classes at a local school, she puts not only herself and her companion at risk, but also a haemophiliac boy she has feelings for. Truly stunning both visually and in terms of the way it reinvents the vampire mythos, it makes the perfect double feature with Interview.

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Bride of Frankenstein: “We belong dead.” The movie that brought Tiffany Charles, noted murderess and voodoo dabbler to tears is a V-Day must. Glorious black and white horror that lept over the bar set by James Whale’s first instalment.

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Honourable Mention Hannibal: The Red Dragon: While it isn’t a film, Hannibal is one of the best/goriest/most romantic things to be put on screen in the last decade. A particular stand out in the romance department is the final run of episodes which were essentially a 6 episode miniseries was a highlight of the series run and arguably the epitome of the homoromantic subtext turning text that drew so many to the critically acclaimed series. Episodes 8 to 13 of the third season tell a complete story that while enhanced by the preceding episodes would still make for a great V-Day watch and certainly play better after repeated viewings compared to Manhunter and Red Dragon the two previous attempts at adapting the Thomas Harris novel.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

The Sacrament [REVIEW]

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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.