Friday, September 01, 2017

It Comes At Night (2017)








DIRECTOR: Trey Edward Shults

WRITER: Trey Edward Shults

CAST:

Joel Edgerton
Carmen Ejogo
Christopher Abbott
Riley Keough
Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Griffin Robert Faulkner
David Pendleton

PLOT:

As a family stays secure in their desolate home in the wilderness. An unnatural threat terrorises the outside world. When a desperate young family shows up at their house seeking refuge, things suddenly go from bad to worse. As tension and paranoia set in between the two families. The lingering threat that awaits on the outside may not be as dangerous as the one now growing between the group of people inside the home.








Back in April of 2017, It Comes At Night first debuted at the Overlook Film Festival. It opened to rave reviews, and the hype machine was in full swing. A24 is a studio who have only been around for roughly five years and has had an incredible run with their films. Their genre movies have also been some of the best of the last decade. We've had Under The Skin, Ex Machina, The Witch, Green Room, The Blackcoat's Daughter, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, and Hereditary. They are on a roll at the moment.

When the trailer for It Comes At Night first debuted. I think a lot of horror fans may have been under the impression that the movie may have been about a monster of some sort. The title and all of the promotion for the film may have hinted at a story that was far more sinister than what we get in the final movie. Once it debuted, the critics were all over the film. I heard a lot of disappointment from fans that thought that the movie wasn't what they had expected, and the marketing was all a lie and had deceived horror fans.

Once I finally got around to watching It Comes At Night. The film had already been and gone. It came and left cinemas. The hype had died down. The genre had been divided by the movie they had witnessed. I had listened to an array of my favourite podcasts review the film, and not one of them had ruined it for me with their talks. Still, opinion was incredibly divided. It wasn't until the movie had landed on Netflix that I finally got to watch it. With all the talk of people saying that the film doesn't promise what the title is meant to deliver. I went into this not expecting a monster movie and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Yes, It Comes At Night isn't a creature feature. Some people may even feel that this title misleads horror fans. Yet, I think genre fans made up their mind with what they were getting way too quickly with this one. This is an end of the world tale that deals with a deadly virus, and for that, I really enjoyed it. Something eventually does come during the night, and while it isn't a monster, that title does make complete sense to me now that I've seen this film. What takes place in the movie was enough to have me on the edge of my seat more than once.

What I loved about It Comes At Night was that from the very first moments that this movie begins, it is steeped in dread. While the film is very slow-burn in its approach and build-up towards its conclusion. I never felt like the family was safe, and for that, it made this incredibly nerve-wracking. The entire movie is dripping with suspense. It had moments where I genuinely felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand-up. One scene being the red-door sequence. That moment was chilling stuff even if the overall story took that time in getting to those scary places.

The acting in It Comes At Night was excellent. Joel Edgerton is a fantastic actor. Being Australian, I've known his work since first seeing him in the superb drama Praise. He has just gone from strength to strength, and I'm glad that he broke into Hollywood. I remember first seeing Carmen Ejogo is The Purge: Anarchy and knew she'd be one to watch. This is now the third movie that I've seen her in, and I thought she was bloody brilliant here. Riley Keough and Christopher Abbott round out the main cast. Both do great in their respective roles as well.

Now onto the issues that I had with It Comes At Night. My biggest issue is the ending of the film. This is one dark ending. This is not exactly a pleasant experience. You will not walk out of this story saying that was enjoyable. It's an ending that descends into paranoia and death. I felt so sorry for certain characters in this movie. It is the same issue that I had with Jackals. It's a grueling film where I think some form of a happy ending wouldn't have gone astray. I felt emotionally drained by the time the credits had begun to roll.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about the look of It Comes At Night. I think this is a gorgeous looking film. For a movie made for five million dollars and set mostly within a house in the wilderness. A lot of the cinematography and camera work looked fantastic. I think a lot of the more horror elements looked incredibly creepy here. I loved that the look and feel of the film weren't about jump scares but were slow-burn tension. To make a house scary and the wilderness feel like a threat, I can't wait to see what Trey Edward Shults delivers next.







DEATH TOLL: 7

BLOOD AND GORE:

- An old man is shot in the head, and his body is set on fire.
- A man, woman, and child are gunned down in cold blood.
- A teenage boy dies after becoming infected.
- A man is repeatedly hit in the face.
- Two men are gunned down in a forest.
- A woman vomits up black sludge into a teenage boys mouth.
- A dog gets sick and die, and its body is set on fire.
- A teenage boy is shown covered in infected sores.








When It Comes At Night debuted, critics and audiences were divided. I heard a lot of mixed opinions before I finally saw it. Going into this, I wasn't sure what to expect. I feel that the movie was more successful than it wasn't. I got a well made and creepy film about paranoia and the end of the world. While this isn't an enjoyable experience, this is filled with suspense and excellent performances. While some may find the title misleading, you will most certainly find that something does indeed come at night.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Ice Cream Truck (2017)








DIRECTOR: Megan Freels Johnston

WRITER: Megan Freels Johnston

CAST:

Deanna Russo
Emil Johnsen
John Redlinger
Sam Schweikert
Dan Sutter
Hilary Barraford
Jeff Daniel Phillips
Bailey Anne Borders
Declan Michael Laird

PLOT:

When Mary moves back to her small suburban hometown, she is planning a new life with her husband. While her husband is away on business, Mary plans on setting up their new house in preparation for his return. It's when her nosey neighbours begin prying, and she starts up a sexual relationship with a good-looking young gardener. Her situation goes from bad to worse when a serial killer driving an ice cream truck starts murdering the residents and comes after herself.








When I first heard about The Ice Cream Truck, it was when the fantastic first poster debuted online. The poster featured an ice cream truck that was melting into blood. That was enough to peak my interest in this film. Then, I heard the director Megan Freels Johnston on the Dread Central Brainwaves podcast talking about the movie. I knew then and there that I had to give this film a watch. I love what she had to say about the horror genre and what she wanted to bring to the screen.

On the podcast, Megan Freels Johnston talked about how she always writes for the characters first. It's character development than the horror. After watching The Ice Cream Truck, I believe what she has to say. I think that a lot of horror fanatics who are looking for a scary and gory horror film about some serial-killing ice cream man will be disappointed with what's on offer here. The story does indeed feature a killer ice cream man. But this almost borders on a slow-burn, dark, horror comedy.

First and foremost, what I enjoyed about The Ice Cream Truck was how much I liked our main final girl. She isn't the perfect housewife. She's an incredibly flawed person. This movie features a sub-plot where our main character is cheating on her husband with the young, hot gardener. It takes balls to make an audience want to sympathise with a woman who is having an extramarital affair while her husband is away. I really enjoyed that she was written this way as it made me like her character even more at the end of the film.

Another element of the film that I enjoyed was the aesthetic. The entire movie takes place in the suburbs. I loved the look of this small town Americana. I think that they managed to capture that incredibly well here. This is a very low-budget movie, but I think that they got the most out of the setting here. If I could give this a compliment, at times, I got this almost dream-like quality from the way this film showed suburbia. This felt almost like the director may have been inspired by David Lynch and the way he likes to show us this dark, seedy, underbelly of Americana.

Now the issues that I had with The Ice Cream Truck fall back on the story and writing. I'm okay with not knowing the backstory on our killer or villain. It can make things a little bleaker and darker for that character. It leaves us with that mystery. I think with this film; I wanted to see why this killer was murdering the neighbours. Sadly, we get absolutely nothing, and it sort of makes no sense by the time the film wraps up. They could have had our lead character, and the killer have a history, but they sadly don't do anything with it. He's just driving around and killing people. It may have provided more tension had they given them a past.

The acting is also somewhat hit and miss. Deanna Russo as our final girl is the saving grace of the movie. She's talented enough and carries this entire film on her capable shoulders. Emil Johnsen as the ice cream man is weird and kooky enough. Sadly, he's not at all menacing. He has the look of a killer, but his performance isn't scary. It just comes across as incredibly awkward. The rest of the cast for me mostly feel or come across like first-time actors. Not that this is a huge problem or anything, but it makes a lot of the performances feel very amateurish.

When it comes to the scares and suspense, I think that The Ice Cream Truck has this weird and awkward sort of tone to it. The story rides between horror and a really odd type of comedy. I think with the acting, I found it to be almost strange as mentioned above. Things felt very out of place at times, and it may have been the intention all along, but for me, the tonal shifts between the horror and comedy just didn't always mesh very well together. It felt like one was cancelling the other out when they were both most important.

Lastly, we come to the blood and gore. This movie contains enough bloodshed that it should keep horror fans happy. It's one of the better elements of this film. We have a scene involving a milkshake maker that felt very inspired by the blender scene in the excellent You're Next. We have a ton of violence and gore that includes people being stabbed to death with an array of cutlery and utensils. It's not exactly disturbing, but the violence is handled well enough that I enjoyed myself with The Ice Cream Truck.








DEATH TOLL: 5

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman's throat is slashed.
- A man is repeatedly stabbed in the stomach.
- A woman is repeatedly stabbed in the head with an ice-cream scoop.
- A man is stabbed in the hand and head with a butcher's knife.
- A woman uses a milkshake maker to bore into someone's skull.








Going into The Ice Cream Truck, I wasn't sure what to expect with this movie. I went into this expecting a pretty dark slasher about a murderous ice cream man. While we get that element. This film is almost dream-like in its display of suburbia and the idea of that Americana. With a solid and likeable final girl, some twists on the slasher, and a lovely aesthetic. I enjoyed this more than I didn't. Is it perfect? No. This film could have fleshed out a lot of the characters, given us backstories, or tied things together better. The tonal shifts also feel bizarre in certain scenes. The story feels awkward as it swings between comedy and horror. Still, it's a lot better than a lot of the slashers in its price range. Worth a once off watch.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Can't Take It Back (2017)








DIRECTOR: Tim Shechmeister

WRITERS:

Tim Shechmeister
Matt Shechmeister

CAST:

Ana Coto
Meredith Foster
Logan Paul
Noah Centineo
Ivanna Sakhno
Lexi Atkins
Jill Larson
Anne Richardson

PLOT:

When a group of friends decide to leave hateful comments on the social media page of Morgan Rose, a teenage girl who has recently committed suicide. They don't think about the repercussions of their actions. Little do the group of friends realise, that if you speak ill of the dead, don't be surprised if you can't take it back.
 







In today's modern digital age. The most significant way of connecting people together is by way of social media. Long gone are the days of communication where you meet people out and about or in a bar. While that still happens, it almost feels like this lost art. It feels, old-fashioned. With dating apps and social media websites, we find close interaction in other people's lives from a distance and behind a screen. I believe this is now the new normal.

However, social media also comes with a dark side. The world-wide-web is a seriously nasty place. At the press of a button, you can degrade and abuse someone. It's given people the power to use the internet to spew hatred and bile. Can't Take It Back takes that premise and runs with it while adding a supernatural twist to the proceedings. In today's horror climate, it's a premise that we have seen countless times before. I also doubt that it will be the last time that we see such a story.

In the realm of horror, we have seen Unfriended, Friend Request, Ratter, The Den and Chatroom, the list goes on. We also have Searching and Unfriended: Dark Web which are coming soon. This latest sub-genre of cyber horror is all the rage. They have also been done to varying degrees of success. Sadly, Can't Take It Back feels like this adds nothing really new to the sub-genre. The story feels very familiar and at times almost identical to Friends Request.

What this movie does wrong is that it misses a chance to really say something about the downside and pitfalls of using social media. While we get a short scene of two of the girls writing a horrible message on a dead girl's social media page, it is over and done within a matter of seconds. Only one of them really shows any remorse for her actions. While probably realistic of today's internet trolls. You would think that these writers could have touched on this a bit more instead of glossing over it.

The biggest positive that I can throw this movies way is that it never really takes a breather. From the very first moment that the film begins, we are witness to a girl committing suicide. The teenagers that choose to slut shame, bully, and abuse this now dead girl begin to witness her ghost, and she starts to seek her revenge. I can say that the winning element of Can't Take It Back is that the film is never once dull. It may not be a good movie, but this is not a slow-moving story.

While I didn't find Can't Take It Back scary at all. I do believe that the film delivers enough violence and bloodshed that it should keep gorehounds happy. The movie gives us a few bloody kills but what makes them somewhat compelling is that the ghost of the dead girl drives them to commit suicide, just like she had done. Even though I enjoyed her getting revenge, it's a pretty heavy theme to be dealing with. It's basically an eye for an eye, but teenagers taking their own lives is still a pretty horrible thing, regardless if they tormented other people.

When it comes to the acting. I didn't mind the cast here. My biggest issue was Logan Paul. By now, he's more well known for his troubles than he is for being some famous YouTube personality. Having his character playing a massive douche doesn't help. This is the kind of jerk-off that posts footage of a dead body online while visiting a sacred place in Japan and uploads it onto the internet for likes, which funnily enough sort of mirrors his despicable actions in the movie. He shows no remorse for his idiocy and only gives fake apologies.

Lastly, another issue that I had with the movie is that because it dives right into the story. We are barely given any character development. We don't really know all that much about the victim, who is our dead girl. We also don't know anything about the majority of our teenagers. We only know that one has recently moved into the town. She is peer-pressured into leaving a nasty comment, and that's about all there is to it. Minus each character being a typical archetype that is well known in the genre. We get nothing which makes us not care for any of them.








DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Gruesome shots of blood and death on television.
- A teenage girl has a nightmare that she is stabbed to death with pencils.
- A teenage girl is seen covered in blood and has slashes up her arms.
- A teenage girl cuts her own throat.
- We see a bathroom covered in blood.
- A teenage girl is scratched by ghosts.
- A teenage boy shoots himself in the head.
- A teenage girl is seen cutting her wrist.








Like Friend Request and Unfriended that came before it. Can't Take It Back doesn't really add anything new to the whole cyber-horror sub-genre. In fact, I think it felt pretty similar to the first of those two mentioned films. So much so, that at times, I was wondering if they'd watched that movie to take notes. While the movie is never boring, it just doesn't feel all that fresh or original. The bloodshed can't save this one. Sadly, I can't take back my time with this one.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Vault (2017)








DIRECTOR: Dan Bush

WRITERS:

Dan Bush
Conal Byrne

CAST:

James Franco
Taryn Manning
Francesca Eastwood
Scott Haze
Q'orianka Kilcher
Clifton Collins Jr.
Jeff Gum
Debbie Sherman

PLOT:

When Vee and Leah, two estranged sisters decide to rob a bank in order to save their brother Michael. The job is simple, get in, get the money, and get out. Little do these two sisters realise that this is no ordinary bank. In the basement vault of the bank, it hides a dark secret. Once the gang opens up the basement vault to retrieve all of the money inside. All hell breaks loose, and they unleash something far more sinister.







When I first noticed that The Vault had popped up on Netflix, I had passed over it on several occasions. I thought that it was a heist flick. I had no idea that the movie had elements of the supernatural or was deeply rooted in the horror genre. You could look at the poster for the film and see all of the creepy masks that the gang donned or the images of those ghostly figures burning in the background. However, I feel that I may have not taken much notice on this occasion.

The movie starts off like most action heist films. The gang starts a fire in a warehouse close to the bank in hopes of creating a diversion to keep the police off of the robbery. We are introduced to our gang. One is applying for a position at the bank, fake blonde wig and all. Before you know it, its revealed that she is the leader and like most heist movies, we are treated to scenes of the staff and patrons being taken, hostage. It all seems pretty straightforward up until this point. What works well in The Vault is how quickly things descend into madness in the story.

As the gang starts to round up all the tellers and the people who've come to deposit some money. This is where the shit starts to hit that fan. They quickly discover that the bank isn't carrying that much loot. The gang have made a grave mistake. They have assumed the bank is holding millions in cash. They were very wrong. Cue the dramatics, the plan reassessments, and a character confirming that the vault in the basement is where they keep all their stash. The gang decide to trust the mysterious bank teller and things go south.

Once the gang starts to make their way into the basement vault, this is where things start getting fun. Whatever was hiding in the vault is unleashed, and the nightmarish visions begin. We now start delving into the history of this haunted bank. We see that something terrible has taken place in the past. As the movie slowly starts to unravel, things escalate, and I found myself having an absolute blast with it. Is it perfect? No. The film has problems, but they weren't enough to ruin what I felt was this original take on the heist movie.

Is The Vault gory? No, not really. While the film is filled with blood and violence, and many of the characters meet some grisly fate. This story feels pretty restrained for a movie that deals heavily with vengeful ghosts that murder a bank full of people. We get a lot of aftermath shots, quick flashes of gore, a few stabbings, and a death that involves a drill. I think the film provides enough bloodshed to keep most gorehounds happy. Some of them may even desire more from this one. I could've used several more gruesome demises.

Was The Vault scary? I think the movie delivers a few nice jump scares throughout. What I really liked about the story was that from those very first moments that the movie begins, we get a sense of dread. We know something is going to happen. We know that the bank robbery will go wrong. But what I didn't see coming was where this film would end up going and for that, I was kept on my toes for most of it. This goes to some dark places and I have to hand it to the director and writers for coming up with something that felt somewhat original.

The acting in The Vault is decent. The standout for me is Taryn Manning. The woman is a great actress. I think she plays that criminal-type very well as seen from her six years on Orange Is The New Black. Clint's daughter Francesca Eastwood also delivers a solid performance in the movie. I liked the dynamic between the two and wanted to see these sisters make it out of this haunted bank alive. James Franco is the support here and I enjoyed what he did with the role. Lastly, we have Q'orianka Kilcher who I just adore. She plays one of the tellers. I think she is just such a talented actress and this amazing screen presence.

Lastly, I wanted to bring up the twist. While I had no idea where the film was going early on with the bank being haunted and the vault full of vengeful ghosts. I kind of guessed where the twist was going as the lead up is right in front of you. One of the characters is not who they appear to be, and the way that they are dressed is not of our time. You can sense that this person may be connected to the past of this bank. While I liked the twist, I saw it coming. Some may have no idea and this will provide a great surprise or shock for them.







DEATH TOLL: 9

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A security guard is repeatedly punched in the face with knuckledusters.
- A man is shotgun blasted in the leg.
- We see quick lashes of people being killed.
- A man is shown with his finger cut off.
- A robber is dragged off into a vault and repeatedly stabbed.
- A man drills himself in the face.
- A guy shoots himself in the head.
- Several people are burned alive in a bank vault.
- A couple of men are shot in the head.
- A man with half a head is seen in the basement.
- A man is blown up when he ignites the gas main.








I went into The Vault not expecting much. I thought I was about to witness a heist thriller. Instead, what I got was a violent and bloody supernatural horror movie that delivers a new spin on the heist story. With some solid acting, tension, and a couple of nice visual touches. The Vault surprised more than it disappointed. Just for sheer originality, I found myself taken with this dark little heist film. While the story clearly has problems and a silly final shot, the movie is definitely worth a once off watch.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Veronica (2017)








DIRECTOR: Paco Plaza

WRITERS:

Fernando Navarro
Paco Plaza

CAST:

Sandra Escacena
Bruna Gonzalez
Claudia Placer
Ana Torrent
Ivan Chavero
Consuelo Trujillo
Angela Fabian
Carla Campra

PLOT:

Set in Madrid, June of 1991. Veronica is a teenage girl who is trying to overcome the death of her father. Her mother also works all day in a bar which leaves Veronica the one in charge of her three younger siblings. During a solar eclipse, Veronica and two friends decide to play around with an Ouija board to contact their dead relatives. The friends instead, invite in something far darker.








When Veronica made its way onto Netflix, it made a pretty big splash. The movie was touted as the next great scare-fest. Some reports were calling this the scariest horror film ever made. Lists suddenly made their way onto the wide-web after the movie had premiered on the streaming service that had this listed as one of the top ten creepiest films you can now watch. The promotional campaign was in full-swing for Veronica. It was the hype-machine working overtime. I got caught up in the whirlwind.

The movie is directed by Paco Plaza. He is no stranger to the horror genre. He is the man responsible for creating one of the greatest, and scariest found-footage zombie movies of all time with [REC]. The movie was an incredibly intense, and low-budget zombie film that utilized the found-footage genre, in the same way, The Blair Witch Project kind of revolutionised it. It was also released at a time when the sub-genre wasn't oversaturated with hundreds of the same sort of movie. His experiment had paid off and hit at the exact right time.

With Veronica, Paco Plaza has now turned his sights on the Supernatural genre. Here we have another sub-genre of horror that has been wildly popular over recent years with franchises like The Conjuring universe or the Insidious and Paranormal Activity franchises. Veronica feels very akin to those films. So much so that at times, it feels almost beat for beat in the way that a lot of the tension is ramped-up or how a lot of these set-pieces play out. This is what probably hurts Veronica the most. It feels like a case of 'i've seen this all before.' It doesn't feel like it breaks any new ground.

Another issue that I had with Veronica was that the movie was awfully slow. I'm not going to lie, this took me three watches over two separate nights to get through the entire thing. The movie runs at a respectable hour and forty-five minutes. However, the way that this story drags on, it feels like it clocks in at over two hours. At times, this was honestly boring to me. The story is meant to be based on a real crime and event. I just didn't find myself invested with a lot of what was happening on screen.

Visually, I think Veronica looked excellent. Paco Plaza is a talented filmmaker. I will never deny that. This is probably his most polished looking film to date. The entire sequence with the solar eclipse was a highlight for me. I also feel confident that he knows how to capture the darker material well. While a lot of the horror effects feel familiar as I mentioned above, he is still able to deliver us a solid looking movie. My biggest gripe is how similar the final demonic attack scene looked. The entity, and what takes place, looks almost identical to Ouija: Origin Of Evil.

When it comes to the suspense and tension, I think Veronica has a few very creepy moments. There's a sequence that features demonic entities that are naked and for some reason, it really makes me uncomfortable. A dead person naked is just a very eerie piece of imagery. Also, the fact that this happens around a teenage girl makes this even scarier. I also thought the 'Sister of Death' character may be the creepiest nun in a film since The Nun in The Conjuring 2. I also enjoyed the fact that she was sassy in her delivery towards Veronica.

I think the acting in Veronica is the highlight. I've never personally seen any of the actors or recognise them from any television or movies, but I found them all to be very solid. I believe that the entire film rests on the shoulders of Sandra Escacena and she gets put through the wringer in this movie. What really surprised me was how brilliant the three young kids performances turned out. Child actors can either make or break a performance. Sometimes, we get shining examples. Then we have other times where an audience is subjected to the annoying brat from The Babadook.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the opening scene and final showdown. Paco Plaza does something that really frustrates me with horror films. He opens the film at the end. He leads right up to the very moment we are about to witness that final horrifying shot and then cuts back to a few days before the terrible events. What makes all of this so annoying is that it basically lays out exactly where this film will end up. While he has some restraint and doesn't show us the character, we know exactly where this will lead and it adds no element of surprise. 








DEATH TOLL: 0

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Little children chew open a teenage girls flesh.
- A demon rams its arm down a girls throat.
- Blood forms under a sheet.
- A girl cuts her hand open on glass.








Veronica is a film that has seen its fair share of hype. As soon as it landed on Netflix. People were already calling this the scariest film ever made. The articles and lists that came out only added fuel to the fire. Going into Veronica with that type of knowledge, I couldn't help but be somewhat disappointed by it. On a technical level, the movie is gorgeous. Some of the imagery is also incredibly creepy. What lets it down the most is pacing problems and an all too familiar retread of supernatural tropes. This sadly won't break any new ground.