Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Forest (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Jason Zada

WRITERS:

Nick Antosca
Sarah Cornwell
Ben Ketai

CAST:

Natalie Dormer
Taylor Kinney
Yukiyoshi Ozawa
Eoin Macken
Noriko Sakura
Rina Takasaki
Terry Diab

PLOT:

Sara, a young American woman receives a phone call from Tokyo telling her that her twin sister Jess was last seen heading into Aokigahara Forest. The detective informs Sara that the forest is well known for being a place where Japanese people go to take their own lives. Worried for the well-being and safety of her sister, Sara decides to jump on a flight and head to Aokigahara Forest in hopes of bringing her home safe and sound. She will soon discover that the forest holds more than just dead bodies within its surroundings.







When I first got wind that a horror movie was being made about Aokigahara (Suicide Forest), I was absolutely ecstatic. Growing up I always had a fascination with visiting 'scary places' from around the world. I'm one of those people that love reading lists of 'must visit haunted places' or I watch all the paranormal shows and I've even visited places that have made the lists to satisfy my morbid curiosity. I've seen The Catacombs of Paris, I've visited the Quarantine Centre in Sydney and even visited the Hiroshima Museum while I was in Japan. Aokigahara is up there with Auschwitz and Chernobyl in terms of places I must visit before I die.

So when I first saw the trailer for The Forest, I was excited that a movie was being set in a place I've always wanted to visit and been fascinated with. The whole 'mystery' of why people head to this place to take their own lives has me extremely intrigued. I've even seen the Vice documentary where they do a tour into Aokigahara and it's pretty disturbing stuff. It's also fascinating that this forest draws people from all over Japan to end their lives for whatever reason. There is just so much sadness in the premise that I was honestly excited to see what they could do with the story.

The trailer for The Forest was obviously going to cater to horror fans. This wasn't going to be a simple story of a woman going to a forest to take her life and become a rescue mission. This was going to have supernatural elements to cater to the J-Horror crowd and I knew immediately people would find this premise to be in poor taste to all those who have taken their lives there. The whitewashing allegations began to start as well when Natalie Dormer was front and center in the trailer. I have no issues myself with Natalie being the lead as this was an American woman heading to a foreign country, being out of her depth and going into the unknown. I did, however, sympathize with people's frustrations that the film would turn the dead into vengeful ghosts. It seemed a little disrespectful.

Once the scathing reviews came flooding in, I was worried that I had hyped this movie much more than what I probably should have and I was scared. After an eight month wait to finally get myself a copy of the film, the hype had died down and I went into The Forest just hoping that I came out of it enjoying what would be a silly supernatural horror film. I hoped at worst that this film would be of the guilty pleasure variety and after sitting through the Forest I found a film that had a lot of potential, an interesting premise, and a creepy setting but loses itself along the way.

The Forest had me for the first hour. I was really enjoying the build-up to the third act. This film is a slow burn horror. There isn't a lot of huge jump scares or scenes of prolonged suspense but the few scenes in the first hour that require the film to ramp up the tension, they worked for the most part. The scene in the dark hallway with the old lady was a perfect example of that. It's in the third act where this movie decides to head off the path. Once the supernatural elements kick in, this is where things become a bit silly and formulaic. The scenes of supernatural terror have all been done many times before and I found myself enjoying them less than the actual scenes of a desperate sister being stuck in a foreign country who is worried sick for her sister.

The familial moments within the first hour are lost in the third act. It becomes less about the rescue attempt of her sister and more about giving the audience a whole lot of unnecessary and poorly done ghosts. Had they focused more on Sara descending into madness as well as tidy up the messy ending, I think this movie would have fared better with myself and more critics. Even reading some of the theories on the internet about split personalities and mental illness, I think the theories are reading deeper into what the filmmakers and writers were initially trying to do when creating this story. I think people are giving them a little more credit than they deserve. It's a little messy and while it's disappointing, it's not the worst horror film of 2016.

Now onto the performances within The Forest. I'm a huge fan of Natalie Dormer. She's great in Game Of Thrones and even in Rush and The Counsellor in her small roles. I think she has a lot of presence on screen and for the first hour, I thought she did a great job. A few cheesy scenes towards the end lessen her impact. Taylor Kinney as the male support is good and I didn't mind his performance. The best performance comes from Yokiyoshi Ozawa who plays the guide that takes our American's into the forest. I found his performance to be rather sincere.

Finally, I feel that another winning element of the film is the cinematography. As someone who has been to Japan and loved every single second of it. The Forest took me back seeing Tokyo on screen again. The beautiful tracking shots through the busy streets of Tokyo to the arrival in Aokigahara and the overhead shots of the forest were beautiful. Once inside the forest, I found a lot the scenes to be quite gorgeous as well. The scene where we go in for a close-up of Natalie Dormer's eyes and it shows bits of the forest in extreme close-up were beautiful. Overall this is one of the better-looking horror films I've seen in 2016.








DEATH TOLL:
 4

BLOOD AND GUTS:

- A woman is shot dead with a shotgun in a suicide pact.
- A hand is cut open.
- Maggots found in an infected wound.
- Someone is stabbed in the chest.
- Rotting corpses are seen hanging from nooses.
- A suicide pact.








The Forest was one of the horror films that I had high hopes for when I originally learned of its existence. I have always been fascinated with the Suicide Forest and was really excited to see what this film would do with that premise. After seeing The Forest, I was left a bit disappointed with the finished film. While I enjoying The Forest for the first hour. The film loses it's way in the third act and becomes a formulaic ghost story.



Monday, November 28, 2016

They're Watching (2016)








DIRECTORS:


Jay Lender
Micah Wright

WRITERS:


Jay Lender

Micah Wright

CAST:

Carrie Genzel
Brigid Brannagh
David Alpay
Kris Lemche
Mia Faith
Dimitri Diatchenko
Cristian Balint
Cici Caraman

PLOT:

An American Renovation / Home Improvement show heads to a remote Eastern European village to film the follow-up episode for a past contestant who purchased a dilapidated fixer-up home in the wilderness outside of the remote village. Once they arrive in town, they begin to notice that all the local townsfolk aren't very welcoming of new guests. Are the crew in danger or is there something much darker hiding in the wilderness?








Being an avid traveller and someone who has a serious case of wanderlust, I've always been drawn to horror movies that feature plots about the darker side of travelling. I myself recently did four months of travelling and backpacking through Eastern Europe which ended with me being attacked, robbed, and having my passport, wallet and phone stolen. It's a situation that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. It's a really frightening thing to be in a foreign country and not understanding the language and no one believing you. I guess when it happens to you, you can sympathise with the characters in horror movies because you've been through it.

So when horror movies feature people in situations where they get lost in a foreign country and end up on the chopping block, I always seem drawn to them. While my situation was never that extreme, I still really enjoy horror movies of travel gone awry. Some of the movies I love are Eli Roth's Hostel and Hostel Part II, Turistas, Wolf Creek, The Ruins, The Hills Have Eyes, An American Werewolf In London and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They all touch on the above subject and they all do it rather well.

When it comes to They're Watching, I was immediately drawn to the movie being set in Eastern Europe. I went in knowing that this movie was a horror comedy so it wouldn't be as dark as the movies I mentioned above. I also knew that it features Americans being stuck in some 'lost in translation' type scenario. Lastly, I was excited to see how the home improvement found footage element played out, even if I believe that found footage is now saturating the horror genre. I was hoping that this would add some new element to it.

I found myself enjoying They're Watching for the first hour of the film. The first hour basically builds up all the characters and we get to know the crew of this American Home Improvement TV Show. The movie actually makes you care for most of the characters before they're all killed off in grisly fashion. As with every horror movie, we do have one or two characters who are written to be disposable but the movie for the most part, actually builds up the characters which I found as a positive in this movie.

The first hour doesn't contain many scares or suspense at all. It's pretty much free of it. Either does the last thirty minutes of the film if I'm being brutally honest. The first hour does, however, deliver a few of the big do's and don'ts when it comes to traveling and paying respect to the different cultures and countries. It's probably the only time during these scenes that the movie makes any type of blip on the tension scale.

Once the movie starts killing off the entire crew, the movie just descends into one of the most hilariously bad horror movie finals that I've seen in quite some time. If the movie was trying to take itself seriously towards the end, it fails miserably. The movie's final showdown is so over the top and filled with such awful visuals that it completely takes you out of the movie. It's just so laughable and cheesy that it sort of ruins the rest of the movie. The rather predictable reveal of the big bad is also rather unimpressive.

Even with the awful final massacre, I have to say that I liked the cinematography in this found footage movie. There are lots of scenes of gorgeous old architecture, we have a lot of shots of the village and it sort of made me miss Europe watching the film. I really wanted to travel again after sitting through it. The movie also gets that aspect of the film right. It's a nice looking movie.

Lastly, The acting in They're Watching is above average. I think the entire cast give it a solid run. Kris Lemche as our comedic relief is probably the standout of the film. Brigid Brannagh is also great in her role. She probably gets to have the most fun and you'll see why and Carrie Genzel as our studio executive and nasty business woman bitch is the most disposable but god she can play a nasty, hateful bitch really well.








DEATH TOLL:
 25

BLOOD AND GORE:

- An ax to the skull.
- A dog is shot after attacking someone.
- Eyes removed and a live frog stuffed in their mouth.
- Someone is nailed to a barn.
- A fire poker through the arm.
- People explode.
- Someone is turned into frogs. Frogs eat another person.
- A person is hit with a tree.
- A rotting corpse.
- People are impaled and burnt alive.
- People are ripped into pieces.
- Someone's head explodes.
- A person is ripped in half.
- Someone has their head bashed in.








They're Watching has a solid first hour and slowly descends into one of the most hilariously bad finals I've seen in a long time. Some horribly cheesy visuals and over the top violence do the rest of the movie a disservice. The movie gains some points for the above average acting, some solid character development in the first hour and some rather gorgeous cinematography of Eastern Europe.



Friday, November 25, 2016

The Shallows (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Jaume Collet-Serra

WRITER: Anthony Jaswinski

CAST:


Blake Lively
Oscar Jaenada
Brett Cullen
Sedona Legge
Janelle Bailey

PLOT:

Nancy is a med student who has decided to take a surfing sabbatical to a secluded beach in Mexico that her late mother once surfed and told her stories about. Heading off to this unknown beach alone, she packs a small bag and her surfboard ready for adventure. While hitting the waves, Nancy paddles into the vicinity of a dead whale carcass and the feeding ground of a great white shark. After being knocked off her surfboard, bitten by the shark and 200 yards from shore. It will be a fight for survival as the tide is rising on the lone rock that Nancy has taken safety on.



When I first saw the trailer for The Shallows. I immediately thought, 'not another shark' film. When I read the credits and noticed that director Jaume Collet-Serra was at the helm, I had a little more faith in this production. I'm in the minority of people that loved his remake of House Of Wax and his extremely dark and twisted familial horror film Orphan. The man knows how to do a gorgeous looking horror film. At worst, I thought if The Shallows is bad, I will at least have a lot of fun with the visuals Collet-Serra will throw at the screen.

After seeing The Shallows, I quite pleasantly surprised with the final film. The shark sub-genre has become oversaturated with so many movies lately. What with Syfy's franchise of cheesy low budget shark movies Sharknado or their continued fascination with creating hybrids like Two-Headed Shark or Sharktopus, the list goes on and the results vary wildly. So it's rather rare to find a shark-themed film that is intense and keeps you glued to the screen. I found The Shallows did that for the most part.

In terms of story and plot, The Shallows is pretty simple. We don't have some overly complex setup of how and why Nancy is heading to the beach or how she will survive her wounds and the attack. It's all pretty much straightforward from the get-go. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to guess where The Shallows will begin and end. Predictability is one of The Shallows biggest issues but it's hard these days to create a film about a bloodthirsty shark and having the setup and conclusion feel original.

I found Blake Lively to be the winning element of The Shallows. The movie basically rests on her shoulders for the entire hour and a half and I think she delivered a solid performance. If any people doubt her talent as an actress, just watch her in the Ben Affleck-directed heist thriller The Town. I've seen quite a few reviewers claim that her performance and the actions she takes in the film are not believable. The actions aren't entirely her fault, that's the writers and I think she gave us a decent performance of a woman trying to survive a shark attack. She had me on her side, rooting for her to survive. So for me, she was great in The Shallows.

When it comes to tension and suspense, I found that The Shallows delivered those elements well. There were a few times within the film where my conscious was yelling for Blake Lively's Nancy to swim faster or watch out every time she had to retrieve something from the water. The Shallows also has a few jump scares throughout. Not all jump scares land as you can guess when they will take place but in saying that, I also expected a few to be thrown at the screen that never happens which kind of threw me off on what was going to happen.

The cinematography and creature effects were rather impressive. Jaume Collet-Serra can make a gorgeous looking Horror film, there is no doubt about that. The beach scenes, the scenery and anytime Nancy is underwater or on the buoy, The Shallows is gorgeous to look at. The standout scene for me is a scene involving Nancy swimming through a fluther of Jellyfish. When one stings her and they begin lighting up, I found the scene really pretty. The shark also looked great. On the Scale of Sharknado to Deep Blue Sea, The Shallows is far superior then Sharknado and on par with Deep Blue Sea at it's best in terms of visual creature effects. The only time I felt the effects weren't well done were the earlier surfboarding scenes where they superimposed Blake Lively's face onto a real surfer and the result is a terrifying Aphex Twin look alike.

Now time for some tomato-throwing. The Shallows has a few moments of cheesiness scattered throughout it's running time. We have a scene where Nancy wakes up to see a drunk Mexican bloke on shore, she screams to wake him up and go call for help from her phone on the beach. Instead, he steals her cash, mobile, and bag. Instead of taking off with her possessions, he decides to get into the water to retrieve her surfboard. Did the guys mother never teach him about drinking and swimming? Well, low and behold, the shark gets him in the most predictable and groan-worthy moment of The Shallows. The scene just felt ridiculous and slowed the pacing down. 

I also had a few moments where I snickered during the final buoy attack scene. Am I mistaken or can sharks really chew through the metal grating and steel? I know human flesh isn't that big of a deal for them but the way the shark chomps through the entire buoy like it's cheese, I was rolling my eyes. It just didn't find that scene entirely believable. But with any killer shark movie, I guess you have to suspense disbelief and finally The scenes where I really thought The Shallows would cause laughing fits were the 'Steven Seagull' scenes and it turns out I was completely wrong. These were the scenes of the film where I felt the most heart. I never thought I'd want to see a seagull make it to safety more than I had in this film.



DEATH TOLL: 3

BLOOD AND GORE:


- Jewelry is used to close shut a shark bite.
- A surfer is grabbed out of the water.
- A seagull is injured.
- Someone is ripped in half. The upper body crawls away from legs.
- A dead whale carcass.

The Shallows also  features quite possibly the best way a shark is dispatched of in a movie since Brody blew up Jaws. The shark swimming at very high speed and slams mouth and head first into rusted rebar metal poles, the aftermath looks pretty messed up.




I have to admit that I went into The Shallows with reservations. The rather positive reception from critics and my own hyping it up after I saw the great reviews. I thought I may end up disappointed with the final film. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed the film as much as I did. The Shallows has a few moments where I groaned and even thought these scenes slowed down the pacing of the suspense but a solid lead performance from Blake Lively and some great scenes of suspense make this one of the more entertaining shark films of recent times.


Monday, November 21, 2016

The Boy (2016)


 





DIRECTOR:
 William Brent Bell

WRITER: Stacey Menear

CAST:

Lauren Cohan
Rupert Evans
Jim Norton
Diana Hardcastle
James Russell
Ben Robson
Jett Klyne

PLOT:

Greta has traveled from America to assist an elderly married couple with their son in a remote English village. Once Greta arrives at the old English mansion, it becomes apparent that things aren't what they seem. Instead of caring for an actual child, it's revealed the job will be to take care of a life-sized doll. Greta begins to feel unnerved when she realizes that the elderly couple treats this doll as if it's real. As strange things begin to happen in the residence, Greta starts to believe that maybe this doll is actually alive.








After all most 8 months of release. I finally got to see The Boy. When I originally watched the trailer for this film, I was rather intrigued to see the finished product. The trailer was rather eerie and had an atmosphere about it. I was pleasantly surprised that a movie about a doll had me interested and not scoffing at the premise. As this film came and went, I missed my chance to see it on the big screen. After finally getting my hands on a copy. I have to say that I'm glad that I waited as I feel like I may have dodged a bullet with this one.

The boy starts off quite well. The film had me going for the first twenty-five minutes or so. The introduction of Brahm and the serious reactions from the old married couple to the confused looks on Greta's face gave the film some humor and light-heartedness. These scenes are clearly quite an uncomfortable situation for any young woman to be in. I was enjoying the early scenes involving the rules of how to care for Brahm. These scenes were the most solid moments in The Boy.

Once all the strange things begin to start happening with Brahm and the scenes that require the film to start delivering suspense, tension and the inevitable jump scares. This is where the film really lost me. This is probably due to the fact that pretty much every creepy scene was shown in the trailers, nothing really came as much of a surprise. I sat there hoping to be shocked or surprised by these scenes and they all fell pretty flat. I was rather gutted when I sat through the next fifty minutes and nothing really happened.

From the twenty-five minute mark up until the last twenty minutes The Boy was a cliched mess. As stated above, none of the scares landed, the suspense was basically non-existent and there really wasn't all that much going on. We have a rather poor flirtatious love story subplot that wasn't working for me, the dullest suicide pact that suddenly happens but you haven't warmed to the characters yet. It's never explained to our main protagonist that they kill themselves until the final reveal of the movie's twist and don't even get me started on the abusive boyfriend who suddenly shows up out of nowhere.

Now onto that twist. I love a good twist in my films. Some films have managed to land a twist so shocking that it stays with me for days. Others have tried to drop a twist and it falls flat due to predictability. The Boy, unfortunately, falls into the latter. With early hints in the first twenty-five minutes of the rules of Brahm scenes and a questionable farewell, it becomes pretty clear what's causing odd things to happen within this old mansion. It's a twist that I've seen happen in a few horror movies. So when the big reveal happens, I wasn't at all surprised. A bit of a let down in all honesty.

The final showdown in the film is left to take place in the last ten minutes of the film. So it's all rather wrapped up quickly after a short chase which lacks the suspense as it's over and done within a matter of minutes. Let's not get started on the most overused final reveal shot in horror movies. [SPOILERS]: The killer didn't die from that one stab wound to his stomach and guess what, he's still alive. Yawn, I could've done without that last moment. I guess we'll be getting The Boy: Part II sometime soon?

What The Boy does right is cast Lauren Cohan from AMC's The Walking Dead. She is the main star of this film and for the vast majority of it's running time, we are stuck in her shoes. From the first moments up until the reveal I found her enjoyable to watch in a leading role. She has clearly honed her screaming and acting scared on The Walking Dead as it pays off in this role. The best moments are when she starts to think she's losing her mind. Going off the deep end is where she delivers her most crazed moments.

Lastly, William Brent Bell's direction must get a shout out as well. I found that most of the film looked really well made in terms of tracking shots, cinematography and the scenes inside the mansion and outside within the woods. As the film is kept indoors for most of it's running time, I found he used the space of this giant old mansion quite well. He's certainly no Guillermo Del Toro when it comes to creating a huge menacing story inside a mansion but that could be put down to the huge differents in budgets.








DEATH TOLL:
 3

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A suicide by rocks in the pockets and drowning.
- A few dead and bloody rats.
- Porcelain is used to stab someone in the throat.
- A woman is thrown at a wall with superhuman strength.
- A few hits in the head with a metal fire-poker.


The Boy is a film that I wanted to see for the last eight months. After finishing the film, I was left extremely disappointed. The film lacks any real tension, suspense or scares and the final twist is extremely predictable. The film, however, has some standouts in Lauren Cohen's central performance and the film looked great from a technical point of view. The rest of this movie though is nothing that you haven't already seen before in the realm of horror.

Friday, November 18, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Dan Trachtenberg

WRITERS:

Josh Campbell
Matthew Stuecken
Damien Chazelle

CAST:

John Goodman
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
John Gallagher Jr.
Bradley Cooper
Suzanne Cryer

PLOT:

Michelle has up and left her fiance and life behind. While driving alone at night, she is rammed off the road by another driver. After surviving the car crash, Michelle awakens chained up in an underground bunker with two men when she is warned by them that the world outside has been hit by a large-scale chemical attack. Unsure of who she can trust, she is unsure if she has been saved by the two men from an apocalyptic event or if she is being held against her will.








In 2008, I can still remember the mysterious and clever promotional campaign for Cloverfield. The movie was shrouded in secrecy and all we were given as an audience was the fact that it was a found footage monster movie. I was intrigued by all the hype and when I walked out of the cinema, I was left extremely disappointed by what I witnessed. I was one of the few that didn't like the film. I still haven't watched it since because of the bad taste that the original film left in my mouth.

Eight years later and coming out of basically nowhere, a Cloverfield sequel is dropped on movie goers by doing another pretty secretive and clever viral campaign. The first film being a large scale found footage monster movie, the sequel now appeared to be a low budget survival 'held captive' thriller. I was initially worried about the sequel as I really wasn't a big fan of the first film and thought I may have a bad experience with the sequel. Luckily after watching it twice now, it still holds up on a second viewing and is much more entertaining than the first film.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a much smaller film compared to the original. The scale of this sequel by comparison to the first film is minuscule. I think some people will be disappointed by the film if they go in expecting some giant monster movie like the first film. The majority of the running time has this movie confined to only a small bunker. This film being set in such a small location makes the movie much more claustrophobic and intense compared to the original film. I felt similarities in terms of plot between this film and Xavier Gen's disturbing and brutal apocalyptic bunker movie The Divide.

I found this film to be quite an intense film from the moment Mary Elizabeth Winstead wakes up in the bunker. What I think the film does well is that it keeps you on edge of your seat for the majority of it's running time. I found myself feeling pretty unnerved by how unpredictable and creepy John Goodman's character is throughout. The story also works well in adding a sense of mystery and uneasiness as we are never certain whether or not the chemical attack outside is real or our main protagonist is being held against her will.

I think another big win for 10 Cloverfield Lane is the performances. The acting is top notch in this film. John Goodman delivers one of the best performances of his career. Here he plays the villain of sorts but you also question his motives throughout the film and wonder if he's just a lonely guy. I love seeing him in darker material. He plays the bad guy really well and I think he should do it more often.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as our protagonist is in solid form as well. She gives us a performance where we are rooting for her character and feel for her in the situations she goes through in this film. John Gallagher Jr. as the nice, funny guy also does well in his role. I loved him playing off Mary Elizabeth Winstead and think they had great chemistry. When shit hits the fan in this film and believe me, it does, you end up really feeling sorry for these two characters.

Visually, I think 10 Cloverfield Lane is well done. For a film that is set in an underground bunker for the majority of the film, it still looks pretty slick. We have a few larger scale set pieces in the beginning and end of the film. We have a neat car crash in the beginning of the film, we also have a few intense survival scenes in the bunker and a pretty action packed final few minutes. I think for such a small sequel, they did well with the visuals in the film.

Finally, we come to the negative part of the review. My biggest issue that I had with this movie was the ending. [SPOILERS] Once we escape the bunker and it's revealed that aliens have taken over the planet and it's not a chemical attack, it feels like the ending is a completely different film. So everything that the first hour and twenty minutes have built falls apart right at the end. Some will absolutely love the alien aspect of the film, I, however, thought it felt like an ending that was written into a completely different movie to try and cash in on the Cloverfield name. For me, it didn't feel authentic and while not a massive issue, it loses the film points.








DEATH TOLL:
 3

BLOOD AND GORE:


- A couple of rotting pigs.
- A glass bottle is smashed into someone's head.
- Someone repeatedly smashes their head into a window.
- An open wound is shown (Later stitched up).
- Someone is shot in the head (Blood splatter showed).
- Face and arm melted by acid.








10 Cloverfield Lane has the honor of being a sequel that far surpasses the original film. The movie is a taut and claustrophobic sci-fi thriller that keeps things on a smaller scale compared to the first film and contains some fantastic performances. John Goodman delivers one of his best performances as does Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Even with an ending that feels tacked on in later stages of development, the movie is still an entertaining ride.



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cabin Fever (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Travis Zariwny

WRITERS:

Eli Roth
Randy Pearlstein

CAST:

Samuel Davis
Nadine Crocker
Gage Golightly
Matthew Daddario
Dustin Ingram
Randy Schulman
Louise Linton
Aaron Trainor

PLOT:

Five friends decide to head to a remote cabin for a week long getaway of fun, sex, and some much-needed relaxation. Unknown to the five friends, the body of water that the cabin sits on is contaminated with a flesh-eating virus. Once one of the friends contracts the virus, the infection spreads quickly, which grabs the attention of the local redneck townsfolk and the local deputy who finally want to put an end to the virus once and for all.








When it comes to those supposedly dreaded remake, I'm not one to dismiss them immediately. I have found that over the years, I have quite enjoyed my fair share of remakes. Many of which are based on some of my all time favourite horror movies. I've found myself enjoying them immensely and even in some cases, the remake manages to best the original. So as I stated above, not all remakes are horrible and I want to make that extremely clear before I get into my review of the dreadful Cabin Fever remake.

Back in 1998, Gus Vant Sant decided to direct a shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's iconic masterpiece Psycho. One of the most influential slashers in cinematic history. The end result was not even close to being okay. Most found the remake to be a waste of celluloid and an exercise in pointlessness. For the writers and director to not even try and add something new to the remake was it's biggest downfall. So when I heard that Cabin Fever was using the same script as the 2002 remake, I was worried. Cabin Fever is no Psycho but it was a fun cabin in the woods horror movie and introduced us to director Eli Roth.

After watching the Cabin Fever remake for the second time, I didn't hate it as much as I did the first time I watched it. When I first saw the remake back when it was released, I would have given the finished product a zero had I had my blog up and running at that time. I hated every single second of it. Watching it now, I still didn't like it for the simple fact it's an almost shot for shot remake that uses the same script with only slicker cinematography and buckets more gore but on second viewing I was less harsh coming out the film.

The comparisons on where this remake manages to beat out the original are that this film has much slicker cinematography. The shots of scenery are stunning. The film is clearly a bigger production and you can tell immediately that they had more to work with on this film. The other moments where the film is better than the original is the gore. Cabin Fever was already pretty violent and gruesome but the remake takes it about five steps further and gives us some pretty vicious set-pieces. This movie really sets out to be nasty and gooey and it works in it's favor.

This is where the positives end for the remake. The acting is a lot worse in this film. This, in turn, makes the characters all the more dislikable. I remember feeling sorry for some of the characters in the original, here I was relishing the fact that these characters were rotting away and being killed off in horrific ways. Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, Cerina Vincent, James DeBello, Joey Kern and Guiseppe Andrews were all so strong in their performances in the original that the actors in this remake fell short. Just nowhere near as good as the original cast.

Another element that is sorely missed from the remake is Eli Roth's sense of humor. While they used the exact same script as the original, they decided to leave all the dark humor from that film on the cutting room floor. The frat boy humor from the original is left out of this remake and it's felt all throughout the remake. The film tries to take the darker approach which I'm all for but here, I felt like it was needed to lighten the absolute absurdity of some of the gorier and over the top scenes. In removing the comedy, it just becomes mean-spirited.

Other moments where this remake goes wrong is changing up our deputy from party dude to party chick. Instead of the weird and quirky Guiseppe Andrews who likes to party, he's been replaced with one of the most uncomfortable and sexually suggestive deputies on the force. Her need to party with people just comes across as extremely creepy. We also have another weird and uncomfortable character in the weed smoking hiker who was played by Eli Roth in the original. Here his jokes just fall flat at every moment.

Lastly, like the Psycho remake, the Cabin Fever remake feels like a massive, what the hell is the point in remaking this movie if you're going to give us a movie that feels like it hits beat for beat with the original? By the film's end, it all just feels like a movie that we've seen before. While the film has a few alterations, it's still all feels rather pointless. One movie that has me still scratching my head with its laziness at not even trying to be different or give us something new in the process.








DEATH TOLL:
 9

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is set on fire and burnt alive.
- A pig is gutted.
- A dog explodes blood after it's infected. Organs and guts are shown.
- A few bloody bites.
- A guitar is smashed into someone's face.
- Someone is fingered but it turns out to be an infected wound.
- Lots of fleshy and rotting corpses.
- Someone shaves their skin off. A nipple also falls off.
- Someone drowns.
- Three people are mowed down by an assault rifle.
- A dog is shot after tearing someone into pieces.
- A shovel is used to severe someone's head from the mouth up.








While the original Cabin Fever wasn't exactly a groundbreaking film, it was still a fun debut from the new kid on the horror block at the time, Eli Roth. The film was violent, at times darkly funny and had a somewhat enjoyable premise with a little twist on the cabin in the woods subgenre of horror cinema. When news dropped that the remake was happening and that it would be using the exact same script, I was worried. All fears were realized and the results while not Psycho bad, this still felt like a waste of time. Just watch the original Cabin Fever as you won't be missing much with the similar retread.



Friday, November 11, 2016

Holidays (2016)








DIRECTORS:


Kevin Smith
Gary Shore
Anthony Scott Burns
Kevin Kolsch
Adam Egypt Mortimer
Nicholas McCarthy
Ellen Reid
Sarah Adina Smith
Scott Stewart
Dennis Widmyer

WRITERS:


Kevin Smith

Gary Shore
Anthony Scott Burns
Kevin Kolsch
Nicholas McCarthy
Sarah Adina Smith
Scott Stewart
Dennis Widmyer

CAST:


Seth Green
Lorenza Izzo
Harley Quinn Smith
Jocelin Donahue
Ruth Bradley
Clare Grant
Aleska Palladino
Michael Gross
Andrew Bowen
Ashley Greene
Savannah Kennick
Sophie Traub
Madeleine Caghlan
Harley Morenstein
Shelby Kemper
Rick Peters

PLOT:

Holidays is an anthology movie that features eight horror inspired short films that are dedicated to some of the most celebrated and beloved holidays of the year. The movie features short films that are dedicated to Father's Day, Mother's Day, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patricks Day, Halloween, Easter and New Year's Eve and all eight short films contain a unique and twisted vision on the holidays we love and cherish.









I love myself a good anthology horror film. Over the last few years, we've seen the V/H/S and ABC's Of Death films add a really fun and twisted new perspective into the anthology sub-genre of horror cinema. Ten directors have been brought in to add their own twisted visions on some of our most beloved holidays and while some of the short films fall short, I found myself really enjoying this latest film Holidays.


Each short film will be given a paragraph and be reviewed from WORST To BEST:

FATHER'S DAY:


My least favourite short film comes in the form of Father's Day. Father's Day has all the makings of the perfect horror short. It's filled with an overall sense of dread and has a somber tone. This also makes it the most depressing and slow entry in the movie. When compared to the other seven short films, it lacks the weirdness, the colourfulness, and violence of the other films. It actually feels sort of out of place. What the short does get right is a solid leading performance from Jocelin Donahue and the short film is extremely slick on a visual level.

MOTHER'S DAY:

Mother's Day is one of the weirdest entries in this anthology. It's not really complex in terms of story but the coven of witches doing a ritual that will see our main protagonist give birth is one of the most fun payoffs in the entire film. The last few frames will leave people shocked. A solid moment that is completely unexpected. The naked ritual dance also had me thoroughly creeped out. The short is very well shot and another solid performance from lead actress Sophie Traub.

EASTER:

I found Easter to be the most unsettling short film when it came to giving us a nasty villain. This Easter Bunny will go down in cinema history as one of the creepiest rabbits ever put on film. This bunny looks like a mix of Gary Oldman's Mason Verger character from Hannibal and a half human, demonic rabbit. The short is dark, twisted and the metaphors around religion are very well done. A very creepy short from beginning to end.

HALLOWEEN:

With Halloween, you can tell immediately that you're about to witness a Kevin Smith short film. Straight off the bat, we are dealing with overtly sexual themes, porn and a villain who is some fat slob talking about pussy. What this short does so well is that it turns everything on its head in its final minute and becomes a story about revenge and girl power. It's bloody and at times hilarious. All involved put in top-notch performances.

VALENTINE'S DAY:

Valentine's Day gives us our first short film in the movie itself and comes out of the gate with a retro looking and quirky story of obsession, bullying, and bloody revenge. The short also adds the taboo element of the obsession being based around a young teenage girl and her coach. The short is colourful, well-acted and slick. The performances from Rick Peters, Madeleine Coghlan, and Savannah Kennick are fantastic. The payoff at the end is great.

NEW YEAR'S EVE:

New Year's Eve is one of my favourite shorts based on the simple fact that it is easily the most brutal and gory of the short films. It's build up and twist is very clever. Lorenza Izzo gives us a crazed performance to match her one in Knock, Knock and Andrew Bowen gives us one that is full of gross, stomach-churning accuracy. The last short is also one of the most fun once the payoff is revealed. A great way to end Holidays.

CHRISTMAS:

There was an underrated horror film that came out in the nineties called Brainscan. It starred the once great Edward Furlong. It was about of a new game that when played would come true. Any murder committed in the game became real. Christmas feels very similar to that movie. What you watch in virtual reality shows who you really are and it includes murder. I liked Brainscan and enjoyed the hell out of Christmas. It's quirky and Seth Green and Clare Grant who play an onscreen couple as well as being married in real life fantastic in this short.

ST. PATRICK'S DAY:

My favourite short film is St. Patrick's Day. The short is the second that deals with pregnancy. This short is also the most utterly bizarre. The ending is what I'd expect from someone like Alejandro Jodorowsky with a touch of The Wicker Man's Robin Hardy. It's cultish and odd yet has a sense of real humor about it. The final scene needs to be seen to be believed. The lead performance from Ruth Bradley is also a standout.

Finally, Father's Day is probably the only short film that I didn't really love. But in saying that, I still found things I enjoyed about it. The other seven short films all range from good to great. I think all short films used their themes rather well. The performances in each short film are solid with slick direction. I have to mention each short films segue into each new short was also pretty creative. I loved the use of cards being opened with a little picture and message.









DEATH TOLL:
 6

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is hit in the head with a brick.
- A girl has her heart removed.
- A woman gives birth to a snake.
- The creepiest mutated easter bunny ever.
- A full grown arm emerges from a woman's uterus.
- Someone is smacked in the head with a toaster.
- Someone has a vibrator inserted into their anus and superglued shut.
- A man gives himself vaginoplasty.
- A guy has a heart attack.
- Death by electric meat carver.
- Someone is shot in the head.
- Jars full of eyeballs.
- Body parts are found in a bathtub.
- Foot sliced off with an ax.
- An ax to the head.



 





Holiday's is a rather entertaining horror anthology. Out of the eight short films, I found myself enjoying seven of the eight. Even with the short film that I wasn't to crash hot on, I still found elements that I still enjoyed. The shorts all range from the strange to the creepy. The acting in each short is above average and all the short films looked slick with decent production.




Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Hush (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 
Mike Flanagan

WRITERS:


Mike Flanagan
Kate Siegel

CAST:

Kate Siegel
John Gallagher Jr.
Michael Trucco
Samantha Sloyan
Emma Graves

PLOT:

Maddie is now a successful author who is currently working on her next novel. At thirteen years of age, she lost her hearing and voice to a bout of bacterial meningitis. While writing her latest book, she has retreated to an isolated house in the woods to try and finish the book without any distractions. Little does Maddie realise that a masked killer will show up on her doorstep during the night and has extremely sinister plans for Maddie.








I was extremely excited going into Hush as I was a huge fan of Mike Flanagan's previous film Oculus. The early reviews had the film sitting pretty at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and this got me even more hyped for his next directional effort. I'm not one to trust critics opinions on films as I find myself disagreeing more than I do agree with them but I had faith that Mike Flanagan could give us another solid film. Luckily, the hype, this time, was correct as I really enjoyed his take on the home invasion sub-genre.

Home Invasion movies are a big thing of late. We've had a massive influx in the genre of horror with positive titles like You're Next and The Strangers come out in recent years. We've also had a few misses with films like the remake of When A Stranger Calls and Intruders. Hush is luckily one that we can add to the pile of positive home invasion flicks
. The movie is not perfect but its one of the more intense and most well-crafted horror films I've seen so far in 2016.

These days, with the amount of movies that feature home invasions, it's hard to find one that adds anything really original to the sub-genre. Luckily, Hush has one element up its sleeve and its the biggest selling point of this film. The element is the fact that the plot features a main character who is deaf and also unable to talk or scream. This gives us a few neat touches in the technical department.

The sound design in Hush is fantastic. The movie relies heavily on throwing the audience directly into the situation with our main character Maddie. As she tries to survive through the night while being unable to hear the killer, we as an audience go through the same horrors as Maddie does in what feels like real time. The sound design fades in and out throughout the movie to show you exactly what Maddie can't hear and when the sound is used to heighten the tension, it works wonders every single time.

The performances from this very minimal cast are another massive positive of this film. Katie Siegel is our main protagonist. I've seen her in interviews after watching Hush and clearly she isn't deaf in real life but not remembering her other roles before seeing Hush, I was under the impression she was deaf in real life. John Gallagher Jr who will be known for his role in another great 2016 film 10 Cloverfield Lane is excellent as the vicious masked killer in Hush. I also really enjoyed how they handled the reveal once he removed his mask. I expected the reveal to lessen the intensity once he shows his face but John Gallagher Jr. plays an extremely creepy killer and psychopath.

While I didn't find Hush exactly scary, the film is pretty intense from the first kill onwards. The film doesn't stop moving from this point on. It ramps up the tension repeatedly right until the credits begin to roll. There are a few set pieces that are extremely well done and had me on the edge of my seat. You really do root for Maddie and want to see this woman make it out of this horrible situation alive.

My biggest issues with Hush come in the form of character decisions and the choices she makes during the film. Some of the choices she makes become frustrating as it's probably not what I'd have done if I were stuck in the same situation. A scene involving the male neighbor is one of the moments that would call for Maddie to strike but she does nothing. Another decision would be ditching the knife early on or even just sitting around in rooms concocting plans while the killer hunts her down. They aren't huge issues but just little things that became frustrating.

Lastly, for a movie that is set in the wilderness and the vast majority of the story takes place in one cabin, Mike Flanagan has made a gorgeous looking film. The movie has a budget of only a million dollars, which may seem like a lot but considering the film, this is low budget by today's standards. He gets every shot possible with that money. The film could've been dull to look at but Mike Flanagan is such a solid genre filmmaker that he crafts a good looking film.








DEATH TOLL:
 3


BLOOD AND GORE:


- Someone is shot with a crossbow.
- Fingers crushed in a window frame.
- A hammer claw to the arm.
- Someone is shot in the leg with an arrow.
- A skull is crushed by a rock.
- Stabbed in the throat.
- Someone's fingers are broken and snapped.
- Stabbed in the knee cap and shoulder.
- A corkscrew slammed into someone's jugular.
- Someone is repeatedly stabbed in the stomach.








Hush joins a long list of home invasion / cabin in the woods type horror films. The movie adds an original element into the proceedings by making the character deaf and unable to talk. This adds another level to the film. Hush is an edge of your seat and thrilling flick that has some solid kills and some of the best sound design of the year. One of the best thrillers I've seen in 2016.



Saturday, November 05, 2016

The Witch (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Robert Eggers

WRITER: Robert Eggers

CAST:


Anya Taylor-Joy
Ralph Ineson
Kate Dickie
Harvey Scrimshaw
Ellie Grainger
Lucas Dawson
Julian Richings
Bathsheba Garnett
Sarah Stephens
Wahab Chaudhry


PLOT:

A family in 16th century New England are banished from their Puritan Plantation when the father has a different interpretation of the New Testament. Building their new home and crops on the edge of an old forest, strange things begin to happen to the family after their youngest is taken by a witch into the forest. The family begins to believe that their banishment from the plantation is the reason they now have been cursed by the witch that lives in the forest.








I still remember the impressive word of mouth that came out of Sundance Film Festival for The Witch. The movie was so well received coming out of Sundance I can even remember reading one critic's review who was saying The Witch was one of the scariest movies ever made. So to say I was excited to see the film was an understatement. It's a popular quote that is used every single time a horror film impresses on the festival circuit and almost every single time it fails to live up to its extremely large hype.

Once The Witch was released and critics started throwing praise it's way, I got more excited to see the film. When I finally ended up watching The Witch, I agreed with the critics. It's a solid and unnerving slow burn horror film that was a pretty impressive feature debut for director Robert Eggers. The film while not being one of the 'scariest movies ever made', It's still a very creepy and well-made film. I can't wait to see what Robert Eggers does with his next feature film. It would be interesting to see what he makes once he's got a decent budget behind him.

I think The Witch will be a film that people will either love or hate. If people go in expecting some straightforward, mainstream film about witches. I think people will walk out and be left disappointed. If you go in looking for a dark and brooding period piece that's authentic to the times and deals with religion and the mass hysteria of witchcraft and the dark arts in the 16th century, you will walk out of this movie being impressed and hopefully disturbed by what is shown on screen.

When I first witnessed The Witch, I was left creeped out and found the slow building tension and final really unnerving. Some of the scenes featured in this film were very dark and disturbing. The movie is never gratuitous in its display of gore and bloodshed but the movie is one of those films where less is more. What is shown on screen while not over the top, it still left me feeling unsettled. It really is a testament to the writing and how Robert Eggers builds the tension up to the boiling point by the film's third act.

It's well known by now that the filmmakers and production wanted the most authentic-looking movie that was set in those times. The sets, the lighting, and the costumes are all fantastic. I loved that the movie was shot using only natural light. I'd usually have a whinge if scenes are hard to see but whenever night hits in this movie, the filming with natural light makes the movie look all the more creepy. The sets and costumes are also worth noting due to their authenticity.

The cinematography and visuals aren't overly complicated in the film and only in the final scene do we see any scenes of what appear to be special effects. The film remains free of a lot of CGI or fake looking visuals. The scenes in the forest are creepy and well shot. I even found a lot of the scenes with the animals to be unnerving as they play important parts in the story. I think this is a gorgeous looking film on such a small budget.

The acting is also impressive. Anya Taylor-Joy is fast becoming a favourite for me in terms of genre films. She is smashing them out at the moment. Here she's our main star and delivers a strong performance. She gets to have a lot of fun towards the end of the film. Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie as her parents both deliver great performances. Kate Dickie is at her broken down and insane best in this film.

Lastly, I must mention the score for this movie. I'm not always one who notices a great score when watching films. Over the last six years, I've probably purchased six movie soundtracks. Kill List, Under The Skin, Lost River, Prometheus, Mad Max: Fury Road and now The Witch. I love a score that can get under my skin or have my blood pumping and The Witch did just that. It adds a lot of creepiness to an already creepy looking film.








DEATH TOLL:
 6

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A baby is chopped up and used as a moisturizer.
- A raven pecks off a woman's nipple.
- Someone is gored by a goat.
- A dead chicken, goat, and dog.
- A naked witch drinks from a dead goat.
- A goat blood instead of milk.
- Face repeatedly sliced open.
- A child's temple is nicked to drain blood.








The Witch is a creepy and unnerving folktale about witches in New England. The film is a slow burn horror that builds tension throughout its running time. The movie also boasts a solid cast and has some extremely unsettling set pieces. The Witch is a story where less is more and I think people will either love or hate it. The movie doesn't offer everything up on a silver platter and for that, I loved it even more. Definitely worth the repeated viewings.