Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Belko Experiment (2017)








DIRECTOR: Greg McLean

WRITER: James Gunn

CAST:

John Gallagher Jr.
Tony Goldwyn
Michael Rooker
Adria Arjona
John C. McGinley
Melonie Diaz
Sean Gunn
Rusty Schwimmer
Owain Yeoman
Brent Sexton
David Del Rio
Josh Brener
David Dastmalchain

PLOT:

Set in Bogota, Colombia. Eighty US office workers receive a foreboding message over the building's intercom. As the office building locks down, trapping the workers inside, several people are killed by The Belko Corp. Once the tensions set in and groups start dividing, the situation becomes much more dire and factions are formed. The workers must try and survive by any means necessary even if that means killing their friends.







When news first broke that Greg McLean and James Gunn were teaming up to make a horror movie, my excitement level was through the roof. The man who gave us the Wolf Creek franchise and creature feature Rogue was teaming up with the man behind the twisted Slither and Guardians Of The Galaxy. This sounded like the perfect match made in heaven to me. James Gunn is known for his warped sensibilities while Greg McLean fires on all cylinders when delivering extremely intense yet visually gorgeous horror films. I was excited for this one.

As promotional material started to surface and the plot synopsis was released, I was even giddier. As a huge fan of Battle Royale, I was excited by seeing what these two had in store for us. While the plot seemed pretty familiar, in the hands of these two filmmakers, I thought we'd get something special. I was ready for some twisted shit that I know James Gunn could write. I was ready for a gruesome bloodbath. So after watching The Belko Experiment for the second time in two weeks, I think it actually loses some of its likeability instead of being better or growing on me.

What The Belko Experiment gets right first and foremost is that this is briskly paced. The movie is short and sweet. It takes no real time at all in getting to the violence or bloodshed. Within minutes, the announcement comes over the intercom and the gore is given to the audience in bucketfuls. As the movie goes on, things escalate and just get more and more gruesome. Gorehounds will not be disappointed by the viscera on display. There are a few moments where even I winced. There is a scene involving an axe to the face that is one of the best uses of makeup fx that I've seen in a theatrical release since The Evil Dead remake.

In saying that the movie isn't very long. Because of the short running time, we don't get much in the way of character development. So for most of these characters, we don't care for them. While the movie barely gives us any character development, we know most of these eighty office workers are collateral damage and a death toll. So while we don't care for most of those who are murdered, the ones we do get to spend time with also aren't built on. We get only one main character who the script focuses on and it's pretty predictable where things are going to lead with this character.

When it comes to the characters in the film, I didn't find all that many likeable. The two characters who I felt sorry for were Rusty Schwimmer's nice office lady and the girlfriend of our main guy. Even our leading man, who seems to be the only one who is on the ball about what's going on with this social experiment, isn't someone I found myself connecting with. Most of his decisions throughout cause a lot of shit to hit the fan and escalate. His girlfriend even advises him not to mess with certain people and he still goes against her wishes which sadly has repercussions. A lot of silly character decisions seem to see a lot of people fall victim due to a lot of stupidity.

In terms of suspense, I found the movie to have a few neat set pieces that ramp up the tension. The execution foyer scene was incredibly tense. I also thought the scene where the workers fail to kill thirty of their co-workers so the Belko Corporation now execute sixty of them was also a brutal and nasty little scene. One by one we watch characters who we've just started to see fight for their lives end up having their skulls explode. I don't think the movie is scary at all but we do get a few nice little moments the had my blood pumping.

The acting in The Belko Experiment is pretty solid. John Gallagher Jr. is a decent actor and can play both good and bad roles well. Here, I didn't like his character much but his performance was alright. Tony Goldwyn as the villainous officer manager is one of the standouts for me as is John C. McGinley who gets one of the best onscreen deaths in a horror movie all year. I cheered in his death scene. I thought Michael Rooker was sadly underused and I expected to see him in this movie more and Adria Arjona as the girlfriend is gorgeous and has a few really bad ass moments in the film.

Lastly, The Belko Experiment I think retains that pretty twisted James Gunn sense of humour. I think the movie has some solid laugh out loud moments in the film. I liked Sean Gunn as the stoner who is under the impression that the higher up management has spiked the water supply. He is the comedy relief in the film and I thought he got some great moments. There is also a token gay character who gets some hilarious if not stereotypical moments. His death is one of the most gruesome scenes in the film.







DEATH TOLL: 57 (Onscreen) + 27 (Offscreen)

BLOOD AND GORE:

- People are lined up and shot in the head, execution style.
- People are shot in the head.
- People's trackers are detonated, blowing out the backs of their skulls.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach.
- A group of co-workers kick and stomp someone to death.
- People are murdered with a meat cleaver.
- Someone's neck is snapped.
- Someone is crushed in an elevator shaft.
- Someone is shot in the face with a machine gun.
- Bombs are planted on people and detonated.
- Someone is shot to death.
- Someone is stabbed in the heart with a kitchen knife.
- People are shot in the back.
- Someone is set on fire with a molotov cocktail.
- A guy slices the back of his head open with a box-cutter.
- Someone has their skull caved in with a wrench.
- Someone is impaled through the neck with a metal rod.
- A man has his skull crushed with a sticky-tape roller.
- A man has his face split in half with an axe.
- Someone's leg and arms are sliced with a guillotine blade.
- Someone is smacked in the head with a fire extinguisher.







The Belko Experiment is fast paced and a lot of fun. The movie is never once boring and for that, I can't fault it. If you go in expecting some thought-provoking piece of cinema, you'll be sorely disappointed. The movie is gruesome and gory and has some pretty intense moments. I can't say that I found many of the characters likeable and the story is far from original. A few terrible uses of CGI also make some scenes look pretty dodgy and cheap but as a fun and gory 'Battle Royale' type of flick, you will probably enjoy yourself with the carnage on display like I did.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Life (2017)








DIRECTOR: Daniel Espinosa

WRITERS:

Rhett Reese
Paul Wernick

CAST:

Jake Gyllenhaal
Ryan Reynolds
Rebecca Ferguson
Hiroyuki Sanada
Ariyon Bakare
Olga Dihovichnaya
Naoko Mori

PLOT:

A team of scientists aboard a space station orbiting Earth have collected a sample from Mars. They hope that the life form will prove that extraterrestrial life exists on the Red Planet. When they decide to start studying the life form who has been given the name of Calvin. They soon discover that the life form is a lot more hostile as it starts to kill the scientists one by one. The more it consumes, the larger it gets. The group will have to try and contain the threat before it's too late.







I remember when I first saw the marketing campaign for Life, I was left somewhat disappointed by it. The first piece of poster art was just the three main actors heads on a blue background. It was a very cheap looking poster but didn't give much away. I assumed as an audience we were getting a Gravity like sort of science-fiction space adventure. It wasn't until seeing the trailers where my anticipation started to spike for the film. The trailers pointed out that this wasn't Gravity but more in line with Alien. This looked pretty intense. I was suddenly excited to see it.

Being someone that has created a blog and social media that is dedicated to horror. I try and not get discouraged or overly hyped for movies because I spend a lot of my days reading a lot of opinions from fellow horror fanatics. Sometimes, I cannot help but get swept up in the hype or the negativity. I will still try and go into any movie with an open mind, though. Reviews, opinions and marketing always seem to play a part in how I anticipate it and in Life's case, I can't deny once the reviews started coming in, I was left on the fence.

When I finally decided to sit down to watch Life, I was pleasantly surprised after I had finished the film. While Life has a few problems, it's still a highly entertaining science fiction horror film. The movie isn't all that original and I can see why people have compared elements of this movie to that of the classic Ridley Scott film Alien. This feels very inspired at times by that film and while it may never live up to the original four Alien films for me, it is still a wildly entertaining alien pursuing humans while trapped in space horror film.

What Life does get right for me is that this is intense from about the twenty-minute mark. The movie doesn't take all that long in delivering the shocks and surprises and there are a few nasty ones in store for the audience. Once Life gets off the ground and starts running, it never stops. The movie delivers on what it promises and that's an extremely suspenseful and tension-filled little space horror flick. What I think sets it apart from a lot of other films in this sub-genre is that this one has a lot of bite. This goes to some grisly places.

Life is solid on the violence and bloodshed side of things. While nowhere near on the same level as say, Alien: Resurrection or Event Horizon when it comes to gore. I was not expecting this rather large-scale space film to have the balls to do a few of the things that it did in this film. The first kill scene is the highlight of the movie for me. It's brutal, it's unsuspected and when it happens, it will likely knock the audience for a six. It's a very mean-spirited scene and sets the tone for the rest of the film. I think this will subvert a lot of people's expectations.

Before witnessing Life, I remember reading a lot of negative feedback on the alien life form or creature design. I didn't know what to expect. After witnessing the film. I was completely onboard with it. What starts off microscopic turns into this hulking mass of tentacles that moves extremely quick and can crush a human. I thought the creature design was great and found it incredibly menacing. Not once did I ever feel at ease once the creature escapes in one of the coolest uses of a life form growing intelligence and using it as a way of escape, I think it's one of the best that I've ever seen put on screen.

Another element of Life that I really enjoyed were the visual effects. The movie is gorgeous to watch. All the scenes in zero gravity or the characters floating around the ship all looked great. While this doesn't have the same sound design or visual heavy scenes of Gravity, I still felt the film looked fantastic for a movie that is said to have a rather smaller budget compared to a lot of other space-set films. Coming back to the creature design, the visuals of that also looked really solid. It looked fantastic among all the actors.

The issues that I have with Life are some of the character decisions and a predictable ending. We have continuous scenes where our scientists try to set traps for this life form who keeps growing in intelligence and no matter the number of times they try, they still end up repeating their mistakes. This I felt had become very tiring as well as annoying. I found that I had guessed the ending as the plans started being set in motion. What I like about the end of the film, though is that it's a dark one. I give the filmmaker and writers credit for ending the film on a dark note and not trying to deliver a happy ending in a big Hollywood produced film.

Lastly, the acting is solid for the most part. Jake Gyllenhaal is a great actor. I need to say the same about Ryan Reynolds. Both actors are great in their respective roles. The one performance that I didn't like in the film is Rebecca Fergurson. I can't seem to grow on her as an actress. I find her incredibly cold and emotionless. It's the same thought I had while I watched her in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. She didn't give much in the way of a performance. I think this is entirely Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds movie.







DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man's fingers are completely crushed and broken.
- A man is sucked out of an airlock.
- An alien life form takes over a rat and consumes it.
- Blood pours out of a man's mouth.
- A woman drowns as her space suit feels with coolant.
- An alien life form enters a man's throat and chokes him to death.
- An alien tentacle is shoved down a man's throat.
- The alien life form tears off a man's leg and blood pours out.
- A man is shown being consumed by a large alien life form.
 







Going into Life, it was hard not to have reservations. I went in after missing it at the cinemas so I had seen the months of talk about the film online. Nothing was ruined for me but I think what I witnessed online about the movie was more negative than positive. For me, Life is a hell of a lot of fun. It's fast paced, the alien design is top notch, the visual effects are great, we have a couple of solid performances and when this movie needs to get nasty and grisly, it does. Minus a few silly character decisions and an ending I saw coming, I have to hand it to the filmmaker and writers for going out and ending this film the way they did. Life is definitely exploring.



Monday, August 14, 2017

Raw (2017)








DIRECTOR: Julia Ducournau

WRITER: Julia Ducournau

CAST:

Garance Marillier
Ella Rumpf
Rabah Nait Oufella
Laurent Lucas
Joana Preiss
Bouli Lanners
Marion Vernoux
Thomas Mustin

PLOT:

Justine is a young woman who is going to veterinarian school. When she gets to the school, she has to undergo several hazing rituals that require her to be put through her paces to see if she is able to handle the hardships of veterinarian school. When she is made to eat meat after being vegetarian her entire life, it awakens her blood lust for human flesh. She must control this new hunger but does this run a lot deeper than just this sudden urge?







I remember hearing about Raw in May of 2016 when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. The buzz for the movie was overwhelmingly positive. The movie was said to be a disturbing look at a young woman who discovers that she is, in fact, a cannibal. From the early previews, the movie looked very weird but visually stunning and well acted. I was really excited to see the film. Now a year later, I finally got to see Raw and what an experience.

From the opening shot of Raw, I was immediately hooked. We see a young woman walking down an empty, tree-lined country road. As a car approaches, she jumps out in front of it causing the car to slam into a tree to avoid her. The scene is incredibly jarring as well as intense and sets the tone for the rest of this extremely dark movie. I was completely unnerved from the very first moments and it stayed that way for the entire running time of Raw.


Once Justine arrives at veterinarian school, things go from bad to worse. This movie is like a slow descent into madness. We watch as this rather shy and reserved woman who is also a vegetarian goes from not eating meat to craving human flesh. The film handles Justine being conflicted with her sudden interest in cannibalism very well. At times, I was uncomfortable and uneasy whenever we saw Justine start to give into her bloodlust. We never knew where things would go when she started to fall victim to her craving.

Having the film set in veterinarian school also lends this movie a morbid but vibrant beauty. At times, this feels like a high-school movie with all the hazings, the endless parties, the pranks, the drinking, the premarital sex, the experimentation. I thought these scenes were also a lot of fun and gave this rather disturbing tale of cannibalism a bit of levity. This movie goes to some extremely dark places and I thought these scenes counterbalanced a lot of the darker subject matter.

Where Raw had me really invested was the relationships between Justine, her sister, and her gay dorm mate. I thought the relationships in this film were all fantastic. I cared for every single one of the main three characters even if I didn't agree with all the subject matter on a moral level. I really liked the fact that the movie dealt with these two sisters who both suffer from this hunger for human flesh. At times, there clashing had me on the edge of my seat. A scene towards the end in front of their fellow students is brutal.

The one moment in Raw that really got to me and actually had me frustrated was that the gay character ends up sleeping with Justine. He does freak out later on and puts her on blast in front of everyone when she tries to make sense of the night they spend together but I really found this scene to take away instead of add to the story. I know they did this to set up the friendship between Adrian and Justine who has a tough relationship with her sister and it will come back to haunt both of them in the end but it seemed so easy for this guy to just sleep with her even if he spends most of the movie with men.

Visually, I found Raw to be gorgeous. The cinematography is stunning in this film. I found every scene in this film to have this lurid beauty to it. The film is vibrant all the way through. I think due to the heavy themes, you'd expect this to be extremely dark in tone and while a lot of the themes really do disturb, I think this film's use of colour is excellent. Julia Ducournau is up there visually with fellow French director Gaspar Noe when mixing visuals and colours into their dark storytelling. That's what I got from this film on a visual level.

When it comes to the horror elements, Raw really got under my skin. Hearing early reports of people fainting and throwing up during early screenings is a pretty solid marketing tactic. While it may be true, I find it hard to believe when most of these reports come out of screenings. Raw never really got to that place for me personally but this still had some really gruesome moments. A moment involving scissors, wax strips and a woman's anatomy had me almost wincing. A few scenes involving dead animals being cut open also looked extremely realistic. The makeup and gore effects are standout in this one.

Lastly, the acting in this film is deserving of award nominations. This is the first time I've witnessed actress Garance Marillier and she is phenomenal as Justine. Some of the things that she does in this movie I would consider brave. Ella Rumpf as Justine's sister Alexia is fantastic. I loved that her character was simply cool and as she slowly reveals herself, she becomes the almost-villain of the film. I didn't know if I should love or hate her and Rabah Nait Oufella as Adrian was my favourite. I guess I could relate to him on a level more so than the two sisters. I thought his performances was conflicted and I really felt for him the most.







DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman drinks blood from a car crash victim's head wound.
- A dissected horse is shown.
- A dead dog is cut open.
- A woman bites into a raw chicken breast.
- A woman vomits up hair.
- A woman pulls her entire arm out of a cows arse.
- Two men are killed in a car crash.
- A man's thigh is shown to be half eaten.
- A chunk of a woman's cheek is bitten off.
- An entire class of students is drenched in horses blood.
- A girl is forced to eat a rabbit's kidney.
- A woman is shown dead on a stretcher after a car crash.
- A woman's finger is cut off with a pair of scissors.
- Close up of a woman licking a guys eyeball.
- A girl is covered in bloody rashes.
- A woman eats her sister's severed finger.
- A woman bites a man's lip and eats the chunk of flesh.
- A woman chews on her own arm during sex.
- Two sisters bite each other's arms.







I'm still thinking about Raw a week after watching it and I think that is a clear sign of how much I enjoyed this film. Raw delivers award-winning performances and is morbidly beautiful to watch. I was completely invested in the characters. The movie managed to get under my skin. It's gruesome and gory. To say that this movie an enjoyable experience is the wrong thing to say but to say I was completely taken by it and put under its disturbing spell is the best thing I can say about Raw. A stunning debut from Julia Ducournau.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Personal Shopper (2017)








DIRECTOR: Olivier Assayas

WRITER: Olivier Assayas

CAST:

Kristen Stewart
Nora Von Waldstatten
Lars Eidinger
Sigrid Bouaziz
Ty Olwin
Benjamin Biolay
Anders Danielson Lie

PLOT:

Maureen Cartwright is working in Paris for a high profile celebrity as her Personal Shopper. Maureen also works as a medium in her spare time when she isn't being ordered around to go and collect expensive gowns from large fashion boutiques for a woman she can't stand working for. Maureen is also trying to make contact with her twin brother who passed away in Paris. When she receives strange SMS messages on her phone, she believes she may be speaking to him from beyond the grave.







Firstly, I wanted to get this out the way before I started my review for this movie. When Kristen Stewart signed on for the Twilight franchise, I feel a lot of people had already made their minds up about her. They made the assumption that she isn't a very good actress based off of a couple of films. She signed on to do this franchise about glittering vampires and the phenomenon that followed may have put her on the map to the point where she even looked like she was hating every second of starring in those films.

During her stint over the four years that the films were released one after the other and her interviews in the media. It wasn't hard to tell she was uncomfortable by the attention these films had brought her. I think a lot of people who had watched her in those films didn't really get that there was actually a talented actress in there who had proved herself with roles in larger budget movies and a handful of excellent indie films. The point I'm trying to make is that I wanted to start by showing some love to Kristen Stewart as I think she gets a lot of hate which I feel is unwarranted.

I usually wait until the end of my review to talk about the acting but I think I'll start with it this time around. In Personal Shopper, we spend the entire running time with Kristen Stewart. I think there are maybe five shots where she isn't in the frame. This performance relies on her and her only. As I sat and watched this film, I felt like she delivered a pretty brave performance. I think the tone and her character displaying a hefty amount of grief throughout, I got the same feeling with this performance as I did with Scarlett Johansson in Under The Skin and Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia. It felt like a performance where the actress bared their souls.

I remember hearing word of mouth on the film festival circuit that Kristen Stewart was doing a Supernatural film. Early trailers of the movie didn't inspire all that much anticipation from me. I decided to finally sit down and watch it in the right frame of mind. I had a glass of wine, I was comfortable and not at all tired. I knew this was going to be a slow burn sort of film and wanted to watch it while I wasn't tired as I would've probably watched it over the course of two or three nights if my interest was lost in it. I tend to do that if a movie doesn't grab my attention.

For the most part, I thought Personal Shopper was a good movie. Is this movie going to change the supernatural ghost story? No. With the amount of badly produced and directed supernatural films, this is a cut above at least ninety percent of them. This film feels very personal. Instead of going for jump scares and loud noises, this is all about mood. The heavy doses of grief also add a bit more depth to this story. I end up watching a lot of crap and I thought early on that Kristen Stewart as a medium sounded pretty silly but by the end of the film, I was sold.

I also really enjoyed the way, Olivier Assayas filmed the movie. Leave it to French directors to do long, lingering takes with no clear cuts. Just sit on an actress or one character and watch them as if they were in being filmed in their real environment. We have entire sequences where we watch Maureen ride around on a scooter through the beautiful streets of Paris. Or entire scenes of her just messaging someone on her phone. These long takes and the location really added something to this film. This is not going to be a filming style for everyone but I really liked this over quick cuts.

Where Personal Shopper lost points with me were just little things that I picked up on and the pacing. While I enjoyed the movie, for the most part, I'm not going to deny that there are scenes that dragged on. This is a slow burn and you feel it at times. We also have a lot of scenes that feature Kristen Stewart's character messaging back and forth with an unknown person. What really annoyed me is that you are unable to message from an unknown number. You can call from one but a message always comes through with the number. This felt like a bit of a stretch.

Lastly, is Personal Shopper scary? No. This movie is eighty-five percent a drama and fifteen percent supernatural. There are a few scenes in the film with a pretty poorly done CGI ghost but I enjoyed watching Kristen Stewart acting in something darker like this movie. We have a few scenes that manage to be pretty eerie. There is also a scene that showed the aftermath of a bloody murder that played as scary as any slasher or horror movie. I think the tone and mood served these scenes well. But will you be shielding your eyes from fear, no?
 







DEATH TOLL: 1

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A blood-soaked bed.
- A woman is found dead in a puddle of blood.
- Someone is shot outside a hotel.







I went in not knowing what to expect with Personal Shopper and I came out enjoying this film. This is a movie that spends the entire time with Kristen Stewart's character Maureen so if you aren't a fan of her, you will probably hate this film. The movie is held together by a fantastic leading performance by Kristen Stewart, the film looks gorgeous and the mood is eerie. Where the movie does falter is that the pace is at times a bit slow, we have a few dodgy uses of CGI and scenes that felt more like goofs. Still, this is a film that continues to show me how talented Kristen Stewart is an actress and that she can carry an entire film.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

We Are The Flesh (2017)








DIRECTOR:
 Emiliano Rocha Minter


WRITER: Emiliano Rocha Minter

CAST:

Noe Hernandez
Maria Evoli
Diego Gamaliel
Maria Cid
Gabino Rodriguez

PLOT:

A brother and sister who are trying to find food, shelter and survive in a ruined city come across a deserted warehouse. Inside the warehouse, they soon meet a man who has been living inside. He advises the siblings that he will provide them both food and shelter but it comes at a dangerous price. The siblings must obey his every rule and request if they hope to survive the outside world.







Where do we begin with a film like We Are The Flesh? I remember hearing word of mouth when the film played at a few horror-themed film festivals at the end of last year. The movie had received a pretty mixed response from the reviews that I had read for the film. I was lucky enough that with all the word of mouth that I heard regarding We Are The Flesh that nothing was ever spoiled for me. I remember a lot of people comparing it to the work of Gaspar Noe and those were the comments that sold me on wanting to see this film.

After watching We Are The Flesh, I'm extremely divided on the film. This will be one of those films that divide the audience as well. There are elements of this film that are worth marveling over. On a technical level, this is just a gorgeous looking film. The colours, the cinematography and the use of several different filming styles and techniques make this a film that deserves to be watched for all that's going on when it comes to the visual side of the production.

The other half of me is completely torn about what I've just witnessed. This feels like a movie that may need one or two more viewings to take everything in. There is so much going on in this movie that I won't even pretend to understand or comprehend certain things that are thrown at the audience. When I see something as original and surreal as this film, I tend to want to watch the movie again to see if I pick up more on a second viewing. This is where I'm torn on We Are The Flesh, I think once was enough. I don't feel the need to invest more time.

Coming back to Gaspar Noe, I am a huge fan of his work. I own Irreversible, Enter The Void and I Stand Alone. Even his sexually explicit film Love was one that I found to be a technical achievement. This first-time director feels very inspired by Gaspar Noe. I see it in the visuals, subject matter, dialogue and just how far Emiliano Rocha Minter is willing to go in terms of pushing the envelope. This feels more restrained and less harsh than Gaspar Noe but I have a feeling We Are The Flesh is a movie that would make Gaspar Noe proud.

This movie deals with a lot of pretty unpleasant subject matter and this is another element where I'm pretty divided on the film. I own both A Serbian Film and Salo: 120 Days Of Sodom and have seen both films several times. I found this movie to be as repugnant as those two when dealing with such subject matter as cannibalism, incest, unsimulated sex, rape, necrophilia and a lot of the imagery featured in the film. At times I was thoroughly grossed out and uncomfortable by what was being displayed on screen.

The real sex scenes that happen in the film are so in your face and frequent that it feels like they are beating you over the head trying to drive the point home. Early on we see our sister actually give the brother character oral on camera while the crazed man masturbates and ejaculates. We also have a scene where our sister character menstruates into her brother's mouth. This felt like it was used for shock value more than anything else. I think these scenes were added to push buttons more than trying to actually propel the story forward.

When it comes to the acting in We Are The Flesh. The performances are all excellent from our three leading actors. To call the performances brave is an understatement. With some of the situations that the actors find themselves in, they really do deserve praise. Diego Gamaliel and Maria Evoli both give performances that are fearless. Noe Hernandez is given the most to work with and he shines. He plays someone that has gone off the rails due to isolation and loneliness very well. He is also very sinister at times. He swings between so many different emotions that he is unhinged.

In terms of the violence, gore, and scares. This film is pretty tame. While it does feature a bloody cannibal orgy and one of the most gruesome and realistic throat cutting scenes that I think I've ever seen in a movie, the movie isn't all that violent. This is more nauseating due to all the gross sex that is on display. The themes are taboo and they really do overshadow the blood and gore. On a scary level, I feel this film isn't played for scares. We have a few scenes of mild tension but that's it.

Lastly, I want to just mention a few things that didn't sit right with me. The ending of the movie didn't make all that much sense to me. I've listened to other people's interpretations of the film and even the one's that I read up on didn't even get the film. We have scenes that take place that really don't ever get explained. I feel like they will play the surrealist and bizarre card but I think for a movie like this to work, it needs to have some semblance of a plot.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE: 

- Someone is poisoned.
- A woman menstruates into a man's mouth.
- A man is shown with a bloody hole in his temple.
- A man's throat is slashed.
- Someone drinks blood.
- Scenes of cannibalism.







We Are The Flesh is a movie that divided me. On a technical level, this movie is quite gorgeous to look at, the acting is extremely solid and just for sheer originality, I think it needs to be seen as movies like this rarely come along. On the other hand, things don't always make sense and a lot of the scenes are just repugnant and gross. I was thoroughly uncomfortable at times which I assume is the intention. If you like Gaspar Noe, you may find some similarities in their work.


Friday, August 11, 2017

The Devil's Candy (2017)








DIRECTOR:
 Sean Byrne

WRITER: Sean Byrne

CAST:

Ethan Embry
Shiri Appleby
Pruitt Taylor Vince
Kiara Glasco
Leland Orser
Tony Amendola
Jamie Tisdale

PLOT:

When a struggling painter, his wife, and their pre-teen daughter purchase a rural farmhouse. They are informed that the owners before them died on the property. Due to the house selling for such a low price, they decide to buy it. One night, the son of the previously deceased owners shows up and claims that it's his home and that he wants to return. After this short meeting, things start to turn sinister and there may be darker forces at work.







I remember back in 2009, sitting down in a cinema here in Australia and watching director, Sean Byrne's first feature film The Loved Ones. After the film had finished, I remember turning to my mate at the time and telling him that we may have just witnessed a masterpiece of Australian horror filmmaking from a director that we will need to keep a close eye on. The Loved Ones was violent, deranged and at times darkly hilarious. I feel in love that film.

The Loved Ones came along at a time when Australian horror was having a sort of resurgence of excellent and quality genre films. We had the terrifying Wolf Creek a few years prior that sort of blew up on the festival circuit and was a home-grown hit. We also had the bleak and brutal crime horror film Snowtown which put the 'bodies in a barrel' murders on full display. All three were low budget, gritty and extremely dark. All have grown to become masterpieces of Australian cinema in my eyes.

Cut to six years later. The year is 2015 and I begin hearing early rumblings that director Sean Byrne has made a new film. The Devil's Candy plays a few festivals but completely disappears. Listening to an interview with Ethan Embry and Sean Byrne, I discover that Sean Byrne is quite the perfectionist and we finally get his sophomore effort eight years later. Once the film is finally released, I hear a lot of positive word of mouth around the film from critics and horror fans. This makes me extremely excited to watch his new film.

After I sat down to watch The Devil's Candy, I was left a little underwhelmed with the finished film. I think the overly positive word of mouth and the extremely long wait to finally see it just didn't live up to the hype I had for the film. That's not to say that this is a bad movie at all, it's actually a very dark and well-made slice of rural satanic horror. I just expected I'd be giving this a nine or ten and it falls just short of that. Still, it's a film that deserves to be seen. I think this will make lots of top ten lists come years end.

My favourite element of The Devil's Candy is the family dynamic and relationship between the three of them. I really enjoyed the father and daughter bond. I'm not exactly a metal fan but I loved watching this father and daughter share their love of metal music and connect by way of it. I thought that was a nice little touch. If Sean Bryne does something right, he makes us really care for this family. We spend all this time with these people that once the shit hits the fan, we want to see all three escape. This all falls back on how well the characters are written.

When it comes to the satanic side, I think this is really well done. Religious horror has become so saturated in the realm of horror that it all looks and feels the same these days. It's rare that we see a religious themed horror movie that feels original. For most of The Devil's Candy, the plot felt like I hadn't seen this sort of story to date. It felt original to me. Using metal music to drown out the devil's voice that was slowly taking over our lead character and villain was a nice touch. I also enjoyed that they were connected by two different art forms. I thought the painting and metal music elevated the story.

Where The Devil's Candy let me down was the final ten minutes. While not exactly predictable, the movie descends into familiar territory. The movie ends in a bloody showdown between villain and family and it felt like the sort of ending that I've seen in a hundred other horror films. For most of the running time, I was left on edge by where the story was going but once the two come colliding together, I felt a little let down by it. It starts off promising with a few gut-punches where I thought certain characters were shockingly killed off but they sort of cop out in the end.

The acting is excellent. Ethan Embry has become quite the actor. I can remember being a young teenager and loving him in comedies like Empire Records and Can't Hardly Wait. I'm glad to see him tackling much darker roles. Here he is at a career best. Shiri Appleby is underused. She is great in the scenes that she's in but I felt like her character wasn't used enough. Kiara Glasco as the daughter is fantastic. She gets put in some horrific situations for a young actress and she smashes it out of the park and lastly, Pruitt Taylor Vince as the villain is fantastic. He's played his fair share of villains and this may be one of his creepiest to date.

Lastly, when it comes to suspense and scares, The Devil's Candy was well done. From the very first moments, we begin to hear the voices that are talking to our villain and this happens all through the movie. The voices alone put you on edge. I thought they were genuinely creepy. The movie never tries to dish out jump scares and is more occupied in building dread and suspense. I think it does this rather successfully. I think this is also helped in the way that Sean Byrne sets up these scenes. A lot of gorgeous cinematography is used effectively in these moments.








DEATH TOLL:
 5

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A guitar is smacked into someone's head.
- A woman falls down the stairs and dies.
- A child is smacked in the head with a rock.
- Two people are shot.
- Two police officers are smacked in the head with a rock.
- Someone is repeatedly punched in the face.
- Someone's head is bashed in with a guitar.
- A police officer is crushed in between two cars.
- Someone is kicked in the face.
- Shots of someone mopping up blood.
- A finger is shoved into bloody bullet wound.








The Devil's Candy is a movie I waited eight years to watch. While the movie is a worthy follow up to the brilliant The Loved Ones, it sadly falls short of Sean Byrne's brilliant debut. What it does successfully is breath some originality in the religious horror sub-genre. The film is heavy on character development which makes us care for these characters and the performances are excellent. The movie loses points for Shiri Appleby being underused and the final ten minutes which felt very formulaic.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

From A House On Willow Street (2017)








DIRECTOR:
 Alastair Orr


WRITERS:

Alastair Orr
Jonathan Jordaan
Catherine Blackman

CAST:

Sharni Vinson
Carlyn Burchell
Gustav Gerdener
Zino Ventura
Steven John Ward

PLOT:

A group of kidnappers decides to kidnap a young woman from her parents home. They hope that they can get her parents to pay a nice ransom to get their daughter back. After taking her to an abandoned warehouse, they soon realise that something isn't right with this young woman. The young woman holds a dark secret inside her and they will soon regret ever kidnapping her. 







Going into From A House On Willow Street, I knew nothing about this film at all. What caught my eye was the rather excellent and retro looking poster for the film. So not hearing anything about this film, it made me think this may have been a festival film and looking up information about it, I can see that it played at several film festivals in the later half of 2016. I also didn't watch the trailer for the film so I was completely blind as to what to expect.

The last time I watched Sharni Vinson in a film was the excellent home invasion flick, You're Next. So seeing her appear in the first scene of From A House On Willow Street was a lovely surprise. I just hoped that this time around, she wasn't playing the same sort of role. I wanted to see her do something or branch out other than the switch up tough girl role who kicks ass in the third act. Luckily, her character is floored for the first and second act.

This is a movie that feels like two completely different films. The first half of the film is rather enjoyable. We have a kidnapper and captor storyline that had me intrigued on where the film was going to go. I thought it was cleverly handled in the beginning. I was on edge for the first act as we aren't given things immediately. Things slowly unravel and we get little glimpses of horror and things to come. Nothing is handed to the audience which I was enjoying early on.

Once we start getting glimpses of the ghostly happenings, I was getting a real Event Horizon sort of feel and vibe from it. Not in the sense that space is horrifying but the whole group starting to see visions of their dead loved ones suffering in hell. From A House On Willow Street does the same sort of thing in the second act and I thought some of those scenes were pretty creepy. Our kidnapped victim is clearly not as innocent as it appears and bizarre things start happening.

When it's finally revealed that our kidnapped victim is much eviler than what her captors had anticipated, things start getting really silly and formulaic. I do like that they tried to introduce a demon and mythology into the story but once it's revealed, I thought it turned into a run of the mill monster flick. The entire third act and the way that the movie wraps itself up felt like I had seen it all before. Some silly visually effects and eye roll moments involving a ghostly protector also didn't do the final minutes any favors.

The acting in this film rests solely on our two leading actresses. Sharni Vinson and Carlyn Burchell. All the male actors in the film while having pretty significant roles in the film aren't very memorable. This is female heavy driven horror. I loved when our two female characters were interacting with each other. I thought the final showdown was a little routine and something I've witnessed before but while been done to death in horror still overshadowed most of the stuff involving the male characters.

I think on a scary level, the first half of the film was pretty intense. I was on edge during the kidnapping scene. The return to the parent's house that revealed a rather dark twist was also creepy. We even have a scene with a photo on a wall that played pretty well. Once the monster elements in the third act start to happen, it sort of lost me on the suspense front. I'm sure the creepy visions and ghosts will have some people jumping out of their skin.

Lastly, in terms of gore and violence, this isn't an overly violent film. We have a few nasty looking ghosts. Some pretty gross dead corpses and some tentacle trauma. Other than that, the film really isn't all that bloody. The red stuff is delivered but I was expecting more in this film. I think this film tries more for suspense and scares than it does, in your face gore and violence. Most horror fans should be happy with what's on display in the film.







DEATH TOLL: 8

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Blood covered ghosts.
- A corpse is shown with a shard of glass in its face.
- A man is shown bleeding from the eyes.
- Someone is shot with metal balls.
- A demon is set on fire.
- Two demons are burnt to death.
- A tentacle is shoved down someone's throat.
- Someone shoots themselves in the head.
- Garden instruments are thrown into a priest.
- Someone's body is stabbed and left under a staircase.
- Two bodies are shown rotting in bed with maggots.







From A House On Willow Street is a movie that I didn't know much about before watching it. I hadn't heard much at all about the film. The film felt like two different films to me. The first half plays it straight. We have kidnapping, captors and creepy going-ons. Where I thought the movie loses its way was in the second half where it becomes a run of the mill monster flick. Some dodgy visuals also drag these later scenes down. Some solid performances can't drag this movie over the finish line.


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Population Zero (2017)








DIRECTORS:

Julian T. Pinder
Adam Levins

WRITER: Jeff Staranchuk

CAST:

Julian T. Pinder
Stephanie Mason
Victor Flynn
Chester Dobbs
Daniel Matcek
Catherine Hammond
Ken Williams

PLOT:

In April of 2009, three friends are murdered in a remote part of Yellowstone National Park. Their killer walks into a ranger's station and hands himself in immediately after the murders. All the families of the three young men are left even more shattered when their killer walks free due to a loophole in the American Constitution. Julian T. Pinder who is a documentary filmmaker will try and get to the bottom of the crime and become more involved than he originally predicted.








Going into Population Zero, I was ready for a true crime documentary. If it hasn't been made clear just yet from any of my previous documentary reviews on the blog or even on my Twitter, I'm a huge fan of all things true crime and anything related to serial killers. So when I originally heard about Population Zero, I was excited to see this latest documentary about three men who were murdered in Yellowstone National Park. I went into this fully expecting a documentary and nothing more.

When Population Zero began, it didn't take long before I realised that something was off about this documentary. Something wasn't right. The documentary begins like any other and shows the crime scene involving the three victims. The filmmaker starts to detail the crimes but almost immediately everything looked way too polished to me and it suddenly clicked that this may be a mockumentary of true crime. When this happened, I started to lose interest in the story as I knew the whole thing was fake.

I have to hand it to the producers and director of Population Zero. The marketing of this film while certainly not on the same level of movies like The Blair Witch Project when it comes to that type of clever marketing is still a worthy effort because I went into this under the belief that this was a documentary about a real crime. They had me for a few minutes before I got wind with what was going on with the film. I can appreciate that they tried to do a mockumentary over another found-footage film.

One of the elements that I enjoyed about this film was that the director decided to connect this mockumentary to one of his own real Documentary films. I thought that was a really clever touch by the director. While I personally haven't seen his previous documentaries, I questioned how this would sit with people knowing that one is a real documentary and they've tried to incorporate this clearly fake "true-crime" into what is essentially a real story. I don't think I've ever personally seen that done in a film before and I give them props for that.

When it comes to the twist in the film, I thought it was a pretty clever twist. It had this almost Erin Brockovich type of environmental vibe to the story and why these murders were committed. I think in that sense, the movie deserved another point from me. I thought it was a fun way to reveal why this person did what they did. I was thankful there was no third act that involved something supernatural or someone being possessed as a plot device or a last second found-footage shot of some sort of creature attacking the camera crew or filmmakers. I thought it was refreshing.

I thought the acting was pretty hit and miss for me. For a movie that is trying to pass itself off as a documentary, the interview segments were all over the place. I could sense that the actors playing the parents of the murdered men were trying to do their best but I could see one of them almost starting to crack a smile as she's meant to be talking and listening to her husband talk about their murdered child. Another element that took me out of the story. Julian T. Pinder is the best actor in Population Zero.

In terms of tough subject matter, once you realise pretty early on that it's all fake, the movie loses all that it has going for it. As someone who loves a good true-crime documentary and wanted a creepy true story about murders in Yellowstone National Park, the choice to go with the mockumentary style will be the thing that I think causes a lot of people to be turned off this film in the end. I think anyone who goes in expecting a documentary will be sorely disappointed.

Lastly, is Population Zero scary? No, it's not. The film towards the third act tries to build suspense by making our two filmmakers paranoid that the killer that they are trying to hunt down for an interview is after them and it has this cat and mouse sort of feel to it but it isn't scary. The film also doesn't have much in the way of violence or gore. I expected this to get pretty dark in sections of the story and it doesn't ever go to where I thought it was going to go.







DEATH TOLL:
 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Three men are shot dead in a national park.
- A man shoots himself in the head on camera.







Population Zero is a mockumentary that I originally believed was a documentary. As a huge fan of true-crime documentaries, I wanted to watch a creepy story about a few men being murdered in Yellowstone National Park. Instead, I got a fake story with some pretty terrible and unconvincing performances. I think where the movie works best is the twist, the marketing and a connection to his previous real life documentary. I think the film is worth a once off watch.



Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Hounds Of Love (2017)








DIRECTOR: Ben Young

WRITER: Ben Young

CAST:

Emma Booth
Ashleigh Cummings
Susie Porter
Stephen Curry
Damian De Montemas
Harrison Gilbertson
Steve Turner
Liam Graham
Lisa Bennett

PLOT:

Vicki Maloney is a seventeen-year-old high schooler who sneaks out of her house to attend a friends party. Little does Vicki realise that a predatory and sadistic couple are out driving around looking for their next victim. Offering to supply her weed and a lift to the highway, they drug and hold her captive. Vicki soon realises that she'll have to drive a wedge between the couple if she plans on surviving her ordeal.

 





Here in Australia, we have our fair share of infamous serial killers. One such couple David and Catherine Birnie are well known for being two of the worst in our short and dark history. While Australia is filled with hot weather and gorgeous beaches, we still have a seedy underbelly. While the two never racked up a large death toll, they still killed four women aged between fifteen and thirty-one. The crimes were known as the Moorhouse Murders.

Hounds Of Love is loosely based on these crimes. The film details the events of the last murder and their final victim who managed to escape the evil couple. While the movie certainly takes liberties with the case and story, this is to add some emotional weight to the film. We also have the parallel story of the victim's parents that are trying to find their missing daughter. The two stories come crashing together in the end. Don't be fooled though, this is one dark story.

Back in 2011, there was an Australian movie released called Snowtown. It was based on the 'Bodies in the Barrel' murders which happened in South Australia. It had this realism to it. Using mostly unknown actors in the lead roles was a stroke of genius. Sean Byrne's 'The Loved Ones' was a brutal yet colourful little horror film that was about obsession and revenge. Hounds Of Love feels like a mix of those two brilliant films and can now sit amongst them as a new classic in the Australian horror genre.

The movie takes no time at all in getting into these horrible events. We see a young teenage girl jump into a car in the mid-eighties and we suddenly cut to a shot where we see a dark room that looks like the windows have been blacked out and a woman is cleaning up bloody tissues. This is only the beginning. Over the next hour and forty minutes, we witness some pretty horrific stuff. To call Hounds Of Love an enjoyable experience would be a lie. This wants to show the worst of humanity and it succeeds. This gets under your skin and will stay there for a lot of viewers.

Once Hounds Of Love had finished, I actually felt emotionally drained. Just like I did with Snowtown. The movies aren't grotesque in their display of gore or violence. It's just being repeatedly put in a situation where things just keep escalating and we get no real relief. Both situations being based on real events and being so close to home make the situation even more horrific and heartbreaking. Both movies also have a realism to them. This isn't violence that is glamorized, this is ugly and terrifying.

One element that I loved about Hounds Of Love was the production design. Being set in 1986, I was watching closely to see how this little Australian horror movie handled the production design closely and they did very well. Seeing the extremely old Telstra phone boxes, the old model cars and even the design inside the houses brought back memories of when I grew up. I knew and remembered all those things. I was in love with how this film looked. Even the soundtrack catered to the time.

Now we come to the acting. Come AACTA time, I can see all four main actors getting award nominations. Emma Booth and Ashleigh Cummings are standout. Emma Booth as the evil yet vulnerable Evelyn who goes along with her husband's sadistic plans all because she feels threatened and is jealous and wanting attention should secure her the best actress. Ashleigh Cummings has the role of Vicki. The tortured young high school student and her role is brave. The things she has to go through are tough to watch and she makes us feel for her character every step of the way.

Stephen Curry will probably get the most award recognition here in Australia due to him being known mainly for comedic roles and here he is doing a John Jarrett and delivering a dark and twisted turn as John. By the end of this film, I hated him and he succeeded in giving us a cold and calculating killer. Susie Porter who is one of the most underrated Australian actresses is great in a smaller role as Vicki's mother. She has a few devastating scenes and I felt for her. The scene where she is on the street screaming for her daughter killed me. Another great turn. How hasn't this woman been scooped up by Hollywood?

Lastly, when it comes to the movie being scary, this isn't about jump scares or loud noises. Hounds Of Love is incredibly intense. This movie has a few extremely nerve-wracking sequences where we think our young high schooler might escape and these scenes had me on the edge of my seat. The film will surely have most people biting their fingernails. I think more often than not that I was never really comfortable during most of this movie. A very taut piece of debut filmmaking.
 







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- The aftermath of a school girl's murder. Blood tissues.
- A teenage girl is drugged and chained up.
- A teenage girl defecates to prevent herself being raped.
- A woman is beaten.
- A dog is kicked and stomped to death.
- Someone is repeatedly stabbed in the stomach.







Ben Young can now join Justin Kurzel, Sean Byrne, and Greg McLean because he has crafted a horrific yet stunning piece of Australian horror cinema. With a debut movie this, I can't wait to see what he does after the brilliant Hounds Of Love. The movie is gorgeously filmed, has a great soundtrack, perfectly acted, incredibly intense and extremely disturbing at times. Hounds Of Love can now join a long list of fantastic pieces of genre cinema that are making their way out of Australia. Just another film that proves we are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to horror.