Friday, March 31, 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.



Thursday, March 30, 2017

12 Feet Deep (2017)








DIRECTOR: Matt Eskandari

WRITERS:

Matt Eskandari
Michael Hultquist

CAST:

Nora-Jane Noone
Alexandra Park
Tobin Bell
Diane Farr
Christian Kane Blackburn

PLOT:

Jonna and Bree are two sisters who while taking a swim at the local indoor pool, get trapped when the owner closes up the pool for the long weekend. The two sisters end up getting trapped in the pool while trying to retrieve a wedding ring from the drain. The fibreglass pool cover traps them in the water but with the temperature dropping fast and Bree suffering from Diabetes, this isn't the only problem they face when a sadistic employee also plans on making their lives hell.







With 12 Feet Deep, we have another film that delivers a movie that is set mostly in a singular location. This time around, instead of just being trapped in a phone booth, room, hotel room, coffin or on a chairlift in below zero temperatures we are trapped with two sisters who have been locked beneath a fibreglass cover in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. This seems pretty relaxed compared to a lot of the other films that have tried to use this single location as a way of creating unease and tension.

Once I had finished with this movie, I found a lot of problems with it. With 12 Feet Deep, the setting is not the problem here. I'm happy to sit and watch a movie where two people are trapped in an Olympic pool for an hour and a half. It's everything else that takes place in the film that really left me cold to this film. I found that I didn't connect to anything or anyone and this was immediate from the first scene. This just wasn't a fun experience at all.

The biggest problem with this movie is the characters. Not one single character here is likeable. We have two sisters who spend the entire film bickering and fighting. I get that the situation they are put into causes both to stress and tensions set in. But the number of problems these two sisters have, I was left wondering how these two even stay in contact with each other. Their relationship is riddled with jealousy and the amount of secrets that arise from their arguing made me wonder why they even try and stay friendly. I'd have cut contact with my sibling if they were this messy.

The other two characters come in the form of the rude pool owner who is played by Tobin Bell who is Jigsaw from the SAW films. His brief scene doesn't give him much other than playing a cold and emotionless character who appears as the first villain-like character. The second character is the pool cleaner. She's a parolee and a thief. She's the one that is the film's villain. She is sadistic and basically tortures the two sisters. One of the sisters continues to talk down to her and scream obscenities which do nothing to help the sisters escape. It's just really annoying after the second time and it happens for the entire film.

The film also tries to throw in ways that the sisters try to escape their predicament. The way they end up trying to escape is one of the most frustrating things in this film. The sisters wait right until the very end to try something they originally try at the beginning of the film. Instead of sticking with it, they give up and argue for an hour and a half and when something is revealed about one of the sister's concerning her health, only then do they try to repeat the same thing and it's just all too easy. The ending of the film also just ends and the evilest person in the film gets away. It's all very annoying.

Visually, I think 12 Feet Deep looks great. For a movie set in a pool for most of its running time, it has a lot of neat visual tricks up its sleeve. We have a lot of slow motion shots of people swimming, gorgeous tracking shots and some really beautiful underwater takes. These are the things that I found most appealing about 12 Feet Deep. The rest left me rather cold. It doesn't help that a lot of the film is drenched in dark tones and the film is drained of all colour besides blue.

On a scary level, I think all the tension is completely removed due to how poor the character decisions and actions are in the film. The characters spend so much time bickering, arguing, swearing and fighting with each other. The movie just loses all steam as well as tension because every single time a scene that requires it starts, the characters scream and complain all the way through it. It just was overshadowed by everything else happening in the film.

Lastly, the acting is terrible. Really sad for a movie that features Tobin Bell but he is only in the film for two minutes. Nora-Jane Noone from The Descent plays one of the sisters and is the least problematic of the four characters in the movie. She delivers the best performance but that's not saying much at all with one. Both Alexandra Park and Diane Farr are two characters who spend most of the film arguing. One is the screw-up sister who causes all the problems and Diane Farr plays an angry ex-con who likes a bit of sadistic torture.







DEATH TOLL: 0

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is stabbed in the ear with a piece of plastic.
- A woman slices her arm on fibreglass.







12 Feet Deep is a movie that uses the singular location as the setup. While the film has a lot of visual flourishes that make the movie look great on a visual level but I think everything else is terrible. We have poorly written characters with underlying problems that spend most of the film arguing and bickering at each other. The movie keeps repeating the same things over again and we have a villain who tries to play sympathetic but she's just as bad as the sisters and the nasty pool owner. This movie is not an enjoyable one. A complete mess.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

XX (2017)








DIRECTORS:

Jovanka Vuckovic
Annie Clark
Roxanne Benjamin
Karyn Kusama

WRITERS:

Jovanka Vuckovic
Roxanne Benjamin
Annie Clark
Karyn Kusama

CAST:

Natalie Brown
Jonathan Watton
Melanie Lynskey
Angela Trimbur
Breeda Wool
Christina Kirk
Kyle Allen
Mike Doyle
Casey Adams
Morgan Krantz
Sheila Vand

PLOT:

XX is four deadly tales from four killer women.







XX is probably most well known for being the first horror anthology film where all of the segments are directed by female filmmakers. The fact it took even this long for something like an all female anthology horror film seems really bizarre to me. It's just very odd that this is what this movie has had to be marketed as when female filmmakers are just as capable if not more at making a satisfying horror film. Even worse is listening to interviews with the four filmmakers and hearing just how much they struggled to get this project off the ground.

The four segments are The Box, The Birthday Party, Don't Fall and Her Only Living Son. I found myself enjoying three of the four segments. While I didn't love one of the segments, it wasn't a badly made short film. It just felt a little out of place when compared to the rest of the shorts. The other three play more in line with the horror elements while one feels almost like a quirky black comedy. The rest play it dark and you can feel a complete change in tone with the way the shorts have been arranged. It's a little upset but doesn't kill the overall anthology.

The Box is my favourite segment. This is the most creepy and haunting of the short films. The biggest problem with putting The Box first is that it's such a great opening that the rest of the short films sadly don't quite live up to just how great this opening segment plays. It's dark while touching on a lot of darker themes that could be seen as child abuse or neglect and cannibalism. I also love that The Box doesn't give us an answer as to what was in the box. It leaves us with questions. I also think the way the short film ends, left me a little saddened and emotionally drained.

The Birthday Party is my least favourite of the short films. I think the reason I didn't like it as much as the rest was that this is very light in tone and it feels clinical with lots of white. It also plays things in an almost comical manner. After such a dark and disturbing opening, this feels out of place for me. Had they opened with The Birthday Party and slowly gotten darker, I may have felt like it fit tonally but being the second of four, it feels wrong to me. It's still a well-made short film, it just feels like it was placed in the wrong order for me.

Don't Fall brings XX back to darker and bloodier territory. It feels like a mix of Greg McLean's The Darkness meets the Australian horror film Primal. It's quick, it delivers on the gore and it gives us a predatory monster. The short doesn't need to be much other than a creepy campfire tale and that's exactly what it feels like. Visually, the segment is well done and I think it's the most fun of the four. While The Box is slow and moody, The Birthday Party is lighter in tone, Don't Fall is fast paced, it feels pretty frantic and delivers blood and gore.

Her Only Living Son is directed by the excellent Karyn Kusama. Her short in XX feels more in line with her film The Invitation tonally than it does Jennifer's Body. This is a slow burn that builds to a pretty dark final. I think this is held together by three solid performances. Like The Box, I think this short leaves you asking questions. While not as ambiguous as The Box, it still feels like a bit of a weird one and doesn't hand all the answers on a silver platter to the audience. I think it is my second favourite short and a nice way to close XX.

In between all four of the segments that are featured in XX, we have these gorgeous stop motion animations. They give the film this eerie vibe to it all. The wrap-around segments in Anthology movies are always important to me. They have to be just as good, if not better than the short films. When they work well with the short films, it completes the story. I think the ones featured in this film are all great. Some very creepy visuals are provided.

When it comes to the acting in XX, I thought the performances were great. Melanie Lynskey is quiet and understated in The Birthday Party while Natalie Brown is a mum on the verge of a nervous breakdown as she is unable to understand why her family are falling victim to what appears to be an unseen presence. Both Angela Trimbur and Breeda Wool seem like they get to have the most fun in this film and Christina Kirk as another mother who is trying to deal with her sociopathic son is also fantastic in her segment.







DEATH TOLL: 9

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman's leg and arm are carved up and served to her children.
- Someone is found dead in their home office.
- A man is ripped apart by a monster.
- A squirrel is nailed to a tree.
- A box full of teeth is found.
- A woman is turned into a ravenous monster.
- A bone breaks through the skin.
- A mother and son crush each to death by hugging.
- A woman is seen cleaning up blood.
- Blood is shown pouring out of a guys mouth.
- A man is attacked and thrown through a window.







The fact that it's taken this long to see a horror anthology film directed entirely by women is a bit of a shame. However, if this is the first attempt, I think it's a pretty noteworthy start. I found that I enjoyed three of the four segments. While one falls just short due to its tone and feels a little out of place, it's still not a terrible short film. Some great performances and gorgeous wrap around segments in between the short films, XX is a great start and hopefully, we will see more horror anthologies directed by women.



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Rituals (1977)








DIRECTOR: Peter Carter

WRITER: Ian Sutherland

CAST:

Hal Holbrook
Lawrence Dane
Robin Gammell
Ken James
Michael Zenon
Jack Creley
Murray Westgate
Gary Reineke

PLOT:

When five doctors go on vacation into the Canadian Wilderness. Strange things start to happen. Severed animal heads start appearing, their items of clothing are stolen, traps are set and the group decide to head for help. As the group start coming under attack, tensions start to set in between the friends and trust is completely broken. So the group must band together but little do they realise that they have a lot more to fear by the disfigured and crazed killer who is hunting them down one by one.
 







When I decided to take part in Rituals, I was going into this movie completely blind. I had never heard of this film before. I added it to my slasher retrospective when it was featured on a little blog dedicated to slasher cinema who had it on their list. It appears that while researching the film, it may still be relatively unknown. Listening to a review of the film, they mention that at the time of their review, there was not even a Wikipedia page created for this film.

Coming back to the research side of the film. While reading about the movie, it was filmed back in 1976 and didn't see an actual release stateside until two years after it wrapped up production. I think a big reason behind this film not seeing a release for two years is that it came out only a few years after another film that contained very similar themes was a critical and big box office success. That movie is the Oscar-nominated movie Deliverance.

After watching Rituals, I can see why people compare this movie to Deliverance. The movie is set in the backwoods/woodlands. A group of friends are set upon by a killer or killer(s). But that's where I believe the comparisons end for me. I think that this one plays more like a slasher where Deliverance feels more like a survival horror movie. Rituals features an unseen presence who is slowly toying with our group of friends and begins picking them off one by one like a normal slasher movie killer.

Rituals is a slow burn horror film. Anyone going in and expecting a film that delivers kill after kill with huge amounts of suspense may be left pretty disappointed. I didn't find Rituals all that intense but what I did enjoy about this film was the build up. The film slowly starts to unravel and this is where creepy things begin to happen to this group of mates. It starts out pretty innocently and as the movie goes on, the threats become more and more ferocious. This is where the movie delivers it's most horrific and creepy moments.

Another element that I really enjoyed about this movie was that they don't reveal the identity of the killer until the final few minutes. So we are left in the dark as to who is committing these vicious acts on the group of doctors. We only get a couple of little glimpses as to the possible killer and when it's finally revealed, it's a pretty big shock. Not for the fact that the killer is someone we know but the way the killer looks. When his reason for killing these men is revealed, I really enjoyed how this film came to an end.

Filmed in Canada, the cinematography is gorgeous. Being that the entire movie is filmed in the wilderness, we get a lot of beautiful scenery and landscape shots. It also must be mentioned that it looks like all the actors were actually put into the harsh environments and asked to act through some pretty daring stuff. There is a scene in a river rapid that was intense and well made. Even though the film looks low budget, they film still looked like it go the most out of its locations.

When it comes to all the gore and death scenes, Rituals is rather restrained when it comes to its violence and bloodshed. The goriest scene features what was apparently a real decapitated deer's head. The rest of the moments that happen in Rituals are all rather bloodless. A head being stuck on a pike and a bear trap scene is sadly not as gory as I'd hoped for. If you want disturbing, you would probably find the 'squeal piggy' scene from Deliverance more uncomfortable than anything shown in Rituals.

Lastly, the acting in Rituals is solid for me. The only actor I actually know from this cast is Hal Holbrook. The man has plenty of notable roles under his belt but here he delivers a performance that ranges from anger to uncertainty and by the end of the film, sheer horror. I think he holds the film upon his shoulders but that's not to say that the rest of the cast aren't all great in their respective roles. A well-acted film from all involved.







DEATH TOLL: 5

BLOOD AND GORE:


- A decapitated deer's head is shown.
- A man dies after drowning in a river.
- A severed head is found on a pike.
- Someone is strangled to death to end their suffering.
- A man is tied to a chair with metal rods in his legs.
- A man steps in bear traps.
- Someone is slashed across the leg with a knife.
- A disfigured man is shot dead.
- A man is stabbed in the chest.
- Someone is set on fire and burns to death.
- A man's foot has to be set back into place.








Going into Rituals and not knowing a single thing about the movie, I came out of this one pleasantly surprised. This film will no doubt be compared to Deliverance but for me, both films are pretty different and both are good in their own ways. So Rituals features great performances, some wonderful cinematography and an enjoyable build up to a rather dark and brutal little ending. Where it goes wrong for me is that the movie has pacing problems early on. Until things start getting more deadly, the film does feel a little slow in the early scenes.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Let Her Out (2017)








DIRECTOR: Cody Calahan

WRITERS:

Cody Calahan
Adam Seybold

CAST:

Alanna LeVierge
Nina Kiri
Adam Christie
Kate Fenton
Glen Reid
Brooke Henderson
Michael Lipka
Deborah Jayne Reilly Smith

PLOT:

Helen is a bike courier who one night is hit by a car. After suffering the traumatic accident, she begins to experience blackouts, hallucinations and night terrors. When she goes to check a check-up at her doctor, she discovers that she has a tumour. The benign growth is that of a vanishing twin absorbed in utero. As her tumour starts to manifest, so does Helen's visions of a dark stranger who is trying to come to the surface. This begins to also affect her emotional and psychological state.








Looking at the poster for Let Her Out, I was pretty excited to give this one a watch. I hadn't watched the trailer or seen any promotion besides the poster before giving it a spin. I was going into this one basically blind. Looking at the poster, I had thought I may be about to watch a movie that dealt with a lesbian relationship of some sort. The poster is extremely eye catching and colourful, so I was ready to jump right into this movie and explore the horror.

Let Her Out opens with a pretty nasty motel rape scene. A pregnant woman is raped while held at knifepoint. The scene ends with the pregnant woman stabbing herself in the stomach. A title card with twenty-three years later appears. After an opening like that, I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie. I had no idea where this one was going. We are introduced to our main character and for just a few minutes, this is the calm before the storm.

The filmmaker decides to give us a couple of minutes of character building before our main character gets into a horrible accident which sets into motion a series of pretty disturbing and nightmarish events. After her accident, Helen finds out that she has a tumour which was a twin while in utero. From this moment on, Let Her Out doesn't ever stop moving. It is one scene after another of brutal body horror. With only little moments that tie scenes together, this is one full-on assault on the eyes.

Usually, I will welcome a movie that delivers on the gore and bloodshed. With Let Her Out, It felt exhausting at times. This film is just constant body horror with not much of a story to string these moments of gore together. I think the biggest issue with there not being much of a plot at the core of this story is that once we get to the third act, nothing is ever really explained and nothing ends up making sense. If they did explain, I may have missed some important detail during all the bloodshed.

It's a double edge sword with Let Her Out. While the gore is rather consistent and it never really stops in this film, I think if it wasn't in the movie, I'd have probably said the story was too slow or the movie didn't move at a brisk pace. I can't deny that all the body horror that's on display isn't impressive. The movie is gruesome and I really think that the highlight is how impressive the gore and blood effects are in the film. There is one scene that involves a shard of glass being removed from someone's foot that had me wincing.

When it comes to the tension and suspense in Let Her Out. We have a couple of scenes that play rather well. I think what ruins a lot of this film's scariest moments is the soundtrack. Whoever decided on the soundtrack should have really pulled back on a lot of the music cues. Before every build-up of suspense, the music would start a minute or so before the actual intense moment is meant to happen which ruined any shock value that the scene works towards. The music kills any chance of their to be a solid jump scare. It is so frequent and repetitive that after it kicks in for the third time, I started to get annoyed with it.

I think the director and writer were really inspired by the French horror film Martyrs. A lot of the more gruesome and horrific stuff is shot almost exactly like in that film. The final showdown that reveals the film's nightmarish villain is almost identical in structure to the reveal of the woman appearing from behind the bathtub scene in Martyrs. Not a bad film to be compared to but being that I love Martyrs, I couldn't help but notice a few similarities in the way the scenes were shot.

Lastly, the acting in the film is decent enough. The biggest discovery for me is lead actress Alanna LeVierge. The constant state of unease that she is meant to stay in is impressive. There is no real levity for her character. The entire running time, she is in this state of constant craziness. I hope to see her get more roles in the future as she delivers a rather sombre yet solid performance and manages to carry this film. I'd love to see her tackle a larger scale horror film and see how she handles that type of film.







DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A girl is raped at knifepoint.
- A woman is hit by a car while on her bike.
- A broken mirror covered in blood.
- A woman's throat is slit.
- A guy is repeatedly stabbed with a box cutter.
- A woman stabs herself in the pregnant belly.
- A woman steps on a shard of glass and pulls it out of her foot.
- A woman pulls her stitches out of her wound.
- A woman slices her wrist.
- A woman is stabbed in the stomach multiple times.
- A man is shown dead in bed with carvings on his body.
- A woman regurgitates hair.
- A girl has an infected arm.
- A woman chokes another woman.
- A woman pulls her skin off.
- A severed finger is removed from an open wound.







Let Her Out is a movie that just missed the mark for me. Maybe a rewatch down the line may change my opinion on the film. The film builds to a conclusion that doesn't make all that much sense, it contains terrible music cues which kill any tension and the movie really felt like it exhausted me. On the flipside, it has some standout body horror that would make David Cronenberg happy and a solid lead performance from Alanna LeVierge. I think this was more enjoyable that the Martyrs remake which this seems to be inspired.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Redeemer: Son Of Satan (1978)








DIRECTOR: Constantine S. Gochis

WRITER: William Vernick

CAST:

T.G. Finkbinder
Damien Knight
Nick Carter
Jeannetta Arnette
Christopher Flint
Michael Hollingsworth
Nikki Barthen
Gyr Patterson

PLOT:

When a group of six friends meet up and decide to head to their old high school for their class reunion. The group end up getting trapped in the confines of their old high school as a masked preacher begins to hunt them down one by one. This preacher is hunting down the group of friends due to what he believes to be them leading sinful lives and committing perversions. The friends will have to try and escape if they plan to survive the frenzied murder spree.







The Redeemer: Son Of Satan which is also known as Class Reunion Massacre is a low budget proto-slasher from the late seventies that mixes themes of religion with those slasher elements we've come to know and love. If you were to discover this film as Class Reunion Massacre, you may not realise you are going to watch a movie that is heavy with religious iconology. That title makes this sound like a generic slasher. The film is heavy on the slasher elements but there are moments in this film that play completely different and make it almost come across as supernatural.

The moments that play most to the supernatural elements that I mention above are the opening scene and the ending. The movie feels bookended by these weird out of place scenes where a child comes out of a secluded lake and returns to the lake when the film ends. I felt like the scenes didn't actually feel like they belonged. This may be due to me being completely in the dark on a lot of stuff relating to religion. I do think for those who were raised in a religious household, this film may speak to them a lot more than it did for me. Hence why I call this supernatural.

The opening and ending scenes are where I think this one has it's biggest problems. The preacher who summons this child from the lake is never really explained beyond the bookended scenes. I think what I took from these brief scenes are that the child is summoned by the preacher to assist with his killing spree and quest to rid all those people he deems perverted or sinful. We are to believe that this is the child of Satan as the movie title suggests, would he not assist a man of God? Wouldn't the son of Satan relish in sin? It's all very confusing.

Where this movie does gain a few points from me is the entire middle section of the film. Once all hell breaks loose inside the confines of the high school, I think this is where the movie is at it's most enjoyable. Once this killer starts knocking off our group of friends, we get a few really enjoyable death scenes. Characters are shot, burnt alive, impaled and stabbed. I was in a state of gleefulness as the killer took out all his victims. Easily the highlight of the movie for me.

One element that surprised me about The Redeemer: Son Of Satan was the fact that the killer wore a different mask and costume every single time he killed one of the friends. So every time one of the group came into contact with the killer, it was a surprise. No death scene was the same in both what the killer wore or how he killed his victims. One moment that played very well involved a chase scene through the backwoods that ends in the killer dressed as a hunter/lumberjack who shotgun blasts the victim in the stomach.

The Redeemer: Son Of Satan isn't exactly gory or overly bloody. We have a couple of scenes that contain blood and gore but this is by no means extreme or grotesque in its display of violence. This is one that won't end up on the video nasty list. The most violent scene involves a giant sword falling from the ceiling and into a man's skull. It's one of the best death scenes in the movie. When it comes to the scares, I thought at several times during the running time that the movie successfully built suspense. The scene in the woods was one such moment.

Reading up on this movie, I can see that a couple of people were offended by the stereotypical LGBT characters in the film. We have one character who is flamboyant but he is so likeable that I didn't find it as offensive as some did. The main actress also plays a lesbian character and ends up being what some would describe as the almost final girl. Compared to Island Of Death, the characters in this film were much more enjoyable and I actually wanted to see these ones survive their ordeal.

Lastly, the acting in the film is solid. Not one of the actors in this film delivered a character who I thought was annoying. I actually enjoyed the chemistry between the cast and this felt like they were all friends. The only downside of the acting that I can personally pinpoint is the killer reveal. Once he is revealed, he isn't as crazy or vengeful as I expected. A chance to go all the way with this religious zealot preacher is a missed opportunity. They could have given us the Westboro Baptist Church type of crazy but they sadly didn't try for that here.







DEATH TOLL: 7

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is shot in the neck.
- A man is shot in the head.
- A woman is stabbed with a sword.
- A man is set on fire and burns to death.
- The aftermath of a bullet to the throat.
- A woman is hit in the stomach by a shotgun blast.
- A sword is dropped into a man's skull from above.
- A woman is drowned in a bathroom sink.








The Redeemer: Son Of Satan! is a slasher that deserves to be seen. While I wasn't a fan of the religious themes that run rampant throughout the opening and ending of the film, I enjoyed this as a straight up slasher. Some enjoyable kills and a few neat dress changes by the killer keep this slasher interesting. This movie also does the rare thing and gives us a group of characters who I actually wanted to see survive. This is low budget but still, tries to do things a little differently than the standard stalk and slash storyline.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Prevenge (2017)








DIRECTOR: Alice Lowe

WRITER: Alice Lowe

CAST:

Alice Lowe
Kate Dickie
Gemma Whelan
Jo Hartley
Tom Davis
Kayvan Novak
Eileen Davis
Tom Meeten

PLOT:

Ruth who is recently widowed when her boyfriend is killed in a rock climbing accident is also seven months pregnant. Ruth is still trying to come to terms with the death of her partner while also trying to get ready for the birth of her child. Ruth believes that the unborn baby inside her womb is instructing her to go on a homicidal rampage and seek revenge on all those who are responsible for her partner's accident. Both Ruth and her unborn baby will dispatch of anyone who stands in their way.








Back in 2012, I got a chance to watch Ben Wheatley's Sightseers. The movie was a dark horror comedy about a couple that goes on a road trip and it soon turns very dark. The movie mixed both horror and comedy elements very well. This is the first time that I got to see Alice Lowe in action. In Prevenge, she now takes on director, writer and leading actress duties and delivers a movie that feels very similar in tone to her role in Sightseers. I think she is still enjoying the experience of that film and tried her own take on this sort of story.

When Prevenge opens, we see a gorgeous shot of the Wales coastline and we are suddenly subjected to a shot of blood and brain matter splattered on the rocks. The opening shot sets the tone and Prevenge takes no time in getting to its revenge and gruesome violence. Alice Lowe wastes no time in giving us her homicidal Ruth. Ruth is cutthroat and doesn't waste a lot of time in murdering her first victim. She is very swift and does this brutal crime only minutes into the movie. I was actually taken back and at a loss as to whether I should root for her or despise her.

The movie over the course of it's running time shows Ruth and her unborn baby who is speaking to her from the womb. If you went into this expecting a straight-forward horror movie about a pregnant woman who gets a little knife happy, think again. This is a weird and oddball horror comedy about a woman who believes that her unborn baby is instructing her to maim and butcher people on a quest for bloody revenge. Whenever she hears the voice of her baby, this is where the movie gets a lot of it's most bizarre and comedic moments.

The flip side to Prevenge is the rather huge tonal shifts between comedy and horror and they don't always work for me. I think the horror elements of the film are much more apparent and they outweigh the comedic stuff. I was enjoying the horror side of the film as this is pretty gory and brutal. At times, I think this is a rather unpleasant experience. You follow Ruth as she goes on a killing spree and you only start to get to know why as the movie progresses. So for a majority of the running time, certain characters appear to be murdered just for remarks they've made and it seems mean-spirited. Even when the twist is revealed, it still felt morally wrong. In the end, Ruth is just a monster and them trying to make excuses feels confusing and muddled.

I think where this movie also misses the mark is the ending and overall mystery. While it gets slowly revealed as to why Ruth is seeking revenge, we are given a pretty heartbreaking reason why and while I felt horrible for this character, it sort of happens and is basically passed over. This whole movie is based on this one incident and when it's revealed, it is shown and we never really get much time to take it all in as the movie sort of just wraps everything up. The ending also hints at something but again, it just ends and it's left up in the air. I felt like I was actually cheated a bit with this film.

There are several moments that played pretty stomach churning and grotesque. I'm not easily grossed out but Prevenge has one moment that made me almost bring up my dinner. Shockingly, being a male, I had no issue with the testicle being slashed open and falling on the floor. There is a scene where this misogynistic DJ pukes into his afro wig and with vomit all over his face, french kisses Ruth. This scene would've played well and fit right in there with a Farrelly Brothers comedy. It was disgusting and would love to see the outtakes of this scene.

The acting in Prevenge is rather solid. Do I enjoy the character of Ruth? No, not at all. But is Alice Lowe's performance good? Yes. I thought she played the character well. I think for she plays a character who is reprehensible and repugnant very well. Kate Dickie who I've seen in movies like Prometheus and The Witch is great in a small almost cameo like performance as a female interviewer who meets a rather gruesome demise. The rest of the cast who plays victims also give it their best shot with what they are given.

Lastly, is Prevenge scary? No, the movie goes for a more comedic approach. There is no major jump scares or moments that will scare the viewer. What I believe this film will do for some sensitive viewers is deliver a few solid shocks as the gore and death scenes are quite nasty and realistic. The movie doesn't really shy away from a lot of the kills and even when it does, it still has some bloody aftermaths. The film on a bloody level should keep most gore hounds pretty happy. I think it may even make some viewers wince in disgust.







DEATH TOLL:
 7

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone falls onto rocks while rock climbing.
- A man shown with his skull cracked open (blood and brain matter).
- A man has his throat slit.
- A woman has her throat slashed.
- A baby is seen being removed from a woman's stomach.
- A woman is stabbed in the stomach with a knife.
- A man is slashed across the testicles and one falls on the floor.
- A man vomits into an afro wig and kisses a girl.
- A woman stabs a man in the eye with a sharp Buddha statue.








Prevenge is an odd one. On a horror level, the movie plays nasty and bloody. The death scenes are also gruesome and realistic. The movie even has a few gross out moments and a couple of laughs. Prevenge also contains a cast in fine form. Where the movie loses points for me is that not one of them is likeable. The mystery at the heart of the film is also a miss. The film sort of builds to nothing and when it ends, I felt cheated. This is tonally uneven but I still feel the movie had moments. Possibly don't watch with your pregnant wife, it may give her ideas.





Friday, March 24, 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.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dead Awake (2017)








DIRECTOR: Phillip Guzman

WRITER: Jeffrey Reddick

CAST:

Jocelin Donahue
Jesse Bradford
Lori Petty
Jesse Borrego
Brea Grant
James Eckhouse
Mona Lee Fultz
Billy Blair

PLOT:

When Kate Bowman's twin sister Beth dies during her sleep, Kate is aware something isn't right with her death. Kate starts to investigate her death and discovers that her sister died during a bout of sleep paralysis. When she starts to delve deeper into the phenomenon of sleep paralysis she soon discovers that all of the victims came into a contact with a supernatural creature. She will have to put herself under to try and defeat the creature that killed her sister.







I've always been incredibly fascinated with the whole phenomenon of sleep paralysis. It's one of those things that has always terrified me but I've never experienced it for myself. I have heard both friends and colleagues talk about their experiences. I have watched documentaries and videos on it. It's always been one of those creepy things that have peaked my interest. Due to never experiencing it for myself, it's almost at Urban Legend status.

Going into Dead Awake, I was excited to watch the film. I wanted to see how they tackled the whole theme of sleep paralysis and how they would manage to do this disorder justice. I assume for a lot of people, this is a touchy subject. From all the experiences that I've been informed about, it's a pretty scary thing to happen to a person and I think it needs to be handled with tact and not be exploitive of the disorder. I think after watching Dead Awake, some will find it to be the latter.

When the film began, we open with a woman who is suffering sleep paralysis. Slowly her bedroom door opens and we see a dark figure crawl towards her bed. This scene immediately felt like Kayako out of The Grudge. Visually, it feels so similar to that movie that it even had the same glitchy type of movements as The Grudge. It's not the first or the last time that I felt that this movie borrowed from more popular and better films. It happens more often than not.

Where Dead Awake also gave us moments that felt all too familiar was the 'Sleep Paralysis' element. It could be passed from one person to the next like an evil curse. If it sounds like The Ring, The Grudge or It Follows, It's because they did it better. So if the demon kills someone in their sleep paralysis state, the demon is able to move onto the next person that it came into contact with. A lot of the imagery like the demon being afraid of the light felt like it borrowed from Lights Out. The demon also looked like Bathsheba from The Conjuring.

I think the biggest issue that I had with Dead Awake is that it's not very interesting or fun. The movie is actually pretty dull. The film while delivering a couple of solid and eerie set-pieces, it's just a lot of talking and exposition that really does kill the tension or any chance of a great build up. Once we see the first attack scene, it's the same thing over and over again. Only one of these plays differently where they use black water and reflections that played very J-Horror like. Other than that, we get scenes of our characters running around and just getting to a crime scene too late.

Dead Awake is filled with some pretty stupid character moments as well. The scene that highlights this involves two characters who need to inject a character who is in a sleep paralysis state which brings them out of that state before the demon is able to kill them. Only for one of them to trip over and lose the needle under the couch. It takes two men to jump on the floor to find the needle in a perfectly lit room. The way its shot is just terribly laughable.

The acting in the movie is very hit and miss. Jocelin Donahue is a solid actress and I loved her in The House Of The Devil. Here she plays dual roles as twins and while I think she does her best, the material lets her down. Jesse Bradford has seen much better days as well. He is just left to fumble through his lines. I also thought there was no chemistry between the twins and his character. He's meant to be dating one but doesn't even show sadness when she is killed. Lori Petty who I love normally is completely miscast. She has this odd therapist role but feels like she is doing it as her space cadet and crazy Orange Is The New Black character. Very weird.

Lastly, when it comes to the scares and suspense, I think the movie tries to at least deliver on that aspect. We have a few creepy set-pieces. While I think a lot of these scenes played very similar to other supernatural films of the last decade, I thought it still worked well enough. This movie looks very inspired by the whole J-Horror craze and a lot of the more creepy moments do look eerie. I think if anything, the director, Phillip Guzman has crafted a nice looking horror film. I can't fault the visuals.







DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman dies while suffering from sleep paralysis.
- A woman is choked to death by a demon.
- A woman is choked while asleep.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach.
- Someone shoves their fingers into a demon's throat.







Dead Awake has a very cool concept and squanders it. The movie while dealing with the very creepy phenomenon of sleep paralysis is let down by a dull and extremely slow pace, rather so-so performances, silly character moments and all too familiar set-pieces. It feels like Dead Awake spends a lot of its time trying to be Lights Out, The Grudge, The Ring and The Conjuring yet never quite manages to get there. You'd be better off watching any of the films mentioned above instead of this movie.