Movie review: Resurrection (2022)

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First things first, if Rebecca Hall is in something you’ve already got my attention. You’re guaranteed to watch a captivating performance and in her latest feature, Resurrection she goes above and beyond, perhaps contributing her finest performance on screen to date.

On the surface Margaret (Hall) is perfection personified. She has a successful career, where she is in complete control of her environment and a bastion of strong leadership amongst her peers; a symbol of success and an inspiration to those who she works with. On the homefront,  her daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman – The Sky is Everywhere) is turning 18 and heading off to university. And Maragert’s sex life appears wild and passionate. All of this appears to be held together with effortless grace. What we see however, is a facade to a darkly, traumatic past that Margaret has been buried in the recesses of time, forging on and hoping that it won’t ever resurrect itself. 

Unfortunately, it all unravels when David (Tim Roth) appears back in her life, forcing her to confront those horrors, whilst still hanging on to some sense of control. The tighter the grip though, the more will slip through her fingers. Her job, her love life, her daughter. What will it cost her to save herself and those she holds dear from absolving her guilt and the scars of time once lost in oppression and grief.

The Prognosis

Andrew Semans, the writer and director for Resurrection in what is his second outing behind the camera, carves out a harrowing and hardy tale of trauma. It’s a captivating take on the effects and impact caused when something hauntingly tragic occurs and we try to squash it down and run away from our past. 

Hall is magnificent in her portrayal, personifying every aspect of a woman trying to keep everything collected but being forced to heal in an agonisingly cathartic way. To watch her is to be schooled on acting prowess, such is the effortless way she encapsulates her character. 

Roth also delivers a fine performance of David devoid of compassion and intent in maintaining the disturbing hold he has on Margaret. 

Combined, the performances, narrative and direction weave together to scrutinise dominance, power and domestication. The journey is hard, the scars run deep, and the impact may be confronting, but the result is to share in the purge.  

  • Saul Muerte

Resurrection will be available on digital platforms from November 30th.

Movie review: Terrifier 2 (2022)

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It’s been 6 years since Damien Leone’s torturous creation Art the Clown inflicted audiences with his harsh and violent manner of dispatching victims with revel and glee. His silent mockery as the fatalistic few who encounter him is part of the shock manner which juxtaposes the brutal way that he delves into his maniacal fantasy. 

The sequel (currently screening in select cinemas) paves way for further immersion into the realms of macabre reverie with Art being resurrected by some unknown entity, lending itself to a more mystical approach to the narrative. In doing so, it stretches the reams of believability, where anything can be possible in this franchise. There are great moments involved in dream-like sequences and visions that would even make Freddy Kreuger envious, but where Freddy has the gift of the gab, Art has the gift of the gore.

Leone even marks time for humour to be included as Art (once again portrayed by David Howard Thornton) finds solace in an imaginary girl who is equally dressed in clown attire. In particular, there’s a quirky and quaint scene in a laundromat where Art goes to wash his blood-drenched clothes following a pretty gnarly murderous event. 

The tale picks up with a broken family dynamic centred on Sienna (Lauren LaVera), who may have magical qualities of her own, inherited from her now deceased father; her brother Jonathan (Elliot Fullam), who is subjected by misrepresentation and feels ostracised as a result; and the grieving, over-protective mother (Sarah Voigt).

There is something intrinsically drawing both Sienna and Art together, where their orbits will inevitably align among the clown’s killings,that will bring about an ultimate match up, but not necessarily a finality; a potential for further instalments yet to come.

The Prognosis

Dubbed by Director Mike Flanagan (Midnight Mass) as the birth of the Megaslasher, Damien Leone has created an extension of the splatter movie, blending it with slasher tones. The gore factor has been dialled up to the max, which is also surprisingly peppered with macabre humour. Terrifier 2  goes above and beyond its predecessor with a bold and fantastical tale, providing an ARTform that cements its antagonist at the heart of modern horror.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Slash/Back (2022)

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Slash/Back is one of those movies that flickers between sci-fi horror and kids action drama in the vein of The Goonies but without the witty banter. It struggles to nestle into either of these domains strongly though and whittles along regardless with little resonance at all.

Set in an arctic hamlet, a group of youths who call themselves the girls from Pang led by a headstrong Maika (Tasiana Shirley) are faced with an alien invasion which only they may have the resolution to defend their homes. As with such films they must first overcome their differences and form a united front if they are to have any chance of outwitting their predators.

Luckily they come equipped with some handy knowledge of horror films to help aid them and the ability to go Macgyver with some choice weapons to arm themselves with.

The style of antagonist sits nicely and disturbingly as these alien entities use animals including humankind to hide in, in order to stalk their prey. The result is deliberately unsettling, as they shamble uncomfortably around in their skin of choice, unable to manoeuvre themselves with any sense of grace. It not only strengthens the foreign, unearthly element to the proceedings but the uneasyness slips well into the realms of horror. 

The performances are not solid but one could argue that this lends itself to a more realistic portrayal, and at times it does so with effortless charm, but occasionally it grates and pushes the audience out of the narrative. It’s a gamble that pays off but not often.

The prognosis:

Nyla Innuksuk offers an authentic voice to an oversaturated horror landscape with beautiful sceneries to capture his homeland. This allows him to play comfortably in his own domain and flex some creativity. There’s an element of charm at play, that is let down through some script decisions and the casting of a young group of actors with little experience in front of the camera becomes all too noticeable.

The charm and clear vision being expressed marginally pushes this into watchable territory though and quietly hooks you in.

– Saul Muerte

Slash/Back will be streaming on Shudder ANZ from Friday Nov 18th.

Retrospective: The Snorkel (1958)

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1958 would prove to be an eventful year for Hammer Film Productions. Having hit the early half of the year with the iconic Dracula aka The Horror of Dracula starring Christopher Lee in the titular role, and then releasing the sequel to The Curse of Frankenstein, equally projecting their franchise with Peter Cushing returning as Baron Frankenstein having escaped the guillotine in The Revenge of Frankenstein. To round out their trilogy of cinematic releases, Hammer would work with Columbia Pictures to distribute the feature as part of a double bill contract with wartime feature The Camp On Blood Island.

The Snorkel plays out like an Alfred Hitchcock feature with its elaborate murder and macabre dealings by the murderer himself, twisting and turning to achieve his goal in financial gain. There is an element of gaslighting at play too as Paul Decker (Peter Van Eyck) who is masterful in his manipulation, wields his power over his step-daughter Candy (Mandy Miller). Candy continuously questions Paul, convinced that he is responsible for the death of her mother. The issue is that all the evidence points to suicide, not homicide.

The writing by Hammer staple Jimmy Sangster and Paul Myers from a story by Anthony Dawson (Dial M For Murder – another Hitchcock connection) is cleverly played out for melodramatic purposes but lacks in dialogue in places.

It has some choice moments and hesitantly dangles the idea of a questionably dark ending before tying up loose ends. It also had a higher budget than Hammer had dealt with but this was primarily due to shooting on location in an Italian villa. This actually plays in the films favour and grounds the narrative. 

The Snorkel has been a little forgotten over the years, masked by the Gothic features that Hammer released at the time, but warrants further attention as it’s a fun little tale of murder and suspense.

– Saul Muerte

Retrospective: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

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Hot off the tails of Hammer’s iconic release of Dracula aka Horror of Dracula, the British Film production company would look to follow up on the success of their other Gothic feature, The Curse of Frankenstein. That film as noted at the time had the titular Baron played by Peter Cushing (returning once more here) heading for the guillotine. His resurrection would be a simple enough with Frankenstein paying off his executioner and escaping to form an alternate identity as Dr. Victor Stein set up his own successful practice in Carlsbruck. His alias is soon uncovered however by fellow doctor and admirer of Frankenstein’s work, Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews). Hans teams up with Frankenstein, eager to learn his methods and the two set work in picking up where he last left off, with the creation of life.

As part of these scientific methods, Frankenstein is accompanied by a hunchback, Karl (Oscar Quitak) who volunteers his brain in the promise of a new body (Michael Gwynne). It wouldn’t be a Hammer film without its share of drama and conflict which comes at the hand of Karl being beaten by a janitor damaging his brain and transforming his personality into a cannibalistic, decaying frame. From here, Frankenstein’s demise is on the cards and the town will awaken to his dark deeds.

Despite having a rushed script, the final cut would do well for Hammer, pulling in enough income at the box office and would be commended for a well handled screenplay ably supported by Jack Asher’s cinematography along with Terence Fisher’s directing. This is Cushing’s film though and his poise and acidic portrayal is one that lifts The Revenge of Frankenstein marking a successful franchise return and arguably one that is seen by some as better than its predecessor.

– Saul Muerte

Movie review: Beaten to Death (2022)

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Beaten to Death is the epitome of being put through the wringer. From the get-go, Sam Curtain’s third feature from the director’s chair (which premiered recently at Australia’s A Night of Horror International Film Festival) is relentless in carrying out its mantra in promising to beat a man to death. Our opening shots are of a guy literally being pummelled by a brute of a man; the reasons why yet to be disclosed.

Set in Tasmania, where Curtain, who also takes on writing and cinematography duties, takes full advantage of the beautiful-yet-brutal landscape; a metaphor for the narrative as it unfolds. Both Man and Nature are at its most harshest to put our everyman to his final test. 

Jack (Thomas Roach) is the man to be subjected to all forms of torture. He along with his partner Rachel (Nicole Tudor) have rolled the dice on a gamble that could help them through their struggles, but the path they choose and fate have a different tale to tell.

The Prognosis

Beaten to Death is one of those rare movies that does exactly what it says on the tin. It is not for the faint of heart, take note of the title. It’s spelt out for you.

What Curtain does offer is anything but predictable, carving up the narrative to draw out the ebbs and flows of Jack’s suffering. He allows the audience to breathe but just enough to catch our breath and throw us into the grinder again. There is heart too as we slowly learn of Jack’s initial plight and ultimate descent. Hats off to a solid performance by Roach too to lure the audience in with his solid portrayal.

Curtain keeps dangling the hope of survival throughout, and thus the tension hits you squarely in the face… repeatedly until the end. Brace yourself.

  • Saul Muerte

Beaten to Death will be screening as part of the New York City Horror Film Festival in December.

Movie review: Sissy (2022)

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The writing and directing partnership of Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes prove that they are a force to sit up and pay attention to in their sophomore feature Sissy. On face value this film could appear as a typical trip down a dark past where old haunts rise to the surface but there’s something deeper at play here that spells out a disturbing and topical story. Psychological trauma can fester when not dealt with or addressed in a way that can help heal those involved. Without it, carnage can ensue, which is exactly what happens here.

Sissy (Aisha Dee) is a social influencer, projecting a world of calm and serenity out into the social cyber world. A life appears to be bliss but it soon becomes evident that she has a temporary band aid over her to propel any fears or anxieties that she has and it’s about to get wrenched off when she bumps into her former school BFF, Emma (played by Barlow). We soon learn that Emma is about to get married and old feelings are explored once more when Sissy is asked to join her for a night out, swiftly followed by a weekend away with friends to celebrate Emma’s upcoming nuptials. Sissy is all too eager to please, hoping that she can rekindle their friendship and the connection they once had. That is until Alex (Emily De Margheriti) enters the scene once again. The girl who took away that friendship and sparked an inner rage in Sissy with drastic consequences. Can Sissy contain these feelings or will it all bubble over and the fury take control.

The Prognosis

Essentially what Barlow and Senes have tapped into here is the psychological upheaval that is brought about through social trauma. This tale has humour and heartache abound as we watch the slow disintegration of strength and positivity as it crumbles in the wake of old scars. We can never really bury our emotions, good or ill without some kind of ramification. Sissy is the extreme example of what can occur when we don’t pay attention to the negative aspects of our life and face up to them. With solid performances and believable characters stretched to their most extreme personifications, there’s delight to be found amongst the carnage and mayhem.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Mandrake (2022)

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The mandrake; a plant that contains hallucinogenic properties that have stemmed many a recipe for paganistic medicines and rituals. Its roots take on humanistic features and legend has it that when you dig up its roots, you can hear it scream. The person who removes it from its soil would face instant death. In some cases, when taken internally the effect could treat melancholy and mania. All of which provide inspiration for the latest movie to hit Shudder’s Exclusive and Original platform. 

Buried deep in Lynne Davison’s directorial feature debut is a tale about broken relationships, mistrust and isolation.

When probation officer, Cathy Madden (Deidrie Mullins – The Frankenstein Chronicles) is charged with rehabilitating a notorious killer ‘Bloody Mary’ back into society, she faces a community unwilling to accept. This includes Cathy’s ex and police officer Jason Reid (Paul Kennedy – House of the Dragon) who may harbour his own reasons for wariness. When two children disappear from a neighbouring farm, fears rise along with Cathy’s own suspicions. These inklings lead her down a dangerous path that may either kill her or cure her own desolation.

The prognosis:

Mandrake is folktale embedded in the heart of a modern setting, but leans heavily into its origins. The setting of Northern Ireland helps to cement this fantastical component and drive through with a realistic drama as its narrative. 

The performances lend weight to this too and the characters are solid and compelling enough to have a dynamic composure to them, swaying your own personal alignment to them. This is a testament to writer Matt Harvey’s approach to the subject.

The pace of the film does drag in places, but the payoff is a strong one that has plenty to say on the subject of emotional turmoil and whether we can really heal from the trauma that we all carry around with us.

– Saul Muerte

Mandrake will be streaming on Shudder ANZ from Thursday Nov 10th.

Retrospective: Dracula (1958)

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It’s 1958 and Hammer Films has slowly been making its mark on the horror celluloid scene, but they are about to cement their place forever with their iconic take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula as part of a deal between Seven Arts and Universal International. Iconic in that they would produce one of the most infamous images of the titular character thanks to the commanding presence of Christopher Lee. It would also see Lee don the fangs a total of seven times for Hammer, the last being The Satanic Rites of Dracula in 1973. His blood red eyes and performance as a sexual predator would set the image of modern Dracula up for life, but it would also be one that would irk Lee over time, becoming tiresome of the watered down versions he would ultimately play.

To add weight to the original feature (entitled The Horror of Dracula in the US as Universal wanted to distinguish the British version from their own 1931 feature starring Bela Lugosi), Hammer would cast Peter Cushing to play Dracula’s foe Van Helsing. A worthy and notable performance once again which would see Cushing insisting on performing his own stunts throughout.

It would once again herald Jimmy Sangster on writing duties, and the ever-dependable Terence Fisher in the directors chair following his success with The Curse of Frankenstein.

Upon review, the film still holds up well with solid performances throughout and the sexual undertone lays heavy with palettes of red, producing some well-handled effects. It’s also of note, the omission of key character Renfield from the novel, and the amalgamation of Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) and Arthur Holmwood’s (Michael Gough) role in the storyline too.  

Upon release, the film did well despite heavy criticism from certain avenues of the media, dubbing the X certificate a pale option and cries for a new classification to be ordered. Either way it didn’t stop the punters from going to see it, and paved the bloody path for Hammer to walk along for another two decades.

– Saul Muerte

Movie review: Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion

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In 2017 Director Joko Anwar broke Indonesian box office record with his supernatural horror film Satan’s Slaves; a re-telling of the 1980 feature of the same name, a tale of a poor family family  haunted by the death of her mother with devilish consequences.

Since then Anwar has made a name for himself in the genre scene with features such as Impetigore and wrote the screenplay for The Queen of Black Magic marking him as one of the most influential Indonesian filmmakers of all time. It was perhaps then inevitable that he would return once more to the Suwono family and their further unwitting ventures with the occult. 

In Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion we pick up the narrative four years down the track with the family now living in an apartment flat as their father (Bront Palare) feels this would be a safer option being closer to civilisation than a remote house. What unfolds however is more dark and sinister than they could imagine, and the walls of security steadily become unstable.

The prognosis:

It’s clear that Anwar knows his art, crafting a film with the similar beats of its predecessor. That’s not to say that this is detrimental to the film as he harnesses an eerie and unsettling scenario that matches the universe that he initially created. The ambience is slowly built up with a growing tension that pushes you to the edge of your seat and throws in a number of jump scares along the way.

The performances are solid too with Tara Basro, Endy Arfian, and Nasar Anuz all returning as the siblings in peril. 

As solid as the craftwork is behind the film, there are obvious flaws through its predictable pattern in places. Regardless of this, SS2:C is enjoyable to watch and there is enough dedication to plot and character development for the audience to care about the outcome. Something tells me, there’s more to come from the Anwar’s world.

– Saul Muerte

Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion is currently streaming on Shudder ANZ.