Set among the forest of buildings that is New York, director Larry Fessenden retells one of horrors best written tales ever written by not only shifting the setting and the time period but the focus of the subject. One is reminded of the quote “An intelligent man knows Frankenstein wasn’t the monster. A wise man knows that Frankenstein was the monster?”.
Amidst a dusty warehouse apartment with a shonky makeshift lab we find Alex is struggling to bring his creation to life together with his partner, Polidori, (famous for writing “The Vampyr” in 1816 as part of a contest including Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley).
The strong motif of PTSD plays throughout the film complimented by the cinematic angles and camera movements, as much of the film is achieved using POV shots, which made a far more honest portrayal of the beast, the monster … Adam. Though this film was shot on a budget, this is not at all apparent besides some tight shots during a roof top fight scene but it does not detract from this brilliantly eerie film.
Donald F. Glut takes on both writing and directing duties to oversee an adaptation of his collection of short stories, which serves as a ‘love song’ to Mary Shelley’s creation. It’s hard to believe that Shelley’s novel celebrated its bicentenary last year, and Glut certainly knows his subject, pouring into every crevice of his source material to pay homage to and draw out four stories.
Our first story, “My Creation, My Beloved” set in Bavaria, 1887, is probably the most faithful with a Frankenstein descendant, who is a cross between the scientist and deformed assistant, Igor, continues in his ancestors obsession for resurrection and beauty, only to be thwarted in his own lustful pursuit. Excellent performance here from Buddy Daniels Freedman as Dr Gregore Frankenstein.
The second tale, “Crawler from the Grave” feels like the most fun, and finds ourselves in Switzerland, 1910 and sees John Blyth Barrymore (Full Moon High) as Vincent, another Frankenstein descendant who is hunted down by a disembodied hand from the grave.
Our third story, “Madhouse of Death” felt the weakest of the quartet of tales in my humble opinion, but this could very well be down to taste. Set in Los Angeles, 1948, the story also serves as a salute to the golden era of Hollywood and the film noir detective films with Sam Malone et al, and for that I commend its approach. Essentially we see a detective take on more than he gambled when he uncovers an old house full of crazies and home to a gorilla.
The last tale ends strongly, and in many ways one after my own heart, as those who know me can attest, as it is the most closely associated with the Hammer Horror films that I grew up with as a kid. With “Dr. Karnstein’s Creation” set in Transylvania, 1957, we’re presented with a clever fusion between Frankenstein and the most infamous creature of the night, Dracula complete with torch wielding locals hellbent on turning the tables on the mad doctor who resides in the castle. Another fine performances in this section, notably from Jim Tavaré.
You can tell that the creators are a lover of their subject and embellish Mary Shelley’s story for a modern generation whilst still staying faithful to its origins. Director/writer Glut carves up four fantastic stories that reawaken the macabre moments that made Frankenstein a household name in horror and celebrates 200 years, highlighting the reasons why this ageless tale will never die.
I have to say that I honestly don’t think I’ve had this much fun watching a movie at the cinemas for quite some time. Sure, this little movie does a lot to stretch the realms of believability, especially bearing in mind that there is supposed to be a category 5 hurricane bearing down on our father-daughter duo battling for survival, and some of the actions of the killer crocs also fall into question, but by the time this all unfolds I’m willing to forgo these discrepancies and this has a lot to do with the time and care taken into building character and history, so that your focus is on backing them against the odds.
The strength of the actors portraying the afore-mentioned father (Barry Pepper) and daughter (Kaya Scodelario) should also be acknowledged as they share the brunt of the on-screen time to portray the broken family dynamic that has formed between the two of them. Once inseparable as Hayley has been pursuing a swimming career, backed by her one-time coach, and father, Dave. Time and circumstances have allowed them to drift apart, but when crisis hits (in the form of that hurricane) Hayley ventures to find her father, who is failing to answer his phone. She soon discovers that he has had some kind of accident in the crawl space of the old family home, but that is the least of her worries, as Dave isn’t the only occupant lying under the house. Cue, giant croc.
The screenplay allows the usual pitfalls and obstacles that stand in their way to fight for survival to appear believable, and the bond between the two leads strengthens as they literally find themselves in the foundations of their relationship, to not only find common ground, but also build/fight their way out to the top come hell or highwater.
Hats off too to Alexandre Aja, who back in 2003 entered the horror genre with his hands firmly on the jugular with High Tension and then backed it up with the insane and gloriously over the top The Hills Have Eyes remake, before falling on the wayside with his outings since. Whether, it was working alongside Sam Raimi’s production team, Aja hits his stride once again in Crawl and positions himself as a director who can inject so much pain and torture in his characters that it’s a wonder that anyone can survive such an ordeal. The tension at times is intense and Aja, does enough to crank it to the max when it’s called for and dial it back to allow the characters and his audience to breathe.
For its short running time of just under the 90 minute mark, Aja packs in enough grit, and determination, in this intense, blood-riddled battle for survival, that we can only enjoy the ride.
Like a cabin in the woods filled with a basement of evil paranormal beasties, this latest edition to The Conjuring universe features good ol’ 70s style babysitter shenanigans along with fresh new souls to welcome the return as, Annabelle Comes Home.
First time director, Gary Dauberman, is no stranger to the franchise having been screenwritter for Annabelle (2014), Annabelle: Creation (2017), and The Nun (2018) as well as the co-writer for the remake of Stephen King’s It (2017) and its upcoming sequel It Chapter Two (2019).
Annabelle Comes Home keeps audiences on the edge of their seats with an awesome sound design, some nice fake outs, creepy reveals, great gimmicks – providing you can look past a continuity error when one of the game pieces suddenly changes colour from red to green.
The dust may have settled since the Child’s Play remake was released but the elephant is still clearly standing in the room. This is definitely not a Child’s Play movie.
The vague premise is still there, but there’s no Damballa VooDoo chant, and no rebirth of notorious serial killer, Charles Lee Ray hell bent on stealing a child’s soul and be reborn again.
What’s more, there’s no Brad Dourif providing his nuanced vocal contributions that have become so synonymous with the Chucky character since he was first introduced to movie going audiences back in 1988.
As a horror fan who lived and breathed the golden slasher era of the 80s, it admittedly was hard to come into this modern interpretation without applying my own prejudices and even with the inclusion of the new hope, Mark Hamill to provide the voice, it somehow didn’t feel right to me and whilst I’m fairly open to creating new avenues in a well-established franchise, I struggled to connect with the producers and director’s interpretation this time around. It was as if the personality had been completely stripped out of it and ironically enough the soul of the movie was no longer present. The Damballa failed to inject a new Chucky into the horror mainstream.
With that aside, what are we actually left with? A bitter employee who deliberately sabotages a Chucky doll, in order to bring down the toy company who treated him so poorly, and does so by disabling the Asimov Law that robots can not harm humans. Cue anarchy and bloody mayhem as our new Chucky learns how to be human, including its darkest traits. With no filter, Chucky goes on a rampage in order to be Andy’s best friend.
Speaking of Andy, actor Gabriel Bateman (Annabelle, Lights Out) more than holds his own as the lead protagonist and we do emote with his plight. It’s just a shame that tonally the movie doesn’t go dark enough for us to feel that he is ever in immediate danger. Nor does it inject any decent humour as the franchise has become known for despite the odd moments from Chucky and Detective Mike on occasion. I also would have loved for the creatives to allow Aubrey Plaza who plays Andy’s mum to instal her usual dry, deadpan wit into the proceedings to spice things up a bit.
The death scenes themselves were a little subpar too, whilst Shane’s skinned face moment was kinda cool, you can’t go past this glorious lawn mower death scene in the horror genre in my opinion.
And the whole Mike’s mum trapped in the car thing was just dumb.
By the time all this unfolds we get the climax at the shopping mall, when the Chucky dolls come out in a frenzy (and the bear dolls were kinda fun, but ultimately lacklustre), to orchestrate a face/off (No pun intended, sorry Shane) between Chucky and Andy in order to save his Mum… blah blah blah.
No creator Don Mancini and it shows.
No Brad Dourif and it shows.
No dark and twisted humour to keep the horror fans satiated.
Just a soulless attempt bring the franchise to a modern audience with a vague attempt at commenting on the social media / connected world that we currently reside in and the dangers that lurk within.
It would seem that in a post MeToo age, to make a
statement about a female centric film (regardless of its genre) is to generate
discussion of a lively nature from both sides of the sex divide. From feminists with their shields permanently
on high-alert to whiney little men pissed at the thought of having to give up a
place at the table – it seems there’s not a stance that can’t get attacked.
So, if that’s the case, this review would like to get a few things out of the way before proceeding. Wonder Woman SUUUUCKED. Based purely on storytelling that is trying to at least present something new (as well as good) it is a poorly written film – just listen to some of the dialogue, especially during the boss fight. The (now) disgraced Joss Whedon wrote a version that is easily accessible and INFINITELY better. I won’t go so far as to say it’s a better feminist take that is the Gal Gadot version (although it is, because it doesn’t disrespect WW by offering her substandard scenes and cringeworthy dialogue) but it is certainly a more compelling, wittier and all round better told adventure.
And sexual politics aside that’s what we strive to focus on here at SoH; the story. (And before you go making assumptions, The Ghostbusters remake is good. Really good. Don’t listen to the haters with their invalid “painting eyes on the Mona Lisa” bullshit. Look at it objectively as a story. It is well told and entertaining. Female cast or no female cast – end of).
Anyway… where were we? Oh yes Greta. A film set in New York with 2 female protagonists and a single female supporting cast. It’s not that there are no men in it. There’s a dad and a private eye who are dudes, and they have stuff to do, but really the meaty stuff is for the ladies.
It’s not Bechdel immune, as the young female lead in it –
Frances, played by Chloe Grace Moretz –
talks about her father with her best mate Erica (Maika Monroe) pretty early on, but this is after the opening of the
film which has Frances finding a green handbag on the subway during her work
commute (she is a waitress at a high class restaurant).
Opening up the bag she finds that it belongs to an
elderly French lady named Greta, and being the good-natured soul that she is,
Frances knocks on Greta’s door to return it.
Out of gratitude the older lady invites her in and soon
an unlikely friendship is struck.
Unlikely not because of their different ages, but because this is one of
the few parts of the film that definitely feels forced. The character of Frances has recently lost
her mother, but even that fact seems clumsily written as Greta soon becomes a
surrogate maternal figure to the happy-to-please Frances.
But early on things get flipped when one day whilst
having dinner in Greta’s house Frances finds in a cupboard (in another clunkily
written scene) a number of identical green handbags each with a different young
woman’s name written on them, and each with the EXACT same contents. It’s soon clear that Greta orchestrates these
encounters, and that her interest in younger women lies in psychotic-ville
From there what ensues is the usual cat ‘n’ mouse
shenanigans associated with this sort of thriller – some executed well, others
Greta herself is admirably performed by veteran Isabelle Huppert – although as can
almost happen every time with these sort of parts – she occasionally spills
over into farce, as does the direction and the writing (seriously, leaving
multiple handbags on the subway with your identity in there to entrap women? As
schemes go it’s about as water tight as a colander trying to sieve lava). And one
melodramatic moment involving Greta turning up to Frances’ work will hit you
flush on the nose.
Yet despite all that you do want to see how it ends, and
there are enough twisty moments (no matter how clumsy) to keep you engaged.
Especially the twisty twist, which is both predictable in
nature, and admirable for the sheer fact it exists.
At the end of the day, Greta is a female centric horror/thriller, but is it any good? Well – as may have previously been mentioned – that depends on the quality of the story. End of.
Taking place within the universe of The Conjuring, The Curse of the Weeping Woman (or The Curse of La Llorona internationally) is the first feature
length work from director Michael Chaves. With strong casting choices
throughout, what would be an otherwise typical film for the genre was
transformed into a well-balanced, well-paced and thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Based upon the Mexican folk story ‘La
Llorona’, or The Weeping Woman, who drowned her two sons in an act of revenge
when jilted by her husband for a younger bride, La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez)
was cursed to roam the Earth searching for children to replace those she lost.
It is said that there is no escape from her once you hear her weeping and feel
her tears against your skin.
Thus we find Anna (Linda Cardellini), a
case worker and single mother to two children following the death of her
husband, when Patricia (played by Patricia Velasquez who was Anck-Su-Namun in The Mummy Franchise… The Brendan Fraser Mummy Franchise… The good one) curses
Cardellini’s children to be the next in La Llorona’s sights, leading her kids
to get the fright of their short lives in a great little car sequence. Strong
performances by Chris (Roman Christou) and his sister Sam (Jaynee-Lynne
Kinchen) who deliver noteworthy scenes throughout the film.
Many innovative effects make an appearance
with a fun sequence near the pool involving an umbrella, using simple masking
techniques that would make Georges Méliès proud, but in the critical eye of our
4k resolution era may come off a little cheesy, yet I find myself applauding
the filmmakers for allowing creative risks to be taken. Another moment that
stays with you is an eerie bathroom scene will see you bathing using the buddy
The pace of the film takes a turn when Anna
seeks out the assistance of former priest Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz) who
completely steals the show with his dry wit and deadpan delivery that make you
want to come back for more.
With cinematography by Hollywood royalty Michael
Burgess and James Wan in the producer’s seat you know you’re in for a good
time. Paying homage to recurring themes within the universe to connect stories
in a way that can only advance its reach while at the same time terrifying
Not quite scary enough to provoke cardiac
arrest but enjoyable, particularly with a deadpan dose of Raymond Cruz.
Surgeon Richard Lovegrove & Anesthesiologist Kelsi Williams
Jordan Peele’s follow up to his critically-acclaimed debut feature, Get Out has a lot of similarities to Lewis Carroll’s second outing with Alice as he not only puts a mirror up to American society and not only forces us to watch the horror as it unfolds but physically flips our perspective without us realising in an effective twist moment.
That’s not where there the similarity ends, as we also have some twins, a red queen, and placed is as pawns in our own game of chess. Only the colours are so blurred, it’s hard to know which side we should be on. We certainly should know and definitely root for our protagonists, but what if it’s revealed that we’ve been championing for the wrong side? Do we still pledge our allegiance?
Peele craftily weaves in all these images to subject his picture with pop culture images and references ranging from The Shining to The Lost Boys to C.H.U.D. and Michael Jackson and N.W.A. It’s a style that works in this instance as film and music have so shaped our worlds that we have become embedded in these Arts and in some cases schooled by them.
Essentially a home invasion turned country invasion, Us takes the audience on a journey where a family must unite in a bloody tale of survival, but in a world that is so fractured and broken, how can we truly know who to trust and survive without hiding behind the masks that protect us? Can we really join hands across the globe and save humanity from itself by building a wall of protest, or will it merely be viewed as an art installation with no real impact at all? Peele seems quite happy to leave that question unanswered.
Peele is starting to make his mark on the film circuit with his second psychological horror and although it isn’t quite as impactful as Get Out, Us still offers an enjoyable, powerful punch.
For those questioning that opening statement from a website dedicated to the horror movie genre, here’s the thing… Stephen King is so immersed in my discovery of horror as a pre-adolescent male and he opened up my eyes into the world of darkness and the recesses of the human soul, whether it was through a possessed Plymouth Fury or a disturbed entity from the dawn of time that takes on the form of a killer clown. King’s universe easily slipped into the corners of my imagination and lit them up like wildfire, so to emulate these visions and project them onto the big screen would always be a tough sell for this writer.
Maybe I am warped by these Stephen King tinted spectacles that I use in every facet of my waking (and sleeping) life, but in this instance I feel that I have good reason to have the bar set high. King himself was reluctant to release his novel upon completion and described it as his darkest novel to date. The reason it was eventually published fell down to contractual reasons as King was short by one novel with his publishers and so The Creeds and their cat Church saw the light of day.
During the 80’s when King was hitting his stride, Hollywood would snap up his novels, eager to put bums on cinema seats by trying to lure in his fans and to emulate his horror in celluloid form, so it was inevitable that Pet Sematary would also be adapted into film. Mary Lambert’s vision had haunted me in my youth from its depiction of the bed-riddled Zelda to Gage’s death and return from the grave. Another strength was that it was grounded in reality partly through the set design and scenery which was meticulously detailed and shot primarily in Maine, King’s hometown, which also added a level of authenticity to it. Having said all that though, it wasn’t flawless and watching it back now, it does feel dated, so when it was announced there would be a remake, there was a twinge of excitement at the prospect of what that would look like. Early talks were of how it would be more of an inspiration piece and take some alternate directions on its journey beyond the dead lands and back. This did not deter me though, as I was open to a fresh take on the narrative.
The results though left me wanting. Whilst I admired directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s bold attempts in adding an alternate skew, I didn’t mind the gender switch with Ellie’s untimely demise and resurrection, I found that the choices they made were more based on ‘what if we did this?’ or ‘why not do that?’ without any rhyme or reason behind decisions. What’s more, the film relied too heavily on jump scares rather than genuinely frightening moments. The overall tone of the piece was a mess and never resonated with me. For a story that is ultimately about death and grief, it was strangely lacking in powerful emotion from the characters.
Grief is such a powerful feeling and evokes a range of emotions from sadness to anger, and that void or emptiness where one wishes to be whole again is absent in this film. I wanted to experience that deep level of despair but it never materialised. In facet, death became more of a comical component in this film from the awkward conversation that Rachel and Louis have with Ellie and even Church’s presence is one that sparks horror.
There was a lot of promise at the beginning when we witness a procession for a dead dog led by a bunch of kids in creepy animal masks that sparks the imagery of an occult and the town of Ludlow, which would have a really interesting take, but this is never really touched on again, which is a real shame.
There are some standout performances from Ellie (Jete Laurence), the always magnificent John Lithgow as Judd, and I really enjoyed the character development of Rachel Creed portrayed by Amy Seimetz (You’re Next), which just fell short at the last hurdle. It would have been really interesting if she faced up to her fears of death by confronting it head on. And one of the creepiest moments was presented by Rachel’s sick-ridden sister, Zelda even if it did evoke some Samara-type behaviour in its delivery. The rest was just white noise.
A brave attempt at taking this story in a whole new direction, but falls flat on exposition. The horror was lacking and comical with the emotion completely stripped away, leaving an empty vessel that is soulless and inconsequential.
For more thoughts and discussions on Pet Sematary, check out our podcast below:
Currently making the rounds at the festival circuit and turning more than the occasional head is this glorious short from independent film director Michael Wong. Wong has a beautiful eye for detail with his short feature, The Tattooist, a movie that is rich in colour and texture, where the images leap off the screen and buries into the back of the audiences visual core.
In order to make a decent short, you have to go one of two ways, focus on narrative or provide a visual treat for the senses. Both are really hard to pull off and to execute well. Wong in this instance chooses to go with the latter by luring the audience into the dark and twisted mind of an ink specialist, who harbours a disturbing secret.
Whether it is within the tattooists’ mind as he imagines these harrowing depictions of brutal torment and gore that is reminiscent of Eli Roth’s Hostel movies, or genuine insight into these torture chambers, where he imprisons his victims is down to the audiences interpretation. Either way, Wong provides a window into this disturbing underbelly of a tattoo parlour that taps into our fears of the uncertainty and sometimes taboo views associated with such places.
It’s an abrasive and voyeuristic vision that Wong delivers and in doing so makes him a director to keep a firm eye on.