Since the release of Ju On: The Grudge, Kayako has been scaring audiences with her twisted movements and haunting death rattle croak elevating her alongside her fellow japanese vengeful spirit, Sadako within the Horror community. Her image transcended across both Japan and America culture, spawning numerous movies with deep resonation along the way, including several filmmakers. Among them and heralding the reboot / reimagining is prolific director Nicolas Pesce, who sent ripples in the film world with his debut The Eyes of My Mother and his sophomore feature Piercing. I was eager to see what Pesce would bring to the celluloid space for his third outing, and was further intrigued by his choice to step into the Ju-On universe promising something more darker, grittier, and more realistic. Whilst I can acknowledge that the film has a realistic quality, unfortunately I struggle to connect with the other two components alleged to be Pesce’s approach.
I tried to scrutinise where he could have misfired and for me it came down to a couple of components; Firstly, the fractured storyline, ordinarily a device that doesn’t grate on me and I often welcome the fragmented reconstruction of narratives, but unfortunately the dots that are used to connect or reframe the films’ structure are weak and lack intelligence. With a lot more focus and planning, this technique could have paid off. Secondly, the dialogue needed to be tighter, at times feeling rushed or obvious, leaving the talented cast trying to do a lot of heavy lifting in order to reach the visualists’ aim for dark and gritty. Lastly, I had read that Pesce wanted to incorporate a conglomerate of visuals that typified the film series and inject with his own musings, but in doing so, the film loses its identity and becomes too convoluted in the process.
For a director on the rise, Pesce clearly wanted to reach out and attempt to infuse his vision into a much-loved franchise in need of a reawakening. On paper, he had the right ingredients, a flair for the scare, a twisted outlook, actors with plenty of chop, and an already established franchise. He even projected the repetition of the number 4 into the fold to highlight the tetraphobia so closely associated with the film series, proving that Pesce knows his subject well. The end result though fell flat, with too many ideas and not enough weight to ground Pesce’s creativity to produce a film to scare and delight the horror masses. Instead we are left floating around aimlessly, wondering if Kayako is turning in her grave at her latest on-screen treatment and if she has croaked her last croak.
Having Lin Shaye and Robert Englund in the same movie can only be a good thing… to a degree.
Whilst the film is greatly improved by their involvement thanks to their acting prowess and years of experience.
You’d forgive them if they just phoned in their performances but they give it there all, which is a much-needed blessing to churn the film along.
The problem arises in the leads, who struggle to bring the admittedly ropey dialogue to life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen worse performances on screen but it did feel like pulling teeth on more than one occasion.
From the start, The Midnight Man ticks the usual horror tropes with a trio of kids in a haunted house set up and protecting themselves within a chalk circle from an unknown entity that wants to pick them off one by one.
Fast forward to present day to find the sole survivor now and elderly woman (Shaye) who’s granddaughter, Alex (Gabrielle Haugh) and her friend Miles (Grayson Gabriel), pay her a visit, only to discover a game in the attic that summons the titular creature.
So far, so same same. And that’s the problem with this movie. It has so many options to create something new by playing with a fairly decent urban myth.
I mean, the very concept of a creature who can sense your innermost fear (think a darker version could of Red Dwarf’s Polymorph) and to turn that fear against you has so much fodder.
Instead we’re presented with lazy writing and wooden performances producing poor choices from the characters, which ultimately leads the audience to care little about what becomes of them.
Especially when a third party comes into the equation, only for them to become an easy victim.
The Diagnosis: The Midnight Man could have and should have been so much more than it delivers. Instead we’re treated to a mediocre fare and wondering what Englund’s Freddy would have made of the pretender to the boogeyman throne.
It’s interesting how a certain film – when it ends – you know that tonally it. Has. Ended.
All films can continue of course, as happily ever after is a myth no matter how you look at it. But there are certain movies that – when they become franchised – make you not only go “why?” but “how?”. Ie: It’s original ending has a decisiveness that makes it very clear This Story Is Told.
A great example is The Matrix. If they truly intended Neo to continue being a protagonist they wouldn’t have made him Superman at the end of the first film. It was a problem that painted the Wachowski siblings into a corner for the sequels, and what’s more they never got around it. Not satisfactorily anyway. (Fortunately, they covered over that crack by making both sequels so incomprehensively bad you almost didn’t notice the pointless 10-minute fight sequences).
Another example is Insidious. The franchise that colours the letters of its logo randomly white and red. (well…if they’re not random, then they spell out INDOS SIIU – which sounds like a Star Wars character. Probably a Jedi of some sort).
At the end of the first film it pulls a now very classic/hackneyed (depending on your point-of-view) trope of having the bad guy “come back” (after being dealt with) to kill off a character when everyone thinks the terror is over.
In this case a side character who was sweet, old and psychic.
They then decided to make this character the lead in subsequent sequels – which was a problem. A problem compounded when they set movie 3 & 4 in the past, thereby making an elderly actress (Lin Shaye) play a dead woman who inexplicably looks older the younger she gets.
It would have been an easy fix had they planned it through better, but who knew that their tact to focus the sequels on the adventures of an elderly minor character would be a stroke of genius? Because Insidious is one of those rare birds that gets slightly better with each sequel.
Although a lot of its success can also be attributed to the fact that in terms of how they construct their scares, this series is an absolute masterclass in the James Wan Way. (Or JWW for short – it’s the MMA of horror film making!).
So where does this leave us with Insidious Chapter 4: The Last Key?
Setting wise we get to learn more about Shaye’s character (Elise) as it opens on her family life in 1953. It’s not a happy one. As a young girl she lives with her younger brother Christian, mother Audrey and father Gerald. Gerald is a security guard at the prison next door – the one that carries out executions of its death row inmates. Regularly. And for a budding psychic like Elise, what better way to hone her craft than being fed a steady stream of floating electrified (and terrified) souls who were more than likely NOT very nice people in life?
Things escalate when Elise encounters a being that is something other than fried convict – her first demon – who she calls Key Face.
Key Face then does something very bad that, safe to say, scars Elise for life. That is when we fast forward to present day, which – for the afore mentioned reasons above – has to be a little before present day, as Elise was (will be) killed in 2010. It’s weird that none of these characters will ever get to use an iPad. Sorta like how the best mobile phones the people in the Matrix will ever use are Motorolas…
But I digress.
Elise and her ghost busting crew of Specs and Tucker are approached by a man called Ted Garza. He resides in Elise’s former house and sure enough, weird stuff of the paranormal kind have been plaguing him of late. And Elise – in a bid to confront her demons (literally and figuratively) agrees to go back and help him sort it out.
As a ride The Last Key twists in a satisfactory way whilst continuing the fine work of the last 2 sequels. The scares are finely crafted and (to differentiate them) a tad more relentless this time round.
The JWW use of shadows and sound effects are on full display here, and (has been the case with the others) this film ties itself into the first one, although this time it does imply that the series MAY be gearing up for another change in direction. How? One word. Nieces.
And officially a 5th Insidious IS in the works, although it may not have creator Leigh Whannell’s hand on the typewriter. (Mind you, if you were responsible for a 4-film franchise that has grossed over $536 million to date, you too could probably afford to delegate a little).
Certainly The Last Key was able to unlock a profit margin well over 10 times its modest budget of 10 million, and if you can read anything into that, it would be that these guys have the keys to a money making kingdom that is… INDOS SIIU.
What does this mean to the genre as a whole? It can spell good news as the movie business see success and a money opportunity to exploit this genre to the bone.
This could mean an outpour of horrendous carbon copy movies that will grate to the bone, but it can’t be as bad as Amityville: The Awakening, Leatherface, or Jeepers Creepers 3 right?
But let’s not be too hasty on the negative-front. What does look promising is that we could very well get some fine horror films churning out over the coming years.
So with that in mind, the team stitched our collective minds together and come up with 18 of the most anticipated horror movies coming out that we would love to bring into the operating theatre and splice them wide open.
Directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Oscar Isaac looks off the dial.
The fact that it has been picked up by Netflix for a release some 17 days after its cinematic release has left some people scratching their heads as to whether or not this film has merit, but that’s old school thinking.
We at Surgeons see this at as a bold attempt at a streaming company to make their move onto the big arena.
If the trailer is anything to go by this film could be a massive hit and shape up the distribution method in a big way.
Some may instantly see comparisons with The Autopsy of Jane Doe with this one, but this story of a city cop fresh out of rehab, who takes up a role at the city hospital morgue, could very well be a trippy affair, where sanity is on the line.
You’d be remiss to neglect this one on the list. With the return of Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle in their respective roles, alongside the creative minds of David Gordon Green and Danny McBride, can we finally see Michael Myers rampaging his way that will delight and reignite the franchise once more?
The House With A Clock In Its Walls
Cate Blanchett and Jack Black lead the charge in Eli Roth’s latest feature about a young orphan and his magical uncle who go in search of a clock that could bring about the end of the world.
Could we see a return of fantasy horror on the big screen? Can Roth extend his bloody touch to go beyond the success of Green Inferno?
Whilst this has already been released in the States, the Surgeons team who are based in Australia, need to wait with eager anticipation for Elise Rainer and her team of ghost hunters to delve into the Further once more.
Early reports suggest that Lin Shaye continues to impress in her role, but that the franchise may have run its course. We’ll have to wait and see before we cast our thoughts on the latest addition to the franchise.
2015’s release of The Witch and its success may have reawakened that love of folk horror, which has been embedded in British culture with the likes of The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General, and Blood on Satan’s Claw, has some of our team intrigued by this latest offering.
Set in 1920’s Ireland, a twin brother and sister must endure a sinister presence with a strong hold over them that may result in turning them against one another with drastic circumstances.
Whether you like him or not Jason Statham has a habit of packing a punch when it comes to ‘balls to the wall, testosterone-fuelled action movies.
Now he must come face-to-face come face to face with a 70-foot shark.
“You’re gonna need a bigger air tank.”
The New Mutants
When Logan was released and with the success that followed, Marvel were then faced with the enterprise of a much darker world.
In steps, The New Mutants which sees Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) among the imprisoned young mutants as they discover their new-found abilities and potential salvation.
Speaking of franchises, The Conjuringuniverse continues to expand and haunt in more delectable ways to terrify our souls with the much-anticipated return of Valak.
In this instance, Rome is our setting and Father Burke is sent to investigate the mysterious death of a nun. Burke played by Demian Bichir, who I hope is given more time to flex his acting muscles compared to his under-used performance in Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant.
Gary Dauberman from It, Annabelle:Creation, and The Conjuring 2 is back on board to write the screenplay, so expect similar twists, turns, and scares to arise.
In addition, Corin Hardy steps in to direct, who oversaw the surprisingly decent The Hallow from a few years back and has been given the vote of confidence to resurrect The Crow, starring Jason Mamoa.
Becoming something of the lesser cousin to the Alien franchise, The Predator universe has never managed to really make a dent beyond its original Arnie feature, which surprises as it is ripe full of potential.
One of the original stars Shane Black is on to direct, so you could argue that there isn’t anyone closer to the source to re-capture the magic of the first film, and he has proven success with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, but is that enough to win over fans and the many?
The additions of Oliva Munn, and Thomas Jane, who has had a something of a career comeback with Before I Wake, and 1922 of late, could very well help cement this together.
Where some were left aggrieved following the screening of It Comes At Night, (which is probably the best example of false advertising when it comes to luring your audience in – as an aside its actually a pretty decent and intense movie, just not how it was promoted) will no doubt have their needs met in this movie, which promises an intense and horrific ordeal.
John Krasinski directs and stars in his passion project alongside Emily Blunt as part of a family forced to live in silence from an unknown threat that will attack with the slightest noise.
The first film had horror fans divided – a bit like vegemite, you either love it, or hate it. For those that fell into the former category, they can rejoice as the trio of masked psychopaths return to reek havoc on some more prey.
The cast includes Christina Hendricks (Mad Men, The Neon Demon) and Martin Henderson (The Ring, Everest) and is directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, The Other Side of the Door) but don’t let that sway you as he also helmed the magnificent F, and if he could tap the rage and anarchy unleashed in that movie, we could have a surprise hit on our hands.
Horror production giants, Blumhouse, who have been partly responsible for the rise in recent genre movies will be hoping to keep the trend going and repeat their successes of Get Out, and Happy Death Day.
Truth or Dare follows a group of friends who play a deadly version of said game when those that break the rules start a meet a grisly end.
Critically praised film director, Steven Soderbergh enters the horror arena with his usual approach to exploring different filming techniques, in this instance shooting the entire film on an iPhone camera.
The cast is also impressive with Claire Foy (The Crown), entering a mental institution and once again reality comes into question. Foy is accompanied by Juno Temple (Horns), Aimee Mullins (Stranger Things), Amy Irving (Carrie) and Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project).
If The New Mutants is going to push the boundaires of darkness in the Marvel universe, then Venom will surely rip that apart and enter whole new level of insanity.
With Tom Hardy taking on the titular character, you can expect some hefty weight in the acting department.
It’s a project that is shrouded in secrecy at the moment and just a few screenshots that have been handed out to the media. Lets hope that it will be worth the wait.
Helen Mirren takes on the role of Lady Winchester house, heiress to the Winchester firearms, who becomes obsessed with building a house to trap ghosts with one of the most obscure architecture ever built.
From the creative minds of the Spierig Brothers (Undead, Daybreakers), this movie could be hit or miss.