Tag Archives: horror

Jim Sheridan’s Dream House

Imagine the potential for a concept like Dream House, and then look at how badly, how royally they fucked up the script and eventual film that came after. It’s like someone had a really cool idea for a thriller that could have been something great in the vein of Shyamalan or Hitchcock and it just ended up a flat, lifeless, boring exercise in.. well… not much. Sadder still is the talented, first rate cast stuck in it, and when you consider the director has a heavily Oscar nominated film from back in the day under his belt, it boggles the mind. Okay, maybe the last two points are unfair, artists sometimes don’t have control over what projects cross their desk, but I would have jumped ship at the premiere if I were them, paycheque in hand. The premise is certainly interesting: a publisher from New York (Daniel Craig) moves with his wife (Rachel Weisz) and two young daughters to a quaint manor in quiet New England to get away from it all. The house, naturally, has a troubled past and is sorta kinda haunted, in one of those twisty roundabout ways I can’t say without spoiling the whole deal (*cough* The Others). Craig has to solve the mystery of a brutal crime that took place in his new home, avoid freaky stalkers that seem to follow his family, and with the help of a kind, benevolent neighbour (Naomi Watts), figure out just what’s going on. There is a twist, that shows up midway through the film instead of near the end and because of that feels entirely like a silly gimmick once we know, a misjudged pacing decision if there ever was one. The thing that sucks is there are well done aspects; the acting from everyone is great, the cinematography and production design beautifully done, it’s just story that takes a nose dive, and almost right off the bat, too. The payoff and resolution for such an ‘out there’ setup just feels dry and voided of the mysticism and otherworldly spookiness that the film set you up with, and the result is you just feel cheated. Not even capable actors like Elias Koteas as a shady hitman and Marton Csokas as an even shadier businessman can bring antagonists with enough life into the fold, and their thankless presence is wasted. After this film I kind of wish I watched it again without any sound or subtitles on like a silent version, because the imagery and visual element is too good to be wasted on a script as badly drawn and executed as this.

-Nate Hill

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John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place surprised me by investing more in its fright flick concept than just shrieking banshee monsters and a flurry of hastily shot chase action/close calls. For a film that focuses so much on hearing and an auditory mood-scape, Krasinski is an excellent visual storyteller and as far as first time directors go, should be very proud. Not to mention the fact that he tells a human story amongst the horror, one that actually gets us feeling closer to the characters until we really give a shit when they’re being hunted by the screamers. It doesn’t hurt that he and real life wife Emily Blunt give two breathlessly alive performances that paint a dual portrait of parents who will stop at nothing to protect their children. Sometime in a desolate future, vicious predators of unknown origin (could the brief shot of a newspaper clipping claiming “meteorite hits in Mexico” have anything to do with them?) invade the world and slaughter humans en masse. They’ve got mutant ear drums that can hear a wood-bug sneezing from sixty miles out, but they’re also blinder than Stevie Wonder. Using your inside voice, or no voice at all if possible, is an imperative mantra for Krasinski and clan, as they must exist in monk worthy silence for fear of being run down by these things. The trailers tend to spoil a lot of things, and I guess marketers think that just because a sequence is in the prologue that people wouldn’t want it to still be left a surprise, but oh well. Early on there’s a tragedy that causes kind of a rift in the family, particularly between Krasinski and his deaf daughter (Millicent Simmonds, brilliant work). Flash forward a year or so and he’s built an impressive rural stronghold for his family on an abandoned farm, complete with grain silo watchtowers and a homemade electric light alarm system. It’s this innovative and careful design that sets it apart from other horror flicks that just go for the throat without and character development or world building to draw you in. Eventually the screamers do come for them, in one long extended night from hell that plays out like the most stressful chain reaction of mishaps you could imagine, with enough suspense to bring on a heart attack. I call them screamers, and I read one review on Facebook whining that they’re the same CGI clicking beasts in every other horror flick these days, but I think that’s an unfair assessment. They’re neatly rendered and have a clearly visible biology to explain their uncanny sense of sound, and I never once tuned out or felt removed from the atmosphere while watching them. The human element is well done and treated with care here, and while I can’t quite understand why they would decide to have a baby, which are notoriously loud individuals, in a world that’s gone so badly to shit (maybe they couldn’t find condoms when scavenging abandoned towns), they’re resilience and love for their children are brought fiercely to life by the two actors, who knock it well out of the park. You gotta love Marco Beltrami’s original score too, which is shadowy and ominous in one instance and switches gears quickly to orchestral catharsis when needed. A real surprise out of horror-town, this one was, and one of the best I’ve seen so far this year. Oh, and try to find a more badass, adrenaline soaked ending scene to a film so far this year, I dare ya.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Russell Mulcahy’s Tale Of The Mummy

Russell Mulcahy’s Talos: Tale Of The Mummy is a fascinating failure of huge proportions, a well casted, unbelievable muck-up that has to be seen to be believed. When your low rent Mummy flick comes out at pretty much the same time as Stephen Sommer’s classic The Mummy, you know you have no shot at getting it out there past a few cable runs, especially when the film has been plagued by one nightmare of an editing fiasco from day one, not to mention low budget and more pacing issues than spastics in a sack race. There’s two apparent versions of it, a 115 minute international cut that was edited down to 88 minutes because of some humour that was in bad taste and aforementioned pacing problems. I saw the shorter version, and I can’t imagine the flow of the film being any worse than what I bore witness too, so maybe they should have just gone with the original cut, but who can really say. The film is essentially just two very cluttered, chaotic prologues jam packed with cameos and creaky special effects, and then one long boring extended horror sequence set in London, so you never get the feeling that they knew what they were doing before the editing process even commenced.

The opening sees archeologist Christopher Lee unearthing some ancient tomb in Egypt with his assistant (Jon Polito), both getting very quickly dispatched by some evil via a flurry of visual effects that are either really cool or really bad, jury is still out on that one for me, they’re just weird more than anything. Skip ahead some years and yet another team falls victim to this Talos Mummy thing, led by Louise Lombard, Brit tough guy Sean Pertwee and Gerard Butler of all people, in what is probably his first movie gig ever. Flash forward to London some months later, we see the Mummy thing roaming around killing people at will, and also seemingly at random. Two detectives played by Jason Scott Lee (looking very out of place in England) and Jack ‘Commodore Norrington’ Davenport investigate and the story just loses itself to nonsensical doldrums and lame ‘scares’ for the rest of the duration. Shelley Duvall bizarrely shows up as a journalist, as well as Honor Blackman and the Sean Pertwee character, now a raving madman who no one will believe when he says the Mummy is out to get them. I’m still aghast at the sheer number and variety of notable actors Mulcahy got to appear in this thing, most of them fleeting or short lived but still making hilarious impressions in a story they had to know was just plain silly. There’s a few things that work; the FX in the Christopher Lee sequence are a neat, schlocky blend of CGI and practical and work on their own scrappy terms. There’s a very brief flashback sequence to Ancient Egypt that shows how Talos became an evil creature that’s visceral and well designed, but doesn’t last long enough to boost the overall quality. Everything in London with the two cops is just laaammee though, and drags it all down the sewer. Talos there resembles a filthy shower curtain that went through a paper shredder and subsequently got carried away by a strong gust of wind, neither remotely scary nor stylish, just your average half assed B flick monster. Worth a watch simply for the odd spectacle of it all, and for research purposes.

-Nate Hill

Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback

Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback is a dusty old monster flick set in the doldrums of Australia, and features a gigantic murderous wild boar that terrorizes local townsfolk and carries off infants into the night. It’s silly, it drags on in places and has two of *the most* irritating human antagonists, but there’s some really neat practical effects, an atmospheric dream sequence that is like a brilliant little short film within the whole, and some creaky production design that gives it personality. It’s just the human element that suffers a bit in these type of films, and very much so here. I’ve often wondered how cool it would be if they did a creature feature where the humans are almost entirely without dialogue or forced, unnecessary idiosyncratic scenes that don’t succeed in getting us invested, but rather annoyed with them. The writing is never great in stuff like this, so why have much, or even any at all? Just my two cents. The best to be found here is some gorgeous outback cinematography, moody interludes of dust-bucket scenery and a really great original score that kicks up the synths in aforementioned dream sequence. I’ve heard that they spent 250 grand on the animatronic boar beastie, which we only get to see in full in the last part of the third act, which is of course the tradition here, but they could have benefitted from more schlock and tusk action way earlier on to stir the pot and make it more interesting. On the plus side, I also heard that Steven Spielberg gave Mulcahy a phone call after seeing the film and asked how he managed to achieve the FX in the dream sequence, which is praise enough, as it’s a wickedly tactile little nightmare. While not in the sterling tier of monster films or horror flicks for me, it has its charms in places, and it’s yawn moments in others.

-Nate Hill

“I will protect you. I promise.” A spoiler free review of A Quiet Place by Josh Hains

A Quiet Place will be starting, the first frames slowly unfolding, and your audience will probably still be talking, their voices filling the air. Not too loudly, but loudly enough for the noise to annoy you, to grate on your nerves and make you wish you could shout at them to ‘shut up’, or worse. The ruffling of popcorn and candy bags, and the munching of said delicious delights will only further cloud the air. They need to stop making noise, you can’t hear the movie. But within the first half a minute of the movie your audience will have grown so incredibly quiet, the dropping of a pin against the floor would echo like thunder throughout the room, because they’ve realized that while you can’t actually hear much of anything, save for the scrapes of bare feet across a floor, or the slight thump of a pill bottle against a counter top, you still have to listen, and these small sounds are being drowned out by bigger sounds. The dead silence of your audience will become a requirement. John Krasinski has forced you into silence and a world devoid of big sounds, leaving you with the blowing winds, the rustling of grass and leaves, the crunching of white sand beneath bare feet. You and your audience won’t be able to anticipate when the louder sounds, like the effects of a toy rocket, or the screeching of the alien monsters rushing to snatch their potential victim (and in doing so setting the stakes of the movie), will come, and so each and every one of you will be on the edge of your seat in stone silence, fearful of the louder sounds yet to come, bracing for their impacts in the hopes you won’t jump out of your skin. All this, and the movie hasn’t even cut to black and shown you the title card yet. Imagine 90 consecutive minutes of this, and how suspenseful, tense, and quiet the experience will become long before the final frames snap to black.

Now imagine living in a world where you can’t make a sound, or the fast moving blind aliens that attack those same sounds will rip you to shreds. Imagine having to walk across long trails of sand everywhere you venture outside because sand is quieter to tread than twigs and grass. Imagine playing the board game Monopoly with balls of cotton, because the if you’re too loud using the metal car, one of those monsters will come a knocking. Imagine being pregnant like the mother, due in two or three weeks, and the fear that the sounds of a newborn baby’s cries will bring death to your doorstep. Imagine being hearing impaired like the daughter, unable to tell if you’re making noise, let alone how loud it could be. Picture being afraid of every sound like the son, scared of what lurks in the shadows and the idea that the loud noises you could make will get you killed. Try to think of the pressure you must feel being the father, the primary protector of your family, the resourceful one that’s kept most of you alive for over a year. How much longer can you keep it up? What if you can’t protect the ones you love? Put yourself in the shoes of the Abbott family (John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe). You’ll grow to care for them so much that the thought of harm coming to any one of them will only further enhance the creeping sensation of suspense you’ll undoubtedly feel. The performances, so subtle and nuanced in their presentation, reliant on facial expressions and physicality, including American sign language, will quietly blow you away. And the scares, when they come, will remind you that the best of jump scares work not because they’re loud, but rather because they strike when you are least expecting them to, much like this film’s monsters. A Quiet Place will make whatever you’ve conjured up in your mind look like Sesame Street by comparison, as nothing I have said up until this point can prepare you for this movie, because I’ve hardly revealed a thing about this brilliant lean thriller.

Don’t wait to see it on Netflix, go see A Quiet Place on the biggest screen you can find with a top notch sound system and a packed house. See it writ large and booming in your ears. To not see this likely classic of the sci-fi horror/thriller genre in such a fashion will do yourself, the movie, and the white-knuckling experience of it all an irreplaceable disservice. You’ll thank me later.

The Babysitter

The Babysitter is a rip snorting fuckin great old school horror throwback, I’m excited that money is being spent on projects like this, and stoked further that Netflix is purchasing them. With a premise culled from the depths of the 80’s and a revamped modern setting complete with obligatory pop culture references to assure us that although it’s steeped in nostalgia, we are in fact in the here and now, a recipe that cunningly embraces both sides of the fence, each with grass equally green. Plus it’s a fuckin intense, R rated, batshit crazy bloodbath, with smart writing to back up the carnage. Set on a sunny suburban afternoon, young Cole (Judah Lewis) is a bullied lad with loopy parents and obligatory nerdy nostalgic affinities, as well as a special bond with his sexy, sassy babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving), who is looking out for him while the parental unit takes off on a night away. It’s party fun friendship time with the two of them, who couldn’t get along better, until… Surprise!! Bee and her clique of high school friends are actually a murdering satanist cult with blood on their hands and killing on their minds. From there it’s a deliriously gory free for all as Cole discovers this is the night he becomes a man, and has to defend himself tooth and nail from these demented weirdos, and reconcile Bee’s betrayal, a theme I was shocked they had time to explore amidst the bloody chaos. It’s silly in the vein of the Evil Dead, but polished and succinctly written by way of Scream, and peppered with deliberate pop culture Easter eggs a lá Stranger Things, an irresistible flavour overall. Pouty lipped, well endowed Samara is a true find as Bee, earning both Cole’s admiration, adoration and finally fear with her spunky, scary performance. Her little cult is populated by slightly tweaked archetypes including the token black guy (Andrew Bachelor), the slutty cheerleader (Bella Thorne), the creepy Asian chick (Hana Mae Lee) and most entertainingly the douchebag jock (Robbie Amell has fun with the role and then some). Colourful pastel production design provides a palette for gallons of gushing blood to be spilled via stabbings, shootings, impalings, vehicular decimation and one of the best shotgun to the head sequences in years that’s so sudden it even has Bee remarking “holy shit that was graphic”. I love old horror flicks and I can’t get enough of this throwback trend they’ve been doing, when they do their research and put out solid gore-fests and fright flicks, and this one is a fuckin hoot from front to back.

-Nate Hill

Anaconda

Anaconda is great stuff, no matter what anyone says. Revered as a B Movie cheese-ball, it holds up far better than anyone remembers, and there’s a lot to love about it. Reminiscent of creature feature stuff like James Cameron’s Piranha 2, Lewis Teague’s Alligator and Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing, it carved out its own nasty little adventure/horror story with neat characters, impressive effects for the snake and a knowing sense of fun. It sets the tone with a suspenseful prologue that sees poor poacher Danny Trejo stalked, attacked and killed by an unseen serpent, before the title card marches gloriously across the screen in true horror form. Then it follows a national geographic film crew led by intrepid Jennifer Lopez, whilst Eric Stoltz, Jonathan Hyde, Vincent Castellanous, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson and sexy Kari Wuhrur tag along, pretty much for snake bait and for us to place drunken bets on who’s gonna get nabbed by the beast first. Along the way they meet the most engaging character of the film, a whack job big game hunter played to cockeyed perfection by Jon Voight and his greasy ponytail. Sputtering out ominous warnings in a warped, tailored South American accent, willfully misleading their party into danger and staring creepily at anyone in his scope of vision, he’s hilarious and clearly knew the right recipe of branded camp and genuine menace to put into the work. It’s a glorified B Flick for sure, but one that knows its place, showcases a big old fashioned movie monster and whisks the viewer away for some solid gold escapism. Do avoid the sequel though (Hunt For The Blood Orchid), it’s about as interesting as cardboard.

-Nate Hill