Tag Archives: scary

B Movie Glory: Walled In

Walled In isn’t scary enough to be memorable or original enough to leave a lasting impression, it’s just one of those drab, grey, middle of the road horror flicks that comes and goes as quickly and unceremoniously as a sudden breeze through the room. The only notable reason for it existing beyond background noise is the presence of a few cool actors. Mischa Barton headlines, and despite her teen star shtick I’ve always thought that she’s a really good, engaging actress. Supporting her are Vancouver’s own Deborah Kara Unger and Cameron Bright, who always add class to any venture. Their trio of involvement made it worthwhile for me, but the story and production overall is just a hazy blur. Barton plays an agent for a demolition company who is overseeing the removal of a particularly old building, with some freaky secrets laid into the foundation. Unger is the building’s super creepy caretaker who knows what’s up but ain’t snitching to anyone, while Bright is even less helpful as her weird son. It turns out there’s hidden tombs in the walls where the long dead victims of a mysterious killer were shut in, and even years later the murderer may still be lurking about the place, which should have put Barton in the hot seat for some potentially suspenseful scenes, but alas, it’s a sleepy slog the whole way through. The thing would have been more lively as a video game or something, anything more stimulating than the cable level lack of thrills and chills doled out here. Barton was good, as she always is, but other than her, Unger and Bright, this is just mud.

-Nate Hill


B Movie Glory: Asylum

Asylum is first rate trash, a nasty, cheap exercise in shocker horror that gives sanitariums everywhere a bad name and perpetuates the ludicrous stigma that all such institutions are the scariest, most unorganized places on earth. God bless the cheap underside of Hollywood and it’s deliberately skewed perception of things. This one sees Robert ‘T-1000’ Patrick as a private investigator who goes undercover inside a mental hospital as a patient when it becomes clear that people are going missing inside and something is up. The set, design and mood of the place is schlock to the core, without the faintest hint of realism to be found. The facility’s head doctor (the late great Henry Gibson) is a benign fool who has no idea the kind of havoc being perpetrated under his watch. The place has a special kind of crazy in a character played by Malcolm McDowell called Sullivan Rane, a lucidly maniacal serial killer who has red herring written all over him and moonlights under an obvious wig and mask as a patient known simply as ‘Doc’. It’s a hammy throwaway role, but ever intense McDowell seems to have a ball playing whatever oddball garage sale B role they give him, and ends up stealing his few scenes, as usual. Patrick plays it straight and his trademark steely reserve is an odd contrast to the knowingly silly demeanour of almost everyone else involved. The film does it’s best with a twist one can sense coming a good country mile off, but it gives one aforementioned actor some last minute juicy scenes to make his involvement worthwhile. Low rent horror and then some.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Dark Asylum

Dark Asylum is one of those dimly lit, cheesy horror efforts that plays on cable somewhere in the wee hours, a trash exercise in low budget exploitation that leaves little impression other than spotting which character actors are in the roll call to collect a paycheque. In a conveniently remote location, a young psychologist (Paulina Porizkova) arrives at a sanitarium to examine a freaky serial killer called The Trasher (Hollywood’s resident extraterrestrial, the late Larry Drake). The head doctor of the asylum (Jurgen Prochnow), seems to have a relaxed attitude towards security and before you can say Hannibal Lecter, The Trasher escapes captivity and runs about the place killing and terrorizing anything that moves, including a hapless custodian played by Judd Nelson. The whole premise is one of those ridiculously staged things where the killer seems superhuman, can survive everything from sixty pound fire extinguisher hits to the head to being run over by a vehicle, despite being human (I’m reminded of Hollow Man). It’s ok when Michael Myers survives all that shit because he’s.. you know, Michael Myers, he’s earned the esoteric badge, but any old killer in any old B flick surviving everything thrown at him grows old and lowers the stakes pretty quick. Anyways it’s not a terrible movie, just pretty middle of the road, non-special horror filler with enough atmosphere to warrant a watch.

-Nate Hill

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

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