The hunting game we were waiting for. Killing Ground – movie review

Has anyone seen Eden Lake (2008)? It is that British movie starring Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender go on a camping trip by the lake and get assaulted by a group of twisted teenagers who turn their love escape into a terrible nightmare.

Well, Killing Ground, written and directed by Damien Power, is the Australian counterpart of Eden Lake, although better executed and acted than the already very good English film.

Killing-Ground- 3By the clever usage of non-linear storytelling, Killing Ground tells the story of a couple who go to a remote location to find peace and spend a nice weekend away from the civilisation. Soon their expectations will be let down and they’ll find themselves immersed into a mortal hunt-and-pray game where the odds are extremely adverse.

Simultaneously, though, the movie tells another story, which happened before the main one.

Other than the particular technique utilised to tell the events (never left to exposition, instead always for the viewer to figure out), Killing Ground is a straightforward horror thriller which runs for 89 minutes without a single dull moment or a sequence that makes you feel relieved.

Everything but pretentious, this flick is a pure adrenaline ride filled with compelling characters (villains included), drama, action and an overall sense of dread and tension.

The biggest achievement Mr Power reached in this movie consists of the ability to give a new look to something we have seen before tons of times.

The direction is immaculate. The editing, only external interference to the story, perfectly connects the two storylines and is refreshingly clean and subtle. The soundtrack – or I better say lack thereof – is barely noticeable but fully part of the story development.

Yet, the restraint location and limited use of actors makes for compelling characters in Killing Ground. Every single one of them is well-rounded and, pleasantly surprising, none of them is formulaic.

Shot entirely on location, the movie doesn’t use CGI throughout the entire runtime. The practicality behind every special effect cooperates to create a greedy atmosphere, despite a colourful and vivacious cinematography.

Killing-Ground 1I found myself looking in pure delight at the lack of black and white in this film: the good guys are not heroes and the villains (although fairly depicted as sadistic psychopaths) appear normal to the rest of the community and, therefore, to the audience in the scenes where they are dealing with other people.

Unapologetic without being gruesome or needing to show extreme violence on the screen, Killing Ground ends with a blast. The grand finale is, indeed, very fulfilling (something I experienced only with Get Out this year) and profound enough to make you reflect upon it for a while.

Killing ground 2Killing Ground is a film that tells a story we’ve seen tons of time, but it does it including an unconventional form of storytelling and clever twists every here and there, proving that a movie can be (incredibly) good without overturning schemes.

With Killing Ground, Australia proves once again to be a fertile ground (sorry about the pan!) for great horror entertainment. I honestly can’t wait to see what Damien Power will come up with next. Meanwhile, I strongly recommend to watch this film, one of the best I’ve seen the whole year. Cheers!

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A dark fairy tale that will make you grip your chair. The Eyes of my Mother – movie review

Me: Baby, why don’t we watch a random horror movie? Let’s just google some lists of recent films and see what appeals to us.

A: Yeah, sure thing… there’s shitload of crappy movies, though.

Me: Fine, let’s just watch Moana or Safe Heaven then… wait, what’s this one?

A: What is it?

Me: The Eyes of My Mother, a low-budget indie horror which looks quite appreciated on IMDb… plus, it’s only 76 mins long, it won’t be too boring. Wanna watch the trailer?

A: Yup, play it… oh wow, it’s in black and white and looks creepy. I’m down for watching it.

Me: Me too, let’s do this!

 

Eyes of my motherMe: The cinematography looks really cool, there’s barely any dialogue and the atmosphere is indeed unsettling.

A: I love the camera work! Every shot is neat and immaculate… It looks like an artsy-fartsy movie, which I don’t mind like at all.

Me: What language are they speaking?

A: Portuguese

Me: Alright. It sounded familiar. Hey, some words are actually the same in Italian and Spanish, how cool is…

A: What’s that creepy dude doing? What’s he staring at?

Me: No idea, but so far it’s the most dreadful part of the film! Oh, fuck! What’s he gonna do now? This is making me feel sick… Why isn’t she reacting? Oh, the dad just got home and… oh shit! Did he use a hammer?

EyesofMyMother_Trailer2A: Nope, it was the pistol he threatened them with… look, the motherfucker is alive! Wow, she cut his vocal chords and ripped off his eyes.

Me: Gross!

 

Me: The relationship between Francisca and her dad is sick! And look, the psycho is still alive… they keep him alive, making him live like a freaking animal. Which he deserved, by the way.

A: Yeah, I don’t even know if he’s her real dad. Also, I think she has no idea whatsoever about human relationships… she’s been raised with no other contacts than her mentally ill parents – or whatever they are.

Me: Definitely… oh, what’s she doing with her dad?

A: I think he’s dead. She’s keeping the body and pretending he’s alive.

Me: She went out. So now she hooks up with this Asian lady… right?

A: Yeah, I don’t think she has any idea about sexuality, though. She’s just trying not to remain alone.

eomm2Me: This dialogue is so surreal. She’s so calm and threatening at the same time… what a great, subtle performance by this… Kika Magalhaes. Oh, she’s actually Portuguese. Great performance, no jokes.

A: She won’t let the other girl leave…

Me: No chance! Here it comes… that was very clever. I love when horror movies understand that sometimes less means more and not showing too much could make a scene more effective.

A: Where’s she going now?

Me: She’s going to visit the murderer.

A: Why’s she untying him? Oh, please tell me she’s not gonna do that! It’s disgusting!

Me: She’s sick in the head. Oh, boy, he’s trying to run away from her… that’s not gonna work, buddy.

A: That was brutal! And she shows no emotions on her face…

Me: Brutal, indeed! Hey, Francisca, I guess he was already dead at the 10th stab, the other 20 or so weren’t necessary!

 

A: Where’s she going now?

Me: No idea. But this shot is astounding. The photography is brilliant.

A: Oh, no! Why did you pick her up?

Me: Exactly, why would you do that with your baby in the car?

A: Because everybody will trust a seemingly fragile, young and quite pretty girl.

Me: Alright, now she’s screwed! Poor baby… and poor mom! She’s done the same procedure she did to the murder.

A: Her soundless scream gave chills to my spine.

Me: Agreed. This film is so cleverly unsettling and it gets creepier scene by scene.

A: Look, years have passed now. The boy grew up and the mom… for Christ’s sake, she’s still chained and imprisoned!

Me: I think Francisca’s doing with the boy what her “mom” has done with her before. She’s basically trying to build a new messed up family.

A: Good boy! There must be some good in him, he’s not been fully intoxicated by cruelty.

Me: Do you think she’ll be able to call the police?

A: Yup, can you hear the sirens?

Me: Yes! Finally!

A: Good ending, but this is one of those movies where I’d have liked to know more, go more in-depth…

Me: Which is good, this film surprised me beyond every expectation! I’m gonna review and praise it asap.

 

The Eyes of My Mother is an artsy-fartsy horror drama/ dark fairy tale which tells the story of Francisca, a young girl who will haunt your dreams. I decided to write a different review – which isn’t really a review, it’s the experience my girlfriend and I had watching this film – because this motion picture is so unique that deserves something more.

 

Shot entirely in black and white, this indie movie is an amalgamation between great acting, astounding cinematography, immaculate editing, amazing sounds design and a gripping story told in a highly unconventional way.

 

I’m not going to give anything else away. Just check The Eyes of my Mother out. You won’t regret it. Cheers!

 

 

 

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #10 Daybreakers

*Check out the general premise to the list in my previous posts*

Daybreakers (2009) is directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, and stars Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill – who made the list for the second time, after Event Horizon. You average viewer have no consideration for this guy!

This is a very original movie set in a futuristic word largely dominated by vampires, where the human race – reduced to few survivors – is force to hide. As a consequence of the lack of human blood, the vampires are struggling to find enough nourishment to survive and also to fight the ‘subsiders’, former vampires who turned into bat-like monstrous creatures when they started to eat other members of their own race.

First of all, the ‘new world’ everything took place in is designed masterfully. The technology is advanced but believable, the dark world where the vampires are forced to live is astonishing atmosphere-wise, the innovations made to adapt facilities and architecture to the night-based cycle is spot on.

In such a landscape, the pivotal character and protagonist Edward Dalton – the head hematologist for the pharmaceutical company Bromley ran by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) – is played by Ethan Hawke, who gave the best performance of his career alongside with Regression, in my opinion. He has the duty to research a synthetic blood substitute to satisfy vampires’ blood hunger world-wide.

However, when he randomly helps a bunch of humans to escape the vampires who are chasing them, he starts being involved with the survivors’ project to find a cure for the vampirism.

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Hawke character’s development is made so well; he is so likable that’ impossible not to root for him. The guy nailed it, he did a fantastic job in this film.

Nevertheless, the protagonists’ characterization is a trade-mark of Daybreakers. All the characters are compelling: Sam Neill is a great villain, who’s lacerated by doubts – he wants to convince his daughter to become a vampire but he doesn’t want to hurt her; he wants to find a way not to die out the last humans but at the same time he tries to make money out of the human market.

Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe) are perfect sidekicks to the movie ‘hero’, being well acted, fairly developed and by delivering meaningful lines.

Frankie (Michael Dorman), Edward’s brother, has an incredibly interesting arc examined throughout the movie and his role is fundamental in the storytelling.

Not just great characters, though. This movie has much more to offer. From a visual point of view, Daybreakers is flawless – the colors are perfectly balanced, the camera work is managed fantastically, the editing has no weak spots.

Yet, the practical effects are marvelous – the fight scene between the Daltons and the subsider who breaks into their house proves that – as well as the CGI, which is utilized just where needed and it’s also hard to spot.

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Daybreakers is also scary and gory. It’s one of the few movies that’s able to make the best out of the jump-scares technique, being able to mix them with a deeply unsettling tone. On the other hand, the film contains tons of gruesome sequences, where body parts and blood are spread all over the set. It’s a violence ‘to your face’, instead of being hidden by the shaky cam.

All of these elements should make for a great movie, but there is more Daybreakers is going for.

The social commentary behind this movie is strong, inspiring and impressive. The symbolism many scenes are built on helps to deliver the message in a very profound way. In a world spit into light and darkness, the characters are constantly dealing with a grey area where it’s hard to decide what is wrong and what is right to do.

You guessed it know. I’m a fan of Daybreakers. It’s one of my all times favorite movie. It has everything a horror fanatic – and also a cinema fan – looks for. It’s action packed, it has drama, entertainment, thrilling scenes, comedic moments – provided by Willem Dafoe’s character – horror elements, original plot, unseen development, compelling protagonists, great look and feel, social commentary and so on and so forth.

The only nitpicky I have with this masterpiece – because that’s what Daybreakers is – is the fact that it’s too short. I would have loved to see more than just 97 minutes of all this stuff.

In conclusion, Daybreakers is a rare gem you don’t want to miss out. I don’t recommend you to watch this movie – I commend you to do so, you won’t regret it. Cheers.

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #9 Cube

*Read my previous articles of the list to check out the general premise*

Cube (1997) is directed by Vincenzo Natali, a Canadian director with a clear Italian background. Cube was his debut feature movie, which conquered the general appreciation of critics and public.

Nevertheless, the film has been quickly forgotten by the viewers, even though it’s probably the inspiration for the famous Saw franchise. Or probably because Saw itself stole the stage.

Either ways, the plot consists of a small group of people locked up into an absurd structure with apparently no purpose whatsoever. Their goal is that to find a way out from that gigantic framework composed by smaller cubes of different colours, everyone consisting of different traps.

With a runtime of less than 90 minutes, this movie is a fast ride through tension, paranoia and arguments between the characters.

About them, what is immediately clear to the viewer is that their chemistry works perfectly throughout the film. In particular, the performances of David Hewlett – Worth – and Andrew Miller – the autistic guy named Kazan – definitely steal the show. The other guys, honestly, do just fine, but as I said their interaction is able to elevate the single, individual acting.

The only character I didn’t buy – not even for a minute – was Holloway, whose reactions are exaggerated by Nicky Guadagni, who didn’t keep up with the other cast members.

Beyond the protagonists’ interaction, what I do love about this movie is the sense of uncertainty developed step by step, cube by cube. The dark and paranoiac atmosphere surrounds every moment of Cube giving strength and solid base to all the theories the characters are raising to explain – first to themselves – what the hell is going on.

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Moreover, both the camera work and the photography are awesome and fully spot on. They are able to exploit all the anxiety and tension of the characters, even without being ground-breaking, but utilising the colours in a very mature and compelling way.

Another thing I really like about the Cube is the mathematical aspect of it. According to Wikipedia and other – more reliable – sources, “the fictional Cube device in the film was conceived by David W. Pravica, a notable mathematician. It consists of an outer cubical shell (the sarcophagus) and the inner cube”. All the digits mentioned in the movie are so indubitably correct.

Furthermore, only one cube, measuring 14 by 14 by 14 feet, was actually built, with only one working door that could actually support the weight of the actors. The colour of the room was changed by sliding panels.

Not being a mathematician myself – and actually hating math – I still appreciate all the effort and the precision that the director and his crew put in the making process of the film. To me, the practical effects and the accuracy behind Cube make it hold up quite well 20 years after it first came out.

On the contrary, the two or three scenes built on the special effects look kind of lame and unbelievable nowadays.

For all these reasons, and also for the open ending, for all the mystery and the thrilling sequences I think Cube should have a better consideration among the horror fans.

I mean, I like the first installment of the Saw franchise. As much as I hate all the money-grabbing sequels. It is genuinely unsettling and the plot twist is totally unexpected. Still, since Cube is basically the Saw of the 90s, I think it should be watched as the cult movie it is indeed.

All in all, I’m a fan of Cube. As many times as I re-watch it, it’s always the same good movie as it was the first time I’ve seen it. If you guys are fan of psychological, claustrophobic thrillers, this film is strongly recommended. If you like the first Saw movie, go watch the film that gave James Wan the inspiration. Cheers.

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #8 The Bay

*The general premise to the list is available in my previous posts, go check it out*

The Bay (2012) is a mockumentary horror movie in found footage style, directed by Barry Levinson who previously brought on screen great films such as Good morning Vietnam (1987), Rain Man (1988) – winning the Award both for best direction and best pictures – and Wag the Dog (1997). The Bay was indeed a shot in the dark for Levinson, who, however, nailed it once again.

Before diving right into the movie, I need to say that the next three films on this ‘top ten of most underrated horror flicks’ – The Bay itself and the next two – have been welcomed enthusiastically by critics and reviewers, whereas being disapproved by the public. I feel relieved not being the only one who sees potential and goodness in them.

Let’s now talk about The Bay, which plot consists of a little town on the Maryland shore where an infection of some kind starts infecting people, causing them to have their body covered by warts and boils. As the disease progresses, the symptoms get worse and worse, up to the death of the infected.

This film is not your average contagion flick, though. To be clear, none turns into a famished zombie. Without spoiling anything, The Bay looks more like a documented viral contagion that spreads the virus unstoppably.

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Levinson’s most ‘out of place’ work has numerous qualities. First of all, the found footage is always believable. It does make sense even in the minute details, where the exposition is left to the scientists who are documenting their studies in order to figure out what is going on in the town.

Secondly, the atmosphere is unsettling and dreadful throughout the entire runtime – 85 mins of edge-of-your-seat type of deal – even in the first scene, when the location seems paradisiac and the people look cheerful. As the movie progresses, the whole look and feel drag the viewers into a very credible nightmare with the sensation of no possible escape.

Yet, the acting is surprisingly good and the cast – composed by not even decent actors, in my opinion – did a great job in this movie. The camera work, the lightening and the performances make the story look more like a real documentary rather than a cheap mockumentary. I think the one who should be praised the most is Barry Levinson, who did a great job out of an average script and a mediocre cast.

Plus, The Bay is way more disgusting and disturbing than your usual found footage. It’s not scary, though, in the traditional way – jump scares and all that tiring stuff – but it’s unsettling. Therefore, there are few jaws dropping scenes, when the viewers literally jump on their seats, which you don’t see them coming. Something quite rare in the horror cinema nowadays.

All in all, The Bay is an intense, dreadful and disturbing movie with an actual social commentary that should make people think and reflect on the way we treat our environment. It’s a shame this movie is so overlooked. If you guys read this review, please check out the movie and tell your friends to do the same. You won’t regret it. Cheers.

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #7 Jennifer’s Body

*Skip the premise and go directly to the review if you’ve read my previous posts already*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.


jennifers_body_mv_by_shadowsfall720

(You’re welcome)

Jennifer’s Body (2009) is an horror black-comedy starring Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, directed by Karyn Kusama and written by Brook Busey-Maurio (Juno), A.K.A. Diablo Cody.

The movie’s plot revolves around the relationship between the popular Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and the nerdy Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried). One night, Jennifer hooks up with the lead voice of a boyband (Adam Brody) who, thinking Jennifer is a virgin, decides alongside with the other band members to sacrifice her in order to achieve the eternal life.

Unfortunately for them, the ritual envisages the victim is a virgin and, since Jennifer is not, the final result is that to transform the girl in a cannibal demon. As a consequence, Jennifer starts to seduce high-school dudes (obviously a piece of cake for Megan Fox) to eat them alive and keep herself young and strong. Needy, once having discovered Jennifer is the responsible for all the disappearances and killings, tries to stop her hunger.

As you can see, the premise as well as the story itself is pretty silly. There is also a twist towards the end – which I’m not going to spoil in case you haven’t seen the movie yet – that is kind of ‘meh’.

On the contrary, what is really good in this movie is the balance between comedic and gory moments. Jennifer’s Body is meant to be silly and laughable, but at the same time the project was to include horror elements to it. About that, Diablo Cody has proven once again – after the success of Juno – to be great in making mixed bag films. Juno is a perfect mixture of drama and comedy, whereas Jennifer’s Body is an excellent assortment of comedy and horror.

Contrarily of Juno, both the audience and the critiques have panned this film. I’m struggling to understand why. To me, Jennifer’s Body is an highly entertaining movie, filled with good performances (and Megan Fox doing what she’s great to, but with a surprisingly funny vibe), great score and an interesting approach to the coming-of-age genre.

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Furthermore, there are two other elements I would like to talk about briefly. The first one consists of the ‘rewatchability’ factor. Since the film is not based on incredible plot twists or solving mysteries, the entertainment could be relived numerous times.

The other thing really astonished me watching this movie is the violence. Despite being a comedy, Jennifer’s Body is gory and gruesome beyond any expectation. The disturbing element is not groundless though, since it establishes a fagile equilibrium with the sensual moments – provided by Megan, of course.

Ladies and Gentleman – ladies above all – this movie is strongly recommended and it suits perfectly the Epiphany. Have fun watching it on this day. Cheers.

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #6 Rob Zombie’s Halloween

*Skip the premise to jump directly to the post if you’ve read it in my previous articles*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget  and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not  just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.


Halloween (2007) is the Rob Zombie’s remake – or I’d better call it a re-imagination – of the 1978’s movie directed by the mastermind of John Carpenter, who brought on screen for the first time the famous and unbeatable villain known as Michael freaking Myers.

I’ve talked about the controversy surrounding Rob Zombie in my previous post about The Lords of Salem. So, part of the mistrust towards this movie is due to people’s hatred to Zombie. At the same time, most of the viewers dislike this remake to be way to different from the original. First of all, I have to say that I don’t mind this different approach at all. Secondly, and I know a lot of people will disagree on that, I think the original Halloween is the weakest Carpenter’s product.

Let’s now drive into the movie itself. The plot, set in the fictional Midwestern town of Haddonfield in Illinois, is rather simple. On Halloween night in 1963, six-year-old Michael Myers inexplicably murders his sister and is committed to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. Fifteen years later, he escapes and returns home to kill again, all the while eluding his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis, who suspects Michael’s intentions, following him back to Haddonfield.

However, the first twist Mr. Zombie executes for this movie consists of setting a long and detailed background for the reason why the young and creepy Michael became the cold-blooded psychopath mask-wearing Myers. Through this storytelling, the director is able to give depth to his main villain, something that Carpenter didn’t even try to do. Sheri Moon Zombie – who’s in this film as well, of course – plays Michael’s mother and she gave a performance less awful than the majority of people think. She’s not excellent either, but her ‘dislikeability’ is useful to explain why her son turned into a monster.

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The rest of the movie is quite loyal to the original, even though the acting and the all look and feel are a little bit better for me. Furthermore, Zombie pays the due respect towards Carpenter’s Halloween by reproducing the same cult scenes and using the same dialogue’s expressions.

The movie still has flaws: Zombie didn’t intervene on the shaky-cam to make the action sequences better, some dialogues are very poorly written, the main characters are well portrayed – especially Dr. Loomis, played by the one and only Malcolm McDowell – but substantially dumb.

Still, the movie flows well throughout the 110 minutes runtime and there is a lot of entertainment too. This is especially due to the funny cameos – named Danielle Harris, Udo Kier, Brad Dourif, Danny Trejo and the duo Sid Haig-Bill Mosely coming directly from Zombie’s The house of 1000 corpses and The Devil’s rejects.

In conclusion, this movie isn’t flawless, but it’s still watchable, entertaining, with a good cinematography and a dreadful atmosphere. Above all, Zombie’s Halloween has refreshed the Halloween franchise, which to me needed an invigoration. Cheers.

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #5 The Lords of Salem

*Skip the premise to jump directly to the post if you’ve read my previous articles*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.

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The Lords of Salem (2012) is an independent horror movie written, produced and directed by the controversial Rob Zombie.

It’s fair to say that Rob Zombie is one of the most divisive directors working today, not only in the horror industry. To be honest, he’s one of my favourites, even though he’s not immune to criticism, since his previous movies weren’t perfect at all. Still, to me they are way better than a lot of people seem to think.

Unfortunately, the negative opinion surrounding the guy and his works is shared by the Hollywood majors, which decided not to release both The Lords of Salem and 31 (2016), the latest Zombie’s Flick.

Enough with the general contest. The Lords of Salem, starring Sheri Moon Zombie – Rob’s wife, who appears in every single movie of her hubby – tells the story of an alternative radio host who comes across a coursed disc, which has the power to give people visions and blow their mind apart – metaphorically. Of course, Heidi – Sheri Moon – decides to play it during her program and weird things start to happen in and around Salem, Massachusetts.

The premise sounds kind of corny, I know. But it is original enough and the tone set from the very beginning makes quite easy for the audience to empathise with the situation and Heidi, who is probably the most successful character portrayed by Sheri Moon in her career. Hey, I ain’t complaining watching her on screen, but she had to prove herself as a decent actress beyond a smoking hot chick. And she eventually did in this movie.

The majority of Zombie’s critics have argued that he doesn’t realize movies, but feature length musical videos. To me, that’s not even a criticism per se. Zombie pays detailed attention to the visual aspect of his movies and that is what elevates his stories to an higher level. The Lords of Salem is no exception. On the contrary, it’s probably his best visual work. And I’m not exaggerating by saying The Lords of Salem has the same cinematographic and photographic intensity of Nicolas Winding Refn’s movies.

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I know what you guys are wondering right now. Is it a scary movie? In my humble opinion, the answer is yes. It’s scary, filled with a dreadful atmosphere and a couple of inevitable – but also well-executed – jump-scares. As per usual, the problem with this movie lies on the score. Do you like heavy metal? You’ll probably love the movie’s soundtrack. Do you hate that genre? You’ll probably hate the score. Simple as that.

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All in all, The Lords of Salem is probably the best Zombie’s film (alongside with the remake of Halloween… guess what’s the next movie on the list?) but at the same time it’s vastly underrated because it wasn’t promoted by Hollywood. And, once again, Mr. Zombie is a fifty-fifty director, whose movies aren’t easy to sell.

I recommend you guys to see The Lords of Salem. It’s a tough experience that requires loads of attention and patience – yes, the pace is not Fury Road-like – but I assure you it’s worth your time. Cheers.

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #4 Behind the mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon

*Skip the premise if you already read my previous posts on the list*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.


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Behind the mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) is a slasher mockumentary-style horror film written, directed and produced by Scott Glosserman. The movie consists of a television troupe that is filming and interviewing Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), a guy from Glen Echo (USA) who wants to follow the footprints of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger.

Yes, because in the movie fictional world these three horror icons are real and they are world-wildly renowned for their murders. Leslie Vernon so decided to became ‘the next big serial killer’ and to be shot on camera so that I can be famous – or infamous, if you prefer – like his idols.

This is an amazingly original idea at its core but the movie progression is even more unconventional and the development is surprisingly excellent. Behind the mask is also filled with comedic sketches and Easter eggs which wink to tons of horror cults – from The Shining to Hellraiser, from Nightmare to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Plus, the film contains plenty of cameos, with Zelda Rubinstein and Robert freaking Englund to shine among the others.

Beyond the cameos, Nathan Baesel is suitable for the role, being able to combine a quirky sense of humor with a foolish look and a bit of meticulous craziness. What is even more satisfying, is the relationship between Leslie and Taylor – the crew leader played excellently by Angela Goethals. The two characters confront one another throughout the entire movie and complete each other by any means.

Speaking of the direction of the film, Behind the mask is able to avoid all the found-footage flaws and cliché – except from one small moment in the library scene, towards the half of the movie. Being a non-Hollywood production (so CGI-free), Glosserman’s work succeeds in dragging the audience into a fictional world in which everything look just absolutely real.

The only complaint I perhaps have towards The rise of Leslie Vernon is that the shooting style switches abruptly from mockumentary to third person, when we are 63 minutes into the movie already, backing up the huge plot twists occurring at this point. These first 63 minutes to me represent a movie on its own, which doesn’t need a completion to be fully appreciated. To be honest though, the other 28 minutes or so procure the horror-slasher element which is largely absent in the first part that can be considered as a unique product, unconventional if there is one.

Without spoiling anything, I just suggest you guys to watch the film until the very last word of the end credits comes on screen. It’s worth waiting. Also because the very last song of the movie – Psycho Killer by The Talking Heads – is something you can’t miss out.

Let me get a bit ‘ranty’ before I sum up the reasons why you must sit through Behind the mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon.

Ready? Ready. This movie made a $69,136 cash-in at the box office. Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me? Yet, the Leslie Vernon story is largely unknown among the horror fans. Everyone knows Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. None knows Leslie Vernon, even though he probably is the best slasher villain ever since the 80s! I’m not gonna play it safe: this movie is pure genius. It should have been advertised by word of mouth all over the freaking planet Earth!

Okay, I held my horses now. Sorry guys, I really needed to rant against the mainstream audience, production companies and horror world in general that panned this great movie. Now I feel way better.

In conclusion, comparing the quality of the movie to its box office return, Behind the mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon is quite the gem on this ‘underrated horror movies’ list. Recapping: the characters are compelling and the chemistry between the two protagonists is excellent, the plot is original and refreshing for the genre, the storytelling is unconventional, there’s plenty of amusing and chuckling moments, the cinematography is good, the photography splendid and the direction is brilliant.

You must watch this movie, sponsor it to your friends and spread the fact that Leslie Vernon is out there and it’s waiting for you horror fans to fall in love with him. Cheers.

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #3 The Crazies

*Skip the premise if you already read my first posts of the list*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.

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The Crazies (2010) is a zombie-mystery horror film directed by Breck Eisner, whose latest movie is the awesome masterwork broadly known as Vin Diesel’s The Last Witch Hunter. Just kidding, The Last Shit Crapper is one of the worst movies of 2015.

Fortunately for us, The Crazies plays in another league. Basically, it tells the story of sheriff David Dutten (played awesomely by Timothy Olyphant, in one of his career best roles) who lives in a small American Stephen-King-type-of-town.

The movie starts quite abruptly with the main character trying to deal, from the very beginning, with people going bad shit crazy in his home town.

Quite an opening, right? Apart from that though, the movie is not original and it follows the trite stereotype of the zombie contagion that turns everyone into a ravenous douchebag trying to eat brains. Being a remake of the very successful – but flowed by any means – 1973 movie of the same name, the originality factor is discarded per se. Despite of these very little promising hints, the movie itself is quite a surprise.

The fast opening sets the tone for the entire flick, throughout which fast-paced and well-directed scenes follow one another with almost no breaks. The tension is palpable in every moment and the rhythm is faster than the audience should expect. From this point of view as well as from how the zombies are realized, I strongly believe World War Z took inspiration from the Breck Eisner’s film.

Despite the speed of the movie, the characters are compelling and well portrayed by the cast. To me, Mr. Eisner nailed the direction in this movie, first being able to introduce the story with numerous breath-taking sequences and secondly sketching out the protagonists step by step. In particular, there is a scene where Sheriff David, his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) and his deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) are left behind and carless in the middle of an highway and they start to argue to blame each other. This scene is filled with minute details of the characters’ thoughts as well as with tension and desperation. Excellent acting and direction.

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Yet, another important feature in this movie is the one element that could have been a deadly flaw for the film itself. And it was something that, as a viewer, I was really afraid of. In fact, the movie is obviously divided in three acts, which take place in different locations though – one in the small town, the second into a military camp, the last along the highway. This variety could have caused a vibe change within the movie, but all in all it gave a plus instead.

In conclusion, The Crazies definitely belongs to the list of those movies that deserve more than they have been given in terms of critiques and general appreciation. It’s beyond the shadow of a doubt an interesting movie that provides the audience with tension, entertainment, good performances and decent practical effects. The ‘rewatchability’ factor is at a good grade in this movie.

In my humble opinion, a couple of scenes even elevate this movie to the level of a must see. On the other hand, the unoriginal plot and the lame finale scale it down to the place it deserves – that of a fun, well made, surprisingly good ride everyone should take a chance to watch. Cheers.