Twin Peaks: The Return pushes the ‘Lynchometer’ too high. TV series review

Twin Peaks is, arguably, the best TV show ever made. Mind you, it’s not my favourite – even though season 2 is among the closest ones to my heart – but its influence on quality TV shows is undeniable. As undeniable are its own values.

Twin Peaks 1At the beginning of the 90s, the first two seasons of this iconic TV show had revolutionised the language of modern TV series with the story of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) investigating the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in the fictional town of Twin Peaks, Washington.

Continue reading “Twin Peaks: The Return pushes the ‘Lynchometer’ too high. TV series review”

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Stranger Things 2 expanded its universe and characters, entering adulthood – TV series review

Picking up one year after the events of season 1, Stranger Things 2 brings back all the characters we fell in love with (besides Barbara… #justiceforBarb).

ST 2 featureAs the cliff-hanger at the end of the first season showed us, Will had been affected more than we thought by the Upside-Down and he’s now living a life full of visions from that nasty dimension. Meanwhile, Chief Hopper had rescued, helped and hidden Eleven for almost a year, to keep her safe from the bad guys; Mike and the losers club (ops, wrong pop reference!) are trying to understand what Will’s going through, deal with Eleven’s absence and contend with Madmax, a new girl gotten in town that both Dustin and Lucas have a crush on; meanwhile Steve, Nancy and Jonathan are caught up in their love triangle. Continue reading “Stranger Things 2 expanded its universe and characters, entering adulthood – TV series review”

Office rage breaks loose and it’s loads of fun! Mayhem – movie review

Whoever has had any kind of experience in an office job would know the feeling of being the unhumanised part of a soulless corporation.

Luckily, as an employee of Sky Sports Italia, I don’t get that sensation, but I both experienced it first hand in previous jobs and heard constantly about it from friends and family. Continue reading “Office rage breaks loose and it’s loads of fun! Mayhem – movie review”

An unsettlingly bold combination between psychological and supernatural horror. The Blackcoat’s Daughter – movie review

Oz Perkins’ journey into the reimagination of horror sub-genres has led him to create The Blackcoat’s Daughter, originally released in 2015 under the name February and widely distributed a few months ago with the current title.

In 2016, Perkins had already raised some controversy with I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a 19th century period drama (I’d say) that twisted the “haunted house” sub-genre around and created quite some buzz. Continue reading “An unsettlingly bold combination between psychological and supernatural horror. The Blackcoat’s Daughter – movie review”

The Classics of Horror #20 – The Sixth Sense (1999)

Once upon a time, M. Night Shyamalan was the most promising director in Hollywood, not just a meme to make fun of.

Mostly, said reputation came from a masterpiece that blew everybody’s mind in the late 90s: The Sixth Sense.

On one hand, I’m glad to conclude this six-month long series with a truly great film; on the other, though, reviewing one of my all-time favourite movies is a challenge that both stimulate and scare me.

The Sixth Sense tells the story of a broken children psychologist – Malcolm Crowe, played by Bruce Willis – who tries to help grade schooler Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment, nominated at the Awards for his supporting cast role) to overcome what appears to be some serious psychotic issue.

The Sixth Sense 1Before “post horror” became a thing (is it really?), M. Night created a universe that gains credibility and strength from its combination of horror, drama, thriller and mystery. The balance between these sub-genres, perfectly blended together, makes for a unique viewing experience that has no precedes.

Continue reading “The Classics of Horror #20 – The Sixth Sense (1999)”

The Classics of Horror #19 – The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Only a few movies on this long-lasting list are ground-breaking enough to having given popularity to an entire sub-genre. One of them is The Blair Witch Project, responsible for the endless stream of found-footage flicks that came out ever since 1999. Thank you *insert sarcasm here*.

This entirely shot on camera, late 90s film is also famous for its lack of conventional plot and proper action, which makes its success and great receptions even more amazing. Continue reading “The Classics of Horror #19 – The Blair Witch Project (1999)”

Once upon a time, there were a Demon, a Vampire and a Skinwalker… The Monster Project – movie review

It seems like the beginning of a twisted fairy tale, instead that’s the premise The Monster Project is based on.

Combine this simple (although a bit childish) premise with some found-footage style, isolated location, a solar eclipse and you basically know what film you will get. Sounds lame, right?

Monster Project 1If you ask me, this doesn’t look promising even in the slightest. Fortunately, in this case, what you have on paper doesn’t turn into reality in the execution, because The Project Monster is a very entertaining flick.

We follow aspiring filmmaker Bryan (Toby Hemingway, the only familiar face in the movie) who assembles a crew of misfits to film a documentary with real-life monsters: specifically, a demon, a vampire and a Skinwalker.

This movie runs for almost 100 minutes and, as soon as the action kicks off (around 40 minutes into the film), it becomes fast-paced and non-stop entertainment, with one impactful jump-scare after the other. Besides the ending, which has a silly plot twist I don’t really care for, The Monster Project is a constant adrenaline rush, a sort of The Blair Witch Project (1999) on steroids.

If you are into this kind of movies, I suggest to check this one out as soon as possible; just don’t expect anything more than that, okay?

Obviously, though, I wouldn’t call this a good movie. This time around, I am going to explain the main issues with the movie by figuring out a fictional, alternative version of what we got. An alternative cut, if you will.

Monster Project 2.jpgFirst of all, the ‘HorrorWorld&Reviews cut’ would be 70 minutes long: no characters’ introduction or formulaic backstory, the viewer would be dragged into the action straight away. In fact, the first 30 minutes or so of The Monster Project seem to be there just to make the flick get to the feature length. Also, every time this movie comes back to the characters it loses impact. In my fictional cut, all those elements would disappear.

Monster Project 3.pngSecondly, I would elongate the interviews with the monsters, which are the most original and enthralling part of this flick. Mostly Demon and Vampire (the Skinwalker not so much) are scary and intriguing and I would have liked to see a deeper exploration of their persona, which is what I would include in the ‘HorrorWorld&Reviews cut’.

Finally, I would film The Monster Project through a more traditional third-person narrative. The found-footage style is tiresome and has used up its impact in horror cinema, in my opinion. The main reason being it’s supposed to show the audience real and truthful events through the eye of a camera; however, in The Monster Project the viewer is bombarded with professional soundtrack (where does it come from?), awkward angles (why filming yourself kissing a girl?) and perfect audio recording (even when a freaking demon eats you alive).

The point is that a movie makes much more sense within its story and its ‘universe’ when it’s not filmed in found-footage fashion, because it doesn’t need to explain how this or that has been recorded. Therefore, my cut would rely on traditional filmmaking techniques and shy away from every form of found-footage.

A quick recap: I’d keep all the good stuff included in The Monster Project and make the segments about the monsters’ interview longer; I’d get rid of any attempt to character development; I’d film the movie in third-person and probably make the ending a bit less over-the-top and silly. What do you think? Would you watch it?

While we wait for Hollywood to hire my, as I said before you can still enjoy The Monster Project for what it is and you’ll probably end up having some mindless entertainment, filled with scary bits and extremely effective jump-scares, as long as you don’t overthink about it for more than two seconds. Otherwise, you’d realise that nothing makes sense. Cheers!

 

Thanks to DreadCentral for the images!

The horror in one person’s memories and fears. Gerald’s Game – movie review

It happened to me four times that a horror movie grabbed and kept me on the edge of my seat from the opening credit scene till the end. Upon viewing Gerald’s Game twice, back-to-back, it’s now five times!

Directed by Mike Flanagan and released by Netflix, this film is the latest adaptation of a novel by Stephen King. One of the less appealing novels of his, that is. At least, that’s what I understood by talking to people and gathering a handful of information, since I haven’t read the 1992 book.

Thus, the best compliment I can make to Mike Flanagan and his latest film is that it made me want to read the novel straight away!

Gerald's Game 1Let’s take a step back, though. What’s Gerald’s Game about? Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) go for a weekend away to try and save their marriage and sex life. On a lake house, they cut themselves off the world and, upon trying some good, old extreme sex, Gerald suffers from a heart attack and dies instantaneously.

Jessie, handcuffed to the bed in consequence of the couple sex attempt, has now to find a way out of the house to call for help or survive long enough for somebody to come rescue her.

All the while, anxiety and terror kick off, obviously, and she must deal with phantoms from the past, psychological flaws and various issues connected to her life and certain things that happened along the way.

Simple set-up, confined location, only two actors (mainly one, though) to carry the plot along and a novel that had to be stretched out to make a feature-length film. What could go wrong? The answer is: everything!

However, Mike Flanagan is the next big thing in horror cinema, in my opinion, therefore everything works spotlessly. I don’t want to jinx it to him, but this guy is great! After the surprisingly good Oculus (2014) and Hush (2015) and the even more surprising Ouija 2: Origins of Evil (2016), Flanagan knocks it out of the park again with this chiller.

Gerald’s Game benefits from fantastic direction and seamless editing (both by Flanagan), that – alongside the lack of soundtrack for the most part of the film – creates a dreadful, highly uncomforting atmosphere from beginning to end.

The thing with Gerald’s Game is that it’s a psychologically brutal experience, one that gets under your skin and sticks with you for a long time (at least, that’s how I perceive it). Right when I thought the movie couldn’t get any more eerie, half way through it takes an even darker route when it delves into the memories of Jessie.

In certain ways, Gerald’s Game reminded me of another great King’s adaptation that came out in the early 90s, featuring an isolated location and only two main characters (can anyone guess what is it? I will review it for the next chapter of my Classics of Horror series).

Gerald's Game 3All of that can work only if the acting is on par. Carla Gugino, who I wasn’t a big fan of, has the 99% of the screen time: she’s the focus of the story, the device to carry the plot on, a constant presence for the viewer to cope with. And she is fantastic!

Honestly, I don’t care too much about the Academy, but Gugino being nominated for best female lead would be pure cinematic justice! I haven’t seen a better performance in any of the horror movies that came out in 2017 – including Bill Skarsgård, James McAvoy and Kika Magalhães (The Eyes of my Mother).

Especially, considering she had almost only her facial expressions to work with, Gugino does a mesmerising job in portraying fears, doubts, uncertainty of her character, Jessie.

Gerald's Game 4Bruce Greenwood’s performance is also not to be overlooked, mostly for the physicality he gave to his character. Nevertheless, Carla Gugino is by far the show-stealer in the film.

Talking about characters, I can’t forget to mention a peculiar presence (on and off screen), portrayed by Carel Struycken – any fan of the Adam’s Family here? – who courageously brought on screen his Acromegaly disease and made it part of the story. He’s great as well in Gerald’s Game.

If you got to this point of my review, you might think this movie is “just” a psychological thriller. Don’t you worry: there’s also quite some effective and off-putting gore and one, extremely well executed, jump-scare that got me really bad!

A quick recap: Gerald’s Game is, to its core, a slumber and dark exploration of demons from the past, personal fragilities and fear of an impending doom. Yet, Flanagan does a brilliant job at giving hints that would lead a mature viewer to question certain characters in the movie. It’s filled with great performances and has an enthralling female lead, a truly Oscar-worthy one, who delivers the director’s ideas and novel message in a very potent way.

Before I conclude, I must say that the ending might be polarising. From what I understood, it is pretty faithful to the source material, but I found it a too sudden change of tone in comparison to the rest of the movie. Even though it feels a bit detached from the rest of the film, I loved the message and subtext in it, which emerges stronger upon second view. Gerald’s Game is a must-watch, guys, don’t miss it out! Cheers!

Oh, by the way, Gerald’s Game is officially my third favourite King’s horror adaptation of all time!

The Classics of Horror #13 – Poltergeist (1982)

When Steven Spielberg’s name is attached to a project, every single moviegoer in the world expects a unique cinematic experience. If, alongside Spielberg’s talent, Tobe Hooper (RIP) works as a director in a horror flick, the result should be pure gold.

Poltergeist 1.jpgThese were the premises behind Poltergeist, a paranormal horror film about the average American family living in a haunted house – precisely, affected by a poltergeist, which is a type of ghost or other supernatural entity that is responsible for physical disturbances.

After a portal between two dimension is opened in their house, Carol Anne (the youngest of three children in the Freeling family) disappears, sucked up by the titular poltergeist. The rest of the film follows the family pattern to rescue her, with the aid of a few paranormal experts and investigators, among unwanted presences and demons.

As Roger Ebert said in his original review of Poltergeist, “the film begins with the same ingredients; it provides similar warnings of doom; and it ends with a similar apocalypse (spirits take total possession of the house, and terrorize the family)”.

Although plot and storyline didn’t bring anything new to the table when the movie came out, the show stealers were the special effects, both CGI and practical, combining Spielberg’s ground-breaking use of new technologies and Hooper’s mastery with good old makeup creations.

Poltergeist 2And here comes my biggest issue with Poltergeist: it doesn’t hold up. Don’t get me wrong, this movie has many features to be praised for and deserves its good reputation among horror fans.

However, it shows the signs of the time in a much more evident way than most of the films on this Classics of Horror list.

Indeed, it took me a couple of views and research work to truly appreciate this paranormal family thriller, because the scare factor connected to the CGI-driven sequences has been completely defeated by the test of the time and newer techniques.

Poltergeist 3The practical effects, however, are still highly effective and, therefore, impactful for modern audiences. For instance, the mirror scene in the bathroom genuinely gives me shivers; the skeletons towards the end (with actual corpses utilised by Hooper and Spielberg) are highly entertaining.

Yet, so many sequences have been executed in amazing ways: single takes, awesome camera angles, great shots and so on.

In regards to the characters, there aren’t standout performances, but each family member gives a solid representation of their traits and you must have a heart made of stone not to sympathise with Diana Freeling (JoBeth Williams) or Carol Anne – portrayed by Heather O’Rourke, who sadly died, aged 12, a few years after the film release.

Yet, Spielberg’s hand clearly emerges both in the character development and look and feel of the movie. The fact that he was the uncredited director of Poltergeist (he was working simultaneously on E.T. and wasn’t allowed to actively participate in another project that same year), is widely known, but even if you are unaware of the production history of this film, it’s impossible not to notice Spielberg’s influence.

In particular, Poltergeist could be seen as journey in and analysis of an average middle-class, small town family. The comedic dialogues and situations blend in the paranormal atmosphere very well and make this movie enjoyable to these days – more as entertaining mystery than straight-up horror, though.

If you follow my blog, you’d know that I come up with some unpopular opinions from time to time. Thus, I have one ready for Poltergeist as well: regarded as one of the scariest films ever made, to me it appears as one of the least frightening movies on this list.

poltergeist 4.jpgThis statement doesn’t want to imply that Poltergeist has never been scary: most probably it terrorised certain audiences upon its release, but it’s lost impact throughout the years, since it relies too heavily on CGI and features many “childish” scenes and monsters.

With that being said, Hooper’s and Spielberg’s collaboration remains a great watch, an extremely entertaining 80s horror suitable for the whole family, since a good horror flick doesn’t need to be scary in order to be enjoyable or interesting.

If anything, I don’t see Poltergeist as a classic of horror, since its impact shied away slowly but surely and it didn’t bring anything new to the game, other than some impressive special effects that aged quite a bit lately. I still recommend to watch it and apologise to those who consider it a really scary film (probably out of nostalgia).

A slow-burn that will make you rethink outbreak films. It comes at night – movie review

A few films have been as controversial as It Comes at Night recently

In the case of Trey Edward Shults’s latest film, though, all the controversy lies in the polarised reactions the movie got upon its release. Something reminiscent of what happened with The Witch (2016), loved by critics and niche audiences; panned and literally hated by the majority of moviegoers.

Contrarily to my usual reviewing pattern, I will give my opinion on the film before even talking about it, with a little premise nonetheless.

If you are in for 90 minutes of challenging, demanding, unconventional plot and execution, check It Comes at Night out. It’s a very good movie which you can’t help but respect for its attempt to an original concept and an execution filled with intriguing imagery and symbolism.

It comes at night 3.jpgHowever, if you like more conventional horror flicks, with tons of scares along the way, maybe some gore and ounces of frightening creatures, stay away from It Comes at Night. You guys would hate it and rant about it to your friends, discouraging them from checking out a movie that might actually be their cup of tea and, therefore, forcing a viewpoint on a film that has to be seen with the right state of mind.

If you belong to the first group, you can proceed with this blog post that might tickle your curiosity; otherwise, read it if you want and I’ll try to explain why I think It Comes at Night is a good (and important) film.

I believe the best way to experience Shults’s flick is going in it completely blind. The lesser you now, the better.

Which is why I won’t describe the plot and I’d suggest you to avoid trailers and any web page telling you what this movie is about.

It-Comes-at-Night 1.pngIt’s just important for you to know that we follow 6 main characters (two families, each one composed by husband, wife and son) who are apparently locked up in a cabin in the woods where they believe they can’t go out at night but only in daytime with a good dose of precautions.

Without a single standout protagonist, the characters in this movie are very much able to carry the plot along and create intriguing relationships between them.

The casting choices are on spot, with Joel Edgerton leading the way in one of the best performances of his career (which is saying something…).

The cinematography is stunning and seems a character by itself, since through it the director is able to convey emotions and tension.

In fact, It Comes at Night is a very suspenseful flick, which plays with your expectations and cleverly reverts the horror clichés we are used to.

Yet, as I previously mentioned, this film has an ongoing symbolism which appears, for example, when a red door is shown on screen representing the passage between life and death.

However, to me the movie never looks too artsy or pretentious. The characters, for example, are extremely realistic as well as their interaction: crude and gritty at its core.

The true horror this mystery movie shows, is the one that lies within every human being when the situation gets desperate: sexual desire, uncertainty, lack of trust in others, family, love… all these feelings are implicitly explored in It Comes at Night.

The ending, which obviously I’m not going to give away, is not fully fledged but matches the rest of the movie. Most viewers will hate it, I personally think it’s okay but could have been better.

it-comes-at-night-trailer 4Yet, in the movie clearly emerges a lack of balance between dream sequences and real events. The horror scenes belong only to the dream sequences, which makes them less impactful and slightly frustrating.

I get their purpose within the dreams, but I still think the movie would have benefited from some more unsettling imagery with the characters awake.

Besides, the other issue I have with the film revolves around the director’s intentions. Specifically, I believe Shults pushed it too hard when he claimed: “a lot of questions are left unanswered intentionally, for a reason and I hope it sticks with you. I hope it doesn’t frustrate”. Although this lack of explanation makes for an anxiety-inducing, on the other hand, it gives the annoying impression of faulty creative flair.

it-comes-at-night 2In conclusion, It Comes at Night is not a film for everyone. Very susceptible to generate frustration and confusion in certain viewers, it is mandatory to go into this movie with the correct approach and a deep interest in cinema. In other words, if you prefer disposable horror flicks, please avoid It Comes at Night and go watch Annabelle: Creation. To be clear, I don’t mean this in a demeaning way, I’m serious when I warn you about this film. You’ve been warned. Cheers!